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Peter Schreier

Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works

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Discussions

Wouter Kees Snoeijers wrote (December 21, 1999):
Did anybody else encounter a faint cracking noise on CD No.54, BWV 213-214, from track number 9 on?

Olivier Raap wrote (December 22, 1999):
I found those noises on disc 54 too. It started at track 3 and it sounds like someone cracking with a chip package.

I really enjoyed those beautiful performances of the sacred cantatas conducted by Pieter Jan Leusink (Vol.4 and 5 of the Kruidvat Bach Edition, strongly recommended!). However, this volume 7 with the secular cantatas conducted by Peter Schreier is really a disappointment. The orchestra (Berlin Chamber Orchestra, on modern instruments) is playing clumsy and several instrumental soloists use awful ornaments that don’t belong in baroque music. The harpsichordist is making a caricature of the music performing ridiculous arpeggios and whims on his noisy instrument. The choir sounds rather as a collection of individual singers than as a choir. They better can shout than sing. The name of the choir “Berliner Solisten” is a good chosen name.

One of my favourite arias is Schafe konnen sicher weiden (BWV 208) for soprano, 2 recorders and continuo. It is totally spoiled by the performers; I never heard a worse performance before. They use a super slow tempo and the recorders use a disgusting vibrato.

If you want to enjoy Bach’s music don’t buy this set. I got back my money in the Kruidvat store without problems when I told about the cracking noises.

Eltjo M. wrote (December 21, 1999):
Yesterday (21/12) I bought the Kruidvat box with all of Bach's secular cantatas. (I never came home with so many new CD's, 8x Bach and 8x Puccini). This time they had wisely decided to buy licenses (from a former DDR company) and of course one gets better (rehearsed) performances with singers like Edith Mathis, Peter Schreier (also conductor), Carolyn Watkinson, Arleen Augér, Lucia Popp, Julia Hamari and Theo Adam. The orchestra is the Kammerorchester Berlin and the choir the Berliner Solisten. I think this is a steal at 19,95 guilders (9.10 dollars) for 8 CD's, although HIP purists will probably disagree. Can any of our experts give his/her opinion?

Roland van Gaalen wrote (December 21, 1999):
Yesterday's NRC Handelsblad [a leading Dutch newspaper] has an article based on an interview with Gustav Leonhardt, in which he was asked about this Kruidvat edition. He said more or less that if it succeeded in bringing at least some people closer to getting to know Bach, it would be a good thing, despite some performances not being of the "authentic" variety. [Interestingly, NRC Handelsblad's critic is in the habit of not putting quotation marks around this problematic adjective.] For those who are interested in Leonhardt the organist (I, for one, think he is a very good one): he regularly plays the organ during church services at the Westerkerk, a Dutch Reformed church, as well as in occasional organ concerts at the Nieuwe Kerk.

Johan van Veen wrote (December 21, 1999):
Just a little off topic: I don't think your information is quite correct. He used to be the organist of the 'Waalse Kerk' (the Walloon section of the 'Dutch Reformed Church') - as such he also played during services, but he has been succeeded by Jacques van Oortmerssen. The organist of the Westerkerk is Jos van der Kooy. It seems very unlikely to me that Leonhardt is playing during services there as well. He is still the organist of the Nieuwe Kerk, but no services take place there.

Roland van Gaalen wrote (December 21, 1999):
I think you are right (and I stand corrected), and yet I remember reading something about Leonhardt in connection with the regular church services at the Westerkerk. I will try to retrieve the article and report back.

Nagaimiya Tutomu wrote (December 22, 1999):
Sorry that I'm not an expert, but I have my opinion about the recordings. First, I bought 5 from among 8 CD's at a price from 13 to 15 dollars each: I wonder why they can sell it at such a low price? Second, in spite of high reputation of singers, I have never been satisfied with these recordings, although I'm by no means HIP purist. I think these performances are too rigid and formal to feel pleasure of music. But I would have bought it if I didn't have any of its contents.

Rob Potharst wrote (December 23, 1999):
While I am mostly in lurking mode, for now I switch to posting mode:

Almost right after the splendid organ box, Vol.6, Kruidvat issued its 7th volume with "Secular Cantatas". So run to the nearest Kruidvat store to secure your box before Christmas!

All in all this box contains 8 CD's with the cantatas BWV 36c (for the birthday of a teacher) and BWV 201 through BWV 215.

This time they are old recordings, which probably have appeared on some other label. Most recordings were taken between 1978 and 1985. On many recordings Peter Schreier is both soloist (tenor) and conductor and the choir is always the Berliner Solisten, the orchestra is the Kammerorchester Berlin. Besides Schreier the other singers on these CD's are: Edith Mathis, Siegfried Lorenz, Carolyn Watkinson, Eberhard Büchner, Theo Adam, Lucia Popp, Arleen Augér (only in BWV 208 in a minor role), Julia Hamari, Astrid Pilzecker. All CD's are ADD quality.

I am listening now to CD No.1, BWV 209, with Edith Mathis in a very major role: she has a beautiful, warm voice. Is this the only Bach cantata with an Italian text?

The aria "Parti pur e con dolore" is very moving with this wonderful flute solo.

Wim Huisjes wrote (December 23, 1999):
The Peter Schreier set, also available on Berlin Classics at mid price & previously released on LP by ARCHIV in the mid/end seventies.

Mincklerstraat wrote (February 1, 2000):
No expert opinions but a question: has anyone had problems with the secular cantatas? Do ALL boxes have 3-4 bad CD's, or should I return mine?

 

Secular Cantatas

Charles Francis wrote (October 12, 2000):
I recently bought Vol.7 of the Brilliant Classics "Bach Edition" containing BWV 36c, BWV 201, BWV 202, BWV 203, BWV 204, BWV 205, BWV 206, BWV 207, BWV 208, BWV 209, BWV 210, BWV 211, BWV 212, BWV 213, BWV 214, BWV 215. The performances are by the Kammerorchester Berlin conducted by Peter Schreier with Edith Mathis, Arleen Augér, Lucia Popp (Soprano), Carolyn Watkinson, Julia Hamari (Alto), Peter Schreier (Tenor) and Theo Adam, Siegfried Lorenz (Bass). I must say I'm very pleased with the eight CD's and especially with the outstanding Soprano performances (Arleen Augér etc.).

I'd be interested to know if Bach performed any of the above with female soloists.

Darryl Clemmons wrote (October 12, 2000):
The soloists are excellent. I especially like Theo Adam. The recording quality is not first rate but bearable.

Anyway, I am not sure if Bach used women for these secular cantatas. Most of the stuff I have read concerns the Sacred Cantatas. I would think he would use women for stuff outside of the church, but I haven't seen any proof of that assumption.

I would like to know if he used a boy or falsetto for cantata BWV 51. This work seems too difficult but for a very good soprano (female).

Sybrand Bakker wrote (October 13, 2000):
[To Darryl Clemmons] Of course he used a boy for cantata BWV 51. Use of women was completely forbidden, and the first performance of a womanin a Hamburg church -and Hamburg was noted for it's lack of orthodoxy- took place behind a curtain, in order not to disquiet the church-goers. Leipzig definitely was much more orthodox than Hamburg. Also you should note that generally speaking a boys voice definitely didn't break before the age of 18 (which is 12 or 13 nowadays).

Darryl Clemmons wrote (October 13, 2000):
[To Sybrand Bakker] If this was a usual cantata for use in Leipzig, then I would agree it is most likely he used a boy. The score is not like the usual cantata scores; it is more like a "presentation" copy. This leads to the argument it was intended for special occasion or performer. There are a couple of suspects for the performer. One was a castrati and the other a famous soprano from Italy. I don't know of any possible occasions, which this work may have been intended. Maybe it was for a royal court or for use in Hamburg, I haven't read anything which sounds probable. As the work stands now, it is a rather puzzling enigma.

Tom Wood wrote (October 14, 2000):
[To Darryl Clemmons] Moreover, BWV 51 is not specified for any particular date in the church calendar, so it has been speculated it was not intended for liturgical use, but for occasions such as weddings. Another Bachian mystery, at any rate.

Ben Crick wrote (October 13, 2000):
Sybrand Bakker wrote:
< Use of women was completely forbidden, and the first performance of a woman in a Hamburg church -and Hamburg was noted for it's lack of orthodoxy-took place behind a curtain, in order not to disquiet the church-goers. Leipzig definitely was much more orthodox than Hamburg. Also you should note that generally speaking a boys voice definitely didn't break before the age of 18 (which is 12 or 13 nowadays). >
Hmmm. Stephen Beet wrote the sleeve notes for the recently released CD's of boy sopranos, called /The Better Land. / [Amphion PHI CD 158 and 159]. Many of these boys went on singing until they were 16 and 17 years old. Ernest Lough's recording of Mendelssohn's /Hear My Prayer/ and /O for the Wings of a Dove/ was made when he was nearly 16 (in 1927).

Stephen writes "I set about trying to discover the reasons behind this post-war decline in the quality of boys' voices. Simply to suggest that voices are breaking earlier these days seemed a far from satisfactory explanation. Other factors are probably more responsible -- one of the most important being the fundamental change in voice production that has taken place over recent years. In other words, what some will remember as the 'Pure Head Tone' has been replaced by the use of the chest register. ... What we hear today from boys is not the pure head-tone boy soprano voice of the past, but a harsh incisive sound produced from the chest register, the voice of a small boy that fades quickly at the first sign of puberty. ...

"One of the best Victorian choir training manuals, "Boys' Voices" by John Spencer Curwen, contains much advice given by famous choirmasters of the day. ... Exercises were given for the correct cultivation of the head tone. Scales were practised downwards, never upwards. Boys were told to 'hum' to get the voice into the head. ...".

When I was a choirboy in the 1940's, I was trained by the late George T Pattman FRCO. He used precisely the same methods as described by Stephen Beet. My voice broke when I was 15: I was too eager to be a "man" and sing an octave lower like my peer group.

Aled Jones went on singing until he was 16+, as did the Boys' Brigade boy soprano, Derek Barsham. The Savoy Chapel Choir in London includes two or three big boys with manly speaking voices, still singing the soprano line without falsetto.

Written archives of the St George's Choir School Windsor show that during the period 1670-1730, 70% of the boys remained in the choir for 6 years from the age of ten, and of them two remained until they were over 18. So yes: Bach would have had boys capable of singing soprano up to the age of 18.

Juan Leseduarte wrote (October 14, 2000):
Darryl Clemmons wrote:
< I would like to know if he used a boy or falsetto for cantata
BWV 51. This work seems too difficult but for a very good soprano (female). >
From the booklet that accompanies the Gardiner's version: "The first performance was produced on September 17, 1730, with the virtuosic solo part sung by a 12-year-old boy, Christoph Nichelmann."

Darryl Clemmons wrote (October 16, 2000):
(To Juan Leseduarte) Did he mention any supporting documentation to this assertion? I have seen a lot of ink spilled arguing that it may have been a special occasion piece intended for a women or castrati. If Gardiner has any special proof of this, it would be significant. Considering Gardiner is a musician and not a scholar, I doubt he has discovered anything new.

Juan Leseduarte wrote (October 16, 2000):
(To Darryl Clemmons) Maybe the biography by Spitta could give some information, it's really complete (but not always accurate). Unhappily, I only have the abridged version (by Schmieder).

Well, I could at last find this paragraph in my abridged version of the biography by Spitta (I translate from Spanish):

"Among the pupils of St. Thomas to be considered disciples of Bach is worth mention Christoph Nichelmann, of Treuenbrietzen (born in 1717), later on musician in the orchestra of Frederick the Great. He was first "discantor" (soprano) in the sacred music concerts between 1730 and 1733 and he received harpsichord classes by Friedemann."

I also have tried "christoph nichelmann" in www.google.com. The results seem interesting.

Some examples:
HUM 496. Lee, Douglas Allen. The instrumental works of Christoph Nichelmann. Thesis, Michigan, 1968.

Christoph Nichelmann
[Name Index] Clavier Concertos in E Major and A Major

[IMG] A-R Home Nichelmann's concertos occupy a historical position [IMG] between the inception of the keyboard concerto by J. Digital Audio S. Bach and its first apogee in the works of Mozart. [IMG] Founded on stylistic elements of the Baroque, this Publications music reflects an advance in the establishment of the List keyboard concerto as a genre and as a cornerstone for [IMG] the development of the later Classical style. Production Services

Beth Diane Garfinkel wrote (October 15, 2000):
Darryl Clemmons wrote:
< The soloists are excellent. I especially like Theo Adam. The recording quality is not first rate but bearable.
Anyway, I am not sure if Bach used women for these secular cantatas. Most of the stuff I have read concerns the Sacred Cantatas. I would think he would use women for stuff outside of the church, but I haven't seen any proof of that assumption. >
Well, he did meet Anna Magdalena when she was singing professionally at the same court where he was kapellmeister, so she's probably a good bet for at least one or two of them.

< I would like to know if he used a boy or falsetto for cantata BWV 51. This work seems too difficult but for a very good soprano (female). >
Or a castrato, but I don't know where Bach would have gotten to work with one. But don't forget that Bach's choirboys matured later than young men do today; I believe the average age of voice changing was sixteen, and by that age, a choirboy might gain a fair amount of expertise. I'd also seen somewhere the suggestion that Jauchzet was written for Faustina Bordone, the main problem with this idea being that it sits much too high for her. She was known as a mezzo.

Charles Francis wrote (October 15, 2000):
Beth Diane Garfinkel wrote:
< Well, he did meet Anna Magdalena when she was singing professionally at the same court where he was kapellmeister, so she's probably a good bet for at least one or two of them. >
I have the 1983 performance of "Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus" with the Concentus Musicus Wien conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt, in which woman soloists are used. Given Harnoncourt's usual preference for boys and "original instruments", I take it that women sang at the Leipzig university concert for the name-day of Dr. August Müller?

Darryl Clemmons wrote (October 16, 2000):
(To Charles Francis) Let's becareful how we word Harnoncourt's preference for boys over women. I wouldn't want causal guests to our newsgroup to get the wrong impression!

Charles Francis wrote (October 16, 2000):
(To Darryl Clemmons) Casual visitors to our newsgroup should note that sexism in Bach's day prohibited woman from taking part in church cantatas. The Harnoncourt/Leonhardt pioneering edition of "Das Kantatenwerk" revived this performance practice.

BTW, I understand G. F. Händel did have such a problem.

Hell Spree wrote (October 16, 2000):
(To Charles Francis) I think the implication here is of paedophilia and not of anything… musical.

Charles Francis wrote (October 17, 2000):
(To Hell Spree) Yes, but since Bach didn't succeed in meeting Händel, its somewhat irrelevant.

Ben Crick wrote (October 25, 2000):
Johan van Veen wrote:
< A rather late reply to your interesting posting. I am also curious to know why boys' voices are breaking at an earlier age than a couple of centuries ago. But I very much doubt if the way the voice is used is the reason. I rather think that is isn't an isolated phenomenon, but part of a whole process, in which children physically develop. They are also bigger than in Bach's time. Apart from that, most boys never sing - at least not in a choir - and their voice changes just as early, maybe even earlier. >
Generalisations can be misleading. Only a small minority of boys have their voices trained to sing in prestigious church/chapel/cathedral choirs. This small group seem to be able to stave off the breaking of the voice by training and sheer willpower. Aled Jones was singing into his seventeenth year (16+).

Modern vitamin supplements and the "affluent society" of the West ensure that children mature earlier than in more harsh economic times. Growth is stunted by inadequate diet.

< You refer to the typical English way of singing, without use of the chest register. I personally don't think that a boy with that kind of technique would ever be able to sing a Bach aria properly. That is the main reason there are hardly any English choirboys who are singing extensive solos in baroque music. The boys from continental choirs, like the Tölzer Knabenchor and the Knabenchor Hannover, do - like in the Bach cantata series on Teldec. And it is interesting that one of the best boys in that series, Sebastian Hennig, who definitely used his chest register a lot, was singing well into his 16th. >
Much as I admire the Wiener Knabenchor, etc., the tone they produce differs from the traditional English "cathedral" boys' tone. This is down to choir training methods, not to nutrition and affluence. They cultivate a "string" sound, whereas the English choirmasters cultivate a "flute" sound.

Boys have to use the "chest" register for the lower notes; the technique is bring down the "gear change" between "chest" and "head" voice from about the e (a tenth above middle c) to the e or d just above middle c. Master Morris Stevens recorded Sullivan's /God shall wipe away all tears/ in 1936. He uses the chest register to great effect in the opening quasi-Contralto passage; then opens up to a full "head" voice for the higher passages. (Amphion PHI CD 158, track 7).

I am reminded of Dame Clara Butt singing a setting of / Abide with Me / on an old recording no longer in my possession. She "changes gear" most noticeably between her "low" voice and her "high" voice.

 

Schreier

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 5, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< Except that this last one is not a Leusink set -- it is a re-issue of the Peter Schreier's recordings, made in the late 1970s and early 1980s for Archiv Produktion >
Speaking of Schreier: anybody here know if his Capriccio recordings of Schütz' "Symphoniae sacrae" are due for reissue anytime? They were with the Capella Fidicinia Leipzig, directed by Hans Grüss. 1984 recordings.

And were there ever more than two of them? I have 10.044 and 10.045 (the two halves of Book 1, i.e. the Latin motets) and the packaging says they were pressed in Japan.... I'd like to hear Schreier & crew in the German ones, if he's ever recorded them.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (September 5, 2003):
Speaking of Schreier:
< anybody here know if his Capriccio recordings of Schütz' "Symphoniae sacrae" are due for reissue anytime? They were with the Capella Fidicinia Leipzig, directed by Hans Grüss. 1984 recordings. >
They are easily available from on Amazon: Amazon.com
and on jpc.de http://www.jpc.de/de/klassik/klassik_set.html
It seems thay have been reissued on Berlin Classics in 1997.

< And were there ever more than two of them? I have 10.044 and 10.045 (the two halves of Book 1, i.e. the Latin motets) and the packaging says they were pressed in Japan.... I'd like to hear Schreier & crew in the German ones, if he's ever recorded them. >
According to this PS discography
http://home.planet.nl/~peter.schreier/cds3.htm there are :
Symphoniae Sacrae I (Vol. 1 & 2) : Capella Fidicinia / H. Grüss, 1984, Capriccio
Symphoniae Sacrae II (Vol. 1 & 3) : Capella Fidicinia / H. Grüss, 1985 / '86, Capriccio

 

Peter Schreier Knabenalt

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (December 22, 2007):
I really wanted to entitle this post "My favorite Bach purchases this year", you know the kind of thing we often have at the end of the year.It seemed better to have an appropriate subject line. This however, with the Ricercar Consort BWV 198++, is my favorite treasure of the year, a 1995 CD of which I bought a used copy.

The first two items and the reason for which I bought the disk are the recordings, resp.1950 and 1951 of "Es ist vollbracht" (Johannes-Passion (BWV 245)) and "Agnus Dei" (Messe in h-Moll (BWV 232)).

There follow several items from the Schemellis Gesangbuch and two items from Schütz's Kleine geistliche Konzerte I and II, the second of which is a duet with a Knabensopran.

After that two items by Peter Cornelius, the disciple and promoter of Hector Berlioz and his translator as well. Most of the CD is devoted to the music of Rudolf Mauersberger himself who is the conductor of everything and not a composer for whom I would have bought the CD.

The first two Bach items are mind-boggling and Schreier's voice did not break until age 17. Whether the deprivations of the Germany in which he grew up contributed to this I know not.

 

Peter Schreier: Short Biography | Kammerorchester Berlin
Recordings:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | General Discussions | Interview with Schreier [Are Söholt]
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - Schreier | BWV 245 - Schreier | BWV 248 - Schreier
Table of recordings by BWV Number

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Last update: ýDecember 27, 2007 ý00:49:46