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Thomaskantors & Thomanerchor Leipzig & Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works
General Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Sartorial Splendor of the Thomaners

Rick Canyon wrote (May 25, 2006):
I've come across the following during some research:

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bach's choir members did not wear vestments >
On this website about the Thomanerchor: http://www.mcpetersen.net/wolfgang/thomanerchor/english.htm
it states: "Still in the 18th century the boys were often required to go through the streets in wigs, dark cloaks and often barefoot."

Andrew Parrott (in "The Essential Bach Choir) offers Schering's analysis of a 1710 engraving: "Each quartet has two older and two younger singers. The younger (and shorter) ones (sopranos and altos) are marked out by their black gowns and boys' wigs (Knabenperuecken) as pupils of the Thomasschule..." It also indicates that the older students wore mens clothes and full-bottomed wigs (Allongeperuecken)...and carried daggers.

A book apparently aimed at youth ("Johann Sebastian Bach" by Reba Paeff Mirskey, Follett Publishing, 1965) states: "...the boys...dressed in the school uniform of black capes and green hats..."

Which, if any, is correct? Was there any difference between what was worn to class and what was worn to services? I am trying to gather info about Bach's Leipzig period with some accuracy for a writing project. Any help or direction is appreciated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2006):
Rick Canyon wrote:
< Andrew Parrott (in "The Essential Bach Choir) offers Schering's analysis of a 1710 engraving: "Each quartet has two older and two younger singers. The younger (and shorter) ones (sopranos and altos) are marked out by their black gowns and boys' wigs (Knabenperuecken) as pupils of the Thomasschule..." It also indicates that the older students wore mens clothes and full-bottomed wigs (Allongeperuecken)...and carried daggers. >
This would appear to be the equivalent of a school uniform. Boys in English cathedral and college choirs still wear an extraordinary variety of historic top hats, cloaks, blazers, and white tie. Before statutory church services, the choirs don cassock (the long black or red soutane) and white surplice. This was standard choir vestment across Europe before the Reformation. The surplice was largely abandoned as a "clerical" vestment by Presbyterians, Calvinists and Lutherans. Bach's choirs appear not to have worn any traditional vestments in church. This was not universally observed by all Lutherans. In Scandinavia, the clergy still wear the vestments of the Roman rite and the choirs are dressed in cassock and surplice.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 25, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This would appear to be the equivalent of a school uniform. Boys in English cathedral and college choirs still wear an extraordinary variety of historic top hats, cloaks, blazers, and white tie. Before statutory church services, the choirs don cassock (the long black or red soutane) and white surplice. >
What is the difference (if any) between a surplice and a cotta?

< This was standard choir vestment across Europe before the Reformation. The surplice was largely abandoned as a "clerical" vestment by Presbyterians, Calvinists and Lutherans. Bach's choirs appear not to have worn any traditional vestments in church. This was not universally observed by all Lutherans. In Scandinavia, the clergy still wear the vestments of the Roman rite and the choirs are dressed in cassock and surplice. >
In Poland, the clergy in the Reformed and Lutheran Churches wear something that looks like (and is probably even called) a toga (in the academic sense of the word); they have this additional white collar piece which serves to differentiate the two. The choirs sometimes wear vestments or uniforms (mostly only those which do a lot of public performances outside of church), sometimes not.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2006):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< What is the difference (if any) between a surplice and a cotta? >
The original vestment was the alb, the white tunic that all Roman men and women wore under their togas and robes in the 4th century when the church emerged from persecution. It was ankle-length with fitted sleeves with a belt.

When secular fashions changed, the church kept the alb and it gradually became the basic vestment of the clergy and choirs. Priests in the Catholic and Anglican churches still wear it. The pastors in Bach's churches would have worn it under their poncho-like chasubles during the morning eucharist/mass.

In the high middle ages, the alb became fuller in cut with wide sleeves and the belt disappeared so that it was easier for clergy and choirs to get in and out if them for the many daily services. This "choir dress" can still be seen in most Anglican churches and in many Catholic cathedrals: the Sistine Choir always wears cassock and surplice when singing. The use of the surplice disappeared in German Lutheran churches after the Reformation although in Scandinavia, the vestment was never abandoned by the Lutheran churches. Bach's boys appear to have worn what was their school "uniform",

The cotta was a scaled-down version of the surplice which appeared in 17th century Catholic churches. The sleeves were cut up to the elbow and the length was shortened to waist height. This was part of a general reduction of the fullness of all vestments in the 17th century. Part of it was efficiency: it was easier to handle things like censers if you didn't have sleeves. Cottas gradually became the vestment of acolytes and servers in the mass: the assisting ministers and master of ceremonies at a papal mass can be seen wearing cassock and cotta.

Mike Mannix wrote (May 25, 2006):
It sounds like Harry Potter rather than JSB's Leipzig.

Rick Canyon wrote (May 26, 2006):
[To Mike Mannix] I'm not so sure. I like Harry, but Muggles and Hogwarts always come across as being very
unmusical.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 26, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The original vestment was the alb, the white tunic that all Roman men and women wore under their togas and robes in the 4th century when the church emerged from persecution. It was ankle-length with fitted sleeves with a belt. >
Now I thought that the Greeks at least wore just togas without albs - do I have my facts straight here, or did the Romans do it differently?

< When secular fashions changed, the church kept the alb and it gradually became the basic vestment of the clergy and choirs. Priests in the Catholic and Anglican churches still wear it. The pastors in Bach's churches would have worn it under their poncho-like chasubles during the morning eucharist/mass. >
So they would have had the fancy ones encrusted with gold embroidery, etc.?

< In the high middle ages, the alb became fuller in cut with wide sleeves and the belt disappeared so that it was easier for clergy and choirs to get in and out if them for the many daily services. >
And I guess it acquired buttons at this time too?

< This "choir dress" can still be seen in most Anglican churches and in many Catholic cathedrals: the Sistine Choir always wears cassock and surplice when singing. The use of the surplice disappeared in German Lutheran churches after the Reformation although in Scandinavia, the vestment was never abandoned by the Lutheran churches. >
In Poland, the Lutherans don't use anything beyond the toga unless there will be communion. Then they use a surplice, preferably lavishly hemmed and cuffed with lace - our young vicar has one he must have inherited, it was clearly not made yesterday, from the lace I would believe him if he told me it was an antique (though I've never asked).

[snip]

< The cotta was a scaled-down version of the surplice which appeared in 17th century Catholic churches. The sleeves were cut up to the elbow and the length was shortened to waist height. >
Aha. So the surplice is a larger version of what I used to wear as chorister and acolyte at one of the Episcopal churches I used to go to (in a former lifetime ;) ).

< This was part of a general reduction of the fullness of all vestments in the 17th century. Part of it was efficiency: it was easier to handle things like censers if you didn't have sleeves. >
Yeah. Fortunately, at the other Episcopal church I attended for a time, the acolytes just used albs. I mean, they were super-high, very fancy ceremonies and all - can you imagine, for example, doing 360's with a thurible (i.e. swinging it in a 360-degree circle in a vertical plane next to your body), loaded with incense of course, for Christmas or Easter in anything more than
that?

< Cottas gradually became the vestment of acolytes and servers in the mass: the assisting ministers and master of ceremonies at a papal mass can be seen wearing cassock and cotta. >
So Catholics do that too... Thanks muchly for info!

 

The Thomaskantors - Update

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 13, 2006):
In January 2006 I informed you of a process I have been working on, of adding/expanding short biographies of all the Thomaskantors. I am glad to inform you that the list is now as complete as possible. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm
The list and the short biographies have been built with the help of Thomas Braatz and of Dr. Stefan Altner from the Thomanerchor.

There were 21 Thomaskantors before J.S. Bach and 16 after him to present. Among J.S. Bach's predecessors were important composers as: Johannes Galliculus and Wolfgang Figulus, and especially the line of six that served in this post before him: Sethus Calvisius, Johann Hermann Schein, Tobias Michael, Sebastian Knüpfer, Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau. The tradition of composers in this post continued after J.S. with figures as Johann Friedrich Doles (leading composer of Protestant church music), Johann Adam Hiller (creator of the German Singspiel) and Moritz Hauptmann (who was also an eminent theorist). It is interesting to note that during the on-going project of Chorale Melodies Thomas Braatz and I have found that many of these Thomaskantors/composers used CM's (which were also used by J.S. Bach) in their works.

However, you can find in the list also less important figures, even non-composers. For example, Johannes Scharnagel, who in 1511 flee from Leipzig because he was suspected in a homicide of a choir pupil, and was again accepted only later by the grace of the council.

If you find additional info/pictures, errors, etc. of any of the Thomaskantors, you are invited to send it to me, either through the BCML or to my private e-mail address.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2006):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
>>However, you can find in the list also less important figures, even non-composers. For example, Johannes Scharnagel, who in 1511 flee from Leipzig because he was suspected in a homicide of a choir pupil, and was again accepted only later by the grace of the council.<<
Another interesting list might be of those applied for and who were considered for the post (some important composers involved), but then declined or were not accepted for various reasons.

In this latter group and along the lines of the passage quoted above, here is a short biography of one who actually filled the post for a while without being officially appointed:

>>Johann Rosenmüller received his early musical training at the Lateinschule at Oelsnitz and matriculated in the theological faculty of the University of Leipzig in 1640. There he most likely continued his musical studies with Tobias Michael, cantor of the Thomasschule, and he is listed as an assistant there in 1642, teaching music in the lower classes. By 1650 he had become the first assistant; in 1651 he was also appointed organist of the
Nicolaikirche, and in 1653 the Leipzig city council promised him the succession to the Thomasschule cantorate. In the following year he also became director of music in absentia to the Altenburg court. This promising career came to an abrupt halt in spring 1655, when he and several of the schoolboys were arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of homosexuality. He escaped from gaol and is thought to have gone to Hamburg, though there is no documentary evidence for his presence there.
<< Kerala J. Snyder from Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 6/13/06

Martin Geck, in his article for the MGG1 (Bärenreiter, 1986) on Rosenmüller, has the latter taking over all the duties as Director of Music for the major Leipzig churches because the Thomaskantor, Tobias Michael, was ailing. It was on the basis of this that the Leipzig City Council promised him that he would become the next Thomaskantor.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (June 14, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Is Johann Rosenmüller the same person as Johann Rus(s)senmüller which must be a transliteration of the letters ö,ß into Roman letters (?). Also are you saying that this person was a pedophile or that he simply was gay and his students were did also but no pedophilic relations between them???

R. is lucky to just to have done prison time because in those days people were boiled in oil, hung, garroted, drawn and quartered, accused of witchcraft,tortured,and beheaded if they were gay and little to distinction was made between being gay and being a pedophile even though homosexuality was rife in the Prussian/Hessian Army if those who served in the American Revolution under Washington are representative of these armies.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 15, 2006):
William Rowland asked:
>>Is Johann Rosenmüller the same person as Johann Rus(s)senmüller which must be a transliteration of the letters ö,ß into Roman letters (?).<<
No, certainly not according to the MGG1 article from which I quoted some of this material. The article begins in this manner:

>>Rosenmüller (Rosenmiller), Johann (Giovanni), * um 1619 in Ölsnitz im Vogtland, begraben 12. Sept. 1684
in Wolfenbüttel.<<

>>Also are you saying that this person was a pedophile or that he simply was gay and his students were did also but no pedophilic relations between them???<<
Again a section from the MGG1 article which I did not quote because I thought the New Grove entry had explained this sufficiently:

>>Im Frühjahr 1655 mußte Rosenmüller Leipzig unter dem Verdacht der Päderastie verlassen und damit berechtigte Hoffnungen auf ein angesehenes Kantoren-oder Kapellmeister-Amt in Mitteldeutschland begraben.<<

("In the spring of 1655, Rosenmüller had to leave Leipzig as he was suspected of being a pederast and as a result any justifiable hopes that he might have had to obtain a respectable position as cantor [the position of Thomaskantor had been promised to him] or capellmeister in central Germany were shattered." where the German word 'Päderastie' or 'Päderast' is defined as "Homosexueller mit besonders auf männliche Jugendliche gerichtetem Sexualempfinden" ("as being a homosexual with special sexual feelings directed towards male youths {boys}").

 

Modern Cantata performances

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 5, 2007):
Last Sunday was the Thomanerchor's annual liturgy using the church order of Bach's time. BWV 165 and the Sanctus in D were performed: http://www.leipzig-online.de/thomanerchor/

An interesting photo of a concert in St. Thomas with the performers in the choir loft and the audience in chairs turned to face the back of the church: http://www.thomaskirche.org/neu/eng/parish/parish.htm

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for making these sites available, Doug. The preservation of the St. Thomas church and the tradition of the best of music is a great work indeed. I enjoyed my visit via the web.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 5, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I always appreciate your posts, emphasizing the importance of architecture and placement, in relation to the production and appreciation of truly authentic sound. But a picture is worth a thousand words, at least. Perhaps ten thousand of the sort often spent here?

I did also notice the accompanying homily, with humility :

"As long as the St. Thomas Church remains a place of vivid faith, where Doubting Thomas is welcome as much as Faithful Peter, [.] it will represent what many people are longing for: an open venue in the middle of the city, a shelter for everyone longing for consolation and guidance."

And music.

 

Question about the Ramin Bach Cantatas

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 23, 2008):
Yesterday I was able to hear two of the Ramin cantatas, namely BWV 106 (with two boy soloists) and BWV 73 with boy soprano. I was very moved by both performances. It is my impression from the information that I have gathered, cantata by cantata that a number of the Ramin cantatas (see the copy and paste below) use boy soloists. However I have been told that the above two are the only ones and the rest use adult women soloists.

Can someone confirm the one or the other view for me please? The website language is a bit strange, referring often to sopranos and altos and using a mixture of terminology such as "nameless" and "anonymous" and it possible that disc-mate contamination has occurred. The two I heard are indeed low cholesterol and very modern for their time and the tenor is superb to my ears.

Thanks,

< BWV (1724) cantata BWV 73 "Herr,wie du willt,so schicks mit mir " (12/02/1954)
Hans Joachim Rotzsch, tenor >

According to my reading of Aryeh Oron's discography (and of course the facts/the data may be wrong), the following cantatas are recorded by Ramin with Knabensopran and/or Knabenalt. I have traced each CD compilation on Aryeh's site to the individual cantatas so bundled and this is what I come up with:

Complete Recordings of BWV 36
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Elisabeth Meinel-Asbahr; Alto: Soloist from the Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Rolf Apreck; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Nov 1952
TT: 29:21
Recorded at Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
--------------------
BWV 41 Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
------------------
BWV 72
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1956
TT: 19:35
--------------------
BWV 12
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze, Bass: Friedrich Härtel
--------------------
BWV 137
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano & Alto: Soloists of Thomanerchor Leipzig (no names); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
May 1953
TT: 22:47
-----------------
BWV 138

Complete Recordings of BWV 36
Günther Ramin

Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

Soprano: Elisabeth Meinel-Asbahr; Alto: Soloist from the Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Rolf Apreck; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Leipzig Classics
Nov 1952
TT: 29:21
Recorded at Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
--------------------
BWV 41 Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
------------------
BWV 72
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1956
TT: 19:35
--------------------
BWV 12
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze, Bass: Friedrich Härtel
--------------------
BWV 137
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano & Alto: Soloists of Thomanerchor Leipzig (no names); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
May 1953
TT: 22:47
-----------------
BWV 138
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano & Alto: Anonymous boys from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Jun 1953
TT: 22:30
--------------------
BWV 95
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Boy Soprano: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig (No name); Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
Sep 1952
TT: 20:38
------------------
BWV 79
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Bass: Hans Hauptmann
1950
TT: 18:02
-----------------------
BWV 119
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Sopranos: Soloists from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Alto: Marianne Biederbeck-Schuster; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Jan 1953
TT: 26:12
--------------------
BWV 78
Cantata BWV 78
Günther Ramin
Thomanerchor Leipzig / Gewandhausorchester Leipzig
Soprano & Alto: Soloist from Thomanerchor Leipzig; Tenor: Gert Lutze; Bass: Johannes Oettel
Ariola Eurodisc
1950 (NEVER ON CD)
-------------------

Neil Halliday wrote (January 24, 2008):
Malvenuto wrote:
>I have been told that the above two are the only ones and the rest use adult women soloists. Can someone confirm the one or the other view for me please? The website language is a bit strange, referring often to sopranos and altos<
I can't answer your specific question, but I recall Ramin sometimes uses the choir sopranos in places we would normally expect a soloist; likewise for some alto lines.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 24, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thank you, Neil, for your reply. I understand that you mean the kind of thing that I have heard some performances on recording doing with BWV 78/duet "wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten". There are some interesting performances of this with choir of sopranos and altos. Again is there any justification for such a practice?

Thanks,

Neil Halliday wrote (January 25, 2008):
Malvenuto wrote:
>I understand that you mean the kind of thing that I have heard some performances on recording doing with BWV 78/duet "wir eilen mit schwachen, doch emsigen Schritten". There are some interesting performances of this with choir of sopranos and altos.<
Correct. I doubt there is any more justification for such practice, than that a conductor considers that it sounds good. BTW, there are examples of Koopman and Gardiner using choir sopranos (or altos), where a soloist is more commomnly used. (Gardineuses a choir, or section of, in every movement of BWV 4! Most effectively, I might add).

Interestingly, I suspect a performance of the last movement (SB duet) of this week's cantata BWV 49, would also sound very agreeable if the soprano line (a chorale melody in long notes) was sung by a vibrato-free soprano choir.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 25, 2008):
Question re Ramin

Neil Halliday wrote:
<Interestingly, I suspect a performance of the last movement (SB duet) of this week's cantata BWV 49, would also sound very agreeable if the soprano line (a chorale melody in long notes) was sung by a vibrato-free soprano choir.>
This is exactly what Gardiner does in his version of BWV 158, Mvt. 2, bass aria, with soprano choir in the accompanying chorale cantus firmus. By coincidence, that was one the cantatas I introduced last year, and so I was able to recollect it without much of a struggle. Thanks for the reminder, and very appropriate to the current discussions.

Unfortunately, the chronology of BWV 158 is unknown, but the stylistic and structural comparison with BWV 49 perhaps can help support its authenticity, which may still be in question.

We can only patiently await the release of Gardiners BWV 49 to see if he used choir section again.

Terejia wrote (January 26, 2008):
By choir or by soloist Re: Question re Ramin

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This is exactly what Gardiner does in his version of BWV 158, Mvt. 2, bass aria, with soprano choir in the accompanying chorale cantus firmus. By coincidence, that was one the cantatas I introduced last year, and so I was able to recollect it without much of a struggle. Thanks for the reminder, and very appropriate to the current
discussions. >
Something that may relate : In Weihenachts Oratorium/Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) in Teil 1 and Teil 4, there are bass recitatives accompanied by sopranos chorales (not being a music specialist, I leave the details to music specialists if needed). Of the 3 renditions I've heard so far(Harnoncourt's 1979 version, Karl Richter, and Martin Flemisch), only Harnoncourt version uses boy-choir soloist and the other two are rendered by choir.

I'm not up to discussing the authenticity of renditions myself. For me personally, both make sense as long as it is vibrate free.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (January 28, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Correct. I doubt there is any more justification for such practice, than that a conductor considers that it sounds good. BTW, there are examples of Koopman and Gardiner using choir sopranos (or altos), where a soloist is more commomnly used. (Gardiner uses a choir, or section of, in every movement of BWV 4! Most effectively, I might add). >
I have just had the pleasure of listening to Ramin's recording of BWV 36 and indeed, contrary to the information in Aryeh's deeply appreciated discography (for which we not only all owe him our gratitude but owe him our corrections when we run across such matters): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV36.htm

There is in the Ramin no boy alto soloist at all.The 2nd mvt. "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" is sung by a choir of two parts, boy sopranos and boy altos. This is what the discography lists for the Rotzsch conducted performance. It is rather angelic. Harnoncourt has the duet done by a SUPERB Knabensopran and a CT. Ramin has the later soprano aria (mis-guidedly in my opinion) done by a full-bodied and red-bloodied adult female soprano. I am about to go on to Harnoncourt anno 2007 live performance with adult soprano and alto of the female persuasion. Harnoncourt has vacillated on this matter all his life. Witness his officially released three CD recordings of the Matthäus-Passion. Witness his CD recording (not the Gillesberger but Harnoncourt's) of the Johannes-Passion vs. his DVD recorded performance.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (March 16, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] There are in fact 10 cantatas in the Ramin set that have, when applicable, both Knabenalt and Knabensopran. When of course there is only a sopran and no alt (or vice versa), there is only one boy soloist. I have been able to hear four of these ten and several other Ramin cantatas with female soloists. I just feel that the record should be corrected. Somehow I believe that there is much to appreciate in these performances. Hopefully the set will be reissued.

 

New release: Günther Ramin Vol. 1

Fidelio Records wrote (December 8, 2008):
For many years, there has been a great demand for recordings by the great organist and choirmaster Günther Ramin as a supplement to the cantata edition which was released by Eterna on LP and then CD.

It is with great pleasure that we are able to inform the members of the Bach Cantata Forum of an exciting new release as part of a planned CD edition dedicated to the Thomaskantor and Organist Günther Ramin featuring hitherto unpublished rare recordings.

The first release is available and features Cantatas 110 and 21. For more information and to order, please visit: www.fidelio-records.com and support this worthwhile edition.

Thank you!

Julian Mincham wrote (December 8, 2008):
[To Fidelio Records] I looked at the web site and found a number of Joyce Hatto's recordings still for sale.

There is a huge amount on the internet about the hoax apparently perpertrated by releasing recordings of other pianists in her name so I am somewhat surprised to see her recordings still listed and available.

Has anyone got the final word on this one?

Mary Shaw wrote (December 10, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] As of 30 seconds ago, the web site only shows one product, a CD of Bach conducted by Ramin.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (December 17, 2008):
[To Mary Shaw] Last Jan., almost a year ago, I was quite desperately seeking a copy of the Ramin cantatas. They were all out of print and available nowhere.

After I was sent by a personal friend the present notice, I checked once again on Amazon.com and surprise, surprise, it says that the Ramin Cantata set from Eterna has been re-released on Oct. 25, 2008. It is inexpensive and even cheaper from sellers. I ordered a copy last night. Last Jan. a silent member of the other list (the one where I do not even read--- the theological list) kindly sent me uploads of a few of his personal LP transfers of some of the Ramin cantatas with boy soprano and/or boy alto. As I recall, 10 of the cantatas have boy soloists (sometimes choir of boys in place of soloist). At all events, happily I found I had saved his address and I wrote to thank him for his past kindness and to inform him that I now look forward to the complete set.

As to the Fidelio, it that to be USA available? I do not intend under current circumstances to order from the other side of the world.

Also, as Aryeh notes in the discography, there is a 1950 BWV 78 never transfered to CD.

Much thanks for any further information,

 

New Release: Günther Ramin Limited Edition now available to US customers

Fidelio Records wrote (February 26, 2009):
Due to increased demand for the new Günther Ramin Edition in the USA, Volume 1 will now be available for US customers from our website: www.fidelio-records.com

The CD contains BWV 110 and BWV 21 'Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis' as well as a very rare recorded spoken introduction by Ramin himself. This exciting new release, a limited collectors' edition, should not be missed as these recordings are not likely to be published again.

 

Biller in St. Thomas's

Neil Halliday wrote (May 5, 2010):
Heard on radio today,
a recording made in St. Thomas Church, Leipzig, under direction of Geog Biller.

BWV 186 and BWV 187. Lovely music full of variety and charm.

And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings).

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
Sniff, sniff .. Is that a match being struck I smell?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 6, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
A bit (but only a bit) kinder than Beecham, and those skeletons on the tin roof, doing whatever?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>A bit (but only a bit) kinder than Beecham, and those skeletons on the tin roof, doing whatever?<
Thanks for the chuckle, Ed.

BTW, rather than 'lighting a flame', I wanted to highlight the reasons for, and effect of, Herr Biller's choices.

Not that I have any qualms about being on the same page as Beecham, or Schweitzer, for that matter, who apparently wanted to dump the seccos altogether, in the cantatas! (Maybe Biller could have won him over?)

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 6, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< And no boring seccos with scrappy accompaniment; rather, Biller uses discreet full length bass >notes on organ and cello, complemented with treble harmonies realised on a lute. (For some reason a lute can clearly delineate the pitch of notes on recordings more sucessfully than a >harpsichord - whose pitchless 'buzz' is often little more than annoying, on recordings). >
Despite a few humorous exchanges, I agree with Neil that there are substantial points in his original comment. Among the questions which come to mind:

(1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? Whether yes or no, if it sounds appropriate to the performer in charge, is it legitimate instrumentation for a 21st C. recording?

(2) Are there differences in what sounds good in live performance, compared with recordings? My first instinct was no, but in this instance of harpsichord supporting orchestral continuo, it is worth some thought. Like Neil, I do not care for the efffect on recordings, but it is easier, for me, to appreciate in performance, with the visual support of where the sound is coming from.

(3) I expect the pitchless buzz was specific to harpsichord continuo, but not to solo harpsichord? Just in case, for anyone who would like to enjoy counter examples, check out any of Peter Watchorns recordings, using Bach/Lehman tuning. Clear pitch, no buzz.

(4) I wonder if authentic Bach tuning, as opposed to equal temperament, might help to improve the impression made by harpsichord continuo, whether live or recorded?

Thanks to those of you who have patience with my enjoying a bit of fun at times. And to those who express impatience (or worse), well...

Evan Cortens wrote (May 6, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? Whether yes or no, if it sounds appropriate to the performer in charge, is it legitimate instrumentation for a 21st C. recording? >
I'm sure there are people who know more about this than me here (Brad?) but to my knowledge, there is no evidence to support that Bach ever used the lute in his continuo group, or at least not on a regular basis. He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception. Surely Dreyfus's book (Bach's Continuo Group) has something to say on this, but I don't have it handy at the moment.

That being said, I don't want to start a flame war here! I'm never going to tell anyone that they should or shouldn't use a particular instrument in their recording. Or, for that matter, if it's historically inaccurate that it's therefore a bad recording. My thoughts on historically informed performance come down to this: we should try our best to understand what Bach did, but we need not ever feel bound by it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 7, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>> (1) Is a lute an authentic continuo instrument, for Bach's sacred cantatas? <<
EC:
< to my knowledge, there is no evidence to support that Bach ever used the lute in his continuo group, or at least not on a regular basis. He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception. Surely Dreyfus's book (Bach's Continuo Group) has something to say on this, but I don't have it handy at the moment. >
EM:
I do not see any articles, re lute, in the BCW archives, nor any mention of Lute in the obbligato instruments section. I did notice this comment, re soprano saxophone, as a possible substitute for baroque oboe:
<Most jazz and pop music players might use such an instrument [sop sax] as a harsh tool for aural aggression.>

I beg to differ. Steve Lacy and John Coltrane (in that order!) opened my ears to the potential of the instrument for spiritual expression, just about fifty years ago. I am remain eternally grateful to them both, and to many current friends who include soprano in their bag, as well.

Thanks for the pointer to Dreyfus, which is available on my local library net. I will report back, as appropriate.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 6, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
>He did use two (obbligato!) lutes in the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198), but this must be seen as an exception.<
A look at the BGA score of BWV 198 reveals that, in four movements, the two lutes are in fact continuo instruments; only one movement has one of the lutes in an obbligato roll, while the other lute is marked 'col' continuo'.

Certainly BWV 198 appears to show the only example of continuo lute in the cantatas; one wonders why this is the case.

-------

Of course Bach, if not playing it himself, was no doubt usually phyically quite close to the harpsichord in the peformances of the (few?) cantatas that had continuo harpsichord, so he would not have been aware of the problem we are discussing - and which Beecham, standing at a distance in front of much larger vocal and instrumental forces, would have noted, in the relevent works. Hence his aversion?

The problem of the "pitchless buzz" arises for audiences of music with harpsichord in ensemble (not solo!), not only on recordings, but also at live concerts where the listener is considerably removed from the harpsichord. Ofcouse, no-one cares less about this in music for larger ensembles - except keyboard concertos, where the instrument must be heard - but it certainly is a problem in smaller ensembles, such as secco recitatives, or instrumental sonatas) where the keyboard (or plucked) continuo instrument is relied on to convey a significant proportion of the musical 'information'.

[I suppose the way around this is to mike the harpsichord separately, but this creates problems for recording engineers - for recordings if not for live performances - because 'true' stereo would be difficult to restore to the recording ].

In conclusion, thank you, Herr Biller, for your choice of lute, as reported.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Continuo in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 8 [General Topics]

 

Cantors in Leipzig

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Seth Calvisius? >
Cantor of St. Thomas from 1594 - 1615
Bio: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Calvisius-Sethus.htm

I also discovered that Praetorius' German name is Schulz.

So we now have four German S's:

Schütz, Schulz, Schein & Scheidt.

Say that quickly without a German expletive!

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, if the game is "famous German early musicians with a monosyllabic family name starting with the sound sh followed by vowel",

and we include instrument makers, we may have a few more:

Schantz (the fortepiano maker)
Schott (the founder of the printing house).

Six: not bad.

[If we lift the restriction of a vowel after Sch, needless to say, there are many more: Schlick (Arnolt and Johann), Spohr, the Strauss's . . .]

Apologies for the off-topic. Too tired at 1am...

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2012):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< Well, if the game is "famous German early musicians with a monosyllabic family name starting with the sound sh followed by vowel" >
Pretty Schlick, guys!

I still want to know if they all went to the same school?

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 18, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling] A complete list of the Thomaskantors with bios is presented at:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Thomaskantors.htm

 

Washington Post: Leipzig¹s St. Thomas Boys Choir copes with voices deepening at a younger age

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 17, 2012):
Washington Post
"Leipzig’s St. Thomas Boys Choir copes with voices deepening at a younger age"

 

OT: Johann Friedrich Doles

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 18, 2012):
A colleague of mine has finished a new urtext edition via Prima la Musica of Dole's setting of the chorale tune "Nun danket alle gott." I've generated a video for the music, in an effort to allow you an opportunity to hear music that typically wouldn't be available. The youtube video is: http://youtu.be/eoe8v-EPMbA

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 18, 2012):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Lovely setting with a very shapely Classical ritornello. The sudden emergence of contrapuntal choral parts in the last third is quite striking.

Always instructive to hear Bach's predecessors and successors. Gives us a glimpse of Leipzig not just as a Bach phenomenon but as a city with an extraordinary heritage that Bach was privileged to be part of.

 

Thomanerchor sings in St. Peter's Basilica

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 29, 2013):
Luther and Bach would be astonished.

The Thomanerchor is singing for the papal mass in St. Peter's Basilica this morning as part of the mass for the über-papal occasion of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul.

A short CNN piece on the 800 anniversary of the school: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txQFlJZkwaQ

 

BCW: Hans-Joachim Rotzsch Bach Discography

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 12, 2013):
The former Thomaskantor Hans-Joachim Rotzsch passed away on September 24, 2013 in Leipzig. As J.S. Bach 15th successor in office, Rotzsch held the position of Thomaskantor from 1972 to 1991, succeeded by Georg Christoph Biller. For a long time I had wondered why did he left this prestigious job. Only recently, I found out that after it became known that he had temporarily co-operated with the State Security of the GDR, he had to resign from the post of Thomaskantor. After that he worked until 2000 as Professor of Protestant Church Music at the Salzburg Mozarteum. Rotzsch was also an excellent tenor singer as testified by his many recording under various conductors, including three former Thomaskantors - Günther Ramin, Erhard Mauersberger and Kurt Thomas. Rotzsch left us a good wealth of Bach recordings under his baton, all of them with the Thomanerchor.
With the help of Matthias Hansen, I revised and expanded Rotzsch Bach discography pages on the BCW.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Rotzsch.htm

 

Job Posting for Bach's Successor

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 23, 2015):
No theological examination!
http://www.jenapolis.de/2015/08/21/bekanntgabe-der-vier-kandidaten-fuer-das-thomaskantorat-in-leipzig/#.VdfJH2ttI5E.facebook

William Hoffman wrote (August 23, 2015):
[To Douglas Cowling] Sorry: No pages were found containing

Yves Dubois wrote (August 23, 2015):
[To William Hoffman] Links seems to be incorrect. This should ne better (in german):
Bekanntgabe der vier Kandidaten für das Thomaskantorat in Leipzig

 

Karl Straube: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works
Günther Ramin: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Recordings of Instrumental Works
Individual Recordings:
BWV 244 - G. Ramin | Article: Günther Ramin 1898-1956 - Thomaskantor 1940-1956
Kurt Thomas: Short Biography | Frankfurter Kantorei | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | BWV 248 - K. Thomas
Erhard Mauersberger: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | BWV 244 - E. Mauersberger
Hans-Joachim Rotzsch: Short Biography | Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum | Recordings of Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | BWV 244 - H.J. Rotzsch
Georg Christoph Biller: Short Biography | Recordings of Vocal Works | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - G.C. Biller | BWV 244 - G.C. Biller
Thomaskantors: Thomanerchor Leipzig | Gewandhausorchester Leipzig | General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Thomaskirche Leipzig: Church Services, Motets & Concerts
Table of Recordings by BWV Number

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