Scores of Bach Cantatas
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
BGA Scores - a Major Addition to the Bach Cantatas Website
David Glenn Lebut JR. wrote (August 10, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] When are you going to add the Non-Vocal works Scores to it? After all, you have the recordings of them on it, and you have (on the Vocal works) a link to the Scores in the Rcordings part of the links.
Also, when are you going to add the NBA Scores to the list, since a MAJORITY of his works are only found in the NBA Scores (i.e., his Pasticcios on the Keiser/Burhns Markuspassion, the Fruehfassung der Matthaeuspassion, the Varianten zu der Johannespassion, the Format of the Markuspassion, the works BWV 1081-1120+, and most of the BWV Anhang works, as well as the COMPLETE Klavierbuechlein fuer Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and the COMPLETE Klavierbuechleine fuer Anna Magdalena Bach (the BGA editions, though mostly complete, do not include the versions of works in those books that could be found elsewhere in the BGA edition). And when is going to be included the BGA edition of the Klavierbuechleine fuer Anna Magdalena Bach?
Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 10, 2003):
< David Glenn Lebut JR. wrote: Also, when are you going to add the NBA Scores to the list, >
NBA is not in public domain!
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 10, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut JR.] I try to make the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW) as comprehensive as possible regarding Bach's Vocal Works. Therefore the BCW includes for each vocal work: basic data, recordings, discussions, original text & translation, scores, music examples, etc. I am extremely grateful to many peoples from all around the world who have helped me fulfilling this mission and still continue doing it.
It has never been my goal to make the BCW as comprehensive regarding Bach's non-vocal works. Giving a similar treatment to the non-vocal works would take a lot of time, and considering the time I already dedicate to adding material, updating and improving the BCW, such a task would be beyond my capabilities. Indeed you will be able to find in the BCW reviews of recordings of non-vocal works by Donald Satz & others. I included them because I thought that they are important and should be available to the wide public through the web.
Riccardo has already answered you regarding the royalties of the NBA Scores.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] How about someone follow Aryeh's lead and set up a Bach Instrumental Website? It could be the same format, look, etc., but be dedicated to the Instrumental Works as opposed to the Vocal Works.
The main problem, as Aryeh has alluded to, is time - I definitely don't have the time (nor the resources) to do the site (besides, I'm more interested in Händel's choral music than Bach's instrumental music), and I'm not sure if too many other people do. Would be an interesting extension though.
Bob Henderson wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] So Much thanks for the formidable task which you have accomplished in the content of this site. No need for the instrumental works. Even if you had the time. Some one else can do it in time if so inclined. But what are we to do when the current cycle is exausted? I have my own opinion but hope that others will become involved in the future of the site. How do you see the site developing after the current cycle is finished?
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 11, 2003):
< Bob Henderson wrote: But what are we to do when >the current cycle is exausted? >
If you mean the discussions, they reach far beyond simply the cantata of the week-I get enough out of these lists without reading the cantata of the week discussions (because I have about 15 or so in my CD collection, and I think all have been discussed)
if you mean the site:there's always room for articles!
hey I might even put up some of my better school essays pertaining to Bach (after they've been finished, submitted and marked of course-I gave my mod-west-civ final essay on Beethoven to my adjudicators at my auditions)
I hope that this community (BCML, BRML, BCW) never dies out!
p.s. I intend to use the BCW in my research, either directly or to point me to published works (but with the wealth of knowledge that has gone into the information on the site, at least it's trustworthy info!)
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 12, 2003):
[To Riccardo Nughes] I didn't know that. But (really) neither (from what I know) is the BGA edition. The copies of both out here are kept at the Music Library of Arizona State University and is NOT CIRTULATING status, meaning you or I could NOT check them out.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 12, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I understand. I guess my point was just that the recordings were listed, therefore I thought that since they were listed a link might be placed to link to the scores (since that is the situation in the Vocal Works).
Bradley Lehman wrote (August 12, 2003):
Another nice way to get some of the BGA scores is to buy them in the Dover reprint. Most of those books cost less than a single CD apiece.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 13, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Two problems with that:
1.) Dover is QUITE SELECTIVE of what it does (i.e., not all Cantatas are replecated in their scores, they do NOT touch the Chorales, etc.).
2.) What if you do not have the money?
Bach Cantata Scores
Murillo R. Moreira wrote (October 30, 2003):
Anyone intersted in the cantatas scores of our master?
www.emule-project.net is a program P2P and has all of them in pdf format for download, click on: http://prdownloads.sourceforge.net/emule/eMule0.30c-Installer.exe to install the software you will use to download. It is Klav. Auszüge ed. and more than 500MB size. To find it, go to search, type in name "bach scores" and you got it.
Want some notes on Cantata
Milotna 2001 wrote (February 21, 2004):
<< I am looking for a copy of Johann Sebastian Cantata or other compositions with musical notes......can you help me find one.... >>
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (February 21, 2004):
[To Milotna 2001] As in scores? All of the cantatas and other vocal works are available in full score from the BG Edition in PDF format (i.e. can be read in acrobat reader), and the cantatas are also available in vocal-piano version, from Aryeh's outstanding site: http://bach-cantatas.com/IndexScores.htm
hope this helps!
Will Stoner wrote (February 21, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] If anyone would like just a movement from a cantata in GIF or JPG (and not the whole business in PDF), let me know and I MIGHT be able to find time to scan and email it. I have most of the arias and almost all of the choruses from the first 169 cantatas (having made xerox copies to follow when listening at the school "media library.") For that matter, also the scores of many of the organ works, the Matthew Passion, the John Passion (piano accompaniment), the Magnificat, the Mozart Requiem through the Lacrimosa....
What I don't have is the music itself! [Except in MIDI, wherever I can find it.]
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 22, 2004):
[To Will Stoner] Would you have access to Versions I-4 of the Johannespassion, BWV 244b, and the earlier versions of the Orgelwerke?
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 22, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Not all. After all, BWV 199 is only available at music libraries or is prohibitively expensive to purchase in score form (that is, in the BGA edition). And forget about BWV 200. On the Bach Cantatas Website, BWV 199 is linked to a score in only Piano and Voice format (not BGA), and BWV 200 is not linked at all. Nor, as a matter of fact, are most of the earlier versions of many of the Geistliches Kantaten (or even the Weltliches Kantaten for that matter).
Avi Eilam-Amzallag wrote (Feb22, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] There is no need to scan Bach vocal works. Go to cdsheetmusic.com and find:
The complete Church Cantatas (double cd set) scaned
and ready to printed.
J. S. Bach Major choral works
J. S. Bach Works for keyboard
J. S. Bach Complete works for Organ
amd much more. The music is ready to be printed on the spot.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (Fevruary 24, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Alright-sorry for the mistake
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 24, 2004):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Its all right and certainly understandable. When they advertise themselves as having the Vokalwerke Scores from the BGA edition in PDF format, one would think that it would mean all of them, don't you think?
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 24, 2004):
[To Avi Eilam-Amzallag] I have seen them. Unfortunately, they are BGA editions. Not all the earlier versions of the Orgelwerke are on them, nor, in fact, are BWV 244b or the scores for the 1st-4th versions of the Johannespassion. Many are found in the NBA edition (the latter two items definitely as well as such works as BWV 549a, 535a, 533a, 532a, 536a, 543a, 545a and 545b, 566a, 574a and 574b, and all the earlier versions of BWV 651-668). However, on the other hand, they do include many works that are not in the NBA but are in the BGA (such as all the Choraele from the Kirnberger Collection in all their forms, the Arien that went into the 2nd version of BWV 245 [identified by many as BWV 245a, BWV 245b, and BWV 245c], and some of the variants of the various Choraele from BWV 714-765 [including some of the Choraele themselves which are not in the NBA edition]).
Will Stoner wrote (February 24, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] My score of the Johannespassion is transcribed for piano and voices, so it's certainly not authentic. I couldn't guess which version of the original it follows. The first chorus is "Herr, unser Herscher" instead of "o Mensch bewein" and the interpolated passage from the Matthew gospel is still in, so I guess it could be from any time.
I wasn't aware that there are different versions of the Orgelwerke. The publisher of the scores I xeroxed has grouped them in a way only he knows. The Orgelwerke are intermingled with Leipzig chorales, early with late ....when I did the copying I got only the sheets with music scores on them, and therefore have almost no info to go on.
Jason Marmaras wrote (February 24, 2004):
< Not all. After all, BWV 199 is only available at music libraries or is prohibitively expensive to purchase in score form (that is, in the BGA edition). And forget about BWV 200. On the Bach Cantatas Website, BWV 199 is linked to a score in only Piano and Voice format (not BGA), and BWV 200 is not linked at all. Nor, as a matter of fact, are most of the earlier versions of many of the Geistliches Kantaten (or even the Weltliches Kantaten for that matter). >
Concerning BWV 200, "Bekennen will ich seinen Namen", it isn't a Cantata but an Alto Aria, and it is available in Urtext reproduction in the Werner Icking Music Archive http://icking-music-archive.sunsite.dk, an excellent free sheet music archive.
Stephen Benson wrote (February 24, 2004):
[To Jason Maarmaras] In utilizing the included link, be sure to eliminate the comma at the end, which will prevent access to the site.
Jason Marmaras wrote (February 24, 2004):
[To Stephen Benson] Sorry about that...
(the link is http://icking-music-archive.sunsite.dk )
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (February 25, 2004):
Will Stoner wrote:: < My score of the Johannespassion is transcribed for piano and voices, so it's certainly not authentic. I couldn't guess which version of the original it follows. The first chorus is "Herr, unser Herscher" instead of "o Mensch bewein" and the interpolated passage from the Matthew gospel is still in, so I guess it could be from any time. >
I would assume, then, it is the modern version (which is a composit).
< I wasn't aware that there are different versions of the Orgelwerke. The publisher of the scores I xeroxed has grouped them in a way only he knows. The Orgelwerke are intermingled with Leipzig chorales, early with late ....when I did the copying I got only the sheets with music scores on them, and therefore have almost no info to go on. Sorry.... >
It's all right. I was just curious.
NBA Urtext, and reference materials in general
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2004):
<< So how can the NBA create "Urtext" performance parts for a mass which was, most probably, never performed by Bach? >>
< By extracting them from an "Urtext" score. >
In their usual editorial manner: by conflating multiple sources to create an idealized reading that never existed on paper during Bach's lifetime. It's generally well done philological scholarship, with the details and discrepancies closely documented, but it's still a conflation: somebody choosing which competing sources to favor over others in the blend, and regularizing details.
Meanwhile, many thinking musicians still compile their (our) own performing editions, using the NBA among other available resources, along with musical analysis. We might choose to follow different sources, or interpret any number of decisions differently from the NBA's editors: as to rhythms, notes, articulations, instrumentation, and more. The process of assembling and marking a set of parts before rehearsal is important, as a process. In this repertoire it's the musicians' job to think actively as composers: to figure out why the music is written as it is, and to figure out what's not shown on the page, and to recognize any extraordinary features, and to find some way to prioritize everything appropriately...not merely to be passive executants following instructions from a printed page. (The opinions of naive critics, notwithstanding...as if musicians don't know how to read music as well as the critics do!)
"Urtext" is a modern conceit. It operates from several questionable assumptions:
- that a composer's intentions were ever a single thing suitable for binding in a book;
- that those best intentions, as a snapshot, can ever be captured on paper if we're just careful enough with everything;
- that a positivistic and objective approach is best for understanding a work of art;
- that a clean "uninterpreted" text represents the music better than a text where competent musicians have notated some practical performance decisions;
- that all musicians between (and maybe including) the composer and now should have their opinions shorn away, leaving "the music" in some purer state for timeless contemplation...except, of course, allowing the editor's own opinions to trump all.
Meanwhile, composers write down only as much as they feel is needed, within the time available and for any anticipated circumstances. That's a crucial decision in the creation of any piece of art or craftsmanship: when is it good enough to go out there, when is it done, when is it time to stop tinkering?
Whether the notation ever captures more than 10% of a creative person's intentions, on paper, or reflects anything we composers might do as interpreters of our own music reacting to any other set of circumstances...that's where the "Urtext"-worshippers lose their way in the zeal for purity, and their habit of slamming everybody else with authority. They apparently believe all arguments can be won by simply telling their opponents to "go look at the score", as if the opponent will suddenly realize all the errors of his own ways and repent before the face of that authoritative text. And (in that same line of argument-by-authority thinking, a fallacy), any opponent who does not prove all by an Urtext edition of a piece is clearly a misguided and ignorant sinner whose opinions are not worth consideration. Obviously, the only truth worth considering is an Urtext with thecritic's own unacknowledged biases and expectations read into it, as supposedly objective contemplation of the music. So much worship of the hallowed Urtext score: one would think these people's knees are probably worn out from all the genuflection.
And, their wallets empty from buying the NBA: http://www.bach-institut.de/nba.html
By an estimate looking at: http://www.baerenreiter.com/html/completeedi/gabach.htm
it costs about 6500 Euro to get the cantatas, 2000 for the other vocal works, 1000 for the organ works, 2000 for the other keyboard works, 350 for the chamber music, 1000 for the orchestral works, 800 for the other stuff. And that's not taking into account the ones that are out of print, or not available yet. Total: about 14,000 Euro plus shipping, unless they can also snag the OOP ones somewhere. Add another 300 for sturdy shelves to hold it all. Grand total, roughly 16,000 Euro to get it all. That's beyond the resources of most libraries, let alone most individuals.
And it's still not a purchase of Bach's intentions, but merely a set of books.
Throw in another $300 USD for the annual subscription to the New Grove Dictionary search engine: http://www.grovemusic.com/
or the bound volumes for 2000 Euro, and such a collector might convince himself he really has obtained a lot of knowledge and entitlement for all this investment. These are all fine reference materials. It's a purchase of other people's understanding and experience, as if that's possible, but hey. Throw in another 1000 for miscellaneous other books and more shelving. More is better. (But also don't forget the old maxim: "If a man has a wristwatch, he always knows what time it is. If he has two wristwatches, he never knows what time it is anymore.")
And all that of course also doesn't include the cost and the time investment of any musical training, which would help such collectors understand what they're looking at. Not only generic musical training, but specialization in 17th and 18th century notation, and practical familiarity with the instruments for which it was written. A look at the notation is pointless if one isn't going to understand it the way the composer meant it, which could be vastly different from modern norms of score-reading. Such understanding is not just one more thing to go purchase; it actually takes some musical talent and years of commitment to hard work. Reference materials are only as good as the skill of the person using them.
Throw in another 2000 to 10,000 for a shelf populated with recordings, covering each piece with some contrasting approaches so all the notes can be heard from several different perspectives. Again it's all just a purchase of other people's understanding and experience, as if that's possible, but hey. A critic owning all these materials would certainly have some sense of entitlement, and perhaps also convince himself that he understands the field better than musicians who have studied it formally.
One can buy quite a bit for 30,000 Euro or $36,000, but it's still not capturing Bach's intentions. Nor does such a purchase grant any entitlement to "correct" and lecture musicians/researchers on perceived problems in their published professional work, bashing them with selective quotes from purchased authority.
Against that, let's estimate the cost of education in music. For convenience of calculation, ignore all musical training before university (even though that would be somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 Euro, most likely), even though that contributes to the competence to get into university. Assume an average of eight years: four for undergraduate, four more for graduate work. At 20,000 a year for tuition and materials and living expenses, that's 160,000. Knock that back down to 100,000 if the student got any scholarships or stipends. But consider also that that's eight years not out there in circulation earning other money, which would be (conservatively) 140,000. Total, 240,000. Granted, that's not a flat-out purchase of information but an acquisition of experience and practical skills, doing the work: with a value that is incalculable. An added bonus is that knowledge and understanding don't expire--one learns how to learn, with appropriate techniques--while reference materials go out of date as soon as new details are discovered anywhere, overturning the old.
Anyway, going by these rough numbers (investments of 240,000 Euro vs 30,000), it appears that it's at least eight times as likely: that university-trained musicians know how to do their jobs better than the critics who have merely purchased a lot of reference materials (including the NBA) and recordings. One wonders why such critics bother to offer their pedantic guesswork, unless it's to make themselves appear as important and knowledgeable as those who do the work, and those whose commitment to the field far exceeds their own.
We musicians should consider ourselves fortunate. In the 1740s, for the price of a harpsichord, one could buy the book of Bach's keyboard partitas...a single book. Now, for the price of a harpsichord, the whole NBA (or at least most of it) is available. That's like buying the score of the partitas and getting everything else for free!
always eager to keep things in perspective
Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 7, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < A look at the notation is pointless if one isn't going to understand it the way the composer meant it, which could be vastly different from modern norms of score-reading. >
And this is true even today, despite the fact that scores are routinely far more detailed in the wealth of information offered in every parameter.
Charles Francis wrote (April 8, 2004):
Bradley Lehman: < Anyway, going by these rough numbers (investments of 240,000 Euro vs 30,000), it appears that it's at least eight times as likely: that university-trained musicians know how to do their jobs better than the critics who have merely purchased a lot of reference materials (including the NBA) and recordings. >
The fallacy is to assume that expenditure equates to competence. Bach left school at 14 and perfected his skills thereafter.
< We musicians should consider ourselves fortunate. In the 1740s, for the price of a harpsichord, one could buy the book of Bach's keyboard partitas...a single book. Now, for the price of a harpsichord, the whole NBA (or at least most of it) is available. That's like buying the score of the partitas and getting everything else for free! >
For the price of a couple of restaurant meals, you can own the complete Alte: Bach-Gesamtausgabe: http://www.bachwerke.de/start_frame/start.htm
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 8, 2004):
<< Anyway, going by these rough numbers (investments of 240,000 Euro vs 30,000), it appears that it's at least eight times as likely: that university-trained musicians know how to do their jobs better than the critics who have merely purchased a lot of reference materials (including the NBA) and recordings. >>
< The fallacy is to assume that expenditure equates to competence. Bach left school at 14 and perfected his skills thereafter. >
The auto-didactic success of an isolated genius is not a good reason to disdain all education.
Your obvious inplications that education is a waste of time and money are noted. There's a natural human tendency to try to justify oneself.
And that first sentence,
>The fallacy is to assume that expenditure equates to competence.<
...is one that I agree with. It makes the point I was illustrating, and I thank you for reiterating it. A person who buys 30,000 Euros worth of books is still not educated or knowledgeable, but merely has a lot of information at hand. Such expenditure does not equate to competence.
A further illustration: try to name someone who has made no expenditure of taking music lessons, but who is nevertheless competent to perform any of Bach's music.
Yet another illustration: thfamous auto-didact Glenn Gould (who stopped attending school in his teens, and never finished high school) is notorious for his irresponsible and sui generis interpretations. Many people, including myself, enjoy some of his interpretations anyway. That doesn't equate with any competence by Gould in playing any of that music as the composers intended, or even necessarily would have recognized; he forged a completely different interpretive path on which it's OK to be
under-educated: a path where a performance of music is a self-appointed criticism of the piece rather than merely playing it. Again his example doesn't prove the point that education should be disdained; it only suggests that under-educated people are comfortable in the role of criticizing others. If one is enough of a "bad boy" about it, as Gould was, and with enough charisma, irresponsibility gets rewarded.
Uri Golomb wrote (April 8, 2004):
[Since this reply to a message to BCML has more to do with instrumental
music than with cantatas, I'm forwarding it to BRML as well]
Brad Lehman wrote:
<< The fallacy is to assume that expenditure equates to competence. Bach left school at 14 and perfected his skills thereafter. >>
< The auto-didactic success of an isolated genius is not a good reason to disdain all education. >
Bach would agree -- he insisted that his sons get the university education that he didn't get. And he went on studying throughout his life, in ways ranging from his trip to Lubeck to study with Buxtehude to an insistence on learning all the styles prevalent in his time (including the galant style). And he did so actively -- by copying out these works, performing them and arranging them. These tasks (even the copying, and more obviously the performing and the arranging) require considerable competence, which Bach (who was raised by musicians, adn sought out teachers after leaving school) did not just teach himself...
Another other notable point is that, when a verbal defence of himself was required, he didn't do it on his own: when he wanted to answer back to Scheibe, he got a university professor to write up his defence. Though several scholars -- most recently Laurence Dreyfus and David Yearsley -- argue that Bach also authored his own defence, embedded in post-Scheibe contrapuntal works, and using the language he felt most at home with -- i.e., music itself).
< Yet another illustration: the famous auto-didact Glenn Gould <snip> Again his example doesn't prove the point that education should be disdained; it only suggests that under-educated people are comfortable in the role of criticizing others. If one is enough of a "bad boy" about it, as Gould was, and with enough charisma, irresponsibility gets rewarded. >
Just rebelliousness and charisma? What about intelligence, talent and natural musicality? You make Gould sound like a charlatan! You also seem to be equating Gould's approach to all of Mozart and some of Beethoven (in which Gould indeed justified creative interpretations through a devestating and unconvincing critique of the composers involved) to his approach to Byrd, Gibbons, Bach, Schoenberg etc. -- composers he genuinely (though not uncritically) admired.
Yes, I know, he had some criticisms of Bach (most of them not unique to him -- they were not unocommon in German writings about Bach in the late 19th and 0th-centuries, and some are rooted as far back as Forkel). But in my view, his performances often belie his critiques. I love his 1958 (I think it is) recording of the Italian Concerto -- a work Gould claimed to hate. And the same goes for his reading of the toccatas (and yes, I know Brad and I disagree on this).
Gould, in my view, was able to "get away" with his education (which was wide ranged but, as with most auto-didacts, unsystematic) because he was a highly intelligent and intellectual man, not just through showmanship; and he did have genuine competence, both in piano playing and in musical analysis. (If he was incompetent in something, it was in anything to do with historical awareness, with handling source materials and knowing what musical notation meant to the composers and to the original performers). Most auto-didacts are not like that. The message is, probably, if you want to be a success as an auto-didact, you'd better have the talents of a Glenn Gould.
John Pike wrote (April 8, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] When Bach was asked about how he had achieved so much, I believe he answered something along the lines of "By sheer hard work. Anyone who works as hard as me could achieve as much." He was wrong, of course, but there is the old adage that genius is 90%n perspiration and 10% inspiration...some truth in that, I feel.
I, too, am a great, though not uncritical, fan of Glenn Gould. I have never understood his disdain for Mozart and much of Beethoven and I am less keen on his recordings of the WTC, but I love both his recordings of the Goldbergs, the French Suites and the Toccatas.
Thomas Braatz wrote (April 11, 2004):
It has recently been stated by a list member that >>"Urtext" is a modern conceit.<<
Here it becomes imperative to define what is meant by ‘modern.’ The last 50 yrs.? The last century? ‘Modern’ as opposed to ‘Antiquity’? Turning to the OED for information on the use of this German term in English, we find the following (2nd Edition, Oxford University Press, 1989):
>> ‘Urtext’: An original text; the earliest version.
1932 Times Lit. Suppl. 14 July 511/3: In these volumes we have the nearest thing possible in Chopin's case to an Urtext.
1959 Cambr. Rev. 6 June 598/2: Authoritative editions allegedly based on urtexts.
1963 S. Weintraub Private Shaw & Public Shaw iv. 119: The earlier version still retains advocates, because of its more complete, ur-text quality, and the comfortable feeling that no Procrustean games were played with its vocabulary and sentence structure.
1974 Early Music Oct. 259/1: The edition is urtext, with prefatory staves, showing the original clefs and signatures.
1982 Times 2 Apr. 14/2: An urtext edition of the 21 Schubert piano sonatas.
1983 London Rev. Bks 7–20 July 21/4: Elaborate versions often point back to the gospel of Mark as a kind of cryptic Urtext.<<
Note that this word, according to the OED, does not refer to ‘Urtext’ only as a musicological term.
In the MGG-I, I found a musical “Urtext” edition referred to as such in the following listing:
>>J. S. Bach: ‚2- und 3-stimmige. Inventionen,’ Urtext und Bearbeitung, Jubiläumsausgabe von G. Preitz, Köln 1923<<
The BGA could be considered an ‚Urtext’ edition, although this specific word was not officially used to describe it this way, as far as I know. Believe it or not, Felix Mendelssohn, and more specifically, Wilhelm Rust who had prepared 19 of the volumes of the BGA on his own using a very high standard of critical editing give us examples of the “Urtext”-type of thinking in musicology. Their intentions were to provide an accurate representation of what the composer had written Admittedly, the BGA editors were faced with considerable problems as, for instance, how to represent what Bach’s score and original parts really were: notational and pitch differences between various versions. They chose to keep the key that the greatest number of parts was in. This sometimes made the music difficult to perform and led to misunderstandings. Nonetheless, a sincere effort was made to represent the Bach originals as best as was possible with the information available to the editors at that time. Without actually using the word ‘Urtext’, they were, nevertheless, subscribing to such an idea as they edited and published Bach’s works in what was then a definitive edition.
In the German language, the 1st use of “Urtext” as a printed word begins in the latter half of the 18th century, hardly a ‘modern conceit’ except for those who have not carefully examined this matter before making rash claims about relatively short existence. The Grimm brothers’ DWB (the German equivalent to the OED) traces its origin back to Herder, Goethe, Fichte, Schopenhauer, and later Heine. “Urtext” replaced an earlier word with a similar meaning: “Grundtext” which was widely used in the 17th century, a word with which Bach would have been familiar. “Grundtext” means: the unadulterated text in the original document/in the original language.
Bach’s own somewhat ambiguous attitude toward a “Grundtext” in music, a musical score by another composer that came into his hands, must have been formed by the experiences he had in the home of his eldest brother, Johann Christoph Bach (ii) (1671-1721.) It was here that he learned about the value of preserving the ‘Urtext’ of other composers, after his brother confiscated the copy Bach had secretly made by moonlight. It is difficult to imagine that Bach would have deliberately changed the ‘Urtext’ nature of this music by cutting/revising/adding material to the Urtext he had before him. Christoph Wolff in his “Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician” [Norton Publishing, 2000] p. 45 speaks of the manuscript copies of works by Froberger, Kerll, Pachelbel, etc in the collection which J.S. Bach had copied, which had a high trade value, his elder brother having paid considerable money to obtain them. Certainly this would be a case where changes made by the copyist would diminish the value of the copy.
Assuming that J. S. Bach supervised and checked over Anna Magdalena’s copying of F. Couperin’s “Les Bergeries. Rondeau” in her “Klavierbüchlein” of 1725, no. 6, the changes in Couperin’s score are truly very minimal and involve only skipping a few embellishments in the original. Otherwise this copy is quite accurate.
Some of Bach’s transcriptions/arrangements/reworkings of music by other composers show Bach continuing to improve upon the original score just as he would with his own music if he used it again for a later performance. However, it is nevertheless remarkable, on the other hand, that Bach would copy and perform the works of another composer with very few or almost no changes/additions at all as he did with his copy (he personally copied with it with only a measure insertion and changes in two phrase markings on pp. 13-17) of Antonio Lotti’s “Missa sapientiae” during the 1732-1735 time frame [NBA II/9 KB pp. 46-47.] This would seem to demonstrate that Bach would occasionally understand the notion of an ‘Urtext’/’Grundtext’ as something to be revered and respected. Another interesting instance is Bach’s inclusion verbatim (musically, as it were) of Rosenmüller’s 5-part setting of “Welt ade” as the final chorale in the cantata “Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende” BWV 27/6. Bach so respected this exquisite setting by Rosenmüller that he made no changes to it and gave it a place of prominence as the final mvt. of the cantata, a position which almost always is reserved for Bach’s usual 4-pt. settings of a chorale. In any case, Bach’s attitude toward scores by other composers is duplicitous: there are arrangements where considerable changes are undertaken, but others as well where little or no change is made to the original score of another composer.
Another good illustration of an important composer understanding the significance of ‘Urtext’ can be found in Mendelssohn’s treatment of music from an earlier generation (Bach & Händel.) Mendelssohn grew up in the tradition of acquiring/collecting manuscripts (some of them the original autograph scores) such as those by Bach. Notwithstanding the innumerable difficulties which Mendelssohn faced for the 1st performance of the SMP in 1829 including the fact that he was working from a copy of a copy presented to him by his mother as a Christmas present in 1823, and notwithstanding the additional changes which he made to the score of the SMP in 1841, Mendelssohn nevertheless did have a sense of “Urtext” when it came to providing a definitive complete score from which he and other musicians would prepare their performances of the music. He performed Händel’s Messiah in 1839 in Düsseldorf (just how many changes, if any at all, that he made to the original score, is not known.) In 1845, Mendelssohn edited a selection of Bach's organ works. [It would truly be interesting to see which, if any, changes he made to them.] Eric Werner in the MGG-I reports the following: The Händel-Society had commissioned Mendelssohn to prepare for publication a critical edition of Händel’s “Israel in Egypt” [completed by Mendelssohn in 1845.] At some point during this task, as documented in his letters to the Council of the Händel-Society, he refused their request to add his own dynamic and tempo markings to the original score. So despite his own arrangements, for instance, of the SMP, there was clearly in his mind a notion that the “Urtext” score must be preserved in a critical edition. It is then left up to the conductor/performer to interpret or make arrangements of the music as needed for special circumstances that may prevail. The idea of using authentic instruments to complement the performance of the “Urtext” of a critical edition did not yet exist, but the notion of “Urtext” did exist, even though this specific word was not used as such to describe what was actually being done. The history of the various efforts to print Händel’s complete works, beginning in 1783 with a call for subscriptions and continuing well into the 19th century, documents the battle between those who wanted a modern performing edition and the purists such as Mendelssohn and Chrysander, who with great personal sacrifices, undertook his own “Urtext” [not the word used by him] edition of Händel’s works.
>>[the questionable assumption by Urtext proponents]- that a composer's intentions were ever a single thing suitable for binding in a book<<
With an attitude such as this, all the libraries of the world could not contain all the possibilities that a composer may have envisioned. While this may seem to be true, it is utterly impractical. What is needed for anyone seriously beginning to study a work by Bach with the possibility of performing it is clean copy of what is deemed by experts to be the best representation of the composer’s intentions.
>>[the questionable assumption by Urtext proponents]- that those best intentions, as a snapshot, can ever be captured on paper if we're just careful enough with everything<<
Again, in order to solve a practical problem of preparing his musicians for a performance of this music, Bach actually did give us some valuable ‘snapshots’ which do represent with the means at his disposal what his intentions were at any given time. That is why these ‘snapshots’ rather than those of lesser, some of them quite mediocre, composers are taken as seriously as they are, since they are being preserved for eternity. The editors who were as careful with everything as is humanly possible at this point in history have succeeded admirably in accomplishing this task.
>>[the questionable assumption by Urtext proponents]- that a positivistic and objective approach is best for understanding a work of art<<
Does this imply that a ‘negative’ and ‘non-objective’ approach would yield better results? This sounds like the veritable ‘cart-before-the-horse’ mentality, where the subjectivity of the composer/musician/conductor takes precedence over the detailed analysis which must precede it and is supposed to supply the firm basis upon which an interpretation can be justly founded.
>>[the questionable assumption by Urtext proponents]- that a clean "uninterpreted" text represents the music better than a text where competent musicians have notated some practical performance decisions<<
While this may be true for those instances where Bach’s articulation, dynamics, embellishments, etc. are missing, when, for instance, the original parts are missing and only an autograph score is available to the editors of the NBA [in this case the score appears devoid of all these usual markbecause the editors do not provide their own reasonable interpretations of what this missing information might entail], it would be an incorrect assumption on the part of musicians who have not even seen the NBA printed score to assume that those of Bach’s markings that do appear have little value for competent musicians who wish to provide a reasonably authentic performance of Bach in accord with the composer’s wishes. Providing a clean “interpreted-by-Bach” score with which a competent musician can begin to prepare the music for a performance will set the direction for the conductor/performer, providing an important framework, as it were, for additional artistic performance decisions. The NBA ‘Urtext’ offers the keys to understanding Bach’s intentions, and helps to exclude the possibility that a competent or even incompetent musician might attempt to apply aspects of performance practices from earlier or later times than Bach’s mature period and from regions other than Saxony in Germany where Bach primarily worked and nevertheless make a claim for the authenticity of a performance.
>>[the questionable assumption by Urtext proponents]- that all musicians between (and maybe including) the composer and now should have their opinions shorn away, leaving "the music" in some purer state for timeless contemplation...except, of course, allowing the editor's own opinions to trump all<<
It is unfortunate that some ego-centric musicians should feel this way. There is nothing that should prevent composers/conductors/musicians from creating their own versions/interpretations of Bach using whatever edition exists or is even imagined by them to exist. It may serve the purpose of bringing some semblance of Bach’s genius to the ears of any new generation of listeners. There will, however, always be some curious performers and listeners who will want to determine just what it was that Bach had in mind as he created his music. This then will simply involve trying to define a higher standard for performances. A key point of reference for such individuals will be the NBA and any subsequent research that complements it. It will become clear to anyone who has seriously and extensively worked with this resource that the human effort expended in this research and publishing enterprise is monumental and must be reckoned with, particularly when claims of authentic performances are made. It is in the latter case that the NBA becomes the pivot upon which everything turns. Truly worthy musicians/performers would overlook it, or refer to it mainly disparagingly, at their own peril. To put this another way: any musician/performer would willingly and gladly search out for performances of Bach’s music the NBA and its KBs as a definitive resource which would provide the necessary foundation upon which such an ‘authentic performance’ would and should be based.
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 11, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
[re the Neue Bach-Ausgabe]
< It will become clear to anyone who has seriously and extensively worked with this resource that the human effort expended in this research and publishing enterprise is monumental and must be reckoned with, particularly when claims of authentic performances are made. It is in the latter case that the NBA becomes the pivot upon which everything turns. Truly worthy musicians/performers would overlook it, or refer to it mainly disparagingly, at their own peril. To put this another way: any musician/performer would willingly and gladly search out for performances of Bachâ?Ts music the NBA and its KBs as a definitive resource which would provide the necessary foundation upon which such an â?~authentic performanceâ?T would and should be based. >
Not surprisingly, justifying a $20,000 purchase. As I pointed out at: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7560
it is a good modern source, for the most part.
Have you performed anything directly from the NBA, Tom, to be "truly worthy"? How about a representative list of those compositions? How did you like the places they put their page-turns in long movements, if they considered such a practical matter at all?
While you're at it, how about also furnishing a list of performers who are not "truly worthy" since their performances are not authentic enough? Surely you've thought about this, so let us know!
Continue on Part 3
Scores of Bach Cantatas: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Bach’s Manuscripts: Part 1 | Part 2