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Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML)
Year 2008 - Part 1

BCML generalities

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BW 98 - Discussions

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Generally speaking I am more score oriented than a listener of many recordings, unless I am on a search for very fine diction in the matter of learning something--and one who appreciates the efforts of all the singers and conductors who so gracefully invest their time and lives into the matter of continuing Bach's great traditions.<
I have often written that I believe the Leusink set provides a fair impression of the music, sometimes much better than that, at very modest cost. Indeed, I gather that you can access it on-line at no charge.

Analysis of the music from the scores is an important aspect of BCML. I wish there were more of it, but it is not an area where I can make original contributions. I am happy when I can grasp someone elses idea, and add a bit to my listening enjoyment.

I think the comments on recordings are equally important, and perhaps more unique to BCML and the BCW archives. Where else can you go to find out what is available, and how the options compare? The discography is what first drew me to BCW, and I suspect that is true of many, perhaps most, list members. And as you can see in the archives, Aryeh used to point out almost weekly that anyone can offer an opinion of a recording, even if only to say like it or not.

I have greatly enjoyed learning over the past couple years what a range of performance styles are avaialble. Neil Halliday frequently points out what is available via recording samples. Even with my primitive computer gear I can access some (but not all) of them, so I expect this is a resource available to just about everyone.

Incidentally, I was shocked to hear from Jeans previous post that the OCC Bach has gone out of print, and is no longer a resource available at an affordable price. That is a shame, but perhaps understanable with the publication of the English translation of Dürr. Keep an eye on the second-hand book market, I guess. My copy of OCC was under $20 in 2006.

Jean Laaninen wrote (January 27, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I have often written that I believe the Leusink set provides a fair impression of the music, sometimes much better than that, at very modest cost. Indeed, I gather that you can access it on-line at no charge. >
Yes, Ed, I do listen online. I have a few of the cantatas on CDs--those with soprano content I want to learn in time, and I access Leusink on the web which works most of the time, and is quite adequate for my purposes. I'm more inclined to know a work than all the different ways it has been performed, again, unless it is something I want to learn. In that case I go to the trouble of locating other recordings to make a comparison. Since I've lived this long already I do have quite a collection of records, tapes and CDs in the house--but generally only one of each work.

And yes, I did get the OCC as an eBook. I am surprised to find that I enjoy using it on my computer, and I also have five other recommended references, plus the 1995 printing of Grove at this point. Moreover, I also have the ASU Music Library only a fifteen to twenty minute drive away so I go there periodically and look at texts on Bach and read the flute periodicals. The library provides no shortage of material--far more than I will access in a lifetime.

 

Various

Julian Mincham wrote (February 29, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I second Jean's suggestion: Brad Lehman and Julian Mincham, in particular (not to overlook others) are music professionals who have been very generous in sharing their expertise, without ever being condescending (sorry for that word, I couldnt think of a smaller one). They display what BCML (and the world) can always use more of: generosity of spirit. >
Many thanks Ed for your kind words.

I am in the middle of a particularlybusy period at the moment with performances to prepare and relatives staying from the other side of the world so I am contributing minimally to the discussions. Not that this matters as I see the list has taken on a new life and become very active again after a period of almost serene calm! Excellent. I have managed to skim though most of the posts but am still about 50 emails behind.

One point struck me of odd but particular interest and that was the reconstructed bust of Bach (thanks for distributing that). Cut out the part above the eyes (where the hairline and stlye seems wrong after the various portraits in wigs) and one can see some strong similarities of features with some of the extant paintings.

I was moved by this to go back and reread Schweitzer's account (vol 1 p 162) of the finding of Bach's skeleton and his appearance--I recommend all those interested to do so. The three graves were dug up in 1894 only a decade before Schweitzer's work was first published in French and at a time when he must have been doing the preparatory work---so he would have exhibited a keen interest in the event. The bones assumed to b Bach's were those of 'an elderly man, not very large but well built'. The skull exhibited 'a prominent lower jaw, high forehead, deepset eye sockets and marked nasal angle'. The bone of the temple enclosing the inner organ of hearing was described as 'extraordinarily tough'. Seffner was the first sculptor to attempt to model the features over the skull.

Speaking of the late Volbach (disc) portait, Schweitzer goes on to say---'the longer we contemplate it, the more enigmatic becomes the expression on the master's face. How did this ordinary visage become transformed into that of the artist? What was it like when Bach was absorbed in the world of music? Was there reflected in it then the wonderful serenity that shines through his art?' (vol 1 p164)

It takes an act of imagination to consider such things, but for me Schweitzer is answering those who say, who cares what he looked like?? We should only care about his music!

Well, it may not be a matter of caring but it certainly is an act of natural curiosity an attribute which Bach's restless, questing mind certainly did not lack.

One last interesting quote from Schweitzer. On p 239 he say 'Bach's time is therefore bound to come'. He quotes Rochlitz (as the first Bach aesthetician and writing in the early C19)as considering it to be not even close and likely to be long delayed.

Prophetic words. Can one doubt that Bach's time has now come as like no time on the past? And that we are fortunate to partake of this great movement in our own lifetimes?

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 29, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks, Julian. You've summed up the issue of Bach's appearance quite nicely. And with your very heavy schedule right now you've taken time to share some additional perspectives and sources with us--we appreciate it.

 

OT: a proposal for the list - practical performance considerations by cantata

Bruce Simonson wrote (March 4, 2008):
Thanks, everyone, for helping me sort out ideas for preparing BWV 34 for performance. This list is great; thanks Aryeh, Jean, Brad, Neil, Ed, and everyone else. I've posted a file on the yahoo site summarizing what I've come up with so far ... (See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV34-Simonson.htm) (If I have anything horribly wrong, or misquoted anyone, for heavens sake, let me know, and I'll fix it. Actually, any comments whatsoever on the file I've posted would be great).

After going through this exercise on BWV 34, I thought I'd float a proposal:

How about starting a series of discussions on practical performance considerations for particular cantatas? My thought is that these could run about a month each; i.e., 12 per year. The extra time would allow the moderator (probably someone who is preparing a cantata for performance, or has a favorite cantata that they prepared in the past), enough time to organize a lot of input, and get some time over target on the score, to really do a good jo.

I had of thought of trying this before with the group, but didn't have time.

Basically, I'd recommend choosing cantatas that are likely to be among the "greatest hits", or perhaps "greatest neglected hits".

I have in mind something more than Dürr or Whittaker, and less than Chaffe for Cantata BWV 77.

What's the pulse of the group? Have potential ... or just insane?

When I choose cantatas, here's my usual path:

a) what resources are needed?
b) how difficult are the solo parts? (scale of 1 to 10)
c) how difficult are the instrumental parts ... any solo parts?
d) does the work fit in with the liturgical year?
(it would be odd to perform the Easter Oratorio at Christmas, and vice versa, eh?)
e) is there a performable part for children or youth choir?
f) are there politically sensitive issues (e.g., what about BWV 18?)
g) is it beautiful?

Timing wise, I would think a moderator would like to schedule the discussion 3 to 4 months ahead of performance, summarize initial findings sometime before or during rehearsals, and then, after performance, any final ideas or concerns.

Topics might include general interest items about the cantata, recommendations for forces and approaches, difficulties to anticipate, and lots of other things I can't think of, on the spur of the moment.

Personally, I would consider moderating discussion of BWV 81 (retroactively), as this is a beautiful, and underperformed work, in my opinion.

But I'd really like to see how others feel about this idea, and get folks to volunteer their favorite cantata, and perhaps volunteer to moderate.

Anyway, does this idea have merit?

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson] I think you have a good idea going here, Bruce, and one that might stimulate more cantata performances. I will give your writings and ideas a little more thought over the next week or so. Last night I had a major computer crash with my laptop and it's being doctored in the store right now. I have to get it back up with all the essentials transferred, reinstalled and running before I delve into your concepts, but the past week or so have presented a memorable challenge to the group--and I am sure there will be more positive responses. Back to this task as soon as humanly possible.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 5, 2008):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
>How about starting a series of discussions on practical performance considerations for particular cantatas? <
I would enjoy it as a spectator, and perhaps to pass along relevant comments from the literature and recordings.

Peter Smaill wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson] Good luck on this initiative and you have chosen a particularly hermeneutically rich work in BWV 77. Apart from Chafe, there is an extended analysis of the astonishing multiple incidences of the number 10 (ie the commandments in "Dies sind") in "My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance and Discipleship in the Music of Bach", by Calvin Stapert. He also touches on the musical affekt of the work and the relationship to BWV 679 in the Clavieruebung III. The overall impression is " a freely flowing piece that expresses Bach's love of the Law."

Stapert goes on "One could go on citing examples of the inseparability of Bach's disciplined technique from his freedom and power of expression. Those who dismiss the paradox by saying his music is expressive in spite of all the technical complexities have got it wrong. Bach's music is expressive not in spite of them but through them".

Bruce Simonson wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks for writing, ... I wonder if the idea of Practical Performance Considerations will catch on with the BCML.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson] With the growing membership, perhaps there is a greater chance this will happen.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 6, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Stapert goes on "One could go on citing examples of the inseparability of Bach's disciplined technique from his freedom and power of expression. Those who dismiss the paradox by saying his music is expressive in spite of all the technical complexities have got it wrong. Bach's music is expressive not in spite of them but through them". >
Spot on!

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 6, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] This is a very good point.

Terejia wrote (March 7, 2008):
Bruce Simonson wrote:wrote:
< (snipped)
After going through this exercise on BWV 34, I thought I'd float a proposal:
How about starting a series of discussions on practical performance considerations for particular cantatas? My thought is that these could run about a month each; i.e., 12 per year. The extra time would allow the moderator (probably someone who is preparing a cantata for performance, or has a favorite cantata that they prepared in the past), enough time to organize a lot of input, and get some time over target on the score, to really do a good job.
I had of thought of trying this before with the group, but didn't have time.
Basically, I'd recommend choosing cantatas that are likely to be among the "greatest hits", or perhaps "greatest neglected hits".
I have in mind something more than Durr or Whittaker, and less than Chaffe for Cantata
BWV 77.
What's the pulse of the group? Have potential ... or just insane? >
I don't think many can participate actively in the thread even if we wish, although such type of practical thread will inspire many.


< When I choose cantatas, here's my usual path:
a) what resources are needed? >

I would answer first and foremost: AUDIENCE!!!!!!(pardon me for too many exclaimation marks and all caps), right type of audience to address the performance to.

When I lived in Tokyo, I used to participate in choir. I sang SMP, B-minor Mass, SJP, etcs and if I were still living in Tokyo, such an answer would never come to my mind. This is an answer I think of because I now live in a small local city where not so many people are willing to listen to Bach cantatas. This list is the only place for me where I can listen in and sometimes take part in ithe discussions about Bach Cantatas.

< b) how difficult are the solo parts? (scale of 1 to 10)
c) how difficult are the instrumental parts ... any solo parts? >
Could be solved if only right type of audience are available.

< d) does the work fit in with the liturgical year? (it would be odd to perform the Easter Oratorio at
Christmas, and vice versa, eh?) >
My church choir has only female members and we used to sing Mvt 2 "Den Tod" from BWV 4 and "Sucepit Israel" from Magnificat in Easter and Christmas, respectively. All of a sudden, that choir conductor was replaced with the current conductor who has no understanding on music by the Father's sheer dictatorship so we ceased singing Bach since then.

< e) is there a performable part for children or youth choir?
f) are there politically sensitive issues (e.g., what about
BWV 18?)
g) is it beautiful? >
Again, what is beautiful in professional ears doesn't always seem to sound beautifully to the less trained ears. Church may not be always an appropriate place to enjoy right type of audience for the professionally oriented performers.

< Timing wise, I would think a moderator would like to schedule the discussion 3 to 4 months ahead of performance, summarize initial findings sometime before or during rehearsals, and then, after performance, any final ideas or concerns.
Topics might include general interest items about the cantata, recommendations for forces and approaches, difficulties to anticipate, and lots of other things I can't think of, on the spur of the moment.
Personally, I would consider moderating discussion of
BWV 81 (retroactively), as this is a beautiful, and underperformed work, in my opinion.
But I'd really like to see how others feel about this idea, and get folks to volunteer their favorite cantata, and perhaps volunteer to moderate.
Anyway, does this idea have merit? >
In such a list, I would definitely say, that tidea is great and worth supporting to the best of our ability.

I do envy you! You must be in an environment where many audience have good/decent understanding of authentic music. To repeat, I envy you. I'm sorry for being too repetitive (and probably a bit deviating from behaviour code, I am aware)but I still repeat, firstly, everything begins when you have right type of audience.

wishing you all the best for your performance and for your audience.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 7, 2008):
[To Terejia] You do make an interesting point about the potential audience determining a great deal of what can happen. Another factor that enters in you have mentioned secondarily--the location of the performance. The Phoenix area is pretty big, and I rarely find it works out for me to leave the East Valley and go into downtown Phoenix for performances. Gas here is at an all time high, but in our case the cantatas seem to be performed only in the downtown churches or in Glendale (as far as I know at the moment). I was lucky to be on campus when some rehearsals were taking place and for some recitals where they have been performed--but due to the location of many performances and the longer drives I don't get to hear so many in person. For younger people who don't mind the rush of city freeways (I used to be that way) it's no problem.

 

800 Members!

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 5, 2008):
Yesterday the 800th member joined the BCML.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] How great! A few years ago when I joined there were around 700 members. This group is an interesting place to be on the web, and the growth shows just how true it is. Thanks Aryeh, for your continued devotion to this effort.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 5, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Kudos to Aryeh for this superb achievement!

[And the counter is already at 802 as I am writing this..].

Cheers

Ehud Shiloni
[An old timer on the List, now mainly lurking in the shadows]

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (March 7, 2008):
802 members! Only 30 seem to participate. Hopefully we can get more involved. The music certainly warrants the discussion.
<>

 

Cantata cycles

Terejia wrote (March 21, 2008):
Jean Laaninen to Terejia:
< (..)
I don't know how the cantata cycle was set for the discussions, but I sometimes imagine that the full impression of the texts and study would make more sense to us as modern people if they were adapted to the modern calendar. However, that would probably be too complex an undertaking and we have a good system in place.
Messiah by Handel and SMP are my two primary Easter week favorites, as I participated in singing them when I was a college student during Messiah Week at Bethany College. Later on I had a chance to sing Messiah a number of additional times, and once to sing the Rejoice Greatly solo with an orchestra during a Messiah sing-along at a community college in California.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the recordings, and to the others who have been discussing the passions this week.
I still hope we will also hear a little from some others on
BWV 82. >
Hi Jean, just a quick reply here(I will come up later after Easter on some more interesting point of your post)

Yes, I noticed the cycle of cantata taken up for the week is not according to the church calendar. I suppose the policy of cycle was listed in the BCW though I cannot quote it off-hand, in lieu of the fact that not all the subscribers are concerned with church liturgy calendar, though I believe in US or Europa area everybody concerns with church calendar because it concerns with having Easter Vacation or something like that, which is not the case in Japan.

My personal concern is as I stated but I'd be interested in listening in comments on BWV 82 by others. It won't be too late to add comments on the cantatas of previous week or even earlier, if my perception of the list rule is correct...

May we enjoy Happy Easter, good spring weather and for those living in Southern Hemisphere nice autumn days.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 21, 2008):
[To Terejia] Thank you Terejia. Yes, anyone can discuss any of the cantatas at any time. The reason I had hoped for a few more comments this week on BWV 82 is that it works well for the moderator, Aryeh, to be able to link these discussions by week whenever possible. And, I personally seemed focused on hearing some additions to my own thoughts this week--but we can get to that later.

Temperatures here were in the 80s today and many flowers are blooming as I write, creating a festive feeling for this special week and into the next when we will have guests again. When we lived in Upper Michigan Easter was often a chilly time, with ice melting and even sometimes snow storms. The present moment is lovely, and all the season special in their own right--thanks for the good wishes.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (March 21, 2008):
Cantata cycles Universal Faith for Bachians?

Terejia wrote:
< I cannot quote it off-hand, in lieu of the fact that not all the subscribers are concerned with church liturgy calendar, though I believe in US or Europa area everybody concerns with church calendar because it concerns with having Easter Vacation or something like that, which is not the case in Japan. >
I don't think that there is a "Easter Vacation" in the USA. I cannot speak for various European countries. There is of course "Christmas Vacation" in the USA.

BTW, esteemed Terejia, there are a number of active subscribers (naturally one cannot know about the passive subscribers), including the list owner, in Israel as well as in pluralistic USA and reasonably secular Europe. It is simply disconcerting to me to see persons assume that everyone with a deep love for Bach's music is of the Christian faith. And of course most persons of whatever Christian faith are not interested in Bach's music.

< May we enjoy Happy Easter, good spring weather and for those living in Southern Hemisphere nice autumn days. >
I wish you are Happy Easter but Easter wishes are best sent to your coreligionists rather than to all. Believe it or not, other persons have their own holidays and an interest in a composer's music or art or literature does not imply sharing his theological Weltanschauung.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 21, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I have to agree with Yoël's comments below. Many Christians can't stand Bach, to be perfectly frank. These are generally those who are into the popular genre of music in the US, with electronic keyboards, drums, electric guitars, or those of a Pietist strain who believe primarily in simple, quiet devotional style music. Since the demographics favor the population between the late twenties and the late forties, and most of these folks have grown up on a lot of radio, disco, TV and so on, they find Bach very stuffy. On occasion I have shared a seasonal letter with my Jewish relatives, some Jewish friends, and some non-believers of any type. But in those cases the event has been to share our news and not to try to convert them to my beliefs as they well know. On-list, however, a great deal of respect needs to be shown, I believe, for the diversity of the group, while being able to discuss all the aspects of the works this list incorporates, especially historically.

In the US, I have noticed that many who attend Bach concerts are from Asia and have either re-settled here, or are students. The level of respect for the cantatas and many of Bach's other works is much higher in Asia than here, and I have also heard that the respect in Asia for Bach is much higher than in contemporary Germany--his home.

< I wish you are Happy Easter but Easter wishes are best sent to your coreligionists rather than to all. Believe it or not, other persons have their own holidays and an interest in a composer's music or art or literature does not imply sharing his theological Weltanschauung. >

James Atkind Pritchard wrote (March 21, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Surely it's true, though, that--irrespective of what one's own beliefs are--it's immensely useful to have some knowledge of Ltheology and liturgical practice if one wants to understand Bach's music (especially the choral works) as completely as possible. One could say similar things of many other composers; for example, it's very helpful to have some knowledge of Marxism if one wants to understand Tippett, and this has nothing at all to do with whether one is oneself a Marxist.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 22, 2008):
[To James Atkins Pritchard] Thanks, James. I believe that separating the historical/theological/liturgical aspect from personal wishes regarding a specifically Christian holiday is probably the best approach for a diversified list. I don't think that negates Easter in the least, or Lutheranism, for example.

If there is going to be a third cycle of the cantatas study my personal preference at this point would be to see it developed along the lines of the historical/liturgical church year. I say this for a number of reasons.

First, a great deal has been covered in past discussions that should continue to the end of this cycle--for the sake of chronological consistency. History that incorporates theological and liturgical aspects comes with quality but is also sometimes fragmented and could be made more articulate.

Another reason is that I do not know Bach's liturgical year except in broad outlines and I would find that kind of approach intensely interesting. I don't think one has to believe in the liturgical year to be a scholar of such, either. Sometimes the most intensive observations come from people who hold with a specifically different religion, or none at all.

I'm a text first thinker--that the cantatas would not have come without the context of the text, so I would like to see a future study focus on the texts for the day--giving full credence to their origins and usages, and following the liturgical year so that it would become something of a context that I could understand better. I think this could be a service to the academic community, and the general community - frankly.

At the same time, in a new context, perhaps more details of the music could be brought out. And for those who enjoy the listening aspect there might be some new observations regarding the appropriateness of the presentation in light of the liturgical year and the texts. I'm a big, big fan of context.

I am sure beyond the shadow of a doubt that a study of this nature would hold elements for all, while giving the context of history an optimal focus.

Meanwhile, as a newcomer on this list several years back I was initiated into the group originally with a little more than perfect kindness at times--and I learned a few lessons from what came about. I have no regrets, but I do think from what I have experienced that on the list respect for others must lead the way. Then, more people contribute--and what a treat it is to see what they have to say!

Terejia wrote (March 22, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< (..)
I don't think that there is a "Easter Vacation" in the USA. I cannot speak for various European countries. There is of course "Christmas Vacation" in the USA.
BTW, esteemed Terejia, there are a number of active subscribers (naturally one cannot know about the passive subscribers), including the list owner, in Israel as well as in pluralistic USA and reasonably secular Europe. >
Thank you for info. I assumed Easter Vacation in the Western countries were as "secular" as Christmas.

> It is simply disconcerting to me to see persons assume that everyone with a deep love for Bach's music is of the Christian faith. And of course most persons of whatever Christian faith are not interested in Bach's music.<
Well, actually, I love Buddhism art on the other hand. I admire images of Buddha very much, even though I'm a Catholic organist, does it sound very odd? And I met a Buddhism Priest who is as earnest a Bach cantata listener as we are.

For me personally aethetic is universal in nature. Aethetic elevates our souls and inspire us and for me it feels anybody who loves Bach is resonnant with that nature of aethetic vibration. If I may write in subjunctive mode, Bach might well have rejoiced and felt inspired had he had any chance to visit Toshodaiji temple.

> I wish you are Happy Easter but Easter wishes are best sent to your coreligionists rather than to all.<
OK. Thank you for pointing out. Would Christmas message be OK to be sent all? I assume the answer be yes, because in Japan everybody celebrates X'mas-especially in department stores regardless of religions.

> Believe it or not, other persons have their own holidays and an interest in a composer's music or art or literature does not imply sharing his theological Weltanschauung. <
I concur. Personally I'm also open to(and even willing to) listening to Buddhism priest sermon as long as message contains something universally inspiring and also not imposing while on the other hand I cannot deny I feel detested if Catholic Father's message is too imposing or too enforcing. I tend to listen to and see some vibrational message be it a personal communication, music, sermon, or whatever, something Japanese seem to be good at.

Happy Birthday to our Johann Sebastian Bach who enriches the world. Interesting thing is, his Birthday often co-incides with Spring Equinox, an important event for Buddhism.

 

Wishing people well on a Bach list [was: cantata cycles Universal Faith for Bachians?]

Nessie Russell wrote (March 22, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
< OK. Thank you for pointing out. Would Christmas message be OK to be sent all? I assume the answer be yes, because in Japan everybody celebrates X'mas-especially in department stores regardless of religions. >
For some reason many people take a Merry Christmas wish as an insult. One of the biggest flame wars on one of these lists was because someone innocently wished people well on December 25th.

Terejia wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Nessie Russell] Thank you, Anne. I'm glad to know such things BEFOREHAND. We Japanese tend to treat religious matters too inattentively-or complimentalily saying with a liberal attitude but I forgot that for some religious people and non-religious people in a religious environment religion is something quite deep rooted matter concerning the fundamental of one's living.

Human emotion is one of the toughest subjects I encountered with. More than often it is an enigma. With some 800 people with different cultural, national environmental differences on the list, it might be impossible to take into account every possible danger of insulting the other party in our communication, however considerate the communicator might be toward the others' feelings. This doesn't mean that the feeling of being insulted should be treated lightly, either.

On such a list, I suppose we can trust each other that the other party is doing his/her best in showing respect to the other party even though it might occasionally seem to be insufficient. I'd like to appreciate Yo that again he(she?) was able to communicate his dislikes without making me feel too guilty of my ignorance.

I'll delete my previous post since it seems to contain some touchy points.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Terejia] Your attention to the sensitivities of the list members is noted. I understand what you are saying, as with some Asians I know personally Christianity was added to the culture more recently in time and with a few of my friends church in Asia is more like a social organization than the root of existence. I am sure your words here will be helpful--we often say, Happy Holidays in December, but even that could be a problem for some who do not celebrate holidays as I learned when working in the university environment. As Yoël (masculine) says, it's best to give holiday wishes to co-religionists.

Terejia wrote (March 25, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thank you, Jean, for follow-up.

I was giving perusals on messages of this list around Dec 25th 2006. I could hit into the area fairly easily because number of posts were high around that time. At first I wondered if we need some guidelines on the matter. But on a further thought, I also wondered if it would be too difficult to a perfect guideline on the matter due to the deep rootedness of the nature...

A sensitive friend of mine has so many "offensive words list" and in our communication I often find myself to be an offender's side. However, that same friend also has composture and ability to communicate how certain words or phrases are offensive to him and what meanings, emotions, incidents are connected with/associated with that particular words or phrases. He also has insights that actually words are just words, no more and no less and sheer neutral per se yet people attach many meanings and significance to it.

Well, I have my own "offensive words list", one of which is the topic about university one is graduated from. Of course it is by no means universal one. I find myself respond to the same word differently according to the context. Normally when some one says to me that I am decently brought up it makes me simply rejoice over the compliment. When a legal student of my class commented that to me I found I didn't like it : it has connotation that I don't have aptitude to legal career, which is not a good feeling for a green new solicitor like myself. I could communicate that to her without much reaction and we continue to be good friends.

When it comes to religious matter, it may not be as simple as that. I felt that it is more deep rooted that we Japanese, being in a culture of inattentiveness and liberalness toward religion can hardly fathom into.

I suppose we just trust each other that Bach lovers are intelligent and decent doing one's best in showing respect, consideration etcs to each other even though we cannot be perfect, either.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Terejia] Yes, Terejia. I am sure your intentions were good. And it would be helpful for anyone to assume the best of others.

That's my opinion, from what I know about getting along the best anyone can. Do not worry about this anymore. After something is over most people are busy thinking about their own needs and wants and obligations. You're doing fine.

Terejia wrote (March 25, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< (..)
That's my opinion, from what I know about getting along the best anyone can. Do not worry about this anymore. After something is over most people are busy thinking about their own needs and wants and obligations. You're doing fine. >
So be it.

Thank you again, Jean and all the past discussion leaders for dedicatedness in taking pains toward invaluable goal of this list. Until Therese mentioned it, I didn't know there are such things like assignment of discussion leader. May jewels of music masterpiece continue blessing us.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
[To Terejia] We are all indebted to Aryeh for the site, the lists, and giving us such an opportunity. Thank you for your kind words.

Terejia wrote (March 26, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< We are all indebted to Aryeh for the site, the lists, and giving us such an opportunity. Thank you for your kind words. >
Indeed...we cannot thank enough for this wonderful site. Practically, this is the only place I can enjoy participating and listening in in conversation on Bach.

In my real life, I'm surrounded by legal colleagius who are much more competent than myself but have zero interest in classical music. In order to get along with them, I cannot afford listening to Bach all the time. I have to get at least some familiarity with Japanese pop songs, TV songs etc, to carry conversation with them, which is important part of bussiness. Bach lovers are such a minority in my group. They just give a cold shrug "oh, noble taste!"

(warning to readers : the comment I will write below might be insulting to the whole Bach and classic fans in this paragraph) Strangely, I'm afraid to say, generally speaking, such people who has little or zero interest in classical music/art/classical literature tend to do much better when it comes to bussiness or legal areas, in my own observation in Japan.

This list makes me happy in that I am with great people listening and participate in beautiful discussions. The same fact makes me occasionally unhappy because it reveals how much gap is between ideal and the things as they are.

John Pike wrote (March 26, 2008):
[To Terejia] Maybe your legal colleagues could be persuaded to attend a Masaaki Suzuki concert. I watched a DVD the other day of him conducting the SJP in the Sun Tory hall in Tokyo...very moving. if that doesn't persuade them, nothing will!

 

Future discussions

Continue of discussion from: Events in the Church Year - Part 4 [General Topics]

Julian Mincham wrote (April 4, 2008):
Having caught up with a few more back emails it seems that there is a slight majority of those expressing an opinion in favour of a future round presenting the cantatas in the order of the days on which they were written. There doesn't seem to be any good reason for this, at least not one which relates to the creation of a more stimulating dialogue about the works. Anyone who has a complete set of the recorded cantatas can choose to hear them on the appropriate days and why not? I have two friends who do just that. But compared with a comparative view/study/observation of the groupings of those cantatas all written for the same day I can't see how such an approach would enlighten us to any great degree.

There is also a practical problem. Even within a cycle the cantatas are not spread out evenly. The second cycle starts off nicely with approximately one cantata a week, but get to the Christmas period and you have five cantatas in one week!? (91, 121, 133, 122 and 41!) The same bunching happens in the first and third cycle. Is anyone suggesting that these works could be properly discussed at this time of the year at the rate of almost one a day? The last 8 cantatas of the second?cycle (108-176) would come at the rate of two a week--still a high rate if one is aimimg to listen to and write about them all with the seriousness that they deserve.

Just doesn't seem very practical to me.??

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 4, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< There is also a practical problem. Even within a cycle the cantatas are not spread out evenly. The second cycle starts off nicely with approximately one cantata a week, but get to the Christmas period and you have five cantatas in one week!? (91, 121, 133, 122 and 41!) The same?bunching happens in the first and third cycle. Is anyone suggesting that these works could be properly discussed at this time of the year at the rate of almost one a day? The last 8 cantatas of the second cycle (108-176) would come at the rate of two a week--still a high rate if one is aimimg to listen to and write about them all with the seriousness that they deserve. >
As I mentioned before, there is no advantage to discussing the cantata in the actual week in the church year for which it was composed ("Gee, it's kind of chilly today. I wonder if I can find that weather in the cantata")

I would suggest the following schema, Week 1 starting anytime that's convenient for us:

Week 1: Cantata #61 (Advent 1)
2: #62 (Advent 1)
3: #36 (Advent 1)
4: #70a (Advent 2)
5: #186b (Advent 3)
6: #141 (Advent 3)
7: #132 (Advent 4)
8: #147a (Advent 4)
9: #63 (Christmas Day)
10: #91 (Christmas Day)
11: #110 (Christmas Day)
12: #248/1 (Christmas Day)
13: #197a (Christmas Day)
14: #142 (Christmas Day)
15: #40 (2nd Day of Christmas)
16: #121 (2nd Day of Christmas)
17: #57 (2nd Day of Christmas)
18: #248/2 (2nd Day of Christmas)

And so on through the whole corpus of cantatas (I'm just using the listings on the Readings page here)

I think we would find striking similarlites between the cantatas. For instance, the use of the chorale, Nun Komm, in the first two cantatas, and the festive orchestration of the Christmas Day cantatas. So too we would see differences in the 2nd Day after Xmas cantatas: why do some of them refer to St. Stephen and some to the Shepherds of the Infancy narrative?

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] When I took an interest in the idea of following Bach's church year it seto me that I would come to know the flow of the church year in musical terms (Bach style) better. But listening on my own did not seem particularly attractive to me in the case that another discussion would be taking place on the list. Also, I do not yet have a complete set of the cantatas and I am not sure when I would get them. Now, for example, as to how this might educate me if we had a run through of a year on the liturgical year as Bach knew it, I would probably get into the meaning of the texts and their relationship to the music a little more deeply.

And, I could grow in my appreciation of the types of compositions set up throughout the year in regard to the church calendar. As to the duplication of five possibilities for a Sunday, to my mind they could all be listed and one would be free to choose how much listening would be possible, referring back to the previous discussions for information. For people like me who have only been into the cantatas on list for a couple of years this might work quite well, but might be less interesting to folks who have been listening to and studying the cantatas for many years.

Of course, I can see where it would be attractive to top scholarly minds like you and Doug to advance into this more sophisticated type of discussion, and of course I can see that new knowledge might be generated by the kinds of comparisons that could be made. I would be quite silly if I did not see the value for academics, but I am not quite sure how the list generally would react to that kind of study. The approach is quite interesting, but a little specialized.

There are probably a good many people on the list who listen for the religious connection~~even though I am well aware that there are also a certain number who don't want to even hear about such things. If someone does not see why others would like the church year schedule according to Bach they might have missed that some of us find historical significance in that pattern, and also dare I say perhaps a great deal of personal interest in 'our' religious past and how things were conducted originally/musically.

I am not saying this has to turn out my way, but only that the point has been missed as to traveling through the church year since such a path would be more of a subjective delight than a deeper exploratory academic venture. We are more or less talking apples and oranges here. I think one trip straight through the liturgical year would be interesting, but what Doug proposes has an advantage and I would enjoy doing that after establishing the liturgical year in my mind--in a following year, if there is a change. Perhaps that would be followed in another year by a study of the secular cantatas.

After reading the history that Aryeh provides in the Introduction on the site, and raising the question of getting at new experiences or new knowledge, I understood the complexity of how setting up such a web discussion as we have could become~~

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, Doug, it seems a little rude to me to suggest that there is no advantage to following the church year. Some of us are interested in the church year without the interruption of the secular works, for a period of a year to establish Bach's historical working pattern. That doesn't make your idea bad, but it doesn't make it more valid than what some others might enjoy. I can't say I have ever looked for the weather in the cantata--sounds rather snide to me to suggest such an implication. You sound like an impassioned young man about your own Bach view here. (Smile). I do not discredit your idea...but the church year once through interests me in the context of the list, as I have written in a previous reply to Julian. I would still like to go through the year first, and then follow on with your discussions ideas--but I believe this is in the final analysis up to Aryeh.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] As I see his proposal of schedule, Doug follows the church year.

Maybe you could give concrete examples of what you propose and how it would help to understand Bach's historical working pattern? For me these two points are not quite clear.

I can understand the idea of trying to better understand his activity as a music director, but it seems to me more difficult to achieve this (and to create an added value from it) than with Doug's proposal which focuses more on composition.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] No, I do not get the impressions Doug follows the church year--only specific Sunday's that have more than one cantata. If I am wrong--please Doug, correct me. I have raised this question before--do we include the whole church year under his plan, and I did not get an answer.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Yes, my proposal follows the church year, just not in sync with our calendar. Our civic calendar, especially in North America, really doesn't reflect the pattern of holidays which Bach experienced. For instance, the week after Christmas is "down" time for us, but Bach had to shift into high gear. If we followed the church year exactly next December 2008, we'd have to discuss cantatas on Dec 21, 25, 26, 27, 28, Jan 1, 6 & 11. Bach was working flat out; most of us have our feet up. I'm not sure what our expereince tells us about Bach's. If we follow the sequence of the church year but not in sync with our calendar, I think we do get a sense of the shifting patterns and plan which shaped Bach's working method.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] So then, you would not eliminate any of the days of Bach's liturgical calendar--only just stretch them out?

Julian Mincham wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] I respect Jean's view, but let's face it, with the removal of the few secular cantatas it takes about four years (at one religious cantata a week) to get through them all, not one year. And back on the practicalities remember that there are 5 cantatas for Christmas Day 63, 91, 110, 197a, and Part 1 of the Oratorio (that would take up 5 Xmas days). How would all?this plan out practically? There are? also four works each for the 2nd and 3rd days of Christmas.

There is a sort of middle way whereby the first Xmas cantata could be previewed on Xmas day and the other four on each of the next successive weeks. This would take us to Septuagesima (three cantatas, three weeks) and so on. The following year you could have the cantatas for the 2nd day of Christmas and the third year those for the 3rd day. Thus you could have quite a few cantatas performed on the days for which they were relevant (but not all) followed by discussion of the remainder composed for that day over the following weeks. it could be done although it would be a logistic nightmare to work out.

Two further practical points--at present one work comes up for discussion at the weekend for the following week. Cantatas would need to come out on different days (especially at Xmas and Easter) were they to be introduced on the days for which they were intended. And what about Lent---a slotting in of some of the secular works maybe?

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Julian M8incham] I really don't have a problem with spacing the liturgical year out, even though some interesting modern parallels might result from such an effort. However, do we lose the minor festivals under this plan? I don't know a lot about the minor festivals because they are not emphasized in modern Lutheranism. I'd would like to know more about them in the context of discussion if such is possible--again, this does not have to work out my way. I realize I am not the final word, but only thinking about how to develop more written participation.

John Pike wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I agree with everything Doug has been saying on this issue over recent weeks.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To John Pike] Thank you John, for sharing your opinion. I opened up Pandora's box without quite realizing what I was doing. I have not written to Aryeh to request any changes, though I am quite sure he isaware of the discussion. If we changed I can see no reason not to take the liturgical year an event at a time--one each week, but I would like it less if we left out the extra days and only observed Sundays.

But this is not a big deal to me--my suggestion is as before: anyone who would like to see something different done to offer an approach that brings more and more interesting discussion on a weekly basis might wish to submit their ideas to Aryeh at this point.

Dave Harman wrote (April 5, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< Well, Doug, it seems a little rude to me to suggest that there is no advantage to following the church year. >
You don't seem to like it when someone disagrees with you and shows they actually know what they are talking about. Doug is a professional musician - a director of music at a church. It could be that he knows more about church year vs liturgical year discussions than you.

I think you have been using this issue to gain traction in the group without showing much knowledge of Bach's music. You care more about the words Bach set to music than the music Bach wrote to the words.

I'm not sure why you reply to almost every post on this list with comments that don't contribute anything to the subject the post was about except to call attention to yourself and give the impression you actually know something about the subject being discussed.

There are many knowledgeable people on this list and I have learned a lot from them I think there is more to gain in accepting this group as it is and contributing to the group discussions as they are than trying to change the way the discussions are structured.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 5, 2008):
[To Dave Harman] I simply am trying to understand the range of what Doug is saying--are all the liturgical days included? I believe he knows more than I do--I've never said anything to the contrary.

I agreed to write the ten introductions, but I have said from the beginning this is something relatively new to me. I have played Bach since my youth, and sung Bach since that time, and I have taken Baroque Music Theory at ASU. That is all that qualifies me for what I am doing--I have not claimed more, and have no intention of doing so.

The reason I post thank you notes to people is because I simply did not plan to contribute all the details available, nor do I have time in my life to do so. As a rule I post only once or twice a week, and when my time is up in two weeks (only 2 cantatas left to post) I will return to posting once or twice a week and doing what I enjoy most - home recording of music (Bach cantatas included), along with far too many other involvements and activities that make my life interesting to try for anything permanently demanding on the list. I don't know what you mean by gaining traction--I simply responded with a yes when Aryeh asked me if I would take ten weeks. I am looking forward to Francis and Stephen and all the others following. And I look forward to completing my assignment shortly.

I care about the words, and the music by the way. I was simply noting the idea and it exploded, that the words came first and I think they add a lot of meaning to the music. In Bach music is words and music, to my eye and ear.

As Aryeh has pointed out numerous times and in numerous ways this group is open to anyone--not only those who believe themselves to have all the right answers. I have also repeatedly suggested that suggestions be made to Aryeh regarding future discussions. I do not consider myself to be a Bach scholar, but a fellow-learner along with all the other participants. I do not believe future discussions will ever be settled in the list forum of public opinion. That sort of thing has to go through channels...and that means Aryeh.

What would I do with traction in the group? I don't have a clue. I have a life, and enough responsibility to keep me busy. But I am not a long-time Bach scholar--only a learner with the rest of you, and I have also learned plenty from the group. I'm sorry you need to feel so negative about my style, but there's nothing to do but know that I'll be done shortly.

Chris Kern wrote (April 5, 2008):
I had also hoped to do a third cycle in the order of the liturgical calendar -- I had done this myself for the Christmas and New Years cantatas, and it was a great way to see parallels between Bach's cantatas in a new way.

I would prefer Doug's idea of doing one cantata a week, in liturgical order, with no attempt to sync the cantatas with the real dates of 2009, etc. Feast days could come where they actually fall (so we don't just have to do Sundays).

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 5, 2008):
[To Dave Harman] I'm going to come to Jean's defense here. Your remarks to her are simply obnoxious and rude. She has been doing a very fine job on the list here, and I regret that you chose now to interject such a hostile/sour note into the conversation.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 5, 2008):
[To Chris Kern] With the Feast days included this sounds good to me. Please share your thoughts, also, directly with Aryeh.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 5, 2008):
[To Paul T. McCain] Thanks, Paul. I appreciate your support.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (April 5, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I think that this scheme would bring to light much about the cantatas that is otherwise easy to miss. In my opinion it's by far the best proposal.

 

OT: Closing remarks and conclusions

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 17, 2008):
In a few short hours my voice teacher will be here as we are beginning a new focus on my French lessons. Though over the past ten weeks some lessons have been worked in, due to the holidays and company and one of her doctoral recitals we haven't accomplished quite as much as intended. For that reason I am going to sign off now as discussion leader, and I will be participating a little again with the new topics of discussion later on toward the end of next week.

Having written and discussed so much Bach this past week I am also eager to return to singing some more Bach. My goal for the next year is two Bach soprano solo cantatas, a flute sonata and perhaps some additional arias. I have progressed over the last year to the point where I hope to make some of these numbers available on my web site in 2009. I am also working on the Italian Concerto (BWV 971), and hope it will make the grade.

I think quite a bit of knowledge, reference to resources and appreciation of a variety of points of view has come about in these weeks, and I count this time spent as one of the highlights of my life to date.

This week's cantata has generated far more interest than I would have ever imagined. I intend to read up on the historical details further before beginning a reasonably detailed score analysis. And I am probably going to review some of the forms used in the composition to help articulate what is going on in the score. Very likely I will write to some of you who deal with scores with some questions after I've made my initial journey through the material, and perhaps also taken time to explore the German language resources in the ASU Music Library--there are many. I've had some German study privately, as well as having translation programs, and talking dictionaries on my laptop, so when I have something worthy of sharing on this remarkable work, I will either send it on list or send it to Aryeh to add where he sees it fits best. Several times during the past week I've wished I had taken the additional day or two of preparation in that regard, but all in good time.

Meanwhile, as I sign off for about a week now, I want to say thanks so much to everyone who participated, and to all who took the time to read all of our postings. Growing together in our understanding of Bach, in a world-wide forum is indeed an amazing experience...a far cry from listening to radio in my early childhood.

Best wishes to Francis as he now begins to share with us.

 

Continue on Part 2

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