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Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML)
Year 2013

New Discussion Round, 2014 and Beyond

William Hoffman wrote (October 22, 2013):
As for next year and the BCW Discussions, I would suggest another round, like the current, all vocal works over five years. We could consolidate materials and major contributions, possibly including a weekly summary of previous discussions, the recordings, and Julian Mincham's commentaries, as well as Claude Role's bibliographical materials and other sources such as BCW articles and topical discussions. We also could explore relevant recent articles and books, and the new NBA publications of the original Weimar cantatas, parodies, and apocrypha. I also would like to see sidebar stories each week that explore a certain facet of a work or its historical-cultural context. Also, I personally would like to see a standardization of all Bach's vocal works beyond the systematic cantata materials, a cross-index of borrowings, and the beginning of an in-depth study of the texts, like the chorales, involving biblical and theological references, as well as librettist's cultural references.

Thoughtfully,

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 24, 2013):
[To William Hoffman] I hope the weekly discussion format continues. I will do whatever I can to support the effort.

William Hoffman wrote (October 24, 2013):
[To Ed Myskowski] Still have major work "In Progress" to do on the chorales (texts, stanzas) and "Musical Context of Bach Cantatas; Motets & Chorales for Events in the Lutheran Church Year," de tempore from Christmas to Pentecost. There are still areas like the BCW chorale texts "In Progress." There also are some fascinating new sources available to stimulate further commentary, particularly Claude Role's bibliography on the sacred cantatas (in French) and Martin Petzoldt's 3-volume study (in German) of the liturgical and theological sources in all the sacred cantatas (de tempore, omnes tempore, and miscellaneous). The BCW thematic discussions should be revived with links in the Details template of each work.

 

BCML: Future Cantata Discussion

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 13, 2013):
By the end of 2013 we shall finish the 3rd round of cantata discussions in the BCML

In the 1st cycle of cantata discussions (1999-2003), the cantatas were discussed in the BCML on a weekly basis, a cantata per week. The list of cantatas to be discussed was suggested about every 10 weeks by one of the members of the BCML. It was agreed between the members of the BCML that the cantatas would be discussed more or less according to their relation to the Lutheran Church Year. Cantatas that were composed for no special event, or secular cantatas, were used as 'fillers' for weeks to which there was not any dedicated cantata. Year 2004 was dedicated to discussions of J.S. Bach's other vocal works.
In the 2nd cycle of cantata discussions (2005-2009), the cantatas were discussed chronologically, in the order J.S. Bach initially performed them. The following page of the BCW includes: Performance Dates of Bach’s Vocal Works.
In the 3rd cycle of cantata discussions (2010-2013), the cantatas were discussed roughly in the order they are presented in the NBA and in Alfred Dürr's The Cantatas of J.S. Bach (Oxford University Press, 2005). This round covered all the performable works in the BWV and BWV Anh lists, including all Bach's other vocal works, as well as spurious works.

Almost all the cantata discussions have been complied and are presented on the BCW pages for reading, enjoyment, and learning.

William Hoffman wrote to the BCML a few weeks ago:
< As for next year and the BCW Discussions, I would suggest another round, like the current, all vocal works over five years. We could consolidate materials and major contributions, possibly including a weekly summary of previous discussions, the recordings, and Julian Mincham's commentaries, as well as Claude Role's bibliographical materials and other sources such as BCW articles and topical discussions. We also could explore relevant recent articles and books, and the new NBA publications of the original Weimar cantatas, parodies, and apocrypha. I also would like to see sidebar stories each week that explore a certain facet of a work or its historical-cultural context. Also, I personally would like to see a standardization of all Bach's vocal works beyond the systematic cantata materials, a cross-index of borrowings, and the beginning of an in-depth study of the texts, like the chorales, involving biblical and theological references, as well as librettist's cultural references. >
I agree with Will, and would also like to add that there are many aspects of each cantata which have not yet been revealed/discussed in the former rounds of discussions. For example:
1. Comparative review of recordings, including recordings available only on the web (YouTube).
2. Preparing a work for performance. Many performers (conductors, singers, instrumentalists) have joined the BCML. They can enrich the discussions by sharing their perceptions with the members.
3. Detailed analysis of a chosen movement of the discussed work.

We have now to take several decision:
a. Shall we do a 4th round of cantata discussions?
b. If so, what would be the order of works to be discussed?
c. Who will lead the discussions?
I would like to get your feedback.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 14, 2013):
[To Aryeh Oron] My feeling is that some sort of contextual comparative approach might be interesting, in particular the comparison of those extant works for a particular day of the church year e.g. those cantatas composed for the, say, 4th Sunday after Trinity. Usually there are 2-4 existing cantatas for any one day and as I have proved (at least to my own satisfaction) that Bach looked over his scores of works for written for a particular day as a part of the process of 'getting the inspirational juices flowing' when starting a new work.

Other points of comparison might be to look at groups of cantatas which begin with a recitative (not a lot of them actually---only a couple in the second cycle) or with a substantial sinfonia. Or a comparison of the four solo alto cantatas and the groups for solo bass and solo soprano (only one exists for tenor, unfortunately).

Finally there are the groupings of the non church works e.g. those composed for weddings, municipal events, funerals, birthdays etc.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 14, 2013):
[To Aryeh Oron] I hope a regularly scheduled discussion format can be continued. I believe Will Hoffman had some suggestions re ordering the works based on Chorale uses/references. That seems like a formidable task to organize, but it certainly is a great idea, in principle.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 14, 2013):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I hope a regularly scheduled discussion format can be continued. >
It might be worth having a chat about why the discussions seem to be tapering off. I'm wondering if the sequential cantata schedule has run its course. Perhaps we might try more focussed discussions of specific issues.

Off the top of my head:
* The use of "Hezlich Thut Mich Verlangen" (or any other chorale) in the vocal works of JSB.
* The use of obligato organ in all the cantatas.
* The use of introductory adaptations of concerto movements.
* The librettos of Marianna von Ziegler.

Listers would have to propose topics and be prepared to list the relevant cantatas

Hmmm ... That's probably too much work ...

David Jones wrote (December 15, 2013):
[To Ed Myskowski] My vote is for a fourth round. There are so many different interpretations under different conductors, so many prismatic ways to look at the Cantatas, I don't really see how we can exhaust them. I really enjoy discussing them.......

Linda Gingrich wrote (December 15, 2013):
I would be interested in hearing from performers about how they prepare a Bach work for performance. Since in the States the cantatas are not performed as often (I understand) as in Europe, the discussion might need to be broadened to other works, which might make it too broad.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (December 15, 2013):
[To Linda Gingrich] Aryeh Oron has given his permission to feaGottfried Heinrich Stölzel's / Benjamin Schlmock cantata "Das Namen-Buch Christi" cycle presented in Gotha 1732. And it's been demonstrated that Bach performed this cycle (or parts of it) in Leipzig. While unfortunately the cycle does not survive complete, the Advent-Christmas-Epiphany cantatas are extant. I'll present some information about the cycle, along with a Youtube video of the music generated from my edition that will be available shortly. I'll grant that MIDI files generated from Sibelius aren't the optimal way to hear this music, but unfortunately very little of Stölzel is available in modern editions, performed, much less recorded. This cycle does make extensive use of obbligato organ parts, something that a specialty for Stölzel and something of interest for several list participants. Clearly Bach valued this music, and invested considerable time in copying and performing it. It's in that spirit I hope we can discover what he found so intrinsically worthwhile. I hope to have the first posts made available this week, since we're celebrating the 3rd Sunday of Advent this Sunday.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 15, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Aryeh Oron has given his permission to feature Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel's / Benjamin Schlmock cantata "Das Namen-Buch Christi" cycle presented in Gotha 1732. >
Fantastic!

Paul Beckman wrote (December 15, 2013):
I like the idea of focusing on different specific questions that arise when we listen to the cantatas. Some have already been mentioned, such as comparative discussions on recordings or looking at the use of the various chorale tunes. Others might include Bach's treatment of the human voice as part of the instrumental forces, Bach as an innovator and precursor to future or more modern styles (melodically, structurally, tonally, etc.); different ways that he structures the cantatas, and so on.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 15, 2013):
Some interesting suggestions have been made although some (although I would personally find them of interest) would require a great deal of specialist knowledge or research to get them up and running e.g. a comparison of various sinfonias, opening movements, choruses etc. I suggested the grouping of cantatas by the days for which they were written partly because Dürr has set them out this way so anyone who has the book, or access to it, can locate the groups within a few minutes (similarly in volume 3 of the cantatas on my website each essay begins with brief contextual comments on cantatas written for the day in question). At this time of the year we have the cantatas for Christmas and New Year's day (about a dozen in all) plus those for the days following Christmas----looked at in groups this way, this could take things close to Easter. The other advantage of looking at the cantatas this way is so as to become aware of Bach's development as obviously some years will separate these works of common purpose.

I suppose an important decision is, do we want to cover every one of the cantatas religiously (!!) as in the past or take a grouped 'scattergun' approach which focuses on those with aspects of commonality. Personally I prefer the contextual aproach because it is likely to be more revealing about the pieces and anyway, we have done the chronological thing more than once.

If the latter, I would still suggest the 'particular day' grouping along with cantatas written for single voices and the non-church cantatas written for the same or similar occasions.

But I don't really mind. My thoughts are based on practicality and which approach might generate the greatest interest.

Francis Browne wrote (December 15, 2013):
Future Discussions

And so after 15 years we have reached the point of planning a fourth cycle of discussions. When so many things on the Internet spring to life, flourish a short time,then fade without trace, the continued existence of the BCML and BCW should not be taken for granted .I’m sure many members of the list will join me in offering congratulations and gratitude to Aryeh since it is primarily his unceasing efforts that have made the list and website the invaluable resources that they are and keep them in existence. Years ago I used to think there would come a point when he might think he had done enough for Bach’s music or would run out of projects. Now I know better: the man is incorrigible, indefatigable, inexhaustible, invaluable, irreplaceable .

But Aryeh would also be the first to stress that the list and website are collaborative ventures . Others too deserve gratitude . In recent years the contributions by Will Hoffman have been outstanding in their thoroughness, detail and perceptiveness and the commentaries by Julian Mincham – not of course directly part of the website - have become an invaluable and inspiring resource – I have never consulted them without learning something and having my appreciation and understanding of Bach’s music deepened. Douglas Cowling constantly uses his practical experience of choral music to raise interesting questions and Ed Myskowski has continued to be an intelligent, civilised presence, sometimes acting as anchor man for the list week after week. Thomas Braatz –alas from offstage – from time to time adds to the valuable contributions he made in the past.

I hope I may be forgiven for not mentioning by name a small number of others who contribute –but many will have anticipated the point I wish to make : out of a list of about 1000 members only the half dozen or so mentioned regularly contribute and some weeks Will’s splendid scholarly contributions constitute the whole discussion.

Can anything be done in planning the next discussions to broaden contributions? It may still be worthwhile to have a framework of systematic discussions –whether based on date of composition, liturgical year or other principle – but perhaps for an experimental period of say three months that could be interspersed with or preceded by other discussions - like the splendid idea already put forward and approved of discussing some nonBach cantatas. Aryeh asked who would lead discussions and the best answer has to be volunteers. If there is a particular cantata or movement or aspect of Bach’s music that anyone would like discussed, perhaps they should suggest this to Aryeh – and preference could be given to suggestions from new contributors. Introductions could be as long or short as each individual desires. In the past initiating or leading discussions -often for 10 weeeks -could be burdensome and offputting,but for one week and on a topic of particular interest it should not be so.

It may be a forlorn hope that new contributors will come forward but it is clear from the information about themselves that new members sometime give that there are many people who are involved in performance or study of Bach who follow the list.Choir members, soloists, conductors, orchestral players would all have much to offer the list. Everyone who has sufficient interest in Bach to join the list has, I am sure , something to contribute.

I heard a splendid enjoyable performance of the Christmas oratorio by the Leeds Festival Chorus last night ,and gazing at the massed ranks of that choir – 120 approx, - and the large audience and multiplying that by all the other performances of the CO at this time of the year throughout the world I could not help thinking there must be so much experience, knowledge, enthusiasm for Bach’s music out there that should be enriching the BCML . My hope is that a way can be found to make the BCW an even more valuable resource.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 15, 2013):
[To Paul Beckman] One possibility made easier with the publication of Richard D P Jones' "Creative Development of J S Bach" is to spend say ten weeks on ten recent discoveries in Bach - I e since the '1950's and especially the mostrecent ones. This also with some help from our German speaking contributors will allow some important Bach Journal and Bach Archive papers to be known and discussed.

It was pleasing to see that the BJ have credit to the Bach Cantata Website for raising the questioof the Meckbach acrostic in BWV 150, a question solved by Hand Joachim Schulze after the Bach Archive had taken an interest.

Thus the origin and dating of the Cantata is much more secure than before, and it is undoubtedly by J S Bach. Other topics may yield such results.

Luke Dahn wrote (December 16, 2013):
[To Francis Browne] As someone who has has thoroughly enjoyed the discussions but who has not participated much in them, I appreciate Francis's comments. I am not a historian but a composer-theorist, so when the discussions are primarily historical in nature, I have little comment and defer to the true historians in the group (who consistently amaze me with their expansive knowledge). If there are others who would be interested in theoretical aspects of the music, I would be up to contributing to that end (to the extent that my teaching schedule allows). I'm certain that there are astute musical analysts among us.

The idea of comparing various uses of the same chorale tune particularly interests me, though it also seems to me that there should be a way to devise a format that accommodates several of the suggestions made all at once. Accommodating as many suggestions as possible might in turn spur more discussion or sub-discussions (e.g. performance practice, recording comparisons, comparisons with other composers, etc.).

 

BCML: 4th Round of Cantata Discussions

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 22, 2013):
Thanks for your messages and for your suggestions.
After reading all the messages to the BCML and off-list regarding the 4th round issue, and giving it additional thought, I think of the following order of the discussion:
a. Solo cantatas for 1 voice (a week for each cantata):
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/Score-Table-Voice.htm
- Soprano: 51, 52, 84, 199
- Alto: 35, 54, 169, 170
- Tenor: 55
- Bass: 56, 82, 158
b. Solo cantatas for 2 voices:
etc..
After finishing the solo cantatas, we shall continue with the choral cantatas arranged by event in the LCY.
You are invited to participate in the cantata discussions, and write about any aspect of the discussed cantata: historical, musical analysis, preparing the work for performance, comparison of recordings, text analysis, etc.
Between the groups of cantatas, or about every 3 months, we can discuss more general Bach-related issues.
This suggested order would be used only as a starting point. If a member, especially a new one, would like to discuses a certain group of cantatas according to his/her personal choice, I am ready to give it priority as I am willing to see some "new blood" in the discussions. If you are interested, please write to me off-list.

I put the initial list in the Order of Discussion page of 2014: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2014.htm

I would be happy to get your feedback and to see many of your participating in the discussions..

Happy New Year!

Charles Francis wrote (December 22, 2013):
[To Aryeh Oron]\ A very interesting table. As a general comment, Bach appears to have all combinatoric options covered: S, A, T, B, SA, ST, SB, AT, AB, TB, SAT, SAB, STB, ATB, and SATB.

Surprisingly, musicologists until recently, as well as notable conductors such as Richter, Rilling, Harnoncourt, Leonhard, Gardner, Herreweghe, Suzuki etc., have invariably assumed that S, A, T, B, SA, ST, SB, AT, AB, TB, SAT, SAB, STB, and ATB cantatas are to be performed with soloists (apart from chorales), while the SATB movements are to be performed with multiple singers for each part. Most odd, and completely arbitrary, when you think about it...

Julian Mincham wrote (December 22, 2013):
I think this could work quite well and would give new perspectives on the cantatas.

A couple of suggestions---1 could not the non-church cantatas also be included? e.g. those fore solo sop such as 202, 210 and 204?

2 Looking at those for two voices as a group should be interesting as this includes the dialogue cantatas which often have a character of their own and comparisons should throw up some new thoughts and ideas.

William Hoffman wrote (December 23, 2013):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Most odd, and completely arbitrary, when you think about it... >
William Hoffman replies: There is the concept in Bach of concertists and ripienists. Also, read JEG's new Bach biography re. Cantata 131.

Charles Francis wrote (December 23, 2013):
[To William Hoffman] It did occur to me that Aryeh’s excellent table might be augmented to show at the very end, those cantatas where it is known for certain that Bach wanted ripienists – there won’t be too many.

A couple of minimalist versions of BWV 131:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OlslS2yx9E
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1sLbNtcMksY

Plus Gardiner for comparison:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYPaCYdTziw

And to get us back in a more seasonal mood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_wAiAg6d-2Y.

William Hoffman wrote (December 24, 2013):
[To Charles Francis] In the same Christmas spirit, here is German oboist Albrecht Mayer (who will be featured next week in an instrumental recording of Cantata 209) in Christmas music samplings: Amazon.com , scroll down to "All MP3 Downloads by Albrecht Mayer" through Yahoo! Groups.

 

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