Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML)
Part 1: Year 2003
An Evaluation of the BCML
Peter Bloemendaal wrote (May 16, 2003):
Comparing the messages sent to the BCML at the beginning and today, one cannot but notice that lots of changes have taken place. When Kirk McElhearn started both the Bach Recordings and the Bach Cantatas groups in December 2000, he could not have imagined what they would be like today. The Recordings group has already received over 10,000 contributions and the BCML will pass the 5,000 mark one of these days. Whereas the BRML remained more or less a group of wide-ranged discussions on miscellaneous Bach topics, the BCML has led to the Bach Cantatas Website, which developed into a standard work on Bach’s cantatas thanks to the efforts of Aryeh Oron and of course the contributors to the list. Especially in the past few months the mailing rate and the intensity of contributions have increased rapidly. More and more, technical issues were put forward, leading to lengthy discussions and fierce disputes. Some one already suggested these discussions must be held on a different platform. What’s new?
The BCML started with some “ordinary” Bach lovers, most of whom could not be called Bach experts at the time, but they certainly had in common that they could not imagine life without Bach. Before long Aryeh became the driving force, in the process gaining expert status himself and another prolific writer with a vast knowledge and deeper insight in Bach’s music joined the list. Many of us have wondered how they manage to acquire all these CD’s, find the time to listen tot them, do some background reading and write their weekly contributions on top of their no doubt busy professional lives. Several other members have also shown great insight, and what’s more, they have the scores for piano or any other instrument and sometimes even the full orchestral scores at their disposal. A few are professional musicians who form their opinions on their practice as performing artists as well as on their extensive reading and personal taste.
The Tone of the Discussions
All contributors should be entitled to their own opinions. Every now and then you will see temperaments flaring up pretty hot, but personally I think conflicting ideas bring life to the discussions. As long as people respect each other, everything is OK with me. Critics can have a heavy go at each other, but it bothers me deeply when deadly attacks are being launched against the artists who bring Bach’s music back to life. This has troubled me most in quite a few messages of a contributor, whose introductory essays on the cantatas gained him great esteem. His reviews of the various performances were applauded by some, but to me he failed to show any respect for some of the performers of the cantatas, using derogatory and abusing attributives, thus denying the integrity of a number of performers, many of whom I know personally. The more so because the destructive criticism usually comes from personal bias or interpretation, based on ideas from books by Bach authorities, often published several decades ago, opinions not generally shared anymore these days. I was especially shocked to read not long ago that one member of the BCML had been dissuaded from buying the Leusink CD’s, in spite of the budget price, because of the negative reviews. I was happy to read he enjoys most of the recordings, now that he has heard them himself. I am even more happy that lately the tone in most reviews has become less disrespectful towards the performing artists, probably because a worthy competitor has entered the ring.
Tastes and ideas are constantly changing and there will always be different opinions. I myself, for one, am no great fan of Rilling’s, but whenever I listen to his cantatas or SMP (BWV 244), I will always try to honour, understand and enjoy what he is doing with the music. Bach was the creator, and, within certain limits, each artist performing Bach’s music must re-create in their own time what JSB has left to them and us. The outcome of the perennial question to whom a work of art belongs, to the creator or the spectator/reader/listener, which gets an extra dimension in music through the performing artists, can never be a choice between black and white. Performing music will always be a balancing act between what the composer wrote down and intended and how the performer interprets the music, but in my opinion the scale should tip over to the performer. The creation completed, the composer has to let go. Then it has to be performed to bring it actually to life and each new performance must give new life to the composition. This requires creativity and interpretation. Musicians will be influenced by ideas, old and new, historic or revolutionary, but no one should try to prescribe them to stick to whatever rules. They cannot and must not be programmed like a computer. And then, who or what are to decide what the right programme should be? Strict rules? Dogmas even? Critics? Scholars? No way! It is the performing artist or group of artists. It is their privilege, it is their calling, it is their sacred duty, it is their job. And of course they know what they are doing. I have a collection of 38 different SMP’s on CD. HIP, non-HIP, even OVPP, and they are all dear to me –OK, some dearer than others- and why? Because I am not the performer and so I try to listen to what the musicians wish to convey to me and to enjoy and understand their art. I will never go faultfinding because it spoils my pleasure and it does not give credit to those who performed a work of genius as well as they thought good at the time and place of performance.
I believe that a fastidious kind of criticism, often very personally directed, was never meant to be by those who founded the BCML almost three years ago
There seem to be five main groups of messages:
1. Introductions to the weekly cantatas
2. Reviews of the cantatas and personal reactions on these contributions.
3. Pieces of information about new recordings, reissues, concerts or broadcasts.
4. Topics concerning the way Bach should or should not be performed, usually originating from the issue “HIP or Non-HIP”.
5. Musicological contributions, requiring quite some theoretical insight both from the writer and the reader.
Some of these aspects are overlapping. Some messages seem to belong more to the BRML, but that doesn’t bother me at all. It’s logical because quite some contributors are members of both lists. Some discussions are beyond my scope, but I always find it interesting and enriching to read most of them.
The depth of the discussions has one disadvantage, however. At least I think that there are a lot of silent members like myself, who are so awestruck by expert commentaries that they shy back behind their PC. I love the contributions of Jane, of Mary, who tell us in loving words how they relate to a cantata, the images it evokes in them, the memories that go with the music. For that’s what it’s all about, Bach’s music is stirring us, touching me in the soul.
So, latent contributors, arise!
Kirk McElhearn wrote (Maay 16, 2003):
< Peter Bloemendaal wrote: When Kirk McElhearn started both the Bach Recordings and the Bach Cantatas groups in December 2000, he could not have imagined what they would be like today. >
Indeed! And as Aryeh recalls, he initially thought the idea of a Cantatas list was useless... :-)
It is quite impressive to look at the number and quality of contributions to both lists. I admit I don't have time to follow the BCML as much as I want, but I do go back to the web site when listening to new cantatas - that alone makes it worthwhile.
I am, however, wondering what will happen when the list has gone through all the cantatas a first time. It will be soon - another year or so? We can talk about the Passions, Masses etc, that will take a few months, but then what? Would it be a good idea to go back over the cantatas again, perhaps in a new order? I think so - there have been so many new recordings since the list began that the early discussions don't cover. Any thoughts?
Arjen van Gijss WROTE (May 16, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] Excellent exposé! Thanks for the overview and your valuable remarks on fierce debate in the group, as well as the notion that we should always respect our performers.
I am more or less a silent member, partly because I am like you sometimes awestruck by expert opinions. But that is not the right attitude, and you yourself show how in-depth a view from a silent member can be.
I think the BCML is a great thing. I like the recent efforts of Areyh to include music samples on the website. I will try to contribute myself.
Keep the BCML readable!
Christian Panse wrote (May 19, 2003):
The subject says it all. This means mainly two things:
1.) Stick to the topic of the list, namely... er... what was it - ah, yes, Bach Cantatas. Other topics can be discussed via private mail. Especially the HIP vs. non-HIP war cannot be decided here (this will happen after the last non-HIPsters have died out and their recordings crumbled to dust). Little hint: you needn't read everone's messages.
2.) Learn to quote. I wish so much to immediately understand each message I arbitrarily pick out, but too often it's like "Yeah, that's right", followed by a full quote of the previous post. And don't let me get started with the "typographic features" by which Outlook Express is able to de-clarify the structure of messages... Luckily, everything on this topic has already been thought and said; please read this:
and everything will be good. Yes, it's about Usenet, but it really works, trust me.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (Maay 19, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote:
1.) Stick to the topic of the list, namely... er... what was it - ah, yes, Bach Cantatas. Other topics can be discussed via private mail. Especially the HIP vs. non-HIP war cannot be decided here (this will happen after the last non-HIPsters have died out and their recordings crumbled to dust). Little hint: you needn't read everone's messages. >
Christian, I don't think there have been any truly off-topic posts. So let's not go telling people what to do...
2.) Learn to quote. I wish so much to immediately understand each message I arbitrarily pick out, but too often it's like "Yeah, that's right", followed by a full quote of the previous post. And don't let me get started with the "typographic features" by which Outlook Express is able to de-clarify the structure of messages... Luckily, everything on this topic has already been thought and said; please read this: http://www.netmeister.org/news/learn2quote.html
and everything will be good. Yes, it's about Usenet, but it really works, trust me. >
Yes, quoting can help, but, please, do not quote entire messages when you don't need to.
Ivan Lalis wrote (May 19, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] OK, I'll try to quote first: "Little hint: you needn't read everyone's messages."
I do not think that HIPie wars are irrelevant and useless, one can still find a lot of interesting information coming from both camps (other than abuse). Given a number of messages on this list I think it can absorb also threads on different topic.
If it is a problem that it is the same posters who usually write about cantatas now lead their HIPie wars, well, it's their decision, their time, and it's also an opportunity to hear opinions/reviews/whatever considering a cantata of the week from other subscribers.
< Christian (who in the last few weeks was more than once tempted to unsubscribe from this list) >
Well, if you do not find it interesting/inspiring/worth it to stay here and do not see any chance of getting any better...
Future of the BCMLBob 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!)
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] Thanks for your kind words.
The issue of the future of the BCML after the first cycle of weekly cantata discussions is over, have been discussed several times, but not definite conclusions yet. Now, when we are approaching the final line (December 7, 2003) rapidly (only 19 cantatas remained to be discussed), it is about the time to give this issue some thought.
a. Discussing the cantatas systematically, but in a different order (date of first performance by J.S. Bach, BWV Number, etc.). When we started the BCML almost 4 years ago, the list had about 20 members. Now there are more than 350! Furthermore more recordings and reissues of old recordings of cantatas have appeared on the market since those old days. So there is enough potential for repeated cantata discussions.
b. Discussing the cantatas arbitrarily, according to the wish of the members.
c. Discussing the other vocal works, but in digestible courses. Examples: the Motets one by one, development of the role of the Evangelist in SMP, recordings of the SJP from the 1990's, recordings of the Mass in B minor from Germany, etc.
d. Discussing non-Bach cantatas included in the BWV list (BWV 53, BWV 189...), etc.
Any other ideas?
Regarding myself, I plan taking a long vacation when we finish discussing the last cantata BWV 215. After 4 intensive (although very enjoyable and fruitful) years, I need some rest. But I shall continue updating the BCW.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 11, 2003):
< Aryeh Oron wrote: Regarding myself, I plan taking a long vacation when we finish discussing the last cantata BWV 215. After 4 intensive (although very enjoyable and fruitful) years, I need some rest. But I shall continue updating the BCW. >
I think, for that reason, we should all take a rest, and just start some general discussions on any cantata, new release etc. Then, when everybody's ready to jump in again, decide whether another systematic discussion is useful - I would agree to a different order, since, as you said, there have been so many new releases. BWV order would make it easier to follow.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] Well I've always thought that we could and should have scheduled discussions of the major vocal works, but perhaps in segmented form. The easiest work to do this would of course be the ChrO (BWV 248), which was really segmented anyway and was always intended to be (i.e. the six cantatas). This has already been done by one person in an exhaustive and intense survey some while back by Donald Satz (see the articles section-it's called "A Bottomless Bucket of Bach") There are also the secular cantatas, some of which as we know were parodied into the ChrO in various places, and of course the complete parody of BWV 249a, into BWV 249, the EasO. (We have already done BWV 11, the AscO, in our discussions already-it openedthis final year of sacred cantata discussions). Perhaps we could do 249a and 249 in the same week-it might be interesting to compare performances of the two by the same performers and see how the text and the verbal ideas influence an interpretation.
As for the Passions, a specific role (such as the Evangelist) would be interesting to look at, as Aryeh suggested, or maybe compartmentalize it a bit as well-if this is as dramatic as an opera, then maybe it could be divided, for the sake of recording discussions, into "scenes" or "episodes" in the action. I've always been curious about whether the insertion of a straight, 4-part chorale was meant in a way to denote the end of a scene, in a similar way that it was used to close the cantatas.
With the motets, it may go contrary to what I said about the ChrO, but perhaps grouping the smaller ones together would make sense-the cantatas are on average about 20 minutes, so why spend a whole week talking about one 5-minute piece? The only exception would of course be Jesu Meine Freude (my favourite short-form work second to Verdi's Te Deum!), which has a similar scope to a chorale cantata anyway.
There are also the Missae Breves, which are also of course parodies of secular (sacred?) cantatas, and the single missal movements (i.e. the Sancti)
The last work that demands attention is of course the collosal Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), which has been discussed ad infinitum (but never ad nauseum!) throughout the existence of this list. However since none of us could bare to divide it up, if we must have a scheduled discussion we should probably discuss certain aspects of it-perhaps just the choir, or the soloists, or the music itself (as opposed to recordings/performances). As well, perhaps a two-week period would be in order for this work.
Just my thoughts!
Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Kirk McElhearn] One of the most valuable recent features of the web site has been the addition of the BG scores. Thanks again, Aryeh! I've been picking them up every week and learning the pieces much better this way.
I'd like to see discussion continue in some systematic way, because it helps when multiple people are focused on the same piece at the same time. (But not to exclude haphazard threads about other pieces or general issues, either; the tangential stuff can be just as useful.) Especially with decent scores now available, important points about the music could now come up for discussion without merely relying on whatever X or Y or Z did on a recording. How many list members hear or participate in live performances of these pieces, whether in church or a concert? [Or are we only talking about the consumption of recordings, which--to me--is less interesting than a focus on the music itself?]
I agree with Kirk that some different sequence could make things easier to follow. BWV numbering could work, for convenience, although it's based on out-of-date scholarship. Or, alphabetically by title? (There's a convenient list in the appendix of the Oxford Composer Companion, ed. Boyd.) Or by position in the church year.
Or the cantatas could be grouped by the chorale tune used, where it would be interesting to see how Bach treated the same melody differently on different occasions. For example, BWV 36 would come up next to the other "Nun komm, der heiden Heiland" pieces; those connections are not at all obvious from looking only at the text incipits of the first movements.
Or the Riemenschneider edition of the 371 chorales (published by Schirmer, et al) could suggest a workable sequence. In the back of the book he has notes on each chorale describing which cantata(s) it is used in, along with any connections it has with other chorales. There are some recordings of the chorales alone that could be brought into such a discussion usefully.
A good reason for going through the cantatas again, all the way or in part, is: the people in the discussion are different people from three years ago...and the opinions of longer-term members can keep changing, as well. I look back at the discussions from several years ago and don't recognize the names. And some of us now own twice as many cantata recordings as we did a year ago, thanks to the lively discussions here, and the spark of enjoying the music. The recordings themselves don't have to be new; they're new TO US. [snip]
Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2003):
< Matthew Neugebauer wrote: Well I've always thought that we could and should have scheduled discussions of the major vocal works, but perhaps in segmented form. (...) >
Here's another possibility for segmentation:
In the Leipzig cantatas and the bigger works, how about a scheduled discussion sometime of the single most crucial musician in the ensemble?
And it's a role that doesn't get as much recognition as it deserves. If this player's part is delivered with dullness or incomprehension, the whole performance is going to be half-baked and senseless no matter how good the singers or other players are. Or if this player is brilliantly alert to every nuance, dependable and supremely confident in every bit of character, it catalyzes everybody else's performance to sparkle as well: with ease and naturalness and freedom.
And this player can even make up for inept conducting and keyboard-playing, or help the most nervous singer or instrumental soloist get through it with confidence. This player is the manager of rhythm, harmony, overall Affekt, accent, and the shape of an essential melodic line. Yet, this player doesn't usually get much credit one way or another. I'm referring to the continuo cellist.
One could make analogies with the catcher in baseball....
Arjen van Gijssell wrote (August 11, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] We cannot thank you enough for your work and contribution to understanding the music of Bach and bringing together people fascinated by his gifts to the world.
As for the future, I would suggest to certainly go through the motets one by one. And I would like to discuss the Messe in h-moll (BWV 232), SMP (BWV 244) and SJP (BWV 245). The motets, although shorter than cantatas, are absolutely worth discussing a whole week. They are such masterpieces! I listen to them very often. They always give me energy and joy. I consider Singet dem Herrn as the best piece of music ever written, if you allow me. What is happening when the choirs sing "Israel freue sich" and afterwards with "Die Kinder Zion" (choir 1) and the repeated "Singet" (choir 2) is sheer magic. After 1000+ times, I still cannot believe that a human being has been capable of inventing this music.
During holidays, I visited an abbey in Normandy (Le Bec-Hellouin). It had a small shop where I discovered a gorgeous music collection: Cantatas, instrumental music, you name it, with the best performances (even the SMP of the The Netherlands Bach Society, with which I had the chance to sing this year).
I couldn't decide what to buy. Eventually, I bought Das Altbachische Archiv, musical pieces of Bach's family which Johann Sebastian collected himself, and some of which he performed in Leipzig. A lot of music from Johann Christoph Bach (f.e. Herr, lässest du deinen Diener in Frieden fahren: superb!), untill JSB's appearance considered "the great composer" of the family. The recording is from Cantus Cölln, Konrad Junghänel (Harmonia Mundi). I certainly can recommend it.
I "discovered" Cantus Cölln first with a performance of cantate 4 (Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV 4); and BWV 12 etc.), one of my favourite cantatas. Somehow, I love all JSB's earlier work. It is a great performance. Cantus Cölln is well-known for its homogeneity, and I wholeheartedly confirm that view. Together with the Altbachische Archiv CD, cantate 4 was the central piece of my holidays (driving around in the countryside, visiting lovely castles, abbays etc). I will remember that holiday, when listening to that music again, not question. [snip]
Francis Browne wrote (August 13, 2003):
I would like to add my appreciation to what ohave said about Aryeh's achievement over the past four years. Whenever I click on 'What's New' I am amazed by the extent and thoroughness of his work maintaining and extending this website, and his own cantata reviews I find always perceptive and illuminating, criticism that adds to my appreciation and enjoyment of the work.
As for what should happen when the current cycle of discussions ends, I strongly support the suggestions that have been made of discussing other vocal works of Bach. But once you start to list them -masses, passions, motets, oratorios, chorales - it becomes clear that it would be perfectly possible for us to spend some years without mentioning the cantatas.
Rather than discuss all these works in a block one after another or discuss only a selection perhaps we should intersperse these works from time to time -or regularly- in a new cycle of cantata discussions.
Brad's suggestion - among the others he has made - of basing discussions on Bach's use of chorales I find very interesting: the more I study the cantatas the more important it seems to try to understand what Bach was doing with this music that was so well known to him and to those for whom he was writing. But such an approach may be difficult to organise.
Apart from following the arbitrary BWV numeration,the simplest approach - and not therefore the least attractive - would be to work through the cantatas in chronological order using the Zwang catalogue (http://infopuq.uquebec.ca/~uss1010/catal/bacjs/corrbwvz.html)
or perhaps using the order of cantatas in the Suzuki cycle.
It seems to me that with new recordings, new members of the list, different approaches, the greatly increased resources Aryeh has made available - and simply second thoughts- there is ample scope for a second cycle of discussions even where there has already been detailed discussion of a particular cantata, and of course there have been weeks where only Aryeh and one or two others have contributed.
As we approach the end of the current list I hope that many of the 350 members of the BCML would share their views on what should happen so that through discussion some consensus might emerge which will ensure that this precious resource that Aryeh's dedication and hard work have given to us will continue to flourish.
Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 13, 2003):
Dear Aryeh - first of all a thousand thanks for your monumental effort of the past four years. Any cantata aficionado could not have expected a better "gift", and it is all due to your amazing enterprise.
Now my two cents about the future: I would LOVE to see the continuation of the orderly, pre-anounced, "order-of-discussion", and to have it enlarged to include all the vocal works.
Here is my own rough idea for the framework:
1.1 Add a few sessions to re-do those church cantatas which members feel deserve another go for whatever reason.
1.2 Secular, Non-Bach and other cantatas not yet discussed.
1.3 Summary of the various conductors: One discussion for each of the "complete" sets [including the sets "in progress"] + one or two to cover the other conductors.
1.4 Possibly: Trying for a "Unified Theory of Cantatas Rating" – starting from the Simon Crouch System and attempting some fine-tuning [Just a thought...].
2. C.O. - six individual cantatas + one overall discussion
3. Missae Breves and Sanctus - a week each
3. Magnificat - two or three sessions.
4. Motets - each one individually [despite the short duration of some] + summary
5. SJP - six individual scenes + special issues [Evangelist - per Aryeh's idea, others] + summary
6. SMP - eight individual scenes + special issues + summary
7. B-minor Mass - 26 [or 27] individual pieces + summary
All in all: Approximately one and a half to two years of continued discussions of the vocal works.
By that time there will have accumulated a large enough number of new cantatas recordings [Suzuki, Koopman, others] and we can start all over again...!..;-). Naturally, members can always bring up an out-of-order cantata for discussion in between, especially if a special reason arises.
A Problem with the large works: A multitude of versions X [times] many movements = [equals] thousands of "combinations", as opposed to only "dozens" in the case of most of the cantatas. We shall have to see how best to work around it.
The other big problem: If you, Aryeh, are going to take a well deserved rest, who will carry the torch of setting the rythm?
Cheers, and , again, a big THANK YOU to the fabulous Aryeh Oron - truly one of a kind!
Santu De Silva wrote (August 14, 2003):
If I may add my rupee to this:
The wonderful thing about what we have done is to talk about every single cantata at least once. But bear in mind that this large group was not involved in the earlier discussions, and so may have new wonders to discover, and new remarks to add.
The other neat thing is that --and this is important to many of us who are comfortable with the so-called church year-- that we have discussed each cantata at the time of year when it had been intended to be performed.
We could do one last round of the cantatas, but do it differently. I don't think Aryeh needs to feel responsible for this last trip, but someone could function as a sort of facilitator. Here's my proposal.
Let's discuss, each week, all the cantatas that belong to that week. We can then compare and contrast. Remember that we have, in addition, the summary of the existing discussion on the website, and this gives us an excuse to look there, and comment on those ideas. It also permits those of us who do not have complete cycles to have a better chance of finding a relevant recording in their collection. [If this idea has already been suggested, I apologize. I'm catching up on my mail after about a month!]
It only remains for us to agree on the minimal stimulus one of us could provide each week (as Aryeh has been doing) to trigger off each week's discussion. Remember, that's the reason there's any discussion at all. On the Bach List, in contrast to this one, there is liberty to discuss anything and consequently no discussion whatsoever. [I know I should do something about it, but I'm too tired of it.]
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 14, 2003):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Thanks for your kind words.
One problem you have raised can be considered as resolved. I can handle the order of discussion in the Bach Cantatas Website in the same way it has been done during the last 4 years: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order.htm
I urge other members to propose their ideas regarding 'Order of Discussion' for Year 2004 onwards. When we have enough ideas, I shall try to suggest 'Order of Discussion' based on them.
Some members have suggested the Secular Cantatas. Some of these Cantatas have already been discussed in the BCML, as you can see in the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/IndexBWV5.htm
The rest are planned for discussion very soon, starting at the week of September 7, 2003. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2003.htm
As has been said before, I plan to continue updating the BCW regularly, but not to be as active in the weekly discussions as I have been in the 4 last years.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 15, 2003):
< Santu De Silva wrote: Let's discuss, each week, all the cantatas that belong to that week. We can then compare and contrast. Remember that we have, in addition, the summary of the existing discussion on the website, and this gives us an excuse to look there, and comment on those ideas. It also permits those of us who do not have complete cycles to have a better chance of finding a relevant recording in their collection. [If this idea has already been suggested, I apologize. I'm catching up on my mail after about a month!] >
Arch-this is an excellent idea! I think it's better than my own-and very original! But perhaps you meant to put it on the cantatas list? Ohwell!
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 16, 2003):
I join to the warm thankfulness the rest of the group is expressing to Aryeh.
I dare to say he's work resulted in a unique source of information on the web, with rarely seen accuracy and comprehensiveness, at least as far as I know. I think it can sound as a bold statement, but I guess members may agree !!
An outstanding point to make is that the site, AND the discussions made me get used to a particularly "serious" (and at the same time not boring or excesively technical) approach to issues.
I "consume" some other groups and sites that discuss other fields of my intereset (i.e. aquarism) with as much as TEN times the mailing traffic this one has hoping to find useful reading, and I get dissapointed.
It is remarkable the "high standards" I unconciously apply (since I joined this group) when it comes to judging the usefulness and interest of a given group or site.
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 16, 2003):
[Bradley Lehman] Discussing cantatas grouped by their musical scheme AND date of composition could be rewarding.
Say, chorale cantantas, then cantantas for solo bass, solo soprano, etc. and in each group, from early works to the late ones.
The audition of such groups all together, in chronological progression could help some "in deep" appreciation of evolution of the music, and the composer too.
Suggested Order of Discussions for 2004-2005
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 18, 2003):
First, I would like to thank everybody for your suggestions for Order of Discussion for 2004 onward and for the warm and kind words regarding my own contribution.
I compiles all your messages regarding this topic into the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/BCML.htm
Based on your suggestions and some simple guidelines, I arranged a suggested Order of Discussion for Years 2004-2005.
a. Last 3 weeks of 2003 (Dec 14, 21, 28): rest (in previous years the amount of messages during this period was rather slim).
b. Year 2004 will be dedicated to orderly discussions of Bach's other (non-cantatas) vocal works.
c. Year 2005 will start a new cantata discussion cycle, but based on different principles and order. We can discuss them one by one (BWV, alphabetically, date of performance by Bach, etc.), in groups (according to event, type, voice [solo cantatas], based on the same chorale, etc.).
d. Discussions of performers (who recorded a complete cantata cycle or significant number of cantatas), non-Bach Cantatas, and other topics (rating, etc.) will have to find a place along the years 2005-2006.
The suggested Order of Discussion for 2004 (and some ideas for future discussions) can be found at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2004.htm
I suggest that the issue of order of Discussion for 2005 will be left open. We can re-discuss the topic at about the same time next year.
If you have any comment, other ideas, corrections, etc, please let us all know and we can discuss them and agree on the changes that should be made.
Neil Halliday wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I suggest discussion of the cantatas, when this finally does resume (2005?) simply by numerical order of BWV numbers. This way, one can always have an idea of what cantata is being discussed, without consulting the website, if one is is temporarily without access to the web, for whatever reason.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Well 2004 looks good, and maybe I'll actually be able to participate in the discussions this time! Besides, Laurier (the University which I will be attending starting Sept 1st) has an extensive CD collection, so if I have time maybe I'll do a little survey on something!
As for the 2005 discussions, I feel the insupressable (is that a word?) urge to voice my opinion. Earlier this year, I suggested that we discuss the cantatas without upcoming liturgical date in order of BWV number as an interim measure. I never meant to suggest it as a viable means of organising an academic discussion. While I'm not likely being accused (for lack of a better word) of suggesting this, I would like to point out that the BWV system, as far as the specific cantata order goes, seems somewhat arbitrary if not random. Now I might be wrong with this, but I strongly feel that comparisons of cantatas on the same Sunday (i.e. same scripture, i.e. either same theme or different views that Bach had of that same scripture) would be much more interesting. It might even prompt me to look at the discussions each week, especially now that until June I will have access to at least one recording (very likely more than one) and the NBA (I think-haven't found it in the WLU library yet) score of each cantata. Moreover, it will make the cycle three times faster, allowing for a new round (yeah I'm getting ahead of myself) for discussions to come sooner, which means a fresh set of ideas and yes, a different way of ordering the cycle even sooner.
p.s. to Aryeh (killing 2 birds with one stone here)-
If you still have that page up with the photos, occupations and locations of BCML and BCRL members, first of all, where is it? Second of all if you're still doing it, can you change my description to "Honours BMus History, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo Ontario Canada"?
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I would like to suggest 2 possibilities:
1.) Discussion of Vocal works (in general) by Church year order
2.) A discussion of those works for which either the music and/or the texts are lost.
I especially would like a discussion on the following 5 subjects:
1.) The music for the Markuspassion and Lukaspassion
2.) The music and Text for the so-called "Weimarerpassion"
3.) The 3 Bach Passionspasticcios on the Bruhns/Keiser Markuspassion (The music, the order of movements, and the texts) and also (possibly) where one could find a copy of the score of the Original
4.) The Passionspasticcio "Wer ist der, so von Edom koemmt" (the music, the order of movements, and the texts) and where one could find both texts and scores of the movements that constitute it
5.) The lost Kantate BWV 248a (text and score)
Johan van Veen wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I don't know whether it has been suggested already, but wouldn't it be interesting to discuss the vocal works by other composers which Bach arranged in some way? They are usually ignored, but it could be interesting to see why he has been attracted to them and what exactly did he do with them. Since these works are not cantatas they could be discussed in 2004.
Another thing would be to discuss in some way works in the Schmieder catalogue which have been attributed to Bach, but are generally thought to be by someone else.
Alex Riedlmayer wrote (August 19, 2003):
< David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote: I would like to suggest 2 possibilities:
1.) Discussion of Vocal works (in general) by Church year order
2.) A discussion of those works for which either the music and/or the texts are lost. >
Isn't it difficult to discuss a work whose existence is dependent on conjecture?
In passing, I note that Aryeh's site is missing the full score of BWV 199, which I believe was published in one of the final BG volumes. Also missing is BWV 216, of which the BG definitely published both surviving parts. The single file for the four parts of BWV 232 makes for an unreasonably long download.
Order of Discussion for 2004-2005
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 23, 2003):
Since no one has had reservations, I assume that the suggested Order of Discussion for 2004 is accepted. That means that year 2004 will be fully dedicated to orderly discussions of Bach Other Vocal Works (Non-Cantatas). I added some details and the links to the relevant pages of the Bach Cantatas Website. You can find it in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2004.htm
As for 2005, I put the various suggestions by the members at a spage: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2005.htm
As I suggested earlier, the decisions about the actual Order of Discussion for 2005 will be discussed and agreed between the members during the last quarter of 2004.
Answers to some specific questions raised by the members during the discussion of this topic:
Matthew Nerugebauer wrote (August 11, 2003):
“ 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)”
A: Matthew, you and every other member are invited to contribute articles. Every article pertaining to Bach will be gladly accepted.
“There are also the secular cantatas”
A: Few of them have already been discussed. The remaining secular cantatas are planned for discussion starting next month. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2003.htm
“the complete parody of BWV 249a, into BWV 249, the EasO”
A: Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 and the secular cantata BWV 249a were already discussed in the week of March 31, 2002. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV249-Gen.htm
Ehud Shiloni wrote (August 13, 2003):
“Possibly: Trying for a "Unified Theory of Cantatas Rating" – starting from the Simon Crouch System and attempting some fine-tuning [Just a thought...].”
A: This topic can be discussed whenever you want outside of the orderly discussions.
“SJP - six individual scenes + special issues [Evangelist - per Aryeh's idea, others] + summary”
A: Will you be please so kind to list the six scenes (short description + Mvts included) and I shall add it to the page of 2004.
“SMP - eight individual scenes + special issues + summary”
A: Same inquiry as for SJP above.
“The other big problem: If you, Aryeh, are going to take a well-deserved rest, who will carry the torch of setting the rhythm? Any volunteers?”
A: As I wrote before, I plan handling the Order of Discussion pages and updating the BCW regularly. Regarding ‘carrying the torch’ I prefer that other members will do it. A possible solution is that we shall have a roster of leaders, each one of them will take upon himself/herself the leading of a group of discussions, f.e. the Motets, the SJP, the MBM (Uri?), etc. If this idea is accepted, and volunteers show up, I shall add the names of the leaders to the Order of Discussion pages.
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 19, 2003):
“Discussion of Vocal works (in general) by Church year order.”
A: A nice idea, but not very practical. Should we discuss all the 4 Passions in Good Friday?
“A discussion of those works for which either the music and/or the texts are lost.”
A: What is there to be discussed?
“The music for the Markuspassion and Lukaspassion”
A: Both the Lukas-passion and the Markus-Passion are planned for discussion during 2004.
Johan van Veen wrote (August 19, 2003):
“I don't know whether it has been suggested already, but wouldn't it be interesting to discuss the vocal works by other composers which Bach arranged in some way? They are usually ignored, but it could be interesting to see why he has been attracted to them and what exactly did he do with them. Since these works are not cantatas they could be discussed in 2004.
A: These are the so-called Non-Bach Cantatas, a list of which can be found at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonBach.htm
I left the discussions of these cantatas to 2005. Another possibility might be discussing them during the last 3 week of 2005. It is up to members to decide.
Awaiting your response.
Neil Halliday wrote (August 23, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] As I look through the discussions of individual cantatas at the BCW, I notice there are many instances where only one or two recordings have been commented upon, sometimes by yourself only.
I suggest that, as people come into possession of new recordings, they can, if they wish, contribute their impressions of the particular cantata(s) recording at any time, by simply stating a BWV number as the subject, and making their comments, with a view to supplementing what has already been archived under the 'discussion' heading at the BCW.
For example, in my case, I will shortly have the entire Rilling cycle to comment on; others will have all of the Suzuki cycle to date, and so on and so forth, as time progresses.
As you intend to continue updating the BCW pages regularly, it would be simplest to write the comments at this site, regardless of any planned order of discussion of other works; anyone could comment on this 'out of order' discussion of a cantata if they wished, while also bearing in mind the work actually chosen for discussion during a
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 23, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday]
You wrote: "As I look through the discussions of individual cantatas at the BCW, I notice there are many instances where only one or two recordings have been commented upon, sometimes by yourself only."
A: Ah, the loneliness of the writer! It happened once again with last week's cantata BWV 190, when I found myself as the only contributor to the discussion.
You also wrote: "I suggest that, as people come into possession of new recordings, they can, if they wish, contribute their impressions of the particular cantata(s) recording at any time, by simply stating a BWV number as the subject, and making their comments, with a view to supplementing what has already been archived under the 'discussion' heading at the BCW."
A: I completely agree. Actually a similar rule was set at the very first stages of the BCML.
And also: "As you intend to continue updating the BCW pages regularly, it would be simplest to write the comments at this site, regardless of any planned order of discussion of other works; anyone could comment on this 'out of order' discussion of a cantata if they wished, while also bearing in mind the work actually chosen for discussion during a given week."
A: It is already mentioned. See the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/How.htm
Awaiting your (and others as well) contributions.
Johan van Veen wrote (August 24, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
Johan van Veen wrote (August 19, 2003):
"I don't know whether it has been suggested already, but wouldn't it be interesting to discuss the vocal works by other composers which Bach arranged in some way? They are usually ignored, but it could be interesting to see why he has been attracted to them and what exactly did he do with them. Since these works are not cantatas they could be discussed in 2004.
A: These are the so-called Non-Bach Cantatas, a list of which can be found at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/NonBach.htm
I left the discussions of these cantatas to 2005. Another possibility might be discussing them during the last 3 week of 2005. It is up to members to decide. >
But I wasn't talking about (spurious) cantatas. I was referring to works by other composers Bach arranged in some way, like the Missa sine nomine by Palestrina, Psalm 50 (after Pergolesi's Stabat mater), Bach's arrangement of a Magnificat by Caldara etc.
Since none of these works are cantatas I was suggesting discussing them in 2004.
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 25, 2003):
[To Johan van Veen] I see. Psalm 51 BWV 1083 (after Pergolesi's Stabat mater) is a well-known piece with at least 10 recordings, as you can see in the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV1083.htm
This work is planned for discussion in the last week of 2004 - Dec 26.We can add to that discussion the Magnificat by Caldara (BWV 1082), the Mass in F by Bassani (BWV 1081), etc.
What do you think?
Peter Blo wrote (August 25, 2003):
Just returned from the campsite (without access to the internet), I just managed to catch up reading some 200 messages. Wow! And again to find that Aryeh has done another fantastic job when I was lazing in the sun or rather more often in the shade. Thanks again! Oh yeah, I listened to Bach as well on my ghetto blaster and managed some writing on an ordinary note pad with an ordinary ballpoint. How extraordinary these days.
As to the 2005 order, which will be a point of discussion 15 months from now, I already favour option C.
Regarding the 2004 order, I read that SMP will be discussed over 10 weeks in June, July and August. As to the contents this may be a possibility. Uri suggested 8 scenes + special issues + summary. However, since there are so many performances available on CD - I myself have 34 different ones and I would not be surprised if there were list members with more) - , it will be a hell/heaven* of a job to compare and discuss all these versions. (*choose the correct answer) There are also quite some recordings of SJP and the Hohe Messe. Do we make a selection or what? Any suggestions?
In order to divide SMP in 8 scenes I took the Suzuki recording.
Following the Suzuki booklet, here are the playing times of the 68 movements :
Total Playing Time: 163:52
Movement 1 Opening chorus: 8 min.
Movements 2-6 Anointing in Bethany: 14:18
Movements 7-8 Judas’ Betrayal: 5:20
Movements 9-13 The Last Supper: 10:20
Movements 14-20 Jesus’ Despair on the Mount of Olives : 12:37
Movements 21-26 Prayer on the Mount of Olives: 10:19
Movements 27-29 Arrest of Jesus: 13:10
Movements 30 Aria “Ach! Nun ist mein Jesus hin!”: 3:37
Movements 31-37 Interrogation by the Chief Priests: 10:08
Movements 38-40 Peter’s Denial: 9:45
Movements 41-42 Judas in the Temple: 4:01
Movements 43-50 Jesus before Pilate14:53
Movements 51-54 Scourging of Jesus: 9:49
Movements 55-57 Simon of Cyrene 7:52
Movements 58-63b The Crucifixion: 13:45
Movements 63c-65 Descent from the Cross: 9:23
Movements 66-68 Burial: 9:51
My suggestion of 8 scenes:
Scene 1: movements 1-8, including the opening chorus and the arias “Buß und Reu” and “Blute nur”
Scene 2: movements 9-20, including the recitatives and arias “Wiewohl mein herz in Tränen schwimmt”, Ich will dir mein Herze schenken”, “O Schmerrz!” and “Ich will bei meinem Jesus wachen…”
Scene 3: movements 21-29, including the recitatives and arias “Der Heiland fällt vor seinem Vater nieder”, “Gerne will ich mich bequemen”, “So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen…” and the final chorale of Part 1 “O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß”
Scene 4: movements 30-40, including the recitatives and arias “Ach! Nun ist mein Jesus hin…”, Mein Jesus schweigt..”, “Geduld!” and “Erbarme dich…”
Scene 5: movements 41-50, including the recitatives and arias “Gebt mir meinen Jesum wieder!”, “Er hat uns allen wohlgetan…” and “Aus Liebe…”
Scene 6: movements 51-57, including the recitatives and arias “Erbarm es, Gott!”, and “Können Tränen meiner Wangen …”, “Ja freilich will in uns das Fleisch und Blut…” and “Komm, süßes Kreuz…”
Scene 7: movements 58-63b, including the recitatives and arias ”Ach Golgatha…” and “Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand uns zu fassen ausgespannt” and the chorus “Wahrlich, dieser ist Gottes Sohn gewesen.”
Scene 8: movements 63c-68, including the recitatives and arias “Am Abend, da es kühle war…” and “Mache dich, mein Herze, rein…”, the recitative “Nun ist der Herr zu Ruh gebracht” and the final chorus “Wir setzen uns mit Tränen nieder…”
Johan van Veen wrote (August 27, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] I think that is a very good idea. Thanks.
Aryeh Oron wrote (August 28, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal & Johan:van Veen]
I updated the Order of Discussion for 2004 according to your suggestions.
[To Peter Bloemendaal & Ehud Shiloni]
I have even more recordings of SMP, not to mention SJP, MBM, etc. But this fact is not so important. Nobody forces us to discuss every movement of every recording. Assuming that every member of the BCML has at least one recording of each of these great works, I really hope that many members will be able to participate actively in the discussions.
Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (September 1, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Wonderful, it is exactly the order I would have chosen. [snip]
Bach Recordings mailing list has over 400 members!
Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 10, 2003):
While membership in both these lists rises and falls, I think this is the first time we have exceeded the 400 mark. (The BCML has over 350 members as of today.)
I just want to say thanks for being such a diverse, interesting and generally polite group of people, and for sharing your knowledge and experience, helping us all better appreciate this wonderful music.
I looked in on Aryeh's profile page today.
It's true that we are an extremely diverse group, and only such "glue" as Bach's music could hold us together in this way. (BTW, if you haven't added your profile, please do; it's nice to know a bit more about the people on these lists.)
Not BWV 215: Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Internet!
Francis Browne wrote (December 14, 2003):
About this week's cantata I have very little to say. As always there is some magnificent music and the details of the first performance give a vivid picture of Bach's life in Leipzig on one particular day.. But in truth Bach's celebration of the esteemed Augustus III did not seize my interest - but Aryeh's celebration of the incomparable Bach is a different matter. It would be remiss and ungrateful to let this last week of four years of cantata discussions pass without comment.
All too often the internet is a disappointment. Full of hope you type a topic in a search engine and get 5,000 hits - 4,997 of which are useless. If by chance you do find something of interest, there is again too often the dreaded words 'site last updated....' a long, long time ago. The internet is littered with promising projects that are never continued. None of this applies to the Bach Cantatas website. Anyone who has an interest in the cantatas and comes across this site has come across a jewel of the internet.
It is of course a collective enterprise. Reading some of the early discussions I am struck by the number of people who made interesting and perceptive comments and I feel grateful to all of them, particularly those who kept the project going in the early days. It would be easy to mention half a dozen names, but invidious since it would be equally easy to mention half a dozen more. Some who contributed very substantially sadly no longer appear, but others happily are still active members. But all who have contributed both in the past and the present would I am sure wish to join me in expressing gratitude for Aryeh's amazing and sustained work over the past four years. It is through his efforts week after week, month after month, year after year, that the enterprise has continued and grown to be the rich resource it now is. Quite apart from the constant work on maintaining and updating the site, his own contributions to discussions have been outstanding. Even when I find myself in disagreement his comments are always illuminating and show a wonderfully receptive and catholic taste in music.
I do not think Bach himself would mind if we adapted the final chorus of one of the recently discussed cantatas(BWV 205) to fit this concluding discussion:
Vivat Aryeh , Aryeh vivat,
Sei beglückt, gelehrter Mann!
Dein Vergnügen müsse blühen,
Dass dein Lehren, dein Bemühen
Möge solche Pflanzen ziehen...
BWV 208/9,10 Schafe können sicher weiden [Interpretation]
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 14, 2003):
I heartily second Francis Browne's recent comments on Aryeh's great accomplishment with the following interpretation of the famous 'Sheep may safely graze' aria and the following recitative from BWV 208 (mvts. 9 & 10):
[Interpret as follows:
Schafe/sheep = all contri/readers of the BCML;
ein guter Hirt/a good shepherd = Aryeh Oron
Regenten/rulers = Aryeh Oron, Kirk McElhearn, and any others that I have missed as 'keepers of the Bach Mailing Lists'
Länder/lands, countries = the international community that participated/participates/will continue to participate in this worthy endeavor
der Tag/the day = the day which completes the weekly discussion cycle of the cantatas]
Schafe können sicher weiden,
wo ein guter Hirte wacht.
Wo Regenten wohl regieren,
Kann man Ruh und Frieden spüren,
Und was Länder glücklich macht.
So stimmt mit ein
Und laßt des Tages Lust vollkommen sein!
[Sheep may safely graze,
wherever a good shepherd is watching over them.
Wherever rulers govern well,
you can get a sense of quiet and peace
and whatever it is that makes countries happy.
So let us all sing together
and let the happiness of this day be complete!]
..and now to hear a recording of this mvts. with these thoughts/connections in mind...