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Bach's Languages

Bach's languages

Continue of discussion from: Bach in English [General Topics]

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 30, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< *Mattheson was fluent in English and I'm sure had much influence on Händel maybe the other Hamburg group composers (Keiser, Händel, Telemann, JSB) as well as the Hanoverians (George I) >
Although Händel's spoken gaffes in English are legendary, his earliest English choral works, the cantata-like Chandos Anthems show an incomparable understanding of the language. I suspect that all major composers, Bach included, knew the nuances of musical diction in the major European languages through their study of scores. Bach wrote masterfully in German, Latin and Italian. I'm sure if a commission had appeared, he could have written a French opera or an English Te Deum.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 30, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Although Händel's spoken gaffes in English are legendary, his earliest English choral works, the cantata-like Chandos Anthems show an incomparable understanding of the language. >
Just a personal comment, but I really love the Chandos Anthems.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 1, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Then there is of course Gluck. Gluck is known of course for several operas which he recreated in French after their earlier versions in Italian. Additionally one of his great opera, Iphigénie en Tauride, written first in French, he later adapted himself to his German text and recreated the opera in German. Rafael Kubelik's recording (live on Myto) of this is masterful and a necessity in addition to Gluck's French form of the opera. Later Verdi created at least Les Vêpres Siciliennes and Don Carlos as French grand operas and then by necessity had to recreate them for his Italian audiences (the later with varying success and in various formats). There are obviously innumerable examples and amongst them great composers,

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 1, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] There is an WONDERFUL new release on Naxos, with those terrific Torontoians, Kevin Mallon and the Aradia Ensemble featuring Händel's oratorio "Israel and Egypt". There are video clips of the recording sessions on Youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHdrFRGykbM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mRS-zDKaFUE

It's a great recording at absolutely wonderful prices!

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I should be very interested to know the sources which make you write. Bach wrote masterfully in German, Latin and Italian. I looked for this problem some time ago and I did not find any solid source about that.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Jean-Pierre Grivois] He set both the Latin mass and magnificat texts as well as the Gloria Patri in Cantata BWV 191. Cantata BWV 209, Non sa che sia dolore, is in Italian.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] Those Latin texts were easily available anywhere, and BWV 209's text was not written by Bach at all (the last aria is a complete lift from Metastasio), so those really aren't good examples of Bach being a polyglot.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] By "wrote masterfully in German, Latin, and Italian" I took Doug to mean that Bach masterfully set words in those languages to music. I don't think he was talking about literary composition.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Also, Doug's suggestion that Bach doubtless could have written an English Te Deum seems to me to make it clear that he was talking about the setting of pre-existing texts.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 4, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Those were the only three languages whch I suggested were working languages for Bach. He taught Latin and could probably have carried on an academic conversation in the language. I've never read any criticism of his Italian diction in the cantata and he certainly knew enough of the language to write the title pages of his cantatas, some of which are not just formulaic tags. Whether he spoke Italian or French is an unknown.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 4, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Those were the only three languages whch I suggested were working languages for Bach. He taught Latin and could probably have carried on an academic conversation in the language. I've never read any criticism of his Italian diction in the cantata and he certainly knew enough of the language to write the title pages of his cantatas, some of which are not just formulaic tags. Whether he spoke Italian or French is an unknown. >
Bach hired a subsitute as soon as possible to teach the Latin classes; and we have no real record of his skill or ability with the language. Telemann knew Latin, but he absolutely refused to teach it; and made that very clear to the Leipzig town council when he was offered the Leipzig position (Telemann had done the same thing only a year previously when he arrived in Hamburg, and paid for the Latin instructor-subsistute out of his own pocket.

The wrapper sheets with Italian on the cover of Bach's scores are pretty standard for the period by other Baroque composers, given how many Italian musicians were in Germany at this time, so it makes a lot of sense, but it's still isn't indicative of any ability to speak Italian.

Wasn't the dedication on the Brandenburg Concerto's written in French?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (May 5, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Why did Bach and Teleman refuse to teach Latin. I have not seen anything about Bach's Greek and Hebrew which surely he knew if for no other reason than theological.

Ed Myskowsli wrote (May 5, 2008):
>Why did Bach and Teleman refuse to teach Latin.<
I believe there is scholarly opinion (Wolff? others?) that in the case of Bach, it was not necessarily lack of facility with the language, but rather negotiating a job definition which would allow maximum opportunity for music and composition.

Compare William Hoffman comments emphasizing the objective for <well regulated church music, and Bach's astounding output, right from the start in Leipzig, 1723.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 5, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> I believe there is scholarly opinion (Wolff? others?) that in the case of Bach, it was not necessarily lack of facility with the language, but rather negotiating a job definition which would allow maximum opportunity for music and composition. <
Yes, and teaching Latin several hours a week would cut into what had to be an already busy work with never ending deadlines. Teaching Latin would cut into potential money making ventures, such as commissions for
occasional music (i.e. weddings, funerals, affairs of state).

Plus teaching Latin had to be such a bore.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2008):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] The most recent scholarship about Bach's appointment suggests that there were two factions on the Leipzig Town Council which one scholar has called the "Court" and "Cantor" factions. The "Court" faction had its eye on fashionable concerted church music and wanted St. Thomas to go in that direction; the "Cantor" faction had a more old-fashioned model in which the cantor performed the established repertoire and was a school-master. Some have suggested that Telemann refused the position because there was too much weight on the cantor side of the deal. Bach was able to negotiate his contract so that hcould concentrate on new composition and sub-contract the teaching duties to others.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 5, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Some have suggested that Telemann refused the position because there was too much weight on the cantor side of the deal. >
Yes and no.

There was a long standing tension about the nature of the role of kantor, that went back to Telemann's earliest days in Leipzig as a student. That tension surfaced with Kuhnau's fumming about Telemann's ability to siphon off performers for his collegium musicum, operas, and finally his appointment as an organist in the New Church. Wolff discusses this at quite some length.

When Kuhnau died in 1722, and the town council (or really I should say the "selection committee" discovered that Telemann was interested in the position, they were falling over themselves to get him the post. Telemann's NOT having to teach Latin was one of the first things that was dealt with in the discussions.

When Telemann secured a significant pay raise in Hamburg, along with a promise he could write opera for the Goosemarket Theater, along with better living quarters, he declined the Leipzig offer.

While there is NO proof any correspondence between Bach and Telemann about the Leipzig position, I have no doubt Telemann helped Bach by his refusal to teach Latin. Wolff suggests that Telemann and Bach helped each other when Telemann was offered a sort of "super-kapellmeister" position for the Dukes of Eisenach/Weimar/Gotha, after Bach warned him of his difficutlies with the Duke(s) of Weimar. I can't imagine the same thing wouldn't have happened a few years later.

P.S.
You can see Telemann's resignation letter to the Hamburg town council here:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/81/Telemann-Ultimatum.png

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2008):
The Grapevine

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< While there is NO proof any correspondence between Bach and Telemann about the Leipzig position, I have no doubt Telemann helped Bach by his refusal to teach Latin. Wolff suggests that Telemann and Bach helped each other when Telemann was offered a sort of "super-kapellmeister" position for the Dukes of Eisenach/Weimar/Gotha, after Bach warned him of his difficutlies with the Duke(s) of Weimar. I can't imagine the same thing wouldn't have happened a few years later. >
This all sounds so familiar: the professional gossip circle in church music is still alive. I was in Atlanta last month and sat in on a choir rehearsal. The buzz was that their director was about to be appointed to St. John the Divine in NYC. A week later it was official.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 5, 2008):
Bach's languages vs. many other dude composers


Douglas Cowling wrote:
< He set both the Latin mass and magnificat texts as well as the Gloria Patri in Cantata BWV 191. Cantata BWV 209, Non sa che sia dolore, is in Italian. >
Setting the mass in a little Greek (let's not forget that) and a lot of basic Latin does not make any good Christian at that time, one who was educated, a polyglot. Everyone sets the mass, mostly in Latin and even with Amen (somewhere, I guess). So add Greek and a little Hebrew. I don't understand the problem. The world of these European composers was in good measure polyglot as far as Italian, German, French went. Latin for the mass of course.Händel was probably far more actually polyglot than Bach in that he lived and composed in Italy and then in England. He also composed his endless operas in Opera's language, well the language of opera seria, Italian. Gluck, as I previously noted, was also certainly more actually polyglot than Bach. Mozart and Haydn too. We know nothing about Bach polyglotism except that he knew one dead language, Latin and that did not make him the Renaissance Homo triglottis (I think that's the form; I don't usually check for a post) who knew Hebrew, Greek, and Latin and many modern languages. What is the point herein?

Kyrie Eleison, Amen

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 5, 2008):
Bach's languages Metastasio


Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Those Latin texts were easily available anywhere, and BWV 209's text was not written by Bach at all (the last aria is a complete lift from Metastasio), so those really aren't good examples of Bach being a polyglot. >
Since scores of composers set Metastasio's texts (e.g. his Passion text), I believe that one cannot use a modern term like "lift" since setting Metastasio was what was done in lieu of a personal text.one of the things that makes Bach's Passions something unique is that they are not Metastasio, a man to whom music owes a great deal.

Thank you for your informative participation. We are all kind and good Bach lovers here.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 5, 2008):
excuse me. the term of course is homo trilinguis.I was hybridizing and I deeply apologize for my homo triglottis.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 5, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I think the point is just that Bach was adept at setting words in languages other than German, not that he was a polyglot. Britten is another composer who conspicuously displayed a similar talent: I have no idea what languages (other than English) he spoke fluently or read with ease, but I've been assured by people with a native command of these languages that his settings of French, German, and Italian texts do not seem to have been diminished by the composer's not having been a native speaker. Bach seems to have had a similar gift.

Paul T. McCain wrote (May 5, 2008):
Ludwig wrote:
< Why did Bach and Teleman refuse to teach Latin. I have not seen anything about Bach's Greek and Hebrew which surely he knew if for no other reason than theological. >
I'm not quite sure what you have in mind, but Bach did in fact teach Latin, that was his "day job" in Leipzig, in fact, his residence was in the Latin boys' school right next to the church.

I do not recall from my readings in Bach biographies if his schooling included Greek and Hebrew.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 5, 2008):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Since scores of composers set Metastasio's texts (e.g. his Passion text), I believe that one cannot use a modern term like "lift" since setting Metastasio was what was done in lieu of a personal text. >
"Lift" doesn't mean anything negative, it just means he "borrowed it." I only said this in the context of a conversation that Bach didn't write the cantata text, and you couldn't claim knowledge of Italian based on this. But the text wasn't Bach's anhe didn't write it ;)

> Thank you for your informative participation. <
You're most welcome!

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2008):
James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< I think the point is just that Bach was adept at setting words in languages other than German, not that he was a polyglot. >
This was the only point I was making when I said Bach had a "working" musical knowledge of Italian. That would be primarily an understanding of how ellision is handled, just as in French, a composer has to know how final e's are set muscially.

Peter Smaill wrote (May 5, 2008):
[To Paaul T. McCain] Apart from Latin, Bach was taught Greek at Ohrdruf and Lüneburg, and, according to Wolff, must have picked up French and taught himself Italian at the latter.

The Greek content taught by the conrector Eberhard Joachim Elfeld consisted of the New Testament, Kebes of Thebes, Phocylides, Isocrates and Theognis.

as for French :

"Letters and other documents show that Bach possessed at least an elementary facility in French; the most extensive document in French is his 1721 dedication of the Brandenburg Concertos, for which he may have received some linguistic assistance" (This is suggested to be the Cöthen court librarian, Gustave Adolph Allion).

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 5, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< "Letters and other documents show that Bach possessed at least an elementary facility in French; the most extensive document in French is his 1721 dedication of the Brandenburg Concertos, for which he may have received some linguistic assistance" (This is suggested to be the Cöthen court librarian, Gustave Adolph Allion). >
I've always assumed that the princely courts with which Bach was associated communicated in German, but the use of French as a diplomatic lingua franca (!) in most European courts might suggest that Bach would have had some experience of French as a spoken language even if there is no evidence that he was a prodigous polyglot like Mozart.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (May 5, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] French was the de riquer diplomatic language of the age thanks to Louis le soleil.

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (May 6, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] It is also quite certain Bach was helped in writing this dedicace in French by Monsieur de Montjou, who was employed at Cöthen Court and whose two daughters sang for the Prince.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 6, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote to James Atkins Pritchard:
< This was the only point I was making when I said Bach had a "working" musical knowledge of Italian. That would be primarily an understanding of how ellision is handled, just as in French, a composer has to know how final e's are set muscially. >
OK, Dudes, I want to simply say something off-topic in a strict sense.I understand, Doug, what you are saying. James Atkins Pritchard is making a stronger point about Britten and I assume that the man was well educated in such matters. Nevertheless back to Bach: that would be easyenough for anyone with basic language education to learn.However here is what is happening today on Classical Stations where I live and I get 2.5 of them.

Nobody knows anything about languages, not the very basics. As you know, there is a French baroque conductor named Hervé Niquet.My radio station (and they do this with any German, French, etc.) pronounces his first name as HERV. It rhymes with HERB. I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I know that I first became interested in languages because they were part and parcel of Classical Music and my then local stations in NYC gave us a lot of knowledge with music and one of these things was languages and I assume some knowledge of Christianity too as it pertained to sacred music. Today mostly they spin records and dryly read notes and I feel that is a great shame.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 6, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] This seems to me to relate quite directly to what we've been saying about Bach. It used to be the case that educated people (and I'm not talking about scholars here, but just people with a modicum of education) generally had at least a rudimentary knowledge of several languages irrespective of whether they understood, spoke, read, or wrote those languages well. Bach may or may not have been proficient in Italian, but--as Doug observes--he understood how elision was handled in that language, and he probably had a good idea how the text he was about to set would sound if it were read by an educated native speaker of Italian (at any rate I find it hard to believe that he would have chosen to set an Italian text without that knowledge). And of course, whether he read Italian well or not, he doubtless had a good understanding of what the words he was setting meant. What I'm trying to get at is that composers once very frequently had a reasonable level of acquaintance with at least some of the major European languages (and in passing let me observe for the sake of fairness that this continues to be true of many composers--Nico Muhly is for example an assiduous student of languages and indeed of the phenomenon of language in general).

Anyway, not so long ago one could have made a similar observation about the people who introduced classical musical on the radio. When I was growing up they weren't typically career journalists at all, but rather music-lovers who had somehow ended up running radio shows (often because they were the owners of large private collections of recorded music). I know many people who are grateful to such people because of the role they played in introducing young listeners to classical music. Certainly I feel that way, and it's distressing to find that as a breed they now seem nearly extinct. The people who hold such positions now often seem to me to be not especially knowledgeable or even fond of classical music, and their obvious lack of even a basic familiarity with the languages most relevant to the tradition of western classical music seems to me symptomatic of this change. As Yoël remarks, it's a great shame.

William Hoffman wrote (May 7, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] As with his music, Bach made prodigious efforts to find appropriate texts, especially in his Passions. He knew the cantata cycles produced by Neumeister, Lehms, etc., collaborated with Salomo Franck, and did considerable editing of Mariane von Ziegler and Picander, especially beginning with Picander's 1725 Poetic Passion, BWV Anh. 169, which had the germ of the SMP (BWV 244). Bach also showed considerable effort and utilization involving not only Brockes and Weise in the St. John Passion but also, in the chorale-influenced numbers from the Weimar-Gotha Passion of 1717, the work of Sebald Hayden, Franck, Postel, and Luther's Agnus Dei. It has only been in recent years that Bach scholarship has closely examined his learned and literary efforts, especially with respect to the art of parody, adaptation, and transformation. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his quest for literary sources and collaboration, especially his search for librettists. Because he did not pursue Italianate opera, Bach lacked the impetus of a Metastasio or a da Ponte.

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 7, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< --- It has only been in recent years that Bach scholarship has closely examined his learned and literary efforts, especially with respect to the art of parody, adaptation, and transformation. We have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his quest for literary sources and collaboration, especially his search for librettists. Because he did not pursue Italianate opera, Bach lacked the impetus of a Metastasio or a da Ponte. >
] I have to appreciate what yhave mentioned above, William. When I look at text I tend to first see what singer might observe in terms of patterns, but when I look closer I see a wide range of literary forms, and find that in Bach's librettists I enjoy particularly the use of analogy. Someone pointed out in a past discussion that various cases of the use of analogy were also common to preaching in Bach's day, and were also present in secular writings of the time. Some have commented that they have not particularly appreciated the manner in which Bach rearranged some of the wording, perhaps because the meaning in the original might have been altered a bit, or perhaps because a poet was done a bit of injustice in that his original work was not given the recognition that was deserved. At any rate, I find it interesting since I have a love for poetry and those who took the time to create it, to read about the efforts. With regard to re-using various harmonic and melodic elements, sometimes Bach's technique reminds me of a sermon that has been re-worked to accommodate a new event.

Peter Smaill wrote (May 7, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Thank you indeed for raising the developing question of the mode of interaction between Bach and his librettists; we remain unaware of the identity of the majority of sources for the Cantata texts.

In this area Elke Axmacher developed the theseis as I understand it that the Picander source for the SMP was in Bach's library. My own sixpenceworth is that the inspiration for BWV 56 was a sermon in the library by August Pfeiffer. Recently I have been reading the sermons of Johannes Tauler, a medieval follower of Meister Eckhart and whose work was in Luther's library as well as Bach's. In it can be detected the coin image used in BWV? 64 "Nur jedem das Seine" , an early work, and also in a setting out of the argument? for faith against? human reason (in several cantatas) ?which is normally attributable to a reaction versus the Enlightenment.

Whether these coincidences amount to much remains to be seen but as you suggest the textual background is a developing area for study. My preliminary idea is that the librettists may have often worked in Bach's study alongside his library, just as we now may ?think (as a result of the discovery of the tablature script) the young Bach worked in the library of Georg Bohm.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 7, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Whether these coincidences amount to much remains to be seen but as you suggest the textual background is a developing area for study. My preliminary idea is that the librettists may have often worked in Bach's study alongside his library, just as we now may ?think (as a result of the discovery of the tablature script) the young Bach worked in the library of Georg Bohm. >
It's not hard to imagine Bach having a weekly coffee with Picander or a drop-in to Marianne's salon where they tossed around ideas for cantatas. In some cases, Bach would have come with a specific musical idea: I would guess that in the case of "Wachet Auf", he had a notion of a chorale-opera with the odd movements based on the chorale and the inner duets for the sacred lovers.

Or perhaps it worked the other way. Perhaps the unknown librettist had just seen an opera in Dresden and thought that an interesting construct would be a hybrid of a chorale-cantata and an opera. Alas, we will never have the equivalent of the wonderful correspondence and accounts of Händel's working method with Jennens his oratorio librettist.

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 7, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thank you Peter for adding to the ideas regarding the origin of the texts. Off topic Ed and I have had several discussions about Luther and Bach regarding angels in the cantatas. And yesterday I called my Dad to discuss further with him the matter of the Reformation and how Luther might have impacted Bach in some manner that relates to the cantatas. As to the matter of angels and how the Reformation may have eliminated some of the emphasis on beings other than God as a matter of worship, Dad says Luther found many aspects of the faith, including angels (messengers) as beautiful and meaningful. Dad's view was that Luther did not as we sometimes say, want to throw the baby out with the bath water, even though Luther found his own peace in a direct relationship with God, and might not have wanted to concentrated too much on the veneration of relics or other beings. I think the idea of sermons being the source of some of the textual work in the cantatas quite believable, and as I also observed in response to William's posting yesterday some of the work done musically tends to remind me of sermons reworked. There is a great deal that can be explored in what has been mentioned on this thread.

William Hoffman wrote (May 7, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I have just finished the final seven chapters of Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community, which I think you referred to recently re. the Leipzig Town Council conflict between choosing a musical director (Telemann) or a teaching cantor (Kuhnau) and the cultural politics behind the two positions.

Lacking first-hand letters with collaborators, let's look at the collateral evidence. To summarize the book's themes from a literary perspective, Bach in Leipzig stands squarely at the crossroads (Scheidewege) of many currents, bolstered by a thriving literary culture in essays as well as creative writing. Religious polemics (dialectics) I find are grounded in issues dealing both with form and content. Conservatives like Kuhnau strengthened the German style against the Italians while seeking a contextual balance between Pietism and Orthodoxy. The Italian-style (Neumeister-type) cantata embraced various literary forms, from didactic chorale verses, grounded in theology and the Word, to proclamation in recitatives, to lyric, poetic images in arias. Oratorios added historical narrative and elaborate participation.

Your description of coffee with Picander and at the twice-widowed feminist von Ziegler's salon evokes the enlivened world of the Coffee Cantata, with Picander's satirization of socializing women (Stanzas 1-8), Liesgen's (and Bach's or von Ziegler's?) turn-about and the reconciliation (Stanzas 9-10).

Finally, there is Kuhnau's "polyglot" 1710 "Treatise on Liturgical Text Settings" -- using Hebrew, Latin, Italian or French words to replace Luther's German for the sake of "invention and variation" and set to non-theatrical music -- in contrast to Scheibel's 1721 afirmation of progressive church music, particularly the Passion Oratorio and church cantata cycles, involving secular styles and sentiments parodied (in the best sense of the word) into sacred works with elaborate accompaniment.

 

Bach’s Hebrew

Continue of discussion from: Motets & Chorales for 10th Sunday after Trinity [LCY]

Michael Cox wrote (October 26, 2011):
David NcKay wrote:
“Also, Hebrew Bible verse numbering is different from the verse numbering in the English Bible at times.”
This is one example of the early split between Christianity and Judaism - the Church and the Synagogue. The numbering of Tehillim in Hebrew follows Jewish tradition. Christian tradition in the West was Greek-Latin until the Reformation. Catholic church music e.g. Monteverdi and Vivaldi, follows the numbering in the Latin Vulgate, which follows the Greek Septuagint. Protestant Bible translations and generally follow the Hebrew tradition in the numbering of the Psalms, but the division into verses in (Protestant) Christian Bibles was a Christian (Calvinist) invention and is not based on Jewish tradition. Handel, for instance, wrote both Catholic-Latin and Protestant-English settings of Psalms; he might appear inconsistent in the numbering, but in reality he only followed the differing traditions.

Moreover, biblical names differ e.g. Elias (from Greek) = Elijah (from Hebrew). This can be very confusing not only for Bible readers but also for musicologists!

Luther knew Hebrew, but I suspect that he didn’t know Aramaic. In the Greek NT Jesus cries out on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani” (= Eli, Eli, lema šəbaqtanî). Luther translated this into Hebrew: “Eli, Eli, lama azabtani”, as is familiar to us from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. As far as I know, Bach did not know any Hebrew.

I know that Bach’s duties in Leipzig included teaching Latin, until he could find a substitute teacher. Can anyone tell me/us whether he knew any Greek other than Kyrie eleison and Christe eleison? I would be interested to know.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< I know that Bach’s duties in Leipzig included teaching Latin, until he could find a substitute teacher. >
Teaching Latin was an obligation of Bachs postition. I believe it is documented that he *passed* an examination which qualified him. Also documented that it was agreed from the beginning that he would not teach Latin, but would pay for someone else to assume the duties.

Not so much a substitute, as that Bach satisfactorily demonstrated his ability to oversee the actual Latin teacher, paid for out of Bachs salary. Not exactly equivalent to saying that Bach was able and/or willing to teach Latin.

Dounglas Cowling wrote (October 26, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< Luther knew Hebrew, but I suspect that he didn’t know Aramaic. In the Greek NT Jesus cries out on the cross: “Eli, Eli, lima sabachthani” (= Eli, Eli, lema šəbaqtanî). Luther translated this into Hebrew: “Eli, Eli, lama azabtani”, as is familiar to us from Bach’s St. Matthew Passion. As far as I know, Bach did not know any Hebrew. >
A fascinating detail -- it made me get out my score of the SMP. When the Passion is sung in English, the Greek form is always used. The modern Catholic German NT reverts to the Greek.

Did Luther translate all the Aramaic phrases in the NT? (e.g. "Rabbouni" in the Johannine resurrection narrative)

Given the rigorous examination in theology which Bach received when coming to Leipzig, it's quite possible that some knowledge of the Hebrew scriptures was required. Leaver's "J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary" might address the question.

Michael Cox wrote (October 29, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] I’ll have to check my copy of Luther’s 1545 NT in order to answer your question. A fascinating detail indeed. I’ll let you know.

I suppose that Bach would be well aware that such words as Hallelujah and sela (probably an instrumental interlude in the Psalms) are Hebrew. It would be interesting to know more.

You may be aware that the biblical texts in Bach’s Passions do not always follow Luther’s German, either in spelling or in grammar.

Also there are dialectical differences between the St. Matthew and St. John Passions e.g. in the SMP we have “Jüden” with an Umlaut, while in the SJP we have “Juden”, as in modern Hochdeutsch. Literary German was still fluid and non-standardised.

Michael Cox wrote (October 29, 2011):
Bach and Latin

Michael Cox wrote:
<< I know that Bach’s duties in Leipzig included teaching Latin, until he could find a substitute teacher. >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Teaching Latin was an obligation of Bachs postition. I believe it is documented that he *passed* an examination which qualified him. Also documented that it was agreed from the beginning that he would not teach Latin, but would pay for someone else to assume the duties.
Not so much a substitute, as that Bach satisfactorily demonstrated his ability to oversee the actual Latin teacher, paid for out of Bachs salary. Not exactly equivalent to saying that Bach was able and/or willing to teach Latin. >

Thank you for giving a fuller picture. My amateur knowledge is incomplete.

Even if Bach did not actually teach Latin, he obviously understood the Latin texts that he set to music extremely well - B Minor Mass (BWV 232), Magnificat etc. - and so the music fits the words admirably.

I would contrast this with Beethoven. Even though Beethoven’s library contained Bibles in Latin and French (but not in German, surprisingly), he commissioned (whether from a professional translator or a friend I do not know) a word-for-word translation of the Latin Mass before he composed his Missa Solemnis so that he would understand every nuance.

Bach and other Baroque composers did not need such a crutch.

But I do wonder how much the boys understood of what they sang – were they taught only basic Latin grammar? Were they given a translation into German? Please enlighten us.

My own experience as a choirboy taught me that it is very possible to sing Latin without understanding a word. As an Anglican choir we sang cathedral-style music in both English and Latin, including chanting the Psalms and anthems, and Bach in English. I was fortunate in that I learned Latin at grammar school, but most of the other choirboys knew little or no Latin. Only at university did I first have the opportunity to sing Bach in the original German (I was studying German at the university at the time). It makes a tremendous difference to understand the words!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 29, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< It makes a tremendous difference to understand the words! >
And some might say that because of the inextricable links between the meaning and images of the words and the musical ideas created from them on both micro and macro levels) that this applies to Bach as much as, or even more than, many other composers.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 29, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< Beethoven ... commissioned (whether from a professional translator or a friend I do not know) a word-for-word translation of the Latin Mass before he composed his Missa Solemnis so that he would understand every nuance. Bach and other Baroque composers did not need such a crutch.
But I do wonder how much the boys understood of what they sang ­ were they taught only basic Latin grammar? >
As a young man, Beethoven was assistant to the Capellmeister in Bonn where he would have performed all of the standard Latin texts of the Catholic liturgy. There is a famous anecdote about his improvised accompaniment of Tenebrae from the chant books -- he played the piano as the organ was prohibited during Holy Week! His Mass in C, although rarely performed today, was a perfectly conventional classical mass. There's nothing to suggest that he did not have a solid working knowledge of the ecclesiastical texts.

When it came to the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven penetrated the text in a remarkable way, and this may account for his asking for a new translation (by this point, missals in English were prohibited) His musical setting is full of unexpected moments: the sudden subito piano at "Adoramus te" and the rhetorical addition of "O" to "miserere mei".

If anything, Beethoven makes other composers look like rote learners. The uniqueness of his settings are matched only by the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the four Missae of Bach. It wouldn't surprise me if someone showed that the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) circulated in the Van Swieten circles and that Beethoven saw it. Theare no musical connections, but the highly individualistic approach to the text is common to both composers.

The place of rote learning in education is an endlessly fascinating subject. Bach's boys clearly received enough Latin that they would be able to read the conventional Latin of contracts and legal documents as adults. They would have also committed to memory the standard Latin texts such as the Mass and Magnificat which were needed every week in the choir loft. The boys sang Latin psalms in succession at Sunday matins. They may have memorized many of them in both Latin and German. At the very least, they could have been non-comprehending parrots; or they might have been like Bach who could teach the language even though he did not have a university education in classical languages.

Question to Thomas Braatz: do we know what Latin texbook Bach used in his classroom?

Michael Cox wrote (October 30, 2011):
Bach and learning German

[To Julian Mincham] Michal Cox wrote:
"It makes a tremendous difference to understand the words!"
And I might add that I first learned German by listening to my LP records of Bach's St. Matthew Passion from the age of 8 or so onwards, and then copying out the German text and comparing it with the New English Bible NT, which I bought in 1961 with the money which I won as a prize for correctly sight-reading a difficult Christmas carol. That was 50 years ago.

I'm sure that Bach shapes our musical tastes when we grow up with his music, listening to it, playing it and singing it. All of us are his pupils, and there's still so much to learn and share with others, like you. Thank you
for sharing your knowledge and experiences.

Michael Cox wrote (October 30, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< When it came to the Missa Solemnis, Beethoven penetrated the text in a remarkable way. >
At the very least, they could have been non-comprehending parrots; or they might have been like Bach who could teach the language even though he did not have a university education in classical languages.

I have been truly put in my place! In my youth I listened to a lot of Beethoven, and loved in particular the Missa Solemnis. The Mass in C is also lovely but on quite a different level.

I once read that Beethoven stopped playing the organ because it was a strain on his nerves and hearing, a sign of incipient deafness.

I didn't mean to suggest that Beethoven or any Catholic composer would not have understood the standard Latin texts (although I have my doubts about Rossini!) at least at a formal-equivalence level. The question is whether a working knowledge is sufficient knowledge to read and interpret Latin texts at a deeper level. I myself have sung a lot of Latin and have translated Latin texts for CD booklets and church concert programmes, yet I can't say that I really know Latin all that well, as a Catholic priest would (e.g. Vivaldi). The need for a word-for-word translation suggests to me, as a translator, that although Beethoven had set the text of the mass to music before, he was unsure of the precise meaning or connotations of at least some of the words. I may be wrong.

As far as Bach and Lutheran composers are concerned, ecclesiastical Latin was an essential part of their training. Luther himself recommended that Latin be retained in large cities and university settings. And so Bach's pupils and choristers had to learn Latin as part of the academic curriculum. But there's Latin and Latin! A knowledge of ecclesiastical Latin is insufficient to read the classics. A knowledge of NT Greek is insufficient to read Homer (I know NT Greek and have read a little Plato, but Homer is way beyond me). As one eminent Greek scholar wrote, "We don't know enough Greek" i.e. enough classical Greek to understand every nuance of the classical texts.

I am reminded that when Leonard Bernstein wrote the "Chichester Psalms", he set Hebrew texts of some of the Psalms. As a Jew, he was familiar with synagogue Hebrew, but when he was in Israel he was put to shame by Paul Tortelier, the cellist, (who recorded Bach's cello suites) when Tortelier the non-Jew spoke fluent Hebrew, whereas Bernstein couldn't.

It seems that whatever composer we talk about, we always come back to Bach!

Gute Nacht!

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< The need for a word-for-word translation suggests to me, as a translator, that although Beethoven had set the text of the mass to music before, he was unsure of the precise meaning or connotations of at least some of the words. I may be wrong. >
I think you're absolutely right, but I don't think it was because of Beethoven's incompetence in Latin. Rather, he wanted a fresh look at a text that had been set thousands of times before and on which he wanted a new perspective. It's a bit like actors in rehearsal paraphrasing Shakespeare in modern English so that they understand the actual words before stepping back into Tudor language.

You'd have to go back to Bach's Magnificat to find another composer who "read" the Latin text with such insight and innovation.

Michael Cox wrote (October 30, 2011):
[To Puolesta Douglas] I take your point, Doug - and I'm grateful for it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It makes a tremendous difference to understand the words! >
I find an opportunity to remind folks of this, almost daily. Fortunately for me, I mostly bite my tongue.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< I would contrast this with Beethoven. Even though Beethoven’s library contained Bibles in Latin and French (but not in German, surprisingly) >
He already knew German!??

MC:
< he commissioned (whether from a professional translator or a friend I do not know) a word-for-word translation of the Latin Mass before he composed his Missa Solemnis so that he would understand every nuance.
Bach and other Baroque composers did not need such a crutch. >
EM:
An interesting detail. Are we sure about the Latin capabilities of all those Baroque composers?

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Question to Thomas Braatz: do we know what Latin texbook Bach used in his classroom? >
Do we know:

(1) That Bach ever taught Latin himself, as a formal area of study?

(2) That he had any choice of texts, or was he saddled with a *standard*? For that matter, is such a distinction meaningful?

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I think you're absolutely right, but I don't think it was because of Beethoven's incompetence in Latin. Rather, he wanted a fresh look at a text that had been set thousands of times before and on which he wanted a new perspective. >
Perhaps analogous to many of us referencing various translations of bachs texts?

Apologies for the multiple posts on the same thread, mercifully brief, I trust.

David McKay wrote (October 31, 2011):
However, Benny and Bjorn and Stig could have had a better grasp of English. I cite "There's no other place in this world that I rather would be" from Honey Honey.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2011):
David McKay wrote:
< However, Benny and Bjorn and Stig could have had a better grasp of English. I cite "There's no other place in this world that I rather would be" from Honey Honey >
Perhaps they mis-translated *Money Money*?

Michael Cox wrote (October 31, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< Even though Beethoven’s library contained Bibles in Latin and French (but not in German, surprisingly) >
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< He already knew German!?? >
Of course he knew German as his mother tongue! All the biographies point out that Beethoven’s Roman Catholicism was “unorthodox”, that Haydn considered him an atheist, and that in his later life Beethoven was attracted (to what extent?) by Hinduism. What I was pointing out is that Protestantism is/was in part a spiritual movement based on reading and hearing the Bible as the Word of God in one’s mother tongue. If Beethoven had been a Bible reader, he would have owned a German Bible (presumably not Luther’s “heretical” version).

Incidentally, I have seen Dvorak’s Czech Bible in Prague, the one that he used while setting Psalm texts for his “Biblical Songs”. These lovely songs need to be sung in Czech, not in German.

As for Bach’s Bible, watch: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mc2zHMvxQbg

Perhaps, if the real reason why Bach composed his “catholic” B Minor Mass (BWV 232) was because he was considering applying for employment in a Roman Catholic setting, as some musicologists think, he would have to conceal or get rid of his Lutheran Bible when he left Leipzig– what do you think? Personally, I think that Bach’s music is so Lutheran that he was unlikely to have been contented with composing music solely to Latin texts. To this day there are Catholic churches where Bach’s music is banned. And that’s a scandal!

Pax vobiscum!

Emil J. wrote (October 31, 2011):
[To Michael Cox, responding to his recent message] Why would Catholic churches ban Bach? Are we in the 16th century?

Michael Cox wrote (October 31, 2011):
Bach and Latin - LISTEN TO A LUTHERAN SERVICE IN LATIN AS IN THE TIME OF BACH

Emil J. Wrote:
"Why would Catholic churches ban Bach? Are we in the 16th century?"
Oops, I seem to have scandalized some catholics. No offence was meant. I was not referring primarily to present-day ecumenically-orientated Roman Catholics who appreciate non-catholic music.

I was informed recently by an American Jewish pen-friend in New York that he knew of some very conservative Catholics in the USA that have banned or used to ban Bach's music.

Not many years ago I heard a news report about one or more catholic dioceses in Italy banning Bach, not even allowing his music to be performed in concerts in consecrated churches, because he was a Lutheran, and Luther was still excommunicated. I cannot check the story. Can anyone confirm it or correct me on this matter?

Having lived in South America in the 1980s, and having performed Bach, Handel and Purcell etc. in very conservative Roman Catholic churches there, while not being RC myself, I am very aware that there is no absolute barrier between Catholic and Protestant music, unless the local priest has theological or non-musical reasons for wishing to exclude non-catholic music.

At present I sing in a Lutheran choir, while not being Lutheran myself, and we sing catholic music in Latin as well as Bach in German. Doesn't Bach's music and his Christian message transcend denominational differences?

A PEACE OFFERING: A Latin Lutheran service in the style of Bach's time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaA2rtIQUHY

Aus dem Gottesdienst in der Ordnung der Bachzeit zum Johannisfest vom 28.6.2009, 10.00 Uhr, in der evangelischen Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtnis-Kirche zu Berlin-Charlottenburg: Die lutherische Abendmahlsliturgie. Leitung: Pfr. Prof. Dr. Martin Petzoldt, Leipzig

N.B. A good way to spark a debate!

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 31, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< A Latin Lutheran service in the style of Bach's time: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DaA2rtIQUHY >
Everyone should take a look at this clip which picks up the Lutheran mass at the Chancel Hymn after the sermon.

This really is an aural glimpse into Bach's Sunday service: the Latin Lutheran service is rarely heard today.

A couple of things to look for:

The hymn "Herr Gott einig Gottes Sohn" is sung unaccompanied just as some chorales were sung with Bach sitting in the organ loft but not accompanying the singing. Note how the pitch is established by a solo voice singing the first line. The collection is beng taken up just as it was in Leipzig.

The Latin preface is sung to the pre-Reformation melody which Luther retained in the Ordo Missae. The pastor has the typical sound of a competent non-professional cleric. That's the kind of voice that Bach would have heard.

The Sanctus with orchestra is sung without the Hosanna, Benedictus and Second Hosanna of the Catholic mass. A modern setting is used.

The pastor sings the Words of Institution (the scriptural account of the Last Supper) to Luther's chant formula for the Gospel.

Many thanks for this clip which shows us some of the context in which Bach performed his cantatas and Latin church music.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October 31, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< Perhaps, if the real reason why Bach composed his “catholic” B Minor Mass (BWV 232) was because he was considering applying for employment in a Roman Catholic setting, as some musicologists think, he would have to conceal or get rid of his Lutheran Bible when he left Leipzig– what do you think? >
If you meany employment for the Elector-Prince of Dresden, and King of Poland-- no conversion to Catholicism was required. David Heinichen was the kapellmeister in Dresden from 1717 till his untimely death in 1729 due to TB. Bach would have never been considered for employment in Dresden for a variety of reasons, but his being Lutheran wasn't one of them. There is a page on Heinichen on the Bach website @ http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Heinichen-Johann-David.htm

Several of Heinchen's liturgical pieces have been recorded and they're well worth looking into.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
“Even though Beethoven’s library contained Bibles in Latin and French (but not in German, surprisingly)
He already knew German!??”
< Of course he knew German as his mother tongue! >

My point, implied, was the hubris of not needing a dictionary of ones mother tongue. I suspect we agree.

MC:
< Perhaps, if the real reason why Bach composed his “catholic” B Minor Mass (BWV 232) was because he was considering applying for employment in a Roman Catholic setting, as some musicologists think >
EM:
Doug Cowling has addressed this point in several posts, to the effect that the Latin missa brevis was a Lutheran standard. The original Kyrie and Gloria of the BMM are in fact part of a group fo five such missae (correct plural?).

See also subsequent posts on this thread by Michael and Doug.

I inadvertently cut Michaels *Pax Vobiscum*, which I heartily endorse.

Michael Cox wrote (November 1, 2011):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thank you for the information. Johann Christian Bach, however, did convert to Roman Catholicism in Italy, as of course you are well aware, but Handel did not. Handel became an Anglican when he moved to England and became a naturalised British citizen. Somehow this was not such a major step as for a Protestant to become a Catholic, or vice versa, in Germany with its troubled history of religious strife.

And I have a recording of a few of Heinichen's liturgical pieces. Thanks for the tip.

Michael Cox wrote (November 1, 2011):
Bach, Latin and German Bibles

[To Douglas Cowling & Ed Myskowski] For those who can read German and are interested in the history of the German Bible I would recommend the following book, from a Lutheran point of view (I bought my copy in the Luther-Haus in Eisenach):

Dies Buch in aller Zunge, Hand und Herzen: 475 Jahre Lutherbibel: Amazon.de

And from a Catholic point of view, from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

In 1534 <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04788a.htm> John Dietenberger, O.P., gave out a complete version at <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09550a.htm> Mainz based on a primitive translation with aid from <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05410a.htm> Emser's <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14530a.htm> New Testament and from the deuterocanonical books by Leo Juda. His agreement in places with <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09438b.htm> Luther is due to the use by both of a common source. The Dietenberger Bible underwent frequent revision, and up to 1776 had fifty-eight complete editions. It was revised (1) by <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15120b.htm> Caspar Ulenberg (Mainz, 1549, 1617; Cologne, 1630); (2) by the <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14580a.htm> theologians of <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09550a.htm> Mainz, i.e. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14081a.htm> Jesuits (1661, 1662, etc.), from whom it received the title of the <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm> Catholic Bible; (3) by Th. Erhard, O.S.B. (Augsburg, 1722, 6th ed., 1748); (4) by G. Cartier, O.S.B. (Constance, 1751); (5) by Ignatius Weitenauer (Augsburg, 1783-89), whose version with notes was valued even by <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12495a.htm> Protestants for its fidelity and literary excellence. An important new translation of the <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15515b.htm> Vulgate was published at <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02073b.htm> Augsburg (1788-97) by H. Braun, O.S.B. This was revised by <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/06026a.htm> Feder (Nürnberg, 1803) and by <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11325a.htm> Allioli (Landshut, 1830, 1832). In successive editions the last named has almost wholly changed the original so that it is now known only by his name. It is much esteemed as a literary rendering and is widely read. An excellent version made from the <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15515b.htm> Vulgate and compared with original sources was put forth by Loch and Reischl (Ratisbon, 1851-66). From original sources D. Brentano began and Th. A. Dereser finished a version (Frankfurt, 1799-1828), with notes savouring of <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12652a.htm> Rationalism. A second edition was emended by <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13553a.htm> J.M. Scholz. This account includes only the most representative versions made by German <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03449a.htm> Catholics.

<http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09438b.htm> Luther's Biblical translations, begun in 1522, when he issued his <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14530a.htm> New Testament, and carried on to 1545, when he finished the deuterocanonical books and the first complete edition of his Bible, have retained a strong hold on German and other <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12495a.htm> Protestants and by many are esteemed as little less than inspired. He saw to many corrections and revisions himself, and his work went through some ten editions in his own lifetime. Though supposed to translate from the originals, he made use of the Latin version of Lyra, the Hebrew-Latin interlinear of Pagninus, and an older German translation of the <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15515b.htm> Vulgate whose order he retained. His renderings were often excessively free and at times he arbitrarily changed the sense of the original.

N.B. My earlier reference to Beethoven concerned German Bibles, not German dictionaries.

I quote: “Beethoven owned both a French and a Latin Bible and late in life he prayed with his young nephew almost every morning. His library included such Christian devotionals as Thomas a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ and a very heavily marked copy of Christian Sturm’s Reflections on the Works of God in Nature.”

Sturm was a Lutheran pastor in Hamburg and friend of C.P.E. Bach. I quote:

“(C.P. E) Bach resumed the composition of songs soon after his move to Hamburg in 1768…Bach composed three sets of strophic sacred songs for private devotion: a selection of forty-two psalms, using the poetic versions by Johann Andreas Cramer (Wq 196, 1774); and two sets of thirty songs each with texts by the head pastor at St. Petri in Hamburg, Christoph Christian Sturm (Wq 197–198, 1780–81). An impressive list of subscribers shows that Bach songs were distributed mainly in North Germany and among German-speaking enclaves abroad.” http://www.cpebach.org/prefaces/songs-preface.html

Beethoven, being born in Bonn in 1770, may have known some of C.P.E. Bach’s songs as a young man. He knew and thought highly of his oratorio “Aufstehung und Himmelfahrt” (It is indeed a fine work).

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (November 1, 2011):
[To Michael Cox, regarding his message above] There is a mistaken view of Bach's Bm mass (BWV 232) by many Prostestants whose creeds do not follow (such as the fundamentalist conservative Baptist, Church of God et al faiths) or dain a liturgy as the Lutheran, Episcopal (aka Anglican) Protestant faiths do. Bach's Bm Mass (BWV 232) is not 'Catholic' per se but the ultimate format of the Highest formality of formalities of the High masses (the white tie and glove formal event) of the Lutheran, Episcopal faiths which just happens to coinside with the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, in Bach's day; their were no entertainment outlets as we have today nor industry outside the home. Thus people had time to attend Church with very long services and did so. Church services of Bach time lasted most of the day.

One must remember that Luther was an Augustian Monk before he broke with the Church of Rome. He traveled to Rome and was shocked by the corruption he saw in the church at that time along with the selling of indulgences. He broke with Roman as a way of reform and revolution in cleaning up the corruption that he found in the Roman Church. What he intended to do was not necessarily 'clean' the Liturgy---most of which he kept with the exception of the Marian cult and the cult of saints--which in the Anglican Church have been retained somewhat. Luther gave tenancy that one did not have to ask for the intercession of Mary or other Saints in their prayers but instead could pray directly to God or the Trinity.

He also supported the Calvinistic view that one is 'elected' or not 'elected'. The elect would find a place in heaven no matter what bad deeds that they did on earth but those who were not ---not matter what good deeds that they did here on earth---would not get them into heaven because of God's plan of pre-destination. Thus Chancellor Rowland (aka Nicolas Rolin (one of four French Spellings--Modern Dutch and English is 'Rowland' (which when pronouced correctly sounds like all spellings except Italian)--German

Hrodland--Italian--Orlando)---Chancelor (aka Duke) of Burgundy and founder of the Hospitat Beaune (l'Hôtel-Dieu) ---could not make up for the cruel deeds, that made him the billionaire many times over of the 15th century, when he was younger--- which legend has it that which he took food from a Baby's mouth to collect taxes for his support and Phillip the Good. (see online painting The Virgin with Chancellor Rolinby Jan van Eyck, (@Louvre), to get into heaven.

The claim that the Bm Mass (BWV 232) could never be performed as part of a real liturgical ceremony is a bunch of tom-foolery and saying such is like saying that Mozart's Requiem cannot be done as part of a actual ceremony---which it has---the Funeral of U.S President John F. Kennedy among others was thus. The Bm Mass (BWV 232) could be used as the background for an actual Mass but true it would be slow going. The Priest (Vicar, Pastor) would do his part and then rest until the music caught up with him. Of course, the liturgy of both Prostestant Roman faith have changed over time but there is always room to do a 'historical' mass by both the Romans and Protestant faiths. FYI---the Protestant Episcopal Church (aka Anglican) and the Evangelical Lutherans do do masses in Latin---mostly as a historical re-enactment but during the American civil war period through at least the 1920s---many Episcopal churches did services in Latin---concurrent with the Romans doing the same. The Roman Latin Mass ceased circa 1960, with the reforms of the Roman Church of that time, and the present Pope has encouraged a return to the Latin format of the mass.

As far as I know---there is NO ban on doing Protestant Mass in a Catholic church and in fact--Bach is regular done throughout the Roman world --in hymns and et al. The present Roman Mass is so close to the Protestant one that if one were blindfolded one would not know the difference. The Present Pope happens to be an lover of Bach. Furthermore, the divisions between the Romans and Protestants is not so great that a Prostestant cannot be risen sainthood in the Roman faith. In fact that has happened at least twice to best of my knowledge---Cardinal Newman who was an Anglican and also St. William (whose time I do not recall).

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (November 2, 2011):
[To Michael Cox, regarding his message above] What is this all about????For heavens sakes even Jews use Bach in their services---especially Reformed Jews who services are so alike Christian ones you hardly notice the difference. Yes they even have Choirs and Organ singing hymns --even Christian ones!!!

Michael Cox wrote (November 2, 2011):
Bach and Latin - the need for debate and restraint

[To Ludwig, in response to his message above] I write ”catholic” with a small letter when I mean pre-Reformation Latin church music and the “universal” Latin tradition that it represents even in post-Reformation Lutheranism and Anglicanism, and “Roman Catholic” when I mean specifically the Church of Rome rather than Old Catholics or Anglo-Catholics. In this sense Bach’s B minor Mass (BWV 232) is “catholic”, with its reminiscences of the Counter-Reformation composer Palestrina in some places; and of course even today it could be performed in theory as part of an actual liturgical eucharistic service, but few modern congregations or clergy have the necessary stamina – and many professional musicians need to be paid by the hour. Church attendance is no longer compulsory, but I for one would be very happy to sit through a long service with such music, and I’m sure many of you would too. In the Orthodox churches, where there are no seats, the congregation can wander in and out at will.

My memory is not what it once was, since my stroke. I honestly wish I could remember where I heard about the partial ban on Bach’s music in Italy – was if from the BBC (Radio 3 perhaps), and are we talking about one individual parish priest rather than diocesan policy? It may be that the reporter got the facts wrong – I can’t say one way or the other, so I asked you all for more information to either confirm or correct what I had heard. I have searched the Internet for further information, to no avail. But it was definitely something that made the musical headlines – for a day! The BBC is scrupulous in its news reporting, but “to err is human, to forgive divine”.

I think that one way of sparking off a good debate is to say or write something outrageous - a “half-truth” – so people rush to correct your misinterpretations – that is how we non-specialist but very enthusiastic musicologists learn. I’m sorry if this is considered “tom-foolery”. I think we should exercise restraint in our use of language.

Pax vobiscum

Julian Mincham wrote (November 2, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< I think that one way of sparking off a good debate is to say or write something outrageous - a “half-truth” – so people rush to correct your misinterpretations – that is how we non-specialist but very enthusiastic musicologists learn. I’m sorry if this is considered “tom-foolery”. I think we should exercise restraint in our use of language. >
OK Michael, I accept your challenge! But firstly, I don't think you can correct a misinterpretation ---or an interpretation for that matter. You can offer differing ones; and you can certainly correct the historical facts or the musical analysis upon which they might be based. Nevertheless the concept of 'interpretation' lies at the heart of a very great deal of what is written today about Bach, his intentions, his personality and his music.

My own particular interest lies in analysing the scores in great detail and, within the context of what is known or reasonably assumed to be true (yet more interpretations!) about the historical background, thence constructing interpretations about how Bach worked, how he created and developed his ideas, who he was writing for etc. The last of these issues I think you alluded to in a recent posting and it lies at the basis of a number of my essays on the cantatas. I think that it is a much more complicated question than is sometimes credited because I have formed the opinion that his 'audience' changed at different times and at different moments within the music, sometimes even within the same work. On the most basic level, the cantatas were written for congregations. But there are many hidden references and 'meanings' which, I maintain, could not have been picked up, digested and understood by a congregation hearing it once through, even with the words in front of them.Were they intended for God alone? Or for the musicians many of whom were Bach's family members, pupils or friends? Or were they used for Bach primarily to stimulate his own creative processes which, fertile as they were, had to be called upon very often at very short notice.

And all this does not even bring into question of whether he was thinking of posterity although I suspect that this was something that occurred to him only in his last few years and not when he was composing the bulk of the religious music.

All fascinating questions and, although I expect some list members will respond by saying, 'well we'll never know for sure so what's the point of speculation?' To which I respond

a) intelligent and well informed speculation is both fun and stimulating and leads to a greater involvement with the music

b) such processes, based upon a deep knowledge of the scores and when they were written (for which much thanks to several scholars but Dürr in particular) has led to an incredibly wide repertoire of performance interpretations of the music over the last two decades which enriches us all. If the Bach list were to have discussed comparative performances of the cantatas 20 years ago it would have been based upon Harnoncourt and recordings of some of the works by some other conductors. Now there are various recordings (interpretations!) of the entire canon to enjoy and compare.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (November 3, 2011):
[To Michael Cox] Lingua Latina quicumque est grammaticus, fuit aliquando quando catholica popularis fuit, Europae illiterati, aut vix legere. Quae traditio conservavit usque in mane saeculi XX American curriculae scholum, cum opus scholae altae.Aliquam vel lectus ut malesuada Latine (secundi ex vetustissimis scholarum in America Septentrionalis).

Latin was the catholic language of everyone who was literate at times when most of the European populace was illiterate or barely could read. This tradition was kept until the early 20th century when it was required curricula in American High Schools or Schools like the Boston Latin School (one of the oldest secondary schools in North America).

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 3, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< I’m sorry if this is considered “tom-foolery”. I think we should exercise restraint in our use of language.
Pax vobiscum >
Ludwig wrote:
< Lingua Latina quicumque est grammaticus, fuit aliquando quando catholica maxime popularis fuit, Europae illiterati, aut vix legere. Quae traditio conservavit usque in mane saeculi XX American curriculae scholum, cum opus scholae altae.Aliquam vel lectus ut malesuada Latine (secundi ex vetustissimis scholarum in America Septentrionalis). >
EM:
Restraint would indeed be welcome.

 

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Last update: ýNovember 26, 2011 ý21:47:08