Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Boy Soloists in Bach's Vocal Works
Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Nameless and misnamed boys

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 6, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< I know, Chris, that was negligent of me not to put their name but in my defense this is a free commentary not the amazon catalog (where they are given due recognition)
I understand perfectly your desire to pull, whenever possible, those boys out of their anonymity purgatory. After all they are part of musical history now.
As a child, I spent several years in a boy's choir where the policy was also to keep the soloist's unnamed, so I am used the other point f view.
I guess the reason was to avoid jealousy between members and increase the community feeling: everybody was equally in the service of the institution. It has a certain nobleness and is certainly ethically defendable. >
I wonder, I have often wondered why, when the decision was made in the midst of the set to name names, the nameless earlier boys were not also named. I assume that there are records hidden in vaults of who sang what and EVEN of who sang on Gillesberger's Johannes.

We can all speculate on causes but this would be good to know bc. obviously some are much better than others. It is also odd this use of two boys here but of counter-tenor and boy elsewhere.

I haven't counted how many use two boys. For those interested, if you go to Berkshire (I believe it's still there) and search Wittek on the Memories label, you will find a Bernstein (cond) Mahler 4 that actually has Allan Bergius as the soloist. I SOOO prefer him to Helmut Wittek on the Bernstein DG commercial recording and, yes, the composer wrote "Sopranistin" and did not write for a male boy soprano. It does work and we all like different voices.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< For those interested, if you go to Berkshire (I believe it's still there) and search Wittek on the Memories label, you will find a Bernstein (cond) Mahler 4 that actually has Allan Bergius as the soloist. I SOOO prefer him to Helmut Wittek on the Bernstein DG commercial recording and, yes, the composer wrote "Sopranistin" and did not write for a male boy soprano. >
Turning to Romantic choral music for a moment, Mahler's writing for children's choir is very problematical in the 8th Symphony. Much of it is written so low that modern performances have to double and triple the number of children just so they can be heard -- there must be over a hundred in Bernstein's Albert Hall recording. I suspect Mahler had in mind Austrian boys choirs which normally had boys on the alto parts and could thus project the lines which often dip below the staff.

I was susprised when Solti's recording of 'Parsifal' came out that he used boys for the third invisible choir in the Grail scenes. Wagner wrote "Knaben" in the score, but from its very first performance, women sang the choral parts. I've often suspected that Wagner had in mind the invisible voices of choirboys in Lutheran choir galleries.

Xavier Rist wrote (February 6, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I wonder, I have often wondered why, when the decision was made in the midst of the set to name names, the nameless earlier boys were not also named. >
I am not sure any decision was made in the middle of the set, Yoel.

Tölzer Knabenchor soloists are ALWAYS named, even at the beginning of the cycle (I checked).

Wiener Sängerknaben soloists (unless I am wrong) are NEVER named even at the end of the cycle.

So it really depends of the policy each Boys Choir regarding this problem.

Chris Stanley wrote (February 6, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote
< Wiener Sängerknaben soloists (unless I am wrong) are NEVER named even at the end of the cycle.
So it really depends of the policy each Boys Choir regarding this problem. >
After the Jelosits court case the Wiener Saengerknaben boys were in fact named (from about BWV 41 onwards I think). Hence why I was guessing that BWV 37 duet MIGHT have involved Peter Jelosits.

Xavier Rist wrote (February 6, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I was susprised when Solti's recording of 'Parsifal' came out that he used boys for the third invisible choir in the Grail scenes. Wagner wrote "Knaben" in the score, but from its very first performance, women sang the choral parts. I've often suspected that Wagner had in mind the invisible voices of choirboys in Lutheran choir galleries. >
Doug, more than 30 years ago I prepared the boy's choir for Mahler 8th with Solti in Paris. When we auditionned in front of the Maestro I had to play the piano reduction of the score (totally unplayable as you can imagine!)... I have never been so embarrased in my life! But it turned out OK

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 6, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Turning to Romantic choral music for a moment, Mahler's writing for children's choir is very problematical in the 8th Symphony. Much of it is written so low that modern performances have to double and triple the number of children just so they can be heard -- there must be over a hundred in Bernstein's Albert Hall recording. I suspect Mahler had in mind Austrian boys choirs which normally had boys on the alto parts and could thus project the lines which often dip below the staff. >
Although Mahler spent that last three years of his life as conductor of both the Met opera and of the NYPhil, of course his world was basically that of Austria. To what extent he was interested or not in boys singing for example masses I have no idea. The symphony of a thousand as it has come to be called was written for huge forces and rarely makes an impression on CD. Bernstein's SONY recording utterly lacks the sonics to transmit this monstrous work. Also this work in my opinion really requires visuals and the Bernstein DVD is quite impressive.

< I was susprised when Solti's recording of 'Parsifal' came out that he used boys for the third invisible choir in the Grail scenes. Wagner wrote "Knaben" in the score, but from its very first performance, women sang the choral parts. I've often suspected that Wagner had in mind the invisible voices of choirboys in Lutheran choir galleries. >
Reminds me of the matter of who does Junger Hirt in Tannhäuser. It should be, I believe, a boy as it is on 1954 Keilberth with Ramón Vinay as the title role and Volker Horn as Junger Hirt. On the contemporaneous Met broadcast with Vinay a female woman sings Junger Hirt. Horrors! But mostly I think a female does sing it. Such is what has occurred with our world:-). I am tempted to use "ACE" but I have not found it in the abbreviations list.

Xavier Rist wrote (February 6, 2007):
[To Chris Stanley] OK Chris I stand corrected, I had no idea of the whole trial business! And I just listened to some of Jelovits work, no doubt it's him in 37! Good work Sherlock...

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< Doug, more than 30 years ago I prepared the boy's choir for Mahler 8th with Solti in Paris. When we auditionned in front of the Maestro I had to play the piano reduction of the score (totally unplayable as you can imagine!)... I have never been so embarrased in my life! But it turned out OK >
That's good to hear. A friend of mine sang in one of the London symphonic choirs and said his nickname, "The Screaming Skull" was well-earned.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Reminds me of the matter of who does Junger Hirt in Tannhäuser. It should be, I believe, a boy as it is on 1954 Keilberth with Ramón Vinay as the title role and Volker Horn as Junger Hirt. On the contemporaneous Met broadcast with Vinay a female woman sings Junger Hirt. >
It's not uncommon for some opera companies to substitute women for the Three Spirit's in "The Magic Flute". I noticed that the present St. Thomas choirboys regularly sing with the Leipzig Opera. That certainly wouldn't have happened in Bach's time!

If you want to see what the choir is singing this month ... http://www.leipzig-online.de/thomanerchor/

 

Boy singers

Douglas Cow wrote (February 9, 2007):
If you want to hear the alto voice which Bach expected to hear, watch this clip from a Harnoncourt SJP. The teenaged singer has extraordinary self-confidence and a lovely clear trill. The oboe-playing is pretty ratty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ni3_a8o8vks&mode=related&search=

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Apparently H. uses two boy altos in this performance.

Alas in both his own (first) MP and in Leonhardt's MP two counter-tenors are used.

As memory serves (it's been a while) the boy sopranos in H.'s first MP were not very effective. I don't recall those is L.'s MP.

All-in-all there are very few who have ever attempted to employ boy soloists in the passions. King has them in his h-Moll Messe; they are very nice but not exactly accurate or totally effective.

This present JP and of course the immortal Gillesberger make the best possible case. Seems this guy has uploaded a good chunk of the H. video.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Below is an excerpt from the liner notes for Bach's parody of Pergolesi's Sabat Mater (BWV 1083) as performed by the St. Florianer Sängerknaben. Do note that the author does not suggest that a Bach era voice from today's boys is impossible, rather the stress is on the logistics of the affair. It all rings true with me, although the last paragraph may not convince everyone. Bach's choral works were liturgical works (as Doug as often pointed out) and not designed for the concert stage must less the recording studio. So, by definition, many of the difficulties described by the gent from St. Florian's would not appeared at all for Bach or would have been dealt with in entirely different ways. It is these nuts and bolts matters, I would suggest, that has knocked boys out of choral
Bach, not the boy's lack of skill. Indeed, the performance these notes came with is sung entirely by boys and is terrific. It was released separately in Europe but is also part of the Teldec 2000 series. (BTW: on the same page there is a longer essay comparing Bach and Pergolesi's work. It is makes some very interesting points concerning the very nature of Bach's choral music and his reaction to the new style already evolving in Europe late in his career. If interested check: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/tvrc/featured.cds/florianr.htm.
I found this page hot linked to our web site. What a splendid resource.)


BOYS CHOIRS IN ORIGINAL MUSIC

After the initial euphoria which characterized the rediscovery of early music and "historical performance" in, the 1960's and 1970's - consider for example the legendary recordings of the Bach passions under the direction of Gillesberger and Harnoncourt - today boys' choirs are used less and less in recordings. Given the enormous number of recordings made since the diffusion of the compact disc, the boys' choirs could not in any case satisfy the demand. Moreover, there is a litany of difficulties which I will briefly present here.

WE MUST remember that there are no young professional singers. Children must also go to school and do homework, and they also like to play. The time available to train a boy's voice is extremely short compared to an adult's study of singing, and the period in which it solistically is often even shorter. The timbre of a child's voice reaches its greatest beauty shortly before it changes (its metallic brightness, which distinguishes it from a girl's voice, is at its height). Given that each year brings an advance in musical interpretation, both intellectual and physical, it is difficult to seize the right moment for a solo recording - often one misses the mark. The fact that recordings are usually planned long in advance entails a considerable task for the two parties to the contract, and boys' choirs can only rarely manage to replace a good soloist at short notice.

THE SAME observations apply, though to a smaller degree, to the choirs themselves. The director of a boys' choir does not have the luxury of a fixed group: the best and the most experienced are continually leaving, and each year he must start over. There are also problems of a financial nature: the training of young singers is costly
(the school, the choir director, etc.), and only the most famous can recover their expenses by giving concerts.

fundamentally from women's voices in blending better with period instruments, today this can only be said within certain limits. There are now many more female singers and choristers who specialize in imitating the beauty of boys' voices; moreover, a young boy will only rarely reach the musical perfection of a more seasoned singer.

WHAT are the arguments in favor of the original? Why should young boys, the choir director, and the director of a school spend their time, energy, and money? Why should a recording company take on an additional risk, and why should the purchaser listen to a product which is probably less perfect?

ALL THINGS rare and difficult possess a certain charm on that precise account. The non-economical, because non-durable quality of a child's voice confers on it a unique value. The young singer will never move into the routine of the true professional, in either the positive or the negative sense. The enthusiasm of the child for the new work is always fresh and unspoiled. It is neither possible nor necessary to seek any route to the music other than the one nature provides. While the adult singer calculates his emotions with precision, the young boy possesses a single voice which corresponds to his personality (unless another has been imposed upon him). To deny to a young boy on this account emotions and interpretative ability would be to fail to accept him as a complete personality. Just like a photograph in black-and-white, or a piano (compared to a more "colored" orchestration), a young boy's singing can allow a more secret, personal, even intimate access to a work, than an interpretation, however perfect, which reveals everything. There are certain qualities unique to period instruments, long considered faults (such as the sound of breath in wind instruments), which listeners today appreciate. In the same way we can consider the "white" voice of a certain level as a unique sound, irreplaceable despite its imperfection, and not to be compared with a woman's voice.

THE PLEASURE gained in listening to the singing of boys' choirs would be false if they themselves did not take pleasure in the activity and if they could not profit from it in their future lives. If we do not make the mistake of assuming that we can ask of them only what we imagine belongs to the world of children, we can often obtain surprising results regarding their understanding and their readiness to rise to and overcome challenges which are not in fact intended for the very young.

FRANZ FARNBERGER

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 9, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< If you want to hear the alto voice which Bach expected to hear, >
Ah, well, turnabout is fair play. Big stretch to state what Bach expected to hear.

Chris Stanley wrote (February 19, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] And by a process of elimination since the "teenaged singer" is not Panitou Economou, could it be Christian Immler? http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Immler-Christian.htm

Ehud Shiloni wrote (February 9, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
"As memory serves (it's been a while) the boy sopranos in H.'s first MP were not very effective. I don't recall those is L.'s MP."
The boy sopranos in Leonhardt's SMP were Christian Fliegner and Maximilian Kiener. Both were excellent and highly effective. Fliegner IMO was no less than heavenly.

You may wish to browse earlier discussions at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV244-Leonhardt.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 9, 20):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Ah, well, turnabout is fair play. Big stretch to state what Bach expected to hear. >
Touché! I should have said, here is an example of voice type which is the closest modern equivalent to Bach's singers. I would point out a couple of aspects that make the boy very different from adult women and English counter-tenor: the quite heavy chest sound in the lower range while still maintaining the "white" head tone familiar from continental boys's choirs.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Harnoncourt's SJP with the outstanding Panito Iconomou, Kurt Equiluz and others is finally released in DVD form by DGG. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Rec/Rec-2007-02.htm

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
Chris Stanley wrote:
< And by a process of elimination since the "teenaged singer" is not Panitou Economou, could it be Christian Immler? http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Immler-Christian.htm >
yes and the funny thing is that both of these young men are in Parrott's Messe h-Moll.

I do not have that recording bc. the Parrott Johannes put me to sleep. In his OVPP Johannes his soloists are all female adult woman. In his Messe h-Moll the uses female adult soprano soloists but boy alto soloists.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
Ehud Shiloni wroteAt 05:13 AM 2/9/2007, Administrator wrote:
< The boy sopranos in Leonhardt's SMP were Christian Fliegner and Maximilian Kiener. Both were excellent and highly effective. Fliegner IMO was no less than heavenly. >
yes, I have the recording but haven't listened in a long time. Mr. Flieger is also the Amore in Haenchen's marvellous CD recording of Gluck's Italian Orfeo and he is wonderful. Kowalski is the Orfeo. I prefer this one to the Kowalski DVD with another boy voice Amore acted by a very young child and a somewhat weird production.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
Harnoncourt's boy movie

Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Harnoncourt's SJP with the outstanding Panito Iconomou, Kurt Equiluz and others is finally released in DVD form by DGG. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Rec/Rec-2007-02.htm >
Bravo! Bravo! That's wonderful news. I really shall order it forthwith. I was hoping for that.

Rick Canyon wrote (February 9, 2007):
Yoel L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Bravo! Bravo! That's wonderful news. I really shall order it forthwith. I was hoping for that. >
I'm not seeing this showing up yet on Amazon or Barnes&Noble.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Canyon Rick] Mostly these things are out in Europe first. There is a site to check which I and others will.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Canyon Rick] Amazon.de

It is out in Germany and says that it is PAL. that is not always true. Does anyone know how to write to Unitel and ask them about a USA release? It is NOT listed in Dana Sanderon's Opera on DVD forthcoming. Yes, he lists anything vocal Classical on the whole. I myself have a cheap multi-region player in addition to my regular player.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Canyon Rick] UK site sayeth:

Availability: This title will be released on March 19, 2007. Pre-order now! Dispatched from and sold by Amazon.co.uk.
---------------
They are offering a discount on preorders. Is their postage bad like Germany?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Harnoncourt's SJP with the outstanding Panito Iconomou, Kurt Equiluz and others is finally released in DVD form by DGG. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Rec/Rec-2007-02.htm >
My goodness, the boy soprano is Helmut Wittek of the SONY commercial Mahler 4. Now can anyone write to DG/Unitel and see whether they even intend a USA release in NTSC or indeed whether the European release in indeed not USA playable. All the Amazon European websites also say the most ridiculous thing, that the movie is in English. Duh.
<>

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] It is also announced (cheaper) on the French Amazon site for February 26:
http://www.amazon.fr/Johannes-Passion/dp/B000L21DO4
On the page is stated that the format will probably not be readable outside of Europe.

Joel Figen wrote (February 9, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< If you want to hear the alto voice which Bach expected to hear, >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:>
< Ah, well, turnabout is fair play. Big stretch to state what Bach expected to hear. >
I didn't want mention that, but I did listen/watch the video. I haven't weighed in on this issue in a couple of years, so here goes.

I was somewhat pleasantly surprised by the young man's performance, but not enough to change my opinion that boy singers today are in no way original instruments for Bach. The problem is in their musicianship, which lacks the years of training that would have been provided by J.S. Bach himself. There are just too many subtleties in vocal performance for today's child to master before puberty. When voices changed later and training was more intense, I suspect all those loose ends would have been adequately covered.

So how can we get that timbre today in a more finished voice? Anyone who has sung in church choirs knows that there are thousands of nonprofessional women singers with light, flutey voices. They can be of literally any age. Those who do retain that quality over the years do so because of physiology on one hand, but also because they haven't had operatically-oriented vocal training or worked the voice at a professional pace. So where do we find qualified women singers who still have the youthful timbre? That's pretty easy: They generally have to be fairly young, say, under 30, and well educated in music and vocal performance. I can think of at least two or three young women, whom I happen to know, both recent voice graduates of a local university, who could have sung that aria better than the well-trained young man in the video, and sounded very much the same with respect to timbre. Fully trained singers know how to match timbres by manipulating the chiaroscuro.

I suppose boy singers still have a place. It would be charming to hear a very young person sing "Auch mit gedaempften schwachen Stimmen." But who could take that same voice seriously singing "Die Seelen empfinden die kräftigsten Triebe / Der brünstigsten Liebe / Und schmecken auf Erden die himmlische Lust." (BWV 1) Suddenly the prevailing image of a boy-scount meeting in white tie takes on pederastic overtones. Perhaps that would never have occurred to 18th-century Lutherans, but as a 21st-century American, I can't quite get past it. I have to either pretend I don't notice and hope no one else does, or try to do something about it. That something, of course, is to give the aria to an adult singer, male or female.

In Bach's day that singer might have been 18 years old, old enough to know about such things.

------------

I'd say this brings us to the very edge of authenticity, btw. Suppose they had been wearing authentic 18th-century constumes? Where does this [fad | fetish | pursuit] reasonably end? This is a good question for
a philosopher of music.

------------

One thing I noticed in his performance was a matter of diction that I haven't encountered before. Evidently, he was taught to treat the glottal stop that precedes initial vowels in German is if it were a consonant. This causes a sudden shifting of the tone from front to back, with an attendant reduction in volume. Can any of the more musicologically oriented list members shed light on this practice? Is it considered somehow more authentic than the usual practice of leaving it out, softeningit, or converting it to something more singable? I regard it as highly unmusical. Every (Germanic?) language contains some nearly unsingable words. In english, the word "ours" is a problem. In German, "Er ist" presents challenges. In every case the answer is to find a hybrid pronunciation that's singable enough and yet colloquial enough. When it's done right, hearers don't notice it, unless they happen to be trained singers listening closely. Adult musicianship wouldn't have left our (currently young) singer pronouncing the glottal stop so heavily, imho.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] an interesting and informed comment.

I was interested as to where you stood on the matter of counter tenors singing Bach alto arias? Not originally of course, because they didn't, but nowadays?

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 9, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] The points relating to Bach's singers are all possibly correct. However, none of them are necessarily correct. The problem is that we simply do not know what the performance standards were in Bach's era. The Rifkin debate would hardly exist one way or another if we did: we're in the dark concerning their nature much less their quality. (Gardiner discusses this point on one of his DVD's, obviously assuming that Bach's musicians were not very good.) Judging from the Birnbaum-Scheibe exchange (see Wolff: pp 465-70) and the Entwurff Bach himself wasn't always very pleased with his performers. I will stand corrected but I don't think we have enough day by day information to make a meaningful comparison between the training received at Leipzig in Bach's time and that found a major boys choir school of our era. Bach was training boys who might become musicians but might not - he was part of a Latin School, not a musical tutor and his charges had other things on their plate too. What we do know is that the boys might have had up to two years of extra training, although even that would vary largely. (Those 18 year old boys mentioned I suspect were far more the exception than the rule: think more like 14-16, with the norm closer to 14. I don not think demographers have enough data to be precise here.) Against this fact we must weigh other things like the general health of the boys, the size of the pool of boys from which Bach or a modern instructor could draw upon and the effectiveness of the entire staff, motivation and heaven knows what else.

So perhaps a top notch boy singer today is not an "original instrument." The question is how close to one is he? I don't think we can answer that. We can also ask, is there an alternative that is closer? If the answer is, for instance, a professionally trained adult soprano, I say bosh. Far better to simply argue that Bach created music and we perform it to the best of our ability, so let's let Emma Kirkby sing. Personally I think that's a great idea. What I bemoan is the lack of boys altogether in most Bach today. Personally I think they add greatly to a chorus. I would rather listen to a good boy alto than the best countertenor (although listening to Mera does give me doubts: wonder why he ceased singing with Suzuki?). And if a really good treble soloist comes along it would be great if someone could record it, even if it's only one performance in a decade. As for the "touchy" content of the librettos - believe me, today's youngsters know rather too well about such things: some receive classes related to it - bet that would have shaken Bach's tree. And I really can't see most audiences made upset, especially as we live in a world where Fairie Queen is available on DVD quite as named.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 10, 2007):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Judging from earlier discussions, this performance slipped underneath the radar a bit. I bought it last year and agree that it is very good indeed and probably my single favorite rendition. It is still in print (and mid-priced at $28 new including shipping) and many used copies are available on Amazon. Members who feel compelled to get another SMP might take a look.

Joel Figen wrote (February 10, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< So perhaps a top notch boy singer today is not an "original instrument." The question is how close to one is he? I don't think we can answer that. We can also ask, is there an alternative that is closer? If the answer is, for instance, a professionally trained adult soprano, I say bosh. >
I would also say bosh if I didn't know a fair number of young women sopranos who have the right stuff. I can't guarantee that they're closer to bach-original, but I will say that they can produce almost the same timbre as a boy soloist, but with far more finished musicianship.

< Far better to simply argue that Bach created music and we perform it to the best of our ability, so let's let Emma Kirkby sing. Personally I think that's a great idea. >
Amen to that. If I had to amend my prior post. it would be in this direction: I don't really care so much about the exact timbre of the voice.It's the musicianship that counts ultimately.

However, when looking for timbres that Bach might reasonably have expected and written for, I say don't underestimate musically educated young women. They still have the ability to produce a light, fluty tone, and they have enough musical maturity to perfect a performance without being painstakingly coached. Altogether a win.

I should point out that I wasn't talking about Emma Kirkby as boy-equivalent. Much as I admire her, she doesn't sound anything like a boy. So she qualifies on the basis of musicianship, not timbre. And she also qualifies on the basis of your fine dictum, namely, that Bach created music and we perform it as best we can.

Anyway, you're absolutely right that much of what I think I know about Bach's time is conjecture. And we seem to agree that musicianship trumps age, gender etc. If you're willing to stipulate that a bach soloist had two more years of training than a boy singer of today, I will argue that I think it shows and might be a crucial difference.

< What I bemoan is the lack of boys altogether in most Bach today. Personally I think they add greatly to a chorus. >
All too often I hear intonation problems in choruses containing boy sopranos, often coupled with a woodenness of tone, awkwardness of diction and inappropriateness of articulation, specifically in the soprano section. So, I guess I don't miss them. I find this especially true in Leusink's recorded choruses. The truth is that most recordings with boy singers make me cringe a little.

One or two of the SJP selections we saw on Youtube the other night contained contributions from adult singers, specifically the Evangelist and the Christ. Their finished musicianship was obvious, making the unfinishedness of the boy soloist stand out strongly. Perhaps, and I'm going to float this as a question, perhaps the charm of boy singers is precisely that they're not finished, not professional, still very fallible? There is something deeply Christian about that, imho. Bach might have liked the idea.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 10, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
<< So perhaps a top notch boy singer today is not an "original instrument." The question is how close to one is he? I don't think we can answer that. We can also ask, is there an alternative that is closer? If the answer is, for instance, a professionally trained adult soprano, I say bosh. >>
Joel Figen wrote:
< I would also say bosh if I didn't know a fair number of young women sopranos who have the right stuff. I can't guarantee that they're closer to bach-original, but I will say that they can produce almost the same timbre as a boy soloist, but with far more finished musicianship. >
I believe some of us, Eric included, have opined that one of the outstanding features of the Leusink/Bach Edition cantatas is S. Ruth Holton, finished musicianship, with a 'boyish quality' (whatever that means) to her voice. How she compares to the *unheard* (and therefore incomparable) Bach boy soprano,

< Perhaps, and I'm going to float this as a question, perhaps the charm of boy singers is precisely that they're not finished, not professional, still very falli? There is something deeply Christian about that, imho. Bach might have liked the idea. >
I could construe this to mean that, iyho, there is something Christian about unprofessional singing? Or something unprofessional about Christian singing? I don't believe you meant to say either, so clarification is humbly requested.

Otherwise, I am likely to stray down some path of logic, for example, all Christian singers are fallible, therefore all fallibility is Christian. Not by a longshot, although a goodly portion (of fallibility) is.

I guess the *might* slides it by, but whether Bach *would* have liked the idea is fodder for the historical novel (now in progress).

All meant in good spirit (that is, not felsen herzen, if not exactly Christian). Not exactly *non Christian*, either.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 10, 2007):
[To Joel Figen] OK: we don't need dueling pistols. However, I really am not sure Leusink is the best place to look for a good employment of boys in the chorus. Indeed, I don't know if Leusink, his engineers or his singers are responsible, but I find it sometimes hard to hear what his boys sound like so dominated are they by the adults. Personally I think the choral movements in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cycle are often jaw-dropping. My favorite "big battalion" recordings are from the Thomanerchor and Rotzsch - one certainly hears the boys there. Cleobury and King's Choir have done wonderful work. Hogwood's Messiah is wonderful and the boys are quite prominent in the choir. And the list could go on a long way.

I rather suspect that the real issue is that I like the sound made when boys sing better than you do. Or perhaps I am more willing to accept the inherent weakness of a youth in return for the absolutely unique music a skilled boy can make when the time is right. Obviously we'll never know if Bach would have dumped his youngsters given the artistic chance or if he really did hear the "chorus of angels" when boys sang. But we know he did compose for them, and that means something. And as for the boys being amateur and perhaps appealing in some way because of that, isn't that yet another reason to employ them now and then? In the Leipzig years, as I understand it, I think one could argue that Bach never had "professional" singers for liturgical use for any of the parts. This issue reminds me a little of listening to spirituals made for the Library of Congress during (I think) the 1930s in a style that might well have been close to the 19th century. The sound certainly lacks the polish found in a modern choir, but has a beauty all of its own.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Judging from earlier discussions, this performance slipped underneath the radar a bit. I bought it last year and agree that it is very good indeed and probably my single favorite rendition. It is still in print (and mid-priced at $28 new including shipping) and many used copies are available on Amazon. Members who feel compelled to get another SMP might take a look. >
Slipped underneath the radar. It has often been said by various members that this is their favorite HIP performance of the MP.

You are certainly not alone in that. Last night I listened to Jacobs in "Erbarme dich" from this recording and was favorably impressed although I often hear invidious comments about Jacobs compared to Scholl. While I prefer a longish "Erbarme dich" and in general am not overly in love with counter-tenors, it was a very fine excerpt and the violin was so much better than on my single favorite recording of this aria, that of Tourel with Alexander Schneider from a long time ago.

I would agree as do many that this remains one essential recording. Funny thing is how Harnoncourt uses female soloists, adults, in his next two MPs on CD, neither one of which I find especially interesting. Ditto in his CD recording of the JP (which replaced the Gillesberger-Harnoncourt), again he went for adult females. In my humble opinion, Joel gave a catalogue of two many variables in his own insistence of the wrongness of boys as soloists in all Bach. There are of course endless variables in the performance of anything and, when that anything involves choruses and soloists, the variables grow exponentially. I respect Joel's meticulous listening and detailed analysis of the inadequacies that he perceives. However since there is such a plethora of variables, there is no performance that will make us all happy of anything, let alone of such complicated music.

Joel Figen wrote (February 10, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< Perhaps, and I'm going to float this as a question, perhaps the charm of boy singers is precisely that they're not finished, not professional, still very fallible? There is something deeply Christian about that, imho. Bach might have liked the idea. >>
< I could construe this to mean that, iyho, there is something Christian about unprofessional singing? Or something unprofessional about Christian singing? I don't believe you meant to say either, so clarification is humbly requested. >
Well, here's how a silly folk song puts it:

All God's critters got a place in the choir
Some sing lower and some sing higher
Some sing out loud on the telephone wire
And some just clap their hands or paws,
Or anything they got now.

And another:

Please be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet.

And here's how Paul-or-whoever-wrote-Romans put it, as set by Bach

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226

Johann"http://www.sfbach.org/repertoire/bachjs.html Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,
denn wir wissen nicht,
was wir beten sollen, wie sichs gebühret;
sondern der Geist selbst vertritt uns aufs
beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen

The Spirit helps us in our weakness,
since, when we do not know
what we should pray for,
then the Spirit personally makes our petition for us
in sighs that cannot be put into words.

Romans 8, V. 26

Joel Figen wrote (February 10, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< And as for the boys being amateur and perhaps appealing in some way because of that, isn't that yet another reason to employ them now and then? >
I did say that I think some arias would be perfect for a young boy or girl singer, e.g., "Auch mit gedaempften schwachen Stimmen."

Indeed, the very first time I heard a boy soloist singing Bach was on the Harnoncourt recording from the early 70s. singing that very aria. I was much taken with it at the time. I still think that's a perfect aria for a boy singer.

What changed for me, though, is that I learned to sing. Now I can't help hearing every little imperfection. Maybe in another30 years I'll get to the point where I won't care about them.

Joel Figen wrote (February 10, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< an interesting and informed comment.
I was interested as to where you stood on the matter of counter tenors >singing Bach alto arias? Not originally of course, because they didn't, but nowadays? >
I was really overstating my own interest in authenticity. I actually have rather little :)

I would submit that the head register of the male voice is capable of some heart-stoppingly pure tones, so all the better to bring it to the stage.

I'm listening to countertenor Paul Esswood sing bwv 35 right now. And I totally approve, even though this recording is now at least 30 years old.

Rick Canyon wrote (February 10, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I rather suspect that the real issue is that I like the sound made when boys sing better than you do. Or perhaps I am more willing to accept the inherent weakness of a youth in return for the absolutely unique music a skilled boy can make when the time is right. Obviously we'll never know if Bach would have dumped his youngsters given the artistic chance or if he really did hear the "chorus of angels" when boys sang. But we know he did compose for them, and that means something. >
I tend to be somewhat less interested if there is not a boychoir. My connection with Bach drifts further and further out to sea if there is not. (I'm that way wharpsichord over piano, too)

But, I also think to some extent that I'm rebelling against a modern culture which, for example, embraces 14 yearold rock guitartists as musical prodigies. Perhaps I find it refreshing to hear kids who actually have ability as opposed to what is usually sloughed off as youthful talent.

I know that's not a particularly intellectual reason for liking one performance over another. But, it does encourage me that when listening to this music, it carries such a vital youthful aspect; that I'm not simply visiting a (proverbial) museum of music; that there are much better young performers out there than what we are led to believe.

This is largely the only area of classical music where youth can regularly and legitimately participate at the highest levels. (true, you CAN, if you wish, wait for the occasional Anne-Sophie Mutter to come along) I, simply, would hate to see boychoirs become a thing of the past because it's more desirable to find women who sound like boys.

( tho I did not address the allegation of whether boychoirs are sexist anachchronisms similar to "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen")

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
<< Perhaps, and I'm going to float this as a question, perhaps the charm of boy singers is precisely that they're not finished, not professional, still very fallible? There is something deeply Christian about that, imho. Bach might have liked the idea. >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I could construe this to mean that, iyho, there is something Christian about unprofessional singing? Or something unprofessional about Christian singing? I don't believe you meant to say either, so clarification is humbly requested. >
I read this to mean that imperfection is a fundamental and perhaps endearing part of human nature and that striving for greater perfection is an acceptable and laudable Christian attribute. Take out the limiting word 'Christian' from the above and I would agree.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
< I'm listening to countertenor Paul Esswood sing bwv 35 right now. And I totally approve, even though this recording is now at least 30 years old. >
Yes I agree. And Alfred Deller's recording of the Agnus Dei from BmM is even older but still stunningly beautiful.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 10, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I do not have that recording bc. the Parrott Johannes put me to sleep. In his OVPP Johannes.... >
According to my score, an OVPP SJP is not what Bach indicated.

Entranced by Harnoncourt's excellent performance (on YouTube, thanks Douglas) of "Eilt, ihr angefocht'nen Seele", with (among other things) those lovely syncopated exclamations ("Wohin?") sung by the upper voices (SAT) of the choir, I had a look at the score.

Above the bass soloist's stave, which is one of the four staves in the SATB group, is written "Basso in ripieno tacet".

Minimun requirement is 2VPP, better 3 or 4?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 10, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
<>
< Please be patient with me. God isn't finished with me yet. >
How is this 'God' specifically Christian? Isn't it actually the God of all critters on Earth?

< And here's how Paul-or-whoever-wrote-Romans put it, as set by Bach
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf, BWV 226
<>
Der Geist hilft unser Schwachheit auf,
denn wir wissen nicht,
was wir beten sollen, wie sichs gebühret;
sondern der Geist selbst vertritt uns aufs
beste mit unaussprechlichem Seufzen

The Spirit helps us in our weakness,
since, when we do not know
what we should pray for,
then the Spirit personally makes our petition for us
in sighs that cannot be put into words.
Romans 8, V. 26 >
My understanding is that Paul was a lawyer as well as a Rabbi. The English here does not sound like anything a lawyer would write, at any time. I do not understand it. Perhaps there is a problem in some stage of the translation?

For example: does the Spirit (Holy Ghost? other?) help us only in our weakness, or also in our strength? What if I know what I should pray for? Does the Spirit leave me to help someone who doesn't know? And what if I think I know what to pray for, but my prayers are unanswered (my habitual condition)? Did I fail, or did the Spirit fail me? My sighs are wordless.

As concisely as I can state it: I find a deep inconsistency between calling tolerance of fallibility 'deeply Christian', and the fines that were reportedly imposed on Bach's students for the most minor of infractions.

Alain Bruguières wrote (February 10, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I read this to mean that imperfection is a fundamental and perhaps endearing part of human nature and that striving for greater perfection is an acceptable and laudable Christian attribute. Take out the limiting word 'Christian' from the above and I would agree. >
I mostly agree, and would move one step further in support of Eric's post. I would not mind retaining the word 'Christian', after all, the notion of the inherent fallibility of humankind is characteristic of the Christian doctrine. The idea which was 'floated' by Eric (only to be immediately - and amicably - torpedoed) was put forward as an informal strand of thought; one thing I like on this list is that one is free to put forward such ideas (provided one is ready to accept the sometimes dire consequences). I like what Eric said in the first place, there is a refreshing lightness to it, and I think it doesn't call for hundred pages of explanation or justification...

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguieres] Agreed. But to avoid being misunderstood I would just add that I suggested the removal of the word Christian because it is limiting. I would consider the acceptance of fallibility and the seeking for perfection through imperfection to be a general characteristic of the human condition, not limited by race, gender or creed-----although some contemporary educational practices seem designed to erode it!!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
Unitel

Yesterday I wrote to info@unitel.de.
I am not sure that that is the correct place to which to have directed the query.
If anyone has any better idea, please do it.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
< One or two of the SJP selections we saw on Youtube the other night contained contributions from adult singers, specifically the Evangelist and the Christ. Their finished musicianship was obvious, making the unfinishedness of the boy soloist stand out strongly. Perhaps, and I'm going to float this as a question, perhaps the charm of boy singers is precisely that they're not finished, not professional, still very fallible? There is something deeply Christian about that, imho. Bach might have liked the idea. >
Since you have the firmest opinions on this matter and are obviously an experienced listener, I don't know why anyone would want to dissuade you. As noted here many times by some who rather resent it, it might seem:-), I am not, never was, and never will be a Christian of any sort. It has also been noted here many times that I am the president and CEO of the International Hilde Röss(-)l-Majdan fan club.

Greatest Bach singer (for me). I am not very moved by Emma K. Since Leonard Bernstein, a very Jewish composer and conducter himself wrote Chichester Psalms for boys and imposed a boy soprano in one of his Mahler4 studio recordings and at least in one pirate (I prefer the pirate by far), I find your suggestion that excellent boys appeal by their Christianity rather off-base.

I for one am deeply moved by Tourel, Rössl-Majdan and the Gillesberger boys and now by the Harnoncourt (who converted to adult females).

I was always moved by the many performance of Austrian masses I attended in the Hofburgskapelle with the Wiener Sängerknaben.

To me they all display the glorious of one of the towering works of music. I would not suggest a boy Isolde or Brünnhilde however.

Alain Bruguières wrote (February 11, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote::
< I mostly agree, and would move one step further in support of Eric's post. >
Apparently I got it wrong, I'm actually suppoJoel, not Eric in this case.
My humblest apologies to both of them.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 10, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] Why did you write to Unitel? Although their website is up and running, the company is actually not active. AFAIK, all their videos are planned to be released by DGG as DVD's. Usually, these DVD's are first released in Europe (and most probably also Japan). They are released in the US after one month or two.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
[To Aryeh Oron] Since Amazon.de says March and Therèse from Belgium found that Amazon.fr says Feb. and since no USA site even lists it as forthcoming, I think it important for someone to write to whoever is putting it out to ask whether there will be a USA release in fact.

The Unitel Mahler (Bernstein) DVDs were long available only as Japanese imports via the Leonard Bernstein Society. I ordered them years ago. For a long time thereafter they were unavailable totally. Then recently DG(G) put out the whole set with extras that I lack and at a much cheaper price.

Also I have other DVDs such as the Zürich Iphigénie en Tauride in non-USA format and it took about 7 years before that appeared in USA format. That is the reason that I got a multi-region player and I am seriously thinking of ordering the Harnoncourt from the UK unless we can find out for sure that this will appear in the USA. I am also concerned since Dana Sanderson's forthcoming in the USA site doesn't list it. It is indeed forthcoming in Europe.

BTW, what region is Israel?

End of my rambling response and thanks for the information about Unitel.Finally I notice that like me (but I've adapted) you say "DGG". I grew up with that. Seems today that everyone says "DG" and leaves off the "Gesellschaft".

Rick Canyon wrote (February 10, 2007):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< Also I have other DVDs such as the Zürich Iphigénie en Tauride in non-USA format and it took about 7 years before that appeared in USA format. That is the reason that I got a multi-region player and I am seriously thinking of ordering the Harnoncourt from the UK unless we can find out for sure that this will appear in the USA. I am also concerned since Dana Sanderson's forthcoming in the USA site doesn't list it. It is indeed forthcoming in Europe. BTW, what region is Israel? >
I took this off another bb. The question had do whether a "private" DVD opera recording was zone-coded.

"Almost certainly not. Zone coding is a pest only the major film companies insist on, foolishly so given that most European-market machines can break it easily, either off the shelf or by a simple adjustment to the service menu; in fact I'm a little surprised anyone still worries about it."

It sounds like even techno-phobes can do this, except what is a "simple adjustment to te service menu"?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
Johan van Veen's remarks on boys and stuff

the whole review and many of his other reviews are very worth reading whether or not I always agree.
http://www.geocities.com/johan_van_veen/cd_reviews/Archiv_474200-2.html

Two issues are remaining.

First: the interview with Paul McCreesh in the booklet. I can't say the tone of it is very sympathetic, to put it mildly. He too often seems to forget that the OVPP-concept is still a theory, and not a proven fact. And his dismissal of everyone who doesn't embrace that theory is a little simplistic.

I have already talked about the misunderstandings regarding Bach's music, demonstrated by McCreesh's remarks about the opening chorus.But I am also surprised by the answer to the question regarding the use of boys' voices.

"If you want to emulate the scale of sound that Bach knew, shouldn't you be using boys for the top lines?"
"It I felt we could find boys who could sing half as well as today's best Baroque singers, I would certainly consider it. But since voices break so much earlier today there's probably no boy on earth who could make emotional sense of the music, even if they are up to the technical demands. I don't want to use boys because they can sing nicely, sound cute and look sweet."

This is said by someone who earlier in the interview states: "(...) if you play with old instruments, there's a not unreasonable supposition that you are taking historical evidence seriously; so it is a little surprising if you don't take the same attitude with the voices. There is certainly the possibility that the result can be half-cooked."

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 10, 2007):
Canyon Rick wrote:
< I took this off another bb. The question had do whether a "private" DVD opera recording was zone-coded.
"Almost certainly not. Zone coding is a pest only the major film companies insist on, foolishly so given that most European-market machines can break it easily, either off the shelf or by a simple adjustment to the service menu; in fact I'm a little surprised anyone still worries about it." >
Rick, there are two matters. I have two Arthaus official opera DVDs from Europe.

Got them as a present in the same packet. Both are PAL. One is region 0. That one plays fine in my regular player. The other one is regions 2,5. That will not play in my regular player. I have a pirate of a Prokofiev opera sent me from Russia. It will not play in my regular player.

I guess whoever recorded it from digital TV (it is a very high quality picture and sound) did it in a European region. I myself am not going to fool around with these things. Those who can will.

Joel Figen wrote (February 10, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< How is this 'God' specifically Christian? Isn't it actually the God of all critters on Earth? >
I refuse to discuss theology! (unless we're talking about bach's theology in the context of better understanding his music)

My specific point was that bach was christian and this is a christian idea, so he might like it, which he obviously did, since he mentioned it and related ideas several times. if you also find it in some other faith, great. or if you absolutely hate it, also great... I don't really care. I was talking about Bach, not you or me.

Now I remember oh so clearly why I stopped posting to this list several years ago, although, I do still read many of the posts to the list. Everyone seems to grab a word or two and jump on it, either pro or con, often before they actually know what's being said.

So Please stop minutely parsing me out of context. I make no claim that this is the ONLY pauline idea, nor that christianity is never inconsistent, nor any theological claim whatever. sheesh. If you can appreciate boy singers without being one, can't I appreciate bach'a christian ideas without being bach and christian? I realize this list has been hit by christian headhunters in the past, but I didn't realize the nerves were still so frayed. I'm not one. ok? I'm not even christian, but I do appreciate the finer things in all religions and nonreligions.

Thank you. I will now recede back into the peripheral gloom and let you hotheads fight over the scraps.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
Joel Figen wrote:
< If you can appreciate boy singers without being one, can't I appreciate bach'a christian ideas without being bach and christian? >
Absolutely. So do I

< I realize this list has been hit by christian headhunters in the past, but I didn't realize the nerves were still so frayed. I'm not one. >
nor am I

< ok? I'm not even christian, but I do appreciate the finer things in all religions and nonreligions. >
I try to as well

< Thank you. I will now recede back into the peripheral gloom and let you hotheads fight over the scraps. >
I hope you reconsider. I for one appreciated your contributions I think I wrote to you off list saying so. Please consider continuing and ignore any perceived bullying.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 11, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< How is this 'God' specifically Christian? Isn't it actually the God of all critters on Earth? >>
Joel Figen wrote:
< I refuse to discuss theology! (unless we're talking about bach's theology in the context of better understanding his musi) >
That's fair enough. But if you don't want to discuss the topic, don't bring it up. I was only responding to your comments.

< My specific point was that bach was christian and this is a christian idea, so he might like it, which he obviously did, since he mentioned it and related ideas several times. if you also find it in some other faith, great. or if you absolutely hate it, also great... I don't really care. I was talking about Bach, not you or me. >
You were talking about the charm of fallibility being a 'deeply Christian' idea, and I was pointing out that it is much more: a 'deeply human' idea, not in any way limited or specific to Christianity. Can you give an example, from Bach, not Bible, indicating that he finds fallibility charming. I would suggest that cantata librettos are not examples of Bach's thinking, since there is little evidence that he wrote any, and only 'specularite' that he even participated in their creation. Indeed, the quality of the librettos is very seldom of the same caliber as the music, other than when Biblical texts are set.

< Now I remember oh so clearly why I stopped posting to this list several years ago, although, I do still read many of the posts to the list. Everyone seems to grab a word or two and jump on it, either pro or con, often before they actually know what's being said. >
I think you write 'everyone', when in this instance, you mean me. I have often stated that it is my objective to be concise, perhaps this is an opportune moment to reemphasize that point. Because I cite only brief excerpts of a post does not mean I have not read, and at least tried to understand it in its entirety. If you read the BCML rules, you will note that it requested (seldom complied with) that only the relevant statements be repeated in responses.

< So Please stop minutely parsing me out of context. >
Because I do not necessarily repeat an entire post is not equivalent to 'minutely parsing' out of context. In addition, I believe it is a clear rule of BCML that members should not tell other members what to do, on list. Perhaps your present post would have been more appropriate off-list?

< I make no claim that this is the ONLY pauline idea, nor that christianity is never inconsistent, nor any theological claim whatever. sheesh. If you can appreciate boy singers without being one, can't I appreciate bach'a christian ideas without being bach and christian? >
You can do whatever you like. Has anyone said differently?

< I realize this list has been hit by christian headhunters in the past, >
First I have heard of that! I haven't noticed any record of it in the archives, or in current posts.

< but I didn't realize the nerves were still so frayed. I'm not one. ok? >
I do not understand. Has anyone suggested, or even vaguely implied, that you are?

< I'm not even christian, but I do appreciate the finer things in all religions and nonreligions. >
Apparently, one of the finer things you have not yet learned to appreciate is good will toward your fellow man. What has been eloquently referred to as 'generosity of spirit' by a BCML member. See below.

< Thank you. I will now recede back into the peripheral gloom and let you hotheads fight over the scraps. >
I deeply resent the suggestion that I am a 'hothead fighting over scraps'. I request whatever response (or none) the moderator finds appropriate. Why am I not surprised that you find the periphery gloomy?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 11, 2007):
I previously wrote, in response to Joel Figen
< I realize this list has been hit by christian headhunters in the past, >
First I have heard of that! I haven't noticed any record of it in the archives, or in current posts.

< but I didn't realize the nerves were still so frayed. I'm not one. ok? >
I do not understand. Has anyone suggested, or even vaguely implied, that you are?

______

I realize I may have misunderstood 'christian headhunters' which I interpreted as 'hunting for the heads of christians', hence my lack of understanding.

If it means 'christians hunting for the heads of non-christians', then I understand your desire to deny the role. I did not infer that you are that, I was simply responding to what you wrote, and specifically to your defining a 'deeply human' trait as 'deeply Christian'. I guess if it is deeply human, it is also deeply Christian, but certainly not limited to that. Others had the same objection.

I also had (still have) a problem with Bach, to my mind a cranky perfectionist, finding anything very charming about performance fallibility. What little evidence we have seems to indicate exactly the opposite. Let me know if you would like specific examples.

Not really a big deal, in any case. I don't see the need to get upset, and lapse into name-calling (hotheads fighting over scraps). Indeed, if the shoe fits...(ACE).

Alain Bruguières wrote (February 11, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I realize I may have misunderstood 'christian headhunters' which I interpreted as 'hunting for the heads of christians', hence my lack of understanding. >
This is a matter of non-associativity. Translated into AE : where you put the parentheses!

christian (head hunters)

is not the same as

(christian head) hunters.

You guys are fortunate to have a non-lurking mathematician on the list, aren't you?

< I was simply responding to what you wrote, and specifically to your defining a 'deeply human' trait as 'deeply Christian'. I guess if it is deeply human, it is also deeply Christian, but certainly not limited to that. Others had the same objection. >
I did not understand Joel's statement (which I wrongly attributed to Eric) the way you do.

It is not human fallibility which is deeply christian (in other words, it is not just christians which are fallible), it is the notion of intrinsic human fallibility (or if you prefer Original Sin) which is central to the Christian doctrine and consequently prominent in the collective unconscious of the people who live in a society with christian roots, whether they be individually christian or no.

< I also had (still have) a problem with Bach, to my mind a cranky perfectionist, finding anything very charming about performance fallibility. >
Here again I wish to submit a different points of view.
- Fallible doesn't mean faulty.
- Bach was a teacher; any good teacher know that one learns by erring
and therefore greets with benevolence the fallibility of his pupils. He appreciates their progress and willingness to make progress as much as their level of achievement.
- Bach was a boy singer, he probably had a different perception of boy singing than most of us have.
- We live in a consumer society where we pay X quid for a CD and expect
a certain standard of quality in return. Bach lived in an entirely different world; agreed, he was perfectionist. But when you are a perfectionist but not a madman, you must have your priorities; you make more or less allowances on certain aspects of your activities. Bach had to make allowances and he did. My guess is that his top priority was the musical quality of his composition, for which he made no allowances. He must have accepted that performances are never perfect.
- Shortcomings of boy singers can only be appreciated with respect to adult singers, when one consider that adults are an option. They were not. Bach was perfectionist, he was also pragmatic. We are used to performances with adult singers; that is the norm for us. Performances with boy singers are exceptional, and we are struck by the features which depart from what we are used to and interpret them as shortcomings. But Bach's perspective was completely different, and so his criteria of appreciation : the norm was boy singers; and here we must try to think from his perspective, not ours.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 11, 2007):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< Bach lived in an entirely different world; agreed, he was perfectionist. But when you are a perfectionist but not a madman, you must have your priorities; you make more or less allowances on certain aspects of your activities. >
I guess that along with the boy singers another compromise/limitation priority would be in the apparesmall instrumental ensembles he had to resort to for much of his career.

This brings me in mind of a fantasy scenario (!) from Van Loon's lives which I read many years ago. Various great people from the past were brought back to life in the C 20 and conjectures were built upon their responses to contemporary live styles. Bach was played a recording of one of his fugues in a very large orchestral arrangement. Bach, according to the imagined scenario, listened very carefully and afterwards said--Yes, most interesting. But do tell me, who composed it?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 11, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
<>
< You guys are fortunate to have a non-lurking mathematician on the list, aren't you? >
We are indeed, especially one with a sense of humor!

<< I also had (still have) a problem with Bach, to my mind a cranky perfectionist, finding anything very charming about performance fallibility. >>
< Here again I wish to submit a different points of view >
You have succeeded in getting me to reconsider, if not agree completely. I am citing only the points I respond to, not out of context, but to be concise (in accordance with BCML suggested procedure). Presumably, anyone interested in reading my post will have read Alain's entire post, and can recover it if necessary.

< - Bach was a teacher; any good teacher knows that one learns by erring and therefore greets with benevolence the fallibility of his pupils. >
There is an unstated leap of logic here: that Bach was a good teacher. We know he was a great composer, but this doesn't say anything about his teaching methods and quality.

< My guess is that his top priority was the musical quality of his composition, for which he made no allowances. He must have accepted that performances are never perfect. >
Guess is the operative, and accurate, word. My guess is a little different than yours. I wonder how Thomas Braatz feels, re Bach's tolerance for performance imperfections, or indeed, if he guesses that there even were any!

< Bach was perfectionist, he was also pragmatic. >
Most likely, but this is not the same as a 'deeply Christian' tolerance (not to say benevolent understanding) of fallibility.

As always, mon ami, I look forward to our meeting on the stoop someday. BTW, I believe I sometimes omit one of the letters *u* from your name when writing it from memory. Feel free to drop a *k* or *s* from mine to compensate, whenever you want.

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 11, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< This brings me in mind of a fantasy scenario (!) from Van Loon's lives which I read many years ago. Various great people from the past were brought back to life in the C 20 and conjectures were built upon their responses to contemporary live styles. Bach was played a recording of one of his fugues in a very large orchestral arrangement. Bach, according to the imagined scenario, listened very carefully and afterwards said--Yes, most interesting. But do tell me, who composed it? >
I rather think unless Bach's visit was very short indeed, he'd want to take advantage of the one hallmark of our age that is good without reservation: painless dentistry. And I bet he'd think a modern grand piano was a pretty neat toy. Not sure what he'd thought about Thai restaurants though. He might also have wondered by he and not Telemann got the opportunity for the visit.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 11, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I rather think unless Bach's visit was very short indeed, he'd want to take advantage of the one hallmark of our age that is good without reservation: painless dentistry. And I bet he'd think a modern grand piano was a pretty neat toy. >
And laser eye surgery, perhaps?

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 22, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< And laser eye surgery, perhaps? >
And insulin for the diabetes complications from which Wolff suggests was the cause of his early death.

Stephen Benson wrote (February 12, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< This brings me in mind of a fantasy scenario (!) from Van Loon's lives which I read many years ago. Various great people from the past were brought back to life in the C 20 and conjectures were built upon their responses to contemporary live styles. Bach was played a recording of one of his fugues in a very large orchestral arrangement. Bach, according to the imagined scenario, listened very carefully and afterwards said--Yes, most interesting. But do tell me, who composed it? >
And then there is Claude Frank, who, in describing his own attitude toward what he calls the "historical performance movement" in the liner notes to his complete set of the Beethoven sonatas, describes a similar hypothetical scenario, but one that ends with a slightly different punch line:

Claude Frank: If we want to make the playing of the masterpieces of the past a contemporary activity, we must play them with the feelings and experiences of our own time, (not to mention the instruments of our time, but that is a different subject). While I take this attitude for granted and feel that it needs no defense, I should nevertheless like to quote what Nietzsche, philosopher AND COMPOSER, wrote on the subject a hundred years ago....Nietzsche describes Beethoven’s imagined return to our world and his reaction to performances of his music (the translation is extremely free): "He [Beethoven] would probably remain silent for a long time, undecided whether to raise his hand for cursing or for blessing, but would finally say, 'Well, well!! This is neither me nor not-me, but a third and right thing, though perhaps not THE right thing. But let it be...after all, the living knows better than the dead. Therefore continue, and let me go back down.'"

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 12, 2007):
<< I do not have that recording bc. the Parrott Johannes put me to sleep. In his OVPP Johannes.... >>
< According to my score, an OVPP SJP is not what Bach indicated. >
That's already been discussed here recently (2/05/07), and I thought it was spelled out clearly: the Parrott recording of the St John Passion has 2 singers on each part as its basic texture in the "choruses", not 1. An allegation of "OVPP" here is moot/incorrect, because that's not what that performance does.

I even quoted directly from its booklet notes, saying the following about the two-person blend they used:

< John Butt's essay in this SJP booklet explains further: "The doubling 'ripieno' voices to the soprano and alto lines are assigned to boys' voices. It is hoped that the effect of a 'modern' boy and a woman singing together will approach the kind of sound, agility and insight which Bach would have expected from his boy students who were still singing high parts in their late teens." >

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 14, 2007):
About the Harnoncourt Johannes-Passion DVD

[To Aryeh Oron] I actually did receive a response from Unitel (of course we already have the information). It was a rapid response indeed.
-----------
Dear Mr. Arbeitman,

the release date for USA region is April 10, 2007.

With best regards,

Ulrike Thiele

Unitel GmbH & Co.KG
Grünwalder Weg 28 d
82041 Oberhaching
Tel.: +49 / (0)89 / 67 34 69 - 613
Fax: +49 / (0)89 / 67 34 69 - 610
mail to: Ulrike.Thiele@unitel.de

www.unitel.de
Sitz und Registergericht: Oberhaching; eingetragen im HR München Nr. HRA 83109 phG:
Unitel Verwaltungs GmbH; Sitz Oberhaching; HR München HRB 150233
Geschäftsführer: Jan Mojto

 

Continue on Part 3

Boy Soloists in Bach's Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ıMarch 27, 2008 ı11:14:02