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Brass Instruments in Bach's Vocal Works
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Brass in minor keys

Julian Mincham wrote (January 8, 2007):
Thomas's explanation would strengthen the case for the more general use of trombones in minor keys since they, like stringed instruments can adapt their pitches precisely to the immediate requirements e.g. flat thirds.

However it is still the case that Bach was prone to use the horn to double the cantus firmus melody in minor-mode chorale fantasias.

Questions:
1 if the horn could accommodate the alterations of pitch in this circumstance, why not use it more generally as an ensemble instruments?

2 Could it be that, in doubling the minor-mode chorale melody with the voices (usually sopranos) that small deficiencies in accurate pitching were less noticeable and more acceptable than had the horns been taking a solo role?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>However it is still the case that Bach was prone to use the horn to double the cantus firmus melody in minor-mode chorale fantasias.
Questions:- 1 if the horn could accommodate the alterations of pitch in this circumstance, why not use it more generally as an ensemble instruments?<<
A quick inspection reveals that a tromba or corno playing colla parte in a chorale in a minor key or church mode will be a single instrument with a greater likelihood of requiring a "da Tirarsi" slide ["the additional slide that allows for all semi-tones to be played"] than being simply being indicated without "da Tirarsi". [This is not a hard-and-fast rule since Bach did not always include the stipulation "da Tirarsi" although it appears that it was implied.] Bach generally used a different type of notation for the colla parte tromba/horn parts: "sounding/untransposed notation" rather than the transposed notation used with 2 or more trumpets or horns.

Also, in regard to trombae and corni, these instruments always played exactly in unison with the cantus firmus (not an octave higher or lower).

>>2 Could it be that, in doubling the minor-mode chorale melody with the voices (usually sopranos) that small deficiencies in accurate pitching were less noticeable and more acceptable than had the horns been taking a solo role?<<
My personal view on this is that Bach did not tolerate inaccurate pitches, nor were they considered acceptable to him under certain circumstances. This brings up the nonsense which was propounded by some experts (that became an excuse for some trumpet and horn players not to worry very much about bad intonation and poor attacks) that Bach intentionally wrote difficult parts or used certain difficult notes as part of his 'musical text interpretation' or tone painting. In BWV 77/5, where the text "Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit" ["Alas, there is still much imperfection in my {ability to}love"] appears, the trumpeter deliberately displays how difficult this part is by playing out-of-tune notes. In BWV 43/7, on the words "Qual und Pein" ["agony and pain"], the tromba player has a long note on b-flat' which is agonizing to listen to unless played correctly in tune, but A. Brischle in "Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach" "Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 44th year, 1987, pp. 306-312, maintains that Bach used certain notes of the natural tone row (the out-of-tune ones) for the purpose of text interpretation. Brischle's theory is that if certain notes are harder to play and Bach used them nevertheless, this must mean that he had wanted them to sound a little out of tune.

In 1998, at a symposium on "The Playing of Brass Instruments in Bach's Time," Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr demonstrated that, without any of the modern aids used by some tromba players, they could play cleanly, at the same volume level, with perfect intonation all the notes outside of the natural tone row which Bach prescribed in his parts. This is evidence that exact reproductions of trombae from Bach's time can be played without resorting to some highly speculative theories about Bach's allowing bad intonation to work in his favor by showing how hard it was for anyone to master these instruments.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
(...)
>>2 Could it be that, in doubling the minor-mode chorale melody with the voices (usually sopranos) that small deficiencies in accurate pitching were less noticeable and more acceptable than had the horns been taking a solo role?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< My personal view on this is that Bach did not tolerate inaccurate pitches, nor were they considered acceptable to him under certain circumstances. This brings up the nonsense which was propounded by some experts (that became an excuse for some trumpet and horn players not to worry very much about bad intonation and poor attacks) that Bach intentionally wrote difficult parts or used certain difficult notes as part of his 'musical text interpretation' or tone painting. >
It's fine to disagree, and to base things on "personal views", but is it really necessary to write it up as "nonsense propounded by some experts", with such a contemptuous-looking tone against it?

And, more importantly to the topic at hand: if Bach had written difficult things on purpose to make such a tone-painting effect, agreeing with the meaning of the words, would it somehow make him a lesser composer or a greater composer (in control of his musical materials)? Why?

< In BWV 77/5, where the text "Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit" ["Alas, there is still much imperfection in my {ability to}love"] appears, the trumpeter deliberately displays how difficult this part is by playing out-of-tune notes. In BWV 43/7, on the words "Qual und Pein" ["agony and pain"], the tromba player has a long note on b-flat' which is agonizing to listen to unless played correctly in tune, >
...which a priori looks like a really good and plausible reason to write intentionally difficult music (both to play and to listen to)....

< but A. Brischle in "Zum Gebrauch der Trompete bei J. S. Bach" "Archiv für Musikwissenschaft, 44th year, 1987, pp. 306-312, maintains that Bach used certain notes of the natural tone row (the out-of-tune ones) for the purpose of text interpretation. Brischle's theory is that if certain notes are harder to play and Bach used them nevertheless, this must mean that he had wanted them to sound a little out of tune. >
...Which is certainly plausible as a compositional strategy, even if you personally happen to disagree with it, and even if you personally would spit it all the way out the door as merely "nonsense propounded by experts". It makes it look as if expertise itself is something to be mocked or derided, rather than engaged seriously with the possibility that it's plausible. Or, that expertise can be thrown out as silly, whenever it happens to deliver results that the reader didn't desire.

Maybe this is just a style thing, in manner of argumentation or expression.

What have other natural-trumpet experts written in response to Brischle's article? Is there any chance that these people can really think, and can really do their jobs, other than (as accused) taking odd intonation as some convenient excuse for allegedly bad musicianship?

Drifting slightly off-century, what about composers who definitely did select instruments for the deliberate out-of-tuneness: for example, Vaughan Williams in his "pastoral" symphony? Is Vaughan Williams somehow a greater or lesser composer, for having chosen instrumentation specifically for an exotic intonation scheme? Now apply that back to Bach: same assessment, or different, and why...other than simply a tasteful preference of "personal views"?

< In 1998, at a symposium on "The Playing of Brass Instruments in Bach's Time," Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr demonstrated that, without any of the modern aids used by some tromba players, they could play cleanly, at the same volume level, with perfect intonation all the notes outside of the natural tone row which Bach prescribed in his parts. This evidence that exact reproductions of trombae from Bach's time can be played without resorting to some highly speculative theories about Bach's allowing bad intonation to work in his favor by showing how hard it was for anyone to master these instruments. >
This sounds fascinating. Is there a recording of this symposium demonstration available somewhere, that we may listen to? Or if not, on whose measurement was their performance taken to be using "perfect" intonation? Perfect according to what scale(s)? What published reports are available, from this 1998 symposium?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>It's fine to disagree, and to base things on "personal views", but is it really necessary to write it up as "nonsense propounded by some experts", with such a contemptuous-looking tone against it?<<
But it is nonsense if the writer of the article has not sufficiently considered a fuller context of what was expected in Bach's time and what was not allowed. It is silly then to continue arguing only on the basis of the 'word-painting' theory which has been artificially isolated so as to exclude everything else which would provide the necessary larger picture which is available.

BL: >>[Bach may have wanted them to sound a little out of tune]...Which is certainly plausible as a compositional strategy, even if you personally happen to disagree with it, and even if you personally would spit it all the way out the door as merely "nonsense propounded by experts".
Perhaps you can give some other examples [not related to speculations about certain notes in certain contexts relating to non-equal temperament performances thereof] where Bach deliberately wanted certain notes played or sung 'out of tune' on different instruments or in singing?? Where does Bach, who carefully checks the performing parts for his compositions, have any mark or indication that an instrument with notes that are harder to play or a singer with notes that are harder to sing is told to simply not worry about the intonation involved. How this this fit in with what we know about monetary penalties for Thomaner who sing wrong notes in church? How could Brischle not have considered this factor?

BL: >>What have other natural-trumpet experts written in response to Brischle's article? Is there any chance that these people can really think, and can really do their jobs, other than (as accused) taking odd intonation as some convenient excuse for allegedly bad musicianship?<<
Any one can present theories and attempt to argue them as Brischle did without taking into account that there were always a few excellent virtuosi (Gottfried Reiche, for instance) who would not 'play along' with a composer who attempted to make them appear incapable of attaining the highest standards achievable in intonation for whatever textual reason that anyone could find.

BL: >>Is there a recording of this symposium demonstration available somewhere, that we may listen to? Or if not, on whose measurement was their performance taken to be using "perfect" intonation? Perfect according to what scale(s)? What published reports are available, from this 1998 symposium?<<
It is mentioned by Ulrich Prinz on p. 57 of his "J. S. Bach's Instrumentarium" referenced here repeatedly of late. I recommend that you first acquaint yourself with these two important names: Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr, who seem to mean nothing to you. Then compare these names with Andreas Brischle (in both experience and scholarship related specifically to trumpets).

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I recommend that you first acquaint yourself with these two important names: Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr, who seem to mean nothing to you. >
Cut the oppressively patronizing crap. I've had way more than enough of this, and I'm going to say so, plainly. You apparently have no idea what "seem to mean nothing to you" entails; I've been collecting Friedemann Immer's recordings for 20 years, and Tarr is no stranger to me either. I'm quite well aware that these two gentlemen are some of the "biggest names" in natural trumpet performance/research/organology/construction, over the past 30 years at least; some others include Don Smithers, Crispian Steele-Perkins, Michael Laird, and David Staff. (Not to neglect any of the dozens of others at this level, either!)

< Then compare these names with Andreas Brischle (in both experience and scholarship related specifically to trumpets). >
And it's all because you can't even admit that Brischle's view of Bach's music could possibly be better-informed than yours?

Do you really want to go down this particular fallacious road of comparative reputations, as if that means anything whatsoever to the quality of their work or knowledge? OK then, put the shoe onto this foot. Compare the name of Andreas Brischle with one T Braatz, in experience and scholarship related specifically to trumpets.

Point made, even though it's uncomfortable to you? It's your point and your game to make these comparisons! Until/unless you present credentials and demonstration that you have any first-hand knowledge of trumpets (whether natural or modern) whatsoever, I'll consider that I've personally played concerts of Baroque music and made recordings with people who know considerably more about it than you do. (For example, Kiri Tollaksen on natural, Martin Hodel on modern....) Take away your precious books by the Csibas and Ulrich Prinz, both of which you shove down our throats continuously as the only relevant authorities that matter to you, and what is it that you actually know? Have you ever heard natural trumpets played live, in a church? Have you ever accompanied any types of trumpets, with organ, or conducted any ensemble that includes them? Have you ever composed or arranged anything for trumpets?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>I've been collecting Friedemann Immer's recordings for 20 years, and Tarr is no stranger to me either.<<
This is good news indeed!

BL: >>I'm quite well aware that these two gentlemen are some of the "biggest names" in natural trumpet performance/research/organology/construction, over the past 30 years at least<<
So why question whether they can play all the notes which Bach requires on a tromba with excellent intonation?? Does their playing, already reported in Prinz's book, have to pass your personal criticism/judgment just because you happened to have played with trumpeters whose names are not as well recognized in performance and scholarship as Immer's and Tarr's are? Why should anyone assume that you have greater knowledge and experience in these matters than they do?

I had stated previously:
>>Then compare these names with Andreas Brischle (in both experience and scholarship related specifically to trumpets).<<

BL: >>And it's all because you can't even admit that Brischle's view of Bach's music could possibly be better-informed than yours?<<
Prinz has already questioned Brischle's approach and supplied the evidence from Immer and Tarr to counter the fallacious type of reasoning that Brischle's highly speculative theory wished to promote. Brischle's approach to this matter is too narrow and has excluded too many other factors which were conveniently overlooked by him. I am not the only one criticizing Brischle here.

BL: >>OK then, put the shoe onto this foot. Compare the name of Andreas Brischle with one T Braatz, in experience and scholarship related specifically to trumpets.<<
Or compare Brad Lehman's limited experience with trombae playing Bach's music with Friedemann Immer's or Edward Tarr's! Can you claim that by simply playing organ with individuals of a lesser reputation, that something has mysteriously rubbed off on you which gives you the equivalent knowledge and experience in tromba playing demonstrated by Immer and Tarr and which even allows you express an opinion on whether they can hear and play notes on their instruments correctly?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Prinz has already questioned Brischle's approach and supplied the evidence from Immer anTarr to counter the fallacious type of reasoning that Brischle's highly speculative theory wished to promote. Brischle's approach to this matter is too narrow and has excluded too many other factors which were conveniently overlooked by him. I am not the only one criticizing Brischle here. >
Well, thank you for finally admitting that. It looked as if it was just you, smashing Brischle in the face, alone.

I still think you're overstating and over-dramatizing it, of course; it would do nicely to prune out all your contemptuous judgment of the thing (e.g., "fallacious type of reasoning", "highly speculative theory", "conveniently overlooked by him") and simply say something more objective like the following:

"Prinz in his book questions Brischle's approach and findings. As evidence he supplies a report from a demonstration by Immer and Tarr, showing how the notes may be played more evenly than Brischle took to be a norm."

Or whatever. It's not your place to smash Brischle's work with contempt, in public; especially based on your own abilities to discern what's fallacious/speculative, and what actually makes sense to scholars. And especially based on your disinclination to supply any reasons (credentials, experience, etc) why we should believe you ahead of Brischle or any other scholar, in cases where scholars happen to disagree.

Your report about the Prinz resource is appreciated, however. Thank you.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2007):
p.s. One other small point of protocol: have you actually read all of Brischle's article start to finish (it's downloadable for a fee; I checked through Google Scholar, where page 1 is displayed free on somebody's web service!),

....or are you relying only on Prinz's printed disagreement with Brischle's argument, plus your own rhetorical wrapper of it all being contemptuous stuff, where it crosses your expectations of Bach's music?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>"Prinz in his book questions Brischle's approach and findings. As evidence he supplies a report from a demonstration by Immer and Tarr, showing how the notes may be played more evenly than Brischle took to be a norm."<<
But Brischle, according to Prinz, never took 'uneven playing' as a norm in his theory. He focused on Bach's penchant for word-painting as supplying the reason why trumpeters today need not trouble themselves to adjust the intonation of a certain note known to be difficult to play if it occurs in a certain aria with a specific text containing negative words because Bach would have wanted it this way. Thus Brischle had opened the dam allowing some not sufficiently trained Bach trumpeters, who saw an advantage in not having to play all difficult notes cleanly, to engage in sloppy playing with poor intonation. The unsuspecting audiences or those listening to recordings of such performances are thus prepared believe this nonsense with the help of additional support in the form of program notes based on this theory. Thus Brischle, either unwittingly or wittingly, must be held reponsible for either opening the floodgates or adding more steam to this fallacious notion, a notion that cannot be brought into harmony with everything else that we know about Bach and how he would have treated his best musicians.

>>Or whatever. It's not your place to smash Brischle's work with contempt, in public; especially based on your own abilities to discern what's fallacious/speculative, and what actually makes sense to scholars. And especially based on your disinclination to supply any reasons (credentials, experience, etc) why we should believe you ahead of Brischle or any other scholar, in cases where scholars happen to disagree.<<
Any BCML member has the right to check out my references to see if they are correct and if I have represented their contents reasonably. I would welcome anyone to pay to view Brischle's article and share any new discoveries/overlooked examples that this article may reveal upon closer examination. For the purpose of this forum this is a much better procedure than simply saying "go read the book or article yourself because I am unable to give you an abstract of the main ideas or examples." But until such new evidence is shared with the BCML, this article will remain with the assessment given by Prinz and my own interpretation of the key thought/argument behind Brischle's theory.

What is difficult to understand here is Brad Lehman's exaggerated observations about my 'smashing' and 'treating with contempt' Brischle's article. It is as though only pedigreed scholars know how to think and criticize the work of others properly! What a presumption! Reasonable criticism of someone else's theories need not hide behind a facade of super politeness nor need it sink to the level observable in this thread. Actually the withholding of criticism until some professor of musicology condescends to speak carefully on a matter such as this is doing a disservice to the performance of Bach's music every day that this erroneous theory of performance practice remains unchecked and is free to inflict its damage on the listener's ears. It is important that young trumpeters who aspire to play Bach's music on true reproductions of trombae of the type that Bach must have used in his orchestra are better served by knowing now (not years from now as some scholars 'pussy-foot' their way around this ill-considered theory) that Brischle's ideas/theories (as well as others who hold the same views) are very limited in scope and do not take into account many other factors that we already know about Bach's performance practices.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 10, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Any BCML member has the right to check out my references to see if they are correct and if I have represented their contents reasonably. I would welcome anyone to pay to view Brischle's article and share any new discoveries/overlooked examples that this article may reveal upon closer examination. For the purpose of this forum this is a much better procedure than simply saying "go read the book or article yourself because I am unable to give you an abstract of the main ideas or examples." But until such new evidence is shared with the BCML, this article will remain with the assessment given by Prinz and my own interpretation of the key thought/argument behind Brischle's theory. >
This is just astounding, especially as it leads up to the last sentence. Made-up things stand, with the burden of proof thrown upon others, until demonstrated otherwise? And it's everybody else's responsibility to go check it out, instead of the person who produced the guess in the fist place?

And, how can "the key thought/argument behind Brischle's theory" be known at all, much less "interpreted" in public, by a guy who refuses to read Brischle's article?!

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Prinz has already questioned Brischle's approach and supplied the evidence from Immer and Tarr to counter the fallacious type of reasoning that Brischle's highly speculative theory wished to promote. >
Highly speculative theory? If it were in my nature to take offense at trivia, I would do so right here!

Richard Mix wrote (January 12, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>However it is still the case that Bach was prone to use the horn to double the cantus firmus melody in minor-mode chorale fantasias.
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< A quick inspection reveals that a tromba or corno playing colla parte in a chorale in a minor key or church mode will be a single instrument with a greater likelihood of requiring a "da Tirarsi" slide ... Bach generally used a different type of notation for the colla parte tromba/horn parts: "sounding/untransposed notation" rather than the transposed notation used with 2 or more trumpets or horns. >
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>2 Could it be that, in doubling the minor-mode chorale melody with the voices (usually sopranos) that small deficiencies in accurate pitching were less noticeable and more acceptable than had the horns been taking a solo role?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< ...In 1998, at a symposium on "The Playing of Brass Instin Bach's Time," Friedemann Immer and Edward H. Tarr demonstrated that, without any of the modern aids used by some tromba players, they could play cleanly, at the same volume level, with perfect intonation all the notes outside of the natural tone row which Bach prescribed in his parts... >
So what are the examples of minor chorals? Do any use the leading tone? If so we are talking about more than the loose change of any temperament! But if not lipping the e of a B flat horn to accommedate a d dorian tune is surely not a big deal. Besides asserting that "all the notes outside of the natural tone row which Bach prescribed in his parts" are playable at the same dynamic it would be helpful to those following the discusion to know what the pitches are. I would imagine that intonation problems are far more exacerbated than masked by doubling in any case!

Julian Mincham wrote (January 12, 2007):
Richard Mix wrote:
< So what are the examples of minor chorals? >
Richard Minor-mode chorales are easy to find in the first 40 cantatas of the second cycle, that which we are presently discussing. Every opening fantasia which is in a minor key is set thus because the chorale is in a minor key.

These are the cantatas from that cycle in minor keys (excluding the last 13 when the pattern was changed or interrupted.)

BWV 2, 7, 135, 10, 93, 107, 178, 101, 113, 33, 78, 114, 5, 38, 26, 62, 121, 122, 123, 111, 92, 125, 126.

As you can see 23, slightly more than half of the chorale fantasia cantatas of this cycle, use minor mode chorales.

Richard Mix wrote (January 13, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Minor-mode chorales are easy to find...
BWV 2, 7, 135, 10, 93, 107, 178, 101, 113, 33, 78, 114, 5, 38, 26, 62, >121, 122, 123, 111, 92, 125, 126. >
Indeed, and sorry if I wasn't clear. Let's winnow down to works using brass; we're left with:
BWV 135 (cornet), 10, 107, 178, 101( Cornet!) 78, 114, 5, 26, 62, 121 (cornet), 125, 126.

and these specifically with horn (I am hampered by relying on the online piano scores):

BWV 26i (& vi?) diatonic a-f
BWV 62 diatonic a-f#
BWV 78 f#-es !
BWV 107 F#-f# with both a and a#
BWV 114 diatonic f-d
BWV 125 closing choral is diatonic d-e; opening has an f natural.
BWV 178 diatonic g-e

So there remain at least two problematic pieces, BWV 78 & BWV 107 which appear to need a slide instrument. Or can schweren Seelennoth/verzagen & betrüben be lipped to no doubt dramatic effect? Der heisst Immanuel is then very problematic as is seelig sein. Does the KB shed any light?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 13, 2007):
[To Richard Mix] In BWV 78 it looks like simply a G minor scale for the horn part (doubling the soprano), plus both the F natural and F# at the bottom end of that.

In 107, where the scale is F# minor, is there the possibility that the corno da caccia was notated with a transposing part? (My reference here says that the part still exists, but doesn't say what key it's in.)

To make sure there's no confusion (not necessarily Richard's): the "Cornet" mentioned here is the cornetto/Zink, the fully-chromatic wooden instrument with holes. With a cup mouthpiece, sort of resembling brass-instrument mouthpieces but smaller. These same three cantatas mentioned here in its regard (BWV 135, BWV 101, BWV 121) all have one or three trombones as well...which again would present no chromatic problems. And by the time Bach used cornetto and trombones, there was already more than a 100-year tradition of that type of ensemble for church music...an archaism here.

Richard, let me know off-list if you'd like to see a few page snaps from the Bach-Gesellschaft. When they used to be available online a couple of years ago, I downloaded them all.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 13, 2007):
Old-fashioned brass

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And by the time Bach used cornetto and trombones, there was already more than a 100-year tradition of that type of ensemble for church music...an archaism here. >
They were widely used in church music from the mid-16th century onwards, although they had disappeared from most concerted church music by the 18th century when they certainly would have been considered archaic and "churchy". Bach's sometimes seems to use them to suggest the "stile antico" for symbolic reasons. For instance, the doubling of the voices by cornetto and zink/trombonesin "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" may have been used to suggest death. The chorale played by the old-fashioned ensemble in "Es ist Nicht Gesund" has always suggested a funeral procession to me.

The use of these old brass instruments is one of the few distinctive differences between sacred and secular cantatas of Bach. The sound of the cornetto in particular is very different from the coloratura trumpet we associate with Big Bang Bach. From the 16th century onwards, observers have always commented that the cornetto is particularly well-suited to doubling polyphony because it has many of the qualities of the human voice.

I had an opportunity this past December to expereince this quality listening to the sound of a quartet of period cornett and sackbuts accompanying the Tallis Choir of Toronto in a reconstruction of a Monteverdi Chritsmas Mass. The cornetto can certianly sound brassy when it has to, but it is also capable of the most nuanced and sensitive sound, and in a large reverberent building is uncannily human-sounding.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 13, 2007):
Richard Mix wrote:
>>So there remain at least two problematic pieces, BWV 78 & BWV 107 which appear to need a slide instrument...
Not BWV 78, only BWV 107!

>>Does the KB shed any light?<<
No.

>>BWV 78 f#-es !<<
BWV 78/1,7 G minor for Corno (horn) in C (16' length)

notated as it sounds

notes used: f1, f#, g, a, b, c2, d, eb (es)

no need for a corno da tirarsi (source: Csibas & Prinz)

BWV 107/1,7 B minor for Corno da caccia in C (8'length)

notated as it sounds

notes used: mvt. 1: f#1, g, a, a#, b, c#2, d, e, f# g mvt. 7: f#1, g, a, a#, b, c2, c#, d, e, f#

(Csibas: the f#1, a, a#, b, c#2, f# problematic tones/notes can be played cleanly with a short extension)

This Corno da caccia part was copied by Bach with this designation clearly indicated, but the interpretation of this term is still undecided [Prinz]) The Thein brothers in Bremen have experimented with a 'soprano' trombone while Csiba has come up with an instrument more like a 'trumpet-horn'. The differences are in the technical construction (type of mouthpiece, size of bore, use of a short extension, etc.).

Despite all the efforts to allocate properly and reasonably the parts for all 'tromba-corno-cornetto' designations, there are still numerous questions left unresolved about what each of these meant. These involve the inconsistent use of the terms by Bach and his copyists, and what this means for the proper choice of instrument in playing Bach's parts today. All of this may perhaps be due to changing circumstances that Bach encountered and to his experimentation with instruments in this category. During the last 40 to 50 years of his life, the cornetto was rapidly being replaced by various trombae and corni. By utilizing the cornetto (primarily in his first two years in Leipzig), Bach shows us his conservative side. However, at the same time he was experimenting with the tromba-corno family of instruments which had greater difficulties in playing a chromatic scale with even dynamics than the cornetto did. With the help of some great musicians/virtuosi like Gottfried Reiche who, most likely, kept up with the developments in their specialized field, sheer virtuosity combined with technical advancements (use of a short slide) made possible the use of a "Waldhorn" (Johann Gottfried Walther's catch-all term) in playing colla parte the ever-present chorale mas well as in providing exciting, colorful festive music when the occasion demanded it.

Paul T. McCain wrote (January 13, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, thanks for you observations on period instruments. Very interesting indeed!

Richard Burdick wrote (January 13, 2007):
[To Richard Mix] I have trying to figure out what is being discussed here on the brass in minor keys topic.

I have horn parts to all of those on the list below (26 -178) Common practice today for baroque horn is to play open (hand out of the bell) except for things like a C# where the hand is put in to lower the pitch. I am of the belief that all of these parts could be played just by lipping them into tunes. Lowering a written D to C# is possible. 78 & 107 look playable to me even in a totally baroque hand out of the bell way. However modern audience may not like the clams & cracks that would possibly occur. Some baroque horns are made with holes to make the problem notes easier. This is defiantly not historically correct. On hand horn of Mozart & Beethoven's time these would be easy.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 13, 2007):
[To Richard Burdick] You are right. For an authentic performances there should be no hand in the bell, a practice not found in engravings of horn players of that period nor mentioned in any of the literature until the 2nd half of the 18th century. The bell faced upward where the hand could not reach it. [a number of period illustrations show this (Prinz, p. 145)]. Has anyone seen on DVDs or in live performances how the horns are positioned in authentic period instrument performances?

Baroque horns with extra holes or curved slides/moveable extensions are not authentic.

There is a designation that Bach used, "Corno da tirarsi", which implies the use of a single slide between the mouthpiece and the main part of the instrument.

Examples of designations on the parts:

On August 1, 1723 BWV 46 Tromba. o Corno da tirarsi
On October 10, 1723 BWV 162 Corno. da Tirarsi
On April 16, 1724 BWV 67 Corno. da Tirarsi

All the rest of playing in tune was done by lipping (embouchure control) and breath control. Terms sometimes used by German trumpeters and horn players are "treiben" ('driving') and "fallen" ('letting fall').

With sufficient practice and a good ear, Bach's horn parts (likewise for trumpet parts) should be playable without any 'clams & cracks'. Documents from the period indicate that true virtuosi had no problems with their parts, but when insufficiently experienced or those who have not quite mastered these instruments played in an ensemble, the results were horrific. J.P. Eisel in his "Musicus autodidaktos", Erfurt, 1738, p. 75 (quoted by Prinz) while referring specifically to the "Wald-Horn" (general terminology for a horn), states: "Übrigens ist nichts weiter bey diesem Instrument inacht zu nehmen, indem alles auf eine fleißige und tägliche Übung ankommet." ("Otherwise there is noohing more to say about this instrument {as far as things that you should pay attention to} since {except that} everything depends upon practicing very hard every day.")

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2007):
Richard Burdick wrote:
< Some baroque horns are made with holes to make the problem notes easier. This is defiantly not historically correct. >
Thanks for the additional detail, pretty clearly from someone who plays horn. I presume that the baroque horns mentioned, with holes, are modern (imitations? reconstructions? pseudo-somethings?) and not historically correct because the holes are modern conveniences?

Nice usage on defiantly/definitely, BTW. This crowd is so hip (HIP even) that I always assume all puns are intentional! Sometimes a lucky accident sneaks through, with unearned credit.

 

Baroque brass

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 100 - Discussions Part 3

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 21, 2013):
Aryeh wrote on behalf of Paul Beckman:
< Which brings me to my consideration of the recordings, and a comment on the horns - oh, those horns! They appear to cause several of the players distinct and, to my ear, embarrassing difficulties. Leonhardt's version is nearly unlistenable, and is further marred by intonation problems that his boy sopranos suffer. Leusink's band also produces some painful moments, and his singers don't help any. I may be a bit picky, but, once the opening
movement founders on such instrumental rocks >

I do not have the recordings with me now, but I remember having seen pictures of horn players in both the Leonhardt and Gardiner's recordings. Having been for about 15 years a natural horn player, I did not find
Leonhardt's horn playing bad at all, and that of Gardiner's is of course better. There is a serious problem, though. We are here referring to recordings with "authentic instruments", meant to convey the sound, feeling,
articulation AND tuning of early instruments. And here all present day recordings fail to a large extent:

- Leonhardt players employ the HAND HORN technique, with the hand in the bell in different positions which significantly improve the intonation, but also introduce differences of timbre and loudness: this technique (typical of Mozart's time) was unheard of in Bach's time: it was not even practicable with the single-loop small-bell horns then in use. As for Gardiner's horns, they are real replicas of Bach's instruments and are played without hand in the bell: the sound is thus very authentic, however, but to avoid the serious intonation hurdles, they have NODE HOLES, which help to produce a near perfect intonation (they can be seen in the recently produced Christmas Oratorio version recorded by Gardiner in Germany where the players move the fingers as if they were playing a cornet!): nice intonation, but again very inauthentic.

There have been recent attempts to produce what Bach players did: use lips and throat to tune those pesky notes as best as possible. This is the only authentic way, and so far there are only a handful of natural trumpet players (notably the Madeuf brothers) who have mastered it in recent years. I am sure we will soon have REALLY AUTHENTIC natural horns around. It will be marvellous to hear precisely what Bach and his audience expected. Well in tune, alas, they will not be.

Best regards and thank you again for your dedication to help to improve our understanding of Bach's music.

PS: My book on temperaments (of which a 3rd revised edition has just been released) has a chapter devoted to natural brass playing, treating in full detail each natural pitch and many temperaments: hopefully that will help: http://temper.braybaroque.ie/

Julian Mincham wrote (July 23, 2013):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] Hi Claudio---good to hear from you.

I have become really interested in this issue after some recent experiences. Last week I heard the Bm Mass in St Nicholas church Leipzig. The horn player was a young (French I think) chap and I had a good view of him. He seemed, as far as I could judge, to be using a combination of lipping and hand positions in the bell and the sound was marvellous. Not every note in tune of course but the balance with the bassoons was the best I have heard in a live performance and the effect was quite electrifying.

Fortuitously this had followed a talk/demonstration by a baroque trumpeter Mike Diprose who made (and demonstrated) a number of fascinating points which changed my listening at a conference in Warsaw. The first was that the valveless baroque trumpet was much quieter than we might imagine today.AND, most importantly, softer in the higher than in the lower ranges. He told me that the nonsense written of the 2nd Brandenburg about Bach getting the balance wrong (it was on this premise that the horn was substituted for it in some performances in the 1960s) was based upon a complete misunderstanding of the baroque trumpet. In fact (he said) when the correct instruments are used, if any one predominates it is the oboe and not the trumpet.MIke also showed how the streams of bachian semi-quavers as played on the baroque horns and trumpets wernot of the type where you listened to and for every individual note. It is more the arc-like shape of the phrase one hears and the modern day listening to see if every note is clear and in tune is not appropriate. Difficult to explain in a few words--but the demonstrationgs were convincing and I am now listening to these lines quite differently.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 23, 2013):
[To Julian Mincham] I envy you! With Diprose and later In Leipzig with baroque brass!!

I find Diprose's approach to sound emission different from the more-successful Madeuf (who will NOT sound softer than an oboe but not much louder either): he is right however that, if the correct and correctly-played Bach trumpet and the oboe try both to play very loud, it is the oboe who will be loudest. After Don Smithers, who had few followers, Diprose has been very active in the diffusion of the cause for the true Baroque trumpet: he deserves full applause for it. And his comment about every note is right on the spot!!

Although ... JSBach wrote LONG notes precisely on the impossibly-out-of tune ones for both horn and trumpet (and incidentally he is AFAIK the only baroque composer to have done that). Obviously he had very special players at his command.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 23, 2013):
[To Claudio Di Veroli] THanks Claudio. I must say there is nothing like hearing these guys playing the great Bach works in the buildings for which they were conceived to help one to become attuned to these issues.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 23, 2013):
Baroque brass/BWV 118

Like Julian I was delighted to meet the trumpeter and Baroque brass expert Mike Diprose, whose lively demonstrations are matched by an extensive knowledge of, and interest in, the Bach Cantatas. We discussed in particular the theory that the second performance of BWV 118 was occasioned by the death of the Duke of Weissenfels, Johann Adolph II, on 16 March 1742 in Leipzig, and the possibility that this gave rise to the need for the mysterious "litui".

Two factors create a haze relating to the Hans-Joachim Schulze theory led above. One is the general tendency for funerals of the nobility to use muted trumpets. The expression "lituus" is thus rather vague.

On a practical level, the assumption that BWV 118 was written for a funeral procession is somewhat compromised by the extreme effort the sustained brass lines require, even if the players are stationary. So the puzzle of the instruments involved and the setting of the work itself continues......

Rick London wrote (July 23, 2013):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< THanks Claudio. I must say there is nothing like hearing these guys playing the great Bach works in the buildings for which they were conceived to help one to become attuned to these issues. >
My first post here, am a bit of a lurker so hope people don't mind me dipping in.

I have been lucky enough to play with a couple of students who had learnt natural horn ie (if Ive got the terminology right) without the use of nodes. I can't remember what we were playing unfortunately, not Bach though. I was very impressed by them.

I have also been very lucky to play Baroque flute with 5 natural trumpeters in a divertimento by Mozart. It has the unusual scoring of 2 flutes, 5 trumpets (in C and D) and timps. I can concur that both one key flutes were perfectly audible over the 5 trumpets. There was a magnificent ring in the room, with the flutes providing the 'halo' on top. Its a very effective sound that modern flutes and trumpets just would not be able to replicate. There were moments where the 1st flute and 1st trumpet play the melody in unison, the balance was very good.

The trumpeters did not adjust 'tuning' so it was a good test for us flautists to ensure we let the flute play in a natural meantone temperament (in C major). I'm normally used to lipping notes a little depending on key etc. It was a marvellous experiment.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (July 23, 2013):
Rick London wrote:
< My first post here, am a bit of a lurker so hope people don't mind me dipping in.
I have been lucky enough to play with a couple of students who had learnt natural horn ie (if Ive got the terminology right) without the use of nodes. I can't remember what we were playing unfortunately, not Bach though. I was very impressed by them.
I have also been very lucky to play Baroque flute with 5 natural trumpeters in a divertimento by Mozart. It has the unusual scoring of 2 flutes, 5 trumpets (in C and D) and timps. I can concur that both one key flutes were perfectly audible over the 5 trumpets. There was a magnificent ring in the room, with the flutes providing the 'halo' on top. Its a very effective sound that modern flutes and trumpets just would not be able to replicate. There were moments where the 1st flute and 1st trumpet play the melody in unison, the balance was very good. >

Yeah that's the beauty of baroque trumpets, as they get higher in register, they become much softer, unlike modern trumpets which really can drown out other instruments in a smaller ensemble.. And it's no accident that the trumpet was frequently used as a solo instrument with other solo instruments in cantatas by Bach's peers (particularly G. H. Stoelzel).

< The trumpeters did not adjust 'tuning' so it was a good test for us flautists to ensure we let the flute play in a natural meantone temperament (in C major). I'm normally used to lipping notes a little depending on key etc. It was a marvellous experiment. >
Thanks

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 23, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Yeah that's the beauty of baroque trumpets, as they get higher in register, they become much softer, unlike modern trumpets which really can drown out other instruments in a smaller ensemble.. And it's no accident that the trumpet was frequently used as a solo instrument with other solo instruments in cantatas by Bach's peers (particularly G. H. Stoelzel). >
Much the same effect can be heard with the cornetto in 17th century music. Writers often wrote than the instrument sounded like the human voice. A very delicate chamber-scale sound:

Monteverdi: Vespers, Sonata: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FpIGa9W72S0

Gabrieli: Exultet : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUjL-c_fMcc

Neil Mason wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To Rick London] Yes, having conducted the Brandenburg 2 with modern instruments, I know that balance is indeed a problem.

I solved it (partly) by having the trumpet player standing further away than other players and the flute player nearer to the audience.

George Bromley wrote (July 24, 2013):
Does anybody have the history of node holes please.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To George Bromley] With pleasure,

Although the matter of using or not node holes has been much discussed online by players of early brass, AFAIK not much has been published on the history of the node holes.

The basics are explained in Antony Baines's Brass Instruments book, Faber 1976-78, p.241. The present "system" of node holes was "invented by Otto Steinkopft and produced by him and Helmut Finke" in 1959.

AFAIK no ancient sources mention node holes on brass instruments before the appearance of the keyed trumpet in the 2nd half of the 18th c., famously scored for by Haydn.

Steinkopft knew that the only extant Baroque brass instrument with holes was a German coiled trumpet dated 1697 (lost in the Second World War): this was reported to have a few holes, but the only surviving photo of the instrument does not show any of them, and whether these holes were or not original is anybody's guess.

Hopefully our natural brass list members may have more info on this.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To George Bromley] With further insight, I have been able to check that the statements in Baines's book no longer agree with the prevailing node-hole system in use at present.

It would be nice if one of the natural brass players in the group would clarify the details and use of each one of the holes.

George Bromley wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To Clauidio Di Veroli] Thank, a wethought out reply.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To George Bromley] Thanks George. A further clarification for the non-natural-brass-ati. The Classical keyed trumpet is NOT a Baroque trumpet with holes. It is a completely different type of beast: it is the first instance of the modern trumpet: wider bore, half the length of the baroque trumpet, the larger gap between harmonics being filled by using five keys (the same role being provided a few decades later by the three valves still in use at present).

The holes of the keyed trumpet are relatively large and their function is NOT to sit on nodes, but to vent out: they largely work in the same way as the Renaissance-Early Baroque wooden cornett holes.

Richard O. Burdick wrote (July 24, 2013):
[To Clauidio Di Veroli].

In response to:
"It would be nice if one of the natural brass players in the group would clarify the details and use of each one of the holes."
I am a "Hand-horn" player, so baroque really isn't my thing, but I have a baroque horn, and it does have node-holes in it. I have never used them more than to lower the 11th harmonic (f quarter-sharp) down to F, the same hole may help up a third with the Bb-Ab no A issue. And I am sure there are other thing one can do with these holes.

The reason my horn has three holes is to find the right ONE for the key of the horn, since the horn can be crooked into different keys.

Once again I would like to point out that no one seems to be exploring the possible use of playing a piece of music on a relative but lower instrument, such as an F horn part on a low C horn.

It is my understanding that in Bach's time there were no High Bb horns yet Bach did write for Horn in Bb Alto, which mean the horn player had to transpose and play it on a lower instrument.

For example Cantata 14 played on a low Bb horn but transposed up an octave is quite feasible if you have the chops to play that high.

Richard O. Burdick
First Horn Regina Symphony
Composer
I Ching Music

My recent natural horn Cd release:
Natural Horn Music FOUND: CD Baby

 

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