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Cantata Style

Cantata style [BeginnersBach]

Jack Botelho
wrote (November 17, 2005):
"In August of 1730 Bach submitted a carefully worded memorandum to the Leipzig Town Council, in which he appealed for a restoration of subsidies to support the performance of church music under his direction. Funds allotted to his predecessors, Bach wrote, had been withdrawn, and the result was that music-making at the municipal churches had fallen into an appalling 'decline'. Only a renewed monetary commitment on the part of the town authorities would enable the Thomas-Cantor to attain an adequate standard by permitting him to hire and rehearse additional choristers and instrumentalists. In further support of his argument, Bach noted the urgency of his 'short but most necessary draft for well-appointed church music' sprang from an increasingly urbane flavor of German musical life. As he put it (in the long-winded style typical of his prose):

'The state of music is quite different from what it was, since our artistry has increased very much, and taste has changed astonishingly, and accordingly the former style of music no longer seems to please our ears, and considerable help is therefore all the more needed in order to choose and appoint such musicians as will satisfy the present musical taste, master the new kinds of music, and thus be able to do justice to the composer and his work... It is, anyhow, somewhat strange that German musicians are expected to be capable of performing at once and 'ex tempore' all kinds of music, whether it come from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as may be done, say, by those virtuosos from whom the music is written and who have studied it long beforehand.'"

Dreyfus, Laurence: Bach and the Patterns of Invention Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1996. p.33

Dreyfus then proceeds to question whether Bach actually believed his own church music to be in a new, foreign-influenced style (in fact structurally so), and he suggests the idea that Bach was attempting to flatter 'the enlightened commercial spirit of enterprise' of the town council by appealing to the idea of a fashionable new music, and he even goes so far as to suggest that Bach's plea cannot be taken at face value because his church music could not have been considered especially 'tasteful' compared to that of Telemann's cantata cycles of the time.

Instead of Dreyfus' argument that Bach's plea cannot have been fully genuine because 'his music was scarcely the way it was because of an accommodation to the latest taste' it makes perfect sense to understand that Bach's aim was to secure the tenure of musicians familiar with or at least able to master the new style of music of which his cantatas were composed in: Bach's petition was self-aware and genuine - his music was very much in a new, cosmopolitan, and in this case, essentially Italian cantata style (severely pruned of Italianate excess in Bach's typically stringent standards of good taste) which set Lutheran texts and chorale melodies. It is important to point out that Bach would never wish to give emphasis to an Italian style alone and would always mention it together with other foreign - in this case French, English, Polish - practices due to very strong anti-Catholic, anti-papist, and anti-Italian Lutheran sentiment which would have angered the Leipzig authorities.

Bach's memorandum was rejected by the council and he never did receive the substantial support from the town of Leipzig that he petitioned for.

John Pike wrote (November 17, 2005):
[To Jack Botelho] I started to read this book and found it very heavy going but, in my case, I am certain that was because I am not a musicologist. To get the most out of this book, I think you do need quite an advanced level of knowledge of musicology. Given that, I am sure it is a quite excellent piece of work.

By contrast, "Bach's Continuo Group" by the same author can be easily understood by anyone with an interest in music but it is a very specialised area and needs to be approached with a passion to find out detailed information about this field. It, too, is an excellent book. The scholarship is outstanding, it is very well written and interesting to read. I would say it is essential reading for anyone with an interest in Bach's music and how it was performed, <>

Steven Foss wrote (November 17, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] <> I in this matter take the position that Jack has brought up some very cogent points.

I believe his observations and opinions to be valid.
<>
I believed anyone's observations as fine as Jack's makes him well placed enough to use such "harsh" terms". Even an amateur can see through Dreyfus's arguments, then Dreyfus's research is not that stellar.

And Jack is not an amateur in my eyes, (IMVHO) he is a Scholar.

I disagreed with Karl Geiringer (we both lived in the Santa Barbara vicinity) when he was wrong and with more than adequate reasons and examples to cite why he was wrong. (Whether he would admit it is another matter.) It did not stop his widow from inviting me to her home to listen to Andras Schiff practice (and his interpretation of Romatic Composers is formidable, and he was jet lagged at that) or to the performance of the Goldberg Variations.

How dare I disagree with a UCSB professor and Great World Bach expert?

Because no one receives a monopoly on a Subject as unquestionable knowledge beyond reproach by the granting of initials behind his or her last name.

When one is wrong (and I have made mistakes, too) one is wrong, not matter what their circumstance.

I do not hold with the findings of peer review committees, and I have found peer review to be the current consensus of what is fashionable in musicological circles, mixed with equal dosages of politics, and personal bias.

I won't comment on Medical Peer Review committees as an example (too long), however, let me give an analogy to historical research in this case California History concerning the treatment of the Native American Population on the Spanish in General and and the Franciscans in particular.

Peer Review committees sometime allow the publication or presentation of controversial ideas that have little basis in fact or historical perspective, Historical Revisionism. The reasons are everything from equal time, to having a forum of different viewpoints.

There was the idea that the Chumash of Santa Barbara Mission were held against there will be Spanish Soldiers of the Presidio (fortress), and all sorts of atrocities occured, even to the blood of the Chumash Indians killed being used to stain the brick tiles red. This was given as fact in a paper (subsequently published).

After the paper had been given, I can name a number of Amateur Scholars(and Professionals, too, such as Dr Jack Williams, Phd) who from memory and with logical factual arguments demolished the presenters "view of history."

Amonst these arguments: How could multiple hundreds of Indians be held against their will by as few as 2 and as many as 5 soldiers that would have been at the presidio at any one time? Was there any forensic evidence amongst the tiles to show human blood? Was the treatment amongst the neophyte (indian) community any different than that which was administered in the presidio, New Spain, or in Spain itself? If the Spanish were so terrible, why were there more deaths (murders) amongst the california native populations during the American period. Why did the Chumash Revolt occur during the Mexican Period, 1824.

I am using an Off topic example of how reviewed material for publication is not always the litmus test for accuracy.

As to winning awards for Musicology, I will have to now read the work to see how diligent he was in his research.

Just as Dreyfus may have an academic pedigree (like the "Survivor" shows on TV, he was able to tenaciously complete long years of schooling to get a piece of paper) and is highly esteemed by his colleagues (that make up Peer review) this does not immunize him from the possibility of error or misinterpretatioor absolve from scrutiny.

If the rest of this book as it has been presented/quoted so far by Jack is of the same caliber, Dreyfus may have wasted 10 years of his life (except for the school grants, and the need to Publish or Perish). Again, IMVHO

Jack was reporting on the book to the forum, and I value his insights and observations. If I was not moving, I would have supplied more ammunition on the subject. (One wonders how long a post this would be if I were not moving)

The following may be of interest to the forum

The most important aspects historical analysis and Historical Musicology is will any work withstand Criticism when put to Scrutiny. Scrutiny comes from the Middle English adaption of a Latin Verb, literally to take a vote.

What should "we vote on" or more deeply search into?

Was the writer (Dreyfus) guitly of "Historical Relativism?" Acoordingly, was Dreyfus writing in terms of his own time and cultural setting; was he influenced by a particular bias (theories in academia), by certain prejudices (Against Vivaldi/Pro Germany),
likes and/or dislikes and other similar factors which constitute his "frame of reference."

As Marice Mandlbaum wrote in in his book (which he devoted the greater part of the work) The Problem of Historical Knolwledge, An Answert to Relativism, " that no historical work grasps the nature of the past (or present) immediately, that whatever "truth" a historical work contains is relative to the conditioning processes under which it arose and can only be understood with reference to those processes."

Was Drefus completely conscious of "the Problem" in writing his book?

In Gray Haydon's book,Introduction to Musicology, in his chapter on Problems and Methods of Historical Research in Music, "The method pursued in any particular research will necessary be determined by the problem.. In fact it seems likely that the researcher is often not conscious of the method he is employing. His chief concern is the validity of his findings and he uses any and all methods, scientific or critical, inductive or deductive, statistical or comparitve..some consideration of method is needed to insure the validity of one's work, and to avoid errors, whether mistaking a date of a document or in holding an untenable metaphysical assumption."

Haydon goes on to state that in historical research: "first, he must be concious of his problem; second, he must be able to define his problem:and third, he must seek the integration of his particualr problem with more general problems." Problem Consciousness, problem definition, and problem-integration or What?, How?, Why?, and Whither?

I write this as although Dreyfus's book on Bach's writing style he is citing historical references to prove his point.

"In August of 1730 Bach submitted a carefully worded memorandum to the Leipzig Town Council, in which he appealed for a restoration of subsidies to support the
performance of church music under his direction. Funds allotted to his predecessors, Bach wrote, had been withdrawn, and the result was that music-making at the municipal churches had fallen into an appalling 'decline'. Only a renewed monetary commitment on the part of the town authorities would enable the Thomas-Cantor to attain an adequate standard by permitting him to hire and rehearse additional choristers and instrumentalists. In further support of his argument, Bach noted the urgency of his 'short but most necessary draft for well-appointed church music' sprang from an increasingly urbane flavor of German musical life. As he put it (in the long-winded style typical of his prose):

'The state of music is quite different from what it was, since our artistry has increased very much, and taste has changed astonishingly, and accordingly the former style of music no longer seems to please our ears, and considerable help is therefore all the more needed in order to choose and appoint such musicians as will satisfy the present musical taste, master the new kinds of music, and thus be able to do justice to the composer and his work... It is, anyhow, somewhat strange that German musicians are expected to be capable of performing at once and 'ex tempore' all kinds of music, whether it come from Italy or France, England or Poland, just as may be done, say, by those virtuosos from whom the music is written and who have studied it long beforehand.'"

Dreyfus, Laurence: Bach and the Patterns of Invention Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1996. p.33

As to his viewpoints on Bach, again these are just conjectural (guesses).

My obseravations/interpretations (or conjectures, opinions):

1. Bach wanted back the money cut from his budget so he could hire semi professional musicians, and the cost conscious bureaucrats (or burgo-crats) "Funds allotted to his predecessors, Bach wrote, had been withdrawn, and the result was that music-making at the municipal churches had fallen into an appalling 'decline'"

As to hiring better musicians: "somewhat strange that German musicians (in general, not just at the Leipzig Churches) are expected to be capable of performing at once and 'ex tempore' (without any rehearsals) all kinds of music (not just church music), whether it come from Italy or France, England or Poland, which Bach may be relating his own earlier personal experiences at Weimar and Köthen, (instrumental music in this case, Bach would have to Parody/Paraphrase religious music from other Catholic countries to get it past the Lutherans and his exposure to English Church music is unsubstanitated, not found in any of his surviving manuscript collections, again Bach must have been talking about music in general), just as may be done, say, by those virtuosos from whom the music is written and who have studied it long beforehand.'

(i.e., I need you to give me back the money so I can pay for rehearsals.)

2. Bach shrewedly tried to pitch the council, and in doing so try to show "Added Value" of the perfomance of "New Music."

Whether this was in the style gallant of Telemann or not is again conjecture on Dreyfus's part. "New Music" could also be interpreted as newly/recently composed music(by Bach), "that our artisty" (Bach's ability as a composer) has increased, "taste has changed astonishingly," (either's Bach's taste in Music and/or the public does not want the same old stuff previously heard of Bach's being "recycled" every Sunday, it is after all 8 years into Bach's Cantorship there and his output in new church music had fallen off) "and accordingly the former style of music no longer seems to please our ears" (Bach's ears? or the public's ears?)

To determine the above one would need to know the original 18th century style of writing (higher criticism) for writing in German a supplication letter, to know was Bach the sole author of the letter or was he assisted in its compostion, and to be able to read the original in German with an understanding of 18th Century German.

3. Bach in writings to the council states the deplorable condition of his forces both in their numbers and in training to be inadequate to make music (any type, but especially as Bach had envisioned on a grand scale as listed as required for his instrumental and vocal forces).

4. Did Dreyfus in compare the 12 Cantata Cycles of Telemann or the 44 Passions to see if Telemann's Church writing was that different from Bach's?

5. This was an issue about money, which the council had already cut was not likely to reinstate, and Sebastian gave it a shot, "nothing ventured, nothing gained." And they did not.

Dreyfus's argument to questioning the sincerity of the above statement, the appeals to "the enlightened commercial spirit of enterprise" and suggesting that Bach's plea cannot be taken at face value because the composer was aware that his church music could not have been considered especially 'tasteful' compared to that of Telemann's cantata cycles (what proof?) loses its meaning and misses the point

His reasonings languish in the realm of intelligent guessing.

Fact: Bwas in genuine need for money (whether he thought was entitled to it because of previous Cantors had the money is irrelavent), he needed funds to maintain even a marginal level or perfomance. The councils money grubbing was fortunate for us as Bach would soon start turning his musical attention away to other outlets (and Zimmermann's Koffeehaus Perfomances)

Fact: he did not get the money.

John Pike's post mentions "Bach's Continuo Group" by the same author which sounds more interesting and I will know have to add another title to my list of books that I must read.

I thank everyone in their patience with my post <>

Jack Botelho wrote (November 17, 2005):
Steven Foss wrote:
< I believe his observations and opinions to be valid.
Ergo, I am not in agreement with your post.
Jack should not have apologized. If the Dreyfus's work is long-winded, convaluted, foggy, rambling, or if it does not adequately support or defend Dreyfus's hypothesis, "feeble" would be an apt description and it would be dishonest to say otherwise. >
Personally, I find this forum valuable for presenting ideas on subjects concerning J.S. Bach and then receiving feedback. I'm not going to take anyone's side here, but will simply state that I did find Brad's criticism valid, and the result, in my opinion, was a revised version of 'cantata style' which is a much better post. In my view, I in no way apologized for anything, but simply expressed appreciation for the constructive criticism.

Jack Botelho wrote (November 17, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
< I started to read this book and found it very heavy going but, in my case, I am certain that was because I am not a musicologist. To get the most out of this book, I think you do need quite an advanced level of knowledge of musicology. Given that, I am sure it is a quite excellent piece of work. >
Indeed it is heavy going in some places, but for the general reader one can get a good sense of Dreyfus' insights, even if such a reader is not able to follow all the detail.

My quotations from Bach and the Patterns of Invention have of course, been very selective. I immediately focused on Dreyfus' treatment of the Vivaldian concerto because of its obvious prejudice, of which Bach Musicology is (and I don't mean to put this in a malicious way but I am an international news information addict so such terminology seeps into my language) a soft target.

My quotations of Bach and the Patterns of Invention is only selective and not representative of the entire work.

Nevertheless, in my view, this study goes a long way to humanize Bach, or more accurately, flesh out some of the master's inner workings, but there still is much work to do.

Dreyfus only treats briefly Bach's handling of ritornello-episode principles in his vocal music; my guess is that this is a huge field still to be mined by musicologists.

Discussions of the ritornello-episode principle in Bach is still a very touchy subject because in essence it is an Italian baroque engine of invention and does not support the old school nationalist ideas of J.S. Bach.

I look forward to reading more input from you Mr Pike, at this forum.

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Last update: ýJanuary 31, 2006 ý09:21:11