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Choir Form
Part 3

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Choir Form and Function in Bach’s Time

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 6, 2001):
The area of most importance in the question of the composition of Bach's vocal forces during Lutheran church services, circa 1730 in Leipzig is not really answered anywhere by One Voice Per Part advocates. Andrew Parrott in his book "The Essential Bach Choir" complains that those who hold to traditional views of a choir being many members, are merely mislead by romantic notions of what choir forces should be, or should have been. But is the OVPP idea of one soprano, one alto, a tenor and a bass, truly the real ideal for a Bach choir? Why not look at what historically a choir is supposed to be doing? There is a way to understand this, and that is to look at what was demanded of a choir by the church for its liturgical services. After all, Bach's Cantatas for the most part were designed to be a part of the regular church services.

This is the question of how the Lutheran church service of Word and Sacrament operates liturgically, and how the Lutheran Church views the form and function of its choir during services. This is such a vastly important question I wonder why OVPP advocates chose not to address it in any way. There are no lack of references as the subject is covered by a variety of Lutheran theologians over the centuries, not the least of which is Martin Luther himself. Bach never divorced himself from the Liturgical setting and Lutheran orthodoxy, indeed he enhanced it. The proclamation of Luther was that music in the Liturgical service should be used artistically to highlight, enhance, adorn and glorify Scripture. Without question, Bach most certainly achieved this in his Cantatas.

The Lutheran Church Service of Word and Sacrament is one of inclusive participation, as the focus is on common worship. There were (and still are) certain musical interlude parts between liturgical readings in the service. These are reserved exclusively for the choir, or for the congregation, depending on which portion of the liturgy was being sung. There would not have been a time where any choir member would be left silent in the regular parts of the service normally assigned to them. In other words, if three or four soprano choir members were in attendance, they would have all been instructed to participate in the regular service. The Gradual for instance, is the portion of the service normally sung exclusively by the choir. This was the singing of the Psalms and Epistle, followed by the Gospel. Traditionally, this singing of the Epistle and Gospel was in two parts, the Gradual Proper for the Epistle, and the "Alleluia" as a prelude to the Gospel. (The Alleluia is known as a song of joy, thus its association with the Gospel.) This is the point in the Lutheran Church service where Bach's Cantatas were employed. Two things can be said about the Alleluia, with regards to importance in the tradition of the church. First, the Hebrew word Alleluia is a song of joy in four syllables, and Second, the heavenly choir in Rev. 19:6 sings "Alleluia for the Lord God omnipotent reigns," and this is sung "as it were by the voice of a great multitude, ...voice of many waters...and as the voice of many thunderings." This is how the church rightly views praises sung to God. Traditionally speaking, the choir is seen to represent the church Universally, and completely in all voices (SATB). This demands that the choir be well trained as they are offering praise to God on behalf of the congregation.

Martin Luther's view of the choir was that it should continue and be encouraged in the choir school tradition. Luther's preface to the Lutheran choir's Walter Hymn Book (the earliest book in Lutheran tradition; it contains most of Luther's own original hymns), explains that these Hymns (sung exclusively by the choir) were devised in four (and five) parts in order to "wean the youths away from love ballads and carnal songs, and to teach them something of value in their place, thus combining the good with the pleasing, as is proper for youth." Luther goes on in this and other hymnal prefaces to state the use of such hymns was to implant the Gospel into the hearts and minds of the young. This was to be done in the choir school (such as St Thomas') and especially in the church setting during services. Thus it is antithetical to Lutheran Church music practice to have a one voice per part choir where two, three or four choir boys were available, but sat out the chorus sections of the sung parts of the regular services. Bach's case actually offers six to eight voices per part, due to the known time rotation of Leipzig church services, and affording six to eight voices per part therefore is not inconceivable, and according to Luther's instruction would be the preferred practice, if possible, to train boys in the Gospel and in the music service of the church.

The traditional idea of the size of choirs in Bach's time is challenged by OVPP advocates, yet Bach's grandson was around for Mendelsshon's hugh choir renditions of Bach Cantatas and Masses and said nothing about the choir sizes. Also Händel used 200 singers at a time, and he was born in Leipzig and was a contemporary of Bach! Huge choirs were not unheard of in Bach's time in other words, and when the OVPP people say that "small choirs were the norm," it is ridiculous to reduce a complicated performance scenario of Europe in 1730 with all its variety of perfromance standards to a rather over reaching statement idea that small choirs were the norm in Bach's time. It is even more ridiculous in my opinion that Bach ignored the regular form and function of the Lutheran Church choir and all attending obligations of choirboys and their masters for any supposed modern OVPP performance practices.

Takashi Trushima wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] This is Takashi back online. Could you kindly let me know which of Dr. Luther's writing you are referring to?

Waiting for the Nativity of our Lord,

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Takashi Trushima] The writings are found in Luther's hymnal prefaces, which is material collected in the editions of "Luther's Works." You'll want to access the volumes on Liturgy and hymns; Prefaces in WA 53 pages 315,ff., and in WA 35 "hymn booklet" and "prefaces", and WA 30 II pages 119,ff.. Also, one may consult The German Mass and Order of Divine Service, Jan. 1526, by Martin Luther, which describes the church service, and one should note instructions such as: "to be sung by the whole choir." Also, one may consult the Wittenberg Church Orders of 1533, for service descriptions. (among others) You may also find references in Luther's "Table Talk".

Takashi Trushima wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Thank you for your prompt response. I have read his 'The German Mass and Order of Divine Service' before. But I have to check on others using Hilfsbuch zum Luther Studium. (I have all of the American Edition, but when it comes to WA, I only have Vol. 23 which includes 'That these words of Christ This is My Body still stands firm against the fanatics.')

Thanks once for sharing your deep understanding of our wonderful Lutheran liturgical and musical heritage.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Takashi Trushima] Since you have all the American edition, I'll post the American edition references as well, for the benefit of english readership!

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 22, 2001):
[To Takashi Trushima] Luther's prefaces to hymnals are found in LW Vol.53, and not in WA vol. 53 as I said. The rest of the WA references should be correct. In Vol 53 of the American Edition of Luther's Works, you'll find Luther's description of the use of these hymn books on pages 313-334. In LW Vol.45 read Luther's "Letter to the Councilmen of Germany," and in LW Vol.46 read Luther's "Sermon on Keeping Children in School " (1530). These both give the basis and flavour of Luther's idea for keeping and promoting existing choir schools.

LWVol. 53 describes Thomas Cantor Georg Rhau's (1488-1548) move into Protestant hymnology! Rhau wrote a Mass for 12 voices! (pages 21,ff.) Also Luther's great comments on polyphony are recorded on page 324. Pages 173, ff., describe the Te Deum in the Lutheran Liturgy as a canon for two choirs; and pages 184, ff., describe the Gloria in Excelsis as a piece ideally for three choirs- those being a choir of organ pipes, a boys choir, and the congregation! Interestingly, a fourth choir of girls is optional for singing separately from the boys during the Antiphons! (!!) Interestingly, and contrary to popular beliefs that women were simply forbidden to sing in churches, this demonstrates that girls were not automatically forbidden to sing in church, that women also sang in the congregation, and boys were a unique and preferred vocal vehicle for church music! This tells me there was a unique aesthetic appeal in boys' voices even back in the 16th Century!

Takashi Trushima wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Thanks for checking in details. I will read all of his writings you referred to.

I completely agree with you. The Scripture clearly says that women should remain silent in the church. (According to my non-Lutheran Christian friend, who is a member of Plymouth Brethren Assembly, this is the order of God's Creation, and I believe he is right when he says that.)

Today I went to a cocert of a choir of which one of my former fellow teachers is a member. (no treble obviously) They performed Vivaldi's 'Gloria' and some Christmas carols. The men's parts were wonderful. I wish they had boys in their choir.

And, at last, I'm going to a concert of the Choir of New Collegge, Oxford tomorrow! This is their first visit to Japan and I can't wait. They are going to sing some parts of Händel's Messiah and traditional British carols. There will be some organ solo performances also.

P.S. Bach's Messe H-moll (BWV 232) performed last year at St. Thomas Kirche by its choir, under the direction of Herr Biller, has been released on DVD here in Japan recently.

With the joy of our Lord's Nativity,

Takashi Trushima wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Boyd Pehrson] I'm sorry I misunderstood you.

Now, do you think the words of St. Paul, 'I do not allow women to teach.' or 'Women should remain silent.' have something to do with the all-men choir tradition?

Douglas Neslund wrote (December 22, 2001):
[To Takashi Trushima] Please greet Edward Higgenbottom for me, if you would be so kind, and if you have the opportunity to do so. And be *sure* to write a review for all the various forums. Thanks!

Takashi Trushima wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Douglas Neslund] (Excuse me, maybe I should have posted this to Voice of Angels, not to Bach Cantatas.)

Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to talk to Mr. Higginbottom. They must have been busy perfoming two concerts one at 2 p.m. and the other at 7 p.m. (the same program)

Actually I went to two boys choirs' concert, New College Choir and Les Petits Chanteurs a la Croix de Bois.

Here is my review of the two concerts:

The Choir of New College, Oxford

Traditional (arr. Andrew Carter): Angelus ad virginem
Johann (the bulletin says Jonann, but I guess this is Johann) Friedrich Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, Motette

Johann Sebastian Bach: Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stime, BWV645 (organ solo)
Franz Xaver Gruber: Stille Nacht
Georg Friedrich Händel: Messiah( And the glory of the Lord/ There were shepherds abiding in the field/ Glory to God)
Olivier Messiaen: Les anges, La nativite du Seigneur (organ solo)
Claude-Beigne Balbastre: A la venue de Noel (organ solo)
Judith Weir: Illuminare, Jerusalem
Herbert Howells: Sing lullaby
William Matthias: A babe is born
Barber: Agnus Dei
- Intermission -
Georg Friedrich Händel: For unto us a child is born, The Messiah
Traditional (arr. David Willcocks): The Sussex Carol
Pierre Villete: O magnam mysterium
Traditional (arr. Edward Higginbottom): Rocking carol
Marcel Dupré: Variations sur un Noel (organ solo)
Georg Friedrich Händel: And he shall purify, The Messiah
John Joubert: There is no rose
Michael Head: The little road to Bethlehem
Naji Hakim: Fantaisie sur "Adeste fideles" (organ solo)
Hymn: O come, all ye faithful

En chore
Have yourself a merry little Christmas (Choral Scholars)
Ding Dong Merrily on High
Swing low, sweet chariot

The concert was held in a typical and traditional British style. Actually this is their first tour in Japan, and they gave only a few concerts in Kyoto and Tokyo.
I think the choristers' voice was quite bright. To be honest, I have never heard J. F. Bach's 'Wachet auf' performed by all-men choirs. If you know any CDs of this piece performed by a all-men choir, please let me know.

'Stille Nacht' was sung rather in a rare arrangement. The choristers sang the verses in unison while the choral scholars just repeated 'Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht.'

Now, Judith Weir's 'Illuminare, Jerusalem.' I didn't expect that this piece would be performed in Japan! This piece was specially written by Judith Weir for the King's Nine Lessons and Carols in 1985.

What was impressive this afternoon was some parts of Händel's Messiah was performed all by the choir members accompanied by the organ. 'There were shepherds...' and 'And the angel said unto them.....' were sung by two choristers when even in King's College Choir uses professional sopranos for this part. These two boys did a wonderful job!

Two hours flied like an arrow. I was very satisfied with the concert. Next year, the Christ Church Cathedral Choir (and also St. John's, Cambridge also, I guess) is coming. (They performed a joint concert a few years ago, and I hope this will be realized again next year.)

The smallest boy couldn't hold his score book, so he shared it with another boy. Mr. Higginbottom told this boy to appear on the stage and bow to audience after the choir left the stage. This made the audience smile.

After a light supper, I hurried to another concert hall. Like the concert hall where New College Choir perfomed, the hall again was almost full. Les Petits Chanteurs a la Croix de Bois visits Japan every two years and travel for a few weeks. But this year was an exception. Tonight's concert somehow was the only and the last concert. What is characteristic about this choir is the French nazal sound. Well, they were perfect in harmony, I should say. The base part (which they call 'alto') was, to me at least, perfect. The high tone of the boys united with the low parts made a wonderful a cappella chorus. After the intermission they began part II of the concert with Bach's 'Herzlich lieb,' which is the last chorale of St. John's Passion in French! They also sang 'Hallelujah' from Händel's Messiah in French! Each boy was assigned to explain the title of the pieces in Japanese, but some of them forgot the words and they looked embarrased. In spite of this, the concert was successful. What a beautiful concert it was! I was really lucky to listen to the two great choirs in one day! (I'm sorry, there is another choir waiting to sing on Christmas night - Moscow Academy Boys Choir. What a luxious Chirstmas tide!)

Now, here is the program:
C. Trenet: Mes jeunes annees (When I was young)
O. di Lasso: O la, o che buon eco (O, joyous echo!)
J.P. Rameau: La nuit (A night) This is a beautiful song when sung in a perfect harmony!
Maartiniauis Island Folklore: Adieux foulard (So long, scarf!)
French Folklore: L'amour de moy (My Love)
Guadloup Island Folklore: Berceuse des grandes Antilles (Lulluby in the Great Antilles Islands)
Reunion Island Folklore: Maman Creole (Creole's Mom)
Czech Folklore: Tee,voda tee (Like a rapid stream)
F. Schubert: Heidenroslein (Wild Rose)
J. Brahms: Guten Abend (Good night)
Ukrain Folklore: Marussia
W. A. Mozart: Berceuse (Lulluby)
Hachidai Nakamura (Japanese): Ue o Muite Aruko (Let's walk looking up)
J.S.Bach: Laisse Seigneur (Herzlich lieb- from St. John's Passion)
Mendelssohn: Beati Mortui
G. Bouzignac: Jubilate Deo
M.A. Charpentier: Laudate Dominum
M. Durufle: Ubi Carit
G.F. Händel: Joy to the world
Annonymous: Piere a Maria (Prayer to Mary)
Annonymous: Le message des anges (Angels we have heard on high)
G.F. Händel: Alleluia (in French)
J. Pierpont: Jingle Bells
E. Berlin: White Christmas
F.X. Gruber: Stille Nacht

En chore
Yuki no furu machi o (Japanese: In the snowy town)

Boyd Pehrson wrote (December 23, 2001):
[To Takashi Trushima] Thank you for your marvellous reviews! I can see these concerts had very strong programmes! You are truly most fortunate to be able to see two of the world's best choirs of boys singing such a strong and beautiful programme!

Re: your question on Johann Fredrich Bach's Wachet Auf, I believe the Knabenchor Hannover, and Thomanerchor have both recorded Johann Fredrich Bach's Wachet Auf, or at least portions of it. I think The Dresden Kreuzchor as well. I do not know the CD numbers, but you may check the choirs' respective websites. You can see the Hannover Knabenchor actually train for this and sing a bit of it in the very fine Philippe Reypens film on Traditional Choirs titled "L'or des anges"!

Any of your reviews are welcome in Bach_Cantatas Takashi! We'll find a way to fit any of them into the format! After all, Brahms admired Bach greatly, Handel was his contemporary and Leipzig native, and Orlando di Lasso was one of Bach's inspirational resources!

I'm glad your having such a Blessed Christmastide!
May it ever continue!


Bach's choirs

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2005):
I would like to share with list members a section excerpted from Konrad Küster's "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1999, pp. 185-187.]

First I will give a short summary of the excerpt, then the German original will follow after which will be my complete translation of it. My comments will follow in brackets.

This is a rather modern summary of the current state of Bach scholarship pertaining to Bach's situation vis-à-vis the use of the "Thomaner" ["pupils of the St. Thomas School in Leipzig"] to populate the various choirs under his jurisdiction. It touches upon the reasons why Bach's cantatas were also sung at the St. Nicholas Church which also had its own church-affiliated Latin school, but which could not supply a sufficiently able choir of boy singers for Bach's purposes. In addition to the singing of cantatas at the St. Nicholas Church, the Thomaner had to step in wherever necessary to 'pinch hit' or 'fill in' wherever necessary in two other Leipzig churches as well, but their duties there were either less demanding (motet and 4-pt. chorale singing) or only a select contingent such as four '1st-string' concertists would, for instance, be assigned to the New Church to perform in Bach's cantatas there along with university students. This New Church, however, was in every other way, off limits for Bach who was not allowed to conduct or play there personally. Bach performed his cantatas on an alternating basis in both the St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Church. Just what Bach performed with his 3rd and 4th choirs can not be as easily determined, but the 1st and 2nd choirs had each assigned to them a special place in the service where only one would be performing, one before the other after the sermon. It is not clear just why the 2nd choir had to have a quartet of '1st-string' singers and whether instrumentalists were also needed to play along with this 2nd choir.

In composing his cantatas and considering their 'performability' by the Thomaner, Bach had to have a master schedule for all four choirs and needed to be aware of current illness among the pupils and when a pupil would graduate (or leave the school.) On top of this he had to be concerned about the development of each pupil's voice and when the pupils would experience the breaking of the voice.

Luckily, Bach did not have to depend solely upon what the Thomaner could produce musically at any given time. He could rely upon external singers and instrumentalists, most important of all the "Stadtpfeifer" and the university students at the University of Leipzig.

Just how many singers were at Bach's disposal at any given time is more complicated to answer than to determine the size of his instrumental ensemble. Bach gave the minimum number of singers for performances of the 4th choir as either two or three to a part (1729.) This means that one must have been the solo (concertist) and the others sang as ripienists. For each original vocal part we can assume that 3 singers at the maximum could sing from a single part.

Whether all the singers could tell when they were supposed to sing and when not is also open to question. The real problem is that Bach in his "Entwurff" sets up contradictions when attempting to tally the actual number of singers he needs for each venue and purpose, but he also does not base the required number of singers on what he needs to perform his cantatas, rather he bases this on what is needed for singing the traditional motets. The attempts which are made to apply the latter logically to Bach's own needs for his cantatas is no longer possible. It is not possible to obtain any certainty at all about the size of Bach's vocal ensemble, even for the 1st choir, from the existing documents and arguments.

The original text:

>>Welche Thomaner waren Bachs Kantatensänger?

In Arnstadt musizierte Bach sporadisch mit den Schülern der örtlichen Lateinschule; auch im Musikleben Mühlhausens und Weimars mag er Schülern begegnet sein. Doch nie zuvor war sein Musizieren so eng mit dem Leben einer Schule verknüpft wie in
Leipzig; als Thomaskantor war er an der Thomasschule beschäftigt, und sein Musizieren leitete sich aus der Einbindung in die Schule und aus dem Umgang mit den Schülern her - nicht daraus, dass er als Organist ein Ensemble um sich herum bildete. Der Leipziger Thomaskantor war zugleich städtischer Musikdirektor; als Folge aus seinem Amt ergab sich also die Funktion eines Vorgesetzten für andere Musiker, die Stadtpfeifer.

Im Leben der Thomasschule spielte das Musizieren eine überdurchschnittliche Rolle. In
Leipzig gab es zwei traditionsreiche Lateinschulen, die eine an St. Nikolai. die andere an St. Thomas; jede hätte prinzipiell ihre Kirche mit der entsprechenden Vokalmusik versorgen müssen. Doch beide Schulen entwickelten - ein Stück weit aufeinander abgestimmt - unterschiedliche Profile: Die Nikolaischule stellte die wissenschaftliche Ausbildung in den Vordergrund und vernachlässigte die musikalische; die Thomasschule rückte die musikalische so weit aus dem Hintergrund heraus, dass sie neben dem wissenschaftlichen Anspruch als gleichgewichtig gelten konnte. Dieses Prinzip zeigt sich im Detail darin, dass der Rektor und der Kantor der Thomasschule bei Neuaufnahmen in die Schülerschaft das Vorschlagsrecht abwechselnd ausübten: Wenn der Rektor einen schulisch besonders Begabten bevorzugte, hatte der Kantor daraufhin das Recht, die nächste Schülerstelle an einen musikalisch besonders Begabten zu vergeben.

Die unterschiedliche Ausrichtung der beiden Schulen konstituierte Bachs Doppelfunktion als Kantor an der Thomasschule und als >Director musices< der Stadt. Denn die stark wissenschaftliche Ausrichtung der Nikolaischule war nur möglich, weil das damit entstehende >musikalische Vakuum< im gottesdienstlichen Leben der Nikolaikirche von der Thomasschule ausgefüllt wurde: Die Thomaner musizierten nicht nur in den Gottesdiensten der Thomaskirche, sondern auch in denen der Nikolaikirche. Diese erhöhten musikalischen Aufgaben der Thomasschule verschafften ihrem Kantor die musikalische Schlüsselstellung in der Stadt, und die Nikolaischule leistete jährliche Zahlungen an die Thomasschule, um sich deren kirchenmusikalische Vertretung stets neu zu sichern. Doch damit ist das kirchenmusikalische Leben Leipzigs noch nicht umschrieben, folglich auch nicht die Aufgaben von Thomasschülern und -kantor. Neben dem Dienst in den beiden Hauptkirchen versorgten sie auch sämtliche Sonund Festtagsgottesdienste der Neuen Kirche und der Peterskirche mit Musik.

Die Schülerzahl [der Thomaner] zu Bachs Zeit betrug etwa 55, und mit diesen mussten die musikalischen Verpflichtungen in vier Kirchen bestritten werden. Sie waren nicht in allen Kirchen gleich anspruchsvoll. In der Peterskirche waren sie am niedrigsten und umfassten nur das Singen von Chorälen. Diese Aufgabe, die auch von kleinsten Lateinschulen dörflicher Prägung erfüllt wurde, war in Bachs Augen nicht wirklich »musikalisch«; im Entwurff von 1730 charakterisierte er die Schüler, die in in der Peterskirche auftraten, als den »Ausschuß, nemlich die, so keine music verstehen, sondern nur nothdörfftig einen Choral singen können». Selbst wenn es sich bei diesen Chorälen um vierstimmige Sätze handelte, verwundert Bachs Einschätzung nicht; da ein Mindestmaß an musikalischer Bildung im lutherischen Lateinschulideal als essentiell galt, reichten die entsprechenden Grundkenntnisse noch nicht dazu aus, dass man sie als besondere Qualifikation behandelt hätte.

Schon für die Gottesdienste in der Neuen Kirche mussten »die Schüler alle musicalisch seyn<, Dorthin entsandte Bach Schüler, die immerhin Motetten singen konnten - also jenen Grundbestand protestantischer Kirchenmusik, der, insbesondere in Sammeldrucken des frühen 17. Jahrhunderts verbreitet, dem Gottesdienstpublikum ebenso geläufig war wie die Predigttexte oder die Kirchenlieder.

Selbstverständlich wirkten die Thomaner, die in der Neukirche musizierten, ebenso am Choralsingen mit (vielleicht wiederum in vierstimmigen Sätzen). Die weitere Neukirchenmusik bestritten Studenten der Leipziger Universität; die Kirchenkantaten, die dort aufgeführt wurden, standen nicht mehr unter der Aufsicht des Thomaskantors, seit der Leipziger Rat Telemann während dessen Studienzeit die Leitung der Neukirchenmusik übertragen hatte.

Die Aufgaben der Thomaner, die in der Neukirche sangen, blieben den Spitzensängern, deren Musizier-Terrain St. Nikolai und St. Thomas war, nicht erspart: Auch sie wirkten in ihrer Kirche am Choralsingen mit und sangen Motetten aus dem schon jahrzehntelang üblichen Werkkorpus. Außerdem aber boten sie moderne Figuralmusik dar. Den 1. Chor leitete Bach selbst; hier wurden seine eigenen Kantaten aufgeführt, jedoch nicht allsonntäglich in derselben Kirche, sondern im Wechsel zwischen St. Nikolai und St. Thomas. In der Kirche, in der der Leipziger Superintendent amtierte (damals St. Nikolai), fand sich Bach mit seinem Ensemble am jeweils 1. Feiertag der Hochfeste Weihnachten, Ostern und Pfingsten zum Hauptgottesdienst ein; nach diesem Anfang ergab sich jener Wechsel, in den auch die weiteren kirchlichen Feiertage eingeschlossen waren. In der Kirche, in der er gerade nicht musizierte, trat der 2. Chor auf.

Das Repertoire der Chöre 3 und 4 ist zwar nicht so genau bestimmbar, dass man wüsste, wann welche Komposition dargeboten wurde; doch grundsätzlich ist man über ihr Musizieren ausreichend informiert, also auch über den Grundbestand dessen, was der 1. und 2. Chor aufführte. Doch mit Blick auf deren Repertoire ist mit diesen Hinweisen die Neugier nicht befriedigt, und damit, dass der 1. Chor Bachs Kantaten musizierte, wird die Informationslücke nur teilweise gefüllt. Denn beide Chöre hatten zwei besondere 'Plätze' im gottesdienstlichen Ablauf auszufüllen, je einen vor und nach der Predigt. In der Regel ist die Nachwelt nur darüber informiert, was der 1. Chor vor der Predigt sang; nur dann, wenn die Kantate für den jeweiligen Sonn- oder Festtag zweiteilig war oder wenn zwei kürzere Kantaten einem einzigen Tag zugeordnet werden können, lässt sich dieses Musizieren umfassend beschreiben. Die Ratlosigkeit vergrößert sich, wenn man den 2. Chor in den Blick nimmt: Weshalb in ihm musikalisch begabte Sänger erforderlich seien, die in der Lage waren, Figuralmusik aufzuführen, ist unbekannt; denn über das Repertoire dieses Ensembles weiß man nichts, auch nicht darüber, in welchem Umfang für die in Frage stehenden Werke Instrumente benötigt wurden.

Die Schülerschaft war also in vier Chöre eingeteilt, die jeweils gleichzeitig musizieren konnten. Auch in die Techniken einer solchen Ensemble-Organisation musste sich Bach einarbeiten. Zudem hatte er (erstmals in seiner Laufbahn) Aspekte zu berücksichtigen, die für das Musizieren eines Schülerchors typisch sind. Er war davon abhängig, wann welche Schüler die Schule verließen. Zudem musste er auf die stimmliche Entwicklung der Schüler Rücksicht nehmen; zwar ist auch für Leipziger Kantoren des 18. Jahrhunderts nicht belegt, wie sie mit Stimmbruch umgingen, doch völlig unabhängig von dem Schüler->Angebot< kann Bach nicht gewesen sein. Dies musste Konsequenzen für seine Kompositionsweise haben: Wenn die jeweils verfügbaren Schüler ein Werk objektiv nicht singen konnten, war es nicht aufführbar.

Allerdings waren Bachs Möglichkeiten, Sänger zu beschäftigen, mit dem Angebot, das die Thomasschule bot, noch nicht erschöpft. Ebenso wie im Instrumentalensemble standen ihm auch für sängerische Aufgaben externe Kräfte zur Verfügung, primär Studenten der Leipziger Universität. In Bachs Anfangsjahren haben sie sich zumindest zeitweise »auch darzu willig finden lassen, in Hoffnung, daß ein oder anderer mit der Zeit einige Ergötzligkeit bekommen, und etwa mit einem stipendio oder honorario (wie vor diesem gewöhnlich gewesen) würde begnadiget werden«. Diese Formulierung aus dem Entwurff muss man wörtlich nehmen; denn sie zeigt, dass die Studenten ohne Honorar musizierten und nur von Zeit zu Zeit eine Sonderzuwendung erhielten. Bach kann darauf verweisen, dass seinen Vorgängern
Johann Schelle und Johann Kuhnau mehr Geld für diese Extra-Engagements zur Verfügung stand; doch seine rhetorische Frage »wer wird ümsonst arbeiten, oder Dienste thun?< zielt an zeitüblichen Verhältnissen der Kirchenmusik vorbei (wie für Mühlhausen geschildert: S. 125). Bachs Praxis schwankte zwischen den beiden Sichtweisen (Schulze, Studenten): In Leipziger Rechnungsbüchern erscheinen zwischen 1724 und 1731 gelegentlich Zahlungsbelege an Studenten «wegen geleisteter Dienste bey der Kirchen Music« - ohne Angabe eines Zeitraums, auf den sich die Zahlungen bezögen, und, soweit ein Student mehrfach hintereinander belohnt wurde, in unregelmäßiger Folge. Somit hat Bach wohl die Studenten, auf deren Mitwirkung er in erhöhtem Maß angewiesen war, gelegentlich in den Genuss von zehn oder zwölf Talern kommen lassen; im Prinzip musizierten sie aber (wie mögliche weitere Personen) »ümsonst«.

Wie viele Sänger standen Bach zur Verfügung? Diese Frage ist noch komplizierter zu beantworten als die nach dem Umfang des Instrumentalensembles. Zwar gibt es auch hier eine Reihe von Ausgangsinformationen, doch reichen sie wiederum bei weitem nicht aus, um eine Klärung herbeizuführen. Wohl im Jahr 1729 entwarf Bach ein Schema, demzufolge die vier Chorstimmen für das Musizieren im 4. Chor jeweils doppelt, ansonsten jeweils dreifach besetzt sein müssten (Dok. I, Nr. 180). Wenn man diese Zahl auf die Musik der Bach'schen Kantaten überträgt, ergibt sich daraus, dass jeweils einer der drei Sänger Solist gewesen sei und die beiden übrigen hinzutraten, wenn es um Chorsätze ging. Grundsätzlich ist dies nicht auszuschließen; für jede Chorstimme Bach'scher Kantaten ist jeweils ein Notenblatt angefertigt worden, aus dem folglich maximal drei Sänger musizieren könnten.

Doch den Unterschied zwischen solistischem und >chorischem< Musizieren hätten die Sänger allein aus dem Notenbild ableiten müssen; Tutti- oder Solo-Vermerke sind normalerweise nicht eingetragen. Ob alle Mitwirkenden diese Gattungsdifferenzierung ohne weitere Hinweise treffen konnten, ist fraglich. Problematisch ist auch, dass Bach sich im Entwurf von 1730 in Widersprüche verwickelt, als er seinen Sängerbedarf schildert, und dass er sich nicht auf die Aufführungsbedürfnisse seiner Kantaten stützt, sondern auf die der traditionellen Motetten - und zwar solcher, die doppelchörig angelegt sind. Der Ansatz ist zunächst verständlich: Gerade traditionalistische Rats- oder Kirchenvertreter der Zeit können nichtbestritten haben, dass die Ensemblegröße eine Aufführung dieser elementaren Figuralmusik ermöglichen müsse; wenn Bach sich hingegen für seine Musik ein Ensemble wünschte, das größer als das verfügbare war, konnte man ihm entgegenhalten, er habe seine Werke anders zu komponieren.

Zunächst erklärt er, er brauche in den Motetten für jede Stimme einen Concertisten und einen Ripienisten, folglich im achtstimmigdoppelchörigen Musizieren 16 Sänger; wenig später schreibt er aber, hierfür seien 12 Sänger nötig, nämlich pro Chorstimme einer (also acht) und außerdem in jedem Stimmregister ein weiterer, falls einer wegen Krankheit ausfalle. Damit ist der Boden logischer Argumentation verlassen, eine Ubertragbarkeit der Darlegungen auf seine Kantatenpraxis nicht mehr gegeben. Das Spektrum der Lösungen ist breit:Grundsätzlich ist denkbar, dass Bach auf Basis der Doppelchörigkeit die vier Chorstimmen seiner Kantaten doppelt besetzte, ebenso aber, dass er stets mit nur einfacher Besetzung der Chorstimmen rechnete - gleichviel, ob das Musizieren ein- oder doppelchörig war. Der Unterschied zwischen Chor und Solo hätte sich dann daraus ergeben, dass im Chor die vier Solosänger miteinander musizierten, im Solosatz einer von ihnen allein. Dann aber ist zu fragen, ob die Hälfte der Sänger, die im jeweiligen Gottesdienst an einer »2 Chörigten Motette« mitwirkten, während der Kantatenaufführung schwieg.

Eine >absolute Wahrheit< über den Umfang von Bachs Vokalensemble selbst im 1. Chor ist somit aufgrund der vorliegenden Dokumente und Argumente nicht zu
gewinnen. Zudem muss man sich vielleicht von der Vorstellung lösen, dass alle Stimmen gleich stark besetzt waren; es konnte möglicherweise genügen, zwei Bassisten singen zu lassen, auch wenn der Sopran drei-oder gar vierfach besetzt war. Ob ein derartiges Ausbalancieren der Stimmkräfte mit der geringen Zahl verfügbarer Mitwirkender überhaupt denkbar war, ist zwar wiederum fraglich, wird aber durch die Satztechnik Bach'scher Kantaten bestätigt, die die Stimmen weithin gleichrangig behandelt - und zwar nicht nur innerhalb des vierstimmigen Vokalapparats, sondern auch in dessen Wechselbeziehungen mit dem Orchester, dessen filigraner Satz allzu häufig von einem zu dominanten chorischen Musizieren in den Hintergrund gedrängt wird.<<

Complete translation of the above text:

>>"Which pupils from the St. Thomas School in Leipzig were Bach's cantata singers?"

In Arnstadt Bach sporadically performed with the pupils of the local Latin school and Bach may also have had contact with pupils involved in the musical life of Mühlhausen and Weimar. However, never before were his performances so closely tied to the life of a school as in Leipzig. As the Cantor of St. Thomas Church, Bach also had duties to perform at the St. Thomas School. His decisions regarding musical performances resulted from his obligations to the school and his contact with the pupils there - not necessarily from the fact that he, as organist simply assembled his musicians from wherever he could obtain them. The St. Thomas Cantor was at the same time the Director of Music for all city-related musical activities. As a result of this, he was the superior (boss) for all other musicians in the city such as the 'Stadtpfeifer' ["city pipers or waits."] Music played an above-average role at St. Thomas School. In Leipzig there were two Latin schools with long-standing traditions; one was the St. Nicholas School and the other the St. Thomas School. Each was associated with the church with the same name and each was responsible for providing the required vocal music there. However, both schools in conjunction with each other had developed different profiles emphasizing certain specialized areas over others: the St. Nicholas School specialized in the area of the sciences, neglecting, for the most part, the study of music while at the St. Thomas School music was treated as equal to the study of the sciences. This division is apparent in the principle applied when accepting new pupils at the school: the right to select students for either school alternated between the headmaster and the cantor. If the headmaster had chosen a particular student who was considered particularly gifted for studies, the cantor then had the right to choose a pupil particularly talented/gifted in music for the next available opening. This special alignment of jurisdictional powers came as a result of Bach's double function as St. Thomas Kantor (including the associated school) and his position as the Director of Music for the entire city of Leipzig. The strong emphasis on the sciences at the St. Nicholas School was only possible because the musical vacuum which was created in the providing of musical services for the St. Nicholas Church was being covered/filled out by the services also provided by the St. Thomas School. The musically talented pupils of St. Thomas School performed not only for the church services of St. Thomas Church, but also for the services in St. Nicholas Church. These additional responsibilities placed upon St. Thomas School brought with them to its cantor the key position for all music in the city. St. Nicholas School was required to pay yearly sums to St. Thomas School in order to assure each year anew that this 'standing in' by the St. Thomas School would continue. But this does not by any means describe all the church music taking place in Leipzig nor are all the responsibilities of the 'Thomaner' ["pupils of St. Thomas School"] and its cantor. In addition to the services provided in both of the main churches of Leipzig, they also had perform/provide music at all the Sunday and holiday services at the New Church and St. Peters church.

The number of pupils that Bach was in charge of while in Leipzig was 55, and with these he had to cover the musical responsibilities in all four churches. The demands made upon the musicians were not all the same. The requirements at St. Peters Church were the least demanding and amounted only to the singing of chorales. This responsibility, which could easily be fulfilled by the Latin schools in small villages, Bach did not consider truly 'musical.' In the 'Entwurff' from 1720, he characterized the pupils that performed at St. Peters Church as "rejects, specifically those who do not understand music at all and are just barely able to sing a chorale." And even if these involved singing 4-pt. chorales, we should not be astounded by Bach's appraisal here. Although there was a minimum requirement of musical education that was considered essential as a Lutheran ideal in Latin schools, the necessary basic musical abilities were simply not sufficient to consider them to be treated as a special qualification.

Even for the church services in the New Church, "all of the pupils were required to be musical." It was to that church that Bach sent pupils who at least could sing motets - these were the basic component of Protestant church music and which particularly were known far and wide in the printed music of the early 17th century. These were as familiar to the congregation as the sermon texts. It can be taken for granted that the 'Thomaner' who performed in the New Church, were also involved in singing the chorales (perhaps also with 4-pt. settings.) All the rest of the music at the New Church was performed by students from the University of Leipzig; any cantatas performed there were no longer under the supervision of the St. Thomas cantor since the time when the Leipzig City Council granted Telemann, still a student, the directorship of the New Church church services.

Some of the best singers among the Thomaner were not spared from fulfilling their musical duties singing in the New Church while also pursuing their other normal musical responsibilities in the churches of St. Nicholas and, of course, St. Thomas. In their own churc, they also participated in singing chorales and motets from the standard choral literature that had been used for decades. In addition to this they offered modern figural music. The first choir was conducted by Bach himself. This is where his own cantatas were performed, not every Sunday in the same church, but rather in alternation between St. Nicholas and St. Thomas Church. In the church where the Superintendent of Leipzig officiated (at that time it was St. Nicholas,) Bach appeared with his ensemble each first day of the major feast days (Christmas, Easter and Pentecost) for the main church service. Calculated from whenever these holidays occurred, the schedule for alternating between churches for the remaining liturgical holidays was established. In the church where Bach was not performing, the second choir performed.

The repertoires of the third and fourth choirs can not be determined as precisely so as to know just when and where which compositions were performed; but generally there is sufficient knowledge about the musical duties and regarding the basic components that were performed by the first and second choirs. But just glancing at the repertoires of these two choirs, one's curiosity is not satisfied, and simply knowing that the first choir performed Bach's cantatas only partially fills the gap of required information that is needed, for it is a fact that both choirs had to sing at two specific 'places' in the sequence of events in the church service, one before and the other after the sermon. We are informed generally about what the first choir sang before the sermon; only then when the cantata for a specific Sunday or Feast day was in two parts or when two shorter cantatas were performed during the same service, is it possible to describe completely what all the performances by the choirs were. One's helplessness in attaining more information increases when one begins to examine carefully what responsibilities the second choir had: it is not known just why this choir should have in it musically gifted singers who were capable of performing figural music, for we know nothing about the repertoire of this ensemble, nor do we know to what extent the compositions that were performed required instruments. The entire corps of pupils was divided into four choirs which were capable of singing simultaneously in different venues. Bach would have had to learn how to manipulate the techniques involved in working with such an ensemble organization. In addition to this (for the first time in his career as a musician/composer) he would have to take into account certain aspects that were typical for performances of a choir consisting of pupils. He was dependent upon when pupils left the school. It was necessary for him to take into account the vocal development of these pupils. To be sure, there is no concrete evidence regarding just how the cantors in Leipzig handled the breaking of these boys' voices, but one thing is certain, Bach was dependent upon the number of pupils available to him at any given time. This must have had some consequences for his methods or manner of composition: if the pupils available for performing a work could not actually sing it, then it was not performable.

However Bach's possibilities to use singers were not exhausted with whatever the St. Thomas School had to offer him; just the same as was the case with his instrumentalists, there were other external sources that Bach could draw upon in order to solve his problem of not having enough singers: primarily these external sources consisted of students from the Leipzig University. During Bach's tenure in Leipzig there were at least from time to time such students who "would willing perform in the churches, while hoping that they might derive some pleasure out of this experience for themselves and perhaps even hope to graciously have bestowed upon them a cash gift or even a scholarship (the way it used to be.)" The manner in which Bach formulated this statement in the Entwurff must be taken literally. It shows that the Leipzig University students generally performed without receiving any remuneration and only occasionally received special recognition with either cash or a scholarship. By posing the question "who would work for nothing, or provide such services for free?" Bach could indicate the seriousness of his situation by stating that his predecessors, Johann Schelle and Johann Kuhnau had received more money for extras such as this; and yet Bach's rhetorical question misses its mark when compared to the contemporary circumstances in church music elsewhere. Bach's operating procedure vacillated between these two viewpoints (non-payment or payment of extras): The Leipzig bookkeeping records, without recording the specific dates for payments, occasionally have recorded between 1724 and 1731 sums of money paid to university students "for services rendered in providing church music," and when the same student received remunerations, then the payments were at irregular intervals. In this way Bach probably gave these students on whose participation he had depended to a great degree the pleasure of having 10 or 12 Taler put into their pockets, but, for the most part, these students, along with other external musicians of this sort, performed "ümsonst" ["for nothing or for free".]

How many singers did Bach have at his disposal? This question is even more complicated to answer than the size of the instrumental ensemble. Yes, there is some preliminary information available here as well, but it is hardly sufficient to bring clarity to the situation. In 1729 Bach did provide a scheme, according to which each of the four parts (S, A, T, B) had to have at least 2 or 3 singers per part (Dok. I, Nr. 180.) If you try to apply this to singing of Bach's cantatas, then the result would be that, in each case, one of the three singers would have to be considered as the soloist (concertist) and that the others would sing along with them in the choral sections. On principle this procedure can not be excluded since every vocal part of the Bach cantatas has been copied out at least once and from this, therefore, a maximum of 3 singers could have performed the music.

However, the singers themselves would have to figure out the difference between the solo [concertist] and choral [ripienist] parts from simply looking at the music where normally no markings such as 'tutti' or 'solo' were provided. It is questionable whether all performers would be able to make this distinction without receiving further instructions.

It is also problematical that Bach gets himself caught up in contradictions in his 1730 "Entwurff" when he describes his needs concerning singers and when he does not base his scheme upon what he actually needs to perform his own cantatas, but rather on the requirements for the traditional motets - specifically those which require a double chorus. At first this approach seems understandable: it was the very traditionally-inclined, conservative city and church authorities of that time who could not have disputed that the size of the ensemble must at least make possible the performance of such elemental, figural music; but when Bach expressed his desires regarding the ensemble needed for his own music, an ensemble larger than that which currently existed, they could counter with the statement that he should compose his compositions differently.

At first Bach explains that for the motets he needs to have a 'concertist' and a 'ripienist' for each vocal part, which would mean 16 singers are needed for an 8-pt. double chorus motet, but a bit later, however, he writes that 12 singers would be needed, specifically one for each vocal part (a total of 8) and, in addition, for each voice another singer in case one of those assigned would become ill. With this type of statement Bach has givenup any notion of logical argumentation. The spektrum of solutions is indeed wide-ranging:

Fundamentally it is conceivable that Bach, on the basis of double choruses had each voice sung by 2 singers, but it is just as conceivable, that he always relied upon only a simple ensemble of choral voices - and that it did not matter whether the ensemble needed a single or a double chorus. The difference between the choral and solo passages would have resulted from the situation that in the choral passages the 4 solo singers would be performing, but when a solo was required, only one of them would sing. Another question that has to be asked is whether half of the singers who were required for and sang in the double-chorus motet ("2 Chörigten Motette") would 'sit out' or remain silent for the cantata performance.

It is not possible, based upon the existing documents and arguments, to determine the 'absolute truth' about the size of Bach's vocal ensemble, even of the primary choir ["1. Chor."] In addition, it might be necessary to free oneself from the idea that all the voice parts had the same number of singers singing them; it could possibly be sufficient to has two basses singing even when the soprano part had 3 or even 4 singers. But whether such a balancing-out of the vocal parts mit the limited number of available performers was even conceivable is also very questionable since Bach's compositional techniques in his cantatas confirm that all the voices are treated equally for the most part, and this happens not only within the 4-pt. texture of the chorus, but also in its interrelationship with the orchestral parts, which would be forced into the background with its delicate, filigree passages by the dominant sound produced by the choir.<<

[One point of disagreement with the above is in regard to the 'maximum number of singers per part.' A recently shared source, albeit a description of what young Italian, not German, musicians were capable of accomplishing while reading from a single part, indicates that our expectations today of what was possible for young musicians in Bach's day should not prevent us from objectively seeing what was possible without blindly/unconsciously invoking a present-day bias to explain what may really have happened.

A point of agreement with the above is that if Bach, as Küster points out, in his 'Entwurff' gets caught up in a number of contradictions, then the foundation of logical argumentation is no longer present. My question then is: how can what has been described as a logically coherent presentation of the OVPP theory by Rifkin be based on such a shaky foundation? If the premise (in this case the evidence provided by Bach in his "Entwurff") is fraught with contradictions, what good are all the viable logical arguments that are brought forth in defense of the OVPP theory? I have felt this way all along about Rifkin's method of argumentation that could be compared to a 'shell game' which coaxes the reader to try to follow along to the point of an 'inevitable' conclusion. But if the reader recognizes in advance, after reading and studying the "Entwurff" itself, that the foundation is unreliable, contradictory, confusing, etc., then no amount of subsequent logic applied to the original source will be able to yield a reliable answer, perhaps not even a wild approximation of what may really have existed at one time. Perhaps time would be better spent considering what really happened to all the other doublets of vocal parts that have not been found and disposing of the erroneous notion that only one singer can sing from a single part. The indication is there that these doublets did exist not only to help in distinguishing the concertists from the ripienists.]

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you. Just a reminder for those planning a performance of Bach Cantatas----the huge 500 plus romantic choruses often inappropriately seen to do Handel's Messiah are just as inappropriate also to do Bach.

The ideal size Chorus for Bach's Cantatas should consist of SATB choirs of 4 people each with perhaps special soloists if not drawn from the Choir. This makes a total of 16 people plus any special soloists.

The ideal orchestra should consist of 4 first violins, 4 second violins (these maybe doubled if need be) 4 Viola (an occaisional Viola d'amoure) and 2 Gambas (or worse case scenarios---Celli).

Contrabasses should not be used at all or if insisted upon a Violon substituted and restricted to continuo parts in the Arias. Contrabasses contribute nothing but plod along with the gamba or cello and cause the score to sound lugubrious, lumbering and just too bassey

The Woodwinds section according to what is called for should consists of up to 4 oboe d'amour, 4 Oboe da caccia (2 being the usual number); 1 or 2 fluato traversi (in the rare works that call for them); 2 tenor or alto blockflutes; 1 bassoon and Always Organ.

Brass should consist of up to 4-6 trumpets in d or e; and for the few rare works that call for them 4 French Horns; 2 trombones (rarely called for).

Percussion consists of tympani--usually tuned to g and d but more often than not a single drum will do.

John Pike wrote (February 4, 2005):
Thomas Braatz quoted:
"If you try to apply this to singing of Bach's cantatas, then the result would be that, in each case, one of the three singers would have to be considered as the soloist (concertist) and that the others would sing along with them in the choral sections. On principle this procedure can not be excluded since every vocal part of the Bach cantatas has been copied out at least once and from this, therefore, a maximum of 3 singers could have performed the music."

Thomas commented:
"A point of agreement with the above is that if Bach, as Küster points out, in his 'Entwurff' gets caught up in a number of contradictions, then the foundation of logical argumentation is no longer present. My question then is: how can what has been described as a logically coherent presentation of the OVPP theory by Rifkin be based on such a shaky foundation? If the premise (in this case the evidence provided by Bach in his "Entwurff") is fraught with contradictions, what good are all the viable logical arguments that are brought forth in defense of the OVPP theory? I have felt this way all along about Rifkin's method of argumentation that could be compared to a 'shell game' which coaxes the reader to try to follow along to the point of an 'inevitable' conclusion. But if the reader recognizes in advance, after reading and studying the "Entwurff" itself, that the foundation is
unreliable, contradictory, confusing, etc., then no amount of subsequent logic applied to the original source will be able to yield a reliable answer, perhaps not even a wild approximation of what may really have existed at one time. Perhaps time would be better spent considering what really happened to all the other doublets of vocal parts that have not been found and disposing of the erroneous notion that only one singer can sing from a single part. The indication is there that these doublets did exist not only to help in distinguishing the concertists from the ripienists.]
Thank you. This is very helpful. I was very puzzled by the statement from the book given below. I was under the impression that, far from "every vocal part of the Bach cantatas has been copied out at least once", there was only part for each voice for the vast majority of the cantatas. Please could someone clarify this? Is the author referring to copies made at the time of performance or sometime later, eg prior to lending scores/parts to someone else?

I also have to fundamentally disagree with Thomas' comments about Rifkin's methodology. I think it is quite wrong to suggest that the Parrott/Rifkin view is based very heavily on the Entwurff. The view is based on many strands of evidence, stated clearly in Parrott's book and Rifkin's original essay. Indeed, until now, it was the Entwurff which I found the hardest thing to fit into their view. Far from being the icing on the cake, it seemed to me to be the fly in the ointment, a major obstaclto my accepting the OVPP view. However, this extract from the book has really got me thinking. What purposes did Bach have in mind when listing needs of 12 or 16 singers. Was it 2 choir motets only? How many singers were in each of the 4 choirs (we will probably never know) and if the Entwurff does contain so many inconsistencies, may be I should not let it undermine my confidence in OVPP so much.

Regarding how many people could share a part, it would be useful to know why the author states his view that "a maximum of 3 singers could have performed the music." Many questions are left unanswered for me about how many copies of parts there were for most of the cantatas and how many people could reasonably share a part, but the extract was certainly very useful and thought-provoking. Thank you.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 4, 2005):
<message deleted>

Ludwig wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To John Pike] There is documentation of the number of people who usually made up Bach's Choruses. On the Popular Bach Biography front---Mary Grew tells about this.

I am not sure what you mean by your other question---yes there is only on part per voice (not single voice but 4 voices per choir) in most of the Cantatas although some editors will single out other vocal parts for the arias. In most editions and what we now can read of the existing originals (they are crumbling away to dust because of the Oak gall-iron based ink that Bach used--beautiful but deadly to paper); usually do not single out soloist parts per se--they are simply listed as an aria which is understood to be sung usually by a single person.

Doug Cowling wrote (February 4, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
< Brass should consist of up to 4-6 trumpets in d or e; and for the few rare works that call for them 4 French Horns; 2 trombones (rarely called for).
Percussion consists of tympani--usually tuned to g and d but more often than not a single drum will do. >
Where in the works of Bach are 5 or 6 trumpets used and more than 2 horns?
There are several works which call for 3 trombones. There are always 2 timpani.

John Reese wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To Ludwig] 4-6 trumpets and 4 horns is appropriate for a full-sized orchestra; a little much to expect a 16 voice choir to balance, unless it is 16 opera singers.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 3, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>How clueless were these singers, again, allegedly?The composer was right there rehearsing and directing them!<<
Not in the New Church where his cantatas were also performed, because Bach was not allowed to conduct music or play the organ there.

Then there is the question of the rehearsals where Bach was present. Why is it, that Dürr and others who have examined very carefully every genuine part from the original set of parts from the cantatas have found that for whatever articulation, tempi markings, etc. that were put into the parts by Bach before the performance, there were never any markings made during rehearsals as one might come to expect from our vantage point. Bach's markings and corrections to the parts were often incomplete with wrong notes left standing uncorrected. What did Bach do in rehearsal? Did he say to his performers: "2nd violin, remember tomorrow that you have to correct and play a different note in bar 16 and that there should be a trill over the fifth note in bar 25" Then he collected his precious parts (in case a singer or player would become ill and not be able to bring the part with him on Sunday) and kept them until the performance the next day.

>>And, isn't this "problem" *created* by the assumption that it's more than one person sharing the piece of paper?<<
It's a reasonable assumption if we can set aside the current trend of viewing the past through our present-day expectations (easy accessibility of extra parts, etc. means OVPP.)

>>What good are viable logical arguments?!?!?!?!? What GOOD are they? What is scientific inquiry (of which Rifkin's is an excellent example) based on BUT viable logical arguments and deep knowledge of practical matters, observation of viable possibilities!?<<
As stated above, what is 'practical' today was not necessarily considered a 'practical' normal situation in Bach's day. If Rifkin's arguments are not based primarily upon the 'Entwurff' and the sheer existence of parts, many of which have come down to us haphazardly, what are they based upon that could be considered firm, solid evidence upon which a structure of logical arguments can be established?

>>Why is this scientific method being held up as a liability?<<
Ask any scientist how reliable the scientific method is if that which is being scrutinized already exists in a contradictory manner. Isn't this like multiplying by 0? The scientific method is not at fault here, only the initial evidence which is brought into focus already has an inherent fatal flaw. Why should the scientific method be faulted? Even Rifkin's application of logic may be faultless and viewed as an edifice to be marveled at, but at the very core there is a fatal flaw which undermines seriously whatever results the logical, scientific method may produce.

>>Rifkin's presentation is not that. His essay comes across with extremely careful skepticism about the whole is obvious, of course, by actually reading his book.<<

What happened to Rifkin's 'extremely careful skepticism about the whole thing' when he included the 'Entwurff' as the cornerstone of his OVPP theory? Perhaps he has removed all references to the 'Entwurff' in his 2002 book? That at least would cause
me to reexamine where he stands today and to appreciate with others the clean logical structure of his arguments.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 4, 2005):
< As stated above, what is 'practical' today was not necessarily considered a 'practical' normal situation in Bach's day. If Rifkin's arguments are not based primarily upon the 'Entwurff' and the sheer existence of parts, many of which have come down to us haphazardly, what are they based upon that could be considered firm, solid evidence upon which a structure of logical arguments can be established?
What happened to Rifkin's 'extremely careful skepticism about the whole thing' when he included the 'Entwurff' as the cornerstone of his OVPP theory? Perhaps he has removed all references to the 'Entwurff' in his 2002 book? That at least would cause me to reexamine where he stands today and to appreciate with others the clean logical structure of his arguments.>
I guess you'll just have to read his book to find out, instead of sitting around accusing him of being dishonest. That's what the present discussion amounts to: an accusation that he's dishonest, or running "a shell game" as was alleged here this afternoon.

That plus the allegation added here tonight that he's built his case on insufficient evidence; which would make him not only dishonest but also ignorant, in the allegation against him. The supposedly helpful advice quoted above, as to what he should remove all traces of from his book, says much more about the accuser/advice-giver than about the case.

p.s. Please don't fail to notice in Rifkin's footnotes that he has done an exceptional amount of homework on this topic over the past 20+ years, including a full command of all the German sources old and new.

Michael Telles wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To John Pike] Since there's been so much talk about Bach's big choral pieces, I
wanted to mention that I recently found an 11 CD set of Rilling doing the major choral work for only around $20. Check out the Berkshire Record Outlet online; it's a new special.

Here I go again with Suzuki, but have you heard his recording of St. John? Really nice.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Johannes-Passion BWV 245 – conducted by Masaaki Suzuki [Other Vocal Works]


Continue on Part 4

Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9
One-Voice-Per-Part (OVPP):
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20 | Part 21
Bach’s Choir and Orchestra [T. Koopman] | Evidence for the Size of Bach’s Primary Choir [T. Braatz]
Books on OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [A. Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [J. Rifkin]: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýDecember 6, 2009 ý23:11:52