Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works
Continue from Part 2
Style of Bach's original scores?
The NBA being out of date
Dale Gedcke wrote (December 22, 2003):
Is there anyone in the Bach Cantatas group who has looked at the original scores Bach wrote for these performances? If so, can you tell me whether he used the treble and bass clef notation that is common today, or did he use "figured bass" for the continuo?
For reference, here is a non-musical dictionary definition that caused me to ask the question:
"continuo: 1) A typically keyboard accompaniment for a solo instrument in which numerals indicate the successive chords, the actual notes played being left to the performer. Also called 'figured bass'. 2) A full scoring of a part originally written as a continuo. "
If feasible, an example would be most helpful.
(The older I become, the more there is to learn)
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 22, 2003):
[To Dale Gedcke] Figured bass...and sometimes lacking the numerals etc, becoming "unfigured" bass. The player is given only the bass line (with or without figures); or occasionally that bass line plus a vocal part; or occasionally can play from full score.
In any of those cases, the right-hand part is not written out at all by the composer, but is supplied by the performer through taste and experience: improvisation and close listening to everything else that is going on at the moment, reacting with whatever needs to be done in this particular performance.
And in some pieces, for example Brandenburg Concerto #5 or the sinfonia of cantata BWV 49, some of the right-hand part is written out and some of it is improvised from the figures, within the same movement: flexibility as it goes along.
And in a few others, for example the middle movement of the B minor flute sonata, Bach did write the entire right-hand part out but it's still supposed to sound as if it were all improvised.
But these are the exceptions. The general case, especially in the vocal works, is that the player makes up all of the right-hand part according to the needs of the moment, by listening and thinking like a sensitive composer. It takes some specialized training and plenty of experience and plenty of nerve and confidence, sure; but so does every aspect of musical craft. Having got into it, a whole world opens up: the epiphany that written-out music can also sound as free as if it were improvised, and the understanding that a written-out score might be nothing more than a record of some real or imagined performance, a relic. Slavish adherence to a printed text (an over-cautious accuracy to "facts") gets swept away by the priority of playing music, and reacting to the music's shapes and the composer's intended effects and the emotions that the music is supposed to evoke...which is all much more important than mere notes.
This is not to be confused, at all, with the situation where some modern players do not improvise at all but rather plow through a right-hand realization that some editor has composed into the part. That would be #2 from your definition below, and also tends to sound like Number Two. (If you will pardon my value judgment!)
Jason Marmaras wrote (December 24, 2003):
[Brad Lehman] I have a question about the continuo in Bach that you may have an answer for It's a bit general, I know it couldn't aply everywhere but should be according to style, BUT - (in your opinion), for example in the E-Dur Floetensonate (where the second case you mentioned ["some of the right-hand part is written out and some of it is improvised from the figures"] applies), should one improvise in a melodic or in a harmonic manner? i.e., should one play chords or try to improvise a competent (.. melodic) melody? If you prefer, I think this is a more clear expression of my question: Does[n't] the appearance of figures instead of notes imply Bach s instruction to play chords?
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 24, 2003):
Jason Marmaras asked Brad Lehman: >>… should one improvise in a melodic or in a harmonic manner? i.e., should one play chords or try to improvise a competent (..melodic) melody? If you prefer, I think this is a more clear expression of my question: Does[n't] the appearance of figures instead of notes imply Bach s instruction to play chords?<<
Brad would probably not be able to answer this question properly and correctly because of his general negative attitude toward the research that has gone into the NBA. The key to your question about BWV 1035 [It would always help if you gave the BWV# whenever you refer to an individual work by Bach] is given in the NBA KB VI/3 which discusses all existing, bona-fide flute compositions by Bach. The situation with BWV 1035 is that there is no autograph copy but only 3 copies (copyists unknown) from the 19th century. In the earliest manuscript copy from the beginning of the 19th century, an attempted realization of the figured bass is incomplete and entirely unremarkable so that it [any part of this realization which is definitely not by Bach] is not even included in the NBA’s printed version of this Sonata E-Dur. We are left with only the left-hand bass with figures (there is nothing but the flute part above the basso continuo the latter being most likely figured by Bach. So now the situation which Brad describes as ‘the general case’ does apply: >>the player makes up all of the right-hand part according to the needs of the moment, by listening and thinking like a sensitive composer.<< Bach left us no right-hand part to ‘respect and use as if it were improvised.’ The editors of the edition that you are referring to should have at least pointed these things out.
Bob Henderson wrote (December 25, 2003):
Gloria in excelsis Deo
Et in terra pax hominibus bonae voluntatis.
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 25, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Brad would probably not be able to answer this question properly and correctly because of his general negative attitude toward the research that has gone into the NBA. >
Surely you jest. I have no "negative attitude toward the research that has gone into the NBA", but merely an objection to the way you (Thomas Braatz) use it selectively to try to make whatever points you wish to foist upon us...the way you use and abuse its contents to lend your personal pronouncements an air of credence.
There's nothing wrong with the NBA itself, except for its prohibitive cost that puts it out of the price range of any but the most wealthy.
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 25, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated: >>Surely you jest. I have no "negative attitude toward the research that has gone into the NBA", but merely an objection to the way you (Thomas Braatz) use it selectively to try to make whatever points you wish to foist upon us...the way you use and abuse its contents to lend your personal pronouncements an air of credence.
There's nothing wrong with the NBA itself, except for its prohibitive cost that puts it out of the price range of any but the most wealthy.<<
What happened to your usual criticism of the NBA that its scholarship is no longer up-to-date?
Brad Lehman stated on August 20, 2002:
>>Even though the NBA is a very good edition, reflecting the latest scholarship, I don't think it's wise to take it (or any other modern edition) as any sort of gospel truth of Bach's intentions. These editions are products of their own time, just as their predecessors were. The 20th century, even more than the 19th, was an age of scientific scrutiny where "truth" could be (supposedly) obtained through enough careful research into detail (in all fields, not only music). Musical editions and recorded performances often tended toward this goal of pseudo-objectivity, as if that brings us closer to the music itself. I suggest that that pursuit, while enlightening, is a dead end if it becomes the main or only arbiter of musicality. The notes are not the music, even if all those notes are delivered perfectly with all the "correct" articulations and emphases according to scientificscholarship; music is much more than the sum of its notes.<<
>>And, even though the NBA is about the best edition available, the series has taken so long to come out that the scholarship of the first-issued volumes is already a couple of generations out of date.<<
and from June 6, 2003:
>>The volume of NBA (I/12) that contains cantata 43 was published in 1960 Yes, 43 years ago, and before I was born. So was its Kritischer Bericht, written by Alfred Dürr. Is it not possible that later scholarship has augmented and/or overturned the findings that were published there--either by checking Dürr's work more closely, or by finding information that was not available to him?<<
Judging by your standards of outdated scholarship, much of the NBA with its KBs is in dire need of revision. Using this standard on the sources you regularly quote regarding the supposed ‘proof’ of the ‘shortened declamation’ or ‘shortened accompaniment’ of Bach’s secco recitatives, that entire theory is in dire need of updating and revision, if it really has any viability at all to begin with.
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 25, 2003):
Jason, that E-major sonata (BWV 1035) does not have a written-out right hand part by Bach; it's all figured bass. What would I play? It depends so much on who I'm playing it with, how confident the flute and bass-line players are, what instruments are being used, the acoustics of the hall, and much more: some mixture of melodic and harmonic and rhythmic bits to suit the occasion. Even if it were some other piece where parts of it were written out by Bach, I'd do likewise: listening closely in the situation and playing something suitable, a free mixture of rhythmic and harmonic and melodic stuff to fit the occasion. Good improvisation is thinking on the spot like a composer, and many of the decisions can't be made until that moment (no matter how many rehearsals there were...and all the rehearsals were probably different, too).
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 25, 2003):
The NBA out of date
Thomas Braatz wrote: < What happened to your usual criticism of the NBA that its
scholarship is no longer up-to-date? >
That remains true. For example, the 1998 edition of BWV (the book) overturns some of the information that was published long ago in the NBA; scholars (including your own hero, Alfred Duerr!) continue to learn information that was not available earlier, and to refine statements about the pieces. So do the editors of other scholarly and performing editions, and historiographers, continuing to refine and deal with the sources it has presented. This is, after all, a science of continuing to sift evidence. The only people who would miss that are those who take the NBA as Absolute Complete Gospel For All Time, which it (like any other serious and responsible piece of scholarship) is not.
And the compilers of the NBA probably did not intend it be used as a weapon to try to discredit professional musicians and researchers, which is the way you use it. Ah well. I remain glad that I spent my money and time attending nine years of university (a task that requires dedication and talent), earning four degrees in music, instead of simply buying a collection of books that quickly go out of date every time something new is learned. There is a difference between education and resourcefulness.
Jason Marmaras wrote (December 26, 2003):
* First, to anyone who looked up my question, and especially Thomas Braatz,
< The key to your question about BWV 1035 [It would always help if you gave the BWV# whenever you refer to an individual work by Bach] of course you were correct, and this justifies you...>
[You also wrote:]
< The editors of the edition that you are referring to should have at least pointed these things out. >
My edition is the one I trust perhaps even equally to the [N]BA, G. Henle Verlag; and was of course not so lacking and inaccurate... Nor were you... It was me and my [*%$&] memory: I meant the A Major sonata, BWV 1032, and so owe you an apology... I just hope you didn't have to do much searching and didn't spend time for this...
[The Preface of GHV Nr.269, about the E-Dur sonata:]
< Compared with the works previously described, the <origins of the two Sonatas for Flute and Thorough-bass(*) involve no essential complication. The only sources that have survived are in the form of copies. In the same way as a large amount of Bach's chamber music, the earlier Sonata in e minor was probably written in Cöthen. The Sonata in E Major - the only one certain to have been composed as an authentic chamber sonata – was very likely written for the Royal Court in Potsdam, visited by Bach in 1741 and 1747; it is thus an essentially later composition. The realization of the thorough-bass(*) should be regarded as serving a basic purpose, and may be modified at will, even though the density of Bach's stylistic treatment scarcely leaves one with any scope for expansion. >
(* namely: e-moll, BWV 1034; and E-Dur, BWV 1035)
Anyway, I set here a portion of my edition's preface (for informative purposes), and re-set my question:
< The Sonata in A Major was presumably based on a trio sonata in C major for flute, violin and thoroughbass (in addition, possibly, to the first movement in an original version written as a solo-concerto-movement). The only version of the work that has survived, i.e. that for flute and harpsichord obbligato, is incomplete. Likewise belonging to the Leipzig period, the autograph is discovered to have been cut along the bottom edge (this possibly having been done during Bach's lifetime) so that 45 to 48 measures are missing towards the end of the first movement. This perhaps offers some explanation for the unusual fact that no copies of the work are known to have been made. The last two measures of the first movement that have survived correspond to measures 32/33, so that the final measures are relatively easy to reconstruct. Joining them to the close of the cadence at measure 62 (lst note) permits one to play the fragment of the movement in question without adding any notes other than those originating from Bach himself. Supplementation of the additional measures still lacking has been undertaken by publishers in strict compliance with Bach's original material. Proportional cuts have deliberately been made owing to new original material, most certainly existent in Bach's lost autograph, no longer been capable of reconstruction. All reconstructed sections are distinguished by the use of small -print, the same applying to those places in which some realization of the thorough-bass was essential. >
(*) The GH Edition gives a realization by some Hans Eppstein(?).
So, repeating my question:
< in the A-Dur Floetensonate (where the second case you [B. Lehman] mentioned ["some of the right-hand part is written out and some of it is improvised from the figures"] applies), should one improvise in a melodic or in a harmonic manner? i.e., should one play chords or try to improvise a competent (i.e. ... melodic) melody? If you prefer, I think this is a more clear expression of my question: Does[not] the appearance of figures instead of notes imply Bach's instruction for the cembalist to play chords? >
* Second [apology], to the BCML for the [partial] irrelevancy of this questions to the Cantatas. I will try to be less 'random', even when referring to the work of J. S. Bach; I would though like to point out that there is some connection, and indeed the last sentence of my question becomes general and applicable to Bach's Cantatas... so I may pose a more general question, as well:
Should we hesitate to improvise contrapuntal (and, consequently, melodic) continuo, rather than just passagios and appregios et c.?
I will try to make another point, for Thomas Bratz specifically, though it
may be in vain...
< Brad would probably not be able to answer this question properly and correctly because of his general negative attitude toward the research that has gone into the NBA. >
I would suggest that it is a time, and even more a day, unfit for grudges and vendettas... all have the right for a truce, now and then; perhaps this is yours...
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated: >> Ah well. I remain glad that I spent my money and time attending nine years of university (a task that requires dedication and talent), earning four degrees in music, instead of simply buying a collection of books that quickly go out of date every time something new is learned. There is a difference between education and resourcefulness.<<
When you say, “instead of simply buying a collection of books that quickly go out of date every time something new is learned,” you must certainly be referring to the computer programs and manuals that occupy some of your time, and definitely not to the best representation of Bach’s music which seems to move on a much slower time scale. Also, have you considered the fact that your education, the courses and degrees which you constantly parade before us, are also dated? There are many situations where others might already consider your credentials as ‘outdated’ because they date back quite a number of years, a decade or more. In the meantime, others have graduated with ‘fresher degrees’ from even more distinguished schools of music. Your efforts will appear pale when placed next to individuals with more recent degrees and diplomas. There are probably graduate courses now being offered in music covering subjects that were not yet sufficiently known or researched when you as an ‘old-timer’ were still attending a university. Realistically your ‘dated’ experience at the university will probably rank you below someone with a ‘fresher’ experience and with ‘fresher’ credentials to prove personal worth to someone who is hiring musicians/musicologists, let’s say, for a coveted special position sought by many applicants. Imagine someone saying to you: “These graduate courses were taken more than a decade ago. Are there any other more recent graduate courses that you have taken, or degrees/diplomas that you have earned?”
Likewise, your style of playing, which might have been considered up-to-date and relatively new when you still attended courses, may have lost its appeal and musicological ‘underpinning’ in the meantime, thus placing you in the precarious position of being ‘on the fringe’ of a now outdated extremism, while developments in performance style have begun to take a different direction. You are possibly becoming an anachronism much more quickly than you can imagine, just like ‘a collection of books that quickly go out of date every time something new is learned.”
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 27, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Likewise, your style of playing, which might have been considered up-to-date and relatively new when you still attended courses, may have lost its appeal and musicological ‘underpinning’ in the meantime, (...) >
An amusing yet irrelevant volley of ad hominem vituperation from a person who has never heard me play a single note on the harpsichord.
I must be discredited at all costs, and by all desperate means. What was my crime? Why, I simply demonstrated (through scientific rigor, and through arguments based on practical experience with the music) that some of your cynical arguments elsewhere were mistaken, and that they were lacking in relevant perspective.
That challenge of your material makes me your enemy: as if knocking off an inconvenient enemy (your _ad hominem_ strategy of attacking me, even on Christmas Eve) proves anything positive for one's own case.
Don't you have a better hobby than running smear campaigns against people living and dead? Than making sure "dead men tell no tales" and live ones don't either?
Charles Francis wrote (December 27, 2003):
Bradley P Lehman wrote: < Why, I simply demonstrated (through scientific rigor, and through arguments based on practical experience with the music) that some of your cynical arguments elsewhere were mistaken, and that they were lacking in relevant perspective. >
I'm afraid those emails didn't get through, Brad. Maybe a problem with your ISP?
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 28, 2003):
Regarding Niedt’s unclear statement about cadences, possibly the following was meant:
Justin London (New Grove, Oxford University Press, 2003) states:
“Thus by the century's end [17th century] …most recitative was notated in rapid and even notes (crotchets or quavers), with the understanding that the rhythm would follow that of the speech declamation. Grounding the rhythms of recitative in speech also means that the singer need not worry about precise coordination of most syllables with the accompaniment, save at cadence points.”
In my last message I seem to have been referring to ‘cadenza tronca’ which is explained by Dale E. Monson and Julian Budden (New Grove, Oxford University Press, 2003) as follows:
“It became customary for the singer to add expressive appoggiaturas at the final cadence and at appropriate intermediate points. In his Anleitung zur Singekunst (1757, an enlarged German version of P.F. Tosi’s Opinioni de’ cantori antichi e moderni), J.F. Agricola gave examples to show how this was done. In the earliest operas and cantatas the voice and accompaniment always end together, as in the late madrigal. The practice of cutting off the voice before the cadence and leaving the accompaniment to complete the progression seems to have arisen in recitatives of a pathetic character, where the singer was so overcome with emotion as to be unable to continue; there are examples in Michelangelo Rossi’s Erminia sul Giordano (1633), Cavalli’s Didone (1641) and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (1642). Confusion in later repertories has partly resulted from Tosi’s complaint against the cadenza tronca, which has variously been interpreted as a ‘foreshortened’ cadence (i.e. one in which the dominant harmony in the accompaniment – with a 4–3 suspension – coincides with a tonic appoggiatura in the voice) or (more likely) merely as the repetitious and premature cadencing of the vocal part itself. By the early 18th century both the delayed and the ‘foreshortened’ cadence were amply borne out in Italian manuscripts and by contemporary German theorists, such as C.P.E. Bach, Telemann and Heinichen.
The speed at which recitative was sung depended entirely on expression. Tosi, writing about opera seria, said that singers should learn ‘a certain natural Imitation, which cannot be beautiful, if not expressed with that Decorum with which Princes speak, or those who know how to speak to Princes’ (Opinioni, Eng. trans., 2/1743). On the other hand, Grimm (Encyclopédie, xii, 1763, ‘Poème lyrique’) regarded recitative as the medium for ordinary conversation. These views are not easily reconciled, because neither takes into account the context of a recitative or the type of work in which it occurs.”
It is of great interest to me that Johann Gottfried Walther in his ‘Musicalisches Lexicon’ (Leipzig, 1732) lists 22 different varieties of cadenzas. In this copious list with definitions, ‘cadenza tronca’ is not included. This is very interesting, particularly since this has become quite a tradition among Bach recitative performances of both the HIP and non-HIP type. Perhaps here, as well as with the ‘shortened declamation’, a later convention (after Bach’s death) was superimposed upon an already existing tradition which was considered by post-Bachian performers as old-fashioned, too stiff. It might appear that extremism of vocal expression [too much Affect] as heard in operatic performances in the 2nd half of the 18th century, was transplanted into the performance of church recitatives as well, a manner of singing which Bach himself would not have condoned. I have the feeling now that ‘cadenza tronca’ should not be applied to Bach’s secco recitatives because it is an anachronism, a superimposition of a later singing and performing style upon an earlier one which more closely resembles what Bach must have intended.
Ludwig wrote (December 30, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] Et tuae!
Ludwig wrote (December 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] What happened to the copies of the works herein mentioned---they either self cted or were destroyed by the times that they would have had to come through to still exist today. They could still exist hidden away in the libraries of Universities, Monasteries as well in the collections of private Individuals whose ancestors were of the blood. The ink that Bach used was made from Oak Galls and other materials---usually containing Iron in the ferric radical form. Beautiful but very deadly to art works and manuscripts that are expected to last for posterity. The Ink eats away at the paper and vellum used to write on during those times and combined with pulp paper manufacturing in the 19th century is a sure fire guarantee that any thing written or drawn on this paper will automatically self destruct.
Bach did not usually write out what he expected to be played for the continuo parts---as at that time that was part of the standard training of any musician worthy to be called a musician. Times do change and the world is now a much smaller place than in the times of Bach when most people rarely ventured further from home more than 30 miles. Most folks appropriate methods of jazz to the playing of continuo playing---of course with no jazz sounds ---those uncivilized 7ths and 5ths that were banned in Bach's day--although you will find some of them in Bach's works)
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (December 30, 2003):
Brad Lehman wrote: "An amusing yet irrelevant volley of ad hominem vituperation from a person who has never heard me play a single note on the harpsichord."
I´m mostly a lurker, and since I've subscribed this group I've been mastering the art of harvesting valuable information from the rather rude posts of a few members, who seem to have attended universities just to try to conceal with some information their tremendous lack of education (please feel free to classify the mood of my statement in latin).
I am a university graduate, in a field other than music, and so I can be frankly judged as a complete musical moron. But I still guess that finally, with the frase quoted above, you introduced the topic that's been roaming in my head for some time.
The thing is: YES Brad, YES. You are right. Braatz, Charles, me, may be the others too, NEVER heard you play a single note live, and I never had a chance to take a recording by you from a store's shelf to buy it. I didn't see any book by you, and from other authors I don't recall quotations of your writings.
In fact, in my case, I wasn't aware of your very existence until I subscribed this group (and Bach Recordings). So, to me, it is a blessing that no one needs to go 9 years to a university to perceive with clarity the reason why you should try some humility and softer manners.
How to play the continuo
Dale Gedcke wrote (December 22, 2003):
I have been following the intense discussion between Brad Lehman and Tom Braatz concerning the length of continuo basso notes for recitativo secco with great interest. Some of the attacks reveal a personal frustration and anger rarely seen in the scientific arena I have played in for most of my career. Curiously, scientists would consider such expressions of emotion unethical. However the Braatz vs. Lehman discussions were more exciting, .... like watching a fight between pit bulls.
But, setting aside the emotional content, I stumbled across an interesting publication on continuo playing, that sheds yet another perspective on the topic. The article ranges over all aspects of playing continuo, and is replete with historical references. I have included here a quotation of only a small part of the article. Those who wish to read more can visit: http://www.music.indiana.edu/som/emi/bishop.html.
"On Playing Continuo
Roger North said in 1728 "In matters of Antiquity there are two extremes, 1) a total neglect, and 2) perpetual guessing."(1) <> Whereas the sources are plentiful for the players of keyboard continuo, they are woefully lacking for the bass line player. This article is based on my many years of experience as a continuo player on cello, viola da gamba and violone; and I have dutifully considered all the sources available to me. .......
........ Accompanying recitativo secco presents the stickiest problems of all to the continuo player. Part of the difficulty comes because the bass part of recitative is often written in long note values, usually whole notes; but there is considerable evidence bass notes were actually played more like quarter notes, followed by rests, in order to give the singer more flexibility in declamation. Even this was criticized in France, where the Italian playing of recitatives described as "the bad manner of accompanying [recitatives], cutting off the sound of each chord."(12) <>
One must remember that writing whole notes took a lot less effort and ink than writing quarter notes and rests, and Bach, for one, did not have any time to waste on copying parts Some of our best evidence for the practice of shortening bass notes in recitative comes from Bach, who eventually rewrote the bass parts for the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), changing them from long to short note values with rests. Of course, in recitatives accompanied by the whole orchestra, the continuo player must play his part exactly as written to fit with the other instruments. .........."
DISCLAIMER: I am not an expert on this topic, so I offer the above information as a link to the opinions of others professed to be experienced in the art.
(an old but naive neophyte)
Practical continuo in a Bach wind sonata
Bradley Lehman wrote (December 31, 2003):
[To Jason Marmaras] When I got home a few days ago I realized that the description below is probably not as clear as actually hearing such music, in action, with improvised continuo. So, here is some!
I have made this sample from a concert recording of October 2001: where I played with two members (at the time) of the University of Virginia faculty. N Golay on oboe, P Riggs on cello, and me on harpsichord. The movement here in the sample is the slow movement of the sonata BWV 1030a: that is, the G minor version of the B minor flute sonata, played here by oboe.
In this movement our performance strategy (in accordance with documented 18th century practices, of course!) was: the bass line stays steady no matter what to provide a firm foundation, the melody instrument has melodic freedom of rhythm over it, and the right hand of the harpsichord (improvised) binds it all together with whatever seems needed at the moment, mostly enhancing the progress and expression of the bass line...and different every time the piece is played, of course. It's not supposed to distract anyone from the two more important parts (bass and melody), but to fill in any holes with as much fullness as is needed, and sweep the music forward or hold it back more simply, as the case may be (depending how any particular performance is going, in progress!).
I used Bach's own written-out right hand part from BWV 1030 as a sketch, giving ideas of melodic/rhythmic/harmonic things I might play or depart from, recognizing it as merely a written-out improvisation in suitable style itself. We felt free to alter things by our own musical judgment in the repeats, for contrasting character, and because we so much liked the musical sound of the results both ways (contrasting "registration" of the accompanying instruments) from rehearsal.
Such an approach, I feel, is considerably more "authentic" to the spirit of Bach's music, and does not really violate the letter of it either, than one where people are supposedly not allowed to do anything imaginative that's not on the page. The point is let the whole thing sound as beautiful and as musical as possible, and to draw emotions directly into the listener's experience (i.e. playing the Affekt of the music as directly as possible, and not only its notes).
Part of our music here was also our personal reactions to the well-known tragic events of just a few weeks before this: our candle of Hope.
I expect there are some here who will disagree violenwith that sensuous approach to Bach's music (that strategy about the rhythms, Affekt, and improvisation built from the bass line up), but there it is, and here is what it can sound like in concert performance, with the emotions and improvisation hanging right out there. I personally am firmly convinced by the musical results, and am put off by performances that are any stiffer than this (being too closely bound by Bach's Hallowed Notation to be musical with it). Such stricter performances sound to me like the embodiment of fear, and an unwillingness to think like a composer, whereas this one (and similar) has as much freedom and casual simplicity/complexity as I believe Bach expected.
Bach himself reportedly said: "The thorough bass is the most perfect foundation of music, being played with both hands in such manner that the left hand plays the notes written down while the right adds consonances and dissonances, in order to make a well-sounding harmony to the Glory of God and the permissible delectation of the spirit; and the aim and final reason, as of all music, so of the thorough bass should be none else but the Glory of God and the recreation of the mind. Where this is not observed, there will be no real music but only a devilish hubbub." [New Bach Reader, pp 16-17: Bach's dictation to his pupils teaching them thorough-bass from a book by Niedt, in c1738.] Sacred and secular music are all basically the same, for similar purposes as stated there by Bach.
And here's a quote from a notable later musician, which I think is also just right in spirit if not saying anything directly about this particular style, and I think a good role model to hold all around: "I start the music, and then something happens." [Wilhelm Furtwangler]
So, here's the sample: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/
where the file is named " BWV-1030a-2nd.mp3 "
Enjoy, and Happy New Year! Perhaps this little aria, one of Bach's loveliest to be "sung" by an instrument, can set a good tone for the new year in discussions of music.
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 1, 2004):
In regard to Brad’s overly ‘affective’ (romantic) treatment of the slow mvt. of BWV 1030, it should be noted that all 3 mvts. (particularly the 1st and last) have an independent right-hand part for the continuo fully notated by Bach in his autograph. It should cause anyone to wonder about the liberties which Brad takes with the original score, a score which has a similar appearance and musical structure as the six Violin and Harpsichord Sonatas (BWV 1014-1019) which resemble trio sonatas with three clear musical lines. Probably Brad would heartily recommend tampering with the right-hand parts in these sonatas as well.
When Brad states:
>> I used Bach's own written-out right hand part from BWV 1030 as a sketch, giving ideas of melodic/rhythmic/harmonic things I might play or depart from, recognizing it as merely a written-out improvisation in suitable style itself. We felt free to alter things by our own musical judgment in the repeats, for contrasting character, and because we so much liked the musical sound of the results both ways (contrasting "registration" of the accompanying instruments) from rehearsal.<<
he really means to depart considerably from Bach’s original intentions which might have gone as far as actually having three independent lines played by two upper range instruments (chosen from oboe, violin, flute, etc.) and a violoncello/viola da gamba basso continue. The ‘right-hand’ part in the harpsichord could have been adapted to another string or wind instrument to create such a trio sonata. By calling Bach’s melodic lines ‘merely a written-out improvisation’ that can be varied and improved considerably by Brad’s own whimsical treatment of the score, Brad has once again revealed a considerable disrespect of Bach’s score, an attitude of which he is quite proud since he has already admitted that “my own hearing is as good as Bach’s.” There is really nothing wrong with this since Bach’s music seems to survive almost any kind of treatment. However, it should be mandatory that such performances that deviate as considerably as this from the score should be honestly labeled as such: Bach-Stokowski, Bach-Harnoncourt, Bach-Lehman, etc. This is the least that a listener should be able to expect: a kind of ‘truth-in-advertisement’ statement that allows the listener to know just how much the original intentions of Bach have been tampered with.
Also, Brad quotes the “New” Bach Read from a section which was written in 1945 and for which no documentation (or original statement in German) is given:
>> Bach himself reportedly said: "The thorough bass is the most perfect foundation of music, being played with both hands in such manner that the left hand plays the notes written down while the right adds consonances and dissonances, in order to make a well-sounding harmony to the Glory of God and the permissible delectation of the spirit; and the aim and final reason, as of all music, so of the thorough bass should be none else but the Glory of God and the recreation of the mind. Where this is not observed, there will be no real music but only a devilish hubbub." [_New Bach Reader_, pp 16-17: Bach's dictation to his pupils teaching them thorough-bass from a book by Niedt, in c1738.]<<
This is an entirely imaginary reference which I clarified (to no avail it seems as far as Brad is concerned) by referring to the Bach-Dokumente (Feb. 24, 2003):
>>I have found the document that you are referring to as item 433 in the "Bach-Dokumente."
Here are some facts, which I hope are also correctly reported in your book [which they are not as I can now see for myself]:
1) Absolutely nothing of this manuscript consisting of a title page and 21 handwritten pages is in Bach's handwriting.
2) The title page ascribes the contents to be by Bach [perhaps the two unknown individuals whose handwriting appears in this document hoped to increase the importance of the document by making it appear this way.]
3) This document was never published. Only this obscure copy exists. [Very likely this would not be in existence today, if it were not for Bach's authorship or personal direction indicated on the title page. Can you imagine some older students in Leipzig in the 1830's approaching some rich freshman greenhorns with an offer: "Hey, buddy. We've got some valuable information here that you will get nowhere else. It'll only cost you ....]
4) There is no proof that Bach ever possessed a copy of Niedt's book.
5) A comparison of Niedt's book with the passages written out here indicates that there are numerous substantial changes in the text. There is no way to confirm that the parts not traceable to Niedt were really by Bach. [Certainly some characteristic of the great master would show up in the additional passages.]
6) The musical examples given are fraught with mistakes. [How would Bach even allow such a manuscript to represent his name and his ideas?]
7) Spitta originally thought he had detected the handwriting of Johann Peter Kellner on the title page. Spitta later revised this when he made the connection of some of the passages coming from the Niedt book.
8) Other than the fact that some sections were copied from Niedt's book, the origin and provenance of this manuscript remain a complete mystery.
All of these points deal a serious blow to the credibility of this document.
In a nutshell, to establish a connection between Niedt and Bach upon this single spurious document is an action not representative of a musicological scholarship that wishes itself to be taken seriously.<<
Here we are at the end of a year of usually acrimonious discussion and Brad is still using an undocumented text “The New Bach Reader” pp. 16-17 to bolster his arguments. This is scholarship from 1945 which has long since been updated and revised as explained above, yet Brad, who continually points out how outdated the MGG, NBA and its KBs are, still persists in quoting such misinformation. This does not make very much sense, does it? Unless, of course, certain outdfacts are repeated so often (and reprinted over and over again,) until even so-called experts themselves begin to believe these statements are really accurate and true
Bradley Lehman wrote (January 1, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Here we are at the end of a year of usually acrimonious discussion and Brad is still using an undocumented text â?oThe New Bach Readerâ?ť pp. 16-17 to bolster his arguments. This is scholarship from 1945 which has long since been updated and revised as explained above, yet Brad, who continually points out how outdated the MGG, NBA and its KBs are, still persists in quoting such misinformation. This does not make very much sense, does it? [The New Bach Reader is from 1998, and edited by Christoph Wolff. Get with the program. >
Plus, you didn't say if you liked the musical result of my performance of 1030a; it seems you were merely out to bash whatever it was I did. Ah well, your choice.
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 1, 2004):
Brad stated: >> The New Bach Reader is from 1998, and edited by Christoph Wolff. Get with the program.<<
I have the 1998 version which explains that Part I (A Portrait in Outline) is unchanged (remains essentially the same) and the Preface to the 1st edition (1945) confirms the fact that nothing was changed since 1945 other than being 'revised in light of recent Bach scholarship' (whatever that means, because no effort was made to document the changes as minimal as they were.) Whoever was responsible for the revision did a poor job, for certainly you would have chastised them for overlooking the information from the Bach Dokumente which I shared, or for not having documented the erroneous statement which you quoted. Think of it! Here we have an important statement attributed to Bach which cries out for documentation and yet nothing is done about it all these years. Is the reverence for David & Mendel so great that this information continues to be repeated in edition after edition over more than a half century to be accepted as fact unquestioningly?
J.B. Schwesteringeborg wrote (January 1, 2004):
Since both Msrs. Braatz & Lehman posted re my posting, I beg a followup for you consideration. Mr. Braatz first: thank you for directing us to JGWalther's writings. Of course the "Praecepta" are a product of their times, and one cannot quatify the "ommissions," or rely on what was not said (deconstructionists aside). Still, Walther's "Briefe" are invaluable. He cites texts which he bought (at great expense), and gives an inventory of his library, as it stood, in 1729. While we do not have a catalogue of JSB's library, it is reasonable to assume that JGW's subsumed all. (Note: he singled out Kircher, Fludd and Werckmeister). The "Lexicon" of 1728/32 demonstrates what was at hand, to him at and even his cousin, JSB. The best primary source one has, so why not rely on that Mr. Braatz?
Good choice,indeed the best: I say. We have opinions, but no conflicts, Mr. Braatz.
To me to Tatlow's writings on the GS are poor. She may be expert on the "Baroque Paragram" and the number-alphabet. Yet her article on the "Golden Number/GS" in the NG2 (2001-3) is flawed. Note she jumps from Pacioli (1509) to Zeising (c1830). So what's missing? Maybe Johannes Kepler, who introduced the GS and the "so-called" Fibonacci numbers to N. Europe in his "Harmonices mundi" of 1619? And Mersenne who illustrated Euclid's "Division in "Mean & extreme ratio" in his "Harmonie universelle" of 1636."? Such ommisions are either due to ignorance, which is inexcusable, or deliberately misleading and disingenuous, which may (or may not) be the case. Be careful whom you cite as an authority here. Some scholars have stated a position which they must protect, by ommission or commision. They may not know about what they are speaking and may have cobbled their articles together from a misreading of secondary sources to fulfill an articifial deadline. Nevertheless, I speak from my own position and do not immpugn/oppugn Herr Braatz--to whom I owe no disrespect-- who is a gentleman and open to discourse and "engagement."
As for "Dr". Lehman: you responded to my proposition that Bach may have been cognizant of the GS with some wacky nonsense on the Lincoln monument and the number "5". ("Some People believe weird things.") That says more about you than Bach (who never saw the Washington monument, or read your silly reference). After you read some texts written before the fact (ie: before the CPE/Scheibe/Birnbaum/Mathesson stuff), say.... circa 1700 (Kepler, Werckmeister, Fludd, Mersenne, Bartolus,, and so on) and can engage in that, in the original languages, please disparage your "parage" elsewhere. That's not to say you are not a good musician. You may be (and I'm sure you are better than I: I can't crawl my way up the keyboard). Yet, you are neither a scholar nor a gentleman,
Bradley Lehman wrote (January 1, 2004):
To the mysterious "schwesteringeborg J.B.", questioning my title of "Dr", and to Pablo :
After a B.A. elsewhere (majors in music and mathematics) I earned three graduate degrees from the University of Michigan: M.M. in Early Keyboard Instruments, A.M. in Musicology, and A.Mus.D. in Harpsichord. The degree requirements (research, coursework, language, and repertoire) for those programs are at: http://www.music.umich.edu/departments/piano/degree.lasso
...look those up if you don't believe this is a "real" doctorate I have.
JB, you opined that I am "neither a scholar nor a gentleman". Perhaps in your estimation I am not a gentleman in the way I get exasperated with some of the people in this forum, in defensive dialogue with certain individuals who yank my chain; but in "real life" I am one according to the people who have met me. As for being a scholar in a field where I have applied myself, see the degree requirements above.
Regarding the Golden Ratio or Golden Section (phi), I have read several books about it and the Fibonacci series (and their applications to aesthetics, "divine proportion", etc etc), as a hobby interest, but have never claimed to be an expert in that particular field; so, what's the problem? Why the crack about my supposedly not being a scholar at all?
Pablo, was the "garage band" quip really necessary? If you think I play at any level resembling a garage band, I invite you to listen to the sample I posted yesterday and read the required repertoire list for that harpsichord degree.
Carol wrote (January 2, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] For what it may be worth to you, Brad,
I find your posts informative, when they are not beyond me in subject matter and context (such as an ongoing technical discussion that I have no hope in following), and recognize that you have had a genuine and sincere interest in answering my questions. I appreciate and thank you for that. I don't think anyone doubts your credentials, either. Sometimes you inspire a little trepidation.
Pablo Fagoaga wrote (January 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Of course I heard it.
Clearly not a garage band.
If you allow me to chill out the thread, I should say.... in my rock example you would be more like The Monkeys. :o)
Again, I have the best intentions towards you.
Continue on Part 4
Articles: The “Shortening of the Supporting Notes” in the Bc of Bach’s ‘Secco’ Recitatives [Thomas Braatz] | Playing Plain Recitative in Bach's Vocal Works [Bradley Lehman]
Discussions of Recitatives: 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 | Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5