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Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works

Part 4

 

 

Continue from Part 3

Niedt-Thieme

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 2, 2004):
So that all other readers can know what Brad is referring to in regard to the very tentative connection between Bach and Niedt, whose work Bach supposedly relied upon when instructing his own students and whose ideas Bach, for the most part, reiterated as part of his instructional practices with his students, I will include some short quotations and references so that other readers can make up their own minds on this matter:

1) the comprehensive index to the New Bach Reader by David&Mendel (ed. Christoph Wolff) [Norton, New York & London, 1945-1998] only lists the following references: pp. 8, 16-17 on which pages the same quotation essentially appears twice without any reference to its original source. The bibliography, pp. 531-2, lists only “Niedt, Friedrich Erhardt ‘Musicalische Handleitung,’ 2nd ed. Hamburg, 1721; reprint, 1977.” The experts who have worked on or with this book and are responsible for its contents have failed to distinguish in which way Bach ‘reworded’ the thoughts expressed by Niedt. If a claim is made here, a claim which no one has found it necessary up until now to question, that Bach stated something (even if it happened to be Niedt’s ideas) about the nature of basso continuo, would not an astute reader wish to know the source of this claim? Brad has been unable to point to the specific place in the NBR where this reference is clarified and the correct source is given.

2) the H.-J. Schulze reference is found in the article by Malcolm Boyd on “Precepts and Principles” in the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [ed. Boyd], Oxford University Press, 1999:
>>Short title for the treatise “Vorschriften und Grundsätze zum vierstimmigen spielen des General-Baß oder Accompagnement [‚Precepts and Principles for Playing the Thorough-bass or Accompanying in Four Parts’). Its only surviving source is a manuscript copy in the Brusssels Conversatory, dated 1738 and ascribed to Bach. Bach’s authorship has been questioned, however, but H.-J. Schulze’s identification of the Bach pupil C. A. Thieme as the scribe of the title page and several corrections to the text at least places the treatise in the Bach circle. It includes instruction, with worked examples, in four-part harmonization of a figured bass, and is more a written harmony primer than a text book on continuo playing. The first nine chapters are closely based on Part 1 of F. E. Niedt’s ‘Musicalische Handleitung(1700.)’
Bibliography: Spitta, iii. 315-47; P. L. Poulin, ’J. S. Bach’s Precepts and Principles for Playing the Thorough-Bass or Accompanying in Four Parts, Leipzig, 1738 (Oxford, 1994); H.–J. Schulze, “”Das Stück im Goldpapier”; Ermittlungen zu einigen Bach-Abschriften des frühen 18. Jahrhunderts’, BJb 64 (1978), 19-42.

In another article by Boyd in the above reference book under ‘Niedt,’ Boyd flatly states:
>>…he [Niedt] is remembered for his ‘Musicalische Handleitung’ (1706-13), parts of which Bach commandeered in his own thorough-bass method.<< As the only bibliography, the three pages of the Poulin reference given above are repeated. It would appear that the Poulin reference is primarily a translation of this infamous document which the Bach Dokumente rejected, for the most part as not being authentic.

David Schulenberg in his article on “continuo” in the same Boyd reference book states the situation more carefully as follows:
>>A collection of exercises in figured bass which has been edited as a work of Bach’s [here he must be referring to Poulin’s translation effort which seems already to have been officially accepted by Boyd as being genuine] is taken from a manuscript only indirectly associated with him; it clearly preserves elements of contemporary German teaching, and distills sections from the “Musicalische Handleitung” (Hamburg, 1700-17) of F. E. Niedt, who apparently studied with Johann Nicolaus Bach of Jena.<<

3) Information from the 'Bach Dokumente' (Personenregister):
Johann Gottlieb [not C. A.] Thieme, born July 18, 1711 in Belgern, a pupil at the St. Thomas School from 1727-1734, listed only as a student at the University of Leipzig in 1734. Thieme is listed by Bach on August 23, 1730, along with 20 other names as a “Motetten Singer” who will still have to perfect themselves quite a bit more over time before they might possibly be usable and could be admitted to the ‘Figural Music’ choir. [„Singer, so sich noch erstlich mehr perfectioniren müßen, üm mit der Zeit zur Figural Music gebrauchet werden zu können….“] Check NBR, p. 150 for another translation. There is no other Bach pupil by the fictitious (non-existent as far as J. S. Bach is concerned) name of 'C. A. Thieme.' Did Schulze or Boyd mistakenly report the name of a wrong individual?

Let’s examine the facts here more closely:

a) here is a 19-year-old student whose musical proficiency is rated as ‘fair’ by Bach at this point in his career. Thieme had entered the school at age 16. This is somewhat irregular or unusual.

b) Thieme would most certainly not have been used by Bach as a copyist for his cantatas, etc. (most of these were completed by 1729. Why would Bach have entrusted to Thieme a reworking/revamping/rephrasing of Niedt’s ideas and then have told him to put Bach’s name on the title page as the author?

c) Thieme does not appear elsewhere in any other reference to connected him with Bach, other than the Bach document cited above [I am referring particularly to the three extensive volumes that contain source information from Bach’s hand or from primarily 18th-century commentaries.]

d) If Thieme has been proven to be the author/copyist of the document in question (the one on basso continuo), it still can not be proven that Bach had any connection with this document which he may well not have been aware of. In a similar situation, Johann Friedrich Daube, made a claim in print (one that Brad still thinks is true) that he had actually heard J. S. Bach perform his sacred music, a fact which was already disputed and called into question by a Thomaner alumnus, Johann Friedrich Wilhelm Sonnenkalb, who had performed under Bach’s direction. Anyone, however, even a Thomaner pupil would be capable of making a false claim that Bach had authored or had directed a pupil to write a title page attributed to him.

e) It is interesting that Thieme’s handwriting is connected primarily with the title page only (and a few corrections in the text elsewhere). A likely scenario for this unusual treatment can be left up to the reader’s imagination.

f) Boyd truly demands a ‘stretch of the imagination’ to place this ‘treatise’ “in the Bach circle.” For all we know, Thieme, as a student older than most in his group and according to Bach rather mediocre, may have become disgruntled and have engaged in a dishonest exercise of ‘pawning off’ this supposed document as having Bach’s imprimatur in order to make a little money off of his connection with Bach. (1738, the date of this document, is four years after Thieme left the university - what was he still doing there in Leipzig, or perhaps he had already left Leipzig years earlier?) This is certainly much more likely than considering that Bach held Niedt in such high regard that he felt it was best to use Niedt’s ideas because his own were inferior and then direct a student not particularly gifted in music to prepare a treatise which combines Bach's and Niedt's ideas.

Zev Bechler wrote (January 2, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "So that all other readers can know what Brad is referring to in regard to the very tentative connection between Bach and Niedt, whose work Bach supposedly relied upon when instructing his own students and whose ideas Bach, for the most part, reiterated as part of his instructional practices with his students, I will include some short quotations and references so that other readers can make up their own minds on this matter"
Thanks for this summary of the evidence situation. Now, could you please state in similar succinct mode your tregarding this matter and where and how it differs from Dr. Lehman's ?
Thanks,

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 2, 2004):
Zev Bechler asked: >>Thanks for this summary of the evidence situation. Now, could you please state in similar succinct mode your thesis regarding this matter and where and how it differs from Dr. Lehman's ?<<
My thesis is that the key evidence (an original validated source) supporting the notion that Bach had anything at all to do with the following statement by David & Mendel in 1945 is lacking or at least highly unlikely to be genuine:

[p. 16-17 of the NBR]: >>When Bach dictated to this pupils excerpts from Niedt’s book on thorough bass, he reworded thoughts expressed by Niedt as follows: “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.”<<

Brad Lehman’s thesis is that this (undocumented in the NBR) statement has never been in doubt since the moment that it was written in 1945, but that it is helpful that its connection with Bach has been sufficiently established by the peer review of experts who believe H.-J. Schultze’s more recent research (research which Brad accepts unquestioningly without having been able to read what Schultze has stated and without being able to establish whether Schultze has sufficient expertise in handwriting analysis to establish a connection to one of Bach's pupils.)

Neil Halliday wrote (December 2, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'm not sure of the relevance of this statement to either your critique of Brad's performannce of BWV 1030, or Brad's use of it as an authorisation to depart from Bach's own score (at least in the repeats).

It sounds like a 'motherhood' statement about the bass in baroque music; while I agree that in those cases where Bach does supply a right-hand part, this should be the part which is played (as in BWV 1030, removing the need for improvisation of the right-hand part by the keyboard player), I don't see the statement itself as being of much use for a consideration of any particular style that Brad or anyone might bring to the continuo in those cases where improvisation is required.

(I was impressed by the professionalism shown in the music example, but I would have preferred the repeats thus (as Brad might expect of my tastes): normal registration on the harpsichord in the repeats - I don't like this 'damped' registration on a harpsichord, which removes its main asset, namely, a 'rich' timbre - and the keyboard score simply played without the already highly decorative arpeggiated style of the first exposition. Combined with the interesting pizzicato of the cello, this more restrained approach is how I would look for contrast in the repeats, for a quieter, more introspective version (in the repeats), etc etc.)

Did Bach have anything to say about major variation of the keyboard thorough-bass part in repeats (as demonstrated by Brad in this example)?

The statement under consideration does not seem to offer much help either way in answering this question, or am I missing something?

Zev Bechler wrote (January 2, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you.

1. You say Dr. Lehman didn't read Schulze's paper and only relies on a scholarly tradition which, however, did read it and consequently accepted its findings. Are you claiming that this tradition never examined Schulze's findings and that it accepted them blindly, or what ?
2. Were you able to read Schulze ?
3. If you did, then did you come to doubt his findings as a result of thisreading ?
4. If not - then why ? Did you find new and incompatible evidence, or are the reasons for your doubt those facts you listed about Johann Gottlieb Thieme ( his youth and unsuitability for singing "figural music" as yet )?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 2, 2004):
Zev Bechler asked: ZB>>1. You say Dr. Lehman didn't read Schulze's paper and only relies on a scholarly tradition which, however, did read it and consequently accepted its findings. Are you claiming that this tradition never examined Schulze's findings and that it accepted them blindly, or what?<<
If with ‘this tradition’ is a reference to the David & Mendel statement from 1945 (which both Brad and I have quoted recently), then the answer is yes since no effort was made to document or alert the reader to the very questionable authenticity of this claim from 1945 until 1978 (when Schultze wrote his article for the Bach Jahrbuch, an article which also discussed several other contested copies attributed to Bach.)

I also think that some individuals, Malcolm Boyd, Brad Lehman, etc., are much too eager to want to believe that this issue has already been resolved in favor of a very definite Bach connection.

ZB>>2. Were you able to read Schulze?<<
No, I do not have the Bach Jahrbuch, but Brad Lehman would more likely be able to gain access to it from a university library with a large section on musicology, or he could easily call a colleague or write an e-mail to such an individual who could look up this reference and/or scan and send it to Brad without too much difficulty.

ZB>>3. If you did, then did you come to doubt his findings as a result of this reading? 4. If not - then why ? Did you find new and incompatible evidence, or are the reasons for your doubt those facts you listed about Johann Gottlieb Thieme ( his youth and unsuitability for singing "figural music" as yet )?<<
I did not find new and incompatible evidence, but rather relied upon the very thorough, yet older scholarship of the Bach Dokumente (item 433) which I shared recently with the list. It is interesting that David Schulenberg, whose very recent article I quoted from the ‘Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach’ [Boyd] Oxford University Press, 1999, still refers carefully to it as “a manuscript only indirectly associated with him [Bach.]”

I have listed most of my reasons for doubting the tenuous Bach connection of this manuscript. An astute reader may be able to supply a few more without much difficulty.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 3, 2004):
Performance and scholarship

One other important point I forgot to mention in my already-too-long posting: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/6928

I remarked that a scholarly position is necessarily a cautious one, and often an agnostic one as some (most?) issues simply cannot be settled with absolute certainty. The best a scholar can do is present the process clearly, present the evidence, and present his/her rationale behind any tentative conclusions that are drawn. As with any scientific inquiry, all conclusions remain at least somewhat tentative; that's good scholarship, and a willingness to be corrected in light of any evidence that comes to light later. That's all true. (It's also true of pseudo-scholarship, but we need not be concerned with that.)

But for a performer, as opposed to a pure scholar, the situation is necessarily different. The performer also has responsibility to be as well-informed as possible, and to make full use of scholarship (whether his/her own or someone else's), as part of learning the music and finding a way to present it convincingly. There's the rub. "Convincingly." Where a pure scholar has the luxury of leaving things open-ended and agnostic, the performer absolutely cannot do so. The performer, to be convincing, must present at least the appearance of absolute conviction about every decision that there is to make about the music, at every moment in the piece. Everything must at least seem certain before walking onstage, both for the performer's own confidence and for the clearest possible presentation of the music. Any point that is tentative or indecisive in a perfosounds, in itself, inadequately prepared; and is a ripe ground for making careless mistakes (in which case the performance sounds even more unprepared!).

Nor does this rule out improvisation, in any way. A good improviser is always thinking ahead of the sounds that are being made; that "thinking ahead" might be only a split-second in advance, or it might be a week or more, a range of premeditated possiblities that might come up. An improviser needs a clear mental picture of every moment before it happens, to stay in adequate control and to keep the improvisation from becoming a directionless muddle. An improvisation is still firmly decisive, all the time, for the same reasons that a merely reproductive performance is: to be convincing and clear.

A good performer, whether improvising only a tiny part, or half, or all of the music, blends preparation with close listening and continuous thinking: every musical situation is different, even when playing the same piece multiple times, and the ability to "roll with the punches" is a crucial one. And despite any and all punches that come, the performer must still project that air of complete confidence about every decision.

A thoughtless performance, whether it's sight-reading or an "autopilot" rehearsal of something that has been over-practiced, or an out-of-control improvisation, is recognizably thoughtless. Sensitive listeners, even those who might not recognize themselves as such, are able to perceive indecision, or lack of preparation, or lack of spontaneity. The moment the performer's mind turns off during a performance, just going through the motions, the music becomes relatively bland and featureless, too predictable, noncommittal...and the listener's mind also turns off for the same reason: that nothing is really happening at the moment, even if sounds are being produced. The listener's body and mind do this automatically; it's the nature of mammals (and others) to "tune out" whenever there is not enough of interest (or potential danger) to pay attention to.

How does a performer combat this? By thinking all the time, and by projecting absolute certainty (inevitability) from every moment to the next, as if the music is a living thing moving there onstage, obeying the natural laws of physics, completely in command of the space (or time) it is occupying. The performer dare not project indecision or fear, unless that is what the music itself is really supposed to be about (which is rare). A performance with a scholarly agnosticism will simply be a dull one with no clear direction in it: too ambiguous. When listeners hear indecision or fear, it makes them focus on the performer (and the performer's troubles) instead of on the music; and the music has lost its integrity and intensity that way.

So, how does a performer do something that is "scholarly enough" without becoming dull, responsible to the music's content, and responsible to present the music with enough clarity and intensity that listeners will stay with it, and believe in it? (Believe in the music above all, not simply be wowed by the performer or worried about the performer's well-being.) That's where experience and artistry come in, and flexibility: no matter how few nanoseconds ahead of the sound a decision has been made, influenced by all previous decisions, a decision has been made before every single sound...even if those decisions have taken the performance in a direction that has never happened before! To be coherent, it's all intentional in forward motion.

I'm sorry if that all sounds paradoxical, preparation vs flexibility and the need for the appearance of decisiveness; but that's how it works.

What does it mean for a performer in a piece of writing (prose, poetry, musical composition, whatever), instead of a real-time stage performance? It's really the same process for the most part, except for the luxury of occasionally letting things be more tentative, and the luxury of more time before the results go out there. Anything tentative still must be not from sloppiness, but (again) deliberate decision, wherever it is appropriate to leave things agnostically open-ended. It's a difficult balance, and almost impossible to do well if one's own emotions are too closely engaged.

Enough for now. I'd be interested to hear from other seasoned performers here about the experience of the same, or different, perspective. I believe it's something that can be learned only by going out there and doing it, and using the experience to make things better under control next time, and the next, and the next....

And any attempts to invalidate this from non-performers are right out. There's just no way to know this stuff except by being there; third-hand reports don't convey it. I've seen it before, here in this forum and elsewhere: these experiential things are dismissed by non-performers as mere exaggeration and violence (or whatever) to the music...from a perspective of not understanding what's really going on. How can that chasm be bridged?

Zev Bechler wrote (January 3, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman]
1.Is there any factual item which Mr. Braatz listed and which you conetst and on which you pin your opposed opinion ?
2. Did you read the Schulze paper ?
3. If you did, did you also rexamine his findings and concluded that there is no reason to doubt them, pace Mr. Braatz's doubts ?
4. If not, why are do you opposed to Mr. Braatz and dismiss his doubts ? Merely the established scholarly tradition, or what ?

Thank you,

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 3, 2004):
[To Zev Bechler] If history teaches us anything, Mr Braatz is targeting at least three or four scholars whom he has already named recently: seeking to impugn their credibility against any reasonable defense, and seeking to undermine the field of musicology itself if it can be done. I will not be tricked yet again into (a) doing his cynical research for him, or (b) entering a discussion about it.

That's my opinion as an astute reader.


Chamber organ in continuo. Some questions

Neil Halliday wrote (April 7, 2004):
I am often struck by the triteness of Bach cantata chamber organ continuo realisations, in both Rilling and period ensembles. Richter, with the larger organ he used, almost always sounds superior (except where he plays in the movements requiring choir, plus an orchestra that is larger than continuo alone, in which case it would be better if an organ, of whatever type, was not heard at all, as recently discussed in relation to continuo harpsichord in 'large' multi-part movements).

He knew how to choose the right registration to accompany the smaller forces of an aria, etc.; and with a larger organ, had a larger 'palette' to draw from.

Last year, in the discussion on BWV 29, Bill Rowland wrote:

"A chamber organ is inadequate for many parts of BWV 29. Bach, unlike Händel, wrote for no chamber organ. His smallest Organ had about 12 ranks of pipes..."

Did Bach in fact use a chamber organ in performances of his cantatas in the Leipzig churches? (Presumably the installed organs were much larger?).

On a related matter, apparently there exists a written out organ continuo part for BWV 7, in Bach's hand. Do organists always use this part (as I believe, they should, for who is going to claim superiority to Bach in this field?)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 7, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I can't completely speak for an actual organist, but I'm guessing that a larger church organ in the proper temperament would be prefered, however most church organs have been adapted to equal temperament for different forms of worship other than a Baroque Lutheran cantata....

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil, take a look at the booklet notes in McCreesh's SMP (BWV 244), where there's more than a page explaining their choice of a large church organ for this recording.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] So the larger pipe organs can have their temperament changed? (thought interruption:) lol silly me-thehave to be tuned, which means their tuning is manipulateable, hence able to be set in different temperaments!

(yay for answering my own question!)


basso continuo pp - another view

Jack Botelho wrote (May 6, 2004):
There has been some considerable debate elsewhere concerning basso continuo performance practice with regard to Bach. The following discussion deals with the same question, only with respect to the Italian chamber cantata of the turn of the seventeenth-eighteenth centuries, in this case that of Tomaso Albinoni's Op.4 cantatas of 1702, and by extension to all Italian cantatas of this period. The below discussion seems to indicate that there was no 'single' standard of b.c. performance practice, which would be quite natural, considering the rapid state of flux and variety of musical style, development of musical instruments, etc. over all of Europe at this time:

"Another vexed question concerning the performance of the instrumental accompaniment is whether the long pedal-notes for the bass that characterize most of the recitative apart from the cadences should be performed as they stand or shortened. Gasparini's advice to the keyboard player in 'L'armonico pratico al cimbalo' (Venice, 1708) is to hold the keys down after striking them - in other words, to allow the sound to decay naturally. But most other theorists advocate short attacks followed by a rest. Contemporary descriptions of recitative suggest that a 'dry' (secco) performance was the normal one. Pierre-Jacques Fourgeroux heard it performed in this way at the King's Theatre in the Haymarket in 1728, and Joachim Christoph Nemeitz similarly in Venetian opera houses in 1721. Vivaldi's use of the direction 'arcate lunghe' (long bows) in certain continuo passages occurring in his operas and sacred vocal music implies that this form of performance was the exception. One wonders, nevertheless, whether a more sustained style was permissible in solo cantatas, to which the rapid, conversational tone of operatic dialogue was foreign."

Talbot, Michael: Tomas Albinoni, The Venetian Composer
and His World
Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990.
p.123-124


b.c.p.p. regarding Scarlatti

Jack Botelho wrote (May 6, 2004):
Another excerpt from the Italian baroque tradition concerning variations in basso continuo performance practice, this time with regard to a treatise by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725) titled 'Regole per Principianti'. Please note the classic eighteenth-century concern for 'what is in good taste', which in this case is dependent on the discernment of the individual composer:

"The 'Regole per Principianti' (i.e. in the art of accompanying from a 'basso continuo') shows that Scarlatti was in favour of a free style of playing, perhaps more so than his contemporaries, as in introducing some of his rules he qualifies them with the words - 'at any rate such is the style of the present writer.' Most of the rules are such as are familiar to us all, and need not be quoted; and his rules for filling up a bass that is not figured amount to little more than would be carried out instinctively by any modern player who had a feeling for scholarship. But there are two rules which are especially interesting, and which he seems to have considered peculiarly characteristic of his own style. The second inversion of the dominant seventh, figured 6, and theoretically considered as a concordant second inversion of the 'imperfect triad', is always to be given the fourth as well as the third in practice, when the bass descends conjunctly. When the bass ascends, the fourth is not to be sounded. He adds as an excuse that the fourth prepares - or, as we should rather say, anticipates - the fifth of the succeeding bass note; but his real reason seems to have been the best of all reasons - 'because it sounds well.'

"He gives the same reason for his next rule: -

'It should be noted that for an agreeable style of playing, every time that a perfect cadence is made, or when the bass moves up a fourth or down a fifth, the minor seventh is to be added to the major third of the bass-note that proceeds in this way.'

"Modern scholars have generally considered both these licenses as foreign to the spirit of the music of Scarlatti's time; but Scarlatti's words leave little room for doubt, and are further confirmed by actual examples in score in many of his works, at least as regards the first of these two rules. The dominant seventh as a cadence appears only in the form of a passing-note, and it is conceivable that he also wished it to be regarded as such in playing from a figured bass. And we may see how conscious he was of his being in advance of other composers in the words that follow these two rules - 'Other accidental circumstances required by the harmony of the style of the present writer, and considered by him to belong to the most dignified manner of playing, cannot be described in writing.' Indeed dignity, notwithstanding harmonic licenses, is a very essential quality of his style, as he never ceases to insist on the 'nobile portamento delle mani.' "

Dent, Edward J: Alessandro Scarlatti, His Life and Work
London: Edward Arnold Publishers, 1905.
pp.153-155


Bass being "actually left out"

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 17, 2004):
<< If you go expecting to hear only the notes Bach wrote, you will be sorely disappointed. It is in the nature of continuo to add notes that were not actually written down by the composer. Indeed, often the composer didn't even put in figures, much less a realization! >>
Charles Francis wrote: < What is fascinating is the converse practice in HIP circles, where figures that Bach notated are actually left out. The principle they have adopted is to shorten the bass note rather than play what is written (someone, somewhere, a long time ago, referred to such a practice, so its historical you see); but then subsequent harmonic figures have no root and so must omitted. A wobbly edifice with one card stacked on the other.
Of course, you need a score to spot what's happening. >
Ah, I see that Mr Braatz (who claims to have researched this topic more fully than the professionals have done, well enough to "correct" their allegedly improper work) has "taught" you something, although it's not about music (but about how to disdain and disregard real scholarship, replacing them with guesswork and foregone conclusions). We see here the hazard of being "taught" by individuals who have neither the experience or knowledge of the material to teach it: shallow and improper conclusions from simply not knowing the music and the sources well enough, and from not taking the dozens of available sources seriously enough, and from not having practical experience doing all this at the keyboard (or singing solos with it). It's the age-old distinction between "book learning" and real understanding.

To any who desire to learn things more properly and deeply, with regards to this particular topic in the art of improvisatory thorough-bass, I recommend the articles by Dr Peter Williams and Dr Arthur Mendel, along with the book by Dr Laurence Dreyfus, whose bibliographic details I have listed at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
That's a handy web page explaining the reasons for playing basso continuo with flexible expression: most importantly, for clarity of the message of the music.

As for the question of playing nothing when the figures are merely describing (DEscribing, not PREscribing) the implied harmonic changes over a bass that is constant: think about it this way. The singer, learning his part in the practice room, can play through the harmonies and hold them as long as he wants or needs to, to learn the way his vocal part should fit into it. This (holding or re-striking bass notes and playing all the new harmonies) is not binding at all in performance where it's an improvisatory art; the keyboard player(s) realizing the continuo simply do(es) whatever sounds appropriate in the moment, knowing what the harmonies are there (by looking at the figures and therefore understanding the harmonic progressions) and improvising sosuitable for the acoustic and the occasion. Why should it be? Why should any performer be forced to play things on the page that serve primarily a didactic function, or castigated when he/she omits things that are thought too-important by a listener who really doesn't understand the material? Are experienced musicians not allowed to play BETTER than beginners do, using our ears and our sensitivity to the text instead of woodenly following a set of instructions that are presumed complete?

This is all quite a complex topic, understandably, and therefore it's most helpful to rely on those who bring practical experience performing this music: knowing what works and what doesn't, in rehearsal and performance, and therefore knowing first-hand how we composers/improvisers/players think about our art...not just guessing from books.

Hope this helps,

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 18, 2004):
< If you go expecting to hear only the notes Bach wrote,you will be sorely disappointed. It is in the nature of continuo to add notes that were not actually written down by the composer. Indeed, often the composer didn't even put in figures, much less a realization!<
Charles Francis wrote: >What is fascinating is the converse practice in HIP circles, where figures that Bach notated are actually left out. The principle they have adopted is to shorten the bass note rather than play what is written (someone, somewhere, a long time ago, referred to such a practice, so its historical you see); but then subsequent harmonic figures have no root and so must omitted. A wobbly edifice with one card stacked on the other. Of course, you need a score to spot what's happening.<<
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>Why should any performer be forced to play things on the page that serve primarily a didactic function, or castigated when he/she omits things that are thought too-important by a listener who really doesn't understand the material? Are experienced musicians not allowed to play BETTER than beginners do, using our ears and our sensitivity to the text instead of woodenly following a set of instructions that are presumed complete?<<
Bach had ‘experienced’ musicians playing/singing for him in his performances, but he did not trust them to represent his music to the world (with his name attached) without inserting additional, ad-lib elements contrary to Bach’s sense of good taste in music. The singers and players who performed in his recitatives and arias in church were generally not musically ill-prepared pupils who needed every little chord/embellishment spelled out for them didactically, but rather those who thought they occasionally had the right to assert their personality and ‘flash’ their abilities about to get the special attention of the listeners. In order to avoid just this type of personal display, Bach took special care to spell out those details in his compositions which most other composers of his time would have left to the whim and imagination of the performers.

In order to see more precisely why a listener would want to follow along with a score during a performance or recording, I have posted a few samples of recitatives to illustrate how many HIP continuo players show a callous disregard for Bach’s intentions by eviscerating the continuo part when applying the ‘esoteric’ doctrine of shortened accompaniment to Bach’s secco recitatives which is accomplished as follows (these JPG files have been posted in the files section of the BachCantatas Yahoo Group as BWV105M2Secco; BWV140M2Secco; BWV148M3Acc; BWV151M2Secco):

Here is my explanation of what can be seen in each example/extract:

BWV148M3Acc

I’ve included this ‘accompagnato’ recitative for comparison with the other ‘secco’ recitatives. The only difference here is that the chords usually left to the continuo player are written out in full. This, of course, makes it somewhat less free in style for the singer since all of the instruments and the voice must stay together. As a result, attending to the regular beats becomes much more important here than in the ‘secco’ recitative where only the basso continuo needs to follow the singer.

I have marked with arrows the change of chords which would otherwise in a secco recitative be written out as figured bass chords in the figured bass. Imagine this recitative sans instruments played in secco “HIP” style using the shortened accompaniment: you would probably hear the G-major chord played for about one beat at the very beginning, after which there would be complete silence for an additional 11 beats (this according to the Schering/Mendel/Harnoncourt/Dreyfus theory which would allow only the single chord to be played ‘in shortened fashion’ at the beginning of the long held note in the bass. Thereafter, nothing but 11 beats of silence in the continuo section. The singer lacks the necessary support which Bach had built into the music. [The HIP adherents are always quick to point out that the voice needs to be heard and the continuo could too easily cover up the voice – but I do not want to get into the ‘demi-voix’ ‘small HIP’ voice phenomenon at this point in this discussion.]

Instead of just one chord being sounded at the very beginning rather abruptly, there are at least 5 occasions where a basso continuo, if this were a secco recitative, could change the chord while still holding the long note all the way through in the bass.

BWV105M2Secco

In this secco recitative, the basso continuo player/group holds the bass note for 14 beats without interruption; at least that was the case until the HIP movement, beginning almost a half-century ago, began performing these recitatives in an entirely new way: You will hear the bass note with the implied chord sounded for about a beat or so, but after that the HIP continuo players will insert rests (explaining, if you wish to hear their made-up reason, that Bach found it easier to write the whole notes rather than inserting ‘all those rests’ by hand.)

You wonder about those ‘funny’ numbers (figured bass) which are left floating in the air but played rarely, if at all? These may be considered by HIP experts as extraneous, rather superfluous decorative symbols that were put there only to serve a didactic purpose for little children or beginners, but not to be taken too seriously by professional HIP artists.

The arrows in parentheses indicate places where a chord (not only the single long note in the bass) may be sounded (optional, left to the player.)

BWV140M2Secco

From the famous cantata “Wachet auf,” here is a secco recitative with a bass note that should be held for 10 beats during the course of which Bach has included indications for 3 additional chord changes (the figure bass (the small numbers, often in vertical columns.) If you were to hear this secco recitative performed in the traditional, non-HIP manner (this is still being done today by such non-HIP ensembles), you would hear the bass note held by the organ and the bassoon (perhaps even an additional member of the continuo group) for the entire duration of the 10 beats unceasingly! Over this foundation, the chord changes indicated by the figured bass are supplied by the organist while the singer enjoys having this firm support without feeling entirely abandoned by the continuo group.

BWV151M2Secco

Here is an example of a single bass note in the continuo being held for 18 beats!, or least that was once what Bach had intended. How would a HIP continuo player truncate this note? In an extreme instance, he/she might simply take it ‘by the rule’ as given in the ‘shortened accompaniment’ theory and play only the first note/chord for about 1 or 2 beats. Thereafter, nothing but silence, even when 3 figured bass figures floating above the bass note appear in the continuo part. Some HIP continuo players have had their performances (or their lack of performance – not playing the notes that Bach indicated) criticized so often that they have decided to ‘please both camps’ by ‘throwing in a little something extra’ (a short arpeggiated chord in the upper register – you don’t want to sound once again that bass note that you have quit playing some time ago – that would be obvious to the listener.) Such a continuo player can then go home rather satisfied in knowing that he/she has attempted with such an inept compromise to appease both gods: Bach’s composition as he wrote it out (Bach almost always wrote out the figured bass in one of the original continuo parts that have come down to us) and one of the pillars of the HIP movement, the Schering/Mendel/Leonhardt/Harnoncourt/Dreyfus theory, which is based upon the notion that, under Bach, all of his players knew that they would be looking at notes and figured bass that were placed in their parts by Bach, but then they always remembered the ‘esoteric’ doctrine, that can not be adequately documented by musicologists today: What you see in the score/part is not what you play – you truncate the long-held bass notes radically and generally forget about the other figured bass indications that are floating above this note. This is an abhorrent compromise that begins to display, for all to see, the weaknesses of this rather silly doctrine.

The red arrows indicate where additional chords are sounded along with the continually held bass note with those arrows enclosed in parentheses possibly being optional and left up to the player to insert as needed or felt.

See all the examples at: Continuo 4 – Examples from the Score

There is a claim that Gustav Leonhardt was the first ever to use and record a secco recitative played according to HIP rules. Leonhardt, himself, as far as I know, has been quite coy about explaining just how this ‘revolution’ in playing Bach’s secco recitatives came about or why it caught on at all. All I have heard thus far is that Leonhardt used one of those kitchen analogies that are being thrown about generously in the past few days: Leonhardt did not want the ‘outsiders’/listeners to find out what important musical decisions were being ‘made in the kitchen’ = out of view, out of range of hearing of those who should simply accept the fait accompli which is the final musical product: the performance (live or recorded.)

All the discussions with the details of the arguments that have taken place over the past few years on these lists can be found easily by doing a quick search on Aryeh Oron’s Bach Cantatas Site.

It will become apparent after studying these examples and listening to some HIP recordings of these samples or any other secco recitatives from Bach's cantatas, that HIP adherents, particularly those playing the continuo parts, really do not want you to see how much of Bach's music is being left out/not played. They would rather have you believe utterly in their 'expertise'as 'knowledgeable' and 'experienced' performers so as to pull the wool over the eyes, or is it ears?, of the unsuspecting listeners. Why else would there be such an outcry over anyone following along with a score to determine just how much has been left out? Certainly, there is still some freedom allowed to a continuo player, but that which I have demonstrated above shows that things have gone much too far away from Bach's original intentions.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (June 18, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < < In order to see more precisely why a listener would want to follow along with a score during a performance or recording, I have posted a few samples of recitatives to illustrate how many HIP continuo players show a callous disregard for Bach’s intentions by eviscerating the continuo part when applying the ‘esoteric’ doctrine of shortened accompaniment to Bach’s secco recitatives which is accomplished as follows (these JPG files have been posted in the files section of the BachCantatas Yahoo Group as BWV105M2Secco; BWV140M2Secco; BWV148M3Acc; BWV151M2Secco): >
Maybe I am missing something, but I know a fair number of HIP harpsichordists here in Poland, and I have NEVER heard anything like what you are talking about. I mean, this is something so obvious I wouldn't even need a score to catch it - I mean, a hole in the BC is a hole in the BC!

The only place I can think of where such things might happen is in violin works, of all places. But not for a space of 11 beats! At very most for the space of one measure!

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 18, 2004):
In a nutshell: those who insist that all bass notes of plain recitative be held out to allegedly full value (i.e. as written, with long notes and ties etc etc etc) have fallen into the trap of equating fidelity-to-the-score (Buchstabentreue) with fidelity-to-the-music (Werktreue). [That's a distinction explained by musicologist Eva Badura-Skoda, with regard to performance practices in general.] One can't simply stare at a score without training in the norms of 17th and 18th century notational practices, and assume that it says what it appears to say, with later habits read back into it; nor can one assume it's absolutely binding and restrictive on all situations, for all time, everywhere. Any written text, of anything, needs the context of its milieu for the determination what it meant TO THOSE PEOPLE and not automatically to later people. That is, an examination of normalcy in its own culture.

And that, in this case, is the notation of a flexible IMPROVISATORY practice in which musicians match each performance to the acoustical and spiritual and dramatic needs of the moment: different every time the piece is performed. That's what the 17th and 18th century composers expected (this goes back to the very roots of "Baroque" music, the seconda prattica of Monteverdi et al with the birth of bass continuo practice), and that's why they wrote down only minimal information: giving intelligent and experienced performers enough to go on, to come up with something musically suitable--and not being more restrictive than that. Musicians are expected to listen and think while playing, and to know all the stylistic elements that are unwritten, not merely follow instructions that are allegedly complete on a page (which "com'e scritto" insistence is a late 19th and early 20th century assumption deriving from Toscanini and his followers, primarily). It's that difference between fidelity-to-the-music and mere fidelity-to-the-score.

The music under question here is the genre of recitative, which had a conventional set of normal performance practices in Germany. And, these practices were documented all the way through Bach's career, although there are some here in this forum (who notably bring no formal scholarly background or performance experience in Bach's music) who would have us believe those sources are all meaningless or irrelevant to Bach.

We've been through all this for a year and a half here, and I have summarized the POSITIVE case for negotiably shorter note-values at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm
Published scholars on this topic have been at this discussion for a lot longer than that, as noted within the reference works I recommend there (Williams and Dreyfus, especially).

The NEGATIVE case of these opponents-of-normal-practice is built entirely on the dismissal of any and all evidence they would rather not take seriously. As I recall, it comes down to a belligerent insistence that the only source worth taking seriously is a selective part of a Heinichen document as re-translated and re-explicated by Mr Braatz (who notably does not perform basso continuo himself), plus his attempt to impugn the credibility of all other evidence and all other messengers, both from the 18th century and from now. [That pick-and-choose-and-dismiss technique is not a sound strategy of exegesis of the Bible, and it's not a sound strategy of exegesis in historical performance practice documentation, and it's just not a sound strategy to exegete ANYTHING: by selecting out only the tiniest bits that can be forced to one's own position and foregone conclusions, claiming that they're the only thing that could possibly be relevant, and taking a blowtorch to all other evidence.] His entire case is built on the attempted assassination of Dreyfus (and Schering and a few others), without even looking at the Williams article that Irecommended multiple times as essential reading. That, and the utter confusion of fidelity-to-the-score with fidelity-to-the-music, as I mentioned above.

The positive case has already been made, by performers and scholars qualified to do so. Meanwhile, the belittlers of normal scholarly and musical practice and the value of education (most notably Thomas Braatz and Charles Francis, on this particular topic) will undoubtedly rail against this for a very long time, anyway. I don't intend to waste MY energy further defending normalcy against such terrorist tactics that they use.

Johan van Veen wrote (June 18, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < Any written text, of anything, needs the context of its milieu for the determination what it meant TO THOSE PEOPLE and not automatically to later people. That is, an examination of normalcy in its own culture. >
Isn't it tragic that something so obvious has to be explained ad nauseam? I always wonder what the literalists make of the notation of medieval music.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 18, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] Indeed. And how would they insist that aleatoric scores, or graphic scores, MUST be performed?!

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 18, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] "Correctly", of course: That is to say, according to their own intuitive judgments of the single way it must always be from looking at the score, absolutely for all occasions, despite any and all hard evidence to the contrary and despite the way musicians actually think.

Dale Gedcke wrote (June 18, 2004):
RESPONDING TO THE WRITINGS OF VARIOUS AUTHORS BELOW: [see above]

I had a recent experience that emphasizes that the composer's score is only the minimum information required for properly performing the music. We were playing Antique Dances by Respighi (possible spelling errors) for the first rehearsal. I was playing the music in a style typical of the early 20th century. The conductor exclaimed, "You need to play this composition in the Baroque style!" Only then did I note that the composition dated to 1599. I changed to the Baroque style, and immediately I sensed that the music came alive with the right sound.

I was playing the same notes as written on the page in both cases. What differed was the style, and that wasn't obvious from the notes on the page.

For music from a more modern era, I have two examples. One is a long medley of famous compositions played by the Glenn Miller band. Looking at the notes in the score, it was extremely difficult to convert the rests and syncopation into the proper feeling in the music, especially in cut time. It required many rehearsals and recollections of how that music sounded on recordings I have before the style clicked into place. Now I find myself not counting the beats in the rests, but feeling when to hit the syncopated notes.

The last example is an arrangement of the music from the movie, Pirates of the Caribbean. This one has a lot of strange triplet patterns in it and unique accent patterns. Again, the final outcome was feeling how the music should sound, rather than following my tapping foot.

There is more to the score than meets the eye!

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 19, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>I don't intend to waste MY energy further defending normalcy against such terrorist tactics that they use.<<
“normalcy” is just an historical ‘blip’ of less than a half-century of a ‘Modeerscheinung’ [= a fashionable trend] in performance practices. This was the very thing that Bach himself wanted to ward off by being overly meticulous (in comparison to most other composers of his day and the century which preceded him) in notating precisely what he wanted to hear and what not. According to a musicologist’s [Eva Badura-Skoda] theory, Bach himself may have unwillingly and unknowingly ‘fallen into the trap of equating fidelity-to-the-score (Buchstabentreue) with fidelity-to-the-music (Werktreue).’

Both Johann Abraham Birnbaum [1702-1748, Leipzig] and Johann Adolph Scheibe [1708-1776, Leipzig - Copenhagen] have something very important to report in this matter. There is absolutely no need for musicologists to range far and wide [“Warum in die Ferne schweifen, siehe, das Gute liegt so nahe! – Goethe = “Why wander/roam about so far into the distance, look! that which is {really} good is right there in front of you”] so as to bolster their extremely weak arguments regarding Bach’s supposedly strict adherence to Monteverdi’s ‘seconda prattica’ with references to, in Bach’s case, anachronistic, hence meaningless, performance practices which do not apply to Bach at all.

Scheibe’s criticism of Bach [Hamburg, May 14, 1737 – Bach Dokumente Bd. II. Nr. 400 contains the following comment:
Alle Manieren, alle kleine Auszierungen, und alles, was man unter der Methode zu spielen verstehet, druckt er mit eigentlichen Noten aus; und das entziehet seinen Stücken nicht nur die Schönheit der Harmonie, sondern macht auch den Gesang durchaus unvernehmlich…und man bewundert an beyden [a comparison here with a poet, Mr. von Lohenstein] die beschwerliche Arbeit und eine ausnehmende Mühe, die doch vergebens angewendet ist, weil sie wider die Natur streitet.“

[„All the musical mannerisms {OED: a habitual peculiarity of action, expression, artistic manipulation, etc., a ‚trick of manner’ – this begins to sound very much like the ‚esoteric doctrine of shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives’}, all the little embellishments, and everything in music that is understood as being played/sung according to some ‘method’ {examples: the rendering of the figured bass according to the methods that were presented in numerous books that were available in printed form in Bach’s time, or the ‘diminutioni’ or coloraturas where longer notes are broken up into many smaller notes – ‘trilli,’ ‘tremoli,’ ‘tremoletti,’ ‘groppi,’ ‘circoli mezzi,’ ‘fioretti,’ ‘tirate,’ ‘ribattute di gola,’ and ‘saltuatim’ – interval jumps} he {J. S. Bach} prints/notates them all out with a specific note for everything he wants to hear {he does not leave much, if anything, to the whim or ‘artistic freedom’ of the performer!}; as a result, he deprives his own musical compositions of not only of the beauty of harmony, but also makes the music that is sung completely difficult to understand/listen to…and you really have to be astonished at the arduous work and exceptional effort {that Bach puts into presenting his music in such a detailed manner} because all this effort is for naught as it continually battles against Nature {it would be so much easier to leave his compositions free of all these restrictions, restrictions which only serve to hinder the performers’ freedom in a live concert.}”]

In Leipzig, Birnbaum, at the beginning of January, 1738, [Bach Dok. Nr. 409] answers this charge against Bach's abilities as a composer as follows:
Vielmehr halte ich es, aus nicht zu verwerfenden gründen, vor eine nöthige klugheit eines componisten. Einmahl ist gewis, daß dasjenige, was man methode zu singen und zu spielen nennt fast durchgehends gebilliget und vor angenehm gehalten werde. Es ist auch dieses unstreitig, daß die methode, alsdenn erst das gehör vergnüge, wenn sie am rechten orte angebracht wird, hingegen dasselbe ungemein beleidige und die hauptmelodie verderbe, wenn sich der musicirende derselben am unrechten orte bedienet. Nun lehret ferner die erfahrung, daß man meistentheils die anbringung derselben dem freyen willkühr der sänger und instrumentalisten überläst. Wären diese alle von dem was in der methode wahrhafftig schön ist sattsam unterrichtet; wüsten sie sich derselben allzeit an dem orte zu bedienen, wo sie der hauptmelodie zur eigentlichen zierde und besondern nachdruck dienen könnte; so wäre es eine überflüßige sache, wenn ihnen der componist das in noten noch einmahl vorschreiben wollte, was sie schon wissen. Allein da die wenigsten hiervon genugsame wissenschafft haben; dennoch aber durch eine ungeräumte anbringung ihrer methode die haupt melodie verderben; ja auch wohl offt solche passagen hinein machen, solche von denen, die um der sache eigentliche beschaffenheit nicht wissen, dem componisten leicht als ein fehler angerechwerden könnten; so ist ja wohl ein jeder componist, und also auch der Herr Hof-Compositeur befugt, durch vorschreibung einer richtigen und seiner absicht gemäßen methode, irrenden auf den rechten weg zu weisen, und dabey auf die erhaltung seiner eigenen ehre zu sorgen.“

[„Moreover, I consider, for reasons not to be easily dismissed, this {Bach’s exact, detailed notation] to be a sign of the necessary cleverness that a composer must possess. First it is certain that that which is usually considered ‘singing or playing according to the method’ {is not in itself wrong} will almost always find approval and can be thought pleasant to listen to as such. It is also indisputable that the ‘method,’ while it can be pleasurable to the ear if it is applied in the right place {judiciously within the composition/movement}, the same [‘method’] can also terribly insult the listeners’ sense of hearing and {completely} spoil the main melody line whenever the musician applies the same {‘method’} in the wrong place {within the composition.} In addition, experience teaches us that it is usually best to leave the same {‘method’ = that which allows the performer to modify the notes in the composition} to the ‘freedom of expression’ of the singer/instrumentalist. But, if only all of these performers were thoroughly informed/instructed in just what in this ‘method’ is truly beautiful; if only they always knew precisely where to apply the proper ornaments/embellishments for special emphasis, then it would be {completely} superfluous for the composer {Bach, in this instance} to prescribe in detailed notation, what the performers already know {how to do.} However, since very few performers possess sufficient knowledge about these things {how to perform the music properly} and yet persist in the ill-fitting application of their acquired ‘method’ in spoiling the main melodic line, or {they} even frequently add their own ‘passagios’ {German: Agricola: ‘Passagien’}{running embellishments}; any of these ‘mistakes’ created by those performers who do not fully understand what is involved can easily be blamed on the composer as a ‘mistake’ {here we can have right notes in the wrong place, rests where there should not be any rests, elements added by the performer that are not in good taste – use your imagination} and so it is that any composer, including Mr. Court-Composer {J.S. Bach}, has the right to prescribe his own ‘method’ {Bach’s own idea on how these elements, often left to the performers to provide, ought to be sung/played} according to how he {Bach} intended the music to sound, by directing those who have deviated/are deviating/will deviate from path on how to find their way back to the correct path while at the same time ensuring that his own honor as a composer will be maintained.”]

It should be quite clear from the above that musicologists/musicians/composers who believe that Bach’s music can be approached the same way that Monteverdi’s or Chopin’s etc. music is (allowing considerable freedom of interpretation and invoking unwritten, esoteric doctrines that allow Bach’s music to be seriously modified/changed from what he had intended) have neglected to study the key sources that lay close at hand. These prove that, at least in the case of performing Bach’s music properly, there is an identification of ‘Buchstabentreue’ with ‘Werktreue.’ ‘Buchstabentreue’ [remaining faithful to all the details that Bach put into his scores and the corrections and additions he made in the parts] does equal ‘Werktreue’ [remaining true and faithful to the composer’s intentions.] This also means that the theory of the ‘shortened accompaniment in Bach’s secco recitatives,’ a rather tenuous theory to begin with is herewith debunked and foundering.

As frequently suggested before: those conductors/performers who deliver in live or recorded form performances with their own changes in the score (shortened, different, or additional notes, transcriptions, etc.) should be forced to level with the listening audience by indicating as follows: “this is a Bach-Harnoncourt cantata, or if the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives is used and nothing else is changed in the score: Warning! This Bach cantata recording uses the ‘shortened accompaniment for secco recitatives’ The performing artists can not guarantee that this music was performed in this manner under Bach’s direction. Listen at your own risk!”

There is no objection to performing Bach’s music in all the possible ways that mankind can devise, but let’s be honest about it. Admit openly what you have changed in the score, but do not try to hide behind the misconceptions of many musicologists/musicians who have come to believe that they are presenting Bach to us as authentically as is humanly possible. These misconceptions need to be exposed for all musicians and listeners to ponder so that a few overly zealous, ego-centric individuals do not mutilate Bach’s intentions while having us believe that Bach wanted it ‘to be this way.’

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 19, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < (...) misconceptions need to be exposed for all musicians and listeners to ponder so that a few overly zealous, ego-centric individuals do not mutilate Bach's intentions while having us believe that Bach wanted it 'to be this way.' >
I agree.

Charles Francis wrote (June 19, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] [the message was removed]

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 19, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] My favorite spot in the Wöldike is the part where the temple veil rips and the dead people walk around.

Charles Francis wrote (June 19, 2004):
[the message was removed]

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 19, 2004):
[the message was removed]

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 19, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < "normalcy" is just an historical 'blip' of less than a half-century of a 'Modeerscheinung' [= a fashionable trend] in performance practices. This was the very thing that Bach himself wanted to ward off by being overly meticulous (in comparison to most other composers of his day and the century which preceded him) in notating precisely what he wanted to hear and what not. According to a musicologist's [Eva Badura-Skoda] theory, Bach himself may have unwillingly and unknowingly 'fallen into the trap of equating fidelity-to-the-score (Buchstabentreue) with fidelity-to-the-music (Werktreue).' >
That's not what Eva Badura-Skoda wrote; the implication ("according to a musicologist's theory" as you cite here, as you're going only by hearsay) that Bach himself fell into such a trap is YOURS alone, and needs evidence to back it up. Plus, it casts the "unwilling" and "unknowing" Bach as out of control of his situation, which probably is not a good thing to assert here. Isn't Bach our hero?

Anyway, the notation of "precisely what he wanted to hear and what not" makes sense only in the context of knowing what's normal and knowing how to read what's written there, in that light; can you grant at least that much? The converse is to assert that you alone have the correct way to read notation that was used 200 years before your birth, in a field that you have never formally studied and in repertoire that you have never actually performed...that is to say, asserting that you know experts' knowledge better than they do themselves, through some undocumented secret channel into the mind of Bach or something.
[the rest of the message was removed]

John Pike wrote (June 19, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] I just cannot believe that the experts, scholars and conductors involved in the HIP movement have done this out of some whim. They are highly dedicated professionals who want to get at the truth and who want to come up with the very best performance that they possibly can. What could possibly motivate them to be involved in some huge scam which Thomas, Charles and some others seem to be suggesting they are. I am no expert myself but I am more inclined to the view that they have looked at a lot of evidence very carefully and have come to certain conclusions about the way Bach performed his music. Moreover, so many outstanding musicians are involved in the HIP movement that to suggest that is all one big con trick or mass deception/delusion is frankly risible.



Continue on Part 5


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

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Last update: ýJanuary 29, 2005 ý15:35:40