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Half-Voice - Part 1

 

 

Half-Voices

Continue of Discussion of Cantata BWV 158

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2003):
Arjen van Gijssel stated:
>> Personally, I admire the voice of Ramselaar, as plain as it is, his thechnique, expression and interpretation. The same counts for Nico van der Meel (although not in this cantata), who sometimes is treated harshly by mr. Braatz. Everybody his opinion. I am not convinced at all by his claim that musicologists are wrong, and he is right.

I consider it an honour to perform with both aforementioned soloists in the cantate cycle in Rotterdam (Laurenskerk), the Netherlands<<
Anyone should consider it an honor to perform in a Bach cantata cycle! You are fortunate to have some of the solo voices which, if I were forced to compare them with soloists performing these works with church choirs in the area in which I live, I would have to admit that the soloists that you mention are better than some of those that I have heard here.

There is, however, a noticeable difference between a performance of a Bach cantata which is performed ‘at all costs’ [unfortunately not monetary] simply to be able to perform this great music and a performance that achieves true greatness. When the enthusiasm among the performers is great and achieving the goal of performing Bach is a primary objective, some magic is bound to occur (even if it may not always be apparent to very critical listeners) despite the fact that clarinets may be playing, the high trumpets missing a note here or there, or that the voices might be struggling with some particularly difficult passages.

To put it another way, a listener wishing to gain a first acquaintance with the great music contained in the Bach cantatas would probably be well served by purchasing the Leusink Bach Cantata Series. Although there is always the aspect of almost any live performance that such a recorded series can not easily replace, the advantage of actually being able to listen to a recording at the convenience of the listener is not to be underestimated. As long as the listener has nothing else to compare this experience with (other available recordings or good live performances) and if the individual listening actually participated in the recorded performances where all the ‘live’ elements of actual participation are revived upon rehearing these performances, then such a series such as Leusink’s can be considered an economical way of studying and appreciating this great music.

However, when the wealth of recordings that ‘are out there’ is examined more carefully (it is possible ‘to play ostrich’ and pretend that these recordings really do not exist, or that they have ‘fallen out of favor’), a listener with an open mind will, most likely, discover recordings of a higher quality than those produced under the time pressure exerted upon Leusink’s ensemble. These could be HIP or not. It does not seem to matter as long as true excellence is attained by combining the artistry supported by good technique and a range of expression that speaks directly to the listener.

>>. I get the impression that Thomas is living in the past, in his dislike of the use of sotto-voce in recent performances.<<
Try to think of this as the difference between a full-flavored food and one that is bland in taste. Try to imagine a harpsichordist (already there is no sustaining pedal available) trying to play every Bach keyboard composition only on a 4’ stop in a staccato fashion at very fast tempi. I have to exaggerate these comparisons in order to make a point about the singers who use the sotto-voce vocal technique almost exclusively. As I understand it, there are two basic prerequisites (perhaps there are others as well) for an outstanding singing voice: the physical ‘apparatus’ (all the organs needed for good sound production) with which not everyone is endowed from birth) and the gift of a ‘soulful’ quality which can impart a spiritual aspect of communication to the listener. Assuming that these are present, a vocal teacher will undertake to train and improve that which already exists.

In the case of the sotto-voce specialists (‘half-voices’ is the term I use because I have not yet found a better one yet) which constitute the majority of voices currently singing Bach arias and recitatives (there are always a few exceptions), these are voices that suffer deficiencies when compared to full-ranged, naturally talented voices. These ‘half-voices’ (for lack of a better term) lack the full range of notes required by many Bach arias as they have little or nothing to offer in the low ranges of their voices and may have problems controlling their voices when attempting to sing with volume and conviction in the high range. As ‘sotto-voce’ implies, these vocalists ‘lightly tap’ the notes they are trying to sing. This is a form of 'vocal cheating' which shortchanges the listener from obtaining the full impact or true substance of the music. Any attempt to use more volume (which is sometimes admittedly difficult because of the extremely fast tempi that many HIP conductors are prone to use) usually results in a negative change of voice quality (the voice tending to break under the strain, or a hooty, screaming quality.)

For half-voices, singing recitatives more as a whisper does absolutely nothing to delineate the meaning of the text, except perhaps to indicate that the singer has trouble identifying with it. If a ‘full voice’ sings piano or pianissimo in a recitative, it would indeed be a very short passage within the recitative, but the difference would also be very apparent. Such a vocalist sings from a base of power which the sotto-voce specialists lack. Behind the lesser amount of volume in the former is nonetheless a feeling of a great reserve of vocal power which usually manifests itself shortly thereafter when a return to the full voice takes place.

In short, for various reasons ‘half-voices’ are unable to give full-blooded presentations of great Bach arias and recitatives. A listener who has heard side-by-side performances of BWV 158 by Fischer-Dieskau and Ramselaar will very soon become aware of the vast differences between these two performances. Some would say “This is great! We have two recordings that give different interpretations of the same Bach cantata. One happens to be HIP, the other not. Isn’t that all that we are after, a greater wealth of interpretations?” At this point it is left to the individual listeners with varying tastes and ideas to decide what sounds good and is effective in moving the listener so that an opinion about the performance can be formed. That is what this list is all about, but it does help when reasons for the distinctions which are made are placed before other listeners who may, or may not, feel the same way. Who knows, perhaps some will feel that Ramselaar is better than Fischer-Dieskau? Tell us your reasons why you feel this way. Perhaps we can all learn something from this, even those that seem to be ‘living in the past.’

Hugo Saldias wrote (February 25, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Bach Cantatas belong to the category of performing arts. That is very difficult for some who only play the music written as it is without adding or changing nothing BECUASE THAT IS THE WAY THE COMPOSER INTENDED TO BE AND WE ARE SLAVES TO THEIR WISHES. Well that is the wrong focus for Bach and for all music and for all Performing Arts in general.

Musicians enjoy freedom in all aspects the more freedom the more variations and versions of a piece tempi, registration, phrasing, instrumentation, hip or not.

One example in keyboard music is piano versus the harpsichord or organ. One american example (we always talk about europeans and we forget that here in our America we have outstanding musicians) in Anthony Newman:

Ths first recording I know of that the same performer plays the Well Tempered Clavier in Harpsichord AND on Piano in the same CD set box. Because we all know Kirpatrick in the Archive or Gould in the Sony to mention some.But this gives the idea that musician is restricted to BLACK OR WHITE. And this is what I want toshow you:There are no rules of correct or wrong in music:ALL IS VALID and Mr Newman is the proof.Some too have recorded it on the organ.

Second point you a listener wishing to get some acquaintance should by this or that version is also wrong.Becuase for a musical or performing arts point of view all recordings we mention in this group are made by first line musicians and hip or not hip, Edith Mathis or a boy soprano,organ or piano in continuo all are great interpretations of the music of Bach.For those who do not play this is difficult to understand but for those who spent hours and hours of repetitions to get it acceptable and then listen to it will say:GOOD JOB !

When some say Karl Richter again with the organ too loud this is WRONG !.oR THE ORGAN SOUNDS ABOVE THE CHOIR AGAIN AND SHOULD HAVE LESS VOLUME... Who dictates what is wrong or not? For something to be wrong should be a set of rules set in writing we call it laws.And if somebody breaks them is doing something wrong.OK... I am waiting to tell me anybody who reads this and has conducted a cantata AND made several CD to throw the first stone as the bible says. If there are no stones coming why point fingers to those who have worked very hard all their lives and all they want is to bring another musical interpretation of Bach music.

Once again HIP and not HIP and correct both if they are musically inspired.
All I hope is that one day an HIP conductor lets us say Harnoncourt decides to record again all Bach Cantatas using the Berlin Philarmonic and the largest choir in europe.Some people will not understand and only the musicians will.

There is not better Dieskau than other one.They are graet singers and deserve respect. Fisher Dieskau has written a book I recommend to all that talks about all these things. Now let us say that one day MR Dieskau has a fever and back pain while in the middle of an opera,he will go on, and of course with mistakes and wrong notes and
all kinds of things that you like..

Becuase here you show the NEGATIVE aspect of cantatas. And if the singer is having a bad day it does not matter you sentence him to death. Musicians are humans like all of us and if they DO MUSIC they never do it the same(read Glen Gould notes on his first part of the well tempered clavier in how after playing a fugue for HOURS, everytime he does it different and enjoys it...it is a sony CD box).

Organists in tour:there is nothing more amazingthat to follow an organist on tour.The same program but played totally different on every church:acoustics,type of console to make stops changes, and list of stops. Tempos can be slower one church,faster the next one. One piece in full organ one place,same piece with a few stops the next church. Well with the cantatas is the same basic principal: NO RULES but FREEDOM.IMPORVISATION.

Finally:ballet:
Nutcracker:Only one coreography? Are you nuts? The more the best. And see the results... But the same music ? How come? Well, the basis is the same for the ballet but what it matters is something else in ballet and that "something else" is what makes on Nutcracker different from the other. Is what makes all understand the Performing Arts.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] I believe you are missing the point here. If a performer sticks to what is written in the score, he - generally speaking - does NOT do what the composer intended. There are many things a composer did not write down, because he wanted to leave it to the freedom of the interpreter to do it himself - adding ornaments, for example. But since he composed for contemporaries he expected them to add these things within the boundaries of good taste - the good taste of his own time of course. And the composer could leave out things which were totally obvious for every performer in his time. It is the duty of today's interpreter to discover those obvious things and do them as they were done in the composer's time. It is a challenge for today's interpreters to discover what is behind the score. That does not mean that the performer can do what he likes, like playing Bach on the piano.

Paul Farseth wrote (February 26, 2003):
< Johan van Veen wrote: It is a challenge for today's interpreters to discover what is behind the score. That does not mean that the performer can do what he likes, like playing Bach on the piano. >
Ah, well . . . the Bach keyboard works probably work better on piano when Glen Gould plays them than on a lot of recordings on the harpsichord. On the other hand...we have not kept (or at least seldom play) our recordings of Walter/Wendy Carlos doing Bach on the Moog Synthesizer. Some travesties (such as Bach's transcriptions of Vivaldi for the organ) are great (or the Busoni piano transcriptions of Bach or the Canadian Brass transcriptions of stuff from the Brandenburg Concertos). Other travesties are just annoying, though even those may teach us something useful.

An analogy from moral philosophy might illustrate what's at stake. We study cases carefully to see what rules might apply to their particular circumstances and to see which rules trump other rules in the interests of justice (or beauty). But in the actual practice of life, even when we have time to analyze our decisions, we still wind up going with the course of action that intuition directs us to. Our study improves our intuition, but the way we play our lives or our music is a leap in the dark when the fingers hit the keys. "Love G.d and then do as you please," says Augustine of Hippo.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (February 26, 2003):
Ornamenrs and obligations

< Johan van Veen wrote: There are many things a composer did not write down, because he wanted to leave it to the freedom of the interpreter to do it himself - adding ornaments, for example. But since he composed for contemporaries he expected them to add these things >
Why do you claim that Bach anticipated ornamentation from his musicians? In a number of cases, he complained that they couldn't even play or sing the notes!

< within the boundaries of good taste - the good taste of his own time of course. >
What was considered good taste often later becomes unacceptable, Bach ipso locuto.

< And the composer could leave out things which were totally obvious for every performer in his time. It is the duty of today's interpreter to discover those obvious things and do them as they were done in the composer's time. >
It is one thing to call for more awareness of scholarship among musicians; it is another to incite listeners to approach performers with such questions, and so compromise and distort authentic judgment.

< It is a challenge for today's interpreters to discover what is behind the score. >
Might they also find that some hoary and sensational exegeses are really in front of the score, and are not? (I think this is why much program music fails.)

Hugo Saldias wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] VERY GOOD I AGREE...

Lots of things Bach did not write down they IMPROVISED! Thing that not too many people know how to do today. Freedom of interpreter 100%.Just look at Bach: Freedom for his body:He took off to north Germany to hear organists play and took too long... Freedom of action:He was once in jail for going too far Freedom of playing:The congragation complained that he played the organ confusing them! What this tells you in a lutheran liturgy? Well:IMPROVISATION that confuses those who do not understand it(not too many) Bach loved freedom, freedom that he did not have, freedom that he wanted and this is reflected in his music.

His musicians:Bach was very demanding in all aspects.

Discovery:Not from the judicial point of view but from the musical point of view:each of his pieces is like a treasure to be opened and shown.And not only that, but also the same piece may be played different so it becomes a fluctuating piece of art.Monet tried something similar when he painted the Reims Cathedral at different times of the day with different "lights". He wanted to do that but he knew that once one picture is done is only one.In music one compositionmay have lots of different interpretations...

What is behind the score: Not only Bach wanted this but aleatoric music of our times has a similar requirement.

In other words there is freedom and not rules that will say: Karl Richter plays the organ too loud confusing me in this choir of the cantata. Do you know other people that do that? Yes, I do. If interested ask.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 26, 2003):
<< Johan van Veen wrote: There are many things a composer did not write down, because he wanted to leave it to the freedom of the interpreter to do it himself - adding ornaments, for example. But since he composed for contemporaries he expected them to add these things >>
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: Why do you claim that Bach anticipated ornamentation from his musicians? In a number of cases, he complained that they couldn't even play or sing the notes! >
I was referring to composers in general, not Bach specifically. There is reason to argue that Bach left far less to the performers than other composers. You only have to compare scores of Bach's music with Telemann's and that is clear to see for everyone: Telemann's are almost empty in comparison with Bach's. But generally speaking composers left ornamentation to the performers. Therefore, if a performer just plays what someone like Telemann has written down, he is not following the composer's intentions.

<< within the boundaries of good taste - the good taste of his own time of course. >>
< What was considered good taste often later becomes unacceptable, Bach ipso locuto. >
Yes, that's right. But my principle is that music should be performed within the boundaries of the taste of the time of the composer, not our tastes. The matter is not how the composer would have liked his music be performed in our time - that is a question nobody will ever be able to answer, and the composer wouldn't have expected his music to be performed in the 21st century anyway -, but how he expected or wanted it to be performed in his own time.

<< And the composer could leave out things which were totally obvious for every performer in his time. It is the duty of today's interpreter to discover those obvious things and do them as they were done in the composer's time. >>
< It is one thing to call for more awareness of scholarship among musicians; it is another to incite listeners to approach performers with such questions, and so compromise and distort authentic judgment. >
I don't know what you mean by that. What have the listeners to do with that? The only thing I said was that the score doesn't give all the information a performer needs to give a convincing performance, according to the intentions of the composer and that contemporary conventions which weren't written down have to be taken into account. In what way that "compromises" and "distorts" authentic judgment is beyond me.

<< It is a challenge for today's interpreters to discover what is behind the score. >>
< Might they also find that some hoary and sensational exegeses are really in front of the score, and are not? (I think this is why much program music fails.) >
There is always the danger that interpreters put their own ideas into the music. But every interpretation should be listened to with a critical ear, and the performer should be challenged to prove that his interpretation is based upon some historical evidence.

Christian Panse wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] I have to totally disagree with you. If you want free improvisation, you don't need a sheet of music in front of your nose - that would be a huge restriction! But if you decide to play or sing a work of some composer, you already have decided to take care of his will. And the validity of your interpretation approach will have to be estimated according to the existent knowledge over the composer and his intentions.

This means, if you play Bach's music on an instrument he didn't even know, or if you willingly ignore known parameters like ensemble sizes, stylistic manners, tuning systems etc. he was dealing with, you might get a musically fascinating or even satisfying result, which however is more or less disconnected from the composer's original visions. Playing Bach on a modern piano always evokes the history of piano building and pianistic traditions from the 19th century; Singing his vocal music with fully opera-trained voices makes always a reference to the tradition of the romantic opera. This all is useless ballast preventing to see the real thing - to say the least.

Yes, Bach's music is extremely robust (thanks to its deeply structural nature it survives adaptations for all kind of instruments, even synthesizers and jazz combos) - but how do you want to perform Gabrieli, Schütz, Buxtehude and other composers, whose works are more fragile?

< I am waiting to tell me anybody who reads this and has conducted a cantata AND made several CD to throw the first stone as the bible says. >
I performed several Bach cantatas as a solo singer, but inspite I'd stick to the proverb "You needn't be a hen to tell if an egg is rotten" ;-)

Juozas Rimas wrote (February 26, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: I have to totally disagree with you. If you want free improvisation, you don't need a sheet of music in front of your nose - that would be a huge restriction! But if you decide to play or sing a work of some composer, you already have decided to take care of his will. And the validity of your interpretation approach will have to be estimated according to the existent knowledge over the composer and his intentions. >
Doh, is this really that complicated for the performers? Play what is written exactly, there is still so much you can improvise on without violating the text, especially in Bach's usually scarce notation. If there are several editions, listen to what scholars say - if they agree a certain edition is the most reliable, play it. If their opinions diverge greatly, choose for yourself but play the score or label your performances as improvisations.

Christian Panse wrote (February 26, 2003):
< Juozas Rimas wrote: Doh, is this really that complicated for the performers? >

I didn't expect everyone on this list to know HTML, otherwise I should have added some "<exaggerated>" tags ;-)

< Play what is written exactly, there is still so much you can improvise on without violating the text, >
Not to violate the text is not enough, I fear... The text itself has to be seen in a context, and there they are again: tuning systems, ensemble sizes, instruments lore, stylistic manners...

Juozas Rimas wrote (February 26, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: I didn't expect everyone on this list to know HTML, otherwise I should have added some "<exaggerated>" tags ;-) >
It was a rhetorical exclamation with no particular addressee, so I omitted the tags :)

Hugo Saldias wrote (February 26, 2003):
[To Juozas Rimas]
I do respect your point of view and ina certain way I may be wrong.

But most of all I was going to this: Why Karl Richter plays the organ so loud in this choir and this confuses me... This gets me sick...

That is why the improvisation and the rest.We restrain to the group reason:bach cantatas and their interpretations.But we all ave to be flexible and with an open mind accepting as valid other's people's efforts in presenting us the cantatas.

These people are not just lawyers or doctors that do bach on a side, these are high valued professionals that have dedicated ALL THEIR LIVES time and efforts to this musical interpretation. I think they desrve our respect first and our bending of hard minds and try to accept it as valid.

In other words we all can disagree and I am happy for that so we all can tell about what we like and dislike BUT with the boundaries of common sense and respect for professional musicians that get thier efforts together to perform bach cantatas for us.

There are no rules indicating how loud an organ has to be in a choir. I do not want to say what Bach did in Leipzig in 1700's because they are going to say that i read minds and have a travel machine but just think: compare how poor the St Thomas choir sung if we put it a side with a professional choiof today were all voices are musicians. Then some of them sick or with the common child problems.Then compare to the gigantic size of the organ of St Thomas at that time and see if Bach would not have try to keep them in tone with the organ...And if you do not agree with this and you tell me there was no use of the organ in cantatas, then OK we in the 1900's add organ to the choirs and like to play it loud.I was at a concert conducted by Anthony Newman of the S Matthew Passion and it sounded just like Karl Richter. So I talked to Mr Newman and told him about it and told me it is the way GOOD MUSIC SHOULD SOUND...

Peformance was at the SUNY PURCHASE Auditorium that has a magnificent Flentrop organ with horizontal trumpets. In Westchester NY midle 1980's.He too conducted from the harpsichord and made a wounderful improvisation in the aria GEDULD (Patience) that is for voice and continuo ONLY.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (February 26, 2003):
< Juozas Rimas wrote: Doh, is this really that complicated for the performers? Play what is written exactly, there is still so much you can improvise on without violating the text, especially in Bach's usually scarce notation. >
Even though obsequy to 'the text' may be portrayed as facile, it remains an arbitrary restriction on freedoms, and so cannot increase them.

< If there are several editions, listen to what scholars say - if they agree a certain edition is the most reliable, play it. If their opinions diverge greatly, choose for yourself but play the score or label your performances as improvisations. >
I strongly object to the establishment of musicology as supreme authority in matters of performance. These 'scholars' often deliver opinions no more informed than the common observer except in matters of confusing jargon, dubious evidence, and sheer influence.

The attribution of artistic inspiration is really the performer's business. Sectarians only insist that musicians declare their 'arrangements' in order to expedite anathematization.

Hugo Saldias wrote (February 27, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Thank you for making this clear. Musicology knoledge does not allow or give authority in matters of perfomance to anybody. There is freedom of speech of course but there are limits of what is said and using this media that is public and can hurt feelings...

Thanks again.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 3, 2003):
Christain Panse wrote: "...if you play Bach's music on an instrument he didn't even know, or if you willingly ignore known parameters like ensemble sizes, stylistic manners, tuning systems etc. he was dealing with, you might get a musically fascinating or even satisfying result, which however is more or less disconnected from the composer's original visions."
Glad you admit to the possibility of "satisfying results" with modern instruments.

As far as the "composer's original visions' are concerned, I would say that Bach's intention (vision) was to celebrate the glory of God; the available instruments are the tools - improvements to which he certainly would not have had any objections.

For me, the important thing is to be able to hear all the notes in the score, (this what is left to us of Bach's genius), without the distortions of fashionable articulation styles eg excessive contrast between loud and soft, long and short notes (HIP), and excessive vibrato and overlarge forces (romantic).

Johan van Veen wrote (March 3, 2003):
< Neil Halliday wrote: Glad you admit to the possibility of "satisfying results" with modern instruments.
As far as the "composer's original visions' are concerned, I would say that Bach's intention (vision) was to celebrate the glory of God; the available instruments are the tools - improvements to which he certainly would not have had any objections. >
How can you be so certain? It is an assumption which can never be proven. There are much stronger reasons to argue the opposite.

A change in instruments leads to a change in compositional style. When the harpsichord was gradually pushed aside by the fortepiano, the character of composing changed as well. If Bach would have lived long enough to see the gradual technical improvement of the fortepiano, he might have liked it, but it is very likely he would have composed music for the instrument which would have been clearly different from what he had composed before.

You demonstrate a persistent misunderstanding when you write that Bach wouldn't have objected to "improvement" in the instrument. But modern instruments are no improvement of baroque instruments. They are different, not better. Whether they are better - technically or artistically - depends on what one expects from an instrument. The fortepiano can play forte and piano, but why is that an improvement to the harpsichord which can't do that?

< For me, the important thing is to be able to hear all the notes in the score, (this what is left to us of Bach's genius), without the distortions of fashionable articulation styles eg excessive contrast between loud and soft, long and short notes (HIP), and excessive vibrato and overlarge forces (romantic). >
Then I would strongly advise you to listen to Bach, played by a computer. Then you get everything you see.

But the question is: did Bach really want us to hear every single note? Why couldn't it be Bach's intention to make a difference between important and less important notes? If you speak, not every word you say is equally important, is it? You naturally stress the important words by raising your voice or whatever means you choose. Music isn't any different. That's the reason behind something like 'articulation'. A speaker who doesn't articulate isn't well understood. The same is true for music: a piece of music which isn't articulated well, fails to grabb the audience and the message is lost.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 3, 2003):
Johan van Veen wrote, in answer to my statement that Bach would not have
objected to improvements in instruments:
"How can you be so certain? It is an assumption which can never be proven. There are much stronger reasons to argue the opposite."
My main point is that we should not have to tolerate some of the weird, disappointing, weak, un-glorious sounds, produced by the likes of Koopman and Harnoncourt over the last 20 or 30 years, all in the name of authenticity.

Like I said, I believe Bach's intention (vision) was the celebration of the glory of God. A computer won't do the job - we need living, breathing (highly skilled) instrumentalists and vocalists, and we need not argue over the stage of development of the particular instrument.

The articulation of the music should result in all notes remaining audible - "less important" notes still have to be heard, otherwise Bach would not have bothered to write them - and the overall architecture of the music shound not be disjointed by eg, excessive inappropriate staccato.

I hope we can arrive at a happy median in the future, re articulation, tempi, etc, but if it boils down to personal taste, let the fun and games continue.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 3, 2003):
Johan van Veen stated: >>Then I would strongly advise you to listen to Bach, played by a computer. Then you get everything you see.<<
This seems to imply either that

a) contemporary (HIP-style) performance groups are unable play or sing what Bach’s scores ask for

or

b) it has become customary for this performance groups to exaggerate extremely articulation, dynamics, and tempi and yet may feel justified in doing so because they either think Bach did it this way or because they happen to follow the current popular trends and mannerisms of performance practices relating to Bach’s music.

It should not be necessary to have Bach ‘played’ on a computer in order to hear all the notes. Including the human element in performance need not exclude the ability to perform all the notes audibly by moderating the extreme articulation which has become fashionable of late. Or have the conductors declared themselves defeated by the demands that Bach places upon them and have sought an easier way out of their dilemma by resorting to the extremes in articulation, etc. in order to 'cover up' theirdeficiencies?

>>But the question is: did Bach really want us to hear every single note?<<
Out of context, this seems like a silly question because Bach was interested in communicating with an audience, which in the case of his sacred music was the congregation sitting at some distance from the musicians (and not in view of the congregation.) The congregation would have to listen intently since they did not always have the text before them (only a limited number of texts were printed for each cantata performance.) Certainly Bach would not write a composition with notes that could only be guessed at by his audience, no matter what extreme articulation current musicologists thought he might have used.

>>Why couldn't it be Bach's intention to make a difference between important and less important notes?<<
I can easily imagine that Bach did not have to indulge in extreme differentiation in order to accomplish this. As I pointed out in my recent report on BWV 40, there are other ways that Bach used to bring this about almost effortlessly.


>>If you speak, not every word you say is equally important, is it? You naturally stress the important words by raising your voice or whatever means you choose. Music isn't any different. That's the reason behind something like 'articulation'. A speaker who doesn't articulate isn't well understood. The same is true for music: a piece of music which isn't articulated well, fails to grab the audience and the message is lost.<<
I listen to a classical music station which has an array of announcers. One of these announcers speaks with the strong accents that you refer to. The strange thing is that, if I am not directly in front of the speakers or turn up the volume louder, bits and pieces of his message are lost (sometimes even the entire message.) This type of extreme modulation very definitely has its drawbacks, even in the speech of an ordinarily good radio announcer. It is for this reason that good public speakers (pastors in large churches without microphones, for instance) develop a ‘singing’ voice that sustains and supports the unaccented as well as the accented syllables. While some listeners in a real audience might be ‘turned off’ by this approach (they may have been exhausted to begin with), hearing only bits and fragments of words causes even greater uneasiness and stress on the part of the listener, who is trying hard to put the pieces of a puzzle together and soon gives up.

Too many groups currently performing Bach have become overly accustomed to singing and playing for a microphone (they are attempting to communicate with an abstract audience) and have developed mannerisms that would cause the communication with a real audience in a live performance in a large church to break down in that certain portions of Bach’s intentions are not being transmitted properly. This causes a distortion of Bach’s intentions as the most likely result of such efforts.

I have trouble imagining that Bach would condone in his performances these ‘speech mannerisms’ where this sacred music must emulate the worst extremes of everyday speech. Even in the secco recitatives (if you have read the statement by Tosi/Agricola that I shared recently on the BRML) there needs to be a special effort not to make this sound like an insignificant recitative from a Mozart opera.

Christian Panse wrote (March 6, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] I have to admit that it is quite hard to argue against prejudices, but I'll try nevertheless:

< My main point is that we should not have to tolerate some of the weird, disappointing, weak, un-glorious sounds, >
After years of listening to Richter's recordings, I had some difficulties getting accustomed to HIP. But luckily I was able to get over my timidness against the unknown. I had to accept the known facts that in Bachs time ensembles were smaller, instruments were different and differently tuned too, e.g. trumpets weren't that "glorious" like the so-called "Bach trumpet" with valves, etc. If all al this sound different from what I expected, then what is more likely to be wrong: the sound or my expectations?

Besides, a lot of HIP performances are indeed bad, but that's another discussion. On the other hand, some non-HIP-performances are excellent - but the greater is the pity that they lack more authentic instruments, tuning etc.

< we need not argue over the stage of development of the particular instrument. >
It cannot be stressed often enough that e. g. from the baroque violin to the modern violin there is no "development" in the sense of "improvement" - it's just two different instruments. You simply can't call a baroque instrument under-developed or something like that. In every century, the musical instruments were perfect: perfect for the music of their time - and the music was perfectly fitted to them.

I think this is one main issue in the reception of earlier music. It is a huge mistake to consider earlier music "less developed" than music of later ages. This would imply that Romantic music is more valuable than Baroque music - and indeed, it was seen like this for a long time. I would call it the merit of the HIP movement that earlier music is liberated from this view nowadays and can stand for itself. This would not have been possible by keeping up romantic playing manners for earlier music, because like that it sounds reduced, clumsy, imperfect in comparison to the music written for these manners.

< I hope we can arrive at a happy median in the future, >
I really do hope the same - but I think it won't go ignoring what we know.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 6, 2003):
[To Christian Panse] Open mind is a very difficult think to have.

I mean to be able to enjoy Bach (or other) music played with HIP or NON HIP.It is like looking beyond a picture a let our fantasy and imagination take over.One interpretation moves me more than other but I still can enjoy both. Also for the choirs just look at Karl Richter: He sung in the Kreuzchor was a prefect there.Then went to Leipzig and made music with the Thomaner that was about 20 years with boys choir.Then went to Munich and did not started a boys choir but he got HIS OWN and was not boys as you know. He had also an open mind,made music with boys and with adults choirs.Played small organs and large ones.But always made music that we enjoyed so much. This is an example on how we must face all these kinds of presentations of Bach music we have today.With a positive mind,looking what all of these professionals did all their lives,studied and bring us some music...

Christian Panse wrote (March 7, 2003):
< Hugo Saldias wrote: Open mind is a very difficult think to have. I mean to be able to enjoy Bach (or other) music played with HIP or NON HIP.It is like looking beyond a picture a let our fantasy and imagination take over. One interpretation moves me more than other but I still can enjoy both. >
Imagine an old castle, painted with modern metallic colours and lots of TV antennas attached to its roof. Yes, the castle with all its parts and proportions is still visible, but the modern additions disturb the overall impression heavily. Maybe others can't see that because they aren't informed how old castles are supposed to look like and just find it beautiful. Maybe even the architect responsible for the new look didn't know and was simply used to make buildings look like this...

Imagine you buy an old kitchen apparatus on the flea market. You see it has been repaired with some plastic parts which obviously aren't original. In addition, it has been electrified to replace some manual drive. Yes, it does its work probably smoother than before, but you feel that it has lost its charme by this. A totally modern apparatus would do the same work even better, you wouldn't buy such an old one only for functionality reasons.

Imagine you are somewhere abroad and order your favourite traditional meal from your home country in a restaurant. But this arrives with some very strange ingredients, some other important ingredients missing, and an overall touch of Nouvelle Cuisine. You have big difficulties to explain your dissatisfaction - they say: "We always havecooked it like this and find it great".

Do you start to see my point? An open mind is admittedly very important, but it must not be so open that it leads to the acceptance of everything.

Santu De Silva wrote (March 13, 2003):
< Christian Panse wrote: Imagine you buy an old kitchen apparatus on the flea market. You see it has been repaired with some plastic parts which obviously aren't original. In addition, it has been electrified to replace some manual drive. Yes, it does its work probably smoother than before, but you feel that it has lost its charme by this. A totally modern apparatus would do the same work even better, you wouldn't buy such an old one only for functionality reasons. >
I don't see the problem for the consumer. As long as you know what you're buying, you can choose not to buy it! I do not subscribe to the theory that people don't have the right to electrify an old piece of apparatus. I would not do it, but I respect the right of others to destroy their own property!

< Imagine you are somewhere abroad and order your favourite traditional meal from your home country in a restaurant. But this arrives with some very strange ingredients, some other important ingredients missing, and an overall touch of Nouvelle Cuisine. You have big difficulties to explain your dissatisfaction - they say: "We always have cooked it like this and find it great".
Do you start to see my point? An open mind is admittedly very important, but it must not be so open that it leads to the acceptance of everything. >
The problem here is false advertising. With food you do have a problem, and you're justly upset if there is no agreement about how the food should be prepared. I see no solution to this real problem.

With music, I think it's important that there are ways in which concertgoers or buyers of CDs can be warned about the style of performance adopted in the recording or concert. I think that much is a reasonable expectation. But to say that it is wrong (immoral? unethical?) to perform music in any particular way is a lot of nonsense. In this modern world, it's my belief that anyone can perform anything any way they want. Only, they must make clear (before the money is paid) what the package contains. Half-voices, one-voice per part, modern violins, etc. This is only a problem with new and unknown performers, obviously. With established performers, we know enough to avoid their recordings if we do not find their styles appropriate.

I wish we could change the tone of these discussions from "it should not be played this way" to "I would not buy it if it was played this way". In future I will assume that this is what everyone means, though, obviously, it takes a lot of the punch out of the statements of highly opinionated people, which is appropriate!


Demi-voices

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 12, 2003):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: All this 'gesturing' with demi-voices such as Barbara Schlick and Gotthold Schwarz (Coin) is of an inferior quality.... >
When I began paying attention to discussions here last week (after a few years away from this list), I saw there was a thread named "half-voices" but none of the postings with that subject revealed what that phrase means to anybody.

I've heard of singers singing with "half voice" (mezza voce) as an expressive technique, but not of singers BEING a "half-voice" or "demi-voice" themselves. In isolation, those terms sound about as nasty and dismissive and prejudiced as calling someone a half-wit or a half-breed. It's hard to believe that's anyone's intention here, but that's how it comes across.

Are people here on the BachCantatas list regularly using "half-voice" or "demi-voice" as some technical terminology about performers, and if so, what does it mean to those of you who use it? [Singers who deserve only half pay? Singers who somehow use only half their vocal cords? Singers whose voices are only half-human, half something alien? Singers who are only half-witted? What?] Personally, I'd have a very hard time walking up to one of my professional colleagues and saying to him/her, "Ah, you're only a demi-voice!"

Johan van Veen wrote (March 12, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< Thomas Braatz wrote: All this 'gesturing' with demi-voices such as Barbara Schlick and Gotthold Schwarz (Coin) is of an inferior quality.... >>
"When I began paying attention to discussions here last week (after a few years away from this list), I saw there was a thread named "half-voices" but none of the postings with that subject revealed what that phrase means to anybody.

I've heard of singers singing with "half voice" (mezza voce) as an expressive technique, but not of singers BEING a "half-voice" or "demi-voice" themselves. In isolation, those terms sound about as nasty and dismissive and prejudiced as calling someone a half-wit or a half-breed. It's hard to believe that's anyone's intention here, but that's how it comes across." >
That is the intention :(

"Are people here on the BachCantatas list regularly using "half-voice" or "demi-voice" as some technical terminology about performers"
Not people, just one.

< and if so, what does it mean to those of you who use it? [Singers who deserve only half pay? Singers who somehow use only half their vocal cords? Singers whose voices are only half-human, half something alien? Singers who are only half-witted? What?] Personally, I'd have a very hard time walking up to one of my professional colleagues and saying to him/her, "Ah, you're only a demi-voice!"
The term is used for those singers who put the text in the first place instead of the music and who try to articulate carefully in order to make sure the text and its message are coming across as well as possible. Nothing wrong with that.


Half-voices and secco recitatives

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 16, 2003):
Extraordinary! A few days ago I pointed out that the phrases "half-voice" and "demi-voice" are offensive and derogatory, the way they are used here in these reviews. I suggested that such language comes across as mean-spirited in effect, whether intended as such or not; perhaps (because the words make an offensive effect to some readers) they should not be used that way anymore.

But no. Instead, "demi-voice" comes up TEN TIMES in the same posting below about Cantata BWV 41, today! A new world's record! I do not dare to speculate aloud about Tom's motives for doing so....

[If someone were to use racist or sexist or other bigoted-sounding language here, would it be allowed to slide through without complaint? Am I the only person who is offended here by "half-voice" and "demi-voice"? Does use of an offensive phrase ten times make it somehow less offensive, numbing us?]

=====

As for Tom's digs about secco recitatives below and the supposedly "poorly documented esoteric tradition" about how to perform them...here's the scoop (for those of you who missed or got tired of the lengthy discussion of this on the BachRecordings list). Tom has consulted the Dreyfus book [see below] and a small subset of the sources, and come to a conclusion that the entire scholarly and "Historically-Informed Performance" community of the past 70 years are wrong.

He is preaching this discovery (more accurately, his foregone conclusion fueled by his extreme skepticism) to anyone who will listen. [Perhaps he is also trying to bait me again into another round of the same discussion? But I will not go for it this time.]

Anyone interested in a more balanced discussion of this topic, than what either Tom or I would have to say on it: I'll refer you to three well-respected scholarly articles that explicate the very well-documented sources from Bach's contemporaries. Any or all of these should be readily available in a well-stocked music library. [That's where I got them, anyway, during doctoral study that included this topic, in a course taught by one of the top performer-scholars in the world, Edward Parmentier.]

- "Basso Continuo on the Organ", a two-part article by Peter Williams in Music and Letters #50, 1969.

- "On the Keyboard Accompaniments to Bach's Leipzig Church Music", an
article by Arthur Mendel in The Musical Quarterly #36, 1950.

- The 35-page chapter "The Accompaniment of Recitatives" in Laurence Dreyfus' book Bach's Continuo Group: Players and Practices in his Vocal Works, 1987, Harvard University Press.

As for a timetable here: Gustav Leonhardt was already performing Bach's recitatives in this manner in his 1954 recording of Bach cantatas with Alfred Deller. (Tom already knows this as I've pointed it out several times in the discussion; I think he's simply unwilling to believe it, and/or admit it, because he has not heard this recording personally. He can't trust my ears.)

Those of us in the "HIP movement" who also perform them likewise choose to do so not because Leonhardt et al did it, but because we honestly believe it represents Bach's intentions, and because we honestly believe the music sounds good that way.

Obviously, there are some (including Tom Braatz) who think we performers and scholars are all grossly misled here, that the historical and musical evidence we find overwhelmingly convincing here is all a load of hooey.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (March 16, 2003):
Brad Lehman asked: "Am I the only person who is offended here by "half-voice" and "demi-voice"? "
You certainly are not the only one who is becoming annoyed by the crusade against modern HIP. I consider it demeaning and unrestpectful the way musicians are being described by Tom Braatz. And lately, perhaps because of the intense debate this week, it is becoming worse.

Dear Tom, you should be aware of this. It is not your preferences which I dislike, but the way you discredit what you don't like. Nobody is describing your favourate choirs as thick, slow choirs where a warm,choking vibrato is used by "would-be soloist" choir members. Nor that your favourite recitatives are operatic declamatory pieces of music where the soloist should shout each and every note with 100% of his capacity.

P.S. I contributed a piece of live music to the Bach Cantata website this week (cum sancto spiritu;
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV233-242-Mus.htm). Somehow, nobody considered it worthwile to give me feedback on that. Little bit disappointing.

Roland Wörner wrote (March 16, 2003):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote: < Dear Tom, you should be aware of this. It is not your preferences which I dislike, but the way you discredit what you don't like. Nobody is describing your favourate choirs as thick, slow choirs where a warm,choking vibrato is used by "would-be soloist" choir members. Nor that your favourite recitatives are operatic declamatory pieces of music where the soloist should shout each and every note with 100% of his capacity. >
Not only those who favour HIP interpretations are offended by the judgings written by Thomas Braatz here. I want to remember my objection about his constant devaluation for example of Edith Mathis or the use of the organ in chorus movements in Karl Richter's recordings. It is not necessary to repeat personal dislike ever and ever. This is boring to all and unrespectful to the musicians.

Charles Francis wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] It is interesting that those in the HIP-camp typically react to criticism with one of several fallacies. Favourites include the ad Hominem (attack on the person) and Appeal to Authority (Leonhardt's awesome name is invoked, for example). Rarely, are they willing to examine the grains of sand on which their house of cards is built.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Ha, ha, could you give me some details about your personal life, so that I can criticize you?

But seriously, is the situation such that we now have two camps in this discussion group? I sincerely hope not. I believe that we can reconcile any differences, built on the belief that we can agree on the tone of our contributions (not disrespectful in any way), not so much on our preferences.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] You are 100 % correct...

This reflects also in other are with the same type of arguments:
Republicans and Democrats...

Donald Satz wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] These arguments between HIP and anti-HIP folks has been going on for many years and has become a bore. We have recordings of all types available, so why can't we simply be happy and magnanimous about it?

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
During our YAHOO GROUP arguments we should never put down anybody writing what is below as an example. We should give our own opinion and GIVE THE FACTS THAT BRINGS THIS AS YOUR CONCLUSION:THIS PIECE BETTER THAN THE OTHERS BECAUSE THIS AND THIS HAPPENS.... But please do not talk negative about others. Instead what you do not like and that is 100% valid.

That is the way I do it and look and BACH CANTATAS.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
We should have a system of rebuttals that are polite and professional when someone says something we do not agree upon.

Example:
When the President ofthe United States gives the Nation The State of the Union Address the other party (in todays time the Democrats) give their rebuttals but they never offend the president and they do it in a very respectful way... Because if the say something wrong they may not only offend him but all the republicans the back him with loyalty... Let us copy this and try to be more friendly with our
rebuttals.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] GOOD IDEA !!

Philippe Bareille wrote (March 16, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Am I the only person who is offended here by "half-voice" and "demi-voice"? Does use of an offensive phrase ten times make it somehow less offensive, numbing us?] >
I agree with you Brad. I've already stated it in numerous of my previous postings. I said for example that dismissing so great an artist like Max Van Egmond, as a half-voice is of poor taste. To pour so much contempt on admirable musicians such as Leonhardt and others who have dedicated their life to Bach, is unfair, offensive and ludicrous. We all have our preferences and we often disagree with each other. That's all the fun and excitement. Yet that should not be at the expense of respect and tolerance.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Philippe Bareille] Very Good indeed!

Donald Satz wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] Yes, a very good idea. I just wanted to add that offensive language is not the only negative. There's also the regular disparaging words about particular performers, and Tom isn't the sole person doing it.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] Yes!!!

Offensive language is never acceptable dealing with these matters over the internet and the yahoo moderator should take intervention about this even they insult hip or not hip artists I do care about all of them as professional musicians that worked very hard to made recordings of this beautiful music.Puting them down is puting Bach down...

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Charles, in your opinion, what specifically in the articles by Williams, Mendel, and Dreyfus makes this all "grains of sand" and a "house of cards"? The evidence they present is (in my opinion) overwhelming, both musicologically and musically.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 16, 2003):
[To Charles Franis & Bradley Lehman] In my humble opinion nor Williams,Brendel or Dreyfus that is musicologists give basic rules how to perform Bach Cantatas. This is not how to drive a car with a manual... It is musical or performing arts interpretation and changes from one concert to another and from one recording to another EVEN WITH THE SAME CONDUCTOR. It comes from the feelings and inspiration musicians have...Not from the rules and regulations stated in the manuals of some important scholars...

Francis Browne wrote (March 17, 2003):
Both Brad Lehman and Tom Braatz make valuable and interesting contributions to these Bach lists. Both clearly write from a deep love and knowledge of Bach's music. Both sometimes express themselves with force and vehemence - Tom on these topics, and I remember for example Brad's pursuit of Davitt Moroney through posting afposting. Both have generously answered queries of my own about Bach, both have written much that has added to my enjoyment and understanding of Bach's music. Curiously ( or pigheadedly on my part) no negative criticisms of theirs have ever diminished my pleasure in performances I enjoy, and I find it difficult to follow how others take such personal offence at critical judgements. I am sure that everyone who contributes to these lists has the greatest respect and gratitude for all those who perform Bach's music for us. But it is in the nature of criticism and discussion to make distinctions, and that will sometimes be done vehemently - not through personal malice, but love of the music.

Surely members of these lists are mature enough to cope with disagreements and opinions that differ from their own. It saddens me that controversy over these two topics seems to be overshadow ing Tom's outstanding contributions to the cantata discussions and his generosity in answering all sorts of questions about Bach.

Francis Browne
(who awaits with dread the appearance of the hapless singer who will be be berated by Tom for a hemidemisemivoice and the wrath and fury that Brad will bring to his defence)

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Francis Browne] If anybody makes these remarks with disregard to respect to any artist they are liable, there is no reason to go into their defense.They are adults and know what they write.We are not dealing with children here... If taken to a court of law they will be asked : What kind of evidence can you give the court that can substanciate your allegations? With what authority do you speak?

Charles Francis wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, the opinions expressed by Twentieth century musicologists are interesting from a sociological perspective, insofar as they reflect the historical development of musicological thought. However, if we seek knowledge of Bach's performance practice, then opinions expressed hundreds of years after the event are irrelevant. Only the facts are relevant, and in order of importance these are:
1) documents written by Bach,
2) documents written by others who witnessed Bach's performance practice,
3) accounts concerning the performance practice of other Baroque composers, which Bach may or may not have copied.
Regarding the first two categories, we know that Bach, in contrast to his local contemporaries, chose to explicitly detail his musical intentions. The suggestion that Bach may have copied the performance practice of others is, in the absence of documentary proof, wishful thinking. Moreover, I have yet to see any relevant commentary concerning one of Bach's contemporaries.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (March 17, 2003):
< Brad Lehman wrote: Charles, in your opinion, what specifically in the articles by Williams, Mendel, and Dreyfus makes this all "grains of sand" and a "house of cards"? The evidence they present is (in my opinion) overwhelming, >
In other words, you accepted it uncritically. Perhaps the articles were too heavy?

< both musicologically and musically. >
But if you didn't accept the musicology, you wouldn't be allowed to accept the idea 'musically', at least in decent society? ;-)

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Francis Browne & Thomas Braatz] I have no objection to the facts that Tom Braatz presents, and do very much appreciate his willingness to look up these facts. Those postings are very valuable and informative. They provide good context for the music. Tom is outstanding at this.

The only objection I have is on the occasions when his strongly judgmental opinions about performance ideals cause him to use unduly harsh language: his use of words that come across as derogatory, prejudiced, and mean-spirited toward/against professional musicians. Tom steps away from his own considerable strength of presenting facts, and instead litters some of his postings with wild potshots at well-respected musicians, mixing it all together with his facts in a confusing and sometimes very misleading manner.

Some of us in the "Historically Informed Performance camp" (whatever that is) have spent most of our lives developing these performance skills, doing the research, studying and practicing at least as much as any other musicians, investing our own time, energy, and money in this professional development. (Just last year I finally finished paying off all my college and graduate-school loans...hurrah!) And it's difficult enough to find opportunities to play for people who do appreciate it; especially, opportunities that bring in any money at all.

It makes me feel awful when Tom's words characterize my colleagues and me as misguided, stupid, ignorant, physically unsuited, or otherwise unfit for our jobs...and when those nasty words get archived for all time on the web, unchallenged, as if they were FACTS about the music, well...I felt that somebody should speak up about it.

It is not an "ad hominem" attack on Tom, which would be pointless; rather, it is simply registering a complaint about communication style. It is a plea for more objective and equitable language when opinions are presented; and a clearer separation of facts about the music and opinions about its performance.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] You have all this but this does not clarify or justify or explain why certain individuals using this media that is public are insulting (slander) and puting the prestige of musicians down...

It does not matter what Bach or any of his friends says about a particular piece of music.If anybody decides to do it different that is his concern only. If do not like it abstain from any nasty and vulgar words... Period.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] A good AND PROFESSIONAL musician never relays in musiclogists for playing music. The basis are the technique and the inspiration. When makingmusic is not according to Alfred Durr played by XX or according to Arnold Schering played by XX or according to Werner Neuman played by XX it is SIMPLY as played by XX. These people comment on the music not as how it should be played but as the historical and other interesting additions,but what it matters is the performing ability and results of the musucians.Improvisation, phrasing,technique,and other is what matters.To MAKE music is what matters, NOT WHAT JOE DOE SAYS and does NOT PLAY...

Robert Sherman wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] Exactly so!


Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] You give the perfect example of what is going on now:

What about if after spending lots of money in your education,years of study and effort. You give a concert and some BODY comes and tells you: You know something Brad: you played it too fast, you had exagerated articulation,your singer sound operatic, too much vibrato,your played non legato,or you did not played it legato, and more and more... I know what you will think or say: Have a good day, BY... And turn and keep on going with your music...

Peter Bright wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] A number of the contributors to this list seem to have been taken aback by highly judgemental opinions taken some members of the group (including myself). I think what is particularly annoying are when subjective opinions are presented as "facts", rather than opinions. I am as guilty as anyone in this regard (but it doesn't stop me getting pissed off from time to time when I see it in others). Anyway, healthy debate is clearly a good thing and I usually enjoy reading the opinions of others which differ markedly from my own. I think life would be terribly tedious if you only wanted to be exposed to opinions that you agreed with, whether in the newspapers, among friends or whatever.

My knowledge of performance practice and musical theory is miles behind that of Brad, Tom and some others, so I always read their postings with an open mind and genuine interest in what they have to say. It's great that there is such diversity of opinion and we should appreciate it - but that includes appreciating those members' comments that we vehemently disagree with andnot making inflamatory remarks. As Brad pointed out, some of the contributors have made 'historically informed' performance a central part of their career and a life goal - something of this importance should not just be ridiculed with inappropriate cynicism.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Crales Francis] Charles, you wrote:
"1) documents written by Bach, 2) documents written by others who witnessed Bach's performance practice, 3) accounts concerning the performance practice of other Baroque composers, which Bach may or may not have copied."
Yes, I agree....

< Moreover, I have yet to see any relevant commentary concerning one of Bach's contemporaries. >
Then, I suggest, why don't you go ahead and read the three articles (Williams, Mendel, and Dreyfus) I mentioned, where they present exactly the sort of evidence you are looking for? They compare the differences (in Bach's own hand) between his scores and his parts; and the revisions he made himself for performance occasions where players might not have known the recitative conventions; and the practical considerations (from Bach's contemporaries) of performing any of this music.

Until you have actually read these articles, giving us some common ground to talk about, it seems you are criticizing them (and the whole "HIP movement") unfairly, just because perhaps you don't like the conclusions they have reached. The fact that you have not yet read something does not make it untrue....

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Peter Bright] GOOD POINT PETER

Charles Francis wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] I have never understood the mentality of those who seek to limit the right of others to express their opinion! After all, nobody forces anyone to read a particular contribution or postings from a particular individual. One may agree, disagree with or ignore a particular contribution, but surely others have the right to read an uncensored opinion. And with regard to the musical critiques of Thomas, I personally find them factual, balanced and moderate in tone. Did you actually read his review of BWV 41?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 17, 2003):
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote:
<< Brad Lehman wrote:
Charles, in your opinion, what specifically in the articles by Williams, Mendel, and Dreyfus makes this all "grains of sand" and a "house of cards"? The evidence they present is (in my opinion) overwhelming, >>
< In other words, you accepted it uncritically. Perhaps the articles were too heavy? >
<< both musicologically and musically. >>
< But if you didn't accept the musicology, you wouldn't be allowed to accept the idea 'musically', at least in decent society? ;-) >
Ummm...Alex? Did you stop to think how extremely insulting this is? "Perhaps the articles were too heavy?" Perhaps I "accepted it uncritically"??!

That's insulting not only to me, but to the professors and university that granted me a doctoral degree in this field. They don't do that (give such degrees) to people who take in information uncritically. We're trained to sift the evidence, recognizing relevant facts and opinions, and trained to question everything with a sharp skepticism. That's the point of actually doing this academic work!

When I encountered these three articles the first time, about ten years ago, it was in the context of a week devoted to this topic within a doctoral course. Believe me, we looked into all this critically, and argued about it in class. I have also reread each of the articles at least three times each within the past month, especially in light of Tom Braatz' probing questions (on the BachRecordings list). No, these articles are not "too heavy" for me.

All three of these writers examine the evidence to determine, as far as can be reasonably calculated from the entire context, what Bach's intentions were in writing down what he wrote down. It is frankly an attempt to see things Bach's way. Each writer takes a different tack to this, but all three come to similar conclusions about playing the notes short. To read these is like following a treasure map: they all take different routes, but they all get to the conclusion that is well-nigh inescapable. (No, nobody knows ABSOLUTELY FOR SURE, but this is what some of the best-informed minds in this field have come up with.) I'm convinced by the logical force of their arguments, with the evidence they present. I'm not an uncritical fool. I'm like a person on a jury, having been given all the evidence in a strong and convincing presentation, and (from both my critical faculties following the logic, and my own musical experience) agreeing with the conclusion that has been reached.

I agree with these writers not because they are recognized as top scholars, but because I believe their reasoning (as presented) is correct!

These writers are not laying down a "set of rules" that performers *must* follow; rather, they are giving us (as far as anyone can deduce) a reasonable explanation of Bach's intentions. And that's what we then use in playing and singing this music, converting it back from marks on paper into sound.

What are your own reactions to these articles?

And now, I must shut up and go practice for an upcoming concert: my task is to learn three of the Bach vocal works well enough to improvise organ and harpsichord continuo for them, straight from the figured bass (and in some places, the unfigured bass). This is "bread and butter" stuff here, for a professional job, and it affects the notes I play and the manner in which I play them: it's not just armchair speculation. I'm interested in playing the sounds that Bach intended.

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Charles the point here is :
What kind of media you use to do this.
Right to give your opinion yes.
But go and use wrong words to say things that are slander NO.
Using the internet NO.
Everybody agrees with this that some have gone too far.Your opinion liking this particular aria etc yes.
But why put down others? What do you gain from this?
Nothing AT ALL...
As I told Brad if after a recital he gets a body that tells him how BAD he played... What is that but plain disrespect?
Why do this with some musicians?

Hugo Saldias wrote (March 17, 2003):
[To Charles Francis]
This is not a mentality problem but a respect.
Respect of the words used.
Respect of the things said.
Respect for the absent that can not give a rebuttal.
Respect the way the things are said.

Critics can be constructive or destructive.
Critics can be positive or negative.
Critics can be with open mind or with a close mind.

But most of all what we are doing is not puting down musicians but telling why we like a particular version.

We all enjoy the different ways Bach is pressented\but do not forget that all of them are valid. And I will defend with all my energy any musician who is treated unfairly and with lack of respect.

This has NOTHING TO DO with giving your own positive opinion in why are the reasons you like a version.

Nobody is forcing you to read something but there are limits of what you say and how you say it.And you may be breaking the law by going over the limit with your big mouth...

This is a public media and threats to anybody are illegal.This shows you there is a limit what you can say with this media,as an example...

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (March 17, 2003):
Brad Lehman wrote: < Believe me, we looked into all this critically, and argued about it in class. I have also reread each of the articles at least three times each within the past month, especially in light of Tom Braatz' probing questions (on the BachRecordings list). No, these articles are not "too heavy" for me. >
Well, I'm glad to know that.

< What are your own reactions to these articles? >
I read Dreyfus's book many months ago, and cannot remember it in enough detail to comment on specific issues.

< And now, I must shut up and go practice for an upcoming concert: my task is to learn three of the Bach vocal works well enough to improvise organ and harpsichord continuo for them, straight from the figured bass (and in some places, the unfigured bass). This is "bread and butter" stuffhere, for a professional job, and it affects the notes I play and the manner in which I play them: it's not just armchair speculation. I'm interested in playing the sounds that Bach intended. >
But could these "sounds that Bach intended" be anything but "armchair speculation" (which I hope your performance won't be)?

Continue of this discussion, see: HIP – Part 7



Continue on Part 2


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Last update: ýAugust 6, 2004 ý14:36:16