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Bach’s Markings & Notation

 

 

Completeness (not!) of Bach's markings

Continue of discussionn from: Cantata BWV 129 – Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 25, 2003):

Brad stated: >>The unison grabs the attention, and the words make its purpose immediately clear.<<
Braatz responded:
< If Bach had wanted to have this unison brought out with special gestures in order to emphasize/exaggerate the words, he would have marked them accordingly. He did not, and that is very telling. >
Exactly what diacritical markings and/or musical symbols and/or words "would" Bach have put into the score to have it "marked accordingly," so that even the most unbelievably clueless performer in the world (one who must be led around by a nose ring, doing only things which are Explicitly Marked By the Master) would not fail to bring it out appropriately?

Tell us, O Guru. Tell us exactly. Assume for the sake of argument that Bach did want those words and notes emphasized. What would it have to say, exactly, in the score and the parts to prove sufficiently TO YOU that Bach did want that portion to be brought out? Tell us, O Guru. Tell us exactly. We clamor. We performers are lost without our shepherd! Baa! Baaaaa!

Ahem.

The only thing that seems to be "telling" here is another of Braatz' untenable assumptions: that Bach took the trouble to mark everything.

Brad Lehman
(it's a pity how short a 100% approval rating lasts: only until the next time the candidate opens his mouth)

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (May 25, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Right you are. Still I give Thomas the credit to have pointed out something I did not notice in spite of having listened at least six times to this cantata. Thanks. Whether Monteverdi first used this musical illustration or not, I find it totally in line with Bach's genius to have figured it out without prior knowledge.

Charles Francis wrote (May 26, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: The only thing that seems to be "telling" here is another of Braatz' untenable assumptions: that Bach took the trouble to mark everything. >
It is documented that Bach, in contrast to most of his contemporaries, did this.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 26, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] The NBA score indicates (in Bach’s own handwriting) no less than 17 dynamic markings for this aria alone! Bach used ‘p’s and ‘f’s (piano & forte) throughout. Of great interest to any conductor who might consider using Bach’s markings as his (Bach’s) intentions for the proper performance (without exaggerated gestures!), the section where the unison occurs is marked ‘piano’ for both the oboe d’amore and bc, and only one(!) measure after the unison passage is completed, Bach returns to ‘forte.’ It appears that contemporary conductors ascribing to the exaggerated gesturing theory of performance would be doing Bach a great injustice by performing this otherwise. As I have stated before, there is nothing wrong with performing Bach in a different manner than he intended, but it would be more honest to acknowledge this fact by calling the performance ‘Bach-Stokowski’, ‘Bach-Leonhardt,’ ‘Bach-Harnoncourt,’ or ‘Bach-Lehman.’

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 26, 2003):
>> The only thing that seems to be "telling" here is another of Braatz' untenable assumptions: that Bach took the trouble to mark everything. <<
Charles replied: < It is documented that Bach, in contrast to most of his contemporaries, did this. >
No, let's get this straight. Your glib answer here is not good enough. Here's why:

Bach, in contrast with most of his contemporaries, wrote out in full note values a level of detail (the notes themselves) that was uncommon: melodic ornamentation that other composers more readily left to the improvisational skills of the performers. That is what is documented, and it is also obvious by simply looking at the music. Bach wrote out more of the notes. Granted.

BUT (get this point): he most often did not notate the MANNER in which those notes should be played. He did not give full details about articulation, dynamic contrast from note to note (or within notes!), tempo nuances, melodic rubato (displacement of melody, desynchronizing it against a steady bass), the accentuation of individual words in vocal music, etc. He did not write this out in full; he left it to the good taste of the performers. (He was also sparse with notation about organ registration; that is to be worked out in individual situations...even though a choice of registration can change the Affekt tremendously. He trusted the performer to have good taste, and good practical knowledge.)

To see one of Bach's contemporaries who DID write out the manner of expression more fully, look at Geminiani's treatises about taste in music. (Look at the facsimiles, not the clueless MIDI reproductions available on the Internet.) Geminiani had small diacritical marks (of his own invention) to place above individual notes, indicating the dynamic shape that should happen from note to note, and WITHIN the notes. (Yes, often including the "messa da voce" swells.) He also included a page of examples showing the relative values "good", "better", "excellent", "horrible", etc. over passages of music marked with these dynamic signs. The one he marked "horrible" (cattivo) is one where a long series of notes are all played with identical dynamic shape: each note flat (no crescendo or decrescendo during it), and the line having no dynamic contour as a whole.

That is: according to Bach's contemporary Geminiani, the type of playing heard in generic 1970s "Baroque" performance (choose your hero: R_____, M_____, R______, etc.), where all the notes are delivered evenly, is in "horrible" taste.

And to anyone who cares at all about German performance practices during Bach's Leipzig years, as we all should if we're arguing about his music: go read Quantz' book "On Playing the Flute" (available in both the original German and a modern English translation). Quantz gives detailed instructions not only for wind players, but also for string and keyboard players, about the proper expression of music. Articulation, tempo, dynamics, balance, rubato, everything. This was (and still is) a finely detailed craft, and not at all arbitrary. The performer is trained to recognize the rhetorical figures and the proper manner in which to articulate them. The performer is also given explicit advice about how to play confidently, how to work well in an ensemble, and more. It is a remarkably comprehensive tutorial about how to be MUSICAL in the music of that culture. I don't think it's too strong to say this: this book should be REQUIRED reading for anyone who proposes to criticize performances of this music!

Those of you who regularly write on this list whining about the < > dynamics you do not fancy: the fact that you do not fancy them does not make them wrong. Instead of just listening to one another here, perpetuating a "good ol' boys network" where "HIP" is bashed at every opportunity and 1960s-70s performances are heralded as the cat's meow, please take the trouble to read these treatises. Take them seriously as vital performance documentation about the very music we are talking about. I've also mentioned some books and articles about tempo, rhythmic interpretation (dotting and inegal), dance, and more. Better yet: beyond merely reading these, take some university courses in performance practice. Learn the actual craft of this.

Our sermon in church this morning was an expository reading from the book of Acts. The speakers were a pair of university professors in Biblical studies. They opened by pointing out that the book of Acts is "high context" literature: that is, written for (and within) a culture where the background and political situations were already known to everybody and didn't have to be explained within the text. The only way to understand what such a text might have meant at the time of its writing is to reconstruct as much of that contextual information as possible. (Otherwise we're just reading our modern biases into it, and finding whatever we hope to find there.) In c, we live in a culture of "low context" where we expect texts to mean exactly what they say, no hidden agendas, everything explained in full. We automatically assume that as a standard, even if we're looking at an older text. That's a danger.

That's the situation we're in with Bach's music, too. Some people here assume that it shows us everything we need to know about it, that it's "low context." Others of us (those of us actually trained in this field, plus perhaps a few others) know that it is "high context" music and that there really is a huge collection of knowledge not shown in the score that the performers must know to present the music with the level of expression (and manner of expression) the composers expected. This is not arbitrary expression "added" by performers; it is specific craftsmanship, necessary background knowledge, necessary context to be able to recognize what is in the music, and then to be able to project it clearly in this vastly different culture today! 275 years is a long time ago. 50 years is a long time ago, in musical style.

Critics can still just sit around whining about things they personally like and dislike. It happens all the time. It seems to be the standard method on this list, because most people here ARE NOT trained in this craft. And that's OK, if the outcome here is just to be a list of recordings that certain people fancy or hate. But it's not any sort of responsible criticism, it's merely "armchair quarterbacking" (to borrow a sports term). What "should" a particular hero have done to make his recording better? Why does someone else's hero make such awful sounds? What could they have been thinking? These methods of reviewing, while sort of interesting, are not dealing with the music on its own terms.

The nuances are a vital and integral part of the music, even if the composer didn't trouble to write them down. If one of these armchair critics doesn't fancy hearing those nuances anyway, if he'd rather hear a whitewashed unexpressive delivery of the score, fine; anyone is welcome to like whatever he/she wants to. But to claim that any preferred way is "correct" just because one are more accustomed to it (personal tastes formed and ossified in the 1950s/60s/70s?), or because one would rather not be troubled with all the treatises etc....that's not responsible criticism of the work. It's just an arbitrary and subjective preference.

And I'm weary of arguing with people here who would rather not learn these things. These arguments go nowhere if the music's context (including the verifiable performance practice) is not going to be taken seriously. I'm not planning to review any more recordings here, at least for quite a while; and I'll probably have little further to say. It's not worth it to me to take the time to do it, if appropriate performance practice IN THE MUSIC ITSELF is going to be belittled by others, or (worse yet) prescribed by people here who have not actually done any study in this field. (That is: people here who are less than half-informed presuming to tell me how to do my job as a performer.) I bade a similar adieu to the BachRecordings list on Friday, for similar reasons: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10150

That is, I'm tired of being insulted by people who would rather not learn how that musical craft works. I feel I've worn out my welcome, and my usefulness here. I have other things I need to commit more time and energy to than this. So, so long; I'm planning to drop back to reading-only mode. Any wisdom I've offered about the music (or crazy ideas, as some of you seem to think of my interpretations) is in the archives; I don't need to keep repeating myself in a forum where this view of the music is not welcome. Through participation here I've learned about the existence of some recordings I hadn't known about; thank you all for that.

B'bye.

Ivan Lalis wrote (May 26, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I've read a very interesting book considering (not) completeness of music scores, going back to Monteverdi. It's Harnoncourt's "Der musikalische Dialog. Gedanken zu Monteverdi, Bach und Mozart." Recommended reading for both friends and enemies of "forgotten performance tradition". ISBN: 3761812167.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 26, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "Those of you who regularly write on this list whining about the < > dynamics you do not fancy: the fact that you do not fancy them does not make them wrong."
I am prepared to admit that, as one of the "whiners" is this regard, I should distinguish between the different styles involved in playing period and modern instruments, and perhaps accept the appropriateness of such < > articulation on period instruments.

However, if the argument is made that its use on modern instruments is also "correct" and mandatory, of course I would reject such a proposition out of hand.

The fact that baroque music (Bach's especially) sounds so good on modern instruments using the more straightforward articulation appropriate for such instruments, simply means we will have to accomodate two performance traditions for the forseeable future.

Charles Francis wrote (May 28, 2003):
Comments embedded:

< Bradley Lehman wrote:
<<Charles replied: It is documented that Bach, in contrast to most of his contemporaries, did this. >>
No, let's get this straight. Your glib answer here is not good enough. Here's why:Bach, in contrast with most of his contemporaries, wrote out in full note values a level of detail (the notes themselves) that was uncommon: melodic ornamentation that other composers more readily left to the improvisational skills of the performers. That is what is documented, and it is also obvious by simply looking at the music. Bach wrote out more of the notes. Granted.

BUT (get this point): he most often did not notate the MANNER in which those notes should be played. He did not give full details about articulation, dynamic contrast from note to note (or within notes!), tempo nuances, melodic rubato (displacement of melody, desynchronizing it against a steady bass), the accentuation of individual words in vocal music, etc. He did not write this out in full; he left it to the good taste of the performers. (He was also sparse with notation about organ registration; that is to be worked out in individual situations...even though a choice of registration can change the Affekt tremendously. >
As I recall, Scheibe remarked that Bach wrote out everything, but I accept this is constrained by the notational limits of Bach's time. Granted there are nuances of tempo which are impossible to notate and which add life to a performance. However, the phrasing that Bach was able to notate should logically be the guide for those performers concerned with replicating Bach's intentions. That Bach explicitly wrote out intended ornaments appears to be a point of mutual agreement (re: your trashing of Ton Koopman's KdF).

< He trusted the performer to have good taste, and good practical knowledge.) >
Birnbaum's reply to Scheibe indicates that Bach was keen to preserve his reputation by writing everything out because of the bad taste of performers.

< To see one of Bach's contemporaries who DID write out the manner of expression more fully, look at Geminiani's treatises about taste in music. (Look at the facsimiles, not the clueless MIDI reproductions available on the Internet.) Geminiani had small diacritical marks (of his own invention) to place above individual notes, indicating the dynamic shape that should happen from note to note, and WITHIN the notes. (Yes, often including the "messa da voce" swells.) He also included a page of examples showing the relative values "good", "better", "excellent", "horrible", etc. over passages of music marked with these dynamic signs. The one he marked "horrible" (cattivo) is one where a long series of notes are all played with identical dynamic shape: each note flat (no crescendo or decrescendo during it), and the line having no dynamic contour as a whole.

That is: according to Bach's contemporary Geminiani, the type of playiheard in generic 1970s "Baroque" performance (choose your hero: R_____, M_____, R______, etc.), where all the notes are delivered evenly, is in "horrible" taste.

And to anyone who cares at all about German performance practices during Bach's Leipzig years, as we all should if we're arguing about his music: go read Quantz' book "On Playing the Flute" (available in both the original German and a modern English translation). Quantz gives detailed instructions not only for wind players, but also for string and keyboard players, about the proper expression of music. Articulation, tempo, dynamics, balance, rubato, everything. This was (and still is) a finely detailed craft, and not at all arbitrary. The performer is trained to recognize the rhetorical figures and the proper manner in which to articulate them. The performer is also given explicit advice about how to play confidently, how to work well in an ensemble, and more. It is a remarkably comprehensive tutorial about how to be MUSICAL in the music of that culture. I don't think it's too strong to say this: this book should be REQUIRED reading for anyone who proposes to criticize performances of this music! >
Bach studied Palestrina, not Quantz!

< Those of you who regularly write on this list whining about the < > dynamics you do not fancy: the fact that you do not fancy them does not make them wrong. Instead of just listening to one another here, perpetuating a "good ol' boys network" where "HIP" is bashed at every opportunity and 1960s-70s performances are heralded as the cat's meow, please take the trouble to read these treatises. Take them seriously as vital performance documentation about the very music we are talking about. I've also mentioned some books and articles about tempo, rhythmic interpretation (dotting and inegal), dance, and more. Better yet: beyond merely reading these, take some university courses in performance practice. Learn the actual craft of this. >
Only if you want your performances to reflect the "approved" vanilla-flavoured contemporary international style.

< Our sermon in church this morning was an expository reading from the book of Acts. The speakers were a pair of university professors in Biblical studies. They opened by pointing out that the book of Acts is "high context" literature: that is, written for (and within) a culture where the background and political situations were already known to everybody and didn't have to be explained within the text. The only way to understand what such a text might have meant at the time of its writing is to reconstruct as much of that contextual information as possible. (Otherwise we're just reading our modern biases into it, and finding whatever we hope to find there.) In contrast, we live in a culture of "low context" where we expect texts to mean exactly what they say, no hidden agendas, everything explained in full. We automatically assume that as a standard, even if we're looking at an older text. That's a danger.

That's the situation we're in with Bach's music, too. Some people here assume that it shows us everything we need to know about it, that it's "low context." Others of us (those of us actually trained in this field, plus perhaps a few others) know that it is "high context" music and that there really is a huge collection of knowledge not shown in the score that the performers must know to present the music with the level of expression (and manner of expression) the composers expected. This is not arbitrary expression "added" by performers; it is specific craftsmanship, necessary background knowledge, necessary context to be able to recognize what is in the music, and then to be able to project it clearly in this vastly different culture today! 275 years is a long time ago. 50 years is a long time ago, in musical style. >
No doubt the musicologists of the future will assert your compositions should be played according to the generally accepted conventions of our time (re: Pop music).

< Critics can still just sit around whining about things they personally like and dislike. It happens all the time. It seems to be the standard method on this list, because most people here ARE NOT trained in this craft. And that's OK, if the outcome here is just to be a list of recordings that certain people fancy or hate. But it's not any sort of responsible criticism, it's merely "armchair quarterbacking" (to borrow a sports term). What "should" a particular hero have done to make his recording better? Why does someone else's hero make such awful sounds? What could they have been thinking? These methods of reviewing, while sort of interesting, are not dealing with the music on its own terms.

The nuances are a vital and integral part of the music, even if the composer didn't trouble to write them down. If one of these armchair critics doesn't fancy hearing those nuances anyway, if he'd rather hear a whitewashed unexpressive delivery of the score, fine; anyone is welcome to like whatever he/she wants to. But to claim that any preferred way is "correct" just because one are more accustomed to it (personal tastes formed and ossified in the 1950s/60s/70s?), or because one would rather not be troubled with all the treatises etc....that's not responsible criticism of the work. It's just an arbitrary and subjective preference.

And I'm weary of arguing with people here who would rather not learn these things. >
You erroneously assume there is nothing to learn and everything to teach. Keep in mind a few on this list were studying Bach's music before you were born.

< These arguments go nowhere if the music's context (including the verifiable performance practice) is not going to be taken seriously.>
So your compositions are doomed to be performed in the manner of contemporary Pop music, I'm afraid.

< I'm not planning to review any more recordings here, at least for quite a while; and I'll probably have little further to say. It's not worth it to me to take the time to do it, if appropriate performance practice IN THE MUSIC ITSELF is going to be belittled by others, or (worse yet) prescribed by people here who have not actually done any study in this field. (That is: people here who are less than half-informed presuming to tell me how to do my job as a performer.) I bade a similar adieu to the BachRecordings list on Friday, for similar reasons: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10150
That is, I'm tired of being insulted by people who would rather not learn how that musical craft works. I feel I've worn out my welcome, and my usefulness here. I have other things I need to commit more time and energy to than this. So, so long; I'm planning to drop back to reading-only mode. Any wisdom I've offered about the music (or crazy ideas, as some of you seem to think of my interpretations) is in the archives; I don't need to keep repeating myself in a forum where this view of the music is not welcome. Through participation here I've learned about the existence of some recordings I hadn't known about; thank you all for that.

B'bye. >
You don't need to leave Brad, just be more tolerant of the opinions of others.


Bach’s notation?

Dale Gedcke wrote (April 20, 2004):
I am intrigued by the vertical slash mark that Bach used in manuscripts written in his own hand. Is there any documentation traceable to J. S. Bach's instructions or definitions that spell out what those slash marks implied?

There are surviving explicit definitions of the special notations J. S. Bach used for ornamentation. That table of ornamentations can be viewed at http://www.ptloma.edu/music/MUH/baroque/ornaments/orn.htm or
http://members.aol.com/kjvisbest/jsb_ornm.htm.

But, is there a similar, authoritative definition of the other notations used by Bach?

From the web site, http://www.bachfaq.org/, I found a listing of the following book:

"Bach, J. S., J. S. Bach's Precepts & Principles for Plthe Thorough-Bass or Accompanying in Four Parts Oxford: OUP (Early Music Series #16), 1994, ISBN 0-19-816225-1
Believed to have been dictated by Bach to one of his students, this manual of figured-bass <continuo.html> realization is pretty much all we have from Bach's own hand on the art of writing music. To those knowledgeable about this fairly abstruse subject, a lot more than lessons in continuo playing can be gleaned from this brief tutorial. "

Some of the members of this discussion group may have already read that book. If so, does it include definitions of Bach's notation?

There is a web site by Sherman, that deals with Bach's tempo notation ( see http://homepages.kdsi.net/~sherman/bachtempo.htm ). But, it mentions nothing about the vertical slash that is so evident in BWV 18 from page 92 of Dreyfus (from the posting of Thomas Braatz). Is there another credible, historical source that defines the meaning of the slash?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 20, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < From the web site, http://www.bachfaq.org/, I found a listing of the following book:
"Bach, J. S., J. S. Bach's Precepts & Principles for Playing the Thorough-Bass or Accompanying in Four Parts Oxford: OUP (Early Music Series #16), 1994, ISBN 0-19-816225-1
Believed to have been dictated by Bach to one of his students, this manual of figured-bass <continuo.html> realization is pretty much all we have from Bach's own hand on the art of writing music. To those knowledgeable about this fairly abstruse subject, a lot more than lessons in continuo playing can be gleaned from this brief tutorial. "
That's the material that was in The Bach Reader as an appendix (pp 392-8), and has been pulled out to this separate book instead of being reproduced again in The New Bach Reader. (Wolff comments about this in the preface of the latter.) It's dated 1738.

There are a page or two of general instructions about reading the figures (numerals), and then several pages of examples: a section of common cadential formulas, and passages that show harmony changes above a bass that is in repeated quavers. But those, too, are merely the most common sequences that a player will run into in any early 18th-century music: circle of fifths progressions (with sevenths), 7-6 sequential passages, rising and falling 6 passages, rising 5-6 sequence, 4/2 going to 6, 9-8 suspensions, and the handling of diminished 5ths. All very rudimentary stuff for beginners to intermediate students, focusing on knowing what the correct harmonies are as indicated by the figures, but not telling how to articulate them or improvise any further filler.

< Some of the members of this discussion group may have already read that book. If so, does it include definitions of Bach's notation? >
This topic has certainly been discussed before, ad nauseum, although not very productively. At the front page of www.bach-cantatas.com search for "niedt" in the search engine. Mr Braatz is firmly set in concrete (of his own pouring) that Niedt was completely a loser, and that therefore Bach (being of intelligence and good taste) could not possibly have derived anything of value from his text, and that all scholars who believe this figured-bass manual really came from Bach's instruction-by-dictation to his pupils (based on Niedt's textbook, here) therefore must be wrong. It's a bizarre way to argue these things, but that's been the charge by Mr Braatz. [Basically, as became clear during the very long argument: Niedt is in his way, because Laurence Dreyfus used Niedt to prove something else, and therefore Niedt's reliability must be assassinated for Dreyfus to be wrong...it's a long and bizarre line of rationalizations........] In response, I stepped up to defend the defenseless and deceased Niedt and Bach against this silly line of attempted character assassinations.

Anyway, the professional opinion of most real scholars is that the document is worth taking seriously, and that it indeed stems from Bach's circle of pupils, probably from his dictation during lessons. I formally studied thoroughbass from the Bach Reader version, among other sources about this topic, as this newer reprinting of the 1738 document didn't exist yet. In my opinion as a player of this repertoire, this is essential stuff to know, and I go back through it every few years to refresh myself on it. It's
excellent practical advice in any case, even if (by some argument yet unknown) the scholarly consensus might shift again someday, finding the Bach connection too tenuous. That is, it's an important document not only because it's probably by JS Bach.

There's also a 1725 set of rules, even simpler ones, by JSB in Magdalena's book (partly in her hand from dictation, partly in his). See the previous page in the Bach Reader for all of that. And Bach's famous last line of that one is that anything more advanced is better illustrated directly in oral instruction than in a written document.

Another excellent source is CPE Bach's exhaustive coverage of the more advanced principles of harmony and figured bass, in his book about playing keyboard instruments. (CPEB, whose only teacher was JSB.)

Charles Francis wrote (April 20, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < From the web site, http://www.bachfaq.org/, I found a listing of the following book:
"Bach, J. S., J. S. Bach's Precepts & Principles for Playing the Thorough-Bass or Accompanying in Four Parts Oxford: OUP (Early Music Series #16), 1994, ISBN 0-19-816225-1
Believed to have been dictated by Bach to one of his students, this manual of figured-bass <continuo.html> realization is pretty much all we have from Bach's own hand on the art of writing music. To those knowledgeable about this fairly abstruse subject, a lot more than lessons in continuo playing can be gleaned from this brief tutorial. "
Some of the members of this discussion group may have already read that book. If so, does it include definitions of Bach's notation? >
You can read it here: http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=96809163

(select a chapter on the left, then use the "next" button to go forward - the first pages of each chapter are free, for the rest you must subscribe).

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2004):
A list member commented about "Bach, J. S., J. S. Bach's Precepts & Principles for Playing the Thorough-Bass or Accompanying in Four Parts” pointing out that >>Anyway, the professional opinion of most real scholars is that the document is worth taking seriously, and that it indeed stems from Bach's circle of pupils, probably from his dictation during lessons.<<
This is an example of the difficulty that ‘most real scholars’ have in relinquishing anything that has become almost traditional, beginning originally with the idea that this document was by Bach directly in his handwriting, then discovering that it wasn’t even in his handwriting at all, then discovering that some of the text was culled from a book by Niedt (why in the world would Bach have to turn to such a book to record instructions which are extremely basic indeed when he could easily have dictated anything that would have been a thousand times better than anything that Niedt could deliver?), then trying desperately to connect this document with an identity of a student who happened to attend the University in Leipzig for a very short period; in short, it seems much more reasonable to assume that this document was a fraud with a student assigning Bach’s name to these few handwritten pages and then passing it off as having more value than it otherwise would have had without Bach’s name attached.

It seems that ‘most real scholars’ are easily deceived by fraud committed in the 18th century such as that committed by Johann Friedrich Daube and still continue to rely on such sources that have been documented as being fraudulent. (Check Aryeh’s site for further information on this.)

What good are ‘peer reviews’(sometimes double-blind, sometimes informal), with “trying out the evidence on ‘trusted’ critics, to strengthen the case before it's publicized,” if these ‘trusted’ critics are unable point out which are the obviously fraudulent documents that ought not to be used as a basis for scholarly conclusions which only serve to perpetuate the fraud which is already more than 2 ½ centuries old?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 21, 2004):
I have uploaded to the Files area of the Cantata Group on Yahoo the following files:

BWV248M1ms25.jpg which shows from the top down the 2 flutes, 2 oboes, and the upper strings

Another file is from opening section 54 of the Christmas Oratorio: BWV248M54.jpg

Both examples help to demonstrate that Bach did treat vertical dashes and simple dots above the notes differently.

[For the examples, see also: Weichnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 – Examples from the Score ]

What do you think the difference is?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 21, 2004):
The NBA II/6 (from which the snippets were scanned) indicates in the KB that the vertical dashes and dots above the notes were added by Bach after the original parts had been copied. In some cases Bach had already made a few such marks in the score and if the copyist missed them, he would add also the ones that were missed along with all the additional markings which he included on the parts.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 21, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I have uploaded to the Files area of the Cantata Group on Yahoo the following files:
BWV248M1ms25.jpg which shows from the top down the 2 flutes, 2 oboes, and the upper strings >
i.e. a violin 1 line doubled by two flutes, and a violin 2 line doubled by an oboe, and a viola line doubled by the other oboe. Three parts, in total, played by four winds and at least three strings. A nice orchestration, with wind and string together on each line for the blended tone-colors.

< Another file is from opening section 54 of the Christmas Oratorio:
BWV248M54.jpg >
i.e. the movement about derisive enemies.

< Both examples help to demonstrate that Bach did treat vertical dashes and simple dots above the notes differently. >
Yes, they do.

< What do you think the difference is? >
The sound.

What's the nature of the question, really? How a good conductor should rehearse these movements, perhaps with the dotted figure separately from the parts with the wedge figures (so all the players can hear the contrasts) before putting it back together, appreciating one another's parts? The types of instructions he/she should give the orchestra, with regard to understanding the meaning of the text and some possible theological interpretation? The implied lightness of the notes with dots (i.e. quiet and unobtrusive notes, precisely placed but deliberately uninteresting, treating them as accompanimental) vs the accents of the wedged notes, especially in the second example where they're the first notes of slurs (having the other notes within the slur be a diminuendo)? Something about the violins and viola being in unison during the wedge figure in the second one? The way they should bring out the difference between two-note slurs and four-note slurs? The way they should make a break between the slurs to make those figures clear? The way the oboes and strings in bar 4 should treat the last note differently from the others, even though all three notes have similar-looking dots, since it's a pickup in the new theme along with the other two trumpets? The way Bach has perhaps cribbed part of a theme from his own D major two-part invention? Any possible differences of the 3/8 barring vs a way it might sound in 6/8? The implied phrasing break between the D and F# in bar 2 of the first example, treating the D as "old" and F# as "new" instead of grouping the D and F# together? What type of answer are you fishing for? These are the types of things performers think about, and more...and that's only 9 bars of music!

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 21, 2004):
>>What type of answer are you fishing for? These are the types of things performers think about, and more...and that's only 9 bars of music!<<
>>Hurrah for patterns. The human mind loves them. That doesn't mean the person who assembled the data (Bach, here) deliberately put all those possible interpretations in there, or had any such process in mind when creating it. It only means that people who are clever enough can come up with whatever patterns they are determined to find there, and that proofs have to sell the idea adequately to independent observers. Wishful thinking is quite seductive, the finding of patterns.<<
Perhaps I should have made it clear: not simply all the possible permutations of phrasings, accents, dynamics, but rather those that would most likely be the most authentic, those that Bach really would have wanted to hear according to the articulation and notation which he provided.

>>How a good conductor should rehearse these movements, perhaps with the dotted figure separately from the parts with the wedge figures (so all the players can hear the contrasts) before putting it back together, appreciating one another's parts?<<
This seems a very reasonable thing to do as long as those instrumentalists with the dotted figures do not engage in overly de-emphasizing their parts.

>>The types of instructions he/she should give the orchestra, with regard to understanding the meaning of the text and some possible theological interpretation?<<
Very important as well in sacred music of this type. It is important to single out in the text which words/phrases in particular have inspired Bach to compose this music the way he did.

>>The implied lightness of the notes with dots (i.e. quiet and unobtrusive notes, precisely placed but deliberately uninteresting, treating them as accompanimental)<<
Here I beg to differ with the idea that ‘dots’ mean ‘play lightly’ because these parts are ‘deliberately uninteresting’ or simply ‘accompanimental.’

>>vs the accents of the wedged notes, especially in the second example where they're the first notes of slurs (having the other notes within the slur be a diminuendo)?<<
The accents of the wedged notes are certainly stronger than that of the dots, but notice that the wedges (Keile – or better yet ‘vertical dashes’ as they appear in the original parts) do not signify ‘staccato’ with any type of ‘lifting off’ or separation between the wedged note and the next one under the slur In other places, Bach has dots over a series of repeated notes that have a slur over them – this becomes something more like a portato. Neil calls this an ‘unforced tenuto approach’ which would make sense in such a situation. It is only natural that after a strong accent (notes under the wedges) that the remaining notes in the phrase (within the slur) would have slightly less volume, but not too much so that they begin to trail off into nothingness in the end.

>>Something about the violins and viola being in unison during the wedge figure in the second one? The way they should bring out the difference between two-note slurs and four-note slurs?<<
Yes, notice that the violins and violas (let’s assume at least 4 violins and 2 violas here) are in unison to provide a good balance for the Tromba I part that follows their exposition and continues the motif introduced by the strings. The surprise is in the different, unexpected accentuation (rhythmic emphasis) that Bach places in the Tromba part as compared to the strings.

>>The way the oboes and strings in bar 4 should treat the last note differently from the others, even though all three notes have similar-looking dots, since it's a pickup in the new theme along with the other two trumpets?<<
Yes, there are different ways of looking at this too, one of which is the idea of a pickup to the new theme.

>>The way Bach has perhaps cribbed part of a theme from his own D major two-part invention?<<
This usually works the other way around as well. A theme/motif or section thereof first appears with a distinct association relating to a specific text (representing an emotion) derived from a sacred vocal work after which it appearsin another instrumental context. It is this emotive content which is the key link that will help a performer interpret the music appropriately (even if he/she is simply thinking and feeling the original textual/emotional context.) [But then there are also the instances where Bach took instrumental concerti and created a 'Choreinbau.' In such instances, only the general mood of the music makes the connection to the words of the 'Choreinbau.'

>>Any possible differences of the 3/8 barring vs a way it might sound in 6/8?<<
This could have an effect upon the tempo. Bach is known to have changed the barring after he had just begun composing (possibly only writing out a few bars of the solo part at first, but then changing it when he composed the entire mvt.

>>The implied phrasing break between the D and F# in bar 2 of the first example, treating the D as "old" and F# as “new" instead of grouping the D and F# together?<<
In this instance, because Bach gave us rather complete markings for the articulation that he wanted, he would have indicated this as such. A conductor not concerned about attempting to be as authentic as possible could interpret it this way, but it is a step away from being as authentic as possible. Of course, the entire mvt. would have to be studied very carefully to discover if Bach gave any hints in the other playing or singing parts that might lend more justification for such an interpretation.

>>What type of answer are you fishing for?<<
I wasn’t fishing, but simply wondering what others would see in Bach’s use of ‘dots and dashes’ in a context quite different from the examples taken from the Weimar cantatas.

BTW, the NBA editors point out that they have translated the small vertical dashes (‘Strichelchen’) over the notes into the modern notation form: the wedge. Bach did not personally use wedges (‘Keile’), as far as I know, in his scores and parts.

My personal observation is that it appears that the wedges are a stronger, more heavily accented form of the dot. That dots are frequently used not to ‘make parts become a light accompaniment’ to everything else, but rather that they serve to call attention to a part that would otherwise ‘get lost’ among all the other details of the performance. There are additional examples (which I have seen, but did not note carefully) where Bach uses the dots similarly to BWV 137/1 as a means of pointing out rather dramatically thematic material which has special structural significance in a mvt. Bach does not want such motifs to be overlooked. Perhaps by using staccato these will become more apparent for the listener who would otherwise overhear them.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 21, 2004):
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7852
Thomas Braatz wrote (in response to my musical analysis
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7850
of two excerpts he provided): [see above]

But you see, it was an instance of fishing as I suspected, despite the denial by Mr Braatz. It was a baited hook, a trap. Here's why:

- The question was posed by Mr Braatz yesterday
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7848
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7849
with a withholding of crucial information about the articulation marks: that the NBA editors put the wedges there as a substitute for Bach's own marking! (There's his hook inside the bait.)

- At the top of his response above, he brought in a quote from a different posting by me: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7834 , about the human mind's fondness for patterns. This conflation of selections from my postings changes my meaning by altering the context, so then he can go ahead and respond however he wishes (which he then does), to try to discredit my understanding of music.

- The use of a quotation by Neil about "unforced tenuto approach",
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7851
which Neil derived simply from listening to a favorite recording (Rilling), instead of quoting from a musicologist who has studied what dots and slurs meant to Bach. I intend no offense to Neil, but it looks here as if Mr Braatz is taking everyone's opinion as equally valid, no matter where it came from, as if acknowledged expertise in the field really means nothing; but then overruling anything he doesn't fancy (especially, anything I say). As George Orwell pointed out, some animals are more equal than others.

- The usual (yet wrong) assertion that eight string players are necessary to balance a Tromba; but the number of players was really not the central issue here anyway. Playing musically is.

- In the several points where Mr Braatz agreed with me, he quotes each sentence and then explicates it further, as if to show he knows more about it than I do.

- By "begging to differ" with one of my points about dots, Mr Braatz has evidently convinced himself that his counter-suggestion is sufficiently proven.

- The extremely insulting sentence, "A conductor not concerned about attempting to be as authentic as possible could interpret it this way, but it is a step away from being as authentic as possible."....to overrule my musical analysis of the passage, and cast aspersions on my own quest for authentic performance.

- Mr Braatz' disdain of my point about making a phrasing break between the D and F#. He overrules it by stating, "In this instance, because Bach gave us rather complete markings for the articulation that he wanted, he would have indicated this as such." My musical point is automatically invalid because Bach didn't mark it? Or, more truthfully, because Mr Braatz doesn't understand normal phrasing in unmarked music, and doesn't comprehend a performer's job of parsing the musical motifs to make them clear? Allegedly, to Mr Braatz the performance would be more authentic to Bach's intentions if performers do not read the music intelligently but simply follow the markings, with the assumption that things are already fully marked. But how does he know this? How does Mr Braatz know so surely what Bach "would have indicated" in writing (at any time before or after rehearsals), having demonstrated no practical experience as a composer or conductor himself?

- The re-assertion of Mr Braatz's own taste that the notes within slurs must not be allowed to have diminuendo "too much so that they begin to trail off into nothingness in the end". Heaven forfend that any notes should ever be less than fully audible, or that Bach might ever write his music as shapes and gestures to have more importance than individual notes! He also cautions that "those instrumentalists with the dotted figures do not engage in overly de-emphasizing their parts."...again simply Mr Braatz' own (unstated) premise that notes must never become inaudible to him.

- Mr Braatz' final paragraph glibly overrules everything I said in my carefully considered musical analysis last night: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7850 , and indeeds overrules anything he can find in John Butt's dissertation about Bach's articulation marks. Mr Braatz purports to know, better than people with performance experience of Bach's music, and doctorates, what Bach must have meant with his dots. "Bach does not want such motifs to be overlooked." Mr Braatz evidently has full possession of the mind of Bach in this matter, while experts do not.

- According to Mr Braatz in that last paragraph, Bach allegedly uses dots as a "means of pointing out rather dramatically thematic material which has special structural significance"...but that's Mr Braatz' own premise simply being restated here, as if he's proven it through all his other remarks! Mr Braatz has baited his hook, and captured a fish, only to put his own premise back into the water.

Dale Gedcke wrote (April 21, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz]
Re: The appended interaction between Brad and Thomas on how to interpret Bach's notation:

Now you two enthusiasts are getting down to a meaningful and valuable discussion, instead of lobbing water bombs at each other. I have to admit, I am the musician who was fishing for those types of answers, and I appreciate the special insights this discussion brings to how one might rehearse and perform the composition.

For my next comments, keep in mind that I have not spent the thousands of hours pouring over Bach's original manuscripts and the published critiques of his music, as you two have. And, I don't have the wealth of performance experience in Bach's music that Brad obviously has.

But, from a novice's point of view, here is what occurs to me. The use of dots over notes in both modern music and music going back to the Baroque period tends to imply either a moderate shortness (staccato) or a lightness in playing those notes. Sometimes it requires both a lightness and a shortness to suit the particular passage in the composition. When one encounters the dot over a series of notes of the same duration, that shortened and light treatment tends to make those note sound as if they are grouped together. From the evidence presented and discussed so far, it would appear that Bach used the dots for all three purposes, perhaps with different aspects being emphasized in different cases to suit the surrounding music.

The vertical slash is a little more obtuse to interpret, because there isn't a prevalent parallel in classical or modern music. There is a solid triangle that is often used above the note to indicate a shortening that is about half the length of the staccato dot. (See http://www.treblis.com/Notation/Accent.html for more details.) I don't think this is what Bach was indicating with his vertical slash. There is also a vertical wedge (Martelato), like a Marcato sign rotated 90 degrees. The vertical wedge is an even stronger accent than the Marcato. Looking at Bach's music, I don't think the Martelato is what he was asking for.

There is a habit among musicians to use a pencil to mark the position of the strong beat in the bar with a vertical slash. This is often helpful in quickly recognizing where to place the note relative to the conductors beat in a bar that is made difficult by syncopation, and strange combinations of rests between notes. This is a crutch (or prompt) for musicians trying not to mess up the placement of notes in that bar. It is also often used to mark a particular note that needs slightly more emphasis in a series of notes. The emphasis intended is not a sharp attack on the note (Marcato), but is more like an extra push to the note (more air pressure for a wind instrument, more bow pressure for a string instrument).

If I look at the examples of Bach's vertical slashes that Thomas has posted, they appear to my novice interpretation to be asking for a slight emphasis or push on those notes relative to the unmarked notes.

Does that make sense to those more steeped in Bach-ology?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 21, 2004):
Dale Gedcke wrote: < But, from a novice's point of view, here is what occurs to me. The use of dots over notes in both modern music and music going back to the Baroque period tends to imply either a moderate shortness (staccato) or a lightness in playing those notes. Sometimes it requires both a lightness and a shortness to suit the particular passage in the composition. When one encounters the dot over a series of notes of the same duration, that shortened and light treatment tends to make those note sound as if they are grouped together. From the evidence presented and discussed so far, it would appear that Bach used the dots for all three purposes, perhaps with different aspects being emphasized in different cases to suit the surrounding music. >
Indeed, and well said.

< The vertical slash is a little more obtuse to interpret, because there isn't a prevalent parallel in classical or modern music. There is a solid triangle that is often used above the note to indicate a shortening that is about half the length of the staccato dot. (See http://www.treblis.com/Notation/Accent.html for more details.) I don't think this is what Bach was indicating with his vertical slash. There is also a vertical wedge (Martelato), like a Marcato sign rotated 90 degrees. The vertical wedge is an even stronger accent than the Marcato. Looking at Bach's music, I don't think the Martelato is what he was asking for. >
Watch out for the danger of reading later markings (from later composers, especially Mozart and Beethoven) back into Bach--the important thing is to find out what the strokes meant to Bach and not what they might mean to us with later habits--, but on the whole I agree with these remarks also.

< There is a habit among musicians to use a pencil to mark the position of the strong beat in the bar with a vertical slash. This is often helpful in quickly recognizing where to place the note relative to the conductors beat in a bar that is made difficult by syncopation, and strange combinations of rests between notes. This is a crutch (or prompt) for musicians trying not to mess up the placement of notes in that bar. It is also often used to mark a particular note that needs slightly more emphasis in a series of notes. The emphasis intended is not a sharp attack on the note (Marcato), but is more like an extra push to the note (more air pressure for a wind instrument, more bow pressure for a string instrument). >
Indeed, like merely giving the first note of the slur (in the example from XmasO mvt 54, i.e. the beginning of the sixth day's cantata) that little extra bit of weight and/or time, emphasizing that it is the first note of a slur, a distinct grouping of notes.

How about the possibility that Bach first notated that passage normally (i.e. with only the slurs, no vertical lines), and then added the lines later after a rehearsal in which the players weren't doing it clearly enough, weren't bringing out the groupings obviously enough? That seems the most plausible scenario, to me. Conductors do make reminder-notes to themselves on their scores, along with putting markings there for other people to see! As Mr Braatz has already pointed out: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7849 , with remarks paraphrased from the NBA's critical report, the lines were added to the score at some time after the parts had already been copied.

< If I look at the examples of Bach's vertical slashes that Thomas has posted, they appear to my novice interpretation to be asking for a slight emphasis or push on those notes relative to the unmarked notes.
Does that make sense to those more steeped in Bach-ology? >
It certainly makes sense to me, especially as you're also thinking from the practical perspective and experience of actually performing Bach's music, and not just finding things in books. :)

=====

Now, if we practical musicians can somehow get Mr Braatz to understand two absolutely crucial points about music and its notation, we'll be in business and perhaps allowed to do our jobs intelligently:

- That markings on a page may mean to DE-emphasize certain notes in some situations, while Mr Braatz assumes they always mean emphasis (unless, of course, they explicitly call for quieter dynamics). In this case, he apparently does not comprehend, and refuses to believe, that dots could ever mean a less prominent sound than unmarked notes.

- That notes that look the same as one another on the page might still be vastly different from one another in sound, whether marked or not, due to their context. And especially, with regard to their placement on strong or weak parts of bar, and their membership in different musical figures. (Mr Braatz will have to discard his cherished notions about notes being created equal, and recognize that they build larger tructures which have different values in hierarchies...this point being elementary musicianship, not rocket science.) For example, as I pointed out last night: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7850 , the way the third of the dotted notes in bar 4 is really a pickup to the new subject coming in, and therefore should be distinguished from the other two notes in the same bar that look exactly the same. Similarly, as I pointed out in that same posting, in his example file "BWV248M1ms25.jpg", the way the D at the beginning of bar 2 and the F# immediately after it--both being demisemiquavers, and being beamed together--are nevertheless members of different phrases and should not be played the same way as one another, or even necessarily given the same amount of time as one another. The D ends the previous phrase, and the F# begins the new one. Mr Braatz of course retorted that Bach didn't mark them as separate entities in this way, and therefore they should not be treated differently...but again, this is something practical musicians know from experience and training, and he unfortunately does not yet. His mistaken assumptions of note-equality [dis]color every remark he makes about volume balance, phrasing, articulation, the thoroughness of a composer's markings, and more.

With regard to this latter point, the recognition that not all notes are created equal and that they DON'T have to be marked differently to sound differently, a good book to read is Note Grouping: A Method for Achieving Expression and Style in Musical Performance by James Morgan Thurmond: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0942782003
This is one about basic musicianship, the recognition of many levels of arsis and thesis within music even when it's not completely marked-up by a composer.

John Pike wrote (April 21, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] On Good Friday I played the violin solo line for a performance of the "Ebarme dich" from the SMP. At the end of the violin solo passages, a couple of the penultimate notes are marked with dots in my Baerenreiter edition. I played these as shortenings of the notes, rather than full staccato. I think that is how they are generally played. It seems to work well.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 21, 2004):
[To John Pike] Hopefully not softer than the preceding notes! These notes are the 'Zähren' (tear drops) that Bach has represented in the music. There should be, IMO, a slight shortening (separation between notes) and possibly even a slight ritardando, but no 'lightening' of the intensity or a noticeable diminuendo, as if these are simply 'filler notes' or mainly accompaniment that should be played softer than anything else surrounding this series of notes.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 21, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Excuse me, but who are you to tell Dr Pike how to play his violin, or how to express a melodic phrase of a prominent solo, or chide him on a performance you haven't heard?

For that matter, why would you take such notes as in any way "accompanimental" in such a solo passage, except that I pointed out that notes with dots are probably accompanimental in an entirely different piece of music, in an orchestral context under another theme (which is certainly not the case here in "Erbarme dich")? Is Bach not allowed to have specified a different sound from one piece to the other, with a similar marking on the page?

And, for that matter, why would a "noticeable diminuendo" IN ANY WAY harm the expression of the melodic line, either as pure music or as word-painting? If these are indeed "tear drops" as you assert, do not tear drops fall gently downward?

Brad Lehman, presenting both humanitarian and musical objections

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 21, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < These notes are the 'Zähren' (tear drops) that Bach has represented in the music. >
Are they?

John Pike wrote (April 22, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Indeed. I said shortening in my e mail! I said nothing about softer.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 22, 2004):
[To John Pike] You should be honoured to be upbraided by Mr Braatz in this fashion!! For you are in good company - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gustav Leonhardt and many others have been similarly ticked off!

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