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Minims – Part 1

 

 

Shortened minims

Bradley Lehman
wrote (April 12, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote: [about disliking the sound of staccato minims in the "Crucifixus"]
< One point of criticism: concerning the Crucifixus, would not Bach have written the parts for flutes and violins in quavers, if he had wanted this effect?
(I prefer the effect of longer held notes for these instruments in this score, and since Bach wrote them as minims, I would confidently dispute, or rather, not emulate, Pearlman's approach.) >
As I believe I've explained patiently, such a comment ("since Bach wrote them as minims, I would confidently dispute..." a musician's professional judgment) is colored by the questionable assumption that written-out minims must have meant the same thing to Bach as they do to you, looking at them 260+ years later.

Therefore, when you see a minim on the page and automatically assume that it means a long-sustained note, with legato connection to the next one, and admit you prefer that sound, you also automatically assume it meant legato to Bach. Your preference for that sound, and your preference for the way you read those notes, trumps anyone else's opinion...including Bach's (if his may be known at all).

Isn't it more important to find out what Bach might have meant, in the notational conventions he picked up from the past, than to assume you already know what he meant looking at it from his distant future?

As I pointed out recently in this posting: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7594
, "Our modern habits of seeing a semibreve as a "whole note" shouldn't influence us to play/sing slowly, or to hold it all the way out, necessarily: it could still be a staccato articulation on such a note if the musical context calls for it! But it's that context that determines that, and related issues of style as well, not the notation itself telling us which notes to play shorter than written (separated by articulative rests). It's all relative to shorter and longer notes in the texture."

There is no note-value on the page that automatically means the sound must be held all the way out. Any note-value could be subject to shortening [or, on some instruments, lengthening(!)--blurring the note into the next one], according to musical context. Basically, any note-value on the page means that the next note shouldn't start before this much time has elapsed. The note's own articulation, which might be anything from very short to medium length to very long, is determined by other influencing factors which might or might not be written down....

Think about it this way: if the players and singers know that such a general rule is in effect, parts can be written out quickly and clearly without larding them full of fussy rests (which would make the melodic line less clear and make the music much harder to read).

Charles Francis wrote (April 12, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < Think about it this way: if the players and singers know that such a general rule is in effect, parts can be written out quickly and clearly without larding them full of fussy rests (which would make the melodic line less clear and make the music much harder to read). >
But wouldn't Bach just mark a dot over each note?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Neophytes wish the situation were that simple. Experts know it isn't.

Dale Dedcke wrote (April 12, 2004):
RE: The excellent appended e-mail from Brad Lehman:

The issue of how you actually perform the written notes is endemic to all music. There are some cases where the current note is not shortened, but is held past its conventional maximum length at the expense of the succeeding note. A modern example is "swinging the eighth notes" in jazz. Even though the score is written with two eighth notes of equal duration, The pair is treated as an eighth-note triplet, with the first note converted to a quarter note (crotchet), and the second played as the eighth note (quaver) of the triplet. It's the way that the jazz composition is supposed to sound, in spite of how it is written. Musicians trained in jazz, automatically know how to play the swinging-eighth-notes style. Swinging the eighth notes is what makes the jazz come alive.

There are numerous examples in Classic and Baroque music, where a particular note in the series is played with a special accent. There are compositions where some space must be left between one note and the next, .... a space that lies somewhere between staccato and legato. Mozart wrote eighth notes (quavers) when he wanted staccato, and quarter notes (crotchets) when he wanted legato. A musician has to learn the style of a particular composer, and then automatically play that style. An untrained musician can't deduce the style from the sheet music. More specific knowledge is required.

Ultimately, the responsibility for knowledge and interpretation of style falls on the conductor. That is just compensation for not having to spend endless hours staying agile and proficient on a particular instrument. But, conductors can have differences of opinion about the style with which a composition should be played. Usually, there is no objective standard by which to validate or invalidate the conductor's subjective interpretation. Often, a particular interpretation of style becomes in vogue. Occasionally, a conductor breaks with current traditions, and attempts to re-interpret the composer's original style. I have a recording of Beethoven's 5th Symphony wherein the conductor increased the relative spread in dynamics, because he felt that was Beethoven's original style.

Style is subjective. Consequently, the listener is left to decide whether he prefers one style over the other. It is virtually impossible to say which minor variation in style is right or wrong. And, who knows, what you don't like today, you may thoroughly enjoy two years hence. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder. If everyone liked exactly the same thing, this discussion group would be tepid and boring.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2004):
Dale Gedcke commented:
>>It is virtually impossible to say which minor variation in style is right or wrong.<<
In regard to some aspects of performance practices used in playing Bach, 'minor variations,' however, have become 'major changes' to Bach's original scores.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Would he need to bother, if everyone (i.e. the players those parts were intended for) knew what was required? There are plenty of notational conventions, even in our own age of much more detailed marking of scores by composers, whose meaning is known and understood by the perfomers they are meant for, despite their apparently meaning something else. For example, any singer of liturgical music knows, without the need for any explanation, that a breve (usually notated in the form of a semibreve with two vertical lines on either side) with a number of words beneath it indicates that the words should be sung, unmetered, in speech rhythm, all to the note indicated. But a notational literalist might look at it and wonder how all those words are to be sung when there's only one note, or indeed how those words will fit exactly into a duration of eight crotchets....

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thus writes one who has $20,000 worth of Neue Bach-Ausgabe scores to justify, having realized in horror that musicians do not interpret those scores in the same way the purchaser might hope.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] That's a good example. It also explains, for instance, how there can be a modern performing edition of Allegri's "Miserere" that takes more than 20 pages to spell out a suggested chanting rhythm for each stanza in turn, with triplets and mixed meters and all, when the whole strophic piece (of 10+ minutes) fits neatly onto two handwritten pages.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2004):
One list member inquired:
>>But wouldn't Bach just mark a dot over each note?<< upon which another replied:
>>Would he need to bother, if everyone (i.e. the players those parts were intended for) knew what was required?<<
The fact is that with his ever-changing group of student performers, Bach did indicate (mainly in the original performing parts) rather carefully with dots more often than the list member who raised this question is aware of. He even occasionally put the dots in his scores which are frequently devoid of any special markings.

>>Thus writes one who has $20,000 worth of Neue Bach-Ausgabe scores to justify, having realized in horror that musicians do not interpret those scores in the same way the purchaser might hope.<< [in reponse to my statement: “In regard to some aspects of performance practices used in playing Bach, 'minor variations,' however, have become 'major changes' to Bach's original scores,” which is just a statement of fact which the list member was unable to prove otherwise.]
The attribution of money loss for which justification must be sought and the attribution as well of a concomitant feeling of horror to the individual the list member is unable to comprehend only reflects back upon the state of mind of the list member who posted this statement. I have already pointed out that musicians may play Bach any way they wish from whatever source is available to them. The results may be very good indeed. It is only when the claim to authenticity or academic credentials are being flaunted to prove that musicianship and musicological expertise may not be questioned that I feel that the NBA and other reliable sources need to be consulted because the expectation of a higher standard of performance based upon sound musicological scholarship has been invoked.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< >>Thus writes one who has $20,000 worth of Neue Bach-Ausgabe scores to justify, having realized in horror that musicians do not interpret those scores in the same way the purchaser might hope.<< [in reponse to my statement: â?oIn regard to some aspects of performance practices used in playing Bach, 'minor variations,' however, have become 'major changes' to Bach's original scores,” which is just a statement of fact which the list member was unable to prove otherwise.] >
Bologna. The burden of proof is upon anyone who asserts that such-and-such (insert the name of your victim du jour here) in a performance has indeed caused "major changes" to a score, amounting to irresponsible distortions. Just because musicians read scores in ways different from dilettantes (and in ways that dilettantes do not understand) is no reason to accuse musicians of making "major changes". Random potshots by a disgruntled dilettante do not amount to evidence.

To say that same thing another way: When a good musician plays directly from a certifiably accurate Urtext and still comes up with something incomprehensible to the dilettante, perhaps it's the dilettante's reading of the score (and his accusation of "major changes") that is at fault, not the musician. That's why the burden of proof is upon the nay-sayer who would limit the musician's choices, or impugn the musician's ability to read music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wroteL: < How do you know what I am, and am not, aware of? >
Gabriel, this is one of those context things. Mr Braatz is content to assert such a thing whenever it will (supposedly) make an opponent look bad or ignorant; yet, he refuses exactly that same proof when it's presented by Dr Laurence Dreyfus as evidence that bass notes should be played short in recitative. The example is printed on page 91 of Bach's Continuo Group, from movement 5 of cantata BWV 31, where Bach wrote staccato wedges above every note in the cello part...even though some of those are notes tied across two or more measures. Mr Braatz is so firm in his mistaken belief that recit-accompanying notes must never be played short that he will find some way to dismiss this (as he has already done, a year ago, in similar dialogue about that topic). Or, perhaps this time he'll claim that BWV 31 is an exceptional case, and one must not shorten the notes in any other piece unless explicitly marked like this; or perhaps he'll claim that the wedges don't indicate shortness. It's always something, and often rather creative side-stepping, to justify his foregone conclusions against evidence. When we left the topic some months ago, he was claiming that we must all ignore all 18th century sources except one by Heinichen that he favours, and then only in Braatz' own retranslation that makes it look like the way he wants it to come out. All very unscientific, really. No one, especially Dreyfus or other experts, is allowed to know more about this than he does.

But, whenever it's convenient to use against you or me or anyone else knowledgeable in music, that's his weapon of choice: an assertion that he knows more than musicians do, that we're all ignorant and/or misguided and/or dishonest. It's just one of these things we have to deal with, sorry to say.

Charles Francis wrote (April 13, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < The example is printed on page 91 of Bach's Continuo Group, from movement 5 of cantata BWV 31, where Bach wrote staccato wedges above every note in the cello part...even though some of those are notes tied across two or more measures. >
Wouldn't this just imply a short rest between these sustained notes (i.e. non-legato)? The advantage of such notation is that parts can be written out quickly and clearly without larding them full of fussy rests.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Do you have any cello music from 1600-1720 where that is what a wedge means? Evidence, please.

Dale Gedcke wrote (April 13, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] If the vertical wedge was intended to imply rests BETWEEN the notes tied across several measures (obviously not minims), why would Bach bother to write the tie between notes across the multiple measures. That is extra, unnecessary work. Moreover, it's counter-indicative.

Are the vertical wedges above EACH of the tied notes? That would be difficult to understand, given the previous point.

If the vertical wedges are only above the initial note of the tied notes, that might imply that the musician should truncate the duration of the tied notes. In that case, the remainder of the tied notes is a simple way to indicate that you have a "rest" until you get to the end of the tied notes. If my interpretation is reasonable, this leaves it up to the musician to know how long (or short) to hold the tied notes. When Bach was conducting, the musician's knowledge of how much to truncate the tied notes would most likely have been provided by Bach. A conductor (or more emphatically, a conducting composer) will naturally instruct his musicians to play the way he wants to hear it.

I am suffering from the disadvantage of not being able to look at the original score in question. So, my argument is somewhat of a conjecture. But it looks like it brings us back to the issue of the shortened notes in the recitative. Ironically, I am arguing that this was a simple way for Bach to avoid having to write the precise amount of rest duration he desired. And that agrees somewhat with Charles. In this interpretation of Bach's notation, there seems to be an implication that Bach was leaving the actual duration of those notes to the discretion of the performing conductor. Perhaps he expected that he would be the only conductor, so there was no need to be more specific. He would adjust the style by verbal instructions at the rehearsal for next Sunday's performance.

Could it also be that Bach changed his notation style from time-to-time to suit changes in the situation or his perspective?

I have not studied Bach's original manuscripts or any in-depth analysis of the same by scholars. Hence, I raise these points more as questions to be answered by those more steeped in the history, than as firm conclusions.

Charles Francis wrote (April 13, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Sorry if I wasunclear. Of course, I meant a rest at the very end of the tied note (and not in the middle!). A busy practical man like Bach would not waste time notating redundant ties (or silent harmonic figures for that matter).

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2004):
A list member commented as follows:
>>Mr Braatz is content to assert such a thing whenever it will (supposedly) make an opponent look bad or ignorant; yet, he refuses exactly that same proof when it's presented by Dr Laurence Dreyfus as evidence that bass notes should be played short in recitative. The example is printed on page 91 of _Bach's Continuo Group_, from movement 5 of cantata BWV 31, where Bach wrote staccato wedges above every note in the cello part...even though some of those are notes tied across two or more measures. Mr Braatz is so firm in his mistaken belief that recit-accompanying notes must never be played short that he will find some way to dismiss this (as he has already done, a year ago, in similar dialogue about that topic)…. It's always something, and often rather creative side-stepping, to justify his foregone conclusions against evidence.<<

From Dreyfus in the book cited above (p. 90-91):
>>The continuo parts for Cantata BWV 31, another Weimar cantata from 1715, also contain cues in a secco recitative. In the original ‘Violoncello’ part used by the cellist and the organist, Bach must have entered the cues before the thorough-bass figures in Mvt. 5, a secco recitative (at this point Dreyfus cheats by not supplying a facsimile of the original part, but rather extracts what he deems is necessary and conflates it with another ‘Violoncello’ part dating from 1724 [he mentions that there are figured bass figures that were added by Bach] places it into modern notation, even omitting these figures so that the reader ostensibly should concentrate on the point that he is trying to make.) Since the bassoon is ‘tacet’ in this mvt, the cues have nothing to do with a special conflict between two continuo parts. Instead, they apparently helped the player recall that the convention [the esoteric convention regarding the shortening of the long notes in a secco recitative] applies in this mvt. Arthur Mendel’s supposition that Bach wrote a precisely notated part for an inexperienced bassoonist thus proves quite reasonable. However, the cues confirm no less the inexperience of the other continuo players in complying with short accompaniment. Perhaps Bach conceived the staccato marks as a pedagogical device to teach the proper performance of secco recitative.<<

Serious problems with Dreyfus’ observations as based on the NBA I/9 KB:

1) Conflation of sources from performances almost a decade apart. Dreyfus allows the reader to assume that the reworked excerpt represents Bach’s intentions from the earliest performance in Weimar in 1715. Mendel’s assumption about inexperienced players would then be highly unlikely since Bach was performing with excellent musicians at that point in time.

2) Dreyfus seems to be referring to the original ‘Violoncello’ part from 1715 as if Bach actually copied this part in this manner. The fact is that the original Weimar ‘Violoncello’ part was not copied by Bach and did not include the mvt. (5) which Dreyfus is attempting to use as an illustration.

3) This leaves only the ‘Violoncello’ part from 1724, a part in which the 5th mvt. was copied by copyist 3, and it is quite questionable whether the figures that were sporadically added were even by Bach

4) The vertical marks in mvt. 5 are not in Bach’s hand! The NBA editors have surmised that these markings were entered so that a bassoonist might read from the same part as the cellist, but only the bassoonist, because of the louder nature of the instrument and its characteristically different sound, was to play only quarter notes where whole or half-notes were written in the ‘Violoncello’ part. The violoncello part would have been played as written.

In a footnote on p. 254, Dreyfus writes: >>A Leipzig cello part for Cantata BWV 31 exemplifies an identical procedure undertaken by an anonymous copyist. Here the consolidation was even more extreme, since the Weimar cello part had been marked ‘tacet’ in five movements. It was also likely that the Weimar cello part was given to a violone player at Leipzig, even though it was never relabeled.<<

It appears that the editors of the NBA also believe that this part may have served for use by another instrument (bassoon) as well. Perhaps even the violone, if it were used as Dreyfus surmises, would also be too loud for a single boy’s voice delivering a recitative. Did anyone notice that Dreyfus refers to the cello part correctly here, but not in his main text (pp. 90 ff.)?

Dreyfus also knows about the 1715 cello part as indicated on pp. 134 and 187: >>Bach treats the cello similarly in Cantata BWV 31, where it serves as a ‘ripieno’ string instrument, playing ‘basso seguente’ in the choral movements and serving as the doubling bassist in one heavily scored tenor aria (Mvt. 6). Since the cello part is marked ‘tacet’ in Mvts. 3-5 and 7-8, it follows that the organ accompanied alone for much of the cantata.<<

And just how would the organ play the long notes in the secco recitatives? According to Heinichen, they would not be shortened, if his key passage is properly translated by musicologists without recourse to wishful thinking about an esoteric doctrine that really did not exist in Bach’s world.

The question remains: Why did Dreyfus, in attempting to put a major point across, not deem it worthwhile to present in facsimile (simply 2 lines/staffs) and label precisely the critical primary evidence needed to support his theory. Instead of this there is Dreyfus’ own transcription/extraction which is a poor replacement. From the original comment which prompted this investigation, it becomes clear that those who claim to be musical experts and practitioners rely with great faith upon Dreyfus’ scholarship, which in this case and some others which I have pointed out previously, leaves something to be desired.

In order to see the music which is being discussed, I have uploaded two files:

bwv31.jpg from the top of p. 91 from Dreyfus’ book

Go to Yahoo Bach Cantatas Group and search under ‘Files’ Or perhaps use this extremely long link, if it works:
BCML: Files

This is the NBA score for the same mvt.: [bez. = beziffert (figured bass)]:

BWV31M5NBA.jpg

BCML: Files

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 13, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Perhaps even the violone, if it were used as Dreyfus surmises, would also be too loud for a single boy’s voice delivering a recitative. >
Why?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 14, 2004):
A list member inquired succinctly:
>>Why?<< to my statement: ‘Perhaps even the violone, if it were used as Dreyfus surmises, would also be too loud for a single boy’s voice delivering a recitative.’
Perhaps because the violoncello + the violone + the organ in combination would be too forceful and tend to drown out the voice, particularly in the lower register. It would then make sense that those instruments in addition to the organ be ‘toned down’ a bit while the organ supplies the sustained sound throughout. This is what probably happened in the BWV 18 recitative that Dreyfus also refers to. The bassoon is allowed to participate with quarter notes and rests while the rest of the continuo group holds the notes for the full duration. I will upload forms now. Find them in the Bach Cantatas Group on Yahoo under Files.

There is definitely confusion about what ‘violone’ means. It means different things in different times and places. I can find no clear indication as to just how loud it was (if we can even know precisely what Bach was referring to.) Dreyfus, on pp. 136ff refers to "The Problematic Identity of the Violone." Here are some selections from the New Grove (Oxford University Press, 2003) and from the MGG-1:

Walther noted with approval the old 'violone' as preferable to the harsher bass violin (cello); but Quantz (‘Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversiere zu spielen,’ 1752) wrote of the so-called ‘German violone’ with five or six strings which ‘has justly been abandoned’.

ALFRED PLANYAVSKY

Agricola wrote of the ‘contrabasso di viola’ as being the deepest voice available. He was referring to an instrument comparable with that made by Hanns Vogel in 1563 and now in the Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg. This ornately and beautifully decorated bass is fitted with gut frets like other viols and tuned G'–C–F–A–d–g. This high ‘3rd–4th’ tuning was given by Praetorius (‘Syntagma musicum,’ 2/1619) for a six-string ‘Violone’ (a name also confusingly used in the 16th century to denote the bass of the viol family). One advantage of this instrument was that by using the top five strings it could play in the cello register and by using the lower five, in the bass. This violone in G was often used on its own for continuo work.

RODNEY SLATFORD

It appears that the neck on the early bass violin was, like that on the early violin, directly aligned with the belly of the instrument, requiring a wedge under the fingerboard to make it parallel with the strings. One unaltered example with this construction, made by Egidius Snoeck in 1736, survives in the Musée des Instruments de Musique of the Brussels Conservatory. By installing a neck that canted backward the downward force on the bridge is increased, thereby conveying more energy from the strings to the instrument and producing the louder sound needed for an instrument expected to compete with an orchestra in a concerto. By the early years of the 18th century Stradivari had established a body length of 75–6 cm, which has served as the standard ever since, although some makers continued to make larger sizes into the 1750s.

STEPHEN BONTA

Heinrich W. Schwab reports in the MGG-1: >>Demgegenüber ist 1672 aus der Bewerbung des späteren Lübecker Ratspaukers Peter Grecke, der bei Fr. Tunder auch das Orgelspiel erlernt hatte, bereits die Bevorzugung von »Clavier, violdegambe, Baßviolone vnd violone, alß die heute zu tags allenthalben mehrest beliebeten instrumenten« zu erkennen.<<

[From Peter Grecke’s application dated 1672 to become a Stadt-Pfeiffer (City Piper) in Lübeck (he had studied organ under Fr. Tunder and eventually was hired as the city timpanist): he was proficient in playing keyboard instruments, viola da gamba, bass violone, and violone, all these instruments being among those best liked everywhere nowadays.]

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 14, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< A list member inquired succinctly:
>>Why?<< to my statement: ‘Perhaps even the violone, if it were used as Dreyfus surmises, would also be too loud for a single boy’s voice delivering a recitative.’ >
Perhaps because the violoncello + the violone + the organ in combination would be too forceful and tend to drown out the voice, particularly in the lower register. It would then make sense that those instruments in addition to the organ be ‘toned down’ a bit while the organ supplies the sustained sound throughout. This is what
probably happened in the BWV 18 recitative that Dreyfus also refers to. >
This is nonsense. Pure fantasy. Of course a cello, violone and organ together wouldn't 'tend to' drown out a boy treble voice. The 'lower register' referred to - is that the treble's or the continuo's? (Not that it makes any difference.....) The last sentence is absurd - Mr Braatz's habit of stating as fact what is actually pure conjecture would be laughable if it weren't so tiresome.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 14, 2004):
Dreyfus on BWV 18/2 Recitative

On p. 92 he has reproduced a facsimile of the ‘Violoncello’ part of mvt. 2 showing the staccato cue strokes. A magnified version of this section of the facsimile can be found on the Bach Cantatas Group site on Yahoo under ‘bwv18.jpg’

On p. 248 of his book on Bach’s Continuo Group, Dreyfus, at the end of a discussion of BWV 18, comes to the conclusion >>that the bassoon shared the part with the harpsichordist, as in the Leipzig performance of Cantata BWV 23.<< [This is a reasonable conclusion since the original Weimar part, ‘Fagotto’ which contained mvt. 2, had become, for the most part unusable because of the shift in pitch from g minor to a minor. Other instruments, such as the violas, for which the original parts would suffice, could easily manage such a tuning shift, but not the bassoon which would have to transpose. The NBA editors believe that the bassoon player looked on with the new continuo part (in a minor) that had been created for the performance in Leipzig. This means that at the original Weimar performance, the violoncello part with the markings (short vertical lines over half and whole notes) as seen in the facsimile example, existed separately from the individual original bassoon part that already had the ‘shortened notation’ indicated as quarter notes in the bassoon part. Now, in Leipzig, the same feature (shortened notes in the bassoon with long notes in the continuo) was being duplicated without having to write out another bassoon part when the bassoonist who had to transpose anyhow simply looked on with the continuo player(s) who had a newly transposed part (from which he had to transpose as well, but perhaps this transposition was easier to manage than the one from the original part)

In the footnotes on p. 241, Dreyfus states: >>In all editions of BWV 18, including the NBA I/7 and its accompanying critical notes, the cues have been ignored, although they are virtually identical to Bach’s staccato marks in the continuo parts for BWV 185/5.<<
[By rendering the parts as seen in the NBA score for both the Weimar and Leipzig versions of this cantata, Bach’s intentions have been carefully preserved. If one had wanted to, it would be possible to add the cues to the continuo parts, but nothing would be changed essentially, since both the bassoon and the continuo parts can be viewed in the score as a unit and not as separate items. What’s the problem here?]

and

>>Such a practice was particularly useful because the continuo players could not see the vocal part, which was always to be sung in free, proselike declamation. This may account for the cues over certain quarter notes, indicating that they would also be conducted and might well be played detached. Consider the cues over the two quarter notes in m. 11 of BWV 18/2 (facsimile enlarged and posted on the Bach Cantatas Group File area); here the cues help the players coordinate the transition from the secco to the linked arioso. The arioso thus begins only after the second quarter and not at the beginning of the bar.<<

On p. 125 Dreyfus states: >>The bassoon next joins in the secco recitative but is ‘tacet’ in the expansive 3rd mvt. except to play ‘colla parte’ from time to time with the vocal basses.<< [This is another indication that the bassoon, for whatever reason, be it greater volume or more unusual timbre, needs to be cut back or restricted from playing all the time as most other instruments in the core group do.]

On p. 90 Dreyfus states: >>Among the performance materials for two cantatas from the intervening years, Cantatas BWV 18 (1713?) and BWV 185 (1715), are autograph bassoon parts in which Bach notated the only secco recitative in quarter notes and rests. Thcorresponding movements in the organ, cello, and violone parts are, however, notated in the long values…[Because Bach specifically wants them played that way!] Above the long notes in the secco recitatives of all the continuo parts for both cantatas BWV 18 and BWV 185 is a set of small vertical strokes resembling the staccato marks frequently used by Bach and his contemporaries. Each stroke corresponds to a quarter note in the bassoon part, as can be seen by comparing the corresponding passages in the ‘Violoncello’ and ‘Fagotto’ parts for Cantata BWV 18. Moreover, since Bach squeezed his continuo figures in the organ part for Cantata BWV 18 around the cues, they are surely original and most likely reminded the continuo players to shorten their bass note. It is even conceivable that Bach himself gestured at the same moment to bring everyone in together. The cues, of course, might only have directed the player’s eye to the next change of chord without indicating anything about short accompaniment.<< [The latter sentence contains an interesting insight that sheds light upon the more obvious reasons rather than the esoteric ones.]

Dreyfus on BWV 185 and the BWV 185/4 ‘Recitative’ in particular:

On p. 248 (footnote) he states:
>>The existence of two different bassoons at Weimar helps to clarify the performance history of two works [one of these, BWV 18, was already included above]. In Cantata BWV 185, two new continuo parts were copied in Weimar after the completion of the first part-set (Dürr, ‘Studien, pp. 32-33). The oboe part, playing in A minor (‘Tief-Cammerton’) was initially pitted against the string and bassoon in F# minor (‘Chorton’). But for some reason (either at a subsequent performance or because of a change to oboes in high ‘Cammerton) two new continuo parts were copied in G minor. (The A minor oboe part would then have constituted a part in high ‘Cammerton.’) The new part-titles read ‘Violone’ and ‘Violoncello,’ but these are mere copies of their exemplars. Since string players could easily tune their instruments up a half step, as the violinists ‘must’ have done, why did the cellist and violonist not follow suit? In fact, to account for these new continuo parts, one must imagine that these players in fact retuned. For only two players – both with fixed instruments in ‘Chorton’—could not retune: the bassoonist and the organist. Only they would have found the parts in F# useless. To retain the use of his ‘Chorton’ bassoon in the performance, Bach therefore needed a new continuo part at the new ‘Chorton’ pitch. (Dürr mentions this possibility, but it conflicts with his previous contention that the Weimar bassoons played in ‘Cammerton.’) Nonetheless, Bach’s refinements in the Weimar bassoon part (see the following section in the text) would not then have been heard at this performance in G. Nor could they have been heard at the Leipzig performance of Cantata BWV 185 in June of 1723, when the performing pitch was in G (‘Cammerton’) with a bassoon at the same pitch. Indeed, if Bach’s oboe at high ‘Cammerton’ became disabled before the first Weimar performance, it is conceivable that the details of the autograph bassoon part were never realized at any performance.<<

p. 242 footnote 42 >>Only one long note in BWV 185/4 (measure 5) is missing a cue stroke, probably the result of an oversight.<<

The NBA score shows this in the file I have uploaded : BWV185M4NBAWeimar.jpg

This footnote follows the text on p. 91:
>>But where Heinichen had vacillated about a systematic application of short accompaniment, Bach was consistent. In the bassoon parts, Bach invariably used quarter notes for every “reduction.” Moreover, the staccato cues in all three cantatas [BWV 18, BWV 31, and BWV 185] are likewise distributed consistently across the parts in the designated movements. Except in these three early cantatas, Bach never again employed cues for short accompaniment, probably because – as Lustig, Rousseau, and Schröter state – the convention became an automatic procedure. The presence of the cues thus suggests that Bach’s Weimar years saw not only the introduction of the recitative genres into his cantatas but also an awareness that the secco and accompagnato kinds required different manners of execution.<< [Bach is consistent! Thank you, Dr. Dreyfus, for explaining this for the present-day musicians who detest any aspect of consistency. What was that Emerson quote about consistency again?] {Lustig (1754), Rousseau (1768), Schröter (1772) all of these late sources from another period of musical history.]

p. 156 : >>When the violas play the ritornello, the violone is notated at the same pitch as the cello; when the violas are otherwise occupied, the violone plays at the lower octave. This change in notated octave, however, only makes sense for a violone at pitch. [Check for a possible explanation of this by the quote from the New Grove by Rodney Slatford that I shared recently: Praetorius explained how this 6-string instrument could be used either in the higher cello register or in the bass register as well] Bach never marked a Weimar violone part ‘tacet’ in any movement. Indeed, the violone parts for Cantatas BWV 199, 1895, and BWV 162 duplicate the corresponding cello parts. This may seem paradoxical given that just at this time the composer went out of his way to arrange bassoon parts so that this instrument’s part was reduced within a cantata. The Weimar parts therefore suggest that the violone played in an ordinary range that did not require special attention.<<

p. 124: >>In BWV 185, Bach decided on a reduced bassoon part in four of the movements. In Mvt. 1, he marked the bassoon ‘tacet;’ in Mvt. 2, he specified quarter-note values for the accompagnato recitative and omitted the bassoon from the adjacent arioso passage; in Mvt. 3, he included it in the instrumental tutti sections; and in Mvt. 4, he wrote out the short values for the secco recitative. In all these plans a copyist could never have arrived at these revisions (really orchestral decorations): they are dependent on an autograph part. Where Bach’s scores have not survived, it is likely that the extant bassoon parts contain similar arrangements that postdate the completion of the respective score To be sure, there are later instances in which an obbligato part appears in the 1st mvt. of the score; but even here Bach’s score usually ignores the bassoon in the subsequent mvts. It is therefore useful to consider the “deviations” in the Weimar parts more as refinements of performance practice than as conscious alterations in the original conception.<<

p. 119: Summary: the bassoon part for BWV 185 is pitched the same as the organ (in ‘Chorton.’)

p. 90: Following a section already quoted earlier (under BWV 18, above) >>…this explanation does not take into account the circumstances of Cantata BWV 185, in which Bach notated short values for the bassoon in the secco as well as the accompagnato recitative movements. It becomes difficult to argue, then, that the bassoonist realized the continuo part correctly in the secco mvts. but not in the accompagnato mvts, in which the other continuo players played the long notes as written. Indeed, the short notation in both recitative mvts. in Cantata BWV 185 tends to support Peter Williams’s view that Bach intentionally designed the short bassoon notes to articulate a particular timbre against the supposed ‘tenuto’ notes in the organ.<<

[Here we finally come full circle with Dreyfus conceding the rather obvious: the feature of the shortened noin the Weimar cantatas does not constitute a proof for the generalized esoteric doctrine that all continuo players in Bach’s performances played the long notes in secco recitatives in an abrupt (extremely truncated from the notated values) fashion.]

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 14, 2004):
Laurence Dreyfus, on p. 91 of his “Bach’s Continuo Group” (Harvard University Press, 1987) had stated, as I had just pointed out in the previous posting:
>>Bach was consistent. In the bassoon parts, Bach invariably used quarter notes for every “reduction.” Moreover, the staccato cues in all three cantatas [BWV 18, 31, and 185] are likewise distributed consistently across the parts in the designated movements.<<

Now I have found the following two statements which corroborate and add further depth to the Dreyfus' statement which referred only to the staccato cues in the bassoon parts:

John Butt, on p. 131 of his “Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in the Primary Sources of J. S. Bach (Cambridge University Press, 1990,) stated:
>>Yet, as the present survey [Butt’s own] shows, and as both Dürr and Dadelsen have concluded, Bach did ‘aim’ at consistency of markings. The consistencies vastly outweigh the inconsistencies.<<

It might be interesting to consider how this would carry over into Bach’s actual performance practices where he might as easily make changes in the orchestration as he would change registrations on an organ (or from one organ to the next, from one performance to the next), but when it came to the matter of performance style (deciding which notes should be treated as dotted or slurred,) he would remain consistent. He would ‘spell out’ exactly what he wanted in terms of note duration, articulation and the use of musical figures and melismas (diminutions.) By doing so, he knew he would help to raise the stylistic level of performance of those performers who were less competent and artistically gifted (those who would follow ‘only the notes as written’) while at the same time he would prevent other highly qualified or self-promoting artists from ‘destroying’ or ‘distorting’ the essential beauty of his compositions by the use of over-embellishment or bizarre, whimsical enhancements made at the spur of the moment and not according to the level of good taste which Bach could support.

Butt, on p. 140:
>>Bach’s approach to articulation and its development within the compositional history of each piece is symptomatic of his attitude to composition itself: the details are often amplified and clarified with progressive unity and symmetry of material. However, the basic fabric and identity of each piece and its corresponding articulation are seldom altered after the initial stages of composition. As H. Grüß (“Über Stricharten und Artikulation in Streichinstrumentenstimmen Johann Sebastian Bachs,” IB V, 1988, p. 334) observes, when a movement is carefully marked by Bach (particularly if solo lines are involved,) articulation is no longer left to the whim of the performer, ‘sondern formuliert eine zusätzliche Ebene von musikalischem Zusammenhang’ (‘but forms an additional level of musical coherence.’)<<

Here we can begin to ascertain the great divergence in recent decades between those conductors/performers, on the one hand, who wish to preserve at all costs the wide range of freedom of interpretation of Bach’s scores and those, on the other hand, who more faithfully submit to Bach’s intentions by adhering more closely to the best editions of Bach’s scores that are now available.

Answer to this message, see also: Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in the Primary Sources of J. S. Bach [Books]

Cara wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I have to agree with you in the fact that the organ does not drown everything out.

For the organ continuo (Violoncello+violone+organ), what Bach and most The composer had to also indicate when organ continuo was to be used.the Baroque composers intent was for only the 8ft. and higher stops to be used, unless otherwise noted. The composer usually indicated when organ was in the scoring. (There would be a little note by the continuo part.) Otherwise, performance uses standard continuo ('cello, bass, harpsichord) and figured bass.

Dale Gedcke wrote (April 15, 2004):
Direct access to excerpts from Bach's manuscripts

[To Thomas Braatz] I have an intense desire to view the excerpts of the original Bach scores you referenced below and posted to the Bach Cantatas site. But, I find that the direct links end up with a "page not available" message, and my ID and password are not working properly with the Yahoo discussion group site. I suspect these problems are related to my company's firewall preventing the use of cookies.

Would you be so kind as to forward those two files directly to my e-mail account at [xxx]. I would very much appreciate that favor. I find your research into previous documents discussing the notation Bach employed to be very intriguing.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 15, 2004):
Dale Gedcke inquired: >>Would you be so kind as to forward those two files directly to my e-mail account at [xxx].<<
I am certain that if we kindly ask Aryeh Oron to place these .jpg's on his site, he may comply when he has time to preserve them there so that they will always be available to anyone at any point in the future. I am planning soon to remove them from the Yahoo site since they create a great amount of clutter and become more and more difficult to find.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz & Dale Gedcke] Following Tom's message, I have prepared a page with the relevant examples from the scores relating to the topic of 'Minims'.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/Minim-Sco.htm
[If you press on an example, you will get an even larger image]

There is a link to this page at the bottom of: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Minim.htm

John Pike wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Dale Gedcke] Yes. A very helpful discussion.

Dale Gedcke wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks very much for making the excerpts of Bach's scores easy to find and see. Seeing the examples makes a big difference in perception.

My ignorance of the wealth of research that has already been done on Bach's notation will be evident in the next question. So please bear with me, and EXPERTS, please educate me.

The vertical lines above the notes on the bottom staff do indeed coincide with the position of the quarter notes (crotchets) on the middle staff of the score, ... in most cases. But, I see one or two cases where that is not true (e.g., bar 11 of the first example, BWV 185 Mvt. 4 Weimar version). Could it be that Bach was using the vertical lines to call for an accent in the attack to the long notes? That accent by the continuo would be reinforced by the short duration of the crotchet played by the Fagatto (Bassoon).

In a recent performance of the Crucifixus from the Mass in B-Minor, the bass violinist in the Oak Ridge Community Orchestra noticeably (but not harshly) accented the beginning of the semi-breves and tied minims. It created a rather pleasing throbbing sound that established a very definite pace for the chorus. It gave the music a firm underpinning, and a feeling that it was going somewhere in a determined fashion. Is that what Bach intended by the vertical lines above some of the minims and semi-breves?

What other evidence do we have concerning what Bach meant by the vertical line above the notes?



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Last update: ýApril 19, 2004 ý08:43:38