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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 15

 

 

Continue from Part 14

Tutti designations

Doug Cowling
wrote (December 16, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < For one thing, the entity "the full choir" in the above is the thing to be proven itself. >
The designation of "tutti" is a very tricky thing to interpret. In Gabrieli and Monteverdi it merely means that a "verse" or passage for a reduced number of lines has ended and all the forces enter. It is fairly certain than Venetian music was all OVPP in the 16th and 17th centuries .. And probably Vivaldi's San Marco music as well.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 16, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "From the perspective of the audience/congregation, were the singers standing in front of or behind the orchestra?"
The orchestra surrounded the singers in half circle.

"Wish I could have been there to hear the concert; tantalizing. That's one of my favorite Baroque orchestras, and I wish they'd be recording more."
I was a little bit frustrated because the ensemble was fabulous indeed, but the problematic balance between the OVPP choir and the orchestra, so important in Bach's vocal works, left me half-satisfied. But in the second half they performed a work of CPE. Bach, which was unfamiliar to me. For that work a small choir was used and I enjoyed it much more. Preferring CPE Bach to his father? I have never dreamt it would happen to me.

"It's already been 11 years since their excellent disc of cantatas 82, 49, 58; and 20+ years since their B Minor Mass (conducted by Leonhardt)."
Not exactly. In 1999 Kuijken recorded with his ensemble 3 cantatas in OVPP mode. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Kuijken.htm [C-3]
I have heard better OVPP Bach, but it is only my view. Others are more enthusiastic.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Kuijken-C3.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: >>Are you suggesting that in Bach's performances adult voices (tenors or basses) sang from the same copy as children (trebles and possibly altos)?<<
How could adult voices (tenors or basses) be singing from the same copy as children (trebles and possibly altos)? Are you aware that, contrary to present-day choral concerts where each singer sings from a complete (piano-reduction) score, Bach's parts customarily had only a single voice part for S, A, T, B. This part contained everything that this voice had to sing, the concertists, the ripienists, solo recitatives and arias. Only very occasionally have special ripieno parts been found.

Eric Bergerud wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Another problem which demonstrates the lack of forthrightness on the part of Parrott and Rifkin is the fact that on the recording of Bach's Magnificat (Veritas) with the Taverner Players, none of the instrumentalists are listed, nor does Rifkin with his 'Bach Ensemble' which plays on the L'Oiseau-Lyre (Double Decca) and Decca editions of Bach cantatas (OVPP) give an accounting of the 'doubling' of instrumental parts, if there was any at all beyond that which Bach required based upon the original set of parts. Perhaps this is one major reason why I and perhaps many other listeners who hear these recordings 'still seem to get confused on this issue.'
It would be helpful if you could supply some definitive statement/quote by Rifkin perferably, or otherwise Parrott, where this issue of OPPP is clearly delineated as to under which conditions the 'not ALL' rule above does or does not apply. >
I have the Parrott Magnificant in front of me. The Veritas edition (very nice, I like it a lot) is a reissue of an EMI publication from 1990. The Rifkin works Mr. Braatz lists below may also be budget priced reissues (my double CD editions are). In any case, liner notes in reissues are often very spare - the Veritas edition certain is. Parrott's wonderful collection of Bach's big vocal works is in a similiar state - good for the bank account, bad for the consumer's musical education. Get what you pay for. I really rather doubt the issue has anything to do with scoring debating points by hiding something. Better to blame the bean counters and be glad companies reissue perfectly good older recordings for those of us not related to Bill Gates.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 16, 2004):
>>Are you suggesting that in Bach's performances adult voices (tenors or basses) sang from the same copy as children (trebles and possibly altos)?<<
< How could adult voices (tenors or basses) be singing from the same copy as children (trebles and possibly altos)? Are you aware that, contrary to present-day choral concerts where each singer sings from a complete (piano-reduction) score, Bach's parts customarily had only a single voice part for S, A, T, B. This part contained everything that this voice had to sing, the concertists, the ripienists, solo recitatives and arias. Only very occasionally have special ripieno parts been found. >
Of course that's true, that the singers normally had individual parts seeing only their own line. That's well documented in the literature about Bach's vocal music. But, why assume that Gabriel Jackson (who asked the question) would not already know that? He is a professional composer, and well-read in issues of Bach's vocal music, including long-time membership on this list. The topic has come up before.

His question, in context of the present discussion, challenges the notion that people of vastly different heights would be singing from a single shared part in Bach's churches...and by candlelight, no less. The burden of proof is clearly upon anyone who would assert that such a situation was normal for Bach. Some questions to add to Gabriel's:

- First of all, weren't most of Bach's church performances in daylight? Even in the winter, in Germany, it's light by midmorning and into early evening.

- Second, why assume that all singers sharing a part would each be holding candles?

- Third, what evidence is there that any of Bach's singers normally held candles?

- Fourth, how do the existing parts tell us anything one way or another about the heights of the singers?

- Fifth, how is any of this rationalization (as a whole) more elegant than the simpler assumption that each singer had his own part in hand, period?

- Sixth, as Parrott's book explains, that absence of extra ripieno parts for most pieces (other than special festive occasions) is a decent argument that there never were any additional parts; that the single part, for a single singer, was normally it. Why would any presumably additional parts have been destroyed or lost, so selectively, leaving only a single copy of each in existence?

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 16, 2004):
What experts allegedly "never even considered"

< Has Parrott even considered that Bach cantatas contain many recitatives and arias where the same student voices that participate in singing the choral parts do not necessarily join in when the full choir is not needed? Regarding the accuracy of spatial relationships in iconographic evidence of this sort, I have already made some necessary comments on how these sources are to be understood properly. >
How long, O Lord, must we be subjected to such allegations that experts are all ignorant pied pipers, and that expert processes of research and publication are inferior to self-guided illogical little pieces of polemic?

For one thing, the entity "the full choir" in the above is the thing to be proven itself. Is it four people, or more than four? To derive a plausible answer, it's improper to start from a premise that "the full choir" is 12ish, or whatever, and then accuse the opposite side (i.e. people who don't start from that premise) that they are thoughtless and ignorant. The phrase "Has Parrott even considered..." is just such an accusation! Such argumentation--which is both illogical and personally abusive--starts from the premise that Parrott's conclusion is wrong, the premise that the result is already k, and it's then advanced (not at all) by the accusation that he wasn't even smart enough to think things through.

By contrast, Parrott's argument is valid. It starts from the premise that no particular number of singers is known ahead of time and that that is what must be derived from the historical and practical evidence (and its proper understanding). He builds the case carefully and soundly, presenting sufficient positive evidence and addressing the plausible objections along the way.

- It's sufficient to convince experts who bring the open mind of sharing that initial premise (i.e. the not knowing beforehand what the result "must" be), and who are willing and able to go try the results out in practice as further confirmation or refutation.

- It's sufficient to convince logically-minded people that the results are plausible, even if they personally happen not to like what those results are; at least the argument itself is sound.

- If it doesn't convince illogical people, who would only read a foregone conclusion backwards and turn it into an abusive polemic against expertise, well, that's neither here nor there.

Parrott's argument does not stand or fall on the ability to convince people who are unable to follow a valid logical argument. Such a scenario only says that such illogically-minded people are not qualified to judge Parrott's work, one way or another. They might have subjective reactions to it, but such reactions do not constitute proof or disproof of the work.

And, as seen above, when such illogical people feel they're in the right and experts are absolutely in the wrong, they try to do something about it--at their own peril. Are they convincing? No. All they come up with is the inconsequential tactic of abusing the expert, and abusing the whole process of expert work (where it's the expert's job to think through all reasonable possibilities), just because they happen not to fancy his conclusions or understand his process of deriving them. It's not proof or disproof, but merely a venting of their own biases. Illogical people can't keep premises and conclusions apart, especially their own. It's all a jumble in which nothing is knowable to them, except by their own guesswork. Reason has no place. So, they resort to abuse, trying to discredit not the argument but the person presenting it. It doesn't prove their own opinion is sound. It doesn't prove anything. All it does is to generate a bunch of circumstantial nonsense.

Such abusive attacks against Parrott and his work (in the example seen here) merely demonstrate circumstantially that the attacker is unqualified to judge the work, and inclined to be personally abusive and contemptuous when he's in over his head, unable to formulate a sound argument.

Same old same old. The failure to comprehend elementary logic and the elementary building of a case leads to the same old traps, again and again.
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/dilettante.htm#fallacies

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "How could adult voices (tenors or basses) be singing from the same copy as children (trebles and possibly altos)? Are you aware that, contrary to present-day choral concerts where each singer sings from a complete (piano-reduction) score, Bach's parts customarily had only a single voice part for S, A, T, B."
Precisely. Which is one of the reasons why your experimnt, which involved two adults standing behind two children (we were told) all singing from the same copy, is of little value.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>Information on researchers' views, theses and evidence should be based on reading their scholarly work, not on what information the record companies choose to include in their commercial releases. (Even when they write the notes themselves, they're usually required to be brief, and therefore cannot give full details on all the evidence<<
It would not take very much space in these crucial notes upon which many listeners depend to state: "Contrary to popular misconceptions, the OVPP theory allows for more than one voice to be singing per part when concertists and ripienists are called for, otherwise OVPP is preferred. [The soloists are listed by name and category.] With the OPPP theory the situation is reversed since Bach explicitly called for more than a single player per part in his 'Brief yet highly necessary outline of a properly constituted church musical establishment...' where Bach, for all of the major instruments (not violone or kettledrums,) calls for doubling (sometimes even tripling) all the instrumental parts." [The instrumental soloists are not enumerated by instrument and name of the soloists, because the recording company does not deem them to be very important. Just imagine how much space a dozen or two names listed under the instrument categories would take up in a booklet already quite a number of pages long!]

>>...a scholarly article would still provide much more information). Parrott's book is, of course, a useful starting point, but it doesn't claim to include all the information -- that's why it has a detailed bibliography (so that anyone interested can go to the library and find out more).<<
Yes, a bibliography is truly helpful, but why has Parrott not been able to extract succinctly from this bibliography the key points upon which the theory is based? It would seem that a proper summary of the OVPP theory (Chapters: Conclusions, Epilogue) would cover in orderly fashion and reiterate the key points of the theory rather than listing and attacking the 'conventional image of Bach's choir' at this late
stage of the book. All of this should have been covered earlier. Of course, much of this is due to Rifkin's insistence upon playing a shell game with Bach's 'pool' of singers and instrumentalists.

>>In particular, Rifkin's statement of his central claim in Early Music, May 1997, p. 305: "ripienists did not read from the same music [i.e. the same parts] as concertists". That is, the singers who sang in arias and choruses alike (concertists) did not read from the same parts as the singers who took part ONLY in choruses (ripienists).<<
Rifkin, in order to sustain his argument about the OVPP theory is forced to state this (that the ripienists did not read from the same music [i.e., the same parts] as concertists.) This assumes that the division between concertists and ripienists only took place in those few instances when ripieno parts were found. There are other cantatas where the division between concertists and ripienists may have taken place without a separate part being copied out for each group. Then both groups would sing from the same sheet of paper and the ripienists, perhaps upon a signal from Bach, would know when to enter as they sang from the same sheet/part. This, of course, would destroy Rifkin's general theory about OVPP because it depends upon having one singer sing from the only available part that has been found in the original set of parts.

>>This has nothing to do with instrumentalists.<<
No, because Bach, as stated above, did not allow much 'wiggle' room on this point. Even Scheibe seems to agree on the larger size of the orchestra.

>>One thing is true: Rifkin did claim that in some specific circumstances, players did not share parts either; but he does not claim that this was ALWAYS the case.<<
Ah, back to the rigid logical categories again. That should help get Rifkin off the hook.

What is Rifkin claiming here? That the timpanist did not share his part with anyone else, but that otherwise Bach's statement given above is quite irrefutable?

>>And did they really argue that this claim applies universally, to all music -- or even to all of Bach's music?<<
You don't really expect me to answer a loaded question such as this which presses all knowledge into extreme categories so that they can be manipulated easily with neat syllogisms?

>>This will be my last contribution to the debate at this stage.<<
This is unfortunate when degreed individuals retreat into their ivory towers.

Let me sumwhat I have learned from this discourse:

1.) The actual size of the orchestra conducted by the chief proponents of the OVPP theory can not be easily ascertained. This is important because this discussion is all about attempting to understand the balance between the 4 vocalists and the orchestra in a typical Bach cantata performance.

2.) Rifkin's theory and Parrott's book, as Uri correctly pointed out, do not require OPPP because Bach explicitly pointed out his requirements in this regard. If, as Rifkin argues with his shell-game regarding Bach's 'pool' of singers and instrumentalists, the doubling and tripling of instrumental parts was desired by Bach, then the OVPP theory becomes more likely because possible singers that could otherwise be available for singing a part would be pressed into doing service as instrumentalists rather than singing. This only really works if you believe this part of Rifkin's argument. Without believing in Rifkin's narrowly defined 'pool' idea, and allowing Bach the freedom of pulling in 'outsiders' [those not enrolled as pupils at the St. Thomas School], the theory loses its necessary support and the house of cards collapses.

Doug Cowling wrote (December 16, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < In this experiment, which were you, one of the smaller pupils or one of the young adults? How tall are the boys in front allowed to be, under this arrangement, and how tall do the adults behind them have to be? How much higher do the adults behind have to stand? What happens in this performing arrangement when taller boys are involved? Or shorter adults? How much music did you sing in this experiement? Are you suggesting that in Bach's performances adult voices (tenors or basses) sang from the same copy as chilren (trebles and possibly altos)? >
There is plenty of iconographic evidence going back to the middle ages for several people reading from the same music on a lectern. This however tends to be large scale choir book format for chant. It continued as late as the 18th century. There are plenty of examples of single sheafs of music being shared by three singers -- see the choir loggia sculptures in Florence. Whether any of this iconography tells us anything about Bach is debatable. Two singers sharing one copy is common practice even today ("I forgot my music -- can we share?"). I once shared a copy for a whole performace of Messiah with a very short colleague and was ready murder him by the end of Part I.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 16, 2004):
Doug Cowling writes: "There is plenty of iconographic evidence going back to the middle ages for several people reading from the same music on a lectern. This however tends to be large scale choir book format for chant."
Polyphony too, but as you say, those copies were very large. But in the 'experiment' cited, we are tild that two children and two adults sung from a soprano part (or was it a bass part, perhaps?).

"Two singers sharing one copy is common practice even today ("I forgot my music -- can we share?"). I once shared a copy for a whole performace of Messiah with a very short colleague and was ready murder him by the end of Part I."
Indeed, and as your story shows, it is not always a satisfactory arrangement.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "It would not take very much space in these crucial notes upon which many listeners depend to state: "Contrary to popular misconceptions, the OVPP theory allows for more than one voice to be singing per part when concertists and ripienists are called for, otherwise OVPP is preferred. [The soloists are listed by name and category.] With the OPPP theory the situation is reversed since Bach explicitly called for more than a single player per part in his 'Brief yet highly necessary outline of a properly constituted church musical establishment...' where Bach, for all of the major instruments (not violone or kettledrums,) calls for doubling (sometimes even tripling) all the instrumental parts." [The instrumental soloists are not enumerated by instrument and name of the soloists, because the recording company does not deem them to be very important. Just imagine how much space a dozen or two names listed under the instrument categories would take up in a booklet already quite a number of pages long!]"
Perhaps this should be taken up with Virgin/EMI!! To cite the decision of a booklet note editor at a record company as evidence of the performer's obfuscation is strange, to put it mildly.

"The actual size of the orchestra conducted by the chief proponents of the OVPP theory can not be easily ascertained. This is important because this discussion is all about attempting to understand the balance between the 4 vocalists and the orchestra in a typical Bach cantata performance."
Yes it can. By using one's ears. It can also be ascertained, for those who cannot hear, by consulting the booklet credits for recordings by Parrott and Rifkin which do list the players.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>- First of all, weren't most of Bach's church performances in daylight? Even in the winter, in Germany, it's light by midmorning and into early evening.<<
Why do I get the impression that you have not examined carefully Schering's evidence which Aryeh posted today on his site? We are talking about Bach's cantata/passion performances at St. Nicholas's. Have you noticed how dark the choir loft is? Schering, who lived in Germany and spent time in Leipzig, commented on this darkness. He would seem to have a very good insight into this matter. If you have lived in Germany for a winter you would probably appreciate the fact that in winter the almost constant cloud cover reduces the lighting in such structures as St. Nicholas's immensely, even during the daytime.

Check out Albrecht Dürer's comment on the weather in Germany and how it affect his painting!

>>- Second, why assume that all singers sharing a part would each be holding candles?<<
No, I never assumed this. But it would be a more difficult lighting situation unless the choir members were huddled together in groups of four rather than being strung out in a line along the balcony perhaps. Then each singer might have to either hold a candle separately or have a candle holder nearby.

>>- Third, what evidence is there that any of Bach's singers normally held candles?<<
None, nor is there any evidence of candelabras that might have given out light for the entire choir loft. One thing is certain, they did not sing in the dark and what little light came from the nave of the church, it would be insufficient for reading the tiny notes on the page.

>>- Fourth, how do the existing parts tell us anything one way or another about the heights of the singers?<<
No comment. It would only irk you if I did come up with a reply.

>>- Fifth, how is any of this rationalization (as a whole) more elegant than the simpler assumption that each singer had his own part in hand, period?<<
Rifkin's rationalization is based, as I have pointed out in a previous message, on a shell-game that depends for its effectiveness upon the reader assuming Rifkin's rationalization that Bach had to have his orchestra populated with 2 or 3 instrumentalists per part. Once this is rigidly established without any flexibility on Bach's part (he could barely draw as needed from another important pool (in addition to the Town Pipers): other adults (excellent musicians who attended the university or worked in other professions,) then the game can begin as each choir is kept neatly within its bounds. The primary choir begins by losing most of its singers as they are assigned the necessary instrumental parts until there are less than eight or five singers left for actually singing the choir parts. Rifkin assumes, for the sake of his theory, that the 'game' was played according to the rules that he had established. However, this game can be played in other ways as well. Bach was certainly eminently inventive, probably more inventive than Rifkin, in figuring out how to get what he needed even if the Town Council would not grant him the monies he desired for this purpose (toavoid suffering from the dwindling talent that the St. Thomas School offered him.)

>>- Sixth, as Parrott's book explains, that absence of extra ripieno parts for most pieces (other than special festive occasions) is a decent argument that there never were any additional parts; that the single part, for a single singer, was normally it. Why would any presumably additional parts have been destroyed or lost, so selectively, leaving only a single copy of each in existence?<<
Because there most likely never were any other duplicate vocal parts copied out from the score in the first place. Bach found a way to make it work without adding more effort toward copying out the vocal parts from the score. Just as he did in his music, he managed to create the maximum effect with great resourcefulness. He accomplished this by what is seen in the iconographic evidence: 3 or 4 singers standing around in a group looking at a single part. It is true that some doublets of vocal parts may have been lost, particularly for very festive cantata performances where an even greater number of singers per part was needed. The absence of these doublets for most of the choral cantatas Bach performed proves nothing if one considers that Bach found a way to make possible the singing from one part by at least 3 or 4 singers.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: "The absence of these doublets for most of the choral cantatas Bach performed proves nothing if one considers that Bach found a way to make possible the singing from one part by at least 3 or 4 singers."
So now it's AT LEAST 3 or 4 singers! So even more could have sung from the same part? How, exactly, since the attempt to show how 4 singers could share a part involved all sorts of shenanigans about their heights, and about children and adults singing from a single voice part, which are not remotely credible?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2004):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>It is fairly certain than Venetian music was all OVPP in the 16th and 17th centuries....<<
Giulio Ongaro [Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press 2004, acc. 12/15/04] states the following:

>>Zarlino does not seem to have been greatly interested in composition, but a number of musicians at S Marco, notably the organists Claudio Merulo and Andrea and Giovanni Gabrieli, and the singers Giovanni Croce and Baldissera Donato, were composers of distinction. The period of Zarlino's direction saw a gradual expansion of the size and the duties of the chapel. The major change that occurred during Zarlino's tenure (1565-90) was the appointment in 1568 of a permanent group of instrumentalists to assist in the celebration of the most important feast days, a formalization of an existing practice. In subsequent decades the procurators added to this group: some of the instrumentalists were required to support the voices of the choir, others seem to have been hired exclusively to play instrumental music. On all major feast days this nucleus of instrumentalists was supplemented by anything from four to 14 additional players. The size of the choir varied, reaching a low point during the great plague of 1575-6, but often numbering close to 30 singers. The increase in the size of the performing forces, which continued into the early 17th century, mirrored the growing use of polychoral (cori spezzati) writing by Venetian composers, an idiom which dominated Venetian sacred compositions from the 1570s until well into the next century. Contrasts of sonority, of tessitura and of instrumental colour among the various groups became a distinctive trait of the Venetian style; Venetian composers also favoured lavish settings of texts found outside the Ordinary of the Mass. The amount of spatial separation between the choirs of instruments and voices used by composers such as Giovanni Gabrieli has often been overstated. Vocal polychoral pieces a due cori were generally performed with no spatial separation of the performing forces, but with a division between soloists and ripieno; the total number of singers could be as few as 12. Some of the most extravagant late 16th-century performances saw one group in each of the organ lofts, situated on either side of the altar, and a third group on a specially built temporary stage on the main floor of the church, not far from the main altar. This grandiose style, found both at S Marco and at the celebrations of the scuole, can be seen as the musical counterpart of the political writings that were establishing the so-called 'myth of Venice', a trend given great impetus by the aftermath of the victory at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571: this major naval defeat of the Ottoman Turks, in which the Venetian fleet played a leading role, was a source of civic pride and spurred the production of literary and artistic tributes.<<

Doug Cowling wrote (December 16, 2004):
Tutti designations

[To Thomas Braatz] I'm not sure if the Grove passage is being posted in support of my statement about Venetian OVPP or not, but it is worth remembering that the total number of singers listed as a "Choir" does not mean that they always sang as a group.

In establishments such as the Ducal Chapel of San Marco (it was not a cathedral), the Tudor Chapel Royal or the papal Sistine Chapel, the daily regimen of liturgies was enormous and polyphony was usually sung OVPP on a rota system. Some of Palestrina's manuscript scores actually have the singer's names noted in the composer's handwriting. When the Royal Abbey of Madrid where Victoria was appointed was being established the statutes specifically required multiple voices per part, perhaps necessary as a new development in choral sound.

McCreesh's recording of the Easter Mass at San Marco and the Vespers at San Rocco are fascinating for they frequently score a single voice against a large brass ensemble. Much ink has been spilt over whether Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers is OVPP or whether the "tutti" marking indicate "favoriti" soloists and "tutti" choirs.

We know that Bach's "choir" in fact had to function liturgically at several churches on Sunday as well provide innumerable ensembles for funerals.

Thomas Gebhardt wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Because there most likely never were any other duplicate vocal parts copied out from the score in the first place. Bach found a way to make it work without adding more effort toward copying out the vocal parts from the score. Just as he did in his music, he managed to create the maximum effect with great resourcefulness. He accomplished this by what is seen in the iconographic evidence: 3 or 4 singers standing around in a group looking at a single part. It is true that some doublets of vocal parts may have been lost, particularly for very festive cantata performances where an even greater number of singers per part was needed. The absence of these doublets for most of the choral cantatas Bach performed proves nothing if one considers that Bach found a way to make possible the singing from one part by at least 3 or 4 singers. >
I'm most curious to know what it is that you call iconographical evidence???!!!??

If you have found the long-searched-for iconographical evidence, please hurry up to publish it and become world-famous!

Useless to repeat what others (bravo and thank you, Brad!) have said before about premises (call it pre-assumptions, expectations... if you like)...

If we assume (just a hypothesis, no evidence at hand) that any "ripienists" (if there were any) joined in only for the "Choral" (in the German meaning of the word = hymn tunes) movements - why couldn't we believe that those ripienists were able to sing this whithout reading it... by heart. Even my just basically trained parish choir of nowadays has no problems to learn a 3-4-line "Choral" without music in hand (there are even singers who don't read music at all) and the words must have been well-known to St Thomas's pupils then...

Children learn very quickly. In my junior children's choir (5-9 years old girls and boys) we never use written music to sing from it in performance.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 16, 2004):
Doug Cowling writes: "I'm notsure if the Grove passage is being posted in support of my statement about Venetian OVPP or not, "
I couldn'r work that out either.

"Much ink has been spilt over whether Monteverdi's 1610 Vespers is OVPP or whether the "tutti" marking indicate "favoriti" soloists and "tutti" choirs."
If it is performed OVPP that gets rid of the sometimes rather clunky and unconvincing transitions between solo voice passages and those for the full choir. That, to my mind, is a very good argument in support of OVPP in this repertoire.

Doug Cowling wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Gebhardt wrote: < If we assume (just a hypothesis, no evidence at hand) that any "ripienists" (if there were any) joined in only for the "Choral" (in the German meaning of the word = hymn tunes) movements - why couldn't we believe that those ripienists were able to sing this whithout reading it... by heart. Even my just basically trained parish choir of nowadays has no problems to learn a 3-4-line "Choral" without music in hand (there are even singers who don't read music at all) and the words must have been well-known to St Thomas's pupils then... >
In most of the cantatas, the chorales are sung to new poetry and not the words known by the congregation. I find it interesting that people plead for large forces in the cantata chorales. I for one quite enjoy the transparency of sound which OVPP gives to Bach's complex harmonizations. There is nothing more turgid than a Bach chorale sung by a full choir, congregation on the melody with a large organ. I think part of the problem is that many people find concert performances of a cantata sound unfinished and wimpy because there isn't a big choral movement to balance the opening. The cantata of course makes perfect musical sense when it is returned to its proper liturgical position.

Anna Vriend wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < As far as having the other ripienists (in the case of BWV 127/1), simply memorize the intricacies of the remaining parts (A, T, B) from just a single viewing of it the preceding day, just consider yourself specially blessed if your junior children’s choir can accomplish this without difficulties and to the satisfaction of a truly critical audience! >
I think it is possible, although it is a matter of training and being used to it, as well. I have sung in choirs paperless (the whole choir, that is).

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2004):
Thomas Gebhardt wrote: >>I'm most curious to know what it is that you call iconographical evidence???!!!??
If you have found the long-searched-for iconographical evidence, please hurry up to publish it and become world-famous!<<
Andrew Parrott has already done so in his book "The Essential Bach Choir" [Boydell, 2000] pp. 121 and 55 with an illustration that comes closer to Bach's time and place than any of the other illustrations which Parrott offered. You can view this evidence on Aryeh's Bach Cantatas Website at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Ripieni-Examples.htm

Actually, this engraving has been around a long time and has been reprinted in many books concerning Bach.

The problem with this sort of iconographic evidence is in the interpretation.

Notice the following:

1710 was before Bach began his tenure in Leipzig. Renovations of the churches and modifications/installations of organs took place a few decades before, during, and within a few decades after Bach's time there. A lot of changes can happen in the intervening 13 years before Bach arrived, and many changes were effected during his tenure there as well.

The depiction is not photographic. This is certainly not the organ and/or choir loft(s) at St. Nicholas's (our discussion is supposedly centered upon this particular church in Leipzig.) The artists of that time who made engravings of this sort were not really interested in photographic representations. A long-standing tradition in art is one where people and objects are manipulated (changed in size, number and position) in order to focus upon people/objects considered to be more important than other details (for instance, in another engraving of the period, the pews of the church are reduced in number so that they might be more easily recognizable as pews in the printed engraving (this also means less work for the engraver - as long as the concept of a few pews is conveyed to the reader, it is sufficient and serves its purpose.) The laws of perspective, although discovered a few centuries earlier, are certainly not followed very strictly. There is an exaggeration of differences between the height of the adult singers and that of the boys (unless, of course, you think that 5- or 6-year-olds sang in Bach's cantatas.) It is very easy to conceive of the possibility that there were more pupils actually singing, but their presence is only hinted at by including just a few rather than the actual number that sang along.

>>If we assume (just a hypothesis, no evidence at hand) that any "ripienists" (if there were any) joined in only for the "Choral" (in the German meaning of the word = hymn tunes) movements - why couldn't we believe that those ripienists were able to sing this without reading it... by heart.<<
Take, for example, an opening choral mvt. of a chorale cantata by Bach (an example of BWV 127/1 in full score was posted recently: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV127-M1-3.htm
even the singing of the cantus firmus in such an opening chorale mvt. has its problems for the ripieni (assuming that they had only one rehearsal on a preceding Saturday before the cantata's first performance the following day as in Bach's time.) Even the simplest cantus firmus will undergo some modification/transformation by Bach. This would necessitate looking at the part and counting the rests carefully before an entrance, knowing where some subtle passing notes have been added to the original 'hymn tune,' and holding onto the final note longer than would be required by the original 'hymn tune.' As far as having the other ripienists (in the case of BWV 127/1), simply memorize the intricacies of the remaining parts (A, T, B) from just a single viewing of it the preceding day, just consider yourself specially blessed if your junior children's choir can accomplish this without difficulties and to the satisfaction of a truly critical audience!

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 16, 2004):
Bach cantata audiences "truly critical"

Thomas Braatz wrote: < As far as having the other ripienists (in the case of BWV 127/1), simply memorize the intricacies of the remaining parts (A, T, B) from just a single viewing of it the preceding day, just consider yourself specially blessed if your junior children's choir can accomplish this without difficulties and to the satisfaction of a truly critical audience! >
Where does this conjecture that Bach's congregations were "a truly critical audience" come from? Seems to me it's an additional premise that has been inserted here by Mr Braatz, having nothing to do with the historical record.

I don't mean to suggest that his congregations were uncritical dopes. Not at all. Merely that they probably weren't sitting there expecting the squeaky-clean exactitude that modern score-readers and consumers of recordings might expect or wish for, read back into a different milieu 260 years ago. Those premiere performances of cantatas were part of regular Christian worship services. They weren't concerts. All kinds of things happen during worship services as the spirit moves and as everybody goes with the flow, by abilities and the circumstances of the occasion. That's a point of congregational worship services, people coming together to worship God and be edified by the process of being together. Whatever happens, happens. It wasn't about music criticism or compositional pedagogy. It was about making appropriate sounds and filling appropriate amounts of time according to the themes othe day, advancing the theological presentation and drawing the congregation to pay attention to the enrichment of their souls.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (December 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "Where does this conjecture that Bach's congregations were "a truly critical audience" come from? Seems to me it's an additional premise that has been inserted here by Mr Braatz, having nothing to do with the historical record."
Also (though I may be wrong here) Thomas Gebhardt was surely referring to strightforward 4-part chorale settings rather than the elaborate "chorale prelude"-type movements such as that cited from BWV 127.

Anna Vriend wrote (December 17, 2004):
[To Doug Cowling] My comments inserted.

Doug wrote: < There is plenty of iconographic evidence going back to the middle ages for several people reading from the same music on a lectern. This however tends to be large scale choir book format for chant. It continued as late as the 18th century. There are plenty of examples of single sheafs of music being shared by three singers -- see the choir loggia sculptures in Florence. >
See for this the Cantoria di della Robbia, Firenze (Florence, Italy), Museo dell'Opera del Duomo or go to the following link: http://www.italica.rai.it/principali/argomenti/arte/della_Robbia/prot_2135.jpg
(there is also a second cantoria , with music making angels)

< Whether any of this iconography tells us anything about Bach is debatable. Two singers sharing one copy is common practice even today ("I forgot my music -- can we share?"). I once shared a copy for a whole performace of Messiah with a very short colleague and was ready murder him by the end of Part I. >
And with this I agree as well. Part sharing is quite common, but not very convenient. Which would plead for memorization of the music (and that is really not so difficult as you may think).

Anna Vriend wrote (December 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< - First of all, weren't most of Bach's church performances in daylight? Even in the winter, in Germany, it's light by midmorning and into early evening.
- Second, why assume that all singers sharing a part would each be holding candles?
- Third, what evidence is there that any of Bach's singers normally held candles? >
Singing with candles

I've done that and it is quite awkward. (music in one hand, candle in the other). Sharing a part with this seems a nightmare. Either sing without candles or without part. (On the other hand people presumable were used to mess around with candles more than we are in the 21st century.)

John Pike wrote (December 17, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: >>Have you ever tried singing from a copy that is shared with three other people?!! Think about it.....<<
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I have, with Bach's circumstances in mind: two of smaller pupils stand in front of (and below) another two (young) adults who are much taller. The latter can easily see over the heads of the younger singers. >
How very convenient for them to arrange their heights in this way!

John Pike wrote (December 17, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] [The message was deleted]

Doug Cowling wrote (December 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < I don't mean to suggest that his congregations were uncritical dopes. Not at all. Merely that they probably weren't sitting there expecting the squeaky-clean exactitude that modern score-readers and consumers of recordings might expect or wish for, read back into a different milieu 260 years ago. Those premiere performances of cantatas were part of regular Christian worship services >
There was a fascinating article in "Early Music" a few years back (help?) which undertook a social study of Bach congregation including the politics of seating and pew rental. As would be expected, the congregation was a microcosm of Leipzig society and legal obligations to attend church produced a variety of behaviours. Some arrived just in time for the cantata, some just as the cantata was ending before the service. My favourite was the verger charged with making sure young men in the galleries were not ogling damsels of the parish.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 17, 2004):
[To Doug Cowling] At: http://www.music.qub.ac.uk/~tomita/bachbib/bb-complex.html put "EarlyM" in the Series box. Any of the 110 results look familiar as to the article you mention? I'm interested to read it, too, whichever one it
is....

Don't miss this one by Siegele: http://www.qub.ac.uk/music-cgi/bach2.pl?22=14030
as to the way Bach got the Leipzig job, among all the political mess. In this book:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0521587808
http://uk.cambridge.org/catalogue/catalogue.asp?isbn=0521587808

Doug Cowling wrote (December 17, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] This looks like it:

Kevorkian, Tanya: The Reception of the Cantata during Leipzig Church Services, 1700-1750. EarlyM, xxx/1 (2002), 26-45. ARTICLE

I will double check the reference when I can.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 17, 2004):
John Pike wrote: >>How very convenient for them to arrange their heights in this way!<<
I am very glad that you agree with my idea!

Anna Vriend wrote (December 17, 2004):
[To Thomas Gebhardt] I agree with this. Any choir could learn quickly to sing a choral paperless.



Continue on Part 16


Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
One-Voice-Per-Part (OVPP):
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Books about OVPP:
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Last update: ıMay 30, 2005 ı21:59:12