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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 17

 

 

Continue from Part 16

Full scores and performing scores

Doug Cowling wrote (January 31, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < The other evidence shows, among other things, that the set of original doublets (perhaps many of these have been lost) frequently went along with the autograph score, thus separating these additional parts from the original set of parts, which made losing them or misplacing them much easier and increased the probability that only the main set would survive. (The thinking on the part of the autograph score holder would be: "If I wanted to perform the cantata, I at least have the beginning of a set of parts and the rest I can copy out from the score" while the possessor of only the complete set of original parts (St. Thomas School in many instances) may not even have needed an additional score, although often a copy of the score was made from the parts themselves. >
I am fascinated by the notion of performing a work of Bach's from only parts. This of course was the norm in the Renaissance and early Baroque where there was no full score. When Mozart heard the motet, "Singet Den Herrn", there was no full score and so he spread the eight parts around him and read through it. For me, the marvel here is not Mozart's ease with reading the parts, but the conductor's ability to prepare such complex music without a full score. String quartets still do it, but there are few orchestras who can pull it off, and even fewer choirs.

Which leads me to another question: were Bach's full scores ever used as conducting scores or just as the reference for the copying of individual parts? The evidence suggests that Bach normally conducted as concertmaster playing violin or as a continuo player at the organ. As such he would have played from a single stand part. In the absence of a conductor with a full score, how were performers signalled that their aria or recit was coming up? Not that difficult in a six movement cantata, but in a work such as the SMP (BWV 244) there must have be a series of signals -- from the keyboard player? I know the work well but I would never trust my memory to tell me the precise sequence of movements.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 1, 2005):
< It is much more important to understand how more than one musician could sing or play from a single part. These are points that are conveniently overlooked by proponents of the OVPP theory. It was feasible, economical, time-saving, etc., and it was done. >
I have Parrott's 2000 book and Rifkin's 2002 book right here on my desk. I have read both of them, including all the footnotes. These scholars are not ignorant or dishonest as alleged here, and they're not "conveniently overlooking" evidence as alleged here.

Parrott's book has already been discussed here quite a bit, which see.

Rifkin's book is a closely argued 29-page essay, supported by 24 additional pages of footnotes in a smaller font, including well over a hundred pertinent references. The whole is a carefully balanced and impeccably REASONED argument, especially with regard to the scope and the thrust of Bach's own words and arguments. (Part of my experience with this book was in taking it along to the dentist's waiting room for something stimulating, instead of wasting time with trade magazines about fluff. There's always opportunity to spend odd otherwise-wasted moments improving oneself by reading excellent work....)

Rifkin is especially careful in his arguments to engage the material directly, and not to let any of it get wittered down with any accusations of ad hominem destructiveness. Instead of arguing against other scholars by name, he argues with their material as presented in the flow of the paper, and then documents the names/sources in the footnotes. Bravo!

No, not all the scholars agree with Rifkin's resulting thesis, which has many parts to it. The debate continues. But the debate IS REASONABLE and it respects that other real scholars are not stupid or dishonest.

In the book Rifkin remarks that this essay has been in development and refinement for more than a dozen years, through public presentations and ongoing research cycles in consultation with colleagues.

Furthermore, Rifkin himself (outside this book) is a composer and a practical keyboard player, and a conductor of Bach's music, with a whole career of experience in all of this. He knows this stuff inside out from both a scholarly and practical angle, and HE IS NOT MAKING UP STUFF, let alone deliberately overlooking evidence. The disrespectful allegations and arbitrary speculations of would-be critics who don't bring any of this background themselves, either in formal scholarship or musical practice, really have no bearing here whatsoever.

Rifkin's thesis stands up for study BECAUSE IT IS REASONABLE, and not merely because he's eminently qualified to have written it; but his qualifications in writing it have deeply informed the work itself, and have caused it to be very carefully thought out. I appreciate that. It's brilliant work, and Parrott's earlier book has presented it well also (to a more popularized level of audience). These two books make a nice complementary pair. I recommend both.

=====

I commend Dr Pike both for his question about resolving the Wolff vs Rifkin/Parrott apparent inconsistencies, and his stated enterprise to follow it up by getting a copy of the Rifkin book and reading it. That's an excellent and responsible way to handle a difficult question: by reading and grappling with the published work, to see the level of debate that has already taken place.

As for the vast camp of straw-people "proponents of the OVPP theory" (which evidently includes me, as one who takes the Rifkin/Parrott books seriously), we're straw-people who are all allegedly too clueless and misguided to think about the right things. Insult taken.

=====

Besides, the remark above about "feasible, economical, time-saving, etc." multiple singers on a copy is based on a foregone conclusion! It's the old PREMISE that those parts were typically to be sung by any more than one singer in the performance. That PREMISE is the thing that Rifkin's research questions, to see if that anachronistic expectation from later is really borne out by the historical record around Bach. And obviously, Rifkin's work can't be refuted simply by reasserting that premise repeatedly against him. (Basic reasoning, 101.) Is it quicker to hand-copy one copy of a part, than to do three? Duh. But the premise that Bach would even need performance-day material for approximately three singers on a single voice part (whether that's one piece of paper, or three, or whatever), that's the thing under examination here!

=====

One of the sideways ideas that occurred to me while reading Rifkin's book is: multiple singers could indeed rehearse the music from a shared part, just so several of the boys in the elite "concertist" group would be prepared to take it over if there was illness/absence of the assigned boy for the performance. They could do this anywhere, not being restricted to the choir loft. Lessons with Bach or other students accompanying the rehearsal on harpsichord, etc. Plus it would be good for their all-round educations for multiple singers to work on it, even if they wouldn't be in the final performance. It's good teaching material, the same way that other student musicians regularly work on music to learn technique/interpretation even if they won't play it in a definite concert.

It's also possible that different [solo] singers were used in different movements, from a single written-out part. Put in whatever boy learned it best, or sounds best, for each movement in particular. Whichever singers from the "roster" (Rifkin's term) make it into the one-to-a-part performance (the "lineup", deployment of musicians like the management of a baseball team) depends on their availability, their blend with the other soloists, and their preparedness to deliver the music. This seems obvious and practical to me, for feasibility. If a cantata has more than one "chorus" movement in it, what's to prevent it being different singers in the different movements, passing the written part around and getting up when it's their turn? And the solo movements and "chorus" movements could very well be the same people, or different people; whatever. The point is that it's one singer on each particular part at any given time, as the normal setup.

However many boys learned the parts of which movements, from however many copies on paper (generally "one" according to the extant record!), it's musical reasons that I find most compelling one way or another in decisions about number of singers. My carefully considered hunch is that the students typically had this set of parts to work on for some weeks, maybe even months, in advance of the scheduled performance. It's educational material for their ongoing edification, as much as any one-shot performance in church on a Sunday morning. And, the copying of a part, itself, is a music lesson for the person who writes it out, working from the score or from any other copy (whether the copyist is destined to be the performance singer of the part, or somebody else is). The educational process and the performance are both served by this. Seems simple, practical, and logical to me, expecting the copyist to learn something in the task. That's how Bach taught keyboard lessons, having students copy out his pieces into their own books. Why would he not do the same also for vocal or ensemble instruction, as the conductor and teacher?

Of course, now we'll be told here that my practical hunch in this matter is worth less than zero. I've had the disadvantaged background of being a church choirmaster, organist, composer, and keyboard accompanist of both soloists and groups. Therefore, my objectivity here is for naught (being too much colored by practical musical experience and knowing what really works as to balances, rehearsal techniques, etc), next to the objectivity of people who don't even bother to read books (e.g. Rifkin's) before dismissing them.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 1, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>In the absence of a conductor with a full score, how were performers signalled that their aria or recit was coming up?<<
They kept track of where they were in their own parts (very similar to orchestral parts today) and had markings in their score (but not cues in small notes of what immediately preceded their entry.) Bach had 'tacet' indicated in the parts: an instrumentalist who did not play in a certain mvt. like a recitative had "Recit. tacet" indicated on his part or perhaps "volti subito" at the bottom of the page at the end of a mvt. to remind the instrumentalist not to forget to turn the page quickly because he might be playing right at the beginning of the next mvt.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 1, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>I have Parrott's 2000 book and Rifkin's 2002 book right here on my desk. I have read both of them, including all the footnotes.<<
Certainly you will be able to share some specific information from Rifkin's book which does not repeat what has already been established in Parrott's. Any specific quotes from original sources from Bach's time in Leipzig would truly be helpful, or is this secret information that can not be divulged at the present time?

>>My carefully considered hunch is that the students typically had this set of parts to work on for some weeks, maybe even months, in advance of the scheduled performance.<<
This is contradicted by the evidence from the original sets of parts which you obviously have not considered carefully. I recently shared quotations from Alfred Dürr's "Bachs Werk vom Einfall bis zur Drucklegung" [Wiesbaden, 1989] which make such a 'carefully considered hunch' hardly worth taking seriously. The string parts were usually copied out first from the score when the score had just been finished. The vocal parts were the last to be completed with often the final chorale having to be added personally by Bach to a vocal part copied by someone else and left unfinished until Bach could supply its completion at that last moment before the rehearsal(s) would begin on Saturday before the Sunday performance. Possibly the last process was not completed until Saturday night when Bach added the 4-pt chorale which the Thomaner in that day could sight-read without difficulty.

Doug Cowling wrote (February 1, 2005):
Thomas Bratz wrote: < They kept track of where they were in their own parts (very similar to orchestral parts today) and had markings in their score (but not cues in small notes of what immediately preceded their entry.) Bach had 'tacet' indicated in the parts: an instrumentalist who did not play in a certain mvt. like a recitative had "Recit. tacet" indicated on his part or perhaps "volti subito" at the bottom of the page at the end of a mvt. to remind the instrumentalist not to forget to turn the page quickly because he might be playing right at the beginning of the next mvt. >
In the case of the Passions, do parts like the oboes da caccia, which do not play very often, have lists of tacet for all the movements?

Doug Cowling wrote (February 1, 2005):
<message deleted>

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 1, 2005):
[To John Pike] Personally, I rather doubt Rifkin's new book is going to end this debate. I've read Parrott's work closely (it includes Rifkin's original essay) and the interviews available onine given by Rifkin. As I stated a few weeks back the thesis is very strong, certainly responsible given the evidence, but given a lack of consensus must be considered "in play."

I think Mr. Braatz has put his finger on the real point of contention. Rifkin's supporters could support his interpretation of the Entwurff until the sun ceases to shine. I must say as a historian, I am very wary of interpretations based on "this isn't really what the author meant" arguments. That said, as a historian, I have often encountered documents that are indeed not clear. Clarity of expression is pretty rare actually and Bach was not a literary type. (This does not mean he wasn't an intellectual. His pals at Leipzig seem to have come from the faculty and student body of the University. We'll never know what they talked about over a mug of ale. But unlike Mozart, we don't have a large body of letters written by Bach. Those that do exist do not imply a gift for words.) And we certainly don't know what was said about the subject verbally - which no doubt constituted the bulk of a long running disgruntlement on Bach's part toward the music end of things at St. Thomas'. What strikes Rifkin and others today as being unclear was probably perfectly understood to those concerned in 1730.

So the sharing of parts issue, as I understand it, is indeed a very big deal. Does anyone know if a "conventional" multi-part choir has ever tried sharing music on a sustained basis the way Wolff, Koopman and others have argued was done by Bach? To the best of my knowledge nobody has actually tried OVPP with boys to see if they could handle the issues concerning balance and projection. I would think a little "laboratory work" might be interesting here.

Bismarck once said that if we solved all of the world's problems our grandchildren would grow bored. I don't see boredom setting in on this issue in the next few weeks.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 1, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>In the case of the Passions, do parts like the oboes da caccia, which do not play very often, have lists of tacet for all the movements?<<
The oboe da caccia part does not exist as a separate entity. It, along with the part for the oboe d'amore is included in the SMP "Hautbois 1 & 2. Chori 1mi parts. The NBA KB describes this part as having numerous tacet or pause markings for the missing mvts. (when the oboes do not play. I have a facsimile of one page of a flauto traverso part for the SJP. It shows what might be the flute part for an aria conclusion at the top after which there are numerous vertical rest marks (perhaps these are countable) with two indecipherable letters above it {ij?); then a treble & key signature followed by notes of a choralto be played. The first three words of the chorale are written under the first notes. Then an 'Aria tacet' follows and a 'Recit. tacet' follow with something scratched out between them. Another treble & key signature follow with the first 5 words of the chorale indicated (the flute obviously plays along with the singers in this chorale and the earlier one listed here.) Then there is a 'Recit. tacet' and below that a large 'Volti.'

The NBA KBs indicate each and every movement when an instrument does not play by using the number of the mvt. enclosed with parentheses for mvts. which have no notes. They do not specifically count or designate when rest marks or a tacet marking was used in each instance, but rest assured, it is either one or the other.

John Pike wrote (February 1, 2005):
Dale Gedcke wrote: > RE: The appended altercation on one versus multi players per part:
I can appreciate that more than one musician sharing a single part must have been a more frequent circumstance in the 1700s than it is today. Copying an additional part was a lot of work. They couldn't just say, "Hmmm, we need two more parts. I'll just pop over to the Xerox machine, and have two more copies instantaneously." >
I agree with this, but how many people might have shared a part. Personally, I would find it difficult to imagine more than 2 sharing a part. When presented with new music of the difficulty of Bach's concerted church music, it is difficult to see how more than 2 people could learn such hard music from scratch when using a handwritten manuscript. What would happen when they wanted to practice parts between formal rehearsals?

Another important consideration is just how many singers of a particular voice Bach had at his disposal in Choir 1 (the only choir to sing concerted church music). Again, I find it hard to believe that he could find more than say 2 singers of each voice range of the requisite standard to sing in choir 1, especially given that, as he pointed out himself in the Entwurff, many were often ill at any one time and, as is also known, some of the choir members would sometimes have to play instruments.

As I have said several times before, I am not sure what Bach's choral ideal was, other than the suggestion in the Entwurff, but I am pretty sure he rarely or ever reached more than 1 or 2 singers to a part, due to resources/circumstance. Anyway, I still eagerly await that Rifkin book "Bach's choral ideal".

John Pike wrote (February 1, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you for this but, in my mind, it poses more questions than it answers.

Wolff indeed suggests that Christel sold his manuscripts to Carl to pay for his passage to Italy.

However, I do not think that the evidence presented below is sufficient to account for Wolff's apparent certainty about how the manuscripts were divided up. I also think that it is insufficient to prove or disprove OVPP. It would be a mistake to assume that so many parts were "lost". They may never have existed in the first place, unless there is independent evidence stating that they did at one time exist.

John Pike wrote (February 1, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < It's also possible that different [solo] singers were used in different movements, from a single written-out part. Put in whatever boy learned it best, or sounds best, for each movement in particular. Whichever singers from the "roster" (Rifkin's term) make it into the one-to-a-part performance (the "lineup", deployment of musicians like the management of a baseball team) depends on their availability, their blend with the other soloists, and their preparedness to deliver the music. This seems obvious and practical to me, for feasibility. If a particular cantata has more than one "chorus" movement in it, what's to prevent it being different singers in the different movements, passing the written part around and getting up when it's their turn? And the solo movements and "chorus" movements could very well be the same people, or different people; whatever. The point is that it's one singer on each particular part at any given time, as the normal setup. >
There was a great deal in Brad's e mail that I strongly agreed with.....good, practical thinking from someone who has done the job himself. However, I would particularly like to comment on the extract below. I was reminded of a very pleasurable week I spent in Italy once with Nigel Perrin, a former "King's singer". This is exactly what happened as we prepared music for the Venetian vespers for performance. he used me as a bass in some pieces and as a violinist in others. He used one person as soloist in one movement and someone else in another. he picked the person who would be likely to do the best job in a particular movement, after listening to a number of people singing the solo part in particular movements. Good, practical thinking and musicianship from someone who knew his job well and how to get the best results from a group of performers who had just a week in which to put on a complete programme, just like Bach.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 1, 2005):
< However, I do not think that the evidence presented below is sufficient to account for Wolff's apparent certainty about how the manuscripts were divided up. I also think that it is insufficient to prove or disprove OVPP. It would be a mistake to assume that so many parts were "lost". They may never have existed in the first place, unless there is independent evidence stating that they did at one time exist. >
As you'll see in one of Rifkin's footnotes, he has read Wolff and others thoroughly, and disagrees with them. In footnote 9, for example, he cites a handful of articles by Wolff and another scholar, and points out: "The efforts of ____ (...) and Wolff (...) to enlarge the performing forces at Weimar beyond the parameters implied by both the documents and the parts amount to little more than invoking phantom personnel to perform from non-existent materials."

(The book is obviously a lot more extensive than this, too; I'm just quoting that bit here as I enjoy his turn of phrase.)

John Pike wrote (February 1, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < Bismarck once said that if we solved all of the world's problems our grandchildren would grow bored. I don't see boredom setting in on this issue in the next few weeks. >
A nice quote. One problem that has been unresolved for nearly 300 years is Bach's temperament. Brad's paper will solve all that and comes out this very month. I am confident it will set the musical world ablaze. No doubt there are plenty more problems to be resolved, perhaps by members of this list. Uri?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 1, 2005):
< I was reminded of a very pleasurable week I spent in Italy once with Nigel Perrin, a former "King's singer". This is exactly what happened as we prepared music for the Venetian vespers for performance. he used me as a bass in some pieces and as a violinist in others. He used one person as soloist in one movement and someone else in another. he picked the person who would be likely to do the best job in a particular movement, after listening to a number of people singing the solo part in particular movements. Good, practical thinking and musicianship from someone who knew his job well and how to get the best results from a group of performers who had just a week in which to put on a complete programme, just like Bach. >
Another bit you'll probably like in Rifkin's book. I mentioned earlier that Rifkin uses a distinction of "roster" vs "line-up", borrowed from American baseball, to describe the way a team is used. There's a "roster" of musicians, some or all of whom worked on learning the music in various capacities, and then the ones brought out to the performance are the "line-up", rather like putting one man to play second base, another at shortstop, a center fielder, etc etc. (A team without several good starting pitchers on the roster would never make it through even one week of a season! And obviously, all those pitchers aren't sent to the mound at the same moment to throw the same ball.) Rifkin's thesis then goes back to the Entwurff written by Bach to describe his "roster" for whole season of the work to be done, not necessarily his "line-up" for regular performance.

And in footnote #40, Rifkin draws in his European audience as well, by transferring the analogy from American baseball over to soccer or "what they call football. In German, one would render the distinction between 'roster' and 'line-up' with the words Mannschaft und Kader....".

What if somebody stopped a Bach performance and assigned a procedural penalty against the team for "too many men on the field"? :) And gave the alto singer or a Zippelfagottist a yellow card for indiscretions committed during the play? I think, like they do on TV coverage of soccer in Latin America, it would be cool if the theological points in a cantata came across with the same vigor as the play-by-play announcer going "GOOOOOooooooooooooooooooooLLLLLL!"


Extants parts/scores of the vocal works

Continue of discussion from: Mass in B minor BWV 232 – conducted by Ifor Jones [Other Vocal Works]

Bradley Lehman
wrote (February 4, 2005):
John Pike wrote: < He seems to be saying the opposite of the quotation that Thomas gave us yesterday, in which it was suggested that the choral parts for most of the cantatas were copied out at least twice. I questioned the veracity of that statement yesterday and I question it again now, given the quotation below, which seems to support what Rifkin/Parrott state and what I had come to believe. Can anyone clarify, preferably with statistics, please. >
<snip>
The roster of extant vocal parts/#copies, and extant scores, is Appendix 5 of Andrew Parrott's book The Essential Bach Choir (2000). Rifkin references back to that same handy table in his book Bach's Choral Ideal (2002).

The roster of extant playing parts and extant scores is Appendix A of Laurence Dreyfus's book Bach's Continuo Group (1987), plus the helpful Appendix B cross-referencing it in chronological sequence by performance dates.

The roster of regular slur patterns in the vocal works is Appendix 2 of John Butt's book Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in Primary Sources of J. S. Bach (1990)--a reprint of his dissertation. That book starts off the general discussion of articulation with "The Primacy of Singing".

John Pike wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks, Brad.

I will check the appendix in the Parrott book. I haven't received Rifkin's book yet, and I don't have the other books. (Unfortunately, I have neither the time to read nor the money for a lot of these highly specialised books, some of them very expensive the last time I looked on Amazon).

What bothers me is that respected scholars, as quoted, seem to have a completely different idea about the facts. I can't believe that Thomas has misquoted them so seriously, so why has someone got things so badly wrong. They can't both be right, unless their choice of wording is very open to misinterpretation.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 4, 2005):
John Pike wrote: < Thanks, Brad.
I will check the appendix in the Parrott book. I haven't received Rifkin's book yet, and I don't have the other books. (Unfortunately, I have neither the time to read nor the money for a lot of these highly specialised books, some of them very expensive the last time I looked on Amazon). >
There's also the basic summary count of extant parts in the BWV. Right below the incipits of all the movements, there's that line "Quelle: 14 Orig-St, Thom" (and I'm picking the example of BWV 4 arbitrarily). That's 14 parts, now at the Thomas school Leipzig.

Flip over to Parrott's chart: that's 4 (grand total, FOUR parts) for the vocal.

Flip over to Dreyfus, where it's corroborated: extant parts #1-4 are the single copies of S, A, T, B vocal parts. Part #5 is cornetto. Parts #6-8 are the three trombones. Parts #9-12 are the two violins and two violas. Part #13 is basso continuo. Part #14 is the transposed version of the basso continuo, for the keyboard player. Flip over to Dreyfus's Appendix B on the dates. The unfigured Cammerton part #13 is for the April 9th 1724 performance. That part #13 is used again on the April 1st 1725 performance, and so is the transposed part #14.

Obviously this detail of extant parts is all in the NBA also, but that's quite a bit more expensive than picking up Parrott's and Dreyfus's and Butt's books and the BWV catalog. (Not that the NBA would make those other four resources obsolete, anyway!) The BWV is also more recent than most of the NBA volumes, as a supplementary part of it with references back to the NBA on almost every page.

So, you can get your basic count of vocal and instrumental parts here by looking it up in the Quelle line at each entry in BWV, and subtracting the number of vocal parts shown in Parrott to get the number of instrumental parts. Or, just go straight to Dreyfus where both the vocal and instrumental parts are enumerated specifically; but his book includes only the ones where instrumental parts are extant. The broader point of Dreyfus's book is that he has examined the extant instrumental parts to find out what they might tell us differently from scores, and especially with regard to basso continuo instrumentation and playing methods.

As for scholarly disagreements about numbers of vocal parts, see the Rifkin footnote I quoted here a few days ago: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/12305
"...invoking phantom personnel to perform from non-existent materials."

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 4, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>As for scholarly disagreements about numbers of vocal parts, see the Rifkin footnote I quoted here a few days ago: "...invoking phantom personnel to perform from non-existent materials."<<
Wasn't your original quote:
"The efforts of ____ (...) and Wolff (...) to enlarge the performing forces at Weimar beyond the parameters implied by both the documents and the parts amount to little more than invoking phantom personnel to perform from non-existent materials."?

This narrows down Rifkin's accusation to about only 18 or so cantatas, leaving over 200 others unaccounted for as accusing Wolff, et al., of 'invoking phantom personnel.' Why was this already short quotation reduced once again, leaving out the reference to the Weimar cantatas? Shades of the Bismarck's Ems Dispatch?

And what possibly could be the reason that the other Bach scholars who are also being accused are not mentioned in the same quote? Perhaps to encourage others to buy a book which provides nothing significantly new in the way of new sources from the period that could shed further light on these matters? Playing coy with the new material presented in this book merely serves to enhance the probability that the logical error, an appeal to authority, is intentionally being invoked here rather than a true pursuit and sharing of knowledge that can only come from weighing all the possibilities. It is this true pursuit of knowledge that I hope most list members would be interested in. Not all of them have the money or time to invest in a book, the contents of which present nothing essentially new, but which simply tries to continue to document more fully with secondary and tertiary sources what has already been put forth as a theory. So what's really substantially new in Rifkin's book?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 4, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] All the remarks below strike me as self-justification to refuse to read Rifkin's book.

I haven't done any "playing coy" here. The other scholar mentioned in Rifkin's quote there, along with Wolff, is Schulze. So what? (Plus, I'd already mentioned that Rifkin does ESPECIALLY WELL in this book to engage the ARGUMENT as presented by other scholars, rather than merely mentioning them by name which might be mistaken as ad hominem argumentation.)
<snip>


Three voices per copy

Boyd Pehrson
wrote (March 2, 2005):
Recently someone, (I can't recall who) wrote here regarding One Voice Per Part that he couldn't see how any more than two boys could share a copy of music (as I recall). I have linto the photossection of the BachCantats Yahoo group webpages a picture of three Thomanerchor boys sharing one copy of music while singing a Bach Cantata in St Thomas Church, Leipzig. The photo is from the 1950's during the DDR regime, when music copies were a luxury. Also, for those who aren't signed up for Yahoo access, I have provided the picture to Larry Ford who has placed it on his Boychoir site: http://www.boychoirs.org/thomanerchor.html

If anyone would like a copy of the picture and they can't access these resources, I can send you one via e-mail or even snail mail if you reply personally.

The picture only establishes how three choirboys may sing from one copy. I have other pictures from Leipzig in the 1730's showing larger choirs than the OVPP idea of "no more than a quartet of singers." This replies to the notion that no iconographic evidence exists to dispute the OVPP idea.

After carefully reading Andrew Parrott's book on OVPP "The Essential Bach Choir" I was ironically convinced against OVPP. So, you know where I stand about it.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 2, 2005):
Boyd Pehrson wrote: "Recently someone, (I can't recall who) wrote here regarding One Voice Per Part that he couldn't see how any more than two boys could share a copy of music (as I recall). I have loaded into the photossection of the BachCantats Yahoo group webpages a picture of three Thomanerchor boys sharing one copy of music while singing a Bach Cantata in St Thomas Church, Leipzig. The photo is from the 1950's during the DDR regime, when music copies were a luxury."
Boyd, it was certainly me that challenged the assertion that FOUR singers can perfectly easily sing from the same copy. But, to be honest, I'm not sure that this photograph proves anything very much. Was it taken during an actual performance or was it staged? I would incline to the latter - the boy to the right of the one that appears to be reading from the copy in front doesn't seem to be looking at any music at all. If it is the former, is the taller boy really reading from the music or does he know it...? In my experience, it is not particularly desirable for two to share a copy, and while it is not out of the question for three to sing from the same copy, it is highly impractical and unsatisfactory. As I say, this is from experience, not from looking at a photograph (and if that sounds rude and dismissive, it's certainly not meant to).

Uri Golomb wrote (March 2, 2005):
A general point on this: Rifkin and Parrott do not actually deny that part-sharing was feasible in some contexts. To quote Parrott's summary (The Essential Bach Choir, p. 57):

"copies were shared by singers in some contexts but evidently not in others; different circumstances produced different conventions. In simple and familiar repertoires (chorales, for example) copy-sharing would have been quite practicable; but the idea of four (or more) ripienists' necessarily standing next to concertists at the front of a mixed ensemble in order to be able to share (undifferentiated) parts in a new cantata by Bach -- at 7.30 or so on a Sunday morning and perhaps by candlelight -- is surely quite another matter. I am not aware of any evidence that suggests such a practice. Nor do I know of any reason to imagine that Bach's own practices constituted a special case".

Of course, I'm sure Parrott would concur that "there is no evidence" does not necessarliy mean "it did not happen". All he claims is that evidence for part-sharing AS SUCH is not sufficient to prove part-sharing in a specific context -- Bach's cantatas as they were originally performed. Note also the word "undifferentiated", which Parrott put in brackets but which is actually quite important here. Concertists (soloists who also took part in the choruses) and ripienists (who sang only in choruses) did not sing the same music; this made it difficult for a ripienist to read from a concertist's part, especially if that part did not include any instructions to the ripienists along the lines of "start singing here". Of course, modern choral singers often sing from vocal scores -- they don't have just their part in front of them, but all the vocal lines (chorus and soloists alike), plus a keyboard reduction of the orchestral parts. This is actually quite helpful, as they can follow other lines while they themsleves don't sing, and thus have a clearer idea on when to come in. But these vocal scores are not "undifferentiated". To be sure, they are identical (one singer's score is the same as the others); but they distinctions between chorus and soloists is clearly marked within them. For example, the tenor soloist is clearly differentiated from the choral tenors, either by being placed on a different line or with the words "solo" and "tutti" (etc.). This gives the choral tenors a clear indication as to whether that particular tenor line is theirs or the soloist's.

Gabriel wrote: "In my experience, it is not particularly desirable for two to share a copy". In my own experience (which is, I am sure, much smaller than Gabriel's), it is often easiest to sing without a part at all, once you're sufficiently familiar with your own line. I still remember singing Cantata BWV 4 as a teenager in a music summer camp. We had two weeks of rehearsals before the final concert; and halfway through, I realised that I actually know my part by heart -- except for one passage in the first chorus, which, try as I might, I simply couldn't get into my head. So, on the day of the concert, I walked on-stage with my finger firmly tucked to mark that one passage. I started singing by heart; during the orchestral interlude leading up to the problem-passage, I raised my vocal score and held it open; I sang that one passage from the score; and then laid it aside for the rest of the concert. I didn't just sing by heart because I could; I did it, first-and-foremost, because it was easier. Singing from the score made it more difficult to listen to the other parts; it isolated me. Singing by heart made it easier to feel part of the whole. I'm glad we didn't share parts on that particular occasion, as it would have been quite difficult for me to set it aside when I didn't need it...

Of course, my experience proves nothing about Bach's own performances, one way or the other. But it does show one more reason why it's easier not to share parts: it gives each singer more freedom to use their parts in the manner best suited to them.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 2, 2005):
Boyd Pehrson wrote: < The picture only establishes how three choirboys may sing from one copy. I have other pictures from Leipzig in the 1730's showing larger choirs than the OVPP idea of "no more than a quartet of singers." This replies to the notion that no iconographic evidence exists to dispute the OVPP idea. >
The picture looks to me like a staged photo op with Bach in the window behind. This reminds me of the danger of looking for performance practice in the iconography of paintings and sculpture. Some artists seem to value recreating an actual moment (say the singing angels in the Ghent Altarpiece) while others seem more interested in the artistic composition (e.g. The singing angels in the Della Robbia loggia)

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 2, 2005):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>Concertists (soloists who also took part in the choruses) and ripienists (who sang only in choruses)did not sing the same music; this made it difficult for a ripienist to read from a concertist's part, especially if that part did not include any instructions to the ripienists along the lines of "start singing here".... But these vocal scores are not "undifferentiated". To be sure, they are identical one singer's score is the same as the others); but the distinctions between chorus and soloists is clearly marked within them. For example, the tenor soloist is clearly differentiated from the choral tenors, either by being placed on a different line or with the words "solo" and "tutti" (etc.)This gives the choral tenors a clear indication as to whether that particular tenor line is theirs or tsoloist's.<<
From Table 4A "Bach's ripieno writing" as included on pp. 68-71 from Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" [Boydell, 2000] it should be easy to conjecture that these markings were more prevalent in Bach's early cantatas than during his Leipzig tenure (consider the bulk of chorale cantatas with 1st mvts. which do not have these markings (tutti/soli.) Consider also that there were separate ripieno parts (many of which may have been lost) for those movements that Parrott points to on the above pages. These separate ripieno parts have been discussed by Rifkin and Parrott elsewhere in different contexts. Some of the information given by Parrott, such as the dating of BWV 234 on p. 71 is imaginative rather than factual, hanging on a loose thread that can not be confirmed by an examination of either the NBA KB II/2 or the current BWV Verzeichnis. It would seem that Parrott is trying too hard to locate cantatas that represent Bach's most productive period (his first years in Leipzig). Even BWV 22 must have been composed before coming to Leipzig for his 'Probe.' BWV 21 is essentially a very early composition and the new set of parts(now incomplete) prepared for a Leipzig performance did include ripieno parts (probably for all the voices.) So the ease of reading the parts (tutti vs. solo) was ameliorated in these few
instances, but for the bulk of Bach's choral mvts., such as the important chorale mvts., (think of BWV 140/1) there is no indication whatsoever that a lack of indications (or separate ripieno parts) for a division/separation between concertists and ripienists was difficult for reading from a single part for a given voice. Bach may have indicated to the singers orally before the performance or with his hands during the performance just when this distinction was to be made. I still see no problem, in the light of other evidence that I have presented recently, that there would have been any insurmountable difficulty for 3 or 4 singers to sing from a single part.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 2, 2005):
[To Boyd Pehrson] I spent most of 1972 in Berlin. Being an American I was often in the East. Being a starving student, it was also a lot cheaper to travel in the East. (Ironically I often told Germans what the East was like: they couldn't go there without huge difficulty but I could cross CP Charlie any time I wanted.) I was in my Wagner stage and it never dawned on me to visit Bach sites in Leipzig which I toured briefly along with Dresden. Anyway for "day trips" to museums one was required to purchase a few marks of DDR currency at the official exchange rate of 1=1. But DDR currency was available at every exchange joint in West Berlin at 4=1. (The bills were new and in sequence often, obviously coming directly from the DDR. Now in theory it was illegal to use this money in the DDR, but one quickly got used to the monumental hypocrisy and constant lies that came from that rotten regime. Believe me, in 1972 the Wall was a very menacing place.) Anyway, American students would bring this cash in illegally as foreigners were rarely searched. (If you stuck around long enough, you'd have some kind of run-in with the Stassi - I had two minor brush-ups. Scary while they lasted.) I only smuggled money once because it quickly dawned on me that there was nothing to buy in the East. The beer was bad even by Berlin standards, the food miserable and consumer goods fourth rate. However, my American musician buddies (several folks in my apartment buildings were studying music there and some stayed for good) did buy sheet music which was dirt cheap and readily available. I bought a few recordings also cheap and of acceptable quality. In general the DDR did support the arts quite lavishly in their own way. Concerts were only about a dollar and many were free. Museums were free if a bit tattered. East German television often had classical music on: it was one of the few things offered that was watched West of the Wall.

Now in 1950 it was perhaps different. Germany was by all accounts still a real mess. I'm not sure they would have been short of sheet music though. I don't think Leipzig was terribly damaged by the war (even Dresden was not wrecked as badly as some cities) and there must have been a lot of it around. And direct access to the West was possible until 1961 when the Wall was built. But, maybe not. By 1972 there was certainly no shortage of the stuff.

Why doesn't someone on the list send an email to the Thomanchor and ask someone there? A German speaker might be preferable. Almost everyone in the West spoke some English in the 70's but it was quite rare in the East, especially outside Berlin. (Surprisingly this also included college students and academics. I think they could read English, but very few in that period were allowed to travel West. And I talked to a lot of DDR college students - they all wanted to buy dollars at 5=1 <G>.) Made it a great place to practice German. In the West often people would hear your accent and answer in English - they were practicing English on you. Not so in the East. In Poland and Czechoslovakia German was essential to get along. No doubt all that's changed with the younger generation today, but there might be some hang-over from the past. I bet they'd answer.



Continue on Part 18


Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
One-Voice-Per-Part (OVPP):
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17 | Part 18 | Part 19
Books about OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [by Andrew Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [by Joshua Rifkin]: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýMay 30, 2005 ý21:59:13