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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)
Part 18

Continue from Part 17

Teddy Kaufman wrote (March 2, 2005):
Not three voices per copy, but seven!

I wish to refer you to Franchinus Gaffurius' illuminated textbook "PRACTICA MUSICAE", vellum # 12, depicting 7 choristers per one music sheet.

From 1451 to 1522, Gaffurius was conductor of the Milan Cathedral and was considered the authority on musical theory. He related theory and practice , thus enhancing the application of intervals and musical notation.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 2, 2005):
[To Teddy Kaufman] This is more likely to be choirbook format in which the music was copied or printed in a large format and read from a lectern. There are numerous examples from 15th and 16th century engravings of polyphonic music being sung from this format. The most famous are the illuminations in the manuscript of Lassus "Penitential Psalms" which are full of wonderful details -- one of the clerics is even wearing spectacles! Here the boys and men gather in two concentric half-circles and read their parts from the same copy. The individual parts were arranged sequentially across the two open pages -- not in full score format.

However, the vast majority of vocal parts were published or copied in a smaller individual part format which did not allow for large numbers of singers using the same music. This is the format that Bach used. The choirbook format did endure for a long time. Canaletto drew what appears to be seven singers performing from a book placed on a lectern high above their heads. It is is dated 1766. I think the Cistercian order still sings the office from choirbooks.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 3, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"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."
Unless there is something that I have overlooked, the evidence presented in support of the theory that 4 singers could share a part involved two tall adults standing in front of two short children, and since Bach's trebles, altos, tenors and basses did not sing from the same part, it is meaningless.

Having actually done the job we are talking about (that of a professional boy treble in a major religious establishment), and I am sure I'm not the only one here, I repeat that it is unsatisfactory for two singers to share a part, highly undesirable though just about feasible in the direst emergency for three to share one, and quite out of the question for four to sing from the same copy. The adult men who sang directly behind us every day would have found it even more of a problem. I continue to work with choirs on a very regular basis and on that basis I assert quite categorically that four singers cannot sing from the same part.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 3, 2005):
Gabriel Jackson wrote:
>>Unless there is something that I have overlooked, the evidence presented in support of the theory that 4 singers could share a part involved two tall adults standing in front of two short children, and since Bach's trebles, altos, tenors and basses did not sing from the same part, it is meaningless.<<
You may have overlooked my posting at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP-16.htm
which is well worth considering since it speaks of what was possible during Bach's lifetime rather than what we think is possible through our own experience. There may be quite a difference involved.

To save time searching for the specific quote, here it is:

>>Johann Mattheson published in 1722 his translation {the first time this work was published in German} of a work by Raguenette regarding a comparison of Italian and French music that came out in 1702. It was followed by Friedrich Wilhelm Marpurg's published translation of the same work almost three decades later. In this book the abilities of young Italians are praised, specifically their ability to sight-read and the skill they had in reading music correctly at quite some distance: "You will see there children who are 14 to 15 years old, who can play pieces perfectly on a string bass or descant violin. These are pieces that they have never seen befpre..and what is even more astounding is that you will see these little daredevils standing 4 or 5 paces away from the music stand, one looking over the shoulder of the other, often with only a view of half of the page, and all the same sight-read the most difficult music at first glance."<<

Gabriel Jackson wrote (March 3, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] No I haven't overlooked it. And I am not speaking of what I think is possible, but what I KNOW is possible. Better to trust our own experience than speculate in unspecified ways about what might have been possible in the 18th century. What might be 'quite the difference' involved? That 18th century boys (and adults) had better eyesight than their 20th century ciunterparts? Unlikely. That 18th century boys (and adults) were somehow able to stand closer to each other than their 20th century counterparts? How?! As to the appended quote: a) it is talking about children, not adults, who are also being alleged to read 4-to-a-part. b) it mentions 3, not 4 players c) is it really an accurate description of exactly what was witnessed or is there a touch of hyperbole (taken literally, for example, if they could 'only [have] a view of half of the page' how could they play what was on the other half?).

Boyd Pehrson wrote (March 3, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I welcome your ideas and comments. Yes, the photo may truly be staged, however it does depict how choirboys may have been arranged around one copy. You have undoubted experience in the performance area. And I agree completely that three singing from the same copy is, as you put it, "highly impractical and unsatisfactory." That is our modern standard and we have progressed from the necessity of sharing many things in 21st Century life. Now I don't know about how four could achieve a good look at one copy but there is room for another chorister on the right of the chorister holding the music. :-) I'm only suggesting that it could be done out of complete necessity over desired "perfect" practice. While there may be a professional difference of opinion here, may I point out what Prof. Karl Hochreither and Melvin Unger recently have reiterated from Bach scholar Arnold Shering regarding the (state of) "performance materials" or Bach partbooks in one copy per part: "Thus, the singers [J.S. Bach's] must have been deployed in groups of three, the middle chorister in each group (the "soloist" or "concertist") sharing the page of music in choral movements with the "ripienists," one on either side."1

The work cited was funded by the American Choral Directors Association. Now Unger being merely the Director of the Riemenschneider Bach Institute, and Hochreither, organist, professor and conductor, are not omniscient. Neither was Schering, who Rifkin concluded was "wacky" as a result of the above statement(2). I guess the whole world might look wacky to some people. Now Unger and Hochreither see Rifkin's handling of his sources on the whole problematic(1).

Your comments and ideas are well stated and I am delighted that you have replied. No, I didn't find you dismissive.

(1), The Performance Practice of Johann Sebastian Bach's Vocal-Instrumental Works (Verlag Merseberger, 1983) Revised 2002, Translated by Melvin Unger (Scarecrow
Press, Lanham, MD., Kent, England). Chapter 3.

(2), Schering's Wacky Theory by Joshua Rifkin (Reprinted from Early Music America, Fall 1999) http://homepages.kdsi.net/~sherman/Scherings.htm p. 48; the version here is slightly expanded.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (March 3, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb] Thank you for your reply. My only intent was to show how three singers on a copy could be. The picture was taken 30 years before OVPP, which adds irony, the photographer had nothing to prove. Your note does explain Rifkin and Parrott'OVPP view regarding part sets and copy sharing. Some people in the list seem to have a somewhat hybrid view of OVPP, which is that, Rifkin and Parrott may allow for two on a part, or ripienists in any cantata, but they do not. OVPP strictly advocates only a quartet of singers for the vast majority of Bach Cantatas save nine which have separate parts existing for ripieno.

In "The Essential Bach Choir" Parrott states:

"Thus if a complete set of parts includes no ripieno copies, performance by just
one voice per part is the only plausible conclusion." (p. 44)

This is "the only plausible conclusion" if we know for sure that the copies that are
collected into sets of parts are the physical music sheets used for Cantata performances, and all other Rifkin/Parrott criteria are met. But to argue from the conclusion is wrong. (I very much doubt that Bach would have passed his master copies out to the singers for use during the service. These seem to be master copies of the works, the compilation is very uniform, and suggests a collection.) Most all of the works listed by Parrott in Appendix 5 are dated 1723-1726. If this three year period is when Bach wrote most of his works, then the Thomanerchor had 24 years to learn to perform them under J.S. Bach and no weekly rush was needed to learn rapidly. Could it be these copies were not intended to be held by a chorister in a performance? The vocal parts lack tutti/solo markings, does this mean as Rifkin implies Bach largely abandoned the practice he suggested?

Parrott explains there are factors that have "a direct bearing on the same question:
...the structure of vocal choirs, the positioning of performers, and iconographic evidence." (44) Schering used the same factors and came to a different conclusion.

Messrs. Rifkin and Parrot have only a single synonymous definition for "ripieno" (ripienists), that of an extraneous choir. Meanwhile, J.S. Bach's Leipzig contemporary Johann Gottfried Walther (1732) gave us the definition of "ripieno" in two meanings: "Ripieno ...means with full choir. It is often signified with a single "R"; it is also used as a title for a part; namely, those parts that are added merely to fill out and reinforce the music" (as quoted in Hochreither and Unger).

Regarding personal anecdotes, I enjoyed your singing story. In my experience as a youth, we only used music scores for study and practice. We never used scores for performances. Sometimes we copy shared in practices. Sometimes a practice passage for our section was hand-printed and mimeographed by the director. I held this up, maybe a six by four inch piece of paper, and several of us worked on singing our part from that slip of paper. These were only working sections, but we thought nothing of the practice. Sometimes we had more than enough copies of music, sometimes we had to share. But we never used any music scores during performances. The instrumentalists did.

Cordially, Boyd Pehrson

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 3, 2005):
scores vs memory

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... >
Indeed so. Many musical situations are easier from memory than from scores or parts. In the high school and university choirs I sang in, we memorized almost everything because it's easier to pay attention to the director that way, and not to have to fuss with turning pages and carrying scores around. Plus, the pieces could be rehearsed at any time and anywhere.

I prefer to conduct mostly from memory, when there's been long enough opportunity to learn the music ahead: it leaves more of the attention free to guide the group and to react to what's going on, not having to look at a book. It also gives singers confidence that the director really knows what's going on and is actually directing the music, not merely following along....

On the other hand, I almost always play from scores at the harpsichord and organ, even when the part is improvised. I feel it orients me well to understanding the structure of the music, seeing at any moment where we are within the whole thing, and there's zero fear of memory slips. Usually I photocopy my score and reduce its size so I can see the whole piece at a glance, and have no page turns. I end up memorizing large passages of it anyway, from working closely on it, even if I'll be playing it from the score; it should never sound like sight-reading in any case. (And if I don't know something almost well enough to play it from memory buffers, perhaps I shouldn't be performing it at all....) It's difficult to play pieces such as the C minor Fantasia BWV 906, and some of the more athletic bits in the Partitas and English Suites (and in Scarlatti sonatas, Royer's March of the Scythians, Soler's Fandango, etc), without first memorizing most of it. The leaping and interlocked-hands stuff looks difficult to read on the page, and once it's been worked out physically and in memory the page becomes a hindrance to playing it smoothly. Memorized pieces can be worked on anytime, anywhere, away from the instrument: working out the interpretation and phrasing by imagining or humming the whole thing.

When the page is there--even if it's a memorized piece--I feel I can bring out more detail during performance, with more freedom to improvise ornamentation or otherwise change details as I go along, because the superstructure is there for consultation at a glance. So is any analysis and fingering/phrasing I've worked out ahead of time and written into my score. I hardly look at the identity of the notes, as my fingers already know those to make the right sequence of motions; attention is free to focus on structure, and on all the subtle issues of timing/accentuation/articulation not explicitly notated by the composer.

If I have to play something only from memory, without score (which always seemed to me a pretty silly and arbitrary requirement in piano days), I feel more locked into a predetermined interpretation lest I forget how it goes, and therefore the music doesn't seem as fresh. Too much of the mental overhead is devoted to not forgetting and not getting lost. (This is akin to lecturing with notes, vs lecturing without notes. The whole lecture should have a pretty good shape in the mind ahead of time, either way, and the notes just help to keep a focus on structure.)

The same argument could be made about conducting, perhaps (vis a vis my remarks above about preferring to conduct from memory). But conducting is a more extraverted activity than playing keyboard is, IMO. It's possible to present a good solo keyboard performance while completely oblivious to all the surroundings, being focused on only the instrument and the music. But with conducting where it's about controlling other people's work, they have their own details to focus on, and the cond's job is to catalyze their best.

Keyboard continuo improvisation comes up the middle of this, where it's an extraverted reaction to every moment (both to the sounds of the other musicians, and to the conductor's gestures), but also an introverted focus to play the instrument well, and to improvise suitable musical gestures clarifying the bass line's dynamic motion. That's why it's so satisfying to do, accompanying good colleagues whose work can be catalyzed by a good continuo improvisation.

John Pike wrote (March 3, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb] Another thing that I, and many other choral singers I know, have done in the past, is to highlight my own entries in the score. Even with totally clear marking in modern scores, it is so easy to miss an entry. It would surely have been almost a "dead cert" in "undifferentiated" parts. Although, as Uri says, Parrott puts this word in brackets, it is crucial, and a point which Parrott discusses at length (I seem to remember) in his excellent book.

 

Details of Gardiner's PCP Vol. 24

Continue of discussion from: John Eliot Gardiner - Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Vol. 24 [Performers]

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Lex Schelvis] I have checked and listened. You are absolutly right. So most conductors prefer to use the soprano section of the choir to sing this chorale. Leonhardt and Leusink are the only exceptions. I guess that with OVPP recording this chorale will also be sung by the soprano section (of 1 voice) (-:

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] BWV 166/3 has an interesting dynamic marking inserted personally by Bach at the beginning of m.7 where the soprano voice enters in the 2nd half of this measure: both the 'Violino 2 do' and 'Viola' parts have a 'piano' marking indicating to these parts to 'cut back' in volume just before the soprano voice enters. Would such a marking be necessary, if the entire soprano section sings this part? It would only make sense to include this dynamic marking if a single voice were singing the chorale melody. What sort of problem would the violins and violas have in 'overshadowing' more than one soprano if they are already playing lower than the voice part? Bach obviously wishes to ensure that a single voice is not going to be 'overpowered' by the upper strings. It would not matter as much if all the sopranos were singing in unison, particularly with a high tessitura (see below.) Hence it appears as if Bach intended for this soprano part to be sung by a single soprano concertist and not necessarily a soloist together with the ripienists.

Another interesting point is that this mvt. BWV 166/3 has a soprano part with a much high tessitura than the only other place where sopranos are asked to sing: BWV 166/6, the final chorale. This fact, the difference in tessituras between these two mvts., also seems to point to a single concertist/soprano soloist as intended by Bach to sing this part (BWV 166/3 and not the entire soprano section. Of course, as Aryeh hinted, an OVPP would solve this problem, but then OVPP is very much less likely to have occurred in Leipzig than in some of the Weimar cantatas that have been discussed here recently.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2005):
< Another interesting point is that this mvt. BWV 166/3 has a soprano part with a much high tessitura than the only other place where sopranos are asked to sing: BWV 166/6, the final chorale. This fact, the difference in tessituras between these two mvts., also seems to point to a single concertist/soprano soloist as intended by Bach to sing this part (BWV 166/3 and not the entire soprano section. Of course, as Aryeh hinted, an OVPP would solve this problem, but then OVPP is very much less likely to have occurred in Leipzig than in some of the Weimar cantatas that have been discussed here recently. >
Objectivity alert, on the glib assertion that slips a polemic statement right into the flow: "...OVPP is very much less likely to have occurred in Leipzig..."

Current research (and debate among scholarly circles) by Rifkin, Parrott, et al says otherwise.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Bach-Choral-Ideal[Rifkin].htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Book-Parrott-Choir.htm
and see also the 17 pages of various wrangling at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP1.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Objectivity alert, on the glib assertion that slips a polemic statement right into the flow: "...OVPP is very much less likely to have occurred in Leipzig..."
Current research (and debate among scholarly circles)by Rifkin, Parrott, et al says otherwise.<<
Objectivity alert!

There is current research and debate among scholarly circles by Koopman, Konrad Küster, etc. which is being deliberately overlooked by those who are professed adherents fo the OVPP theory.

Küster, on p. 124 of his "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter/Metzler, Kassel, 1999], states: "Eine Aufstellung Bachs aus seiner Leipziger Zeit macht deutlich, daß er mit einer Idealbesetzung von drei Sängern pro Stimmregister rechnen wollte..." [Bach's listing of deployment [of voices and instrumentalists] from the time of his Leipzig tenure makes clear that ideally he wanted to be able to depend on {at least} 3 singers per voice part..."

For many weeks now, Aryeh has been trying to obtain permission to place my translation of an important article by Koopman giving numerous reasons that stand in the way of accepting OVPP as a viable theory. Unfortunately, nothing seems to be coming of this. Aryeh, how long will we still have to wait for this?Certainly the time is 'way past due' for such information and cogent argumentation to be made public in order to avoid the mistaken notion that OVPP has generally been accepted by music scholars and performers of Bach's music. There are some serious flaws in the OVPP/OPPP theory that need to be considered and addressed by anyone who has a mind that is 'open enough' to view objectively both sides of this theory.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2005):
< For many weeks now, Aryeh has been trying to obtain permission to place my translation of an important article by Koopman giving numerous reasons that stand in the way of accepting OVPP as a viable theory. >
One hopes that the original text by Koopman is presented uncut and uninterrupted in this reprint of a published (and copyrighted) piece, so we may examine it directly and not be influenced by the coloration of any translation or annotation.

Which Koopman piece is it, as referred to in Parrott's book or Rifkin's book or elsewhere? http://homepages.bw.edu/bachbib/script/bach1.pl?0=koopman

Then again, it's kind of odd to assume that Ton Koopman needs an English translator at all. He speaks English, does he not? Why not just write to him directly and request that he provide his own translation of his own work, if he sees fit to do so? That would also give him whatever opportunity to update any portions of it, if he wants to, in light of later practice and thought in his own career as performer and scholar. (i.e. Why hold him immutably to something that is five or more years old, as if he's not allowed to rethink anything after publication?)

< Unfortunately, nothing seems to be coming of this. Aryeh, how long will we still have to wait for this?Certainly the time is 'way past due' for such information and cogent argumentation to be made public in order to avoid the mistaknotion that OVPP has generally been accepted by music scholars and performers of Bach's music. There are some serious flaws in the OVPP/OPPP theory that need to be considered and addressed by anyone who has a mind that is 'open enough' to view objectively both sides of this theory. >
And Rifkin and Parrott don't have "open" minds or objectivity, to see "both" sides of the issue that they have worked on for some 25 years? That's a pretty aggressive allegation against them, as scholars and practitioners. It's an allegation that they're somehow not well prepared or able to do their own jobs. Such an allegation would need loads of evidence to back it up, from one accusing them of ignorance and impropriety; otherwise it's just frivolous and inconsequential polemic.

As for "cogent argumentation" and thorough documentation, and careful methodology, Rifkin's book is brilliantly written. I've read it several times over the past few months. Enthusiastically recommended: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Books/Bach-Choral-Ideal[Rifkin].htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>One hopes that the original text by Koopman is presented uncut and uninterrupted in this reprint of a published (and copyrighted) piece, so we may examine it directly and not be influenced by the coloration of any translation or annotation.<<
The best way is to read the German original and realize that any translation is an interpretation; however, the pertinent facts, such as the references and quotations from original sources will nevertheless be sufficient for any Bach musicologist who does not insist that everything must be in English in order to assess its importance and validity.

>>Which Koopman piece is it, as referred to in Parrott's book or Rifkin's book or elsewhere?<<
It is not in Parrott's bibliography!

>>Then again, it's kind of odd to assume that Ton Koopman needs an English translator at all. He speaks English, does he not? Why not just write to him directly and request that he provide his own translation of his own work, if he sees fit to do so?That would also give him whatever opportunity to update any portions of it, if he wants to, in light of later practice and thought in his own career as performer and scholar.<<
This should have been done long ago by the proponents of the OVPP theory, but perhaps they are not really interested in reading/hearing contrary opinions or have already 'made up their minds' on this issue. Now they demand that this information be served up 'on a silver platter,' as it were, so they will not have to exert themselves anymore than they need to!

>>And Rifkin and Parrott don't have "open" minds or objectivity, to see "both" sides of the issue that they have worked on for some 25 years?<<
They have already invested too much energy and time in this project to try to prove the OVPP theory to be the only correct one. It is then more difficult to step back and view things objectively.

>>That's a pretty aggressive allegation against them, as scholars and practitioners. It's an allegation that they're somehow not well prepared or able to do their own jobs.<<
No, they are certainly skilled, assiduous and energetic in all their efforts. This is not what is being questioned here. The main concern here is trying to present a balanced picture of all the evidence that is out there.

>>As for "cogent argumentation" and thorough documentation, and careful methodology, Rifkin's book is brilliantly written.<<
This is not what is being disputed here. The question remains whether all of Rifkin's efforts have dispelled any doubts created by reading other evidence from Bach's time.

>>I've read it several times over the past few months.<<
To obtain a more balanced viewpoint, it would have been better to read sources that offer the necessary counterarguments. It is only natural that Rifkin and Parrott will 'slant' their presentations to favor the theory which they propose to uphold.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2005):
>>Then again, it's kind of odd to assume that Ton Koopman needs an English translator at all. He speaks English, does he not? Why not just write to him directly and request that he provide his own translation of his own work, if he sees fit to do so?That would also give him whatever opportunity to update any portions of it, if he wants to, in light of later practice and thought in his own career as performer and scholar.<<
< This should have been done long ago by the proponents of the OVPP theory, but perhaps they >
"They" = straw men?

< are not really interested in reading/hearing contrary opinions or have already 'made up their minds' on this issue. Now they >
"They" = these same straw men?

< demand that this information be served up 'on a silver platter,' as it were, so they will not have to exert themselves anymore than they need to! >
>>And Rifkin and Parrott don't have "open" minds or objectivity, to see "both" sides of the issue that they have worked on for some 25 years?<<
< They have already invested too much energy and time in this project to try to prove the OVPP theory to be the only correct one. >
An allegation that is directly contradicted by statements in both Rifkin's book and Parrott's. They are explicitly not out to prove that they have the only correct answer.

< It is then more difficult to step back and view things objectively. >
>>That's a pretty aggressive allegation against them, as scholars and practitioners. It's an allegation that they're somehow not well prepared or able to do their own jobs.<<
< No, they are certainly skilled, assiduous and energetic in all their efforts. This is not what is being questioned here. The main concern here is trying to present a balanced picture of all the evidence that is out there. >
"Balanced" = "start from the foregone assumption that Rifkin is both wrong and incompetent"...?

>>As for "cogent argumentation" and thorough documentation, and careful methodology, Rifkin's book is brilliantly written.<<
< This is not what is being disputed here. The question remains whether all of Rifkin's efforts have dispelled any doubts created by reading other evidence from Bach's time. >I've read it several times over the past few months.<<
< To obtain a more balanced viewpoint, it would have been better to read sources that offer the necessary counterarguments. It is only natural that Rifkin and Parrott will 'slant' their presentations to favor the theory which they propose to uphold. >
Yet another defamatory allegation against their honesty and their sense of responsibility to the material.

John Pike wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Thomas Baraatz] The first quotation proves nothing. It is simply Kuester's slant on the Entwurff. Rifkin has a very different and, to my mind, convincing slant on it.

Regarding the later email, leaving aside the patronising comments about Parrott and Rifkin, one wonders whether Thomas has read Rifkin's book, "Bach's choral ideal". If not, the same criticism can be levelled at him as he makes of those who have not read Koopman's and Kuester's work on this issue. I came to this debate decidedly unconvinced about OVPP but it was Rifkin's book that convinced this sceptic.

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Objectivity alert!
There is current research and debate among scholarly circles by Koopman, Konrad Küster, etc. which is being deliberately overlooked by those who are professed adherents fo the OVPP theory.
Küster, on p. 124 of his "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter/Metzler, Kassel, 1999], states: "Eine Aufstellung Bachs aus seiner Leipziger Zeit macht deutlich, daß er mit einer Idealbesetzung von drei Sängern pro Stimmregister rechnen wollte..." [Bach's listing of deployment [of voices and instrumentalists] from the time of his
Leipzig tenure makes clear that ideally he wanted to be able to depend on {at least} 3 singers per voice part..."

and, in a later e mail:
"To obtain a more balanced viewpoint, it would have been better to read sources that offer the necessary counterarguments. It is only natural that Rifkin and Parrott will 'slant' their presentations to favor the theory which they propose to uphold.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
>>I came to this debate decidedly unconvinced about OVPP but it was Rifkin's book that convinced this sceptic.<<
Then the points which are so convincing can certainly be repeated here with the pertinent references which point to certain specific sources from the period. Just what is it that convinces a skeptic that Rifkin is correct? Is this material convincing only in a general way or are there specific persuasive arguments that can be intelligently reworded so that others might similarly be convinced. What are the salient points which attempt to fortify this theory so that it becomes unassailable in the minds of some readers?

Of course, it may appear to the believers in this OVPP theory that such explanation is not necessary since it is all contained in a single book which they believe explains everything.

Thus far not one of the believers (now having become no longer skeptical and who read their little 'bible' over and over again) has explained by simply listing substantive key points regarding just what powerful, new insights and recent discoveries of original sources from Bach's lifetime Rifkin has uncovered and added to the material already covered by Parrott's book which has had a wider dissemination than Rifkin's.

John Pike wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I will assume from this answer that you have not read Rifkin's excellent book, which you patronisingly describe as a "little bible". There is no need to "intelligently reword" any of Rifkin's book, since it is already very intelligently worded and argued. I am not going to try and summarise a complex multi-page argument in a few words. Read the book. In short, he very carefully analyses the Entwurff and through careful translation reaches a conclusion about Bach's choral ideal. Note use of the word "Ideal". He is not merely saying that OVPP was something Bach had to put up with through circumstance, a view which I previously held, before reading the book, but that OVPP was his ideal.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 20, 2005):
[To John Pike] Not necessarily Bach's "ideal" but his expectation of normalcy. Rifkin leaves the provocative title question of "ideal" open to the last several pages, and beyond.

Other than that, a very fair assessment of the book IMO. Likewise, as a person who enjoys hearing the music with many different approaches, this book respected and allayed some of my skepticism about the whole thing. I especially like Rifkin's emphasis that the goal is to find out what Bach most likely did (whether anyone likes it or not) in practice: accuracy of historical reportage.

Secondarily, outside the book, Rifkin's own fine musicianship and fluency in practice informs the usability of all this: with theory and practice inextricably married. No idle speculation. If the resulting theory weren't eminently usable, in practice, we wouldn't care very much one way or another about any of this; we'd just go ahead and do whatever sounds good (to us) with no compunctions to historical accuracy. But, since the most likely historically accurate approach(es) also work so well in practice now, they're worth doing.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>An allegation that is directly contradicted by statements in both Rifkin's book and Parrott's. They are explicitly not out to prove that they have the only correct answer.<<
Then why does Parrott insist upon using "valuable iconographical sources" as proof for OVPP pp. 49ff of "The Essential Bach Choir" when such sources are of extremely dubious value when attempting to count and present the number of performers involved. On page 184 of the "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter, 1999] Konrad Küster goes into detail why the attempt to use such iconographical evidence for supporting OVPP is doomed to failure. Parrott may claim that they (the proponents of the OVPP theory) are not out to prove that they have the only correct answer) but it certainly appears as an act of desperation for Parrott to include such iconographical evidence when a more objective mind would view this matter differently, realizing how engravers 'composed freely' their depictions of musical groups and other subjects according to general guidelines that had little to do with representing photographic reality.

>>"Balanced" = "start from the foregone assumption that Rifkin is both wrong and incompetent"...?<<
Discounting the word 'incompetent' which was slipped in by the respondent, this appears to be the preferred method used to criticize one's own theory before it is published. Is this not also what peer editorial readers do when critically reading a proposed draft without having to assume that the person who wishes to publish a theory is deliberately wrong or incompetent?

>>Yet another defamatory allegation against their honesty and their sense of responsibility to the material.<<
Yes, I allege, for instance, that Parrott was overly zealous in his efforts to prove Rifkin's OVPP theory by introducing, for instance, iconographical evidence which does not depict reality. I can not judge whether this shows a lack of honesty or a lack of a sense of responsibility to the material. However, there is a definite gap in his knowledge about art history and somehow this also reflects upon the peer editors who should have brought this to his attention, assuming that these peer editors were informed about these matters which are outside of their area of expertise.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
>>In short, he [Rifkin] very carefully analyses the Entwurff and through careful translation reaches a conclusion about Bach's choral ideal.<<
This is what everyone not native to the German language and, once equipped with this ability in understanding German, then having studied "Musikwissenschaft", particularly the original documents from Bach's time, will have difficulty understanding. It would be unreasonable to assume that Rifkin alone was able to decipher and make sense of the "Entwurff" after many German Bach scholars have intensively studied this document (and still continue to do so) and have come to the conclusion that it is not entirely coherent logically. Now, suddenly, Rifkin has found the key that has made all of this logical, but those who read the 'little bible' have great difficulty putting into words and thoughts just how it was that Rifkin was able to deliver his proof. One German scholar, Konrad Küster, reflecting rather recently in his "Bach Handbuch" p. 182 on this matter states: "Die Frage, wie Bach mit dieser Differenz zwischen Wunsch und Realität umging, ist anhand des vorliegenden Quellenmaterials kaum zu entscheiden -- zumal Bach's Äußerungen in seinem "Entwuff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music" von 1730 keineswegs klar sind." ["The question as to how Bach handled this difference between wish ("ideal" as referred to above} and reality, can hardly be decided based upon the available original sources -- this is particularly so since Bach's statements in his "Entwurff" (1730) are anything but clear."]

It would behoove those who speak, read and understand English, but know little or no German, to be wary of Rifkin's interpretation of the "Entwurff" since the opinion expressed by Küster is not an isolated one among German Bach scholars.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>...the goal is to find out what Bach most likely did (whether anyone likes it or not) in practice: accuracy of historical reportage.<<
But this is just where the crux of the matter lies: is this accurate historical 'reportage?' There are flaws in the choice and interpretations of the historical records.

>>But, since the most likely historically accurate approach(es) also work so well in practice now, they're worth doing.<<
But some of these are not the most likely historically accurate approch(es)! These are tentative, present-day theories that are being confused with what is deemed dependable historical accuracy.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Bach's Choral Ideal [by Joshua Rifkin] [Books]

 

Continue on Part 19

Choir Form: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
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 | Part 21
Articles:
Bach’s Choir and Orchestra [T. Koopman] | Evidence for the Size of Bach’s Primary Choir [T. Braatz]
Books on OVPP:
The Essential Bach Choir [A. Parrott] | Bach's Choral Ideal [J. Rifkin]: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýJune 11, 2008 ý09:59:57