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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)
Part 19

Continue from Part 18

1VPP outside Bach

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 26, 2005):
John Pike wrote: < When I first heard performances of Parrott and Rifkin done OVPP, I was struck most forcibly by the clarity. Since then, I have listened to an even broader repertoire (outside Bach) done OVPP and have enjoyed all the same qualities. In short, lets continue to enjoy all these approaches for their beauty. >
Some of my current favorites done that way are Diego Fasolis's disc of Palestrina motets (Arts 47521), and Andrew Carwood's series on ASV of the William Byrd liturgical music. Carwood variously uses 1VPP and 2VPP from his pool of excellent singers, "The Cardinal's Musick".

And, pretty much anything performed by the vocal group Red Byrd. Try, for example, the Gibbons disc Naxos 8.550603, or the "Tragicomedia" disc of Anna Magdalena Bach's notebook excerpts...with the same Red Byrd personnel singing, merely under a different name. (Teldec 91183)

And anything by the group "A sei voci" including Ruth Holton and/or Isabelle Poulenard.

And the long string of recordings by Anthony Rooley's ensembles.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 26, 2005):
Bradley Lehman writes: "Some of my current favorites done that way are Diego Fasolis's disc of Palestrina motets (Arts 47521), and Andrew Carwood's series on ASV of the William Byrd liturgical music. Carwood variously uses 1VPP and 2VPP from his pool of excellent singers, "The Cardinal's Musick"."
And of course almost all Byrd's Latin music is consort music, written for recusant services in private Cathloic households. The two I Fagioilini Byrd discs on Chandos are wrll worth checking out - a mixture of consort songs, virginals pieces and Latin motets done OVPP with an attempt at Elizabethan pronunciation.

Stephen Benson wrote (May 27, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < And anything by the group "A sei voci" including Ruth Holton and/or Isabelle Poulenard. >
My very first CD of 1VPP was a 1985 A Sei Voci recording entitled "L'Art Sacre de Josquin Des Pres" (Forlane UCD 16552), at the time all male (2 countertenors, one tenor, two baritones and 1 bass), undoubtedly out of print, but well worth grabbing if one has the opportunity.

One of the best things about this list is that I am constantly pulling things off my shelf to play that have gone too long ignored. (I'm listening to the glorious singing on this disc as I type this.)

Johan van Veen wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] The German ensemble Weser-Renaissance (recording for CPO) is mostly following OVPP practice. Most recently: Schein's collection of sacred madrigals 'Israelsbrünnlein'.

And the German keyboard player and conductor Ludger Rémy usually records German cantatas by Bach's contemporaries OVPP, for instance cantatas by Stölzel (brilliant music, BTW; see: http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2005/May05/Stolzel_9998762.htm).

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Stephan Benson] I agree - a very interesting group. Their later Josquin Mass series on Astree/Naive experiemts with various ways of performing the music - from OVPP to a disc with instrumental participataion, others with boy (and girl) trebles. And all beautifully sung.

John Pike wrote (May 27, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < And the long string of recordings by Anthony Rooley's ensembles. >
I am currently listening to Monteverdi Madrigals, performed by Anthony Rooley, Emma Kirkby, Evelyn Tubb et al. They have been released in a "Black Box" set, 7 CDS covering a large number, though not all, I think, of the books of Madrigals........wonderful stuff.

John Pike wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] A few months ago, I reported a review of recordings of Thomas Tallis' "Spem in alium". The top recommendation was the recording by "Magnificat", done OVPP. I managed to get a second hand copy of this CD through Amazon on a pre-order, and it is indeed excellent. It also includes many other gems, including the "Lamentations" of Jeremiah the prophet.

Like Byrd, Tallis' music was probably performed in similar circumstances.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Hohn Pike] I agree, John, this is a particularly good recording of Spem. Indeed the whole disc is excellent, isn't it? For my money, Tallis was England's greatest composer.

Doug Cowling wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] And 2005 is the 500th anniversary of his birth. The Tallis Choir of Toronto (not suprisingly) is mounting a gala concert which will conclude with the 40-part motet. I am also reconstructing an authentic 'Vespers of the Blessed Virgin Mary' as it may have been sung in the Chapel Royal of Queen Mary I on February 1, 1555.

John Pike wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I agree, Gabriel. I love Tallis, especially those Lamentations and Spem. I have his complete works at home on 9 or 10 CDs. They were released as a box set several months ago and I managed to get them heavily discounted through BBC Music Magazine. Haven't had a chance to listen yet but will do soon.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] How did your Bach funeral vespers go, as advertised at: http://www.orgalt.com/newsletter/Back_Issues/OA_fall00.pdf ?

John Reese wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To John Pike] For a piece written for eight five-voice choirs, I think OVPP is wholly appropriate!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] How splendid that the quingentenary is bringing forth such interesting projects. (I am currently writing a 40-part companion-piece to Spem for premiere in July.) I am very interested in your Vespers reconstruction, Doug - have you decided yet which pieces you will use?

Doug Cowling wrote (May 28, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I wish we could have done a full vespers but we contented ourselves with the commemorative portion of vespers -- I'm still looking for concerted or motet-style settings of the Magnificat which Bach would have used. The choir complained a little at learning the J.C. Bach "Lieber Herr Gott" which is not as meaty as Sebastian's motets, but I found it quite moving to hear the motet which Bach probably chose for his own funeral.

Doug Cowling wrote (May 28, 2005):
[To Gabriel Jackson] The project is quite intriguing in that it appears that Thomas Tallis and John Sheppard almost finished a complete catalogue of polyphonic settings for Vespers for the major feasts of the church year during the five-year reign of Mary Tudor (aka "Bloody Mary). At the moment, the only piece in the puzzle for the First Vespers of the Purification is the Magnificat which doesn't fit the proper Sarum antiphon.

Also to be decided this summer is how the five Vespers psalms were performed: alternatim with harmonized fauxbordons? Alternatim with the organ? Both?

And since Philip of Spain's Chapel Royal was in attendance that year, can we post that Cabezon's organ music might have been used? Or Da Monte?

For me the highlight of the evening will be the performance of Tallis's incomparable "Gaude Gloriosa Mater", the crown of Talli's oeurvre.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 27, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: "The project is quite intriguing in that it appears that Thomas Tallis and John Sheppard almost finished a complete catalogue of polyphonic settings for Vespers for the major feasts of the church year during the five-year reign of Mary Tudor (aka "Bloody Mary). At the moment, the only piece in the puzzle for the First Vespers of the Purification is the Magnificat which doesn't fit the proper Sarum antiphon."
How interesting - I didn't realise there were any extant Psalm settings by either (except a couple of Tallis Psam-motets).

"For me the highlight of the evening will be the performance of Tallis's incomparable "Gaude Gloriosa Mater", the crown of Talli's oeurvre."
Oh, I agree - an extraordinary piece. An supposedly the longest single movement before Beethoven...

Doug Cowlin wrote (May 28, 2005):
Gabriel Jackson wrote: < How interesting - I didn't realise there were any extant Psalm settings by either (except a couple of Tallis Psam-motets). >
Ah, there's the question! There are no extant psalm settings because it appears that they may have been improvised: there are many continental sources where the faux-bourdon is given once without text and the singers were expected to fit the texts of the various voices to it. That there was some tradition of harmonized plainsong is clear from the first generation of English ritual items where many composers use a faucbourdon with the melody in wither the soprano or tenor parts. Whether it is kosher to retro-fit such music to the Latin rite is the question.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 29, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] I see, yes! Have you come across any of Alistair Dixon's recordings of the complete works of Tallis on Signum (recently commended by John, I think)? There, in some of the Hymn settings, professor John Caldwell has reconstructed/composed 3-part fauxbordon verses to alternate with the verses of the organ settings, to complete the scheme.

Stephen Benson wrote (May 30, 2005):
John Reese wrote: < For a piece written for eight five-voice choirs, I think OVPP is wholly appropriate! >
This discussion compels me to re-post a message I sent to another list about a year-and-a-half ago that describes what has to be included as one of my seminal encounters with OVPP performance:

A few years ago, while wandering through Montreal's modern art museum, I heard in the distance the sounds of choral singing. Drawn irresistibly to this unexpected treat, I recognized, as I got closer, the ethereal strains of "Spem in alium". Eventually, I arrived at a room inhabited by a half dozen visitors wandering among 40 audio speakers arranged in a large circle, eight groups of five speakers, each speaker on its own pedestal bringing it to head height. Canadian artist Janet Cardiff had created the installation entitled "Forty-Part Motet", each speaker producing the voice of a single chorister of the Salisbury choir recorded in a single live performance of "Spem in alium". Alternating between lying on the floor in the center of the circle in order to grasp the whole and standing in front of each five-voice choir as well as each individual singer, I spent a joyous afternoon enthralled by the unique opportunity to revel in the richness and intricacy of Tallis's polyphony.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 30, 2005):
Doug Cowling writes: "I think it was speakers 25 7 26 which had a rather unflattering chat about the conductor!"
Do we know who it was....?!

Doug Cowling wrote (May 30, 2005):
[To Stephen Benson] I heard the installation when it was at the National Gallery of Canada in the gallery which has a complete early 19th century convent chapel. I particulaly enjoyed listening to the speakers as the sound artist left the mikes on to catch the singers' conversation. I think it was speakers 25 7 26 which had a rather unflattering chat about the conductor!

 

[BachCantatas] Concertist/ripienist approach (was Re: OVPP = one voice per part)

Alan Melvin wrote (March 13, 2006):
Is there a similar abbreviation or real name for the concertist/ripienist approach (i.e., where soloists [soli?] get some or all of the parts at various times, and full choirs take over at other times)? This creates a texture like the vocal equivalent of a concerto.

I've read that when Bach complained about choir size, he explained that he needed enough singers to make the above approach practical at all times. I've even read that some people think all Bach's cantatas were meant to be sung this way.

A good example is Shaw's 1990 recording of the "b minor" mass BWV 232. Before hearing this recording recently, I always thought the work was just "over my head"; I even thought "maybe it really is too long for what it is", because I was trying both big-choir and small-choir attempts by conductors I knew. Only when I heard the concertist approach did this music make perfect sense to me, and I was completely floored by it at last. (It finally found its way to the right brain receptors, or something.)

P.S. - A related question: BWV 21 ("Ich hatte viel Bekuemmernis") movement 9, a good candidate for this, gets the above treatment in Suzuki's second ("Leipzig version") recording of the cantata, but not in his earlier one. Is that because of a difference in manuscripts, or because Suzuki wanted to try it both ways? The later recording is the only one I've heard that can compete with Richter's (which is full choir throughout but has its own power).

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 14, 2006):
Alan Melvin wrote:
< Is there a similar abbreviation or real name for the concertist/ripienist approach (i.e., where soloists [soli?] get some or all of the parts at various times, and full choirs take over at other times)? >
A wonderful question, and welcome change of pace. I am trying to structure a post about the recordings i have of BWV 106, which are very relevant to the question. Stay tuned, my discussion will be up within a few days at most, and perhaps even later tonight.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 16, 2006):
Alan Melvin wrote:
< Is there a similar abbreviation or real name for the concertist/ripienist approach (i.e., where soloists [soli?] get some or all of the parts at various times, and full choirs take over at other times)? This creates a texture like the vocal equivalent of a concerto. >
If I understand you correctly and you mean soloists and ripienists alternating within choral movements (not just using one soloist for arias and multiple singers for choruses), I have never heard of anything indicating such a practice existed.

< I've read that when Bach complained about choir size, he explained that he needed enough singers to make the above approach practical at all times. I've even read that some people think all Bach's cantatas were meant to be sung this way. >
This seems a really strange interpretation of the "Entwurff einer wohlbestallten Kirchen Music". IMO, that document indicates that Bach thought of OVPP as the standard performance practice, but as the perpetual disputes about this issue show, not everyone agrees. But I don't see how anyone could read switching strengths in the middle of movements into it.

<snip>
< P.S. - A related question:
BWV 21 ("Ich hatte viel Bekuemmernis") movement 9, a good candidate for this, gets the above treatment in Suzuki's second ("Leipzig version") recording of the cantata, but not in his earlier one. Is that because of a difference in manuscripts, or because Suzuki wanted to try it both ways? >
BWV 21 is one of very few cantatas for which the surviving parts show that there were ripienists for the choruses in addition to soloists. This is actually one of the strong arguments in favour of OVPP as the standard: if alternating between soloists and soloists + ripienists (we know for a fact the soloists sang all choruses too) was the common practice, one would expect a lot of evidence to that effect in both scores and parts. But such
indications are rare exceptions.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 16, 2006):
Tom Hens wrote:
>>BWV 21 is one of very few cantatas for which the surviving parts show that there were ripienists for the choruses in addition to soloists. This is actually one of the strong arguments in favour of OVPP as the standard: if alternating between soloists and soloists+ripienists (we know for a fact the soloists sang all choruses too) was the common practice, one would expect a lot of evidence to that effect in both scores and parts. But such indications are rare exceptions.<<
Actually, no clear standard can be inferred from the only evidence we have in the form of an original set of parts consisting of various stages/variants of performances which took place under Bach's direction even before the first Leipzig performance on June 13, 1723 (Bach's third cantata to be performed after assuming his duties in Leipzig).

Here are some points to be considered:

1. None of the surviving original vocal parts, all from the pre-Leipzig period has the indication of either 'Solo' or 'Tutti' written on them. There were numerous performances of BWV 21 in various venues that might be considered: Halle, Weimar, Hamburg, Köthen. Joshua Rifkin, discussing BWV 195 (on pp. 202-203 of Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" Boydell, 2000) comments incorrectly as follows:

>>Obviously, the 'solo' and 'tutti' markings entered in the main parts functioned as this guide -- and, so far as we can tell, had no other function whatever. Although time does not permit us to discuss any other instances of this practice, I should note in passing that BWV 21 and BWV 76 in fact present situations directly parallel to the one described here.<<

In fact, the NBA KB I/16 pp. 107 [my summary of the German follows] states that any indications (Solo/Tutti), if they appear at all in the standard (non-ripieno) vocal parts SAB (not Tenor) copied by copyists in the Weimar period, they were added later by Bach (very likely before (rather early in the year 1723) the first performance in Leipzig). The only soprano part surviving from the Köthen period, has no markings regarding solo/tutti whatsoever.

On p. 178, Parrott lists BWV 21 as having extant vocal parts for the complete set SATB | SATB (solo parts | ripieno parts). This would make it appear that all four ripieno parts are extant for BWV 21. There is a footnote reference to an Early Music article by Rifkin, the content or qualification Parrott does not want to share with the reader, thus leaving the reader believing that the entire set of ripieno parts is extant. The NBA KB informs us that only the Tenor and Bass ripieno parts survive.

On p. 61, Parrott lists as surviving ripieno parts for BWV 21 all four, SATB, parts (once again the reader is requested to look at Rifkin's Early Music article to determine whether Parrott's assertion is true or not.

On p. 69, Parrott has another opportunity to correct this misinformation abou the extant parts.

2. On p. 48, Parrott quotes Robert L. Marshall's point that some possible reasons for Bach's not providing ripieno parts regularly were

a.) Bach was pressed for time
b.) copyists were not easily found
c.) routinely each vocal part was shared by two or three singers and verbal indications at the rehearsal would have sufficed

To these reasons should be added:

Being at first very unfamiliar with the capabilities of his singers in Leipzig, Bach took extra steps to ensure that his initial performances would meet his musical standards since his honor and name were integrally connected to successful performances of his compositions. He would take these extra steps on other rather rare occasions in the future as well on special festive occasions (Christmas, Passions, Funeral Music for Heads of State,Town Council Inaugurations, etc., where larger vocal forces were used, singers who were not normally part of the primary choir that performed most cantatas regularly and understood what Bach would want.

This leaves us with the thorny problem of interpreting the significance of the absence of ripieno parts or markings of Solo/Tutti in most of the extant autograph scores.

Can we legitimately assume that Bach simply got tired of providing these ripieno parts? No, since he did provde them on special occasions (imagine here the additional vocalists (outsiders: university students, alumni of the St. Thomas School, other professional singers who happened be in town temporarily) that would join the choir and could not be expected to share parts with the regular choir, where the choir members were already accustomed to certain choir placements (as to who would sing from which part while
standing in a specific position).

In the case of BWV 21, Bach provided for a relatively early repeat performance of this work which had seen quite a number of performances by Bach before he even arrived in Leipzig. The NBA KB editors surmise that there must have been at least 3, 4 or more autograph scores from the pre-Leipzig period that have been lost. The question that needs to be raised is why were there no indications that the indications of a Concertist/Ripienist performance took place before his arrival in Leipzig? Were all these previous performances strictly OVPP, or did the court chapel choirs (Weimar/Köthen) also enlist the aid of singers (boys) from the local churches for performances of BWV 21? Were the church choirs of Hamburg and Halle so excellent that they could indeed sing the complete choral mvts. without resorting to a division between soloists and tutti choirs? In any case, for all these early performances of BWV 21, Bach did not indicate in the vocal parts that there should be a division.

Since Bach's indications for a division are missing on a very large number of cantatas, does this mean that OVPP can be considered as the only regular method of performing Bach's Leipzig cantatas? Imagine a tiny group of only 2 or 3 boys and perhaps and alumnus singing the bass part for the regularly performed cantatas in Leipzig! It may be possible but highly unlikely. In previous listings I have shared data on the size of choirs during Bach's lifetime. [Johann Gottfried Walther reports that Domenico Scarlatti conducted a chapel choir in Lisbon, Portugal in 1728 which had 30 to 40 singers in addition to the instrumentalists.) I have also pointed out how careless it would be to rely on the iconography of engravings from Bach's time to count the number of individuals actually singing. Leipzig, as a cultural center was proud of its tradition of fairs which attracted many visitors from distant places. The larger the size of the choir, the more representative of the grandeur and greatness of a locality.

 

OVPP [was: van Veldhoven's tour of BMM this week in the US]

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 17, 2007):
Uri Golomb wrote:
>>BTW, Bach scores the SJP two-per-part throughout, if I understand correctly -- I'm relying here on existing research, not on direct examination of the parts.<<
Let me guess here, Uri, that you are probably referring to Rifkin's research on 'Bach's Chorus' (reprinted as Appendix 6 in Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" (Boydell, 2000). On p. 207 Rifkin clearly spells it all out:

"Finally, if Bach had no more than eight singers for his two surviving Passions -- the works for which he could apparently call on a larger vocal group than he normally could at any other point in the Leipzig liturgical year -- how can one seriously contend that he normally had more than that number for regular Sunday cantatas? In sum: We have no solid evidence -- documentary, theoretical, or notational -- to support the assumption that Bach ever hadmore than one singer reading from each of his vocal parts, while every piece of evidence that we do have speaks strongly for one singer alone. Given the state of his performing materials, cautious scholarship hardly leaves us any option but to imagine the greater part of his vocal performances -- in or out of church, in Leipzig or elsewhere -- as involving nothing more than a quartet of singers."

This is a strong statement which attempts to argue on the basis of Rifkin's own selectivity of materials/evidence ('cautious scholarship'?) that:

1. Only one vocalist can sing from a single part. Parrott devotes a chapter to 'Copies and Copy-sharing' and tries desperately (and unsuccessfully IMO) to prove his own interpretation of the Groschuff 1710 print (pp. 54-56).

2. There is no solid evidence in any form that would indicate that Bach ever wanted more than a single vocalist to sing from a single part.

(pp. 204ff.) Rifkin plays the same shell game with the reader that he had already used in reducing Bach's vocal forces using the Entwurff. He gets the reader to put vocalists into little boxes (they are boxed in), then he removes as many as he can distributing all but four singers among the instrumentalists whose numbers are always too few to mount a performance because of illness and what have you. Here, in the SJP explanation (pp. 204-5), Rifkin makes a big issue about how the NBA printed score of mvt. 32 (Table IX, Bass aria + 4 pt. chorale setting), causes the Basso solo (in the Jesus part) to drop out of the common bass part in order to sing "teurer Heiland, laß dich fragen", thus leaving the Bass ripieno (remember that Rifkin has forced you to think that ripieno means only a single voice(!) to sing the ripieno part all alone. Rifkin (on top of p. 206) wants you now to believe that the part the Basso soloist is holding was being shared with the single bass ripienist and that Bach somehow may have forgotten to include the bass ripieno part for the chorale or should have included a
directive to the ripienist to look for another part. This crazy argument ends with "Hence the ripieno parts presuppose only one voice on each of the main parts." Actually, the situation with the parts is much more complicated than the 'neat' diagram on p. 205 can possibly show. This means that important factors have been suppressed or overlooked: The "Basso. Jesus" part lacks mvt. 32 entirely (this we must assume is the florid, aria-like accompaniment to the chorale and not the bass-line to the chorale -- the NBA KB editors indicate that the 4-pt. chorale setting may originally have been performed by strings alone). So where did the NBA editors get this special bass part, if it was nowhere to be found in the now existing parts? Was it from the 'Main parts': "Basso"? No. Because these are posited parts which were missing early on and cannot be consulted for specific information as to what is and what is not on them. The NBA editors have the original, autograph score for this information. Let's put this another way: The only part which would most likely would have included the "teurer Heiland, laß dich fragen" basso line is the "Basso. Jesu" part where, as the NBA KB editors put it "it was inadvertently omitted." Rifkin seems to have based his argument simply upon looking at the NBA printed score and what he thought were all the available parts without carefully checking the details. However, by not consulting the NBA KB in this matter, Rifkin has presented an argument insufficiently grounded in facts based upon the available evidence and has avoided determining what the actual connections between the score and the status of the parts are.

In another related matter in the SJP, Rifkin overlooks the fact that Bach, in his autograph score, uses the word "Chor" or the designation "Chor sequitur". Rifkin would like his readers to believe that "Chor" means only 4 singers, 8, at the most, when ripieno parts exist. In doing so, Rifkin completely disregards other evidence where Bach specifically uses the term "Chor" or "Vocal Chor" to refer to a body of singers larger than the minimum 4 different singers with each one singing a separate part.

Bach-Dokumente I, Item 180 Leipzig, May 18, 1729 Bach's handwritten list of numbers of members of each choir:

"Chor" (Primary Choir) consists of 3 Sopranos, 3 Altos, 3 Tenors, 3 Basses.

Bach-Dokumente I, Item 22 "Entwurff" Leipzig, August 23, 1730:

At least 3 Sopranos, 3 Altos, 3 Tenors, and 3 Basses belong in each "Chor"

A list of members (singers) of each of the church choirs in Leipzig 1744/1745 (Document in the Stadtarchiv Leipzig, Sift B VIII.26):

"Chor" (Primary Choir) has a total of 17 members.

And, of course, there is always Gesner's report from 1738 which reflects upon what he experienced while he was still closely connected with Bach's activities in Leipzig. (Bach-Dokumente II, 432).

Gesner describes the entire ensemble of musicians which he witnessed as numbering from 30 to 40, of which no doubt at least a dozen or 16 would have been vocalists/vocal choir members.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 17, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Gesner describes the entire ensemble of musicians which he witnessed as numbering from 30 to 40, of which no doubt at least a dozen or 16 would have been vocalists/vocal choir members. >
The problem remains that there are no multiple copies for the singers. One can plausibly assume two singers sharing a part, but 3-4 people is a physical impossibility given the size of the pages.

The really puzzling thing is that the surviving parts show no sign of use. Perhaps exemplars but that presumes that the performance copies are all lost.

Whatever the solution to the mystery, the fact remains that Bach's available singers numbered 16, a much smaller ensemble than normally encountered in modern performances.

Canyon Rick wrote (April 17, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Whatever the solution to the mystery, the fact remains that Bach's available singers numbered 16, a much smaller ensemble than normally encountered in modern performances. >
Are you saying 16 among the 4 choirs? or, 16 in the First/Cantata choir? I'm thinking you mean the latter. If so, then further focusing on this number, do you subscribe to the nice and neat idea that this choir was 4-4-4-4 (SATB)? It would not have been musically wise to perhaps have a 5-5-3-3 choir? or, a 5-4-4-3 choir?

I appreciate that there is proly no evidence to suggest other than 4-4-4-4. Indeed, one would surmise this nice symetry from the Entwurf. But, what I see in modern performances using boys, the sopranos and altos significantly outnumber the tenors and basses. (the Harnoncourt WO DVD is an example). The reasons for this are understandable.

But, wouldn't these same reasons have been similarly valid during Bach's era?

 

OVPP drama [was: Re: singing OT/questions about 18th-century voice-teaching theory vs. performance spaces]

Uri Golomb wrote (April 18, 2007):
Neil Mason asked (regarding McCreesh's live SMP at St. John's Smith Square):
"But I'm curious to know, Uri, whether you felt the SMP was suitably dramatic."
The short answer is: yes. I wrote a review of the concert, which you can read on http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/SMP-Golomb.htm. Actually, that review covers three performances of the SMP -- two in 2001 (by McCreesh and Norrington), one in 2002 (by McCreesh). You'll need to scroll down to the second half of the page to reach threview of McCreesh's SJSS performance in 2002. Here's the most relevant bit of the review:

"This powerful manner was carried into their rendition of the choruses, which means that, at least as I felt it, there was enough drama even in the turba choruses; such chilling moments as "Lass ihn kreuzig" did not lack venom or bite. The clash between the plaintive "So ist mein Jesu nun gefangen" (soprano and alto, chorus 1) and the more emphatic interjections "Lasst ihn, haltet, bindet nicht" (chorus 2) was, if anything, more effective than usual: the fact that the other side also consisted of a quartet of soloists actually allowed them to be as fierce as necessary, without fearing that they will drown the lament. And when the two choruses joined together for "Sind Blitzen und Donner", their unisono sound was quite close to that of a choir in the modern sense, and missing none of the latter 's terror and power. In my review of McCreesh's previous performance above, I noted other moments where the use of single voices seemed particularly convincing; these moments were at least as affecting and moving in the new performance."

In any case, for me there is nothing surprising about a group of soloists achieving sufficient drama: in late Renaissance and early Baroque madrigals, groups of soloists usually prove more dramatic and theatrical than choirs. It's true that, in these repertoires, the singers usually don't have to balance themselves against an orchestra -- only against each other (and, at most, a continuo section; but then again, in operatic ensembles (think about the ensembles in Mozart's operas), groups of soloists do have to project complex and expressive drama while facing an orchestra larger than in most of Bach's works. Spatial arrangements do make a difference, I suppose: as I said in my review, the fact that McCressh placed his singers in front of the orchestra probably helped them project their voices more fully and comfortably.

Neil Mason wrote (April 19, 2007):
[To Uri Golomb] Thanks for that, Uri. Much appreciated.

 

Scheibel on OVPP

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2007):
Brad Lehman, as a professional musician and musicologist, recently recommended as support for OVPP in Bach's music Stephen Rose's short article "Probing Bach's World" Early Music (2007), 35, pp. 118-120.

In this article Rose quotes from a translation of Gottfried Ephraim Scheibel's document, "Zufällige Gedancken von der Kirchenmusic" ("Random Thoughts about Church Music in Our Day") (1721), Scheibel's own statement regarding the ideal size of a choir that "'if each part is provided with one or at most two people who excel in what they do, then a choir is well appointed."

By presenting this information in such a cursory manner, the reader is being misled to believe that this author offers historical evidence for the size of Bach's Primary Choir in Leipzig during Bach's tenure there.

Brad Lehman also gives the reference to a substantially, but not entirely complete translation contained in the book "Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community", edited by Carol K. Baron and contained in the Eastman Studies in Music, vol. 37, in chapter 9, pp. 227-249.

The carefully worded introduction to this chapter by Joyce Irwin, who also prepared the translation, instructs the reader that Johann Mattheson twice praised Scheibel's book, but was only focused on Scheibel's thoughts and recommendations about writing poetry which was appropriate for setting to music. Scheibel was 25 years old when his book was published in 1721, but, as he candidly admits that he is presenting himself 'comme un philosophe' and not as an experienced musician or cantor since he does not want to 'pose as a musician.' He also tells the reader that he related his random 'thoughts about church music just as they occurred to him and as he found reasonable.'

When Scheibel does get around to chapter 7 "On the Appointment of Musicians in the Church", he first speaks of excellent church music occurring only if there is a David or and Orpheus to move the souls of the listeners through his voice or instrument. He then states, and this is significant and must not be overlooked, "Experience confirms this in the places where music is well appointed so that people get a true taste of it. In Vienna, Dresden, Hamburg, Leipzig, and so on, where one encounters virtuosos, one sees how music arouses lovers and admirers, and consequently it must have achieved its effect in them. Now it is not altogether bad that this doesn't happen in all cities. Not everywhere are there elegant courts or well-to-do citizens who can afford with little effort to pay the salaries of such persons. And even if this were not the case, church taxes do not yield as much as is necessary to maintain a choir..For it does not depend totally on the quantity; we can instead call it a waste when a choir is filled with greater forces than are necessary and when frequently a church could employ three or more choirs without loss. What purpose does a large mass of singers and instrumentalists serve, and further what is the use of three or four organs in a church? Why does one acquire such costly works, let alone pay castrati from Italy and other such wasteful expenditures when someone else would do just as well if not better than many such capons? If each part or voice is provided with one or at most two persons who excel in what they do, then a choir is well provided. Particularly is this the case nowadays when few arias are sung 'tutti', but most are solos (in which the instruments necessarily must not be heard strongly, because the voice would not be heard above them); and if there are 'tutti' words, it is enough if the main voices do their part, even if they consist of single persons."

Important thoughts from this passage:

1. Monetary considerations (support by nobility/royalty as in the case of Dresden, perhaps also Vienna, and support by the city officials as in Hamburg and Leipzig) dictate the quality of singers as well as the size of the choir - Walther's Music Lexicon confirms that the size of royal, courtly choirs can consist of 30 to 40 singers [Capellmeister at the court in Lisbon in 1728 was Domenico Scarlatti -who had "as many instrumentalists as singers and the singers numbered between 30 to 40 of which most were Italians"].

Assuming that what Scheibel means when he states that it is a waste when "frequently a church could employ three or more choirs without loss", is comparable to Bach's where he had to create his 4 choirs mainly from the school boys associated only with one church-school, then this would apply to the Leipzig choir situation under Bach. Presumably, then, one church choir with 4 to 8 good singers could provide excellent music for all of the churches that fell under Bach's jurisdiction. Other than this interpretation, I have not yet read of any single church in Germany having 3 or more vocal choirs for a single church. What could Scheibel otherwise be referring to here?

2. "Well appointed" probably refers to the same term that Bach used in his Entwurff, "wohlbestellt". This refers to the numbers and the types of musicians required for performing music. It also implies that the numbers must meet the requirements of the composer. Bach has personally indicated the numbers of vocalists he had as well as the number he required for his sacred music performances with the Primary Choir (and orchestra) in Leipzig: a minimum of 3 with 4 vocalists for each part being even better. A roster of performers in the primary choir near the end of Bach's life has 17 names. This allows for the possibility of at least one singer being absent at a performance (assuming that Bach would be forced to use only the singers on this list and did not supply any missing singers from else(non-enrolled Thomaner, for instance, which probably happened frequently).

George J. Buelow, in his article on Scheibel contained in the Grove Music Dictionary Online (Oxford University Press, 2007, acc. 4/20/07), states the following:

>> Scheibel, Gottfried Ephraim
(born in Breslau, 1696; died in Breslau, 1759). German theologian. According to Eitner, he studied theology in Leipzig and became a teacher at the Elisabeth-Gymnasium, Breslau, in 1736. He had previously lived in Oels (now Oleonica), Silesia, where he wrote his most important music treatise, Zufällige Gedancken von der Kirchenmusic (1721). This significant book presents a clear statement on the value of music in the Protestant church service at that time, particularly its role in moving the emotions of the congregation in harmony with the word of God. Scheibel defended the place of music in the church against the attacks of those he called
'Zwingelianer'. He was one of the first to suggest that women deserved admission to church choirs, and that the ever-growing scarcity of good boy sopranos made the need for women critical. He also supported the parody practice, giving examples showing the substitution of sacred texts for secular ones used in opera arias by G.P. Telemann. He urged that the theatrical style be used to enliven church music, adding: 'I do not understand why the opera alone should have the privilege to move us to tears, and why this is also not appropriate to the church'. Scheibel's work was warmly praised by Mattheson in Critica musica (Hamburg, 1722), and there seems to have been a close professional relationship between the two. Scheibel dedicated his Musicalisch-poetische andächtige Betrachtungen to Mattheson, and the latter reciprocated by dedicating Der neue Göttingische. Ephorus (Hamburg, 1727) to Scheibel.<<

As is apparent from this entry, the following facts are confirmed:

Scheibel was:

1. gifted with words, particularly in regard to the libretti to be used by composers (he wrote the libretti for Christoph Gottlieb Schröter's (1699-1782) [also a member of the Mizler Music Society like Bach] yearly cantata cycle].

2. praised by Mattheson for his thoughts and recommendations on the type of poetry that was suitable/appropriate for use by composers.

3. not a musician. There is no evidence that he ever sang or played an instrument. In his book, referred to earlier, he personally admits to this.

Final thoughts:

When Scheibel states: "If each part or voice is provided with one or at most two persons who excel in what they do, then a choir is well provided", he has already qualified this statement as not pertaining to what Bach was doing in Leipzig. Scheibel is primarily referring to churches in other smaller cities and particularly in villages where monetary factors might otherwise exclude figural music altogether because it would cost too much to find the required number of good musicians to become members of a church choir that might resemble the numbers of singers found at the courts in Germany and Europe or those found in the large cities of Germany already mentioned. Scheibel also would not envision, for these poorer and smaller churches, the large numbers and the great variety of instruments which Bach employed as being appropriate for such a choir consisting only of 4 to 8 singers at the most.

As such Scheibel offers no evidence for OVPP that can be applied to Bach's situation in Leipzig. His recommendation, coming from a non-musician, is intended as a message of hope to those churches which were not as large and as well-supported financially as in Leipzig or Hamburg so that they will not be forced to give up figural music during church services completely because they might entertain the notion that a choir must have 12 to 16 or more voices.

By removing the entire context of Scheibel's comment: "if each part is provided with one or at most two people who excel in what they do, then a choir is well appointed" and allowing the reader to believe that this could amount to historical confirmation of the OVPP theory, those who cite Scheibel's statement in this manner are misleading the reader to assume or come to believe that this theory has found support in the records from Bach's time and would prove that Bach likewise would have followed Scheibel's recommendation.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Brad Lehman, as a professional musician and musicologist, recently recommended as support for OVPP in Bach's music Stephen Rose’s short article “Probing Bach’s World” Early Music (2007), 35, pp. 118-120.
In this article Rose quotes from a translation of Gottfried Ephraim Scheibel’s document, “Zufällige Gedancken von der Kirchenmusic” (“Random Thoughts about Church Music in Our Day”) (1721), Scheibel’s own statement regarding the ideal size of a choir that “'if each part is provided with one or at most two people who excel in what they do, then a choir is well appointed.”
By presenting this information in such a cursory manner, the reader is being misled to believe that this author offers historical evidence for the size of Bach’s Primary Choir in
Leipzig during Bach’s tenure there.
Brad Lehman also gives the reference to a substantially, but not entirely complete translation contained in the book “Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community”, edited by Carol K. Baron and contained in the Eastman Studies in Music, vol. 37, in chapter 9, pp. 227-249. >
(etc, etc, etc, etc...another page or two of Braatz, thwacking Scheibel as if his stuff is all irrelevant.)

I was relaying information directly from Stephen Rose's review, printed in the current issue of Early Music. And I said so, directly!

I wrote, verbatim, on 4/16/07:
>>
Stephen Rose's Early Music review
http://em.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/citation/35/1/118?rss=1
of that book puts it this way: "Scheibel's treatise is especially relevant to the cantatas of Bach, for it justifies the use of theatrical styles in church. Scheibel also advocates the parodying of secular cantatas with sacred words, a technique used by Bach; on the subject of choir size, he says that 'if each part is provided with one or at most two people who excel in what they do, then a choir is well appointed.'"
<<

WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM with this? Why are you trying to beat Rose up on this; or more so, to beat ME up on this personally?

Once again: I was simply typing a copy of these sentences from Rose's review in Early Music. I forwarded this information as I thought some BCML members might be interested to go look up that review by Rose, and those books he reviewed, for themselves. That is all.

Anyway, thank you for recognizing my expertise as musician and musicologist. Much appreciated.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 20, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< As such Scheibel offers no evidence for OVPP that can be applied to Bach’s situation in Leipzig. His recommendation, coming from a non-musician, is intended as a message of hope to those churches which were not as large and as well-supported financially as in Leipzig or Hamburg (...) >
Just curious: with regard to YOUR recommendations (on zillions of musical topics), coming as they do from a non-musician, what hope or despair do you intend them to convey? And to whom? And why?

And: since you're apparently disinclined to trust Scheibel as any manner of reliable resource--by saying several times that he's a non-musician, and other various ad hominem complaints of yours against him--why should we trust you as any manner of reliable resource? If you're gonna plthat discreditation game against such a source, it's only fair that the same game and rules also apply equally to you. Nicht wahr?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 20, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>...with regard to YOUR recommendations...coming as they do from a non-musician...<<
I have never stated or claimed that I am a non-musician as you always wish to point out. It is only you who has attempted to define a musician as one who has received academic training in music with a degree at a university or acclaimed music school. This, of course, would force me into the same category as Telemann and Bach who were autodidacts in just about every sense of the word, particularly not having enjoyed a university education with degrees in music. Thanks, however, for putting me into such illustrious company! It makes me feel good about myself after all the rather mean criticism you have directed at me recently.

BL: "And: since you're apparently disinclined to trust Scheibel as any manner of reliable resource...."
You have not read or understood my remarks correctly, otherwise you would not persist in making statements such as these. It is not my problem if you are either unwilling or unable to read my discussion of your reference to Scheibel on OVPP objectively and now, subsequently, wish to have readers believe your extreme, untrue claims against my presentation of this information. It is nonsense for you to criticize my pointing out that Scheibel was a non-musician and thus accuse me of attempting to discredit him in this regard because, thankfully, he was honest enough to admit this himself in writing.

Please read my message again so that you might find all the positive information I shared about Scheibel: his expertise in writing poetry suited for setting to music, his support for women in church choirs (not possible in Leipzig during Bach's tenure, but an important recommendation for churches in smaller towns and villages where financial resources are very limited), etc.

BL: >>If you're gonna play that discreditation game against such a source....<<
Determining the value of the source is extremely important, particularly when it pertains directly to support the performance practices used in performing Bach's music. Scheibel does not give us an eye/ear-witness account of Bach's practices the way Gesner did when the latter gave the number of musicians performing sacred music under Bach's direction. Scheibel's credibility value in regard to OVPP as possibly being used by Bach in Leipzig is extremely low. As such, it is not a fact that should be singled out by a reviewer in a short article without much more information about the context of Scheibel's recommendations. It is this direly needed context which I have supplied to the readers so that they may be better informed in order to make their own judgment in this matter rather than believing your description that there is further proof for Bach using OVPP in Leipzig to be found in Scheibel's book.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 15, 2007):
BL: "And: since you're apparently disinclined to trust > Scheibel as any manner of reliable resource...."
< You have not read or understood my remarks correctly, otherwise you would not persist in making statements such as these. >

I did read your several pages about Scheibel today (the latter 3/4ths of your posting), several times. The whole thing is devoted to knocking Scheibel off as any reliable resource about Bach's Leipzig practices, lest his remarks about four-person "choirs" be taken seriously in that specific regard. The stuff you've pieced together about Scheibel goes off in several directions, all demonstrating that you think he's irrelevant with regard to Bach (while perhaps worth listening to, or admirable, in some other ways). As I said more colorfully the first time: "etc, etc, etc, etc...another page or two of Braatz, thwacking Scheibel as if his stuff is all irrelevant."

And as you've said again, right here:
< direction. Scheibel's credibility value in regard to OVPP as possibly being used by Bach in Leipzig is extremely low. >
It confirms that I have indeed understood you correctly, insofar as your postings have accurately reflected your opinions. Your opinion is that Scheibel's testimony is irrelevant with regard to Bach's Leipzig practices. Loud and clear. As I said more colorfully the first time: "etc, etc, etc, etc...another page or two of Braatz, thwacking Scheibel as if his stuff is all irrelevant."

As to that irrelevance, I happen to disagree with you. And so, apparently, does Stephen Rose in his Early Music review -- which is where all of this started; but at least (once again) I did understand what you said.

Rose's review spends all of page 118, and most of page 119, showing why the various materials presented in the Bach's Changing World book (including this new Scheibel translation) are relevant to our understanding of Bach's Leipzig church music. As he points out, right away, the focus of this book is "the intellectual world of early 18th-century Leipzig." If you're going to disagree with Rose in this, fine, but your complaints might carry more weight if you've actually read Rose's review first, to see his presentation.

For the rest of his page 119 and into 120, Rose reviews two other books that also look interesting with regard to understanding Bach's Leipzig, and specifically the libretti of the cantatas. One has already been discussed here on the BCML, and the other hasn't.

 

"simply sitting out" as part of duty

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 15, 2007):
<< So the remaining 12 or so Thomaner simply sat out most of the figural choral music Sunday after Sunday while the Concertists would perform even the Coro/Chorus/Chorale sections or mvts. of all the cantatas OVPP except for a few instances where Bach indicated Ripienists should join in at a certain point or where he allowed them to sing the cantus firmus of a chorale? Does this really make any sense? >>
< That's not what I said. I said that the list of names was the roster of students who provided singers and some of the instrumentalists. The variety of music -- chorales, chant, motets, and cantatas -- may very well have been performed by varying sizes of ensembles. Even today, the performance of a Bach cantata means more waiting than singing for a choir. >
The Chicago Cubs have a full "40-man roster" that includes eight infielders: competent for their positions, and uniformed. Third base is staffed by Ramirez and DeRosa. Shortstop is staffed by Izturis and Theriot. Second bass is staffed by DeRosa and Theriot. First base is staffed by Lee and Ward. Ward is usually an outfielder, but he can play first if needed. In addition to those six gentlemen who among them do most of the work in the infield department, the Cubs also have three other infielders "not on Active Roster" who are qualified (and uniformed) to play if needed: Cedeno, Dopirak, and Moore. And either Barrett or Blanco will be catching, unless they bring up Soto.

(Information courtesy of http://chicago.cubs.mlb.com/team/roster_40man.jsp)

The rules of baseball prohibit putting two catchers behind the plate at the same time, let alone all three. That's just the way it is. That's how the game is designed. Mr Blanco gets to play only a couple times a week, but he's certainly required to be there in uniform at every game anyway. He's an important member of the active roster.

Good thing Blanco was there last year, when Barrett took a nasty injury for the last part of the season, http://tinyurl.com/3a2zj8 and the other time when Barrett earned a 10-game suspension for punching a rival player in a fight. Boys will be boys. Apparently Barrett's injury to his nasties also led to Coats being brought up from tminors; and Blanco (instead of catching) had to go play first base for a game with a borrowed mitt from a colleague! With the various illnesses, injuries, and simply needing rest, that's why they need at least two or three good guys available to play every position: to staff the whole season of appointed work. They were that stuck that they had to go to makeshift substitutions, and rotate around with players in their own second-best positions just so the team could get through the scheduled game.

Basically it's the same type of thing Bach was asking for in the Entwurff: enough decently-qualified guys to staff the whole season, in all the roles to be filled on his roster. Not to sing or play all at the same time, of course, but to handle the varied and strenuous workload, emergencies or not.

=====

If some other game is wanted, where a whole flock of people all get to stand on the court and play at the same time, there's always Church Youth Group Volleyball. That's not to be confused with real volleyball, which has exactly six players per team playing at once. But in Church Youth Group Volleyball, everybody available stands on the court at once and tries to hit the ball if it comes anywhere near them. (Well, there are usually also a couple of kids per team who are so timid and afraid of the ball that they just try to stay out of the way...sort of like the way some dilettante musicians sing or play in large ensembles....) Half of the Church Youth Group Volleyball players don't even know what a legal hit is, or strategy, let alone avoiding the illegal hits; but since the point is to have fun instead of playing the serious game of real volleyball, allowance is made for such poor play and zero management. Sometimes the lines of the court are not even marked. But hey.

 

Continue on Part 20

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 ý09:58:58