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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 1

 

 

Bach one-voice-per-part

Matthew Westphal
wrote (October 29, 1999):
I really think BWV 4 works best one-voice-per-part (as do most of the early cantatas, IMHO). The ones I recommend are: (that part of the message is missing)

Samuel Frederick wrote (October 29, 1999):
(To Matthew Westphal) Thanks for these recommendations, Matthew. I'm happy with the Purcell Quartet recording of the Lutheran Masses using the one-voice-per-part approach and have wanted to listen to other Bach pieces performed this way. Are there even more recordings (that is, other than the ones you mention), which use this approach (good or bad)? Also, what are Rifkin's most successful recordings (and which remain in print)?

Matthew Westphal wrote (October 31, 1999):
What other one-voice-per-part Bach recordings are there?

Well, any Bach Rifkin has done is OVPP; most of it has gone out of print. His famous/notorious B Minor Mass (christened "the B-Minor Madrigal" shortly after its first performance at the 1980 conference of the American Musicological Society) was originally released on Nonesuch and has just been reissued on Erato. (While the instrumental playing - particularly the brass - was not up to the standard we're used to now, the performance is, to my ears, quite musical and gracious, and the singing is very good, especially that of Judith Nelson and Julianne Baird.)

The Actus Tragicus (BWV 106)/Aus der Tiefe (BWV 131) pairing discussed before is the only other Rifkin Bach recording I find really successful. As one wise gentleman put it on RCMR, "the fewer singers you have, the better they have to be." Rifkin needed a more consistently good stable of singers than he used -- something more on the level of the singers on that Lutheran Masses Vol.1 CD.

In any case, let's see which of Rifkin's records I can remember...

His first Bach recording was a lovely "O holder Tag" with Judith Nelson for Nonesuch, now out of print. (Although I suppose that, for purposes of this discussion, solo cantatas don't count.) After the Mass, he did a Magnificat (on Pro Arte, I think) that was not very good at all; then he started recording for L'Oiseau-Lyre. There, he recorded

- (BWV 147) Wachet auf (with Baird, Minter, Jeffrey Thomas [sounding pale and dry], Opalach)/Jauchzet Gott (Baird). Except for J. Thomas, Wachet auf isn't bad at all (Baird is quite good); Jauchzet Gott is WAY too slow. (Baird, the trumpet and the tempo all sound much better on the American Bach Soloists' solo cantatas disc on Koch.)

- Ein feste Burg/Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (with Jane Bryden, Minter, J. Thomas and Opalach). Minter and Opalach do as well as they can under the circumstances, but everything about this one sounds anaemic.

Rifkin also did two discs of solo cantatas: one of wedding cantatas (Weichet nur and Non sa che sia dolore) with Baird and one of bass cantatas (incl. Ich habe genug - BWV 82) with Opalach. All of these have recently been reissued in two-disc mid-price sets on Decca; they are apparently available in the US only as imports.

The American Bach Soloists have done three OVPP cantata discs (others have included a small-ish choir) on Koch International Classics - all are of early cantatas from Weimar and Mühlhausen. The first (which includes the Actus Tragicus) is the least successful of the three, largely because Drew Minter was in unusually poor form. (Other singers are, IIRC, Brandes, Butterfield, Weaver) The other two are quite good: one has Baird, Minter, Butterfield and Weaver doing three cantatas, including Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (BWV 12); the other is cantatas for Holy Week, including Himmelskonig, sei willkommen (BWV 182) (Brandes, Malafronte, Thomas, Weaver), Aus der Tiefe (BWV 131) (Baird, Minter, Butterfield, Weaver) and Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV 4) (J. Nelson, D. Taylor, Butterfield, Richards, with cornetts and trombones).

The marvellous "Bach Epiphany Mass" by Paul McCreesh and the Gabrieli Consort and Players on DG Archiv uses OVPP for the Sanctus in D Major and "Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele" and 3-2-2-2 for the Missa brevis in F and "Sie werden aus Saba kommen". It's late, I'm sleepy and lazy - so I won't type a review here. Here's a link to my review for Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000JPC8/102-3720381-3353666

Read it quick -- my editor is making me cut it by 1/4 to 1/3 this weekend.

My favourite recording of the Hunt Cantata (BWV 208) is OVPP - the Parley of Instruments on Hyperion, with Jennifer Smith (in unusually good voice), the divine Emma (Kirkby, doing the "Sheep may safely graze" I'd always dreamed of), Simon Davies and (IIRC) Michael George.

The other main exponent of the OVPP School has been Andrew Parrott. Most of his efforts in that regard have been for EMI/Virgin, so of course they've gone out of print (at least in the US). He's done a very nice B Minor Mass (BWV 232) (excellent instrumental work; the divine Emma and Emily van Evera [Mrs. Parrott] sound a bit pale compared to Nelson and Baird for Rifkin); an excellent St. John Passion (two voices per part, as the surviving performance material indicates); a good Ascension Oratorio ("Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen") featuring the Divine Miss Em and Margaret Cable, paired with a WAY TOO FAST Magnificat (Emily van Evera, Evelyn Tubb, Caroline Trevor, Howard Crook, Simon Grant) -- Trevor (Mrs. Peter Phillips of the Tallis Scholars) does well, but Parrott needed slightly more extroverted singers and a slower tempo to let them phrase a little bit.

Parrott's last Bach recording for Virgin is the best: the Easter Oratorio and Christ lag. I think I've written about this already; in any case, since it's late and I'm getting sleepy, I was going to give a link to my review at Amazon. However, I see that even this one has gone out of print, so I'm posting my old review (to which Amazon.com has full copyright) here:

TITLE: Bach: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249; Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 4
ARTIST: van Evera, Trevor, Daniels, Thomas, Kooy; Taverner Consort & Players; Andrew Parrott cond.
LABEL: Virgin Classics
CATALOG: CDC 45011
REVIEW: This CD is probably the best single-disc example of the controversial one-voice-per-part approach to Bach's cantatas. The singers hold their own nicely with the period instruments-whether the small string ensemble in the solemn BWV 4 or the full Baroque orchestra in the spirited Oratorio. True, the vocal lines sometimes sound no more prominent than the instrumental parts-but a look at Bach's scores supports that. There is a lot of striking music-making here. For example, the opening Sinfonia of BWV 4 (taken surprisingly slowly) is breathtaking; as is the soprano-alto duet. The Sinfonia and opening chorus of the Oratorio fairly rollick along; Charles Daniels, cushioned by flutes and strings, paints a magical picture of heavenly rest.

END
Copyright Amazon.com 1998

Parrott has since gone to Sony, for which he has made one Bach CD
Heart's Solace - Bach / Parrott, Taverner Consort & Players
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000062CX/
(It includes the Trauer-Ode and two motets.)

Speaking of the motets, my favourite recording of them is by Konrad Junghänel and Cantus Cölln. (I was waiting for an OVPP recording of the motets for years, when this one finally came two years or so ago, it was everything I'd hoped for.) It's on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi - and it, too, is out of print in the US. Junghanel has since gone to Harmonia Mundi Fran, for which he has done wonderful work; they'll be releasing a recording of the "Actus Tragicus" (BWV 106), "Christ lag" (BWV 4), "Weinen Klagen" (BWV 12) and "Der Herr denket an uns" (BWV 196) in early 2000. (I have three different pieces of paper from Harmonia Mundi giving release dates for this title of January, March and April - so heaven knows when it will actually turn up.)

Does anyone know of any other OVPP Bach recordings?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (November 2, 1999):
< Matthew Westphal wrote: What other one-voice-per-part Bach recordings are there? The Actus Tragicus (BWV 106)/Aus der Tiefe (BWV 131) pairing discussed before is the only other Rifkin Bach recording I find really successful. >
Just wanted to mention that on the same CD I find BWV 8 and BWV 99, with Julianne Baird singing soprano (somewhat less convincingly than Monoyios...).

< The other main exponent of the OVPP School has been Andrew Parrott. A good Ascension Oratorio ("Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen") (BWV 11) featuring the Divine Miss Em and Margaret Cable, paired with a WAY TOO FAST Magnificat >
And, on the same CD: Cantata fragment BWV 50 - a very impressive performance. Also, I urge the readers to try this CD, because the Magnificat sounds to ME quite excellent - speed is no problem here.

< Does anyone know of any other OVPP Bach recordings? >
I believe Herreweghe did BWV 227 with just a quintet of singers.

More OVPP, anyone?

John Baker wrote (November 3, 1999):
(To Ehud Shiloni) I believe the American Bach Soloists on Koch record one voice per part and the Motets on Naxos are one voice per part.


One-to-a-part Bach?

Matthew Westphal
wrote:
I'm not at all sure I'd put Suzuki ahead of McCreesh, Parrott, Junghänel, Jeffrey Thomas (as conductor, not singer) and the courageous Joshua Rifkin. But then not everyone cares for one-singer-per part as much as I do....

Donald Satz wrote (February 4, 2000):
I have a particularly warm feeling for Rifkin's Bach cantata recordings on Decca - among the best I have heard. The "one-part" aspect is certainly viable from a historical and musical perspective.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 4, 2000): 19:41
This is a bit off-topic in a Bach newsgroup, because it will also discuss Rifkin's theories on the Mozart Requiem. My comments are triggered by the recording of the Actus Tragicus by Rifkin and a performance of Mozart's Requiem in the Utrecht Festival of Early Music with as little as 8 singers.

If the Actus Tragicus (BWV 106) was really intended for a funeral in Arnstadt or Mühlhausen the number of singers must have been limited. Even in Leipzig cantatas at funerals were more an exception than a norm, a motet must have been the norm. If I listen to the performance of the Actus Tragicus by Rifkin, IMO it's very convincing. If I listen to a performance of Leonhardt or Koopman or Suzuki, for me there is something wrong. Immediately there are problems of balance when the soprano voice sings the chorale Mit Fried und Freud fahr ich dahin. I can imagine a choir in the opening section Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit and in the closing section, however I don't think these parts really need grandeur.

The same principle was applied by Rifkin to Mozart's Requiem, with 2 singers to a part, soloists included. Count von Walsegg ordered this work for a funeral service, not a concert. According to Rifkin, even in the Stefansdom in Wien no more than 8 singers were available to sing in such services. My impression at that time was favourable, though I must admit somewhat skewed, because my seat was on the second row, just in front of the singers, who were standing before the orchestra.

BTW Harmonia Mundi France will release a new recording of the Actus Tragicus by Cantus Cölln, directed by Konrad Junghänel, in April. I'm anxious to hear it.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 4, 2000): 20:41
(To Matthew Westphal) Could you recommend certain recordings by these guys that you feel are the best examples of one-singer-per-part Bach performance? And perhaps the best written explanation of Rifkin's ideas? I agree that the results of one-to-a-part Bach can be very beautiful, but I've yet to be truly convinced that the principle is relevant for all of Bach's vocal works.

Also, I don't think the line between Rifkinists and traditionalists is as clear as you make it out to be. Suzuki uses the one-singer-per-part approach on some of his cantata recordings, especially the smaller-scale early and solo cantatas. I think Koopman does the same sometimes. Conversely, Jeffrey Thomas doesn't always use the one-to-a-part approach. His disc of "Favourite Cantatas" (BWV 80, BWV 78, and BWV 140) uses a chamber choir throughout. McCreesh performs a couple of the vocal works on his Epiphany Mass disc with a choir, and even Parrott likes to add extra sopranos to his vocal lines.

Another thing: Has Junghänel even recorded any Bach vocal works yet? I know he has a disc of early cantatas coming out later this year (May?), but I thought that was his first foray into this repertoire.

Steven Langley Guy wrote (February 4, 2000): 22:17
I have some lingering doubts about the Rifkin approach to Bach. This is not to say that I won't be totally convinced tomorrow. I heard the B Minor Mass performed with solo voices (yes I've heard the "B Minor Madrigal" quip!) and I did try to listen with an open mind. Unfortunately my ears or my brain or my heart still seems sceptical. Sorry, I know that this issue has been thrashed around on the List before and very thoroughly too....

< I agree that the results of one-to-a-part Bach can be very beautiful, but I've yet to be truly convinced that the principle is relevant for all of Bach's vocal works. >
Like Ryan, I too am yet to be convinced that one-to-a-part should be rule of thumb. Wouldn't the appearance of works for SSATB or SSAATB (and then later moving to SATB in the same work) or even SATB/SATB in double choir works indicate that in a least some instances more singers were needed than merely solo SATB? Doesn't the B Minor Mass exhibit a variety of choral forces? (SSATB, SSAATB & SATBSATB) I can't imagine singers from the choir walking on or off for various movements? Or worse, standing there the whole night, just to sing in the 'Osanna' - at least the extras would get two chances to get it right! Okay, I guess you really only need an extra tenor and an extra bass to do the whole B Minor Mass with soloists. It just doesn't make sense to me to have two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses throughout the whole work and not use all these singers all the time? Does it?

I also worry about balance. If you have a solo boy soprano and adult males singing the alto, tenor and bass lines (all solo too) wouldn't the boy have to have a pretty strong voice to be heard - especially if we throw in 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon and strings (solo or tutti) as the accompanying orchestra? This sort of set up is common in cantatas. I know that recordings can fiddle with the balance and the results of solo voices can be very attractive. I have no problem with a lot of the 'smaller' cantatas sung one-to-a-part but I do wonder about other works?

< McCreesh performs a couple of the vocal works on his Epiphany Mass disc with a choir, and even Parrott likes to add extra sopranos to his vocal lines. >
I don't want to get shot down in flames but I have wondered if there is not a little bit of fashion going into the one-voice-per-part strategy? I think that is nice to hear works performed this way, but lets hope that it doesn't become the prevailing orthodoxy. With McCreesh and Parrott you get the impression that there is some reluctance to perform Bach this throughout. I sung in the choir of a performance of Mozart's arrangement of Handel's Messiah and some of the choruses were sung be the soloists. Members of the audience that I spoke to afterwards were not impressed - maybe they didn't expect it or they were that mythical thing 'purists'? I don't know? Small choirs sound great in Messiah but one-voice-per-part seems to rob the work of something. I can cope with solo voice choruses in Bach but I hope we don't start getting Handel oratorios performed a la Rifkin.

Ben Mullins wrote (February 5, 2000): 00:06
< Steven Langley Guy wrote: [snipping] I also worry about balance. If you have a solo boy soprano and adult males singing the alto, tenor and bass lines (all solo too) wouldn't the boy have to have a pretty strong voice to be heard - especially if we throw in 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon and strings (solo or tutti) as the accompanying orchestra? This sort of set up is common in cantatas. I know that recordings can fiddle with the balance and the results of solo voices can be very attractive. I have no problem with a lot of the 'smaller' cantatas sung one-to-a-part but I do wonder about other works? [more snipping] >
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Bach's day didn't boys reach puberty later than they (we) do nowadays? Perhaps an older 'boy' soprano (15, 16, or even 17 years old?) would have a more powerful voice? Is there anyone on the list who knows more on this subject?

Johan van Veen wrote (February 5, 2000): 00:12
< Steven Langley Guy wrote: I have some lingering doubts about the Rifkin approach to Bach. This is not to say that I won't be totally convinced tomorrow. I heard the B Minor Mass performed with solo voices (yes I've heard the "B Minor Madrigal" quip!) and I did try to listen with an open mind. Unfortunately my ears or my brain or my heart still seems sceptical. >
I don't know about the reasons of conductors to adopt this approach. I know that Rifkin has theories about the practice in Bach's days, but I don't know whether the others share his views. There are very conflicting views on this issue. In the series of books accompanying the recordings of Bach's cantatas by Ton Koopman, he has made clear that he just doesn't believe that there is any historical evidence supporting Rifkin's views. So far I am not convinced either. Maybe it would be different if Rifkin was a better performer. Some on this list will thrash me, but I find Rifkin an utterly boring musician. I have heard him in Utrecht with Schütz, which was pretty awful, and the performance of Mozart's Requiem Sybrand Bakker wrote about, was without expression and drama. You wouldn't believe Mozart was one of the greatest opera composers of his time. Rifkin has also made studio recordings with the Cappella Coloniensis (the baroque orchestra of WDR Cologne) of Haydn symphonies; it's the same there - very dull. (I also think that Parrott's Bach recordings lack expression. They are just too British.)

< Sorry, I know that this issue has been thrashed around on the List before and very thoroughly too.... Like Ryan, I too am yet to be convinced that one-to-a-part should be rule of thumb. Wouldn't the appearance of works for SSATB or SSAATB (and then later moving to SATB in the same work) or even SATB/SATB in double choir works indicate that in a least some instances more singers were needed than merely solo SATB? Doesn't the B Minor Mass exhibit a variety of choral forces? (SSATB, SSAATB & SATBSATB) I can't imagine singers from the choir walking on or off for various movements? Or worse, standing there the whole night, just to sing in the 'Osanna' - at least the extras would get two chances to get it right! Okay, I guess you really only need an extra tenor and an extra bass to do the whole B Minor Mass with soloists. It just doesn't make sense to me to have two sopranos, two altos, two tenors and two basses throughout the whole work and not use all these singers all the time? Does it? >
Maybe the b minor Mass isn't the best work to show the validity of this approach. It was never performed in Bach's time, so we won't know what he had in mind. (Did he actually mean it to be performed at all, one wonders.) It is an interesting question who was singing the solo parts in Bach's cantatas. He didn't have "soloists" in the modern sense of the word. They were all part of the vocal ensemble. One wonders if the solo parts in a cantata were always sung by one singer. Could it be that for example in a cantata the tenor aria was sung by the first tenor, and then a recitative by the second tenor? So, let's assume Bach's b minor Mass would have been performed in the Thomanerkirche, maybe the singers would have relieved each other. I think that for the singers it would have been very tiring to sing the whole piece.

< I also worry about balance. If you have a solo boy soprano and adult males singing the alto, tenor and bass lines (all solo too) wouldn't the boy have to have a pretty strong voice to be heard - especially if we throw in 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, bassoon and strings (solo or tutti) as the accompanying orchestra? This sort of set up is common in cantatas. I know that recordings can fiddle with the balance and the results of solo voices can be very attractive. I have no problem with a lot of the 'smaller' cantatas sung one-to-a-part but I do wonder about other works? >
Perhaps singers in Bach's time had louder voices that those of today. I don't think that the boys would give special problems. They were a lot older than the trebles in the boys' choirs of today, probably between 17 and 20. Some singers may even have been able to sing the upper parts with falsetto.

Benjamin Mullins wrote (February 5, 2000): 00:14
< Johan van Veen wrote: Perhaps singers in Bach's time had louder voices that those of today. I don't think that the boys would give special problems. They were a lot older than the trebles in the boys' choirs of today, probably between 17 and 20. Some singers may even have been able to sing the upper parts with falsetto. >
< [Then 5 minutes latter, without checking my email again, I wrote:]
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in Bach's day didn't boys reach puberty later than they (we) do nowadays? Perhaps an older 'boy' soprano (15, 16, or even 17 years old?) would have a more powerful voice? Is there anyone on the list who knows more on this subject? >
You beat me to the punch Johan!

Johan van Veen wrote (February 5, 2000): 00:15
< Ryan Michero wrote: Another thing: Has Junghänel even recorded any Bach vocal works yet? I know he has a disc of early cantatas coming out later this year (May?), but I thought that was his first foray into this repertoire. >
He has recorded Bach's motets (Harmonia Mundi France). I haven't heard them all, only one or two, and I wasn't very impressed. But maybe when I listen to them all I would be more positive.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (February 5, 2000): 00:30
[To Steven Langley Guy] A few remarks about the theory, and I see problems in it too...

I Usually, if you are going to revive a Bach vocal work from the Leipzig period, it is a good idea to take the Entwurff from 1730 as a reference. In this memorandum Bach describes the ideal disposition. He assumes 2-3 singers per part, including soloists. Of course, this also assumes there were 55 alumni in the Thomas School, who all could sing in some way. Bach frequently needed to borrow both singers and instrumentalists from the University, and complains about people being admitted who can't sing at all, not even a chorale. So chances are he would have performed vocal works with LESS singers than his Entwurff.

II Rifkin assumes two things: Bach and his circle were very economical. They always copied the correct number of parts, and all those parts have been preserved. Also he assumes every part was used by only 1 singer.

Comments: in some cases there is one part for a concertist and one part for a ripienist. This is a clear case of more than one singer to a part. Ton Koopman states it was customary two people were singing from one part, as is shown from 18th century iconology. So, according to him, tnumber of parts doesn't tell us anything about the number of singers.

In the last Utrecht Early Music Festival Jos van Veldhoven conducted a B-minor mass where all fugue entries where sung by soloists. As soon as all voices have made their entry, the entire choir starts to sing. This must go back on the ideas of Wilhelm Ehmann about 'concertisten and ripienisten in the B-minor Mass'. I have no exact details about those ideas, but I found them very unconvincing.

Karl Otsuki wrote (February 5, 2000): 02:02
Probably many of you are interested in finding out where this Rifkin's theory came from. Bach's Entwurff (draft) that Sybrand mentioned earlier is one of the sources Rifkin used, and it can be read in the books below.

Bach-Dokumente Band I P. 60 #22
The New Bach Reader (1998) p.145, #151 (English!)

The Rifkin's paper on 'one-to-a-part':
"Bach's Chorus" in The Musical Times 1982, p.747-754.

If you're interested in his theory, this article also helps:
Parrott, Andrew: "Bach's chorus: a 'brief yet highly necessary' reappraisal"
Early Music, November 1996, p.551-580.

For your information.

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 5, 2000): 3:16
< Ryan Michero wrote: Could you recommend certain recordings by these guys [McCreesh, Parrott, Junghänel, Jeffrey Thomas, Joshua Rifkin] that you feel are the best examples of one-singer-per-part Bach performance? >
(If I've included a link to Amazon.com, it means I have a review there and/or there are sound clips. Remember that the most of the EMI/Virgin and DHM recordings I cite are no longer in print in the US; you may find them at a European site or a second-hand shop.)

JOSHUA RIFKIN:
Back when Rifkin was recording a lot, he wanted always to use American singers. In the early and mid-1980s, there weren't all that many good early-music-singers in the States, and some who were good didn't want to be seen associating with Rifkin's theory (FAR more widely reviled then than now). So Rifkin's casting is... uneven. He has used good singers like Baird and Monoyios and not-so-good singers who shall remain nameless -- and (as one wise fellow on rec.music.classical.recordings put it) the fewer singers you have, the better they have to be.

I think Rifkin's best were the B-Minor Mass
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000005IX6/ and BWV 106 and BWV 131
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000INV4/. I liked BWV 140,

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000042HM/) though it was paired with a performance of BWV 51 "Jauchzet Gott" that wasn't really up to Julianne Baird's standards. (She's much better for J. Thomas -
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001SFB/, also including Minter in BWV 54). Rifkin's BWV 147 wasn't very good at all - torpedoed by weak singing. (With Rifkin's B-Minor Mass (BWV 232), bear in mind that the standard of period-instrument playing - especially brass - was not as high in 1981 as it is now.)

ANDREW PARROTT:
The only Parrott Bach CD currently in print in the US is "Heart's Solace"

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0000062CX/), which has the motets "Komm, Jesu, Komm" and "Jesu, meine Freude" and the Trauer-Ode (BWV 198). It's good, but I think the best of Parrott's Bach is the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) and BWV 4. (This and all Parrott's other Bach records are on EMI/Virgin and are out of print in the US; you can probably get them from Europe.) I like his St. John Passion a lot, though others may find Rogers Covey-Crump's voice too thin to make a good Evangelist. (Parrott does the choruses in the SJP two-per-part, as the performing parts, which have survived more-or-less complete, include separate ripieno parts for the choruses. For the upper parts he uses one woman and one boy each.) His B-Minor Mass (BWV 232) and BWV 11 are good as well; the Magnificat (BWV 243) is simply taken too quickly for comfort.

JEFFREY THOMAS / AMERICAN BACH SOLOISTS:
JT doesn't do all Bach cantatas one-to-a-part (he's not doctrinaire at all, saying simply that he does what he thinks sounds good), but he was the first after Rifkin and Parrott to try it on disc. The best are Vol.4 "Cantatas for Holy Week" (BWV 182, BWV 131, BWV 4)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001SH4/ and Vol.5
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001SIU/. (Of JT's Bach recordings with a chorus, my favourite is Vol.6
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001SH3/. Vol.3 (one-per-part) is not as good - Drew Minter was having a bad day, I'm afraid.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000001SFP/

KONRAD JUNGHÄNEL / CANTUS CÖLLN:
They did the six motets for Deutsche Harmonia Mundi (their last recording there before going to Harmonia Mundi France, I believe); it's also out of print in the US. Their recording of early cantatas (BWV 131, BWV 4 and two others) for HM France will be released this spring; the one advance clip I've heard was very, very good.

PAUL McCreesh:
The much-discussed Epiphany Mass:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000JPC8/) is the only Bach he has recorded so far. He does cantata BWV 180 and the Sanctus BWV 238 one-per-part and the Missa BWV 233 and cantata BWV 65 with SATB 3-2-2-2. (Performing materials for the latter two have not survived, according to the booklet notes; PmcC has the "concertists" (soloists) sing throughout all choruses and the "ripienists" (the remainder) join them at particular moments, which he has chosen following examples such as BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" and BWV 71 "Gott ist mein König", both of which have particular sections of choruses marked for ripienists in the autograph scores.

I've seen good reports of his St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) from Nantes last weekend; a fried taped it from the radio and is sending it to me. He used one singer for each part in the two choruses and a separate quartet of soloists (presumably to save wear and tear on everyone through the live performance). When he records it (March 2002), he will use just eight singers. This spring he is touring and recording a program with the Easter Oratorio and the Magnificat.

My favourite one-per-part recording (for now) -
PURCELL QUARTET "Plus"
Lutheran Masses vol. 1 (BWV 234 and BWV 235)
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00000J8QP/. Among other things, this has arguably the strongest set of soloists (Susan Gritton, Robin Blaze, Mark Padmore, Peter Harvey)

Vol.2 (BWV 233 and BWV 236), with Nancy Argenta and Michael Chance replacing Gritton and Blaze,is due for release in March.
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B00004GOWP/

< And perhaps the best written explanation of Rifkin's ideas? >
The best place to start may just be the booklet note to Rifkin's B-Minor Mass. Also, Karl Otsuki posted these three:

Bach-Dokumente Band I P.60 #22
The New Bach Reader (1998) p.145, #151 (English!)

The Rifkin's paper on 'one-to-a-part':
"Bach's Chorus" in The Musical Times 1982, p.747-754.
(This is likely the full version of the B-Minor Mass booklet notes.)

Parrott, Andrew. "Bach's chorus: a 'brief yet highly necessary' reappraisal"
Early Music, November 1996, p.551-580.

The exchange that Parrott's article began ran in the pages of EARLY MUSIC (both articles and letters) until 1999 -- we had Parrott and Rifkin on one side with Koopman and Christoph Wolff leading the opposition. I recently finished reading all of it and it's fascinating; I urge anyone who can get access to these back issues to read the articles.

The more I read, the more I was convinced by Rifkin's and Parrott's reading of the evidence to indicate that Bach composed most of his sacred vocal music for one-singer-per-part (and that where he didn't, we usually have explicit evidence to that effect from the autograph score or parts for ripienists). Koopman seemed to be desperately defending the indefensible -- the "indefensible" being the insistence that Bach wrote these works himself for a choir of 12-16. As Parrott and Rifkin have repeatedly pointed out, whether particular performers today wish to do Bach's music with a chamber choir or only with soloists is an entirely separate matter; as Parrott put it, many present-day listeners and performers may prefer Bach's keyboard works on the piano, "some pianists may still claim that Bach would have preferred [those works] to be played on the concert grand, but they know better than to claim that Bach *wrote* them for it."

< Also, I don't think the line between Rifkinists and traditionalists is as clear as you make it out to be. Suzuki uses the one-singer-per-part approach on some of his cantata recordings, especially the smaller-scale early and solo cantatas. I think Koopman does the same sometimes. >
There's evidently a much wider musicological consensus that the Weimar and Mühlhausen cantatas were originally performed one-singer-per-part. I don't know of anyone that doesn't do the solo cantatas one-singer-per-part.

< McCreesh performs a couple of the vocal works on his Epiphany Mass disc with a choir, >
Yes... if you call 3-2-2-2 a choir (although what else would you call it?)

< And even Parrott likes to add extra sopranos to his vocal lines >
As a rule, he does that only when the soprano part has a Cantus-Firmus chorale melody. That can help in terms of balance, and it is plausible that within a one-per-part scheme, Bach might have had a couple extra trebles join in on a chorale melody.



Continue to Part 2


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

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Last update: June 17, 2005 17:12:37