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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 6



Continue from Part 5

OVPP (One Voice Per Part) / Tempos

Charles Francis
wrote (October 20, 2000):
< Cory Hall wrote: What exactly is the "OVPP theory"? >
Never mind the theory, go straight for the practice! Try the following:

- Magnificat BWV 243, BWV 11/249b, BWV 50, Taverner Players, Virgin (1990)
- Motets BWV 225-230, Cantus Cölln, DHM (1997)
- Actus Tragicus, BWV 4, BWV 12, BWV 106, BWV 196, Cantus Cölln, Harmonia Mundi (2000)

If Bach didn't use OVPP, he really missed out!

Harry J. Steinman wrote (October 20, 2000):
(To Charles Francis) Say...thanks for the heads-up on the Cantus Cölln Motets...I really enjoyed the "Actus Tragicus" (BWV 106) release, and I like the this sounds like a winner. Just ordered it and will be enjoying it sometime next week.

Ludwig wrote (October 20, 2000):
(To Charles Francis) It would be nice and considerate of everyone on the list NOT to use acronyms because it is impolite to those who are not native English speakers and those of us who are native speakers may not understand either because the brand of English we may speak does not always have the same meaning in other English speaking

Steven Langley Guy wrote (October 20, 2000):
(To Cory Hall) OVPP- Refers to the use of One Voice Per Part in Bach's Cantatas, Passions and Missae. It is regarded by many as a controversial issue.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (October 20, 2000):
(To Cory Hall) OVPP is One Voice Per Part.

Messrs. Rifkin and Parrot contend you can determine the number of singers derive from the number of parts available. Usually Bach had separate parts for 'concertists' (soloists, but always participating in the 'chorus') and 'ripienists' (singers participating in the 'chorus' only). If you have only one set of parts this means the work is for one voice per part, as there were never more people singing from one part. Thus the SMP is scored for 10 singers (which is equivalent to the number of vocal parts available, excluding the 'soprano in ripieno', the so-called 'boys choir'). McCreesh is going to record it that way in 2002, and rumours and comments are it is going to be an exciting performance which will shock all our beliefs about the SMP, just as Rifkin shocked us with his performance of the b-minor mass.

BTW with proportional I don't mean a fugue should be proportional to a prelude. I mean a 3/4 piece is proportional to a C piece, just as a 6/8 piece is proportional to a C piece. So what I mean the proportional system of the renaissance was still used during Bach's lifetime. (In the system of the renaissance a 3/4 tells you should sing 3 semibreves in the time of 4)

Cory Hall wrote (October 20, 2000):
(To Sybrand Bakker) Sybrand, thanks for clarifying OVPP. I know about this argument. I discussed it in another post. On the issue of meters and proportional tempos. There as so many possible tempos, that performing say a 3/4 and 4/4 at the same tempo is not necessarily correct. It all depends on the style (dance) or other factors. I don't subscribe to the strict proportional tempo theory as some do.

Charles Francis wrote (October 20, 2000):
< Ludwig wrote: It would be nice and considerate of everyone on the list NOT to use acronyms because it is impolite to those who are not native English speakers >
OVPP is One Voice Per Part (please see the excellent description posted 19 October by Sybrand Bakker in the "tempos" thread).

BTW, I hope you're not implying that the use of the acronym OVPP is impolite?

Robert Sherman wrote (October 20, 2000):
Although I place no value on historical authenticity, I have been intrigued by the possibility of better resolution with one voice on a part, particularly in the contrapuntal parts. So I bought Rifkin's cantatas BWV 80 and BWV 140.

I have to say I was badly disappointed. After making his musicological point about one voice per part, Rifkin's musical use of it is really dismal. Frequently the orchestra drowns out the voices. Sometimes a really stupid organ, not even playing interesting ornamentation but just boring harmonic fill, is so loud you can't concentrate on the singers. And the quality of the singers themselves is variable and frequently not good. (The consistent exception is bass Jan Opalach, who has an exceptionally clear and vigorous voice, and low notes that could crack an ICBM silo at a hundred paces. But I
still frequently can't hear him due to Rifkin's bad balance.)

Can anyone recommend a one-voice-per-part recording that's done really well? I still think the idea has potential and would like to hear it done properly.

Sybrand Bakker wrote (October 20, 2000):

< Bob Sherman wrote: Can anyone recommend a one-voice-per-part recording that's done really well? I still think the idea has potential and would like to hear it done properly. >
Cantus Cölln - Cantatas BWV 4, 12, 106, 196 - on Harmonia Mundi France
Same group - with the motets -on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi.

IMHO the L'Oiseau Lyre recording of cantata BWV 106 and BWV 131 by Rifkin is not bad.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (October 21, 2000):

(To Bob Sherman) Try Cantus Cölln, "Actus Tragicus" (Harmonia Mundi, 90.1694) or Purcell Quartet's recording of the Lutheran Masses, especially Vol.2 (Chaconne 0653)...or Parrott's Magnificat/Easter Oratorio/Ascension Oratorio as I recall is OVPP
(It's a Virgin 2CD set that is budget priced; sorry I don't have the catalog # handy).

I do not think you will be disappointed with the balance of voice and instrumentation ... or with the soloists... or with the accompaniment.

Benjamin Mullins wrote (October 21, 2000):

< Harry J. Steinman wrote: Parrott's Magnificat/Easter Oratorio/Ascension Oratorio as I recall is OVPP (It's a Virgin 2CD set that is budget priced; sorry I don't have the
catalog # handy). >
Here it is: 7243 5 61647 2 7

Matthew Westphal wrote (October 22, 2000):

Speaking of Cantus Cölln, I am currently in Melbourne (I can hear everyone saying "Australia?" Yes, Australia.) for the Melbourne Festival's Bach 2000 concert series. (Info at night Cantus Cölln opened the series with a fabulous OVPP B Minor Mass (BWV 232); they'll be doing all six motets and half a dozen cantatas over the next few days. Then other ensembles arrive: the Australian Bach Ensemble (a new period-instrument and vocal group); the Windsbach Knabenchor; Herreweghe and Collegium Vocale; and the Bach Collegium Japan. (Collegium Vocale and the BCJ will join forces for the St. Matthew Passion.)

Definitely go to the Web site and have a look. I am covering these concerts for (my new employer) -- the site isn't open to the public yet, but I'll let you all know when it is.

Benjamin Mullins wrote (October 22, 2000):

(To Matthew Westphal) You lucky, lucky DOG! Frank, Steven, and for the festival, Matthew, all of you people in Australia! First the Olympics, now this... I'm seething
with jealousy!!!

One voice per part

Robin Crag wrote (February 3, 2001):
I've just finished reading The New Bach Reader. I enjoyed reading it very much. The documents in there about choirs imply that they had two or three people for each part, and Bach says that four would be better. So why is the music sometimes performed by choirs with only one person for each part?

Jaime Jean wrote (February 3, 2001):
(To Robin Crag) One of the fiercest advocates of the one-voice-per-part theory is Joshua Rifkin, who has recorded a number of Bach cantatas and choral music with his Bach Ensemble, using this practice.

He might have a scholarly point, but personally I don't like it any more than those huge choirs which were often used until 20 or 30 years ago to perform baroque music. As a moderate HIPster, I find 4 voicper part adequate - as supported by the Master himself, although the document in which he mentions this seems to be in the middle of the one-voice-per-part controversy.

I bought recently René Jacobs' Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), where we pulls the
following stunt: as if to reach a compromise, in the Third Cantata he plays the first instance of the Herrscher des Himmels chorus one voice per part, and the da capo with the full chorus.

You might want to take a look at the following web page which concentrates in this very issue, including a link to Rifkin's response.

The text exceeds the max allowed in the Bach List. If somebody doesn't have internet access and would like to see the text, pls let me know so I can send it to you in a private mail.

Hope this helps.

Johnn Hartford wrote (February 3, 2001):
Depending on how interested you are, you might want to read the book 'The Essential Bach Choir' by Andrew Parrott. He makes a very convincing argument for one voice to a part and he also includes the text of Joshua Rifkin's original 1981 lecture that started all the fuss.

Charles Francis wrote (February 4, 2001):
Rifkin would argue that Bach needed two sopranos, altos, etc. to be able to sing the 8-part motets in the church services. The third person was required in case one got ill to allow a motet to be sung - Bach said that. Nowhere is it said that 3-people sing the same part! I highly recommend "The Essential Bach Choir" by Andrew Parrott which is available from

Continue to Part 7

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

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Last update: ýMay 30, 2005 ý21:56:01