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OVPP (One-Voice-Per-Part)

Part 7

 

 

Continue from Part 6

OVPP

Thomas Braatz
wrote (July 31, 2002):
On the early afternoon of the 23rd of August, 1730, Johann Sebastian Bach was out taking a walk in the beautiful countryside just outside of Leipzig, Germany. He had been up very late the previous evening putting the finishing touches on the “Entwurff” over which he had been laboring for more than a week and which he had finally submitted to the Leipzig City Council early this morning. Now, after a hearty noon meal with the wine that began to make him feel just a bit drowsy, he had decided that he needed to walk all alone through the fields and commune with nature for a while. It was necessary to be alone so that he could clear his mind of all the troublesome thoughts that had been occupying him for quite some time now. He was glad that this major undertaking was over, but, realistically he did not have any great hope that the situation with the instrumental and choral forces at his disposal would be improved radically. But it was all worth a try, now that he had become firmly entrenched in his role as cantor for the major Leipzig churches. Although he had put out ‘feelers’ for other positions that would mean less work than this one, he decided, nevertheless, to stay and fight the authorities because he wanted his sons to attend the famous university here and because he, too, profited from the professional, but also friendly associations that he had with those who were connected to the university.

As he walked down a narrow path between the fields, he noticed, off to one side, a wonderful shade tree that stood alone and seemed to beckon to him. Normally, he could walk for hours and not get tired, but today things were different. The sun was quite warm and the aftereffects of the wonderful meal Anna Magdalena had prepared for the family were now making themselves felt. So he decided to sit down at the base of the tree and simply rest for a while. It did not take very long before his eyelids became heavy as he sat there with his back leaning up against the tree trunk. Just as he felt that he was about to fall asleep, his eyes caught sight of some movement down the path. He squinted for a moment, in order to see better what it might be. Yes, there were some human figures approaching him from the distance. Now he could see that there were three men, one of whom seemed more stately in his comportment than the other two. As they came closer and indicated that they wanted to speak to him, Bach stood up, and before he could say anything, the eldest spoke to him directly:

“We sincerely ask your forgiveness in disturbing you in this way, Herr Bach, but, as it is, this manner of meeting is the only possibility available to us so that we might be able to ask you a few questions about your performance practices.

Bach: Are you some sort of secret delegation sent by the Leipzig City Council to ask me to retract my “Entwurff” or lower my demands?

Dürr: No, we can assure you that we are not. Actually, we are from a different time and place in the future. Call us time-travelers, if you wish. We are simply using this unusual method of making contact with you to find out from you, how you perform your own music in church. Do you have any objection to that?

Bach: No, but why don’t you simply attend the next church service with a cantata that I will be performing. Wait, I really have no idea, who you are. You’re dressed rather strangely, as if you had come from a foreign country and your German sounds a bit funny too, if I may say so.

Dürr: Pardon us for not having introduced ourselves to you sooner. My name is Alfred Dürr and with me are two of my sidekicks, Joshua Rifkin and Andrew Parrott. There was yet another, Arnold Schering, but he was unable to come along with us. You can simply call me Al, and the other two are Josh and Andy.

Bach (shakes hands individually with each of them) I am pleased to make your acquaintance.

Al, Josh, and Andy: The pleasure is ours as well.

Al: As the head of this delegation from the future, allow me to fill you in about our purpose in coming here to meet you in this way: The years between now and our time in the future have been quite unkind in transmitting your compositions and providing us clues to how they should be performed. Many books and manuscripts have been lost and we are forced to make do with whatever has survived in order to form an accurate picture of your music making. With the “Entwurff” and the help of circumstantial evidence from sources that still exist in our time, Josh and Andy have sought to prove that you almost exclusively used only one singer or instrumentalist per part. This discovery is called, for obvious reasons, OVPP [One Voice Per Part.] We would like very much to hear your reaction to the evidence that we have found that seems to support this theory.

Bach: I am very curious about how you were able to come to such a conclusion, of course. Allow me to suggest once again that the best thing would be if all of you could attend a church service in which I perform a cantata of mine.

Al: That would be the simplest for all of us, but the restrictions and stipulations placed on our time travel keep us from doing just that. All of us are more than eager to hear such a performance. We even have recording devices that can capture everything we see and hear so that no doubt would be left in any person’s mind, as to what your intentions are and what the ‘sound’ of your ensemble is like, but we are restricted to speaking with you this way about only those things that have come down to us.

Bach: Wait now! How do you know what my intentions are and what type of sound I really have in mind?

Al: With a lot of detective work and circumstantial evidence, it is possible to create a fairly accurate picture of these things, the way they are supposed to be.

Bach: Well, I have difficulty comprehending everything that you are telling me, but let’s begin anyway with the term you used. What was that? OV…

Al: OVPP means that you intended for most of your sacred music to be performed with just a single player or singer per part. Josh and Andy have taken your statements in the “Entwurff” and put them under intense scrutiny, working out mathematically from the numbers and names of students that you list, just how many singers and players you would have at your disposal for a regular Sunday morning cantata performance. If you follow carefully their deductions, the result can only be that you had only one singer or player per part.

Bach: Whoa! You’re moving a bit too fast for me. But from the standpoint of what I was trying to achieve in the “Entwurff,” this is rather happy news.

Josh: Now that sounds just like what I wanted to hear from you!

Bach: You make it sound as if I stated in the “Entwurff“ that I personally desired OVPP, or whatever you call it. Nothing could be further from the truth. Do you realize what a difficult task it was trying to create this statement in such a way that the council members might be urged to take some positive action to provide for greater resources in the future? For political reasons I had to make it appear that my musical forces were indeed dwindling seriously without being able to draw upon a fresh pool of musicians when others left the scene to go elsewhere. In a sense, I created this OVPP thing that you are talking about as a frightening specter of a skeletal, barebones choir and orchestra that would become the shame of Leipzig, which otherwise prides itself as being among the best and having the best resources.

Andy: But we have evidence that some of the Weimar cantatas were performed with very small forces.

Bach: Yes, that was an entirely different situation with the best well-paid singers and players far and wide. The setting was very different as well: a small church with an even smaller balcony. There wouldn’t have been room for a larger choir. The churches in Leipzig, however, demand greater forces and sources from which I want to continue to draw good singers and players.

Andy: So you mean that the engravings we have found, where only 4 or 6 wigged individuals are singing on a small balcony do not represent what we would find in your Leipzig churches?

Bach: I am familiar with some of these engravings and descriptions, but it is difficult to generalize from them since each situation is different. The situation here is quite different, as you have probably read in the “Entwurff.”

Josh: How then would you explain the fact that, with the exception of some doublets and double or triple basso continuo parts, your original set of parts contains only one part or sheet for each voice part? This must certainly mean that only one singer sings from such a part. It is traditional for us that each singer have his or her own part or score to sing from.

Bach: Now I suppose you will tell me that you have machines that can quickly copy a part as often as needed.

Josh: Yes, that’s true. But you still have not answered my question!

Bach: Allow me to counter with another question: “Haven’t you ever stood in a choir or in front of a keyboard instrument which someone is playing and read off of another person’s part or score?”

Josh: Well, yes, now that you mentioned it, I have.

Bach: It is easily possible for three, four or even five singers to sing from the same part. Actually, it is much easier than for some of the instruments that need more room for bowing.

Josh: But I read your “Entwurff” many times, forwards and backwards, and the result is always the same, because you had to distribute the students allocated to you over four separate choirs. I’ve figured it all out. I can’t be mistaken about this.

Bach: I really wish you were one of the council members, because this is exactly what I wanted them to think. Having come to this conclusion, they would finally get off their fat … and do something about the problematical situation that I have outlined in such detail for them. Having pointed this out to them in the “Entwurff” as the most minimal requirements for making music, their assistance financial and otherwise would then allow me to return to conducting the musical ensembles that I envision would do justice to my compositions and would make them sound the way I really want them to sound which is certainly not the skeletal OVPP choir that you have deduced as being the sound ideal that I am supposedly striving for.

Josh: But….

Bach: No ‘buts’! Just read carefully what I stated in the “Entwurff” On the one hand, I wanted the council members to think that the situation is dire, which is true because at the present rate I continue to lose good musicians at a faster rate than I can gain them. But, on the other hand, I also indicated the goal that I was shooting for. Wait! I can recite that passage to you from memory verbatim, because it is so important to me, much more important than all the mathematical calculations you went through to arrive at your theory:

NB. Wiewohln es noch beßer, wenn der Coetus [the school group of singers, not counting the external voices] so beschaffen ware, daß mann zu ieder Stimme 4 subjecta nehmen, und also ieden Chor mit 16. Persohnen bestellen könte. [translation from Parrott’s book: NB though it would be better still if the student body [actually the larger pool of boy singers from the school] were composed in such a way that one could take four individuals for each voice and thus set up each choir with sixteen persons.] Let me repeat again that this means each of the 4 choirs that perform in different Leipzig churches should have 4 boy singers for each voice part, that is, a total of 16 boy singers for each separate choir. And that does not even account for the concertists, who are most often well-trained adult singers that serve as leaders for the boys that sing along as ripienists.

Another fact that I did not want to rub under the noses of the council members, although they probably all know about it anyway because Leipzig is in many ways a very small town, if you know what I mean…it is a fact that I can actually draw on and rely upon more singers and musicians than I have indicated in the “Entwurff.” Unfortunately, my predecessor, Mr. Kuhnau, has made it more difficult for me in my present situation, because he frequently paid for his additional singers and musicians out of his own pocket. On principle, I do not understand why I should have to support the production of good music in this way, when the City Council spends so much money on other things that are not as worthy. Also, when I resort to paying, for instance, university students, some of whom really need the money, I can not pay them what they really deserve. That only the City Council can do. It even happens that some of my private music students, or some other musically very proficient university students will offer to play or sing for free. For them it is a wonderful learning experience. I can understand their actions, but I still do not feel good about this. I have a large enough family to support, so I don’t see myself supporting a huge extended family on my salary. They simply don’t pay me enough for that. By demonstrating the difficulties that I am experiencing in attracting good musicians and having a pool of talent to draw upon as students grow up, change their voices, leave the area, I hope that the City Council will see things the way you did. But this is not the real goal that I have in mind. I hope you do not underestimate me. I am very creative when it comes to assembling the forces that I need for a cantata, oratorio, or passion performance. The “Entwurff” is a political statement where I had to create a situation that calls for an immediate remedy; it does not represent what I really do each Sunday, nor does it present a clear picture of the ideal that I have in mind for my music.

[I don’t know how this conversation ended, or whether it will ever find a conclusion. After all, it was just a dream Bach had one afternoon and it has not affected the course of history in any way. It is still up to the individual to decide just what it is that Bach had in mind. Perhaps, realizing our situation which longs for a reasonable answer to a troubling question whether OVPP is really what Bach had in mind for his church music, Bach would simply say: “Listen to performances of my cantatas and decide which way you think would do justice to the lofty thoughts and music that I dared to conceive and commit to paper so that others can hear the same sounds that will lift them up to glorify God.”]

Ludwig wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks Tom--this story sounds almost as if Bach had written it, himself.

BW wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you very much!
A really good story !!!

Riccardo Nughes wrote (July 31, 2002):
As regards the OVPP debate I have one question.

In an interview to "Repertoire" magazine (september 2001) Renè Jacobs said:
"...When Joshua Rifkin says that he has discovered that Bach directed his works OVPP, it was easy for him to reproduce that kind of forces, but the musical result is very very far from the musical universe intended by Bach. I don't like at all what he (Rifkin) recorded, but maybe it's just a question of singers...

Bach had really so small forces, that's true, but not in Leipzig where he required a minimum of 3 voices per part. In the preface of his copy of Marcello's Psalms Bach clearly wrote about this question:
"Surely, God is happy with a singer per voice, but He'd be happier with more (singers)".
This sentence says to us that the things are not so certain as someone wants to make believe to us today.".

That was the first time I heard about this sentence in Bach's copy of the Marcello's score.

Can someone confirm that what Jacobs said is true?

Robert Sherman wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To BW] This is a very clever piece, but IMO the wisdom lies in Tom's last line. We can tie ourselves in musicological knots trying to figure out what Bach actually did in his performances. But musically, the only thing that counts is what sounds best. That may be a duplicate of what Bach had, it may be what he would have used if he could have (IMO modern valve trumpets clearlyfall into that category), or it may be something he never thought of.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 31, 2002):
Riccardo Nughes asked:
< In an interview to "Repertoire" magazine (September 2001) Renè Jacobs said : "...When Joshua Rifkin says that he has discovered that Bach directed his works OVPP, it was easy for him to reproduce that kind of forces, but the musical result is very very far from the musical universe intended by Bach.

I don't like at all what he (Rifkin) recorded, but maybe it's just a question of singers...Bach had really so small forces, that's true, but not in Leipzig where he required a minimum of 3 voices per part.

In the preface of his copy of Marcello's Psalms Bach clearly wrote about this question: "Surely, God is happy with a singer per voice, but He'd be happier with more (singers)".

This sentence says to us that the things are not so certain as someone wants to make believe to us today."

That was the first time I heard about this sentence in Bach's copy of the Marcello's score.

Can someone confirm that what Jacobs said is true? >
No, I can’t, but perhaps someone else can.

I have the complete set of Bach Dokumenta which contain all the confirmed letters, handwritten notes, etc. that Bach ever wrote + all the anecdotal material from the period of Bach’s life until about a half century after his death. There is nothing about this quote in any of these sources. This can only mean that it is a fairly new discovery within the last 30 to 40 years, or else it is an example of myth-making of which there are some examples even perpetrated by Bach’s own sons.

It would not be entirely surprising, if such a copy of printed music were found (remember that the discovery of copy of Bach’s Bible with his notes and underlines is fairly recent.) The experts would have to confirm that the statement is truly in Bach’s handwriting.

In the last two years the NBA has been issuing volumes dedicated to works not by Bach, but which he personally copied and for which sometimes made changes in the score. Some of these works are, as you might expect Italian in origin. But I could find no Marcello listed there.

There are other secondary sources that state that Bach had 30 to 40 musicians involved in a Leipzig cantata service. One such statement is by a professor at the University of Leipzig who heard this statement from another professor who had been present at cantata performances. The statement was recorded 10 years after Bach’s death. Such statements are always open to disbelief, even if those who relate them are professors.

So if anyone should come across this Marcello reference elsewhere with the specific documentation included, it would really be helpful in refuting the ‘bare-bones’ choral approach that Rifkin advocates.

Charles Francis wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] The full paragraph that you quoted from reads as follows:

"Each 'musical' choir must have at least three sopranos, three altos, three tenors and as many basses, so that even if one person falls ill (as very often happens and particularly at this time of year, as the prescriptions written by the school doctor for the apothecary must show), at least a two-choir motet can be sung. (NB though it would be better still if the student body were composed in such a way that one could take four individuals [subjecta] for each voice and thus set up each choir with sixteen persons."

Now, the meaning of this sentence hinges on the word "choir" and whether it means "choir" in the modern sense (i.e. a group of people who sing together) or whether to Bach it also meant a pool of resources from which singers can be drawn according to need. I think you will find that the word 'choir' is used in both ways, so let's analyse Bach's text:

"Each 'musical' choir must have at least three sopranos, three altos, three tenors and as many basses, so that even if one person falls ill (as very often happens and particularly at this time of year, as the prescriptions written by the school doctor for the apothecary must show), at least a two-choir motet can be sung."

Bach's point here seems to be that a performance of a two-choir motet needs eight singers (i.e. 2 sopranos, 2 altos, 2 tenors, 2 bass), but since any soprano, alto, tenor or bass might get ill (i.e., take the day off in August!!!), he needs a substitute for each soprano, alto tenor and bass. Thus he needs one extra singer of each type in reserve for each "voice" (analogous to soccer, where the substitutes sit on the bench ready to take over if needed). Thus, it appear that Bach is arguing that each of his 'choirs' needs to have 12-singers to give it the necessary redundancy to perform a double-choir motet (i.e., 2-sopranos, 2-altos, 2-tenors, 2-bases) in times of illness. Note, that with regard to the word 'choir' we have "two-choir motet" and "musical choir". In the former usage, each 'choir' in the double-choir is OVPP as it refers to 1 soprano, 1 alto , 1 tenor and 1 bass. In the latter case, the 'choir' apparently refers to the pool of resources from which the double-choir is drawn.

Of course, if no one was ill (e.g., in winter!), we can legitimately ask whether the extra 4-singers might also participate in the double-choir motet? If we assume that no instrumental (colla parte) accompaniment was used, then we have these talented musicians with nothing to do. So it would seem natural in such a case, that Bach might use these extra singers as ripienists. He could do this either by assigning two singers to one of the two 'double-choirs' (to contrast it with the other 'double-choir' of soloists) or by occasional doubling of voices. Personally, I find a motet performance that mixes OVPP with multiple voices to have more interest, than a pure OVPP-approach, the point being the lack of instrumental contrast.

Now with regard to the cantatas, the spare singers if available, might well be needed for the instruments. After all, the pupils that could sing well would be the more musical ones, who in turn would most likely be the best instrumentalists. So the probability of doubling up singers in normal cantatas drops dramaticallally (notwithstanding that only 4 singers were needed instead of eight). In fact, often Bach does not seem to have had a full quartet available for anything more demanding than the closing chorale. On such occasions, he appears to have been forced to start the cantata with an aria or duet instead of the usual 4-part chorus.

"(NB though it would be better still if the student body were composed in such a way that one could take four individuals [subjecta] for each voice and thus set up each choir with sixteen persons.)"

This does not have to be a statement about musical aesthetics! It could also be that Bach had in mind a practical consideration (e.g. two sopranos getting ill simultaneously). It could also be a reference to the cantata requirements, where some singers needed to play instruments and Bach on occasion did not have the resources to open with a 4 voice chorus - the illness of singers combining with the needs of instrumental performance to make this impossible.

Rev. Robert A. Lawson wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] The congregation that I serve began using the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary shortly after it was published in the Fall of 1996. For our congregation it was a relatively easy transition since a good many of the hymns were taken directly out of The Lutheran Hymnal (with permission, of course), which is what they had been using. Not everything is directly out of the TLH, however. In fact the committee did two things that make the ELH stand out among English language Lutheran Hymnals: 1) they reset a good number of the Lutheran Chorales to their original melodies, and 2) they included a relatively large number of Bach settings. As a result it did not take long, even in our congregation, before people started asking, "Why did they have to change that?" It helped very little to explain to them, for example, that setting a hymn like Paul Gerhardt's "Ist Gott Feur Mich", which is a battle hymn, to a melody like "Valet will ich dir geben", as was done in the TLH, does not convemusically what the words of Gerhardt's hymn says. Why is that? Because, as Professor Marzolf is so fond of saying, "People like what they know and know what they like." Only after the people had sung some of these old familiar hymns set to new (for them) melodies enough times so that the memory of the old began to fade and the new began to be familiar did they begin to feel comfortable with and even "like" the new settings.

You may be right that if Bach could talk to us he would say “Listen to performances of my cantatas and decide which way you think would do justice to the lofty thoughts and music that I dared to conceive and commit to paper so that others can hear the same sounds that will lift them up to glorify God.” I also agree with you that the size of the group or whether one uses modern or period instruments doesn't matter nearly as much as whether the performance (or recording) is done well. You may also be right that had Bach had more singers at his disposal he may have used more. But then, again, maybe not. We'll never know that. I do believe, however, that more often than not people like the sound they're most familiar with. In fact, quite frequently individuals have written to this list in reponse to a negative comment about a recording something to the effect that they only have that recording and like it.

In time, if more OVPP recordings are done and done well, that sound may catch on. Only time will tell. It's hard for people to change, even if the change is back to the way it was before it was changed. I'm intrigued by it because, as I have said before, I believe that it's hard for a group of singers (even a group of two or three or four) to produce a clear, crisp, articulation of the words. Whether OVPP is the answer, however, remains to be seen, after all soloists sometimes can't get it right either--as you well know.

P.S. If you don't mind a shameless promotion, the Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary (ELH) can be purchased from the Bethany Lutheran College Bookstore (Mankato, MN) at 1-800-944-1722 for the modest price of $15.95.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 31, 2002):
< R. Lawson stated: In time, if more OVPP recordings are done and done well, that sound may catch on. Only time will tell. It's hard for people to change, even if the change is back to the way it was before it was changed. I'm intrigued by it because, as I have said before, I believe that it's hard for a group of singers (even a group of two or three or four) to produce a clear, crisp, articulation of the words. Whether OVPP is the answer, however, remains to be seen, after all soloists sometimes can't get it right either--as you well know. >
Changing chorale settings (and the liturgies) back to the more original ones after the 19th and 20th centuries had standardized them and put their own stamp on them was a major project that the Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Germany undertook in the middle of the 20th century. There was resistance to change then, but now all that has been forgotten. These settings (and selection of hymns) are definitely of a better quality than those that were used before, but remember that the congregations in North Germany never saw (and still do not see) more than the chorale melody line in their hymnbooks. I have personally experienced the same changes take place in two Lutheran churches that I attended here in the US, but here the problem involves the fact that the hymnals have all the parts of the setting printed out and there were individuals in the pews next to me who were trying to sing the various voice parts (not simply the melody!) If your hymnal contains such 4-part settings by Bach, there will be some that are rather difficult for many 'normal' churchgoers to sing. Otherwise, it is possible that some of the Bach settings had to be modified (simplified) by the editors before using them in the hymnal, in which case the chorale setting is only 'after' Bach and not so original after all.

Re: OVPP

There are sufficient recordings with OVPP available for an opinion to be formed. I do not think the situation here among the audiences and listening public is comparable to the hymnal-change situation that you had described, although I do understand how you can see a parallel between both because they seem to be going back to the older, original sources. OVPP theorists also make the claim that they are also going back to the original performance method that Bach personally used in Leipzig in performing his cantatas, etc. Here we are assuming that after OVPP recordings have been available for almost 20 years (I am guessing here), that the sound of OVPP, with the wide dispersal and availability of CD's of such performances, would gradually overcome the 'entrenched' resistance to the OVPP sound. This does not seem to be taking place, and not just because of stubborn resistance on the part of listeners who do not want to change their listening habits.

It might be interesting to find a group of unbiased, musically intelligent listeners and put them in a room where they will hear side-by-side an OVPP recording and a good non-OVPP recording. Then ask them to consider the cantata text as they decide which type of performance seems to do a better job of delivering the message and the music, and also which performance enhances the feelings of inner strength, conviction, and dignity.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks for your thoughtful response.

All the things that you have pointed out: Bach's differing uses of the word "Chor" for "two-choir motet" and "musical choir"; and his problem with absences, with substitutions between instrumentalists and choir members, etc., are aspects that I have read and considered as being correct.

We need, however, to consider the target audience that Bach was addressing specifically for a definite purpose. I personally find myself, and others, such as you, Joshua Rifkin, Andrew Parrott, etc. becoming enmeshed in structural details that are anything but structured. These details flow about from one category to another, and while this might represent, in part, what Bach was experiencing, I can not help but think that he purposely wants his readers, the Leipzig City Council, to become 'boxed in' with the sort of 'number-pushing' that he places before them. We, all to easily, allow ourselves to fall into the same clever trap that he set for the council members, but instead of saying to ourselves the way the council members were supposed to react, "Aw - poor Bach is having such a hard time making things work out; let's give him the money that he needs so that he can get out of this hole," we instead have begun saying, "These severely restricted numbers are exactly what Bach!
had at his disposal when he performed his cantatas, motets, etc., hence this is exactly how his musical forces were arrayed on any given Sunday in Leipzig. Eureka! Now let's emulate this bare-boned approach toward choral singing, because this is the way it must have sounded to Bach and this would be the ideal choir that he was striving for."

Charles, you stated:
< In fact, often Bach does not seem to have had a full quartet available for anything more demanding than the closing chorale. On such occasions, he appears to have been forced to start the cantata with an aria or duet instead of the usual 4-part chorus. >
You need to consider the fact that Bach, for his Leipzig cantata cycles, was required to have cantata music before and after the sermon. There are some Leipzig cantatas that have two parts, as you well know. How does the second part invariably begin? Not with a choral mvt.! It is very likely that many of the cantatas with only 5 or 6 mvts. may in reality have provided only one half of the cantata music required for the entire cantata service, so Bach would then have performed another one of his cantatas, or cantatas by other composers in the other half of the service. If the cantata type that you refer to began with a recitative or aria, it very likely was performed only in the second half of the service, after the sermon. This means that the first cantata, nevertheless, had an introduchoral mvt.

Andrew Lewis wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] I am a relatively silent member of this list, writing only when something really strikes me. I have very much enjoyed the discussions of the cantatas but simply do not have the time to participate as I should. I learn a great deal from Thomas' posts, though I strongly disagree with his position on and his characterization of the issue of 'short-accompaniment', much like the issue of OVPP. But I respect his right to hold his opinions.

I must concur both with Charles and the Rev. Lawson on the matter of OVPP. Rifkin's theory makes more sense than one opposed to the aesthetics of it would like to believe and it is, as the Reverend said, something that is difficult to get used to. I myself have meticulously studied all of Rifkin's and Parrott's writings on the subject. (Though I don't care to reproduce their texts here. I figure that they are out there and relatively easy to acquire and anyone who has read them would be able to tell whether I or anyone else didn't fully understand them. I've also read the "Entwurff" multiple times -- who on this list hasn't?)

That said, I have performed more than a few cantatas on OVPP and I strongly prefer a choir of 12 or 16, which is my normal method. But that's not because I think Rifkin and Parrott are mistaken. Nor is it because I think OVPP is without its merits. I simply prefer the sound of a group of 12 or 16 professionals. My sense of what sounds best has no bearing whatsoever on the available documents and therefore no bearing on the correctness of the theory -- only on my performances of the cantata.

Regarding short-accompaniment, Thomas proved that there are indeed documents which assert that the practice either did not exist or that some simply did not like it and spoke out against it. But you see, therein lies the problem: contradiction. If some spoke against it, there must have been a practice somewhere. And IMO Mr. Laurence Dreyfus goes a long way in supporting the idea that Bach observed it. Again, I will not provide the text here. It's readily available. Still, there are contradictions within even single sources. At one point Heinichen espouses some form of it and at another he advises against it. But just because Bach mostly wrote long bass notes does not mean in itself that they were meant to be played "as written." That idea of the literal reading of a text didn't truly begin life until the 19th century, and then became holy writ in the 20th. Notice such things as the spellings of names, even in the early 19th century: Haydn being spelled Hayden, Haiden, Heiden on various concert advertisements, letters, etc. This is one very small, and, granted, off-topic example. But it goes to a world view that we largely do not share anymore. "As written" has no real merit in the issue of short-accompaniment.

What does has merit is one's aesthetic because no one is going to be able to prove short-accompaniment nor OVPP, though they have been proven valid interpretations of the available material. I don't like Richter's performances. But they aren't "wrong." I don't agree with Rilling's style of basso continuo, even though I studied with him and was profoundly affected. The man is a great musician and interpreter of Bach. But I simply find it too difficult to listen to his screaching sopranos, especially in the earlier recordings.

These are my educated and practiced opinions, nothing more. Here's another opinion: disparaging a theory with ridicule and misrepresentation is not fair play.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 31, 2002):
Andrew Lewis stated in reference to me:
< But I respect his right to hold his opinions. >
Perhaps this is a good starting point.

You stated:
< Regarding short-accompaniment, Thomas proved that there are indeed documents which assert that the practice either did not exist or that some simply did not like it and spoke out against it. But you see, therein lies the problem:contradiction. If some spoke against it, there must have been a practice somewhere. >
We are not as concerned about what might have been a practice 'somewhere', but rather what would have been the common practice under Bach's direction.

< But just because Bach mostly wrote long bass notes does not mean in itself that they were meant to be played "as written." That idea of the literal reading of a text didn't truly begin life until the 19th century, and then became holy writ in the 20th. >
The fuzzy, undocumented notion that the various spellings of a single word that existed until the end of the 18th century are comparable to a musician reading notes on a page of music eludes me entirely. It is as though musicians could not tell the difference between one note and another and did not care about this either. Why did Bach spend all that extra time in correcting the errors made by his copiers? According to your notion, the notes that the copiers had written were almost right and that would be good enough for any composer prior to 1800.

< My sense of what sounds best has no bearing whatsoever on the available documents and therefore no bearing on the correctness of the theory -- only on my performances of the cantata. >
Perhaps then you should rely less and not worry so much about the 'correctness of the theory [OVPP, in this instance].' Your own inner sense as to what sounds musically correct should dictate your performance practices, not the dry theories of musicologists who are prone to pushing their theories, theories which, when examined carefully, exhibit sloppy scholarship or biased thinking that may cause them to miss the mark entirely. [This is not to say that this could not also happen to famous conductors who have likewise missed their marks because they lack a true inner sense of musicality, but that is a 'can of worms' I do not want to open here.]

< Here's another opinion: disparaging a theory with ridicule and misrepresentation is not fair play. >
Since when is it 'not fair play' to point out the sources that musicologists have conveniently overlooked. So far, neither you nor Dreyfus, have come up with a specific response to the questions that I have raised concerning the performance of secco recitatives. I have been waiting for a long while for a response (I know that you are very busy.) Whenever you bring up this subject, you offer nothing but an opportunity to simply rehash in a general sense the material Dreyfus has already offered in book form without even indicating that you have considered or researched for yourself the questions that I have raised. Is that fair play? Is what I have discovered not even worth looking at or considering seriously before returning to your praise of Dreyfus' evidence. Would it not be better to simply say, "I sincerely believe everything that Dreyfus has to say and anything that contradicts his evidence is obviously wrong," and leave it at that. Then I and everyone else will know where! you stand, but by attacking my research and ideas, implying that I "disparage a theory with ridicule and misrepresentation" you are in essence accusing me of the very thing that you do when you make such a disrespectful statement regarding my postings on this list.

Rev. Robert A. Lawson wrote (July 31, 2002):
Thomas Braatz stated:
< If your hymnal contains such 4-part settings by Bach, there will be some that are rather difficult for many 'normal' churchgoers to sing. Otherwise, it is possible that some of the Bach settings had to be modified (simplified) by the editors before using them in the hymnal, in which case the chorale setting is only 'after' Bach and not so original after all. >
Our hymnbook does, indeed, have the four-part settings. I really couldn't say for certain that the settings have not been modified, but I do not believe that they have. Prof. DeGarmeaux, who is a member of this list and was also on the committee that put this book together would know for sure. You are correct that the normal church goer might find some of this a little more difficult, but it is not impossible. It can also be quit rewarding and in this case well worth the effort to learn something that is a little modifficult.

Thomas Braatz stated:
< There are sufficient recordings with OVPP available for an opinion to be formed. I do not think the situation here among the audiences and listening public is comparable to the hymnal-change situation that you had described, although I do understand how you can see a parallel between both because they seem to be going back to the older, original sources. OVPP theorists also make the claim that they are also going back to the original performance method that Bach personally used in Leipzig in performing his cantatas, etc. Here we are assuming that after OVPP recordings have been available for almost 20 years (I am guessing here), that the sound of OVPP, with the wide dispersal and availability of CD's of such performances, would gradually overcome the 'entrenched' resistance to the OVPP sound. This does not seem to be taking place, and not just because of stubborn resistance on the part of listeners who do not want to change their listening habits. >
I'm not trying to argue with you about the merits of OVPP because in the final analysis I don't think it matters. Everyone is entitled to their personal musical taste. You may even be right about whether enough OVPP has been recorded to form an opinion. I really only meant to say (and I used our Hymnary as an example) that certain things can grow on a person over time.

Thomas Braatz stated:
< It might be interesting to find a group of unbiased, musically intelligent listeners and put them in a room where they will hear side-by-side an OVPP recording and a good non-OVPP recording. Then ask them to consider the cantata text as they decide which type of performance seems to do a better job of delivering the message and the music, and also which performance enhances the feelings of inner strength, conviction, and dignity. >
That would be interesting, but it probably wouldn't settle anything because what sounds wonderful to one may be horrifying to another. And besides, as you pointed out in your little story, Bach may not even agree.

Thank you for all of the effort you put into this group. I've learned a lot from you.

Charles Francis wrote (July 31, 2002):
< Andrew Lewis wrote: [snip] That said, I have performed more than a few cantatas on OVPP and I strongly prefer a choir of 12 or 16, which is my normal method. But that's not because I think Rifkin and Parrott are mistaken. Nor is it because I think OVPP is without its merits. I simply prefer the sound of a group of 12 or 16 professionals. My sense of what sounds best has no bearing whatsoever on the available documents and therefore no bearing on the correctness of the theory -- only on my performances of the cantata. >
I sympathise with this. Personally, I can still enjoy listening to anachronistic performances from the likes of Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, Herreweghe, Koopman and Leunsink. The knowledge that they are founded on spurious scholarship, in no way detracts from ones enjoyment of the music. To insists on historically informed performances, would be to restrict one listening pleasure to the few recordings of Rifkin and Parrott. And while these are excellent, they represent but a minor portion of Bach's surviving cantatas.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (August 1, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] It is always interesting when discussing the OVPP idea. I was not convinced either way until I read Parrott's book- the Essential Bach Choir. I did lean against Parrott's OVPP idea out of traditional notion of choir, but Mr. Parrott actually un-convinced me to the opposite view than he intended- I turned against OVPP. I have reviewed his book elsewhere. He uses second hand references, relying on people such as Joshua Rifkin and John Butt for supporting materials. A blanket statement in the book about there not being iconographic evidence to support the 'notion' of a choir being more than one person per part are flatly wrong. Multi-voiced choirs are an idea 'developed quickly after Bach's death' we are told by Parrott. That is wrong as well. Orlando di Lasso had a famous choir of men and boys totalling 22 voices.The history of the Vienna Boys' Choir shows a variety of numbers of singers during the baroque period- from 8 to 20 boys at any given period. Indeed the cathedral records as well support the same numbers with 16 boys as average. Boys would mean upper registers only. The Westminster Abbey Choir has strictly stayed to their ancient declaration of 10 boys' treble voices to this day.And all of the above sang usually in one church. The clear evidence is that the 'notion' of choir is about 16-24 voices historically, which is exactly the number Bach desired according the letter he sent to the Leipzig council requesting greater musical forces. The other 'notion' of the word 'choir' being interchangeable to describe groups of singers or musicians is an interesting point about the modern usage of the word, but quite irrelevant to the focus of Bach's letter to the city council requesting greater musical forces. The question of whether J.S. Bach had to use OVPP, and therefore we should use it, is as has been interestingly pointed out by Thomas Braatz, merely a reduction of logic. But faulty logic is a problem in the OVPP foundational principle of an "either or" proposition (a logical fallacy) of either the existing copies were shared or they were not: amounting to one voice per part if not.(!?) Sharing really tends to be an irrelevant point and thus, a weak foundation. In the very end the final OVPP argument will always be- "it just sounds better, clearer". Perhaps it does to someone. To me it sounds monotonous, "thin" and often the twenty instrumentalists of a Rifkin recording do drown out the vocal bass- such as demonstrated in Rifkin's recording of the B-minor.(Mr. Parrott added more singers, as a ripieno choir, for his recording of J.S. Bach's Mass in B-minor and Mr. Parrott had a better result.)

More to the point is what has been written historically about choirs, and numbers in choirs. Bach was not working alone and he had some allies in the choir school staff. Here is an excerpt from a letter from the Chairman of the St Thomas School Board, Dr. Christian Ludwig Stieglitz.Here Dr. Stieglitz is proposing the admission of applicants for the nine vacant spaces left by past departures. Some applicants applied in writing, and others were suggested by the Cantor J.S. Bach. Dr. Stieglitz makes the argument on Bach's behalf that 44 boys are needed for singing.

"... As for the orally observed opinion of Mr. Bach, grade sub. B. and C., those named are competent in singing; for the others no such dispositio has been found. In enclosure sub D., however, the same takes occasion to point out that, with respect to singing in services of all five churches, there is a need for 44 boys. Since many of those used so far have left the school and the churches can in no way be served by current alumni, the same begs that the Mr. Rector consider, to the extent possible, the unavoidable need for reflecting upon such subjects as are competent in music and singing, to fill the vacant places. ..."
Signed: Dr. Christian Ludwig Stieglitz (Stigliz)
Dated: Leipzig, May 18, 1729

(The critical portion of the text in German reads:
"...daß er zu Bestellung des GottesDienstes was das Singen anbelanget in allen 5. Kirchen 44. Knaben nöthig habe, ...")

Source: NBR

I have no real problem with OVPP recordings. The more variety of Bach the better I say. I also listen to modern practices, and I like Glenn Gould's Bach performances. OVPP has its admirers and it has its own philosophy and rationale. As it has been presented in polemic terms, it will be replied to in like manner. I believe now more than ever the whole idea was cooked up (intentionally or not) to make a name in a crowded field of musicology on Bach. As much as using a piano, OVPP is a legitimate interesting alternative performance practice in Bach. Whether or not it has any historical basis, that has been established as "not" as far as I can see.

Charles Francis wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] The 44 boys mentioned by Stieglitz divided among 4 choirs would give 11 boys per choir, lthan the 12 Bach asked for in the "Entwurff", but enough to allow a double-choir motet to be sung OVPP.

Now a question: Would that master of economy, Bach, have a large number of choristers standing around doing nothing between the opening chorus and closing chorale? Surely, they would burst forth at the least provocation throughout the cantata, rather in the manner of Händel's "Israel in Egypt"? Do you imagine that Bach, the composer who keeps each instrumentalist so busy throughout, fails to utilise his choristers fully?

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 31, 2002):
< Charles asks: < Now a question: Would that master of economy, Bach, have a large number of choristers standing around doing nothing between the opening chorus and closing chorale? Surely, they would burst forth at the least provocation throughout the cantata, rather in the manner of Händel's "Israel in Egypt"? Do you imagine that Bach, the composer who keeps each instrumentalist so busy throughout, fails to utilise his choristers fully? >

Here's a speculative thought/solution on this matter. At various places where the organ is played during a church service (liturgy, the congregational singing of hymns, the choral preludes to introduce the hymn) the boys would take turns operating the bellows for the organ. This would easily require at least two if not more at a time and when they got tired they could be relieved by others who were 'just standing around.' I used to listen with varying degrees of disbelief and astonishment to my father's experience as a boy chorister in a large church in Frankfurt/Oder where at least two boys (he said 'several') were always required for providing the needed air pressure for the organ when it was playing. This involved having the boys at staggered intervals run up a flight of stairs, step on a platform on which they would 'ride' down to the lower level and then repeat the process. My guess is that in Bach's day the boys would stand on one spot and continue to push down on the bellows with their hands. There must have been at least 4 or 5 such bellows for a large organ. Some chorister would also be involved in turning the very large hour sand clock that stood on the railing of the balcony where the choristers and instrumentalists stood.

Another speculative thought: Yes, boys will be boys, but here we have a serious learning situation where they may be hearing the intermediate mvts. of a cantata at most for the second time. This would be comparable to present-day boys who are addicted to sports as many are today having the rare opportunity to experience and observe close at hand the best moves being performed by the best athletes. Bach, as the consummate music teacher, would have understood how important this modeling experience is. There would also be boys who would realize that if they became very proficient, they could sing for money on Sundays as one of the Concertisten, and, who knows, they might even become good enough to make much more money in the Dresden opera. The Concertisten and some of the special instrumentalists that would drop by (Bach seems to have written some of the Flauto traversi parts in the arias for a French artist who was in the area at the time) would become idols because they played or sang with such excellence that Bach would even write parts specifically for them.

The mentality behind "keep the kids busy, otherwise all hell will break out" reflects our present-day situation more than it does that which existed back then. The societal environment was very different back then, and when "boys will be boys" problems did break out they did not cause a complete breakdown in decorum of all the members of choir. Remember, they were selected to be on the best 'team,' a mark of distinction similar to a boy who can hit more homeruns than most of his peers. They were being recognized for being good and they were learning from the very best examples that they could be exposed to. They were learning how to really listen, and really listening is not 'doing nothing.'

Boyd Pehrson wrote (July 31, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] You raise a good point. And actually the 44 boys would only be singing soprano and alto, only one tenor was listed by Bach as a school alumni in his various breakdowns of boarders...he may have been a prefect, he was 19 years old. So, 44 boys should be distributed in four choirs as sopranos and altos. But the breakdown of 44 singers is also given in Bach's letter. There were 55 alumni being housed at the school (leaving one opening)and about 200 students were attending the school at the time.

I think your point also seeks the heart of Lutheran worship practice, the question may be: would choir boys be allowed to remain silent during sung choral parts. Certainly not if they are singing regular hymns and parts of the service. Singing would be obligatory, especially in the communal worship practices of an orthodox Lutheran worship situation. I don't think any available boys would have been sitting anything out. The purpose of the choir school was to train the boys in doctrine and worship through singing, as is declared in Lutheran church practices and hymnal prefaces. Not all singing boys were housed at the school. Some were housed "off campus" in private homes. "Die schüler bestanden aus alumnen und externen" (the students consisted of alumnen and external). Bach sent his own nephew to a choir school in another town, and made provisions for him to be housed privately. One should remember the history of the St Thomas school records a total of about 200 students attending in one year during Bach's time. The Thomasschule was the main school in a town of 30,000 inhabitants, and it attracted music students from far and wide. So, the discussion is obscured when we limit the "Alumni" who are mentioned as a funding need as the only choir participants. Bach makes the case for more housing for good music students from out of town. Those alumni who needed board were probably from out of town or had no relatives to stay with. In 1676 the Thomasschule records 167 students total for that year, 56 of who were boarders. Of the choir forces for 1676 they are shown to have 13 trebles, 12 altos, 18 tenor and 13 bass who sang collectively on 12 December 1676. [See: St Thomas Zu Leipzig, Schule und Chor, Bilder und Dockumente; published by Bernhard Knick, Breitkopf & Hartel, Wiesbaden, 1963. p 111.]

The letter by Stieglitz discusses allowing alumni into positions at the school, allowing them in to be housed there. A few years after Bach's letter to the Town Council, the choir school and the church loft at St Thomas' were both enlarged by council funds. The letter must have worked. What I find frustrating, is that this letter by Stieglitz regarding "44 boys" is mentioned in Mr. Parrott's book merely as a letter by Stieglitz requesting "44 singers." This is misleading because Stieglitz's is a letter requesting "44 boys" for singing, a distinction that is clearly important, and one that shouldn't be glossed over. Something else to consider is that since the worship services at the major churches were staggered time wise- one service at morning, another at afternoon or evening, Bach could have any combination of vocal forces from his choirs. Also, Gunter Stiller's book points out that only one morning service performed the cantatas, and this took place "in the church where the main music was performed in the early service." Thus a cantata was performed only once on Sunday at the 7:00a.m. service- which alternated between St Thomas' and St Nicolai's churches.

Charles, when you said the choir of 16 singers sounded better to you, I think the historic consensus is on your side: Orlando di Lasso had it, the Vienna Boys' Choir had it, the Cathedrals had it, and I believe Bach had it as well for his cantatas.

Charles Francis wrote (August 1, 2002):
In fact, I didn't say that a choir of 16 singers sounded better to me. However, I did say I find a motet performance that mixes OVPP with multiple voices of more interest than a pure OVPP-approach, the point being the lack of instrumental contrast in the motets. I actually had in mind the peby the Kammerchor der Augsburger Domsingknaben, where the conductor Reinhard Kammler alternates soloist with ripienists to great advantage. Regarding OVPP in the cantatas, I must say such performances came as a revelation to me, injecting new life into tired works I perhaps knew too well. My wife, on the other hand, can't stand OVPP and considers the music 'nervous' - she doesn't listen to much Bach, however, so I suspect that having all the counterpoint in-your-face, so to speak, is just too much.

Regarding Lassus, I've heard his music performed live by both Westminster Cathedral Choir and the Hilliard Ensemble. Now, I must say the One Voice Per Part approach of the Hilliard Ensemble was truly sublime. This, of course, has little bearing on the authenticity of the practice.

Charles Francis wrote (August 2, 2002):
< Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Charles asks:
Now a question: Would that master of economy, Bach, have a large number of choristers standing around doing nothing between the opening chorus and closing chorale? Surely, they would burst forth at the least provocation throughout the cantata, rather in the manner of Händel's "Israel in Egypt"? Do you imagine that Bach, the composer who keeps each instrumentalist so busy throughout, fails to utilise his choristers fully? >>
< Here's a speculative thought/solution on this matter. At various places where the organ is played during a church service (liturgy, the congregational singing of hymns, the choral preludes to introduce the hymn) the boys would take turns operating the bellows for the organ. This would easily require at least two if not more at a time and when they got tired they could be relieved by others who were 'just standing around.' I used to listen with varying degrees of disbelief and astonishment to my father's experience as a boy chorister in a large church in Frankfurt/Oder where at least two boys (he said 'several') were always required for providing the needed air pressure for the organ when it was playing. This involved having the boys at staggered intervals run up a flight of stairs, step on a platform on which they would 'ride' down to the lower level and then repeat the process. My guess is that in Bach's day the boys would stand on one spot and continue to push down on the bellows with their hands. There must have been at least 4 or 5 such bellows for a large organ. Some chorister would also be involved in turning the very large hour sand clock that stood on the railing of the balcony where the choristers and instrumentalists stood. >
On the other hand, this would be a good way for those pupils who were unable to "form a second in the throat" to make a contribution!

< Another speculative thought: Yes, boys will be boys, but here we have a serious learning situation where they may be hearing the intermediate mvts. of a cantata at most for the second time. This would be comparable to present-day boys who are addicted to sports as many are today having the rare opportunity to experience and observe close at hand the best moves being performed by the best athletes. Bach, as the consummate music teacher, would have understood how important this modeling experience is. There would also be boys who would realize that if they became very proficient, they could sing for money on Sundays as one of the Concertisten, and, who knows, they might even become good enough to make much more money in the Dresden opera. The Concertisten and some of the special instrumentalists that would drop by (Bach seems to have written some of the Flauto traversi parts in the arias for a French artist who was in the area at the time) would become idols because they played or sang : with such excellence that Bach would even write parts specifically for them. >
Is the singing in the opening chorus really simpler than the arias?

< The mentality behind "keep the kids busy, otherwise all hell will break out" reflects our present-day situation more than it does that which existed back then. The societal environment was very different back then, and when "boys will be boys" problems did break out they did not cause a complete breakdown in decorum of all the members of choir. Remember, they were selected to be on the best 'team,' a mark of distinction similar to a boy who can hit more homeruns than most of his peers. They were being recognized for being good and they were learning from the very best examples that they could be exposed to. They were learning how to really listen, and really listening is not 'doing nothing.' >
My point was musical rather than one of discipline. Wouldn't Bach use ALL the musical resources at his disposal throughout the cantata?

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 2, 2002):
Charles asks:
< Is the singing in the opening chorus really simpler than the arias? >
Definitely, in many cases, yes! With the exception of some of the grand fugues and considering the typical chorale cantata with the cantus firmus almost always in the soprano voice where most of the youngest boys would be located, the arias tend to have a greater range and more extensive melismas.

But it is really interesting, from the standpoint of the OVPP recordings that I have heard (Rifkin et al) that the reverse (soloists who can sing the arias are unable to create a good choral sound when they sing together) seems not to be true.

< My point was musical rather than one of discipline. Wouldn't Bach use ALL the musical resources at his disposal throughout the cantata? >
Does a true artist ever feel the need to make use of all the colors on his palette every time he produces a work of art? This is a very mechanical, limited way of pproaching any true work of art. Does a good organist, every time he/she plays, always feel the need to pull out all of the stops or play the chimes that someone donated? Bach must have had much higher objectives in mind. He also realized (very similar to Shakespeare who has less powerful, scenes follow the very serious, dramatic ones, and thus, through contrast, provide relief on a different level) that the cantata tradition that he tended to follow gives the listener a change of pace in the recitatives and arias with even more intimate, contemplative texts than the large choruses would be able to handle.

The mentality behind (please do not think that I am accusing you of harboring this mentality since you are only posing a speculative question) the notion of making use of all capabilities at all times can frequently be seen on the high school level whenever new media are made available to the faculty. The administration that has allocated money for the purchase of media equipment does not want to see the new, expensive equipment stand idle. Now the faculty either perceive that a vacuum has been created in their teaching methods, a vacuum which they immediately feel must be filled with something, or they have a different teaching ideal without these media in mind. Instead of giving those faculty in the latter category the freedom of 'artistic' choice, the administration tries to make them feel guilty about not using all these media all the time, much the same way that we seem to be accusing Bach of not using all of the forces at his disposal all the time. Think of the Leipzig City Council members who already were supporting Bach's efforts now being asked to 'fork over' even more money: "For what? We aren't even getting our money's worth now. We know or are related to some of the boys that sing in Bach's choirs and he only lets them sing twice in a cantata. How can he expect us to give him even greater resources? What will he do with them? Probably not more than he is doing with them now, which is very little!"

Re: 2-Part Cantatas by Bach

I found 23 such cantatas and often the 2nd part begins with an aria or recitative. There are also a few cantatas like BWV 59 (which begins with an aria) that have only 4 mvts. (a definite candidate for the 2nd half of a 2-part cantata) There are just a few cantatas (BWV 11, 31, 92) that have 8 or 9 mvts. that are not divided into two parts, but could easily be. Many of the 5 to 6 mvt. cantatas with do not begin with a grand choral mvt. are canfor the 2nd cantata (or 2nd half of a 2-pt. cantata) performed after the sermon at a given Sunday service.

Andrew Lewis wrote (August 2, 2002):
Thomas Braatz stated:
"We are not as concerned about what might have been a practice 'somewhere', but rather what would have been the common practice under Bach's direction."
This is indeed the question. Since we have no evidence from Bach himself except for some very important basso continuo parts (Weimar: BWV 18, 185, 31; Leipzig: 69, 58, 94, 30, 197, as well as the SMP) one must look to other, contemporary sources and deduce as much as one can from there. I readily concede that proof does not exist. I merely am convinced that the practice of short accompaniment under Bach's direction was highly likely. Significantly more likely than playing as written.

Braatz wrote:
"The fuzzy, undocumented notion that the various spellings of a single word that existed until the end of the 18th century are comparable to a musician reading notes on a page of music eludes me entirely. It is as though musicians could not tell the difference between one note and another and did not care about this either."
I did not intend for the variant spellings of Haydn's name to be proof that Bach practiced short accompaniment nor that it alone is representative of a culture that did not revere the written word in the same manner as we do now. It was anecdotal and I thought I clearly implied as much, though using different words, in my original statement. However, you are right to point that out and I concede the point. So, instead, I will turn to Dreyfus.

But first I will say, as you requested, that I do indeed believe what Dreyfus has to say. I've made this clear from the beginning and I will elaborate later in this email. I don't believe that contradictory evidence makes him wrong. I likewise trust that the information you presented is correct. Actually, Dreyfus does not attempt to conceal these texts. Rather, he acknowledges that it is a thorny issue, and does not even attempt to suggest only one particular method of realizing short accompaniment (this, in fact, is a serious shortcoming of most HIP interpreters, which you may have pointed out. But the issue is not them so much as the practice.) There are many methods and Dreyfus simply documents them and then argues that Bach observed the practice in some form, which included the shortening of bass notes. At the very least, this testifies that reading the music "as written" cannot possibly pass muster. In this light, your characterization of his research, and the validity of the practice, is misleading. And since you have apparently read Dreyfus' book with the kind of attention you have read your other sources, such as Mattheson and Heinichen, I can only conclude that you are either deliberately misrepresenting his views to further your own, or you have not understood his position in its entirety.

You said:
"Is what I have discovered not even worth looking at or considering seriously before returning to your praise of Dreyfus' evidence."
You have hardly "discovered" this evidence. (But I did take it seriously. In fact, I was quite impressed until I reread Dreyfus.) Nor is it proof that Bach did not observe the practice. No such proof exists. Nor is there any proof that Dreyfus is right about Bach's practice. There is only a great deal of information that leads to that conclusion.

And this brings me to the crux of my position, and shortly I will state why I continue to refer back to Dreyfus and why I refuse to quote primary sources in this forum. You have indeed found evidence which speaks against the practice of short accompaniment, as has Dreyfus. But you are far off in discrediting his thesis. You believe that I should go to the sources in my refutation of your views. This is not necessary. For, as I have stated in the past, all academic disciplines rely on two processes that are universally accepted to further research: 1) peer and mentor review of research and 2) passing through the rigors of getting published. As you may imagine, there are other processes at work as well, but these two will suffice for now. It is perfectly legitimate for performers to believe the research of eminent musicologists, such as Laurence Dreyfus, who are published by Harvard University Press and who have the support of Christoph Wolff and Alfred Duerr, among others. You yourself have pointed to the NBA as a great authority. Indeed it is. But you must also realize that there are countless editorializations throughout the edition. Must I, as a conductor, seek and perform from the original parts/manuscripts in order to legitimately perform Bach's cantatas? To see for myself that those are indeed the notes, rhythms, texts, and so on for each work that I perform? Hardly. I must be able to trust the editors. They are the ones with the time and funding to do such work. To not be able to believe that others' work is at least done in earnest and that can stand up to such processes as peer review, etc., would represent a major crisis in academe. This is not to say that one can't be wrong. But you have not yet proven that Dreyfus is, nor can you at this juncture. I will continue to trust the Thurston Dart Professor at King's College, London, that is, Dreyfus, before I believe that your research is exhaustive and can topple his.

Despite the fact that we are in major disagreement, even to the point that perhaps we each consider the other a propagandist, I do respect your industriousness and erudition. Yet to truly be taken seriously as a contender with Dreyfus on this issue, you would need to publish your articles in a respected journal. Only that would allow for the proper scrutiny -- not a disaffected member of this list such as myself.

Or, better and easier, let's invite Professor Dreyfus to an interview on this mailing list. You can then present your refutations yourself. Or, to be more civil, perhaps Aryeh could conduct a personal interview and publish it here. Dreyfus can be easily contacted through King's College's website.

If that takes place, and even if not, I once again ask for any interested members to read Dreyfus' book closely. There is also another very interesting article in the Basler Jahrbuch fuer Historische Musikpraxis, Volume 19 (1995) by Gerhart Darmstadt. Perhaps Thomas will translate it for us and post it. Here is the abstract in English:

Gerhart Darmstadt
On recitative accompaniment in 18th century German sources. A documentation

This essay introduces 18th century sources on the accompaniment of the Italian-oriented recitative in German speaking countries. First, the recitative is described in terms of contemporary definitions as that type of composition which allows an ideal connection of word and affect. Practical sources on singing are included to the extent that they allude to meter and declamation. Using Johann Sebastian Bach's Passions according to St. John and St. Matthew as point of departure, essential questions of the accompaniment appropriate to secco recitatives and of present day editorial practice are discussed. As for the problem of whether or not to sustain accompanimental notes in the continuo, a large number of sources exist pointing to a short execution but by all means allowing deviations therefrom. Here, necessary for each composer is differentiated examination of the question which contexts are valid, source-wise. As for accompagnato recitatives, the agreement of notation and execution is pointed out. Then, sources for keyboard instruments and theorbo are discussed with regard to the following themes: instrumentation, organ registration, "full-voicing" (Vollstimmigkeit), arpeggios, broken chords, harmonic accompaniment, passing harmonies, "connecting-pieces" (Zwischensätze), cadences, crisis-management. In the 'cello chapter, the late 18th century practice of letting recitatives be accompanied by a chord-playing 'cellist alone is thoroughly examined. To the extent that continuo players' competence allowed, conducting of secco recitatives was prohibited in the 18th century. In conclusion, a quick look is taken at the arioso and at arioso-recitative passages, and especially at the indication andante. Since most sources on recitative accompaniment tend to consist rather of tips for beginners and refer the reader to living practitioners for further advice, in many cases we must ultimately depend on cautious inference, practical experience, and the collection of evidence.

Lastly, because other members of this list have expressed their dismay at this debate and are possibly bored by it, I will answer Thomas' reply only once and then drop the issue unless someone else takes it up.

Charles Francis wrote (August 2, 2002):
< Thomas Braatz wrote:
Charles asks:
<< Is the singing in the opening chorus really simpler than the arias? >>
Definitely, in many cases, yes! With the exception of some of the grand fugues and considering the typical chorale cantata with the cantus firmus almost always in the soprano voice where most of the youngest boys would be located, the arias tend to have a greater range and more extensive melismas. >
In such cases, one possible explanation might be that Bach didn't want to waste his est singers on the opening chorus and closing chorale, but preferred to open and close with weaker singers. Another possibility could be that that the (OVPP) voices needed to be warmed up in the opening chorus before the more challenging arias were sung. There again, extensive melismas would be inappropriate in dense contrapuntal writing and because many voices are present in 4-part writing the range of each can be limited. Sometimes arias feature a solo instrument and I would be interested to know if their part in the opening chorus is also simpler?

<< My point was musical rather than one of discipline. Wouldn't Bach use ALL the musical resources at his disposal throughout the cantata? >>
< Does a true artist ever feel the need to make use of all the colors on his palette every time he produces a work of art? This is a very mechanical, limited way of approaching any true work of art. Does a good organist, every time he/she plays, always feel the need to pull out all of the stops or play the chimes that someone donated? Bach must have had much higher objectives in mind. He also realized (very similar to Shakespeare who has less powerful, scenes follow the very serious, dramatic ones, and thus, through contrast, provide relief on a different level) that the
cantata tradition that he tended to follow gives the listener a change of pace in the recitatives and arias with even more intimate, contemplative texts than the large choruses would be able to handle. >
A fair point; and in the OVPP paradigm 3 out of 4 singers and various instruments rest to provide variety in the arias. But if Bach had a choir of 12, why not have three sopranos/altos/tenors/Basses singing in each aria? Assuming the orchestra were of appropriate dimensions to correctly balance 12 singers, then 3 singers in the aria would create an appropriate balance with 1/4 of the instruments active. However, with only 1 singer out of 12 active, this would suggest that 11 instruments out of 12 should remain silent. Granted this reductio ad absurdum ignores the possibility that a very good singer might sing quietly in the chorus and loudly in the arias - but then why not sing to full capacity in the opening chorus?

< The mentality behind (please do not think that I am accusing you of harboring this mentality since you are only posing a speculative question) the notion of making use of all capabilities at all times can frequently be seen on the high school level whenever new media are made available to the faculty. The administration that has allocated money for the purchase of media equipment does not want to see the new, expensive equipment stand idle. Now the faculty either perceive that a vacuum has been created in their teaching methods, a vacuum which they immediately feel must be filled with something, or they have a different teaching ideal without these media in mind. Instead of giving those faculty in the latter category the freedom of 'artistic' choice, the administration tries to make them feel guilty about not using all these media all the time, much the same way that we seem to be accusing Bach of not using all of the forces at his disposal all the time. Think of the Leipzig City Council members who already were supporting Bach's efforts now being asked to 'fork over' even more money: "For what? We aren't even getting our money's worth now. We know or are related to some of the boys that sing in Bach's choirs and he only lets them sing twice in a cantata. How can he expect us to give him even greater resources? What will he do with them? Probably not more than he is doing with them
now, which is very little!" >
To my knowledge, the attitude of the Leipzig city council to Bach's alleged extravagant waste of singers has not been raised by Rifkin or Parrott. But this is nonetheless a good argument!

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 2, 2002):
OK - I've more or less bypassed most of the posts on this OVPP thread, so I'm going to go back to Tom's story.

First of all, I like like to be a devil's advocate, so here goes:(btw, if you are not in the mood for my type of humour, then skip down)

1) I know more about Star Trek than Bach, and if our OVPP advocates were to tell the maestro of their identities, etc., then that would be breaking a serious rule called the "Temporal Prime Directive". In other words, if someone has gone into the past, then they are not to disclose any true information that can give someone in the past an idea about their future-no time-line altering.

2) if it was just a dream Bach had on a nice drowsy afternoon, then what are the chances of him dreaming up men by the names of Joshua Rifkin, etc.?

IF YOU BYPASSED THE ABOVE, STOP HERE

On a serious note:

Sherman and Tom both said that the point is really in what sounds best, so here is Matthew Neugebauer to solve the OVPP problem once and for all.

The number of voices per part should be determined solely on the nature of the music.

choral styles of the baroque era (from my view), and examples:

note: all figures are based on a choir with HIP orchestra, unless otherwise noted

German: the most intimate of all choral music, it tends to deal with personal heartfelt feelings. Because these are personal feelings, the music is often slower or perhaps in a lower range. In this case, the choir should be smaller as to not overpower the meaning, and to better express this meaning. It can be easily compared to slow-tempo solo arias of the German baroque

Examples: Bach: BWV 21 opening chorus "Ich hatte viel bekümernis" Händel: Judas Macabeus (sp?) chorus "Mourn, ye afflicted children" most Lutheran 4-part chorale settings

voices per part: 1-4

Italian: very extravagant, stressing power but maintaining fast counterpoint. It has a characteristic "festive outburst" quality to it.

Examples: Bach: BWV 232 Gloria (opening chorus)
BWV 243 opening chorus (Magnificat)
BWV 21 final chorus (Das Lamm, Das erwurget ist)
BWV 80 opening chorus (with or without addns)
Vivaldi: Magnificat opening chorus

voices per part: 3-6

English: The strongest facet of English Baroque music, and IMHO the best choral music of the baroque anywhere, the main goal is typically power, which is usually acheived by a combination of moderato, open-position chords in a homophonic texture, with allegretto counterpoint culminating into the homophony.

examples: Purcell: anthems, opera choruses
Händel: just about any oratorio chorus in a major key

voices per part: HIP: 5-10 15-25*

*non-hip orchestra, as Händel's oratorio Messiah is performed many times by both HIP and non-HIP during the Christmas season

hope this helps!

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 3, 2002):
Charles stated and asked:
< In such cases, one possible explanation might be that Bach didn't want to waste his best singers on the opening chorus and closing chorale, but preferred to open and close with weaker singers. Another possibility could be that that the (OVPP) voices needed to be warmed up in the opening chorus before the more challenging arias were sung.There again, extensive melismas would be inappropriate in dense contrapuntal writing and because many voices are present in 4-part writing the range of each can be limited. Sometimes arias feature a solo instrument and I would be interested to know if their part in the opening chorus is also simpler? >

1) "to open and close a cantata with weaker singers"

The so-called weaker singers, with their greater numbers (greater than one) lend power and conviction to the words, whereas the pure OVPP renditions that I have heard never go beyond the intimate, chamber music feeling that they create. There is a disparity between the powerful words that are being sung and the actual sound/volume that is being produced.

2) "to warm up the solo voices before the challenging arias were sung"

see below

3) "extensive melismas would be inappropriate in dense contrapuntal writing"

And yet Bach does this too at times.

4) "because many voices are present in 4-part writing the range of each can be limited"

I am not certain how to understand this statement. Why would the ranges be limited in 4-part writing because many voices are singing?

5) "Sometimes arias feature a solo instrument and I would be interested to know if their part in the opening chorus is also simpler?"

This varies according to the solo instrument used. You will find the flute (Flauto traverso) having a difficult part in the opening chorus as well as in the later aria(s). With oboes, for instance, unless there is an opening sinfonia with a wonderful oboe solo, the oboe parts in the usual introductory mvt. are not as difficult as the oboe part in one of the arias that follow it.

< A fair point; and in the OVPP paradigm 3 out of 4 singers and various instruments rest to provide variety in the arias. But if Bach had a choir of 12, why not have three sopranos/altos/tenors/Basses singing in each aria? Assuming the orchestra were of appropriate dimensions to correctly balance 12 singers, then 3 singers in the aria would create an appropriate balance with 1/4 of the instruments active. However, with only 1 singer out of 12 active, this would suggest that 11 instruments out of 12 should remain silent. Granted this reductio ad absurdum ignores the possibility that a very good singer might sing quietly in the chorus and loudly in the arias - but then why not sing to full capacity in the opening chorus? >
Let me put it this way: Assuming that the solo singers (Concertisten) had some similarities in common with solo (full-voice) singers today, then there are the following things to consider

By having the Concertist not sing with a full voice in the introductory choral mvt., but rather sotto voce, the Concertist can be 'killing two or even three birds with one stone':

1) the Concertist, during the opening choral mvt. has a chance to continue 'warming up' the voice. Having warmed up the voice before the service began might be of some help, but it is very comforting to a singer to 'feel' whether the voice is still there (not by bellowing out in the loudest voice, however) but rather by "markieren" [the German word most like sotto voce] which could be accomplished in singing along lightly at times (not all 15 verses!) with the congregational chorales

2) the Concertist upon whom the other boys (Ripienists) rely should not drown out the other voices singing from the same part. He provides a reliable, stable basis upon which the others singing from the same voice part can build their confidence. Remember that these boys are probably singing this part for only the second time. A Concertist who is 'rock-solid' in intonation, has precise attacks, and can move easily through difficult passages is a great comfort to the boys (and to the conductor as well!)

3) the unanimous sound of any given part in the choir does not allow for one individual, such as the Concertist, to stand out over the others. This is what creates such a problem for the Leusink choir: individual voices can be picked out of the group easily because they are singing too loud or straining too hard. A good Concertist would have to be aware of the overall balance between all the parts, just as a good chamber music player listens carefully to all the others in the ensemble.

< But if Bach had a choir of 12, why not have three sopranos/altos/tenors/Basses singing in each aria? >
This has been tried on occasion. If I remember correctly, you should be able to find such arias (only occasionally) and recitatives that are sung by all the voices in a given range, or sometimes only two or three. These boys' voices blend so perfectly that you would have difficulty at times determining that more than one voice is singing. Some of the Ramin recordings demonstrate this. Richter, on occasion, will have all the tenors or basses singing a recitative!

Schweitzer had already indicated this possibility for boys' voices.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (August 3, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Huge choirs were not unheard of in Bach's time. If one reads Mr. Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir," one comes away with the idea that large "modern" and "romantic" choirs were alien to Bach's time and place. But Händel used 200 singers at a time in his performances of the Messiah, and Händel was born in Leipzig and was a contemporary of Bach. When the OVPP advocates say that "small choirs were the norm," it is not correct to minimize the complicated performance scene of Europe in 1730's with all its variety of performance standards to an idea that small choirs were the norm in Bach's time. Over 100 years earlier, the orthodox Lutheran and early baroque musician Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) wrote colossal masses of 8, 10 and even 19 parts. This was in the Wolfenbüttel and Dresden courts of the 17thC. Early music pioneer Dr. Alejandro Planchart recently used over sixty singers and musicians to re-create what Dr. Planchart called Praetorius' "colossal baroque" masses.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 3, 2002):
Small correction on Boyd's interesting contribution:
< Händel was born in Leipzig and was a contemporary of Bach. >
While Händel was born the same year, 1685, making him an exact contemporary of Bach, his birthplace was Halle, Germany. Händel's father, who became widowed at age 60, married a pastor's daughter, 30 years younger than he. This marriage had the blessing of her father! Their 1st son was stillborn. Georg Friedrich was the 2nd, and after him followed 2 daughters of which the 1st lived to be 24 years old and the 2nd married, but then died at age 38. Händel's mother was born into the famous Olearius family and was a descendent of Johann Olearius (born 1611) who provided the chorale texts to hymns still present in the Lutheran hymnals of North Germany: "Wunderbarer Gnadenthron"; "Gelobet sei der Herr"; "Herr, öffne mir die Herzenstür"; "Gottlob, der Sonntag kommt herbei"; "Herr Jesu Christ, dein teures Blut"; "Wohlauf, mein Herz, zu Gott."

The place where Bach and Händel were supposed to meet was Halle, when Händel returned there from England on one of his infrequent visits to see family members. Bach had planned to visit him there, but became ill and had to cancel his trip. As a result, the meeting between these two never took place. Fate seems to have intervened here.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 3, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Another, pehrpas not-so-small correction: Parrott does not claim that the use of several singers per part was unheard of in Bach's time, or even in Bach's place. True, he does not mention the 200-strong choir in Messiah, but he does speak of choirs (and quotes Praetorious quite extensively on the subject of ripienists and their deployment). He doesn't say they were never employed; rather, he says that ripienists were viewed as optional rather than necessary in Bach's time AND PLACE (Händel's Messiah counts as the former, but not as the latter); that they were more likely used in some repertoires than others (and that Bach's cantatas, specifically, belong among the repertoires where ripienists were less frequently employed); and that a group of soloists only, with no ripienists at all, was considered a "choir" in 17th- and 18th-century Germany.Therefore, the word "choir" does not AUTOMATICALLY imply ripienists; but it doesn't exclude ripienists, either.

He definitely does NOT deny that Händel habitually used a choir in our sense (and in fact, he uses such a choir in his own Händel recordings). Consider the following sentence: "What we have inadvertently created is a hybrid, a veritable hippogriff in which a plausibly Bachian orchestral body is grafted on to an alien, perhaps Händelian, choral gruop" (Essential Bach Choir, p. 142). You don't have to agree with this statement in order to recognise that, within it, Parrott clearly acknowledges that a standard choir, in the modern sense, IS appropriate for Händel.

This is neither a rejection nor an endorsment of Parrott's case (which I find quite convincing, but not conclusive: enough to support the use of OVPP as a valid option, but not enough to reject choral forces as firmly as he does, for example in the quotation above. For example, he freely acknowledges that Bach employed ripienists throughout the Johannes Passion. I've heard his recording of the work: though the distribution is mostly just two-per-part, it doesn't sound all that different from a standard choir. Does that mean that Bach wrote the Johannes-Passion for a different medium, compared to his cantatas?). But in arguing against -- or for -- a thesis, it might be a good idea to get that thesis straight. (Of course, some of Parrott's own rhetoric
-- again, like the quotation above -- might obscure the thesis a bit).

Of course, I am slightly prejudiced by the fact that I really like the sound of an OVPP group I also like the sound of a standard choir. But I don't think I"ll change my mind on either of these if the historical case were conclusively proved, one way or the other. (I even like the sound of OVPP accompanied by solo strings -- as in the Purcell Quartet's superb recordings of the Lutheran Masses -- though most even OVPP advocates agree that Bach's string section was larger than this. So that sound is almost certainly historically incorrect. That doesn't diminish my enjoyment of it).

Boyd Pehrson wrote (August 5, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz & Uri Golomb] I am catching up on the recent posts and I want to thank Tom for catching and repairing my error about Händel's birth city. Absolutely Tom you are correct, I apologize for my misinformation. Thanks for helping to clarify this.What I meant to say was Händel was born near Leipzig.

I can see we seem to have moved on to other topics. As for Uri's supposed correction of me, at the risk of beating a dead OVPP horse please allow me a "little" reply.

Uri:
1) Regarding "The Essential Bach Choir" book, I only wrote:
"...one comes away with the idea that large "modern" and "romantic" choirs were alien to Bach's time and place"
And:
"the OVPP advocates say that "small choirs were the norm,"

2) That is all I wrote, but Uri, you go on to "correct" things I didn't say when you respond in "correction" with: "Parrott does not claim that the use of several singers
per part was unheard of in Bach's time"
And:
"He [Parrott] doesn't say they were never employed; rather, he says that ripienists were viewed as optional rather than necessary in Bach's time AND PLACE"
And:
"He [Parrott] definitely does NOT deny that Händel habitually used a choir in our sense"

Well, I didn't write any of that, nor was it implied. But enough of that.

My idea in my post is not to re-issue arguments about what constitutes a choir, and the how and when of ripienist used by Bach. These have all been discussed here and in the Early Music journals. Besides, the idea of One Voice Per Part- hinges on copy sharing, which determines the presence or absence of ripienists (see Parrott, EBC, pages 5-6).

I am pointing out that the Rifkin/Parrot argument ignores, and ridicules as a 19th to 20th century idea, a valid performance aesthetic that was operating in Europe in the mid 1700's. This is one they utterly deny to Bach- that was very large choral and musical forces. Indeed not only did Händel use these for his Messiah, but also for Saul and the other of his oratorios. For the oratorio "Saul" Händel used extravagantly large choral and musical forces. For instance, he retrieved a set of outsized artillery kettle drums from the Tower of London for the first 1739 performance of Saul (used in the death march). Huge and enormous musical forces were the Händel trademark, so much so that a commemoration of Händel performed in Westminster Abbey in 1784 boasted 253 instrumentalists and 257 vocalists, not including soloists!

Why was all this hugeness of forces present? Didn't this thicken the textures of the music and texts? Of course it did! and proudly so! You see the aesthetic for Händel was sometimes huge, overpowering, alarming, "causing confoundedness in the mind." The soul was sublimely blasted by sheer force. Dr. Claudia L. Johnson has written a great article about this aesthetic of that "powerful agency" described as "the sublime" in 17th C. music. (Dr. Johnson's article titled "Giant Händel, and the Musical Sublime" is found in:"Eighteenth-century Studies", 1986, Vol. 19, Issue 4, p. 515-533) We tell people now days that Händel is better performed with less forces. We don't want to "muddy" the texts and intricacy of the instrumental parts with overcrowded voices and players. Thus we do not want to replicate the Händel commemorations of the 1700's with 510 plus musicians and singers. Well, fine, let's hear clarity. But, the alarming sound of a multitude, the cement block of texture thrown at the audiences, the sheer confounding of the mind and senses will not be present either. This was something both the critics of the time and the audiences expected and enjoyed. (Ref. Dr. Charles Burney's ecstatic accounts of Händel's concerts.) The burst of battle and the clamour of war; the stampede of a charging army of God is the effect that was sought for these epic musical adventures. The aesthetic demanded it. Michaelis, we are told, followed this aesthetic in Germany, and in his 1805 article published in Berlinische musikalische Zietung, Michaelis explains why the aesthetic exceeds imagination, "no immediate pleasant effect... on the imagination, but an almost violent one of frightful and terrifying aspect". "For this reason, 'frivolous, feeble and blinkered temperaments are not responsive to it'." (quoted from Dr. Johnson)

What does Händel in London have to do with Bach in Leipzig one now asks? Well, a great deal. All this choral hugeness was going on in Bach's time, (100 years before Berlioz's 300 voice Te Deum ventures!) yet we are told by two men now that Bach was content with a "quartet of singers" for his choruses? Yes, huge- extremely HUGE choirs were operating in Bach's day. Bach knew all about what Händel was doing. Yes, Händel used "English" choirs of 12-16, in fact he used the three choirs, Worcester, Glocester and Hereford from the Three Choirs Festival: total 36- 48 (nothing muddy about their recent recording by the way). Bach had current news of all the great European composers. Bach and Händel reportedly had the same eye doctor (who probably killed Bach, and certainly blinded Händel), and the two men both were members of the Society of Musical Science in Leipzig, Händel was appointed and Bach soon joined afterward... small world eh? The two men were often compared or held up as the two representatives of keyboard music of the time, whether by Mattheson in his "Musical Patriot" (1728) or his "The Perfect Capellmeister" (1739), or by the critic Scheibe (1737-38) or in Mizler's "Newly Inaugurated Musical Library" (1747), or when Händel was honored with a Doctorate by Oxford (1732, he refused graciously) (Ref: Deutsch). It is also interesting that Bach had possession of the autograph score of Händel's cantata Armida Abbandonata, along with two of Bach's own manuscript copies of the orchestral score of the same cantata. Two other copies of of Händel's music made by Bach are housed in Bach archives: the Brockes Passion, and parts of "Concerto Grosso" in Em. (Ref: Deutsch).

Bach lists a large choral force that collectively he could draw upon for hione Cantata performance on Sunday morning: 11 sopranos, 11 altos, 11 tenors and 11 basses (he wanted more). We do not read this sort of approach to Bach's forces in the OVPP arguments. The "thick" huge-force aesthetic was asserting itself in Europe in Bach's time, regardless of our own aesthetic about it all today it is a reality. Considering the position held by Händel in the English heart and mind I am surprised we do not hear anything about such an aesthetic from the Englishman Parrott. We do not want to impose history for arts sake, but give history a good inductive reading at least. Instead we "feel" that Händel's music is "better" with reduced forces, and thus it must historically be so. That is our own cultural and modern aesthetic and not and an historical one, not one of Europe in Bach and Händel's day, which is a complicated performance scene.

Uri you quoted Parrott in EBC on page 142, and allow me to provide more of the paragraph:

"But if choirs of 12-16 did exist at Leipzig, Bach would have used them only for the relatively simple "motet" repertoire, and not for his own concerted music. What we have inadvertently created is a hybrid, a veritable hippogriff in which a plausibly Bachian orchestral body is grafted on to an alien, perhaps Händelian, vocal group" (Essential Bach Choir, p. 142).

Well, choirs of 12-16 did exist at Leipzig, as Bach fielded three choirs 12-16 each and another 8 singer choir! Bach had 44 sopranos, altos, tenors and basses at his disposal for the Sunday morning Cantata.

What is this "if" from Parrott? and... What pontificating!

Regarding your mention of Parrott "quoting Praetorious quite extensively on the subject of ripienists and their deployment". Well, they amount to four short quotes. These forces described are not "options" in the Praetorious works I mentioned earlier which require large vocal forces, and "colossal" was the word Dr. Alejandro Planchart used to describe Praetorious' great Lutheran masses.

Parrott wants iconography to support his arguments, but I have found a picture of a funeral procession of 22 men and boys in Leipzig in 1730's with their Kantor (probably Bach) making their way to/from the church singing along the way. (There are more images of traditional choir forces in Bach's Leipzig and I will make them available with explanation to anyone who cares to e-mail me and ask.) I doubt Mr. Parrott has ever seen them. But, regardless, such pictures Mr.Parrott finds irrelevant because they don't support his ideas. On and on we can go with this, but it won't help. Too many unanswered questions by those wanting to devlope their OVPP thesis, yet no conclusive proof is found to establish it.

I think the Rifkin/Parrott approach to their argument has now been situated as: OVPP is fact unless you can disprove it. I don't have to muster any disproof. It is up to Rifkin/Parrott to provide proof for their thesis by way of conclusive evidence. Indeed, get that thesis straight! I think the OVPP questions are good ones, but no conclusive evidence has been mustered to prove that Bach used or intended no more than "a quartet of singers for his choruses." Four soloists, and NO ripieno, for ripieno is simply optional and not used really at all by Bach. That is their argument.

Yet, performance as always remains a matter of taste.By all means buy and enjoy OVPP performances if you wish, it is an interesting approach to Bach performances, and I support their production, I do not support the OVPP idea as historically correct in any way though. And any polemics thrown my way will be have to be supported with conclusive evidence. For OVPP I have yet to see it. People should listen to and purchase what they like to hear regardless of the "rightness" of it.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 5, 2002):
[To Boyd Pehrson] Just briefly, to apologise to Boyd for mis-representing his views. I do not accept all the points he raised in his latest (I might come back to this at a later point, when I have more time), but I do accept that I attributed to him views he did not in fact express. I usually try to avoid "reading with a broad brush" (I forget where I picked up this expression, but it's a useful one), and it embarasses me to discover that I've lapsed on this occasion.



Continue on Part 8


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 ý21:56:02