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Obbligato Instruments in Bach’s Vocal Works

Obbligato instruments in "baroque diaspora"

Thomas Manhart wrote (January 1, 2004):
New to the group I simply want to introduce myself: my name is Thomas Manhart, I studied music in Germany and Austria, living now in Singapore to persue a degree in ethnomusicology. Having changed my musical stress, i still hang on to my love for baroque music, particularly as I am trained as countertenor.

There are difficulties, I face at my new home in south-east Asia that make me ask that following question, I might have not dared to ask back home in Germany:
It was hard enough to find voices for an ensemble that plans to sing baroque music, but my dreams of performing bach cantatas are still hard to fulfil. There seems to be not a single baroque oboe in the area. Now my question in that emergency situation: how bad is it to play with the thought of replacing e.g. an oboe with a flute? Bach did it e.g. composing other versions of "ich habe genug" (BWV 82), one with oboe and bass and one with flute and alto. I know the sound character changes very much, and many bach fans would stone me, and i had never got such a thought before, but here i sit in 35 degree in Asia, with the score of BWV 23 and love the duet, and have no oboe. What would you suggest? How obligatory are the obligatories? And would you rather ask me not to perform it than changing the instruments?

Thanks for any opinion

Klaus Langrock wrote (January 1, 2004):
[To Thomas Manhart] What about a soprano sax instead of a flute. The sound comes very near, and in my opinion you are "free" in instrumentation.

With best wishes for the (Western) New Year

Neil Halliday wrote (January 2, 2004):
Thomas Manhart asks whether a flute can replace an oboe for a performance of the (opening) duet from BWV 23.

I doubt that anyone here would frown on this, if it means the difference between getting this beautiful 'molto adagio' movement performed or not.

Of course, you will need two of whatever instruments you choose, whether flutes, soprano saxophones, as was suggested, or maybe even clarinets would work, or a flute and a violin.

Are you intending to perform the rest of the work? You will need a choir and orchestra for this; the last two movements are large-scale choruses, the last of which once served as the conclusion of the SJP, (and is on the same high level of inspiration as the existing conclusion).

Paul Farseth wrote (January 2, 2004):
[To Klaus Langrock] Let me agree with Klaus Langrock on the use of a soprano saxophone as an ad-hoc substitute for a Baroque oboe. A composer in my town used one last year in a choral work, and in the hands of a talented player, the result was passably similar to a baroque oboe and very pleasant to hear. I would guess, though, that such a well-developed ability to get a sweet tone from a soprano saxophone might be difficult to find. Most jazz and pop music players might use such an instrument as a harsh tool for aural aggression.

Thomas Manhart wrote (January 3, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday & Paul Farseth] Thanks, neil and paul,

That makes it easier now, the schools here in singapore are full of saxophone groups. I'll try it.



obbligato question

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 22, 2007):
Do we have an online catalogue of what bach arias go with what obbligato instrument?

Neil Halliday wrote (January 23, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman]
This is a usful site:

BWV 158/2 is listed under arias with solo violin.

(BTW, in the "arias with flute" section, there are four kinds of flute mentioned: flauto, flauto dolce, flauto piccolo, and flauto traverso. I'm not sure what the first flauto is).

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 23, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, that is terrific.
Just what I was looking for.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 23, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>BTW, in the "arias with flute" section, there are four kinds of flute mentioned: flauto, flauto dolce, flauto piccolo, and flauto traverso. I'm not sure what the first flauto is).<>
"Flauto" is the generic term used to describe the alto recorder (German: Alt-Blockflöte) in Bach's music. This term is well-chosen because of all the various terms for this instrument that appear on Bach's autograph scores or original parts, this one occurs more frequently than any of the others. "Flauto dolce" refers to exactly the same instrument as "Flauto" in Bach's own terminology.

Interestingly enough, however, the term "Flauto dolce" was never used by Bach on any of his scores and parts (also not in the "Entwurff" where Bach used only once in all the primary sources the designation: "Flöten à bec").

Although some other Baroque composers have used the term "Flauto dolce", it really makes little sense to retain this term for discussions of Bach's music since it only causes confusion, making the reader wonder if there is a difference between "Flauto" and "Flauto dolce."

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 23, 2007):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] The Search Works/Movement facility of the BCW:
Allows you finding arias with any combination of voice and instrument you want.


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Last update: ýJanuary 24, 2007 ý00:25:49