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Parodies in Bach’s Vocal Works
Part 1

BWV 52 and the Brandenburgs / Brandenburg / The Cantata - Brandenburg Concertos Connection / Parodies

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2001):
After making the discovery of the 'holiness' theme present in the 1st mvt. of the 1st BB courtesy of Eric Chafe last night, I happened to hear the 2nd Brandenburg on WFMT early this morning. Still half dozing off, I began to recognize the theme that Chafe was talking about in the 1st mvt. of the 1st BB. My first thought was "This is too easy. We're talking about 'walking up and down a major chord with a tag ending.' Certainly this is the most basic element in music and will be ever-present, particularly in Baroque music." My second thought was "Bach being the recognized master could have chosen any other type of motif to show off his skill, had he wanted to do this. Why this simple, basic motif? Could it also serve as a unifying element in all six of the BB's?"

The answer is yes.

What this could also mean is that Bach could and would have used all the 1st mvts. of the BB's in church. It is very possible then that he may have recycled all of them as introductory sinfonias in the cantatas. We simply do not have all the cantatas that he composed.

This is what I found:

1st BB BWV 1046

This has the motif in its purest form in the opening horn signal of the 1st mvt. Bach is announcing not only the theme of the 1st mvt. of the 1st BB, but also states what will become the unifying element for all 6 BB's! With Bach's skill and ability in embellishing a theme, he will not stick to a simple, repeated device that is always easily recognized. Consider how Bach is able to transform the melodic line of a chorale!

2nd BB BWV 1047

The motif first appears in the bc in mvt. 1 and is repeated there a number of times: ms. 6-7, 26-27, 37-38, 116-117 The trumpet gets the motif without the tag (a leap of a fifth at the end) in ms. 47, 81. You can hear a slightly modified version of the motif in ms. 1, 2.

3rd BB BWV 1048

The violas at the beginning of the 1st mvt. have the pattern but omit the upper octave note in ms. 1, 104. This pattern is repeated by other groupings of strings. This modified motif seems almost like a carry-over of the slightly modified trumpet fanfare in the 2nd BB.

When the 3 violins enter with the motif in ms. 21, Bach marks only these instruments with a 'forte,' thus drawing attention to it. Why would he have to do this, other than for the reason that he wants to mark the motif and not have it get lost in the overall orchestral sound. It appears again at ms. 34, 102.

The 1st violin in ms. 77,78 uses a further modification of the motif as a fugal subject.

The 3rd mvt. uses only the beginning 3-note fragment of the theme.

4th BB BWV 1049

The 2nd recorder immediately begins with the motif at the beginning of the 1st mvt., this time the arpeggiation begins on the 3rd rather than the base of the triad and the tag, instead of having a leap of a 5th, now is a 6th.

5th BB BWV 1050

In mvt. 1 the violins have a modified version of this motif in ms. 1, 19, 219 - 220. The cellos have it in ms. 35, 36. The harpsichord has it in the left hand in ms. 81, 83, 85, 87, 89 with the final interval dropping down rather than jumping up.

6th BB BWV 1051

In the 1st mvt. the violas da braccio I,II in ms. 1 after coming down the embellished chord give the most highly embellished version of the motif in ms. 2, 3, also ms. 47, 48 and 115-117.

The 3rd mvt. contains short fragments of the motif.

Henny van der Groep wrote (November 24, 2001):
Was it you Tom Braatz who wrote about that marvellous discovery in the Brandenburgs concerto. I liked it very much .I'm so silly to lose it and I wanted to listen to your discoveries. Is there any possibility where to find it again?

I'm sorry for the trouble I cause.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 24, 2001):
[To Henny van der Groep] The credit for the main part of this discovery goes to Eric Chafe. All that I did was to extend this connection to the other Brandenburg Concertos. If Aryeh Oron will allow me to present this material reworked (in a simplified version) with examples from the scores of the cantatas (Chafe's examples) and the evidence that I found in the Brandenburg Concertos, I think everything will be much easier to understand because the musical examples can then be viewed and studied. One great drawback is that this material can not be presented directly here. Aryeh will have to agree to accept all the work that is necessary in setting this up on his site. I also need some time to finish my computer setup (I am presently in the midst of some major changes.)

Thank you for asking. This type of feedback is what I needed to encourage me elaborate a project that others will want to view.

Don't worry too much about losing anything on this site - Aryeh Oron usually catches everything and puts it on his site.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 24, 2001):
[To Henny van der Groep & Thomas Braatz]Hi Henny and Tom,
< Thomas Braatz wrote: [snip] If Aryeh Oron will allow me to present this material reworked (in a simplified version) with examples from the scores of the cantatas (Chafe's examples) and the evidence that I found in the Brandenburg Concertos, I think everything will be much easier to understand because the musical examples can then be viewed and studied. One great drawback is that this material can not be presented directly here. Aryeh will have to agree to accept all the work that is necessary in setting this up on his site. I also need some time to finish my computer setup (I am presently in the midst of some major changes.) >
Do I allow? Do I agree? Of course!

< Don't worry too much about losing anything on this site - Aryeh Oron usually catches everything and puts it on his site. >
The discussions about Cantata BWV 52, including the connection between the Brandenburg Concertos and the Cantatas, appear in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV52-D.htm

Henny van der Groep wrote (November 24, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] You're too modest. I've listened to all movements of B.B's and it's there. I'm very excited about it. Such a discovery! Thanks for sharing. Bruckner, who was a very religious man often used the horns to express himself. I believe he wanted symbolize holiness too.

< 1st BB BWV 1046
This has the motif in its purest form in the opening horn signal of the 1st mvt. Bach is announcing not only the theme of the 1st mvt. of the 1st BB, but also states what will become the unifying element for all 6 BB's! >
It's a beautiful "read thread" and it strangely reminded me of a conversation I had about Beethoven's Piano Sonata op.10 no 1. In the first movement were you find in the very rhythmical first theme group a very short germ of two notes descending (a second) which you'll find back through his sonata and has a very superior function. It reminds me also of Liszt with his H moll sonata with it's germs. Bach is so very modern and timeless I'll never get tired of his music! New discoveries all the time, just great. Sorry for rambling. (thanks Aryeh!)

Dick Wursten wrote (November 24, 2001):
I'm very sorry, but all this has too much of: 'he who will seek, will find' (whatever he seeks). It asks for a parody, but I'm not qualified to write it, so I just second Thomas FIRST thought:
< "This is too easy. We're talking about 'walking up and down a major chord with a tag ending.' Certainly this is the most basic element in music and will be ever-present,particularly in Baroque music." >

Henny van der Groep wrote (November 25, 2001):
Below you'll find an summary of Bach's Parodies, some of you will know. Composed a long time before I even knew about the book from Neumann. It's time to change a few thing and of course remarks are welcome. Aryeh perhaps you will make an Url to the Parodies so everybody has a totally quick view of all combinations. It's may be usefull.
http://web.inter.nl.net/hcc/Egbert.Baars/Parodieen/parodie.htm

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 25, 2001):
[To Henny van der Groep] I added the link to this page in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Links/Links-Cantatas.htm
Will you be please so kind to add to your site a link to the Bach Cantatas Website?

Saygilarimla Can Denizci wrote (November 25, 2001):
Excuse me about my ignorance but I was not able to follow; what is the discovery about Brandenburg Concertos?

 

Similarities

Maria Dimaki [Copenhagen, Denmark] wrote (November 12, 2002):
Thanks to the new websites with all the Bach cantatas, for which I'm grateful, I have managed for the first time to hear the music I was longing to hear for such long time. I have so far managed to listen to the first 65 cantatas and I still have a long way to go, but for now I have a question:

At least in the first few cantatas I identified several parts of the Mass in B minor (BWV 232): the Agnus Dei, the Crucifixus and more I don't quite remember right now. Also, I'm pretty certain I heard parts ressembling music I had heard in St. John Passion (BWV 245) and perhaps also the Christmas Oratorio. How common is this recycling in Bach's works? I know for example that most of the chorales in the passions, oratorios and in the cantatas are the same (melody) but I was a bit surprised when I heard some arias and choral parts being the same.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (November 14, 2002):
[To Maria Dimaki] Since everyone is possibly thinking that they'll let someone else field this one, I guess I'll be the someone else

First off, the fact that you found the similarities among all those works shows a commendable melodic sense, not to mention memory!

So here's the deal:

The process of borrowing, which is actually know as parodying, was more common in the Baroque era than was the Italian style (of music-has nothing to do with parodying) during the same time.

While this may not be a clear point of comparison, my point is that many great composers did it back then. (Except for Vivaldi-I think-whose style from one work to another is so similar that he is jokingly called the "Xerox machine"-all his works sound very similar and distinctive, but I'm not sure as to the extent of his parodying practice).

Anyway, by the 18th century this practice had gotten so far out of hand (to our standards) that composers actually started stealing from other composers! (As you've referred to, use of chorales does not count as parodying, but Bach transcribed other people's concertos onto organ, named the original composer in the title, and for some odd reason these transcriptions are in the BWV catalogue! who's the parodier in this case?)

Of course, parodying was mostly taken from the composer's past work, as is very evident in Bach and Handel. For a small example, 2/3 of Händel's Rinaldo is parodied, as are almost all of Bach's Misse Brevis (taken from Sacred Cantatas), and a bundle from the Christmas Oratorio is from cantatas as well.

Listen to Cantata BWV 191 - the only Latin cantata, and compare with the Mass in B min.

Enjoy!

ps. this survey is not intended in any way to degrade anyone's opinion of the great Baroque masters-IMO the greatest era in musical history-but to highlight another aspect of their genius-that of resourcefullness.

Douglas Neslund wrote (November 14, 2002):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Thanks, Matthew - well done.

Just add to that the thought that in those days, they had no fear of an audience's ability to run out, purchase a CD and run home and listen to a work many times over, as we do! So taking a particularly well-written element or entire movement and recycling it would run small risk of offending a paying audience (even if they were paying with offerings).

Boyd Pehrson wrote (November 14, 2002):
[To Maria Dimaki & Matthew Neugebauer] Maria, I like your question. I was waiting for someone other than me to jump in and answer this time. I can add to Matthew's great comments regarding Bach's 'resourcefulness' as Matthew so aptly put it.

Regarding what Bach re-used for what composition - a great book was published by Allen & Unwin in 1967 titled "Bach the Borrower". Author Norman Carrell details the works of Bach that contain "borrowed" material. That would be Bach's own material re-used in various compositions - instrumental and vocal, and outside materials- secular and sacred. Regarding the Cantatas alone, Carrell documents almost 200 borrowings from other of Bach's own works as well as borrowings from about 200 German hymns. Along with great resourcefulness, Bach had a practical consideration in composing Church music, in that the congregation would know well the hymns that were used for Cantata materials- whether in hymn tune or hymn text. (Carrell's book should be available at most good University Libraries. I highly recommend borrowing a copy! :-)

Spitta said regarding Bach's borrowing from secular works for his church Cantatas:
" In the face of the inexhaustible inventive wealth, and the profound sense of artistic responsibility, testified in Bach's works, no one would dare assert that such transfers were made for mere convenience sake, or for lack of time. They were made with a perfect feeling that the compositions in question would not be seen in their right place till they were set for Church use."

Bach sanctified his favourite music for use in the church. Also, I believe Bach knew his target audience well, and profoundly understood what would stir them in their faith regarding the service of Word and Sacrament and the traditions of German Lutheranism, as his place was to achieve a translation of the service- sacrament and sermon- into a pure musical expression. Such a task cannot be undertaken with only new expressions. The value of familiar musical material and hymns is very important to the task of the Church Cantor. These previous expressions of faith in music connected the listener to deep experiences of spirituality they could readily re-connect to in Bach's new Church Cantatas. We cannot know the depth of meaning these may have had to Bach's original listeners who brought significant personal history and emotions listening to their favourite hymns. Bach certainly knew which hymns- and secular music would be most effective in his own culture. Thus the value and insight of Bach's "borrowing" magnifies his genius. The astounding thing is that today the background and atmosphere of those borrowed elements still works to evoke deep emotions in a variety of Cantata, Oratorio, Motet and Mass contexts for us over 250 years later.

Maria Dimaki wrote (November 14, 2002):
Dear Matthew, Douglas, Boyd and all,

Thank you all for your replies to my questions. I will take your advice and both listen to cantata 191 and try and locate and "borrow" that book on Bach.

As a child learning the piano I was always against any attempt of my teacher to make me play Bach (of course I had to) and she kept telling me that when I grew older I would beg her to let me play Bach. She was right. Now I can't stop listening to his works, whether choral or instrumental.

Thank you all again,

 

What’s parodying?

Juozas Rimas wrote (December 9, 2002):
what exactly was meant by "parodying" in Baroque? It wasn't understood in the today's sense of farcical or satirical immitation, was it?

They say most of the Xmas Oratorio (BWV 248) is parodied from other cantatas. I compared a few examples and the parody seemed to be simply changes in the text and perhaps some changes in the music.

Anyway, "Bereite dich, Zion" from Xmas Oratorio doesn't sound more comical than its source in the BWV 213 (Lasst uns sorgen, lasst uns wachen).

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] An excellent article by Daniel Melamed in the Oxford Composer Companions [Boyd] gives an explanation which makes clear that 'parody' when used in discussing Bach's works is not unique to Bach's works (Händel didthis as well), but goes back to the 16th century where there were such things as a 'parody mass' based on musical material found elsewhere and incorporated into the mass.

Nowhere in the use of this special, musicological term is there even a hint of the comical or farcical element which is the primary meaning in the English language. Forget all about this meaning when trying to understand this term as used in the literature about Bach.

As Melamed correctly points out: Bach usually parodied his own works in the same category either only sacred or only secular (a mvt. from an earlier cantata might be reworked as a mvt. of a later cantata with a different text - Bach might have had to change the text that was tied to a specific Sunday of the church year to a different text to fit a different Sunday -- it is not always known who did this, Bach or some other unknown librettist); but as a general rule Bach would only move previous secular cantata mvts (the music) into the sacred category (with a new sacred text) and not vice versa. There is no such example that demonstrates the reverse mvt. from sacred to secular. Melamed comments on this in greater detail.

Personally, Bach's parody of a secular cantata that ended up as key mvts. of the Easter Oratorio makes the greatest impression on me. It is fascinating to follow the transformation of the details here and to determine with what great economy Bach was able to accomplish this. The music remains almost completely unchanged but the text moves from sheep grazing among the grasses and falling asleep to an observer looking in upon Christ's grave and finding only a 'Schweißtuch' [a sweat cloth - this was discussed in detail on this site some time ago.] For many years I had heard the Easter Oratorio without ever knowing about the parody. This was a real 'eye-opener.'

Many mvts. of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) are also parodies of other earlier sacred cantata mvts.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Also, weren't all the Lutheran Missae Brevis complete parodies from cantatas?

SJ GH wrote (December 10, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] The term 'parodying,' in this case is probably carried over from the Renaissance. A work that is parodied (particularly a mass) is composed around a segment (usually all voices) from another work. Parody masses were common with Renaissance composers who took segments of their own (or others') motets and used them as the basis for the entire mass. If only one line is used for the basis of the mass (or cantata, in this case) the work would be 'paraphrased' rather than 'parodied.'

I hope this sheds a little light.

Santu de Silva wrote (December 12, 2002):
There's an interesting instance of parody, i believe, in Charpentier's Mass for Chriswtmas Eve (for the midnight mass, specifically). It consists of the mass, all movements sung to tunes taken from carols. It's really beautiful and Christmassy.

 

‘Instrumental’ Bach

Continue of discussion from HIP - Part 7 [General Topics]

Marcus wrote (January 26, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] I think we may be over-estimating the influence of instruments - or the performing medium - on Bach's compositions.

In my experience with Bach's music I've noticed that he doesn't compose in any specific instrumental idioms. Notice how many transcriptions exists in his just chamber/instrumental oeuvre, from the violin concertos ported-over to the harpsichord conc...or vice-versa, the Flute Trio Sonata/Viola-da-Gamba Sonata #1.

Or how about the well known secular->sacred parody in his cantatas like the opening of the Violin Partita #3 played on the organ to open Cantata BWV 29, and the arrangement of the Orchestral Suite #4 Ouverture with voices to Cantata BWV 110. All this is evidence of Bach's lack of creativity and laziness right?

In our "modern" time, Andres Segovia plays the Solo Violin Partitas on the as if Bach specifically wrote them for guitar, and recordings of other works transcribed to instruments of all sorts can be found.

There is a quote, whose source I have since forgotten, that neatly summarizes: "Bach composed not on the premise that music is made for instruments; but that instruments are made for music."

If that is the case, then the question of how Bach would write given today's instruments is inconsequential.

The difficulty of the brass parts or the vocal lines in his cantatas were not the result of a hope that future more "improved" players and instruments could execute them, it is just more evidence that he seldom restricted his compositions to any particular instrumental idiom. Why can't florid running-sixteenths scalar woodwind passages be played on a trumpet instead or sung by a choir? We certainly shouldn't assume Bach's musicians were incapable of executing his music to the same quality as their modern counterparts.

Counter-examples or flames welcomed! :)

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (January 26, 2003):
< All this is evidence of Bach's lack of creativity and laziness right? >
I'm hoping this is a rhetorical question, but in this case it requires the speaker to answer it. However, without putting any judgement on Marcus, I'll answer it: the answer is the exact opposite-it's a pure example of his creativity. We must also remember that 150 yrs before his time, instruments were rarely specified-if at all-save for the disctinction that the part was in fact for instruments and not for voice (although voice parts were often doubled or replaced by instruments).

Back to Bach:

In the booklet accompanying the sampler to the Bach 2000 cpte works, there is a line that sums it up (unfortunately, the author is not identified): "Bach was a genius, not in a Romantic sense, but as a genius of industriousness."

As well, we know that back then parodying was as common as wearing wigs, and Bach really made the practice an art form in itself.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 26, 2003):
[To Marcus] There is a seeming contradiction in all of this. It has long been noted that Bach expected his vocalists to sing music which appears to be more 'instrumental' in nature than 'vocal.' My thought on this is that it facilitated writing music with a higher unity particularly where instruments and voices are 'competing' against each other as in many of the cantatas. By making the voices sing these more instrumental parts, Bach achieved a greater uniformity, a greater coherence than could exist if the vocal parts were forced to sing only in the old, archaic style that existed in the pre-Bach period. This similarity achieved between instrumental and vocal writing facilitated, in particular, the use of more complicated fugal compositions involving awkward jumps and long melismatic passages where finding a place to breathe, to be sure, becomes a serious problem, particularly in the case of an aria. But now Bach could conceive a grand fugue unfettered by the conventions of vocal (choral as well) writing. This is the advantage that he gained by asking more of his vocalists.

On the other hand, Bach did write characteristically for instruments. This was one of the main characteristics of the Baroque as opposed to the Renaissance style of writing for groups of instruments, and Bach truly excelled in this category. Consider some of the instrumental sinfonia in the cantatas where a solo oboe holds sway! Or consider also Bach's use of recorders! Could these parts be played by a violin, flute, or comparable instruments and still sound like they did in their original conception? I personally hear quite a difference. This does not mean that Bach would reject the notion of replacing one instrument type with another. On the contrary, there is sufficient evidence in the instrumentation of the cantatas, that Bach would make such a change 'on the drop of a hat' if he did not have a good instrumentalist in the original category of instrument available. Perhaps Bach did both: 1) he composed specifically and characteristically for an instrument (and perhaps even with the individual instrumentalist in mind); b2) he also acknowledged practical decisions which made substitutions mandatory when the circumstances dictated such a change. (Whether this pained him to do this in some instances, we will never really know.) It does seem, however, from the examples that you cited, that Bach recognized, or even built into his compositions a universality that would allow for this music to be appreciated in many different ways. His own transcriptions of music (his own and that of others) bear witness to this fact.

One of the major questions is whether anyone can hear the difference between the characteristic writing for oboes, recorders, trombae, etc. and the same parts when played by other instruments such as violins, transverse flutes, or clarinets. The music is still universally good, but is it really what was originally intended? When Bach transcribes a composition from one form with other instruments in mind to one where the harpsichord takes on a solo role, listen to the slow mvts. where the right hand has long notes to play (usually accommodated by playing long trills.) It is quite easy to imagine a number of other instruments that might be able to breathe more life into this singing melody than a harpsichord or piano would, and yet we know that Bach performed it just this way (because the music was great nevertheless.) I find this somewhat similar to playing Beethoven's symphonies in a piano reduction. What great music to actually be playing by oneself! What discoveries are to be made here - even how ingeniously the transcriber was able to reduce an entire orchestra into 2 or 4 hands! But is this really the same as hearing these symphonies with the instruments that Beethoven intended? I don't think so. Despite the sameness (same composition) there is a noticeable difference; and yet, if the piano reduction were the only way to get to know and hear this music (let's assume the original score and parts had been irretrievably lost) I would jump at the chance to hear this great music in a somewhat less than optimal form. But there is also good reason to attempt to ascertain what Bach's original intentions were, as far as this is humanly possible, because he did compose characteristically for specific instruments. Hearing, for example, the oboe solos in the Bach cantatas as Bach intended them is just one step, one notch higher in achieving musical bliss for a listener than hearing a transcription of these for other instruments that are used as a replacement.

Marcus wrote (January 27, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Yes, Matthew, I completely agree with your views on Bach's use of parody in his works.

My apologies for being too "cheeky" when I wrote that rhetorical question that resulted in this misunderstanding. I certainly don't believe there is any evidence of Bach's laziness or artistic mediocrity - on the contrary!

I'll try to be more direct in the future because even an absurd back-handed comment can be easily mis-interpreted on the Internet! Sorry. :)

Marcus wrote (January 27, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks very much for your reply - a lot to think about.

I too have often heard criticism of Bach's vocal writing being too "instrumental" and difficult to sing, but certainly he didn't do it out of spite for his singers or hardly as a result of compositional inadequacies! I think your explanation is right on target - "it facilitated writing music with a higher unity...unfettered by the conventions of vocal/choral writing." I believe your statement can also be applied to other non-vocal works of Bach.

On the subject of Bach writing characteristically for instruments, I concede it almost impossible to make such a generalization of all his works. I agree that Bach's use of solo oboe or paired recorders in his cantatas argues that he did write very specifically with these instrements in mind to achieve a particular "affekt" or tone-color. I can't imagine the opening of Cantata 106 without a pair of recorders - they so perfectly fit the music and set the mood, not to mention the symbolism of flutes in funerals of that time! Or the scoring of obbligato-organ, strings, without bass-continuo in Cantata BWV 170 mvt 3 that creates what Bach commented as "an infernal whining and drawling" (sorry no source attributed to that quote other than it being used in the Teldec Cantata liner notes).

I don't have the exact quote, but I remember Albert Schweitzer criticizing Bach's own transcription of his famous Double Violin Concerto in D-minor into the version for two harpsichords. In particular he felt the lyrical slow-movement was completely ruined, "an egregious mistake that only Bach can answer for" (paraphrasing). Personally I think the concerto works just as well with either instrument - I may be a bit biased towards claviers since I play them. :-)

Despite the examples above, I still think his music, in general, is equally effective in multiple instrument mediums. This is one of the unique qualities of Bach's compositional creativity that sets him apart from all other composers. Would transcribing Beethoven's "Emperor" Piano Conc. no 5 from piano to woodwind be as effective as transcribing any one of Bach's Clavier Concertos to the same? I think Beethoven's music would suffer much more being out of it's original element.

If given an -equal- choice, I also prefer to hear music performed as close to its original medium/environment as possible. But sometimes in pursuit of that goal, not everyone agrees on the right direction, for example, your criticism of the Harnoncourt cantata performances. We'll have to disagree there...I enjoy his interpretations! :-)

Juozas Rimas wrote (January 27, 2003):
Marcus wrote:
< Yes, Matthew, I completely agree with your views on Bach's use of parody in his works.
My apologies for being too "cheeky" when I wrote that rhetorical question that resulted in this misunderstanding. I certainly don't believe there is any evidence of Bach's laziness or artistic mediocrity - on the contrary! >
So what was the point of parodying? If a part of a concerto is used as a sinfonia in cantata, and the rest of the cantata is based on such a sinfonia, the point is clear - to write a cantata which is at least loosely based on the theme of an already written work.

But was this the case in all the cantatas where parody is used? Are cantatas always based on their respective sinfonias, originating from concerto movements?

You can say "time saving for more important things" instead of laziness but I wouldn't avoid this. What would be wrong with this - I doubt JSB had enough time for anything whenever he wanted.

P.S. Parodying, whatever its point was, is a blessing because we likely have the splendid sinfonia of BWV 42 thanks to parodying.

Marcus wrote (January 28, 2003):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
< But was this the case in all the cantatas where parody is used? Are cantatas always based on their respective sinfonias, originating from concerto movements? >
Well from what I've read from books and from this board, a unique feature of Bach's parody process is that he always ported music from secular -> sacred, never the other way. Also, I'm not aware of a single example of a cantata based entirely on a complete concerto. Bach seems to use only one or two movements per cantata. The following examples come to mind.

Clavier Concerto Emaj -> BWV 169, BWV 49
Clavier Concerto Dmin -> BWV 146, BWV 188
Clavier Conc Fmin mvtII -> BWV 156

< You can say "time saving for more important things" instead of laziness but I wouldn't avoid this. What would be wrong with this - I doubt JSB had enough time for anything whenever he wanted.
P.S. Parodying, whatever its point was, is a blessing because we likely have the splendid sinfonia of
BWV 42 thanks to parodying. >
Yes, perhaps the best conclusion from this was that Bach was very practical with the fruit of his labors, especially in light of the enormous non-daily demands of his office. And subsequently we get to enjoy a couple of movements of a concerto in BWV 42 that would otherwise be lost forever.

Unfortunately despite the loss of over 2 complete Cantata cycles and other sacred works, I suspect the dissolution of his secular instrumental output is many times worse - hinted at in his estate inventory.

Juozas Rimas wrote (January 28, 2003):
Marcus wrote:
< Unfortunately despite the loss of over 2 complete Cantata cycles and other sacred works, I suspect the dissolution of his secular instrumental output is many times worse - hinted at in his estate inventory. >
What dissolution do you have in mind? I have read only about the 1/4 or other ratios of lost cantatas and perhaps several concertos.

Please write more about the lost instrumental works. Is part of keyboard output missing too?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (January 28, 2003):
Marcus wrote:
< Well from what I've read from books and from this board, a unique feature of Bach's parody process is that he always ported music from secular -> sacred, never the other way. >

I could only find one exception to this rule (BWV Anh. 18 -> BWV Anh. 12; music lost in both cases). I find that even though the sacred parodies are not always inferior, the secular originals are sometimes more interesting. IMO BWV 30a has a text considerably better than BWV 30, and BWV 214 has no shortage of good arias.

< Clavier Concerto Emaj -> BWV 169, BWV 49
Clavier Concerto Dmin ->
BWV 146, BWV 188
Clavier Conc Fmin mvtII ->
BWV 156 >
Actually, the keyboard concertos were written later than the cantatas, but in the first two cases there were probably even earlier instrumental concertos.

There are two things I do not understand about the attempt to find 'original' solo instruments: the advocacy of the viola d'amore, and Rifkin's equation of the sinfonia to cantata BWV 156 with the second movement of the D minor oboe concerto.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 28, 2003):
Alex Riedlmayer asked:
>>There are two things I do not understand about the attempt to find 'original' solo instruments: the advocacy of the viola d'amore, and Rifkin's equation of the sinfonia to cantata 156 with the second movement of the D minor oboe concerto.<<
Regarding the latter:

Rifkin first made this connection in the BJ 1978, pp. 140-147, in the article, "Ein langsamer Konzertsatz Johann Sebastian Bachs." This subject has since been revisited by B. Haynes in his article, "Johann Sebastian Bachs Oboenkonzerte," in the BJ 1992, pp. 23-43. The NBA KB I/6 published in 1996 finds this connection to be 'plausible.' The problem here is the fact that none of the numerous sources is original. The existence of the earliest copy is documented for the 1st time in 1832. The paper for this copy can be traced back to the 18th century and was still being produced in 1761. There is also the possibility that the copyist (undetermined) was using up old paper stock, a possibility that would even push this date beyond 1761. From the standpoint of direct evidence, everything here seems to be 'up for grabs.' Anything else is based on stylistic considerations and the fact that the printed text for this cantata has been located.

Santu de Silva wrote (January 28, 2003):
< You can say "time saving for more important things" instead of laziness but I wouldn't avoid this. What would be wrong with this - I doubt JSB had enough time for anything whenever he wanted. >
I don't know the context of these statements, but I doubt that the reason for parodying was lack of industry. i think it was the opposite.

Bach put a lot of effort into his compositions, and he may have felt that (in an age in which recordings obviously did not exist) it was impossible to get the full impact of a contrapuntal work at one hearing. Today, after having heard bach for years, some of us could, perhaps, apprehend the entire power of one of his works even hearing it for the first time. But back then, the total amount of hours of music each person had would probably have been a small fraction of what we have today. (This is all speculation, but I believe it is reasonable.) Is is necessary to learn to listen to Bach? I believe so. is it possible his audiences were still learning to listen to his cantatas? On a diet of one a week, I would say, yes.

Consider that he lavished all his concerti initially on the court at Anhalt-Cöthen. I can easily imagine that he would have wanted to bring those to his later audiences. (What are the chances that the members of his parish had already heard his concertos?) it is a measure of how much he invested in the concerti (and in their re-working) that he did re-work them.

P.S. And so what if he really was lazy, and recycled his concerti not because he loved them, but because he hated writing cantatas? (A preposterous thought, I think!) Industry is overrated. Industry is the last refuge of the talentless :P

Marcus wrote (January 29, 2003):
Juozas Rimas wrote:
< What dissolution do you have in mind? I have read only about the 1/4 or other ratios of lost cantatas and perhaps several concertos. > Please write more about the lost instrumental works. Is part of keyboard output missing too? >
Unfortunately, I'm not aware of a 100% complete inventory of Bach's musical output that was made during his lifetime, so ultimately what percentage has survived to us, I think, is an educated guess.

The closest thing we have (besides the BWV and NBA catalogs of course) is in Bach's obituary notice written by CPE Bach and JF Agricola, which includes a catalog of all the published and unpublished works of the late Bach. (you can find a copy of the obituary in English in the indispensable "The Bach Reader" by Hans T. David and Arthur Mendel). The five cantata cycles are mentioned as well as the sonatas/partitas/suites for clavier/violin/cello, but what is particularly enticing is the last entry: "16. Endlich eine Menge andere Instrumentalsachen, von allerley Art, und fur allerley Instrumente" "16. Finally, a mass of other instrumental pieces of all kinds and for all kinds of instruments"

I suggest reading an essay titled "Bach's Leipzig Chamber Music" #17 in a compendium titled "Bach: Essays on His Life and Music" by Christoph Wolff. In the essay, Wolff suggests that despite the small number of chamber works of Bach that have been preserved, there is evidence a much larger repertoire existed at his death, whose survival was directly influenced by the his sons' inheritance of the music. The bulk of the vocal works went to the elders WF and CPE, while the chamber works primarily went to the younger JCF and JC. "The material inherited by the younger sons has, with few exception, not survived."

Wolff then investigates an interesting hypothesis that the majority Bach's chamber/instrumental works (BWV 1014-1079) may have originated during his Leipzig tenure (1724-1750) rather than in Cöthen (1717-1723) as commonly assumed. Wolff shows that most of the extant sources of the instrumental works date to Leipzig, and the only work that has a source in Cöthen are the Brandenburg Concertos. While this does not rule out that the surviving material are copies of compositions much earlier in his life, it seriously question old notions that automatically relegate the secular instrumental works to the Cöthen period.

Maybe Bach didn't do much composing in Cöthen and focused instead onperforming??!! :-) (Hard to believe though) More believable to me is that much of his instrumental works were lost after his younger sons inherited it. :-(

Marcus wrote (January 29, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Yes! Thank you for pointing that out. I forgot to consider this case. And if we believe Bach only parodied from secular->sacred (your one example aside) then this suggests an even earlier composition date for the music.

 

Parody

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (July 22, 2003):
Since the renaissance the word “parody” has had different meanings. Over the last two centuries it acquired a pejorative sound. Today, in my COD, there appear only two explanations for the noun (there is also the transitive verb, derived from the noun), both of them negative:

“composition in which an author’s characteristics are ridiculed by imitation”

“feeble imitation, travesty”

We all know that in Bach’s time the word had a neutral meaning, something like “borrowing”. In order to widen our horizons or refresh our memories, I hereby copy Professor Daniel R. Melamed’s article from the “Oxford Composer Companions”.

Parody. A term with at least three possible meanings when applied to music. In Renaissance polyphony it is used to denote the incorporation of existing music (usually from a motet or madrigal) into another work (usually a mass). More generally, the term can denote the imitation or adoption of a musical style for humorous or satirical effect; elements of parody in this sense can be observed in Bach’s Peasant Cantata (BWV 212). However, in the 18th century “parody’ was understood primarily as the fashioning of a new poem on the model of an extant one. It is now taken to mean the retexting of a vocal composition, and more generally the production of a new vocal work based on the music of another piece. The concept is important in Bach studies because so much of the composer’s vocal music appears in more than one guise.

Bach’s parodies fall into two broad categories.

The first is the reworking of most or all of a vocal composition into a piece for a new occasion. These parodies clearly began with the production of a parody text based on the structure, diction, rhyme, and metre of the original [as for example BWV 173(a) – PB]. Musically, this kind of parody most often involved revisions to choruses and arias, and the composition of new simple recitatives. Most of the compositions Bach treated this way had been performed only once, including many of the secular cantatas for royalty, nobility, and the university. The parody version was sometimes a work, that could be used every year such as a weekly church cantata or oratorio (e.g. BWV 30 and BWV 36) and sometimes a work for another special occasion (BWV 205a, BWV 207a, and BWV 210a). The most important example of this type is the CHRISTMAS ORATORIO (BWV 248), fashioned largely from three secular cantatas (BWV 213, BWV 214, BWV 215).

The second broad category of Bach’s parodies consists of works assembled movement by movement from various sources.. almost all are Latin liturgical works, including the four short masses, the Dresden “missa”, and most of the music added to it to form the Mass in B minor (BWV 232). These parodies are largely musical creations, in the sense that existing music is adapted to an existing text, rather than a new text being fitted to existing music. Bach evidently searched out movements from his cantatas whose text and music lent themselves to adaptation for particular sections of the fixed Mass text. He also occasionally parodied works by other composers, for example partly retexting a work of J. C. J.C. Kerll for the Sanctus BWV 241.

Parodies must often have been executed in close collaboration with a librettist, and parody was apparently a particular skill of the Leipzig poet C.F. Henrici (Picander). Picander wrote the text for the lost memorial service music for Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen derived from his own St. Matthew Passion” (BWV 244) and from the “Trauer Ode” (BWV 198). He and Bach clearly constructed the new work around the existing music. They may have planned the lost “St. Mark Passion” (BWV 247), thought to have consisted largely of parodies, in the same way. Picander was possibly also the librettist of the “Christmas Oratorio” (BWV 248), whose text was assembled with specific parody models in mind.

It is often noted that many of Bach’s parodies remain in the realm either of the sacred or of the secular; those that cross over are transformations from secular works to church compositions, never the other way round. It is unclear, though, whether the direction of these transformations reflects Bach’s ideas about sacred versus secular music, or whether it is merely the consequence of his tendency to parody pieces usable only once (most of the secular works fall into this category) as works for recurring occasions (such as liturgical pieces).

The detection of likely parodies by the close comparison of texts has proved to be one of the most successful tools in the reconstruction of lost works, especially where sources of extant pieces suggest that their surviving text was not the original. There are also some texts that correspond so closely to others with extant music by Bach that they suggest a parody relationship. The search for textual parallels has risks – it can only suggest parody, not prove it – and the method of identifying poetic correspondences has led to occasionally far-fetched claims that Bach set certain texts to music now lost.

Over the years, the extent and technique of Bach’s parody procedure have come to be well understood, but this understanding has not resolved long-standing questions of why Bach made parodies, and what it means that he did. On one side of this controversial issue is a sense of discomfort with parodies, stemming largely from Romantic and modern aesthetics that place a premium on originality and novelty. (The continued agonizing over Handel’s “borrowing” present a parallel case.) On the other side is the pragmatic view that parody represent Bach’s efficient use of hard-won musical material, and that we should focus on the musical and textual significance of Bach’s particular parody choices rather than on their morality. For the moment, the pendulum has swung to the latter view, but this is the sort of aesthetic that will never be fully resolved.

DRM

Francine Renee Hall wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] As usual, you are such a good writer. You make learning informative and painless. I remember we talked about parodies before. You mentioned that you were glad Bach transformed works from secular to sacred with different words, and that this doesn't affect your 'religious' fervor. But you do say now that it is unclear what Bach's intentions were religiously when turning secular to sacred. I feel strongly that Bach is very much in Renaissance mode here. He strides the eras of Renaissance and Baroque with great smoothness. No awkwardness here!

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] These were not my words, but Daniel Melamed's. I quoted his article without giving my own opinion. I agree with you that Bach was very much a child of his time. Like Melamed said, one can think of different motivations: practicality ( saving time), being not in the right mind or mood (lackof inspiration ), the wish to use a unique beautiful piece of music for more than one occasion, the challenge ("let me see what I can make of this"), the wish to hear the work performed for different voices and instruments, renewed inspiration by one of his former pieces or the work of another composer, maybe on instigation of Anna Magdalena, who can say? Of course, as parody was perfectly accepted at the time, Bach did not have any scruples to turn to it. Still, it is telling that in his cantatas he exclusively exalted a "profane" theme to a spiritual one. I feel that he did not want to "degrade" a sacred theme to a mundane level. And I am happy he felt that way.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 22, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] Good piece about parody, Peter!

Re the last paragraph (below), I simply don't understand people who insist that a parody work is automatically of less value than the first use of the material. Parody, and contrafactum, and similar methods of reusing material are useful techniques in the creative process.

In my business projects outside music, I regularly reuse one client's project into the next client's project, or reach back into any of the past dozen projects, to get components I need for the new one. Then I integrate these with any new portion that is necessary. The new client gets better work this way, a more solid product and produced at less expense (billable time): the components have already been proven in real use. Plus, our staff already know how to support those older components and don't need to be retrained by me, except on the new portions. I can move on from project to project, with a toolkit full of reliable components (some original, others created by my colleagues) that could come up again anywhere. And the later use of a component can also inform improvements back into the first copy of it, as more is learned from wider use: everybody gets a more solid product that way, the maintenance of one system informing another. Once a certain problem has been solved by someone, that solution can be reused instead of solving the same thing again from scratch. Even within an entirely new portion of something, much of the work is simply cloning a small piece that was already tested yesterday and then changing its details...plenty of "busy-work".

The creation of a project is breaking it down to manageable pieces, and solving each piece, and reintegrating it. This is good business. This same process works in music, too (composition, and practicing a piece for performance): just another craft.

Deborah Carroll wrote (July 23, 2003):
[To Peter Bloemendaal] Thank you for your excellent description of the musical sense of "parody." As a former literature major it is illuminating to understand the other sense of parody and it's relation to Bach's music.

 

Continue on Part 2

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