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Performance of Bach’s Vocal Works

General Discussions - Part 6

 

 

Continue from Part 5

Expressive nuances

Bradley Lehman
wrote (September 13, 2003):
Sometime last week I asserted that there are at least two dozen things performers can do to make a note or several notes expressive, standing out from their context...but that most performers we hear limit themselves to just a few of those techniques. This was part of a thread about overusing single techniques (the "swollen" or "glowing ember" notes that Neil and others dislike). Here's some more detail about that, a checklist I jotted down while traveling recently.

How can performers bring out individual notes or motives, with techniques that are usually not marked in the score (Bach's scores, anyway)? That is, how do we make a performance more "gestural?" Here are some. Not all instruments or voices can do all of these, but many more techniques are available than (it seems) performers realize. All of these draw the listener's attention:

- Make a note louder than the surrounding notes (dynamic accent--pretty much everybody knows this one)

- Make a note suddenly quieter than expected

- Change the dynamics during the note: crescendo, decrescendo, or both (this effect that Neil reacts to so negatively when it's overused...incidentally, I agree that it is sometimes overused)

- Ornamentation: fill the note's prescribed time with additional or different notes (this is a huge field unto itself)

- Play it longer than expected (this is very effective in a texture where every note is by default followed by a short silence: normal keyboard touch, according to CPE Bach and some other writers...instead of making an unrelenting legato the default touch, which offers no room to "accent" notes by making them longer)

- Play it shorter than expected (and there are many degrees of shortness here, too)

- Play the note slightly late, relative to the other notes that are vertically aligned with it on the page (desynchronize one or more of the parts, so the listener's ear can more easily follow all of them simultaneously)

- Play the note slightly early, .. .. .. ditto ditto

- Use "overholding": continue the note so it is still sounding while the next note in the phrase is played, blurring them together (as the damper pedal does on a piano, but also a very useful technique on harpsichord and organ and clavichord, using the fingers)

- Give stronger articulation at the beginning of the note, a more forceful "consonant"

- Give stronger articulation at the end of the note, an abrupt cutoff

- Give gentler articulation at the beginning, perhaps letting the note steal into the texture almost imperceptibly

- Give gentler articulation at the end, such that the listener's ear is not quite sure if it's gone (and on some instruments, such as the harpsichord, a gentler release causes an especially interesting "consonant" that is loaded with non-harmonic information; on stringed instruments there are all sorts of ways to end a note, with the bow on or off the strings)

- Give more silence before the note (i.e. making the previous note shorter, but ending gently, so this new note commands attention emerging from silence in the line...this is especially useful in polyphonic music)

- Let the single line change tempo while the other parts remain steady (melodic rubato against the beat)

- Let all the parts in the texture change tempo together (general ritardando, accelerando, or sudden shifts)

- Play the note slightly sharp

- Play the note slightly flat

- Use an unequal temperament so every occurrence of that pitch stands out by its melodic and harmonic differences...these temperaments make it much easier for a listener to get tonal bearings than equal temperament does

- Change pitch during the note (deliberately, of course! All of these techniques are deliberate!)...usually a slide at the beginning of the note

- Give the note an unexpected tone color (timbre) contrasting with the surroundings

- Change the tone color during the note (like the way a singer mutates a vowel)

- Give the note more vibrato

- Give the note less vibrato

- Give the note some tremolo (periodic alternation of volume during the note)

- Use an acciaccatura ("crushing" or brushing a nearby note as part of the attack, and quickly releasing it while holding the main note)

- Add more notes (thicken a chord with some doublings, or even with some non-harmonic notes, to give that sonority more complexity)

- Step outside the ear: do something visual, if there are any sight lines to the audience... (This could REALLY be overdone....)

- Probably some others, too...those are just the ones I thought of this week!

All these techniques can help to separate a boring performance from one that is interesting at every moment. The key is CHANGE...that too much of any single pattern becomes uninteresting, and recedes into the background, whenever all the notes within a few seconds have the same character as one another. As soon as the listener's brain knows what the next umpteen seconds of music are going to sound like, it becomes less attentive: there is less need actually to hear things that are certainly going to be the way one expects them.

As noted above, some of these techniques are not feasible on some instruments or voices. But, really, all of them that deal with articulation and timing are available to almost everybody, and those are the techniques that usually don't get used enough (in my opinion, of course). [Perhaps I'm biased toward those particular techniques because they're the main ones in good harpsichord playing: silence, varied articulation, and deliberate desynchronization of the parts. But they are available to other musicians, and are just as useful as bashing notes loudly or swelling during them. And there are dozens of gradations of legato and staccato that just don't get used very much, while (again) they are the harpsichordist's meat and potatoes...at least for some harpsichordists.]

All of these techniques can be mapped onto linguistic models: these are, to a musician, what diction is to an actor. It's timing and delivery, making a line make immediate sense in the perception of the listener. It is knowledge of the musical content so deeply that there is room to bend it into all sorts of interesting shapes, to make it clearer. Every note has some function. A convincing performance gives the line a shape that helps the listener parse it, and which (one hopes) also seems natural. A dull performance just puts the components out there without much organization, or with too much sameness.

Why don't more performers use more of these techniques? Is it because they're unable to (either from not knowing about them, or not having it in their "chops")? Or unwilling to (perhaps thinking it's in "bad taste", or overdone, or makes them sound sloppy, or frightening to venture outside the safe delivery of notes that have constant character)? The reasons are probably different for everybody....

Once the usual "constants" (especially the synchronization of notes, and steady tempo) come up to be variables or parameters, there is a lot more that a performer has to be able to control simultaneously.

All this stuff isn't random or arbitrary; it takes taste and experience, and performance "chops" that can handle all of this fearlessly at a moment's notice, and an analytical mind that brings the techniques in where they will do the most good. It takes reflection and intense concentration, and plenty of preparation, to imagine and build the shapes that might be used. And there's still the goal of having the performance sound fresh, spontaneous, and coherent (with enough flow to it). There's plenty to balance here. And--lest we forget--the techniques are supposed to draw the listener's attention to the MUSIC, not to the PERFORMER! It's the music that should sound endlessly inventive, organic, alive: not the performer forcing a bunch of artificialities just to make it sound different.

I, for one, would like to hear vocal soloists in Bach cantatas be much more frwith their rhythm, while the accompaniment remains basically steady. In my opinion, that's the most important thing to loosen up first, as it will lead naturally to many of the other techniques as well. This is not "bad taste"...rather, it is a documented 17th and 18th century technique that distinguished good singing from bad or nondescript singing. There is so much room for placing syllables ahead of or behind the beat, or doing tasteful little things with pitch and timbre, but (it seems) singers are afraid to do because this is "hallowed" Bach not to be messed with. But, that assumption that one "dare not try this" is so limiting!

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 14, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
(an impressive technical catalogue and many well-thought remarks deleted)
< I, for one, would like to hear vocal soloists in Bach cantatas be much more free with their rhythm, while the accompaniment remains basically steady. In my opinion, that's the most important thing to loosen up first, as it will lead naturally to many of the other techniques as well. This is not "bad taste"...rather, it is a documented 17th and 18th century technique that distinguished good singing from bad or nondescript singing. >
This style of singing is very familiar from popular music, and may have been recommended in Bach's time, but I somehow don't think it would work with Bach's music.

< singers are afraid to do because this is "hallowed" Bach not to be messed with. But, that assumption that one "dare not try this" is so limiting! >
You have been really good, Brad, at assuming the "automatical" inhibitions of performers.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2003):
< Alex Riedlmayer wrote: This style of singing is very familiar from popular music, and may have been recommended in Bach's time, but I somehow don't think it would work with Bach's music. >
Why not?

Have you heard the "Classical Barbra" album? What do you think of it? (I have it on right now.)

What if Barbra Streisand really had taken Glenn Gould up on his standing request for a date: any Bach cantata, anytime, anywhere. (Maybe she still could do so, although not with Gould.)

< You have been really good, Brad, at assuming the "automatical" inhibitions of performers. >
Some of my "assumptions" are not assumptions, but a report: based on working with a lot of good classical singers and players, who can do just about anything except put any rhythmic freedom [confidently] into the music...and especially Bach's music. I do all I can with suggestions and demonstrations in rehearsal, but it doesn't "take": at performance time (or earlier) they fall back into a pretty strict rendition of the notation, especially in Bach. I keep trying. I'm not imagining or "assuming" these inhibitions; I hear them stated aloud in rehearsal, along with the "you must be a crackpot" looks, even while they admit that Willie Nelson and Frank Sinatra and Bing and Barbra sure do know how to deliver a phrase, and make it real. (I also like to play for them my favorite instrumental example from Bach: the A-major concerto 1055 played on oboe d'amore by Andreas Lorenz.) The ears and the gut admit that it does work, even if the head wishes it wouldn't.

So, again, I ask: why would this supposedly NOT work in Bach? Bach's music is music. And music is supposed to move people. So, what's the distinction?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2003):
< I wrote: Some of my "assumptions" are not assumptions, but a report: based on working with a lot of good classical singers and players, who can do just about anything except put any rhythmic freedom [confidently] into the music...and especially Bach's music. (...) >
...Plus of course the recent news that Sylvia McNair has decided not to take any classical gigs anymore. She's focused now on showtunes, where there's more leeway (in listeners' expectations, and collaborators' expectations) to sing with direct expression and get out of rhythmic straitjackets.

Jack Botelho wrote (September 14, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I've been trying to read your frequent, numerous and lengthy posts here for a few months, and I say 'trying' because you seem to be pushing constantly for what I would characterize simply as over-interpretation of Bach's works in general.

One concept you have used is "boring" (below - sorry I did not cut and paste this instance). I would like to try to point out to you that despite your obvious expertise, in my opinion you are yet another performer of Bach who tries to appeal to a "modern" audience by trying to make the music as exciting and interesting as possible to the "modern" ear, which is itself foreign to Bach's time.

You seem to be consistently missing the point entirely with regard to interpreting Bach's music. Baroque music seeks to express a shared rhetorical language, not a modern idiosyncratic one. Baroque music in general requires the listener to re-learn how to listen and appreciate this music on its own terms.

Again: Historically informed performances are not meant to appeal to the modern listener, but rather adhere to historically informed principles.

Peter Bright wrote (Septembe 14, 2003):
[To Brasddley Lehman] Brad, I think you've positioned yourself in the wrong field of music - why not immerse yourself in some modern jazz, which lends itself much better to a disregard for rhythmic units. Try Eric Dolphy's 'Out to Lunch' for the main course, followed by Thelonious Monk's 'Brilliant Corners' for desert, with a night cap of some modal invention on the piano by Bill Evans ('Sunday at the Village Vanguard' or 'Waltz for Debby' should round things off nicely...). Really, pulling away from established norms, particularly in the classical field, isn't always a good thing (the name Nigel Kennedy springs to mind for some reason...
;-) ).

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2003):
Jack Botelho wrote: "Again: Historically informed performances are not meant to appeal to the modern listener, but rather adhere to historically informed principles."
That's the crux. I agree. But also: the ~25 techniques I listed are documented in treatises as useful in that music, playing and singing it in its own way. That's the point. By using these, we are trying to perform it as the composers expected it to be performed, as far as we can determine. The observation that it also makes things far more interesting for the modern audience is a nice side effect.

People back then had their juices stirred by the music when performers did these things. That's why these principles sprang up, and were written down: to describe what good taste and good technique are, and to help performers learn how to communicate effectively. When we study those materials and do those same things, it works also for modern audiences. This should not be surprising.

Modern listeners don't have to try to remake themselves into Baroque connoisseurs, learning how to appreciate "correct" rhetorical expression, and only getting it through enough study and experience. They (we) just listen to the music. If it communicates, it communicates, no matter how few books the listener has read. If it doesn't, the performers aren't doing it right.

To put that another way...when the music is played really well, it makes the listener's day: whether that day is in 1722 or 2003 is irrelevant. When it's played badly or indifferently, it bored people then and it bores them now.

Sure, the "modern ear" is different from those 250+ years ago. Granted. Values have changed. Didn't I just get through describing that last night, vis-a-vis industrialization? (And a historical study of people's average attention spans across the centuries, in their societies, would be a nice little project for a sociologist.)

But, biologically, the human animal hasn't changed much in quite a while. The same things still cause physiological response, including the basic paying of attention. Human beings stay attentive when things keep changing, and they tune out when things are too much the same. Heck, my dog knows that. The way to get the dog's attention, or the way for the dog to get my attention, is to do something different. (Even a movie packedwith long scenes of violence, such as "Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers," gets pretty boring after a couple minutes of the same old violence over and over.) Probably some psychologists here will be able to explain that phenomenon better than I; I'm just a musician.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 14, 2003):
< Peter Bright wrote: Brad, I think you've positioned yourself in the wrong field of music - why not immerse yourself in some modern jazz, which lends itself much better to a disregard for rhythmic units. Try Eric Dolphy's 'Out to Lunch' for the main course, followed by Thelonious Monk's 'Brilliant Corners' for desert, with a night cap of some modal invention on the piano by Bill Evans ('Sunday at the Village Vanguard' or 'Waltz for Debby' should round things off nicely...). (...) >
Well, I do go listen to Bill Evans records immediately before going to play harpsichord gigs. It helps me to play Frescobaldi loosely enough! Music is music.

Jack Botelho wrote (September 14, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "Modern listeners don't have to try to remake themselves into Baroque connoisseurs, learning how to appreciate "correct" rhetorical expression, and only getting it through enough study and experience. They (we) just listen to the music. If it communicates, it communicates, no matter how few books the listener has read. If it doesn't, the performers aren't doing it right."
Generally I disagree with the assumption that listeners have a "built in" ability to appreciate a given performance of baroque music. Listening requires work, concentration, and an active intellectual participation - at least in my own experience – and help from many friends, experts, critics, musicians such as yourself, broadcasters, source materials, and crucially, time.

Some of the finest performances I have heard have been on first listening very difficult, but in the end, extremely rewarding over time. Fine music is like fine wine - it takes experience to appreciate.

As hard as you yourself have worked at performing works of Bach, I would say the listener needs to devote almost an equal effort to appreciating a given fine performance: if the entire onus is on the musician(s) to convert the listener to a great piece of music, we are in danger of denying the listener the crucial role of active participant and critic.

Bob Henderson wrote (September 16, 2003):
Brad has stated that we stay attentive when things change. When things don't change we lose our sense perception completely. Stare unmoving at an unchanging scene and it disappears! A monotone with no variation and no competition becomes silence. We require variety in order sense at all. Interrogators know this and they know that monotony will drive us mad. Variety and change have survival value. "O, there is a tiger in that field (of vision) that was not there before". Hunted species often know how to freeze, thus making them invisible. We have survived in part because we have developed the ability to notice change in our perceptual environment. Likewise we tend not to notice slow change. That can do us in. The tiger who blends in and does not move. Global climate change. I'll leave it to a musician, not a psychologist, to better state the artistic side of this.

Peter Bright wrote (September 17, 2003):
< Bob Henderson wrote: Brad has stated that we stay attentive when things change. >
Here endeth the lesson...

Adopting this type of comparison, it is also possible that you can have so much foliage that you can't see the wood for the trees.... We seem to be going on and on in some kind of binary mode. You like Moroney? Then your switch is set at 0. You don't like Moroney? Then your switch is set at 1. Personally I think different types of music demand different types of interpretation. Variation is essential to the survival of classical music - the music should be unshackled from established and often dubious assumptions about the 'proper' way of playing it. BUT some interpretations work and some don't. Changing metre, phrasing, ornamentation surely does not necessarily mean that a piece of music is going to be intrinsically better than when played with less of the same. It is all in the levels and amount and type and skill with which ornamentation, improvisation (call it what you will) is applied. Attention should also be paid to the piece itself - the same level of freedom of interpretation may work brilliantly for one score but may detract from another.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 17, 2003):
< Peter Bright wrote: (...) We seem to be going on and on in some kind of binary mode. You like Moroney? Then your switch is set at 0. You don't like Moroney? Then your switch is set at 1. Personally I think different types of music demand different types of interpretation. (...) >
If we're still talking about Art of Fugue recordings on harpsichord, which has been the topic [on the other list], I like Moroney's quite a bit more than Isolde Ahlgrimm's 1967 struggle against an Ammer. That one has what I hear as Moroney's disadvantages, plus some additional ones...bleah.

Plus, as I thought I'd made clear with my detailed descriptions why I don't like Moroney's playing, this is not a binary issue. I like Hill's two recordings, and Brookshire's forthcoming set, and Leonhardt's DHM, and van Delft's, and some others better than Moroney's for different reasons...as I described in detail. My last paragraph there was about how the Art of Fugue responds so well to so many different types of interpretation: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10666
There's nothing binary here!

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 17, 2003):
Expressive nuances - hunters and prey

[To Bob Henderson] Last night I watched two of our cats cooperatively hunt a mouse. He spent most of his time behind a CD rack, motionless, trying to be inconspicuous. The cats waited motionless nearby, and whenever they could, reached in to smack him...getting him to move more interestingly. I helped, and we almost had him several times, but then he made a wild dash and made it to another piece of furniture, and from there he disappeared. (The cats might have done better without my help, because I inadvertently cleared an escape path that made the difference.)

This all illustrated the points you've made here. After the mouse made it to his new hiding place, which took some ingenious dodging and running, he won the game: he waited motionless into the night, became invisible, and survived. (I suspect he sneaked away after we all gave up on him; he's definitely not there now.) And earlier in the hunt, the cats tapping him to make sure he's still alive; and their own strategy of waiting nearby to see if he makes a foolish move in false security....

I've noticed in the past, when they do catch their mouse, they don't put a swift end to things but prefer to play it out some more. Catch and release, catch and release. A mouse that runs in straight lines gets caught more than a mouse that makes unpredictable moves. A mouse that puts up an endlessly interesting game can keep the cats riveted for hours. Our third cat likes to keep a mouse all to himself, jealously guarding his position against the other cats and sometimes carrying the mouse to a better play area.

In music, I like it when it's cats and mice doing all these intensely dynamic things. There's always something happening, even if it's at any given moment a waiting game as much as anything: fast-twitch reflexes are engaged, and nobody knows what the outcome will be. A dull equipollent performance of music would be like a mouse trotting straight across the middle of a room, la di da di da, getting picked off by the nearest lazy cat, killed in a single stroke, game over. No adventure, just a businesslike transaction. Why bother?

I have some fake mice made of rabbit fur, and I can animate them with fishing line, but the cats know not to waste their time on those. Fake things and dead things aren't worth the energy to try to hunt, just as an unimaginative rendition of a musical score isn't worth listening to! Dead things belin museums or trash cans, not in the game. The fake mice amused these cats only when they were kittens. Cats are smart enough to know when the mouse doesn't smell real and doesn't move convincingly. And cats are not fooled by television the way humans are.

Joost Jansen wrote (September 18, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: [big snip] Cats are smart enough to know when the mouse doesn't smell real and doesn't move convincingly. And cats are not fooled by television the way humans are. >
This however has a lot to do with the fact that the separate pictures on a television screen appear 25 times per second. For us humans this isn't a problem, as our eyes only see some 16 pictures per second, which means that to us the motions on the screen are in a flowing motion, whereas a cat, who sees more than 25 pictures per second, knows that he is being fooled.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (September 18, 2003):
< In music, I like it when it's cats and mice doing all these intensely dynamic things. There's always something happening, even if it's at any given moment a waiting game as much as anything: fast-twitch reflexes are engaged, and nobody knows what the outcome will be. A dull equipollent performance of music would be like a mouse trotting straight across the middle of a room, la di da di da, getting picked off by the nearest lazy cat, killed in a single stroke, game over. No adventure, just a businesslike transaction. Why bother?
(snip)
Cats are smart enough to know when the mouse doesn't smell real and doesn't move convincingly. And cats are not fooled by television the way humans are. >
I know cats who hunt pipe cleaners; TV chickens once proved exciting enough. All rhetoric, Brad, and no fur.


'gestural'/'equipollent'

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 22, 2003):
Bradley Lehman stated concerning ‘gestural/equipollent’:
>>There’s a continuum here<< [between ‘gestural’ and ‘equipollent’ or beginning with ‘gestural’ on one side of the scale, ‘gestural’ being defined more generally good than bad, and ‘equipollent’ on the other end of the scale, ‘equipollent’ being defined as more generally bad than good.]
>>These are radically opposite goals.<< [“These” = ‘gestural’ vs. ‘equipollent’ performance practices.
Brad has forced the definition of these terms so that the unwary listener might begin to imagine, along with Brad, that ‘gestural’ performances, which rarely achieve the level of excessive exaggeration in Brad’s mind, ought to be the primary goal of all performers and would serve best entertain and educate most listeners who deserve this type of performance in Bach’s music.

The facts, however limited they may be in regard to Bach’s likes and dislikes (whether from his own hand [Bach’s organ evaluations, his assessment of the musical capabilities of his students, etc.], or first-hand descriptions of his performances – playing and conducting as well as Birnbaum’s response to Scheibe on Bach’s careful notation of his music), amply demonstrate to a reader with an open mind that he [Bach], in his mature (Leipzig tenure) period, while continuing to be inventive musically, did not indulge musically in extreme mannerisms, irregularities, imprecision, etc., nor did he allow his performers to become exhibitionists who would change Bach’s music substantially from what he had written down for them specifically. This involved not only restricting the solfeggi (embellishments, even melismata invented by the soloist) sometimes tastefully permitted in the solo arias, but also holding the performers to the length of notes as well. If Bach wanted a half-note at the end of a phrase shortened to a quarter note and a quarter-note rest, he would indicate this accordingly and would not allow this to be up to the discretion of the performer according to the maxim that just about ‘anything goes’ according to the whims of those performing Bach’s works: that is, Bach writes a half-note in the score while to himself he [Bach] thinks: “I am writing down a half-note here, but every musician, even the ‘dim-witted’ ones will know that I really do not want this note sounded for its full value, rather, it should be shortened and played or sung almost inaudibly.”

It is also very important not to confuse ‘gesturing’ with ‘inventiveness.’ According to reports, Bach was easily able to ‘invent’ (compose at sight during a performance) an additional melody line, much to the astonishment of knowledgeable musicians and listeners, but there is no evidence that he would provide special ‘gesturing techniques’ to such a melody line so that the listener would become especially aware of this additional detail. On the contrary, according to the principle of ‘Angleichung’ (a making of one thing to become similar to the others), Bach most likely proceeded to enhance the already existing composition by providing another layer of depth, by increasing its musical density. All this was done in such a way to create a ‘classical’ balance between all the elements (a goal, which according to Brad, leads to boredom, because ‘everything is equally important’ [‘equipollent’.]

The ‘gestural’/’equipollent’ continuum is skewed by Brad toward the former to suit the performance practices currently in vogue among many HIP proponents. Forcing such a sliding-scale continuum upon performers and listeners alike would be the equivalent to opening a Pandora’s box: performers and listeners, in their eager search for non-equipollent performances, will be ready to produce and accept grotesque exaggerations rather than remaining with the more-balanced ‘classical’ approach. Many of the interpretations released from this Pandora’s box contain ugly, jarring sounds, and ‘maddening inconsistencies,’ all of which have a short-term, limited goal of capturing momentarily a listener’s interest or of allowing the performer to indulge himself/herself with too much ego-centrism.

As I have previously stated to Brad before: what we have here is the continuum between ‘romanticism’ and ‘classicism’ rather than ‘gestural’ and ‘equipollent.’ Throughout the ages, the pendulum continues to swing between both extremes. ‘Romanticism’ is just as valid as ‘classicism.’ One is reaction (and a cure) against the excesses of the other. Just as the excesses of one begin to predominate, the ‘cure’ with positive aspects of the other begins to bring about some necessary changes.

Just as Alfred Einstein, the great music critic, heard ‘romantic’ elements in Mozart’s Symphony in G minor (K 550), [Mozart is generally considered a ‘classical’ composer, a composer who composed in the ‘classical’ style], so, likewise, it is possible to describe a composer’s style of composition (and the concomitant manner of performance) as fitting somewhere along the sliding scale of the gamut between ‘romanticism’ and ‘classicism.’ Just as one might say that Mozart’s music is more typical of the ‘classical’ style although there may be elements of the ‘romantic’ style present, one might also see Bach as a more ‘classical’ composer generally, but with certain tendencies and elements, some more present at certain points in his life than in others, that exemplify ‘romantic’ traditions that had already existed before Bach’s time and which certainly reached great heights during the course of the 19th century long after Bach had died.

With Brad’s lopsided perspective in his juxtaposition of ‘gestural’/’equipollent’ which overemphasizes ‘romantic’ elements over and against classical ones, a performer/listener would feel a need generally to view ‘gestural’ performances as more positive than ‘equipollent’ ones, since he [Brad] contends that ‘equipollent’ implies a lack of insight, a careless, mechanical (computer-like) reading of a Bach score that places the onus of interpretation upon the listener who must reconstruct Bach’s real intentions, but that ‘gestural’ performances, with their free-ranging interpretative experimentation [the type that Brad prefers, albeit with a moderation that issues from his musicological education which presumes to limit some excesses but nevertheless allows many others in regard to the freedom allowed a performer,] are more attention-grabbing, hence more likely to attract listeners who would not otherwise want to listen to Bach, and that the contrasts that Bach had already provided for in his music are insufficient, hence would necessitate others that must be consciously sought out and over-emphasized, all in the name of sparing the listeners from having to uplift themselves to the lofty heights which Bach had already supplied in his scores which he generally wrote out with considerable care, considering the time restraints under which he frequently worked.

It may even be possible to a certain degree to consider in the arts the Baroque as a more classical manifestation, with its later extension, the Rococo (usually applied to furniture/interior decoration and architecture – described as having meaningless decoration and being excessively or tasteless florid – the latter description fitting aptly the extremes of the ‘gestural’ performance style) representing a ‘romantic’ exaggeration which was then overthrown by Neo-Classicism, but then, it is just as possible to view the Baroque period in the arts as a ‘romantic’ reaction to the more classical elements that typify many aspects of the Renaissance that preceded it.

Romanticism in the arts and literature generally (the descriptions that follow rarely, if ever, appear simultaneously in any specific art in any specific period) emphasizes the irrational, the fantastic, the freely imaginative, spontaneity of free, untrammeled, unlimited expression (vs. the ‘rule-bound’ classicism), the dramatic, the ‘pathetic’, emphasis upon the individual creative genius, the ineffable, the noumenal (as opposed to the phenomenal), the subjective (vs. the objective in classicism), etc.

In contrast, Classicism in the arts and literature generally emphasizes the formal structural elements of music. Among the other characteristics derived from various musicological sources, again not all of them appearing coincidentally at any given time, are such as: generic excellence or a model of excellence, orderly, formal, carefully detailed but reduced to a bare minimum; works distinct from other works not only in terms of quality, but also tested by time [romantic works/performance are geared more toward a momentary effect rather than the possibility that they might become ‘time-honored’ as well as timeless musical experiences.] A classical composition is one which, by its nature, must gain from each new analysis. In a classical composition/performance there is an avoidance of Baroque hyperbole. Inherent in the classical is good taste which flatters the ear and touches the heart. There is the essence of the spare, lean, simple austerely undecorated, noble simplicity, all of which endow a classical composition/performance with an enduring quality.

Musicological reference books will undoubtedly not recognize as generally valid such a difference between classicism and romanticism in music (manner of composition and performance) and are quick to point out the existence of such concepts as ‘Romantic Classicism’ [defined in the New Grove as “simplicity with a stark, unadorned pathos”] and ‘Classic Romanticism.’ In my mind such specialized concepts only serve to justify the notion of a sliding scale between the two extremes of romanticism and classicism. They make quite clear that the extreme, pure forms of romanticism and classicism with all of the characteristics attached to each are quite rare, if not non-existent. This in itself does not negate the validity of these distinctions being made; on the contrary, they are quite useful in describing the various manifestations of compositional and performance styles that exist in music as well as in other arts.

Experts are beginning to recognize the ‘pendulum’ effect that occurs when the effects of a classicism or a romanticism that has reached an extreme need the corrective power of the opposite directions to bring about a greater balance between these two extremes. Although they have not as yet, as far as I can determine, applied these stylistic terms in the broad sense that I have outlined, they do seem to admit that a reoccurrence of these divergent elements does take place at various intervals historically. In the New Grove (© Oxford University Press 2003), Daniel Heartz and/or Alan Brown refer to the plurality of ‘classicisms’ in the arts which also affected musical compositional and performance styles as follows: “The various ‘classicisms’ in the arts of Europe are not contradictory, but rather like a series of waves piling towards the same shore: the one phase builds upon the other, just as a single art is nourished often, and reciprocally, by a sister art.” While this statement refers to the influences of a specific art upon another such as music, I can see and hear within the art of music itself a similar phenomenon taking place: when the classical elements become too strong, they call forth a ‘wave-like’ reaction, a revolution sometimes, which is exhibited by some forms of romanticism. The reverse is similarly true: the excesses of romanticism inevitably cause the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. Each swing of the pendulum is a ‘cure’ for the ills created by the prevailing emphasis, whether classical or romantic. Possibly each classical or romantic wave adds to and extends the repertoire of elements that had existed previously before one wave was countered by a wave of the opposite direction.

So far this discussion has been about prevailing fashions that take hold of group of composers/performers who live in a given area at a given time, but it is also possible for individuals to undergo during the course of a lifetime a change/evolution from one emphasis to the opposite direction as Goethe did (although Goethe remained critical of romanticism which had begun to spread over wide areas of Europe at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries, his artistic development, particularly in the Sturm und Drang period, gives evidence of Goethe’s interest in and use of romantic stylistic elements.) Goethe experienced and produced these elements while still a relatively young man, but then moved beyond this stage to remain more firmly attached to the classical elements for the remainder of his life. This movement away from romantic elements expressive of youth, rebellion and revolution toward classical ones later in life seems to be generally valid, but it is also possible to imagine an opposite development taking place: Brad’s strong reaction against classical elements which may have originally prevailed, but which then, as time went on, as his definition of ‘equipollent’ indicates, created a vehement reaction towards such elements, a reaction that caused an extremely strong preference for the liberating aspects of romanticism. Perhaps aging will creep up upon Brad and cause him to seek out the redeeming aspects of classicism with a new and profound interest in all the positive aspects that classicism has to offer.


Viewing the life of Bach in this manner, I would judge that he, in his compositional and performance styles, followed the usual development from romantic elements that present themselves in the youthful exuberance of the early works of his Pre-Weimar period, the Weimar Period being a ‘bridge’ between this early period and the mature Leipzig Period to follow. The latter bears most of the hallmarks of a classical musical stance.

The fallacy in designating Bach, in his ‘classical,’ mature Leipzig period, as actually being a proponent of some of the existing vogues of style (compositional and performance) that swirled about Europe during his lifetime, arises from the fact that many Bach ‘experts’ wish to generalize about Bach’s genius and place it within a box that is defined by contemporary (with Bach) sources which were quickly moving forward into rococo excesses (the extreme, negative manifestations of the Baroque) and the galant style. Although Bach experimented judiciously with all the existing forms of musical expression that he could lay his hands on, my impression is that he remained true to his own convictions about what constituted a worthy composition and itperformance. These convictions were directed at conserving the ‘best’ that the composer and his performers were capable of, a very ‘classical’ enterprise in itself.

Brad’s use of the loaded term, ‘equipollent,’ only serves to confuse unwary listeners and performers, leading them away from a true classicism to a rampant form of romanticism which is on the verge of destroying itself rather quickly as more and more listeners will begin to tire from hearing a barrage of idiosyncratic, exaggerated performances which do not stand up well under the test of time.

It would be best to discuss these differences in style of composition and performance in terms of ‘classic’ vs. ‘romantic’ (not ‘gestural’ vs. ‘equipollent’) with due consideration of the sliding scale between these two formidable artistic forces that have been observed even as far back as Greek antiquity.

Peter Bright wrote (September 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for such a detailed and interesting post, Thomas - I really enjoyed reading it. I agree with much of what you have said, but particularly your belief that too exaggerated or stylised a performance often does not stand the test of time. I have found this to be true, time and time again: performances that are brilliant and idiosyncratic, sounding fantastic the first, second, third time but, rather like a fashion item, quickly losing their appeal.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 22, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Much of Thomas Braatz's case depends upon the assumption that "gestural performance" is "romantic performance". In my view, this is a simplistic statement, and reflects a mis-understanding of a central point. I can easily point to examples of performances that are strongly gestural and not at all romantic, and vice versa. This is not a matter of value judgement -- I am not saying that being "gestural" or "romantic" is good or bad in itself.Brad defined "musical gestures" as "contrasts of character within a composition, from phrase to phrase and section to section" -- that is, gestural performance focuses on local changes. There is a strongly gestural , element, then, in performances that accentuate small motifs in the subject of the First Kyrie of the B minor Mass. Whether the effect of such gestural emphasis is romantic, however, depends on the nature of the gestures and on other factors, such as the general tempo and articulation. There is a strong gestural element in Peter Schreier's, Ton Koompan's and Andrew Parrott's renderings of this movement, but I don't think anyone would call their fast-tempo, at times almost dance-like renditions "romantic". I have a feeling (though maybe I'm wrong) that Brad would find them not gestural enough -- but they're still much closer to the "gestural" than to the "equipollent" end of the spectrum: and it is precisely this feature that would distance them from romanticism, in many listeners' minds.

To take an opposite example, consider Eugen Jochum's rendering of the same movement (I speak of both of his recordings, though perhaps the 1958 version illustrates the point even more vividly than the 1980 re-make). This is a fine example of a performance that most listeners will find "Romantic" -- but not gestural. Here's why: on the local level, Jochum does not go for gestures. He articulates almost everything in a seamless legato, and if you take most statements of the fugal subject on their own you will find that he does little to shape it internally, to distinguish its internal components or to definitely separate it from other materials.

So why do I call it "Romantic"? Because, if you shift your perspective from the "local" to the "global", you find that Jochum has a particular aim in mind. About half-way through the movement: after a short orchestral interlude, there is a second exposition of the fugue, built "from the bottom up" -- basses, tenors, etc., up to a "climactic", intense soprano entry at bar 102. Jochum shapes this entire section as a single, inexorable crescendo, which reaches its peak, not in bar 102 but a bit beyond it, starting almost misterioso and ending with enormous power. Given that he also employs one of the slowest tempi on record, this means that this single crescendo is very long-breathed indeed, and it is much too long to count as a single "gesture" as one would normally understand the word.

Jochum's approach is definitely "romantic" -- one can't help remembering, when listening to it, that Jochum was a renowned Brucknerian (though his Bruckner is actually more "gestural" -- in the sense of containing more minute, moment-to-moment inflections -- than his Bach). The notion of building a movement up towards a single climax might seem to many as a 19th-century thing to do, especially when done with such smooth articulation and slow tempo. Yet it would be wrong ot call it "gestural" -- the changes are all gradual, linear (that is, in a single direction), and most of them are achieved by altering only one parameter (i.e., dynamics).

A few more recent conductor (notably Richard Hickox and Claudio Abbado) aim at a similar shape for the movement, but use gestural means to achieve it. They too shapes the second exposition as a large-scale crescendo; but they demonstrates how local gestures can be used to support the projection of large-scale shape. Hickox, for example, finds it easier to project a rise in dynamics through legato portions - and consequently the most dynamically active moments in his crescendo are on non-subject material; but he uses the insistent articulation on the subject (especially the "Kyrie"), as well as the shaping of other voices, to ensure that tension does not flag at any point. His gestures are not entirely discrete, but rather lead into one another; but they are still much more clearly distinct than individual components in Jochum's reading. But, with his faster tempo and more incisive articulation, he would not immediately strike listeners as a "romantic".

I think most listeners, comparing these two performances directly, would have little hesitation in proclaiming that Jochum is the more romantic of the two conductors -- and Hickox is the more gestural. I think this consesnsus can be reached independently of whether or not you like these performances.(Unfortunately, I don't have the technical means to post audio examples -- but maybe someone else can help?).

So: it's wrong to simply identify "gestural" with "romantic". A performance can be both, either, or neither. It is true, however, that "equipollent" is ultimately irreconcilable with both the gestural and the romantic.

Uri Golomb wrote (September 22, 2003):
< Peter Bright wrote: too exaggerated or stylised a performance often does not stand the test of time. I have found this to be true, time and time again:performances that are brilliant and idiosyncratic, sounding fantastic the first, second, third time but, rather like a fashion item, quickly losing their appeal. >
I know many people feel the same way as Peter; it happened to me, too. But often, I find that my experience is the reverse: a performance that strikes me as perverse and eccentric at first hearing becomes, with familiarity, more comprehensible, revealing and enjoayble (this has often been my experience with Harnoncourt). Whereas a performance that at first strikes me as refreshingly direct and unfussy would strike me, on further listening, as dull and uninspired. Am I really the only one who had that sort of experience?

Peter Bright wrote (September 22, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] Well, I have always admired Harnoncourt (unlike Thomas B), and rate some of the recent discs among my favourites of a particular work (including the most recent St Matthew and also Dvorak's Slavonic Dances which was probably my disc of that year) - although I suppose he does offer 'idiosyncratic' performances to some degree, he also brings fluidity and appropriate colour. My main criticism is usually drawn to solo works (including Bach's compositions for keyboard), whereby the player often disturbs the impact of a movement by stamping too much personality on it.

I want a piece of music to have a sense of balance, and the contindisregard for the notated rhythm, and the 'need' for the performer to present 'new light' on a piece often damages the interest it should hold for me. In the solo works, the performer plays according to his or her own whim and does not have the support of other players to help focus the performance. Experience as well as technical ability can, of course, mean the difference between pulling off a great performance and destroying the essence of a piece. Glen Gould was certainly eccentric in his approach to Bach, but such was his ability and musical intelligence that he produced performances of great worth. The experience he gained over his career led to far greater insight in his final Goldbergs compared to the first recording. In the first, there seemed at least to be some amount of showing off his dexterity and speed. In the last, he had learned that idiosyncrasy does not work for its own sake and should be backed up by a profound respect for the emotional potential of a piece of work. That potential is often not realised in performances that are too (in my opinion) individualistic and are a misguided attempt to offer something different to everyone else.

A master will bring something out in the music through respect rather than disrespect. Murray Perahia perfectly illustrates this for me in his recording of the Goldbergs - to Brad and others it will be too mainstream (although this term is practically defined by the performances of someone of his stature) and safe. But for me, he makes the music glow and builds up an intensity that is gloriously released during the quodlibet (and those people around me who own this disc feel the same way about it) - too much interruption to the natural flow of a piece of music produces a set of bite-size chunks that hang together in such a loose fashion that they make no sense as a whole.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 22, 2003):
Admittedly there is some rough but inexact parallel with traditional distinctions such as "Dionysian/Apollonian", or "romantic/classical", or "fire/ice", or "irrational/rational". (I'm not saying that those have direct correlation with one another, either!)

But the distinction I'm trying to bring out here, with a continuum of "gestural/equipollent", is not about performers throwing hormones onto display, or doing anything at personal "whims" (as a detractor here has said), or being individualistic.

=====

Rather, it is this:

Human perception. The human animal is naturally pre-conditioned to respond more directly to some patterns of stimuli than to others.
The
listener's mind and body perceive shapes, relationships, detail, structure, and assign meaning to the experience.

That is: in music and other performance arts, what objective craft in the composer's and performer's technique causes the listener's mind and body to react in predictable ways?

The effects can be described in more scientific/academic language by psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, etc having studied physiological response, and brain-wave response, and cultural response. That's their business. I'm talking about the realm of art: how does the artist cause those effects objectively?

=====

A performance I call "gestural" is one which causes a lot of stimulation: rapt attention, body motion in the listener, and immediate clarity of any message that is part of the music (such as a sung text, or the program of program music, or dramatic action).

A performance I call "equipollent" is one that minimizes that directness; one that forces the listener to parse the material at his/her own initiative, figuring out what just happened...or maybe just zoning out and letting it all wash over him/her as incomprehensible gibberish.

=====

As Uri pointed out, a performance might be "gestural" but not "romantic", or vice versa; or it might be both or neither. There is no direct correlation.

Where people are trying to force such a correlation, i.e. >>let's just call a gestural performance "romantic" and an equipollent one "classical" in clear terms<<, it just looks to me like a prelude to knocking it down. Those who fancy the "romantic" would just bash at the "classical over-restraint" of the opposite camp; and the "classical" adherents would decry the "romantic excess."

"Gestural/equipollent" is my attempt to make this not an argument about aesthetics, or preferences of music lovers, at all.

When a performer does something deliberately gestural with the music, it is not a "whim", or any sort of "free-ranging interpretative experimentation." Rather, it is an attempt to let the music speak with maximum clarity and immediacy. It is an interpretive choice intended to help the listener get everything as immediately and clearly as possible, as opposed to bombarding the listener with incomprehensible information.

=====

Respect:

I like Peter Bright's phrase: "A master will bring something out in the music through respect rather than disrespect."

A "gestural" approach is fundamentally about respect. It is an attempt to discern the composer's meaning, and to recognize the depths of the composer's craftsmanship, and to bring all that out so the listener (as a human animal) gets as much of it as possible the first time, and even more each subsequent time. A good gestural performance rewards repeated listening; it also usually makes a strong impression the first time. (And, a bad gestural performance is merely a series of distortions that annoy the listener more than helping the music.)

If a gestural performer didn't care about and respect the music, deeply, s/he wouldn't even bother putting the hard work into fashioning a strongly gestural performance. It's easy enough just to sight-read through the notes and give an equipollent one--that is, throwing the ideas out there without much preparation or organization that would make them clearer to the listener!

Some equipollent performances may also be about respect, just as vehemently and fundamentally as a gestural one is. Respect for the work, in that case, leads to a different approach to the music: one that seeks to change as little of the notation as possible. That's respectful, in a way. (It also relies heavily, and therefore falls, on the huge assumption that notation is complete and sufficient, and that "standard" methods of reading notation are appropriate! But we've already been through that.)

=====

If both approaches treat the music with respect, why does one communicate directly while the other does not?

My experience as a performer, composer, and listener has shown me: in an overly literalistic performance the music usually fails to communicate directly to the listener's mind and body. That is, the listener didn't "get it", or got bored with it after a few listening sessions. The surface of "equal opportunity notes" has obscured rather than clarifying the music's effects.

And I believe such a performance diminishes the music, grossly. The problem there is not necessarily a lack of respect for the music, but a lack of enterprise: the performer (in such a case) has not done enough work in the area of clarity and directness. The performer is either a lazy-ass, or incapable of clarifying things (i.e. not skilled enough in gestural methods), or just didn't care, or (horrors!) made some deliberate choice to make the music obscure!

=====

So, is "equipollent" a derogatory term, for me? Yes. You betcha. In an equipollent performance the message failed to come across.

If any of my above posting didn't make sense, causing the reader's eyes to glaze over detail, or get lost in run-on sentences, or if there's too much sameness, or whatever, my delivery was too equipollent: it didn't connect.

If I were a better writer, my writing would be more gestural, and much more succinct, and no one would ever be confused by it. (They might not AGREE with what I said, but whatever I said would be crystal clear!)

Whenever I write something, I go back through it several times trying to make it clearer with punctuation and layout, and organizing the thoughts better. But, at some point, it just has to go out there.

Fortunately, I'm a keyboard player and not rea writer. My keyboard playing (and my composing) is more gestural than my writing of prose is.

=====

Where did "equipollent" come from? I needed a term for "lack of gesture" and I searched a dictionary. "Equipollent" is a 15th century word, and according to my dictionary it means "Equal in force, power, or validity; the same in effect or signification." That is, to me, a performance where everything seems the same and we don't easily pick out any details or value. All the notes make the same effect: a null effect. If some notes aren't better than others, the way the 16th-18th writers described "good" and "bad" notes in music, there's no immediately discernible meaning to the music. It's equipollent.

If I keep blathering here, making this posting longer and longer, it's becoming more equipollent by the second. So, I shut up now.

Johan van Veen wrote (September 22, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: If both approaches treat the music with respect, why does one communicate directly while the other does not?

My experience as a performer, composer, and listener has shown me: in an overly literalistic performance the music usually fails to communicate directly to the listener's mind and body. That is, the listener didn't "get it", or got bored with it after a few listening sessions. The surface of "equal opportunity notes" has obscured rather than clarifying the music's effects.

And I believe such a performance diminishes the music, grossly. The problem there is not necessarily a lack of respect for the music, but a lack of enterprise: the performer (in such a case) has not done enough work in the area of clarity and directness. The performer is either a lazy-ass, or incapable of clarifying things (i.e. not skilled enough in gestural methods), or just didn't care, or (horrors!) made some deliberate choice to make the music obscure! >
I have just had the experience that something which I never had really paid attention to became something very interesting for exactly the reasons given above.

I had listened to Händel's harpsichord suites of 1720 before, in particular the recording by Colin Tilney. Basically there is nothing wrong with that: he is playing beautifully, and uses nice instruments. But I didn't regularly listened to it, not only because there are so many other things to listen to, but also because the music never really captivated me.

Recently I heard the new recording by Ludger Rémy on CPO. All of a sudden I was enthralled. In fact it was the most exciting recording of these pieces I have ever heard. And I started to understand that there is not hat much difference between Händel as composer of operas and as composer of keyboard music.

I am sure I will return to that recording regularly.

Jack Botelho wrote (September 23, 2003):
Thomas Braatz said: "...[Bach], in his mature (Leipzig tenure) period, while continuing to be inventive musically, did not indulge musically in extreme mannerisms, irregularities, imprecision, etc., nor did he allow his performers to become exhibitionists who would change [his] music substantially from what he had written down for them specifically. This involved not only restricting the solfeggi (embellishments, even melismata invented by the soloist) sometimes tastefully permitted in the solo arias, but also holding the performers to the length of notes as well. If Bach wanted a half-note at the end of a phrase shortened to a quarter note and a quarter-note rest, he would indicate this accordingly and would not allow this to be up to the discretion of the performer according to the maxim that just about 'anything goes' ...

"It is also very important not to confuse 'gesturing' with 'inventiveness.' According to reports, Bach was easily able to 'invent' (compose at sight during a performance) an additional melody line, much to the astonishment of knowledgeable musicians and listeners, but there is no evidence that he would provide special 'gesturing techniques' to such a melody line so that the listener would become especially aware of this additional detail. On the contrary, according to the principle of 'Angleichung' (a making of one thing to become similar to the others), Bach most likely proceeded to enhance the already existing composition by providing another layer of depth, by increasing its musical density. All this was done in such a way to create a 'classical' balance between all the elements."
There has been some interesting debate here but typically in the heat of on-line argument, there has been some rhetoric. As a student of baroque music, I re-post part of the discussion taken from Thomas Braatz, post number 6395. Unfortunately Mr Braatz's posts do not seem to reproduce in the archives of this group without corruption.

I have found the above discussion to be very helpful and not clouded in obscure self-made terminologies. In my opinion, the above shows an admireable insight into JS Bach's composing methods and also sheds light on the wider issue of historically informed baroque music practice.


Conducting and Performance Practice

David Glenn Lebut Jr.
wrote (September 22, 2003):
I have noticed a lot lately that many people are comparing the different styles of interpretation (especially amongst conductors) as between "gestural" and"romantic". There is one point, however, that is being totally ignored: the role of the conductor in Bach's time.

Most of our ideas of the role of the conductor is based on the tendency that only originated in ca. 1860. This covers up the fact that conducting has been going on in one form or another for about 1000 years or more before then. However, the conductor backr then had a very different purpose and style than since 1860.

The primary (in fact, the sole) role of the conductor of the pre-1860 period was to keep time period. There was no lead place for the conductor. In fact, the conductor was viewed on as just another servant in most cases. That is why one sees the "conductor" of the period oftentimes leading from the Harpsichord or Organ or Violin or sometimes pounding the floor with a pole (which, incidently, is how Lully died). They never had their backs to the audience (which oftentimes were consisted with their employers). In fact, to do so would have been viewed as an insult and would most likely lead to one's dismissal from employment.

Therefore, the status of the conductor (which often went by other titles, such as "Maestro di Capella", "Konzertmeister", "Kapellmeister", or "Kantor") depneded to a lrger extent on the employer. That is why Bach (for instance) was held in variable degrees of esteem. In Weimar, for instance, he was very amiably treated by all three rulers (Duke Wilhelm Ernst and his brothers, Fuerst Ernst August and Fuerst Johann Ernst), but as relations between the two elder brothers became strained (after the death of Johann Ernst), Bach's esteem cooled in relation to Wilhelm Ernst's estimation, whilst his esteem with Ernst August led to his future employment by August's new Brother-in-Law, Fuerst Leopold von Anhalt-Koethen). In turn, he relations with Fuerst Leopold were very well, since Leopold himself was an amateur musician. However, when Bach moved to Leipzig, he was viewed as a lowly servant. Even the general consensus amongst his employers when he was finally decided upon to fill the post left vacant by the death of Johann Kuhnau ("If we can't have the best, we must deal with what there is") would betray the contempt they had of Bach on many different levels (his lack of education, his lack of being published, his emphasis onmusic as opposed to writing, his inflexability, his less than stellar record in relations to multiple authorities, etc.). The same would be the experience of Bach second-eldest son, Karl Philipp Emmanuel, in his position as Accompanist to the Fuerst (and later Koenig) Friedrich II ("der Grosser") of Preussen. In counterpoint, his relations with the Electoral Saxon court in Dresden was much more (to him) promising, since in the Elector there was an avid patron of music and the other arts. The same could be said of his relations with the public in his role as leader of the Collegium Musicum.

I would encourage any comments to this analysis.



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