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Recitatives in Bach’s Vocal Works

Part 13

 

 

Continue from Part 12

Halliday and Fougeroux on Italianate recitative style

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 10, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote: < To complicate the picture, we know that even in Bach's time, there were differences in taste; I thought I was hearing myself speaking from 1728 when I first read that Frenchman's report on "the bad manner of accompanying the recitatives" in a Händel opera performed in London. Even then it would appear there was no agreed or "right" way to perform recitatives, and such disagreement undoubtably surrounded other aspects of performance as well. >
I think that's reading quite a bit into it. How do you know that that Frenchman (P. J. Fougeroux, 1728) was disagreeing with the manner of performance, thinking he had a better way to perform that same music that the performers (if they had known their own jobs better) should have heeded?

In that letter he wasn't complaining to his friend that they were doing the recitatives incorrectly, according to any standard that he knew; he simply reported that he didn't fancy the sound of that particular part of the performance, personally. As you said here, it didn't agree with his taste. Fine. Couldn't that simply mean he didn't completely fancy Italianate opera style, of which that manner of recitative is an integral part? He did say he liked all the rest of it. (And, from the quote, it appears the whole thing was a new experience for him...isn't everybody leery of at least some aspects of unfamiliar things? Fougeroux already knows that the friend he's writing to doesn't enjoy Italian music, anyway; he says so. He's trying to convince his friend that on the whole the experience was better than he expected, not worse.)

This quote, and its footnote, are in the excerpt from Dreyfus' book, reproduced at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/files/dreyfus-mendel-williams.pdf

=====

A question for you, Neil, about this same thing (continuo-players leaving some space of silence from chord to chord, while accompanying recitative): does it bother you when you listen to Händel opera and hear it done there? If not, why not?

How about when you listen to Monteverdi's "Orfeo" (1609) and hear the same thing done there, in some performances? Does it bother you there as much as it does in Bach cantatas (which you've reported, often)? If not, why not?

Those questions are direct ones for Neil; not for anyone else to jump in and tell Neil, or tell us, what Neil "should" enjoy, and why. I'd like to hear it from Neil.

Thanks,

Neil Halliday wrote (January 11, 2004):
Brad asks: "..does it bother you when you listen to Händel opera and hear it (shortened chords in the recitatives) done there? If not, why not?"

While I don't have any recordings of examples that you ask me to comment on, I can make these points:

I do recall heartily enjoying, at a live performance I attended several years back, much of the music of Händel's Julius Caesar, likewise for several of Mozart's operas; however, at a live performance, I appreciate the drama, the colour, the sets, the costumes, the acting, and the occasion, as well as the music and singing, so in these circumstances I am far more tolerant of the intrusion of a form which I regard as 'non-music', namely secco recitative (when unaccompanied, or mostly without instruments).

It would seem that Fougeroux was trying to appreciate them as music, and this could explain, in my estimation, the reason for his disappointment. His reaction at least hints at the existance a different style of presenting recitative, known to him and which he prefers, regardless of the kind of music in which he might have come to know such a style of recitative presentation. Obviously, this style must not have had the characteristic he specifically enunciates as bad, namely, "the cutting off the sound of each chord".

----------------------------------

In stark contrast with opera, which often contains acres of what I regard as 'filling' (Wagner represents the extreme - the 16 hours of the 'Ring' can be reduced, IMO, to an orchestral score of about an hour's duration of truly great music), Bach's cantatas seem to me to be the embodiment of concise, profound musical thought, in which we hear the most perfect union of voices and instruments. The secco recitative form, when presented in the (Italianate?) style, which I would characterize as operatic, even frivolous, non-music, appears (to me) as an intrusion of a foreign form into the serious, musical environment of Bach's cantata language.

I listened today to Scholl/Herrewghe, 2nd movement, from BWV 170; its 'operatic' style sticks out like a sore thumb, in an otherwise fine recording, (although some of the instrumental details in the other movements lack the colour and charm of Rilling's instruments, which I won't elaborate on now).

OTOH, with the Hamari/Rilling recording, this same 'secco' recitative fits seamlessly, IMO, into the musical flow and into the serious 'intent' of the whole cantata, just as the 'accompanied' recitatives always do, in Bach's cantatas.

In other words, Rilling in the sacred cantatas presents all recitatives, whether 'secco' or 'accompanied', in such a way that they have the same musical effect (and purpose), which results from them obeying certain 'free-form' rules of meter and harmony (rules that are applicable to all recitatives). In a similar fashion, we always know what we are going to get in the 'aria' form (despite the infinite variety), namely voice and instruments obeying certain different (more defined?) rules of metre and harmony.

It does seem strange that Bach, (in a recitative score I looked at recently, in which the 1st half was 'unaccompanied' and the 2nd half - not an arioso - was 'accompanied'), notated the continuo in the same fashion all the way through, in long notes. You would think he would want to indicate such a basic change in continuo realisation, if this was required (I don't recall this particular example just now).

Brad, I heartily urge you to take the opportunity to display your undoubted improvisational skills as a harpsichordist, an opportunity that is uniquely presented in Bach's secco recitatives, in combination with the other continuo instruments. I'll venture your sometimes 'florid' style would draw praise in this environment, and would certainly be much more difficult for me, or others, to criticize, for "not adhering to Bach's scores"!. It's the time when we most require musicianship from the continuo keyboardist - in many places, where the other instruments adequately present the music's "structure" in an appealing form, a tinkling, seemingly pitchless sound from the harpsichord might actually be a nuisance, in a recording. (In this regard, we all know of the unnecessary intrusion of a shrill organ stop in some of Richter's choruses).

(BTW, the figures in the scores of the secco recitatives themselves are woefully inadequate in some cases, and have obviously not survived, so there is plenty of scope for original thought by the continuo keyboard player, bearing in mind the actual written note. In any case, Rilling's harpsichordists and organist, and Richter, on organ, have given us many fine examples of the art of keyboard secco recitative improvisation.)

In conclusion, one of the reasons for the paucity of my recording collection in the field of Händel (and earlier) opera has a lot to do with other aspects of HIP itself; I have had many difficulties, and still do, with aspects of "authentic" performance pracice. Juozas' "meowing" strings, whether viols or violins, is just one aspect of it. (Thanks Juozas!). At present I am fully engaged in exploring the world of Bach's cantatas, but in the future I will be 'negotiating' what is, for me, a HIP minefield, in order to get to know more of the music of Monteverdi and some of the other 'greats'.

I hope this answers your questions.

BraLehman wrote (January 11, 2004):
Halliday/Fougeroux; Raymond Leppard on authenticity

[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, Neil.

You might enjoy the following book, which was a required assigned text in a course I took once. I've reread it this weekend. Authenticity in Music by Raymond Leppard: Amadeus Press, 1988: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0571100880
Amazon has some excerpts visible at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/reader/0571100880

The book is, basically, a brief apologetic for a "vitalist" (if I may borrow a term from Taruskin) approach to music, firmly against a positivistic one represented by some of the scholarship (and "scholarly" performances) of the 1970s and 1980s. Leppard gets very defensive and vehement, fighting from the corner he's been backed into; and he avoids touching the topic of period instruments until his final three pages! I find it all amusing and thought-provoking, and entertaining; and he has plenty of good things to say. He also gives a survey of 20th-century listening habits, and revivals of older music, and the way all that has affected people's expectations today.

I disagree on a few of his particulars here and there, but overall I think this is well worth reading and re-reading. (My copy, with my scribbled margin notes from a dozen years ago, certainly reminds me of the parts I disagreed with back then...from a closer, more critical reading than I gave it this weekend!) His arguments do have plenty of holes in them, here and there, and he sometimes relies too heavily on truisms; but he still has some very important, and viable, things to say here anyway.

The most interesting chapter, IMO, is the one "In Practice" where he walks us through Gluck's "Orfeo", Monteverdi's "Poppea", and Händel's "Acis and Galatea" telling us what he as a performer would do with them (and indeed, has done with them). Here's his introduction before doing so:

"(...) I propose to examine the processes by which three important, but very different, problematic pieces of music may be approached and realized in sound. No single way will be proposed, nor any claimed as best or most desirable. There are always too many variables for that, usually starting with the evidence of the earliest performances in the composer's lifetime. The aim must be to show the music's vitality and meaning to a late-twentieth-century audience--there seems no point in preparing it for any other purpose--so that they may find an equivalent sense of value in it, made the more valuable by having persisted for several hundred years. My approach may illuminate for some, give courage to others, and offend a few. It will raise the eyebrows of those committed to purity and raise the level of venom in those predisposed to strike; but it is based on the actual experience of bringing these works to effective performance, and I stand by the methods and thinking that went into their preparation even if, because time has passed, I might change some details."

In the Monteverdi section soon after that, he reproduces a scene from "Poppea" in facsimile from Monteverdi's autograph, showing that it is all just voices and continuo. He explains the dramatic thrust of the scene. And then he presents his own written-out orchestration and realization of it, showing how he has deployed several different continuo groups along with string players, tempo markings, dynamics, etc etc...all with the goal of helping the music come alive, and (as far as possible) to discern Monteverdi's dramatic "intentions" and then put them out there for the understanding of a modern audience.

Quite an interesting exercise.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: HIP – Part 12 [General Topics]


Noteworthy recitatives?

Juozas Rimas wrote (March 28, 2004):
I'd be interested in what recitatives (from cantatas, not other vocal works) stroke you as especially noteworthy: because of their original continuo (not just predictable touches on the organ), intricate singing part or changes in pace etc.

Crouch in his guide doesn't mention recitatives at all, as if they weren't parts of the cantatas. For most part this approach is sensible but sometimes a recitative might be as ingenious as the arias of the cantata or even better.

eg to me, the tenor recitative "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats" (BWV 42) with its queer strings continuo is as important as the subsequent aria - a great introduction but impressive even taken separately, regardless of its half-minute lenght!

The bass recitative "So geh herein zu mir" is my favorite part of the BWV 140 ("Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme") especially with the non-HIP (eg Richter) orchestration that creates warm lush waves around the voice.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (March 28, 2004):
[To Juozas Rimas] In cantata BWV 34, the tenor recitative just after the opening choir is fantastic because the tenor has to sing twice a high B. I especially like the performance of Marcel Beekman (on Brilliant Classics/Kruidvat). I have expressed my admiration to him directly last year, when we were rehearsing for the SMP (BWV 244) with the Nederlandse Bachvereniging.

He did not recall this performance, and at first denied having sung this cantata on Brilliant Classics. Then he suddenly remembered that he was called in because the other tenor was sick. Well, what a nice event for us listeners. Somehow I know how Knut Schoch would have sung this small piece....

Uri Golomb wrote (March 28, 2004):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote: < In cantata BWV 34, the tenor recitative just after the opening choir is fantastic because the tenor has to sing twice a high B. >
I also like the way the bass recitative in the same cantata leads directly into the final chorus.

In response to the general question: there is much interest in those recitatives -- like in cantata BWV 93 -- in which chorale melodies are integrated into the flow of the recitative. Also, check the recitative dialogue bewteen "Fear" and "Hope" in Cantata 66, with its transition from solo recitative, through canonic arioso-style writing, to "secco"-style dialogue between two characters (there is also much to hear in the recitatives of cantata BWV 60). And, for a richly-accompanied, expressively-varied recitative, check the bass in cantata BWV 105. I'm sure many more examples can be cited, of course...


Recitatives in other composers' works: some questions

Neil Halliday wrote (April 18, 2004):
I am interested in the debate on recitative realisation, if it can be discussed in a friendly fashion.

Last night I listened through the 1961 Baker/Lewis performance of Purcell's Dido and Aneas (1689, absolutely delightful music!). I notice there is not a 'secco' recitative in sight (ie with 'short' continuo realisation); and even though much of the music has a recitative-like character, the excellent continuo accompaniment with Thurston Dart at the harpsichord and Terence Weil on cello resulted in totally engaging music. Is this because this performance is non-HIP? (This is a genuine question.)

What is the situation in Monteverdi's operas? (early 1600's)?

Tonight I noticed long stretches of virtual speaking with only an occasional harpsichord chord, in Mozart's Don Giovanni (1780's) (I gritted my teeth through these because I was hanging out for the fabulous music in Act 3).

Where did the practice of interspersing unaccompanied singing/speaking into instrumental/vocal music originate?

Getting back to Bach:

Notice the early cantata BWV 131 has no recitatives.

The score of BWV 18's recitative (2nd movement) has a separate part for the continuo bassoon, written in quarter notes, while the other comtinuo instruments with an otherwise identical part are written in lnotes. BWV 95 is the only cantata I know of with short notes written in the recitative continuo. I would be interested to know - what are Dr. Lehman's thoughts on these last two points?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Neil Haalliday] Neil, have you looked up 'recitative' (an article by Stephen A. Christ in "Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach" [Boyd, Oxford University Press, 1999, pp. 383 ff.?]) He also bases upon Dreyfus his statement: >>Correct performance of Bach's recitatives involves knowledge of several conventions not reflected in the notation.<< This is the disputed theory now accepted as a fact by Stephen A. Christ and others.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (April 19, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I'm just speaking out of what I know (which is limited), but here goes-

The thing about very early opera (and oratorio) is that the idea of separation between recit and aria hadn't been as formalized yet, unlike the very clear separation that was of course very much in place by Bach's time. Instead, it would be more in-between the two, closer to an arioso than a recit or aria-it tended to have the declamatory text and was roughly speech-like, but at the same time there was much more melodic interest in the vocal line, hence more of a vocal line, than the 18th century recit. Considering this, relating it to a typical Bach (or Handel, or Scarlatti or whoever) secco recit (rhythms in vocal parts are mostly guidlines, as are some pitches, and the continuo is usually notated in longer notes but possibly played shorter) seems irrelevant.

< Where did the practice of interspersing unaccompanied singing/speaking into instrumental/vocal music originate? >
Well the idea of Alternatim, which has polyphonic sections interspersed with chant sections, goes back to the first organa, and then to renaissance antiphons and such, and then to Schütz's Passions. This last example is probably the earliest example of a separation between recit and other sections. Plays with Accidental music usually have some soliloquies set to music (such as in Purcell), and in the German lands these plays became the Singspielen (literally "singing plays"), an idea which I believe first entered the realm of Italian-style opera with Mozart's Zauberflöte (yes, the text is German, but mostly the style is the same as his Italian operas).

Again, I'm not entirely sure about everything, but right now I have to go see the Senators beat the Leafs to force a game 7…


Dreyfus & Schering

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 8, 2004):
References used:

1. Arnold Schering: “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” (Breitkopf & Härtel, Leipzig, 1936

2. Laurence Dreyfus: “Bach’s Continuo Group” (Harvard University Press, 1987)

3. NBA KB II/5 “Matthäus-Passion” BWV 244, Alfred Dürr (Bärenreiter, 1974)

In regard to ‘unsubstantial evidence’ regarding the theory of 'short accompaniment' in the bc of secco recitatives:

Dreyfus (p. 73) admits “The vast majority of Bach’s secco recitatives – both in the autograph scores and in the continuo parts – are notated in the usual long values.”
Isn't this considerable evidence enough to counter the 'short accompaniment' theory?

Dreyfus (p. 73) misrepresents Arnold Schering’s contribution to the theory of ‘short accompaniment’ by stating: “Arnold Schering mentioned the subject in 1936 only in passing when he noted that ‘neither the organ nor the cello ever held out the bass notes in secco recitatives.’” Note: Dreyfus’ choice of words here: “mentioned…only in passing.” I am not a math major and perhaps Dreyfus is not as well, but here are the facts:

Total number of pages in Dreyfus’ book: 264
Total number of pages in Schering’s book: 206

Number of pages devoted to ‘short accompaniment’ in Dreyfus’ book: 44
There are 35 pages of text with 9 pages of footnotes on this subject

Number of pages devoted to ‘short accompaniment’ in Schering’s book: 22
There are 12 pages of text with 10 pages of appendix pertaining to ‘shortened accompaniment’

If my math is correct then Schering devotes 10.68% of his wide-ranging book which covers various aspects of performance practices of Bach’s sacred music during his tenure in Leipzig, while Dreyfus, with his relatively narrow focus on just Bach's continuo group devotes only 16.67% of his book to this critical topic. And Dreyfus maintains that Schering mentioned ‘short accompaniment’ “only in passing?” What’s wrong here?

How is it possible for Dreyfus to misrepresent Schering’s treatment of this topic to such a degree? Without knowing the actual circumstances that led Dreyfus to this conclusion, let me suggest one or more of the following: 1) carelessness; 2) not having really consulted and studied Schering’s book carefully; 3) having read but having then forgotten what he had read; 4) relying upon secondary sources such as those containing only partial translations without actually having consulted the original source; 5) having a plan in mind not to allow Schering to steal Dreyfus’ thunder and not wishing to give Schering full credit for having proposed a theory to which Dreyfus has simply added a few more details and examples, none of which match in importance the key example that Schering had used as a basis for his theory; and the list of speculations could go on. The fact remains that what we have here is irresponsible musical scholarship or musicological ‘science’ which has run aground on the ‘misrepresentation of facts.’

To be sure, Schering had coupled the use of ‘short accompaniment’ with the possibility that a continuo instrument such as the cello could also be playing arpeggiated chords, a procedure or practice for which Dreyfus lambasted Schering on p. 234, but Schering never indicated that the primary reason for ‘short accompaniment’ was that the cello could not sustain the bass note fully while arpeggiating the chords upwards. Here is Schering’s statement on this issue:

Man wird sich den Vorgang so zu denken haben, daß entweder die Orgel die charakteristischen Akkorde kurz – nach üblicher Art in der Länge einer Viertelnote – zugleich mit dem tiefsten Ton im Streichbaß anschlug und dann pausierte, oder daß der Solovioloncellist, während der Streichbaß ebenfalls nur die Baßnote kurz intonierte, die entsprechenden Harmonien mit kräftigen Tone nach Vermögen entweder zwei-, drei-, oder vierstimmig, teils zusammen, teils arpeggiert auf seinem Instrumente angab.“

[„You should think of this process as follows: either the organ played the characteristic chords short – according to the customary manner {with the long, held notes} being held for {only as long as} a quarter note – simultaneously with the lowest notes of the string bass {being played in a likewise fashion} and then pausing {until the next long note appears}; or the solo cellist, while the string bass likewise played only a ‘short accompaniment’ {the latter did not hold out the notes for their full value,} played forcefully/confidently the corresponding (figured bass) harmonies as well as they could be managed using double-, triple- or quadruple-stopping, sometimes all notes together, at other times in an arpeggiated manner.”] [In the middle of this statement, using a footnote, Schering also refers to the bassoon part in BWV 185 – a point that eludes Dreyfus who does not mention that Schering had been the first to point this out about the bassoon parts.]

The ‘either-or’ situation is quite clearly stated and it does not matter if you, like Dreyfus, do not like the ‘or’ part or not. With Schering the ‘short accompaniment’ stands clearly on its own as well.

How about this glaring inconsistency in Dreyfus’ presentation (p. 73) of Schering’s proof?:

“Although he referred to an ‘old tradition’ mandating the convention [playing short Bach’s long notes in the bc of secco recitative accompaniments,] Schering based his judgment on the notational inconsistency in Bach’s parts for the St. Matthew Passion While Bach had notated the secco recitatives in his score [the just recently completed revision, a late version of the SMP] in long values, he systematically [in a single continuo part!] replathem with quarter notes and rests in the continuo parts. Schering supposed that Bach’s parts made explicit a musical practice that was actually implicit in the score. [and Dreyfus does not??? come on now, let’s get real!]”

Then on pp. 97-98 Dreyfus relents and states quite clearly how important this evidence really is:

“The parts for the St. Matthew Passion present the most impressive evidence regarding Bach’s use of short accompaniment.”

[Remember, this is as well the “most impressive evidence…” for Schering who first used this as prime evidence for supporting his theory on ‘short accompaniment’ back in 1936.]

Dreyfus continues with discussing the importance of this evidence and devotes a whole page to this: “The secco recitatives [of the copy of the score of earliest version of the SMP,] moreover, are notated in their usual long notes. In 1736 Bach prepared a substantially revised version of the work which resulted in a new autograph score incorporating the changes. The most important of these was the division of the continuo into two distinct parts – one for each orchestral choir. Despite some minimally revised recitatives, the score retains the regular notation for the secco movements. In the continuo parts, however, which Bach prepared himself, all secco recitatives were copied with the usual reduction to quarter notes.”

Dreyfus continues to expand on the importance of the SMP continuo parts which he tells his readers that Bach personally prepared/copied himself. This sounds like persuasive evidence, doesn’t it? Bach repeatedly, ‘systematically’ indicated ‘short notation’ in the continuo parts?

But just how much of this information from a musicological scholar/scientist is reliably true? What is really going on here?

The NBA KB prepared by Alfred Dürr, which Dreyfus should have consulted before publishing his misinformation about Bach’s involvement in preparing the continuo parts (check also p. 206 in Dreyfus’ book where he would have us believe that he actually consulted the NBA, obviously in an extremely cursory manner), the reader is informed that:

Part 40 (using the same NBA numeration of parts which Dreyfus lists on p. 206) is entitled “Continuo pro Cembalo (Chori 2 di)” is a part that the NBA does not even use for consideration for numerous reasons – the paper watermark does not agree with the bulk of the other original parts, the copyist is #7 or according to Dürr Anonymous Vm, and the figured bass, with the exception of a few corrections is not by JSB as Dreyfus would have us believe.

Of the remaining 6 continuo parts, only two are autograph: Parts 20 [Continuo Chori 1 mi consisting of 19 pages] and 37 [Continuo Chori 2 di consisting of only 12 pages.] Anna Magdalena Bach copied the doublets, Parts 21 and 38 and Gottfried Heinrich Bach (?) possibly copied Parts 22 and 39. Dreyfus claims that JSB did the entire figured bass of Part 22, but this is in error. JSB made only a few corrections here and there. Did you notice that Part 20 had more pages than Part 37? This means that only Part 20 contains the single instances of the ‘short accompaniment’ which is not indicated in the score that had been completed a short time before the copy was made. None of the other parts contain the secco recitatives! Now Dreyfus claims have been whittled down to the actual size: there is only a single continuo part of all those listed which bears evidence of Bach’s complete involvement. As other Bach scholars have pointed out, there are other reasonable possibilities why Bach may have done this [check the subject of recitatives on Aryeh’s Bach Cantata Site for a listing of some of the other possible reasons why Bach may have used ‘short accompaniment’ for this particular performance of the SMP.]

My question in regard to all of the above is “What went wrong here with the peer-review process?” These are not negligible editorial errors that sometimes slip in where they do not belong. What is obvious here is a misrepresentation of factual material, a misrepresentation, when left uncorrected, will undermine any other evidence which is presented along with these major points.

I look forward to any helpful comments or evidence to the contrary.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 8, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I look forward to any helpful comments or evidence to the contrary >
My helpful comment - stop flogging a dead horse! Is anyone here still interested?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 8, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson responded: >>My helpful comment - stop flogging a dead horse! Is anyone here still interested?<<
Sounds a bit like item G of the BCML Guidelines: >>G. Do not tell the other members of the ML what to do or how to behave.<<

Johan van Veen wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] All sorts of comparisons are crossing my mind: mantra, prayer wheel, repeating rifle.

It's really pathetic, isn't it?

Charles Francis wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] Yes, quite pathetic really; two ad hominem arguments from yourself directed at Mr. Braatz in less than 24 hours. Same, unfortunately for certain other members of this group who claim disinterest, yet choose to respond with insults; and not a rational argument in sight addressing the substance of the "Harnoncourt" doctrine (N.B., I don't credit Harnoncourt with an original thought here, merely with leveraging a dubious research finding!) But no surprise really, as the substance of the dogma is never substantially addressed by those of the faith; instead the instruments of torture are brought forth as a warning to the unfaithful.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] So, my own contributions here on this topic have been what...negligible?

- I summarized a scholarly and practical approach, a clear and rational presentation of the evidence for this performance practice, at my page: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm .

- I attempted a rationally argued defense of this topic itself, and of the scholarly researchers and performers in it, against Mr Braatz' (and Mr Francis') incoherent and illogical charges, beginning February 22nd 2002, as seen at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives-3.htm . That discussion continued for more than a year and a half. Each time they attempted their further character assassinations of people living and dead, I presented evidence in support of the established academic conclusions, and resources where they can go read more about it (as cited on my web page).

During that process, it became clear that their own attacks are (at the root of it) nothing more than a personal vendetta against several researchers and performers, and a demonstration of their willingness to use illogical methods to try to knock down a scientific field of inquiry. That is: they don't fancy what they hear, and/or it doesn't align with their own habits of reading scores, and therefore the scientific findings must be "proved" wrong by whatever means they can come up with, short of attending university themselves.

To do this correctly: if they have anything of substance that they wish would overturn well-established scientific findings or demolish any personalities, the way to research and present it is with equally scientific rigor, not with regular attempts to destroy any evidence and people that are in the way of their foregone conclusions. Pseudo-science and science are not the same thing. Nor does it suffice to assert that Dreyfus et al are merely pseudo-scientists (which they're not, but that's the charge): even if they could demonstrate that, that wouldn't prove anything one way or another about the findings of Dreyfus et al, conclusively. It still all comes back to the evidence and the logical organization of it: the historical records and the evidence in Bach's music itself.

At one point, Mr Braatz even claimed that logic itself was not to be trusted, that it is merely an "instrument of torture" (cited as "Spanish boots" by him, quoting Goethe through Mephistopheles in Faust). This disdain for scientific methitself (along with Mr Francis' characterization of the scientific findings as mere "dogma", above) makes it clear that "no rational argument in sight" is ever going to work against people who refuse to take evidence seriously, and who refuse to organize it with any clear logic, and who would rather pick at messengers than deal with evidence itself.

A good solution here is still the obvious one, and has been suggested before: meet the admissions requirements, make the commitments, go through a university program, thereby learn how to think and do research as a scientist (in music history / musicology), and only then come back to this topic. It worked for me, and has led to my summary of the issue at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm , and I recommend it as a process. That's merely a suggestion, of course, as we're not supposed to tell one another here what to go do. I could probably think of some other suggestions that are less positive than that one.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] It's really not complicated, from a careful reading of Thomas Braatz' postings.

In 2001 he bought and read Andrew Parrott's book Bach's Essential Choir. He still doesn't agree with it (considering that all of HIP is to him merely a fad, and an opportunity to give inferior singers and conductors some work, at the expense of pulling huge amounts of wool over the eyes and ears of an unsuspecting public). But most notably, he realized through that book that Arnold Schering's work in the early 20th century, as a major researcher of Bach and a shaper of scholarship, is challengeable. If Schering may have been wrong about numbers and deployments of singers, he may have been wrong about a lot more!

Who's the main player in the early 20th century research about basso continuo articulation? Why, it's once again Arnold Schering, as he sees after several people have recommended Laurence Dreyfus' book Bach's Continuo Group: Players and Practices in his Vocal Works to Mr Braatz!

Amazingly, it occurs to Mr Braatz that a sufficiently thoughtful and diligent researcher (as Parrott and Rifkin are, and as Braatz fancies himself) can shoot down any undesired outcome of research [as if such shooting-down would be sufficient proof of anything, in itself...and as if science is merely a working-backward from desired conclusions]. Shortened continuo sounds like garbage to Mr Braatz and he can't see it in the scores, either, having purchased the Urtext Neue Bach-Ausgabe; musically, it's inexplicable! [And, to him, anything he can't explain is unknowable; and this musical outcome could not possibly be right.]

Everybody who follows Schering's findings in any way must, therefore, be wrong and unable to realize it...and Mr Braatz has a field unto himself, to try to prove that he alone has the truth. Musicology is (to him) all just a "bandwagon" anyway, as he's asserted several times: incompetent researchers passing down dogmatic teachings to one another through generations, instead of thinking. To him (and to Mr Francis), shortened basso continuo is just one more wrong modern fad in this chain to sell records to unsuspecting morons, and he must do his duty to correct the problem. That, plus telling us all which conductors and singers don't deserve careers, because they're all less intelligent and less informed about music than he believes he is.

That's my hypothesis from thorough consideration of the evidence: the postings of Mr Thomas Braatz here in these forums, and documented at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com
.
It explains everything he tells us, except for maybe the stuff about the way trumpeters should do their jobs according to his reading of the Csibas. But again, that just appears to be more of the same: if people didn't play trumpet 40 years ago the way they do now in HIP, HIP must be nothing more than a current fad to sell records to the ignorant public, and to give more work to undeserving people who really can't play their instruments.

This is all the same thing, when we get right down to it. Everybody, according to Mr Braatz, is incompetent to do their jobs properly: whether they're writers of books, articles in respected music dictionaries, or singers or players or conductors. A thinking person such as himself simply knows that certain things are true, whether experts confirm it or not; and if the experts come out completely differently from one's own conclusions, they must ALL be wrong.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Why not "declare victory" and retreat from this mostly pointless battlefield? I am certain that many lurking members secretly wish - as I do - that you dedicate your considerable abilities to review and discuss some Bach Recordings, pure and simple.

[pleading]

Johan van Veen wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] With all respect, but why don't you - and others - urge Mr Braatz to stop his vendetta and his endless repeat of the same views and 'arguments' over and over again. Don't you think "many lurking members" are getting sick and tired of his mantra as well?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] I agree with you 100%, but your "system" has been tried before and to no avail. The prefered method IMO is to refuse to be dragged into endless discussions, and that's what I meant by "declaring victory and quitting the field". No one here will see that as conceding any intelectual ground by Brad, and if his time is not wasted away on these endless rebuttals he will be free to write about subjects we care about.

[hopefull]

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2004):
Ehud recommended: << Why not "declare victory" and retreat from this mostly pointless battlefield? I am certain that many lurking members secretly wish - as I do - that you dedicate your considerable abilities to review and discuss some Bach Recordings, pure and simple. >>
And Johan responded: < With all respect, but why don't you - and others - urge Mr Braatz to stop his vendetta and his endless repeat of the same views and 'arguments' over and over again. Don't you think "many lurking members" are getting sick and tired of his mantra as well? >
Indeed. When intelligent people are attacked incessantly by others using guerrilla/terrorist tactics, is the best defense simply to sit there and let the attacks continue? There is no "victory" that can be declared if the playing field was never even close to level in the first place: where scholars and scholarly performers must abide by the rules of logic, while their attackers do not. "Victory" implies that the attackers could even play the game at all, in the first place.

Here, the "terrorist" tactic is the regular salvos against some conclusions in the field of Historically Informed Performance, and against experts, and against the very nature of expertise. Those attacks come from several people who refuse to follow the normal rules of logic and research (organizing the material), or to substantiate their own claims by showing any full consideration of the evidence (using ALL the sources, and knowing how to play the instruments, and knowing Bach's notational habits), but who focus instead on destroying any unwanted people or evidence.

What level playing field is that, exactly, where those of us who defend the field of our own expertise are expected to do so only by the proper rules, while attackers can get away with any *@#*%@&#*%& they wish to throw out there?

Smoovus wrote (May 8, 2004):
Werner Herzog's 1970 film "Auch Zwerge haben klein angefangen" takes place in a dismal mental institution, wherein dwell several midgets, dwarves, and other oddities. Sick of being tormented and exploited by the so-called normal people of the world (who, in the film, are also dwarves), the inmates stage a coup. To protect himself, the director of the institute (also a dwarf) has barricaded himself inside his office, while the inmates run amuck, setting fires, eating each others scabs--laughing hysterically all the while.

Finally, near the end of the film, the dwarf director escapes hoffice and runs off into the countryside to seek help--but before he can get far, he passes the stump of an old tree. To him, it looks like a branch of the old stump is pointing at him. He stops, points to the stump himself, and begins arguing with the stump, demanding that it put its arm down first. "I can keep my arm up for a long time. I'm very powerful," he shouts.

Cut to the last shot of the film. The smallest of the dwarf inmates, named Hombre, stares at a camel, giggling and laughing uncontrollably. This lasts for over two minutes. Then the camel defecates, and the laughter continues for several more minutes. Fade out.

Dr. Lehman is the dwarf director, Mr. Braatz is the stump, and I am Hombre.

----------------------

Given that neither participant in this ongoing argument is willing to concede to defeat, or even agree to a cease-fire, I propose the creation of a third Bach-related mailing list, entitled "Vitriolic Arguments Concerning the Length of Basso Continuo Notes in Bach's Secco Recitatives, and Other Controversion Topics," or "bach-vitriol" for short. That way, list members like Ehud will be spared the unending "pointless" discussion, and those list members who are interested in the debate, either for musicological or psychological reasons, can sign on and watch the arguments unfold without the necessary pretense of civility.

What do you say, Aryeh?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (May 8, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: <snip> is the best defense simply to sit there and
let the attacks continue? <snip>
There is no compelling need for any "defence" here, AFA I am concerned.

<snip> There is no "victory" that can be declared if the playing field was never even close to level in the first place <snip>
Yes there is, irrespective of the qualities of this particular "playing field". Just decide that theirs is not YOUR playing field.

<snip> "Victory" implies that the attackers could even play the game at all, in the first place. <snip>
It implies nothing of the sort. As I said - no one will read anything into a much expected and long overdue "disengagement".

<snip> Those attacks come from several people who refuse to follow the normal rules of logic and research <snip>
And therefore it would be illogical to attempt a dialogue and expect it to progress in a logical manner. It is better to let go.

<snip> while attackers can get away with any *@#*%@&#*%& they wish to throw out there? <snip>
They can't get away as long as we have a functioning "Delete" button on our browsers.

Why not at least agree to an experimental period and see how you live with that?

[still hopefull]

Stephen Benson wrote (May 8, 2004):
[To Ehud Shiloni] For what it's worth, I support wholeheartedly your eminently reasonable efforts here. Maybe if enough of us echo that support, we can make an impression here.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 8, 2004):
Smoovus wrote: < Given that neither participant in this ongoing argument is willing to concede to defeat, or even agree to a cease-fire, (...) >
I've asked for a cease-fire a number of times, directly, both privately and on the list, although it never got a response from Mr Braatz either way. My condition is a simple one: that he stop trying to tell experts how to do our jobs (which is indeed the root of the problem: a person with no admitted training or practical background presuming to lecture about it, and to overrule or "correct" the work of experts whenever he doesn't fancy the results). How hard can it be to abide by such a simple request?

Smoovus wrote (May 9, 2004):
< I've asked for a cease-fire a number of times, directly, both privately and on the list, although it never got a response from Mr Braatz either way. >
Then perhaps it is time for a "unilateral withdrawal," as it were?

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 9, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < Yes, quite pathetic really; two ad hominem arguments from yourself directed at Mr. Braatz in less than 24 hours. Same, unfortunately for certain other members of this group who claim disinterest, yet choose to respond with insults; and not a rational argument in sight addressing the substance of the "Harnoncourt" doctrine (N.B., I don't credit Harnoncourt with an original thought here, merely with leveraging a dubious research finding!) But no surprise really, as the substance of the dogma is never substantially addressed by those of the faith; instead the instruments of torture are brought forth as a warning to the unfaithful. >
Does anyone understand this?!!

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 9, 2004):
Gabriel Jackson responded: >> My helpful comment - stop flogging a dead horse! Is anyone here still interested?<<
Thomas Braatz wqrote: < Sounds a bit like item G of the BCML Guidelines: >>G. Do not tell the other members of the ML what to do or how to behave. >
Helpful comment was solicited and helpful comment was what was offered.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 9, 2004):
Thomas Braatz writes: <"Dreyfus (p. 73) admits “The vast majority of Bach’s secco recitatives " both in the autograph scores and in the continuo parts " are notated in the usual long values.” Isn't this considerable evidence enough to counter the 'short accompaniment' theory?">.
I would have to say, not necessarily, if there was a widespread convention that meant that notated long notes were played short.

But this raises some questions: How are the secco recitatives of other composers notated, eg, in the scores of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, and Händel's operas?

Why did Fougeroux express disappointment with the short accompaniment he heard in a Handel opera, in 1728? Surely this implies he knew of secco recitatives performed with long accompaniment?

For my part, I think Thomas points to considerable misrepresentation of Schering's position by Dreyfus; certainly, Schering discusses the topic with more thoroughness than can be characterised as "mentioned in passing".

I find the following passage from Schering to be very interesting:
<"You should think of this process as follows: either the organ played the characteristic chords short " according to the customary manner {with the long, held notes} being held for {only as long as} a quarter note " simultaneously with the lowest notes of the string bass {being played in a likewise fashion} and then pausing {until the next long note appears}; or the solo cellist, while the string bass likewise played only a ‘short accompaniment’ {the latter did not hold out the notes for their full value,} played forcefully/confidently the corresponding (figured bass) harmonies as well as they could be managed using double-, triple- or quadruple-stopping, sometimes all notes together, at other times in an arpeggiated manner.”>
Where did this idea - that the cello somehow realises the figured bass harmonies - come from? (Normally, we expect this to be the job of the keyboard instrument).

<"Now Dreyfus claims have been whittled down to the actual size: there is only a single continuo part of all those listed which bears evidence of Bach’s complete involvement. As other Bach scholars have pointed out, there are other reasonable possibilities why Bach may have done this">.
Yes, the evidence for universal shortened accompaniment does begin to look less than fully convincing, if the facts are as you have stated them in this sentence.

In any case, I believe there is far too much 'literal-ness' applied to the phrase 'short accompaniment', by HIP ensembles. Certainly, the recent discussion on McCreesh's SMP large organ registration seems to me to point to a widespread desire to see some more substantial realisations for secco recitative accompaniment than has been the norm for some decades.

Footnote: As a matter of fact, I note that Rilling, in BWV 8, movement #5, gives an example of not particularly attractive long accompaniment. The problem is in the unvarying nondescript chamber organ stop used, coupled with a cello that is too loud; Richter gives a much better example with a variety of attractive registrations coupled with a well balanced cello part.

OTOH, all three HIP examples I have - Herreweghe, Leonhardt, and Koopman - this last can be heard on theBCW at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV8-Mus.htm

- have very little musical interest from the continuo at all.



Continue on Part 14


Articles: The “Shortening of the Supporting Notes” in the Bc of Bach’s ‘Secco’ Recitatives [Thomas Braatz] | Playing Plain Recitative in Bach's Vocal Works [Bradley Lehman]
Discussions of Recitatives:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Continuo in Bach’s Vocal Works: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4| Part 5

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Last update: ýJanuary 29, 2005 ý15:34:05