Recitatives in Bach’s Vocal Works
Continue from Part 1
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 21, 2001):
Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" (Hamburg, 1739)
Some highlights from the entire book (a detailed selection of some more extensive quotes will follow:)
[The second number is the paragraph number - the paragraph symbol that I had did not carry over.]
On the singing quality of music, whether composed or performed:
p. 2 6
"Alles muß gehörig singen."
("Everything (for composer, conductor, and performer (instrumentalists as well) must definitely sing properly.")
p. 105 41
"Alle Stimmen und Parteyen müssen, nach ihrer gebührenden Art, ein gewisses 'Cantabile' aufweisen"
("All voices and instrumental parts, appropriate to their unique characteristics, must demonstrate a 'cantabile' manner of singing or playing.")
p. 204 4
"alles fein singbar and fliessend zu machen"
(".to make the music properly sing and flow")
p. 204 7
"Nun ist ja alles gespielte eine blosse Nachahmung des Singens."
("Everything that is played by instruments is simply an imitation of singing.")
On what is NOT singing:
p. 138 32
"nichts kan fliessen, was unnatürlich ist"
("Whatever is unnatural can not flow.")
p. 141 51
"Das gar zu sehr punctierte Wesen ist im Singen zu fliehen"
("An overly punctuated style of singing is to be avoided at all costs.")
p. 221 66
"mit starcken aus vollem Halse schreienden Chören.ohne Manier oder Zierlichkeit, ohne Melodie und Verständlichkeit"
("choirs screaming at the top of their lungs.without any sense of style or delicateness, without melody and clarity")
p. 222 72
“Abschnitte in der Mitte eines Worts mit nebenstehender Pause.keine rechte Melodie: keine wahre Zierlichkeit, ja gar kein Verstand zu finden."
("cutting into the middle of a word along with the pause that results.no proper melodic line: no true sensitivity (delicateness), no common sense whatsoever")
On judging what is good or bad music performance:
p. 293 35
"Der Verstand, die Ohren, und die Gemüths=Neigung müssen hier den Aussschlag geben."
("The crucial factors are good common sense, a good ear for music, and an inclination toward some musical expression.")
p. 294 38
"Was dem Gehör gefällt, ist gut."
("Whatever is pleasing to the ear is automatically good in quality. = If it sounds good, it is good." [Sounds familiar, doesn't it?])
p. 330 38
"Was zu sehr ausgekünstelt wird, verliert sein wahres Wesen."
("Whatever is contrived or forced, will cause the music to lose its true essence.")
On so-called 'musicians' that give music a bad name:
p. 64 25
"Ist es nicht zu bedauren, daß eben die jenigen Leute der Music den Hals umdrehen, die doch das Ansehen haben wollen, ihr auf die Beine zu helfen?"
("Is it not a shame that the very people who destroy music are the ones who wish to appear as furthering its cause?")
p. 105 40
"Wer diesen Vortrag so obenhin ansiehet, sollte gedencken, er sey überflüßig: denn ein Musicus müsse ja wol ohne Zweifel singen können; aber die Sache verhält sich gantz anders."
("People may think just the opposite, but it's not true that all musicians are able to sing.")
On the numinous, ineffable quality in musical performances:
p. 173 20
"Die Wirckung merckt man wol, weiß aber nicht, wie es zugehet."
"One can definitely notice the effect, and yet not be able to explain how this takes place.")
Using a pun, Mattheson is probably looking up to Bach without mentioning his name here, but does so later in a number of places in the book:
p. 216 36
"Die Sache muß einen Meister haben, dem die Fugen wol fugen."
("For this sort of thing a master is required to whom fugues come easily." - a wonderful pun is employed here: 'to fugue the fugues, to join together the parts of a fugue;' literally: 'a master whose fugues fit well together.')
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 22, 2001):
Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" (Hamburg, 1739)
I am including the excerpts/translations already contained earlier in this thread, so that these will all be listed together in one place for easier reference. Also, the quotations are listed in the order in which they occur in the book. If anyone out there (list members or otherwise) wishes to group them according to topics, feel welcome to do so. Perhaps it can replace this listing. Although Mattheson has organized his book according to various topics, it is, nevertheless, interesting to read his digressions on various subjects in places where you would not expect to find them: After the page number a paragraph number is given, if there is one.
Preface p. 17
"Ich muß wissen, wozu es dienet, was es für Früchte bringet." ("I have to know what it is good for and what sort of results it will produce.") This statement reminds me of Mat 7:20 "Deshalb, an ihren Früchten werdet ihr sie erkennen." KJV:"Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." NLT: "Yes, the way to identify a tree or a person is by the kind of fruit that is produced." [The point to all of this is that you only need to listen to Harnoncourt's cantatas with a good, musical ear, and all will be revealed.]
Preface p. 20
"Was nutzet eine silberne Trompete, wenns am tüchtigen Trompeter fehlet?"
("What good is a silver trumpet, if a truly capable trumpeter is not there to play it?")
p. 2 6
"Wir halten demnach unmaaßgeblich dafür, daß der allgemeine Grund=Satz der gantzen Music, auf welchem die übrigen Schlüsse dieser Wissenschaft and Kunst zu bauen sind, in folgenden vier Wörtern bestehe: Alles muß gehörig singen."
("We hold these truths to be self-evident [well, almost, but the first phrase is very much Baroque in nature] We humbly submit as a fact that the entire basis of music, upon which knowledge and art(istry) can be constructed, consists of the following four words: Everything must sing properly' or 'Everything must REALLY sing.' [whereby the word, gehörig' is also a pun on 'hören' ('listen')]
Mattheson does add these paragraphs for those who might have difficulty understanding the entire statement: "Alles muß gehörig singen."
p. 2 7
"Unter dem Wörtlein gehörig, als worauf die meiste Stärcke dieses allgemeinen Grund=Satzes ankömmt, begreiffen wir hieselbst, wie leicht zu ermessen, alle angenehme Umstände und wahre Eigenschaften des Singens und Spielens, sowol in Ansehung der Gemüths=Bewegungen, als Schreib=Arten, Worte, Melodie, Harmonie u.s.w."
p. 2 8
"Wenn, z.E.,in Mittel=Parteien viele künstliche Manieren und Verbrähmungen angebracht werden wollten, so gehörte sich solches von Natur nicht, sondern würde dem vornehmsten Satze, alles Singens ungeachtet, mit Unrecht Eintrag thun. So ist auch von den übrigen Erforderissen zu urtheilen."
("By defining the little word, "gehörig" (properly, really), as being the word that should receive the greatest emphasis in this general statement ('Alles muß gehörig singen,') we will then easily understand all the pleasant circumstances and true characteristics of singing and playing (instruments, obviously) not only as seen from the standpoint of the emotions being moved, but also of various types of composing (setting down in writing), words, melody, harmony, etc. If, for example, those of the 'middle' type or manner use too many artificial mannerisms or embellishments, then this is by nature not appropriate (it would not be natural), and would improperly detract from the most exquisite composition, not to mention the bad effect it would have on the singing itself. In this manner one can judge all the other things that are necessary.")
p. 62 13
".so können wir täglich erfahren, daß Teutschland überhaupt mehr Baßisten und Tenoristen; Italien aber mehr Altisten und Discantisten hervorbringet, denn alle andre Länder: wozu bey den Teutschen, nebst der rauhern Lufft=Gegend und Lebens=Art, auch das Biertrincken, bey den Welschen aber das Gegentheil in beiden Stücken, und noch über dies die häuffige Verschneidung das meiste beiträgt."
(".almost every day we get evidence to verify that Germany produces more basses and tenors, but Italy more altos and descant singers than all other countries. This reasons for are the rawer air and manner of living, but also beer-drinking, on the part of the Germans, while the Italians experience just the opposite, and moreover have numerous castrati.")
p. 62 14
".in Franckreich iedermann mehr aus der Kähle und nicht aus der Brust singet." (".in France everyone sings more out of the throat and not from the chest.")
[Mattheson speaks of a phenomenon that I have commented on in the discussion of my impressions of certain singers in the Bach cantatas: There are singers who do not sing 'from the chest,' but rather 'push everything down into the throat." Then he also comments on the fact that Germany has good basses and tenors, but not altos and sopranos. This he attributes (Don't laugh, I think he is serious) in part to the raw air in Germany and the fact that the Germans drink so much beer. At one point he even suggests that basses and tenors drink beer, but that all altos and sopranos should avoid drinking it. (Actually the newest reports from German indicate that for the first time in ages, the consumption of beer by Germans has declined. Does that mean that we can now look forward to more voices of the caliber of Andreas Scholl?)]
p. 64 25
"Ist es nicht zu bedauren, daß eben die jenigen Leute der Music den Hals umdrehen, die doch das Ansehen haben wollen, ihr auf die Beine zu helfen? Man mögte denn sagen, sie thäten es aus lauter Liebe, wie der Affe seine Jungen erdrücket....Die unbändige Begrierde, den Preis einer übermäßigen Gelehrsamkeit davon zu tragen, sollte die Leute nimmer so weit verführen, daß sie ihre Träume und Grillen als lauter neue Wahrheiten in die Welt hineinschreiben."
("Isn't it a pity, that the very people are ruining music, people who wish to be respected because they think that they have aided the cause of music. One could almost say that they are doing this out of complete love and devotion, the kind that causes a monkey to press the life out of its young ones....This uncontrolled urge to be the one who will represent the greatest amount of scholarship should never let these people succumb to the temptation to submit for publication to the entire world their own personal dreams and whims and call them new truths.") I think Mattheson took the words out of my mouth. At least Mattheson has the courage and authority to speak these words!
p. 71 I will summarize because the text is lengthy and distributed over a number of paragraphs: In writing about the three manners/styles of music (for composing and performing), Mattheson uses the terms, "high," "middle," and "low", and applies the word, "natural" as defining all three. He also tries to define how a composition should "sound," so performance practice is implied. Narrowing the focus from all types of music to that of "Kirchenmusik" ("sacred"), he states that it partakes of all three styles depending upon the circumstances. For the "high" manner a grand, splendid, majestic sound would be natural. For the "middle" in order that it should sound natural, it must flow p. 71 20 ("Eine mittlere kan nicht natürlich seyn, falls sie nicht fliesset,") and the "low" should not be overly embellished since that would sound artificial. The key word here for Harnoncourt to note is that in order for the "middle" style to sound natural, IT MUST FLOW!
p. 73 32
"Die schönsten Melodien zu verderben, dazu wissen einige Spieler und Sänger bald Mittel; die elendesten aber schön zu machen, ist ihnen, und auch aller Welt Künstlern, unmöglich."
("Some instrumentalists and singers really know how to ruin the most beautiful melodies, but it is definitely impossible for them, as well as for any artist in the whole world, to turn the worst melodies into something beautiful.")
p. 104 38
"Es gibt viele Componisten, die entweder aus Nachläßigkeit ihrer Anführer oder aus Abgang der Stimme, nicht zum Singen gehalten worden sind; wie sehr sie aber dabey zu kurtz kommen, und wie sauer ihnen ihre Geburten werden müssen, das kan man leicht ermessen."
("There are many composers [remember that Mattheson is always thinking about conductors who need to be composers first, before they can become conductors, otherwise they will turn into "Taktprügler" = [hard to translate, but here are three attempts at this word: "those who torment/punish others by forcinging the following of time on them (like marching in step or in time as in an army;)" "those who beat you for not following in time;" "those who mutilate the beating out of time, can not keep time themselves"]) who either because of the laxness of their superiors, or because their voice has changed (dropped from soprano or alto to a lower men's voice) were no longer required to sing anymore; as a result they were shortchanged (they developed a lack of an important ability: singing,)and now we can easily see how laboriously they have to work at composing to compensate for this deficiency in singing ability." Allow me to restate this once more, somewhat more freely and simply: "Because many composer-directors did not continue to sing properly, whether due to the laxness of their music teachers, or whether due to a natural change of voice, they reveal an obvious deficiency which readily becomes evident when listening to their laboriously created compositions."
p. 105 39
"Gemeiniglich, wenn sie es am besten machen wollen, fallen solche Setzer, aus Mangel guter Melodie, auf vollstimmige Sachen, auf künstliche Contrapuncte und auf allerhand Fugen=Arbeit; weil sie theils durch das Geräusch der Instrumente, theils durch ihren sauren Schweiß ersetzen wollen, was der Lieblichkeit ihres Gesanges fehlet. Die tägliche Erfahrung aber bezeuget, daß auf solche Art kein gescheuter Zuhörer zu etwas anders beweget werde, als zu sagen: es klinge gantz gut, lasse sich wol hören, und stimme fein zusammen."
("Generally, when such composers, lacking a good melody, but nevertheless desiring to do the best that they can, will place greater emphasis on artificially contrived counterpoint and an abundance of fugue-like subjects. They want to replace with noisy instrumental sounds and with the sweat of their brow, whatever is lacking in sweetness and melodiousness in the choral work they are composing. Daily experience will bear witness to the fact that, for this type of music, no sensible listener can be moved to say anything but: 'It sounds pretty good, it's all right, and the ensemble sounds OK.'")
p. 105 40
"Wenn nun gleichwol die Bewegung der Gemüther und Leidenschafften der Seele von gantz was anders, nehmlich von der geschickten Einrichtung einer verständlichen, deutlichen und nachdrücklichen Melodie abhänget; so kan diesen Zweck niemand erreichen, der nicht in der Singe=Kunst [the previous word is in bold face a few font sizes larger than the rest) wol erfahren ist. Die alten Teutschen pflegten zu sagen, man könne es einer Sau gleich anmerken, wenn sie sich einmahl an eine Schul=Wand gerieben hat. So auch kan man bald sehen, ob ein Componist singen könne, oder nicht. Wer diesen Vortrag so obenhin ansiehet, sollte gedencken, er sey überflüßig: denn ein Musicus müsse ja wol ohne Zweifel singen können; aber die Sache verhält sich gantz anders."
("Even though the stimulation of the emotions in a person's soul is dependent on something quite different, specifically, on the clever use of a melody that is at the same time understandable, clear, and emphatic, no one will be able to attain this goal without a considerable amount of exerience in the art of singing. The older generation of Germans used to say, you can notice right away, if a sow has rubbed itself on the wall of a school building. Likewise, you will be able to tell, whether a composer can sing or not. Anyone who has read this presentation thus far might think that all of this discussion is unnecessary, because it is obvious to anyone that a musician must be able to sing, but the situation is quite different from what you might imagine.")
p. 105 41
"Alle Stimmen und Parteyen, sowol oben und unten, als in der Mitte einer Harmonie, müssen, nach ihrer gebührenden Art, ein gewisses 'Cantabile' aufweisen, und so beschaffen seyn, daß sie sich füglich, ohne Zwang und Wiederwärtigkeit, obwolnicht alle in gleicher Schönheit, singen lassen:und wenn die Sätze auch nur blossen Instrumenten gewidmet wären."
("All the voice and instrumental parts, whether in the higher, middle or lower range, have to be created in an appropriate manner so that they give evidence of a certain degree of 'cantabile' which means that these parts should be easily singable without having to force things or without encountering considerable difficulties. This pertains as well to movements of a composition devoted only to instruments.")
p. 129 62
"Amor docet Musicam" = Mattheson uses this proverb and translates it into German. Here is the English which you probably figured out already: "Love is the best teacher of music."
p. 138 32
".Wenn dasjenige, was empfindliche Sinnen rühren soll, vor allen Dingen leicht deutlich, fliessend und lieblich seyn muß: so kömmt bey diesem Endzweck das natürliche und erhabene sowol, als das abgemessene Wesen in Betracht. Denn nichts kan deutlich seyn, was keine Ordnung hält; nichts kan fliessen, was unnatürlich ist u.s.w."
(".And if this is to touch the sensitivities of a listener, by being, above all, easily distinguishable, flowing, and pleasant in nature, then with this goal in mind that which is natural and sublime, as well as strictly measured, must be considered. For nothing can be considered clear, if it does not maintain order, and nothing will flow, if it is unnatural, etc.")
p. 141 51
"Wenn nun durch öfftere Aufhaltung eine Melodie ihre fliessende Eigenschaft nothwendig verlieret, so versteht sich von selbst, daß man Ursache habe, dergleichen Einhalt nicht häuffig anzubringen.. Im Lauf oder Gange der Melodie müssen die zwischen kommende wenige Ruhe=Stellen mit dem, was darauf folget, eine gewisse Verbindung haben. Das gar zu sehr punctierte Wesen ist im Singen zu fliehen; es erfordere denn solches ein eigner Umstand."
("If, perhaps it becomes necessary to interrupt the flowing quality of a melody frequently, then it is clear that you must have a good reason for this and not use this type of interruption frequently..The few places where, within a melody or melodic phrase, a resting point is reached, there must still be a certain connection with that with follows. An overly punctuated style of singing is to be avoided at all costs, unless there is a very special situation that demands it.")
p. 156 145
"Gegenwärtige Regel [Richtiger Verhalt aller Theile einer Melodie gegen einander] zielet nicht allein dahin, daß z. E. der zweite Haupt=Theil einer Arie mit dem ersten, so zu reden, im Bunde oder in gutem Vernehmen stehe; sondern daß auch die andern kleinen Neben=Theile ihre erforderlich Gleichförmigkeit darlegen. Hierwieder nun handeln die meisten galanten Componisten dergestalt, daß man offt meinen sollte, der eine Theil ihrer Melodie gehöre in Japan, der andre in Marrocco zu Hause."
("The present rule [on the correct relationship of all parts of a melody to each other] does not only cover large sections of an aria, where the second part must relate to the main first section of the aria, but it also covers all the other small,secondary subsections and how they must display uniformity. Here is another instance where most of the composers of the galant style compose in such a way that one would frequently think that one part of their melody belongs in Japan, and the other in Morocco.")
p. 157 150
"Denn fürs erste ist zu mercken, daß die Widerholungen im Anfange einer Arie, nicht aus Mangel oder Armut, sondern der Lieblichkeit und Anmuth halber vorgenommen werden: welche desto mercklicher sind, wenn etwa, sie oben, die eine oder andre Note, gleichsam zufälliger Weise, und doch mit gutem Vorbedacht, verändert wird. Ein ieder könnte wol zu den Worten: io non mi pento etwas neues setzen, aber es würde lange so lieblich nicht in die Ohren fallen, als die Wiederholung."
("The first thing to notice is that the repeated phrases at the beginning of an aria, do not occur because the composer can not think of anything else ['out of a lack of ideas'], but rather to produce a charming melodiousness and gracefulness, which are even more noticeable when, for instance, a note here or there is changed [not repeating exactly the initial pattern] with the appearance that this slight change happen all by itself, and yet it was planned all along. Using the words, 'io non mi pento,' you could compose a new pattern instead of repeating it, but it would not sound as charming as the repeating of the original pattern.")
p. 173 20
"Hier muß ein ieder in seinen Busen greiffen und fühlen, wie ihm ums Hertze sey: da denn nach Befindung desselben unser Setzen, Singen und Spielen auch gewisse Grade einer ausserordentlichen oder ungemeinen Bewegung bekommen wird, die sonst weder der eigentliche Tact, an und für sich selbst, noch auch die merckliche Auffhaltung oder Beschleunigung desselben, vielweniger der Noten eigne Geltung ertheilen können; sondern die von einem unvermerckten Triebe entstehet. Die Wirckung merckt man wol, weiß aber nicht, wie es zugehet."
("In this matter everyone must search out in his/her heart, just how they feel about it, because accordingly our composing, singing, and playing will reach a certain degree of extraordinary or uncommon movement, which is neither due to the actual measured beat, nor accomplished by a noticeable ritardando or accelerando, and even less by the actual note values on the page, but rather arises from an unnoticeable driving power from within. You can notice this effect, and yet not know how it comes about.")
p. 173 21
"Ich sage mercklich: denn im Grunde wird doch die Melodie mehr oder weniger in ihrer feinern Bewegung verändert, daß sie entweder lebhaffter oder träger herauskömmt; aber dem Tact und der Noten=Geltung wird nichts merckliches weder benommen, noch hinzu gethan. Die Sänger und Spieler können hierbey viel helffen, wenn sie verstehen und empfinden, was sie vortragen; aber der Setzer selbst muß ihnen die meiste Gelegenheit dazu geben: offt auch der Poet."
("I say noticeable, because actually the melody is changed more or less in its finer movement in such a way that it is expressed in either a more lively or a more lethargic fashion, but nothing in the tempo or in the note-values is taken away or added to it. It really helps when the singers and players understand and feel what it is that they are trying to express in the music, however the composer's job is to provide them with ample opportunities to do so, and often this is the poet's job as well.")
p. 203 16
"Noch eines. Ist es nicht eine grosse Schwachheit, wenn ich aus den Worten der Hohenpriester Luc. 23, 5: 'Damit daß er gelehret hat hin und her im gantzen Jüdischen Lande,' eine solche Tändeley mache, und im Chor mit dem 'hin und her, her und hin,' ein Gespiele treibe, daß nicht nur die Zuhörer lachen; sondern auch ich weiß nicht auf welche unanständige Gedancken gerathen müssen? Das kömmt alles aus einem falschen Begriff von der Wörter Eigenschafft her. Davor warne ich hiemit treulich und wolmeinend."
("One more thing. Is it not a great weakness on my part [if I were the composer and/or conductor], if I take the words of the High Priests in Luke 23:5 '[he [Jesus] has agitated them] by teaching them while going back and forth all over Judea.' and have some fun by having the choir sing over and over again, 'back and forth,''back and forth,' and thus try to make a game out of this content so that the listeners will not only laugh, but, who knows, even entertain some naughty thoughts about what might be going on here. All of this comes from a wrong understanding of what the words really mean. With this example, I sincerely, and with well-meaning intention, wish to warn others.")
Allow me to quote from Part II, Chapter 12, p. 204, paragraphs 2 ff. The chapter is entitled: "On Melodies for Singing and Playing." Let me remind you that Mattheson considers the capabilities of a 'Complete Capellmeister' to cover both the areas of composition as well as performance, both of the latter are inextricably linked together.
p. 204 2
"Nun finden sich zwar Leute genug, die da meinen, eine Melodie sey eine Melodie, sie werden gesungen oder ge. Es ist auch in so weit wahr, wenn man bereits verfertigte Melodien auf das gröbste ansiehet, und dabey erweget, daß die zum Singen bestimmte viel leichter gespielet, als die den Instrumenten gewidmete gesungen werden können,."
p. 204 3
"Andre sprechen wol gar: essey sonst kein Unterschied nöthig, als den die Instrumente selbst, wegenihrer Einrichtung, an die Hand geben; und damit ist der Sache treflich geholffen. Die dritten mercken endlich wol, daß diese Ausflucht nichts hilfft, und daß freilich der Unterschied in andern Dingen mehr stecken müsse; wissen ihn aber nicht zu finden. Diesen nun muß man Licht geben, welches hiemit geschehen soll."
p. 204 4
"Der erste Unterschied, deren es siebzehn gibt, zwischen einer Vocal= und Instrumental=Melodie, bestehet demnach darin, daß jene, so zu reden, die Mutter, diese aber ihre Tochter ist. Eine solche Vergleichung weiset nicht nur den Grad des Unterschiedes, sondern auch die Art der Verwandtschafft an. Deñ wie eine Mutter nothwendig älter seyn muß als ihre natürliche Tochter; so ist auch die Vocal=Melodie sonder Zweifel eher in dieser Unter=Welt gewesen, als die Instrumental=Music. Jene hat dannenhero nicht nur den Rang und Vorzug, sondern befielet auch der Tochter, sich nach ihren mütterlichen Vorschrifften bestmöglichst zu richten, alles fein singbar and fliessend zu machen, damit man hören möge, wessen Kind sie sey."
p. 204 5
"Aus dieser Anmerckung können wir leicht abnehmen, welche unter den Instrumental=Melodien ächte Töchter, und welche hergegen gleichsam ausser der Ehe gezeuget sind, nachdem sie nehmlich der Mutter nacharten, oder aber aus der Art schlagen. Andern Theils da die mütterliche Eigenschafft viel sittsames und eingezogenes erfordert, so wie bey der kindlichen hergegen mehr muntres und jugendliches statt findet, kan auch hieraus geschlossen werden, wie unanständig es sey, wenn sich die Mutter etwa mit dem Putz der Tochter behängen; diese aber die Verhüllung einer Matrone wehlen will. Ein jedes an seinem Ort hat die beste Art."
p. 204 7
"Nun ist ja alles gespielte eine blosse Nachahmung des Singens."
("There are certainly enough people who think that a melody is just a melody whether it is sung or played. This may be true, in so far as a cursory examination of already existing melodies in compositions might demonstrate this, and if you consider that those composed for singing are much easier to play on instruments than those compositions conceived with instruments in mind are to sing. Others say that no distinction needs to be made other than those obviously required by the uniqueness of certain instruments, and that is all that is necessary to be considered. The third group thinks that this excuse is insufficient to explain everything, and that the distinction between the two types must be due to something else, but they do not know what this is. For this latter group I will try to shed some light on this matter with the following explanation:
The first difference, out of a total of seventeen differences that exist between vocal and instrumental melodies, can be explained with the following analogy of a mother and her daughter, an analogy which will point out not only the degree of difference between both, but also the relationship between them. For just as a mother must necessarily be older than her natural daughter, so also has a vocal melody existed longer on this earth than any instrumental music. The former has not only a higher rank and precedence, but also commands her daughter to comply with her instructions as best as she (the daughter) can, in order to make the music properly sing and flow, so that everyone will be able to hear that she is really the daughter of this mother.
By noting this analogy, we can easily figure out which melodies of the instrumental sort are genuine daughters and which, on the other hand, have been conceived illegitimately. You will be able to hear which are more like the real mother and which are not true to type. Just as the characteristics of the mother can be described as well-behaved and rather conservative, and just as the daughter reveals characteristics of liveliness and youthfulness, so it is possible to conclude from this, how improper it would be if the mother tried to 'doll herself up' wearing dresses like her daughter, or the daughter would want to choose the dour clothing of a matron. Everything in its correct place will give you the best manner for comporting yourself..
After all, everything that is played on instruments is simply an imitation of singing.")
p. 207 28
".wenn beide [Menschen=Stimmen, Instrumente] zusammen arbeiten, die Instrumente nicht hervortragen müssen. Die Meinung ist hier nicht, als ob die Instrumente sich bey so gestalten Sachen niemahls mit einiger Ausnahm hören lassen dürften; sondern nur, daß sie, wenn die Singstimmen zugleich mit ihnen gehen, eine Stuffe herunter treten, sich nicht so laut machen, jene erheben, nicht aber sich selbst empor schwingen sollen."
(".when both voices and instruments sing and play together, the instruments should not stand out over the voices. This opinion does not mean that instruments, as things are 'shaped' during a performance, should never let themselves be heard with only few exceptions, but rather that, when the instruments play colla parte (play the same notes as the voices) they should step down to a lower volume level, and not continue to play as loud as otherwise. They should support the voices, but not let themselves go above the voices in volume."
[Bach usually marked carefully these reductions in volume. In some instances even infrequently using the marking, "pianissimo" instead of piano. Many HIP conductors are guilty of usually overlooking these dynamic markings, not realizing that, even with one instrument to a part, there are places where they can overwhelm a voice. If they had read Mattheson and watched Bach's own indications carefully, they might have avoided some of the problems of balance they had with the 'lesser,' 'half-voices' that were, and are still currently being used in HIPcantata performances."
p. 210 44
"Auch stehet hiebey zu betrachten, daß nicht ieder melodische Accent einen Nachdruck enthalte; sondern daß dieser gleichsam einen doppelten Accent führe. In den angeführten wenigen Noten sind wol 8 accentuirte, und doch hat eine nur den rechten Nachdruck, da der Asteriscus stehet.
("Here it should also be noted, that not every melodic accent contains a special 'push' or emphasis, but rather that in this case a double accent is involved. In the few notes in my example [18 notes] there are probably 8 'accented' ones, but there is really only one that receives a special emphasis -- the one marked with an asterisk.") [The note that Mattheson refers to is a slow appoggiatura and is the only one to receive extra pressure, or emphasis.]
p. 212 12
"Man nennet das Arioso auch wol deswegen Obligato oder gebunden, weil es sich vom Recitativ und dessen Affecten nur darin unterscheidet, daß es nach dem Tact gesungen seyn will."
("For this reason the Arioso is called an Obligato (or tied to a rhythm structure), because it can only be differentiated from the Recitative and its emotional portrayal by the fact that the Arioso follows a definite rhythmic beat as it is sung.")
p. 216 36
"Die Sache will einen Meister haben, dem die Fugen wol fugen."
("This thing needs a master who can make the fugues have their subjects and elements fit together very well. [a pun which brings together two words of diverse origins, that have a similar sound in German: Latin: 'fuga'='flight' and German: 'fugen/fügen' = 'fit together']
p. 221 66
In concurring with Viadana, the 'inventor' of basso continuo, Mattheson lists the excesses of motet singing, which Viadana also pervceived and tried to correct, in the churches at the beginning of the 17th century (Frankfurt, 1613.) Among these excesses were church music performance practices that Mattheson also felt strongly about:
"Da.alles verwirrt und verirret unter einander, mit lärmreichen Fugen und polternden Contrapuncten, mit starcken aus vollem Halse schreienden Chören, ohne Unterschied guter oder böser Stimmen, oManier oder Zierlichkeit, ohne Melodie und Verständlichkeit, in den Kirchen getrieben wurde: so daß man auch bedacht gewesen, allen Gesang und Klang gantz und gar vom Gottes=Dienst zu verbannen."
("Since music was being performed in the churches with confusion in the voices, with loud fugues and thumping counterpoint, with loud choirs screaming at the top of their lungs, irregardless of whether the voices were good or bad, without any sense of decorum or delicateness, without a sense of melody and clarity, the authorities were seriously considering eliminating entirely all singing and other musical sounds from the church service.)
p. 222 72
"Alles ging in vollen Sprüngen, da Capella, mit der gantzen Schule Feldein, und hauete immer getrost fort, bis ans letzte Ende: denn ehe gab man kein Quartier. Da war[en].Abschnitte in der Mitte eines Worts mit nebenstehender Pause.keine rechte Melodie: keine wahre Zierlichkeit, ja gar kein Verstand zu finden."
("Everything [ in the choir music] jumped about wildly with the entire group stubbornly slashing all the way through until the bitter end before giving up at any point along the way..There were 'cut-offs' in the middle of a word with rests right in between.there was absolutely no real melody, no sense of delicateness, and no commonsense whatsoever to be found.")
p. 242 42
"Als Josqvin noch in Cambray war, und einer in seinen musicalischen Stücken eine unanständige Coloratur machte, die Josqvin nicht gesetzet hatte, verdroß es ihn dergestalt, daß er zu ihm sagte: du Esel, warum thust du eine Coloratur hinzu? Wenn mir dieselbe gefallen hätte, würde ich sie wol selbst hingesetzet haben: wenn du willst recht componierte=Gesänge corrigiren, so mache dir einen eignen, und laß mir meinen ungehudelt."
("When Josquin Desprez (1440?-1521) was still in Cambray, and one singer sang his own improper coloratura in one of Josquin's compositions, a coloratura that Josquin had not included in this piece, he became so annoyed that he said to the singer, "You idiot, why did you add your own coloratura to this piece? If I had liked that coloratura, I would have included it in my composition. If you feel that you must correct my properly composed vocal pieces, then compose your own and don't mess with mine on the spur of the moment.") [The fact that Mattheson included this story could possibly be an indication that even Bach might have strongly criticized some of the attempts at additional coloraturas that are heard in HIP performances. Any such additions, as, for instance when a section is repeated, need to be done in very good taste, or not at all.]
p. 243 46
Regarding the repetition of the first line/phrase in a Bach aria, Mattheson gives only an example of the harpsichord-type Arienkopf, as already defined in this thread. Mattheson's sole example is extremely short (2 measures long) and does not indicate Bach's interplay of accompanying solo instruments preceding and following the first announcement of the theme. In another place Mattheson attempts to tie the repetition phenomenon with Greek rhetoric, but the examples he gives as repetition of the theme indicate only vague or partial repeat of the melodic material. He is more interested in demonstrating a relationship between various phrases. The same words may be repeated, but musically this relationship is not an exact or almost exact repetition as one can find in many Bach arias:
"Was ist wol gebräuchlicher, als die Anaphora in der melodischen Setz=Kunst, wo eben dieselbe Klang=Folge, die schon vorgewesen ist, im Anfange verschiedener nächsten Caluseln [sic - probably should be Clauseln] wiederholet wird, und eine relationem oder Beziehung macht. Die Epanalepsis, Epistrophe, Anadiplosis, Paronomasia, Polyptoton, Antanaclasis, Ploce, etc. haben solche natürlichen Stellen in der Melodie, daß es fast scheinet, als hätten die griechischen Redner sothane Figuren aus der Ton=Kunst entlehnet; denn sie sind lauter reperitionis vocum, Wiederholungen der Wörter, die auf verschiedene Weise angebracht werden."
("What is used more often in melodic compositions than an anaphora, where the same sequence of notes which was already stated at the beginning will be repeated and form a relationship with the former. Other rhetorical devices also are used in a very natural way in music, so that it almost appears that the Greek orators had borrowed these from their knowledge of music. They are all repetitions of words that can be used in a variety of ways: epanalepsis, epistrophe, anadiplosis, paronomasia, polyptoton, antanaclasis, ploce, etc.")
p. 293 35
"Der beste Rath ist hier: Man setze sich die jenige Gemüthsbewegung, welche ausgedruckt werden soll, recht tieff und fest ins Hertz; folge sodann seinem Triebe und übe sich täglich darin; frage auch die Todten, und ersehe aus den besten Wercken der Lebendigen, wie mit dergleichen Qveerständen umzugehen sey; so wird sich bald weisen, was leidlich, was unleidlich, was vortrefflich sey. Der Verstand, die Ohren, und die Gemüths=Neigung müssen hier den Aussschlag geben; die Lehre von dem Verhalt der Klänge und all andre Qveer=Regeln in der Welt kommen sonst dabey zu kurtz."
Qveerständen oder Qveer=Regeln = relationis non harmonicae ("My best advice here ist to put yourself into the specific mood or feeling that you are trying to depict musically. You must feel this deep in your heart and then follow the urges and promptings that arise. Practice doing this daily. Examine the works of past and present masters, to see how they handled these situations, then you will be able to distinguish what is passable, impossible, or excellent in quality. Use your commonsense, your ears, and your emotions, because all the rules governing inharmonic relations are insufficient when it comes to making decisions such as these. These rules are only good up to a point.")
p. 294 37
"Denn es läufft doch alles wiederum auf das Ohr hinaus, wenn es nehmlich mit der gesunden Vernunft im Bunde steht."
("Everything eventually boils down to having a good musical ear, when it is coupled with a healthy bit of commonsense."
p. 294 38
"Was dem Gehör gefällt, ist gut; so lange der Verstand nicht wieder spricht. Was dem Gehör aber nicht anstehet, ist ausdrücklich und ohne Einwendung böse; wenns noch so verständig wäre. Ohne Vernunft kan in der Music wenig gutes seyn; aber ohne den Beifall der Ohren noch weniger."
("Whatever sounds good, is good, as long as it is not contradicted by commonsense. Whatever does not suit the musical ear is without a doubt bad, no matter how 'understandable' or 'reasonable' it might be. Without commonsense and reason there is little in music that can be considered to be good, but without satisfying the ears there will be even less.")
p. 294 39
".So will ich mit Fleiß die gröbsten aussuchen, und fragen: ob denn jemand in der Welt solch Zeug wol mit Bedacht hinschreiben könne? Es kan nicht wol in eines Menschen Hertz kommen, wofern solches nicht von dem äussersten Eigensinn besessen ist."
("So let me diligently choose the worst ones, and ask the question: is there anyone in the whole world who would deliberately write down stuff like that? It is not even possible for such things to enter a person's heart, unless this person is possessed by an extreme egocentrism.") [And if this referred to performance practice, then Harnoncourt's HIP practices in the Teldec cantata series would be meant here as well.]
p. 330 38
In referring more specifically to the use of dissonances, Mattheson also makes a statement that can be applied to performance practice as well:
"Aber man muß nichts unnatürliches, gezwungenes und gleichsam bey den Haaren herzugezogenes mit unterlauffen lassen: Solche nichtige Erfindungen mögen weder die Music noch ihre Beflissene empor bringen..Was zu sehr ausgekünstelt wird, verliert sein wahres Wesen."
("Do not allow anything unnatural, forced or far-fetched to occur; such invalid ideas do nothing whatsoever to raise the standard of music or those who are really working hard to promote good music..Whatever is concocted with too much artifice or ingenuity, will lose its true essence.")
p. 330 39
".einige.beginnen anitzo sokrumme Spuren zu suchen, die sie gewiß zum Tempel der Pedanterey führen werden, wenn sie nicht bey Zeiten umkehren, und die ihren Vorfahren so sehr beliebten Stege der Natur und edlen Einfalt wandeln. Wir mögen so viel neues, und unsrer Meinung nach, wunderwürdiges ersinnen, als wir immer wollen, so muß doch alles, es sey zum Gebrauch oder zur blossen Lust bestimmet, auf ordentlichen und natürlichen Gründen beruhen."
("There are some that are now beginning to look for such 'crooked paths,' which will certainly lead them eventually to the Temple of Pedantry, if they do not turn around in time and walk along the natural and simple paths of their predecessors. As much as we may want to invent what we consider to be new and wondrous ways of composing and performing music, yet, in the end, whether the results are used for public performance or only for personal use, it will not matter because everything has to rest upon a foundation that is proper and natural.")
p. 335 20
"Was nun die Arien betrifft, so haben sie heutiges Tages, nachdem die Oden ziemlich aus der Mode gekommen, fast alle einen gewissen Unterwurff oder kurtzen Haupt=Satz, (Thema, Subjectum) darin, so viel möglich, schon der gantze Inhalt, Affect und Zweck des Gesanges stecken muß; wie bey der melodischen Lehre dargethan worden ist. Dieser Haupt Satz wird entweder im Baß, oder in den Instrumenten, die eine Singstimme begleiten, und ihre Ankunfft vermelden, bisweilen auch in der Singstimme allein, als wie etwa gewisse, merckwürdige Text=Worte, die ausgearbeitet oder erkläret werden sollen, vorangestellet, und durch die folgende Melodie, wenns auch nur eine zwostimmige ist, bald hie bald da nachgeahmet und angebracht: welches dem Gehör so angenehm fällt, daß nichts darüber erdacht werden mag."
("In regard to arias: almost all of them nowadays (since odes are practically out of fashion) have a certain subject or main theme that contains in a nutshell as much as is possible the entire content, affect and purpose of the whole piece, as I have already explained in the section on 'Making Melodies.' This main theme at the very beginning placed, sometimes in the basso continuo, or in the instrumental parts that accompany and announce in advance the vocal entrance, or even in the voice part only, where, for example, certain unusual words in the text, words that are to be developed further and explained later on; and by means of the subsequent melody, even if it consists only of two voices, it (the main theme) is imitated and applied, a little bit here and a little bit there, all of which pleases the ear so well that it becomes impossible to say anything sensible about it [or beyond which it would be hard to imagine that anything could be any better].")
p. 417 10
"Ein Organist aber muß sich dieser Stärcke seines Instruments mit desto grösserer Bescheidenheit gebrauchen, ie mehr er Gelegenheit hat, solche wol anzuwenden. Er wird demnach dahin sehen, daß er, bey Aufführung der Musiken, sich nach der Anzahl der Singstimmen, und ihrer Begleitung so richte, damit sein Spielen keines Weges über jene hervorrage, sondern vornehmlich die Sänger iederzeit die Oberhand behalten."
("An organist, however, must use the power of the organ very modestly, perhaps he should hold back even more as the opportunity presents itself. In performance, he will have to take care to adjust the registration he uses in his accompaniment according to the number of singers present, so that his accompaniment at no time will not stand out over the voices, but rather that the voices at all times will keep the upper hand.") [Here I am thinking specifically of Richter's organ accompaniment where he duplicates all the vocal lines.]
p. 470 1
".die Instrumental=Musik: weil sie mit äusserlichen Werckzeugen zu thun hat, und auf selbigen die menschliche Stimme so nachzuahmen suchet, daß alles gebührlich klinge und singe."
("[this thought is directed toward] instrumental music, because it makes use of external tools and attempts to imitate the human voice to such an extent that everything must sound good and sing properly.")
p. 470 2
"Es folget demnach, als eine unumstoßliche und allererste Wahrheit in diesem Stücke, daß auch derjenige, der etwas rechtes auf Instrumenten setzen oder spielen will, nothwendig die Singekunst aus dem Grunde verstehen, und also fast mehr wissen müsse, als ein bloser Sänger. Seines eigentlichen Thuns halber aber darff er deswegen eben kein Vocalist seyn: maaßen die Gabe einer schönen Stimme nicht einem jeden mitgetheilet ist."
("Accordingly it follows as an irrefutable truth of the highest order in this chapter, that the person who wishes to compose for or play on instruments, must understand the art of singing from the bottom up. Actually he/she must know even more than a person who is just a singer and nothing else, but because of the special activity of conducting he/she will not be a vocalist, because the gift of a beautiful voice is not accorded everyone.")
In this final section there are some comments regarding non-OVPP, but that will have to be a separate discussion.
My question regarding the frequent repetition of the first vocal phrase in a Bach aria has been partially answered and additional reasons for the existence of this device are indicated, but I fail to see the direct connection between a certain rhetorical device and this feature in the Bach cantatas. In a general sense repetitions exist in rhetoric and music, but then the specific devices that Mattheson lists can just as easily be applied to sequences in musical compositions as well as the exact, lengthier repetition that I was referring to.
The question that I had raised about HIP of Bach's recitatives was answered in so far as Mattheson makes clear that actual note values are not to be changed. At most it is only the exact beating of time that is relaxed somewhat in a (secco) recitative and as soon as the arioso begins, the usual beating of time is resumed.
The Harnoncourt Doctrine
Using Mattheson's own words and descriptions as a yardstick, it becomes quite evident that the major assumptions that Harnoncourt made about HIP are seriously flawed. There should have been at least a number of points of agreement between the Harnoncourt Doctrine and this major document from Bach's day. On the contrary, almost everything that I found here speaks against the practices that can be heard very clearly in the Teldec Harnoncourt/Leonhardt Bach Cantata Series. This does not mean that HIP is an erroneous assumption. I, along with many others, have come to enjoy the many advantages and new insights that a good HIP recording can give me, but I will not accept as good performance practice quite a number of innovations that Harnoncourt introduced, and unfortunately, many other unthinking conductors have imitated. Mattheson has delineated the standards that we should use when listening intelligently with a good musical ear to performances of the Harnoncourt type.
Charles Francis wrote (August 23, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you so much for your extensive, detailed, analysis. It seems then, that objective study of Mattheson's treatise does not lend any support to Harnoncourt's performance practice, and many statements therein in fact negate his doctrine. This is not to cast aspersions on that bold avant-garde experiment, the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantatas, but rather to draw a clear line between innovation and authenticity. Not to deny the use of boys voices and copies of old instruments was a significant and worthwhile move in the direction of emulating Bach's resources; but the rest of it, phrasing etc., appears arbitrary, and moreover, in contradiction to Mattheson's writings. The musicality of the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt performances was certainly not helped by the difficulties associated with the "new" instruments. In this regard, I am reminded of Johnny Rotten's explanation for the unique sound of his infamous Punk Rock band, namely that none of them could play their instruments properly.
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 24, 2001):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks, Charles, for your kind words. I am always concernthat many potential readers will be turned off by the length of the post.
I agree with your comment, if I understand it correctly:
"When experimental (musical performance) evidence conflicts with theory, it's theory that's erroneous."
I assume that you mean that such experimental musical performance evidence reveals a new and musically enjoyable way of hearing that which may be closer to the composer's intentions.
To which I would then add:
When experimental (musical performance) theory (Harnoncourt's Doctrine) conflicts with certain basic requirements of music (which Mattheson describes), it's the experimental (musical performance) theory that's erroneous.
I am now faced with a new problem:
Mattheson has some comments on OVPP that need some clarification. It appears that a number of readers are familiar with Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" (I am looking at pp. 118, 119 of that book at this moment) which was discussed on this site some time ago (Matthew Westphal and others.) Now I have found a chapter (in German, there is no English translation, as far as I know) of a book (Die Welt der Bach Kantaten – Vol 3, 1999) written by Ton Koopman. In this chapter, Koopman delineates his stand against the extreme interpretation by Rifkin and Parrott. Is anyone interested in knowing the content of Koopman's stance, and if so, is anyone aware of an already available translation of this in English (so I do not have to engage in a futile translation exercise?)
Without having investigated this thoroughly, I am beginning to suspect that in this matter of OVPP there is also a possibility of overstatement and extremism that needs to be 'tempered' by a more moderate approach, just as Harnoncourt's extreme notions definitely need a more reasonable and musical approach.
Charles Francis wrote (August 24, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: I agree with your comment, if I understand it correctly:
"When experimental (musical performance) evidence conflicts with theory, it's theory that's erroneous."
I assume that you mean that such experimental musical performance evidence reveals a new and musically enjoyable way of hearing that which may be closer to the composer's intentions. >
Yes, in the original context, Gähler has demonstrated that Bach's solo violin works can be played as written, by use of fingering techniques including the thumb of the left hand and by use of a curved bow with a lever instead of nut. The theory that these works are unplayable as written, is therefore disproved. Moreover, the musicality of the results obtained (e.g., the new dynamic possibilities afforded by the lever on the bow), together with the compelling polyphony, suggest that Gähler is close to Bach's intent.
< To which I would then add:
When experimental (musical performance) theory (Harnoncourt's Doctrine) conflicts with certain basic requirements of music (which Mattheson describes), it's the experimental (musical performance) theory that's erroneous. >
Yes, I also had that in mind!
< I am now faced with a new problem:
Mattheson has some comments on OVPP that need some clarification. It appears that a number of readers are familiar with Andrew Parrott's "The Essential Bach Choir" (I am looking at pp. 118, 119 of that book at this moment) which was discussed on this site some time ago (Matthew Westphal and others.) I have this book and I also have a 45 minute MP3-file of a telephone interview with Andrew Parrott which may be of interest.
Now I have found a chapter (in German, there is no English translation, as far as I know) of a book (Die Welt der Bach Kantaten – Vol 3, 1999) written by Ton Koopman. In this chapter, Koopman delineates his stand against the extreme interpretation by Rifkin and Parrott. Is anyone interested in knowing the content of Koopman's stance, and if so, is anyone aware of an already available translation of this in English (so I do not have to engage in a futile translation exercise?) >
Personally, I am very interested to hear arguments against Rifkin's thesis. I have an MP3 file of an interview with Stauffer which touches on some of his objections.
< Without having investigated this thoroughly, I am beginning to suspect that in this matter of OVPP there is also a possibility of overstatement and extremism that needs to be 'tempered' by a more moderate approach, just as Harnoncourt's extreme notions definitely need a more reasonable and musical approach. >
I noted in an earlier email that in the case of the Motets, for example, I rather prefer the approach of contrasting soloists with chorus, as used by Reinhard Kammler, to the somewhat monotonous OVPP approach adopted by Cantus Cölln. Without orchestral contrast, vocal contrast becomes an imperative.
Every thesis demands an antithesis, and it might well be that the OVPP-brigade has overstated its case!
Anthony J. Olszowy wrote (August 24, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] My recollection is that Norton, the American publisher of Vol. 1 of the series you describe, is not interested in published English translations of Vols. 2 and 3. A pity for us who do not read German or Dutch.
Robert Sherman wrote (August 27, 2001):
< Charles Francis wrote: I noted in an earlier email that in the case of the Motets, for example, I rather prefer the approach of contrasting soloists with chorus, as used by Reinhard Kammler, to the somewhat monotonous OVPP approach adopted by Cantus Cölln. Without orchestral contrast, vocal contrast becomes an imperative. >
Strongly agree. and again, I recommend the finale to Rilling's BWV 21. He starts OVPP and builds to full chorus with staggering effect.
"Steltzeln" and short bass notes in recitative
Juozas Rimas wrote:
What is "Partita di Signore Steltzeln in G-minor BWV 929" included in Wolfgang Rübsam's CD "From The W.F. Bach Notebook"?
Is Signore Steltzeln a composer? What does the BWV number has to do with him? It's a number of a little prelude..
Bradley Lehman wrote (March 31, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] According to the booklet's note, Bach wrote the menuet and trio that he inserted into this suite (or Partia, not partita) by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. Bach copied this into his son's notebook. Stölzel was Kapellmeister at Saxe-Gotha.
Bradley Lehman wrote (March 31, 2002):
And this same Kapellmeister Stölzel was a guy whose essay "Abhandlung vom Recitativ" documents the convention of short bass notes in recitative, showing that it was current in Bach's part of Germany, Thuringia. Another is Voigt, in Erfurt. And others were Heinichen, Niedt (d.1708), and Telemann, all in Hamburg. The practice continues to be documented after Bach's death, and into the 19th century.
This topic is surveyed in Laurence Dreyfus' chapter "The Accompaniment of Recitative" in Bach's Continuo Group: Players and Practices in his Vocal Works.
Juozas Rimas wrote (November 24, 2002):
I've seen Thomas use this term many times. What is the exact meaning of it? A recitative with only the organ for accompaniment? Does a recitative retain its secco status if the singer is allowed to sing some melodic line amid the usual "stating"? Are evangelist parts secco recitative?
Also, what is the musical value of such pieces? (probably there is information on what Bach himself thought of their importance; we know he was attentive to the chorales, but were secco recitatives just a necessary routine?)
Aryeh Oron wrote (November 25, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] The Bach Cantatas Website includes pages of Terms & Abbreviatons commonly used in discussions and reviews of Bach's vocal works. Among them you can find page of Musical Terms & Abbreviations at:
A short definition of secco recitative is included.
I hope that other members will expand the answer to your question, because this is an important subject.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (November 25, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] Hopefully the webanswers the question of "what is secco recit", so I will comment on the musical value of secco recit mvmts. Of course, there's a funny, sad joke (sad because its true), that I prefer secco recit over aria, but even Bach had many secret things for this form. First off, I will give a brief history of the secco recit:
Monteverdi's operas were basically what we understand secco recit to be, accept for instrumental interludes and choruses, which would have other instruments.
Purcell's recits and arias seemed to intereweave, so the distinction between recit and aria was just emerging.
By 1700, aria and recit were firmly separated, and it would not take until Mozart's and Beethoven's German opera(s) (singspiels) with spoken dialogue to abolish secco recit, and the only recit left were a few accompanieds which were in the same mvmt as a following aria (e.g.: Beethoven, Fidelio, act one: recit: "Abseulicher..." aria: "Komm, o hoffnung")
Now back to Bach (pardon the pun):
there are many hidden messages in secco recit that would answer your question: dissonances and consonances at certain times pertaining to the text, lack of resolution in chord progressions, ascensions/descensions in vocal line and accompaniment... as you can see, there is a myriad of things Bach did in secco recit alone, but why? I would propose that it had in fact become such a "necessary routine" that Bach adapted it, like just about everything else, to his own purposes. Other list members, and believe it or not commentary at the end of the Bernstein English SMP (BWV 248) can give more examples of messages in secco recits
so to answer your question about Bach's view on secco recit: yes, it was a "ecessary routine", or common practice, but Bach took it to a new level, never equal before, after or during his time by anyone else.
Zev Bechler wrote (November 25, 2001):
And so the secco recitative seems to be another Bach singularity - turning an old routine into a challenge and then taking it on and establishing a new record of musical sophistication never to be equalled or even attempted again.
Is there any work devoted to the topic of the Bach secco recitatves ?
Juozas Rimas wrote (November 25, 2001):
[To Zeb Bechler] Of course Bach took recitatives as such to a new level but my initial question was reffering exclusively to secco recitatives, which if I understand correctly, cannot contain even short melodies - just several predictable touches on the organ and several predictable utterances. Eg the tenor recitative from BWV 161 (Komm, du suesse Todesstunde) seems to be secco from the beginning yet it contains obvious melodic segments and the end resembles a Chopin's prelude. Does such a recitative retain its secco status and doesn't turn into a regular superb Bachian recitative?
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 2, 2001):
< Juozas Rimas Jr inquired:
The tenor recitative from BWV 161 (Komm, du suesse Todesstunde) seems to be secco from the beginning yet it contains obvious melodic segments and the end resembles a Chopin's prelude. Does such a recitative retain its secco status and doesn't turn into a regular superb Bachian recitative? >
Bach did not use the term 'secco' as opposed to 'arioso' as 'secco' was defined after Bach had died. See Stephen Crist's article on "Recitative" in the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd].
The term 'secco' was later applied by scholars to Bach's recitatives of this type. Bach does, however, frequently, but not always mark the 'arioso' sections as such. I assume that this inconsistent practice arose from a lack of time to include every 'jot and tittle.' In the discussion of BWV 90, I indicated how much Bach did not include in the score for that cantata. There isn't even a 'Fine' at the end, not to mention the lack of specific instrumentation. Also, Bach probably thought that this distinction between 'secco' and 'arioso' was rather obvious for any practicing musician of his time.
I am certain that if I were to begin to look at the scores, it would not take too long to discover what you may be talking about: a mvt. marked 'Recit.' by Bach which includes both 'secco' and 'arioso' with the 'arioso' section not marked as such. The NBA, under these circumstances, would not even include the 'arioso' marking in fine dots or cursive type, although I could imagine that less authoritative editions might do so.
Matthew Neugebauer wrote (November 26, 2002):
< secco recitatives, which if I understand correctly, cannot contain even short
>melodies - just several predictable touches on the organ and several predictable utterances. >
This is where (pardon my frankness) you misunderstand. With the mediocre composers, this may have been true, and it may sometimes be true with Bach. But usually Bach used representative melodic (and harmonic) lines in his secco recits too. One of the greatest examples of this is in SMP, BWV 244 part 2, #91ish: "Und siehe da, der Vorhang im Tempel zerriss in zwei Stuck":
Both the vocal part (evangelist) and the continuo take part here. An ascending arpeggio and strong high-range notes partly show the action of ripping, but the scalar continuo accents the text even more:"Behold, the veil of the temple was ripped in two from top to bottom" the top to bottom is shown with a high "e", sliding down and then middle c, furiously "ripping" down 2 octaves, which illustrates the bottom of the veil. Then the continuo really "takes the show", if you will, with violent low-range "earth-grounded" tremolos very vividly illustrating: "And the earth shook, etc.". Then something amazing happens: the pace drastically slows down, as does the vocal line, with a held note on "sleeping". Then all the "believers rise out of their tombs" with a calm but strong upward figure, and completely silent continuo. What follows is I guess the "several predictable utterances", but this is in strong contrast with the violent scene of ripping veils and horrendous earthquakes and ressurected people that the listener has just experienced.
Ah that fifth evangelist!
Continue on Part 3
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