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Recitatives in Bach’s Vocal Works

Part 6

Continue from Part 5


Contunue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 58 - Discussions

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 27, 2003):
Brad Lehman asked:
BL: >>And, by the way: what do you consider my "peer group" here, where you refer to it several times in this message? I hesitate to guess at this one.<<
You have just named some of these in your most current message!

BL: >>As for Herr Niedt, whom you seem so intent on denigrating, it seems he was good enough for old J. S. Bach. Bach's own thorough-bass primer from 1738 directly paraphrases Niedt's work from 1700. [This is from John Butt's article "Bach's metaphysics of music" in The Cambridge Companion to Bach. Also, as I noted weeks ago, The Bach Reader similarly mentions that Bach taught from Niedt's treatise.] If Niedt was good enough for Bach, as a basis for his teaching, why isn't he good enough for you? What is to be gained here by soiling Niedt's grave?<<
You still refuse to correct your false assumptions, based upon the work of others whose names you invoke without seriously considering the evidence that I have already presented and which completely refutes their unverifiable myths that maintain that there was some meaningful connection between Bach and Niedt.

Let me refer you to item 433 in the "Bach-Dokumente."

Here are some facts, which I hope are also correctly reported in the books you use as a reference in regard to the Bach-Niedt connection:

1) Absolutely nothing of this manuscript consisting of a title page and 21 handwritten pages is in Bach's handwriting.

2) The title page ascribes the contents to be by Bach [perhaps the two unknown individuals whose handwriting appears in this document hoped to increase the importance of the document by making it appear this way.]

3) This document was never published. Only this obscure copy exists. [Very likely this would not be in existence today, if it were not for Bach's authorship or personal direction indicated on the title page. Can you imagine some older students in Leipzig in the 1830's approaching some rich freshman greenhorns with an offer: "Hey, buddy. We've got some valuable information here that you will get nowhere else. It'll only cost you ....]

4) There is no proof that Bach ever possessed a copy of Niedt's book.

5) A comparison of Niedt's book with the passages written out here indicates that there are numerous substantial changes in the text. There is no way to confirm that the parts not traceable to Niedt were really by Bach. [Certainly some characteristic of the great master would show up in the additional passages.]

6) The musical examples given are fraught with mistakes. [How would Bach even allow such a manuscript to represent his name and his ideas?]

7) Spitta originally thought he had detected the handwriting of Johann Peter Kellner on the title page. Spitta later revised this when he made the connection of some of the passages coming from the Niedt book.

8) Other than the fact that some sections were copied from Niedt's book, the origin and provenance of this manuscript remain a complete mystery.

All of these points deal a serious blow to the credibility of this document.

In a nutshell, to establish a connection between Niedt and Bach upon this single spurious document is an action not representative of a musicological scholarship that wishes itself to be taken seriously.

And just in case you missed my other posting on Niedt which explains why he can not seriously be considered as a meaningful, believable source in this matter:

Only Niedt’s comment seems to go beyond this by suggesting that both the organ and bass player subsist from playing the full note values in the bc part. But Niedt is an ‘Unikum’ and there are many things about him that do not qualify him to be an important authority in regard to performance practice. In only one respect was he slightly noteworthy: he was against having musicians learn or write music in tablature. The MGG reports that from the limited information that we have about him, the fact is “daß die Musik nicht oder nur zeitweise sein Hauptberuf war” [“that music never was, or only temporarily was his main occupation.”] The MGG further reports that “Als Komponist ist Niedt, nach den wenigen Proben in seinen Schriften zu urteilen, über eine zum Teil recht trockene Mittelmäßigkeit nicht hinausgekommen, was sich auch schon aus Äußerungen entnehmen läßt wie z.B. daß der ganze Kontrapunkt doch nur eine »Bärenheuterey« sei und daß er aus seinen Kantaten alle Fugen und Hallelujas verbannt habe, da sie doch nur Ekel und Verdruß erweckten.“ [„As a composer Niedt, judging from some selections from his writings, never rose above mediocrity, a fact that can easily be understood from his own statements such as when he says that the whole matter of counterpoint is simply a ‘stupid’ occupation for dull, lazy people, and another statement where he admits that he had banned (removed) all fugues and hallelujahs from his cantatas, because the only effect which they had was one of repulsion and annoyance.”] And such a person as Niedt is brought into the company of Mattheson and Bach in order to prove that shortened accompaniment in secco recitatives in Bach’s time was the rule and not simply an exception!!!

And yet Niedt appears as a credible witness for Bach’s performance practices! These are examples of rather sloppy scholarship that you have supplied. You run to your sources for aid and comfort and refuse to acknowledge that they have simply been perpetuating a myth about Niedt and Bach’s high regard for his work. Where is your evidence? Just because John Butt says so, or because the ‘Bach Reader’ mentions that Bach taught from this book, does this make this a more reliable fact? Where is there evidence to counter what I have presented? Or is it beneath you or them to bother about presenting credible evidence?

Brad, why do you have difficulty admitting that something must be wrong with the opinions offered by Dreyfus, Butt, David & Mendel, etc. when they uphold Niedt as a credible witness?

BL: >>Now, instead, consider a reading of this musical passage where the organist simply releases the continuo notes and chords along with the cellist and bassoonist...using his ears and his musical acumen, not just his eyes (with the security blanket of the hallowed written page) and a "Heinichen rule" or any other type of rule. That is, he's a musically competent keyboard player who knows how to let the singer (no matter how weak or strong) take the lead in a recitative; a keyboard player who understands there doesn't have to be a wall-to-wall carpet of sustained harmony under every sung note; an organist who knows how to play in a church where the acoustics automatically sustain every chord somewhat, after the releases; an organist who understands that his own part (the bass *line* enhanced with harmonies) must also breathe.<<
Yes, this sounds like Brad, the ‘musically competent keyboard player,’ playing the continuo part in mvt. 4 of BWV 58 and not realizing that Bach had already resolved the problem of a ‘wall-to-wall carpet of sustained harmony’ by personally writing out the shortened accompaniment of the secco portion of the recitative (only 4 ms.) in the other bc parts (whichever instruments happened to be used along with the organ.) All that would be required is that the bass notes continue to sound as written (without the chords in the right hand being held out – Heinichen says that the right hand is lifted up after the chord has been struck, an event that is concurrent with the shortened notes in the other instruments. The single note left sounding on the organ provides the necessary support for the soprano voice, which in this case is assumed to be (a reasonable assumption because Bach had to write a simpler aria to replace the earlier more difficult one) a boy soprano with certain insecurities (possibly also intonational as well as being ‘challenged’ in the actual volume of voice.) The bass *line* without the harmonies does nothave to ‘breathe’ with the probable frequent breaths of the boy soprano. While taking a breath, the boy soprano will find comfort and solace in knowing that the foundation upon which he relies has not disappeared. It is at this point where he can adjust his intonation if it has wandered off course. You need only listen to some (not all) of the boy sopranos in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series to know what I am speaking about here. Even a trained singer like Esswood loses his bearings (goes flat) at times in secco recitatives, when the support in the bc is missing due to the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus theory (now a rule as applied by almost all HIP ensembles) on the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 27, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] When he references this document, John Butt cites it as "the short manuscript thorough-bass primer of 1738 attributed, relatively securely, to Bach." His footnote sends us to an article by H-J Schulze, in Studien zur Bach-Ueberlieferung im 18. Jahrhundert (Leipzig and Dresden, 1984), pages 125-127.

The next two footnotes send us to the Bach-Dokumente II, p. 334 (as you know, having them in hand) for the comparison between Niedt's text and the title page text of the 1738 document. He also says "See also the new annotated translation by P L Poulin, J S Bach -- Precepts and principles for playing the thorough-bass or accompanying in four parts (Oxford, 1994), pp 10-11."

So, if you have issues with Niedt, I invite you to check it out in those places (Schulze, Poulin, and Butt), rather than considering that you already have all the facts.

But again I ask, as yesterday: what is to be gained here by discrediting Niedt, and why is it so important to you? Are you searching desperately for any possible small flaw in Dreyfus/Mendel/Schering's reasoning (their reliance on a source which you hope is worthless), so you can yank out that tiny stone and hope the whole edifice collapses, and so you can point triumphantly at them and mock them as bad scholars? That appears to be your strategy.

Meanwhile, you seem to have ignored the fact that all the arguments I presented yesterday do not rely on ANY treatise (Niedt, Dreyfus, or otherwise) but are simply practical reasons why my interpretation is elegant.

Who's the one here who feels he must rely on authority? It seems to be you, not me. Even if you do succeed in yanking a couple of stones out of Dreyfus et al's historical theories (good luck!...and, remember, Dreyfus himself has said he's trying to Describe historically verifiable practices rather than PREscribe what performers must do), the edifice won't collapse anyway, because the MUSICAL reasons are strong on their own, not needing anybody's treatises (old or modern) as permission to read the music a certain way; rather, I do it because it's an effective way of playing the music, trusting my ears and my experience with resonant churches, and my experience accompanying all kinds of singers (soloists, choirs, and whole congregations). Something that is credible--such as shortened accompaniment, for musical reasons--stands on its own merits, not from an authority figure saying so.

Bach's own student, on basso continuo accompaniment

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, you're gonna have some fun here wriggling out of this next one.

You've asserted repeatedly that Niedt is a "Unikum" and irrelevant and an all-around loser, because he was such a crappy composer, and because Bach didn't own his book at the time of his (Bach's) death. Suppose for the moment that you HAVE been able to demolish poor Niedt sufficiently, such that you believe you can make the whole argument about continuo style crumble. (I'm not saying that you have; but in your own mind, clearly that's what you believe you have achieved, the way you've been crowing about it.)

What if I could show you another treatise by a different person who explicitly said the organist must lift the notes; and this person, an organist himself, was verifiably a student of Bach's at Leipzig c1740? Wouldn't you have to demolish him as well? Such a person does exist. Mendel mentions him on page 358 of his article. Dreyfus also mentions him once in his book; and so does Peter Williams in his two-part article "Basso Continuo on the Organ." Dreyfus, Mendel, and Williams do not spell out that explicit connection with Bach in Leipzig, so to be sure about this I looked him up in the Oxford Composer Companion: J S Bach, which is a book I know you also have; and it's true, according to that (a book which you rely on quite heavily for things you post here). This other man was Bach's student in Leipzig. How close a source do you need, before you will finally admit that people directly in Bach's own circle played in this manner?

That is: Niedt isn't a "Unikum"; your argument falls. Kaboom.

No, I'm not going to hand you this one on a platter, or let you bluff your way around it; you need to go look it up in Arthur Mendel's article to find out who it is. You DO have a copy of Mendel's article, do you not? (If you don't, if you've never actually read it, I don't see what basis you've had for the past several months to criticize Mendel....)

So, your assignment here is to figure out who I'm talking about, and then in the light of that evidence to re-examine your assertions about all the above.


Also, while you're there looking at the Mendel article: what do you think of his conclusion #2 on page 360?

Or, are you now going to say that you don't even need to bother looking it up, because you're so sure Arthur Mendel is wrong no matter what he might actually be saying? I know you've never read The Bach Reader because you've said so several times; and you've never actually said you've read his article about accompaniment, either. I'm you actually know Mendel's work, from having read it? Or he just another convenient name to you, another enemy to put up in the middle of your growing pantheon of Schering dupes and idiot musicologists and bad musicians (on the basis that they come to conclusions different from your own)...part of some huge conspiratorial Axis of Evil that is destroying the music, perhaps?

Anyway, enjoy.

Brad Lehman
(Y'see, I have nothing to lose here anymore because you've already called me a dupe of Dreyfus, and impugned my own reasoning ability, and more. Where can I go but up?)

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Tom, I'll save you some time here. After posing the questions below last night, I did a bit more research this morning to make sure it's a valid Easter egg hunt. It turns out there's some confusion and disagreement among the reference sources, and perhaps also some conflation of several people of the same surname! The Oxford Composer Companion and Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians disagree as to Voigt's birthdates (but both place him as an organist in Leipzig); Mendel doesn't tell us Voigt's first name; Dreyfus and Williams disagree as to Voigt's initials; Mendel, Dreyfus, and Williams all cite this other Voigt's 1742 treatise from Erfurt (the one where he says the organist must lift the notes so the singer's words can be heard), and it's probably not the same Voigt who was Bach's student c1740, after all. Sorry about that! (You would have figured this out, eventually, but I'm saving you some time here by withdrawing that part of the question. Honest mistakes.) Nor is it the same early 20th century Voigt whom you quote all the time, of course!

The fact remains that you still need to demolish this other Voigt in some way, showing that his 1742 treatise is inadmissible evidence. (It'll be fun to see this, as your creativity seems to have no bounds.) It won't do simply to mock Dreyfus, Williams, Lehman, Boyd, and Slonimsky (all or several) for any honest errors that have been made as to the man's first name or birthdates; you need to find out what this Erfurt Voigt's deal was, and somehow blow him out of the water so your whipping-boy Niedt remains as your Unikum. What does MGG say about that Voigt?


Anyway, the most important questions remain:

- Have you actually read Mendel's work?

- What do you think of his conclusion #2 on page 360?

- In light of my other posting this morning, do you still seriously believe Niedt is a worthless source, and that anybody who cites him is a misguided idiot, not to be trusted? I'm spending most of this evening and almost all of tomorrow with the scholar Paul M Walker, performing the Bach choral works I mentioned here earlier. Walker is the contributor of entries about fugue in the newest edition of The New Grove. And, I have Dr Walker's book right here in my hand: Theories of Fugue from the Age of Josquin to the Age of Bach, published 2000. This book:
My copy is one lent to me last year by Walker, at his house. "Hey, can I borrow that?" "Sure, take this one." Anyway, Walker cites Niedt's book multiple times for 18th century descriptions of contrapuntal terminology and theory (which is the point of his--Walker's--book). He doesn't say anything about Niedt being an untrustworthy "Niete" whose opinions are worthless; rather, he cites Niedt at face value. Should I tell Dr Walker he's a bad scholar, or that there's a gentleman near Chicago who thinks he has the corner of the market on Niedt? I'm sure he'll get a good laugh out of it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2003):
Brad stated: >> It turns out there's some confusion and disagreement among the reference sources, and perhaps also some conflation of several people of the same surname! The Oxford Composer Companion and Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians disagree as to Voigt's birthdates (but both place him as an organist in Leipzig); Mendel doesn't tell us Voigt's first name; Dreyfus and Williams disagree as to Voigt's initials; Mendel, Dreyfus, and Williams all cite this other Voigt's 1742 treatise from Erfurt (the one where he says the organist must lift the notes so the singer's words can be heard), and it's probably not the same Voigt who was Bach's student c1740, after all.<<
Some 'Voigt' associations with Bach from the Bach-Dokumente:

Andreas Voigt's wife (he was Leipzig's 'Master of the Guard' - Policeman?) was present at the baptism of one of Bach's children on April 19, 1742 in Leipzig.

Johann Christian Voigt (born ? - died April 4, 1745 in Waldenburg, Saxony where a document seems to indicate that was a substitute (organist?) in 1733)
He is quoted in a book by Johann David Jungnicol, published in Erfurt in 1742. This book is in the form of a conversation between an organist and his pupil. In it Voigt is asked if he knew Bach. "Yes, as a boy 12 years old, I saw him in Mühlhausen, but never really got to know him [Bach]. But I did later become acquainted with Mr. Krebs who is a 'creature' of Bach's making. He [Krebs] played extremely well on our tempered organ [in Waldenburg.]

Voigt is mentioned in the announcement that preceded the publication of Mizler's "Musikalische Bibliothek" as the 'organist from Waldenburg.' His full name is hidden behind the initials 'JCV OW.' His predecessor at the organ in Waldenburg was Jacob Ernst Hübner.

Voigt's name appears in the following sources: Spitta, Bach Jahrbuch 1930 (article by H. Löffler), The Organs (1952) No. 125, p. 93 (W. Emery), Adlung, Erler, Vollhardt.

Then there are both of the Johann Georg Voigts (one senior, the other junior)

Johann Georg Voigt, Senior originally came from Celle but lived in Ansbach (1706-1766 - he was 77 years old when he died.

Johann Georg Voigt, Junior, born June 12, 1728 in Ansbach, died May 5, 1765 in Ansbach. He is documented as having applied for the position of the organist at the Stiftskirche St. Gumbertus in Ansbach on Dec. 9, 1751. On June 5, 1752 he was granted this position in Ansbach.

Bach Dokumente Item 641 is a letter of application for this position (the footnote indicates that Voigt's application was 'etwas unklar abgefaßt' ['somewhat unclear' making it a bit difficult to understand] in which he mentions (implies) that he had studied under Bach for 3 years at the very end of Bach's life [Voigt refers to the fact that Bach is very ill. It appears as if the intended 3 years of study may have been much less and that Voigt really did leave Bach prematurely. Amazingly, his statement, dated December 9, 1751, still refers to 'his master's ongoing illness' as if Voigt might still return to his studies with Bach. A year and a half after Bach's death, Voigt is still wishing for Bach's recuperation from his illness! Perhaps this was Voigt's way of trying to explain why he did not even possess a simple document (such as the type that Bach usually supplied for his students once they had completed their studies with him and needed a recommendation.) It makes me wonder if this isn't a bit like Beethoven's studies under Mozart (practically non-existent, but nevertheless always mentioned because of the 'big-name' connection.)

The MGG lists only:

Johann Georg Hermann Voigt, born Mai 14, 1769 in Osterwieck (Harz), died February 24, 1811 in Leipzig;

and his son Carl Ludwig (Louis), born November 8, 1791 in Zeitz, died February 21, 1831 in Leipzig. -

"Als Sohn des Stadtmusicus C.C. Voigt geb., kam Johann Georg Hermann Voigt 1776 zu seinem Großvater, dem Stadtmusicus J.G. Rose nach Quedlinburg. 1785 wurde er als Violinist am Großen Konzert in Leipzig angestellt, 1790 als Schloßorganist in Zeitz, kehrte aber 1801 als Organist der Petrikirche und 1. Violoncellist des Konzertorchesters nach Leipzig zurück. 1802 wurde Voigt Thomasorganist und gehörte 1808 als Viola-Spieler zu den Mitbegründern des Gewandhausquartetts. Voigt besaß als Violoncellist einen »nicht üblen, obschon zu wenig hervorstechenden Ton«. Die wenigen erhaltenen Werke weisen mit Dreiklangsthemen und Orchester-Tremolo auf Einflüsse der Mannheimer Schule. Die Menuette sind Gebrauchsmusik ganz unterschiedlicher Qualität.

Carl Ludwig (Louis) Voigt erlernte das Violoncello-Spiel bei seinem Vater und vervollkommnete sich dann bei J.J.F. Dotzauer in Dresden. Seit 1809 war er am Leipziger Theater- und Konzertorchester angestellt und wurde 1811 nach dem Tode seines Vaters ebenda 1. Violoncellist, auch Mitglied des Gewandhaus-Quartetts.

Voigt besaß nach dem Urteil der Zeitgenossen als Violoncellist »bedeutende Fertigkeiten« und einen »angenehmen Ton, spielte jedoch mit zu wenig Kraft und Seele«. Seine Kompositionen, alle dem Violoncello gewidmet, sind gefällig und unterhaltend."

Whether there is any connection here to the Johann Georg Voigts above, is not clear. Of interest is the fact that one of these later Voigts became the organist at the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig (1802) and was a founding member of the famous Gewandhaus String Quartet. Both of these Voigts played the violoncello professionally.

That's all so far....

Brad, why would I need Mendel's book, if I can seem to get most of the information I need elsewhere? In any case, I have you as a source, as someone who can look up and reveal truly important, pertinent insights and explications that are contained only in his book(s).

Secco revisited and amplified

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 28, 2003):
By revisiting and expanding with specific references the primary sources that have a bearing upon the Schering/Mendel/Dreyfus esoteric theory regarding the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives in Bach’s vocal works, I hope to supply some critical evidence that may 1) clarify the strong connection with this theory that emanates from the original source in Schering’s book and demonstrate how his methods directly influenced the type of ‘argumentation’ used by later supporters of this theory, and 2) amplify the material given by the NBA on the primary evidence as given by Schering and admitted by Dreyfus as being the ‘most impressive evidence’ in support of this theory.

As already brought up earlier on the BRML by Brad B. (to my dismay since I thought Bach could be discussed without involving politics of the 20th century), Arnold Schering, “the doyen of German musicologists” (along with Karl Strau, Gotthold Fritscher, and Günther Ramin, these latter 3 who are mentioned as ‘true masters’ of the organ and leading members of the organ mvt. within Germany,) “wanted to restore the organ to its Baroque foundations, demanding for it a drier, cleaner sound than that with which the practitioners of the Romantic period had allegedly corrupted it. Essentially, this called for a renaissance of the original simple pipe organ as an instrument reduced to its basic technology. It was claimed that whereas an original organ could and should be played with a maximum of transparency, the modern, technically over equipped instrument was wrongly being used to simulate the sound of huge symphony orchestras, to muddle linearity, to drown out precision, and to effect mawkish melodrama and tearful sentimentality.” [p. 172 of “The Twisted Muse” by Michael H. Kater, Oxford University Press, 1997] Notwithstanding the fact that Kater neglected to mention the prime originators and movers behind the “Orgelbewegung”, going way back to Albert Schweitzer as well as Hans Henny Jahnn (1894-1959), who even in his exile from Germany continued to have a great influence on the course of events surrounding the organ mvt., it is still amazing to see how the ‘Nazi-like’ (as Kater would imply) thinking concerning the purification of the secco recitative from the romantic, Wagnerian incrustation, influenced the manner in which he [Schering] evolved the theory of the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives in Bach’s sacred works. This Schering theory was passed on virtually unchanged from its inception in 1936 to the present day where it abounds among HIP practitioners as supported by Laurence Dreyfus’ book, “Bach’s Continuo Group” Harvard University Press, 1987 (Chapter III “The Accompaniment of Recitatives” pp. 72-107.) As if Dreyfus already sensed how distasteful [due to Schering’s association with Nazi influences as later defined by Michael Kater] it might be to acknowledge that this theory was, for the most part, quite well defined by Schering who also presented in his book the primary example upon which all later proponents of this theory would rely, Dreyfus attempts to minimize Schering’s influence: (on p. 73) “Arnold Schering mentioned the subject in 1936 only in passing…”[Comment:’only in passing’ says it all; what did Dreyfus expect? a whole book on the subject? below I will quote from Schering’s book]; “Schering based his judgment on the notational inconsistency in Bach’s parts for the St. Matthew Passion” [This is true and it becomes the virtual cornerstone of this theory, as reluctant as Dreyfus and others are to admit this; the wording seems to imply that Schering just happened to notice a difference in the Bach parts, but the truth is that this notational difference is between the autograph score and a single bc part.]; “Schering supposed that Bach’s parts made explicit a musical practice that was actually implicit in the score” [Why does Dreyfus say ‘supposed’? Perhaps to disparage Schering’s ‘discovery?’] (and on p. 97): “The parts for the St. Matthew Passion present the most impressive evidence regarding Bach’s use of short accompaniment” [No credit is given here to Schering who supplied this ‘cornerstone’ documentation in 1936! or did Dreyfus expect every reader to be astute enough to make a connection here with a passing reference to Schering’s contribution to this theory 24 pages earlier? –What do you think Dreyfus is doing here in regard to the shortened secco accompaniment? He is also doing a lot of ‘supposing,’ a ‘supposing’ that supports the idea of an esoteric tradition concerning the performance of secco recitatives during Bach’s lifetime. He will then attempt to provide further evidence from Mendel and his own efforts at documentation.]

Here I wish to ‘read into the record’ pertinent materials from important sources so that others who do not have access to these sources will be able to access this material more directly without having later experts place any kind of ‘spin’ on this evidence as you have just seen above.

Arnold Schering “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” Leipzig, 1936

After explaining the use of arpeggiated chordal bc accompaniment on a violoncello as based practices documented in the late 18th century (Johann Baumgartner, den Haag, 1774, and later Baillot, Levasseur, Catel and Baudiot, Paris, 1804; and even later Joseph F. Fröhlich’s examples from Italian opera written during the 1820s – Schering could only find a copy printed in 1844!; and an example taken from a bc performance part of the SMP as used by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra in the 19th century), Schering now commences to build up to his ‘new’ discovery:

p. 110

“Die im vorstehenden gegebene kurze Erläuterung des akkordisch improvisierten Violoncellakkompagnements war erforderlich, um auch gegenüber Bachs Praktik besser gerüstet zu sein. Da wir frühere authentische Anweisungen als die genannten nicht besitzen, die Beschreibung der ganzen Kunstübung sich aber immer gleich bleibt, dürfen wir ohne Gefahr auf die in Leipzig unter Bach bestehende zurückschließen. Gerade in seiner Zeit vollzog sich deren allmählicher Übergang aus dem Bereich der Gambe in das des Violoncells. Sie wird sich schon damals im gleichen Rahmen vollzogen haben; denn das Seccorezitativ Bachs ist grundsätzlich von dem der italienischen Oper nicht unterschieden. Dem Spieler war größte Freiheit gegeben, sowohl in der Wahl der Griffe und des Orts des Einfallens wie in der harmonischen Führung, die von den strengen Regeln des Satzes abweichen und unbequeme dissonante Bildungen sogar übersehen konnte.

Eins jedenfalls ergibt sich mit völliger Gewißheit: daß Orgel wie Violoncell bei Seccorezitativen *niemals* [Sperrdruck = spezial emphasis on this word in German] den Baßton ausgehalten haben. Dies war alte, feste Überlieferung und überall Regel, wo diese Rezitativart überhaupt eingeführt war. Wo immer sie erschien, bedeutete es eine *Selbstverständlichkeit* für den Spieler, die gehaltenen Noten in der allgemein gebräuchlichen Weise in isolierte Akkordschläge *umzudeuten.* Hierfür hat Bach selbst gelegentlich Anweisung gegeben. Im Partiturautograph der Matthäuspassion ist das erste Rezitativ des Evangelisten folgendermaßen notiert: [Example from the autograph score is given where a single tone in the bc is given as whole notes that are tied together (slurs are used to indicate that no break in the tone should occur until the next note on a different tone is encountered 10 beats later.] Nach Ausweis der Stimmen hat Bach dies ausführen lassen: [Example from the original part for bc is given where the same note is sounded for a single beat (a quarter note) after which a quarter-note rest, then a half-note rest, then a whole-note rest, and finally another quarter-note rest is indicated.] …
Die hier erläuterte Rezitativpraxis gestattet auch einen wichtigen Rückschluß auf die Art des Rezitativvortrags des Sängers. Erfolgte die Angabe des charakteristischen Akkords jedesmal nur beim Wechsel der Harmonie, so blieb die dazwischenliegende Rede des Sängers mehr oder weniger lange ohne harmonische Stütze, also gleichsam „trocken“ („secco.“) Das hatte zur Folge, daß die Worte, die nunmehr fast isoliert herauskamen, *vortrefflich verstanden* wurden, -- eine Beobachtung, die wohl überhaupt erst zu dieser Übung geführt hatte. Aber sie forderte gleichzeitig zu *schnellem, lebendigem* Vortrag auf, zu einem „parlar cantando,“ das bei einzelnen Noten nicht länger verweilt als nötig, sondern bestrebt ist, den zwischen den einzelnen Akkordstützen sich dehnenden, modulatorisch belebten Zwischenraum leicht und natürlich zu überbrücken. Wie auf der Bühne, so sollte auch in der Kirche das inhaltlich jederzeit höchst wichtige Rezitativ genau verstanden werden. Und da die eben dargestellte Vortragsmanier dies erlaubte, so konnte beim Druck der für die Gemeinde bestimmten Kantatentexte die Rezitativpartie ohne weiteres weggelassen werden. Eine Rückkehr zur akkordischen Begleitung des richtigen „Secco“ würde manchen unserer Bach-Sänger von der unleidlichen Angewohnheit heilen, die Rezitative mit dickem Pathos ungefühlvollen, meist rhythmisch verwässerten Akzenten aus ihrer ursprünglichen Sphäre hinauszudrängen. Rezitativ bedeutete nicht „Fortsetzung des Ariengesangs auf anderer Ebene,“ sondern dessen stärksten Gegensatz: höchstmögliche Annäherung an die gesprochene *natürliche Rede.* Je schlichter, unpersönlicher, unaffektierter Bachs Rezitative vorgetragen werden, um so ergreifender und stilvoller wirken sie, je wagnerischer man sie singt, um so geschwollener. Hätten Bachs Schüler und Studenten in Stimmklang und Vortrag persönliche Ergriffenheit zu simulieren gewagt, der Meister hätte sie wohl als Komödianten zur Kirche hinausgejagt.“

[„It was necessary to give the preceding short explanation of the chordally improvised violoncello accompaniment {of secco recitatives in Bach’s sacred works} so as better to be prepared to understand Bach’s performance practice {of these recitatives.} Since we do not possess any earlier authentic instructions {regarding these practices} than those already mentioned, and since the description of this entire artistic practice has always remained the same over time, there will be no danger or risk in our being able to reach a conclusion {by inferring from a later historical time what is discovered there and applying it to an earlier one} that the secco recitatives performed in Leipzig under Bach’s direction would be the same as the later documents point out. It was just then during Bach’s lifetime that a gradual transition from the viola da gamba to the violoncello was taking place. This performance practice, with the change from viola da gamba to violoncello, would have been carried out under the very same circumstances presented by the secco recitative, for it is a fact that Bach’s secco recitative was basically not treated any differently than that of the Italian opera. The greatest amount of freedom was granted to the bc player, in the choice of how the chords will be realized and where the chords will be played as well as to oversee just where the direction of harmonic progressions begins to deviate from the already established rules (figured bass) and to create unpleasant dissonances.

Out of all of this there is one thing that is absolutely certain: that, in the case of secco recitatives, the organ as well as the violoncello NEVER held out the bass notes (for their full values.) This was an old, firmly established tradition and was the rule wherever this type of recitative in general had been introduced. Wherever such a recitative appeared {in the music}, it was taken for granted {it went without saying}that the bc performer would, according to the usual practice, translate the long, held notes into chords that are struck in an isolated manner. Bach himself occasionally gave directions for this performance practice. In the autograph score of the St. Matthew Passion, the first recitative of the evangelist is notated as follows: [Example from the autograph score is given where a single tone in the bc is given as whole notes that are tied together. Slurs are used to indicate that no break in the tone should occur until the next note on a different tone is encountered 10 beats later.] According to the evidence given by the parts, Bach had this performed as follows: [Example from the original part for bc is given where the same note is sounded for a single beat (a quarter note) after which a quarter-note rest, then a half-note rest, then a whole-note rest, and finally another quarter-note rest is indicated.] This performance practice pertaining to secco recitatives also allows us to draw an important conclusion regarding the singer’s manner of declamation. If the sounding of the characteristic chords took place each time only when the harmony changed, then the singer’s spoken words, which were situated between these chords, were left, more or less, without any harmonic support, hence this is called “secco = dry” performance practice. The result of all of this was that the words which were now expressed in an almost isolated fashion (no supporting instruments), were UNDERSTOOD PERFECTLY, --this was an observation that probably led to this practice in the first place. But this practice called upon the singer to engage in a FAST, LIVELY manner of performance, one which might be called a ‘parlar cantando,’ that does not linger on any given note any longer than is necessary, but rather strives to connect easily and naturally the ever expanding and modulatory enlivened space between the bc chords. In the same way that these recitatives, that are always most important for their text content, must be clearly understood coming from an opera stage, so also must it be in a church. And since this manner of performance as just described would allow for this, the printing of the recitatives in certain cantata texts for the congregation could be dispensed with easily. A return to this proper type of secco recitative accompaniment with isolated chords would cure many a Bach singer in our country of the tetchy habit of singing these recitatives with excessive pathos, with emotional, mostly rhythmically watered-down accents and force these singers out of their usual way of doing things. Singing a recitative did not imply “continuing to sing an aria, but only on a different level,” but rather its complete opposite: coming as close as possible to real, natural speech. The more simply, impersonally and unaffectedly Bach’s recitatives are performed, the more movingly and stylistically appropriate will their effect be {upon the listener,} the more that they are sung in a Wagnerian style, the more bombastic they will be. If Bach’s grade and high school pupils and university students had even dared to simulate in the sound of their voices as well as style of performance any kind of personal attempt to move {their audience emotionally with any kind of disingenuousness,} the master would certainly have chased them out of the church as if they had acted like comedians.”

NBA II/5 (SMP BWV 244) Preface p. VIII:

„Zu unserer Neuausgabe sei auf folgende Besonderheiten hingewiesen: Bachs Matthäus-Passion ist in zwei Fassungen auf uns gekommen. Der vorliegende Band enthält die spätere Fassung BWV 244, während die frühere, BWV 244b, in NBA II/5a als kommentierte Faksimile-Ausgabe der Abschrift Altnickels – der einzigen Quelle, in der diese Fassung vollständig überliefert ist – veröffentlicht wird. Allein, auch innerhalb der im vorliegenden Bande herausgegebenen späteren Gestalt enthalten die Bachschen Originalquellen eine Reihe beträchtlicher Varianten, die teils durch Bachs unermüdliche Weiterarbeit am Werk selbst, teils durch aufführungspraktische Bedingungen einer in die 1740er Jahre zu datierenden Wiederaufführung dieser wohl 1735 entstandenen Werkfassung verursacht sind. Einzelangaben zu diesen Varianten findet man im Kapital IV des Kritischen Berichts; doch seien die wichtigsten hier kurz hervorgehoben.

Die Continuobegleitung der Evangelistenpartie schreibt Bach noch in seiner Reinschriftpartitur der späteren Fassung in langen Haltetönen:
Erst beim Ausschreiben der Stimmen notiert er den Continuopart so, wie er im vorliegenden Band wiedergegeben ist, offenbar um die Begleitung des Evangelisten noch wirkungsvoller von der Jesusbegleitung in gehaltenen Striecherakkorden zu unterscheiden….“
„Zur Wiederaufführung in den 1740er Jahren wurde die Orgel des II. Chores durch ein Cembalo ersetzt, worin wir sicherlich nur eine Notmaßnahme Bachs zu erblicken haben….“
„Für die Besetzung der Continuogruppe beider Chöre lassen sich jeweils Violoncello, Violone (beide mehrfach besetzt) und Orgel nachweisen. Die Mitwirkung des üblicherweise hinzugehörenden Fagotts ist nirgends belegt; doch darf als sicher gelten, daß Bach auf dessen Mitwirkung, wenn überhaupt, dann allenfalls aus Raum- oder Personalmangel, keinesfalls aus künstlerischer Absicht verzichtete.“

[„In regard to this new edition {of Bach’s music,} the following special features need to be mentioned: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion has come down to us in two versions. The present volume contains the later version, BWV 244, while the earlier one, BWV 244b, in NBA II/a will appear as a facsimiwith commentary of Altnickol’s copy – the only source in which this version is given in its entirety. However, even in its later form, as published here in this volume, the original Bach sources contain a considerable number of variants, that were caused partly by Bach’s untiring, continuous efforts to improve this work, and partly caused by the special performance conditions caused by a later (sometime in the 1740’s) repeat performance of this version which was most likely completed in 1735. Details about these variants are given in Chapter 4 of the Critical Report; however, here some of the most important ones have been selected for special emphasis:

In his clear (autograph) copy [of his last version], Bach still writes the bass notes of the continuo accompaniment of the part of the evangelist as long, held notes: Only while writing out the parts does Bach notate the continuo part [only one such part] in such a way, as it is reproduced in the present volume – this was obviously done in order to make the accompaniment of the Evangelist more effective by underlining the distinction between this part and the long, sustained chords played by the strings as accompaniment for the part of Jesus….”

“For the later performance in the 1740s, the organ of Chorus II was replaced by a harpsichord, which we will certainly need to understand as an emergency substitution on the part of Bach….”

“There is proof for the use of the violoncello, violone (more than one of these instruments for each part) and organ as part of the continuo group for each of the two choirs. However, there is no proof for the bassoon which usually belongs to this continuo group; yet it can certainly be considered unlikely that Bach would have performed this work without them, and if he did so (not use bassoons), then this would have occurred because of lack of space or lack of players and certainly not out of artistic considerations.”]

NBA II/5 KB (SMP, BWV 244)

Summary of Key Sources:

A – Autograph Score (Bach’s Late Version – Clear Copy)
(Here Bach uses long, held-over (slurred) notes in the bc part of the Evangelist.)

B – Original Set of Parts (based upon A)

(Here, out of the 7 different continuo parts, only one indicates the shortened accompaniment in the bc for the Evangelist.)

C – Altnickol’s Copy of the Early (Original?) version (BWV 244b)

[Both Bach’s original score and set of parts are lost]

(Here Bach uses long, held-over (slurred) notes in the bc part of the Evangelist.)

Here is the breakdown of the original parts for Bach’s later version (the numbers identify the specific parts as analyzed by the NBA):

B – consists of 40 parts (copies from the score, about half are autograph or partially autograph – Bach copied only the 1st part {of the SMP,} the rest was completed by another copyist.

Of concern here are the continuo parts for the 1st & 2nd choruses:

B20: 1st Chorus Continuo Part (19 pp.) Autograph
B21: 1st Chorus Continuo Part (19 pp. – Doublet) Copyist 2
B22: 1st Chorus Organo Part (20 pp.) transposed; Copyist 4; figured bass by Bach
B37: 2nd Chorus Continuo Part (12 pp.) Autograph (does not include recit.&arias)
B38: 2nd Chorus Continuo Part (12 pp. Doublet) Copyist 2
B39: 2nd Chorus Organo Part (14 pp.) transposed; Copyist 4; figured bass by Bach
B40: 2nd Chorus Continuo pro Cembalo (11 pp.) Copyist 7; corrections by Bach

B21 and B22 were both coped from B20

B40 was copied from B39 and B39 from B37. B38 was copied from B37

The only part of consequence here is B20, which contains the ‘shortened’ recitative accompaniment for the Evangelist in Bach’s handwriting.

Continuing from the KB on p. 113 ff.:

“Als Bach im Jahre 1736 eine Wiederaufführung der Passion plante, muß er Gründe gehabt haben, die ihn zu einer Neuanfertigung von Partitur und Stimmen veranlaßten. Einer dieser Gründe war zweifellos die Aufteilung des bisher für beide Chöre gemeinsamen Continuoparts, ein weiterer vielleicht die Kürzung der Stütztöne in den Evangelistenrezitativen. Aber die einzigen Gründe können das nicht gewesen sein; denn diese hätten keinesfalls die Neuanfertigung der Partitur und des gesamten Stimmenmaterials erfordert, zumal da die Kürzung der Continuo-Stütztöne in A noch gar nicht verwirklicht wurde….

Die Quellen A und B (ohne B 2, 36, 40) sind mit größter Wahrscheinlichkeit für die Passionsaufführung im Jahre 1736 entstanden. Bei dieser Aufführung erhielt erstmals jeder der beiden Chöre seine eigene Continuogruppe. Ob überdies noch die kleine Orgel auf der Ostempore zur Verstärkung des cantus firmus mitgewirkt hat, ist ungewiß…. Außer der genannten Aufteilung des Continuo sind die Hauptmerkmale der Neufassung: [A number of items are listed] endlich die Kürzung der Continuonoten in den Evangelistenrezitativen, die Bach jedoch erst beim Ausschreiben der Stimmen vornahm, während die Partitur noch gehaltene Noten vorsieht.“

[„When Bach planned a repeat performance of the Passion in 1736, he must have had reasons, which caused him write out an entirely new version of the score with its accompanying parts. One of the reasons for this undoubtedly has to do with the division of the continuo part which originally served as a common basis for both choirs, and another reason might have been the shortening of the supporting chords in the recitatives of the Evangelist. But these could not have been the sole reasons, for these would certainly not have caused an entirely new copy of the score and all the parts to be written out, particularly since the shortening of the bc supporting bass notes in the autograph score had not yet been realized….

The sources A and B (without B 2, 36, 40) were created most probably for a performance of the Passion in 1736. For this particular performance each of the two choirs for the first time received a separate continuo group. It is uncertain whether the small organ on the east balcony was used for supporting the cantus firmus….Besides the already mentioned division of the continuo parts, the main distinguishing features of the new version are: [A number of items are listed] finally the shortening of the notes in the continuo part of the Evangelist recitatives, a change which Bach only undertook at the point when he copied these recitatives from the score which still had the long, held notes.”]

Interim Summary:

1) Dreyfus’ obviously cavalier treatment of Schering’s contribution to the specific secco recitative theory of shortened accompaniment should become apparent from the material quoted above.

2) Schering had problems finding contemporaneous proof for the theory of the esoteric shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives. It was left to Mendel and Dreyfus to attempt come up with such evidence.

3) Some of Schering’s other ideas still receive support by Dreyfus and others today:

a) the description of this performance practice has always been the same and it is part of an old, firmly established tradition that was always the rule with secco recitatives

b) it is possible to infer from post-Bachian documents what Bach’s practices were

c) Bach’s secco recitative is basically the same as that of Italian opera; the church recitative is essentially the same as the opera recitative

d) the bc player has the greatest amount of freedom to play the accompaniment as needed

e) in secco recitatives, the organ as well as the violoncello never ever held out the bass notes for their full values

f) singing is speaking and this is what led to secco recitatives in the first place

g) ‘singing speech’ is more effective when isolated from instrumental sounds and it leads to a faster, more lively manner of performance

h) singers of the romantic tradition can be cured of their bad habits by singing secco recitatives more like they speak and by remaining devoid of emotion or play-acting.

The NBA makes the following points:

In the scores for the original version (BWV 244b) and for the final revision BWV 244 (1735), Bach notated the secco recitatives for the Evangelist part with long, held notes.

One of the variants, caused very likely by unusual performance conditions for a repeat performance in the 1740’s is the notation of the shortenaccompaniment of the bc in the secco recitatives for the Evangelist part.

One very likely reason (and there may be others as well that have to do with the special circumstances surrounding a performance with dual choirs and orchestras) given for this change from the score is to create an effective contrast (distinction) between the Evangelist part and that of the part of Jesus with long, sustained chords played by the strings (halo effect.)

Additional Comparison:

A very important point of comparison is the distinction between the Evangelist and Jesus parts which also follow very directly upon each other in the SJP (BWV 245,) a work that underwent even more revisions than the SMP (4 of them – 1724, 1725, 1732, 1739-1749) during Bach’s tenure in Leipzig. This represents an even greater (longer) time span than that of the SMP, and yet Bach undertook no effort throughout all these years to indicate in the bc parts more precisely with shortened notation the specific secco portions sung by the Evangelist and the somewhat more lyrical recitative treatment of Jesus’ words. This is certainly worth noting, particularly since Bach’s extensive occupation with the SJP would indicate that this work meant very much to him. Why did he not take sufficient interest to clarify the numerous ‘mildly ambiguous’ situations (as Dreyfus would put it) the same way that he had done with the SMP? This leaves us again with the explanation as given by the NBA as the only plausible one.

Final thought: If it were not for Brad B.’s citations from Kater’s book, I would not have been able to see how Schering foreshadowed some important aspects of the present-day HIP mvt. Very likely influenced by the organ mvt. in Germany, Schering has begun to apply notions such as a return to what were thought to be the characteristic performance standards of Bach’s time. He attempted to remove the romantic over-layering in performance practices that had accumulated over the 19th and 20th centuries. The HIP mvt. owes much more to Schering’s work from this infamous period of Germany’s history than it will ever want to admit. Currently the HIP mvt. seems to be undergoing changes that seem to be moving it away from some of the sounds that it has created over the past 40 years. The period of deconstruction of Bach’s music will now be followed by attempts to return to a variation of romanticism which will emphasize the importance of the performer’s momentary intuitions over the usual strict rules or laws that would otherwise restrict the performer’s ability to express the music freely. While this may help to cure the HIP mvt. of some of its aspects that have reached an extreme, there is also great danger that too much emphasis placed upon the romantic, non-prescriptive aspects where the fanciful interpretation of notation begins to disregard the Urtext will result in an overcorrection…and thus the pendulum swings back and forth. In regard to the shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives, I would certainly hope, however, that at some point in the future a reasonable approach which returns closer to Bach’s notation will eventually replace the extreme aberration which currently still prevails among most HIP practitioners.

To be continued at some point in the future.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 1, 2003):
<Thomas Braatz wrote (as part of a summary of points he attributes to Schering):
d) the bc player has the greatest amount of freedom to play the accompaniment as needed
f) singing is speaking and this is what led to secco recitatives in the first place
g) “singing speech” is more effective when isolated from instrumental sounds and it leads to a faster, more lively manner of performance
(...) >
Tom, I'm curious: what, specifically, do you find objectionable in these three points?

(Beyond an ad hominem distaste for Schering's own political connections, I mean. I'm asking about MUSICAL reasons. What expectations do you bring to this, such that--in your own mind--Schering is demonstrably "wrong"?)

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] What you said in the basis of all musical interpretation: give some freedom... please... thanks for musizieren.

The best example is for me the St John Passion were there is no continuo instrument given: Some of them use organ only.The Leipzig tradition that Kantor Günther Ramin continued as well as all his alumni includen Karl Richrter is organ and harpsichord
both. Lately we have some additions to this Leipzig tradition that is add strings only with organ and with cembalo example:Peter Schreier conducting the Passion. I mean some recitatives do not use keyboard at all... Some use strings and organ and the organ with arpegios also some arpegios in cembali(instead of just playing the chord with all notes at once). Interesting , yes?


Neil Halliday wrote (March 28, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz & Bradley Lehman] I would like to thank Tom and Brad for sharing their scholarship and experience with us on this site.

Naturally, as one could guess from my previous post,I am firmly supportive of the direction that Tom's scholarship is leading; but I suppose in the end, due to the paucity and inconclusive nature of documents, ability to interpret the same material in different ways, and distance from the past, both men can legitimately claim support for positions that result in the music of Bach sounding in the very different ways which each loves the most. This not to say that I want to see an end of scholarly attempts by Tom and others to debunk certain HIP 'dogmas'! In any case, if I suddenly found myself in possession of a world class ensemble of musicians , I would certainly demand the right to intepret the score as I saw fit, without following any 'rules', while remaining faithful to the score and instrumentation as we have it on paper.

Thank you both for the debate.

Continue on Part 7

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

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