Recitatives in Bach’s Vocal Works
Recitatives, Early Cantatas
Kirk McElhearn wrote:
What are the arias with minimal accompaniment called, musically? I am thinking of the ones with usually just one voice, one instrument (violin, oboe, etc) and Basso continuo. Like Ich habe genung, in the SMP. Is there a specific name for this type of aria?
Perhaps one thing to get us started on our discussions is a clear explanation of the different types of movements in the cantatas. Can anyone volunteer, or point us to a site?
Joseph Guarascio wrote (November 17, 2000):
There are generally two kinds of recitatives: secco and accompagnato. The "secco" (It., dry) refers to voice and continuo only. The accompagnato variety will usually have additional instruments, especially strings (as when Christ speaks in the passions). If we are talking about a recitative with voice, continuo, and one additional instrument (violin, oboe), I would have to say it is accompagnato. I find it interesting that Bach does not use Recitatives or Arias in his earliest Cantatas (e.g., BWV 131, BWV 4). When did Bach begin using these essentially Italian forms? How many Cantatas do not use Recitative/Aria?
From Jeppesen, Counterpoint (p. 85): "Bach, on the other hand, prefers to begin low and slowly and work upward with a steadily increasing tension to a point of culmination and, when this is reached, to descend to the cadence suddenly, almost explosively."
Simon Crouch wrote (November 17, 1999):
Just a minor point - everybody seems to use it, but the term "secco" didn't come in until the later eighteenth century - the non-anachronistic term is "recitativo semplice". Accompagnato is correct.
It seems not to be known when Bach first started using these forms (after all, not much of Bach's music survives from these times) - what we do know is that he didn't use them in his early cantatas (c. 1707) but in Weimar (c. 1714) he was using them. It is known that Prince Johann Ernst returned to Weimar from study in Utrecht in July 1713, bringing a bundle of Italian music with him (the Vivaldi concerto transcriptions date from these times), which would suggest a whole lot of Italian influence at this time. BUT, the "Hunt" cantata, BWV 208, dates from February 1713 and includes the designations "recit" and "aria" in it (apparently for the time in the cantatas). So he must have absorbed the Italian fashion to some extent before Johann Ernst's return. Maybe irrelevant, but the term "aria" is used in BWV 902, dating from 1704!
Returning to the question of scoring of arias - someone surely must have done a classification according to scoring, but any terminology doesn't seem to have caught on! Stephen Christ did his Ph.D. on aria forms in the cantatas and he's got an article in the first "Bach Studies" volume (Cambridge UP) but I don't remember his terminology. All the classifications I remember are to do with form (da capo, ritornello etc etc) and the best I can do according to scoring is "concerted aria" versus "non-concerted aria" - which really does no justice to the variety of forms. Perhaps it's best to describe via musical texture (i.e. duet, trio...). Anybody who's trawled through my cantata pages will have seen that the difficulty I had in describing these sparely accompanied arias. I would welcome correction here if anyone knows better.
Bach’s recitatives and arias
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 4, 2001):
Recently, as I have been listening intently and intensively to more Bach cantatas in a shorter span of time than I ever have in my life, two questions have been forming slowly in my mind regarding features and performance practices in Bach's cantatas (also oratorios and passions):
1) Why is it that in performances of recitatives recorded more recently, the basso continuo, now more frequently consisting of a cello/string bass and an organ rather than a harpsichord, the long half or whole notes (sometimes even tied over to another whole note in the next measure/bar) are abruptly terminated by changing the note value to a quarter note or less? On whose authority has this HIP performance been initiated and which conductor was the first to put this method of reading a Bach score into practice? How many others are (perhaps unthinkingly) following this newly discovered performance practice?
2) Most, but certainly not all, Bach arias, particularly those of the da capo type of which there are many, begin with an instrumental announcement of the initial theme/motif, whereupon the singer repeats this theme/motif with the beginning words of the text. Then the singer breaks off at the end of the first phrase, allows the instruments once again to restate the theme/motif (sometimes slightly condensed or modified) before once again starting from the very beginning with a repetition of the first line/phrase before singing the rest of the aria. When did this formal aspect of an aria begin, and why is this done? What is the purpose of this repetition, in the first place?
Is there someone in the group that has come upon information from record liner notes/booklets or from a book such as Harnoncourt's which I do not possess? Perhaps this individual would be willing to share with all of us the information that I am seeking.
Here were my initial 'knee-jerk' reactions to both situations:
1) Since Harnoncourt/Leonhardt already have initiated a practice of cutting short the note values indicated by Bach, then this would simply be an extreme example of the greatest excess that they have perpetrated on Bach's musical scores by disregarding assigned note values to such a degree.
2) The idea might be to allow the singer to engage in a more speech-like (perhaps half-spoken, half-sung text), a practice that came about in opera in the time subsequent to Bach's death, and also a practice that would suit the much smaller, 'half'-voices' that are more commonly used today.
1) This is a rhetorical device similar to that of a great speaker attempting to get the attention of the crowd.
2) This is an opportunity for the singer to 'warm up' the voice, to get a feel for the acoustics and the ensemble, to have an opportunity after the first phrase to clear the throat and to look at the conductor for any further indications (too loud, too soft, etc.) so as to make any necessary adjustments before proceeding with the rest of the aria.
To show you that I 'have done my homework,' and that I have not yet found a definitive answer, if there is one, I wish to share with you what I have found thus far:
Recitative - It was interesting to read about how the recitative and aria were at one time integrated into a whole composition before they were separated in Bach's time. The combination allowed for the best of both worlds: the rhythmic and harmonic fluidity of the recitative combined with the more formal organization of an aria. Also interesting was a term that Brad Lehman recently used on the BachRecordings site: 'sprezzatura' documented in a publication by Caccini 1601/2 "Le nuove musiche" where a recitative is defined as 'not following the rhythm strictly.' 'sprezzatura di canto' = "a studied negligence in singing" where the word 'studied' is significant.
Then I found out that the term 'secco' recitative which Dürr and others use very frequently was not used as a definition until the 19th century.
Then, even more to the point, CPE Bach's statement (1762): "In a recitative a continuo (probably harpsichord) player should, after a chord is struck, raise his right hand and rest until the next chord is reached." Other theorists of this period leave this matter to the player's discretion. And finally, "In the scores of his Passion settings, J.S.Bach notated the recitatives in the normal way, with long held notes in the bass, but in the continuo parts of the SMP he wrote short notes separated by rests." Aha! Now, if you completely understand this gibberish, we supposedly have some hard evidence given by a nameless contributorto the "New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians." After having read through all the scores of all the Bach cantatas (no, I did not do this overnight, but I have been following them carefully for the past few years,) I had to investigate this new fact/insight. The problem, as it turns out, is that this statement is left standing without further elucidation of the circumstances, and this leaves an uninitiated reader, and there must be many of them that seek out a dictionary such as this for detailed clarification, just as I have, with the impression and implication that this must be an indication of Bach's final intentions regarding the performance of recitatives. What's the problem with this? You only need to look at one of the many such recitatives in the SMP where you will find this typical situation: The evangelist begins, and, yes, there it is, in black and white, the notes in the basso continuo are abbreviated! But wait, there is a part of the recitative where Jesus speaks, not an arioso, but he speaks the words of Jesus as an important part of the narrative. What does Bach do? As you perhaps already remember, Bach creates a 'halo' effect musically around these special words by having the strings, but also the basso continuo play long note values, where the notes are tied and should be played in a legato manner. What has Bach done in this type of recitative (a very special type!)? He has attempted to contrast, set off, to set apart the basso continuo treatment of the Evangelist from Jesus' musical halo. But to extrapolate from the numerous instances of this in the SMP a HIP performance practice to be applied to all the recitatives elsewhere in Bach's oeuvre seems to be a giant step beyond all that is reasonable. I understand the use of embellishments and I understand how an unwritten appoggiatura may be applied in the cadences of a Bach recitative even though he did not indicate it, but to take a note held with long note values and ties that should be held for 8 beats as Bach wanted it, and then reduce it to hardly one beat in length (both the organ and the string bass/cello accompaniment in the basso continuo cease playing completely!) seems to be quite inane. [Pun intended.] There are no obvious, or even less obvious reasons for this, particularly when substantial musicological reference books fail to shed any light on this subject. Who follows this practice? Listen to the cantata recordings made by Harnoncourt/Leonhardt, Koopman, Suzuki, Cantus Cölln, Leusink, etc. and remember that the recordings of the SMP do not count here because they are a very special situation, where Bach changed his usual recitative composing style to accommodate a dramatic concept that he wanted to render musically.
Arias: There is some confusion caused by lack of a specific term in English for a singer's repetition of the first line or phrase of an aria. The New Grove allows wide latitude for the term, 'motto', which originally meant and still means that a distinct phrase is repeated at the beginning of each mvt. in a 15th-16th century work such as a parody mass like Morales's Missa "Mille regretz' where it is also known as a 'head-motif.' Then it states its use in the 17th-18th centuries, where it is commonly applied to a figure at the beginning of an aria. It is also known by a German term, "Devisenarie," where the motto is stated by the voice and followed by the opening ritornello, as in "Lo farò, dirò spietato' in Act. 1 of Händel's Rodelinda (1725). (But this is not the situation in Bach's arias, where the voice follows the initial statement made by the instrumental ensemble.) This article goes on to include the Idée fixe of Berlioz and we might as well include Wagner's Leitmotif (although Wagner never used this term) for this wide-ranging definition.
Jack Westrup who wrote the article on "Devisenarie" for the New Grove is more forthright in trying to explain what is important here: "Devisenarie" - a term invented by Hugo Riemann for which there is no immediately intelligible English translation. 'Devise' means 'device' in the sense of Longfellow's "a banner with the strange device." [So now you know!] Riemann used the term to describe a common characteristic of Baroque arias: the singer begins with the opening of his first phrase, followed by an instrumental ritornello, and then sings it complete.
The New Grove article on 'Aria' refers to this in the same way (not exactly the way Bach did it in his arias): There is the aria with the motto/opening or Devisenarie, in which a brief vocal proclamation is repeated by the accompaniment, then taken up again by the voice and given its continuation.
It came into vogue in the 1670's and has a parallel development in the 'tag' ending, or repeated final short phrase. The article then goes on to explain something else that I have always wondered about: "Why does Bach decrease the instrumentation in the middle section of the aria, while often moving to a related key, or from major to minor, or vice versa?" The answer is that in the da capo aria form the instrumentation of the middle section is often reduced for a chiaroscuro effect (my training in art history at the university level finally pays off!), and at times there was a complete musical contrast with different tempo and meter to relieve the sameness of a da capo aria.
Rudolf Gerber writing for "Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart" I, 617 refers to a division between the 'harpsichord' and the 'orchestral' type aria, with the division between both types occurring in the 2nd half of the 17th century. The "Arienkopf" "aria head" is typical for the harpsichord type aria. The harpsichord begins with the aria theme in the bass, filling in the other parts freely as needed. Then the voice enters with this 'Arienkopf' theme, breaks off, allows the harpsichord once again to restate alone the initial theme, after which the voice picks it up once more and continues on. Here "Devise" is defined as a short quotation (imitation) by the voice.
But somehow, by the time when Bach began composing his cantatas these two types had once again merged, creating the instrumental type aria that we commonly associate with Bach, although he still occasionally wrote arias of the harpsichord type.
What was the motivation for the repetition at the beginning of the aria? Any other sources that you can point to or any other conjectures why this was done?
Charles Francis wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] I refer to this phenomena as the "Harnoncourt Doctrine" because I first discovered its purported raison d'etre in the notes to his Johannes Passion (BWV 245) dating from 1965. The notes are written by Nikolaus Harnoncourt himself, and describe his practice of performing Figured Bass in recitatives; to paraphrase, ignore what Bach wrote and just play the chord briefly. Harnoncourt justifies his approach by reference to a 1774 source (Jean Baumgartner) to show this practice was "still" in use, but on the other hand he doesn't give a source to show Bach actually used such a convention himself. I raised this point on the Bach Recordings group on the 8th January this year and was told the practice is also described in Matthesons Volkommene Capellmeister (Hamburg 1739, published in facsimile by Baerenreiter). Now I haven't checked out this source, myself, so I advise caution, but would note the documents surrounding the Scheibe controversy show Bach's habit of writing out ornaments (ignoring the performance convention at his time). In this regard, Bach's principle seems to have been to pin down the performance as accurately as possible in the score to prevent any misinterpretation. I ask myself, therefore, why didn't Bach write rests, if that was what he intended?
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks for your information on pinning down the source (Harnoncourt) and date (much earlier than I had anticipated.) I have the Mattheson facsimile that you refer to and will begin to search for any more information that might be given there.
Kirk McElhearn wrote (August 4, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: What was the motivation for the repetition at the of the aria? Any other sources that you can point to or any other conjectures why this was done? >
My only thought is that it helps the listeners quickly become familiar with the music, so this music can carry the text better. Remember, they didn't have the luxury of a repeat button - they would hear these works once. Familiarity breeds attention, perhaps.
Charles Francis wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] I'd be very interested to have your feedback concerning the Mattheson facsimile.
Sybrand Bakker wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Kirk McElhearn] That's only half of the story. It is very likely that all music was still laid out according to rhetorical principles, which were teached, along with music, in every Latin school. This involved any work having a dispositio the subject of the work is laid out elaboration it is worked upon confutatio any counterarguments are rejected, usually this is the B part of a da capo aria confirmatio conclusions peroratio closing sentences. Mattheson in his Volkommene Cappellmeister has an analysis of a da capo aria by Benedetto Marcello using the sections outlined above. There is numerous (mainly German) evidence composers actually used these principles and developed a musical rhetoric.
Bach's recitatives and arias-Mattheson's "Der vollkommene Capellmeister"
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 6, 2001):
Upon Charles' suggestion I have been reading Mattheson's "Der Vollkommene Kapellmeister" Hamburg, 1739 in the facsimile reprint. This is a book that I have only read sections of in the past and frequently came away from it thinking, "I don't think I really found what I was looking for, but I found something else instead." In some ways this book, perhaps it is the Baroque writing style, is fascinating and repelling at the same time. What is the first thing anyone would do to find what Mattheson has to say about recitatives? It's obvious. You look it up in the index that gives a reference to 'recitative' in the book. Is the statement that I am looking for (confirmation of the 'Harnoncourt Doctrine' that long notes may be shortened)anywhere to be found on the pages cited? No! Things are never that easy with Mattheson. In his defense it should be pointed out, how difficult it was to set up an index before good word processors came along. What is the next approach? To skim through the book quickly, but this doesn't work with Mattheson either because he has a way of hiding the 'juicy bits' in the middle of a paragraph where you would not expect it. He might be talking about some ancient Greek or Latin reference book in one sentence and suddenly digress to include his opinion on modern (his day of course) music theory or practice. In a few hours I read the first 70 pages and still have a long way to go.
Here, however, are some items of interest that I did find:
On another thread (BachRecordings - About authentic violins) I brought up Brad Lehman's Heifitz and the young violin player episode related by Andre Previn, a story which discounts the mystique behind name-brand violins vs. regular violins. Mattheson says essentially the same thing: "Was nutzet eine silberne Trompete, wenns am tüchtigen Trompeter fehlet?" p. 23 ("What good is a silver trumpet, if a truly capable trumpeter is not there to play it?")
Then comes the 'biggie,' a statement that stands high above all other things that Mattheson wishes to convey (the font size is increased to double or triple the standard size, indicating that he really means it:
"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')] Allow me to repeat for Harnoncourt's sake: ALLES MUß GEHÖRIG SINGEN! Nikolaus, are you listening? The basis for your HIP doctrine is beginning to crumble!
Here is another quote (p. 64) in which Mattheson comments on those writers (think of Harnoncourt's books on HIP) who pursue their musical goals in an effort to satisfy their own desire to appear very learned while they profess to be establishing 'new' truths for others who are eager to learn and hear something 'new.'
"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 ("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!
On p. 62 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 seriouss) in part to the raw air in Germany and the fact that the Germans drink so much beer. (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?)
Sybrand Bakker wrote (August 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Talking about prejudiced reading.
Could you please define 'singen' How do you know your interpretation of the word agrees with Mattheson's interpretation and disagrees with Harnoncourts reading.
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 6, 2001):
< Sybrand Bakker asks: Could you please define 'singen' >
I double-checked the section where Mattheson makes this statement. It appears that he assumes that anyone who would read this book would know what 'singen' means.
He does add these paragraphs for those who might have difficulty understanding the entire statement: "Alles muß gehörig singen."
"Unter dem Wörtlein gehörig, als worauf die meiste Stärcke dieses allGrund=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. 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 (explained in previous post)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.")
< Sybrand Bakker also stated: "Talking about prejudiced reading. How do you know your interpretation of the word agrees with Mattheson's interpretation and disagrees with Harnoncourts reading." >
I hear the results of Harnoncourt's views 4 or 5 times a week at least and what I personally hear is, for the most part, very unmusical. Harnoncourt's ruthless "Let's cut the note values and heavily accent the remaining notes" HIP approach is IMO one of the major flaws in his Teldec series because it destroys the musical legato singing effect in favor of his pet theory that seems to be based on insufficient knowledge of the period, or he based them on published works 15 to 25 years after Bach's death. As suggested by another list member, I am reading Mattheson carefully in order to determine, if he made any statements that would support Harnoncourt in this matter. So far I have only read 70 pages. Perhaps I will find Harnoncourt's proof which I will report here. Will you then question my 'prejudiced' reading? Let the chips fall as they may! Or do you have a vested interest in preserving the sanctity of Harnoncourt's opinions and recordings?
Sybrand Bakker wrote (August 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] As you seem to consider yourself an expert, you probably know using legato, at least in instrumental music was an exception and definitely not the rule. This well persisted upto and including Mozart. So I'm asking myself: who are you to judge mr. Harnoncourt has insufficient knowledge of the period? Your assertion may well be considered as outright slander.
I have no interest in preserving the sanctity of Mr. Harnoncourts opinions. I've read many treatises from this period, and if you state modern performances should retain the musical legato, I don't know which works you have read. Legato is an ornament, non-legato playing was the norm. If you don't like non-legato playing that's fine with me, but don't accuse anyone not suiting your taste of 'insufficient knowledge of the period'
Mattheson is quite well in the same league and with the same opinions as Mr. Johann Adolf Scheibe. At least he criticised Bach's manner of composing several times. I'm quite sure his definition of 'cantabile' would have differed from Bach’s.
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 6, 2001):
[To Sybrand Bakker] Why are you so much on the defensive? You read my initial query on this thread, I hope. I am looking for answers. If you as the expert are holding back, I do not know the reason why. Put all your cards on the table! Show me your references with quotes in the original language. Then I will consider these sources, just as you have questioned Mattheson as a source, and make up my own mind on the subject, but also continue to consider at the same time the results that I hear on the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt Teldec series. I think there are also others who would like to learn more about this, since it affects considerably our assessment of the performances of cantatas that we are reviewing here on this site.
BTW why haven't you offered your own personal critique of the Bach cantatas that we are discussing on this site every week?
Charles Francis wrote (August 6, 2001):
[To Sybrand Bakker] References, please, Sybrand! In your posting I see the "Appeal to Authority" argument, but with no authorities given. I also see elements of the ad hominen, (e.g., one who questions the Harnoncourt doctrine is a "slanderer"), but this is a fallacy of reasoning having no bearing on the alleged authenticity of Harnoncourt's performance practice.
Sybrand Bakker wrote (August 6, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: BTW why haven't you offered your own personal critique of the Bach cantatas that we are discussing on this site every week? >
I would like to do so, but I hardly have time to read all the other posts. It seems many people on the list have plenty of time to read them and participate in the discussions. As I am travelling all around the country for my work, I feel simply flooded. I still have more than 3000 e-mails to go for the BachCantatas list and the BachRecordings list alone, not to mention the other forums in which I participate.
I will comment on the rest of your remarks tomorrow.
Peter Hoogenboom wrote (August 8, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] In your discussion of Bach's notation of recitatives in the passions, I thought you were leading up to this conclusion, but I didn't see it (I found your discussion a little bit difficult to follow because of the long paragraphs, so forgive me if I missed it in there somewhere):
As I read it, you say that in the passion, Bach mixes long-note and short-note bass lines when the Evangelist (without 'halo') and Christ (with 'halo') sing in the same recitative. You point out that this is a special type of recitative.
This practice is very easy to explain in light of the (assumed) practice of shortening bass notes in "secco" recitatives (forgive the anachronistic term).
The logic is this: in a secco recitative, the continuo player knows to shorten the notes. In an accompagnato, the player knows not to do so. In the continuuo part for a mixed recitative, Bach shortens the notes in the secco portions so the player knows what to do in the first rehearsal, without having to confer with his or her colleagues. This also means the player does not have to memorize which portions of the piece are with full strings and which are not -- a look at the score will suffice.
The shorthand notation of (normally) using a half note or whole note for a quarter note plus some rests is quite defensible when you realize that it is, actually, quicker to write it like that -- no filled noteheads, fewer stems, and no rests to notate.
I believe that there are treatises that refer to this practice, but I have long since forgotten the citations.
Having said all that, I think it is indefensible to play all the bass notes exactly the length of a quarter note. Ugh! (Indeed, it is indefensible to say that there is such a thing as "exactly the length of a quarter note" == but that's another topic.)
Peter Hoogenboom wrote (August 8, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote: Allow me to repeat for Harnoncourt's sake: ALLES MUß GEHÖRIG SINGEN! Nikolaus, are you listening? The basis for your HIP doctrine is beginning to crumble! >
You imply that Harnoncourt's music doesn't sing "gehörig" as if this were not a matter of taste.
(I was tempted to leave my message at that, but I think it prudent to add a few words of explanation.)
We must be very careful when connecting subjective language to objective performance parameters. I had the experience of attending a lecture about a famous singer of South Indian music. The lecturer described her voice in terms that we see in writing about singing from the renaissance ttoday: free, natural, effortless, etc. But her sound was, to my ears, very tight, nasal, pinched, etc.
Similarly, I find the singing in "HIP" recordings of Bach to be much more musical -- to sing much more "gehoerig" if I understand the word correctly == than that in the older non-HIP recordings. Some of the newer non-HIP recordings are less egregious, but still (to my ear) annoying.
Thanks for your excellent summaries from the Mattheson work.
Peter Hoogenboom wrote (August 8, 2001):
Lest I appear to be picking on Mr. Braatz, I offer the following response to Mr. Bakker:
< Sybrand Bakker wrote: As you seem to consider yourself an expert, you probably know using legato, at least in instrumental music was an *exception* and definitely not the rule. This well persisted upto and including Mozart. >
The practice may have persisted up to and including Mozart, but when did it start?
< I have no interest in preserving the sanctity of Mr. Harnoncourts opinions. I've read many treatises from this period, and if you state modern performances should retain the musical legato, I don't know which works you have read. Legato is an ornament, non-legato playing was the norm. If you >
How do we even define "legato" -- it may appear to be an objective term, but I think a little reflection will show that there is no single way of realizing a legato line.
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 8, 2001):
< Peter Hoogenboom states: In the continuuo part for a mixed recitative, Bach shortens the notes in the secco portions so the player knows what to do in the first rehearsal, without having to confer with his or her colleagues. >
As a typical example I would point out the evidence in Bach's score for mvt. 2 of BWV 178, which just happens to be the cantata up for discussion this week. I am certain I would find many other examples to prove that your statement is incorrect. What does Bach do in this recitative which switches back and forth between a cantus firmus phrase (it is like an arioso) and the secco recitative? While the accompagnato has the bc playing short eighth-note figures with occasional eighth-note rests (very short indeed!) in between the figures, Bach changes to very long bc note values in the secco portions of this recitative. In one example of this secco-recitative-type notation, Bach places for a single note, two tied whole notes also tied to another half note for a total value/length of 8 beats! Had he not wanted this, Bach would have saved himself the trouble of wasting his own time in notating it this way and would have written only a single quarter note, because that would be all that you would hear in his own performance of this composition.
< Peter also states: Similarly, I find the singing in "HIP" recordings of Bach to be much more musical -- to sing much more "gehoerig" if I understand the word correctly == than that in the older non-HIP recordings. >
Yes, this is partially true, but I personally think that you have overstated the situation in favor of the HIP performances. It is unfortunate that this word/acronym, HIP, can lead listeners of Bach's music into trying to force individuals into a simple black/white, correct/incorrect, "this is good/better"/"this is bad/worse" etc. category. If you have read my commentaries on some of the Bach cantatas that have been discussed recently, you will see that I fall into neither camp. I recognize the exaggerations of musical performances on either side. Just as I can understand the overexaggeration of musical performances coming from the Romantic tradition that began in the 19th century, so also do I see extreme attempts (unmusical to my ears) on the part of those who wish to turn the clock back to Bach's day by maintaining that they know best how this music was performed by Bach himself. Somewhere in between. after the extreme excesses have been tempered by a reassessment of what sounds truly musical, we will find the proper balance without having to give up all the advances that have been made during the past 30 to 40 years.
As far as the singing in HIP recordings being more musical, I would beg to differ, although I grant that an occasional performance in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series, with which I am now very familiar, is superior to any other available at the current time. When this happens, it is often because the performers have persisted in truly wanting to sing and play musically despite the efforts of both conductors to inflict their (I am beginning to think unfounded) HIP notions on the choirs, soloists and instrumentalists which they used.
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 9, 2001):
[Correction for my previous post in this thread: total number of beats should read 10, not 8.]
For Mattheson the term, "Capellmeister," particularly if he should be "vollkommen" ("complete") must include both the composer (some terms he uses are: "Componist, Compositeur, [Ton]Setzer") and the conductor (he frequently uses "Director.") Being a good conductor is very unlikely if the Capellmeister is not first and foremost a composer. Playing a basso continuo (which every conductor should be able to do) implies creating the musical lines above the "Grundbass" (basso continuo) 'on the fly' ("aus dem Stegreiff" = "whatever comes to mind.") But a true composer should be able to create musical compositions on the spur of the moment on a church organ (preludes and fugues) as needed. Mattheson frequently uses both terms together in the same phrase: "Componist und Director."
From Mattheson's definition, it becomes clear that there is hardly a conductor of Bach's vocal music alive today that could be called a complete Capellmeister (there may be some who also have published and recorded their own compositions and there may be others than play the basso continuo without preparation, but I am not aware of this.) If I now single out Harnoncourt for a very specific reason: that he purports to have greater knowledge and understanding of Bach's performance practices than anyone else currently, this does not mean that other conductors could not be considered likewise. However, since Harnoncourt's name continually comes up as the source beyond which it is almost impossible to penetrate in order to obtain information and proof that should be made available to all who are interested, he is then the one that I will use as a primary example. Harnoncourt is not a composer, as far as I know, hence he is not well-qualified to be a conductor of Bach's vocal works, at least according to Mattheson. Some other reasons why Harnoncourt would fail to qualify are listed below:
Here are some significant quotations from Mattheson's book (pp. 104-105):
"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 evidewhen listening to their laboriously created compositions."
"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.'
"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 experience 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.
"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, obwol nicht 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.
Comment: Although the emphasis is placed primarily on the requirements expected of a composer, this 'singability' and 'cantabile' style of singing and playing are the ideals that hover above all forms of music making, whether or not this means composing, or that which is inextricably linked to it: performing. So far, everything that I have read in this book is critical of the Harnoncourt Doctrine which has been defined numerous times on this site. For anyone now wishing to ask, "What does Mattheson mean by 'cantabile' after having asked the same question about 'singing,' that would be like a child asking repeatedly, "Why?" At some point sooner or later, these definitions will become circular. Perhaps there is a strong subjective element that makes it almost impossible for a singer to explain to a non-singer what 'singability' really is. With Mattheson it is clear that this cantabile style of singing has the highest priority in his book. This is the very thing that I sense is frequently missing in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series. If Harnoncourt did not sing regularly over an extended period of time, then Mattheson would consider him ill-equipped to conduct Bach's cantatas, much less even to attempt to compose anything that could even begin to approach the level of composition of that great master.
Here is a definition of cantabile as applied, not to the voice from which the word originates, but to keyboard playing: ("Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart" Vol 7, 1178) Forkel, relying on what he had learned personally from CPE and WF Bach, describes the movement of the fingers from one note to the next, "so daß nun die beyden Töne weder voneinander gerissen werden noch ineinander klingen können." ("so that both notes are neither separated/torn apart one from the other, nor are they allowed to sound together at the same time.")
The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians Vol 3, 694 states: "A word used in musical contexts to mean 'in a singing style' and thus representing an ideal in certain kinds of performance. Zarlino (1558) expressed the opinion 'che le parti della cantilena siano cantabile: cioè che cantano bene' and by the late 17th century the word had found its way into German: the title-page of Bach's three-part inventions offers to aid 'eine cantabile Art im Spielen zu bekommen.' As a direction in tempo and expression marks it appears from the beginning of the 18th century...."
Sybrand Bakker wrote (August 9, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Apparently you seem to continue your ad-hominem attacks on Nicolaus Harnoncourt by misusing Mattheson's Volkommene Capellmeister I have a few questions for you
a) did you ever hear Mr. Harnoncourt sing? Why are you so sure your quotations of Mattheson apply to Mr. Harnoncourt? Answer: Because your taste and your taste alone doesn't like the Harnoncourt style of performance
b) are you aware that during Bach's lifetime almost every professional musician, not being an instrumentalist, was composing and conducting. Are you aware the educational system radically changed during the French Revolution, causing the two capacities to split up.
c) Are you sure your understanding of the term 'cantabile' is in agreement with Mattheson's understanding?
d) Could you please verify how legato in this time was used as discussed in the Harvard Dictionary of Music, and the Oxford Composer Companion to Bach
e) Are you aware the term 'cantabile' and 'rhetorical' are in Bach almost a synonym of each other
f) are you aware legato playing is impossible on a harpsichord
g) how does that modify your understanding of the term 'cantabile' with respect to Bach’s Inventions or Sinfonias. Or do you think Bach intended these works for piano?
h) Did you ever read the Musical Dialogue by Nicolaus Harnoncourt, Robert Donington on Baroque performance practice, or the 1910 book of Arnold Dolmetsch (still in print at Dover)? They are all in agreement on the use of legato as ornament.
i) Don't you think it is useless for me to collect contrary evidence, as you seem to have made up your mind, and will simply reply with other out-of context quotations of Mattheson and other sources and continue your ad-hominem attacks on Harnoncourt?
Charles Francis wrote (August 9, 2001):
< Sybrand Bakker wrote: Apparently you seem to continue your ad-hominem attacks on Nicolaus Harnoncourt by misusing Mattheson's Volkommene Capellmeister I have a few questions for you. Why are you so sure your quotations of Mattheson apply to Mr. Harnoncourt? Answer: Because your taste and your taste alone doesn't like the Harnoncourt style of performance >
Oh, Thomas is not alone!
< b) are you aware that during Bach's lifetime almost every prmusician, not being an instrumentalist, was composing and conducting. Are you aware the educational system radically changed during the French Revolution, causing the two capacities to split up. >
Well Glenn Gould, for example, managed to transcend any limitations of the Canadian educational system by combining performance on piano, organ and harpsichord, with composition (including fugue writing) and conducting. His singing voice was, of course, legendary ;-)
Do you really believe Bach picked up his compositional skills at the local Gymnasium ???
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 9, 2001):
< Sybrand Bakker stated: a) did you ever hear Mr. Harnoncourt sing? Why are you so sure your quotations of Mattheson apply to Mr. Harnoncourt? Answer: Because your taste and your taste alone doesn't like the Harnoncourt style of performance >
Now you are trying to put words in my mouth without reading all my postings carefully. I realize that you must be a very busy man who may be forced to speed-read e-mails, and thereby miss certain details. That is your problem! And you know full well that there are others who also question the Harnoncourt Doctrine. You are doing exactly what I predicted would happen, you are attempting to obfuscate the specific issues in this discussion by continuing to raise unrelated or only partially related issues by asking more and more questions the way a child would continue to ask the question, "Why?" If your purpose were not obfuscation, but rather elucidation, then you would share with us significant quotations from the works you cite (I notice that the texts you now casually mention without offering quotations are no longer from the period, but rather 20th century texts -- that is a step in the wrong direction) without complaining about the amount of other work you have to do. These questions that I have raised are searching for an answer, a process that is made more difficult by your asking "What do you think, what did Mattheson or Bach think, what do musicologists currently think, etc. that 'singing' or 'cantabile' means?" And how can you be sure about this, etc. etc.? I hope you did not skip over Mattheson's answer to this question. I notice you hide behind the questions you raise and never reveal what you think these words mean and why. Perhaps you have difficulty understanding what Mattheson stated (in my last posting): that many (and this could mean you (if you are a musician or Harnoncourt as well) think that "ein Musicus müsse ja wol ohne Zweifel singen können; aber die Sache verhält sich gantz anders." I will let you look this up yourself, unless, of course, you can understand the German directly.
Charles Francis wrote (August 9, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] One must however admire Sybrand's loyalty to one who has evolved/developed/lost his principles/faith with respect to HIP in the last thirty years!
Thomas Braatz wrote (August 13, 2001):
"Everything that is played by instruments is simply an imitation of singing."
".to make the music properly sing and flow."
"An overly punctuated style of singing is to be avoided at all costs."
Thus far I have read carefully 215 pages of "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" by Mattheson (Hamburg, 1739) and have not discovered anything remarkable that might provide an insight and proof for Harnoncourt's Doctrine, a 'doctrine' of historically informed performance (HIP) practice that Harnoncourt and many of his followers have applied for about 35 years now with insufficient documentation and without much regard for the musicality, and in many instances even musicianship, required for a truly satisfying performance. For the most part, the problematical aspect of such a theoretical, but yet unfounded approach to performing Bach's choral works with instruments arises mainly from dissecting the musical line thereby revealing all its parts, placing heavy accents on the latter while shortening the actual note values carefully written out by Bach and, in most cases, double-checked and revised as necessary by him. The result of this is a rather disjointed performance in which the flowing legato line is destroyed and the performance threatens to fall apart. One of the greatest excesses of the Harnoncourt Doctrine is revealed by the treatment of the long notes of the basso continuo in a secco recitative. In such a situation, a note indicated by Bach to continue for 10 beats (I will probably find some eventually that are even longer than this) is foreshortened to one beat, thus creating a vacuum for the singer since all the continuo instruments no longer play until the note changes to another pitch/chord.
The second purpose for my investigation of Mattheson's book is to reveal more about the reason for the repetition of the first phrase in a Bach aria.
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.
"Nun finden sich zwar Leute genug, die da meinen, eine Melodie sey eine Melodie, sie werden gesungen oder gespielet. 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,. Andre sprechen wol gar: es sey sonst kein Unterschied nöthig, als den die Instrumente selbst, wegen ihrer 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.
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.
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..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 tthat 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 by instruments is simply an imitation of singing."]
p. 141, paragraph 51
On the 'flowing" essence of a melody:
"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. 129, paragraph 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."
Peter Hoogenboom wrote (August 13, 2001):
< Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Peter also states: Similarly, I find the singing in "HIP" recordings of Bach to be much more musical -- to sing much more "gehoerig" if I understand the word correctly == than that in the older non-HIP recordings. >>
Yes, this is partially true, but I personally think that you have overstated the situation in favor of the HIP performances. It is unfortunate that this >
The most obvious conclusion I can draw from your opinion that I am overstating in favor of "HIP" is that you and I have different tastes.
< word/acronym, HIP, can lead listeners of Bach's music into trying to force individuals into a simple black/white, correct/incorrect, "this is good/better"/"this is bad/worse" etc. category. If you have read my >
Is there something wrong with thinking that some music is better than other music, or that some performances or performers are better than others? Or that some approaches to performance practice are better than others? I don't begrudge anyone the right to play Bach the way Furtwaengler did, but I reserve the right to say that I would rather listen to almost anything else.
That said, I am generally turned off, as I infer you are, by dogmatic "HIP" performers, especially those who claim "that they know best how this music was performed...." In my experience, however, those people are few in the historcal movement, and their performances among the least inspired. (If these people made up more of the movement, it might never have rejected the term "authentic.")
Continue on Part 2
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