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Tempo
Part 2

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Character/tempo word

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 3, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< In addition to being a character word, allegro also refers to a brisk tempo. No? >
In music later than Bach's, yes. The danger is in reading that 19th/20th century expectation (that the WORD does it, interpreted that way, more than the meter signature and note-values do) back into earlier music.

For a good historical summary of this, the shifting 17th/18th century scene in this regard, check out George Houle's book Meter in Music: 1600-1800:
http://search.barnesandnoble.com/booksearch/isbnInquiry.asp?isbn=0253337925

Donald Satz wrote (February 4, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I realize that allegro is not an exact tempo, but I've never heard a slow Bach allegro.

Juozas Rimas wrote (February 4, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] I did and was specifically referring to Shumsky's recording of the BWV 1041 concerto where the 3rd mvt is played quite slowly. Formally, it does not contradict Allegro as it is not a tempo description, as Bradley pointed out. But slow liveliness is an oxymoron...The same with Stern's version Bradley mentioned: from the clips available, the 1st and 2nd mvts don't raise questions, but is the 3rd mvt really Allegro ASSAI? It is played as slowly as the 1mvt which is just Allegro - so the "assai" part was ignored too.

 

Tempos...

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
< (...) did Mattheson ever hear any of Bach's music or see it himself? >
Even more to the point, did Mattheson himself ever play or conduct any of Bach's concerted church music for a church service? (Where would he have got a set of the unpublished performance materials, for one thing?) If the answer is either "no" or "probably not", Mattheson's polemical remarks (and they certainly are polemical remarks--that was his rhetorical style) apply more to Mattheson's own personal ideas of what "should" be, than necessarily to what was; and perhaps not at all to the liturgical practices in Bach's own churches.

I'm merely pointing out that Mattheson should be taken with at least one grain of salt. He had his own compositions, and his own bossiness, and his own oughts and shoulds to promote.

< I was just pointing out that there are things that simply reading the NBA scores will not tell you about the performance of Bach's works. >
Amen to that. No score, no matter how thorough or scholarly or accompanied by critical commentary, is able to specify all (or even a major portion) of musical decisions. Not even when we look to composers who were even more lavish with notated detail than Bach was; I'm thinking especially of Francois Couperin in his published scores and his detailed treatise of playing the harpsichord. Despite that extreme care with notation and instructions, there are still questions left unanswered by these written sources, and requiring musical taste and experience and training. And those pieces can still be played quite differently, even by the same performer on different days, or on different harpsichords, or in different acoustics. Notation can never capture this skill of adjustment.

Musicianship is an art of making the best of any given situation, and not merely slavishly following instructions written down by anybody; even the instructions written down by brilliant composers who took extreme care with their notation. Instructions are never complete, for all possible circumstances or even for all reasonable ircumstances!

The more we learn through scholarship and practice, the more we understand what scores and treatises do not demonstrate, but which is still essential to performing the music well and convincingly.

Somebody else remarked:
< To be sure, the NBA scores do not have metronome tempo markings which present-day musicians have come to expect as a given; >
Sorry, that phrase "which present-day musicians have come to expect as a given" is just a meaningless straw-man argument. Baroque specialists of the present day, and working church musicians, do not expect any such thing as a given; at least that's true of those I have met and performed with, and studied with. Why assert that our expectations (whether individually or as colleagues or as a group of trained/experienced musicians) are something that they in fact are not? Perhaps some dilettante performers do expect "metronome tempo markings" on scores, even on Bach scores, whether they're charged with actually leading an ensemble or not; but it's anathema to experienced church musicians and university-trained performers and scholars. That's just not the way that 17th and 18th century church music works, in its notation.

It's not just the obvious fact that the commercially viable metronome wasn't invented until considerably after this period. More importantly, it's the fact that music can't be pinned to a butterfly-board with such precision, in the notation, for functional church music. Every acoustic is different. The abilities and balances of every ensemble are different. Every day is different. Every congregation's singing abilities are different, even from day to day, depending who's there and where they are in the room, and more (referring here to hymn directing and accompaniment). Church musicianship is a practical art of FLEXIBILITY and the ability to improvise a suitable interpretation under any circumstances. Liturgical performances don't go exactly the same way as any rehearsal.

That is, it would have been self-defeating for 18th century church musicians even to write down any precise and narrow range of tempo, because the job itself doesn't allow there to be one in practice. The organist's job is already based so heavily on improvisational practices, to begin with...and, it's not necessary to write down excessive detail, especially if one is going to be there oneself to coordinate the performance and make any last-minute practical decisions to circumstances.

Now, all that said, we today can still derive a large set of clues for likely tempos in that repertoire: from meter signatures (to decide which level is the basic beat), from figuration in the composition, from the acoustics of any particular space of first performance (if still preserved), from the harmonic rhythm of the composition, from liturgical ties to a cantus firmus or to some particular hymnal, from intimate knowledge of instruments and voices, from the meaning of a sung text, from the way that text is married to fast or slow notes; and more.

George Houle's scholarly survey Meter in Music, 1600-1800 is one good place to start, with regard to meter signatures and poetic feet and accentuation and tactus-conducting. Another good place to start is actually to have a weekly church-music job for years, to find out what really works in practice. Among other approaches, and other books....

My main point is, despite a big bunch of clues from notation and circumstances, there's still a wide range where equally serious musicians will come to different solutions for different occasions, because of the practical nature of the job. That is: adaptability and tolerance.

And yes: George Houle's book presents Mattheson's ideas and many others in historical context. He presents Mattheson's comments about every meter signature. But, he doesn't simply latch onto one favored source and then assume that everything else is either irrelevant or faulty. His scholarly perspective is much broader and better-balanced than that. Walther, Sperling, Kirnberger, Rousseau, Vossius, and many dozens of others, taking the concepts forward in historical development from the 17th century practices, instead of merely looking back from the 20th/21st (and any modern expectations of meter or notation....).

=====

And sometimes,performances that might seem "too fast" on the surface (to some of us but not necessarily to any 18th century people!) are simply those where the performers are taking a different level of the note-values as the basic beat, vs a listener's expectation of same. Feeling the whole movement "in 2" as opposed to "in 4" or "in 6" or "in 8", as to the accentuation of the beats and any declamatory rhythmic freedom of smaller notes within those beats. Again it's a 17th-century notion of tactus conducting (indicating merely the big slow beat, like being in a broad 2) moving forward into the 18th. Subdivided note values are handled differently, in emphasis, between the levels where the musicians are bringing out any main beats.

To pick an illustrative example that has been discussed here before: Konrad Junghael's recent set of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) does rather well (IMO!) at this tactus-level, letting the music still seem slowish/relaxed and elegant, well-focused on musical Affekt, even though the absolute speed of the tiniest notes is pretty quick. By the time Junghanel is done with the whole piece, Scherchen and Klemperer still have half an hour to go, each: they've been bringing out a radically different level of note-values as the main beat, in many of the movements. And there's a continuum of other performances, in between. None of these performances are demonstrably "wrong" by merely appealing to Mattheson or whomever, selectively; my broader point, again, is that the music can stand a wide range of interpretation, not pinned to a butterfly-board.

Try conducting along with Junghanel's second "Kyrie eleison" in there. The whole movement takes slightly under three minutes, and try conducting it in a gently flowing one to the bar. At that level the music doesn't seem particularly fast. Then, on into the gentle (but still exciting) Gloria, two to a bar. If somebody tried to conduct the thing in six, at the same tempo, it would be impossibly frantic; but it's not.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 18, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>No score, no matter how thorough or scholarly or accompanied by critical commentary, is able to specify
all (or even a major portion) of musical decisions.<<

This has never been disputed by me. What is under discussion here is the degree of flexibility (variation from the best representation of the score) that a conductor, vocalist or instrumentalist can claim as a personal prerogative. There are certainly instances where some h-i-p conductors change or ignore Bach's notation or critical markings. It is important that listeners be made aware of such changes (excessive freedom in interpreting the score) when recordings are offered to the world public for posterity.

BL: >>Despite that extreme care with notation and instructions, there are still questions left unanswered by these written sources, and requiring musical taste and experience and training.<<
This is certainly the point at which "Fingerspitzengefühl" ("musical instinct") begins to take over. Many listeners, intensely involved with the performance, recorded or otherwise, will appreciate the wide array of variability between one performance and another of the same work. It is the combination of all these variables that goes beyond a simple, mechanical rendering of the score that make a great difference in capturing the mind and heart of a keen listener.

This changes, however, when someone speaks of a Bach score as simply providing an outline or a set of guidelines for performance and then proceeds to remove notes or change them radically from what Bach had notated. Or perhaps overlays Bach's intentions with an array of vapid, tasteless ornamentation. Or perhaps disregards or changes considerably Bach's indicated articulation. Is there any stricture against doing this [performing Bach as a personal arrangement, which is rather obvious as such because it does not follow the score directly]? No, but be honest with the audience and call it "Bach-Busoni", "Bach-Rachmaninoff/Rakhmaninov", etc.

BL: >>it's the fact that music can't be pinned to a butterfly-board with such precision, in the notation, for functional church music. Every acoustic is different. The abilities and balances of every ensemble are different. Every day is different.<<
Yes, and Bach's precise notation, articulation, ornamentation, dynamics are different because some conductors, vocalists and instrumentalists have changed them without giving good reasons for this. The fault lies not with Bach's composition but rather with the conductor and the performers when they disregard Bach's notation (changing the values of notes considerably or making others become inaudible). Now all the variables in a performance become an excuse not to perform the work as written.

BL: >>Church musicianship is a practical art of FLEXIBILITY and the ability to improvise a suitable interpretation under any circumstances. Liturgical performances don't go exactly the same way as any rehearsal.<<
There is certainly a vast difference between 'winging it' through liturgical performances and improvising interpretations from Sunday to Sunday in an American church of the 21st century and attempting to present for posterity a meaningful, recorded rendition of a single Bach cantata that will stand up to close scrutiny time and time again by listeners now and in the future. The latter will require much more preparation and rehearsal than the former. Considering both situations, the listeners' expectations will not be the same in each instance.

BL: >>And sometimes, performances that might seem "too fast" on the surface (to some of us but not necessarily to any 18th century people!) are simply those where the performers are taking a different level of the note-values as the basic beat, vs a listener's expectation of same.<<
What a listener can clearly hear in some of the h-i-p recordings of the cantatas is that the vocalist is barely able to sing an aria because the tempo is too fast for the voice. The performance begins to sound extremely rushed and forced. Perhaps then the conductor has actually chosen the wrong level of the note-values as the basic beat. How do you know that it might not necessarily seem too fast to any 18th century people? Where is the hard evidence for this?

BL: >>my broader point, again, is that the music can stand a wide range of interpretation, not pinned to a butterfly-board. Try conducting along with Junghanel's second "Kyrie eleison" in there. The whole movement takes slightly under three minutes, and try conducting it in a gently flowing one to the bar. At that level the music doesn't seem particularly fast. Then, on into the gentle (but still exciting) Gloria, two to a bar. If somebody tried to conduct the thing in six, at the same tempo, it would be impossibly frantic; but it's not.<<
It seems that anything is possible, even a Swingle Singer performance that might outdo Junghänel's performances in providing an even faster tempo. But these fast tempi are only accomplished at the great expense of losing many other great aspects of Bach's music which cannot be expressed under such circumstances (fast tempi, OVPP/OPPP or nearly OVPP/OPPP as chosen by certain h-i-p conductors who continue to pursue this direction).

Julian Mincham wrote (August 18, 2006):
I confess to being a bit bemused by the 'score versus interpretation' arguments.

It seems pretty obvious to me that any performer worth his or her salt will ascertain as much information from the score as is possible. Any indications left by the composer are valuable clues---this seems to be pretty much unarguable.

It also seems obvious that not every indication of phrasing, tone, articulation, dynamics etc can possibly be notated and here the performer must rely on imagination, intelligence, sensitivity and experience. This is where 'interpretation' comes in, and the very fact that there is so much discussion comparing different hip performances in this list alone is indicative of the wide range of interptretive decisions it is still possible to make with works thathave been peformed thousands of times..

Furthermore (I think I posted this story some time ago but it seems to be highly relevant to the current discussion) I recall some years ago a conductor telling me of his preparations for a performance of a major work by a very well know British composer now no longer with us. The composer attended the final rehearsal which was in the hall where the concert was to be given. During the break conductor and composer sat down to discuss, amongst other details, the various tempi. They noted that none of the tempi the conductor had chosen were the same as the metronome markings which the composer had thought about and published in his scores--some in fact were markedly different. The point is that on different instruments (e.g. pianos in particular) and in different venues with widely differering acoustics, changes may have to be made for best musical effect.

Apparently the composer was quite happy to agree the changes in tempo as being right for that orchestra in that venue. He also wisely remarked that when the concert hall was full, that some of the tempi might change again--possibly becoming slightly faster because of the lesser reverberation.

Musical interpretation is and endlessly fascinating subject! Long may it remain so.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 18, 2006):
tempos...OVER-notation

Julian Mincham wrote:
< It also seems obvious that not every indication of phrasing, tone, articulation, dynamics etc can possibly be notated and here the performer must rely on imagination, intelligence, sensitivity and experience. This is where 'interpretation' comes in, and the very fact that there is so much discussion comparing different hip performances in this list alone is indicative of the wide range of interptretive decisions it is still possible to make with works that have been peformed thousands of times..>
In fact, there are composers who OVER-notate their scores. In many of his earlier scores, Benjamin Britten tries to write in every articulation and dynamic marking imaginable. In later life, he began to trust the intelligence of his performers and stopped the avalanche of information. Mahler rarely lets a bar go by without a marking or comment of some kind

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
< (...) The point is that on different instruments (e.g. pianos in particular) and in different venues with widely differering acoustics, changes may have to be made for best musical effect.
Apparently the composer was quite happy to agree the changes in tempo as being right for that orchestra in that venue. He also wisely remarked that when the concert hall was full, that some of the tempi might change again--possibly becoming slightly faster because of the lesser reverberation.
Musical interpretation is and endlessly fascinating subject! Long may it remain so. >
A friend of mine in grad school was a middle-aged guy going back to get his doctorate in a classical instrument, after many years out doing other things. And, 15 years earlier, he had been a composer of pop songs, among other activities. Several of his songs are quite well-known, although not credited under his name as he'd sold the rights to them to a publisher years ago; and then various groups recorded them. One day, as a surprise to him, I dug up a recording of one of his songs as sung more recently by Streisand, and he hadn't known she even performed it. I simply handed him my walkman, said, "Listen to this," and turned it on for him. He stood there listening intently, and soon had tears on his face as he got through it. "Holy #^%#, did I write that? I had no idea it would ever be done that beautifully! You know, the person I wrote that song for is gone. And I didn't know that this piece is that good!"

My concept of "composer's intentions" changed forever, that day. Barbra Streisand (and/or her arrangers and producers) knew a better way to put the song across effectively than the composer ever imagined: changing the tempo, key, much of the phrasing, some of the words, improvising all over the vocal line, emphasizing different words, changing some of the harmonic motion, and more.

This is no laissez-faire argument, from me, that "composer's intentions" are meaningless or not worth grappling with. They're still important. The bigger thing is the composer's apparent intentions that aren't recorded in the notes, or in his own demo of the piece with such intensity: the way life would never be the same, practically or emotionally, before and after encountering the song and its message. This level of the composition doesn't bow to notes or phrases or pronunciation or keys. It bows to the song's reasons for existence, to express things inside and outside music. The more an outstanding performer really "gets" the piece, the more freedom there is to change details to focus that message even better, with profound respect for (and fidelity to!) the material. To the point of making the composer cry (in a good way), and more.

=====

This same type of thing has already come back around on top of me. Some years ago, as a surprise, I received a recording somebody had made of one of my vocal pieces. She rearranged it for one performer on two overdubbed pianos, slowed it down considerably, and omitted all the words. My own demo recording is published, sung by a decent vocal ensemble conducted by me, presumably preserving my "composer's intentions" at least at the time of the recording; and this other person's piano-duo performance sounds radically different, but still recognizably the same piece and with a similar mood/message to it. It's something I didn't "intend" or imagine at the time of composition, but it's beautifully and imaginatively done, and that's more important to me than having anyone simply mimic my own recording of it. Music has more room for thoughtful interpretation than that. Somebody could do another one with much more tempo rubato in it, and different instrumentation again, and I'd be happy with that too as long as they did it with musical integrity and sensitivity to the composition. Who am I as the composer to know the limits of that? I don't. The more thoughtfully any divergent interpretations are applied to the piece, the better the piece gets. Compositions take on a life of their own. The composer has no monopoly on appropriateness.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
>>No score, no matter how thorough or scholarly or accompanied by critical commentary, is able to specify all (or even a major portion) of musical decisions.<<
< This has never been disputed by me. What is under discussion here is the degree of flexibility (variation from the best representation of the score) that a conductor, vocalist or instrumentalist can claim as a personal prerogative. There are certainly instances where some h-i-p conductors change or ignore Bach's notation or critical markings. It is important that listeners be made aware of such changes (excessive freedom in interpreting the score) when recordings are offered to the world public for posterity. >
Ummmm...who are you to decide what's "excessive" freedom within a job that you yourself don't do? And, to present your assessments as if they're in any way objective? And, who appointed you to be this judge?

Granted, people splatter their spleens all over products all the time, in places like epinions.com about household appliances and bowling shoes. But, these are clearly SUBJECTIVE opinions that the consumer frankly didn't fancy the thing, for such-and-such reasons. (Even though the site itself advertises "Unbiased reviews by real people"!) They're not opinions asserting that the manufacturer was a dishonest so-and-so, and worse; or trying to guess and then thrash the manufacturer's presumably twisted motivations. Who appoints himself the sole judge of the only proper way to make a shoe, by some faux-historical methodology, and then blisters anybody IN PUBLIC who would disagree on even the smallest detail? [No pun intended there on "sole" and "shoe", it just happened...] Especially if he's never made a shoe himself, in his life, but only speculates about what might work?

Well-written opinacknowledge that the person judging the thing is bringing his/her own set of arbitrary expectations to the task, and that the opinion is merely a PERSONAL PREFERENCE; not trying to prove that the thing is evil incarnate, or a reduction of music to "lite entertainment", or whatnot or whatnot or whatnot as a supreme judgment of its worth. Well-written opinions also show some awareness that different consumers will be pleased by different things, or might bring altogether different needs or expectations to the product.

BL: >>it's the fact that music can't be pinned to a butterfly-board with such precision, in the notation, for functional church music. Every acoustic is different. The abilities and balances of every ensemble are different. Every day is different.<<
TB: < Yes, and Bach's precise notation, articulation, ornamentation, dynamics are different because some conductors, vocalists and instrumentalists have changed them without giving good reasons for this. >
The "good reason" is that expert musicians and scholars are allowed to do things as their expertise and experience deem fit; and they're not required to explain every microscopic practical decision TO YOU or to any other uppity consumer.

If the consumer doesn't fancy the result, fine. It still doesn't mean that the producers or performers or scholars are ignoramuses, or dishonest, or all the worse allegations you regularly throw against them (under the guise of being objective, and using more objective-sounding language on the surface).

If the consumer IS NOT FIT (by credentials or experience) to sit on the doctoral examining committees of these musicians, what good is the pretense that such judgments against serious work should better be passed in public on the internet, by the same self-appointed consumer out to warn the whole world that everybody (but himself) is dishonest and untrustworthy and somehow ruining the beloved material? It's a SUBJECTIVE OPINION that such-and-so a product crosses against the consumer's expectations or desires. If the consumer is cynical enough really to believe that all expert practitioners of the music today are out to destroy the material, well then, that's a PERSONAL problem to get over; and it really says nothing one way or the other about the actual work turned in by experts, except that the consumer doesn't get it and doesn't understand what the word "expertise" means.

And now, I have (once again) a full day of detailed work to do on something other than music. And for breaks I plan to do something I enjoy, which is to continue to play all the way through Couperin's published books of harpsichord music using the Bach temperament, to hear and enjoy what it sounds like.

Chris Rowson wrote (August 18, 2006):
Tempos and HiP

I have been occupied some time with this issue of tempo, particularly for J.S. Bach (although also for other music of around his time). I note that it is often said that the modern idea of HIP includes fast tempi. I am very much inclined towards some form of HIP, but my own studies indicate much more moderate tempi than I hear in HIP CDs.

Similarly, my experiences playing the music lead me to much more moderate tempi, and it is rare that I can enjoy the HIP CDs, in large part because of what seem to me rushed tempi.

Contributing to my feeling are my experience of wearing and performing in Baroque clothing, with the fascinating sensations this can bring, and on my partner´s recent involvement with Baroque dance. Alongside this, we read Quantz, who writes principally of a pulse relating to heart-beat speed (except for dance, for which he gives specific tempi for each dance type).

So can anyone please enlighten me as to the basis for the idea that it is HIP to play fast?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 18, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< So can anyone please enlighten me as to the basis for the idea that it is HIP to play fast? >
One factor is notation. So-called "white notation" or "alla breve" is a strong holdover from the 16th and 17th century where the principal pulse or tactus was what we would call a half-note. From the Classical period on, "alla breve" notation all but disappeared and performers began to expect "modern" notation where the quarter note is the pulse.

Bach uses "alla breve" notation in the "Credo" and Confiteor" and so the 19th century revivers of Bach, used to the quarter pulse, set the tempo twice as slow as Bach. Much the same problem exists in the "Crucifixus" where the half note is the tactus.

I remember the howls of outrage which accompanied Richter's recording of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) in which he literally took the tempi twice as fast as was conventional. This was not an eccentricity on his part, but rather a classic example of scholarship informing artists in the correct interpretation of the score.

Stephen Benson wrote (August 18, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< The more an outstanding performer really "gets" the piece, the more freedom there is to change details to focus that message even better, with profound respect for (and fidelity to!) the material.... The more thoughtfully any divergent interpretations are applied to the piece, the better the piece gets. Compositions take on a life of their own. >
I’ve always felt that the printed score is at best only a poor visual substitute for an aural phenomenon. The conventions of musical notation are a sort of paint-by-the-numbers code to be deciphered by the performing artist who is concerned primarily with transforming that collection of ink blots into a meaningful soundscape, an
alchemical process of converting musical lead into gold.If a score revealed all its secrets, what would be the point of an artist performing or recording a piece that had already received its "definitive" treatment according to the "printed" instructions? And if the meaning of a score were so clearly delineated, wouldn't such performances exist?

John Pike wrote (August 18, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] I think it is probably an over-simplified generalisation to say that HIP involves playing everything fast. Admittedly, there are some comparatively very fast or fast HIP recordings around, but often I find people with an interest in HIP performance will choose slower tempi than the norm.

I am against labelling people as HIP or non-HIP. I would prefer to refer to people as having an interest in HIP-performance, since most people defy being put in buckets like this. I am not really bothered whether something is HIP or not HIP, fast or slow. what matters to me is whether the performance is beautiful and seems to bring out qualities inherent in the music. There may be many different ways of performing a particular piece, especially by Bach, some of them bringing out different qualities in the music compared to others. To take John Eliot Gardiner as an example. I find he often likes to bring out the dance like qualities in Bach's music, that seems to flow naturally from many of Bach's rhythms. However, it would be totally unfair and an unsustainable generalisation to say that he takes everything fast. Some of his recordings are quite a bit slower than many other traditional recordings. On other occasions, I have to admit I found his tempi too fast, but this is the exception rather than the rule. On a recent DVD about the BCP, I heard an extract of the opening chorus from "Wachet Auf", BWV 140. That really was too fast for my taste, but it is the only such example that comes to mind immediately. Initially I thought that a recording of one of the "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" cantatas was too fast, but a short period of reflection revealed why that tempo had been chosen quite legitimately.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 18, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
< To take John Eliot Gardiner as an example. I find he often likes to bring out the dance like qualities in Bach's music, that seems to flow naturally from many of Bach's rhythms. However, it would be totally unfair and an unsustainable generalisation to say that he takes everything fast. >
We've been around the "dance" debate before but there are movements which have traditionallly been played too slowly because the dance element has been ignored.

My favourite example is "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" (aka "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring") which has traditionally had a moderato tempo with legato phrasing. The music tells us that it is a "gigue" in 9/8 yet I have never heard it at the tempo which I think is implied (I also think that the choral parts in 3/4 are meant to be a simultaneous minuet but that's another discussion).

Before people go apoplectic, I would ask should an organ piece such as the G Major "Jig" Fugue be played at a slower tempo simply because it was played in church?

An important part of Baroque performance is looking at what Bach implied by using certain styles. As always, I don't believe that there was discontinuity between so-called "sacred" and "secular styles -- despite how we might interpret what contemporary theorists might say.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 18, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
BL: >>The more an outstanding performer really "gets" the piece, the more freedom there is to change details to focus that message even better, with profound respect for (and fidelity to!) the material.<<
Details like radically changing the length of notes, disregarding dynamics, supplying distracting embellishments, etc.?

BL: >>The more thoughtfully any divergent interpretations are applied to the piece, the better the piece gets. Compositions take on a life of their own. The composer has no monopoly on appropriateness.<<
This may be true for many present-day composers and their compositions, but it is certainly not true with Bach’s compositions. There is a world (perhaps universe) of difference between the two. Any broad comparisons of this type are bound to be faulty because they are unable to recognize the difference.

The key word here is 'thoughtfully'. Who or what defines the limits: Bach's score or a personal arrangement of the score?

BL: >>Ummmm...who are you to decide what's "excessive" freedom within a job that you yourself don't do? And, to present your assessments as if they're in any way objective? And, who appointed you to be this judge?<<
Using your already rather trite analogy of the stupid consumer who does not know how to create or manufacture a product, hence is unable to judge it objectively, you are thus underestimating the ability of such a consumer to recognize product-related defects which prevent an ideal perfection from being achieved. Certainly these defects (which in the case of musical performance can easily be determined by looking at the score) are objective results which can be judged by those who did not compose or perform the composition just as with a faulty product that does not function properly and fulfill the purpose for which it had been designed. There are those product designers and manufacturers who have a vested interest in selling their defective products as long as it is possible. To this end they may even launch a campaign to squelch any criticism that may arise by stating loudly and publicly: “Because you didn’t design or make this product, you have no right to criticize how poorly it functions until you have made one yourself. Rather, you, as just a stupid consumer, must learn to live quietly and uncomplainingly with the built-in obsolescence we are offering you. We stand firmly behind (as far away as possible in order not to interact with our consumers) our products which we consider the best that have ever been made. To show our customers in what manner their opinions may be expressed, we offer a sample of how such a message from a consumer should appear:”

“Dear Sirs:

Today I opened with great delight the package containing your marvelous product. Now I too possess the same product owned by all the other Joneses on my block. This gives me a very good feeling about which I am very happy. After trying it out to see how it works, I discovered that it was full of wonderful surprises. For instance, the plastic lid on the side broke off, but I view this as an advantage since now more air will circulate inside where all the delicate parts are located and I can hold it better when I stick my fingers into the wider opening. I suggest that you try to modify your product to include this new feature. When I tried to use it for cutting, I was amazed that it can cut crooked, jagged lines. The straight-line mode no longer seems to function, but no matter, I love these crooked lines because they express my individuality. Let the neighbors have their straight-line cuts! There is really nothing very special about them anyway. I prefer mine over all the others. This afternoon a loose, plastic piece fell out through the opening. My little boy picked it up and began playing with it as a toy. There was no need for me to be concerned since your engineers in the product development department must have considered every imaginable possibility: this object does not have pointed or sharp edges that might injure my son. How wonderful!

As a result of my very favorable experience with your product, I have begun demonstrating all these new, unexpected features to my neighbors. I sincerely hope that the feedback I am giving you will encourage you to create even newer features for this product, features that I as a consumer cannot even imagine.

Yours truly (and a very satisfied customer)

Eva Jones”

BL: >>Well-written opinions acknowledge that the person judging the thing is bringing his/her own set of arbitrary expectations to the task, and that the opinion is merely a PERSONAL PREFERENCE; not trying to prove that the thing is evil incarnate, or a reduction of music to "lite entertainment", or whatnot or whatnot or whatnot as a supreme judgment of its worth. Well-written opinions also show some awareness that different consumers will be pleased by different things, or might bring altogether different needs or expectations to the product.<<
'nuff said!

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
< We've been around the "dance" debate before but there are many movements which have traditionallly been played too slowly because the dance element has been ignored.
My favourite example is "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" (aka "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring") which has traditionally had a moderato tempo with legato phrasing. The music tells us that it is a "gigue" in 9/8 yet I have never heard it at the tempo which I think is implied (I also think that the choral parts in 3/4 are meant to be a simultaneous minuet but that's another discussion). >
Get Andrew Parrott's recording of that isolated movement, on his Baroque-favorites anthology. Very nice. This one, track 16 on disc 1: Amazon.com

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
< To take John Eliot Gardiner as an example. I find he often likes to bring out the dance like qualities in Bach's music, that seems to flow naturally from many of Bach's rhythms. However, it would be totally unfair and an unsustainable generalisation to say that he takes everything fast. Some of his recordings are quite a bit slower than many other traditional recordings. >
Especially (to pick some examples) his "Amen" section at the end of Handel's "Messiah". And, Gardiner's first movement in Berlioz's "Harold en Italie" takes three minutes longer than Munch's. In "Mars" of Holst's "The Planets", Gardiner is more than a minute slower than each of Stokowski, Dutoit, and Boult.

For the nuts of it, I checked out the Gardiner and Leusink recordings of the aria BWV 147/5, both with the same soprano, Ruth Holton. The timings are within a few seconds of one another, Gardiner's taking 7 seconds less. The first quarter of the piece is all a violin solo anyway! Gardiner's has more of a spring to it, overall, without being noticeably faster; it's a matter of accentuated emphasis in different parts of the meter. (Another difference is Gardiner's harpsichord vs Leusink's organ, in the continuo team.)

In the "Allelujah" finale of BWV 51, Gardiner/Kirkby and Gardiner/Hartelius both have the same tempo as Schwarzkopf/Gellhorn from 1950.

=====

Speaking of that BWV 51 again, but the first movement: Goebel/Schaefer dispatch it in 3'53", and it's made even more exciting and headlong as they're playing Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's arrangement with a second trumpet and a set of tympani added. Wow! I still prefer the ones I said earlier, overall, but this one is fun to put on occasionally, to hear what the composer's favorite son did with rearranging the piece.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 18, 2006):
Big Band Bach

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Speaking of that BWV 51 again, but the first movement: Goebel/Schaefer dispatch it in 3'53", and it's made even more exciting and headlong as they're playing Wilhelm Friedemann Bach's arrangement with a second trumpet and a set of tympani added. Wow! >
Yum, yum ... I think Cantata BWV 80, "Ein feste Burg" is even better with Willi's addition of trumpets and timpani.

But then I have a weakness for "schmetterene Töne" from trumpets and "donnerende" timpani.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
< Using your already rather trite analogy of the stupid consumer who does not know how to create or manufacture a product, hence is unable to judge it objectively, you are thus underestimating the ability of such a consumer to recognize product-related defects which prevent an ideal perfection from being achieved. Certainly these defects (which in the case of musical performance can easily be determined by looking at the score) are objective results which can be judged by those who did not compose or perform the composition just as with a faulty product that does not function properly and fulfill the purpose for which it had been designed. >
But, the fatal flaw of YOUR argumentation is perpetually that you assume your own way of reading scores is the only possibly correct one. You don't trust any REAL expert to be able to read scores better than, or at least differently from, you--in good faith and in respectful service of the music. Judging from your regular mode of commentary about such things, the range of notational and conventional differences is a closed book to you, with regard to performing 17th/18th century music. The book is closed BY YOU with your personal reading of NBA scores, instead of taking training or listening to anyone else's serious training in the additionally valid ways of recognizing notation.

The Bach scores DO NOT SAY only that which you personally judge them to say; and as if that's the ONLY possible road to "Bach's intentions", whatever the %*#% that might mean. Nay; your PERSONAL reading and wishes from score-staring are the main standard by which you judge everybody else to be wrong, before you bring in the likes of Mattheson and Dürr and then hide yourself behind their authority, so it doesn't look like you're being subjective and arbitrary.

Is there any discernible difference between the phrase "Bach's intentions" and "Braatz's wishes"? Some days it sure doesn't seem like it, to me; one can be substituted for the other, wholesale. According to Braatz's wishes about the music, everybody's wrong. Well, I can live perfectly happily with that sentence because it's a forthright recognition of the subjectivity involved. Does Thomas Braatz happen to like or appreciate any of my musicianship, if he's even deigned ever to listen to any examples of it? I really don't care, because Braatz's wishes are not equated with Bach's intentions or anyone else's intentions as a real composer, or as a seasoned performer; he's just one highly opinionated listener predisposed to bad-mouth just about all real musicians in public, so I daren't take all of his nit-picking personally. Those who listen to any recordings he's reviewed are free to formulate their own opinions, anyway, whether he liked the thing or not, and whether he drummed up quasi-evidence to justify his assertions or not. They're all personal PREFERENCES.

< 'nuff said! >
Dare we hope?

Well, more than enough from me on this.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 18, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>But, the fatal flaw of YOUR argumentation is perpetually that you assume your own way of reading scores is the only possibly correct one.<<
You still have not answered some of my repeated questions:

If Bach’s autograph score or original parts show

1 a note of a given value prescribed by Bach

does the performer have a right to change this note so that

a) its value changes drastically (a whole note becomes a quarter note or even less)?

b) it becomes inaudible to the audience but still appears in the ‘outline’ given by Bach?

2) dynamic markings personally written in the parts by Bach

does the performer have the right to ignore these markings because

a) they are understood by some HiP specialists not to refer to dynamics but rather to be understood simply as markers alerting the instrumentalists that a vocal soloist is beginning or ending a section of singing within the movement?

b) they remind some HiP specialists of terrace(d) dynamics which they contend Bach never used?

3) certain embellishments or some other forms of ornamentation

does the performer have a right to alter these at will so that

a) the performance of Bach’s composition now includes a variety of other embellishments which are thought to
be presented with better musical taste than Bach’s?

4) no tempo markings

does the conductor now decide to choose a tempo (without consulting with the vocalist beforehand) too fast or too slow for a vocalist to execute properly so that the result is

a) a rushed, forced presentation or a boringly slow one which the vocalist is incapable of sustaining?

b) the vocalist can only survive the performance by singing primarily sotto voce (a light, unsupported voice)?

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< You still have not answered some of my repeated questions: >
Well, y'see, intelligent members of this discussion list have already answered ALL these questions of yours forthrightly over the period of the last five years here. You just haven't liked or accepted the answers or the reasoning presented. Too bad. Anyway, it's all in the archives and I invite you to look there.

Oh, wait, my mistake: this one appears to be new:

< 4) no tempo markings
does the conductor now decide to choose a tempo (without consulting with the vocalist beforehand) too fast or too slow for a vocalist to execute properly so that the result is
a) a rushed, forced presentation or a boringly slow one which the vocalist is incapable of sustaining? >

Curse those incredibly insensitive and pigheaded conductors who refuse to consult with their musicians beforehand, or to allow any retakes on the recording! They ought to be strung up by the third toes and ridiculed in public, until they mend their ways.

Please provide a concrete example--even ONE will do--where you're absolutely certain the conductor didn't give a rat's #&^(&^# about the singer's ability, even enough to ask an opinion about tempo. Then, maybe we can go look that conductor up and ridicule him in public, and then ask what they possibly could have been thinking. No, wait, we don't even need to ask what they could have been thinking; because it's sufficient just to guess what conductors are thinking. Conductors are notoriously willful and uncontrollable individuals, at least the way you've taught us to believe, so I don't expect them to be real happy about the nature of the question; but hey, it's your question, so good luck with it. Let us know what you find out, on the occasion that you actually meet a real conductor in person.

Sorry I couldn't answer this question better. I'm just a musician. I don't really know what I'm talking about. Musicians are notoriously clueless. I sure wish we could read music better. Say, do you offer lessons as nicely as Professor Harold Hill and that totally cool Think System of his? Gary Conservatory of Music, class of ought-five, was it? Hey, cool, that was a hundreyears ago already! http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056262/quotes

Stephen Benson wrote (August 19, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
< I am not really bothered whether something is HIP or not HIP, fast or slow. what matters to me is whether the performance is beautiful and seems to bring out qualities inherent in the music. >
Makes a lot of sense to me!

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 19, 2006):
[To John Pike] I don't like labeling anyone HIP because it's jargon and bad jargon at that. After all, if there is an "historically informed performance" that implies there are also "historically uninformed performances." (HUPs I guess.) I rather doubt that gents like Solti or Furtwängler thought of their work in those terms.

That said, the period instrument movement was real enough and very self-conscious of the fact that they were moving onto new grounds. Please refer to the liner notes of the pioneering alblums from Archiv, Vanguard and others. The code back then was to label a work as done with "original instruments." But it also implied a different approach to playing. And I think we'd be missing something not to realize that quicker tempos were very much part of the scene especially as the ensembles got involved in classical works and Beethoven. Now, I suppose if you sit around long enough fashion will change back to where you want it and many issues concerning interpretation of scores were going hot and heavy long before performers like Harnoncourt showed up at all. Toscanini had his supporters in rapture and detractors preparing molotov cocktails over his interpretation of Beethoven and the Romantics. Yet if you are comparing Baroque music played by men like Munchinger with that of Hogwood or Harnoncourt I think quicker tempos, often significantly quicker, was very much the norm among the Young Turks. Exceptions existed certainly, but I doubt we're going to see any SMP's (BWV 244) done again the way Klemperer did it.

PS: Thankee Dr. Braatz on the very interesting material concerning men's choirs.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 19, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I remember the howls of outrage which accompanied Richter's recording of the Mass in B Minor ((BWV 232) in which he literally took the tempi twice as fast as was conventional. This was not an eccentricity on his part, but rather a classic example of scholarship informing artists in the correct interpretation of the score. >
I do not know the recording, but I am inspired to seek it out by the clear, concise argument. Setting a fine example!

I also note with some satisfaction the careful use of inform, the central word in hIP, not to take away from performance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Toscanini had his supporters in rapture and detractors preparing molotov cocktails over his interpretation of Beethoven and the Romantics. >
Bayreuth keeps records of the durations of all operas performed. The slowest "Parsifal" in the whole history of the festival was conducted by Toscanini.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (August 19, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
< I am not really bothered whether something is HIP or not HIP, fast or slow. what matters to me is whether the performance is beautiful and seems to bring out qualities inherent in the music. >
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Makes a lot of sense to me! >
The other day I was caused to listen to two Bach bass cantatas with Mack Harrell, BWV 56 & BWV 82, or rather I did succumb and listen to BWV 56, these were Harrell's recordings with Robert Shaw. In actuality, although I fully agree that HIP or UNHIP can be most edifying, the orchestral transcription (I don't know what else to call it) that Shaw used was more Stokowsky than Bach. Of a truth I simply lost my interest while the singer, a bass-baritone to my ears, was fine enough, the bachiness was lost in the orchestra.

Tonight I have been listening to a number of BWV 82(a) recordings I have by soprano, bass, tenor, mezzo, and counter-tenor and to my surprise, as a voice person, the first thing that deeply influences me is the orchestra. For example Europa Galante under Fabio Biondi in the Bostridge recording is simply enchanting. Unless a singer is one that "kills me", the orchestra needs to be on the small-scale for me and moderately there rather than overwhelming the universe with unbachic sounds as Mr. Shaw did.

Of course there are vast differences between and amongst the various singers but my attention has really focused on the orchestral forces since that experience the other night with Shaw.

Now Casals is not my kind of orchestra in Tourel's "Erbarme dich" but the singer kills me. With average singers (persons have referred to someone's [Koopman's?] mezzos being acceptable or some such word), well then the orchestral reality will matter much more.

BWV 82 is a rare exception for me where I have a relatively large number of recordings including the two or 1.65 LHL recordings, the 1990 of the McGegan Clavierbüchlein für AMB and her 2002 recording.

I am surprised at how much I am enjoying the whole of the Bostridge Bach Cantatas and Arias CD as last time I really did not like it. So as Chris said: not insulting anyone else's taste UNLESS you like Shaw <ha, ha>,

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 19, 2006):
[To Bradley Lehman] Expecting a performer to follow the score doesn't seem to be excesive, not to mention a forbiden desire for non-experts, which by the way sounds to me as a completly radical assessment from you, and unexplainably "corporative". If you see a surgeon playing tic-tac-toe with a scalpel on a patient's belly, no need to say that's NOT good practice, even if it's a harpsichord player who says so :)

On the contrary, the pretention to abandon the score due to some mystical, pseudo-scientific petulances qualifies as subjective as the desire to keep things as written.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 19, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< You still have not answered some of my repeated questions: >>
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Well, y'see, intelligent members of this discussion list have already answered ALL these questions of yours forthrightly over the period of the last five years here. You just haven't liked or accepted the answers or the reasoning presented. Too bad. Anyway, it's all in the archives and I invite you to look there. >
While on topic: is there any historical, documented source (from bach's time) that stablishes the degree of accuracy of composers score writing, and/or performer's degree of concern about accuracy in performance vs. scores?? I mean: were scores intended to be a general guide to approach the composer's musical idea or the "definitive" expresion of the work?

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 19, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Granted, people splatter their spleens all over products all the time, in places like epinions.com about household appliances and bowling shoes. But, these are clearly SUBJECTIVE opinions that the consumer frankly didn't fancy the thing, for such-and-such reasons. (Even though the site itself advertises "Unbiased reviews by real people"!) They're not opinions asserting that the manufacturer was a dishonest so-and-so, and worse; or trying to guess and then thrash the manufacturer's presumably twisted motivations. Who appoints himself the sole judge of the only proper way to make a shoe, by some faux-historical methodology, and then blisters anybody IN PUBLIC who would disagree on even the smallest detail? [No pun intended there on "sole" and "shoe", it just happened...] Especially if he's never made a shoe himself, in his life, but only speculates about what might work? >
Actually, I think Brad is getting a little behind times. (Aren't we all.) Check out the "blogosphere" that is sweeping up political junkies across the globe. Everyone on earth can be a political pundit. It doesn't matter whether one knows anything, an editor or peer has looked at your workor the author has any qualifications: it's a free society, so fire away. The same thing is happening with music and videos distributed on the internet. We can dispense with the wicked men that run the music or film industries and go straight to the public. The fact that perhaps less than .00001% of the content is worth experiencing is irrelevant.

So why not democratic classical music. We could get amateur musicians record works on the internet and have them judged by people who very likely can't read music. One could even organize this on a competitive basis modeled after American Idol. (I hear the concept is European, so everyone join in.) We could have International Diva or Ensemble of the Century chosen by everyone. We should do it on pod cast. And if people want to perform in costume, bite the heads off chickens or have cantatas sung by pretty girls in slinky black dresses all the better. At least we'd be free of the tyranny of the conductor and hardly concerned with fine points of musicianship. The road to pure art I tell you.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 19, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Bayreuth keeps records of the durations of all operas performed. The slowest "Parsifal" in the whole history of the festival was conducted by Toscanini. >
I was right in the middle of the Furtwängler - Toscanini dust-up in grad school and for most recordings the difference in approach was startling. (I preferred Furrtwängler at the time. The follies of youth.) As for Parsifal, who knows, maybe Toscanini was right. I can't think of anything in his character that would have driven him to show the musical public that he could conduct more slowly than the next musical super-star.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< The road to pure art I tell you. >
The road to pure art is paved with good intentions. No? Some other place?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 19, 2006):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< If a score revealed all its secrets, what would be the point of an artist performing or recording a piece that had already received its "definitive" treatment according to the "printed" instructions? >
Same point as reading a poem aloud. Music has extra dimensions, and therefore complexity, but the principle is the same.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I don't like labeling anyone HIP because it's jargon and bad jargon at that. >
I could not agree more. But here is the problem, in the official BCW list of abbreviations, you find:

HIP
Historically Informed Performance
See: Discussions of HIP in General Topics Section

In the source column, blank. So it could be that American Academic in NJ or even Indiana. I am confident that I traced it back as far as someone (undoubtedly academic) in the UK, prior to 1995. I will resist the temptation to make any facetious suggestions regarding list members, lest someone take it seriously.

HiP, h-i-p, and hIP seem to be adding a bit of originality to an unfortunate, but convenient acronym. If only someone could straighten out the War Dept.

Julian Mincham wrote (August 19, 2006):
the tempi discussion

My stance towards Richter is much like Harry Crosbies' attidude towards Koopman--a lot of respect but there are many other versions I prefer.

However thinking about this I recall an unforgettable experience of attending a Richter concert performance of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) in Vienna many years ago. A few weeks later I heard his studio broadcast of the same work. What interested me was that several of the tempi in the broadcast were slower (yes slower!) than those in the live concert performance. In particular, I recall the phenominal speed of the Cum Sancto Spiritu--so fast that when it came to the final triplets in the trumpet part (trumpeter was the great Maurice Andre) the audience actually laughed at the vituosity!

Not sure what the further morals might be except to indicate that choice of tempi is very much a movable feast depending on all sorts of local cirumstances.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 19, 2006):
Pablo Fagoaga wrote to Bradley Lehman:
< Expecting a performer to follow the score doesn't seem to be excesive, not to mention a forbiden desire for non-experts, which by the way sounds to me as a completly radical assessment from you, and unexplainably "corporative". >
It's not a matter of "following" a score, or not. It's a matter of interpreting notation within 17th/18th century norms of what that notation most likely meant to those people. We can't automatically assume it's the same thing it means within a rather naive/generic batch of score-reading habits today (like looking at, say, a Schoenberg score) and expecting the same level of detail, or even expecting similar markings to mean similar things...or lack thereof.

This has been discussed here extensively before. It's also been pointed out that the naive/literalistic 20th century manner of reading older scores (and trying to be blisteringly "faithful" to all their markings, no more, no less) goes back little farther than Arturo Toscanini.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 19, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>It's not a matter of "following" a score, or not. It's a matter of interpreting notation within 17th/18th century norms of what that notation most likely meant to those people.<<
These 18th century norms of what Bach's scores likely meant "to those people" are not followed by most current conductors of Bach's concerted vocal music since it is quite apparent that they do not recognize the clear distinction that existed in performance practices between "musica ecclesiastica", "musica cubicularis", and "musica theatralis" or "Kirchen Stylo", "Kammer Stylo", and "Theater Stylo" ("Church Music Style", "Chamber Music Style", and "Theater/Opera Music Style"). Many recordings, particularly more recent ones, of Bach's cantatas, etc. reveal that conductors, vocal soloists, and instrumentalists are unaware of these distinctions which obtained during Bach's lifetime. In Bach's Passions and cantatas, conductors perform dance movements in the style of opera or chamber music. Tempo along with accentuation is a major factor here. There are, of course, consumers who desire such non-devotional performances as they provide pleasant background listening, but do they really fulfill what the notation from the score meant to the people back then?

The issue of environmental and other circumstantial factors affecting the performances of Bach's music has been brought up in this discussion, but it fails to address the question of style as it pertains to recreating an actual performance. The lack of gravitas, not that every movement would have to be performed in a slow, lugubrious manner, has led generally to the other extreme: faster tempi with instrumentalists playing with a light, staccato-like touch and singers emulating this sound with half-hearted, sotto-voce performances. Countertenors and male contraltos renowned for their performances of Baroque operas persist in singing Bach's sacred music in the same, operatic manner to which they have become accustomed.

Interpretation of a Bach score must include recognition of the differences between the three separate performance modes listed above. A performance given in a church does not automatically mean that the artists have succeeded in performing in the "Church Style". Arnold Schering, in 1936, was concerned that too many vocal soloists who were singing Bach's church music brought with them all the performance habits they had acquired on stage in performing operas. Evidence of this can be heard in some very early Bach recordings. At the present time we need to be concerned that the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction: vocalists with precise intonation and technique in hitting the notes accurately but singing with little soul since they have either learned to sing primarily sotto voce or lack the vocal equipment to produce full vocal sound throughout the entire required range that Bach expects from them. The generally faster tempi taken by conductors may have encouraged this type of sotto-voce singing since it is easier to sinfast in this manner than to do the same with a full voice.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 19, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< These 18th-century norms of what Bach's scores likely meant "to those people" are not followed by most current conductors of Bach's concerted vocal music since it is quite apparent that they do not recognize the clear distinction that existed in performance practices between "musica ecclesiastica", "musica cubicularis", and "musica theatralis" or "Kirchen Stylo", "Kammer Stylo", and "Theater Stylo" ("Church Music Style", "Chamber Music Style", and "Theater/Opera Music Style"). Many recordings, particularly more recent ones, of Bach's cantatas, etc. reveal that conductors, vocal soloists, and instrumentalists are unaware of these distinctions which obtained during Bach's lifetime. (...) >
And, of course the only possibly correct "Church Style" is uniquely accessible to the speculative perceptions of a person whose initials are T.B.

Same old problem: the mistaking of a private universe for something more universal. And then, it's coupled with the usual unsupported allegation that everybody outside T.B. is "unaware" of that only acceptable truth; T.B. allegedly knows the minds of everybody, and what's (not) in them.

Well, it's probably true that everybody's "unaware" of how things actually operate within T.B.'s universe. Any modern musicians outside T.B. himself are obviously unwelcome in this universe, let alone being "aware" of how things should go, within it. It's therefore little surprising that everything we do is a disappointment, as it gets filtered somehow past the boundaries of the T.B. universe and wiggles its way to the center. That universe fulfills its own stigmas, with its own private definitions of objectivity. Everything gets stopped as unworthy, at the border crossing on the way in. Or else, refracted beyond reasonable recognition. Whatever.

Well, at least, that's what I guess, not being an object of T.B.'s universe.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 19, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And, of course the only possibly correct "Church Style" is uniquely accessible to the speculative perceptions of a person whose initials are T.B.<<
Unfortunately, the definition of “Church Style” was already rather widely available to German composers and musicians at the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century in the form of treatises and books: A. Berardi in his “Miscellanea musicale”, 1698, which was based in part upon another earlier work by M. Scacchi in 1643. Niedt, Heinichen, and primarily Mattheson, who had the widest possible musical experience as a composer and performer in all three styles, quickly picked up this distinction which is defined in their books: Friedrich Erhardt Niedt’s “Musicalische Handleitung”, Part 1, Hamburg, 1710, chapter 4, regarding the “C” time signature states: “Die Italiäner und Teutschen aber bleiben meistentheils in geistlichen Kirchen=Sachen bey der ersten Arth / und führen einen langsamen ‘gravitaeti’schen Tact“ (“The Italians and Germans, however [in contrast to the French] usually use the first type of [time] indication [“C”] in their sacred church music where they play it with a slow, solemn/grave beat/tempo”) and Part 3, (Hamburg, 1717) where Niedt devotes an entire chapter (4) to “Vom Kirchen=Styl” ("On Church Style"), p. 38: “Ich richte meine Kirchen=Stücke auf ‘Cantat’en Art ein / doch alles ‘serieux’ und ‘modest’….” (“I adjust the way I compose my figural church music to be in the ‘Cantata’ manner [because the congregation seems to like this better]/ but keep everything serious and modest.”) [The latter implies that the performance of such a cantata would also reflect the manner he used in composing this music.]

[The Niedt quotations were chosen here expressly because BL places great faith in this writer's views on figured bass and the proper continuo accompaniment in secco recitatives performed in "Church Style". I personally find the Mattheson's views carry more weight in this matter.]

Quotations from Mattheson’s various books and articles regarding “Church Style” have already been posted to
this list and should be available on the BCW. [Do a search.]

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 19, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ok Ed. If the score does "reveal all" what would be the point owning more than one orchestra/conductor's recording of the work. I have multiples of all of my favorites because each sounds differently. Either I'm going deaf or musical egomaniacs are also making CDs or romantic and early 20th century works.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 20, 2006):
[Ro Eric Bergerud] I am repeating the entire exchange below, so we can see how a tiny word (if) can lead to misunderstandings. I was responding to the statement <if a score revealed all its secrets, what would be the point of an artist performing . . >

I was specifically not agreeing with the premise that a score can reveal all its secrets, simply pointing out that even if it could, using the relatively simple (compared to music) analogy of a poem, there would still be value in performances, for example:
(1) the pure enjoyment of a live, as opposed to recorded, performance
(2) the enjoyment of alternative subtleties and emphasis.

With regard to music, I believe we both:
(1) enjoy a variety of recorded performances, sometimes with a particular favorite, sometimes with alternates enjoyed equally
(2) enjoy live performance, even if intended to conform to an already existing interpretation (live or recorded).

I expect there are people who will argue that recorded performances are preferable, because they can be perfected and preserved in conformity with the ideal interpretation. I disagree. It was not my intent at all to agree, just the opposite.

Eric Bergerud wrote (August 20, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I am repeating the entire exchange below, so we can see how a tiny word (if) can lead to misunderstandings. I was responding to the statement <if a score revealed all its secrets, what would be the point of an artist performing . . >
Well shame on you for confusing me and all of the other people on the list with learning disorders.

Neil Mason wrote (August 20, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Give over, nobody agrees with these straw men.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 20, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Mea culpa!

John Pike wrote (August 21, 2006):
John Pike wrote:
< To take John Eliot Gardiner as an example. I find he often likes to bring out the dance like qualities in Bach's music, that seems to flow naturally from many of Bach's rhythms. However, it would be totally unfair and an unsustainable generalisation to say that he takes everything fast. >
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We've been around the "dance" debate before but there are many movements which have traditionallly been played too slowly because the dance element has been ignored.
My favourite example is "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" (aka "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring") which has traditionally had a moderato tempo with legato phrasing. The music tells us that it is a "gigue" in 9/8 yet I have never heard it at the tempo which I think is implied (I also think that the choral parts in 3/4 are meant to be a simultaneous minuet but that's another discussion).
Before people go apoplectic, I would ask should an organ piece such as the G Major "Jig" Fugue be played at a slower tempo simply because it was played in church?
An important part of Baroque performance is looking at what Bach implied by using certain styles. As always, I don't believe that there was discontinuity between so-called "sacred" and "secular styles -- despite how we might interpret what contemporary theorists might say. >
I absolutely agree with Doug on this. In any case, do the words of "Jesu, bleibet meine Freude" suggest that it should be played as a dirge? Of course not.

Chris Rowson wrote (August 22, 2006):
Thanks to everyone who commented in response to my question about tempo and HIP (sorry for this unhappy term, but it is the best designation I know for what I mean). Overall, I am reassured that no-one presented anything to unsettle my preference for an unhurried approach.

What actually triggered me to ask was Ed myskowski quoting timings for BWV 33/1 (thank you Ed!), for which I obtained a barcount and calculated the tempos. Ed was disaapointed by Suzuki having played it very fast (I calculate 106 beats per minute), while he was surprised that Heintze´s very long timing (my calculation 71 bpm) did not sound dragging.

I have been living the last few years in Dresden, experiencing the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche, and thinking of how it was last time around. One difference I became very aware of is the background traffic noise, prompting me to consider how J.S. Bach travelled when he came here, for example to give his first concert on the new organ.

In fact, we routinely travel at a pace faster than any human being ever travelled then, added to which this is driven with a mechanical relentlessness.

I for one will continue to cultivate the performance of Baroque music at what I think of as a "horse-drawn" pace. It took me a lot of work to learn to play so much slower than is the norm without it sounding slow or dirge-like or dragging. I had to develop a significantly different perception of the music, which included just that “articulation of the individual notes” which Ed commented on in the Heintze BWV 33/1.

The only alternative indication to these tempos that was presented was the comment about the “dance-like” quality. But I have found that when I play for Baroque dancers they actually require me to hold the tempo back even more, saying that otherwise they don´t have time to make the steps. I have to make the music dance at their pace.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 22, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< In fact, we routinely travel at a pace faster than any human being ever travelled then, added to which this is driven with a mechanical relentlessness.
I for one will continue to cultivate the performance of Baroque music at what I think of as a "horse-drawn" pace. It took me a lot of work to learn to play so much slower than is the norm without it sounding slow or dirge-like or dragging. >

I tend to agree with this, and I recall one of my professors who regularly remarked that the fastest thing a couple hundred years ago was a race horse.

In case anybody's interested, the normal "horse-drawn" pace for a single horse, on level ground pulling a four-wheeled vehicle with people in it, is apparently between 10 and 20 mph. According to my trusty slide-rule here (seriously!) that's about 16 to 32 km/h. This is from direct empirical observation: they go past my house all day every day, and on Sunday mornings especially I have to pass at least ten of them in just the few miles to town, on the way to church. Coming up hills, the speed is more like 5 to 8 mph. Down hills it rarely tops 22 or so. Obviously, one can't pass horse-drawn vehicles on hills as it's too dangerous, so I wait for the flat parts and then I go past them gently in second or third gear.

Music can sound tremendously lively, vivace, with strong articulation of the shorter note values; and it can be made to seem fast that way, without being fast.

But again, as has been pointed out before: any absolute speed can be made to seem fast or slow, by the accentuation and treatment of note-values within it. It still behooves us to try to get the basic beat and/or the tactus to be at the note level matching the composition. And, especially in music as old as the 18th century or older, sometimes that's the "half note" (minim) or "whole note" (semibreve) or some dotted value, not way down to the crotchet/quarter or quaver/eighth. It's nice if all the small stuff can fit in and sound loose and ornamental, within a big beat that is firm but relaxed, still seeming reasonably like a horse-drawn pace or a walking pace. That small stuff *might* end up going by rather quickly, at a surface level, while attention is being given primarily to the measured progress of the bigger beat.

Chris Rowson wrote (August 23, 2006):
horse-drawn travel

Brad Lehman wrote:
< In case anybody's interested, the normal "horse-drawn" pace for a single horse, on level ground pulling a four-wheeled vehicle with people in it, is apparently between 10 and 20 mph. According to my trusty slide-rule here (seriously!) that's about 16 to 32 km/h. This is from direct empirical observation: they go past my house all day every day, and on Sunday mornings especially I have to pass at least ten of them in just the few miles to town, on the way to church. Coming up hills, the speed is more like 5 to 8 mph. Down hills it rarely tops 22 or so. ... >
The timings of the horse-drawn carriages are very informative, thanks. I have often wondered how long it took to travel between Dresden and Leipzig in JSBs time.

I assume Brad´s road is a lot better than the Bach-Hasse one, but maybe the coachmen didn´t let that slow them down too much – I remember seeing a reference to the trip as bone-shaking – while on the other hand they wouldn´t want a shattered wheel. They probably used multiple horses, though, possibly with changes.

This leaves me quite a lot of uncertainty (so far), but using a distance of 70 miles (obtained from my modern road map) I estimate a journey time between a conservative 10 hours plus stops down to perhaps a 5 hour bone-shaker.

Not very practicable for a one-day excursion, then, but I know if JSB was still directing the music there, I´d be on that coach quite often - just as Wolff reports that Hasse, Quantz etc. were.

 

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Last update: ýAugust 29, 2006 ý10:45:38