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Part 1

Speed of the essence

Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 7, 2001):
In some cases, it seems that speed is very important. For example, I've never heard of a rival to E Power Biggs rendition of Wo Soll Ich Fliehen Bin, or 'Whither Shall I Flee?'. This is because the pedal work therefore has to be faster carrying a 'walking bass' which makes so much sense (I used to play a bit of organ in church). Another example is Glenn Gould's generally faster speeds as in his small organ rendition of "Art of Fugue" and the Goldberg Variations. In the former work the pedals play at a nice walking bass which I feel would be lost at slower speeds. I'm not suggesting that all of Bach be played at rocket speeds but in some cases, it brings out the clarity of Bach's fugual lines.



Francine Renee Hall wrote (October 7, 2001):
Sorry to go a bit off-topic here but think of Mahler's 5th and his Adagietto. Haitink clocks in at a funeral dirge of 13:55 minutes and seconds. Well, Bruno Walter knew better, and his clocks in at 7:43. Gilbert Kaplan sure knew what he was doing when he said the Adagietto is a love letter to Mahler with a light waltzy feel (though he is just a few seconds slower than Walter). So whether we think of Bach, Mahler and hey, Beecham's miserably slow Handel's Messiah, tempo can completely change one's perception of reality in music.

Daniel Page wrote (October 9, 2001):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< And William Malloch getting through the four Bach orchestral suites with all repeats in 23'43", 18'23", 18'24", and 13'47". >
Except for suite #3 the total times Koch lists are wrong. The times given for the individual tracks are correct and adding them gives 21'02", 19'03", 18'24", and 19'27".

Jim Morrison wrote (October 9, 2001):
[To Daniel Page] I've never compared the tempo of the recordings of the Orchestral Suites that I have, but are Malloch's tempos for the entire suites, not just the first movements, reallly that much faster than other HIP performances such as Gardiner, Savall, Kuijken, Parrott, Manze.

And speaking of the Manze Orchestral Suites, let me put in another plug for them. Catalog number CO 17015 on Denon Records. Recorded in the early 90s with the group La Stravaganza Cologne. Double disc set (coupled with someone else's Handel) for the price of one mid-range disc. Not to be missed, IMHO. Look for that third Orchestral Suite without drums and trumpets.

Bradley Lehman wrote (Ocrober 9, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Yes, that Haitink recording is famously slow.

Benjamin Zander spends 14'16" talking about the Adagietto and 8'33" playing it. That's not surprising from Zander; he's the guy who insisted on doing the Rite of Spring at supposedly the original tempos....

Then there are Rene Leibowitz and Roger Norrington, both in turn famous for trying to play Beethoven's symphonies fast enough.

And William Malloch getting through the four Bach orchestral suites with all repeats in 23'43", 18'23", 18'24", and 13'47".

And Casals getting through the first movement of Brandenburg #2 extremely quickly in 1950...part of the reason why he had to use a soprano saxophone instead of a trumpet.

The Jonathan Miller staged production of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) is also very fast: whole thing on two CDs of 73'58" and 77'08". That's the one with period instruments conducted by Paul Goodwin. That's almost 50% faster overall than Klemperer, who takes 74'21" + 76'24" + 72'44"....

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 9, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] "Fourth, sir!" "What?" "Fourth suite!" "Oh, yes!"

Second the recommendation for the Manze set. A keeper.

François Haidon wrote (October 10, 2001):
And then there is also that Beethoven 9 which was realeased last year or so. I can't remember the name of the conductor, I only read a review of the DVD version lately. Anyway, I think it was a musicologist, he wrote a thesis about interpreting B9 and concluded everybody for 200 years had got it wrong and that HE had found the tempos should much slower, and went on to record the piece according to his conclusion. The result is a B9 that all in all lasts short of twice as long as the standard speed version. Should still be floating around somewhere but for how long?

François (who bought the new Suzuki cantatas disc (vol 15) and decided it was a treat)

Jim Morrison wrote (October 10, 2001):
Fourth, yes, of course, Fourth I meant.

Just wishful thinking on my part concerning the Third. I wanted to hear it without the trumpets and timpani as well. It's so much easier for me to concentrate on and appreciate what the woodwinds and strings are doing without the more forceful instruments in the ensemble. Not that I don't enjoy the trumpets and drums. It's just that it's so enlightening to hear the Fourth without them.

Now onto a different formulation of my question. Are even Malloch's tempi during the overtures really so much faster than others in the traditionally fast sections of them? Or is it that he takes the traditionally slow sections of the overtures at the same pace as the 'faster' sections, along with the crisp articulation and over/double dotting, that causes most of the feeling of speed to these movements? Something to look into. I'm sure he must take some sections/movements faster than others. It's just that I've begun to wonder he many he does actually play very fast.

Johan van Veen wrote (October 10, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] In the orchestral suites one of the differences is the duration of the overtures. In some recordings there are two repeats, like ABABA, for example in the recording by Musica antiqua Köln. That makes quite a difference.

Jim Morrison wrote (October 13, 2001):
[To Francine Renee Hall] Thanks for brining up Mahler. It's been a while since I listened to his music. Wonderful, moving compositions. Kind of nice to switch from listening to so much solo instrumental and chamber music to these large scale orchestral works.

Concerning the Haitink, there must be at least two different versions of the 5th by him, because right now I'm listening to a recording from 1970 with the COA on Philips and it only takes 10:35 to complete the Adagietto in question.

I know he's made different recordings of some of the Mahler symphonies, perhaps even all of them.



Neil Halliday wrote (Maarch 29, 2002):
Don says (post #5642) "..his Magnificat disc was so speedy that tons of nuance went by without hardly a notice."

I think he probably has the popular-music-video disease, very wide spread these days; have you ever tried to watch one of these? The images change so rapidly you cannot savour a clever dance routine, or even a pretty face, for that matter!

I just heard the first movement of Vivaldi's Gloria on the radio; instead of the expected 5 minutes or so of glorious music, we only got about 2 and a half minutes - which is probably a good thing, because the music was most un-glorious!

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 30, 2002):
[To Neil Halliday] This phenomenon has been commented on several times on these sites. There may be a number of reasons that contribute to this development of tempo increase in recordings that is in an inverse relationship to the amount of recording time that became available on a record or CD. Remembering how the old 78 recordings would sometimes have to end midstream in a movement of a symphony and were continued on the back of record or on a separate one, and considering the fact that some conductors probably felt that they had to speed up a movement in order not to have to break it up toward the end, I welcomed the ever-longer recording times made possible by new technologies and had hoped that conductors and performers would now relish the freedom to expand the time as much as they wished or felt was necessary for a good performance. Unfortunately the direction taken, particularly in Baroque recordings, is toward the opposite extreme. I can come up a number of reasons why this is happening, and perhaps others can add to this list some others as well:

1. A display of virtuosity. The artist(s) want to demonstrate technical proficiency, and since others have perhalready recorded the piece at a slower tempo, a faster performance will attract more attention and impress those players and listeners who understand that the level of difficulty has been increased as in a marathon or Olympic games. It becomes a matter of daring others to follow this feat. Of course, there will always be tempo variations in the performance of the same piece due to a number of variables such as the emotional state of the performer(s), the other physical conditions existent in the recording, etc., but in this instance we are speaking of tempi that are as much as twice as fast as a slower recording. Here something has definitely gone wrong with performers or with the listeners who expect and enjoy this type of fast performance. Virtuosity alone is an empty listening experience after you have become amazed at how fast someone can play or sing a piece.

2. An inability to fill out time and space with a meaningful musical statement. As Neil pointed out about the popular-music-video disease, the ability of many young listeners (and perhaps also a few older ones) to concentrate fully on Bach choral movement in a foreign language has seemingly diminished over the past few decades, otherwise such popular music videos would not now have this negative characteristic of hectic change and quick movement from one thing to another. These videos simply reflect the main audience that is out there.

3. A desire to relish the production of crude sounds over those that are beautiful. One way to attract the attention of a young audience accustomed to the modern type of popular media productions is to create sounds that are out of the ordinary. To those accustomed to more beautiful sustained musical progressions, the playing of string instruments with extreme depression of the bow at a very fast tempo, or eliciting crude sounds from wind instruments can not be sustained except for a momentary surprise effect if it is meaningful.

4. Overemphasis of the dramatic (strongly expressive) element over the lyrical (contemplative) element. This relates to such performances where speed is used as a sustained dramatic effect, an effect that fails when it encompasses entire movements. Even Bach's sudden bursts of choral energy in the turbae of his passions can be performed so fast that they begin to lose significance, as is evident in some more recent recordings. The dramatic effect becomes more significant that the music itself.

5. An incapacity of performers to project with meaningful, but not overwrought expression a melodic line. When performers are not sufficiently trained, or do not have the talent or natural vocal capabilities to project the musical idea to an audience, there will be a tendency to speed up the tempo of the composition to overcome the limitations of the voice. Just recently I compared Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's performance of an aria with that of a recent rendition by Bas Ramselaar under Leusink. The latter was twice as fast as the DFD version. There is no doubt in my mind which version is superior in every way. So why did Leusink speed up his recording? Not because of a lack of recording time available, but more probably because he and the soloist were unable to fill out the vacuum created, had they taken a slower tempo. As it is, Leusink avoided a true catastrophe by selecting an extremely fast tempo to cover up all the insufficiencies that would otherwise have become very obvious.

A case in point:

In the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) being discussed by the BCML this coming week, there is the famous "Schweißtuch" tenor aria, "Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer" performed by Andrew Parrott with the Taverner Consort & Players and Charles Daniels as tenor. Why would a Bach scholar choose a much faster tempo than the other recordings that I have of this work? Since we are not going to get his answer to this question, it is only possible to surmise which considerations led him to the conclusion that in singing about sleep and death a much faster tempo is preferable to a slower one. To begin with, the tenor is one of many recent half-voices that lack volume in the low range, a fact that they make up for by presenting a penetrating sharp tone in the upper range. This usually means that the vocalist is so concerned about just making it through the movement that he will lack the necessary expression and conviction to engage an audience. Perhaps a virtuoso recording at a very fast tempo by the recorder soloists will make up for the vacuum created by a voice unable to project a pure, round sound with sufficient volume to carry in a church? There are many long held notes in the low range which this tenor can only sing if the movement is taken at a fast tempo. This makes it easier for him. The tenor is also plagued by bad (unclear) pronunciation of German. At one point I thought he was singing "Scheiß du" because he could not muster enough energy to produce the German consonants correctly. This is all the more reason to get through this movement as quickly as possible. The feeling may also exist on the part of the conductor that using only one player for each part calls for a faster tempo because the sounds of the instrument seem to die out more quickly. This along with a tendency on the part of all HIP performances to want to stress notes on the main accent and abbreviate (cut off prematurely) the unaccented notes in a phrase will created hiatuses that become noticeable. To a listener it sounds as though the movement is breaking apart without any sense of continuity being established. To remedy this situation a faster tempo (even of a slow movement as this one) becomes necessary to overcome this evident difficulty that arises when attempting period performances that ascribe to a certain, yet insufficiently proven style of performance.

Robert Sherman wrote (March 30, 2002):
[To Neil Halliday] It's not just a popular-music-video disease, it's a pop culture disease. The idea is to try to project the image that you're so important that it's beneath you to concentrate on anything, you always have something else more important to get to. The commercial TV channels, with a few exceptions, operate that way. Typical direct coverage of a major-party Presidential candidate on the network news is now down to 9 seconds per night, etc. Sesame Street has been one of the worst in this regard.

This is why so many children grow up with lousy attention spans and why it's so much better for them to listen to Bach than to watch TV.


Bach's Notation of Tempo and Early-Music Performance by Bernard D. Sherman

Francine Renee Hall wrote (August 22, 2002):
dear Bach lovers-- an interesting (though a bit long) article on tempo, with table (shown in text below) of tempo in HIP vs. piano, as well as tempo similarities and differences in Bach's passions, masses, discussed at length. Interesting because pianists often play faster than HIP and HIP can be somewhat slower or on par with older recordings.


Strict tempo…

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 17, 2003):
< It comes down to: choose one desired type of evidence to suit current needs/desires, ignore other evidence that would contradict it, and build an ideology!
(Sort of like the supposedly "historically informed" approaches to music that don't allow rhythmic flexibility....) >
Some food for thought about possible reasons (all or several) for this 20th-century phenomenon of strict tempo:

- Some people like the way it sounds, bringing out some of the music's features "objectively"

- It's "tradition" (for music by composers such as Stravinsky and Hindemith, anyway...)

- When a tempo is on autopilot, it's easier to play (and listen!) mindlessly, as there are fewer demands on the attention

- It's easier to splice different takes in a recording if the tempos match, as a constant

- Habit, unwillingness to try the unfamiliar

Jim Morrison wrote (April 18, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] General question here. Are we to think that most music in the past (not just what we usuallcall 'classical') was played with a rhythmic looseness that has now become somewhat rarer? Or do people suspect that 'popular' music of past was played as strictly as current popular music, as well as some of today's classical? Could it be that this rhythmic looseness, in the grand scheme of all music from all time, is actually the rare thing and the lack of rhythmic flexibility that we hear in some HIP recordings is indicative of how most music is played. Could it be that such more strict performances are in fact the norm? When we ask people to play with more swing and freedom, are we in fact asking them to play outside what people on average normally play like and want to listen to? Are people that play more strictly simply playing in a manner that a majority of people prefer?

Jim (who responds very strongly in a positive way to rhythmic vitality and is massively turned off by 'strict' performances and is quite comfortable with the idea of asking people to break outside the norm.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2003):
[To Jim Morrison] Well, there are at least three possibilities here:

- strict tempo, everybody steady (for example, the organ solo in "Light My Fire" by The Doors...with a different Jim Morrison)

- general rubato (the most familiar type: the beat slows down or speeds up, and all the parts accommodate themselves to it, staying together with one another...for example, in the first scene of "The Sound of Music" where Julie Andrews, conductor Irwin Kostal, and the orchestra have all sorts of tempos through the song, but stay together under Kostal's beat)

- melodic rubato (the type written about by Quantz, Mozart, Chopin, and others...the delightful Willie Nelson "Mona Lisa" type of rubato where the accompaniment stays steady while one or more parts bend themselves cleverly ahead of or behind the beat)

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2003):
And some other ones:

- no beat at all, like in Italian and German recitative
- a beat that changes in every bar, like in French recitative
- strict tempo at the big beat, but a regular "swing" within those beats
- strict tempo at the big beat, but various irregular types of swing within it....
- different subdivisions in different parts, such as two against three
- proportional tempos from section to section
- hemiolas, like in courantes and in Brahms' works....

Jim Morrison wrote (April 19, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Nice distinctions. Now, I think most of us would agree that pop music of the strict tempo type produced by the Doors has sold more records than the other two. Certainly the billboard lists are dominated by them and much of them music, so I understand, is produced with a 'click track' running to keep everybody all together. If it's true that music with that type of strict tempo is very pervasive, does it have any relationship with what's going on in the classical world? Could it be that just as more people prefer (pick your reasons) strict tempo pop music that different human being also prefer strict tempo classical music? And could it also be that this isn't actually a recent phenomenon? That popular music always had this strict tempo and it was only some rarified 'classical' minority through the ages that have been attracted to looser rhythms? We frequently see pop up on this list and elsewhere the lamenting of music made with a high degree of general and melodic rubato, but I'd like to know a little more about how 'popular' music over the centuries has been played. I guess what I'm trying to get at is that perhaps it's not so devious, or wrongheaded, or lack of education, or being too conservative that 'causes' musicians that play baroque music today to play will relatively little of the general and melodic rubato. Maybe they are just being average? Doing what comes natural to most? Being typical of musicians of any ear playing most forms of music? That is to say, maybe we should expect people to play that way and not judge them so harshly when they are just being typical?

That doesn't mean I want to listen to them though! Don't for a second think that my questions form any kind of endorsement from me for that kind of playing. ;-) Strict pop music bores me out of my mind (how I hate those car trips when I lose control of the stereo!) and I don't think it's co-incidental that I love Sinatra and Willie. I can't stand to listen to anybody but Sinatra sing some of those standards. Everyone else seems so stiff. "You got a beat like a cop" I remember Sinatra saying on one of his live recordings and that phrase often comes to mind when I hear stiff music.

Jim (free time on his hands this Saturday evening, speculating wildly again, while listening to Cziffra play the Liszt Hungarian Rhapsodies, recorded in the late 50s. Now here's a fellow nobody would say sounded like a cop.)

Uri Golomb wrote (April 19, 2003):
[To Jim Morrison] Briefly: there is much support, among those conducting research into the history of recordings, that absolute strictness of tempo is a fairly new phenomenon. This was one of the main claims made in Robert Philip's Early Recordings and Musical Style: Changing Tastes in Instrumental Performance, 1900-1950 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992): that when recordings began, rhythmic flexibility was teh norm, and recordings document the move towards greater rigidity. Similar claims were made by Richard Taruskin -- with reference, not only to HIP but "across the board", in all musical performance after the second world war. Subsequent research has led to a modification of Philip's and TAruskin's claims, but in broad outline they are probably right. This woudl suggest that playing strictly in tempo, with no rubato or other modifications, is not what comes naturally -- at least not always. On the other hand, it might come naturally to musicians today, who grew up on strict recordings and were taught by teachers who instructed them to play strictly in all but the most "romantic" music.

My own impression -- as someone who is engaged in recording research, and specifically in Bach recordings -- is that tempo strictness in Bach is far from being an HIP invention. I have not yet made precise measurements, but I think it's fair to say that (for instance) Karl Richter is often far more rigid and metronomic than Nikolaus Harnoncourt or even Gustav Leonhardt. Not just in tempo, but in dynamics as well. Many of Harnoncourt's fiercest detractors will agree with this statement: they find his tempi too variable, his dynamic nuances intrusive and fussy.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 19, 2003):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< My own impression -- as someone who is engaged in recording research, and specifically in Bach recordings -- is that tempo strictness in Bach is far from being an HIP invention. I have not yet made precise measurements, but I think it's fair to say that (for instance) Karl Richter is often far more rigid and metronomic than Nikolaus Harnoncourt or even Gustav Leonhardt. Not just in tempo, but in dynamics as well. (...) >
Amen to that. A few weekends ago I spent most of the Saturday listening to a pile of Richter's Bach records, to reacquaint myself with them. Parts of the 1961 B minor mass (BWV 232), the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) (Richter's solo on a Neupert hpsi), most of the harpsichord concertos, some of the orchestral suites. It put me into a bad mood. Some of the kinder words that came to mind during this ordeal were "boxy", "stiff", "unplayful", "unimaginative", "monotonous", "ossified", "note-factory".... Performances with almost no dynamic nuance or rhythmic flexibility...just the strictly-delivered notes from the page. My wife walked in and commented about how it sounded (she doesn't like it either), and asked: "Richter is dead, right?" I replied with the first thing that came to mind, which was: "You mean now, or when he made this recording?"

Uri, in your research so far, have you used the book Shaping Time: Music, the Brain, and Performance by David Epstein (1995)? He measures tempo strictness and fluctuations in recordings by Karajan, Stravinsky, Szell, Novaes,Gieseking, Lipatti, and many more; plus some case studies from ethnic music. And there are foldout charts of tempo and meter relationships within Schumann's Frauenliebe and Debussy's La Mer and Beethoven's 9th....

I haven't read all of it myself yet. Jim Morrison, perhaps this book would answer some of your questions from yesterday, too? This book and Robert Jourdain's Music, the Brain, and Ecstasy: How Music Captures our Imaginations.


Today I'm getting reacquainted with Hindemith's Kammermusik from the 1920s. I'm listening to the Chailly recording. Some of the program notes include: "His instincts had always been towards the 'objective' musical values of strong polyphonic interest, firm structure, a Baroque stability of motion. In the Kammermusik series he brought these aspects of his musical personality to full fruition, and defined at the same time an influential Neo-classical impulse in contemporary German music, just as Igor Stravinsky in Paris was issuing the rallying-cry of 'Back to Bach!' Indeed, in one sense, Hindemith's seven Kammermusik compositions--the first of them a suite for twelve instruments, the others concertos for a variety of solo instruments, with orchestras of different sizes and constitutions--is a kind of twentieth century equivalent of J S Bach's Brandenburg Concertos."

Yeah, right, "a Baroque stability of motion" as envisioned by people of the 1920s! Stiffly metrical execution of the score is appropriate for Stravinsky and Hindemith, "authentically", to be what neo-Classical and neo-Baroque meant to them: but it's their view of Baroque music as an antidote to "Romantic excesses," not necessarily a Baroque ideal!

The word "baroque" itself is (historically) a derogatory adjective, referring to excess (extravagance, flamboyance, grotesqueness, and the bizarre); and it's derived from a word for an irregularly shaped pearl. Somehow it turned into the opposite of that (an ideal of strict regularity) for Stravinsky, Hindemith, Karl Richter, and many others....

Uri Golomb wrote (April 21, 2003):
< Amen to that. A few weekends ago I spent most of the Saturday listening to a pile of Richter's Bach records, to reacquaint myself with them. Parts of the 1961 B minor mass (BWV 232), the Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) (Richter's solo on a Neupert hpsi), most of the harpsichord concertos, some of the orchestral suites. It put me into a bad mood. Some of the kinder words that came to mind during this ordeal were "boxy", "stiff", "unplayful", "unimaginative", "monotonous", "ossified", "note-factory".... Performances with almost no dynamic nuance or rhythmic flexibility...just the strictly-delivered notes from the page. My wife walked in and commented about how it sounded (she doesn't like it either), and asked: "Richter is dead, right?" I replied with the first thing that came to mind, which was: "You mean now, or when he made this recording?" >
I can understand these reactions, though I do not entirely share them. Richter certainly could be like that, and his 1961 B minor Mass (BWV 232) contains some of the worst offenders. And it's not even a question of his being on an "off-day": he seems to have wanted it like that. However, Richter's stylistic range was quite wide, and he could be far more flexible and engaging when he felt like it. His 1969 live recording of the Mass (BWV 232) (made on tour in Japan), while technically inferior to the 1961 studio version, shows him in a much more relaxed mood: some of the stiffness is still there, but there are also moments of great beauty and insight. There are even more of them in his 1958 St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) (again, rubbing shoulders with deliberately harsh and strict moments), his St. John Passion (BWV 245), his Christmas Oraotrio (BWV 248) (perhaps his most consistently genial recording) and several cantatas. I've never quite been able to make up my mind about his style as a whole -- and I have been trying!

On the whole, I prefer Harnoncourt to Richter, but I can understand why some people feel the other way. Both had strong musical personalities, and both could be infuriating and inspiring in close conjunction. If I can help myself to a simplistic generalisation: Richter had near-ideological reasons for trying to stomp his own expressive instincts (and you can sometimes almost hear him doing it), whereas Harnoncourt's aesthetic ideology tends in the opposite direction, at least in his later recordings.


Fast tempos, meter, taste, understanding (etc) in HIP

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 9, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote [in Cantata BWV 153 - Discussions]::
< [Anyone who has been following these reports week after week should have become aware of the fact that the general tendency toward faster performances in the HIP recordings of recent years is quite well established and not simply an imagined characteristic noted by ‘uninformedâ’ listeners. Since I have already shared some theories as to why this phenomenon is taking place, I would welcome other thoughts and opinions that might help to explain this obvious change in performance practice. What will these tempi be like in 10 or 20 years from now? Will these performances/interpretations eventually run into threshold >separating barely perceptible music from almost complete chaos?] >
But, Tom, your personal theories tend to dismiss "HIP" musicians as idiots, morons, and lousy musicians incapable of understanding and expressing Baroque style.

That won't do. Besides, they know more than you do, especially in hands-on practice with the music, and especially in the areas of meter and rhythm and tempo and articulation. This, after all, is their (our) professional field, and training and experience do matter. So does respect for these people who have done the work. (If you had any idea how much work and dedication and expense it takes to produce a single CD, or a live performance, you might moderate some of your armchair complaints about recordings you dislike....)

These people also know, overall, considerably more about this topic than the musicians of the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s did. Some of those 1950s/70s-style musicians are still around, both in recordings and in practice (and in their own more recent imitators), and it's clear that this is your personal preference for Bach cantata recordings; fine. But, the "HIP" field has moved on, and it has also moved forward after the Harnoncourt milieu that you so delight in bashing, and your criticism shows that you haven't kept up with it in more than a cursory fashion. (Tempos are generally faster now; and Burger King french fries are crispy because they have sugar on them. These are similarly superficial observations.)

I suggest you do some more remedial reading, because your own regular (and predictably dismissive) "anti-HIP" comments show that you don't really understand what it is you're criticizing, either in practice or philosophy. Clearly you don't LIKE what you hear, you don't fancy some of the trends, and that's fine (and sometimes I even agree with those dislikes you've reported); but then the way you dismiss the whole venture betrays a lack of elementary understanding of these methods of music-making, and the goals. (It appears that the main HIP goal you pick up is a desire to make you enjoy the music less; but that's not what they're about.) Then you search desperately for evidence to back up your already-formed preferences, to justify your dislikes, to show why the "HIP" musicians are supposedly incompetent. That's not useful criticism of the work; it's just negative whining and is more about your own preferences than about the music, or about the performances. It would be better to criticize "HIP" from a position of being better informed about how it works, and about what these musicians are trying to accomplish. And clearly you have some desire to become better informe. So, here's a small bibliography of recent work that is (in my opinion) essential reading:

I see you've already picked up the Jenne/Little book about dance, and that's a good start.I'd mentioned it here earlier:
and on the BachRecordings list several years ago, and at various other times.

I further recommend the following books, strongly:

- George Houle, Meter in Music, 1600-1800: Performance, Perception, and Notation. 1987 (hardback), 2000 (paperback). This is the single best modern summary I've ever seen about issues of Tactus (the big steady beat, and flexibility within it: recognition of the most important levels of attention), metrical organization, meter signatures, "good and bad" notes, tempo proportions, rhythmopoeia, 17th/18th century differences of notation, meter/tempo connections, poetic feet, metrical perception, metrical articulation (tongueing/bowing/fingering techniques as they automatically express the meter appropriately), and various types of accent. Poncein and Hotteterre on "tu tu ru", and much more! (Perhaps this book will also correct your regular whining about the reasons why HIP musicians don't normally deliver the notes as long as they look to you on the page? One can hope....)
Buy this book at:

- Stephen Hefling, Rhythmic Alteration in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Music: Notes Inegales and Overdotting. 1993. I mentioned it here earlier:
Buy this book at:

- Richard Taruskin, Text and Act: Essays on Music and Performance. 1995. The single most important book about "HIP" and criticism in the past 25 years, and not needing any introduction from me. It's a bit out of date already, as most of the essays collected here were written more than 15 years ago and "HIP" methods and goals of performance have changed quite a bit since then (in some part due to Taruskin's essays here!). But, essential and inspiring.
Buy this book at:

- John Butt, Playing With History: The Historical Approach to Musical Performance. 2002. A terrific survey of 20th century trends in performance and criticism vis-a-vis the "historical performance" movements. The author outlines the many philosophical and practical problems in this field. Some of the book is a response to Taruskin, Dreyfus, Kivy, Adorno, and other critics.
Buy this book at:

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 9, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< they know more than you do, especially in hands-on practice with the music, and especially in the areas of meter and rhythm and tempo and articulation. >
They may very well know more about their theories, having helped to create them. However, it doesn't take knowledge of their theories to point out that some of the "implications" are aesthetic shams. For example, I think that the proportional tempo theory is lacking in flexibility, and the dance characterizations of Little and Jenne are arguable in their precision.

As for "hands-on practice": just what are they applying their hands to? I don't know.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 9, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] Music is an art, not an exact science.

George Houle's book at least explains what those various 17th century proportion signs meant to the people who used them, and traces them into the 18th century. These symbols represent relationships among sections; they don't force the performer to conform to an absolutely strict metrical presentation of the notes along the way.

Indeed, as Houle points out (and you'd know if you've read the book), "The convention of the mensural _tactus_ was a very important guide to conductors in the seventeenth and even the eighteenth century. The rise of the virtuoso conductor in the nineteenth century brought with it a technique far removed from the apparently simple down-and-up gesture of the tactus beater. The modern conductor has a powerful and efficient technique, commanding meter, rhythm, dynamics, accentuation, tempo, and nuances of performance that were formerly controlled only by individual performers. A tactus conductor is necessarily more of a coordinator or a colleague of the other musicians, rather than the commanding leader that the modern virtuoso conductor has become. The tactus beat of a seventeenth-century conductor supported an awareness of a larger span of time than a conductor's gestures usually do today. Although many individual conductors today strive for this awareness, the basic technique of tactus beating in the seventeenth century was centered on it. Even if the _tactus_ might be too slow-moving to be comfortably represented by a single down-and-up gesture, we know from theorists' detailed discussions that the conductor's beat was derived from the tactus. The modest alterations of the tactus suggested by Penna and Quirsfeld show that some slight adjustments were thought to be useful. It would be interesting to hear fine musicians playing seventeenth-century music conducted according to techniques of that period. It is possible to imagine that the performers would be less rigorously controlled, and therefore more responsible for the metrical coherence of their own performances. We simply do not know what effect such a re-creation of conducting technique might have. Seventeenth-century notation of meter modified mensural notation in important ways and signaled the shifts of movement, grouping, and speed typical of the music of the period. It is usually disastrous to disregard the original 'time signatures' of seventeenth-century music, or to modify them according to a more modern idea of notation, as one loses the precise yet subtle meanings they are able to convey."

[That's part of his summary at the end of Chapter 1, after he has presented dozens of sources in detail.]

In my own playing and singing and conducting, at least, that's what I shoot for: a steady, slow-moving "big beat" (tactus) which can sometimes be up to several seconds in length; and within that a looser interpretation of the smaller notes. It's like a big pendulum that defines the correct level of attention to meter. The only things that need to line up clearly are the strokes of that long beat. In between, things can be more chaotic...anything but rigidly controlled (micro-managed). On purpose it's quite rare for me to play five or six equally-notated notes in succession with exactly the same speed, articulation, emphasis, or alignment against other parts. Everything within a tactus is fluid and a candidate for unequal presentation. (Until we get down to the very quickest note values, of course, which are dashed off in a group, as a single gesture.) The over-arching _tactus_ keeps it all from degenerating into an amorphous mess of aimless rubato. It also prevents me from getting too intellectual about my placement of agogic accents on local events, and my melodic ornamentation: it just has to feel right, not a process of sitting there counting out the microseconds exactly.

When I conduct unaccompanied singing in church, I usually beat only the first few bars to get everybody going at the right speed, and then I drop back to a single beat per bar (or per two bars, or even less...sometimes I stop beating altogether when it's going well). That way every phrase can take its natural shape, not rigcontrolled. The big shape is the only gesture to give, when it's going well. (Anybody else here watch the 1992 New Year's Concert in Vienna, conducted by Carlos Kleiber?) Ensemble comes from breathing and listening, more than from micro-management from a conductor.

Another helpful book I've found is James Gleick's Faster. It's not about music. It's about human perception of time, and the increasingly scientific (rigid) measurement of time into the 20th century, and the recent emphasis on smaller and smaller units of time for significant events, and the way it's all tied to technological "progress." Fantastic book for perspective of the tactus. Time was, for all practical purposes, a fluid thing until the 20th century.

< As for "hands-on practice": just what are they applying their hands to? I don't know. >
Just speaking personally, I use my hands to control musical instruments, and to hold the book when I sing, and to describe phrase shapes and character when I conduct, and to write musical notation on paper. Hands-on musical practice.

And we're teaching some rudimentary ASL (American Sign Language) to our daughter so she can start having meaningful conversation before she begins to talk. That will also help her make sense of the German, French, Spanish, and Russian she's hearing around the house.

Jay H. Beder wrote (July 9, 2003):
< [Anyone who has been following these reports week after week should have become aware of the fact that the general tendency toward faster performances in the HIP recordings of recent years is quite well established and not simply an imagined characteristic noted by ‘uninformed’ listeners. Since I have already shared some theories as to why this phenomenon is taking place, I would welcome other thoughts and opinions that might help to explain this obvious change in performance practice. What will these tempi be like in 10 or 20 years from now? Will these performances/interpretations eventually run into threshold separating barely perceptible music from almost complete chaos?] >
I didn't intend to become involved in this discussion, which has generated a bit of heat, but I have had the impression that tempi are increasing, and it hasn't always been a good thing for the ordinary listener (like me). One hears choruses barely able to stay together, or basses sounding like mechanical pumps as they run through melismas.

I could hazard some non-professional guesses as to the origins of the trend. One is that it's a reaction to earlier, heavily romanticized performances. Quicker tempi are lighter and more exciting. There may be some inner musical reasons, with which I'm not familiar. My question about the opening of BWV 171 and its Patrem Omnipotentem parody relates to this. The musical context must dictate something here. My most unfavorite example is the Quoniam of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), which is often rushed (at least to my ears) -- I wonder if it's the link to the Cum Sancto that seems to force that. There's no break in the score, but I think the Cum Sancto deserves to be played faster than the Quoniam.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 10, 2003:
[To Jay H. Beder] HI remember hearing that our 'ol buddy Nic Harnoncourt came up with the theory, stating that it had something to do with the gap in notes created by the shorter bows (on string instruments) or something-with a faster tempo, this gap is shortened and becomes negligible.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (July 10, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Despite theory, Harnoncourt often takes the slower tempo. The technically challenged musicians don't help to create coherent performances at speeds contrasting extremely with Gardiner's.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 10, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] Whoa there, sir! Let's nip this myth. It is not to be credited to Old Nick.

You are mis-remembering one of the many diatribes of THOMAS BRAATZ against

Here it is, in Braatz' words from April 13, 2003:
"The division between the two major performance types is entirely as one might expect with the HIP (Harnoncourt, Leusink, and Gardiner) group having the fastest tempi. This means that the HIP conductors are forced to resort to fast tempi in order to accommodate weaknesses in both the vocal and instrumental categories: vocally the singers used are, with only a few exceptions, of the mezzavoce type (this Italian musical term aptly designates a category of limited range and volume singers) and instrumentally the use of period reconstructions often not fully mastered or played according questionable theories (for example, Harnoncourt's notion that Bach's string players could only play very short 2- or 3-note phrases due to their very short bows) leads toward faster tempi to overcome deficiencies."

That is, the hypothesis that short bows lead to more articulation silence between notes, and that therefore HIP musicians hurry the tempo to make up for this supposed problem, is entirely the work of Thomas Braatz. And there are at least three fallacies there in Braatz' logic: (1) blaming the hardware (the bow) for the amount of silence, and (2) thinking of articulative silence as a bad thing, and (3) projecting this to have anything whatsoever to do with tempo.


If you want to know what Harnoncourt himself said about tempo, read the essay in his book Baroque Music Today: Music As Speech. There's also an essay in there about the violin. Neither of those has anything to do with Braatz' bizarre theory here.

Indeed, Harnoncourt himself points out (in the Tempo essay, p.56) that two performances in the same tempo will seem quite different if one is articulated more richly than the other one: the one with lively articulation will seem faster even when it is not.

And that's a practical performance observation (and advice) from a working musician, it's not mere speculation. To make the music sound livelier, articulate it more. A rather obvious performance technique.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 10, 2003):
< Whoa there, sir! Let's nip this myth. >
Alright I guess my memory failed me a bit-sorry guys!

Uri Golomb wrote (July 10, 2003):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote:
< I remember hearing that our 'ol buddy Nic Harnoncourt came up with the theory, stating that it had something to do with the gap in notes created by the shorter bows (on string instruments) or something-with a faster tempo, this gap is shortened and becomes negligible >
I know Brad Lehman already responded to do this; nonetheless, I'll add a bit of my own.

Having read Harnoncourt's books (and several interviews with him), I don't recall coming across this view from him. He accounts for his performance choices mostly by reference to Baroque rhetorical theories, not hardware. Harnoncourt was not only the founder of the first period-instrument orchestra, but also the first "HIP" conductor to start conducting "modern" orchestras -- so he doesn't ascribe too much importance to hardware.He also tends to use relatively slow tempi in many of his performances, and more legato articulation than many of his period-instrument colleagues. So that would make it even less likely that he would promote such a theory.

In general, yes, tempi have been speeding up in Bach's music -- but that's only a gross generalisations, with many exceptions. My investigation of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) has actually shown that some movements have started slowing down again in the 1990s. Once you start investigating these things, you come up with strange results. I mean, nobody would be particulalry surprised to learn that Otto Klemeprer's "Second Kyrie" (B minor Mass (BWV 232)) is among the slowest on record. But he shares his tempo and timing with Gustav Leonhardt and Rene Jacobs! And Thomas Hengelbrock is slighlty slower (putting him on a par with Eugen Jochum). And no, I wouldn't say that Leonhardt, Jacobs and Klemperer have a similar character. Yes, they share atempo. But that's about all they share. (Even Jacobs and Leonhardt are quite different from each other -- despite the "family" relationship: Jacobs was the alto soloist in Leonhardt's recording, and has also worked with Leonhardt on several other occasions). To sum up glibly: Klemperer is heavy and monumental, with relatively loud dynamics and harsh sound and very few inflections of dynamics or articulation. Leonhardt is lighter and softer, but also quite narrow in his range of dynamics and articulation; to my ears, his performance has a flowing, peaceful quality. Jacobs employs a wider range of dynamics and articulation than either of them, giving a greater sense of ebb-and-flow, even a somewhat dramatic quality, since there is some sense of tension and release (whereas Klemperer is quite intense throughout, and with Leonhardt there is barely any tension to release). I suspect most listeners would consider Jadcobs the fastest of the three, and Klemperer the slowest; but objective measurements won't concur.

Which means, of course, that tempo as such is not necessarily the most important thing. I find it increasingly difficult ot ascribe the effect of a performance to just one factor. Basic tempo, tempo changes during a movement, artiuclation, dynamics, balance, timbre -- they all play a part. Of course, this means that the recording prdouction team can also have a powerful effect on the interpretation -- but that's a different discussion...

Francine Renee Hall wrote (July 10, 2003):
Like Uri, I've read H's 'Musical Dialogue' and saw him perform Haydn's 'Creation' using HIP practices on a modern orchestra. His tempo allows for the musical lines to sing, and not be rushed. From all the CD's I have of him, he takes a nice trotting tempo which do not cover up anything. If there is one group who does go at lightning speed, listen to the early MAK on DG Panorama playing the Brandenburgs. Now that's brisk!

Harnoncourt is a brilliant pioneer to the HIP movement. Both his SMPs (BWV 244) are superb; notice how he evolves over time. He used boys in the first set; adults in the latter set. He's not one to be stuck in a pseudo-scholastic quagmire. He is a true explorer.

Peter Bright wrote (July 10, 2003):
[To Francine Renee Hall] I also agree that he wrings out superlative performances from modern orchestras - just check out Dvorak's Slavonic Dances from last year (pl. by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe) - a superb disc.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (July 14, 2003):
Following the observations of Alex Riedlmayer, one might be led to the wrong conclusion, that there is a race going on who will be able to perform a certain aria in new world record time. Will the record for “Erbarme dich” in this century come under six minutes? Wow! This is utter nonsense. Tempi and timing are part of the interpretation of the conductor and his musicians if he gives them any say in this matter. I don’t believe that so-called HIP performers choose higher tempi under the influence of their instruments. Do gut-wound strings make you play faster than the heavy-metal ones? Will an aerodynamic bow enhance your performing speed? Do natural brass instruments breed new virtuoso trumpeters who can outplay their traditional colleagues in spite of the lack of newly invented gadgets that make playing the right tones so much easier on the modern instruments ? If so, we could start a competition. Humbug, of course. Individual instruments do not determine the speed of performing. A good instrument is a pre-condition for good playing. So is a well-prepared and conscientious player. But making music in an orchstra means cooperation within the ensemble. The very word implies that the violins can not say: I want to speed it up, so brass section, come on and try to keep up with us. Music is interpreting. All the aspects like dynamics, dotting etc. as noted down by the composer are part of it, but also the ideas of the performing artist and in ensemble playing the conductor are of vital interest. Without it, the music is dead.

I am sure that the idea that HIP performers are so much faster than those who favour modern forces is fading. The first HIP performances took place about half a century ago and they sure were a reaction against the over-romanticised performances of the first half of the 20th century and some decades after that as well. But, what's more, there was a strong desire to go back to Bach. This involved cutting down the lengthy, drawling performance practice. I wonder how many professional conductors still reject period instruments when playing Bach’s sacred vocal works. I know that in our country there are still a great number of oratorio choirs performing SMP (BWV 244) with modern instruments, and their performances usually have a duration of three hours and more. Maybe it is still the influence of the older romantic school. Anyhow, the choices musicians make ought to be a matter of interpretation. And interpreters change over the years, even Rilling.

When comparing different SMP (BWV 244) performances, you will observe that, as to tempi, each movement is played differently. Take Rilling for example. In 1999, I made the following note about his SMP (BWV 244):

Interesting, self-willed interpretation, which nevertheless does not detract of the total performance. Tempi often different from the average. Turbae sometimes very slow and pronounced ("Wass gehet uns dass an?" and "Gegrüsset!"), sometimes relatively fast ("Sein Blut"). Soprano aria "Aus Liebe" and tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen" rather slow but beautifully sung with much expression. Very dynamic is the performance by the evangelist, slow, but with great expression. Total impression: a valuable SMP. (BWV 244) (The soprano was Christiane Oelze, the tenor Michael Schade, who sang both the evangelist and the arias)

In 1999, I compared the duration of some movements in SMP (BWV 244) in different performances. I reckon my Dutch is not double dutch to you, Still, I have translated the various movements I timed:

Total Playing time,

Duration Opening Chorus (Kommt, ihr Töchter),
Duration Final Chorus (Wir setzen uns),
Duration Chorale "Herzliebster Jesus",
Duration Turba "Sein Blut",
Duration Last Supper Scene ("Er antwortete und sprach"),
Duration Soprano aria "Aus Liebe",
Duration Alto aria "Erbarme Dich",
DurationTenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen",
Duration Bass aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein"

Herbert von Karajan with the Wiener Singverein, the Wiener Symphoniker, featuring Kathleen Ferrier (1950)

Totale Speelduur: 3 hrs 35' 44"
Duur Openingskoor: 8' 38"
Duur Slotkoor: 7' 56"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 12"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 38"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 4' 30"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 5' 16"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 17"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 22"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 7' 34"

Karl Richter with Münchener Bach-Chor, Münchener Chorknaben and Münchener Bach-Orchester (1958)

Totale Speelduur: 3 hrs 17' 47"
Duur Openingskoor: 9' 52"
Duur Slotkoor: 6' 42"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 10"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 40"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 4' 24"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 33"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 46"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 23"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 7' 09"

Otto Klemperer with the Philharmonia Choir, the Boys of Hampstead Parish Church Choir and the Philharmonia Orchestra (1961)

Totale Speelduur: 3 hrs 43' 29"
Duur Openingskoor: 11' 46"
Duur Slotkoor: 8' 02"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 29"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut":
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 3' 58"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 43"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 22"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 6' 15"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 10' 20"

WoGönnenwein with Süddeutscher Madrigalchor and Ein Knabenchor (1968)

Totale Speelduur: 3 hrs 16' 33"
Duur Openingskoor: 9' 04"
Duur Slotkoor: 7' 18"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 05"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 52"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 4' 00"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 5' 20"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 31"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 6' 03"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 8' 11"

Johannes Somary with the Ambrosian Singers, Desborough School Boys' Choir and the English Chamber Orchestra (1977)

Totale Speelduur: 3 hrs 16' 00"
Duur Openingskoor: 9' 05"
Duur Slotkoor: 6' 49"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 03"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 44"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 3' 47"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 52"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 12"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 41"

Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 9' 30"

Nikolaus Harnoncourt with Concentus Musicus Wien, King's College Choir Cambridge (David Willcocks), Regensburger Domchor (1987)

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 54' 27"
Duur Openingskoor: 7' 25"
Duur Slotkoor: 5' 41"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 0' 51"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 43"
Avondmaalsscène: 3' 16"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 33"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 13"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 18"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 6' 56"

John Eliot Gardiner, The Monteverdi Choir, The English Baroque Soloists, girls choir The London Oratory Junior Choir - Patrick Russill (1988)

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 37' 24"
Duur Openingskoor: 6' 59"
Duur Slotkoor: 5' 10"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 0' 38"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 41"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 2' 34"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 5' 19"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 43"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 4' 57"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 5' 47"

Gustav Leonhardt with La Petite BandeSigiswald Kuyken (1989)

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 52' 22"
Duur Openingskoor: 8' 29"
Duur Slotkoor: 6' 59"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 13"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 46"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 3' 07"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 35"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 43"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 59"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 6' 15"

Pieter Jan Leusink with Holland Boys Choir and Baroque Orchestra (1992)
Florilegium Musicum:

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 40' 38"

Duur Openingskoor: 6' 54"
Duur Slotkoor: 5' 55"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 0' 45"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 42"
Avondmaalsscène ("Er antwortete und sprach"): 2' 57"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 57"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 36"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 09"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 5' 55"

Christoph Spering with Das Neue Orchester (1992)

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 12' 25"
Duur Openingskoor: 7' 46"
Duur Slotkoor: 6' 07"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 1' 06"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 37"
Avondmaalsscène (“Er antwortete und sprach"): 3' 26"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 4' 13"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 6' 31" (hier: sopraan aria)
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 6' 37"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 3' 00"

Helmuth Rilling with Gächinger Cantorei and Bach-Collegium Stuttgart: (1994)

Totale Speelduur: 2 hrs 54' 59"
Duur Openingskoor: 6' 57"
Duur Slotkoor: 5' 55"
Duur Koraal "Herzliebster Jesus": 0' 46"
Duur Turba "Sein Blut": 0' 37"
Avondmaalsscène: 3' 51"
Duur Sopraan aria "Aus Liebe": 5' 01"
Duur Alt aria "Erbarme Dich": 7' 37"
Duur Tenor aria "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen": 5' 33"
Duur Bas aria "Mache dich mein Herze rein": 6' 12"

Spering’s is the Mendelssohn edition, so no da capo’s here, which shortens the total playing time considerably. Draw your own conclusions. Note for instance that Rilling and Leusink have almost exactly the same tempi for the opening and final choruses.

It is also very interesting to compare the two versions Harnoncourt, Herreweghe and Leusink have recorded. Interesting is also a comparison of the opening and final choruses of SMP (BWV 244). I will do that another time. Now I have some domestic duties to fulfil, since my summer holidays have begun and my better half is still at work.


Continue on Part 2

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