Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works

Missae Brevis BWV 233-236



Discussions in the Weeks of April 18 - May 9, 2004

Uri Golomb
wrote (May 1, 2004):
"Lutheran" Masses

In the past few days, I've been re-acquainting myself with the Lutheran Masses, which -- according to the schedule -- should be our main topic of discussion these days... However, my survey below is not strictly according to schedule: I'll be discussing recordings of the four masses together. I have four recordings of the complete cycle -- by Richard Hickox, Philippe Herreweghe, Peter Schreier and the Purcell Quartet.

These are wonderful works, which are still under-rated (and under-recorded). Perhaps this is because they run against two images some people would like to have of Bach: as a strictly Lutheran composer, and as an ever-original genius. However, setting the Latin Kyrie and Gloria in no way goes against Lutheran church practices (a point which McCreesh emphasised in his Epiphany Mass album which I won't be discussing for now, since for the moment I"m talking about recordings of all four masses; McCreesh only recorded one of them); and if you rule out the four "small" masses because they are largely based on parodies, then the B minor Mass would have ruled out for the same reason.

Another reason sometime brought up is that the music does not fit the new text as well as it did the old one. I'll concede two potential problems in this context: the Gloria and Cum Sancto of the G minor Mass (BWV 235) do not sound quite as celebratory and festive as you'd expect in this context (compared, _inter alia_, to BAch's other settings of these texts); and the dramatic dialogue from cantata BWV 67 is more effective in that origianl version than in its transformation into the A major Mass's Gloria (BWV 234)

In the case of the G minor Mass, I feel unity was a strong motivation. I got to know this Mass before knowing the cantatas on which it is based, and it felt as if the three choruses belonged together -- I haven't analysed it yet, but it feels as if there is some thematic connection there. They certainly sounded as if they were conceived together, intended from the start ot belong within the same work. I was rather surprised to learn that they actually came from three different cantatas (BWV 102, 72 and 187), though two of these were written (or at least performed) in the same month (August 1726). Perhaps -- and I'm aware this is pure speculation -- BAch himself felt later that they belonged together, and therefore united them within the G minor Mass.

Whatever the history, these are definitely fine pieces, and deserve to be better known.

The order of discussion below reflects both the order of listening (in my sessions this week) and my order of preference, preserving favourite to last.I began with Richard Hickox's set. Hickox's 1992 recording of the B minor Mass is one of my favourites, and there is plenty to enjoy in these 1975-1977 recordings as well; but on the whole, I found them less satisfying. There is good textural clarity in the choruses (despite the choir's somewhat tremulous sound-production), and good attention to detail. At their best, these readings have a convincing, elegant flow, and some movements (such as the "Qui tollis" in BWV 234) are very moving. The most consistently impressive is the G major Mass (BWV 236): the dynamic flexibility of its Kyrie, in particular, conveys a very moving combination of noble expansiveness (thanks to the relatively slow tempo) and a palpable sense ebb-and-flow (thanks to the detailed phrasing and flexible, purposeful dynamics).

In other places, however, the phrasing is somewhat stiff and wooden (e.g., BWV 233's Gloria), and the performance sounds a bit calculated. This rarely (if ever) happens in Hickox's B minor Mass, and I feel certain that, were he to re-record these works now, the results would be much more flowing and convincing.

Next, I listened to Peter Schreier's set on Philips. I often find Schreier's conducting too sharp: harsh. emphatic staccati often dominate the texture, their effect exacerbated by rigid dynamics. These effects can be sensed in his short Masses, but to a much lesser and milder degree; it is almost my favourite Schreier-as-conductor recording (the favourite being his Christmas Oratorio).

Something of Schreier's insistent rigidity can still be sensed in this set -- for example, in the opening Kyrie of BWV 234. For the most part, however, Schreier does seem more flexible here, more willing to vary his articulation -- and, no less importantly, his dynamics and accentuation. Instead of emphasising all staccati equally, he displays some awareness to tension-and-release, and to strong and weak beats. AS a result, there is a greater sense of flow and purpose: when treated flexibly, his sharp articulation can help to generate momentum and excitement (a good example is his treatment of the instrumental bass line in BWV 233's Kyrie, which gently urges the music onwards). his arias, on the whole, have more light-and-shade than Hickox's.

There is also a fine team of soloists -- especially the soprano (Barbara Bonney) and the bass (Olaf Baer). Bonney might be, for me, the star of this set; certainly, one of its highlights is a very moving rendition of the "Qui tollis" from BWV 233, from Bonney and the (in my copy, at least) unnamed oboist of the CPE Bach Chamber Orchestra. The oboist phrases his/her line with great flexibility -- subtle rubato, and short phrase divisions which nonetheless create a sense of continuity. Bonney possess a beautiful voice, and her phrasing, too, is flexible and touching.

Next, I moved to Herreweghe's set. His performances are, for the most part, under-stated and lyrical. The articulation and phrasing are detailed, but subtly so: the separation between phrase-units is gentle -- something that is especially clear when listening to him straight after Schreier. In some cases (especially in the G minor Mass), I would have preferred a more dramatic and energetic approach; and the Kyrie of BWV 233 might not have Schreier's momentum. However, there is a gentle melancholy and lyricism through much of these performances, which I usually found very moving and convincing.

The choral and orchestral sonorities are always beautiful and refined, his phrasing never rigid or inflexible. He also has a fine cast of soloists -- in my view, with no weak links -- who share the choir's and orchestra's virtues: beautiful sonority combined with sensitive phrasing.

The instrumentla contribution is perhaps more prominent here than in the two versions I discussed above, giving -- especially in the arias (good case in point: "Domine deus" in BWV 235) -- a clearer sense of the richness of Bach's texture (although clarity, as such, could have been better).

It was through these versions that I first came to know the Lutheran Masses, and I would still recommend them warmly. However, at the moment at least, they are not my favourites -- on the whole, I now prefer the Purcell Quartet version (while remaining aware that my preferences could change, either because of a re-appraisal of the recordings I know or through getting to know a new version).

The Purcell Quartet (without a named director) take the OVPP idea a step further than Rifkin's groundbreaking research suggests: while Rifkin clearly believes that BAch's *orchestra* was *not* OVPP (the violin sections had at least two players each), these versions are truly soloistic in vocal and instrumental ensemble alike. While this probably does go against the historical evidence, I mostly find the results convincing. For this ensemble, this is probably the most natural medium in any case. Their core is indeed a quartet (two violins, cello/gamba and organ -- the basic ensemble for a two-violin trio sonata)

Small-scale scoring does not, in itself, guarantee textural clarity. These performances, however, do achieve remarkable transparency. They have the character of chamber music in the best sense of the word: each musician gives palpable, individual shape to their respective parts, yet also clearly listen to each other. They thus create a palpable sense of internal dialogue. My only constant reservation is about the instrumental bass line (the only line which is entrusted to three players -- cellist, bass and organ -- rather than just one. The line is clearly audible, but all too often, it sounds like a solid background, even when it has an independent melodic contribution to make. (In this particular sense, I often found Schreier's version to be the most convincing).

There are a few moments of shaky intonation, especialy in the violin parts on the first volume (BWV 234-235) -- here a slightly larger string section might have helped matters -- but these are local blemishes, which only slightly detract from my enjoyment of these vibrant performances.

Of course, there are always indivdividual movements where I prefer another performance (for instance, my favourite BWV 234 "Qui sedes" remains Barbara Bonney's rendition with Schreier; and in BWV 235's "Domine deus", I find the Purcell Quartet slightly edgy {at least at the start -- it acquires greater flow as it progresses}, and have a slight prefer the more mellifulous version of Gerard Lense with Herreweghe). Even in these cases, however,, I also enjoy the PQ version.

So, to sum up: The Purcell Quartet offers a superb case, both for these works and for OVPP as a performance medium. There is a remarkable freshness and a sense of discovery about these performances (which perhaps make the Herreweghe versions -- fine though they are -- seem a bit *too* comfortable, especially in the choral movements). The Hickox and Schreier versions, while I did not enjoy them quite as much as teh Herreweghe and Purcells, still have their fine moments (Hickox's being most notable in BWV 236)... On the other hand, I woudl still like to hear some of this music -- particularly the G minor's (BWV 235) choruses -- performed in a more energetic, dramatic style than I heard in any of these recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 7, 2004):
Lutheran Masses BWV 233-236

The NBA KB II/2 (Lutheran Masses – mainly BWV 233-236) has on pp. 14 ff. the following introduction to the Lutheran masses in general: [I am providing a fairly close translation of the this section]

This section opens with a quote from the Bach-Dokumente, vol. 3, item # 798 taken from a book by Martin Gerbert (relying upon reports from Hiller and Mizler) entitled “DE CANTV ET MVSICA SACRA A PRIMA ECCLESIAE AETATE VSQVE AD PRAESENS TEMPVS, AVCTORE MARTINO GERBERTO…TOMVS ii…TVPIS SAN-BLASIANIS MDCCLXXIV., p. 364:

>>Missae, uti usu catholico dicuntur, alicubi saltem apud Protestantes frequentantur, veluti Lipsiae, & alibi, in Saxonia; ubi musica sacra cumprimis floret. In hoc genere musicae sacrae elaborasse ex Germanis FUX, ZELENKA, Io. Seb. BACH, HARRER, SCHURER musurgus Dresd. Notantur ‘in Wochentl. Nachrichten | und Anmerkungen die Music betreffend Leipz. Den 15. Aug. 1768. ubi id genus musicae Lipsiae, & alibi, in praecipuis festis usitatum adhuc perhibetur.

It is surprising to find out that Bach was especially singled out repeatedly in the musical literature emanating from the 2nd half of the 18th century as a composer of masses. In addition to the above reference, Johann Friedrich Agricola, Johann Adam Hiller, and Christoph Daniel Ebeling also give similar reports. No doubt, these references primarily point to ‘the great Catholic mass’ (the designation used in listing of items in the estate of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach {1790} for the Mass in B Minor BWV ???) as J. S. Bach’s ‘opus summum.’ But, at the same time, the four smaller mass compositions (BWV 233-236) must also have been held in high esteem by true connoisseurs. In the above sources these compositions are referred to as ‘Missa.’ According to the customary practices of Evangelical church music at that time, this term referred to a limited/modest musical setting of the Ordinarium consisting of only two movements: Kyrie and Gloria. A complete setting of the mass would have been called a “Missa tota.” There is, as yet, no definitive musicological term for this other type of mass, the ‘Missa’ with two movements. The term usually used, “Missa brevis,” (usually translated into German as “Kurzmesse” or “kleine Messe”) also refers more appropriately to a short, brief musical setting of the complete Catholic Ordinarium, a form of composition frequently used in Catholic liturgy. It is this latter meaning that should be retained in order to avoid misunderstanding. For the Protestant form of the ‘Missa,’ the term “Lutheran mass” (“lutherische Messe”) should prove sufficient. It is, after all, the term used by Sébastien de Brossard around 1700 in a manuscript entitled “Catalogue des livres” where he distinguishes between “Messes entières” and those masses “à la lutherienne…où il n’y a que les Kyries et le Gloria in excelsis en musique.”

Despite the significant, new discoveries in regard to Bach’s essence and musical development over the most recent decades, there is hardly any other category of Bach’s music that we know as little about as the origin of the four Lutheran masses. There is not, among the sources of varying authenticity, a single contemporary (with Bach’s life) document that records even the existence of these masses, nor is there a believable indication that allows for a reliable conclusion to be drawn about the occasions for or the conditions surrounding their origin, or even anything that would reveal their particular status in the musical church activities of Bach’s time. The only relatively certain conclusion that can be reached is that regarding the period during which the Mass in A-Major (BWV 234) and Mass in G-Major (BWV 236) were composed. These masses, based upon the autograph scores that reveal evidence which can be dated by means of Bach’s handwriting and the paper used, were composed at some point between 1735 and 1750 with Alfred Dürr specifying more precisely that certain details in Bach’s handwriting would tend to put this date earlier than 1742 rather than later. The paper used in these autographs establishes the limit ‘not before 1735’ and the lack of certain characteristics found in Bach’s late style of handwriting after 1744 places these masses in the period before 1744. This dating is generally in agreement with the chronology given by the older, more traditional Bach research. The fact that the relevant references, Spitta, Schering, and BWV, appear to point with a deceptive certainty to the years 1737-1738 as the time of composition has its origin in speculations regarding what might have occasioned Bach to turn to this form of composition – this subject matter will be treated in greater detail below.

Since there are no original sources (autograph or original parts) for the Mass in F-Major (BWV 233) and the Mass in G-Minor (BWV 235), any grounds whatsoever for determining the chronological placement in Bach’s oeuvre is lacking for the time being; moreover, the authenticity of these works, particularly whether every detail in their transformation (parody) actually occurred under J. S. Bach’s personal guidance or editorship, can not be conclusively proven. The oldest source for both of these masses is a collection of copies of all four masses. This collection was copied by Bach’s student and later son-in-law, Johann Christoph Altnickol, but there is not a single indication on these copies that would point to Bach’s authorship (perhaps a cover {title} sheet or folder now lost may have contained such a reference.) The fact that C.P.E Bach’s estate listing (1790) contains a reference to the four masses as his father’s compositions offers little in the way of any proof; but, on the other hand, the fact that they are based upon works by J. S. Bach in the form of parodies or the reworking of earlier material, leaves little doubt Bach himself undertook these ‘re-formations’ of previous, older vocal works to make them over into independent ‘mass’ movements with an intrinsic value of their own and that Bach did not, for example, have a student do this work for him.

The uniformity of the compositional style also justifies the assumption that all foLutheran masses were conceived of as a series and probably all of them were completed around the same time. The similarity of the overall form – two large choral movements (Kyrie, Gloria,) followed by three solo-like forms for the remaining sections of the text of the Gloria, after which is added the final chorus of the Cum Sancto – taken by itself would not be a compelling argument for proving the simultaneity of composition of all four masses, nor would the fact that Bach very likely borrowed the music for all of the movements of these masses from previously composed works. An argument in favor of having Bach complete these masses in and around the same time period is the fact that Bach used and worked from a limited core of cantatas, and, in the process, repeatedly returned to the various movements of the same cantatas while placing them into various points of this set of masses as a whole. In this manner BWV 234 and BWV 236 are paired with each other as they derive their material from the same sources, BWV 79 and BWV 179. The same is true for BWV 233 and 235, both of which have movements derived from a single source, BWV 102. The following diagram gives a schematic overview regarding the various parody relationships that exist between the Lutheran masses and the models upon which they were based. From this it can be seen that Bach borrowed all suitable forms (choral movements and arias), but omitted understandably those movements that were recitatives, ariosos, or chorale-related in nature.

[The scanned diagram from NBA KB II/2 p. 16 is found as the file “Luthmass.jpg” in the files section of the BCML Yahoo group: BachCantatas.]
See: Lutheran Masses – Diagram of Borrowings

What may have caused Bach to occupy himself rather intensively with providing settings of the Latin Ordinarium at a time when his creative interest in providing "Kirchenstücke” [‘church music’] for the churches in Leipzig had clearly been decreasing? As seen simply by itself, composing a “Missa” would not have been difficult for Bach to fit justifiably into his official responsibilities. The Lutheran mass, as the name indicates, also has a place, even in its figured/figurate form, as part of the Evangelical church service: as a ceremonious heightening of the liturgy. Speaking against the idea that Bach may have had such a definite purpose in mind is the fact that Bach, in these instances (referring to the mass settings under discussion here) previously had made use of movements from his sacred cantatas, which, in this case, do not exhibit his typical method of using for borrowing something which had been created for a special occasion and then rewriting it in order to include it as a “Kirchenstück” (‘a church composition’) among his usable repertoire of sacred compositions; but rather, on the contrary, Bach, in this instance, selected only individual elements from such works which had already assumed a definitive position in his oeuvre and transformed these into another type. In addition, it does not appear to be self-evident/obvious that Bach would compose a series of compositions of a particular type (such as the yearly cycles of cantatas) considering the rather limited use for works of this type (the masses) in the Leipzig church services. The motivating factor behind bringing together four works of such a stature must most likely allow anyone to surmise a much more significant, wider-ranging purpose than simply that of producing compositions needed to fulfill his own requirements for producing music for the Leipzig church services. Thus it appears to be sensible to search for this motivating factor not in the realm of his obligations and duties as the musical director of the Leipzig churches, but rather in some extraordinary (outside of Leipzig) circumstances that may have presented themselves to Bach.

It is quite obvious, and understandably so, that an equation was drawn between ‘Latin’ and ‘Catholic’ as seen in the apparently analogous circumstances surrounding the Mass in B-Minor, circumstances which have caused many commentators to connect the masses directly to the Catholic liturgy. Spitta, based upon 1737 being the supposedly certain year of composition of these masses, saw that an appropriate connection could be made with the formal title granted to Bach as the composer in name for the Dresden (Catholic) court. This title required from Bach that he provide compositions from time to time for the court: “Verpflichtung, für denselben von Zeit zu Zeit etwas zu liefern.” This view was subsequently widely held by many Bach experts. Even Arnold Schering had at first accepted this view (Bach-Jahrbuch, 1921, p. 79 ff.), but then later (Bach-Jahrbuch, 1936, p. 26 ff.) he discarded this view without offering any good reasons for doing so: “Tastet man nun Bachs ausgedehnten musikalischen Wirkungskreis auf die Möglichkeit hin ab, ein zweites Absatzgebiet katholischer Kirchenmusik neben Dresden zu finden, so gerät man auf den Namen des…böhmischen Grafen Sporck, von dem wir wissen, daß er von Sebastian die Stimmen zum Sanctus der Hohen Messe erhielt” [“If you carefully and sensitively investigate Bach’s expansive area of musical activity and influence to determine the possibility of finding yet another ‘market area’ for Catholic church music beyond that of Dresden, then you will come upon the name of the Bohemian Count Sporck, of whom we know, that he received from Bach the parts for the ‘Sanctus’ of the Mass in B-minor.”] A note that Bach wrote c. 1724-1726 on the first page of the score of the ‘Sanctus’ BWV 232 in which Bach indicates that the original parts of the ‘Sanctus’ had been received by a music-loving, Catholic count in Bohemia, now, according to Schering at least, is proof for a Bach-connection with “ein…Absatzgebiet katholischer Kirchenmusik” [‘a market area for Catholic church music’], a connection which Bach then, approximately 12 years later, was, of all things, supposed to have used in order to send the count ‘Lutheran Masses.’ Such is the crumbly foundation of an unstable thought construction, which, however, was viewed as a stable base upon which to erect other constructs as well! Thus the Sporck-theory served also to provide an easy answer to the dating problem: since Count Sporck died in 1738, the masses must have been delivered to him before that date and since Spitta , by comparing the paper used for the Mass in A-Major and the Mass in G-Major, had determined that this could only have occurred after 1736, the result could only point to the ‘exact’ time reference: ‘around 1737.’ Schering’s assertions/claims were, to be sure, accepted generally by Bach scholars, but they are unable to stand up to a more critical test.

Christoph Wolff, in connection with his studies covering Bach’s late works and using new arguments, advocated the opinion also supported/expressed by other scholars that Bach’s masses were, at least in the first instance, ‘intended for church services in the Leipzig churches’ (“Der stile antico in der Musik Johann Sebastian Bachs, Studien zu Bachs Spätwerk.” Beiheft zum “Archiv für Musikwissenschaft,” vol. VI, Wiesbaden, 1968, pp. 34 ff.) Wolff states this without considering/mentioning the problematical situations already mentioned above. (Alfred Dürr, gave his critique of Wolff’s article in “Die Musikforschung” vol. 23, 1970, pp. 324 ff.) It is quite certain that the Lutheran Masses were also performed in Leipzig. This can be seen from an original set of parts for the Mass in A-Major, which, at least with the intention that this mass might be performed, was copied out during Bach’s last few years of life. But it is just this very peculiar situation, that the parts were copied out many years later after the date of the autograph score, that can lead to the assumption that these masses were never originally destined for performances in Leipzig; for Bach, one could then draw the conclusion, had to have a new set of parts copied because he had originally givthem to someone else (there are historical traces that would confirm their former existence.) The recipient of the first set of original parts (now not extant) could easily have been someone living outside of Leipzig, someone who had commissioned this music from Bach. In this connection, Wolff’s indication of the connection that Bach had with the Protestant church services of the court at Dresden (these services continued alongside the Catholic ones) is noteworthy. Following this train of thought, we are led to question whether or not a commission for such masses may have come from some other court or city church with the available monetary means to ask Bach to compose a series of Lutheran masses.

Another direction for considering this situation is given by Georg von Dadelsen, who examines the problems surrounding the composition of masses from the standpoint of Bach’s changed attitude toward his compositional activities. Von Dadelsen reminds us of Bach’s clearly recognizable effort, beginning in about 1736, “das Geschaffene zu sichten und ihm, wo immer nötig, endgültige Gestalt zu geben” [“to sift through everything already composed and to try wherever possible to put it into its final form”] (“Tübinger Bach-Studien, Issue 4/5, pp. 157 ff.) Dadelsen counts among those works which Bach wants “das Begonnene vollenden oder in einen gültigeren Zusammenhang rücken” [“to complete that which had been begun or to move it into a more valid connection”] possibly also the masses (which includes the Mass in B-minor.) This kind of thinking opens a new perspective. Dadelsen’s viewpoint gives occasion once again to take into consideration Bach’s personal motivation, this coming after the much-too-narrow view of Bach’s creativity as being bound by his duties and obligations. According to this way of thinking, Bach’s masses could be understood as a process of carefully selecting portions of his works to be inserted into a new ‘form connection’ [‘Gestaltzusammenhang’] through which the honorable Latin texts for the mass could have been uplifted into the timeless-objective realm. To be sure, there will still be, not to be overlooked, an incongruity in the actual results in these compositions between the uneven quality of these compositions and the attempt to raise these compositions to such a high level. But at least a correction in the traditional notion is necessary so that psychological creative components that went into composing these works will be noted along with the pragmatical aspects of these works.

Did those mentioned above as admirers who followed directly in Bach’s tradition see such intentions in Bach’s masses? To what degree did their evaluation of these works stem from an intimate knowledge of them? There is no knowledge of any performances of these works between 1750 and 1800 and yet there is a relatively large number of copies that were made, a fact which at least attests to a theoretical interest in them (noticeably lacking are any copies whatsoever of the Mass in G-Minor and the Mass in F-Major.) The decisive factor which brought about the spreading of information about and the eventual renown of these masses was the early publishing of certain sections of them as examples of contrapuntal masterpieces – in Marpurg’s “Abhandlung von der Fuge” (1754) and in Kirnberger’s “Kunst des reinen Satzes” (1779). It is probable that those interested in this strict type of music at that time viewed these examples as indicative of the entire category of masses composed by Bach. The high respect accorded to these works can still be found clearly expressed in a letter by Zelter from the year 1811 in which he calls Bach’s passions and Latin masses “eigentlich seine vorzüglichsten Stücke” [“actually his most superior pieces.”] This high regard is also expressed by the early printed editions of the Mass in A-Major (1818) and the Mass in G-Major (1828) produced by Georg Poelchau. The Lutheran masses were then eclipsed by the strong public interest in Mendelssohn’s performance (1829) of the SMP which from then on took on greater importance. The status of the masses diminished further as during the course of the 19th century successive discoveries were made regarding the dependency of these masses upon earlier compositions. As a result, they lost their value as ‘original’ works and were relegated completely to the dark shadows of Bach’s oeuvre where they still remain today. Bach research in recent years has begun to recognize that these Bach versions of his own compositions are to be valued more highly than thinking of them as merely a reworking of some of his older material. Thus the Lutheran masses should once again attain a higher evaluation than they have had in the past.

[When I began translating this passage for the BCML I had no idea that it would include an example of how seemingly solid research methods (as employed by Arnold Schering and accepted by many other Bach scholars in the decades that followed) could yield results that would be overturned by subsequent research. I am referring here specifically to Schering’s ‘Sporck-theory’ which seemed to be an easy solution for a ‘dating’ problem, but which has since been soundly criticized with words that could just as easily be applied to another theory first proposed by Schering: the shortened bc accompaniment for Bach’s secco recitatives where Bach writes long, held notes in the score, but the musicians play them in extremely truncated fashion according to an ‘unwritten’ oral tradition for which there is insubstantial proof.

The words used by the NBA editors, in this instance, Emil Platen and Marianne Helms, describe Schering’s ‘Sporck-theory’ as “das brüchige Fundament eines labilen Denkgebäudes, das aber als standfester Unterbau für weitere Konstruktionen angesehen wurde” [“the brittle foundation of an unstable mental construct which, however, was viewed {by other Bach scholars} as a steadfast support structure upon which to erect other constructs.” Likewise: “Scherings Behauptungen wurden zwar allgemein von der Bachforschung akzeptiert, halten aber einer kritischen Prüfung nicht stand“ [“Schering’s assertions were, to be sure, generally accepted by the community of Bach researchers, but they can not stand up to a {truly} critical test.”] Here we have a situation where the peer-review system completely breaks down and fails. Certainly, a half century of peer-review should have been sufficient to uncover important errors which change substantially the results of Bach research. This is not an anomalous situation in the 'science' of Bach musicology. 1936 was also the year when Schering first published his theory on shortened bc accompaniment for secco recitatives. It included ‘proofs’ and references that were still reiterated by HIP supporters (Harnoncourt, Dreyfus, etc.) a half century later. The question still remains whether Schering’s theory about shortened accompaniment of secco recitatives will share an equal fate to that which his “Sporck” theory has already encountered in the NBA article above.]

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 7, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < [When I began translating this passage for the BCML I had no idea that it would include an example of how seemingly solid research methods (as employed by Arnold Schering and accepted by many other Bach scholars in the decades that followed) could yield results that would be overturned by subsequent research. I am referring here specifically to Schering’s ‘Sporck-theory’ which seemed to be an easy solution for a ‘dating’ problem, but which has since been soundly criticized with words that could just as easily be applied to another theory first proposed by Schering: the shortened bc accompaniment for Bach’s secco recitatives where Bach writes long, held notes in the score, but the musicians play them in extremely truncated fashion according to an ‘unwritten’ oral tradition for which there is insubstantial proof. >
Never to miss an opportunity, eh? When starting to read this posting I had thought it was about the Lutheran Masses, which don't have any recitatives. But no; the posting turns out (once again) to be about supposedly "insubproof" of historically informed basso continuo practice, a proof "insubstantial" only to those who have already decided that the results *must* be wrong.

Peter Brighr wrote (May 7, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] That's not right, Brad, and not fair. I found the article very interesting and thank Thomas for taking the time to write it. The section at the end, which Thomas including in square brackets (presumably to indicate that it is a footnote rather than the central theme of the preceding text), is just a point which he felt impelled to make. The topic of the posting, was, as described in the subject line, the Lutheran Masses. I have the Pucell Quartet version of these but have only listened to them once or twice. After the informative postings of Uri (review) and Thomas (background info) I will return to them with renewed interest.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 7, 2004):
Peter Bright wrote: < The section at the end, which Thomas including in square brackets (presumably to indicate that it is a footnote rather than the central theme of the preceding text), is just a point which he felt impelled to make. >
But why, yet again(!), when it had no relevance to the rest of the posting, which, as you say, was very interesting and informative?

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (May 7, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] But it is still somewhat problematic to say that somebody who has brought up theory A, which may not be true, is false with his theory B as well. It is not a strong way of reasoning, and it has nothing to do with the Masses.

Riccardo Nughes wrote (May 7, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < Never to miss an opportunity, eh? >
It seems that the shortened notes in bc "affair" is Mr.Braatz's obsession ^__^

Johan van Veen wrote (May 7, 2004):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Reasoning has never been the author's strength anyway. So what's new?

John Pike wrote (May 7, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] I have sympathies with all sides: Thomas for a broadly extremely helpful "essay", Peter for pointing out that the article was, indeed, almost entirely about the Lutheran masses, but also Brad, because Thomas knew full well that his comments at the end would irritate those who sympathise with this style of bc accompaniment. It was a biased view, unsubstantiated by facts, an unnecessary addition and it spoilt an otherwise excellent and balanced piece of work.

Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242: Details
Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | General Discussions
Systematic Discussions:
BWV 233 | BWV 234 | BWV 235 | BWV 236 | BWV 233-236 | BWV 237-242

Recordings & Discussions of Other Vocal Works: Main Page | Motets BWV 225-231 | Mass in B minor BWV 232 | Missae Breves & Sanctus BWV 233-242 | Magnificat BWV 243 | Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 | Johannes-Passion BWV 245 | Lukas-Passion BWV 246 | Markus-Passion BWV 247 | Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 | Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Geistliche Lieder BWV 439-507 | AMN BWV 508-523 | Quodlibet BWV 524 | Aria BWV 1127

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links


Back to the Top

Last update: ýMay 21, 2004 ý03:27:31