Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works
Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - Part 3: Mvts. 21-29
Discussions in the Week of June 20, 2004
Sw Anandgyan wrote (June 21, 2004):
I listened to the sections 11 to 29 of the SMP as per these weeks discussions.
I started with the three modern-instruments recordings that I have; I'm still trying to find my footing as how to proceed in an intelligent manner. I'm still quite inept. So.
In order of preference as to an overall appreciation and mainly the soprano tone, choir sound and tempos here's my surprising ( to myself ) results;
2- Richter I
In my naive approach, they do resemble each other but the Klemperer rendition had that certain edge over the two other, not just gravitas but a shine at the appropriate times.
I have chosed to skip the Mengelberg because of the cuts made in the oeuvre though I listened to it on the week-end and I admit it is as moving as non-HIP.
A unique experience.
Next will be the period-instruments.
Happy listening to all.
Sw Anandgyan wrote (June 22, 2004):
Discussions # 2
The series listening to the period-instruments of the SMP sections for the past two weeks discussions has ended. I ought to take model from our list-owner. I admit to some very amateurish subjective conclusions. This deserves much more time than I'm allowing for it; I fear I'm hurrying through this almost aimlessly and settling for the main impressions that I sense. I'm in need for a method. Here are my comments;
- Herreweghe [8.5 / 10]
Has the right tempos, elegant, the solo voices don't take me away.
- Leonhardt [8.3 / 10]
Quite alike as the previous one, smooth, poignant.
- Spering [7.0 / 10]
The solo voices are more intense, the choir sounds stiff.
- Fasolis [7.2 / 10]
The choir sounds airy at times and with more gravitas at others, nice soprano voice.
- Brüggen [8.3 / 10]
A livelier story-telling, very nice soprano and an agile choir.
- Herreweghe II [8.2 / 10]
The instrumental support seems more in evidence, choir with added pizzazz, polished.
- Suzuki [8.4 / 10]
Solemnity, refinement, impeccable playing. The soprano is slightly grating to my ears.
- Harnoncourt III [8.5 / 10]
Delicate at times with the soprano, full-bodied drama evangelist and choir.
- McCreesh [8.0 / 10]
Minimal forces but not anemic, sharper than solemn, quite savoury.
These are all very nice renditions; the two Mendelssohn versions seem like having sounded thinner to my ears, Although quite the opposite of a connoisseur, the exercise made me realize who are the artists that I prefer, the conductors that I will often return to and how little I know so to keep on plunging deeper in the SMP aided with the text. I think I have to stop listening to them in a chronological order. I'm more comfortable with my shortcomings since a sense of differentiation is budding.
I'm eager to read other more knowledgeable members' words.
John Pike wrote (June 23, 2004):
This section contains some of my favourite music of the whole Passion, especially Nr. 29 "O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß", which I think is a masterpiece in itself. I also enjoy the No. 19 recitative "O Schmerz!", No. 20 "Ich will bei meinem Jesu wachen", No.23 "Gerne will ich mich bequemen", and No. 27a "So ist mein Jesus nun gefangen". I enjoy all the recordings I have (Richter 1958, Gardiner, Harnoncourt 3 and Herreweghe 1). I was a bit taken aback by the speed of "O Mensch" in Herreweghe 1 initially, and wondered if the impact of it had been spoilt by the speed but after listening a second time it seemed fine, very moving in fact.
I must confess, I find it very difficult to make comments about this extraordinary masterpiece or, indeed, about the many fine recordings that exist. McCreesh's recording arrived in the post this morning so I look forward to hearing that, as well as a recording of BWV 244b (1727-9 version), mentioned by Aryeh a couple of weeks ago.
Bach's expressive tuning in the SMP
Continue of discussion from: Light Voices [General Topics]
Bradley Lehman wrote (June 23, 2004):
H-J Reh wrote: < If >>schreyen<< meant something different in the 18th century then please let me know what it meant and how you found out. >
An example of its dramatic meaning to Bach is in the SMP (BWV 244). The chorus "Lass ihn kreuzigen" goes in A minor, and ends on B major (dominant of E minor). The chorale "Wie wunderbarlich" follows, in E minor, ending again on the dominant B major. The recitative briefly resolves this and sticks us back into B major yet again. The soprano's recitative "Er hat uns Allen wohlgethan calms things down, modulating from E minor to C major (!) followed by the A minor aria (relative minor to C major) "Aus Liebe", one of the rare places in the SMP where the continuo is silent altogether. This ends in A minor, an especially calm key for the oboes da caccia and flute that have been accompanying the aria.
Suddenly, the continuo group strikes a chord a tritone away from that, the diminished chord built on D# in first inversion: a very startling and rude gesture (leaping by tritone, at all), and a strong shock in the passage of the drama as well (as the aria has calmed things down so much). The Evangelist sings with an octave leap to the top (and maybe some more) of the tenor tessitura, "Sie SCHRIEEN aber noch mehr, und sprachen:" soon landing us back in E minor, and the chorus reprises "Lass ihn kreuzigen" but now in B minor instead of A minor: it's higher and more shrill than before. This ends on the violent chord of C# major, which is one of the most unstable harmonies anywhere (the way Bach's organ was tuned)...Bach deploying it here as a dramatic stroke, because it sounds bristly. This is the dominant of F# minor, which is indeed the way it continues into the "Da aber Pilatus" recitative. He gets us back to B minor, where the chorus calls that the blood-guilt should fall on themselves and their descendants. All a very violent scene here, ending in E minor (where the whole SMP started, incidentally). Then the "Erbarm'es Gott" suddenly lurches us yet again by starting on a C major harmony with Bb 7th in it!...and that whole recitative is extremely chromatic, once again hitting some of the nastiest 7th chords available anywhere, as it progresses...and we're left in the completely different world of G minor.
Also, those B major chords ending those sections are almost the most dissonant (most out of tune) major chords anywhere in Bach's temperament, the way the organ was tuned: keeping up the unsettled atmosphere of the passage, pulling those parts of the drama together into a unity.
John Pike wrote (June 23, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Masterpiece analysis!
Bradley Lehman wrote (June 23, 2004):
I should add: the evidence for such an interpretation is strong, too. Bach wrote the temperament instructions in some of his audition materials for a professional position, showing explicitly how he intended to tune the keyboard instruments in his tenure there. And, later, his Leipzig organ compositions demonstrate that he indeed had installed his required method on the Leipzig organs (i.e. was still using that same method when he wrote the SMP). The interaction of that tuning method, in Chorton on the Leipzig organs, with the Cammerton orchestra shaped musical and dramatic decisions of Bach's all the way through the SMP, as a composer.
This won't become apparent, though (beyond my descriptions), until somebody makes recordings of the SMP in this tuning that Bach required. It simply hasn't been done yet because the tuning method itself was not known until this spring, 2004...it had got lost to music history. That's a big point of my paper (now submitted): that the intonation itself makes a huge musical and dramatic difference throughout Bach's music, and shaped the way he composed it. My paper presents my discovery of that tuning and shows why it matters: it changes dozens of things we thought we knew about Bach and the meaningful content of his compositions! The chorale preludes are packed with theocommentary, in objectively expressive features of the sound; and his secular pieces show complete awareness of his resources, too. This is a new look into Bach's compositional processes, and it's going to have people arguing about it for decades. Probably there will be some who accuse me of setting off a grenade with this paper, but my objective here is to present the historical truth of what Bach did in his practice: so we can reassess him on his own terms, taking his tuning instructions completely seriously and seeing where they lead. It affects phrasing, tempo, articulation, and more: the paper is to catalyze that discussion, and of course to train keyboard players how to do the right thing according to Bach.
Bach specified the exact way each interval should sound, each chord, each scale: they're all distinct and they all create distinctive emotional and expressive effects. (That is, Bach deployed specific sounds to suit each situation, the way a golfer uses a whole bag of golf clubs, choosing objectively through experience the tool that best gets the job done for the intended result. And when Bach transposed pieces, it was in part to create different effects for a different situation.) If those melodic and harmonic relationships are thrown off by playing his music in wrong tunings, it's like looking at a black-and-white print, or a badly miscolored print with garishly wrong balances, from a color painting.
Matthäus-Passion BWV 244: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | BWV 244a | BWV 244b
Systemetic Discussions: Part 1: Mvts. 1-8 | Part 2: Mvts. 9-20 | Part 3: Mvts. 21-29 | Part 4: Mvts. 30-40 | Part 5: Mvts. 41-50 | Part 6: Mvts. 51-57 | Part 7: Mvts. 58-63b | Part 8: Mvts. 63c-68 | Part 9: Role of the Evangelist
Individual Recordings: BWV 244 - Bernstein | BWV 244 - Brüggen | BWV 244 – Cleobury | BWV 244 - Fasolis | BWV 244 - Furtwängler | BWV 244 - Gardiner | BWV 244 - Gönnenwein | BWV 244 - Goodwin | BWV 244 – Guttenberg | BWV 244 - Harnoncourt | BWV 244 - Herreweghe | BWV 244 - Karajan | BWV 244 - Klemperer | BWV 244 - Kuijken | BWV 244 - Lehmann | BWV 244 - Leonhardt | BWV 244 - Leusink | BWV 244 - Max | BWV 244 - McCreesh | BWV 244 - Mengelberg | BWV 244 - Münchinger | BWV 244 - Ozawa | BWV 244 – Ramin | BWV 244 - Richter | BWV 244 – Rilling | BWV 244 - Scherchen | BWV 244 - Solti | BWV 244 - Spering | BWV 244 - Suzuki | BWV 244 - Veldhoven | BWV 244 – Walter | BWV 244 - Wöldike
Articles: Saint Matthew Passion, BWV 244 [by Teri Noel Towe] | Two Easter St. Matthew Passions (Plus One) [by Uri Golomb] | St. Matthew Passion from Harnoncourt [by Donald Satz] | The Passion according to Saint Matthew BWV 244 [By Joshua Rifkin]