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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

Mass in B minor BWV 232

Performed by Konrad Junghänel & Cantus Cölln

Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Craig Schweickert wrote (January 8, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: < I don't think it makes much difference whether OVPP is a proven fact or not. The more I read on the subject, the more I am convinced that no proof is available to support either position. All we are left with is our personal preferences, and that's what really matters, no? >
Yes. The proof is in the listening: "If it sounds good, it is good." And, in this listener's view, the Cantus Cölln performance sounds good. Taken on its own terms, it works, offering new insight into the music and opportunities aplenty to appreciate its beauty. Is it the last word on BWV 232? Hardly. But the singing is superb, the instrumental playing of the highest order, the interpretation thought-through and lived-in, and the human scale affecting. While tempi are often fleet, the virtuosity of the performers is such that they never sound rushed. Although the voices are recorded more fowardly than I'd like and the resonant acoustic obscures some instrumental detail, the sound is lifelike in the extreme (quite the contrast to Parrott's recording), especially on a good sound system. (For the first time ever, I find myself wishing I had multichannel playback; the effect must be stunning.) Despite some initial hesitations over moments of coolness in the performance and the nagging suspicion that the mass and the passions were conceived with the sound of a larger choir in mind, this gets my vote as the most satisfactory OVPP version to date. Certainly it's one of the best performed, OVPP or otherwise.

Americanos anxious to join in the fun may not have to wait until February, by the way. The recording has been available in Montreal for nearly a month and can probably be ordered from Archambault or Renaud-Bray (although it's not on their websites, it's in their stores; if anyone's interested and can't track down the phone numbers, he or she can e-mail me).

Jack Botelho wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Although I'm still having some difficulty with text problems, thanks for offering the criticism with regard to this new recording of the Mass in B Minor directed by Konrad Jünghänel - I won't have to bother with it.

Although I have not followed the exact particulars of this discussion, it would seem obvious that an OVPP/OPPP approach would not be necessarily desired by Bach, and would rather be dictated by severely restricted musical resources (few musicians and singers available). No doubt Bach would have loved to have the the large and very refined Dresden Court orchestra at his regular disposal.

I find the trend to recreate on recordings the exact conditions Bach had to work with (with the exception of Cothen) quite humorous. Perhaps some subscribe to a romantic idea of Bach struggling with the limitations of scant, non-professional, back-water provincial musicians and singers? Bach himself would find these limitations not at all "romantic" - rather an endless source of frustration he had to face on a daily basis.

Donald Satz wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Jack Botelho] When this thread began, I had zero intention of buying the Jünghänel version, but I'm getting very interested in it as the comments keep coming in. I doubt that the OVPP will bother me, but my intuition tells me that the fast tempos might not be enjoyable. I often feel that McCreesh's tempos are not up my alley.

Bradley Lehman wrote (Jaanuary 8, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: < When this thread began, I had zero intention of buying the Jünghänel version, but I'm getting very interested in it as the comments keep coming in. >
Same here, Don. I'm eager to hear it now. And that report about taking the cut-time marking seriously caught my fancy, too.

But the basic appeal is even simpler than that, at this point in the discussion. Anything that can so deeply tick-off a quoter of Mephistopheles, who roundly accuses serious musicians of being "irreverent" to Bach and his intentions (despite devoting themselves to years of full-time study and mastery of the subject, under expert tutelage, at their own expense, from a love of the music), has to be worth a hearing to find out what it really sounds like.

Even if I end up hating what it sounds like, somehow I doubt I'll ever develop the full reverence to Mephistopheles, the genuflection and all, to replace my reverence of Bach and his music; but hey, I'm still under 40, and maybe I'll change my mind with enough exposure to the extremely reactionary ideas floating around here (which seem to be summarizable as: "everything that has been learned by anybody since 1965 is absolute crap, and must be undone").

And I liked your phrase about "typing time"...reminds me of the famous quote by Truman Capote (or was it Jack Kerouac?) reviewing somebody's work: "That's not writing, it's typing." That construction is a very handy one to keep in mind: "That's not [X], it's typing."

I also like what Craig said about this Jünghänel set: "Taken on its own terms, it works, offering new insight into the music and opportunities aplenty to appreciate its beauty." Who could ask for anything more than that in a performance of a piece of music, really? Any music? If a performance increases our positive appreciation for the piece, it's worth hearing. That endorsement by Craig is another good incentive to me to pick this one up, and a good reminder about beauty (as are your perspectives on enjoyment, Don).

And I'm always eager to support skilled musicians who think, voting with my money; that's yet another reason I should buy this.

Craig Schweickert wrote (January 8, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < And I liked your phrase about "typing time"...reminds me of the famous quote by Truman Capote (or was it Jack Kerouac?) reviewing somebody's work: "That's not writing, it's typing." >
Actually, it was Capote's one-sentence dismissal of Kerouac's On the Road.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2004):
Don Satz stated: >> Here's what's important to me about the Mass in B minor: feeling uplifted, energized, illuminated. The performances that do that are the ones I want to listen to, and they can be OVPP or not.<<
I can easily agree with your first sentence, but whether they can be OVPP or not does make a difference to me since I have now acquainted myself with such performances by Rifkin, Junghänel (cantatas as well as B minor Mass), and McCreesh. The results which I hear in these recordings (I am not hearing these works for the first time and have become rather selective) are such that I can begin to generalize sufficiently about them and, at least for myself, know that there is only a very small probability that any future OVPP/OPPP recording of some major Bach choruses will fail to meet my personal standards/expectations for these works.

DS: >>you still haven't shed any light on why OVPP issues are important to you.<<
What really interests me beyond attempting to find truly satisfying recordings that, as you say, make me feel ‘uplifted, energized, illuminated’ is why certain changes initiated on the basis of musicological research have supplanted some of the traditional, more conservative performance practices. Some of these more recent changes are ‘shortened accompaniment’ of Bach’s secco recitatives, OVPP/OPPP, extreme ‘gesturing’ to the extent of fragmenting musical lines, overemphasis/exaggeration of certain accented beats in a measure with the very obvious reduction in length/duration of the unaccented notes as given in the score, obviously faster than normal tempi, extensive use of sotto voce in the voices and staccato effects in the instruments All of these changes, IMHO, have not necessarily improved the quality of the recorded performances of Bach’s music in recent years. I am seeking to document, if this is possible, how the current state of affairs has come about and whether there is any validity or strong basis on which these claims for changes can firmly stand. Listeners should be entitled to know, if theyare interested, why things sound the way they do in these new recordings, particularly when they begin to compare current performances with those of an earlier period (and also because these recordings are not cheap at all.) In my case it does not suffice to have a musician tell me that this comes primarily from experience based upon education This only raises other questions in my mind: “What has changed in the education of musicians in the past 10 or 20 years? Why did some other very renowned musicians who lived and worked 30, 40, 50 years ago perform these compositions very differently? What has caused these incisive changes in performance practices? Who is closer to being right in these matters? Are these changes being inaugurated mainly to attract customer-listeners for a fleeting moment so that these recordings (as Harnoncourt put it: with a deliberate objective of sounding ‘ugly’) can become a part of a collection of recordings rarely ever to be listened to again? Should not the emphasis rather be directed toward creating lasting monuments of sound, recordings with enduring, uplifting qualities because only these can serve as true evidence of the musicians’ dedication and reverence for Bach’s great music?”

Carol wrote (January 8, 2004):
Can you explain what OVPP/OPPP is? I've heard it spoken of before and would probably learn the meaning if I thoroughly read some of the pertinent discussions, but I haven't.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2004):
Carol asked: >>Can you explain what OVPP/OPPP is? I've heard it spoken of before and would probably learn the meaning if I thoroughly read some of the pertinent discussions, but I haven't.<<
OVPP = One voice per part (so if the score calls for a chorus with Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass, the chorus may only consist of 4 singers, each one singing one of the separate parts. Imagine a chorus standing before you. You will only get to see and hear 4 individuals singing their separate parts. This is then called a 'chorus' or 'choir')

OPPP = One player per part (now the same applies to an orchestra. Instead of seeing and hearing, for instance, the violins in a string section of an orchestra, you will only get to see and hear two or three violins without any doubling of the parts - each one plays a separate part)

Craig Schweickert wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Setting aside the long list of issues I have with your posts in general and, more specifically, with your recent dissing of Cantus Cölln's BWV 232 (what a surprise, and based on a single listen, no less...), issues that I ennumerated in my first draft of this message but that all boil down to your giving the overriding impression that you are not so much on a quest for truth as striving to justify your fundamentally reactionary tastes in musical performance practice - setting all that aside, I still want to address one issue. Will you please explain why you persist in inflicting such typographic abominations as "Schweitzerâ?Ts â?oJ. S. Bachâ?ť", "Cölln" and "â?oWeâ?Tre" on the members of this and other groups? Combined with your loquaciousness and penchant for foreign words, they make your posts virtually unreadable. Have you so little respect for us, your intended audience? Several subscirbers have gone to the trouble of diagnosing the source of the problem and suggesting possible solutions, yet your posts remain filled with typographic garbage. No other list member has this problem. Failing other solutions, you could eliminate it instantly by ceasing to draft your messages in Word. But no. Do you really not care that you are putting a major obstacle in the way of your readers and undoubtedly reducing your readership? Or are we to conclude that it simply isn't important for you because, when all is said and done, you're writing mainly for yourself?

There are ways around this. If you can't figure them out on your own, post a message asking for help or e-mail one of the list members who have offered their assistance (myself included). It's in your own best interest; as things stand now, I'm sure I'm not the only subscriber who often abandons your posts after a paragraph or two, and not simply because I find myself disagreeing with your positions or put off by your tone of voice.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2004):
Please omit the words 'fail to' in my recent statement:

"there is only a very small probability that any future OVPP/OPPP recording of some major Bach choruses will [fail to] meet my personal standards/expectations for these works."

Craig, thanks for your interest and concern. This issue has come up on a number of occasions, but thus far many readers seem not to have trouble reading my messages although I am acutely aware of their 'awful' appearance when I examine them directly on the Yahoo site. Aryeh Oron has assured me in the past that he has no difficulty reading and posting them on his site. If this has changed, I would like to know about this. If anyone has a solution for other readers of my messages (as was posted rather recently), perhaps such a solution would remedy the appearance of my messages on your computer as well.

Zev Bechler wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] So, is this what it all comes to in the end ? "feeling uplifted, energized, illuminated." (Satz), 'The proof is in the listening: "If it sounds good, it is good." ' (Craig Schweickert), "it works" or it doesn't, (ibid.), and so on ad nauseam ?? Who then needs knowledge, education ( which becomes now either brainwashing or complete failure), refinement, depth, improvement, etc. if this is all there is to music understanding, appreciation and evaluation ?? And what then is the relevance of even enquiring ( let alone finding out) about Bach's ( or anyone else for that matter) intentions ?? All those OVPP vs. MVPP, HIP vs. non-HIP, and the rest of the capital letters disputes then become just so many silly hot-air blowing without content, a strange and inexplicable linguistic ritual which periodically overcomes the community when it feels that the intimate and simple wow-yech communal screeches and groans are just not quite up to mark. Is this then really as good as it gets, guys ?

Neil Halliday wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Craig Schweickert] Someone recently pointed out that, if you right click on the screen (desktop), and select (click) 'unicode', Tom's messages magically appear as normal. It's that simple! Just switch back to 'Western European' after reading the message. (I am using Windows 98, and don't use email to read group messages).

Hope this helps.

(Re 'revolution' and 'reaction', there are always both good and bad in both phenomena, and in my opinion, Tom is pointing out some of the bad in the 'revolution'. Ofcourse, he will no doubt be seen as 'reactionary' by some.)

Carol wrote (January 8, 2004):
Zev, You've said this before: < “The proof is in the listening: 'If it sounds good, it is good.' (Craig Schweickert)",.and I so agree. >
I just acquired the Herreweghe Cantatas 2, 20 170, and the new "Christmas Cantatas from Leipzig", and now, thanks to the terrific Cantata Website and Aryeh Oron (and Matthew Westphal and all others who contributed), am awaiting my first of Suzuki's Cantatas, Volumes 5 and 9, which received mostly good reviews. I'm trying to acquire all the cantatas and other vocal works. It takes a little research to find recordings which don't contain cantatas I already have (probably about 60, at this point). Don't yet know why they aren't numbered chronologically, but I'll find out the reason and the method of numbering soon on my own.

On another note, I was slightly appalled the other day to hear a melody taken from the St. Matthew's Passion on a 'Snickers' commercial.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Zev Bechler] The quotations you gave are exactly illustrating what I was pointing out some months ago in regard to the general view of members of this list: every view is as good as any other, and there is no such thing as 'right' or 'wrong'.

One just wonders what is the point of debating recordings and interpretations and writing reviews, if in the end personal taste is decisive. Why shouI be interested in the personal taste of a reviewer?

Piotr Jaworski wrote (January 8, 2004):
(I apologize beforehand - while it may happen that this post will reach the List twice - I've posted my comment this morning from the website but nothing happened. This time I try in the standard way...)

I read all the Cantus Cölln MBM comments with great interest really. Unfortunately the circle of those who know what they are really talking about is still very narrow - only few subscribers have the said recording. Therefore the debate relates - quite dangerously - (or rather deviates) towards the whole OVPP dispute instead. Thomas comments on the recording are interesting, his point well presented, more - arguments even convincing. No surprise that some of the subscribers use his opinion as sufficient argument to decide that they will stay away or get rid of this new recording at all. On account of the personal and - frankly - very biased - opinion. Being honest such approach is stupid - generally - not only in our musical realm. What is much better is Don's and Brad's attitude - "when something causes such a lively debate, I MUST try it and decide on my own!". And that's also my attitude.

In this place I can confess that I neither share nor support Thomas findings, completely disagree on his opinions. I find his generalizations rather unacceptable on every term - what Don has already pointed with great accuracy. But I can undersign Craig's with both hands. Moreover - after couple of weeks of almost constant listening - this is exactly - also in my opinion - "one of the best performed". To appreciate all beauties, all obvious and hidden treasures of this performance (and any other performance!) one has to try it. I've spent quite many days - late evenings and early mornings - with that recording. Had great suspicions from the first sight, too many things surprising, different, strange - "other". But more I listened more I get captured, conquered by it. And I already love it. And I don't care what were the "original Bach intentions". It seems that only Mr. Lebut Jr. knows them from the reliable source. My feeling is that only those who will go straight to Heaven, will have a chance to ask JSB straight away - otherwise we are left with more or less trustworthy presumptions.

Finally, Johann with his Cato-like well familiar "Ceterum censeo..." on points of debate ....

We are - almost all - amateurs here. It would be ridiculous to act as a professional reviewer (whatever it really means). There are much better sources of information. What else we express here - for instance: Thomas and myself - than just 'a personal taste'? Who's wrong, who's right? Is that a matter of making choice really? Try on your own, Johann, make your choice. Performed music is not in black & white only, there are some other shades and colours left.

I know your distaste for McCreesh SMP, but on the other hand I know several other persons' enchantment on it. So what should be the conclusion? Is there any conclusion necessary? If the professional - highly and widely respected - musicologists can't agreee for years on certain issues, is it wise to expect it from us? I don't think so. Let's leave that poor Carthago in peace.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 8, 2004):
Carol stated: >>Don't yet know why they aren't numbered chronologically, but I'll find out the reason and the method of numbering soon on my own.<<
This information can be found on Aryeh's Bach-Cantata Website, but it may be just a bit difficult to locate with a search on 'numbering' (which you should try if you want further information on this topic.)

"Die durch BA (read this as BG) eingeführte Zählung der Kantaten ist willkürlich, aber allgemein gebräuchlich und auch von Neumann, 'Handbuch der Kantaten,' 1947, und von Schmieder BWV, 1950, beibehalten worden."

The numbering system introduced by the BG (1851) is completely arbitrary, but is generally used, and has been maintained by Neumann in his 'Handbook of the Cantatas', 1947 and by Schmieder, 1950, in the BWV numbering system that is still being used today. The BG had planned to publish as the opening work in the BG the B-minor Mass, but a Swiss publisher was still holding on to the autograph copy and refused to relinquish it for inspection.

Donald Satz wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To John van Veen] I'm not going to try to answer Johan's question as to why he should or shouldn't be interested in the personal tastes of a reviewer. I know that I am interested in their personal tastes which I think are a mix of subjective and objective elements.

When I read a review, I expect to read a 'mix' of comments. I want to know if the reviewer enjoys the performance and why it is enjoyed or not. Most important, I want to read reviews I find enjoyable simply from a reading point of view.

I'll never understand why some folks hate the notion of subjectivity in music.

Bob Henderson wrote (January 8, 2004):
Of course there are objective standards in music. The composers intentions are important as are attempts to live up to these. Musicalogical study, academic standard, performance practice and study, comparison and review. These are all important central and necessary. But in the end they had better add up to an emotionally involving and satisfying experience for the listener. And reviewers need to document that. And here there will, thank goodness be difference. Otherwise we wind up with a kind of 'academic monkism'.

Peter Bright wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Bob Henderson] Fully agreed, but add (which may also be implicit in your message) that there is nothing wrong with getting more fullfilment out of a recording that completely disregards the composer's directions than one that tries to follow it as closely as possible. It's all down to taste. For example, I don't go a bundle on the Jacques Loussier (sp?) Bach discs but would not claim that I have better taste than the person who prefers this. There is obviously something to be said for technical prowess and attention to detail, but only in so far as it is appealing to the listener. On the other hand, it might be genuinely interesting to attempt to understand a historical figure's (like Bach) environment and approach to composing, particularly if you like his music. But in some ways, this is the reserve of the music historian and HIP enthusiast - an issue separate from the aesthetic appeal of a piece per se. Whether we enjoy a particular performance style is down to the individual alone and it shouldn't be forced upon us.

With respect to Bach, I think it does take time to fully appreciate the wonder of his works but there are many people who simply don't 'get' his music at all. I remember my Grandmother used to moan that Bach's music is 'all so fiddly and full of too many notes!' ;-) She much preferred Vaughan Williams... The truth is that most people who love classical music love Bach and to most of us, his is the absolute pinnacle of
Western music, but if people prefer it played on a Moog synthesiser or a la hip hop, who am I to tell them it's rubbish?

Stephen Benson wrote (January 8, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: < assuming that you are not a professional in the field, what's the big deal about this subject? >
A curious question, indeed, which raises a couple of issues.

1) The implicit assumption that certain topics are off-limit to the non-professional.
As an academic with an advanced degree in history, I have strong opinions and beliefs about many ideas outside my field of study. I present them, I discuss them, I defend them, I care about them. I invest part of myself in each and every one of them. I love the process. I love the challenge. I am willing to admit when I am wrong, and, all other things being equal, I am ready to defer to those with greater knowledge and experience -- one must ALWAYS consider the source --, but that does NOT mean that they or their pronouncements are untouchable. I was not aware that ANY ideas were the exclusive property of the “professional”. Nor was I aware that this list was designed to provide “professionals” with a forum to exchange their ideas and that the rest of us were rto the role of second-class citizens. We are intelligent. We can think. We do not need to be summarily dismissed because we lack the “necessary” credentials. (And isn’t it interesting that those on this list who decry ad hominem argumentation are frequently those most guilty of its implementation?)

2) The “big deal” of OVPP.
As part of the larger HIP movement, has there been any more substantial issue in Bach scholarship over the past thirty years? Doesn’t anyone who truly loves the music of Bach have the right to take an active interest and position on all aspects of this question? (For what it’s worth -- and, since this IS an issue of values that are separate from technical training, I am more than willing to argue this with the “professionals” -- my own position is that HIP for the sake of HIP is frequently more of an intellectual than a musical exercise. If it results in a performance that IS musical -- that teaches me something new about a piece of music or that moves me in some way, then it will remain in my collection. And I do actively seek out “musical” performances in both HIP and non-HIP format. My own eminently unsupportable guess is that Bach would be disappointed today had we not made significant progress in various aspects of performance practice over the past 300 years!)

With this in mind, I offer a quote by Claude Frank in his liner notes to his recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas: “If we want to make the playing of the masterpieces of the past a contemporary activity, we must play them with the feelings and experiences of our own time, (not to mention the instruments of our time, but that is a different subject). While I take this attitude for granted and feel that it needs no defense, I should nevertheless like to quote what Nietzsche, philosopher AND COMPOSER, wrote on the subject a hundred years ago. The quote is from Menschliches, Allzumenschliches (on things human, all-too-human). Nietzsche describes Beethoven’s imagined return to our world and his reaction to performances of his music (the translation is extremely free): ‘He [Beethoven] would probably remain silent for a long time, undecided whether to raise his hand for cursing or for blessing, but would finally say, “Well, well!! This is neither me nor not-me, but a third and right thing, though perhaps not THE right thing. But let it be...after all, the living knows better than the dead. Therefore continue, and let me go back down.”’”

Donald Satz wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Stephen Benson] I used to be an academic with an advanced degree in Economics and a speciality in Micro-Economics. Also, everyone in my original nuclear family had an advanced degree in English Literature. Therefore, I am not impressed with Mr. Benson's posturing or admonitions.

He finds my question to Tom to be curious; I think it's a reasonable question, since I'm much more interested in human motivation than OVPP. Tom clearly has very strong feelings about OVPP, and I was simply asking him what motivates his strong views on the subject.

Mr. Benson tells us that many folks have strong feelings about subjects not related to their specific professional field. What else is new? I also have these feelings. As an example, I have intense interest and viewpoints concerning human cloning. When asked why I possess such strong views, I have no problem answering the question. So I ask Tom where his strong views originate from, but all I get back is the academic voice from Mr. Benson with a string of obvious truisms. I am so glad that I gave up the academic life for a better one.

Zev Bechler wrote (January 8, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] and how do you explain the fact that this bothers nobody ? or does it ? I wonder how many of the list agree with my sentiment ? lets see a show of hands, guys, dont just sit there.

Peter Bright wrote (January 9, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote: < with a string of obvious truisms. I am so glad that I gave up the academic life for a better one. >
Steady on Don! I'm an academic and my life's OK (-ish...)

Johan van Veen wrote (January 9, 2004):
Stephen Benson wrote: < With this in mind, I offer a quote by Claude Frank in his liner notes to his recordings of the complete Beethoven sonatas: “If we want to make the playing of the masterpieces of the past a contemporary activity, we must play them with the feelings and experiences of our own time, (not to mention the instruments of our time, but that is a different subject). While I take this attitude for granted and feel that it needs no defense, >
That is taking things too easily. If someone says that a view doesn't need defense it means he is too lazy to argue why that attitude is right. It is a very convenient way to avoid any discussion and evade any challenge of that view.

I don't think any attitude doesn't need defense. If you hold a view you must be willing to argue it.

< "But let it be...after all, the living knows better than the dead." >
Not that seems to me a very debatable view.

Donald Satz wrote (January 9, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] Right, what's good for one person isn't good for another. My parents shoved academia and all its trappings at me on a constant basis. I went with that flow until I finally woke up and realized that I was not living my life, but theirs. So I changed direction while still using my basic expertise on economic markets, becoming a real estate appraiser primarily for insurance companies concerning fire damaged properties. Subsequently, more lucrative work came my way with appraisals of commercial and industrial properties - those folks pay big bucks for appraisals, then simply expense them away for tax purposes. Now I'm a retired guy living the good life.

Donald Satz wrote (January 9, 2004):
Johan van Veen writes: < If you hold a view you must be willing to argue it. >
How about - If you hold a view, you can debate/argue it or be silent. The merit of the view remains the same.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 9, 2004):
[To Zev Bechler] I notice that Johan argues for a "right" versus "wrong" view of musical aesthetics, considering that musicology can establish the facts; but Steve's story about Beethoven's impressions on returning to hear a performance of one of his piano sonatats, is instructive, IMO.

Johan disputes that 'the living know better than the dead", but it is inconceivable, IMO, that Beethoven would not be enraptured and overjoyed by the modern Steinway, as a vehicle for presenting the vision contained in his late sonatas. His poor Broadwood is definitely an inferior machine for the realisation of those works, or at least certain important aspects of those works (requiring more power, subtlety, etc.)

Johan also requires a defense of Claude Frank's contention that "we must play them (the works from the past) with the feelings and experiences of our own time".

My point would be - how can you do otherwise? (in other words, Frank is using the word "must" to mean "have to/have no choice but to"). Why?

All attempts to learn about past environment and performance practice will be coloured by our present environment and experience. How can we begin to understand the experience of those who lived in a world without electricity? (The present 'hyper' approach to tempos shows the significance of our own environment; a generation brought up on pop-music videos and split-second advertising will have no problem with the dancing, fleeting, chamber-like BMM Sanctus presented by Cantus Cölln.) Therefore a search to a recreate the actual performance environment and practice is impossible, and you end up with a lot of guess work and experimentation. Not that this is bad, but that the concept of any absolute "right" and "wrong" in the aesthetics of early music, achievable by present day performers, is unsustainable.

(I believe this was Rilling's argument in the 1980's, but neverthelss he is currently engaged in applying the results of recent musicological research, with mixed results, IMO.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2004):
Neil Halliday stated: >>I believe this was Rilling's argument in the 1980's, but nevertheless he is currently engaged in applying the results of rmusicological research, with mixed results, IMO.<<
The mixed results that Rilling is currently achieving (it must have been a fairly recent recording of the B minor Mass which was presented during portions of the conversation with Rilling on WFMT this evening) were quite evident in the short excerpts that were selected for broadcast. Here, indeed, Rilling has opted for the stronger gesturing (et in terra pax broken into many 2-note phrases each one with a fairly strong accent on the first note - Bach indicated this type of phrasing only in the strings, but not in the vocal parts) and for an occasional sotto-voce style of singing unlike that which he used throughout a good portion of his cantata series. Compared to the Cantus Cölln recording, Rilling's trumpets were quite ample.

In his comments, Rilling was primarily asked to expound on his efforts as a 'bridge-builder' between cultures by performing with Bach groups throughout the world and using the example of Bach to encourage modern composers to create similar works such as the passions or masses in a modern idiom as well.

Only in a few instances did Rilling talk about Bach's music more specifically:

1) Performing Bach is unlike performing any other classical composer such as Beethoven because there is such a strong component of the Lutheran faith embedded in his music.

2) The great challenge with Bach is that 'not one note is unnecessary.' [I assume this to imply that these notes should be heard by the listener and not simply exist in the score.]

3) Bach's music, when properly performed, can startle the listeners and force them to reach deep down into themselves.

4) People are touched by Bach's music because it treats themes of a general life situation with which they can identify: sadness, death, sorrow, suicide, etc. for which Bach offers
solutions.

5) A reference to Bach's usual dedications at the beginning (J. J. = Jesus help) and the end (S. D. G(l) = only to God the honor) of his scores.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 9, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] (S. D. G(l) = only to God the honor)

I think you mean here "To God alone the Glory" instead of "To God alone the Honor". If Bach meant the other it would have read "Soli Deo honorem" instead of "Soli Deo gloria".

I also agree with your general premise. However, I do not know what the fuss is all about about Rilling these days. True he is a member of the International Bachakademie. However, I have great differences with his views and his interpretations on a lot of subjects in performance of Bach's works.

1.) I have read where he insists that the Choraele of the Kantaten and other larger Vokalwerke were only performed by the Choir. This not only goes against performance practices in Bach's time in Germany, but also against Evangelical worship as a whole. Luther himself was very much in support of music (as evidenced by his Chorale settings and translations). He wanted it, however, and set out to have it that the Congregation was also involved not only in the ordinary part of the Mass but also in the musical part. So he composed the Choraele and the texts of the Choraele both as instructional tools and for Congregational singing in the Mass.

2.) Even though he uses a Harpsichord in the Continuo of his earlier recording of the Weinachtsoratorium, he does not use it in his recording of the work for the Edition Bachakademie series of recordings. Nor does he use it in any other work I have heard him perform.

3.) I have a grave problem with his interpretation of the Johannespassion (especially in the Continuo part). I have already stated my reasons in earlier posts.

4.) I also have a grave problem with his (and most other condoctors') interpretation of movement 1 of the Matthäuspassion (BWV 244). He (and they) seem to treat what is a dirge/lament/song of mourning as if it was a Jig/dance. The movement might be in triple time, but that does not always automatically mean dance tempo. If one listens to mourners, they too mourn and weep in triple meter.

5.) In his attempt to get "closer to the way Bach intended", he seems to have forgotten that in Bach's day the role of the conductor was to beat out the time-nothing more, nothing less.

In general, my problem with Rilling is that instead of letting the music speak for itself he forces his will on the music. There are a very few saving graces, I feel, in his interpretations:

1.) He does use the Harpsichord in the Continuo in one recording.

2.) He does treat movement 1 of the Johannespassion (BWV 245) in its true style (an explosion of speed, which for me represents the hatred and despizing and mocking of Christ by the Jews, the Gentiles, and the world).

3.) He does in the Witness scene in the Matthäuspassion (BWV 244) use only two Soli instead of the Alt and Tenor parts of the Choirs.

4.) He does utilize the responsorialaspect in the Johannespassion (BWV 245) and the Matthäuspasison (BWV 244) in the Turba movements.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 9, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Only in a few instances did Rilling talk about Bach's music more specifically:
2) The great challenge with Bach is that 'not one note is unnecessary.' [I assume this to >imply that these notes should be heard by the listener and not simply exist in the score.] >

Just whishful thinking, as usual. I can't speak for Rilling, so maybe what is said under 2) is indeed what he means, but it lacks any logic.

The fact that no notes are unnecessary doesn't imply all of them have to get the same treatment or be stressed equally. If I speak some syllables are more clearly audible than others, but that doesn't mean those syllables which are less clearly audible are superfluous.

In baroque music some notes merely link notes or phrases together. Does that mean they are unnecessary? But to give them the same treatment as the notes or phrases they are linking together would destroy the whole meaning of the composition.

Giving every note the same treatment is the same as speaking with a loud voice all the time. After a while nobody is going to pay any attention to what you have to say anymore.

Zev Bechler wrote (January 9, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] I suspect Rilling expressed something real and important. The necessity he referred to is none of the necessities encountered in daily life, but it is there and can be experienced by the well trained ear and it is what distinguishes quality from trash in those things we call works of art. It is an old insight first discovered by Aristotle in his Poetics and later on imbedded into physical science as the only sign of its truth.

Johan van Veen wrote (January 9, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote: < Johan disputes that 'the living know better than the dead", but it is inconceivable, IMO, that Beethoven would not be enraptured and overjoyed by the modern Steinway, as a vehicle for presenting the vision contained in his late sonatas. His poor Broadwood is definitely an inferior machine for the realisation of those works, or at least certain important aspects of those works (requiring more power, subtlety, etc.) >
That is another example of whishful thinking. Maybe Beethoven would be satisfied with the modern concert grand, maybe he would not. We can't ask him. The question is: if he had known the modern concert grand, wouldn't he have composed different music? Even if one accepts the argument that Beethoven, in particular in his later sonatas, struggled with the 'limitations' of the instruments he had at his disposal, I as a listener would like to experience that struggle. If played on a modern Steinway I just have the musicologists' word for it, and that is not enough for me.

It is like a recent recording of concertos for the trumpet of the 18th century, where the liner notes told me that the natural trumpet of the baroque was so difficult to play, and in particular to play in tune, that builders were looking for improvements. But on the CD i didn't hear any problems, since the 'naturtrumpet' used there, was tampered with in order to play in tune. If I read something like the above in the liner notes, I also want to hear it, if that is possible.

Saying that the piano in Beethoven's time is inferior to the modern concert grand is a simplification at best, or rather a misrepresentation of the facts. The modern concert grand maybe more powerful and technically more reliable, it is also less colourful and far less 'subtle' than the pianos of Beethoven's time. I don't understand why you see subtlety and power as the pros of the modern piano. Power and subtlety don't often go hand in hand.

The huge variety in colours of the early 19th century piano is unrivalled by any 20th century instrument.

< Johan also requires a defense of Claude Frank's contention that "we must play them (the works from the past) with the feelings and experiences of our own time".
My point would be - how can you do otherwise? (in other words, Frank is using the word "must" to mean "have to/have no choice but to"). Why?
All attempts to learn about past environment and performance practice will be coloured by our present environment and experience. How can we begin to understand the experience of those who lived in a world without electricity? (The present 'hyper' approach to tempos shows the significance of our own environment; a generation brought up on pop-music videos and split-second advertising will have no problem with the dancing, fleeting, chamber-like BMM Sanctus presented by Cantus Cölln.) Therefore a search to a recreate the actual performance environment and practice is impossible, and you end up with a lot of guess work and experimentation. Not that this is bad, but that the concept of any absolute "right" and "wrong" in the aesthetics of early music, achievable by present day performers, is unsustainable. >
This is the popular and often-used argument against the historical performance practice. What annoys me is that other people seem exactly to know what other people's experiences are. They are saying: we are different, we have grown up in a different culture, or, like you say above, "a generation brought up on pop-music videos" etc. How do you know what culture the advocates - as you see them - of fast speed performances have grown up in?

I have experienced this kind of debates many times over the years. And always people seem to know for sure that I have heard Stravinsky (I haven't) or Wagner (I haven't) and that we don't share the religious convictions of Bach (I do) etc etc. Sometimes other people seem to know me better than I ;)

I find that quite patronising, actually. I can decide for myself to what extent my experiences are different from those of 18th century people.

And besides, what do we really know about the way general audiences experienced Bach's cantatas, for instance, and - more importantly - to what extent the circumstances they lived in decisively influenced the way they experienced music? To return to the example in the quotation from your posting above: does the fact that someone lives in a world without electricity influence the way he experiences music? To what extent and in what way? How do we know?

And if we are so different from the people of the 18th century, how come I - and many more - seem to share the aesthetic ideals of that time? Are we fossils?;

Johan van Veen wrote (January 9, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Johan writes: << If you hold a view you must be willing to argue it. >>
How about - If you hold a view, you can debate/argue it or be silent. The merit of the view remains the same. >
My point was that if someone says: this is my view, and it needs no defense, it implies that view is so obvious and logical that it can't be challenged. I find that rather arrogant.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 9, 2004):
Johan wants to experience the "struggle" that 18th and 19th century composers and performers had with the instruments at their disposal.

(BTW, Riccardo, I presume you jest - of course Beethoven was not thinking "I wish I had a better piano" when he was writing the late sonatas (his Broadwood, a gift, if I recall correctly, from the London company, represented the latest in piano technology) but he would have been aware of the improvements in key action and increasing sonorities, and therefore the greater range of expressive capabilities of the instrument, that had occured over his lifetime.)

For my part, I want to 'soar' with Beethoven's musical and intellectual vision, when I hear these works, rather than experiencing Beethoven's (or those baroque trumpeters') struggles with the physical limitations of his (their) instruments.

For me, the goal of music, ie, the philosophical/emotional communication, contained in the music score, is more important than experiencing the tools that were actually used to achieve the physical realisation of that goal in the past. (Ofcourse there are limits to this argument; eg, a synthesizer would not be capable of achieving the desired results.)

<"I can decide for myself to what extent my experiences are different from those of 18th century people.">

Nevertheless, the environment that an individual experiences (lives in) has a significant effect (still not measurable by modern psychology, but accepted as real) on the development of that individual's temperament, outlook, and, for example, reactions to music, therefore determining an 18th century music aesthetic with any accuracy, through 21st century eyes, must be extremely hazardous, even disregarding the paucity and poor quality of the available documentary evidence.

To complicate the picture, we know that even in Bach's time, there were differences in taste; I thought I was hearing myself speaking from 1728 when I first read that Frenchman's report on "the bad manner of accompanying the recitatives" in a Handel opera performed in London. Even then it would appear there was no agreed or "right" way to perform recitatives, and such disagreement undoubtably surrounded other aspects of performance as well.

Perhaps of late, I have come to respect the search for this past aesthetic more, as I hear some pleasing results; but I cannot accept a "right" and "wrong" doctrine concerning 18th century practices, if this would result in the exclusion of much wonderful music making, in the performance of Bach's (and Beethoven's) music, in our time.

Donald Satz wrote (January 9, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] Under the conditions Johan creates, the person refusing to discuss his views is likely arrogant. Is that so terrible? I can think of many worse personality traits than arrogance.

Overall, I prefer the 'strong-silent' type person who possesses confidence and sees no reason to chatter about the standards he holds. This is a very extreme example, but take the typical character that Clint Eastwood plays in his movies. When someone argues with his position, Clint does not engage in debate - he simply shoots the person. That puts an immediate end to the problem.

Speaking of arrogance, isn't it arrogant for a person to possess standards and expect others to adhere to them? I think it's much healthier for folks to accept that others have the right to their own set of standards.



Continue on Part 3


Mass in B minor BWV 232 – performed by Konrad Junghänel & Cantus Cölln: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3


 

Mass in B minor BWV 232: Details
Recordings:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17
Systematic Discussions:
Part 1: Kyrie | Part 2: Gloria | Part 3: Credo | Part 4: Sanctus | Part 5: Agnus Dei | Part 6: Early Recordings | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - C. Abbado | BWV 232 - Anonymous | BWV 232 - G.C. Biller | BWV 232 - F. Brüggen | BWV 232 - J. Butt | BWV 232 - S. Celibidache | BWV 232 - M. Corboz | BWV 232 - A. Eby | BWV 232 - G. Enescu | BWV 232 - E. Ericson | BWV 232 - D. Fasolis | BWV 232 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 232 - C.M. Giulini | BWV 232 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 232 - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 232 - P. Herreweghe | BWV 232 - R. Hickox | BWV 232 - R. Jacobs | BWV 232 - E. Jochum | BWV 232 - Ifor Jones | BWV 232 - K. Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | BWV 232 - H.v. Karajan | BWV 232 - R. King | BWV 232 - O. Klemperer | BWV 232 - S. Kuijken | BWV 232 - G. Leonhardt | BWV 232 - P. McCreesh | BWV 232 - M. Minkowski | BWV 232 - H. Müller-Bruhl | BWV 232 - S. Ozawa | BWV 232 - M. Pearlman | BWV 232 - K. Richter | BWV 232 - J. Rifkin | BWV 232 - H. Rilling | BWV 232 - H. Scherchen | BWV 232 - P. Schreier | BWV 232 - R. Shaw | BWV 232 - G. Solti | BWV 232 - M. Suzuki | BWV 232 - J. Thomas & ABS | BWV 232 - K. Thomas | BWV 232 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 [T. Noel Towe] | Bach’s B minor Mass on Period Instruments [D. Satz] | Like Father, Like Son [B. Pehrson]

Konrad Junghänel: Short Biography | Cantus Cölln | Konrad Junghänel & Cantus Cölln – Recordings | “Actus Tragicus” – by Konrad Junghänel & Cantus Cölln | Motets – Cantus Cölln | Das Alt-Bachische Archiv – Cantus Cölln | BWV 232 - Junghänel & Cantus Cölln

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

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Last update: ýApril 3, 2004 ý13:46:50