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Magnificat BWV 243
Conducted by Robert Shaw

V-7

Bach: Magnificat
Robert Shaw Conducts Bach, Brahms, Hindemith

 

Magnificat BWV 243 [28:04 / 27:58]

Robert Shaw

RCA Victor Chorale & Orchestra

Soprano: Susanne Freil (on Pearl CD as Susanne Frail); Mezzo-soprano: Blanche Thebom; Tenor: Ernice Lawrence; Bass: Paul Matthen
Aurthur Lora& Frederick Wilkins (Flutes); William Vacciano (Trumpet); Robert Bloom (Oboe d'amoure):

RCA Victor M/DM-1182 (10-1378/1382)
Pearl 0180

1946 or 1947

78 rpm
CD / TT: 66:18

Studio recording.
1st recording of the Magnificat BWV 243 by R. Shaw.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

V-8

Vivaldi: Gloria / Bach: Magnificat

Magnificat BWV 243 [26:25]

Robert Shaw

Atlanta Symphony Orchestra & Chamber Chorus

Sopranos: Dawn Upshaw, Penelope Jensen; Mezzo-soprano: Marietta Simpson; Tenor: David Gordon; Baritone: William Stone

Telarc / Conifer

Dec 1988

CD / TT: 56:16

2nd recording of the Magnificat by R. Shaw.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Shaw's 1947 Magnificat

Kevin Parent wrote (September 28, 2005):
I recently got a copy of this (took Amazon a month to track down a copy so it must be getting hard to find). As a historical document, it is truely fascinating. The performance itself is good if not a challenge to my favourites, and I certainly have lesser versions in my collection (including Shaw's own remake 40 years later).

But here's my question: what is going on in the 'Et miscericordia eius' aria? There's clearly more than two voices singing, yet it doesn't sound like the full complement of alto and tenors, but maybe two per part...Or is it? I change my mind each time I hear it. Moreoever, are those really tenors? It almost sounds like it's sung by the lower sopranos and the altos, but again my opinion changes with (and during) each listen. Anyone have a more solid grasp on what's happening here?

Oh and the excerts from the 1945 MBM (BWV 232) are an unfair tease. I want the whole thing!

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (September 28, 2005):
[To Kevin Parent] It would surprize me that in 1949 Shaw was doing the Magnificat as Bach might have done it:
Forget those big choruses and choirs of 100s of people instead focus on 16 people (4 Sop, 4 Altos, 4 Tenors, 4 Basses) as the chorus plus Organ and a chamber orchestra of
8 Violins,
4 Violas,
2 Gambas (not cellos) and if you dare 1 Violone (which I do not like to use because it gives a lugubrious heavy lumberng sound to the ensemble)
2 of all the other instruments except the number of trumpets called for and finally
1 tympanist.
These are the forces that Bach worked with normally. (I might mention Händel also but with a few additions to the orchestra and a few more choristers.)

Occasionally a trombone and French Horn might be added or a viola d'amore, oboe d'amore and Oboe da caccia (which is an instrument Bach invented with a larger bore and coarse Oboe tone). Organ always always plays continuo except if the Organ is down then Harpsichord is used.

Where soloists are required they are generally were from the members of the chorus. Women were banned in most church choruses and in fact Bach got fired for allowing Maria Barbara to sing. So for purities sake; boys are used for the alto and soprano parts which gives the sound an entirely different sound than when women take these parts.

So if you are hearing it this way you have truly a rare treat.

John Pike wrote (September 28, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
< Organ always always plays continuo except if the Organ is down then Harpsichord is used. >
After reading much of Laurence Dreyfus' book "Bach's continuo group", I am now convinced that Bach used the Harpsichord in his continuo group far more extensively than was previously thought, and not just when the organ was not available. Without the book to hand, I am not sure what parts are available for the magnificat, but as a general rule, I am sure dreyfus is right. The evidence he presents is pretty overwhelming.

Kevin Parent wrote (September 28, 2005):
With all due respect, I fail to see how my question elicited the response it received. What I did was ask a question about an historical recording and what I got was an irrelevant reply on 18th century performance practices. Now I'm not an anti-HIP listener; there's room on my shelves for Herreweghe, Suzuki and others. But as someone who doesn't post here very often, being slammed with HIP dogma just for asking a question about a 1947 recording makes me feel unwelcome to discuss certain recordings here.

To be clear, I have no objection to the topic of performance practices itself and recognize that there is such a thing as 'thread drift,' but of course a recording this old isn't going to conform to the standards of the HIP movement. If that invalidates it for some listeners, fine. Can we get beyond that and, if anyone has the recording, discuss it?

John Pike wrote (September 28, 2005):
[To Kevin Parent] I'm sorry about that. I certainly hadn't intended to "slam you (or anyone else) with HIP dogma".

I don't know the recording you mentioned and my comment was merely in response to something Ludwig said in his e mail which i took issue with. It arose from my fascination with what i had read in Dreyfus' book, not out of a desire to belittle your e mail, which, itself, I am unable to comment on. It commonly happens on the list that one thread leads on to another as new ideas are raised which members find interesting. The subject of bach's continuo group is of great relevance to this discussion list, especially since it impacts on virtually all Bach's choral music.

I found your e mail very interesting and if I had an infinite amount of money to buy recordings, it sounds like a recording I would like to hear. But alas, my pocket is not bottomless.

Chris Kern wrote (September 28, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
< I'm sorry about that. I certainly hadn't intended to "slam you (or anyone else) with HIP dogma". >
He was talking about ludwig's response, not yours. But after ludwig's ridiculous "recorder" rant from earlier, I don't expect much from his posts anymore.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 28, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
>>After reading much of Laurence Dreyfus' book "Bach's continuo group", I am now convinced that Bach used the Harpsichord in his continuo group far more extensively than was previously thought, and not just when the organ was not available.<<
This argument whether Bach's continuo group for sacred music should contain only the organ or primarily only harpsichord or some combination of both has been raging among Bach experts and performers for well over a century and a half beginning with W. Rust in a foreword to one of the BGA editions stated that "the organ plays the same role in Bach's sacred cantatas as the harpsichord does in his secular works. Spitta affirmed the primary use of organ over harpsichord in Bach's sacred works. Max Seiffert, in an article for the Bach Jahrbuch 1914/1915 placed so much emphasis upon the harpsichord over the organ that a whole, subsequent generation of Bach performances began preferring harpsichord over organ accompaniment completely. Actually, what Seiffert had stated was: "Without both the organ and harpsichord, no Bach cantata can be properly performed." Arnold Schering, in 1936, deplored the fact that in Germany at that time, no conscientious conductor would ever consider performing a Bach cantata without a harpsichord playing the continuo. Schering, after documenting thoroughly the presence and use of harpsichords in the main churches during Bach's tenure in Leipzig, came to the conclusion that there was no absolute requirement that there be a dual accompaniment and that there certainly were situations in which either instrument were not used (the church organs undergoing repair would restrict the keyboard bc accompaniment to a small portativ or the harpsichord. In the latter instances, the harpsichord would have played a vital role.

>>Without the book to hand, I am not sure what parts are available for the magnificat, but as a general rule, I am sure dreyfus is right. The evidence he presents is pretty overwhelming.<<
The book by Dreyfus would not have helped much here either since he lists only existing parts in his appendix. Elsewhere he refers correctly only to the fact that more than one bassoon would have been used in the Magnificat. What Dreyfus fails to mention is that continuo group would be rather large as can be determined by examining the scores (both Eb and D major versions).

In both versions (BWV 243a and BWV 243), Bach designates the bc simply as 'Continuo', but by examining carefully his other indications (changes from mvt. to mvt., it becomes clear that the continuo group consisted of organ, violoncelli (plural!), Violone, Fagotti (plural!) to which the NBA KB II/3 editors add "mindestens" ["at least, at a minimum"]. This means that the harpsichord is quite likely under these given circumstances.

As Dreyfus puts it on p 71 of his book "Bach's Continuo Group" [Harvard University Press, 1987]: "We might not know Bach's intentions, but at least we can be faithful to the evidence."

This brings to mind a statement I had made during the discussion of BWV 119:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV119-D.htm

It is interesting that Laurence Dreyfus, who, if I remember correctly, does not put much faith in deriving information about performance styles from considerations pertaining to the physical arrangement of musical forces, may be missing an important point here. In his book, "Bach's Continuo Group" (Harvard University Press, 1987), he has only a single reference to BWV 119 which I shared on the previous reports regarding 2 bassoons being used. If I were Dreyfus researching everything that I could find out about Bach's continuo group, I would have at least included a complete picture about the unusually large (perhaps the largest?) continuo group that Bach had documented in his own handwriting. Is it possible that Dreyfus was less than entirely objective and swayed by the Rifkinesque notion that minimal is the most authentic, hence the best way to hear Bach? Perhaps Dreyfus, instead of restricting himself primarily to a study of the original parts (many or most of which were not Bach autographs), should have examined the autograph scores as well where we find the following continuo group for BWV 119: 'Organo, Violoncelli, Bassoni è Violoni | all' unisono col' | Organo' = organ with the cellos, bassoons and violones all playing in unison with the organ.

John Pike had also stated:
>>The subject of bach's continuo group is of great relevance to this discussion list, especially since it impacts on virtually all Bach's choral music.<<
I concur with this statement, but I also believe that there are dangers in placing too much faith into statements by any musicologist and/or musician-performer. To be sure, there are some who are more worthy of belief, but this can be determined only after carefully and diligently studying what others have said and then continually weighing the evidence and opinions and coming to one's own tentative conclusions.

Back to Shaw's 1947 Magnificat recording. This, along with a recording of BWV 4 was my first exposure to Bach's sacred music as a boy. I have very fond memories of these recordings. Without having the recording before me now (over a half century later), I wonder if my opinion of it might have changed, because I have heard so many different styles of Bach recordings with varying degrees of quality since that time. I consider myself fortunate, however, to have made my first acquaintance with Bach's sacred music with a recording by Robert Shaw, whose brilliance in conducting vocal music has never diminished even in the much later recordings which I do have by him (unfortunately not music by Bach.)

John Pike wrote (September 28, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Is it possible that Dreyfus was less than entirely objective and swayed by the Rifkinesque notion that minimal is the most authentic, hence the best way to hear Bach? >
Interesting.

I think the hypothesis in the extract below is unlikely. Dreyfus himself comments in a note at the back of the book, to the first chapter, that he does not accept Rifkin's argument that singers did not share parts. He says there is evidence for sharing of parts but unfortunately does not say here what it is. From this I get the impression that, although he does not say so at this point, he is one of those who, like Christoph Wolff and several others, is generally sceptical of Rifkin's ideas.

Yoël L. Arbeitmam wrote (September 28, 2005):
Kevin Parent wrote:
< To be clear, I have no objection to the topic of performance practices itself and recognize that there is such a thing as 'thread drift,' but of course a recording this old isn't going to conform to the standards of the HIP movement. If that invalidates it for some listeners, fine. Can we get beyond that and, if anyone has the recording, discuss it? >
Over the years that I have suffered the web and the web has suffered me I have learned to find dogmatic replies somewhat enjoyable and indeed I wrote in quasi-joke mode such a reply together with thread drift on another list (yahoo mahler) the other day which since it does concern an old Bach performance, I shall repeat here and hope you find my humor funny as I intended it (without having the thread context):
_______

ah lemme see: [so and so] was expressing some unhappiness the other day in that our media do not discuss Brahms vs. Wagner and such matters and that the media of a certain time and place were full of such anguished discussion. I find nothing odd about this at all. The problem of "Classical" music vs. "Romantic" music in extremis is not a very relevant problem to what 99% of denizens of the USA (I am not sure about Europe or Israel, etc.; I rather doubt that it remains a basis for popular discussion in Europe). All music, art, literature is a product of its time and place and was directed to its time and its place. We who are of another time and place, we few, we St. Crispan chosen few :-))))), we are the oddballs that for some reason this archaic matter speaks to us. I was listening to the 1935 Weisbach Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) with its full complement of great operatic voices the other day and I wondered what Bach would feel if he were resurrected and heard this Romantic performance. Bach then appeared to me and said that at first he was shocked by the operatic voices and women appearing in a sacred work, truly shocked but then he-- like me-- came to love it. But both Bach and I remained disgusted at the use of a piano. That was when Bach left and I had to continue alone.
==========
P.S. as of this present post to this Bach list: Compared, let us say, to Mengelberg's performance, this Weisbach was indeed a pleasure to listen to, if one can accept performances of the MP where Part II is significantly shorter than Part I and where in Part II many of the arias are deleted. Nevertheless the singing as paced was such that the very recitatives, which alone are often left, make for all tbeauty of aria that one could expect. Highly recommended performance and available nice and cheap at Berkshire for those in the USA.

Ludwig wrote (September 29, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I have heard bassoons used in the Continuo group but I have not been able to find out if they were really valid to use from a purely HIP point of view--the doubt in my mind is that bassoons like clarinets were not fully developed or not in existence at this time. If true this would justify the reason that Bach invented the Oboe da caccia.

We have no record of anyone playing any other keyboard instrument during Bach's life time to justify Dreyfus's claims. Bach had limited resources and limited space in the Gallery so unless the Organ (which has always been the tradition in this matter) was down, being repaired---the Harpsichord was never used. The case seems to be the opposite for Händel in that he used the Harpsichord for his continuo parts especially for the Opera unless an Organ was available and he made sure in that case to use it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 29, 2005):
Ludwig wrote:
>>I have heard bassoons used in the Continuo group but I have not been able to find out if they were really valid to use from a purely HIP point of view--the doubt in my mind is that bassoons like clarinets were not fully developed or not in existence at this time.<<
It is true that the bassoon, from a modern point of view, was not fully developed in Bach's time, but Bach made use of at least two types of bassoon: 1. The 'Chorist-Fagott' or 'Praetorius Bassoon' as it is sometimes referred to because Praetorius used this instrument and gave a good description of its use and also provided engravings. It had two key extension to reach low notes 2. the more recent, closer to Bach's time, 4 keyed version.

We even have the names of excellent bassoonists (not the infamous Geyersbach whom Bach called a "Zippel Fagottist") who played under Bach's direction in Weimar and Köthen.

If you have the OCC [Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach], read the article by Ulrich Prinz on bassoons,

>>If true this would justify the reason that Bach invented the Oboe da caccia.<<
and while you are at it, also read his article on the oboe da caccia -- Bach did not invent this instrument!

Ludwig also stated:
>>We have no record of anyone playing any other keyboard instrument during Bach's life time to justify Dreyfus's claims. Bach had limited resources and limited space in the Gallery so unless the Organ (which has always been the tradition in this matter)was down, being repaired---the Harpsichord was never used. The case seems to be the opposite for Händel in that he used the Harpsichord for his continuo parts especially for the Opera unless an Organ was available and he made sure in that case to use it.<<
From the Grove Music Online [Oxford University Press, 2005, acc. 9/29/05] here is an excerpt from the article by Peter Williams, David Ledbetter on this matter:

>>In north German church music the harpsichord was sometimes used with the organ as an additional part in tuttis (as continuo parts in the Düben collection imply), and even occasionally alone. More common as a second accompanying instrument was the lute or theorbo, usually with the organ rather than alone, and playing throughout, not just with the ripieno. The largest centres naturally had the most elaborate instrumentations. In the Dresden of Heinichen and Zelenka (c1710-30) the (Catholic) court chapel employed a continuo group of two or more cellos, bassoons, violoni and theorbos, though the theorbos fell out of use in the 1730s after the arrival of Hasse. The harpsichord was used only in works in the modern style in Holy Week (Lamentations, oratorios, passions) when the organ was silent. Less extravagantly funded centres used more modest resources: Bach in Leipzig regularly used one or two cellos and occasionally a violone to reinforce the continuo line, while his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann, in Halle used organ alone for most of the continuo line in his church cantatas. The evidences for the use of the harpsichord in Bach's church music can be argued in various ways, but he would not have been going against traditional German practice in using it occasionally either in conjunction with or separately from the organ. He himself directed the funeral music for the Queen and Electress Christiane Eberhardine from the harpsichord (1727).<<

And in case you do not own the OCC:

This is an article by Michael Finkelman on

>>iii) Oboe da caccia
(It., also oboe di silva; Fr. hautbois de chasse, hautbois de forêt; Ger. Jagd[h]oboe, Jagdhautbois, Wald[h]oboe,Waldhautbois). A curved, leather-covered tenor oboe in F with a broadly flaring bell, in use between 1720 and about 1760 (fig.24d). It was produced by only a few makers and used in a small number of places in central Europe. The one-piece body of the oboe da caccia is strongly curved, sometimes in a complete semicircle. It was constructed by cutting a row of small wedges along the back of a straight instrument, then bending the body into an arc. The joins were usually pinned and the body sealed and covered with a leather binding, often decoratively tooled. The curved shape and flaring bell give the instrument a horn-like appearance, hence its name. The most distinguished maker of the oboe da caccia was J.H. Eichentopf of Leipzig, who made instruments with brass rather than wooden bells.
Bach began to use the oboe da caccia shortly after his arrival in Leipzig, where he found a fine soloist in J.C. Gleditsch. The instrument has a gentle and expressive nature, which Bach understood perfectly; one of the most striking moments in the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) is the soprano aria 'Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben', accompanied only by a solo transverse flute and two oboes da caccia. Other composers who wrote for the instrument include J.F. Fasch in Zerbst and Graupner in Darmstadt; in Munich G.B. Ferrandini wrote three symphonies for a pair of oboes da caccia with strings and continuo. Although the instrument had a distinctive sound, it was still considered a tenor oboe and as such was also used to play parts marked 'taille'.<<

As we know from Ulrich Prinz' analysis of Bach's specific use of the oboe da caccia vis-à-vis the taille, Bach treated this instrument (the oboe da caccia) in a different manner (more as an obbligato instrument) probably because he had some very good players like Gleditsch who could play well the parts Bach had written for them.

John Pike wrote (September 30, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I would strongly encourage Ludwig to read Dreyfus' book. There is a chapter on the Bassoon in there, and his chapters on the Harpsichord may help to crystallise ludwig's thinking on this subject as well.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Continuo in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 5 [General Topics]

 

Magnificats BWV 243 & BWV 243a: Details
Recordings: 1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | BWV 243a | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Systematic Discussions: BWV 243 | BWV 243a
Individual Recordings:
BWV 243 - E. Haïm | BWV 243 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 243a - T. Hengelbrock | BWV 243 - P. McCreesh | BWV 243 - J. Rifkin | BWV 243 - H. Rilling | BWV 243 - R. Shaw | BWV 243 - M. Suzuki | BWV 243a - P. Herreweghe

Robert Shaw: Short Biography | Robert Shaw Chorale | RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra | Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
Recordings of Vocal Works:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | General Discussions
Individual Recordings:
BWV 232 - R. Shaw | BWV 243 - R. Shaw | BWV 245 - R. Shaw

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: řApril 24, 2011 ř19:25:55