At 2:47 PM +0200 6/25/05, Sybrand Bakker wrote:
On Fri, 24 Jun 2005 07:34:34 -0400, John Howell <John.Howell@xxxxxx>
At 7:24 PM +0200 6/23/05, Sybrand Bakker wrote:
Haendel, according to Bukofzer Music in the Baroque Era, never wrote
down any embellishments he obviously intended.
He has a very nice example of the Aria of the GV, as Haendel would
have composed it.
One rather large difference between Handel and Bach is that Handel
was working with top notch professional singers and Bach, at least in
Leipzig, was working with students. Handel simply hired the singers
who could and would do the embelishments he expected. In a study of
Bach's St. John Passion I did in graduate school, I discovered that
there was a very significant difference between the number of notated
ornaments in soprano and alto arias and those in tenor and bass
arias. Bach was giving the younger boys examples from which to
learn. The older boys singing tenor and bass, presumably university
students, would have more experience and be able to do their own
Or, if you prefer a different interpretation of the observed facts,
Bach thought his tenors and basses should use less ornamentation!
GV is of course Goldberg Variations.
You seem to imply Bach was only working with incompetent singers.
Musicians and composers were pragmatics, and generally didn't wrote
music, that couldn't be performed appropiately.
Please reread what I wrote, and please do not presume to put your own
words in my mouth.
There is no reason to believe that Bach's singers were incompetent.
In fact, we know exactly how competent they were from the music he
wrote for them. Yes, he was very pragmatic, as we see in, for
instance, the Christmas Oratorio, six cantatas intended to be
performed at six specific services between Christmas and Epiphany,
with each one having only one polyphonic chorus to learn. He knew
exactly the capabilities of his singers.
The assertion that
Bachs singers were incompetent is as far as I am concerned a myth.
It is also a straw man that you have introduced on your own.
Also the breaking of voice happened much later in the Bach era, there
have been cases of voices breaking at the age of 18.
So I don't think necessarily the soprano and alto parts where sung by
I'm well aware of that, but there's no question that the sopranos and
altos at the Thomasschule were relatively younger than the tenors and
basses, whose voices had obviously changed, and therefore relatively
less experienced in the improvisation of appropriate ornamentation.
To point out that they were not in the same class as the Italian
virtuosos Handel hired is not, in any way, to imply that they were
incompetent. Again, we can judge their skill by the music Bach wrote
for them. And the observation that there are more written ornaments
in the soprano and alto arias than in the tenor and bass ones remains
valid no matter what your interpretation of it may be. How do you
Bach was many things, and throughout his lifetime he was a teacher.
He was constantly teaching, and part of that teaching was using
written ornamentation as examples of proper ornamentation.
A 20th century boys choir is not necessarily
functioning in the same way as a 18th century one.
A rather obvious point, and one I agree with completely. Of course
Bach did not have a "boys choir" at all, since virtually all his
choral music is SATB.
One question I have never seen addressed is whether the German
practice was to have unchanged voices singing the alto parts, rather
than having unchanged voices only singing soprano with countertenors
singing the alto parts as in the English tradition.
John & Susie Howell
Virginia Tech Department of Music
Blacksburg, Virginia, U.S.A 24061-0240
Vox (540) 231-8411 Fax (540) 231-5034