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01 November 2017

27. “Let the rain pitter-patter”



The weather is frightning
The thunder and lightning
Seem to be having their way;
But as far as Im concerned,
Its a lovely day.


Even with that epigram, this is the ninth installment in my now-slowed-down-but-still-appearing
This post is essentially a bit of the pre-history of this blog, and there will be more of that in time.  For now I want to tell about the time that the rainy weather changed my professional trajectory entirely.  And, as Irving Berlin put it, oh, what a break for me!

I have mentioned in passing that I am an organist, although this is very much an avocation.  I dont really keep up my organ playing as I ought to, and for the first time in 15+ years Im in a job where (with no organ on campus) I cant just walk down the hall to practice.  I need to make more effort, and to make time for it.  But I do occasionally fill in for various congregations when the organist has to be away.  And so it happened one Sunday (25 October 2015, to be exact) that I was on the bench of a big downtown church in Greenville, SC for both morning and evening services.  I had a busy afternoon in between, so I had to choose music that I could pull together on minimal practice time.  Usually for me this means Bach, as you can pull the stops and go:  you dont have to work out complicated registration changes unless you want to.   As on that day the church was celebrating Reformation Day (about a week early), Bach was a natural choice anyway.  I had learned from experience that this congregation didnt listen to the postlude, so I chose something short and to the point for the evening service:  one of Bachs settings of Luthers German paraphrase of the Gloria, Allein Gott in de höh sei Ehr.  There are a quite a number of Bach settings extant, but I chose BWV 715, one of the easiest, flashiest, and most striking.  It is one of the six (extant) so-called Passaggio chorales which probably manifest something of the sort of chorale playing that got Bach in trouble with his congregation in Arnstadt in February 1706 after his Buxtehude pilgrimage:
Reprove him for having hitherto made many curious variationes in the chorale, and mingled many strange tones in it, and for the fact that the Congregation has been confused by it.  [trans. in The New Bach Reader, p. 46]
In these works, the chorale is stated with a dense and aggressively dissonant in-your-face style harmony, with interspersed flamboyant runs and arpeggios.  (Hear Ton Koopman performing this work here.)  Think Jimi Hendrix playing the “Star-Spangled Banner,” but in a high Baroque vocabulary.

That morning between services as I was running through the music for the evening, it occurred to me that the dense chromatic writing would make good fodder for an exam I would be giving on the following Tuesday to my Theory II students.  Then I had an extra credit idea:  spot as many sets of parallel fifths/octaves as you can.  And would my students notice the disguised B-A-C-H in the last two bars?
SOURCE:  conclusion of BWV 715; cropped scan of NBA Ser. IV Bd. 3 (ed. Hans Klotz, 1961), p. 15. 
And so it happened that on the next morning I was sitting in my office working on the theory midterm exam, and I remembered my idea for the analysis question.  I discovered that I had left my organ score in my car.  Looking out the window to see a cold rain pouring down, I thought Ill just go to the IMSLP and use the old complete works edition.  I had been playing out of the Bärenreiter offprint of the NBA text.  (These offprints sometimes include corrections, although the text in this instance was identical with that reproduced above.)  When I pulled up the BG edition, however, all but one of my parallel fifths/octaves were gone:

SOURCE:  the same passage; a marked-up cropped scan of the BG edition (1893), taken from the scan available on the IMSLP.  Those parallels in the NBA text that do not appear in the BG text are indicated in red (although I have not marked other variants here).  The parallel octave that remains is indicated in blue.
Although I had followed Bach research casually over the years, Bach was not at all my area of study.  I was intrigued by this, however, as it seemed like a pretty good example of different editorial ideologies:  the 1893 Bach couldnt have possibly intended such solecisms; the 1961 Bach was a brash rebel.  It was a music textual equivalent of the difference between these famous representations:
SOURCES:  (left) Carl Seffner's 1908 statue of Bach in Leipzig, photo from wikimedia commons; (right) Bernd Göbel's 1985 statue of Bach in Arnstadt, photo from wikimedia commons.
Of course I wanted to know more, and promptly set aside the midterm.  The college library had many of the NBA scores but none of the NBA critical reports.  I e-mailed Patricia Sasser, the music librarian at Furman University just up the road, asking whether she could send me a scan of the page or two covering BWV 715 from the relevant critical report.  Within about an hour she graciously responded, but it only whetted my appetite.  When I asked for a few more pages and explained what I was looking into, she replied That sounds like a paper for AMS-SE [the Southeast chapter of the American Musicological Society].  At first I thought it was nothing more than a diversion from the work I ought to be doing, but having spent an hour pulling out all of the editions of Bachs organ works that I could lay my hands on, I realized I was obsessed.  It did become a paper for AMS-SE, with the most complicated hand-out Ive ever put together.  Heres the first page of it:


There are six extant passaggio chorales attributed to Bach:
  • Allein Gott in der höh sei Ehr, BWV 715
  • Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 722
  • Herr Jesu Christ dich uns zu wend, BWV 726
  • In dulci jubilo, BWV 729
  • Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich BWV 732
  • Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 738
These six works offer a great perspective on the editing of Bachs works because 1) none of them survives in his hand (although they do survive in manuscript copies from quite close to him) and 2) the texts conveyed by surviving sources are problematic at best.  None of these works was published until the 1840s.  Indeed, BWV 715 (together with BWV 726) actually did not make it into print until the 1893 BG volume.  These two chorales survive together in a manuscript copy by Johann Peter Kellnerneither a student nor a close colleague of Bach, but his sometimes flawed copies are nonetheless important sources for much of the Bach repertoire (as Russell Stinson has shown).  However audacious Bachs chorale playing might have been, Kellners copy of BWV 715 is manifestly deficientnot only frequently omitting voices haphazardly, but giving harmonies that are implausible in their own terms or as the result of the counterpoint.  The start of Kellners manuscript is this:
SOURCE:  (left) detail of Kellner's score, from Bach-Digital; (right) my Finale transcription
Here the irregularity of the part-writing (at times three, or even just two voices) is surely suspect:  voices dont merge, but they just disappear for a few beats, mid-phrase.  When the same melody is reharmonized a few bars later,
SOURCE:  as above, this time arranged vertically
that initial quartal harmony is, to the say the least, eccentric.  There are, indeed, enough problems here to make me wonder if Kellner was working from a fully-realized score at all, particularly as the four extant chorales apart from the two Kellner copied exist in two separate lines of transmissionone with full realized harmonies, and the other employing figured bass.    If Kellner was trying to realize the figured bass, though, he did it exceedingly poorly in this case.

All of this warrants further discussion, and this summer I was at work on an article about the editing of these works over nearly two centuries, but I had to put it aside when a new source for BWV 715 emerged.  It appears in a practical notebook of 154 pieces (mostly chorale settings) described on its label as being from the repertoire of Bachs student Johann Christian Kittel (1732-1809an exact contemporary of Haydn).  This notebook is dated 1800, and is the work of one Johann Christoph Bach (1782-1846), an organist in Bindersleben.  Speaking of eccentricities, this Bach copies some of the pieces across the full spread of an opening (verso and recto), so that there are only four systems in image below, with the gutter of the binding crossing through each of them:
SOURCE:  BWV 715, in my composite of verso and recto digital scans from the Saxon State and University Library, Dresden 
What I note about this source:
  1.  It lacks the harmonic eccentricities of Kellners copy, 
  2.  While the number of voices is inconsistent (including the disappearance of the bass line entirely in the fifth phrasewas this ever played from this score?!?), there are never fewer than three in the harmonized sections, and there very often more than four (five, six, and at one point eight), and
  3. While such a thick texture means that parallels are inevitably present, the parallel fifth in the final cadence which had been eliminated in BG is here eliminated by means of precisely the same strategyarriving at the tenor C early, echoing the cadence which had concluded the fourth chorale phrase.
Curiously, BWV 715 is the only one of the 154 pieces in this collection to be attributed to J. S. Bach.  There are several other passaggio chorale settingsnot surprising, as it was a common practice for chorale playing during the eighteenth century.  If Kittel was the conduit through which BWV 715 entered this collection, it suggests that JSB didnt regard this showy style of harmonizing and peacock preening as a youthful indiscretion set to annoy his Arnstadt elders:  he was still conveying it to his students in Leipzig in his very last years.

Nevertheless, these pieces have been tainted in some of the Bach literature as unworthy of the master.  On that rainy October morning, one of the first commentaries I pulled off my shelf was candid:
I have much more to say about these pieces, and eventually I need to get around to writing that article, if it doesnt get scooped.  In the meantime, I reflect upon the strange intersection between weather and career:  if it hadnt been raining on that Monday morning, all of the subject matter of the blog would have remained for me just items of idle curiosity, and you wouldn't be reading this now.

Long as I can be with you, its a lovely day.



15 September 2017

26. Moving targets (Episode #4)

A recurring theme on this blog is the source that purports to be one thing while it is actually something else.  (In a previous post I discussed this regarding sources for Handels Messiah available on the IMSLP.)  Another recurring theme is the edition (or sometimes even manuscript) that changes over time without necessarily calling attention to those changes.  (A post considered this with the case of Bernsteins Overture to Candide.)  This post combines a little of both.  And while this may all seem innocuous, Im not sure that it is.

Musicians will be familiar with the American firm Dover Publications.  By the 1970s and 80s they had turned almost entirely to sturdy reprints of public domain editions.  Their output extends far beyond music, and I can remember browsing through their sales catalog, bemused and amazed by the range of reprints for which they could find a market.  Since the 1990s they have originated a few editions of music, but their bread and butter has been reprinting out-of-print editions at competitive prices.  In contrast to the reprints from firms like Kalmus, Dover has made durable products, and the blurb on the back (this is a permanent book) wasnt much of an overstatement.  A few of the scores Ive used the most have fallen into pieces, but many of the Dover books I got 25+ years ago are still in good condition.

In about 1997 someone at Dover had the bright idea of issuing miniature scores, which would open up a wider educational market.  There was a problem with this:  a lot of the scores they were reprinting originally had appeared in a very large formatsay 14 or 15 inches tall.  That was the case of the old Bach Gesellschaft edition, from which Dover drew extensively.  Dovers “large” scores were already a reduction of the original dimensions:  often 9x12, sometimes 8.5x11.  The smallest of the Dover “large” scores Ive used is their reprint of Franck organ works, an oblong volume measuring only 8.25 inches at the spine; the original Durand scores from which these were taken measured some 10.5 inches at the spine (although with more generous margins).  The further reduction to a miniature score format can be awkward.

And that is apparently what happened.  Dovers first release of study scores were the same size as their popular “thrift” reprints of literature, with dimensions of 5x8 or slightly larger.  Within a few years, the same publications (with the same ISBNs) were issued in a slightly larger format.  The images below show side by side these two issues of one of these early publications:

SOURCE:  I put both copies side by side in the photocopier and scanned them, front and back.
The score on the left I got in the fall of 1998 as desk copy for a course for which I was one of the instructors.  Im not sure when I got the copy on the right, but judging from some notes I made in it I must have had it by 2002.  The key differences on the back cover:  the elimination of the clause “ample margins at the bottom of each score page for notes an analysis” (which itself betrayed that the dimensions of the publication were not calculated with the right aspect ratio for the matter that was to appear on the page), the addition of a list of some other available scores, and the increased price (marked-up 1/3).  The contents are the same, so far as I can make out, and it would surprise me if they weren't.

Note the source of this publication.  Here it is (again) from either copyright page:
SOURCE:  cropped scan of copyright page of the Dover miniature score.

The words “an authoritative edition, n.d.” scarcely inspire confidence.  Most of the publications in this series reprint the same edition that Dover issued in a larger format.  Ironically, the large-score publication of Haydn's London symphonies reprinted a series of miniature scores:
SOURCE:  cropped scan of copyright page of the Dover full score.
Eulenburg scores were designed to be small-format.  To my eye, Dovers enlargement appears odd (there seems to be too much space between staves, too little information on each page) where the proportions seem right in the original format.

It would be reasonable to assume that the Dover miniature score was a reprint of this same text.  Indeed, the IMSLP has assumed as much:
SOURCE:  cropped screenshot from IMSLP (accessed 20 June 2017)
But it isnt so.  Below is a comparison of the first page:  the Dover 1985 (Eulenburg reprint) is on the left; the Dover 1997 miniature score is on the right.  (Apologies for the size of the image, but you can scroll back and forth as necessary to see the details.)

While even at first glance these are recognizably different scores, the differences are not just in the formatting (two systems for the first page of the miniature score).  There are textual differences too.  The miniature score has an initial dynamic of ff for the entire ensemble, has introduced crescendo hairpins in b. 5, and has accents rather than sf in the Violino I part in bb. 3-5.  The miniature score has 58 pages of music, while the Dover/Eulenburg has 74 (not surprising for a score designed to be in small format).

The score I refer to as Dover/Eulenburg (that is, the 1985 Dover reprint) is what it purports to be.  Here is the first page of the Eulenburg score, as proof of that:
SOURCE:  digital scan of p. 1 of 1936 Eulenburg score (ed. Ernst Praetorius)

What, then, is the “authoritative edition” that Dover reprinted in 1997?  It ought to be on the shelves somewhereand readers at big music libraries might be able to lay their hands on it quickly.  I have pursued it via interlibrary loan (ordering up every edition I can find), but even then editions can be miscatalogued in so many ways.  I havent found it yet, and I would be glad to know.  Anyone?  I will be delighted to have an addendum to this post once the source edition is located.

01 August 2017

25. [fermata]

This ought to be a Bach post.  I suppose I could make a Bach connectionlike the ways in which his cantata cycle plans were interrupted by the efforts to complete his big passion settings.  Today marks the first birthday of this blog, but it also marks a caesura of sortsa chance to catch ones breath.  Life has put a fermata on my blogging.

When I started the blog, I committed to posting twice a month.  Ive done that, and Ive enjoyed it enormously.  I figured I would be blogging into the void about things that no one really cared much about.  I have been astonished and gratified by the interest people have shown in it (and sometimes been mystified by which posts approached virality); Ive been delighted to meet new friends and colleagues; and my list of topics for posts seems as long now as it did 25 posts ago.  It amazes me that I havent done more with Mozart yet, as I have a lot I want to do therefor example discussing Ian Woodfields fascinating discoveries in the autograph manuscript of Così fan tutte, one of my favorite books.  Or (to name another) John Michael Coopers study of Mendelssohn’s “Italian” symphony; or the late, lamented Phillip Gossetts Divas and Scholars, which so engagingly deals with the very practical consequences of a performers view of a musical text.  And there are so many fascinating editions to considerlike the new Gershwin projectto say nothing of the older materials that are coming online at an overwhelming rate.  And I have pedagogical issues to discuss. In so many ways, no matter what I treat on this blog it is always the tip of an iceberg in a sea full of them.  Confronting an overload of textual issues, there is something very freeing about knowing that theres no need to prioritize or triage:  I can chip away at whatever happens to interest me at any given moment, and encourage others to do the same.  And I am simply delighted that anyone else would want to peer over my shoulder.

I must now lift my self-imposed commitment for twice-monthly posts.  Ive taken a new job and moved my family 400+ miles into a totally new setting.  In that the blog has been an activity in my free time (something that I wasnt really aware I had), at the moment there are more important calls on that time, such as it is.  In this year of blogging I have published nothing else, and in the coming months a number of projects return to be proofed or reviewed, quite apart from the new job responsibilities.  I will continue to post when I have an opportunity and to tweet anything I see that looks relevant to musical textual issues; but for the next year or so it must needs not be on a regular schedule.  (During this fall term I will hope for a post every six weeks, and hope to post more frequently in the spring.)  I will complete my Bach-Jahrgang project belatedly (like JSB himself), and I know lots of things I want to get to when there is time, including facets of the pre-history of this blog.  And, for those who have joined late, I hope some will review the earlier posts to see what you might have missed.  In the meantime, a few images to whet the appetites:









But for now it must be au revoir.