M502: J. S. Bach's cantatas in performance, Spring 2010

Indiana University Jacobs School of Music

MU205, TTh 1-2.15

Daniel R. Melamed       dmelamed (AT) indiana.edu


(dates in red are performance days)


Tue   12 Jan    Introduction
Thu   14 Jan    Introduction and first reading of mvts. 1 and 2 of "Sie werden euch in den Bann tun" BWV 44

"Sie werden euch in den Bann tun" BWV 44

Tue    29 Jan    1. Sources
Thu    21 Jan    2. Movements 1, 2, 7 and 4

Tue    26 Jan    3. Arias in score and parts
Thu    28 Jan    4. Movements 3, 5 and 6; complete run 

"Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich" BWV 17
Tue      2 Feb    1. Sources, analysis of movement 1    Written assignment no. 1
Thu      4 Feb    2. Movements 1, 2, 4, and 6

Tue     9 Feb     3. Arias: scoring and analytical issues

Thu    11 Feb    4. Movements 3, 5 and 7; complete run

"Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe" BWV 22

Tue    16 Feb    1. Source; squiggly lines/vocal ripienists          Written assignment no. 2
Thu    18 Feb    2. Movements 1 and 5

Tue    23 Feb    3. Movements 2 and 4                                   Written assignment no. 3
Thu    25 Feb    4. Movements 2, 3 and 4; complete run

"Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet" BWV 164

Tue     2 Mar    1. Overview and sources; Organ/Harpsichord  Written assignment no. 4
Thu     4 Mar
   2. Mvts. 3, 5, 6

Tue      9 Mar
   3. Analytical issues; Recitative accompaniment
Thu     11 Mar
 4. Mvts. 1, 2, 4; complete run              



"Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" BWV 170

Tue   23 Mar    1. Overview of BWV 170;
Thu   25 Mar    2. Mvts. 1, 3 [2, 4 and 5 if time allows]          Written assignment no. 5

"Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" BWV 38

Tue   30 Mar    1. Overview of BWV 38;  Mvt 3 (T Ob1 Ob2 Bc)     
Thu     1 Apr   
2 Bach's 1730 Entwurff and Bach's "choral ideal"; Mvts. 4, 5 (SAB Bc)           

Tue     6 Apr    3. Debates on performance                              Written assignment no. 6
Thu     8 Apr    4. Mvts. 1, 6; complete run (SATB Ob1 Ob2 Str Bc Tbn1-4)

"Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen" BWV 215
Tue   13 Apr   MU205   1. Overview; background; problems
   Written assignment no. 7
Thu   15 Apr   
MC040  2. Mvts. 1 [no trp/tmp], 6, 7             Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc

Tue   20 Apr   MC040   3. Mvts. 3, 5                                    T, B, Ob, Str, Bc                               
Thu   22 Apr  
MC040   4. Mvts. 1, 8, 9                                Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp     Written assignment no. 8

Tue   27 Apr   MC040   5. Mvts. 2, 4; complete run               Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp
Thu   29 Apr   MC040 or outdoors 6. Complete run              Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp    Written assignment no. 8 [course critique]


Instructor: Prof. Daniel R. Melamed, dmelamed (AT) indiana.edu
Office: M325C, (85)5-8252. O
ffice hours Tuesday and Thursday, 11.30 AM - 12 PM and by appointment.

Aims and methods: We will examine cantatas as they were performed under Bach’s direction. We will study the sources that transmit the music, focusing on the original performing parts. We will consider the size and composition of Bach’s performing forces, problems of instrumentation and the staffing of vocal lines, the makeup of the continuo group, pitch and its implications, musical and liturgical contexts, and other topics. We will also spend time in analysis, learning how an understanding of style and construction can contribute to performance. We will spend some class time in study and discussion, and some in rehearsal and performance. At the end of the semester we may present our work in public.


Syllabus. Course information, schedule and syllabus are at http://dmelamed.pages.iu.edu/M502-Bach-2010.htm, also reachable from http://m502.melamed.org. Please check this page regularly for assignments and possible schedule changes. Most of the resources you will need for the course will be available here; some things reside on Oncourse but there is no need to log on to that system--you should be able to get everything from the course page. I have added auditors and guests to the roster for this course, so you should have access.

Requirements. Attendance; active, frequent and well-informed class participation; and short written projects (possibly also offered as presentations to the class) every one to two weeks. These projects will typically be research assignments to give you experience in using reference works and in examining sources sources; analysis assignments to give you practice with analytical tools; and position papers in which you will argue for a solution to a performance problem.

Attendance. Every enrolled student is expected at each class meeting; exceptions are only for illness or personal emergency. We're counting on the regular participation of guests and auditors. If you are scheduled to perform and something will prevent you from being in class on a Thursday please let me know well in advance--we need to avoid holes in the ensemble that will keep us from getting the work of the class done.

Grading. The course grade will be based on active, frequent and well-informed class participation and on short projects.

The semester. In the first part of the semester, after introduction and orientation, we will spend two weeks each on four cantatas that are particularly well documented in original performing materials. We will begin by looking at general issues (how parts were prepared and used, basic issues of staffing and realization of cantatas, the nature of the performing materials and their use in rehearsal and performance). Along the way we will look at specific problems (pitch, continuo staffing and realization, vocal forces, analysis and its implications for performance). This should carry us to spring break. In the second part of the semester we will work on specific problems, and expand our repertory and instrumentation. If scheduling, logistics and available instruments allow, we'll finish the semester with a secular cantata that was presented at a big public event in Leipzig in 1734, with a possibility of an outdoor public performance of our own.

Class meetings. We will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1-2.15 PM in MU205. In general, Tuesdays will be for study and discussion and Thursdays will be for playing and singing. If you are auditing as a member of the performing ensemble we'll need you on Thursdays, but you are welcome on Tuesdays as well. We'll count on the core ensemble of voices, oboes, strings and continuo each time, and will invite others (traverso, trombone, others) as needed. Players of those instruments and other auditors are welcome even if you do not happen to be performing on a given day.

The outline of our two-week cycles will be:

Tuesday, week 1. Introduction: Sources, text, liturgy, analytical overview
Thursday, week 1: Read-through, identification of problems and issues
Tuesday, week 2. Discussion of problems/issues, readings; analysis
Thursday, week 2. Rehearsal work, experiments; complete performance

Preparation. To prepare for the first Tuesday class you will generally need to study the musical substance of the work, spending analytical time with various movements; and to familiarize yourself with the sources and performance issues raised by the piece. For the first Thursday you will need to be ready to perform your part at a level that will let us read through without breakdown. There will be specific assignments for the second Tuesday (readings, analyses, etc.). For the second Thursday you should come prepared with ideas for work, rehearsal and experimentation, and be ready to participate in a semi-polished complete performance.

You should study and prepare all the music for your voice type or instrument in each work. We will be performing on Bach's model, using relatively small forces, but will rotate assignments to give everyone the opportunity of performing. Singers should prepare everything in your range, being prepared to share duties with others; you should also be ready to join as a ripieno singer when we decide to add voices. Instrumentalists who want to try their hand at ripieno singing at some point in the semester should let me know so we can plan. Violinists should look at both V1 and V2 lines, though as a group you may decide to set up a rotation; you should also be ready to play solo lines as we'll offer the opportunity to as many as possible. There is typically one viola line; we'll alternate players as necessary. Oboists should prepare solo lines and both ensemble lines when present, at least until you work out a rotation. Keyboard continuo players should be ready to rotate duties on all movements; we will probably find reason to use organ, harpsichord, and perhaps both during the semester. We'll count on our melody continuo players for most every movement.

Parts will be available either online or in class. Singers and keyboard continuo players are strongly urged to learn to work from parts rather than from scores; this is the only way that you will come to understand 18th-century practice. Learn the notes from a score in modern clefs or from a score/realization if you need to, but make the switch as soon as possible.

Academic conduct. You may consult and collaborate with classmates in preparing daily assignments. You may discuss projects with others, but all written work must be entirely your own. Every use of the work of others must be fully documented. If you violate of the standards of academic conduct you will fail the course.


Basic Reference tool

 Basic questions about research materials on Bach are answered in

Daniel R. Melamed and Michael Marissen. An introduction to Bach studies. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998. [Ref ML134.B1 M45]

Recordings online

In addition to recordings available in the Music Library and online through Variations2:

--Recordings conducted by Rilling, Suzuki, Koopman (complete sets) and by others (selected cantatas) are available for online listening through the Naxos Music Library. Search for the text of the cantata you want.

--Recordings conducted by Helmuth Rilling are also available through classical.com for online listening.  Search for "Cantata  No. [BWV #]" and then click on the title to see all the movements. Choose the 64K stream in the player window if your connection allows.

Texts and translations online

Original texts (not a critical edition) posted by Walter Bischof

English translations by Z. Philip Ambrose 

Edition online

The Bach-Gesellschaft edition on IMSLP

Original sources online

Reproductions at Bach Digital [under construction]

Books on reserve and in the reference collection

Arnold Schering. Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik. 2nd edn. Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1954. [ML410 . B12 S28]

Laurence Dreyfus. Bach’s continuo group. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. [ML410 .B12 D67]

Joshua Rifkin. Bach’s choral ideal. Dortmund: Klangfarben Musikverlag, 2002. [ML410 .B12 R57]

UIrich Prinz. Johann Sebastian Bachs Instrumentarium. Stuttgart: Internationale Bachakademie, 2005. [ML455 .P75]

Andrew Parrott. The essential Bach choir. Woodbridge: Boydell Press, 2000. [ML410 .B12 P1996]

Günther Stiller. Johann Sebastian Bach and liturgical life in Leipzig. Transl. H.J.A. Bouman et al. St. Louis, 1984. [ML410 .B12 S853]

Charles Sanford Terry. Joh. Seb. Bach cantata texts sacred and secular. London, 1926. [ML49 .B2 T3]

Alfred Dürr. The cantatas of J. S. Bach. Transl. Richard D. P. Jones. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005.



"Sie werden euch in den Bann tun" BWV 44  BC A78, for Exaudi, first performed 21 May 1724

Text    Translation  On one page 

Score (BG)  or Score (BG)  Vocal score   

Recordings: Suzuki or Suzuki   Harnoncourt/Leonhardt    Rilling or Rilling   Gardiner     Koopman

NBA I/12 Critical Commentary

Autograph score (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P 148)                    Bach Digital [mvts. 2 and 6 not working at last check; you can see the beginning and end by selecting the preceding and following movements.]

Original parts (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach St 86)

Modern parts: V1    V2    Va    Ob1    Ob2    Bc    Cemb    Org    Recreated vocal parts: Soprano    Alto    Tenore    Basso


  1. Study the text and music of this cantata, focusing on modern scores (full and vocal). Listen to as many recordings as you can.

  2. What kinds of movements are there (as represented in the modern scores)? How do the scores suggest, imply or even demand certain kinds of performances and particular kinds of performing forces?

  3. How do various recordings realize the piece? What are the variables and choices? What are the roles of voices (in various combinations) and instruments, and the relationships between them? Do they evidently regard this as vocal music with instruments, instrumental music with voices, or something else?

  4. In class we will focus on the first two movements. How do they relate to each other?

1. Sources

[In this assignment, you'll familiarize yourself with some basic Bach research tools by looking up BWV 44 and its sources, and get an overview of those sources. I strongly recommend that you look up the tools (reference books) themselves in An introduction to Bach studies, which offers guidance on how to use them. Do not be intimidated if you do not read German--you can learn to understand most of the basic information in these tools without much difficulty.]

  1. Look up Cantata 44 in the Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis [BWV] [Ref. ML134.B1 S3 1990 AND Ref. ML134.B1 S3 1998] Use the material in the frontmatter to understand what kinds of information is provided.

  2. Now look up the piece in the Bach Compendium [Ref. ML134.B1 S38], again using the guide and list of abbreviations in the front of the first volume.

  3. Finally, look at the section on sources (Quellen) in the Critical Commentary ("KB" or Kritischer Bericht) that accompanies the edition in the Neue Bach Ausgabe (link to a pdf is above). We are most interested in source A (the autograph score; entry starts on p. 257) and source B (the original parts; entry starts on p. 270).

  4. Reproductions of the autograph score and original parts are available online (links above). Spend some time with them and with the descriptions in the BC and KB, understanding what kinds of details the editors point out. Pick a page of the score and a performing part or two to study in more detail.

[Note: Take notes for yourself, but it will not be necessary to hand in this assignment--formal written assignments will follow a little later.]

2. Movements 1, 2, 4 and 7

On Thursday, let us plan to perform BWV 44 mvts. 1, 2, and 7 and (if there is time) mvt. 4. That will leave the two arias (mvts. 3 and 6) and the recitative (mvt. 5) for next week--oboes, upper strings and S-A-B vocalists please take particular note. For continuo we will use cello, violone and organ; there is a lot more to say on this topic but let's stick to this for now.

Vocalists: You cannot get good sense of what it is like to work from the original performing materials for our cantatas by singing from a score--only parts will let you explore this, and that is our aim. All the original materials--instrumental and vocal--can be difficult to read because of the many generations of photographs involved, but the vocal parts add the challenges of 18th-century script and less-familiar clefs.

As an experiment I have prepared vocal parts in modern notation. They are rough at this point, just cut-and-paste from a vocal score; if I have time I will clean them up. I strongly urge you to sing from these if you do not use the originals. Once you get used to them you will find that they make many things easier, and will see just how cumbersome the notation in a vocal or full score really is in some respects..

3. Arias in score and parts

  1. Study the texts of the two arias nos. 3 and 6. How are their texts organized both in prosody (meter, rhyme, etc.) and in meaning?

  2. How are the movements represented in Bach's autograph score? What information is provided? What is missing?

  3. How are the movements represented in the original parts?

  4. What is the musical organization of the arias, particularly the roles and relationships of instruments and voice? (Do this from a modern score.)

    Diagram of mvt.3        Diagram of mvt. 6

4. Movements 3, 5 and 6; complete run

Be ready to play or sing your part in these movements; Sopranos, Tenors and Basses along with V1 and Ob1 will be particularly on the spot. We'll continue to focus for now on issues of vocal scoring and relationships between voices and instruments. I hope there will be time to discuss the experience of singing from vocal parts rather than scores.

We will also perform the entire work at the end of the hour.

"Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich" BWV 17  BC A131, for 14.Trinitatis, first performed 22 September 1726

Text    Translation    On one page

An early printed text (Rudolstadt, 1726)

Score (BG)    Vocal score   

Recordings:  Gardiner or Gardiner   Harnoncourt/Leonhardt    Rilling    Koopman

NBA I/21 Critical Commentary

Autograph score (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P 45, fascicle 5)        Bach Digital

Original parts (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach St 101)

Modern parts: V1     V2     Va     Ob1     Ob2     Bc    [no realization in the set]   Soprano     Alto     Tenore     Basso

1. Sources, analysis of movement 1

Follow the same steps as in the first assignment for BWV 44 above (1. Sources), familiarizing yourself with the original sources for this work.

Written assignment no.1: Write a two-to-three page prose summary and analysis of this work's history and particularly of the original sources that transmit it. Start your essay with the sentence "Bach composed "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich" BWV 17 in . . . and first performed it. . . ." In well-ordered prose, summarize the most important features of the autograph score (no need to go into great detail); outline and discuss the original performing parts and their contents. Do not try to convey every detail; focus on the basic elements--what parts there are, what they contain, perhaps something about their copying, and so on. This assignment (double-spaced, with 1" margins) is due in class on Tuesday.

We will also discuss the construction and organization of the first movement.

    Diagram of BWV 17/1

2. Movements 1, 2, 4, 6

We will concentrate on the first movement, and do as many of the recitatives as time allows.

3. Arias: scoring and analytical issues

  1. Study the text and music of the two arias mvts. 3 and 5. How are their texts organized poetically? What are the implications for musical setting?

  2. What is the musical organization of each of the opening ritornellos? How do they differ?

  3. What is the relationship in each aria between the material of the opening ritornello and the first vocal material?

  4. How is each aria organized? Make a diagram of ritornello structure in each; diagrams are below, but try your own first.

  5. How does the instrumental scoring of each aria relate to its musical organization?

 Diagram of BWV 17/3    Diagram of BWV 17/5

4. Movements 3, 5 and 7; complete run

We'll look at the two arias, seeing how their their formal organization, scoring and voice/instrument relationships can suggest ways of performing. We will look briefly at the concluding chorale, and perform the entire cantata.

"Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe" BWV 22   BC A46, for Estomihi, first performed 7 February 1723

Text    Translation   On one page

Original text print (1724)

Score (BG)   Vocal score   

Recordings: Gardiner or Gardiner   Rilling    Koopman or Koopman   Suzuki    Harnoncourt/Leonhardt

NBA I/8 Critical Commentary

Autograph score (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P119)                        Bach Digital

Modern parts: Ob    V1    V2    Va    Bc        S    A    T    B              Srip    Arip    Trip    Brip

1. Source; squiggly lines

  1. Study the autograph score of this cantata, for which no original parts survive. (Note that this is a calligraphic fair copy that is particularly rich in indications for performance, but there are still gaps). How exactly specified is the work? What is reasonably certain about its realization? What aspects can you guess at by analogy to other works we have studied? What elements are unknown?

  2. Note the squiggly line at the bottom of the front side of the third leaf, which has a specific meaning in 18th-century manuscript scores. Spend some analytical time with the movement and see what musical features line up with this indication. How is the movement constructed? How is it organized in relation to its scriptural text?

  3. Does anything strike you as strange about the date of this work's first performance in the context of Bach's biography?

Written assignment no. 2: Write a two-to-three page prose overview of the piece as viewed from the autograph score, focusing on kinds of movements, their scoring, and their realization in performance. (This is essentially a matter of writing up what you do in the assignment above; don't spend too much time on the squiggly line, though.) This assignment (double-spaced, with 1" margins) is due in class on Tuesday.

2. Movements 1 and 5

We will experiment with various vocal realizations of these movements; this will be an opportunity for more than one person to sing each line, so come prepared.

3. Movements 2 and 4

  1. The ritornellos of these arias represent the two most common kinds of organization. What is that musical organization (phrase structure, construction) of each ritornello?

  2. Both arias use the same opening gambit--the same procedure right after the opening ritornello. What is it? (Hint: Listen for the sense that vocally the piece begins, then resets and begins again.)

  3. Trace the large-scale formal organization of each aria, tracing appearances of the ritornello, the overal harmonic organization, and distribution of the text.

Written assignment no. 3. Make careful diagrams of each aria; you can take the diagrams of earlier works as a model and starting point. After you have polished your diagrams, write one concise paragraph about each aria giving an overview in prose of the arias' structure. [For example: "Bach divides the 14 lines of text into 8 lines + 6 lines and sets the aria as a da capo. A ritornello in the tonic frames the setting of the first 8 lines (A section), with an intermediate ritornello in #II. The second 6 lines are set as a B section in bIV.]

 4. Movements 2, 3 and 4; complete run

"Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet" BWV 164  BC A128, for 13.Trinitatis, first performed 26 August 1725

Text    Translation    On one page

Score (BG)   Vocal score   

Recordings: Harnoncourt/Leohnardt    Suzuki or Suzuki    Rilling    Gardiner    Koopman

NBA I/21 Critical Commentary

Autograph score (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P121)                    Bach Digital

Original parts (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach St 60)

Modern parts: Trav1    Trav2    Ob1/2    V1    V2    Va    Bc    S    A    T    B

1. Overview and sources; Organ/Harpsichord

  1. Study the text and music of the cantata for a basic familiarity with the work.

  2. Examine the original sources of the work, particularly the original performing materials.

  3. Please read Chapter 2 of Dreyfus, Bach's Continuo Group (reference and links below). You will probably find the first chapter a useful introduction.

Written Assignment no. 4. Write a short essay (c. 750 words) in which you identify the principal questions that Dreyfus asks in Chapter 2, the kinds of evidence he uses, and the conclusions he reaches. Don't try to summarize every argument; instead, give an overview of his approach, his strategy and his results.

Laurence Dreyfus. Bach’s continuo group. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. [ML410 .B12 D67]


Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. The Organ and the Harpsichord

Chapter 3. The Accompaniment of Recitatives

Appendix A. Catalogue of Original Performance Parts for Bach's Vocal Works

2. Mvts. 3, 5, 6.

We will try different combinations of continuo instruments.

3. Analytical issues; Recitative accompaniment

  1. Please read Chapter 3 of Dreyfus, Bach's Continuo Group, on the accompaniment of recitatives.

  2. Study the recits in our cantata. How do the principles argued by Dreyfus apply to these movements?

  3. Review the recitatives in BWV 17 with the same questions in mind.

  4. Study the construction of the three arias in this cantata along the lines we have been discussing.

4. Mvts. 1, 2, 4; complete run

Please bring scores/vocal parts/continuo parts for BWV 17 as well so we can look briefly at its recits if there is time.

"Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" BWV 170   BC A106, for the 6.Trinitatis, first performed 28 July 1726

Text    Translation    On one page  <--revised

Original text print

Score (BG)    Vocal score

Recordings: Gardiner    Müller-Brühl    Suzuki    Sillito    Koopman    Rilling

NBA I/17.2 Critical Commentary

Autograph score                    Bach Digital

Original parts

Modern parts: V1    V2    Va    Bc    Org    Ob d'Am    Trav        Org (mvt. 5 in Altnickol's version)

1. Overview of BWV 170

  1. BWV 170. Examine the autograph score (Bach Digital) and description of the original parts (NBA Critical Commentary). What are the problems of scoring in this work? You might want to focus on the role of keyboard instruments. How are continuo and obbligato organ lines notated in score and parts?

2. Performance of movements from BWV 170

Written assignment no. 5. Write a short essay (c. 750 words) in which you compare the approaches taken and results of at least three recordings of BWV 170 (a sampling is above--there are others as well). Pick one or two topics--don't try to cover every aspect. It's a given that some recordings pay relatively little attention to Bach's own performing practice documented in the sources, but I recommend against simply taking a recording to task for that. What choices are made? What are the musical results? To the extent that the recordings might be said to represent modern adaptations, which are successful? What are the approaches to scoring, pitch, articulation, vocal technique, balance, tempo? [Do not try to write about all of these!]


For repertorial comparison:

Johann Ludwig Bach, "Ich will meinen Geist in euch geben" [for 6. Trinitatis, performed by Bach on the same day as BWV 170]

Text [Rudlostadt, 1726]

Recording: Max

"Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir" BWV 38    BC A152, for 21.Trinitatis, first performed 29 October 1724

Text    Translation    On one page    Derivation of the text


Score (BG)   Vocal score   


Recordings: Suzuki or Suzuki    Harnoncourt/Leonhardt    Rilling    Koopman


NBA I/25 Critical Commentary


Original parts    [These are in the Bach-Archiv in Leipzig but unfortunately are not available to us at the moment. We'll work from the descriptions in the NBA Critical Commentary.]

Modern parts: V1    V2    Va    Bc    Ob1    Ob2    Bc    Tbn1    Tbn2    Tbn3    Tbn4    S    A    T    B

1. Overview of BWV 38;  Mvt 3 (T Ob1 Ob2 Bc) 

  1. Study the text of BWV 38, particularly its derivation from the stanzas of the chorale "Aus tiefer Not." How has the chorale been turned into a mixed text libretto? What are the implications for a musical setting?

  2. Examine the first movement, the purest motet setting we have studied. What are its old-fashioned musical features? What are its modern features? What implications for performance are there from musical style and instrumentation?

  3. What do you make of the other movements and their scoring, particularly the trio?

2Bach's 1730 Entwurff and Bach's "choral ideal"; Mvts. 4, 5 (SAB Bc)

  1. Please read Bach's famous "Short but most necessary Draft" on the staffing of Leipzig church music. Note that the translation (from the New Bach Reader) inevitably represents an interpretation of the document's meaning.

        Entwurff (transcription of original text)
        Entwurff (a standard English translation)

  2. There is an extensive literature on this document and the issues it is said to raise about Bach's staffing of his Leipzig church performances. On one side of a curiously heated argument are claims that it describes Bach's choral ideal, and indicates either how he performed concerted church music or how he wished to. On the other are arguments that the essay has been misinterpreted, and that it neither expresses an ideal nor documents the performance of cantatas. The following essay takes the second position; note that it is written in response to claims for the first view, and mentions or summarizes them:

    Joshua Rifkin. Bach’s choral ideal. Dortmund: Klangfarben Musikverlag, 2002. [ML410 .B12 R57]


3. Debates on performance

Several aspects of the performance of Bach's cantatas have been the subject of heated ideological debate.

The first presentation of a new view of vocal scoring Bach's cantata performances led to the publication of several versions of this paper and a response. [These are optional background reading.]

Joshua Rifkin. "Bach's Chorus: A Preliminary Report." Musical Times 123 (1982): 747-754.
Robert L. Marshall. "Bach's Chorus. A Preliminary Reply to Joshua Rifkin." Musical Times 124 (1983): 19-22

Three articles on this and related topics appeared in the same 1996 issue of Early Music. [The first two are optional background reading]

Andrew Parrott. "Bach's chorus: a ‘brief yet highly necessary’ reappraisal." Early Music 24 (1996): 551-582. 

Joshua Rifkin. "From Weimar to Leipzig: Concertists and ripienists in Bach's Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis." Early Music 24 (1996): 583-604. 

Ton Koopman. “Recording Bach’s early cantatas.“ Early Music 24 (1996): 612-617. 

They (particularly the last) spurred the following increasingly testy exchange. [Available in a single file]

Andrew Parrott. “Bach’s chorus. Who cares? (Observation).“ Early Music 25 (1997): 297-300. 

Joshua Rifkin. “Bassoons, violins and voices. A response to Ton Koopman (Observation).“ Early Music 25 (1997), S. 302-307. 

Ton Koopman. “One-to-a-part? Who then turns the pages? – More on Bach’s chorus (Correspondence).“ Early Music 25 (1997): 541f. 

Joshua Rifkin. “Page turns, players and ripieno parts. More questions of scoring on Bach’s vocal music.“ Early Music 25 (1997): 728-734.

Ton Koopman. “Bach’s Choir, an ongoing story.“ Early Music 26 (1998): 109-121.

John Butt. "Bach's vocal scoring: What can it mean?" Early Music 26 (1998): 99-108. 

Joshua Rifkin. “Bach‘s Chorus. A neverending story?” Early Music 26 (1998): 380f.

Christoph Wolff. “Bach’s chorus. Stomach aches may disappear!” Early Music 26 (1998): 540f.

Joshua Rifkin. [Reply to Christoph Wolff]. Early Music 26 (1998): 541f.

Andrew Parrott. “Bach’s Chorus. Beyond reasonable doubt.” Early Music 26 (1998): 637-658.

Christoph Wolff. “Bach’s chorus. An amplification (Correspondence).” Early Music 27 (1999): 172.

Joshua Rifkin. “Bach’s chorus. Not again!” Early Music 27 (1999): 350. 

Please read this exchange and examine it for the kinds of arguments made, the types of evidence brought to bear, and the musical and ideological positions of the various authors. We will discuss some of these points in class.

Written assignment no. 6. Write a short essay (c. 750 words) in which you discuss the various backgrounds and ideological positions from which the authors represented above write. Aside from the specific evidence they cite, how do their backgrounds, points of view and leanings appear to influence their positions? Give some specific examples from the readings.

In this exchange you can follow most of the various threads of argument about Bach's performances, particularly the matter of vocal scoring. Rifkin has tended to argue from the evidence of Bach's performing materials, leading to the conclusion that Bach's parts were designed for use by one singer each; these singers were deployed as concertists and (where parts were provided) ripienists. Others, including Parrott, have emphasized iconographic evidence (drawings of performances) and writings of the time that discuss concertist/ripienist practice.

Arguments against this view and in favor of choral performance have taken several forms. One raises practical questions about the workability of performances with one singer (or sometimes two) on each line, or cites the simplicity of Bach's indication of where additional singers were to join. Another argues that various documents demonstrate that Bach had more singers available (and that he presumably used them); the main source here is the 1730 Entwurff. Recent writings along these lines (almost entirely in German) have enumerated specific students in Leipzig and argue or implied that they (and others) particpated in performances of concerted music. Other writers assert that Bach's ideal was of a chorus of multiple voices on a line, again often citing the Entwurff.

In response, Rifkin in particular has questioned the grounds for claiming to know Bach's ideal, and challenged traditional interpretations of documents like the Entwurff, pointing out that its interpretation (and translation) have typically been done from the assumption of choral performances of cantatas.


4. Mvts. 1, 6; complete run (SATB Ob1 Ob2 Str Bc Tbn1-4)



"Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen" BWV 215  

Text    Translation    In parallel columns

Original text print

Score (BG) [Web version is missing p.261--use this corrected one]        Score (NBA)  <--Warning: 84Mb

    Vocal lines (1, 8, 9) or full score (other mvts.), by movement:        1 (SATB/SATB)      2+3 (T)    4+5 (B)    6+7 (S)    8 (STB)        9 (tutti)

Recordings:    Koopman or Koopman     Rilling    Schreier   

NBA Critical Commentary

Autograph score (D-B Mus. ms. autogr. Bach P 139)                    Bach Digital

Original parts (D-B Mus. mus. autogr. Bach St. 77)

Modern parts [to be distributed on paper]

1. Overview; background; problems    MU205  


1. Study the text of the cantata. Some of it may not make sense, but become familiar with it. How are movements labeled in the original text print?


2. Please read

Stephen A. Crist. "The Question of Parody in Bach's Cantata Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen, BWV 215." In Bach Perspectives 1, ed. Russell Stinson, 135-61. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

The author is most concerned with the possible origin of several movements as parodies of existing compositions, but there is lots of useful background information about the work.


3. Examine the original sources for this work, particularly the original performing parts. How is the material distributed in the vocal parts? What can we tell about the disposition of the basso continuo group? What is in the oboe 1 part, and what do you make of it?

Written assignment no. 7. From your own examination of the autograph score and (especially) the original performing material, write a short essay (c.750 words) in which you propose and argue for the vocal and instrumental staffing of BWV 215 under Bach. Be sure to cover all the instruments and groups, including voices and continuo. Be as concise as you can in explaining why you suggest particular numbers and distribution of singers and players. Base your proposals on the sources and on what you have learned from other pieces we have studied.

2. Mvts. 1 [no trp/tmp], 6, 7
     Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc    MC040 

3. Mvts. 3, 5                             T, B, Ob, Str, Bc                 

4. Mvts. 1, 8, 9                         Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp


Written assignment no. 8

5. Mvts. 2, 4; complete run        Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp    MC040  

6. Complete run                         Voices, Trav, Ob, Str, Bc, Tpt/Tmp    MC040  

Written assignment no. 8

Please write up your thoughts about this course, its organization, its assignments and its conduct. This class has been an experiment and I would be grateful for your reactions to and suggestions about: the choice of repertory (particularly the number of pieces); the balance between classroom work and performance; the balance between source study and reading in secondary literature; the usefulness of particular readings; the appropriateness of particular written assignments; the system of rotation of performing opportunities; mechanical matters (course Web page, resources); matters of organization; the conduct of classes and discussion; and anything else you'd like to comment on.

You are welcome to print this anonymously. This assignment will be collected by a member of the class and held until the semester is over and grades are in--I won't see it until everything is done, in the interest of fairness and in the hope you will feel comfortable writing whatever needs to be said. But it is required!