Wednesday, January 31, 2007

performance practice

There is in recent scholarship a great concern with authenticity in performance practice.
Some of the most changes have been made to the way in which we perform Bach’s works. The performance ensembles have been trimmed down from the over-grown Romantic orchestras that were performing this music in the early part of the twentieth century to a smaller, more authentic, lithe ensemble.
There is quite a bit of contention over Bach’s greater works, we will specifically look at his B minor mass. First we have analysis of Bach’s original intentions based upon the number of parts copied for the first performance. This concludes that the pieces were performed with one vocalist using each score, and we can from this determine the number of performers singing at the original performance.
Bach drew his choirs from his pupils at St. Thomas, in his Entwurff , or ‘draft’ he lists all his students and their abilities. He concludes that he has only 17 students suitable for his Cantatas, (Rifkin 750) two of whom would have conducting responsibilities as prefects, there were always a number of boys who had to play instruments to fill out the orchestra, and of course someone was always sick or out of town. This would leave they choir with about two boys for each part. This was not unusual as the term choir at this point was frequently used to refer to a group of soloists. From the number of copies of the B minor Mass and the manner in which the parts split off for soloists, Rifkin concludes that there were probably meant to be sung by soloists “When pitted against an ensemble of the proper size and proper instruments”, not by 12 voices as others had concluded as this would create “a grotesque imbalance between the upper and lower voices.” (Rifkin 754).
A different conclusion was drawn by another as to the original number of performers. His conclusions are based not on the number of original performance scores, rather from the Entwurff. He says that there are normally two or three to a part, but “it would be better if there were four singers to a part.” (Marshall 21). We have here a distinct discrepancy between the number of singers available, and the number of singers desirable. The argument continues that it is preposterous to think that only one performer sang from each part written out. There was barely time to copy the desired articulation into the score, let alone more complete copies than absolutely necessary. We must conclude that more than one performer used each score.
When one steps back from these articles for a moment, one realizes that the difference between two people on each part, versus three or four makes what appears to be quite a small difference in the overall texture of the piece. If the B minor mass was indeed performed with soloists all the way through however, there would be a noticeable difference. The question is of course how should we take this into account for performances today.
I ultimately enjoy both perfomances by large choirs and soloists equally. I think that both can be masterfully done, and give good musical interpretation to the piece. This is what matters the most in performance, good musicality. This good musicality is derived from the decisions of the directors, and one condition that should come into consideration is the authenticity. One should not perform a piece in a certain fashion merely because this is how it has been performed as long as we have had recordings to allow us to document how past performances were done. We frequently make the mistake of assuming that the way in which our earliest recordings were executed are the culmination of years of ‘good’ and unchanged performance practice. This of course can in no way be the case. As such it is important to research and consider what were the composer’s original intentions when creating a piece.
The danger that this research leads to is the idea of infallibility in the composer’s intentions, and of course, misunderstanding the composer’s circumstances for his intentions. It is important to take into consideration the original circumstances of the performance, but one must make good musical decisions from this and other factors. While I enjoy listening to the solo recording, as a performer I feel that I would prefer to be part of a larger performance. The B minor mass is a tremendous work with instrument-like vocal lines that pose trouble for individual phrasing, not to mention the danger of fatigue. Therefore the decision to use soloists must be based upon the performers that one has. One must also take into consideration the type of sound they desire for the performance: perhaps one wants the lithe sound of soloists and a small orchestra, or perhaps one wants the grand sound of a larger choir and orchestra. Ultimately this is all research that ought to be done, as it leads to better informed performances, but authenticity does not guarantee a good performance, careful consideration and musicality does.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007


I'm not allowed to agree with him...but man, what a badass...
I mean who else can get away with stating that Jazz is a static uninteresing form of music who's players are compared to castrati?
eunich like sound?
and watch out success (like in indie rock) is emasculating...

um more on this later?

Saturday, January 20, 2007

The Wiii!!!

so that video game is amazing! I'm not so much about the boxing, but I"m totally about the tennis and such. My friend C got it for Christmas and we were there for Grillbeast and a bad movie so we played.
The bad movie was about a future dystopia in 1994 where a music agency owns the world. Except wait! there are layers....LAYERS! It's called The apple and it's an there are two singers Bibi and Alfy who sing about love, but then Mr. Bugaloo rigs a contest so his contestants win. He then tempts Bibi into signing on his label. In case the drug usage and story wasn't clear enough there is then a huge dance scene with his yes man dressed as a snake and they've given her a huge apple. anyhow we concluded that the entire movie was about that how it's spelled? Rufies? because for the longest time I thought it was Ruthies and then listened closer.
Anyhow it was an allegory for Adam and Eve in case you had not caught that from my description.

Die Fledermaus!
What a fun opera. I mean completely goofy, to the point where I thought that the singing was a bit uneven, but kind of what I was in the mood for on Tuesday night. fun elaborate sets, lots of hamming on the set. Excellent spoken German (from my limited first year German this is what I surmised)
so I suppose that is all I shall leave you with today

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Dear all
I am in New York city.
I have been rehersing Bach's St Matthew's passion like crazy.
I am super busy and tired.
I canceled going to dinner with my voice teacher, I think this made him very sad.
Feeling guilty about this.
The singing rocks though
Hopefully won't ruin voice for suncay audition.
Better post I promise laters

Thursday, January 04, 2007


so looking at the bridge of my cello is like a string player horrer flick. The bridge is warped beyond any's quite warped. It is currently sitting under some books, I'm hoping it can be reasonable persuaded to comply, otherwise Ima have to try this crazy boil bake technique I've heard about.
In other sad news when I took off my bridge the sound post fell.
My cello is having some serious issues. I guess that's what I get for not playing it for over a year. (give me a break I've been very busy, it is difficult to study two instruments in a serious capacity)
Anyhow I'm playing in the middle east ensemble, hopefully I'll be able to stick with it, because it is challengeing in all the cool exciting ways with out the mean pressure of being in a bigger orchestra.

Monday, January 01, 2007

lies, and the met

so the whole posting more because I'm on vacation thing turned out to be a big fat lie.
How 'bout that.
I just don't want to bore people with "I ate a lot of cheese today"

I can tell you about a few things though:

I listened but did not go to the met broadcast. did not go to a broadcast embly what ever do you mean?
well for those of you not in the loop Peter Gelb the new artistic (correct me if I'm wrong) director at the Metropolitan Opera has been looking for ways to create a larger "fan base" if you will for the opera, thusly he has decided to broadcast productions live, not merely to NPR listeners, but in High Definition to a movie theater near you! (look I fixed the whole Html thing, I've surprised myself twice in the last 24 hours in my ability to manipulate Html, of which I know nothing) So the broadcast on Saturday was of the magic flute, a special shortened English language version. It was a lot of fun to listen to! It brought me back to listening to classical kids as, well a kid! Except in classical kids they become friends with the scary serpent monster from the opening scene and he then provides comic relief for the rest of the story "oh bats! bats! I hate bats! They get in my hair!" "Ummm you don't have any hair" Hilarious!!!!
Anyhow it was fun, it was a little strange to hear it in English. I can not say anything to the HD success because I did not go, but I think that I shall try to go sometime with my friends, I think there are 3 people I can convince!

Now for a bit of personal info:
I am entering a really crazy couple of weeks, I'm flying really early out to Chicago tomorrow for the first week of classes. I then return to the east coast to spend a week in NYC where I'm singing in a workshop (paid!) and I have (hopefully) two auditions. It is all tremendously exciting and also crazy, it makes me want to not do it almost just thinking about it.
But I shall and I shall triumph!