Archive for the 'Repertoire' Category

In Another Guise: Recycling and Borrowing in J. S. Bach’s Works

By Dr. Uwe Wolf, Chief Editor of Carus Verlag

It may seem surprising that Johann Sebastian Bach’s oratorios and masses are based to a large extent on parody, and that they were originally composed to a quite different text. This does not, however, diminish the fascination which they exert. Of course, when the timpani notes we are all so familiar with from the Christmas Oratorio are suddenly followed by the choir singing “Tönet, ihr Pauken,” this is a revelatory moment. And despite that, for us, each timpani beat is closely associated with the Christmas acclamation “Jauchzet, frohlocket” – not only because we’ve always known it like that, but also because, freed from that all-too-obvious link to the emphatic “hammering” invitation, it perhaps even gains something in artistic value.

A musical journey which explores the precursors of famous major works is exciting and illuminating. Bach’s masses re-use many sections from his own sacred vocal works – the so-called “Lutheran masses” BWV 233–236 (see Carus 31.233, 31.234, 31.235, 31.236) contains musical borrowings from several of his cantatas, as does Bach’s “opus ultimum,” the Mass in B minor. Bach’s Lutheran masses are performed rather infrequently, so parts of them are perhaps better known today in their original cantata form than in the transformed guise as a movement in a mass. But it is quite the opposite with the Mass in B minor. While this is one of Bach’s most frequently-performed works, many of its precursors now lead rather a shadowy existence. Here, Bach’s choice of material for reuse in the Mass in B minor can be regarded as a guide to finding that which is very special in the wealth of his cantatas. Indeed, it has long been assumed that in his opus ultimum Bach combined the best of his church music and may have also wanted to place it in a larger, more universal context. There are borrowings or parallel arrangements from BWV 11 (Agnus Dei), BWV 12 (Crucifixus), BWV 29 (Gratias), BWV 46 (Qui tollis), BWV 120 (Et expecto), BWV 171 (Patrem omnipotentem), and BWV 215 (Osanna). Audiences will prick up their ears at well-known movements in another guise heard in concerts, as will choral singers at the first rehearsals!

As well as these borrowings from the cantatas, in his Mass in B minor Bach used part of previously existing music from his Missa of 1733 and the splendid Sanctus of 1724 (the Carus CD of the Mass in B minor contains a recording of this version of the Sanctus, which differs in many details). Before Bach turned the Missa of 1733 into the first part of the Mass in B minor in 1748, he made use of it in another Latin Christmas music setting at the beginning of the 1740s: the magnificent and far too seldom heard Cantata Gloria in excelsis Deo BWV 191 with a direct borrowing and two Latin parodies of movements from the Gloria of the Mass in B minor.

Bach’s parody practice not only draws our attention to the special treasures amongst his output of cantatas, but also serves as a means of enabling missing compositions to be recreated. In the process we can take advantage of the fact that Bach took pains to adapt parody texts to fit his existing compositions – and in Christian Friedrich Henrici, alias Picander (1700–1764) he found a master at this art of writing poetry. As these parody texts had to match the original exactly in terms of meter and structure, we can perhaps now identify which piece of music was used as a basis from the meter of the poem. There are now all sorts of theories and speculations about this, but a whole series of clear parody relationships can be established beyond reasonable doubt.

Bach’s missing compositions which can be partially reconstructed in this way include his St. Mark Passion. Only the text survives of the Passion itself, but straight away several movements display such a similarity to movements in the Funeral ode BWV 198, that it is almost beyond doubt that the corresponding movements are based on that model. Two further movements can be reconstructed from other cantatas and for the (numerous) chorales, movements in Bach’s oeuvre can similarly be found. But the Passion story – the heart of the Passion – is missing, and cannot be reconstructed. Here, too, it is worth looking at the models. The Funeral ode survives complete and is one of J.S. Bach’s most outstanding vocal works, not only in the quality of the individual movements, but as a complete whole per se, including the exquisitely scored accompagnati which were not incorporated into the Passion. It is one of his most richly colored and impressive compositions of all, characterized by the sound of gambas and lutes, as well as the woodwinds, especially the flutes – up to the death knell in the flutes and pizzicato strings in the alto accompagnato. And scarcely any other cantata serves up three such magnificent and varied choral movements: the opening tombeau in dotted rhythms, a large choral fugue in the middle, and the unique, dance-like final chorus with its constantly surprising choral unisons. The text by Johann Christoph Gottsched on the death of the Electress Christiane Eberhardine is not really suitable for church services, but it is on another literary level from some of the birthday cantatas and is suitable for concert performance at any time. Thus here is a plea for a revival of the precursors!

Dr. Uwe Wolf has been Chief Editor of Carus since October 2011. Before that he researched the music of Bach for over 20 years. Thanks to his work as Editorial Director of the Selected Works, Gottfried August Homilius is no longer a neglected composer.

Ralph Vaughan Williams: Preserving the Publishing Legacy

By Simon Wright, Head of Rights and Contracts at Oxford University Press in the Sheet Music department

For any classical music publisher working up until the middle years of the twentieth century, and even later in many cases, paper was the primary means of dissemination for the sheet music and scores. Digital, and even photocopying, were still far ahead on the horizon, and making copies of anything required manual labour and pen and ink. All composers would write their compositions out by hand on music manuscript paper (the “autograph manuscript”); copies required for the first and other early performances would be copied out by music copyists, again on manuscript paper; a music engraver would work either from the autograph manuscript or from a marked-up copyist’s score to produce the plates required for printing; proofs would be produced, run off from the plates; and finally, after any corrections had been made, paper copies would be printed and bound, for sale or for hire. If the composition involved an orchestra the separate orchestral parts required for individual players would also be copied out, by hand, and in many cases later engraved and printed.

Much of the material produced for these processing purposes was regarded as ephemeral (the copyists’ scores, the proofs), but where it survives the items collectively will often shed fascinating light on the story of the music’s composition and the early performances—how a particular work journeyed from the mind and imagination of the composer into the hands of players for a live performance, and something of the individuals that enabled that to happen (the editors, the conductor, the performers). There is a “geological layer” aspect to much publishing ephemera, stories quietly sitting and awaiting discovery and telling.

Ralph Vaughan Williams
Ralph Vaughan Williams

Ralph Vaughan Williams was one of the most celebrated British composers of the twentieth century, and Oxford University Press was his principal music publisher from 1925 until his death in 1958. For Vaughan Williams, OUP published six of his nine symphonies, choral and instrumental works, hymns, carols, operas, and ballet—all of this music was initially made available using the processes described. After Vaughan Williams’s death, much of the surviving archival material was retained by OUP and held in storage.

In October 2022, as musicians across the world mark the 150th anniversary of the composer’s birth, these materials are to be moved to the British Library, where they will join the Library’s existing world-class collection of Vaughan Williams autograph manuscripts, papers, letters, photographs, and other materials—the most comprehensive collection relating to this composer in the world.

The OUP donation covers approximately 60 items, each one of these demonstrating some part of the publication process. Here, we explore a selection of the items, each telling a story from Vaughan Williams’s musical career.

A “copyist’s copy” of the full score of “Symphony No. 4” (1934) has evidently passed through many hands: the composer’s (a sheet of his Dorking headed notepaper, with the title written in his hand, is used as a label on the cover, and his amendments are visible throughout the score); various conductors (performance markings, often in coloured crayon, are self-evident); the publisher (markings show the “plan” and pagination for the engraved and printed edition); and the engraver (queries for the publisher or composer are raised in pencilled notes). Furthermore, cuts and changes to the musical notation are shown, probably agreed between the conductor and the composer during the initial rehearsals.
A surviving manuscript score of the piano reduction of the ballet “Job: A Masque for Dancing” (1930) shows hurriedly made cuts and changes, made during rehearsals—these amendments subsequently found their way into the matching full score and orchestral parts.
The smaller “Romance for Harmonica and String Orchestra”, written for Larry Adler in 1951, tells its story through a hand-copied piano reduction replete with pasted-over correction slips in the hand of Vaughan Williams (what lies beneath these paste-overs?).
This note, by Vaughan Williams and in his handwriting, is found pasted inside the cover of the pre-publication copyist’s full score of “Five Variants of ‘Dives and Lazarus’”, a work written for the 1939 New York World’s Fair (this score was also used by the conductor Adrian Boult at the first performance, in Carnegie Hall). The note, which explains both the provenance of the folk tune “Dives and Lazarus” and its use in this piece, and also the unusual “divisi” of violas and cellos required, was eventually transcribed and printed verbatim in the published full score (1940)—this paste-in is its original source.
The OUP donation includes the full score (in five volumes) of the opera (“Morality”, as the composer preferred to call it) “The Pilgrim’s Progress” (1951) used at the Covent Garden first performances, and then by Sir Adrian Boult for his 1971 EMI recording (a surviving tape from the recording sessions reveals Boult’s annoyance that the scores did not lie flat—and they still don’t).

Still photos taken by J. Black © Oxford University Press

John Williams: 90 Years – And Counting

On this, his 90th birthday, we’d posit that there is no living composer who has managed to be simultaneously so well-known, well-respected and well-loved than John Williams. We know his grand era- and genre-defining oeuvre like the backs of our hands: Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, E.T., Indiana Jones — and the list goes on and on.

The broader public will recognize Williams pieces for their ingenious hooks, fearless displays of the widest range of human emotion, and instantaneous connection to the moving images they bring to life. Musicians, meanwhile, will simply enjoy playing his beautiful melodies and deeply satisfying orchestrations that feel undeniably natural.

None of this, of course, needs any introduction — and sometimes that’s the fun of it. Especially in times like these where our society seems to become more intensely divided with each passing day, a cultural touchpoint of pure joy that we all hold dear and that we can all relate to might be exactly what we need.

The John Williams Signature Edition series remains the gold standard in Williams scores. These spiral-bound, fully-engraved conductor’s scores come directly from the Williams originals and contain anecdotes written and signed by Williams himself that tell us, for example, which scene that he scored was his favorite, how the actors who worked on his legendary films helped to inspire his music, and his own personal connections to the characters those actors brought to life. Whether for orchestra or concert band, these editions have become cornerstones of the popular repertoire of premier ensembles across the country, and with Baby Yoda of The Mandalorian capturing the hearts of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, that looks to be true for years to come.

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our Annual Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas .

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, as special guest Mary McDonald shares thoughts on her featured pieces plus the upcoming fall/Christmas singing season.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark previews new music from Jubilate Music Group for Thanksgiving, Advent & Christmas from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Mark Hayes, Hal Hopson, and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

Emerging from Our Caves

Guest post by composer Robert Sterling

I’ve often said that if I were to compare myself to an animal it would be a bear. A Grizzly, to be more specific. Grizzlies eat half the year and sleep the remaining half. And they spend a lot of time in a cave. They are okay being alone. That describes the life of the composer/arranger in a lot of ways, actually.

I work in a cave – a very nice cave, mind you. I have high-speed internet, quality studio gear, central heat & air, and a bathroom and kitchen very nearby. But it’s still essentially a cave. And when I’m not working, all too often I am either eating or sleeping. Oh, and I growl a lot, but that’s more about my personality. All in all, I’m okay in my cave.

But for the past eighteen months or so, the whole world has been in a cave, isolated from our fellow bears (I mean human beings) except for Netflix, Prime Video, and Zoom. That is not normal for the vast majority of people. Now, we are slowly emerging to see if the world outside has changed much, and if so, how.

Continue reading ‘Emerging from Our Caves’

Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!

Guest post by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, editors of Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Our 5 anthologies contain the 100 pieces that pianists should learn to play. In the 5 companion Study Guides for each piece. Problems are IDENTIFIED and problems are SOLVED.                                                             

Continue reading ‘Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!’

Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny

Guest post by Christian A. Pohl, Professor of Piano and Piano Methodology, Head of Piano Department, University of Music and Theatre ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’ Leipzig 

The start of the nineteenth century saw a seismic shift in the world of domestic keyboard playing as the piano rapidly displaced the harpsichord and clavichord as the instrument of choice in homes across Europe. Seizing on this new opportunity, a series of piano instruction methods were swiftly published, followed by methods and studies over subsequent generations that covered the rudiments of piano playing, technique and performance practice. A huge number of these studies are represented in the Edition Peters Piano Catalogue.

Major names in the field of piano pedagogy were quickly established – including Beyer, Burgmüller, Hanon and Clementi – but it was one who followed behind them that arguably defined the shape of piano pedagogy for generations to come. Indeed, even today – nearly 200 years after this educational “meteorite” first struck the German-speaking piano world – the waves of his impact are still being felt. There is no getting around Carl Czerny when it comes to pianistic exercises or didactic approaches to building a virtuoso pianist.

Carl Czerny
Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny’

Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”

Between 1772 and 1795, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy divided and annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth amongst themselves in a series of three partitions.

Though one of the largest and most populous countries in 16th– and 17th-century Europe, decades of protracted political, military and economic decline led the country to the brink of civil war, made it vulnerable to foreign influences, and ultimately rendered it unable to withstand the onslaught brought by the encroaching powers, even in spite of a revolutionary new constitution, a war in its defense and an uprising led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko. (As a side note, Kosciuszko was also a decorated hero of the American Revolutionary War and an accomplished military architect who designed and oversaw the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point.)

Continue reading ‘Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”’

A Little Jazz Piano: Exploring the Building Blocks of Music with Bob Chilcott

Bob Chilcott
(Photo: John Bellars)

You know him as one of the world’s preeminent choral composers and conductors, as well as a former member of the King’s Singers, but like so many of us, even Bob Chilcott was forced to put down his baton this year and find other ways to make music.

Chilcott focused his musical attention on teaching piano and theory to his eleven-year-old daughter, Becky, and her friend, and ended up also writing a set of three short jazz-style pieces for the piano to help show his students and other early intermediate learners explore the technical building blocks of music and develop their musical instincts in a way that would also be fun.

The results, A Little Jazz Piano, is a short piano suite featuring Chilcott’s celebrated jazz style in three movements: “Bobbing along,” “Becky’s Song” and “Walking with Ollie.”

Watch Chilcott play excerpts of the suite here:  

VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival

On December 5, 2020, as part of its LIVE From London – Christmas online festival, British choral ensemble VOCES8 premiered six new pieces by composers Jocelyn Hagen, Taylor Scott Davis, Ken Burton, Roderick Williams, Paul Smith and Melissa Dunphy.

The 6 New Commissions

Now Winter Nights

Roderick Williams
SSAATTBB

Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.

Continue reading ‘VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival’

About Take Note:

Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

Shop at:

Sheet Music Plus

FREE Newsletter:

Get exclusive discounts and coupons
Sign Up Today →

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 456 other subscribers

Twitter Updates


%d bloggers like this: