Er ist der Vater, wir sind die Bub'n: Essays in Honor of Christoph Wolff.
This fine volume of essays, published to mark the seventieth birthday of Christoph Wolff, one of the finest Bach scholars of our time, takes as its title a comment that Mozart reputedly made about Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach to the Thomaskantor Friedrich Doles when he visited Leipzig in the spring of 1789. The source of the quote is Rochlitz--never the most reassuring thought--but it is well chosen, since the volume is not only devoted largely to essays on C.P.E. Bach, a composer whose works have come to occupy a major place in Wolff's recent career, but also which are written in many instances by Wolff's former pupils. The volume is prefaced by an acrostic poem by Lisa DeSiro, and concludes with Robert Levin's characteristically clever Huldigung an Christoph Wolff zum 70. Geburtstag for soprano, trumpet, strings and organ. Employing the pitch classification system developed in France in the nineteenth century, the piece incorporates the names of Christoph and Barbara Wolff in a way that would have doubtless elicited a nod of admiration from C.P.E. Bach himself. Wolff's diligence may indeed have left him little time for minigolf, as the text of the Huldigung suggests, but had he played golf, PG Wodehouse's Oldest Member would have countered, he would have ignored musicology entirely.
Christoph Wolff's pre-eminence as a scholar in both the German-speaking and Anglophone worlds is reflected in the equal division of contributions in both languages. The essays themselves cover a wide variety of topics ranging from source studies and reception to close stylistic examination of individual facets of the composer's work. Individually and as a group, they make a valuable contribution to the expanding field of C.P.E. Bach scholarship.
The first essay, Uwe Wolf's 'C.P.E. Bachs Revisionen am Autograph der h-Moll-Messe seines Vaters und der Hamburger Stimmensatz zum Credo BWV 232II', is fascinating not only on account of the light it sheds on Bach's understanding of his father's music, but also in that it reflects so vividly his own artistic convictions. Through an examination of the changes he made directly on J. S. Bach's autograph score of the B minor Mass and in the parts that were used for a performance of the work in Hamburg in April 1786, Wolf helps to clarify a number of significant textual problems, unpicking the revision process which began in all probability in the first half of the 1760s, and he discusses in detail the various critical sources and their characteristic changes. Wolf's essay is followed by 'Das Verandern ... ist ... unentbehrlich: Variation as Invention in C.P.E. Bach's Keyboard Music' by Darrel M. Berg. Berg's study examines two important ways in which Bach employs variation in his keyboard works, initially, in his earlier works, using variation as a means of stimulating his invention (this is frequently evident in the way in which a head-motive is used to generate themes for other movements) and in his later career, exploring variable parameters to infuse energy, vigour and seriousness into his works. His rondos, Berg concludes, are not nascent Classical sonata forms but represent a new genre that has grown out of Bach's propensity for variation.
This idea of variation is also taken up in Laura Buch's 'Considering the Alternative: the Principle of Improvisation in C.P.E. Bach's Trios'. For Bach, improvisation (Fantasiren) was the surest means for judging a musician's skills as a performer or a composer's intrinsic talent for composition. Naturally this finds expression in his trios not just through the obvious means of embellishment, variation and revision, but also through arrangement. This fluidity of approach suggests that Bach resisted the notion of a finished work, preferring instead, in Buch's view, to view it as a 'framework for alternatives'. Of particular interest is the notion of decoration through expansion of scoring even when the added part is clearly subordinate to the growing virtuosity of the keyboard part.
Ulrich Leisinger's 'Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach und die musikalische Deklamation' introduces a sequence of six essays on various aspects of Bach's vocal music. Leisinger focuses on musical declamation in Bach's text settings, which, like his instrumental music, places him in an area of transition between the high Baroque language of his father and the 'modern' style of the rising generation. He considers the relative lengths of settings and the relationship of beats to syllables, noting a general compression of style in the later works. Leisinger also draws attention to the close correlation between Bach's text settings and Johann Jacob Schuback's theories of declamation published in his Von der musikalischen Deklamation (1775). It is likely that the two men were acquainted and probable that Schuback, a Hamburg official, knew Bach's music. Whether Bach was influenced by Schuback's theories is unclear (he does not appear to have owned a copy of his book) but Schuback nonetheless provides a useful analytical tool, complete with terminology, for examining vocal music of the period.
Peter Wollny's 'C.P.E. Bach, Georg Philipp Telemann und die Osterkantate "Gott hat den Herrn auferweckt" Wq 244', demonstrates in its richness of detail how the scrupulous study of extant documentation connected with an individual work can uncover significant biographical information. Bach's Easter Cantata of 1756 occupies a particularly interesting place in Bach's oeuvre since it was the first work of its kind he had composed since embarking on his professional career. Wollny discusses the work's sources as well as throwing valuable light on the author of its libretto, Hof-Prediger Cochius, who was also an avid collector of music. A similar if somewhat broader approach is seen in Paul Corneilson's essay 'C.PE. Bach's Evangelist, Johann Heinrich Michel' which uses the music Bach composed for Michel (who was also his principal copyist) as a means of establishing a profile of the singer's voice and how Bach used him as a soloist. He includes an extensive list of works covering the period 1768 to 1789 in which Michel sang, providing details of the vocal range and relevant documentation. The tenor Michel is particularly interesting because he sang the role of the Evangelist in the majority of the passion performances Bach directed in Hamburg, which typically incorporated a good deal of music by his father and Telemann. Corneilson draws attention to the way in which Bach accommodates Michel's voice in the recitative leading up to the borrowed turba chorus 'Lass ihn kreuzigen' from J. S. Bach's Matthaus-Passion by comparing it with the original setting. The value in this type of work, Corneilson argues, is not just that it tells us a good deal about liturgical practice in Hamburg in the late eighteenth century, but in that it also shows us how Bach made the most of a less-than-ideal musical situation. The essay that follows, Jason B. Grant's 'Representations of the City of Hamburg in the Occasional Choral Works of Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach', extends the idea of exploring the significance of place in Bach's works. He not only considers Hamburg as a larger entity but also identifies specific sites in the city and, more surprisingly, the way in which representations of it in both heavenly and earthly terms are juxtaposed. Grant asserts that the occasional works discussed in his essay provide a tantalizing insight into Bach's activities as a director of music in a city whose glory days were past but not yet forgotten.
Wolfram Ensslin and Tobias Rimek ('Der Choral bei Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach und das Problem der Zuschreibung') discuss a strangely neglected area of Bach scholarship: his use of the chorale. As our knowledge of the eighteenth-century repertory has expanded through the discovery of new sources--among them, the music archive of the Sing-Akademie--it has become possible to identify the origin of many chorale settings in Bach's sacred works. Much of the music he directed in Hamburg consisted of pastiches, with movements borrowed freely from the works inter alia Telemann, G. A. Benda, Homilius, C. H. Graun and J. S. Bach. While it is clear that the chorale did not occupy the same place of importance in C.PE. Bach's musical thinking as it did in his father's, he nonetheless composed a substantial number of chorales which can be found in regional song books. Ensslin and Rimek helpfully include two tables that identify all of the chorale settings in Bach's works and their authorship.
The reception of Bach's vocal music in Vienna is the subject of the following essay, Christine Blanken's 'Aspekte der Bach-Rezeption: Vokalwerke C.P.E. Bachs in Wien und Alt-Osterreich'. North German (Protestant) vocal music was rarely performed in eighteenth-century Austria. So dogmatic was the position of the Catholic Church that not even Haydn, a man of unshakable devotion to the Church, was given permission for Die Schopfung to be performed in church since it clearly belonged to an alien tradition. As such, there were extremely limited opportunities for performing oratorios in Vienna until the nine-teeth century and the majority of these came about as a result of personal enthusiasm and private money. Nonetheless, Blanken discusses four performances of major works by C.P.E. Bach (including a 1777 performance of Die Israeliten in der Wuste which was directed by Gluck) which shows that his works were known, albeit in a limited fashion, and admired in Vienna. Unsurprisingly, one of Bach's staunchest champions was the redoubtable Baron Van Swieten whose fascination with oratorio was to bear such magnificent fruit in the last years of the century.
One of the most tantalizing aspects of scholarship is the way in which things can turn up in the most unexpected places. Mark Knoll recounts the extraordinary story of the discovery of J. S. Bach's Bible in Frankenmuth, Michigan in 1934 ('Leonard Reichle and J. S. Bach's Bible in Frankenmuth, Michigan') in the final essay in the volume, correcting a number of significant inaccuracies found in published accounts through his meticulous examination of contemporary documents and legal records. It is a fascinating account and one that surely evokes in every scholar the sense that there is still so much left to discover.
The one omission in this otherwise excellent volume of essays is a bibliography of Christoph's Wolff's complete writings.
University of Auckland