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On-line Book Review

YO TOMITA

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
measuring 23.5 x 16 cm
TITLE Bach's Modal Chorales by Lori Burns
PUBL. DETAILS Stuyvesant: Pendragon, 1995. x, 249p. US$54.
ISBN ISBN 0-945193-74-2
TO ORDER Pendragon Press, PO Box 190, 52 White Hill Lane, Hillsdale, NY 12529, USA.
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION Presenting the original theory of modality in Bach’s chorales through a detailed examination of various issues concerning our traditional analytical approaches
WORKS COVERED BWV 4, 10, 33, 38, 73, 65, 77, 91, 145, 153, 161, 227, 245, 259, 261, 265, 277, 293, 298, 314, 370, 382, 437.
READERSHIP Scholars and serious students working on Bach's chorales and his use of modes.
RESEARCH 
CONTRIBUTION
Presentation of her own theory on Bach’s treatment of modes, shedding new light into our better understanding of Bach’s ingenious treatment; reassessment of our traditional methods of analysis

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
measuring 24.5 x 17.5 cm
TITLE Der Choralsatz bei Bach und seinen Zeitgenossen. Eine historische Satzlehre von Thomas Daniel.
PUBL. DETAILS Köln: Verlag Dohr, 2000. 412p. DM78.
ISBN ISBN 3-925366-71-1
TO ORDER Verlag Christoph Dohr Köln, Kasselberger Weg 120, 50769 Köln-Rheinkassel, Germany
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION Comprehensive discussion of Bach’s chorales, dealing with the issues relating to the form, musical language, Bach’s compositional methods and techniques from historical perspectives.
WORKS COVERED BWV 2-11, 13-4, 16-20, 25-8, 30-33, 36-45, 47-8, 52, 55-7, 59-60, 64-67, 69a, 70, 72-4, 77-8, 81, 83, 85-97, 99, 101-4, 108, 110-7, 119-22, 124-8, 130, 133, 135, 139-40, 144-6, 149, 151, 153-9, 161-2, 164-6, 168-9, 171-2, 174, 176-80, 183-5, 187-8, 190, 194, 197, 226-7, 229, 244-5, 248, 250-3, 253-438, 1089.
READERSHIP Scholars and serious students working on Bach's chorales.
RESEARCH 
CONTRIBUTION
Encyclopaedic coverage of issues surrounding the discussion of the genre.

Bach’s four-part chorales were principally written as movements for Cantatas and Passions. While they have strong roots in the liturgical tradition initiated by Martin Luther, they matured in Bach’s hands as a musical genre. It was also Bach who found a different role for them: with them to teach his students ‘composition’. It perhaps never occurred to him that they might become so invaluable in teaching harmony that he could later earn the nickname ‘the greatest harmonist of all times and nations’ (J. F. Reichardt, 1781). For this we owe much to the strenuous effort of Carl Philipp Emanuel who systematically collected and published them. (The 1st edition appeared in 1765, which is followed by the second, corrected edition in 1784–87). While much of his vocal works were forgotten, Bach chorales found a new role in the history of Western music, contributing to the establishment of the theory and practice of harmony in the late eighteenth century and beyond. Two books reviewed here are possibly the most serious studies on Bach’s chorales we have seen in recent years.
Lori Burns’ Bach’s Modal Chorales is based on her PhD dissertation J. S. Bach's Chorale Harmonizations of Modal Cantus Firmi (Harvard University, 1991). In it she critically examines Bach’s settings of modal chorales and cantus firmi, identifies problems with our conventional approaches of using tonal theories, and presents her original theory of modality. In exploring this theoretical path, she extends the Schenkerian methods of music analysis and examines each mode, while resorting to a very wide range of literatures (from Zarlino, Walther, Kirnberger to the modern ones including Schenker, Dahlhaus and Neumeyer) to arrive at her own conclusion.
 
Contents in brief
Chapter 1  Introduction: The Interpretation of Modal Chorales
Chapter 2  An Original Analytic Model for Bach’s Phrygian and Mixolydian Chorales
Chapter 3  Bach’s Chorale Harmonzations of Phygian and Mixolydian Cantus Firmi
Chapter 4  An Original Analytic Model for Bach’s Dorian and Aeolian Chorales
Chapter 5  Bach’s Chorale Harmonizations of Dorian and Aeolian Cantus Firmi
Appendix 1  Modal Cadence Systems in Historical Theory
Appendix 2  Dorian, Phrygian, Mixolydian and Aeolian Cantus Firmi, as Classified by 17th- and 18th-century Theorists
Appendix 3  Index to the Chorale Examples
Appendix 4  Representative Modal Chorales by Bach
Appendix 5  Texts and Translations for Cantatas 38, 77, and 91
Bibliography
Index of Names
 
powerful contribution to the analysis of Bach's chorales

It is by no means the analysis of all the chorales composed by Bach; rather Burns selects a small number of (but apparently carefully selected) examples for the purpose of demonstrating her above-mentioned aims. So if your aim is to consult a particular chorale in this book, then you may well be disappointed; the index (Appendix 3) lists only those appearing as music examples and no proper index of chorales discussed is provided. Yet it is a little unfair to expect something that is not compatible with the original aims set by the author. Her discussion of various modes is logical and digestible, and although the concept of the topic and the depth of discussion she unfolds may be a daunting task to follow if you are not familiar with this kind of analysis, it is assuring that through her discussion she finds the rich variety of Bach’s modal cantus firmus treatment--a common conclusion in any analytical studies in Bach’s music. It has to be said that as an analyst she is unusually well informed in the literatures of both sources and music analysis, which adds much authoritative air in her tone of discussion.

Thomas Daniel’s Der Choralsatz bei Bach und seinen Zeitgenossen is a totally different kind of book to discuss Bach’s chorales the one reviewed above: it attempts to cover comprehensively the issues relating to Bach’s compositional methods and techniques from a wider historical perspective, thus lacking both the kind of originality and the sharp focus on a particular issue that Burns have so powerfully demonstrated in her book. A clear benefit from Daniel’s approach is the encyclopaedic coverage of issues one can think of in discussing Bach’s chorales, e.g. cadences, voicing, texture, harmony, melody and modes. In fact, his discussion is much more thorough, detailed and systematic than one could normally expect, which is clearly reflected in the structure of the book:
 

Contents in brief
Systematische Grundlagen
   Ton- und Tonartensystematik; Harmoniesysteme
 
Satztechnik
   Stimmen- und Klangverhältnisse; Parallelen; Dissonanzen
 
Zeilengestaltung
   Kadenzen und andere Schlüsse; Anfänge; Linienführung; Harmonik; Zur Methodik
 
Studien und Analysen
   Zun Wort-Ton-Verhältnis; Zur Echtheit Bach zugeschriebener Choralsätze; Analysen 
 
Verzeichnisse
   
a comprehensive reference book on Bach's chorales

In many respects, this book will serve as a excellent reference for Bach’s chorales even though not all the chorals were discussed. It uses numerous music examples, and further references and cross-references are amply provided in footnotes. Index is also very comprehensive; it allows you to find the chorales from both the beginning of the chorale text and BWV number. English readers should note that there is no reference to the commonly known edition by Riemenschneider: the letter “R” in Daniel’s book refers to the edition by B. F. Richter (Leipzig 1898).
 

Published online on 31 July 2000

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