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On-line Book Review



Dimension: 22 x 14.4 x 1.6 cm


Performance Practice of the Instrumental-Vocal Works of Johann Sebastian Bach by Karl Hochreither, translated by Melvin Unger.

PUBL. DETAILS Lanham, Md. & London: Scarecrow Press, Inc. (2002) xiii+217p. Hardback. US$59.50
ISBN 0-8108-4258-0
TO ORDER Scarecrow Press, Inc. 4720 Boston Way, Lenham, Maryland 10706, USA
DESCRIPTION A revised edition in English of Zur Aufführungspraxis der Vokal-Instrumentalwerke Johann Sebastian Bachs (1983), a monograph systematically discussing the performance-practice issues of Bach's works.
WORKS COVERED BWV 2-4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14-6, 18, 21, 23, 24-5, 27-30, 33-5, 38, 40-2, 44, 46, 48-53, 55, 60-3, 65-8, 70-1, 73, 76-80, 82, 85, 89, 91, 93, 95-6, 100, 103, 106, 109-10, 115, 117-118, 121, 124, 127-8, 130-7, 139-44, 146, 153-4, 160-1, 167, 170, 172-3, 175, 177, 179, 180-85, 189, 191, 193-4, 198-200, 202-3, 208, 210, 213, 215, 232, 233, 236, 243, 244-245, 248-249, 528, 599-650, 715, 722, 726, 729, 1033, 1046, 1047, 1066, 1069, 1080.
READERSHIP Scholars working on the historical performance practice; serious performers and students
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION Systematic discussion of historical issues relating with the performance practice of Bach's vocal works.

ince its publication in 1983, Hochreither’s Zur Aufführungspraxis der Vokal-Instrumentalwerke Johann Sebastian Bachs (its review can be read by clicking here) has been widely known as the best and perhaps the only monograph that discusses systematically and at the same time concisely from a performer’s perspective the issues of performance practice of Bach’s vocal and instrumental music.
Nearly twenty years have passed, but it is still considered as an invaluable guidebook with full of useful references, both historical documents and the reference editions, often giving the facsimile images as examples. So what are new in this English edition?
Contents in brief
I Continuo Practice

The Thoroughbass Instruments; The Continuo Instruments; Thoroughbass Practice; Performing Recitatives

2.  Regarding the Instruments

Limits of Present-Day Performance Practice; Historical Instruments and Possible Substitutions; Regarding the Question of Instrument Substitutions or Supplementations

3. Regarding the Question of Scoring

The Balance between Choir and Orchestra in the Leipzig Ensemble; Conclusions for Present-Day Practice; The Vocal Concerto Principle

4. Marginal Remarks Regarding Performance

Regarding Dynamics; Regarding Tempo; Regarding Ornamentation, Articulation, and Manner of Playing; Regarding the Concept of Affect; Regarding the Interrelation between Vocal and Instrumental Elements; Regarding Execution and Embellishment of Recitatives; From Romanticized to Objectified Interpretation; Regarding Baroque Playing Practices and Notational Peculiarities; Epilogue

5. The Chorale in Bach's Vocal-Instrumental Compositions and Its Interpretation

The Chorale Elaborations as Gravitational Center of the Vocal-Instrumental Works; Regarding the Rendition of Chorales and Chorale Settings


Name and Subject Index

Bach Works Cited Index

 an essential reading for every performer

Clearly, many changes are made to both the physical layout and the actual contents of the book. Although the hugely over-crowded table of contents is still there, readers can now navigate the book more easily, as the chapter structure is made more visible, thanks to the clear headers appearing on each page. General index is now split into two—‘name and subject’ and ‘Bach’s works’—and there is also a separate Bibliography, a chapter previously lacking from the original edition. All these make the book user-friendly. The modification made to the style of notes is doubtful in my opinion: the continuous numbering of ‘footnotes’ is now changed to the ‘end notes’ system of which its numerical sequence is reset at every chapter. Regrettably, there are some minor glitches in the numbering of notes as an unfortunate consequence (page 67, notes 18 where references to notes 18 and 19 should read notes 1 and 2; page 72, note 69 where reference to note 8 should read 'note 8 of Introduction'; page 74, note 112 should read 'See note 108' (instead of '125') to name but a few).

As for the contents, the book receives much desired information update, which is particularly evident in notes. While much of the reference to the Bach-Gesellschaft edition is replaced with that to the Neue Bach Ausgabe, it is in notes themselves that the author expands his arguments based on more recent literature. Exception to this are the areas of ‘continuo practice’ (p. 10) and ‘Bach’s choir’ (pp. 120-1), the argument of which the author expands in the main text; needless to say, these are necessitated by the recent research of Laurence Dreyfus and Joshua Rifkin respectively.

In my mind I have no doubt that this book is an essential reading for everyone who is engaged in performing Bach’s works. Even if you have read the original 1983 edition, you still need to get this one, for it is so extensively revised. My only remaining concern is about the size of some music examples, which is simply too small, particularly figures (for continuo).

Published online on 12 December 2002

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