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On-line Book Review

TERI NOEL TOWE

FRONT COVER
OVERVIEW
Dimension: 24.1 x 16.5 x 2.4 cm
TITLE Bach Studies from Dublin: Selected papers presented at the ninth biennial conference on Baroque music, held at Trinity College Dublin from 12th to 16th July 2000. Edited by Anne Leahy and Yo Tomita (=Irish Musical Studies, 8)
PUBL. DETAILS Four Courts Press (Dublin, 2004); 270 pp; €55/£55/$55  hard back
ISBN 1-85182-857-5
TO ORDER Four Courts Press Ltd, 7 Malpas St, Dublin 8, Ireland.
SUMMARY
DESCRIPTION The volume contains 14 papers presented at the ninth biennial conference on Baroque music, held at Trinity College Dublin in July 2000.
WORKS COVERED A broad range of works by Bach.
READERSHIP Scholars and students studying Bach the man, his works and his influence.
SUMMARY the scholarly equivalents of the plats du jour at three star and four star restaurants!

he publications that consistently supply serendipitous delight and fortuitous knowledge are the festschrifts honoring distinguished musicologists and the anthologies of papers presented at musicological conferences and colloquia.  The essays found in anthologies of this type truly are the scholarly equivalents of the plats du jour at three star and four star restaurants, and they provide a combination of delight and disappointment that, to me at least, is identical to the combination of delight and disappointment that a leisurely meal in a fine but unfamiliar restaurant should be and often is. 

Festschrifts and anthologies of conference papers are sumptuous banquets of scholarship, but such collections also inevitably call to mind the wickedly double-edged observation that Napoleon Bonaparte is reputed to have made about the letters of Mme. de Sevigné:  One loves to sample, but one would be a fool to eat the entire box.

A selection of papers about various aspects of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, its performance, and its reception history, “presented at the ninth biennial conference on Baroque music held at Trinity College Dublin, 12th to 16th July 2000,” Irish Musical Studies 8 – Bach Studies from Dublin documents a conference that brought together, two weeks before the 250th anniversary of the death of composer, a kaleidoscopic international conglomeration of scholars of the first rank. From the many worthy papers presented at the conference a Bachian total of 14 were selected for publication. Three of the 14 are the conference keynote addresses, which were given by John Butt, Robin A. Leaver, and Hans Joachim Schulze; the remaining eleven papers were “all nominated on scholarly merit by the chair of their sessions.”

Anne Leahy and Yo Tomita, who edited the anthology, divided the 14 papers to into five categories:  Historical Studies (3), Compositional Process (3), Theology (1), Performance Practice (4), and Reception (3).  Some papers will be of greater interest to one person than they will be to another, of course, and in that regard I am no different from any other reader.  All of the papers are of significant interest, but, bearing in mind Bonaparte’s admonition, I will report specifically only on those articles in Bach Studies from Dublin  that are the most nourishing for me, a music and art historian whose chosen instrument is sound recording reproduction equipment.  In order of appearance within the volume, these are:  

“a kaleidoscopic international conglomeration of scholars of the first rank”

Contents

CONTRIBUTORS

PREFACE

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS

I HISTORICAL STUDIES

1 Ido Abravaya, 'The Baroque upbeat: outline of its typology and evolution' 

2 Harry White, 'Johann Joseph Fux and the question of Einbau technique'

3  Janice B. Stockigt, 'The royal Polish and electoral Saxon court and state calendars, 1728–50'

II COMPOSITIONAL PROCESS

4 Rebecca Kan, 'Vivaldi, Bach and their concerto slow movements'

5 Gregory Butler, 'The prelude to the third English Suite BWV 808: an allegro concerto movement in ritornello form'

6 Don O. Franklin, 'Composing in time: Bach’s temporal design for the Goldberg Variations'

III THEOLOGY

7 Robin A. Leaver, 'Eschatology, theology and music: death and beyond in Bach’s vocal music'

IV PERFORMANCE PRACTICE

 8 J. Drew Stephen, 'Bach’s horn parts: alternatives to nodal venting and hand stopping'

9 Martin Elste, 'Bach in North America during the shellac era (1900–50): early sound documents of art and commerce'

10 Dorottya Fabian, 'Bach performances during the late twentieth century: practice, scholarship, and reception'

11 John Butt, 'Bach in the twenty-first century: re-evaluating him from the perspective of performance'

V RECEPTION

12 Yo Tomita, 'Bach’s Credo in England: an early history'

13 Barra Boydell, '“This most crabbed of all earthly music”: the performance and reception of Bach’s vocal music in Dublin in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries'

14 Hans-Joachim Schulze, 'Bach at the turn of the twenty-first century'

 

INDEX OF WORKS

GENERAL INDEX

The remaining papers in Irish Musical Studies 8 – Bach Studies from Dublin are equally deserving of the reader’s attention.  These seven essays are:

  • Ido Abravaya’s The Baroque upbeat:  outline of its typology and evolution
  • Harry White’s Johann Joseph Fux and the question of Einbau technique
  • Rebecca Kan’s Vivaldi, Bach and their concerto slow movements
  • J. Drew Stephen’s Bach’s horn parts: alternatives to nodal venting and hand stopping
  • Martin Elste’s Bach in North America during the shellac era (1900—50):  early sound documents of art and commerce
  • Dorottya Fabian’s Bach performance practice in the twentieth century:  recordings, reviews and reception
  • John Butt’s Bach in the twenty-first century: re-evaluating him from the perspective of performance

There are, of course, the inevitable blemishes.  The anthology would have benefited from some editing and proofreading by someone not directly involved in the process of assembling the anthology.  There are typographical errors that of the kind that seem to jump off the page into the reader’s lap.  These are precisely the kind of mistakes that are invisible to those who are absorbed in the white heat of creation and meeting imposed deadlines and that are spotted instantly by a reader previously unfamiliar with the material.  But I have to say that these complaints seem almost churlish in view of the value and significance of the 14 papers that comprise Irish Musical Studies 8 – Bach Studies from Dublin.

As those who collect books on music and those who have found themselves faced by the challenge of finding a festschrift or a conference report that contains an article of interest know all to well, anthologies like Irish Musical Studies 8 – Bach Studies from Dublin rarely circulate anywhere near as widely as they should and rarely stay in print anywhere near as long as they should. That sad reality is yet another reason why those who are sincerely interested in Bach and in Bach reception history should not hesitate for a nano-second and add a copy of Irish Musical Studies 8 – Bach Studies from Dublin to their libraries at once.

Published on line on 15 April 2005