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On-line Book Review


Dimension: 24 x 17 x 1.2 cm
TITLE Die Ausführung des Orgelcontinuo vornehmlich in den Rezitativen der geistlichen Kantaten und Passionen von Johann Sebastian Bach von Joachim Roller (=Kirchenmusikalische Studien 6)
PUBL. DETAILS Sinzig: Studio-Verlag, 2001. 220p; Paperback. Eur 28,00.
ISBN 3-89564-075-1
TO ORDER Studio-Verlag, Dr. Gisela Schewe, Zehnthofstrasse 2 · D-53489 Sinzig, Germany. E-mail :
DESCRIPTION A published PhD dissertation: an in-depth study on Bach's performance practice in particular his use of organ as continuo instrument in his vocal works.
WORKS COVERED BWV 3, 5-8, 10, 13, 16, 18, 20-21, 23-4, 26, 30-3, 38-9, 42-4, 46, 56, 63, 69-70, 72-3, 75, 78, 83, 87-9, 93-5, 97, 99, 101-2, 104, 112-3, 115, 119, 120a, 123, 128-9, 132, 134-5, 140, 147, 154-5, 157, 159, 161, 163-4, 167, 175, 178, 183, 185, 188, 194, 197, 199, 244-5, 248-9.
READERSHIP Scholars and performers specialized in Bach's sacred cantatas
RESEARCH CONTRIBUTION much needed revisit of issues put forward by Dreyfus in 1980s with more recent evidence.


ow Bach performed his own works is a subject of continuing debate. In his doctoral work of 1980, Laurence Dreyfus opened the question of how the organ was used in the performance of his sacred cantatas. Most of us learned his finding from his book Bach's Continuo Group: Players and Practices in his Vocal Works (1987); in it the author pointed out some important clues for interpreting Bach’s vocal works through the careful study of source materials.

Nearly two decades later, Joachim Roller revisited the question again for his own doctoral work, attempting to offer better theories focusing around three basic questions:

Contents in brief 


  1. Zur Terminologie

2. Zur Temperaturfrage

I. Der Stand der Forschung

1. Die Ausführung der Orgelbegleitung in den Rezitativen

2. Problematische Notationsbefunde

3. Die Bezifferung

II. Diskussion verschiedener Notationsformen in Secco-Rezitativen

1. Pausensetzung in Secco-Bässen

2. Die kadenzeinleitenden Pausen

3. "Kurz" notierte Secco-Rezitative

4. Die "gemischte Notation"

5. Accompagnato-Rezitative mit kurzer Notation

6. Rezitative mit "Zwitterstellung" zwischen Secco- und Accompagnato-Rezitativ

7. Sonstige Notationsbefunde

8. Zur aufführungspraktischen Bedeutung von Satzbezeichnungen

9. Notationen der Schlußtöne in Secco-Rezitativen

III. Die aufführungspraktische Bedeutung bislang ungedeuteter Bezifferungen

1. Bezifferungsvarianten des Grundakkordes

2. Bezifferungsvarianten des Sekundakkordes

3. Bezifferungsvarianten des Septakkordes

4. Vertauschte Ziffern: Bezifferung der Akkordlage?

5. Vertikale Ziffernanzahl -- ein Maß für die Stimmenzahl der Aussetzung?

6. Stimmführungs- und Oberstimmenbezifferungen

7. Bezifferungswiederholungen und Striche über bewegtem Baß

8. Bezifferungswiederholungen und Striche über liegendem Baß

9. Unbezifferte Harmoniewechsel -- Anzeichen für eine Kürzung der Orgelakkorde?

10. Gehaltene Akkorde über pausierendem Continuo

11. Fassungsvergleiche

IV. Text -- Bezifferung -- Temperatur

1. Rezitative als "Temperaturindikatoren"

2. Zur Temperatursituation der Bach-Zeit

3. Bezifferung und Temperatur

4. Untersuchung der Rezitative

V. Schlußbetrachtung
VI. Kommentierte Quellenzusammenstellung mit Zitatensammlung

1. Quellen zur Ausführung der Secco-Rezitative

2. Quellen zur Ausführung der Accompagnato-Rezitative

3. Quellen zur Frage der Orgeltemperaturen der Bach-Zeit

VII. Verzeichnis der behandelten Kantaten und Passionen
VIII. Literaturverzeichnis
A valuable attempt to update Dreyfus's controversial hypothesis.

Roller seeks his answers through the examination of a wide range of Bach’s works, and in doing so, he frequently refers to both music and text volumes of the Neue Bach Ausgabe, citing numerous music examples from it. His argument is explicit and mostly convincing, as he proceeds his discussion in clearly organised manners.

For his argument, the main source of evidence is manuscripts, esp. Bach’s autographs, which he handles with great enthusiasm. Occasionally, I noticed that the author tends to handle the source evidence too straightforwardly, perhaps reading too much from it as if to claim that what Bach wrote was perfect and error-free. This is a common misconception (in my view), and potentially very dangerous, as it can lead to a wrong conclusion.

His discussion of the temperament of organ is an interesting aspect that deserves further research in the future. Currently there are still so many unanswered questions, so many missing pieces of jigsaw, that we cannot paint even a blurred image of Bach’s intention here.

So although there are lots of unanswered questions, I am of the opinion that this is a valuable attempt to update the controversial hypothesis put forward by Dreyfus in 1980s.

Published online on 2 September 2003

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