3 LP - SKH 25-T/1-3 - (p) 1973

3 CD - 8.35022 ZB - (c) 1984

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Weihnachtsoratorium, BWV 248

1. Teil - "Jauchzet, frohlochet! auf preiser die Tage", BWV 248, I

27' 32" A
Solo: Sopran, Alto, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Tromba I/II/III (Naturtrompeten in D), Timpani; Flauto Traverso I/II; Oboe I/II, Oboe d'amore I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Fagotto, Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

2. Teil - "Und es waren Hirten in derselben Gegend", BWV 248, II

27' 18" B
Solo: Soprano, Alt, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Flauto Traverso I/II; Oboe d'amore I/II, Oboe da caccia I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

3. Teil - "Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen", BWV 248, III

23' 50" C
Solo: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Tromba I/II/III (Naturtrompeten in D), Timpani; Flauto Traverso I/II; Oboe I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Fagotto, Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

4. Teil - "Fallt mit Danken, fallt mit Loben", BWV 248, IV

24' 46" D
Solo: Sopran, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Corno da caccia I/II (Naturhörner in F); Oboe I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Fagotto, Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

5. Teil - "Ehre sei dir, Gott, gesungen", BWV 248, V
24' 10" E
Solo: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Oboe d'amore I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Fagotto, Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

6. Teil - "Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnaufen", BWV 248, VI
25' 43" F
Solo: Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Baß - Chor

Tromba I/II/III (Naturtrompeten in D), Timpani; Oboe I/II; Oboe d'amore I/II; Streicher; Continuo (Fagotto, Violoncello, Violone, Organo)

Solist der Wiener Sängerknaben, Sopran

Paul Esswood, Alt

Kurt Equiluz, Tenor

Siegmund Nimsgern, Baß

Wiener Sängerknaben - Chorus Viennensis
(Hans Gillesberger, Leitung)

CONCENTUS MUSICUS WIEN (mit Originalinstrumenten)

- Josef Spindler, Naturtrompete - Karl Gruber, Oboe da caccia
- Richard Rudolf, Naturtrompete - Alice Harnoncourt, Zink
- Hermann Schober, Naturtrompete - Walter Pfeiffer, Violine
- Kurt Hammer, Pauken
- Peter Schoberwalter, Violine
- Othmar Berger, Naturhörn - Wilhelm Mergl, Violine
- Hermann Rohrer, Naturhörn - Josef de Sordi, Oboe, Violine
- Leopold Stastny, Querflöte - Kurt Theiner, Viola
- Gottfried Hechtl, Querflöte - Milan Turkovic, Fagott
- Jürg Schaeftlein, Oboe, Oboe d'amore - Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Violoncello
- Paul Hailperin, Oboe, Oboe d'amore - Eduard Hruza, Violone
- Alfred Hertel, Oboe da caccia - Herbert Tachezi, Orgel

Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Gesamtleitung
Luogo e data di registrazione
Palais Rasumowsky, Vienna (Austria) - 1972
Registrazione live / studio
Producer / Engineer
Prima Edizione CD
Teldec "Das Alte Werk" - 8.35022 ZB - (3 cd) - 55' 58" + 48' 34" + 49' 54" - (c) 1984
Prima Edizione LP
Telefunken "Das Alte Werk" - SKH 25-T/1-3 - (3 lp) - 55' 58" + 48' 34" + 49' 54" - (p) 1973

Bach's Oboe da Caccia and its Reconstruction
Johann Sebastian Bach was already famous during his lifetime for the fact that he was particularly interested in musical instruments. His sons and pupils for instance tirequently referred to his ability to recognize at once the acoustic conditions of any room and to exploit them musically. It is said of him that by gazing at a church’s premises he could immediately judge the ideal spot and the most favourable disposition for an organ. The most important organ builders of his day discussed their work with him and, occasionally demonstrated new instruments to him for his judgement. Thus Silbermann introduced to him his newly invented pianoforte. Bach was positive as regards the idea, but judged the results negatively. On the one hand this offended the self-confident Silbermann but on the other inspired him to carry out decisive improvements, and after a several years interval he produced an instrument which met all the requirements made of it. In all biographies Bach is referred to as the “inventor” of the viola pomposa, and great store is set by this fact. From all this we can see that he possessed an inordinately high degree of interest in the realisation in sound of music as he imagined it, and that for him instrumentation played a role in the framework of composition that was extraordinary for that period. There was no composer in the 18th century who was able to achieve such ingenious and diverse sound combinations from the comparatively simple range of instruments of his time; but neither was there a composer who charged so many various instruments with such extreme tasks that even today neither musicians nor rnusicologists know in every case which instrument was really meant, This includes such wind instruments as: corno, tromba, or also corno (da tirarsi), clarino, lituus, oboe da caccia... etc. Naturally all these descriptions have to be read with different eyes from the strictly determined nomenclature of instruments in the 19th and 20th century. What are probably the crassest mistakes committed in our time are due to simply translating word for word Italian or Latin terms used by Bach. For example: corno = horn, etc... (just how wrong this of all translations is can be seen in many cantatas, where the presumed horn part always plays the cantus firmus; first of all, however, at the time of Bach the horn was in artistic music a pronounced solo instrument, and secondly, of course, only the natural tones could be played on this instrument, whereas precisely the cnntus firmi call for many intermediate tones). Therefore a precondition for proper understanding of Bach’s instrument descriptions is, as it were, a “baroque” attitude towards the nomenclature: A description must not necessarily stand for a certain instrument, it can also describe a type (Oboe: both for oboe d’nmore and for the normal oboe), a register (clarino: both for high pitch trumpets and for high horn parts). Then again a part description can also signify an instrument (“Taille”-middle, means in French music of the early 18th century a middle voice, usually the third, whether it was to be sung or was intended for a string or wind instrument). In Bach’s case taille is always “taille d`hautbois" (although the full name never occurs) and is a tenor oboe in F. This instrument is not used for solos, but only to double up with singing voices or the stringed instruments. Bach already uses this instrument in his early cantatas written in Weimar. ln the Leipzig Cantatas (after l723) and Oratorios a new name suddenly crops up in music that was hitherto scarcely known: “Oboe da caccia”. (Occasionally in earlier times the oboe group had been so described in the hunting field: - Zedler Lexicon 1732: “Hunting hauthois are used during a main hunt, not only to make oneself heard against the sounds of the forest, but also everybody together, in the morning and evening, has to attend upon the master of the hunt at the appropriate spot with pleasant music." In this context that was probably primarily the description of a function and not the name of an instrument). The instrument introduced in Bach’s music for the first time is evidently, like the “taille”, an oboe in F; but whereas the latter appears only as a tutti instrument, the former is decidedly a solo instrument. There are no solos designated with “taille” and scarcely any tutti passages with the description “oboe da caccia”. There does, however, exist in the case of one cantata a taille voice in which an aria is set out as with “oboe da caccia”. The oboe da caccia can therefore apparently be used as a “taille”, as a doubling of the middle voice, but not every “taille” as oboe da caccia. One could call taille all tenor oboes in F, while the oboe da caccia was a special form whose singular sound inspired Bach to compose solos.
After we had already given some concerts and made some gramophone recordings (cantatas, St. John Passion, St. Matthew Passion), in which we had used various types of tenor oboes as “oboe da caccia” we began to become suspicious. It was all too improbable that Bach described the taille solos simply with the term “oboe da caccia”. It therefore had to be a special instrument which Bach had found in Leipzig or, what was certainly possible, he had helped to invent. All that could be resorted in the quest for identification of this instrument was the music written for it and the name as such but not any kind of documentation. “Da caccia” probably describes only an instrument that has something or other to do with hunting. The musical application of this instrument runs absolutely counter to this conclusion: none of the solos so far known to us is of a hunting nature, in typical 6/8 hunting motif time or even composed with any kind of breezy “open air emotion” in mind. On the contrary, they all sound particularly sensitive, especially delicate and soft; the frequent combination with the extremely soft sounding transverse flute is an indication of this. (St. Matthew Passion: “To all of us he did good things”... “For love my Saviour will die”, St. John Passion “Dissolve my heart... ”). So what was “da caccia” if not the sound?
By a coincidence we saw a strange instrument in the Stockholm Museum of Musical Instruments. Obviously a tenor oboe in F, it was, however, bent crescent shape and fitted with a bell made of brass. In the hands of a musician this instrument looked like a large hunting horn, the bell having the same shape and being about the height of the hip, as with a big parforce horn. The astounding thing was the engraved name of the maker: “Johann Heinrich Eichentopf, Leipzig, 1724.” This instrument had therefore been built by the man who was probably the most famous Leipzig wind instrument maker of that period. Eichentopf was also a maker of brass instruments, so that he might have conceived the idea, or it was suggested to him, of fitting a brass bell to a woodwind instrument. Given Bach's notorious interest in instrument construction it is absolutely obvious that he must at least have known Eichentopf and his instruments; it is difficult to believe that this meeting should be a pure coincidence. In Leipzig, precisely in the decisive years, an instrument maker is constructing tenor oboes which completely differ from the norm. The instrument, usually built straight, is bent into a semi-circle and gets a bell like a horn, while the instrument is covered with leather. At the same time Bach is composing in Leipzig numerous solos for an instrument which he calls “oboe da caccia” and which prior to this period had never featured in music. Such a conspicuous name for an instrument could, of course, only have been used if the musicians were familiar with it. Naturally the Leipzig musicians knew of the most up to date instruments of Eichentopf, if the latter did not even play them himself, which has been the ease with instrument makers from time immeinorial.
Unfortunately it was not possible to investigate from a musical point of view this exciting combination of a woodwind and brass instrument, because evidently the Stockholm instrument had split in various parts underneath the leather covering and was completely unsound. It was, however, possible to give it a thorough examination and to measure it. It transpired that a second instrument of exactly the same kind - from the same year and also by Eichentopf - was in the Copenhagen Musical Instruments Museum. (This instrument cannot be played either, but it was also examined and measured). It was thus not a matter of a curious single specimen if at least two instruments have been preserved to the present day. - Apparently these instruments of Eichentopf were then also imitated by other instrument makers; for in various museums instruments exist from the first half of the 18th century which similarly feature the typical semi-circular bend and the leather covering. Admittedly they do not possess metal bells (a speciality which probably only the versatile Eichentopf was able to afford), but their wooden bells, as opposed to those of the straight tenor oboes, are extremely large and in shape built as imitations of metal bells, including even the black inner coating which is typical for horn bells.
We were convinced that we had at last found the Bach “oboe da caccia” provided this instrument could prove musically convincing. It should not, of course, be simply a particularly charming form of the tenor oboe, but it should turn this somewhat coarse and unwieldy instrument into a flexible and sweet sounding solo instrument.
Eichentopf's instruments were now copied, down to the last detail of technical design - we had no idea at all how they would sound or were supposed to sound. A few days before recordings for the Christmas Oratorio began they were ready, and all the musicians involved, but especially the wind players who had to use them, were convinced from the outset. We are now certain that we have rediscovered the real “oboe da caccia.” Strangely enough the instrument is easier to play than its “straight” predeccssors. The broadly flared metal bell gives to what is its deep tone a fine metallic brilliance. With regard to the dynamism, this instrument is of considerable flexibility.
Naturally the musicians still have to gain experience with this instrument before all its possibilities can be fully exhausted, but already now, as it appeared to us from the very start, it signifies a major step forward. - The alto aria “Welcome will I say... ” in cantata No. 27 is the first pure solo played on this instrument and recorded.
The oboes d’amore and oboes da caccia impart to the second part of the Christmas Oratorio the pastoral sound. In the introductory sinfonia the strings and flutes are no
doubt intended to depict the delightful landscape, while insertion of the oboe quartets represents the shepherds. This assumption is confirmed in three of the subsequent recitatives; the angel is accompanied by strings, the bass in both recitatives by the four oboes (since in this connection everything is related to the word “shepherd”).

Nikolaus Harnoncourt
(English translation by Frederick A. Bishop)

Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1929-2016)
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