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This is as good a rendering of this joyous gem as I have heard. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dF6YE7lrODs
Image Papa Bach, with family and/or friends, gathered around the household harpsichord, batting this out and smiling wide all the while . . . Johann having given himself a starring role at the keyboard, in the outer movements at least !
The important thing is that “well-tempered” is not the same as “equal temperament”. With Bach’s well tempered, there still was an emphasis on making the key of c major a home base, where the notes c and e are close to perfect thirds, thus sacrificing that same satisfying resonance when other major thirds would be played together.
Equal temperament is a compromise which solves the problem of modulation to many different key centers while sacrificing the purity of “just” intervals.
The subject reminds me of a story I was told about the making of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumors” album. The band members were notorious cocaine users. They got a bit too high and spent two days torturing the piano tuner, never being satisfied with the tuning. They might have been suffering from the same dilemma that early composers experienced. If the song is in the key of E, then that g# needs to sound like it does on the guitar! (Guitarists tune the g string string slightly flat in order to get that open e major chord to sing.)
Black Country blues guitar players would always tune to the key they were playing in. No equal temperament for them, though the frets sort of request it, no digital tuners existed, and they would have been thrown away had they!
Since the range (from low to high) of early music was not as great as in contemporary, it probably was only off by a few cents. Still, that would be terribly annoying, I think.
Here's the Christmas Oratorio in a 1999 recording. (An ad interrupts the video only at the breaks between the three sections of the piece.) Excellent performances by all, including a Black soprano soloist---a real rarity in Baroque performance, sadly. I think of John Eliot Gardiner as of the old school---he's been at it for a very long time---but he's kept up nicely with the evolution of Baroque interpretation, wherein we have more ancient instruments---wooden rather than metal flutes, various brass and woodwind and stringed instruments nearly extinct in the last century. And his readings include brisk tempi where appropriate, keeping performers and listeners alike on their toes and upright in their seats, respectively. A nice non-nonsense performance . . .
More from John Eliot Gardiner: four cantatas, any of them worthy of a hearing. If you have twenty minutes, take just the longest one, # 127, starting at 32:00 . At the end of the tape there's an alternate version of the buoyant and lilting opening chorale for that cantata, which Bach used in a Passion.
The instrumental and vocal forces are first-rate; the oboist deserves special mention.
Anyone who wishes to know what they're singing about can find the libretto for any of Bach's cantatas quite easily online: just type in the BWV number and several choices for supporting material, including translation of the German libretto, will be found.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herr_Jesu ... t,_BWV_127 Gardiner's comments about BWV 127 are included here.
Yes, that's Kings College Chapel as the illustration on the YouTube video. Quite the barn !
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King%27s_ ... _Cambridge
If SOM had gotten the job in fifteenth century England, would they have made something like this ?