Did you know that not all of Bach's surviving cantata scores are easily accessible or usable?
This season, Choral Arts ran into a problem finding a few pieces of sheet music when artistic director Matt Glandorf programmed a few surviving “obscure” Bach cantatas to be featured in the “1734-1735: Season in the Life of J.S. Bach” series. In particular, scores for cantatas BWV 207a and BWV215 were not easy to find.
The biggest issue, however, was finding a performer-friendly score for BWV 36b Die Freude reget sich (Now gladness doth arise), scheduled to be sung on October 26, 2016. Such score simply did not exist.
Glandorf was faced with a difficult choice, up to the point of having to cancel the performance of the piece.
This is when one of our singers stepped in to save the day. Meet Tim Schellenberg, who in a short time period was able to create an excellent choral and instrumental score! Below is Tim’s story, in his own words:
“There are actually three existing scores for Cantata BWV36b. There are the scanned originals written by Bach himself, which are interesting and beautiful, but not really suitable for performance. And then there are two study scores, one from mid-19th century edition and one modern edition by Bärenreiter, a publisher that has published all of Bach's extant cantatas. But the downside to the volumous study scores is that you get every part of the score. This is great for the director and okay for singers, but not suitable for instrumentalists who cannot flip pages every few measures. In addition, although the 19th century study score is freely available for download, it uses old clefs for the soprano, alto, and tenor voices that would be difficult for singers to get used to. The Bärenreiter edition has modern clefs, but is only available as a part of a larger collection that costs hundreds of dollars.
I wanted to create an edition that would work not just for our upcoming performance, but would be useful for the entire Bach community worldwide; an edition with modern clefs that is suitable for performance and that can be freely shared without copyright issues. This meant my sources had to be the ones that were themselves not copyrighted. So I used the 19th century edition and occasionally looked at the originals in Bach's hand. I also used midi files with permission from the author in Japan. This saved a lot of work, since I didn't need to enter all of the notes.
The typesetting software I used is called Lilypond, which is an open source software that produces really high quality output with less effort than, for example, Finale or Sibelius. It is capable of making highly intelligent decisions so that less effort is required on my end, including: overall layout, placement of lyrics and slurs, finding good beam slopes, determining the best distance between staves, and much more. This is especially helpful when you decide to make a major layout change, which would require a lot of touch-up work with other notation software.
I'm quite happy with the result: Cantata 36b is now an accurate, modern, free, and complete edition that includes all instrumental parts, a vocal score with keyboard reductions, and a conductor score. There are to my knowledge perhaps only 2 or 3 other Bach cantata scores that meet all of these criteria."
Tim posted the BWV 36b score, which Choral Arts used in the performance on October 26, 2016, on a public domain site, MutopiaProject.org, and it is available for free download here.
We thank Tim for his amazing creative work, inquisitive mind and heartfelt dedication, and, most importantly, for his invaluable service to the entire world-wide Bach community -- all of us now have open access to Bach's one more treasure: performance-friendly score of Cantata BWV 36b!
By Inna Heasley