German Latin question
  • BACH - MASS IN B-MINOR - KARL RICHTER Crucifixus http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d32x9DAuKsc
    CRUCIFIXUS as cruTSifixus instead of cruCHifixus (as in "church Latin")
    ETIAM as eh-T- iam (like in "tea") instead of eTSiam
    Pontio as Pon-T- io (like in "tea") instead of PonZio, PonTSio
    Is there an official source for "German Latin"?

  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,428
    The subject is something of a musicological can o' worms.

    To wit:
    1. No one REALLY knows how Latin was pronounced when it was a "living language."
    1a. Some people think they know. They are wrong. We can't know. We can only guess.
    1b. The idea that a language was pronounced one particular way all over an Empire spanning portions of three continents is ludicrous anyway. People in different parts of Germany TODAY pronounce their own shared, native, living language differently.

    2. The standard "Church Latin" pronunciation is, essentially, the way Latin was being pronounced by Italians at some particular time in the past.

    3. It is commonly assumed (probably rightly) that German-speakers of the time of Bach were pronouncing Latin some particular way. See (1a) on the danger here, and also (1b) on why it would be different than described in (2).

    4. It is considered good form by some (but not all) for music written in Latin by Bach (and his German contemporaries) to be performed using the assumptions described in (3).

    5. Among those who subscribe to the concept described in (4), there is disagreement about the particulars of (3), a problem explained in (1a) and further developed in (1b).

    6. The only people who need to know about, or have an opinion on (3), (4), and (5), already do.

    7. If you are not one of the people described in (6), you should probably stick to the pronunciation described in (2) whenever required to be the one pronouncing.
  • gregpgregp
    Posts: 632
    Adam, I agree with you 98%, with a small caveat that we are pretty sure we know how some Romans pronounced Latin because we can compare how Latin words were recorded in other writing systems, such as Greek.

    I tell my schola: imagine we are a choir of Japanese singers learning a motet in English from the Elizabethan era. Should we worry about the Elizabethan pronunciation of English, or should we sing the modern English pronunciation we are more or less familiar with? The only people who will know AND care will be your group #6 (if I understood you correctly and you weren't just obfuscating pointlessly by then).

    I think it's great that we can hear national Latin accents.
  • The most important thing is that everyone in the choir do the same thing. Conductor gets to make the call.

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  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    I believe there is a book - although I can't find the title right now - that describes various dialects of Latin (in theory at least). For use in church, I would not concern myself with this and stick with the rules as generally given in the Liber, and other handbooks from Church sources - no matter the composer or the period.

    I should add that German Latin is not purely historical - as I once had the opportunity to sing at Mass with an amateur church choir in Bavaria - it was the Hassler Missa Secunda I believe. And they were instinctively pronouncing it with what we would call "German" Latin.

    Of course, there is a whole academic historical component in performance circles - which (as a disclaimer) as a choral conductor in academic circles I would feel inclined to at least investigate in my prep. I one heard an argument made that in Mozart's church music, it would be typical for Austrian sopranos to be taught the Italian pronunciation, but the men to be homegrown with the German accent. I don't know who would enjoy hearing a performance that was that "accurate."
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  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,921
    Isn't it common practice in the U.S. to follow Italian-style Church Latin pronunciation in Mass, regardless of the composer's nationality? Concerts are another matter.
  • jpal
    Posts: 365
    Chonak - yes.

    German Latin, English (GB) Latin, French Latin, etc. -- not "dialects" really, just folks pronouncing Latin more or less by the rules of their native language.

    I give my schola links to recordings I find of various chants. They know not to use the recordings for learning diction -- mostly just for notes. Because all too often it is a recording of French monks using very different vowels than the ones I was taught (and now teach).

    (I am also the accompanist for a community chorus comprised primarily of native Virginians. Occasionally we do a Latin motet or Mass, and after the first run-through, the conductor will inevitably make a remark about our "Southern Latin.")

    2. The standard "Church Latin" pronunciation is, essentially, the way Latin was being pronounced by Italians at some particular time in the past.


    Yes, I think I remember learning something about it being more or less like Tuscan Italian - Rome edition (as it was "at some particular time in the past"). I might be getting mixed up with something else, though.
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  • In Austria there is a monastery named Heiligenkreuz, and a month ago the Sunday Chant Mass was broadcast on German TV. They too pronounced the chants in the German way.

    I'll try to explain the way Latin is usually pronounced in Germany using IPA:

    a = [a]
    e = [e] or [ɛ] for long or short vowels
    i = [i] or [ɪ]
    o = [o] or [ɔ]
    u = [u] or [ʊ]
    y = [y] or [i], depending on local custom; Austria seems to prefer [i], Germany [y]
    æ = [æ]
    œ = [œ] or [ø]

    h = [h]
    j = [j]
    v = [v]
    q = [kv]
    r = [r], [ʀ] or [ʁ] depending on local custom; never as [ɹ]
    s = [z] as initial or medial consonant, [s] as final consonant or before other consonants; there is some liberty in using [s] also initial.
    z = [ts]
    c = [ts] before a, e, i, æ, œ, y; [k] in other instances
    cc = [ts] (sometimes [kts]) before a, e, i, æ, œ, y; [k] otherwise
    ch = [χ] or final [ç]; for foreign words from Greek
    th = [t], for Greek words
    ph = [f], for Greek words

    Therefore we have
    sanctus = ['zaŋktʊs], crucifíxus = [kru:tsi'fɪksʊs], magníficat = [mag'ni:fikat]

    I just discovered there is a good page on Wikipedia on this topic, Latin regional pronunciation.

    Here is a video with clips of Vespers of Pentecost at Heiligenkreuz (unfortunately not complete, in the beginning the first two syllabes of [Domi]ne, ad adjuvandum me festina are missing and some similar occurrences).
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    I always thought Bach's choice of Latin puzzling. Did he just want to work in a mass format? He was Lutheran, and certainly didn't write for the Catholic Church. If I remember correctly, the use of that mass was not allowed in the Catholic Church.
  • The b-minor Mass was written for the catholic court of Dresden, and short Masses (i.e. only Kyrie and Gloria; Lutherans have another understanding of Missa brevis than Catholics) were used frequently used in the Lutheran church in those days. Leipzig was and is a university city, and the use of Latin well into the 18th century is well known. He also composed Magnificat settings in Latin and I suppose he used them for Vespers. Buxtehude was also a Lutheran and composed some Missae breves, the well-known Membra Jesu nostri and some Magnificats in Latin.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,674
    Thanks for the info. I have never really been much of a Bach fan, so I am not so well informed about him. I may be confusing the prohibition against using the Bach mass, with the ban on the Schubert mass.
  • I thought I read once that Roman Latin was particular law for the Church in the US. That was doubtless pre- V2, but I can't imagine it would have been changed (why legislate on what's not in use?). Can anyone confirm that? It was certainly encouraged by Pius X.

    If this is in fact the case, then German Latin is only of use in concert performances. German choirs have tended to use German Latin regardless of provenance of the music.

    I'm open to period pronunciation in early music performance, but I have to admit that Franco-Flemish Latin ca. 1500 drives me around the bend. "Credo in EWWnum DeEWm"
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  • I think some of the differences have to do with certain sounds being easier or more difficult to produce in various language areas. For instance, "qui" comes out at "kvee" when sung by German speakers and "kwee" when sung by English speakers because those are the natural pronunciations in those languages.
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  • Earl_GreyEarl_Grey
    Posts: 873
    I had a voice teacher who had no qualms about changing the vowel (or the entire word for that matter) if it "sang better" for the voice. So much for the text being subservient to the music. But in her defense she was an opera singer and not a liturgical choir director.
  • Protasius
    Posts: 468
    My choir director has no objection against singing cœlum instead of cælum, or singing vowels a bit o-like to get a round mouth.
  • mahrt
    Posts: 517
    For a long time, Latin was pronounced as if it were the language of the country. This is set out in great detail in the book "Singing Early Music," ed. Timothy McGee (Indiana University Press). In fact, this book is only about the historical pronunciation of vernacular languages and Latin for use by musicians performing early music.

    In the seventeenth century Christoph Bernhard said that it was acceptable to pronounce it as the language of the country, but it was better to use Roman Latin. Prosper Guerranger, the first abbot of Solesmes, campaigned for French churches to use both the Roman Missal (the French often had their own diocesan missals) and Roman pronunciation, i.e., church Latin.

    The historical pronunciation is very useful in the performance of polyphonic music, since the sonority of the language is a crucial element in the sonority of the composition. But for liturgical usage, I always use church Latin. In the performance of polyphonic music, though, the vowels can be colored somewhat to achieve something of the sonority the language gives the music, without departing from the parameters of church Latin.
  • Another great resource, although somewhat hard to find, is Singing in Latin by Harold Copeman. Great to be able to look up how Latin might have been pronounced by a choir in, say, Byrd's day and place, or Palestrina's.
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  • SkirpRSkirpR
    Posts: 854
    Singing in Latin by Harold Copeman


    That's the book which was escaping me earlier in the thread.