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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 1
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 25, 2007

Julian Mincham wrote (March 23, 2007):
Intro BWV 1

PREAMBLE TO THIS SET OF INTRODUCTIONS


(This description of my approach plus the setting of context of the last works of the cycle necessitate a longer than usual introduction)

Last year I, somewhat rashly, agreed to introduce the fourteen cantatas which comprise the final quarter this cycle, BWV 1-176.

There was a reason for this. I see the works after BWV 1 not as simply forming a 'rag-bag collection' when Bach was in a state of artistic crisis through having suddenly lost his librettist. This is the generally accepted scenario and it gives a somewhat false impression. I see these last works as a cognate group through which Bach, temporarily abandoning the constraints of the chorale fantasia, turned to ever more interesting experiments in the production of 'well regulated church music'. It seemed a sensible strategy, therefore, to begin this set of introductions with BWV 1, the 'last of the forty' and work through to the end of the cycle

Consequently, I shall be placing some emphasis upon contextual issues. I am especially interested in the late cantatas of this cycle considered as a group, with their marked differences from the earlier ones.

My approach is to combine factual information about the musical structures and context of these works with a sort of 'personal interpretation' which outlines a little of what and how I feel about them. What emerges (I hope) is a combination of objective and subjective comment, analysis and occasional insight.

I shall be leaving comparisons of the recordings to others.

These introductions are adaptations of considerably longer essays previously written on each of the cantatas. I have attempted to write here for a mixed audience, particularly bearing in mind those who do not yet know but wish to explore these great works, as well as for those who are familiar with them but may be looking for further background. I have kept technical language to a minimum but sometimes it is unavoidable.

Beyond matters of context, my focus will be more upon the musical language and structures than upon the social and liturgical backgrounds. It is not that I am disinterested in these but decisions have to be made about what to leave out in order to keep these essays as they are intended i.e. as 'introductions' rather than comprehensive analyses. Each introduction will follow the same basic format but diverse works may suggest different approaches. I apologise for giving less attention than I would have liked to some of the recitatives. Again it is simply a matter of word numbers. However I am aware of the particular interest that some list members have in the recitatives and I quote a paragraph below taken from another of my essays:

"Bach's recitatives are often structurally quite free. They may begin and end in different keys and frequently migrate through strident chromatic progressions without fully establishing the keys they imply. Sometimes they are quite devoid of imagery; at others the representation of textural allusions is quite blatant. But one ought not to draw the same sorts of conclusions about tonal planning from these movements than one may from the arias and choruses. In the recitatives the harmony's main function is to support and colour the melodic line. The shape of the line is tailored to express the feeling and meaning of the words. The chords provide a frame such as that surrounding a painting. But Bach's frame is organic, moving, supportive and frequently surprising: it is never static."

I have preferred not to begin with a long list of links. I find this a bit formidable especially when I want to get straight down to what someone has to say about the cantata of the week. The web site is brilliantly ordered in that it takes only a moment to isolate the page relating to each particular cantata from where one can easily locate initial dates of performance, translations of texts, past discussions, recordings, piano/vocal scores etc. etc. I shall simply provide the link to the relevant cantata page each week from which everything else may be accessed.

I may, from time to time suggest that 'Bach here intends…..' or 'Bach wishes to…….' Or 'symbolism is clearly intended to suggest…..'. At such moments, readers are requested to assume and insert the following disclaimer:

'This is the writer's opinion based upon close acquaintance with the music. It is no more than a personal view which is intended to be neither prescriptive nor pejorative and, whilst necessarily subjective, accepts that there will always be other interesting, reasonable, and quite possibly conflicting conclusions of equal weight and value.'

I accept that these introductions contain a mixture of observable and established contextual and structural fact AND a degree of personal interpretation but it should be perfectly clear which is which.

And finally I apologise for the lack of umlauts! This keyboard is not set up to do them unless I alter the language of choice and that presents all sorts of other difficulties.

BWV 1 CONTEXT

In retrospect, BWV 1 takes on a special significance because, this was the fortieth and last of the chorale fantasia cantatas before Bach interrupted (or was interrupted in) his grand scheme. Wolff supposes (p278) that Bach's librettist was Andreas Stubel who died on January 27th 1725. Because texts were prepared and authorized in advance and in batches, this meant that on Stubel's death Bach would have received the approved libretti for Cantatas BWV 125, BWV 126, BWV 127 and 1 and he had probably completed the composition of C 92. (These are the final five works of the initial set of forty true chorale fantasias).

It is possible to make a different supposition which I have found to be equally attractive when studying these works. Might Bach have initially set out to compose just the forty chorale cantatas up until Easter 1725 leaving himself more latitude for the final works required to complete his 'church year?' Might he have tired of the imposition and self imposed limitations of having to compose a large-scale chorale fantasia each week? Might he have actually welcomed the freedom of putting aside this stricture for the final two months of the cycle? BWV 20 (which had begun the pattern of forty uninterrupted chorale fantasias) and BWV 1 (which ends it) are both in F major, a key not often used for the opening choruses. This may well have been coincidental of course; but there is also a possibility that it was planned. The fact that the first cantata to break the pattern (BWV 4) could so easily have adhered to the established pattern by dropping the opening sinfonia might be seen as a further piece of evidence signaling that the forty initial cantatas were conceived as a cognate group, after which Bach consciously sought a greater latitude.

It is the case that Bach latterly composed a dozen chorale fantasia cantatas, often presumed to 'fill in the gaps' (Wolff p280) but this plan may well have been an after-thought. Certainly Bach was in no hurry to complete the cycle in this way as the composition of these later works was spread over a decade or more. And the two figures of 40 (fantasias in the opening group) and 42 (fantasias overall) may well be significant numbers for Bach which imply the sorts of long term planning we associate with him as opposed to last minut'crisis manageme't.

What we can state with certainty however is that none of the thirteen remaining cantatas follows the exact pattern of the first forty. Two begin with an instrumental sinfonia, two with a recitative, three with an aria for bass and four with large-scale choruses not built upon chorales. True, two of these final works do commence with a chorale fantasia but other aspects differentiate them from the structure of the first forty. It ialmost as if Bach is willfully going out of his way to break his pattern.

Additionally, it is only after C 1 that we find Bach borrowing from earlier works, most particularly Cantata BWV 4 (composed over a decade earlier and also resurrected for the first cycle). Because we are discussing these works in the order in which they are written we will not here include BWV 4. However those interested will find, in the articles section, an essay I contributed some time ago comparing aspects of BWV 1 and BWV 4 (see link at end).

It seems then, appropriate to consider BWV 20-1 as one part of the cycle and BWV 4-176 as something quite different.


THE CANTATA OF THE WEEK: BWV 1 Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern
How beautiful is the Morning Star.

Chorus/fantasia--Recitative (Tenor)--Aria (Sop)--Recit (Bass)--Aria (Tenor)--Chorale.

The 40th cantata of the cycle, composed for the Annunciation

(The librettist is not known for certain but if Wolff's theory is correct it is likely to have been the last text by Andreas Stubel)

The choruses and arias are, unusually, all in flat major keys; major to express the joy which the Lord's blessing brings and flat, partially for practical reasons (horns in F) but possibly also to suggest the personal and contemplative nature of this text. This is not the rousing, communal D major joyousness of many other Bach choruses. It is, nevertheless, a movement of quite breathtaking proportion with a most unusual (for the period) opening.

It begins with an almost plaintive of violin solo (bar 1) followed immediately by a bar of full orchestra--horns, oboe di caccia, strings and continuo. It is relatively common to find a theme constructed from a dramatic clash of contrasting melodic ideas of this kind in later music; see for example Mozart's Symphony 41 and Beethoven's piano sonata in Cm op 10 no 1 (in each case the opening of the first movements) but how often does one find this in Baroque works?

Furthermore the advanced structural planning reveals that the opening violin theme is also the fundamental idea for much of the rich and complex counterpoint with which the three lower voices support the soprano cantus firmus (particularly in the opening chorale phrases). The writing for the lower voices is of consummate richness.

This unusual beginning of the movement is almost certainly symbolic, the large and small forces possibly representing the contrasts between the distant glimmering of the morning star and the all-encompassing force of God's beneficence.

The soprano aria is another expression of the elation that the love of God can bring to the true believer---fill my faithful breast with your divine flames. Both of Schweitzer's motives of 'joy' are present (running semi-quavers and a 'skipping' motive) and he suggests that the latter might also represent the flickering of divine flames. Note the melismas on key words such as 'flammen' and 'verlangende'.

In the tenor aria the call for voice and strings is answered and there are a number of other textural images underlined. The minuet rhythms suggest a restrained and civilized proclamation of faith, none-the-less sincere for its refined and cultivated expression. The notes of the opening violin theme (with emphasis on the 1st, 4th and 5th scale notes) echo the first bar of the opening chorus ritornello theme; clearly the movements are linked and part of a total conception. It may be worth noting how often Bach uses courtly dance rhythms (minuet and gavotte) to set texts about voices or souls rising up to heaven.

Note the rousing 2nd horn countermelody in the closing chorale.

Questions---why this additional melody? Why played by horn 2 rather than horn 1?

I believe that there are credible answers but I leave these questions for list members to ponder for themselves.

A splendid work, fully worthy of its place concluding the uninterrupted sequence of forty chorale cantatas; if, indeed, that was Bach's intention!

The link: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV1.htm will take you to the cantata page from where it is possible to access a great deal of further information including the text, piano/vocal score, comments, discussions and recordings.

A slightly more detailed account of Cantata BWV 1 and comparison between it and Cantata BWV 4 may be accessed via the link to the 'articles index' http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm

Russell Telfer wrote (March 23, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< APOLOGIES FOR SENDING THIS OUT EARLY. >
Not half. (ECE) Even the computer wizzes I go to have occasional problems with their boxes, and especially with email.

I am more than impressed by the rest of Julian's analysis and his response to the first work in the BWV. I have a vested interest - I need to ~read and inwardly digest~ because I am scheduled to continue the good work after he has done his 14 week stint, and I haven't done my homework yet.

Julian Mincham wrote:
< THE CANTATA OF THE WEEK:
BWV 1 Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern
How beautiful is the Morning Star.
Chorus/fantasia--Recitative (Tenor)--Aria (Sop)--Recit (Bass)--Aria (Tenor)--Chorale.
The 40th cantata of the cycle, composed for the
Annunciation
(The librettist is not known for certain but if Wolff's theory is correct it is likely to have been the last text by Andreas Stubel)
The choruses and arias are, unusually, all in flat major keys; major to express the joy which the Lord's blessing brings and flat, partially for practical reasons (horns in F) but possibly also to suggest the personal and contemplative nature of this text. This is not the rousing, communal D major joyousness of many other Bach choruses. It is, nevertheless, a movement of quite breathtaking proportion with a most unusual (for the period) opening. >
Despite spending some time each month consulting the lectionary, I can't quite see what the text used for this cantata has to do with the Annunciation. In fact the title and context of cantata No 1 IMHO definitely suggests Epiphany 1, which is not far away in time. In the churches I frequent, the symbolism of Morning at the start of the New Year is well established. The first three hymns in the Hymns A&M New Standard (Anglican) refer to the 'new-born day', New every morning' and 'pay thy morning sacrifice' for example.

Whatever. But Julian's analysis is impressive. So is the cantata. I can honestly say that every time I've heard it, I've been more impressed by its profundity, as a musical work.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 24, 2007):
Russell Telfer wrote:
<"I can't quite see what the text used for this cantata has to do with the Annunciation. In fact the title and context of cantata No 1 IMHO definitely suggests Epiphany 1, which is not far away in time.">
Rilling's booklet [5] comments: "the hymn was intended for Epiphany, but the hymn books of Bach's day also suggested it for the Annunciation and for the first Sunday in Advent, as the text contains clear references to readings of the Savour's coming. Hence Bach also uses verses of this hymn in his Advent cantatas BWV 36 and BWV 61".

Robertson writes (of 1/1): "The Morning Star is of course, Jesus, `Son of David from Jacob's stem, my King and my Bridegroom'"; and (of 1/2) "The Angel Gabriel's message to Mary is recalled in the text `You true Son of God and Mary'".

BTW, notice this coming Sunday, March 25th, coincides with the date of the first performance of BWV 1, in 1725. (BWV 127 was performed on Feb.11th, 1725; I suppose the intervention of Lent is the reason why our weekly perusal of the cantatas 'catches up' with the actual performance date of BWV 1, in 1725).

Paul T. McCain wrote (March 24, 2007):
Why BWV 1

March 25 is the fixed date of the Festival of the Annunciation of Our Lord in the Church Year, in Bach's time and in our ours.

This festival observes the angel Gabriel's appearance to the Virgin Mary, announcing to her that she would be the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ.

"How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" is a perfect hymn choice for this festival since it lauds and extols the coming of the Son of God into human flesh, for us and for our salvation.

This is how this day was understood in the Lutheran Church in Bach's time and still is among orthodox practicing Christians today.

Paul T. McCain wrote (March 24, 2007):
Drew...read my response

Drew, I explained below how it is that a Cantata would be allowed during the solemnity of Lent. You have to understand both the Church Year and the theology of the day concerned. It is one of the high feast days in the life of Jesus Christ and thus, no matter when the Annunciation would fall, it would have been observed and celebrated,thus the exception.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 24, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< BTW, notice this coming Sunday, March 25th, coincides with the date of the first performance of BWV 1, in 1725. (BWV 127 was performed on Feb.11th, 1725; I suppose the intervention of Lent is the reason why our weekly perusal of the cantatas 'catches up' with the actual performance date of BWV 1, in 1725). >
This Sunday has a calendar collision between the Fifth Sunday of Lent and the Feast of the Annunciation. In Catholic, Anglican and pre-Luther German calendars, the Annunciation is defered to the Monday aferwards. Luther's revision of the calendar allowed for the displacement of the normal Sunday readings because the Annunciation was a dominical feast celebrating an event in the life of Christ.

Thus, although we think of Lent as a "closed" season when no cantatas were performed, these conflicts appeared occasionally. On one such occasion, the "concurrence" of the Annunication and Palm Sunday, Bach revised "Himmelskönig sei Willkommen" producing a brilliant convergence of the Nativity and Passion themes. A foundational aspect of Bach's composing style was a comprehensive knowledge of what the variables of the calendar were in the upcoming years.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 25, 2007):
BWV 1 [Was: Drew...read my response]

Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Drew, I explained below how it is that a Cantata would be allowed during the solemnity of Lent. You have to understand both the Church Year and the theology of the day concerned. It is one of the high feast days in the life >
According to the Gospel for the Annunciation (Luke 1: 31), it celebrates Gabriel announcing to Mary that she 'will conceive'. Even in the most strict definitions of 'life', this precedes the life of Jesus.

< of Jesus Christ and thus, no matter when the Annunciation would fall, it would have been observed and celebrated,thus the exception. >
Wolff (B:LM, p. 290) is in agreement with Paul McCain: <six weeks of Lent during which no concerted music was permitted except on the Marian Feast of Annunciation, March 25 <end quote>

This leaves us with the problem that the only surviving music for this feast is BWV 1. Was it performed every year from 1725 onward? If so, what is the provenance and condition of the parts?

Boyd (OCC, Nicholas Anderson article) seems to imply less frequent performance, only when Mar. 25 falls within Holy Week. In fact, although that is the statement, the inference is that BWV 1 was performed only when Mar. 25 coincided with Palm Sunday, 1725 and 1736. Although this disagrees with Wolff (and McCain) it does seem the more plausible choice, given the single cantata written for the Annunciation.

Beyond the detailed interest for the conventions of theology, this issue seems to be worth sorting out because of the critical juncture of BWV 1 in the chorale cantata cycle (and specifically Jahrgang II), as well as its possible position as the last of the texts by Stübel. Not to mention that is was selected as BWV 1. Surely it has some special significance, beyond mere coincidences, and music quality?

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 25, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This leaves us with the problem that the only surviving music for this feast is BWV 1. Was it performed every year from 1725 onward? If so, what is the provenance and condition of the parts? >
The list of Annunciation cantatas posted on this site is:

BWV 1 -- Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern - 1725
BWV 182 -- Himmelskönig, sei willkommen - 1714, 1717-23, 1724, 1728, after 1728
BWV Anh 156 -- Telemann: Herr Christ der einge Gottessohn -1722
BWV Anh 199 -- Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger - 1724?

That's a corpus of cantatas for March 25 not unlike Bach's repertoire for Sundays.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 25, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for the clarification. I relied on a quick look in Dürr, who does in fact support Annunciation 1724 for BWV Anh 199, despite the lost music. He does not list BWV Anh 156 at all. BWV 182 is for Palm Sunday, 1714, with no suggestion that it was later adapted for the Annunciation.

In any case, the point is accurate, even a single cantata is not terribly out of line with the surviving cantatas, typically two or three, for Sundays. I was more intending to continue the discussion of the provenance and condition of surviving parts, given the number of repeat performances. In retrospect, this is probably more relevant to the Sunday cantatas, rather than to BWV 1 specifically, which may indeed have had only a couple performances if Boyd is correct.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 25, 2007):
Pitch of the horns in BWV 1

It's interesting to compare the horns in BWV 1 with those in, eg, BWV 65 - regarding which Douglas stated we usually hear the incorrect pitch, ie, an octave lower than baroque performance practice, in current recordings.

In BWV 1, the score is in F major, while the horn parts are in C major. The horns sound, correctly I believe, an interval of a fifth below their notation in the score, bringing them into F major. It would not be possible for these horn parts to sound an octave higher (ie, a fourth above their notation), because that would require a g3 - the highest note obtainable on the recorder (if I read Thomas correctly).

In BWV 65, the score is in C major, as are the horn parts, but as Doug pointed out, most performances (but not all, eg, Rilling and McCreesh) have the horns sounding an octave below their notation.

Yet the highest (sounding) note required on the horn in both works is the G sitting on top of the treble clef (g2), regardless of the notation described above (and disregarding tuning issues).

Can anyone explain why most horn players in BWV 65 adopt the lower octave, even though the same instruments seem quite capable of hitting g2, in all the recordings of BWV 1? Admittedly, there is more complex writing leading up to g2 in BWV 65, which might simply imply that playing more complex passages in this higher range is prohibitively difficult for most horn players.

Thomas Braatz wr(March 25, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>It's interesting to compare the horns in BWV 1 with those in, eg, BWV 65 - regarding which Douglas stated
we usually hear the incorrect pitch, ie, an octave lower than baroque performance practice, in current recordings.<<

The NBA KBs report nothing unusual about these horn parts, except that BWV 65 (the horn parts are missing) has Bach's notation at the top of the autograph score that the instruments to be played here are "2 Core du Chasse" which is a different instrument according to the Csibas, but Prinz lists this cantata as simply being for "Corno" (just preceding the staves for the horn parts, Bach squeezes in the designation ("2 Cors.")

The Csibas indicate the horn parts for BWV 1 are played on a Corno in F (12 feet long) with the notes sounding actually as going from a low c1 to a high d3 (mvt. 1).

BWV 65 is played on a Corne du chasse in C (8 foot length) and has a range of notes from c1 to c3 (mvt. 1). The notes do not sound as written in the part.

Prinz, on the other hand, gives both cantatas as having simply a "Corno" designation.

For BWV 1, Prinz gives the notation from e1 to d3, but the actual sound as being lower from a to g2.

For BWV 65, Prinz gives the notation from c1 to c3, but the actual sound as being lower from c to c2.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 25, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< It's interesting to compare the horns in BWV 1 with those in, eg, BWV 65 - regarding which Douglas stated we usually hear the incorrect pitch, ie, an octave lower than baroque performance practice, in current recordings. >
Paul McCreesh states in the liner notes to his recording of BWV 65, that his is the only one that performs the horn parts at the correct pitch. Since this recording was done around 2000, I don't know if that applies any longer.

The horn parts are not easy in BWV 65, that's for sure.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 25, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
(Thanks, Tom, for this information).
<The Csibas indicate the horn parts for BWV 1 are played on a Corno in F (12 feet long) with the notes sounding actually as going from a low c1 to a high d3 (mvt.1).<
Using the BGA, the notes (with the horns written in C major) range from c1 to d3. I'm sure they sound as going from (a fifth lower) f to g2, to match BWV 1's key of F major.

<BWV 65 is played on a Corne du chasse in C (8 footlength) and has a range of notes from c1 to c3 (mvt.1). The notes do not sound as written in the part.>
In BWV 65 the horns in the BGA are written in C major, which is the key of the piece. The written range is from c1 to a2 (I said g2 in my previous post, but I have since found one a2). IMO, the notes do sound as written, either at the pitch notated, or an octave lower!

<For BWV 1, Prinz gives the notation from e1 to d3, but the actual sound as being lower from a to g2.>
I see the notation from c1 to d3, with the actual sound from f to g2; I almost agree with him.

<For BWV 65, Prinz gives the notation from c1 to c3, but the actual sound as being lower from c to c2.>
As noted above, I see the written range (in the BGA) from c1 to a2.

However, Prinz's comment that the actual sound is c to c2, rather than c1 to c3, does suggest that there is some disagreement over the correct pitch for the horns, in BWV 65. Is McCreesh correct?

Chris Kern wrote (March 25, 2007):
BWV 1

An excellent cantata to finish the chorale cycle with. I especially love the use of the three different obliggato groups in the first movement (the trumpets, the oboes, and the solo violins). JM wondered if 40 was a round number that Bach had been shooting for, but I don't think this is the case. BWV 9, 140, and 14 which were later composed (because the liturgical dates for them did not exist in 1724), follow the same pattern, and I think Wolff is probably right when he states that the librettos were composed in 1724 at the same time as the other 40 in the cycle.

In any case, I listened to Rilling [5], Harnoncourt [4], and Leusink [8].

[5] Rilling:
This was my favorite of the three recordings. I almost always like Rilling's choral movements better than H or L, and this one is magnificent. The tempo is right, the singing is affecting, and the solo instruments all sound good. The oboe in the soprano aria is much better than R's usual oboes, and I continue to commend Rilling on having sopranos who do not sing with excessive operatic vibrato. The tenor aria is also good, although the harpsichord gets to pounding at times.

[4] Harnoncourt:
The opening movement is too slow. It sounds to me like the movement is dragging and being played at a slower speed than it should be. However, I like H's very clear, strong soprano line -- I always like to hear the cantus firmus in these fantasias strongly deliniated. The boy in the aria is average; he has some trouble controlling his vibrato. The tenor aria is fine.

[8] Leusink:
The opening fantasia is average, and at times the singers sound like they're shouting out the notes. The solo instruments are also somewhat quiet, although overall the instrumental accompaniment is fine. Ruth Holton is excellent as usual in her aria, and the oboe accompaniment sounds good. Van Der Meel's tenor aria is also very good; I think he is one of the best tenor singers with respect to controlling the operatic vibrato that even HIP tenor singers are prone to. I especially like how the producer mixes the sound in these arias; it sounds like I'm sitting in the studio right in front of them.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 25, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In BWV 65 the horns in the BGA are written in C major, which is the key of the piece. The written range is from c1 to a2 (I said g2 in my previous post, but I have since found one a2). IMO, the notes do sound as written, either at the pitch notated, or an octave lower! >
I'm curious about the horn parts for BWV 65 in the sources: are they notated in treble or bass clef? I know from research with Telemann and Graupner cantatas, the horn parts can often be notated in bass clef, with the understanding the pitch was an octave higher than noted.

It creates massive headaches for modern day editors, but I've heard a theory that this procedure had the benefit of saving ink (less ledger lines if the part was notated in treble clef).

Thanks!

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2007):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>>I'm curious about the horn parts for BWV 65 in the sources: are they notated in treble or bass clef? I know from research with Telemann and Graupner cantatas, the horn parts can often be notated in bass clef, with the understanding the pitch was an octave higher than noted.<<
They are notated in regular treble clef by Bach. The NBA I/5 explains in its notes regarding the editing (p. V-VI) as follows:

"Die Überlieferung der Kantate BWV 65 läßt -- insbesondere infolge des Verlustes der Originalstimmen -- eine Reihe von Fragen offen. So ist es nicht sicher, ob die Hornpartien der Sätze 1 und 6 auf Instrumenten in C-basso oder -alto gespielt werden sollen. Einer verbreiteten Praxis der ersten Hälfte des 18. Jahrhunderts entsprechend, sind diese Partien jedoch wahrscheinlich mit Trompetenmundstücken in C-alto geblasen worden, so daß Bachs Notierung (Umfang c1 - c3 bzw. c1 - b2) als Klangnotation zu lesen ist."

("The transmission of the cantata, BWV 65, -- particularly due to the loss of the original parts -- leaves open a number of questions. For instance, it is not certain whether the horn parts for mvts. 1 & 6 should be played on C-basso or C-alto instruments. Ato a widespread performance practice during the 1st half of the 18th century, these parts would then probably be played as C-alto using trumpet mouthpieces so that Bach's notation (range for 1st horn: c1 to c3 and 2nd horn from c1 to b2) would be read as actually sounding notes as written.")

This comment was written in 1976 when this cantata was first published by the NBA in its critical edition. Meanwhile, the Csibas, in their 1994 publication, have determined that Corni in C had the same length as the Tromba in C and that the Corni in F were a 5th lower than the Tromba in C. This was a Germanic tradition in the latter half of the 17th century. Experimentation and innovation at the beginning of the 18th century brought about changes. Mattheson's (1713) comment that horns can be played more easily than trombae refers, according to the Csibas, to Corni in C of 12 feet or longer. J. Chr. Weigel (1698) gives an illustration of a Waldhorn in C having a 16 foot length wound 6 times. France also had such instruments. Morin's "La chasse du cerf" (1708) has a Corno in C part written in such a way that a violin or oboe could easily play it as well. Contrary to the claim made by A. Baines, this high part can be played by a 16-foot Corne par force, an instrument developed in France.

On p. 59, the Csibas state:

"Die allgemein verbreitete Denkweise, Corno-Stimmen aus der Zeit vor 1750 mit unseren heutigen Stimmen für Horn in F, die sich in einer wesentlich tieferen Lage bewegen, gleichzusetzen, ist ein schwerwiegender Irrtum mit fatalen Folgen. Die Corno-Stimmen aus J. S. Bachs Zeit bewegen sich hauptsächleich in der notierten ein- und zweigestrichenen Oktave für die 12 Fuß bis 7 Fuß langen Instrumente und sind jeweils entsprechend zu transponieren. Die Stimmen für das 16 Fuß lange C-Corno bewegen sich -klingend notiert - ebenfalls in der ein- und zweigestrichenen Octave. Dies bedeutet, daß das 16 Fuß Corno nicht mit der Absicht gebaut wurde, um tiefere Töne, als die kürzeren Corno-Instrumente es vermögen, hervorzubringen, sondern um den Naturtonvorrat in der ein- und zweigestrichenen Oktave zu erweitern."

("The commonly widely assumed way of thinking to equate horn parts from the period before 1750 with those of the present-day horns in F, which essentially play in a lower register, is a serious error having fatal results. The range of the horn parts from Bach's time is mainly within the x1 and x2 octave composed for 12-ft. to 7-ft. instruments and they need to be transposed accordingly. The parts for the 16-ft.-long Corno in C also are likewise situated in the x1 and x2 octaves, notated as the music sounds. This means that the 16-ft. Corno instrument was not intentionally constructed to have it play the lower-sounding notes the same way that the shorter-length Corni could, but rather in order to expand the number of usable notes of the natural tone series within the x1 and x2 octaves.")

Neil Halliday wrote (March 26, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
>Harnomcourt: The opening movement is too slow. It sounds to me like the movement is dragging and being played at a slower speed than it should be<.
Conductors will be pleased to know that there is divergence of opinion over such matters!

I always found Rilling's BWV 1/1 [5] to be uncomfortably brisk and un-involving (7.39). Even Richter [3] is on the brisk side (7.55). Leusink [8] is faster still (7.20). I went for the Harnoncourt [4] because of its `broad' tempo (9.30) and the transparency of all the parts. Werner [2] is well-played and recorded (10.15!) and has similar transparency to Harnoncourt, and if this (Werner's) performance does sound very slow, it can still be enjoyable depending on one's mood.

The moderate tempi of Suzuki [13] and Koopman (8.20) [9] will probably sound to be the most `natural' for this music for most listeners. Does anyone have a timing for Gardiner [7] in the opening movement?

There is a newly released recording of BWV 1 by Montreal Baroque, on the Atma label [14]. I heard the opening chorus on the radio; an attractive performance, in which the OVPP approach seems to work, partly, I suppose, due to the rich orchestration of 1/1. Arkiv Music


Here is David Vernier's comment on this releae (from ClassicsToday.com)

"I've never been a big fan of the "one-voice-to-a-part" cult of Bach performance, but I have to say that this is really outstanding, the renditions--especially of BWV 1--as convincing as any I've ever heard. Yes, the full-bodied richness of tone and texture that characterize John Eliot Gardiner's performance (SDG) [7] of Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern with his 20-voice Monteverdi Choir can't be matched or displaced by four voices, no matter how well-chosen and balanced, but it also would be hard to criticize this reading, which is wonderfully vibrant and soul-satisfying, every bit as buoyant as acclaimed versions by more substantial forces. Besides the excellent soloists, whose stylish, energetic singing is a pure joy to hear, this orchestra is absolutely terrific, with warm, articulate strings and brilliantly resonant trumpet and horns. And speaking of "joy", the cantata's opening chorus is the embodiment of the emotion".

For the soprano aria, I'm happy with Rilling [5] (but the organ seems to be playing the same note a lot of the time) and Richter [3] (surprisingly, Mathis seems to have the vibrato under control).

In the tenor aria, all three of Werner [2], Richter [3] and Rilling [5] are most enjoyable; I tend to dislike the emphatic string articulation in Harnoncourt's recording [4].

Rilling's `descant' horn [5] sounds great in the final chorale.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 26, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The moderate tempi of Suzuki [13] and Koopman (8.20) [9] will probably sound to be the most `natural' for this music for most listeners. Does anyone have a timing for Gardiner [7] in the opening movement? >
Gardiner [7], 8:08. I have only given it a quick listen, while finishing up BWV 127, but the overall impression is nicely baklanced tempos, typically (of Gardiner) vivid and bright.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 26, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote (of BWV 1/1):
>Gardiner [7], 8:08. ... the overall impression is nicely balanced tempos, typically (of Gardiner) vivid and bright.<
Thanks, Ed. That timing probably allows Gardiner's 1/1 [7] to be put in the 'moderate' tempo category. David Vernier is obviously impressed (in the quote I posted).

Peter Smaill wrote (March 26, 2007):
BWV 1-OT- Peter Cornelius/"Wie schoen Leuchtet"

For me and many others the first contact with this Chorale was not via BWV 1, but as a chorister at Christmastide singing Cornelius' "Three Kings", as it is translated in English, where the soloist sings the Cornelius melody against as it were an intonation of the Chorale.

He was a contemporary of Wagner and a fair selection of his work is now recorded. But does anyone know if his Bachian setting was actually inspired by a knowledge of the Cantatas, and this one in particular?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 26, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>For me and many others the first contact with this Chorale was not via BWV 1, but as a chorister at Christmastide singing Cornelius' "Three Kings", as it is translated in English, where the solsings the Cornelius melody against as it were an intonation of the Chorale.
He was a contemporary of Wagner and a fair selection of his work is now recorded. But does anyone know if his Bachian setting was actually inspired by a knowledge of the Cantatas, and this one in particular?<<
The idea of including the chorale melody in the song mentioned above was recommended to him by Franz Liszt while both were in close contact in Weimar!
[Source: MGG1]

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 26, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< He was a contemporary of Wagner and a fair selection of his work is now recorded. But does anyone know if his Bachian setting was actually inspired by a knowledge of the Cantatas, and this one in particular? >
An interesting history of the piece below. The chorale was suggested by Liszt! I didn't know that the original text of "Wie Schön" is an acrostic.

I've always thought that the piece was suggested by the bass ariosos with soprano chorale in the Christmas Oratorio.

*************************************
Three kings from Persian lands afar

Three kings from Persian lands afar
to Jordan follow the pointing star,
and this the quest of the travellers three -
where the new born king of the Jews may be.
Full royal gifts they bear for the king,
gold, incense, myrrh are their offering.

Peter Cornelius was a native of Mainz, and a member of the Weimar circle of the mid-nineteenth century. He was both a poet and a composer. His first opera, The Barber of Baghdad, is a comedy showing the influence of Beethoven and Liszt. Unfortunately, the latter resigned as director of the Weimar theatre after a badly received first performance in 1858. Cornelius moved to Vienna where he met Wagner, subsequently following him to Munich in 1868.

Cornelius set his first poem "Die Könige" in a simple ballad-like style. The setting we know today was sketched in 1859 and published in a set of six Weihnachtslieder (carols) in 1871. The chorale Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Philipp Nicolai (1556-1608) was suggested as an accompaniment by Liszt.

In this setting, the accompaniment is provided by a choir singing the first verse of the chorale under a soloist singing the Three Kings. The text of the Three Kings is a simple rendition of the Epiphany story. This eccentric conjunction of Epiphany text and Christmas accompaniment may have arisen from an assumption that Wie schön leuchtet refers to the star which led the magi to Bethlehem. However, it is now accepted that the Morgenstern (Morning Star) is Christ, the "dayspring from on high" (Luke 1:78). The image is of the sun or a bright star rising in the morning sky, and represents Christ's birth into a world of darkness.

Wie schön leuchtet is a companion to Wachet auf! (Sleepers wake!), both great Lutheran hymns composed by Nicolai. Each chorale pays homage to the Count of Waldech in the form of an acrostic. In the original German seven verse setting of Wie schön leuchtet, the first letter of each verse spells out: Wilhelm Ernst, Graf und Herr (Count and Lord) zu Waldech.

The most popular arrangement is for soloist and eight-part choir by Ivor Atkins (1869-1953) who was organist of Worcester Cathedral from 1897-1950.

Chris Stanley wrote (March 26, 2007):
But Mendelsohn's use of "Wie schoen Leuchtet" in Christus (common Christmas motet " When Jesus our Lord was born in Bethlehem) must have been earlier than the 1859 Cornelius offering?

As bright the star of morning gleams so Jesus sheddeth glorious beams of light and consolation.

Paul T. McCain wrote (March 26, 2007):
About Philip Nicolai, author of "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" Re: BWV 1

I thought the list might enjoy reading a bit more about the author of the chorale that is featured in BWV 1: "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star"

One of the great treasures of the Christian church is its hymns, and one of the greatest contributions to that treasure is that of the early Lutheran writers, beginning with Martin Luther and reaching a peak with J S Bach. Today the Lutheran church remembers three outstanding hymn-writers from Germany in the 1600's.

Philipp Nicolai was born in 1556 in Germany, son of a Lutheran pastor. He studied theology at the universities of Erfurt and Wittenberg, 1575-1579, and became a pastor himself. It was a time of religious wars in Europe, and several times he had to flee or go into hiding and minister to his congregations secretly in house meetings. He was a theological writer, defending Lutheran theology chiefly against Calvinistic opponents. He also preached with great power and effectiveness. In 1588 he became pastor at Altwildungen, in 1596 he became pastor at Unna in Westphalia, and in 1601 pastor in Hamburg. But he is remembered today for writing two hymns.

While he was pastor in Westphalia, the plague took 1300 of his parishioners, mostly in the latter half of 1597, 170 in one week. To comfort his parishioners, he wrote a series of meditations which he called Freudenspiegel (Mirror of Joy), and to this he appended two hymns, both of which have become world-famous.

The first hymn was, "Wake, awake, for night is flying" (Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme). It uses the image of the watchman on a city wall (Isaiah 52:8), and of the Parable of the Bridesmaids welcoming the Bridegroom to the Marriage Feast (Matthew 25:1-13), and of the Song of Triumph in Heaven (Revelation 19:6-9). It is a favorite Advent hymn.

The second hymn was, "How lovely shines the Morning Star" (Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern). This also, with a wealth of imagery, hails Christ as our deliverer, and celebrates his triumph. It has become a favorite wedding hymn, but is also sung for Advent, for Christmas, for Epiphany, and and as a general hymn of praise.

Nicolai wrote both the words and the tunes, but the arrangements we know are due to Bach. The earliest English translations are those of Catherine Winkworth, but there have been many translations since, some of them (especially for the second hymn) content to reproduce the general spirit of the original words rather than their specific meaning. In addition, several hymnwriters have set their own words (in various languages) to one of Nicolai's tunes. If pure quality, without respect to quantity, were our criterion, Nicolai would have to be ranked as history's greatest chorale-writer, and one of its greatest hymn-writers.

Nicolai died 26 October 1608 after a brief (four-day) illness.
Source: http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bio/12.html

Richard Mix wrote (March 27, 2007):
To be clear, Cornelius' Christmas songs were for voice and piano, the versions with men's choir in the Oxford Carols for Choirs and the one Doug mentioned below being modern arrangements.

< The most popular arrangement is for soloist and eight-part choir by Ivor Atkins (1869-1953) who was organist of Worcester Cathedral from 1897-1950. >

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 28, 2007):
BWV 1 [was: Newest Issue of Gardiner's Bach Cantata (Pilgrimage) Series - Easter Cantatas]


BWV 846_893 wrote:
< I've pasted in a very detailed and positive review of this issue, by John Quinn (from Music Web International). There are many magical moments in this set.
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Bach Cantata Pilgrimage - Volume 22
Cantatas for Easter Sunday >
This seems like an appropriate spot to add a comment from the the earlier Volume 21, which includes this weeks discussion cantata, BWV 1. Although Gardiner's comment is in the BWV 182 section, it applies equally to the entire concert, including BWV 1 [7]:

<With a church packed with suca variety of listeners -- [...] Bach 'pilgrims' from Oxford and London, even one from Japan -- one sensed even more forcibly than before the mystery of live performances of Bach's music which evidently nourishes both performer and listener. You could feel the exhilaration. <end quote>

In the cited review, John Quinn refers to:
< his [Gardiner's] characteristically eloquent notes >
I could not agree more, and I find that both the ineffable but real 'live' performance characteristics, and the eloquent notes, are just two of many outstanding features of the ongoing series or releases.

IMO, the cover art is another! Maybe those professional graphics folks are a little out of touch with non-professional consumers? Just a thought. I have great respect and enjoyment for good design, whatever the source. Furthermore, BCML is the last place where I would run the risk of disparaging hard working professionals, in any field.

Paul T. McCain wrote (March 30, 2007):
BWV I: Reference to the Lord's Supper

Just enjoying BWV 1 again and noticed the powerful reference to the Lord's Supper in the Bass Recit. based on the chorale's fourth and fifth verses, and within that the lovely statement "Ein Fruedenschein ist mir von Godtt enstanden, denn ein volkommnes Gut, des Heilans Leib und Blut." [A ligh of joy to me from God has arisen, for a perfect possession/good, the Savior's body and blood"] How beautifully text and music support each other to offer the congregation a wonderful work supporting their reception of Holy Communion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] I hope I have understood correctly: the lines cited are from the original chorale text, not the paraphrase in the bass recit BWV 1/4?

Assuming that is correct (I believe it is, otherwise I would have looked it up) this is a fine example of what we have all agreed is worth doing in Bach's music: finding and explaining the details where music and text are mutually reinforcing in the sacred music. A sublime esthetic experience, whatever one's personal theology.

And what better point to try to build some bridges than over Jesus' (Last?) Supper. I put the question mark there, because I am unclear as to what were his activities between the Resurrection and Ascension, those special forty (+/-?) days when he was back with the disciples. Did they eat together?

Here in New England, USA, there are endless arguments over whether dinner or supper is appropriate, and for which meal. It gets so bad, I usually just have brunch, and call it a day.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 1: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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