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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 101
Nimm von uns Herr, du treuer Gott
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 23, 2011 (3rd round)

Francis Browne wrote (October 23, 2011):
BWV 101 Notes on the text

BWV 101 was written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity and .first performed on 13th August 1724. It is a chorale cantata from Bach's second cycle of Leipzig cantatas. As is usual in these cantatas the first and last stanzas of the chorale are used without alteration.. In the recitatives in movements 3 and 5 the texts of the chorale are also included unaltered but are expanded by comments . Stanzas 2,4 and 6 are each paraphrased to form an aria.

The text of the chorale used by Bach's librettist in BWV 101 has a complicated origin. The unknown author of Bach's text based his libretto on a hymn by Martin Moller written in 1584 in a time of pestilence. Moller in turn based his hymn on Aufer immensam,deus, aufer iram a Latin poem in sapphic stanzas published in Wittenberg in 1541, possibly written by Georg Klee or Johann Spangenberg. This text was set by Heinrich Schütz. (SWV 337 ,Op.9/32) This poem is in its turn apparently a reworking of a Late medieval Latin prose prayer, but I have not found that text. The neolatin poem is skilfully written and besides Moller's version there are other German translations from the sixteenth century. I have translated the Latin poem and Moller's hymn so that it is possible to see the successive adaptation of the text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale050-Eng3.htm

The German is a free adaptation, almost a paraphrase , rather than a literal translation. In Leipzig Moller's chorale was the primary hymn assigned to the 10th Sunday after Trinity . In the gospel for the day Jesus foretells the destruction of Jerusalem. At Vespers on this Sunday in Leipzig Josephus' account of the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 was read. It was inevitable that Bach's anonymous librettist should use this chorale and that Bach's setting should strike such a sombre tone. Moller in 1584 was writing in a time of pestilence but in the opening stanza he includes other misfortunes besides 'Seuchen' (plagues ) so that the hymn was listed in hymn books under the heading "In allgemeiner Not". This general distress of the people is seen as deserved because of their sins.

The second stanza develops this notion of sin, acknowledging the people's guilt but asking God not to judge strictly according to our deserts but according to his mercy. In his adaptation of the second stanza Bach's librettist in general strives for greater elaboration: the aabbcc rhyme scheme is replace with aabcbc, bösen Knecht is changed to Sündenknecht, Herr to Höchster, unserer Tun to sündlich Tun. Imagery of 'das Schwert der Feinde' and the mention of Jerusalem make more explicit connection with the day's readings.

In the recitatives of the third and fifth movement the cantata text quotes one or two lines of the chorale - easily distinguishable by the use of the chorale tune in the accompaniment - and comments or expands on them, generally striving to make the words of the hymn more immediate and particular in application for those present eg when the chorale mentions " Der Teufel plagt uns" the cantata text uses scriptural references to reinforce the danger posed by the devil.

Like the second movement aria the arias in movements 4 and 6 adapt the text of the corresponding stanzas in the chorale. In the dramatic bass aria the chorale's emphasis on human weakness is replaced by concentration on God's response to man's sinfulness : present experience of his anger and hope for his paternal forgiveness. In the aria for soprano and alto the chorale stanza is lengthened by the repetition of the opening line and the appeal made to God is given more immediacy by the replacement of the abstract mention of Baumherzigkeit with the striking phrase , Baumherziger Gott, Baumherzigkeit and the personal reference of the additional line :Ich seufze
stets in meiner Not. The cantata text has developed from the generalising collective wir to the particularity of ich

As is customary the last stanza is used unaltered and sung by the choir. It seems a fitting closure to conclude with both a general appeal once more for " Stadt und Land" and a more personal plea for help in the distress each must face alone, the hour of death.

Whatever its origins and literary merit,this text serves Bach as the basis for sombre, subtle music. Although BWV 101 may not have the immediate appeal of more popular cantatas, it repays attentive listening and close study/

Julian Mincham wrote (October 23, 2011):
[To Francis Browne] It's interesting to look up what Schweitzer says of this cantata:- '101 is one of those that are sadly disfigured by the excessively tasteless recitative-passages that are dovetailed into the chorale text. Bach himself was unconscious of the wretched quality of his text'. Schweitzer is sometimes quite bizarre when commenting upon Bach's texts and his setting of them, another example being the delightful tenor aria from BWV 38 which he recommends cutting when performing the cantata (thus removing the central keystone of the work!)

He does, however say, more appreciatively, of the first movement 'we cannot help wishing that Bach had left us more chorale-choruses of this type'. This is a movement of such forward looking qualities that it sometimes sounds almost Stravinskian in its use of harmony and dissonance.

The late duet must rank as one of Bach's most haunting, the unusual use of flute and oboe da caccia as the two obbligato instruments creating, with the sop and alto voices, a sound that long lingers in the mind. A cantata that deserves, along with its pairing BWV 46, to be much better known.

David Jones wrote (October 23, 2011):
BWV 101

Today's Cantata is "Nimm Von Uns, du treuer Gott"----"Take from us, you faithful God", Martin Moller's new words set against Luther's setting of the "Vater Unser", which Bach sets masterfully. This cantata represents the collective scream of a community chastened by many disasters. For many reasons, I feel that it has much resonance with America's current situation of economic and even physical collapse; Moller is said to have written his words during a great plague (one of many) that swept over Europe. Although today's trend leans heavily (and rightly) toward historically informed performance, does the group think that they weighty words of certain cantatas can lend themselves to modern performance at modern pitch? As much as I hate to admit it, I think so. Both Britten's and Helmuth Rillings's [2] performances have tremendous, granitic power; Gardiner [6] matches them however with a brisk tempo that works with the minor key to create an awful sense of dread. If I had to choose one cantata as proof of Bach's personal religious convictions, it would probably be this one; I don't think this is the writing of a man who believes God doesn't exist.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 23, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< The late duet must rank as one of Bach's most haunting, the unusual use of flute and oboe da caccia as the two obbligato instruments creating, with the sop and alto voices, a sound that long lingers in the mind. A cantata [101] that deserves, along with its pairing BWV 46, to be much better known. >
These two works are conveniently paired in our current discussion format, as well as in the format of Gardiner Pilgrimnage releases (Vo. 5).

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 23, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< BWV 101 was written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity and .first performed on 13th August 1724. >
Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV101.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 23, 2011):
David Jones wrote:
< I don't think this is the writing of a man who believes God doesn't exist. >
A statement easily agreed with.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 101: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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

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