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Cantata BWV 102
Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben!
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 25, 2007

Uri Golomb wrote (November 25, 2007):
Week of November 25, 2007 - Cantata BWV 102

This week's cantata is BWV 102, Herr, deine Augen sehen nach dem Glauben, for the 10th Sunday after Trinity (25 August 1726).
Previous discussions of this work can be found on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV102-D.htm;
a list of recordings on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV102.htm.
Links to online commentaries can be found on http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/IndexGuide3.htm.

As I write my own introduction to this cantata, I am in the middle of a different yet related project: writing an article on the four short Masses (BWV 233-236). As many of you are aware, these Masses consist almost entirely of "parodied" movements -- that is, movements drawn from earlier cantatas. This cantata proved quite attractive for Bach in this context: he used its opening movement as the Kyrie of the Mass in g minor (BWV 235); two arias were re-used in the F-major Mass (BWV 233): "Weh der Seele" became "Qui tollis", "Erschreke doch" became "Quoniam". Arguably, Bach's choice to "plunder" this cantata means that he considered it one of his best -- that is, he considered the music of these three movements (the others -- with the possible exception of the bass arioso (Mvt. 4) -- were not really usable in a Mass anyway) particularly worthy of extended preservation and re-use, albeit with some modifications. Incidentally, it was also one of the first Bach cantatas to be published in the 19th century (as Konrad Kuester points out in the Oxford Composer Companion to Bach).

Dürr referred to the opening chorus as "one of the great achievements of the mature Bach" (p. 488 of the English edition), referring, among other things, to its "formal complexity"; as he later points out, the formal sophistication is intensified as Bach covers his tracks -- the movement is structured as a modiified da-capo, but "the reprise of A' [...] may be exactly fixed only by the analytic eye, scarcely by the impartial listening ear" (this tendency to hide formal points of demarcation is quite typical of Bach).

The formal complexity contributes to the movement's severe demeanour; the text, from Jeremaiah, is one of those of statements that gave the Old Testatment its reputation for harshness and severity. Something of this severe demeanour affects much of the rest of the cantata -- the bass arioso (Mvt. 4) and tenor aria (Mvt. 5) have, initially, a lighter, elegant atmosphere, but both have harsher, more insistent passages. In the opening chorus, the sense of severity is also noticeable in the performing instructions -- that is, in the staccato dots that appear (at least in the Bach-Gesellschaft edition -- I was unable to consult a more up-to-date edition) above the words "Du schlaegest sie" (You strike them) -- one of the few places where Bach explicitly calls for aspirated phrasing. (According to the Bach-Gesellschaft edition -- and in all the performances I've heard -- the equivalent place in the g minor Missa has no such staccato instruction -- presumably because the new text, Christe eleison, does not call for the "striking" word-painting).

I've listened to four performances: Werner [4], Richter [5], Koopman [9] and Leusink [7] (of the performances I don't have, I would have been particularly curious to hear Kuijken's OVPP version [10] -- anyone on this list has any impressions?). Somewhat to my surprise, I liked Leusink best. This is not to say that I had no reservation from it: for instance, I found the choral singing in the opening movement a bit too harsh and rough-edged. However, I preferred this rough-hewn quality to the over-rounded, genteel version of Koopman, my least favourite among the four.

Among the two modern-instrument versions, Richter [5] was (predictably) harsher than the more lyrical Werner [4] -- yet (again somewhat to my own surprise) I preferred the Werner version, responding to its warmth and finding the Richter a bit too generalised, with too little attention to detail. Still, in the opening movement, the performances I truly enjoyed most were... the Junghänel and Purcell Quartet versions of the g-minor Missa's Kyrie. And, as I said, I would be quite curious to hear Kuijken's version [10] -- and the not-yet-published Gardiner.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 30, 2007):
[To Uri Golomb] It's interesting that Bach sbould heve written two successive cantatas whith such similar features, only two weeks apart, on August 11 and 25, 1726: opening chotuses with strong fugue in the central sections; recit - three successive arias, for alto (Mvt. 3), bass (Mvt. 4), tenor (Mvt. 5) soloists (no soprano soloist) -recit-chorale. Similar orchestration of chorus and arias; except the brighter E major chorus of BWV 45 has flutes added to the oboes and strings of the more serious G minor mood of BWV 102/1 (Mvt. 1). Both cantatas have fifth movements with a transverse flute as an obbligato instrument, with charming 'bariolage'-like passages for this instrument. The fourth movements of both works are lively ariosos for bass and strings, set to NT texts. (Both opening choruses have OT texts).

For BWV 102, I like the alto (Mvt. 3) and bass (Mvt. 4) arias in Rilling [3], and the tenor aria (Mvt. 5) in Richter [5].

I would probably prefer Koopman [9] in the opening chorus (Mvt. 1), judging by the BCW sample.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 30, 2007):
BWV 102 is written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, a date in the Church calendar of especial significance at Leipzig since the account by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem was read out, the parallel being the warning to potentially sinful/unbelieving Leipzig.

Both BWV 102 and BWV 101 for this day have allusions also to the Crucifixion; BWV 101, as we saw , has a chiastic aria BWV 101/6, the central line being a summation of the doctrine of atonement : "Die Zahlung und das Loesegeld".

In BWV 102 the structure of the entire Cantata, derived from the poet of Meiningen who also wrote the J L Bach Cantatas performed by cousin J S, is chiastic, with the Bass arioso BWV 102/4 (Mvt. 4) naturally forming the central part. It is cast as the end of Part 1, a significance which escapes Duerr who does not detect the chiasm at all.He is puzzled by the structure.

The significance of this Sunday brings me to a theme which has been growing since the Bach BMM (BWV 232) Conference in Belfast last month. Both BWV 102 and BWV 46, "Schauet doch" are plundered for use in Masses; BWV 102/1 (Mvt. 1) for the Mass in G Minor, BWV 102/3 (Mvt. 3) and 5 for the Mass in F. BWV 46/1 is of course the "Qui Tollis" of the BMM (BWV 232).

The view expressed by Wolff in Belfast is that by the time of the BMM (BWV 232) Bach was able to extract from all his 200 Cantatas music of the highest quality. However, although this is true as far as it goes, the special nature of this Sunday and its texts-prefiguring Jesus crucifixion in Jerusalem and his prediction of its destruction, with allusions to OT lamentations over Jerusalem in BWV 46/1 - suggests that Bach was in fact also thinking of the theological appropriateness of his Mass sources. This is despite the fact that the German texts obviously fall away in favour of the Latin; perhaps only Bach would remember the connection.

Since the Ratswahl cantatas used for parody in the BMM (BWV 232) also relate Leipzig as the new Jerusalem, the linkage of the holy city to the Masses is thus a hidden theme.

As regards the BMM (BWV 232), most commentators compare the sense of the texts of the borrowed sections to the sentiment of the Latin. However, the relationship of the affekt of the closing chorales is even more striking, for example:

Latin

Qui Tollis peccata mundum, miserere nobis

Thou that takest away the sins of the world
Have mercy upon us

German BWV 46/6

So sieh doch an die Wunden sein,
sein Marter,Angst und schwere Pein;
Um seinetwillen schone,
Uns nicht nach Suenden lohne


"Then behold his wounds
His torment,anguish and harsh pain;
On his account spare us
And reward us not according to our sins".

This is one of the most unusual extended chorales , the high flute parts IMO suggesting downward procession of the divine Persons and uniting with the mortals' chorale at the end in a remarkably ambiguous cadence (per Chafe ). Bach is especially inspired in all his works for this Sunday.

Thus it is contended that Bach considered both music and the theological purpose (and setting ) of the original pieces, in achieving appropriate affekt in his choice of parody sources in the Masses. Not every Cantata was an equally eligible target, as evidenced by the fact that and the 10th Sunday in Trinity had especial significance for his purposes.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 1, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>opening choruses with strong fugue in the central sections;<
Oops. I now realize I had the previous week's (ie, the one before BWV 45) opening chorus in mind, namely, BWV 187/1. In fact, BWV 102/1 (Mvt. 1) and BWV 187/1 are both in G minor and have the same orchestration, with a strong fugue in the centre.

Still, we have three cantatas in a row (BWV 187, BWV 45, and BWV 102, written for August 4,11,25 in 1726) with the form: chorus-recit-aria-arioso(aria)-aria-recit-chorale, with the bass arioso/aria in the centre of the chiastic structure, as noted by Peter.

[The division of these cantatas into two parts varies - in BWV 187 and BWV 45, part 2 begins with the 4th movement, while in BWV 102, part 2 begins with Mvt. 5].

Julian Mincham wrote (December 1, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill] Another small piece of evidence suggesting the particular significance of this 10th Sunday after Trinity, is the fact that all three extant cantatas begin with massive choruses. All three are in minor keys and two share the same key, Dm. For myself, though, I find it hard to beat the depiction of a war torn pestilence -aden landscpe of the fantasia from BWV 101, surely one of Bach's most imaginative opening movements.

However, speaking just about the music, what about the extraordinary alto aria (Mvt. 3) from BWV 102? The oboe (later copied by the voice) hits a Db as its first note, shortly followed by an E natural--neither note having any degree of consonance with the tonic chord (Fm).

This music seem quite 'modern' to my ear--heaven only knows what it must have sounded like to Cantata BWV 18 Lutheran congregations!

Every now and again in these later cantatas one comes up against an oddball?movement like this, so extraordinary in its expression that it seems to stand right outside the conventional styles of the period in which is was written. Another of these is the duet from BWV 156, coming up on list in a few weeks---worth looking out for if people don't yet know it.?

Russell Telfer wrote (December 1, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< However, speaking just about the music, what about the extraordinary alto aria (Mvt. 3) from BWV 102? The oboe (later copied by the voice) hits a Db as its first note, shortly followed by an E natural--neither note having any degree of consonance with the tonic chord (Fm).
This music seem quite 'modern' to my ear--heaven only knows what it must have sounded like to Cantata
BWV 18 Lutheran congregations! >
In the discussion so far, I haven't noticed any reference to cantata BWV 56 - Ich Will Den Kreutzstab Gerne Tragen. This alto aria (Mvt. 3) from BWV 102'3, I feel, could fit in neatly, both in a musical and a lyrical sense, into BWV 56.

These cantatas, (BWV 56, BWV 101 and BWV 102) make use of the notes of the harmonic minor scale, of which composers prior to Bach mostly fought shy. So yes, the music has 'attitude' but the score does 'stay legal' remaining within the confines of the diatonic scale of F minor as we now know it. Give the man credit for being ahead of his time!

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 2, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< BWV 102 is written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity, a date in the Church calendar of especial significance at Leipzig since the account by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem was read out, the parallel being the warning to potentially sinful/unbelieving Leipzig. >
The passage in question is Luke 19: 41-48, which is of course a post-facto "prediction" of the Fall of Jerusalem in 72 C.E. Josephus was a Jewish historian whose chronicles are not part of either the Jewish or Christian canon of scripture but which provide an extra-biblical context for the period after the death of Jesus of Nazareth. I doubt that Bach knew the writings.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 2, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for your interest in Josephus. He supplies to the Cantata texts also the image of "Sodom's apple", shiny outside but rotten within, perhaps the only text in the Cantatas from outside the christian world of Bible, Apocrypha, sermons, doctrine and mysticism which otherwise are the fabric of the librettists.

Certainly Bach knew him, for the "History of the Jews" was in Bach's library as recorded by Spitta and Leaver; 2 thaler were paid for a folio copy at Bach's death.

As to 10th Sunday in trinity, Chafe explains that Luther's "pastoral organiser", Bugenhagen, instituted the tardition of reading out a version of the Josephus' account of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 at Vespers on this day. In chorale books of Bach's time in Leipzig the Josephus passages were tied up with biblical quotations predicting the destruction and Passion chorales, again Leaver is the source.

So there is good evidence as to why this Sunday's cantatas were felt appropriate targets for parody in Masses, in which the Passion is central, and Bach's choices were not purely from considerations of musical attractiveness: Bach is attracted in his capacity as, in Leaver's phrase, "musical theologian".

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 2, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Certainly Bach knew him, for the "History of the Jews" was in Bach's library as recorded by Spitta and Leaver; 2 thaler were paid for a folio copy at Bach's death.
As to 10th Sunday in trinity, Chafe explains that
Luther's "pastoral organiser", Bugenhagen, instituted the tardition of reading out a version of the Josephus' account of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 at Vespers on this day. In chorale books of Bach's time in Leipzig the Josephus passages were tied up with biblical quotations predicting the destruction and Passion chorales, again Leaver is the source. >
This is fascinating material. I've never encountered a non-scriptural text being read publically in the Lutheran liturgy. Are there any other examples?

Jean Laaninen wrote (December 3, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I might add just a couple of lines here. I knew of Josephus when I was quite young, and to my knowledge while I cannot recall a liturgical reading of Josephus in my Lutheran tradition, Josephus was considered to be a good scholarly source for background material for preaching. When I first read that it was unlikely Bach would have known this important author I was tempted to say something, but I didn't have Peter's erudite understanding of the context. However, it also seems to me Bach would have known Josephus and perhaps numbers of the other ancient Biblical historians. And it seems to me quite likely that Bach's pastor's might have pointed him in the direction of certain references to enhance the work of composition. For example, I think Eusebius might have been within Bach's reach. Bach's musical depth perception is enhanced in numerous instances I think, by his critical study of text related sources.

Paul T. McCain wrote (December 4, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, not sure if this is what you are thinking of, but the Lutheran Church did not exclude from the Bible what today are known as the "apocryphal" books of the Old Testament. And in the historic Lutheran lectionary there were occasionally readings from those books. Reference to those books is found in the work of the Lutheran theologians of 16th and 17th century. When Luther' Bible in German was replaced amongst English speaking Lutherans with other translations, those books were effectively lost to the Lutheran Church in English speaking countries.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 5, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Doug, not sure if this is what you are thinking of, but the Lutheran Church did not exclude from the Bible what today are known as the "apocryphal" books of the Old Testament. >
I was intrigued that Josephus, a non-Scriptural author was read. Most of the Reformers excluded the deuter-canonical books from the Bible.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 5, 2007):
Thanks to Uri for the reminder of the Kuijken recording of BWV 102 [10], I listened to it in comparison with Koopman [9]. The Kuijken series is OVPP, which is especially effective here in the complex textures of Mvt. 1. The clarity of Koopman’ choir is excellent, so the comparison is a fair evaluation of the detail which can be heard with OVPP. Whatever one’s opinion of the historic authenticity, it is worth investigating the sound for its own sake.

Kuijken [10] gives special attention to continuo realization, which is outstanding in the B. recit. (Mvt. 2), and IMO, greatly superior to the abrupt organ style used by Koopman [9]. The soloists are all effective, I especially enjoy female alto Petra Noskaiova, who is the equal of Bogna Bartosz with Koopman, both outstanding. Kuijken provides the opportunity to hear the alternate obbligato instrument, violin piccolo, in Mvt. 5.

Kuijken’s notes [10] are not comprehensive, but he does include many concise details of his performance philosophy, including OVPP. In the case of BWV 102, his approach provides unique characteristics in a very enjoyable performance.

Julian Mincham wrote (December 5, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Hi Ed good to see you back after your 'sabbatical'.

Computer problems sorted then??

Neil Halliday wrote (December 6, 2007):
Bach Cantatas - BWV 102 recordings, and BWV 35

Ed Myskowski wrote:
> Kuijken [10] gives special attention (in BWV 102) to continuo realization, which is outstanding in the B. recit. (Mvt. 2), and IMO, greatly superior to the abrupt organ style used by Koopman [9].<
This is a point worth noticing, IMO.

Also, while listening to samples of BWV 35 this week, I noticed Koopman's alto brings quite a lot of vibrato to the melisma on "fröliches" in BWV 35/7; minimal vibrato on these runs, such as with Hamari/Rilling or Groop/Kangas is much better, IMO.

The "organ concerto" cantata BWV 35 is a charming work.

Organists will love figurations such as those found in bars 5-8, in BWV 35/2, etc.

I found that the opening alto phrase in BWV 35/4 (Gott hat alles wohl gemacht) reminded me of the opening phrase for soprano in BWV 51/1 (Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen). [Notice also the repeated pairs of 1/16th notes in BWV 35/1 and BWV 51/1; as we have seen this "5th Brandenburg" figuration shows up now and again in various works].

As is usual with Bach, effective melismas, and word painting on words such as "martervolles" (full of torment), are evident in the arias.

Paul T. McCain wrote (December 7, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, and here I have no intention of starting a debate on Biblical interpretation, but just wanted to say that classic Lutheranism did not, and does not, regard the Luke text you cite to be "ex post facto" but to be a predictive text. We do not regard Luke to have been written after the fall of Jerusalem, but before.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 7, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] You're right that we don't need to debate the historicity of scriptural accounts, but I would suggest that modern Lutherans do not have a monolithic agreement on the NT Canon. Most scholars, and among them most Lutheran scholars, would accept the primacy of Mark in about 65-70 C.E. and Luke-Acts in 85-90 C.E. (Luke and Acts being two parts of one book). Nor do Lutherans have an ecclesial structure which can mandate uniform opinions.

In dating Luke after the Fall of Jerusalem in 72 C.E., scholars are not dismissing the historical veracity of the comments made by Jesus of Nazareth "predicting" the Roman attack. Such prophetic warnings were common in the period. Josephus records an incident from the 60's when another man named Jesus was arrested and flogged because he came into the Temple calling out predictions of its fall.

Interestingly, the beginning of the modern biblical criticism movement which analyzed textual traditions and literary genres in scripture is roughly contemporaneous with Bach. I've never seen any historical investigation, but if Bach had close academic colleagues in the universities, he would not have been unaware of the growing interest in critical studies. If the "apple of Sodom" image orginates with Josephus, then Bach's theological sources were already engaged in the study of 1st century historical contexts.

Jean Laaninen wrote (December 7, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Although I have no critical academic comments to add at the moment, I think this discussion is excellent as we are truly establishingsome fuller context for the works of Bach. While some discussions in the last six months have focused on Bach's independence as a composer of cantatas and other works, the thinking here speaks well of the inter-dependence that also fostered such great and inspiring efforts. I just want to express my appreciation for the comprehensive thoughtful ideas expressed here.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 7, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] The idea that biblical criticism starts around the time of Bach is interesting, and to my surprise it starts at least in part with the Pietist Jakob Spener.

"Spener's dispute with the Orthodox Lutherans took several turns. The latter portrayed the Holy Scriptures as God's writing by the Holy Spirit. ....Spener rejected such a direct dictation theory. He affirmed that the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures, but did so taking into account the the natural gifts of the authors . That is why the Holy Spirit sometimes spoke good Greek and other time not-so-good-Greek!"? (Lindberg, "Pietist Theologians").?Spener was influenced in this by his Professor of Biblical studies at Strasburg, Sebastian Schmidt.?Such statements caused violent controversy with the Orthodox Lutherans.

In the nineteenth century, observations about the variability of Hebrew? within books of the OT caused the institutional rejection of the scholarly Bishop Colenso (Anglican) and Professor William Robertson Smith (Presbyterian). It is interesting that the literalist-inspiration fundamentalist view had already been challenged by Spener's grasp of the linguistic weaknesses within Scripture over 150 years earlier.

Two volumes of Spener's writings, including Reformation Festival sermons, were in Bach's library. Emphatically however, per Leaver, Bach was not a Pietist!

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 102: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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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