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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 104
Du Hirte Israel, höre
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of April 29, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 29, 2001):
Background

This is the week of Cantata BWV 104 according to Pablo Fagoaga's suggestion.

As a background for this cantata, I shall return to the Robertson’s book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’. The main virtue of this book is that it manages to bring out in few words the important points to which one should take notice while listening to each cantata, and at the same time avoids flooding the explanations with too much detailed information. This delightful book is out of print for about three decades. I remembered reading some chapters from it in a music library in the second half of the 1970’s. When we started the weekly cantata discussions at the end of 1999, I knew that I must have this book. After intensive search I was lucky to find one in a second hand bookstore in Australia of all places.

In the review below I avoid repeating the text, because you have both the original German text and a good English translation available on the Web, and links to them appear in the beginning of this review.

“The picture of Christ as the Good Shepherd clearly made a great appeal to Bach for his three cantatas on this theme (the others are BWV 85, which has already been discussed in the BCML, and BWV 112, A.O.) are among the loveliest he composed. Each of them takes an individual course. The libretto of the present one concentrates on the first verse of Psalm 80 in the opening chorus.”

Personal Viewpoint

This charming cantata is characterized by homogeneous atmosphere and unified message along all its six movements. The atmosphere is calm, peaceful, and the message is faithfulness to the Lord and confidence in him, As a proof you can see that the word ‘Hirte’ (‘Shepherd’) is mentioned in 5 of the 6 movements and in the remaining one (mvt. 5) it is explicitly hinted. There is also similarity between the musical themes (I am hoping that Thomas Braatz will enlighten this point). The atmosphere and the message are given to three messengers; each one of them has two movements to perform. The Choir has Mvt. 1 + 6, the Tenor – Mvt. 2 + 3 and the Bass – mvt. 4 + 5. It is very important that ‘they will speak the same language’. I mean that the listener should hear that the message and the atmosphere are carried along continuously from movement to movement in the same approach, without dramatic (and in this case irrelevant) changes in any parameter. It reminded me of reading sometime, a long while ago, that Brahms’ Double Concerto for Violin and Cello should be performed as if the violin and the cello are one huge 8-string instrument. I think that this statement is also applicable here, and in that sense this cantata is unique. Although there are not dialogue movements here - between the tenor and bass, the bass and the choir or the choir and the tenor - I think that a good ear of the performer is as important here to deliver the massage as are the other usual factors, such as good voice, sensitivity, intelligence, etc. We can call it chemistry or empathy, and such approach between performers is usually developed along a period of listening to each other and rehearsing and performing together. I checked if the performers in all the six recordings of this cantata, are long time acquaintances and if they are, if this is reflected in their singing. Let’s see!

Robertson’s description of the individual movements

See: Cantata BWV 104 - Commentary

Review of the Recordings

I am aware of 6 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 104, and during last week I have been listening to them all. See: Cantata BWV 104 – Recordings.

[5] André Vandernoot (1966)
This recording is taken from the mini-series of cantata recordings, done by the German Cantate label during the 1960’s by various expert German conductors (Kählhofer, Ehmann, etc.) with their choral and instrumental groups. Alas, those recordings have never been reissued in CD form (except some of Rilling’ first cycle of secular cantatas). This recording is an exception, because it was done by Dutch forces, but it is as good as most of the other recordings in this series. You can see a full list of this series in the Bach Cantatas Website in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Cantate.htm
The recording itself is pure delight from beginning to end. Although this is the slowest rendition of cantata, it is also the most fascinating. The entrance of the choir after the instrumental introduction is the most delicate you can find in recorded form. The tenor singer (I do not have his name in front of me at the moment but I shall find it for you later) singing is so sensitive, delicate and gentle that I did not want him to stop singing. With every repeated hearing he went deeper and deeper into my heart. Rehfuss is also marvellous. He succeeds in keeping exactly the same level of inspiration as the tenor singer did. The accompaniment is also exemplary – never too dominant, never too humble. In short, an equal partner to the singers. For me this is the overall most satisfying rendition.

[7] Karl Richter (1973)
The instrumental introduction sounds somewhat large-scale and bold to set the right atmosphere, but if we see it as a cry to the Lord to listen, it is convincing. It is a demand rather than a plea. There is sudden change when Schreier sings his recitative with deep pain, and another change when he turns his mood into joy in the ensuing aria, but we can still hear the agony underneath. Then Fischer-Dieskau enters and we feel as if the same singer from the previous movements continues to sing, with a natural change of the voice’s range. In his sensitivity he touches our souls deeply. With him I feel more sorrow than joy in the aria, as if he the words he wants to say do not reflect the internal happenings inside his soul. We are not comforted by the concluding chorale.

[8] Helmuth Rilling (Late 1970’s?)
Rilling treats the instrumental introduction with more tenderness than Richter does, and the joy expressed by the choir is more overt. The different vocal lines are also clearer. They slow down toward the end of the chorus, as if to prepare the entrance of the tenor. Kraus continues the joyous atmosphere, in both the recitative and the aria, although I have to admit that in the recitative, he is less convincing than Schreier. I feel that it is somewhat unfair to judge Schöne when we hear him immediately after DFD, because he sounds so inexpressive, both in the aria and the recitative. We can hear continuity from the tenor to the bass, but is definitely not on the same par with their predecessors. The warmth of the chorale does not compensate for the relatively weak rendition of the two previous movements.

[9] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1980)
Harnoncourt breaks the flow of the opening movement into separate fragments (should I dare say, as usual?). But I was not so disturbed here as I was in some of his previous recordings of the cantatas under discussion. Maybe because I found a gentleness in his approach, especially when compared to the two previous renditions. Equiluz’ approach to both the recitative and the aria for tenor reminds me very much Schreier’s, which means performance of the highest order. Huttenlocher’s approach is very different from that of Equiluz. I feel as if he is trying to put too much expression into his part, and it sounds somewhat forced. He is also not helped by the accompaniment, which is standing rather than flowing. I think that Max van Egmond would have done a better job here, but at this stage of his cantata cycle, Harnoncourt usually preferred other bass singers (while Leonhardt continued to use Egmond as much as he could). On second thought, I think that maybe I was too tough with Huttenlocher, becatowards the end of the aria his singing becomes most touching. The singing in the concluding chorale is the best part of Harnoncourt’s rendition.

[11] Ton Koopman (1997)
The opening chorus of Koopman is light, tender and transparent and in the right pace (not too fast!). Paul Agnew’s pleasant voice continues the line of the choir, but he does not get to the same levels of depth as Schreier, for example, does. Mertens also continues the same low-profile approach and the atmosphere is also retained. Comparing Mertens’ rendition with some of his predecessors (DFD, Rehfuss and even Huttenlocher) does not do any good to him, because he sounds tired and uninvolved. Koopman’s is the most homogenous rendition, if not the most moving.

[12] Pieter Jan Leusink (2000)
Comparing Leusink with Koopman, we can come easily to conclusion that, although it is less polished and smooth, it is also more satisfying. The playing and the singing in the opening chorus are not clean, but they sound more spontaneous and as a consequence more sincere. The playing of the accompaniment in both arias (for tenor and for bass) is better than in the opening chorus. Schoch moves nicely along his aria, although, like Agnew, he does not get very deep. Ramselaar sounds like a shadow of Schoch, but his interpretation is more varied. I have to admit that he sounds to me here more interesting than Mertens, although not as good as DFD.

Recordings of Individual Movements

[M-1] Carl Schuricht (1938; opening Chorus (Mvt. 1) only)
In the discussion of last week’s cantata BWV 67, some words were dedicated to the earliest recording of Bach Cantatas by Karl Straube. Here we have another pioneering recording, this time from 1938. It is a rare item, because in the 1930's it was very uncommon to record Bach's vocal works in general and his cantatas in particular. Secondly, Carl Schuricht is not a conductor whose name is identified with Bach. AFAIK, he recorded very few of Bach's works along his career, among which these are his only recordings of Bach’s vocal works. You can read a biography of this interesting figure in the following page in the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Schuricht-Carl.htm

Regarding the musical virtues of this recording, I shall not say much. Suffice to say that it is not as important musically as it is historically. I wonder why Jazz music recordings from the 1930’s (and even the 1910’s and the 1920’s) have so much vividness, where most of the Classical music recordings from the same period sound almost dead!

Conclusion

My vote for the overall performance goes to Vandernoot [5].
The team Peter Schreier / Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau [7] are in a class of their own.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Marie Jensen wrote (May 1, 2001):
The opening chorus of this cantata has caught me: gone into my blood like the spring (finally coming) with its siciliano pastorale turning and turning hypnotizing as a prayer mill the central words "höre!" "erscheine!" So what a reverberation (as Thomas spoke about last week) I feel here even if it is 12 hours since I heard it last time.

It is Hirtenmusik all the way, the instruments (oboes); the siciliano rhythms . One does not sing "de profundis" in pastoral settings. So these "höere!" "erscheine!" do not come from deep despair as so often in the first half of Bach cantatas. They come from a happy heart, which knows "Gott ist getreu".

The cantata is a gem, when it comes to musical image making, just to mention a few: In the tenor aria "Verbirgt mein Hirte sich zu lange,": lange, Wüste, bange and in the bass aria: "Beglueckte Herde, Jesu Schafe" "Welt" is of course always sung on a lower note than "Himmelreich".

I know the Leusink [12] and the Rilling [8] versions, which I both find satisfying. There is only one tiny detail: I get wrong associations when the bass sings: "Und führe uns in deinen Schafstall ein!" but perhaps it is because we live in a perfumed century!

Philip Peters wrote (May 1, 2001):
< Aryeh Oron wrote: I am aware of 6 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 104, and during last week I have been listening to them all.
[5] André Vandernoot
Bach Chorus & Orchestra of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Society
Tenor - ?; Bass - Heinz Rehfuss
Cantate / Vanguard 1966 LP / TT: 21:30 >
The tenor is Richard Lewis. I wonder what organization hid behind the name “Orchestra of the Amsterdam Philharmonic Society”, maybe the “ Kunstmaand-orkest”, which later changed its name to Amsterdam Philharmonic Orchestra (my violin teacher played in that orchestra)?

[4] There is a seventh complete recording of this cantata by Fritz Werner (MHS 8712/LP/ TT: 21:33)

I share Aryeh´s love for Vandernoot [5] although I wouldn´t go so far as to agree that this is the most satisfying recordng of this cantata. Werner [4] is a lot quicker and very elegant in the opening chorus where Vandernoot is slower than everyone else. I liked the slow approach although maybe it doesn’t really fit the atmosphere of this cantata but it is almost majestic and breathes wonderfully. But Werner does sound remarkbly fresh here (which is not always the case with him) and he defends his case well. The tenor aria is sung very well and with a lot of Schwung by Kurt Heber - not exactly a household name - after which the bass, Jakob Stämpfli, whom I usually like, disappoints with a rather dull version of the bass aria, especially in comparison with Rehfuss who did a wonderful job for Vandernoot.

David Miell wrote (May 1, 2001):
[To Marie Jensen] I do so agree about that opening chorus: just the first couple of bars for me seem to convey such energy, such potential, such promise. Is it the rests which seems so well placed?

A couple of thoughts about the Bass aria.

What is it about the wonderful bass aria Beglueckte Herde that seems to me to be so reminiscent of the bass arias at the end of the Passions? Is it simply that it is pastorale 12/8. There is more than a passing resemblance to Mein teurer Heiland of the St John Passion (BWV 245). It is set in the same key. Whittaker notes the 'surprising' occurrence of the C natural on Todes; in the SJP it occurs on 'sterben' with similar effect. The musical phrase corresponding to the phrase "Es ist vollbracht" (it is finished) in SJP is virtually identical to the "Glaubens Lohn" (faith's reward) of Begluckte Herde and in both seems to be used to suggest how beyond death lies a resolution yet to come, Christ's in the passion, ours in this Easter aria. Similarly SJP's "Du kannst vor Schmerzen zwar nichts sagen" seems to correspond musically very closely to "Jesu Schafe" though here the correspondence would appear to be less theologically obvious.

On a completely different point I wondered why Bach's librettist has avoided making 'Schafe' rhyme too obviously with Schlafe (which, curiously allows the same rhyme in English ('sheep' with 'sleep') - does this happen elsewhere??), but perhaps there is (because of this) a sort of link between them which implies a faith-journey from one to the other.- the first line ends with sheep the last line with sleep.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 2, 2001):
BWV 104 - Commentary

See: Cantata BWV 104 - Commentary

Comments on the recordings I have will follow.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 2, 2001):
Comments on the recordings of which I have 5: Richter [7], Rilling [8], Harnoncourt [9], Leusink [12], and Koopman [11].

Mvt. 1: The staccato notes played by the oboes anticipate the choral section's words, "erscheine" ("appear") and "höre" ("listen"). You can almost guess who had these notes played purely staccato, the way the score indicates them: Harnoncourt [9]. The only problem is that he over accents the notes as well. In a few places, he completely overlooked certain tied notes that Bach had indicated. When the choir enters there are some truly atrocious accents as well as some screaming on the part of the singers. This is Harnoncourt's idea of choral singing! IMO he knows very little about choral singing and his sense of beauty in choral singing is mostly perverse. Just because he wants to be truly different, he fails to bring out the beauty that Bach had placed into the music. The tenors and basses are generally limp. At least they do not match the louder singing of the boys in the upper voices. Where Bach had written a dotted half-note with a fermata on top of it, he reduces it to an abrupt quarter-note value. Here the notion of the freedom of interpretation has become a license to destroy, rather than to create or recreate. Leusink [12] also is very staccato where Bach indicates it, but with a faster tempo and a very light touch, his version is an improvement over Harnoncourt's. The singers generally skip lightly over the notes and hardly used their full voices throughout. As a result, the yodeling effect was not quite as apparent. The bass voice was weak. Where Bach indicates two notes of equal value on the word "höre" ("listen"), Leusink has the choir sing the first syllable and grunt the second, so that the effect is that of a gruff Prussian officer barking out a command. Koopman [11] also retains the staccato, but the tempo is slower, without achieving the monumentality of the Richter recording [7]. He also has a lighter touch, but not to the extreme of Leusink's. Both Koopman and Leusink lack a sense of true conviction. Koopman, however, creates for me the effect that Spitta had described: a rocking, wave-like motion which gives this performance a very tender effect that can be just as moving as Richter's is, although they are otherwise worlds apart in every other way. Koopman, in order to achieve this effect, also dies out prematurely on certain held note values. Richter [7] and Rilling [8], in order to achieve their very majestic performances, modify substantially Bach's intentions regarding the staccato notes: with them the notes are played tenuto, which essentially destroys the staccato effect. The staccato notes are almost tied, but not quite. This, in addition to the lush, extremely legato string sound, gives a sense of fullness based on a firm foundation. With Richter [7] the tenor voice is sometimes rather weak and difficult to detect when the other voices are singing. Not so with Rilling [8] whose chorus is more energetic and forceful, as if to make sure that the message is getting out. All the voices are equal and clear. For sheer choral mastery, this is the recording to listen to, but I have a real soft spot in my heart for the Koopman version, with its completely different, but excellently executed interpretation of the same music.

Mvts. 2 & 3: At the top of the list are Richter's Schreier [7] and Rilling's Kraus [8]. Kraus even does reasonably well on the recitative, particularly when he sings with firm belief, "Gott ist getreu" ("God is faithful"). Kraus' aria is slower than Schreier's, and Rilling's continuo bass is simply too much 'in your face.' There is a slight ritardando when the voice and, after that, when the instruments are about to conclude their sections. Both Rilling and Richter have oboi d'amore that sound brighter and higher, although their pitch is only a semitone higher than the other recordings. Harnoncourt's Equiluz [9] sings everything with such sincerity. It is as though he sings it directly to you, implying that he means every word that he sings, and he wants you to believe what he is singing as well. What a juxtaposition of voices in a single cantata recording! See below about Huttenlocher. The two oboi d'amore are much more mournful here, but they still have not learned how to play 'piano', softly, that is. The sound of these instruments is truly marvelous in Leusink's [12] and Koopman's [11] versions. I love that sound as it helps to color the words the tenor is singing. But I have a real problem with both Leusink's Schoch [12] and Koopman's Agnew [11]. Schoch sounds like a pastor singing the liturgy with hardly any inflection in the voice, and when the voice sinks to the low range, the oboes do not, or can not cut back in volume. Is this inherent in playing these instruments? Bach specifically indicated 'piano'-markings at certain points which I never hear them observe. With Agnew, who has something in his voice that 'rubs me the wrong way,' it spells disaster when he reaches for the low notes and can not produce sufficient volume to overcome his adversaries, the oboes. Both Koopman and Leusink, in contrast to Richter and Rilling, do not indulge in ritardandi, which are not indicated by Bach in the first place.

Mvts. 4 & 5: Richter's Fischer-Dieskau [7], of course, is an achievement on a higher level, but some rather interesting things can be observed here: In the aria, the strings play very legato, not even acknowledging Bach's phrasing in triplet figures. Harnoncourt [9] could have been a winner here, but no, he had to go too far. By not only distinctly separating each triplet figure, but also applying strong, heavy accents to the first note in each group, he manages to destroy the flowing line of the triplet mvt. Harnoncourt often seems to be more like a 'bull in a china shop.' Let him loose with a good idea or observation, and he immediately goes to an extreme, thinking that that could be a virtue. Back to Fischer-Dieskau, who, when singing certain parts of this aria with just the continuo and achieving marvelous effects with a 'softer touch' that can still be heard in the distance, increases the volume of his voice when the strings enter softly as indicated by Bach. Richter observes these markings very carefully. He is, however, working with larger orchestral forces than most of the other recordings. I was surprised by Fischer-Dieskau's volume increase here, but it made perfect sense, because he did not want to allow his voice to be covered by the instruments, a failing that occurred too frequently in the other recordings. Rilling's Schöne [8] has to put up with Rilling's ill-chosen tempo, much too fast, for in measures 24 and 25 when the bass has many notes and words to sing with only continuo accompaniment, it becomes very obvious that this tempo was simply too fast. Rilling has less ritardandi than Richter, but he does include a slight ritardando at the very end of the aria. Harnoncourt's Huttenlocher [9] sounds disingenuous with his trembling, overly pious expression, but he did manage an effect that startled me, because I do not see this in the text as he seems to: I was listening from a different room, when he reached the middle section of the aria, where he sings, "Todesschlafe" ("the sleep leading to death"). I thought this would be very effective in a horror movie, because of the way he sings this. He imitates the actual sound of a person dying. When I listened to this again up close, the effect was not as apparent. In any case, this operatic tour de force, does not really fit my understanding of the entire context of these words. Leusink has nice legato touch in the strings, unlike Harnoncourt. But Leusink [12] has trouble with the bass line which is much too loud for poor Ramselaar. No ritardandi here, but also no pianissimo where Bach twice indicated it. Koopman's Mertens [11] is very good here, only in the low range of his voice is he covered up by the instruments. The tempo here is 'gemütlich' and the legato predominates. A wonderful touch is added to this excellent performance by including a lute in the continuo. I could not help being reminded of the bass arioso (section 19 of SJP BWV 245) where a similar effect is created, one of intimacy and tenderness.

Mvt. 6: The best IMO is Koopman [11] with very correct intonation, but also the appropriate amount of movement and expression of the individual words. Would you believe that Harnoncourt [9] could elicit a chorale rendition which actually sounds legato? That's how it is with Harnoncourt. He is full of surprises, but don't expect him to be satisfied with a reasonably good performance of such a 'simple' thing as a chorale lasting only for a half minute. In the next cantata you hear under his direction, he may succeed in cutting and chopping up a simple melody in a way that you would not conceive of as being possible. Richter [7] has an average performance with the organ sometimes cutting through and showing that the intonation is beginning to slip. And then those interminable fermati! Similar to Harnoncourt, Richter exaggerates what might have been a reasonable interpretation of a chorale. Rilling's version [8] is of his usual fairly high standard. Leusink [12] pretends that there are absolutely no fermati indicated. You have to hear how strange this sounds. I have no idea what these conductors are thinking when they do these things like this.

Roy Reed wrote (May 3, 2001):
I have 3 readings of this wonderful music: Rilling [8], Koopman [11] and Harnoncourt [9]. I like best the Rilling performance because I think that he best captures the spirit of the work and with real artistry. I actually like best the sound of the Koopman chorus (except, why is the bass line generally so anemic?) But Koopman, while succeeding in getting the "pastoral" sense into #l, it is too laid back and gentle to put across the sense of "hear," and "appear." These prayer pleas from opening verses of Ps. 80 set up an intriguing problem for the interpreter. The opening mvt., while obviously pastoral in its musical materials, needs also to be arresting as bold petitions of prayer. Of the 3 performances I have, it seems to me that Rilling pulls this off best. What wonderful word-painting this is....with the fugal setting of "leading," etc. Such a treat. Also, I think that Rilling gets the tempos right. I generally like Mertens' [11] singing, but what a dud he, or rather one should say, Koopman, manages here. Such a positive statement. Hopeful, with the pietistic expression of realization of the Kingdom of God "Jenseits." In the Koopman/Mertens performance it is too slow (Yes, fans, this is I complaining about too slow.) and dreary. The performance rather contradicts the text. Also I like Kraus with Rilling [8]. Fine singer. I am not real keen on Schoene In the Rilling, but, again, I prefer his reading to the other two.

This is one of the Bach cantatas that one can just set out and do in church on "Good Shepherd Sunday." This is not the case for many. The cantatas, the greatest musical/liturgical/theological accomplishment in all history, have had a tough way to go in church performance. They are difficult. Few church music establishments are up to them. And even if they are, they require too much rehearsal time. You can do one.....but what about those other Sundays? Also, they have been objected to on a variety of aesthetic and theological grounds. They do not all translate well into church cultures beyond Saxony in the first half of the 18th century.

Truth to tell they have not fared well in musical life outside the church either, in spite of the fact that they are the core of JSB's creation. They are so specifically religious and something of an embarrassment to musical art for arts sake. Then you do have to have a choir and soloists....adds to the expense. This is why, dear friends, we are so fortunate right now to have all of these performances available to us. What a great time for a JSB lover and a church musician to be alive. Give me some more years to enjoy this, Lord!

The theme of the "good shepherd" is as old as any theme in Christian art, and perhaps the oldest. The oldest wall painting in a church is of the good shepherd with a sheep on his shoulder following a flock. This is in the church in Dura-Europa in Syria. This is a house adapted as a church building. Around the year 256 (A coin of this date was found there.) Dura was invaded by a Persian army. This was a prosperous trading city on the edge of the Roman empire. The city was overwhelmed, deserted and finally silted up and forgotten. Their disaster has been a blessing for archeology. Among other things, the city had this small church. There is other art on the walls there. None of it in good condition. The good shepherd wall painting is over the baptistery. Very near the church there was a synagogue which has much more wall painting and is better preserved. Biblical scenes and characters. Rare evidence of a Jewish liturgical art which surprises. My wife, Nancy, and I were in Istanbul a few weeks ago and in the Byzantine section of their marvelous archeological museum saw several good shepherd statuettes dating from the late 4th century. There is a sarcophagus from the late 3rd. century which we saw in the Vatican museum which features the good shepherd as the central motif. So, this image, celebrated in BWV 104, is probably the protoimage of all Christian art.

Sticking with reflections on our recent trip..... We heard in Malta a lecture (2 hrs. with coffee break) by a young professor at the Univ. of Malta on "The Three Great Monotheistic Religions of the Mediterranean." Charles Dalli, a young Catholic gave a masterful description of the interconnections of these faiths and their values and built a rationale why these great religions ought to respect one another and work together to make the world a better place and promote "divine" values. I wish his presentation were required hearing for every Christian, Muslim and Jew in the world. Shalom,

 

Cantata BWV 104 "Du Hirte Israel"

praguesherryburgundy (dowhite) wrote (September 6, 2005):
Mvt. I: A purely esthetic note: Has anyone else noticed that the text of this opening movement, Martin Luther's version of Psalm 80:2, contains almost all of the vowels of the German language? Here are the lines in question:

Du Hirte Israel, höre! Der du Joseph hütest wie der Schafe, erscheine, der du sitzest über Cherubim.

The only missing vowels: ä (short and long), ö (short), ü (short).

To my ears, the 1966 Vandernoot recording [5] of this opening chorus best captures this marvelous kaleidoscope of vowel sounds---none other that I have heard comes close. And the singers were Dutch, not German!

There must be similar moments in the Cantatas that demonstrate Bach's eyes and ears for glorious rainbows of vowel sounds. Can anyone suggest more?

About the same BWV opening chorus, but on a theologico-philosophico-emotional note: I can't agree with our fellow Cantata Mailing List contributor Marie Jensen (May 1, 2001) when she writes, "One does not sing 'de profundis' in pastoral settings." Apparently Ms. Jensen has not felt the exquisite tension in this cantata movement between implicit trust in the Lord as the sheltering shepherd and thedeep anxiety within the flock. Especially in the Vandernoot recording [5], the fourth or fifth cry of "Höre!" and "Erscheine!" expresses this closeness to despair that to me seems central, combined with the near-certainty of redemption, to Bach's Christian faith.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 104: 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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