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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 3

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Discussions in the Week of August 29, 2010

David D. Jones wrote (August 30, 2010):
Du Hirte Israel, höre

I apologize for the lateness of this email.
Greetings fellow cantata travelers! This sunday's cantata is:

:Du Hirte Israel, höre.

It is one in a series of cantatas on the theme of Christ as the Good Shepherd. One would think this unity of theme would lead Bach into a monotony of treatment, but as we will clearly see, these cantatas are delicately differentiated, with some of the loveliest pastoral music Bach ever wrote. The particulars of composition, scoring and performance are easily accessible on our website; it is superfluous to recount them here. As always, my preference is for Gardiner's [13] nuanced, luminously authoritative readings and his liner notes are penetrating and insightful, combining a wealth of knowledge culled both experience and the writings of his colleages. Here are a few of his thoughts on this Sunday's cantata:


BWV 104 Du Hirte Israel, höre, from Bach's first Leipzig cycle, displays the clearest of aspiring, upward tonal designs (known as anabasis) moving from G major (the opening chorus), through B minor (tenor recitative and aria) and D major (bass recitative and aria) to A major (a chorale paraphrase of Psalm 23) as the faithful are led towards the 'meadow of heaven' by Christ the shepherd. It opens with the first verse of Psalm 80 set as a gentle choral dance. The overall mood is benign, suffused with a tender lyricism..."

I cannot think of a more apt description of the bright, silvery opening movement. As always, much of Gardiner's [13] authority derives from his ideas about rhythm and tempo. I have compared his interpretation to that of Suzuki [14] (too fast for my taste) and Koopman [11] (his interpretations always seem to feel a size too small, as if looking through the wrong end of a telescope) and again and again, Gardiner [13] wins my unfailing devotion.

William Hoffman wrote (August 30, 2010):
Cantata 104: Bach's Easter Chorales

Chorale Cantata Settings for the Easter Season

Chorale settings were essential to Bach's well-regulated and -appointed church music to the glory of God. The diversity of his treatment in both the musical form embracing chorales and the range of sacred song use is without parallel. In particular, Bach focused on the <de tempore> or seasonal settings for the main Sunday and festival services, particularly the principal chorale, called gradual hymn, sung between the two biblical readings of the Epistle and the Gospel. The <omnes temporary> or timeless hymns were appropriate for any season, particularly the half-year Trinity season of the thematic teachings and works of Jesus Christ, and were most appropriate for evening vesper services.

Beginning with his settings of both types of chorales in his organ prelude collection, the <Orgelbüchlein> or "Little Organ Book," Bach favored the <de tempore> chorales for Christmas and Easter, two main festivals in the church year. Composed almost entirely in Weimar, the <Orgelbüchlein> sets only three of the nine Pentecost chorales Bach listed and neither for Ascension Day. "It is hard to explain why," says Russell Stinson in <Bach, the Orgelbüchlein> (OUP 1999: 27). A close examination (below) suggests reasons Bach may not have set well-known Pentecost chorales.

Emphasis on Easter is apparent in Bach's later cantata settings using seasonal chorales. For Easter, Bach composed 23 cantatas using Easter chorales and only six set as either organ preludes or four-part unattached chorales. Meanwhile, for Ascension Day and Pentecost, only eight cantatas or oratorios have appropriate chorales while 12 are set as individual preludes or hymns. Of the 17 <omnes tempore> (anytime) chorales Bach used in cantatas for the Easter season, only three are for Ascension Day and one, "Du, o schones Weltgebaude," is appropriate for Pentecost, another major festival.

Given this record during the Easter season, it seems problematic whether Bach in 1725 could have set chorale cantatas for all 13 Easter season services, including seven feast days, if he had available appropriate texts for internal arias and recitatives paraphrasing all but the first and last stanzas. The record shows that during the previous Easter season of 1724, Bach already had used major Easter Season chorales, with notable exceptions. For the Third Day (Tuesday) of the Easter Festival in 1724, Bach had used no chorale in Cantata BWV 134 and none for Pentecost Monday in Cantata BWV 173. Bach also omitted chorales in the Easter Oratorio, BWV 149, in 1725.

The record also shows that for the projected 1725 13 Easter Season chorale cantatas, Bach did provided chorale settings involving at least five cantatas:

*Two pure-hymn chorale cantatas, Cantata BWV 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden," for the Easter Festival, and Cantata BWV 112, "Der Herr ist meine getreue Hirt," for the Second Sunday After Easter 1725, completed ni 1731.

*Two chorale opening choruses, BWV 128/1, "Aus Christi Himmelfahrt Allein," for Ascension Day 1725, and BWV 68/1, "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt," for Pentecost Tuesday in 1725;

*A chorale aria, "Ach bleib bei uns," BWV 6/3, for Easter Monday 1725;

*Possibly three pure-hymn chorale works: Cantata 100, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan," for the Third Sunday After Easter; Cantata 117, "Sei Lob und Her dem Höchsten Gut," for the Fifth Sunday After Easter; and Cantata 97, "In Allen meinen Taten," for the Sixth Sunday After Easter.

It is possible that Bach in the 1725 Easter Season had no appropriate chorale choices for chorale cantatas for the First and Fourth Sundays After Easter and was limited in the possibilities for Easter and Pentecost Tuesdays, and the Third Sunday After Easter.

Complicating matters, various Easter chorales were impractical to set as chorale cantatas. Three lacked sufficient stanzas: Luther's famous "Christ ist erstanden," which has one three-part stanza (AAB), Luther's "Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den" has only three verses, and the popular Pentecost chorale "Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt" has only one stanza. Other chorales that have too many stanzas to paraphrase include "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag," 14 verses, and "Erstanden ist der Heil'ge Christ, der den Tod," which has varying numbers of stanzas, 19 in one version, and intersperses four "Hallelujahs" in each stanza. "Komm, heiliger Geist, erfülle die Herzen deiner Glaübigen" listed as Orgelbüchlein OB 42 but not set, is a vespers litany response and is not found as a congregational hymn in later Lutheran hymn books.

Further complicating matters, in Leipzig service and Bach usage, certain Easter chorales were used to anticipate the succeeding Feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, as Bach had done with Epiphany chorales anticipating the three pre-Lenten Sundays. Cantata BWV 108, for the Fourth Sunday After Easter 1725 in the von Ziegler text, closes (No. 6) with Gerhardt's Pentecost chorale, "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist." "Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn" was the Introit hymn for the Easter Festival and the vespers hymn for Ascension Day.

Bach's use of Easter chorales in Leipzig is quite flexible, observes Günther Stiller in <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>: 239f. He notes that for the entire three-day Easter Festival (Sunday to Tuesday), Bach used various familiar hymns. Meanwhile, the three for Easter Tuesday are "Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ," "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" and "Wenn meinstündlein vorhanden ist." At the same time, "Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ," is a main service hymn for Easter Monday in Leipzig (BCW: Terry/Cowling), while "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" is an Easter chorale and "Wenn mein Stündlein vorhanden ist" is an <omnes tempore hymn>. Stiller details Bach's unorthodox use of certain chorale melodies and stanzas in various cantatas for the Easter Festival. "Only in one case did Bach use an Easter hymn that was not so common and yet not unknown in certain Leipzig hymnbooks, namely, "Auf, men Herz! Des Herren Tag" at the beginning of Cantata BWV 145 (Easter Tuesday 1729).

Easter Sunday: chorale "Christ lag in Todesbanden," Cantata BWV 4 per omnes versus (pure-hymn). Bach's other uses of this best-known Luther Easter Season Leipzig service hymn (7 stanzas): organ prelude BWV 625 (Orgelbüchlein 34), composed in Weimar 1712-13 with five of the other six Ob settings; "Heut tirumphiert Gottes Sohn" was composed earlier, 1708-12. There are two miscellaneous organ chorale settings: BWV 695 (Kirnberger Collectioin) perhaps composed in early Weimar period, like "Heut triumphiert," and BWV 718, showing early North German influence, c.1700. Two free-standing, unattached four-part chorales, BWV 277 and 278, appear to have been composed subsequent to Cantata BWV 4 closing chorale in 1724. Since all three are in the key of E Minor, they may have been alternate settings for subsequent performance of Cantata BWV 4 for the Easter Festival of 1725 and later. Bach may have planned to use either BWV 277 or 278 in his Picander cycle to close P-28, using stanza 6 (no other music was set) on Easter Sunday, April 29, 1729. In addition, four-voice chorale BWV 279 was composed to close Cantata BWV 158 in E Major, probably for Easter Tuesday 1725. It should be noted that Bach composed no substantial new vocal music for Easter Sunday in Leipzig. Cantatas BWV 4 and BWV 31 are repeats, and the Easter Oratorio is a parody of lyric music from a recent secular birthday serenade.

Easter Sunday chorale settings:
1724: Chorale Cantata BWV 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden"; Cantata BWV 31/9, N. Hermann, "Wenn mein Stündlein" (S.5); Cantata BWV 31 repeated in 1731
1725: Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, no chorale found
1726: BWV 15=JLB21/11, N. Hermann, "Wenn mein Stündlein" (S.4)

For Easter Monday, April 2, 1725, Bach presented Cantata BWV 6, "Bleib bei uns, denn ist will Abend werden," a non-chorale cantata. It is in the same form as the cantatas composed in the Easter Season 1724 for the First through the Sixth Sundays After Easter (BWV 67, BWV 104, BWV 166, BWV 86, BWV 37, BWV 44): biblical words, aria, chorale, recitative, aria, chorale -- and also possibly set to texts of Christian Weiss Sr. In addition, the 1725 cantatas for the First and Second Sunday After Easter, BWV 42 and BWV 85, also have the same form.

Cantata BWV 6 has a remnant of a planned chorale cantata. The third movement is a soprano trio aria with the chorale melody, "Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ," set to the first two stanzas of Nicolaus Selnecker's nine-stanza chorale. This soprano chorale aria was adapted as a Schubler organ chorale, BWV 649, and is similar in trio form with obbligato instrument and basso continuo as four other Schubler chorales (BWV 645, 647, 648 and 650) which are transcriptions of chorale cantata arias (unaltered stanzas), respectively, BWV 140/4, BWV 93/4, BWV 10/5, and BWV 137/2). Three of the four cantatas have pure-hymn texts and were not composed in 1724-25 as part of the chorale cantata cycle: Cantata BWV 140 for the 27th Sunday After Trinity, 1731; Cantata BWV 10, for the Feast of the Purification, 1724; and Cantata BWV 137, for the 12th Sunday After Trinity, 1725, and possibly for the adjacent Town Council installation in late August 1725.

Besides Aria BWV 6/3, there are five chorale cantatas composed earlier in the 1724-25 second cycle with internal movements which are unaltered pure-hymn texts instead of being paraphrased by Bach's librettist: BWV 92/4, BWV 107/3-6 (in the only pure-hymn cantata composed in the 1724-25 cycle), BWV 113/2, BWV 114/4, and BWV 178/4. The chorale aria "Ach, blein bei uns" is the only setting which has two stanzas, the other four have one. If aria BWV 6/3 was originally composed in 1725 as part of a standard chorale cantata, the movement in question would not have used the opening stanza unaltered, always used as the text of the opening chorale fantasia chorus. Bach would have set the Selnecker melody to another unaltered stanza later in the cantata.

"Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ," is listed as a Leipzig Easter Tuesday chorale (Günther Stiller: JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig: 240), with "Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag" and "Wenn meinstündlein vorhanden ist." "Ach, bleib bei uns," is a main service hymn for Easter Monday in Leipzig (BCW: Terry/Cowling). Bach also set the hymn as a four-part chorale, BWV 253 in A Major; used the melody in BWV 414, "Uns ist ein Kindlein heut' gebor'n" for Christmas; and in the Schubler Chorale, BWV 649, setting of chorale aria BWV 6/3; and the first two stanzas of Cantata BWV Anh. 4/6, for the Augsburg Confession Jubilee, 1730. It is possible that chorale BWV 253 was composed in 1725 to close a projected chorale cantata for Easter Monday and was used in 1730 for the now-unextant Jubilee Cantata.

Bach may have considered using the Easter Season Leipzig pulpit hymn, "Christ ist erstanden," Luther's three-stanza setting of the Latin Easter sequence <Victimae paschali> (1200 Leise) transformed into 3-part chorale. This unusual chorale setting has there stanzas each of different poetic meter and different tunes. Bach's definitive setting (1712-13) is found in the Orgelbüchlein No. 36 (BWV 627) and was set in three distinct movements, unlike any other composer's treatment in a single work (Stinson, <Bach Ob.> p. 113f. Bach also composed two four-voice plain-chorale settings: the closing chorale in Cantata BWV 66, for Easter Monday 1724, which uses only the third, "Allelujah" "verse," and the full four-part plain chorale, BWV 276, which appears to have been composed later in Leipzig because of its tonal shifts, openiin D Minor and Closing in F-Sharp Major, and intricate and wide-ranging voicing. The Miscellaneous Organ Chorale Prelude setting, BWV 746, is attributed to J.K.F. Fischer (Peter Williams, <Organ Music of JSB>: 491)

Easter Monday chorale settings:
1724: BWV 66/6, Klug "Christ ist erstanden" (S.3)
1725: BWV 6/6, Luther "Erhalt uns, Herr" (S.2)
1726: JLB10/7 ?chorale
1729: BWV Anh. 190/6=P-29, "Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn" (S.3) (Wustmann text sub.)

For Easter Tuesday, Bach's puzzling use of Easter chorales on Easter Tuesday in Leipzig seems to reflect a lack of interest. In 1724, he used no chorale to close the dialogue parody from Köthen, BWV 66. In 1725, Bach composed no new work, either a chorale cantata or a repeat of the traditional cantata form (biblical dictum/internal chorale) of the day before, Easter Monday, Cantata BWV 6. Instead, he began the first repeat of a previous Leipzig service cantata, BWV 4, "Christ lag in Todesbanden," and probably paired it with a hybrid old-new Cantata BWV 158, blending old music from a Weimer Purification work with newly-composed music, ending with a new setting of Stanza 5, "Here is the true Easter Lamb, " from "Christ lag in Todesbanden."

There is only a slight possibility that Bach considered Stolzhagen's six-verse "Heut triumphiret Gottes Sohn" as a chorale cantata for Easter Tuesday. In Leipzig it was the Introit Hymn for the Easter Festival and the Vespers Hymn for Ascension Day. Bach first set the chorale as an <Orgelbüchlein> prelude, BWV 630(a) (Ob. No. 39) in its earliest Easter setting (1708-12, Stinson). The third stanza is found in the lost Easter Monday Cantata BWV Anh. 190/6, 1729 Picander text) and is quite possibly the four-part setting, BWV 342. The full six-verse German hymn text is found in http://www.gesangbuch.org/lyrics/h0035.html.

Easter Tuesday chorale settings:
1724: BWV 134 (no chorale),
1725: BWV 158/2, Welt ade, ich bin dein müde; BWV 158/4 Luther "Christ lag" (S.5) (new), ?repeat of BWV 4
1726: JLB-11 no chorale
1729: BWV 145=P-30/a, C. Neumann "Auf, mein Herz" (S.1); 5, Hermann "Erschienen ist (S.14)

I will try to catch up with the weekly discussion and this week hope to submit timely ideas on the first two Sundays After Easter, including chorale uses, themes, and connections.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 30, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The <omnes temporary> or timeless hymns were appropriate for any season, particularly the half-year Trinity season of the thematic teachings and works of Jesus Christ, and were most appropriate for evening vesper services. >
I'm wondering if we can find a better term than "timeless": it's a bit impressionistic. Bach's use of the "de tempore" hymn between the two readings reflects the different categories of seasons in the Leipzig church year. The outline below summarizes how Bach saw his working year, not as an endless succession of individual Sundays, but as distinct seasons, each of which required a different approach.

The most important thing to note is that the church year for Bach was not a simple chronological narrative of the life of Christ but a celebration of the theological significance of salvation history. For example, none of the four Sundays before Christmas relate any of the story of Mary and Joseph, but rather explore Christ's Messianic role with widely divergent narratives: Advent 1 has the entry into Jerusalem!

For Bach and his fellow Lutherans, the most important seasons were Christmas and Easter, the festivals of the Incarnation and Redemption. Both were prefaced with "closed" preparatory seasons (Advent and Lent) with the musical contrast of a capella polyphony with festal concerted music. These particular seasons each had prescribed chorales which identified the passage of the weeks. For instance, "Christ lag in Todesbanden" was the "de tempore" chorale for the Easter season and was sung DAILY between the readings for 40 days until Ascension Day.

Outside of the two Advent/Christmas and Lent/Easter axes were the two "intermediate" seasons which form a kind of matrix into which the great seasons were placed but which do not anticipate or recapitulate their themes. Rather, the first intermediate season after Epiphany begins with the Baptism of Christ and has successive narratives from the adult ministry of Christ. This is interrupted by Lent and Easter and then resumes after Trinity Sunday with the ministry narratives. The two seasons account for over half the calendar and form the base sequence of the church year.

It appears (although Stiller is a little vague on the point) that the two intermediate seasons did not have prescribed chorales between the two readings, but that choices could be made from more generic hymns which seem to have offered generalized praise and celebrated the work of God through scripture. One of the conflicts which Bach had with a new cleric was that his inexperienced colleague thought it was his duty to pick the hymns from this large body of general hymns.

Bach's entire life was spent in this calendrical construct, and by the time he was in grade school he could probably sing the various "de tempore" chorales from memory. And yet his genius would never let him routinize these cycles of hymns. He could transfigure the old chestnuts in the Christmas Oratorio: how many times must he have sung "Vom Himmel Hoch" in his lifetime?! Or he could reach out to a seemingly disparate chorale about peace and draw it in unexpectedly into a cantata. He could have cranked out mediocre chorale-based works for decades. The astonishing thing is that the compositional solutions are always fresh.

BACH'S WORKING YEAR:

1) Advent Season: 4 Sundays (December)
Themes: "Comings" of Christ":
Jerusalem, Last Judgement, Revelation of Messiah
"Closed season": Litany replaces Kyrie & Gloria
no concerted music after Advent 1
no weddings, restrictions on public concerts & social events

2) CHRISTMAS SEASON: 12 Days (Dec 25 - Jan 6)
Themes: Infancy Narrative
Kyrie & Gloria return
Concerted music with festal scorings

3) "Intermediate" Season I: 4-6 Sundays after Epiphany (Jan - Feb)
Themes: Ministry of Christ from Baptism

4) Pre-Lent & Lenten Season: 70 Days (variously Feb - Apr)
Pre-Lent: 3 Sundays
Lent - 5 Sundays
Themes: Penitential preparation for Easter
"Closed season": Litany replaces Kyrie & Gloria
no concerted music until Good Friday
no weddings, restrictions on public concerts & social events

5) Holy Week: (7 days)
Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday
Themes: Passion Narrative

6) EASTER SEASON (50 Days)
Ascension Day, Sunday After Ascension, Pentecost
Themes: Post-Resurrection Ministry of Christ, Coming of Spirit
Kyrie & Gloria return
Concerted music with festal scorings

7) "Intermediate" Season II: (June - November)
Trinity Sunday, 22 - 28 Sundays
Themes: Continuation of Public Ministry of Christ

 

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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