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Cantata BWV 107
Was willst du dich betrüben
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 9, 2006

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 8, 2006):
July 9: Introduction BWV 107

Introduction to BWV 107: Was willst du dich betrben

Perhaps something odd happened in Leipzig in late July 1724. Wolff argues that the sudden death of Andreas Stübel, the man Wolff believes wrote Bach’s librettos, brought the 2nd Jahrgang to a crashing halt in January 1725. Without his wordsmith Bach was forced into a series of temporary measures to keep the music coming. One of these measures was to simplify a bit and base some works on unparaphrased hymns. (Wolff mentions BWV 112 and BWV 177 among others.) Wolff also notes that prior to Stübel’s death this happened only once - when Bach composed BWV 107.

Maybe someone was ill. Or maybe Bach wanted to keep people guessing. For whatever reason BWV 107 stands out dramatically from the other chorale cantatas of the 2nd Jahrgang. Gone is the monumental introduction and complex recitatives. In it’s place is a work that can indeed be compared to much earlier cantatas in its beautiful simplicity. And it is simple. Bach took a hymn by Johann Heermann (1630) and put it to music. The introduction is a chorale with a little added muscle. It is followed by a short recitative and then arias for bass, tenor, soprano, tenor and a simple chorale. Even the message is simple: have faith in God and good things will happen. (I find the hymn a little tepid, lacking any of that good Lutheran sting - of course maybe that made the work popular with many of Leipzig's sinners.)

Bach didn’t write any bad arias so we’re obviously in luck. I agree with Aryeh’s earlier assessment that the introduction and the soprano aria stand out. To my ears, however, the highlight is the bass aria which Whittaker describes as “remarkable.” Anyone wanting to give BWV 107 a listen has a pretty good selection. Koopman [5], Herreweghe [3], Rilling [1] and Suzuki [7] are (I think) all in print. Leonhardt [2] is in a lot of libraries and Leusink [4] is online. Pick the soloists of your choice and fire away. Most of these works were not available during the 2001 discussion so this would be a good work for the list to look at. I wouldn’t rank this work with BWV 4 or BWV 106, but it is tuneful, festive and is filled with good spirit. In short, it’s another wonderful work from the master.

Details:

BWV 107: Was willst du dich betrben (Why are you distressed)
Chorale Cantata for 7th Sunday after Trinity
Readings: Epistle: Romans 6: 19-23; Gospel: Mark 8: 1-9
Text: Johann Heermann
First Performance Leipzig July 23, 1724
German-English Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV107-Eng3.htm
Discussion of BWV 107 from 2001: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV107-D.htm
Complete Leusink Performance [4]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV107-Mus.htm

Excerpt from liner notes by Clemens Romijin accompanying Leusink's performance [4]:

BWV 107 was written for 23 July 1724. The whole work is based on one chorale, and the text of the different verses is used unchanged. The opening chorus has the chorale melody in the sopranos. The instrumental opening loosely refers to the chorale melody, the chorale lines are woven into the musical structure in a beautiful way, the name Immanuel ('God is with us') at the end of line 4 being singled out for special treatment. The bass recitative shows Bach's ingenuity in transforming the tight structure of a chorale verse into a recitative. Four arias follow, all without da capo, treating the chorale text in different ways. The bass aria, an encouragement to doubting believers, is an exciting dance introduced by a fascinating little theme in the continuo. After a tenor aria with continuo, and a soprano aria in which the last line of the chorale melody is heard, another tenor aria is again a joyful dance, with long notes illustrating the words 'warte' and 'feste.' Trust in God is also the theme of the richly illustrative chorale, a siciliano of great beauty.

Structure and Timings (from Leusink's performance [4])

1. Chorus [S, A, T, B] (3' 59)
Corno da caccia col Soprano, Flauto traverso I/II, Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

2. Recitative [Bass] (1'04)
Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo

3. Aria [Bass] (3' 01)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

4. Aria [Tenor] (3' 02)
Continuo

5. Aria [Soprano] (2' 34)
Oboe d'amore I/II, Continuo

6. Aria [Tenor] (2 '33)
Flauto traverso I/II all' unisono, Continuo

7. Chorale [S, A, T, B] (2' 03)
Corno da caccia col Soprano, Flauto I/II e Oboe I coll'Alto, Oboe d'amore II col Tenore, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 8, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 107: Was willst du dich betrben
6. Aria [Tenor] (2 '33)
Flauto traverso I/II all' unisono, Continuo >
Thanks to Eric for the stimulating introductions. Not to be overlooked is the first appearance of traverso in Jahrgang II, with extensive discussion (Bach and Flute) in the BCW archives, and much more to come.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 8, 2006):
Many thanks, also to Eric for a series of introducions which really have stimulated some interesting discussion. I still reckon that, despite the originality of the early works, the energy of the first cycle and the maturity of what remains of the 3rd cycle and later works, that the second canon stand alone as the sheer pinnacle of greatness of Western religious music. As Eric suggests it seems reasonable to speculate that Bach's usual librettist was ill or away for this one. It is a unique (and dare one say almost lazy?) approach to the text at a time when Bach was really into experimenting with setting long tracts by combining various elements such as chorale, recit, arioso and ritornello. None of that here. Also, the first tenor aria aside, one gets the feeling that he was scratching around a bit for textual images to juice up his musical inspriration.

Very tempting to comment on all movements but I'll limit myself to BWV 107.4 and the final chorale. I am interested in the way in which Bach set texts about Satan and I copy below an extract from an essay I wrote on this cantata some time ago, making comparisons with and earlier work. Also an extract from the same essay on the unusual setting of the final chorale. Also note how Bach (unusually) condenses the chorale phrases in the opening fantasia.

TENOR ARIA

The bass line is serpentine and twisted. It starts--and pauses only to start and pause a second time; a challenge for the continuo player. Should he fill in the rests or leave them open? The text is about the fiend emerging from hell in order to urge his host upon us and the bass melody (simultaneously performing the function of obligato) conveys an impression of scurrying malevolence.

It is interesting to note that Bach has a tendency to depict the devil in terms of hushed, bustling malice. Compare, for example, this setting with that of the tenor aria in part 2 of Cantata BWV 76 from the first cycle. The text declaims 'hate me well you hellish fiends' and the setting is very similar. No independent obligato instand a busy, almost fussy and scampering, bass line. The devil may be evil and he is certainly unpleasant. Nevertheless he is not grandiose, heroic or all-powerful, and Bach takes pains to get this message across musically. Compared with the Lord, this malevolent creature lacks stature.

The tenor's melodic line twists and turns not only to convey the general sense of infuriating devilry but also to paint certain specific images; note, for example the high F on the first mention of the word 'Satan'.

FINAL CHORALE SETTING.

Clearly wishing to end on as positive a note as possible, and perhaps inspired by the 6/8 compound rhythm of the hymn, Bach goes even further and produces a complete binary form gigue! Three contrapuntal lines (strings reinforced by the wind) dance above the bass and continue through and around the chorale statements. This lifts what is essentially a rather dour tune (particularly when one considers the text which praises and magnifies the glory of the Lord) into an exultant dance of elation. Bach and the Dance of God!

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 8, 2006):
BWV 107 Dead poets on vacation

Julian Mincham wrote:
< As Eric suggests it seems reasonable to speculate that Bach's usual librettist was ill or away for this one. >
I don't think that this notion of the sudden sick or vacationing librettist can be supported. Bach's librettos were written and printed for sale 6-8 weeks before the cantatas were sung. Backing that up for the time required for poetic composition and Bach's literary revision by say a month, we are looking at 2 -3 months' lead time. Even if the librettist dropped dead or Bach had a falling out with him or her, a sudden crisis is unlikely, "Ach du lieber, it's Monntag morning, the poet is tod, and I have kein words für the cantata!"

Bach may have composed the music quickly, but every evidence shows that the texts were planned, written and meticulously revised far in advance. It is still my belief that this advance planning is a crucial component of Bach's compositional style, that the intimate bond of text and music which is so characteristic of Bach's greatness indicates that he must have been working on the music mentally at the same time that he was working on the poetry. There are some scholars who would argue that the resuse of secular cantatas in church was not the result of short schedules or laziness but rather planned from the very outset. The Christmas Oratorio which has such a breathtakingly brilliant central concept is no less a work of uniqueness than the Passions merely because Bach incorporated earlier music.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (July 8, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
"Ach du lieber, it's Monntag morning, the poet is tod, and I have kein words für the cantata!"
Lo and behold! Now I understand german! Thank you Doug for performing this miracle. Is this pentecost or what?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 8, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I don't think that this notion of the sudden sick or vacationing librettist can be supported. Bach's librettos were written and printed for sale 6-8 weeks before the cantatas were sung. Backing that up for the time required for poetic composition and Bach's literary revision by say a month, we are looking at 2 -3 months' lead time. Even if the librettist dropped dead or Bach had a falling out with him or her, a sudden crisis is unlikely, "Ach du lieber, it's Monntag morning, the poet is tod, and I have kein words für the cantata!" >
I do not think this is the last word on the subject. I prefer Wolff's informed speculations (p 278 of the 2002 paperback edition) where, speaking not of this cantata but of the change of strategy following BWV 1 (the 40th work of the cycle) he writes "Stubel's death on Janurary 27th, 1725--------------after he had received from the printer texts for the booklet of cantatas to be performed from Septuagesimae Sunday (January 28) to Annunciation (March 25th) 1725 would explain the abrupt ending of the chorale cantata cycle.....".

These texts would be for five cantatas 92, 125, 126, 127 and 1.

It would seem to follow from this that although it is clearly the case that the texts were prepared sometime in advance, circumstances, possibly exacerbated by Bachs' still incredibly demanding schedule which included not only the composition but also the rehearsal of these and other works (e.g. the St John Passion (BWV 245) of which he was possibly revising at this time too) meant there was little time for slippage. It seems that even with the time difference, a problem some weeks earlier had implications for the composition of particular cantatas. This, according to Wolff, would account for the bringing back of BWV 4 and the change of strategy for the last 12 works of the cycle.

Thus it is not outside the bounds of possibility that something in the preparation of the texts created a problem which later emerged in the odd structure of BWV 107.Once the texts were printed presumably they would need to have been adhered to. The problem whatever it was, would have occurred around the time of publication, not on the Monday when Bach (possibly) began the actual composition. What that problem might have been is, of course a matter of speculation as is so much to do with Bach's musical decisions (we have been here before, on list).

The evidence is all internal. Why this structure, unique to the cycle? Why abandon the, by now well established practice of frequently inserting recits between arias? Why abandon the equally well established practice of rewriting parts of the texts to include gospel references, additional comments etc? Above all it is clear that Bach was very much preoccupied with experiments with combinations of chorale melody, recit, arioso and rirornello at this time as seen in various works (including 93 and 178 which precede and follow 107--and they are not the only ones) but here he abondons it. Why?

Clearly we won't ever know for certain. However I am inclined to hold to the belief that the decision was a textual one and was somehow forced upon Bach rather than it being an individual or collaborative decision.

Douglas Cowling writes additionally:
"There are some scholars who would argue that the resuse of secular cantatas in church was not the result of short schedules or laziness but rather planned from the very outset. The Christmas Oratorio which has such a breathtakingly brilliant central concept is no less a work of uniqueness than the Passions merely because Bach incorporated earlier music"
Agreed. But this was not the point of issue which concerned texts not Bach's reuse of his secular music.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 8, 2006):
<< As Eric suggests it seems reasonable to speculate that Bach's usual librettist was ill or away for this one. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I don't think that this notion of the sudden sick or vacationing librettist can be supported. Bach's librettos were written and printed for sale 6-8 weeks before the cantatas were sung. >
Very convincing. Once again, the obvious is always obvious after someone points it out! I join Alain, thanks for the entertaining German lesson, as well.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>FINAL CHORALE SETTING. Clearly wishing to end on as positive a note as possible, and perhaps inspired by the 6/8 compound rhythm of the hymn, Bach goes even further and produces a complete binary form gigue!Three contrapuntal lines (strings reinforced by the wind) dance above the bass and continue through and around the chorale statements. This lifts what is essentially a rather dour tune (particularly when one considers the text which praises and magnifies the glory of the Lord) into an exultant dance of elation. Bach and the Dance of God!<<
We can look for advice on what this can mean for those who seek guidance in matters of performance practice by reading Johann Mattheson's comments regarding time signatures and movement (tempo) for compositions using 2/8 for 6/8 time signatures. This is found in his "Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre" (the 1st of his 3 Orchestre-Sc), Hamburg, 1713, pp. 80ff. Where he states in essence:

>>2/8 time is related or similar in time to 12/4 and is good for composing pieces in the modern style since it has components in it very similar to 6/8 time, but it forces the movement to be taken more slowly and seriously. The otherwise hopping and jumping character can be transformed into the most tender yet flexible, making it well suited for both church and theater music and particularly in cantatas. It used to be that composing in this meter would yield nothing other than fast pieces, which you still can hear being performed that way today for Gigues and that sort of thing. However, today the same time measurement is used much more for sad and touching affects rather than expressing the joyful ones. At this point I cannot help but mention an observation which I have been carrying around with me for quite a while: For several years now, the general good taste ['gout universel'] in music has changed and become quite fixed that there is a much greater preference for compositions which are performed slowly throughout rather than the merry or amusing ones. Whether this is possibly due to changes in climate or whether there has been in increase in people with phlegmatic personalities who now seem to be in control, I will leave to natural scientist to figure out. But it is certain that this taste for serious musical compositions, if it is supported intelligently but modestly, will be a much greater aid to the science/knowlege of music as it helps to realize it ultimate goal: to move the emotions {"Bewegung der Affecten") than all this jumping about and dancing. This may be due to the fact that the younger generation has been brought up to be more docile and polite, but one thing is certain: A good thing such as this will more easily enter such beautiful souls ["Gemüthe") than into the minds ("Sinn"} of dolts/oafs who perform music badly and then jeer at/mock and scorn what they hear. Take, for instance, a joyful minuet which they fiddle and sometimes even perform with percussion. Would not just about every farmer allow himself the freedom to jump around with the music? But sing for him a cantata with true affect or even play a sonata for him, he most certainly will not dance about, but certainly he will not have any sad feelings either. To be sure, it is probably a good thing if he remains inactive and not say; "This piece is good for nothing", because his sensibilities reside in his body and not in his soul. The sound he hears goes in one ear and out the other. That is what makes him not docile but also not educated enough to think about a matter properly. Think also about the difference there is between education years ago and the usual education you can encounter in sensible and distinguished people today. There is such a noticeable difference already between the father and his son. The world is being perfected so much from day to day by scholarly and clever men who have gained their position with persistent industry, that I believe that if someone were absent from the world for only two years, assuming that he had no access to books, magazine, newspapers, etc., would discover upon his return that he might even have trouble discerning whether he was a boy or a girl. Using the foregoing as the basis for the idea which I have proposed, I come to the following conclusion that as much as in earlier years people admired fast playing and extremely great proficiency/talent particularly as exhibited by instrumentalists so that almost always an allegro of a sonata or any other similar type of composition would have as its ultimate goal to be played as fast as possible even if the performance showed some negligence and bumpiness along the way; that this is the reason why these same performers, who probably had teachers who loved speed more than gracefulness/delicateness and leisureliness, are unable to perform properly/cleanly an adagio no matter if they even tried to tear themselves apart into pieces [think of how Rumpelstilzchen died]. In addition you should consider whether 'good taste in music' ["gout"] has changed completely, at least in as far as the small number of 'delicate' ears is concerned, so that people now prefer to get their pleasure from hearing singing according to a beautiful manner rather than those where the vocalist is only intent on showing off. I will let you decide if playing very fast on an instrument is something to be admired, or can even cause you to be astonished. But so much is true: amazement and astonishment are not the ultimate goals of music and that to be shocked is not to be entertained [this play on the rhyming words 'ersetzen' and 'ergetzen' loses something in translation]. To put this another way: to admire something does not always mean that you are charmed by it. God did not give us hands to perform such sleight-of-hand tricks in music, just as He did not give us feet to walk on a tightrope, but rather that His gift of wisdom would lead us to devotion and to a properly allowed pleasure which would serve us as a foretaste of an eternal, harmonious, balanced, peaceful, proper, undisturbed and good life.<<

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 9, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] What an amazing citation - thanks much Mr. Braatz. The arrogance and condescension shown toward the mindless peasant is the Enlightenment at it's worst but proved to be an extremely common theme. Such attitudes account for the desire on the part of Voltaire and many of the other philosophes not for democracy (where the idiots might be tempted to rise out of their station) but for an "Enlightened Despot" who would, of course, be taking advice from philosophes. Now the poor of the world would eventually benefit of course, just as long as they didn't do anything to slow the coming day when everything of importance would be known through the unlimited power of reason. Wonder if Mattheson believed that a tone deaf peasant could enter paradise? (And one wonders why the Romantics were willing to chuck the lot after seeing gents like Robespierre or Napoleon in action?)

This is another area where it would be wonderful to know more about Bach's personal biography. One might think of Bach coming from a kind of guild. That wasn't too bad in the social world of the late 17th century but hardly upper crust. Bach later went up the ladder a rung or two but he wasn't exactly rubbing shoulders with the elites of Europe in Leipzig. (Although he obviously met a few. Frederick would qualify.) One wonders how much "peasant music" Bach heard throughout his life. My guess is that it must have been quite a bit especially when he was young. It would certainly been available in Leipzig too. We know that many later composers like Beethoven had great affection for music coming from the unwashed. Wonder if Bach liked to listen to a proper peasant dance or a gypsy fiddler? Either would have gone pretty well with a tankard or two of ale and we know Bach liked that.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2006):
From Konrad Küster’s “Bach Handbuch”, Bärenreiter, 1999
A summary translation of the content of his article on BWV 107

What follows as the next work after BWV 93 turns out to be the only ‘per-omnes-versus’ cantata of the entire yearly cycle. The text, without any additions or paraphrases, is derived entirely from the chorale text upon which it is based. Is it possible that in respect to his previous week’s guest appearance in Köthen that no cantata had been planned for this Sunday, so that all that remained was the unchanged text of the chorale? It is as if, on account of the outstanding significance of the text of the chorale that a musical counterbalance was necessary which was effected by reducing the actual use of the chorale melody. Only in one middle movement does he quickly quote a line of the chorale melody. Even in the introductory chorus [from this point the discussion focuses on BWV 107/1], he has the chorale melody presented simply with surrounding [“Umspielung”] accompaniment of inand voices [I think that Küster probably means that all the other parts show less integration of the chorale melody than usual] – this is similar to what happens in the treatment of bass vocal part in BWV 93/2. Most of the lines of the chorale do not appear individually, but rather as coupled. Both of the statements of the Stollen are offered in a coupled fashion, then, all by itself, the first line of the Abgesang, but then the remaining line of the Abgesang are presented without a break. In this way the chorale melody stands out in only four places, and because it is presented in simple quarter notes (not half or whole notes as usual), only one third of the 51 measures in this movement is devoted directly to presenting the chorale melody and some independent orchestral material even juts into these choral sections as well. With this new concept in mind, Bach had developed a new formal structure which would leave its imprint upon the cantatas directly following this one. At first Bach’s compositional methods seem to be a type of experimentation in various areas, but despite this outward appearance, there is a line of development that he pursues which is particularly evident in the earlier BWV 10 and BWV 135 which appear as precedents for this technique. This movement (BWV 107/1) also points the way to a new direction by including the traversas (transverse flutes) which Bach had only cautiously included on Good Friday and for which he found no real outstanding use on Quasimodogeniti and Pentecost.

The only recitative in this cantata “Denn Gott verlässet keinen” is an accompagnato consisting of motifs not quoting the chorale melody. The fact that there are no further recitatives in this cantata is certainly because the chorale text which is used exclusively did not offer any musical opportunities for their inclusion. Despite the fact that the compulsory, exclusive adherence to the chorale text might seem to impose a severe stricture, Bach nevertheless succeeds in creating virtuosic arias which make it difficult to detect the direct ties to the bar-form (Stollen and Abgesang). In each aria these lines are grouped differently. None of the arias are in the da-capo format, this possibility being excluded by the bar-form of the chorale. For most of the arias, Bach chooses additional orchestral sections as he had already done in some previous cantatas. In the virtuosic bass aria BWV 107/3, Bach obtains the typical 3-section vocal part by separating the 8 lines of the chorale text into two pairs and a final quartet of lines. Just the opposite occurs in the tenor aria BWV 107/4. The soprano aria BWV 107/5 is split into two parts. Only the tenor aria BWV 107/6 repeats an already used format, that of the previous tenor aria, but this time the character of the piece is entirely changed. Perhaps as a result of Bach’s distancing himself almost so completely from the chorale melody throughout this cantata, he does not treat the final chorale mvt. in the usual simple 4-pt. harmonization. Using the same grouping of lines as in BWV 107/1, the chorale is embedded in an orchestral composition. The orchestral sections are not expansions of material derived from the chorale melody, but rather consist of independent material by which the chorale melody is surrounded.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2006):
From NBA KB I/18, pp. 65-66

It is very apparent that the chorale text, in contrast to all the other chorale cantatas of the cycle 1724/1725, is used unchanged without any interpolations. There are considerations for which no evidence has been found that center upon

1) whether Bach's librettist did not or was unable to deliver a text for this particular Sunday

2) whether Bach was using a text from an already existing earlier cantata cycle, one in which this Sunday had been left out for some reason or other

3) whether Bach had already used up the text for this Sunday during the previous year when he composed BWV 138 "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" and that he was now forced to turn elsewhere for a source

4) whether Bach had already composed this cantata before 1724

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2006):
Friedrich Smend "Bach in Köthen", Berlin, 1951, reports on p. 20 that Bach and his wife were still performing in Köthen on July 18, 1724, 5 days before the 1st performance of BWV 107 on July 23rd.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 9, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< We know that many later composers like Beethoven had great affection for music coming from the unwashed. >
Unwashed? By now I consider you a friend, and so I feel free to chastise a careless word.

Beethoven's disdain for housekeeping and personal hygiene is legendary (perhaps even accurate). I do agree with your point regarding folk music - for example, the trio settings of folk songs during those ten years when <Beethoven didn't write anything. Bartok comes immediately to mind as well.

In my experience, most humble folk actually are more attentive to personal hygiene than the self-styled aristocracy. But maybe I just hang out with the right peasants (or wrong aristocrats). Hope to join you someday for that tankard of ale.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 9, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Is it possible that in respect to his previous week’s guest appearance in Köthen that no cantata had been planned for this Sunday, so that all that remained was the unchanged text of the chorale? >
This is a very satisfying suggestion, especially since there was an approved text (ultimately BWV 9) for the previous Sunday (Trinity 6). Minor scheduling glitch, but no problem getting bureaucratic approval for straight chorale text on short notice. This satisfies Julian's instinct that the music is based on some sort of text problem, without invoking the now obviously absurd <dead (or sick) poet> scenario.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 9, 2006):
Actually social historians love to argue over stuff like that. The idea that everyone in the past was always dirty is not viewed as correct by some who argue that most people really prefer being more or less clean. Who knows? History's bunk anyway. Guess nobody would quibble with the observation that Beethoven was a bit odd however.

Actually I think that an appreciation of "folk music" was a prominent characteristic of the romantic movement as a whole. Think of the mazurkas, hungarian dances etc etc. Schubert supposedly loved cheap taverns and enjoyed playing the guitar. But everyone's taste is different. While a grad student I once admitted that the music of Billie Holiday left me cold. Took me a semester to get over that blunder. (Still leaves me cold.)

Julian Mincham wrote (July 9, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This satisfies Julian's instinct that the music is based on some sort of text problem, without invoking the now obviously absurd <dead (or sick) poet> scenario. >
Did anyone suggest the librettist may have died? Must have missed that one. My contention was simply that the internal evidence suggested there may have been a textual problem with BWV 107. The fact that texts were prepared well in advance is irrelevant as we find in the later example of events which led to the cantatas following BWV 1---this suggested strongly that textual problems (or absences) may well have later musical repercussions.

As a tentative thought I suggested that the librettist may have been ill or away. This led Thomas to dig up some fascinating and more credible possibilities. Seems to me, overall to have been a really constructive rather than 'obviously absurd' process?? I find that the process of sharing informed speculation with knowledgable people who respond with creative or further developed/informed information in this way, to be an extremley positive, satifying and intellectually invigorating experience.

to Thomas for following the first thoughts up so assiduously.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 9, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Perhaps something odd happened in Leipzig in late July 1724. Wolff argues that the sudden death of Andreas Stübel, the man Wolff believes wrote Bach’s librettos, brought the 2nd Jahrgang to a crashing halt in January 1725. Without his wordsmith Bach was forced into a series of temporary measures to keep the music coming. One of these measures was to simplify a bit and base some works on unparaphrased hymns. (Wolff mentions BWV 112 and 177 among others.) Wolff also notes that prior to Stübel’s death this happened only once - when Bach composed BWV 107.
Maybe someone was ill. Or maybe Bach wanted to keep people guessing. For whatever reason BWV 107 stands out dramatically from the other chorale cantatas of the 2nd Jahrgang. >
I hope nothing I wrote in my introduction has started any kind of squabble. Wolff suggested that something maybe have happened to disrupt "business as usual." I merely reported it as a possibility. As this portion of my original post shows I made no claim other than the obvious: that "for whatever reason" 107 was very different than other works of that period. Mr. Braatz's suggestion that Bach was traveling sounds good to me. But I'm the last person on the list to claim any serious expertise in the way Bach composed his wonderful music.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 9, 2006):
My apologies to Julian for some careless language.

Ed Myskowski wrote writes:
<< This satisfies Julian's instinct that the music is based on some sort of text problem, without invoking the now obviously absurd <dead (or sick) poet> scenario. >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Did anyone suggest the librettist may have died? Must have missed that one. >
Only in Doug Cowling's humorous subject line, which is the thread we have been following. No intent to discredit the initial speculation, which I did not recognize was original with you. In my earlier response, I tried to use language which indicated that I thought Doug's reasoning on the text booklet publication has disproved the <ill or away> scenario, but that his reasoning was only obvious after the fact. That is, easy to overlook until someone makes the connection.

< This led Thomas to dig up some fascinating and more credible possibilities. Seems to me, overall to have been a really constructive rather than 'obviously absurd' process?? >
I agree completely, and in fact my agreement was the motivation to write. Sorry the careless language obscured that fact . In my own defense, I did not suggest that the process is absurd, only the scenario which became <dead poets on vacation>. Even there, <absurd> was an ill-considered description.

The process of speculation and discussion is akin to the scientific method of hypothesis and testing - constructive and productive. I never intended anything but agreement with that.

I had planned to write at some point with a related question. I recall reading, before joining BCW, that Bach was required to submit multiple (three?) libretto options to the church authorities, who then had the final decision on texts. I thought it was Wolff (Bach:LM), but I am unable to recover the reference. Does this sound familiar to anyone? At the time, it did not strike me as unusual. It does now, after seeing through weekly discussions the intimate relation of text and music.

A final thought. Possible problems or misunderstandings with coordination of travel schedules and text production keep open the speculation that a simplified text was forced on Bach. This does not eliminate the alternate possibility that it was artistic choice, plain and simple. For reasons of variety, maximum individuality in these works, exploring all options, among the possibilities.

Raymond Joly wrote (July 9, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
"I recall reading, before joining BCW, that Bach was required to submit multiple (three?) libretto options to the church authorities, who then had the final decision on texts. I thought it was Wolff (Bach:LM), but I am unable to recover the reference. Does this sound familiar to anyone?"
I have come across the same information myself, among others in a doctoral dissertation by Ferdinand Zander (Bonn, 1967) on the authors of Bach's cantata texts. The source is apparently, via Spitta, a prolific writer called Johann Friedrich Rochlitz, 1769-1842 (as a poet mostly known to lovers of Schubert), who reported that superintendent Deyling used to select each week one out of three poems Bach had to submit for approbation. I do not know how Rochlitz knew. He was a Leipziger, but that does not establish the truth of everything he thinks he knows about what happenend in his home town forty years before he was born.

I suppose I will take my usual lazy course and wait till someone (probably rhymes with "-ats") clears the matter up (and eventually gives me occasion to start a friendly little fight). Just two observations:

1- Considering that Bach made very little use of the heap of available printed collections and much preferred to interact with the poet much as Mozart did with his librettist (Zander), and considering that Leipzig did not boast an army of poets, both suitable and selfless, where did he find the approximately 150 texts dragon Deyling had to be fed every year? How many people were willing to enter that kind of lottery?

2- If you must perform a cantata on a certain Sunday, how many weeks before must you commission three librettos for it? Do not forget to allow for the possibility that one, two or all of them might turn out to be unsatisfactory, to you or to the superintendent.

When we have an election for the Board of Ignoramuses on this list, I will be a candidate for chairman.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2006):
Thanks to Raymond Joly's pointer to Rochlitz as the perpetrator of this legend, Ed Myskowski's question can be answered as follows:

Christoph Wolff's "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" Norton, 2001 (paperback edition) p. 494 note 65:

>>Among other points Scheide [1961] refers to an early 19th-century report by Friedrich Rochlitz according to which Bach supposedly would "usually" submit 3 cantata texts to superintendent Deyling, out of which one was chosen.<<

Ulrich Leisinger, in his chapter entitled "Musikalische Textauslegung -- Kontinuität und Wandel" which appears in "Die Welt der Bach Kantaten" Volume 3, Metzler/Bärenreiter, 1999, p. 224, states:

>>Rochlitz' Behauptung, Bach habe am Anfang jeder Woche drei Texte, von denen einer gewählt wurde, vorlegen müssen, muß jedoch ins Reich der Anekdote verwiesen werden, denn die wenigen erhaltenen Drucke aus Bachs Zeit umfassen in der Regel die Texte für fünf bis sieben Sonn- und Feiertage im voraus, so daß eine gewisse Planung erforderlich war.<<

("The assertion by Rochlitz that Bach, at the beginning of each week, was required to submit three texts from which one was chosen, has to be relegated to the realm of anecdotes since the few surviving printed cantata booklets from Bach's time [in Leipzig] generally include in advance the texts for 5 to 7 Sundays and holidays so that a certain amount of planning would be necessary.")

Rochlitz' first printed assertion of this 'fact' appeared in his book "Für Freunde der Tonkunst" Vol 4, Leipzig, 1868, p. 280.

Raymond Joly wrote (July 10, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] My rhyme word was well chosen!

I might perhaps just wish to suggest that 1868 can possibly apply to a posthumous edition of Rochlitz's collected papers. According to Reed's "Schubert Song Companion", he had founded the "Leipziger Allgemeine Musikzeitung" in 1798 and died in 1842.

Thanks to Thomas Braatz for relegating the story to where it belongs.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 10, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Thanks to Raymond Joly's pointer to Rochlitz as the perpetrator of this legend, Ed Myskowski's question can be answered as follows:
Christoph Wolff's "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" Nort, 2001 (paperback edition) p. 494 note 65: >
I am a bit embarrassed that I had the proper reference in hand a few hours ago, without finding this footnote again. On the other hand, I was focussed on clearing up any misunderstandings, and underneath it all, I was confident in BCW resources (well, Thomas).

>>Among other points Scheide [1961] refers to an early 19th-century report by Friedrich Rochlitz according to > which Bach supposedly would "usually" submit 3 cantata texts to superintendent Deyling, out of which one was chosen.<<
Key word: usually. Should always arouse suspicion, unless supported.

< ("The assertion by Rochlitz that Bach, at the beginning of each week, was required to submit three texts from which one was chosen, has to be relegated to the realm of anecdotes since the few surviving printed cantata booklets from Bach's time [in Leipzig] generally include in advance the texts for 5 to 7 Sundays and holidays so that a certain amount of planning would be necessary.") >

This is Doug Cowling's original refutation, or at least similar reasoning. Publication of groups of text in preprinted booklets is incompatible with weekly approval of texts from three submitted options.

However, a broader statement, the usual need for church authority to approve texts in advance, is not incompatible, just unsupported. Which leads me to speculate on a possible scenario, derived from Thomas' suggestion that an open date was planned.
(1) Bach was expecting to be traveling on Trinity 7, no cantata wasplanned, no text written or approved.
(2) A text was prepared, and approved if necessary, well in advance, for Trinity 6.
(3) For any number of possible reasons, including poor communications or simple mistakes, Bach's Cöthen performance was for Trinity 6, not Trinity 7. Bach was loathe to give up the extra income and exposure.
(4) The expedient solution was to set aside the Trinity 6 text for later use, and find something for Trinity 7 which would be easily approved, and understood by the congregation without booklet publication. Hence the chorale texts.
(5) Bach had no serious problem rising to the creative challenge. Hence the difficulty (for me, at least) in refuting artistic choice as an alternative explanation.

A side note. It is truly stunning for me, to ponder that the texts were the really critical element for Lutheran theology, and that Bach's music was reinforcement or illustration, if not exactly secondary. Several months back I was struck by a comment by Edward Tatnall Canby in the liner notes to BWV 76, Scherchen [1] LP, and I have been waiting for an appropriate spot to share it before it is forgotten: <He [Bach} had given up the older form of the German cantata [...]in favor of the more modern arrangement then in vogue, using doggerel verse as its text, divided strictly into set numbers, recitative, aria, chorale, and occasional chorus. [...] BWV 76 strongly suggests the earlier form, and is the stronger for it. >

Calling the texts doggerel may be extreme. Maybe not, I cannot judge. But it does not seem that creating the texts is a time-consuming task, compared to creating the music. It would be so if advanced approval and/or booklet publication were a strict requirement. In any case, it is clearly the music derived from the texts which has proved enduring. Perhaps omitting the doggerel and using only chorale texts gave Bach a welcome (or created) opportunity to revive and update an earlier concept, to string out the four arias of BWV 107.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 10, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< My apologies to Julian for some careless language. >
Dear Ed No worries. I've noticed from time to time on list that some write off a speculative suggestion as rubbish with little thought for the complexities and various possibilities--and, as it turned out there are quite a few of both in this particular instance.
>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I agree completely, and in fact my agreement was the motivation to write. Sorry the careless language obscured that fact . In my own defense, I did not suggest that the process is absurd, only the scenario >
You are quite right---my turn to apologise for a loose phrase J

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< A final thought. Possible problems or misunderstandings with coordination of travel schedules and text production keep open the speculation that a simplified text was forced on Bach. This does not eliminate the alternate possibility that it was artistic choice, plain and simple. For reasons of variety, maximum individuality in these works, exploring all options, among the possibilities. >
It is absolutely the case that Bach re-acted, as he virtually always did, with an artistic solution. I think the only point of possible disagreement is whether this was somehow forced upon him by circumstances (about which we can't be certain) or whether he made a conscious decision to set all verses of the text as an experiment ---or, as you say, an artistic choice, A case, to paraphrase, of "Ach du lieber, it's Montag morning, und ich habe cunning plan für the naeste cantata!"

I think that the evidence favours the former scenario.

One further point on which I find myself in mild disagreement with Thomas, whom I quote below

Thomas Braatz wrote
"The fact that there are no further recitatives in this cantata is certainly because the chorale text which is used exclusively did not offer any musical opportunities for their inclusion."
It seems clear that Bach ( or his librettist or both) were experimenting with expanding verses, musical phrases or lines from the chorale at this time to create texts that were suitable for recitatives and recit combinations. We will see this again in next week's cantata BWV 178. I have noticed that Bach often preoccupies himself with the development of a particular idea for a few weeks and then moves on e.g. the use of different voices for the cantus firmus at the beginning of the cycle, the experimentation with a number of duets in a group just coming up---recit combinations at this point. Bach is well into this sort of experientation at this particular time--note the combinations of chorale, recit, arioso, ritornello etc to accommodate these expanded texts but--he abandoned all this for 107 only, to return to it the following week.

This to me is the biggest piece of circumstantial evidence that a change of tack was forced on him for some reason. And, whilst I see Thomas's point about the text, I see no reason why verses could not have been epanded and extended for BWV 107 in ways found in the cantatas preceding and following this one----had the librettist been willing/able to do it. He was certainly capable of doing it, as attested in works to date.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 12, 2006):
BWV 107's tenor aria, and basso continuo

All the reference to historical sources for performance of basso continuo might be considered of doubtful utility, if the recordings of the first tenor aria in BWV 107 are anything to go by.

The continuo's notated bass line, as shown in Bach's score for this aria, is impressive for its driving, syncopated 3/4 rhythm, with the first group of 4 semiquavers beginning on the off beat in one bar, and the 2nd group beginning on the 1st beat in the next bar, brilliantly matched to the strong vocal line.

A truly effective performance requires an impressive keyboard realisation to fully capture the drama of this aria. After attempting the piano realisation shown at the BCW, and listening to two representative recordings (Rilling [1] and Koopman [5]), I am tempted to conclude that either the instruments, or the realisations (or both) are simply not up to the job. In Rilling's case we have a harpsichord tinkling away monotonously, in Koopman's case we have an unvarying, soft (almost dainty) organ part. The former fails to add much musical interest to written bare cello and vocal line, partly because of the previously discussed inability of continuo harpsichord, especially in ensemble on recordings, to convey much musical information, specifically the actual pitch of notes or chords (due to sound compression issues in recording); and the small continuo organ in the Koopman recording (typical of the type of organ employed in these works) is hopeless as far as injecting strength and drama into the score, because of the instrument's unvarying, soft dynamic and dainty effect.

I consider that the modern piano, with powerful, as well as variable dynamic, (this latter aspect not available, of course, on the historic instruments) and ability to convey most of the actual pitch information onto a recording – could add real drama to a performance of this aria. The realisation of the (piano) part shown at the BCW features, among other things, strong right-hand chords, which emphasize the syncopation in the continuo, as well as striking harmonies that add to the drama.

Are we missing out?

[BTW, Baldin's vibrato makes it difficult to follow the twists and turns of the actual notes of the vocal line, in Rilling's recording [1]].

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 12, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The continuo's notated bass line, as shown in Bach's score for this aria, is impressive for its driving, syncopated 3/4 rhythm, with the first group of 4 semiquavers beginning on the off beat in one bar, and the 2nd group beginning on the 1st beat in the next bar, brilliantly matched to the strong vocal line.
listening to two representative recordings (Rilling
[1] and Koopman [5]), I am tempted to conclude that either the instruments, or the realisations (or both) are simply not up to the job. >
The two recordings I have, Herreweghe [3] and Leusink [4], also share this deficiency to some extent, although Leusink is not too bad. I was more struck, with all our discussion about articulation, to note that both of them take the quarter note (crotchet) with dot over, that ends the phrase, as what sounds like another sixteenth (semiquaver), staccato. I listened to a bit of Rilling [1] on amazon.com sample. It sounds like he gets this articulation detail more informed than either of my HIP choices, at least according to the conclusions of BCW discussion on dot meaning/interpretation.

Other than this detail, these two recordings were commented on extensively in the first round of discussions. I hope to have Suzuki [7] before the week is out, with a few comments added at that time.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 12, 2006):
< (...) the first tenor aria in BWV 107 (...) A truly effective performance requires an impressive keyboard realisation to fully capture the drama of this aria. >
No, it doesn't. It requires vigorous delivery by the bass player(s) and singer. It's not the organist's job to soup up the drama in arias, with a lavish right-hand part. Have you read Peter Williams's article "Basso Continuo on the Organ" that I recommended (yet again) yesterday and at least half a dozen times before? In the last several pages he addresses this issue directly: how much should the continuo organist try to do, in Bach cantatas, to sell the piece? Williams was firm on the opinion that the continuo keyboardist shouldn't try to compete with two already strongly melodic/rhythmic parts (namely the bass and the sung melody) by adding yet a third layer of competing/distracting junk in a too-fussy right hand part. You'll have to read his article to see his reasoning and sources, and his example from a contemporary (1725) realization of a Bach aria for bass singer and continuo.

< I consider that the modern piano, with powerful, as well as variable dynamic, (this latter aspect not available, of course, on the historic instruments) and ability to convey most of the actual pitch information onto a recording – could add real drama to a performance of this aria. >
You've said this many dozen times over the past years, arguing for YOUR PREFERENCE to hear a modern piano brought into Bach accompaniment. And you may continue to do so as long as you like; but I respectfully disagree. Why bring a wholly anachronistic instrument in to contribute competitive stuff that doesn't even need to be there at all, assuming that the bass line personnel and the singer are doing their jobs strongly to project their musical lines?

As a continuo player myself, on harpsichord I tend to play plenty of rhythmic/accentual stuff and crisp quick ornamentation, always to serve the strongly declamatory delivery of the bass line by highlighting its accents and phrasing. Not to be a separately distracting part, but reacting directly to the bass and enhancing its dynamics. But, on organ, any excessively busy part is simply a waste of time and effort, beyond playing generally crisp and punchy chords that similarly serve the expressive content of the bass line. Play the harmony long enough to establish it and then get out of the way, so the other moving parts can be heard as lines.

See also my practical thoughts from March 31 and the first weeks of April, 2003, when I had just got home from playing several Bach vocal pieces in a concert: playing both organ and harpsichord continuo in them, and freshly excited to share what works well in such a gig. It's obviously a close listening for balance at every moment of the music and being willing to play more or fewer notes, according to the needs of the situation. The default center point is to play two or three parts in the right hand, with decent voice-leading to keep the hand in a similar position on the keyboard, and to use a quiet 8-foot stop, very rarely adding a 4 (for a whole movement). Does the moment need firmer support? Play the notes somewhat longer, and/or play more notes. Does the moment need more delicacy or space? Play fewer notes, perhaps even down to one or none, as long as the composition remains clear enough, and as long as one's colleagues in the ensemble are doing their own jobs. This is basic musicianship of continuo accompaniment: the art of listening and improvising differently in every situation, using taste and experience to decide what to do. (Same advice we get from Heinichen, 1711, by the way; willingness to play short or long as each moment demands, by tasteful listening and adjustment. This is all obvious enough to an organist accustomed to accompanying all manner of singing, in church!...nothing surprising there.) Those remarks are up there in the archive:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Recitatives-7.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Continuo.htm

As for that tenor aria in BWV 107, Leusink's continuo team [4] and the tenor Nico van der Meel give it strongly expressive emphasis, and it sounds terrific to me. The continuo line is treated as a melody, and the organist's right hand helps its accentuation by playing some added stuff in the same rhythm, complementing rather than competing with it. The bass line is the boss, and everything in the right hand is subordinate. Any complaints about it?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 12, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< It requires vigorous delivery by the bass player(s) and singer. It's not the organist's job to soup up the drama in arias, with a lavish right-hand part. >
Well I tend to go along with Brad on this one---it's not the keyboard player's job to make up deficiencies--not that I think there are any in this case.. But one point is missing from the argument and that is what Bach might have intended to express through this and similar arias. I apologise--no on second thoughts, I don't----- for repeating below a paragraph I put on list in response to Eric's introduction. It is about Bach's depictiof the devil in this aria and it is instructive to compare this with other similar depictions.

If I am right in my interpretation of Bach's depiction of the devil as an evil, busy, malevolent creature of the underworld, lacking stature for all of his evil deeds, then the interpretation of the arias may be very different--energetic and bustling about yes--but perhaps lacking the totally driving rhythm and forceful stature appropriate for the more positive beings from the spiritual world? I like the slightly less firey, slightly lower key interpretations because it seems to fit with Bach's the opposite of an optimism for the love of God and power of redemption and rather a distaste for Satan who, ideally should always come out the loser.

But of course, I may be wrong-------would be interested in other views.

Quote from earlier posting---
< It is interesting to note that Bach has a tendency to depict the devil in terms of hushed, bustling malice. Compare, for example, this setting with that of the tenor aria in part 2 of Cantata BWV 76 from the first cycle. The text declaims 'hate me well you hellish fiends' and the setting is very similar. No independent obligato instrument and a busy, almost fussy and scampering, bass line. The devil may be evil and he is certainly unpleasant. Nevertheless he is not grandiose, heroic or all-powerful, and Bach takes pains to get this message across musically. Compared with the Lord, this malevolent creature lacks stature. >

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 12, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< As for that tenor aria in BWV 107, Leusink's continuo team [4] and the tenor Nico van der Meel give it strongly expressive emphasis [...] Any complaints about it? >
My earlier comment re Leusink [4] was abrupt, so a bit of elaboration. I thought the organ was a somewhat under recorded (or played that way) relative to the cello. Especially noticeable when I listened again after Neil's post. Not really a complaint, or a very minor one. Indeed, on first listening when I was totally unfamiliar with BWV 107, the tenor aria came across emphatically, as it should, as the center/anchor of the piece.

Thanks for posting the BCW cross references, a big help!

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 12, 2006):
BWV 107's "Buffo" Satan?

Julian Mincham wrote:
< If I am right in my interpretation of Bach's depiction of the devil as an evil, busy, malevolent creature of the underworld, lacking stature for all of his evil deeds, then the interpretation of the arias may be very different--energetic and bustling about yes--but perhaps lacking the totally driving rhythm and forceful stature appropriate for the more positive beings from the spiritual world? >
There is a strong late medieval German tradition in the visual arts and popular drama which makes Satan and his devils devious and busy and even comic in their inability to prevail against Christ and the angels. You can see it in the woodcuts of Durer and the whole tradition of Bosch. In italy, this notion of the Devil as a "buffo" character is quite hilarious in Handel's "La Ressurexione" where the bass Lucifer pars with the soprano Angel.

I'm wondering if Bach's musical depictions of Satan are part of this "buffo" tradition which goes back to pre-Reformation times. Are there arias which have a prickly energy and bounce along comically(?) like "Höllishe Schlange"?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 12, 2006):
< I'm wondering if Bach's musical depictions of Satan are part of this "buffo" tradition which goes back to pre-Reformation times. Are there arias which have a prickly energy and bounce along comically(?) like "Höllishe Schlange"? >
I'd think it would be fun, at least once experimentally, to try this aria with a regal registration (or similar) on the organ instead of flue. Let it quack along comically. Shades of the regal from Monteverdi's "Orfeo" etc, of course; the timbre itself signalling associations of hell.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 12, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< There is a strong late medieval German tradition in the visual arts and popular drama which makes Satan and his devils devious and busy and even comic in their inability to prevail against Christ and the angels. You can see it in the woodcuts of Durer and the whole tradition of Bosch. In italy, this notion of the Devil as a "buffo" character is quite hilarious in Handel's "La Ressurexione" where the bass Lucifer pars with the soprano Angel. >
A very interesting connection of which I was previously unaware---thanks for this. My interpretation of the depiction of Satan has come only as a reaction to Bach's settings. It's of great interest to see that it might be part of a wider cultural context.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 12, 2006):
<< I'm wondering if Bach's musical depictions of Satan are part of this "buffo" tradition which goes back to pre-Reformation times. Are there arias which have a prickly energy and bounce along comically(?) like "Höllishe Schlange"? >>
Somewhat off-topic as it's a modern piece, but my setting of "Ein feste Burg" does that on purpose. The text is about Satan trying to take over, so I responded by writing an arrangement that goes increasingly vulgar (rather like a barroom keyboard going out of tune, and the piece turning into bad ragtime). On organs that allow it, I draw half-wind on some of the stops so it really is way out of tune; but on this one for the recording the instrument had solenoid stop action and that half-wind option unfortunately wasn't available. I contented myself with other screwball registrations and crunchy unexpected chords. We recorded it in crisp mono, which gives a subtle air of old black-and-white movie monsters. Or something. Track 7 here:
http://www.last.fm/music/Various+Artists/In+Thee+is+Gladness+-+The+Hodel-Lehman+Duo

Entirely different, "Throned upon the awful tree" is my favorite composition on that album. Follow along with the text, from whatever hymnal. (In no way comical!)

As for another Baroque example, back to the original question, were there any good buffo-type arias that Handel composed for Boschi or Montagnana?

"Why do the nations" in _Messiah_ is sort of devilish and buffo, isn't it, with all that funny scurrying as the earthly powers try to win?

Some of the witches' stuff in "Dido and Aeneas" is comical...

Julian Mincham wrote (July 12, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Let it quack along comically. Shades of the regal from Monteverdi's "Orfeo" etc, of course; the timbre itself signalling associations of hell. >
Shades also of some of the Bach arias with three quacking oboes--which also have a comical touch.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 12, 2006):
[To Julian Mincham] Like the segment in the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) (in "Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand") where the disciples get abandoned, and they're running around like verlassnen Kuchlein, and the couple of oboes da caccia are squawking around like chickens.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 13, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'm wondering if Bach's musical depictions of Satan are part of this "buffo" tradition which goes back to pre-Reformation times. Are there arias which have a prickly energy and bounce along comically(?) like "Höllishe Schlange"? >
Interesting points and interesting question. But consider the words Luther set to Feste Berg (not to mention the hundreds of witches burned for acting in the name of Satan). It's pretty obvious some folks took Lucifer seriously.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 13, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<"It requires vigorous delivery by the bass player(s) and singer. It's not the organist's job to soup up the drama in arias, with a lavish right-hand part">.
Leusink's [4] is certainly the most satisfying of the recordings (of BWV 107/4) I have heard to date, for the clarity of the vocal delivery, and the vigour and measured pace of the bass line. Rilling [1] has the vigorous bass line, but the vocal line is lost in the singer's vibrato; and the harpsichord's unvarying tinkling becomes tedious.

The organ in the Leusink recording [4]? Some might say it sounds incongruously petite, or at least out of balance with the powerful bass line in the ritornello. One solution would be to beef up the registration for the ritornello (a solution often employed by Richter in similar situations).

That NO-ONE has explored the capabilities of a piano in this type of aria remains a disappointment to me. After all, there are plenty of Bach's solo works on piano these days.

Anyhow, thanks for pointing to Leusink's performance [4].

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 13, 2006):
Douglas Cowling stated:
>>I'm wondering if Bach's musical depictions of Satan are part of this "buffo" tradition which goes back to pre-Reformation times. Are there arias which have a prickly energy and bounce along comically(?) like "Höllishe Schlange"?<<
--- Eric Bergerud wrote:
>>Interesting points and interesting question. But consider the words Luther set to Feste Berg (not to mention the hundreds of witches burned for acting in the name of Satan). It's pretty obvious some folks took Lucifer seriously.<<
Here is a quotation from Luther's letter to the Freiberg organist M. Weller dated Oct. 7, 1534:

»Darum, wenn Ihr traurig seid und will überhand nehmen, so sprecht: Auf! Ich muß jetzt unserm Herrn Christo ein Lied schlagen auf dem Regal, es sei Te Deum oder Benedictus usw.; denn die Schrift lehret mich, er höre gerne fröhlichen Gesang und Saitenspiel. Und greift frisch in die Claves und singet drein, bis die Gedanken vergehen wie David und Elisäus taten. Kommt der Teufel wieder und gibt euch eine Sorge und traurige Gedanken, so wehrt Euch frisch und sprecht: Aus Teufel, ich muß jetzt meinem Herrn Christo singen und spielen«

"Therefore, if you are sad and this sadness starts getting out of hand, simply say to yourself: 'Stand up [pull yourself together]. Now I have to play a song (chorale) on the regal for Our Lord Christ, it doesn't matter if this is the 'Te Deum' or the 'Benedictus',etc., for the Bible teaches me that He likes to hear a joyful song and the sound of string instruments. Push down those keys directly and sing along with the music until your [sad] thoughts disappear the same way they did for David and Elisäus. If the devil should reappear and give you something (else) to worry about and sad thoughts, then defend yourself directly and say: 'Get out of here, Satan, I have to play and sing now for my Lord Christ.'"

Note how the regal is used as a weapon against Satan/the devil!

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 15, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I hope nothing I wrote in my introduction has started any kind of squabble. >
It's all your fault! The Dead Poets thread. The Spurious Document thread. Probably others I have overlooked.

Otherwise, your introductions have been stimulating, as I suggested previously.

What if the ultimate irony in Lutheran theology is that the final judgement is not how much Bach you have listened to, but how deep is your sense of humor?

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 15, 2006):
I earlier wrote:
< Eric Bergerud wrote:
<< I hope nothing I wrote in my introduction has started any kind of squabble. >>
< It's all your fault! The Dead Poets thread. The Spurious Document thread. Probably others I have overlooked. >
An example of the overlooked, the nearly unforgettable Buffo Satan thread.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 15, 2006):
Ed Myskowsky wrote:
<< It's all your fault! The Dead Poets thread. The Spurious Document thread. Probably others I have overlooked. >>
< An example of the overlooked, the nearly unforgettable Buffo Satan thread. >
Ed It's Not fair to put all this on Eric. I started the Buffo Satan thread--and I think it's important. Others (Doug Cowling) linked this to a wider cultural perspective. How Bach and the Lutheran tradition perceived the devil affected the ways in which he set music about the devil and this needs to be understood by interpreters of it. This affects our listening and partially explains why a performance may not have the force, drive or 'oomph' we think it ought to have. Not, I think, a false trail or an irrelevance when it comes to serious discussions of particular cantatas.

Similarly the 'dead poet' thread which has been devalued by this very title which came about because some subscribers sought to pooh-pooh the idea before giving it some thought. I don't think anyone originally suggested that the poet had died--this came about in a bit of mock German used to lampoon the idea. The thread was--this is a uniquely constructed cantata. Why? Might it have something to do with a problem of text? If so, what might that be?This, is turn, led contributors to turn in some very useful information about the preparation of the texts, background to Bach's recitative style etc etc. Again, I don't see this as an irrevelance.

There is some on line irrevelance but to my mind these ain't good examples.I for one, learnt something new from both exchanges.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 15, 2006):
BWV 107; some more comments

The second tenor aria, with the charming pizzicato continuo, also features the unusual sound of unison flutes and violin on the obbligato line.

The BGA only has two flutes shown on this line, but all the recordings have the unison violin added (as per the NBA?), giving the bright effect that Bach was obviously seeking in this aria. In combination with the pizzicato continuo, it's quite unique, charming, scoring.

BTW, Suzuki's recording of BWV 107 [7] is pleasing, especially the opening chorus, which, like Herreweghe, has a more measured pace than Rilling's opening chorus. The corno da caccia doubling the sopranos is clearly heard at the start, for a rich colour.

Notice the quasi-canonic beginning of the ritornello of the opening chorus (a device seen before in Bach), with oboe I and flute I, then oboe II and flute II, and thirdly, continuo two octaves below, introducing a rising motive, while the 1st violins play an independent phrase.

In fact, to judge from the samples, all recordings can boast some pleasing performances of individual movements of this tuneful cantata.

For example, I like the very clear enunciation of the boy soprano in Leonhardt's recording - it's not often you can hear a turn at the end of a vocal trill, as in this soprano aria.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 15, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>The second tenor aria, [BWV 107/6] with the charming pizzicato continuo, also features the unusual sound of unison flutes and violin on the obbligato line.The BGA only has two flutes shown on this line, but all the recordings have the unison violin added (as per the NBA?), giving the bright effect that Bach was obviously seeking in this aria. In combination with the pizzicato continuo, it's quite unique, charming, scoring.<<
There was no autograph score available which, in this instance, probably would not clarify the situation anyway in that Bach often would keep unison parts for oboes and violins on the same line/staff to save space, but later instruct the copyists to copy separate parts for the instruments that Bach desired. The NBA pointed out this notable flaw on the part of Wilhelm Rust (there were a few others as well) and also indicates that among the missing original materials there would also be Violino 1 doublet. This means that at a minimum there would be at least 4 violinists playing this musical line along with the 2 flutes: the Violino 1 part, unless indicated as a true solo obbligato part, would be played by at least two violin players. Add to this the doublet part for Violino 1 which would also have two violinists for this part and you have a total of at least four violin players in addition to the Flauto traverso 1 & 2 parts/players. Now consider that both of these Violino 1 and Violino 1 doublet parts have different articulation marked by Bach than in the Traversa parts. In many instances theflutes have a slur over 4 (or even 6!) consecutive 16th-notes (semiquavers) while the violin part(s) show two slurs for the same figure combining the first two notes and then the last two.

Chris Kern wrote (July 16, 2006):
BWV 107

Before we move on to BWV 178 I just wanted to get a few quick thoughts in on this cantata. I listened to the Rilling [1] and Leonhardt [2] versions, and this time I like the Leonhardt version better in almost every respect. I'm especially impressed with the boy soprano in Mvt. 5, even though other reviewers did not give him much praise. The tenor movement after that is also quite good.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 30, 2006):
A few additional thoughts on BWV 107, including Suzuki [7], in comparison with Herreweghe [3] and Leusink [4]. I originally bought the Herreweghe [3] not long ago, in order to sample his style, and to have one version of BWV 107. Next thing you know, I have three, the Suzuki very new in order to get a direct comparison with Herreweghe. I especially wanted to see which B soloist I preferred.

Herreweghe [3] is excellent, but somehow not quite as superlative as the previous week, BWV 93. Suzuki [7] is especially good in many of the details we have discussed. I prefer his version of the T aria, BWV 107/4, not so much because of Sakurada (who is excellent, do not misunderstand). More because of the continuo balance and
slightly less abrupt articulation, compared to Leusink [4] and Herreweghe. These points were covered in previous discussions at some length.

Herreweghe [3] is best in the opening chorus. Not so much so that you will notice unless you are doing what I am doing, playing individual sections side by side. It is instructive, if not as enjoyable as just playing a performance from beginning to end.

Another point which is instructive. I prefer the B with Suzuki [7] by a slight margin over Herreweghe [3]. Analysis is left to the reader.

Since no flautist and/or musicologist stepped forward to talk about BWV 107/6, I will fill the gap (fools rush in). This must have been a debut moment (after several previews) for someone. I find the Wild scenario attractive, but maybe a more generalized, less personal, explanation will surface.

Of my three recordings, I find Suzuki [7] best, but only by subtleties. He gives the staccato mild emphasis, which is blended by the venue resonance. A lovely sound, indeed. Leusink [4] more staccato, Herreweghe [3] somewhere in between. No one distinguishes the opening flute 1/8 note quavers (plain) from the following group (dots over). Not to belabor the point. But if one note is written plain and another with a dot over, and I am carefully listening to understand why, should I not hear a difference?

If the distinction is made in any of these recordings and I am simply missing it, do not hesitate to tell us. Do I really need to say that?

If I were to try to analyze detail by detail, I would probably have to go with Suzuki [7]. But if I could only keep one of these, I would choose Herreweghe [3], for reasons beyond analysis (maybe just because he is Tom Hens countryman?)

If you want maximum value, do not hesitate to find the Leusink Bach Edition at whatever the best current price. Unless you are the sort who would be absolutely irritated by Buwalda (see BCW archives, if this might be you), you will not be disappointed. And by following the discussions, you might be stimulated to invest in some upscale (up price) productions for comparison, or just to have an alternative version of your favorites.

Chris O'Loughlin kindly offered a complete index to the Bach Edition. I have mine. Great convenience, thanks again Chris, publicly. I trust you don't mind me repeating your offer.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 107: 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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Last update: ýSeptember 26, 2011 ý21:37:18