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Cantata BWV 11
Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen
[Himmelfahrts-Oratorium]
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 26, 2008

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 26, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 11 «Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen» (Ascension Oratorio)

Cantata BWV 11: «Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen» or «Himmelfahrts-Oratorium»

Cantata for Ascension Day

Readings: Epistle: Acts 1: 1-11; Gospel: Markus 16: 14-20

Chorals:
1. «Du Lebenfürst, Herr Jesu Christ» - Text: Johann Rist (1641), melody «Ermuntre dich, mein schwacher Geist» - Johann Schop (1641) (Mvt. 6)
2. «Gott fähret auf gen Himmel» - Text: Gottfried Wilhelm Sacer (1697), melody «Von Gott will ich nicht lassen» - Joachim Magdeburg? (1571) (Mvt. 11)

First of all thanks to all contributors for the interesting discussion of last week about BWV 14. It is quite motivating to write introductions in such context! I hope the cantata of this week will attract as much interest.

These last days of October have been unusually sunny here in Belgium, and it helps to be in the mood of a feast that comes in May: the Ascension Day.

We have four extant cantatas of J.-S. Bach for Ascension Day, but BWV 11 «Lobet Gott in seinem Reichen» is the only one to be called "Oratorio". The three other cantatas are: BWV 37 «Wer da gläubet und getauft wird» (1724), BWV 128 «Auf Christi Himmelfahrt allein» (1725) and BWV 43 «Gott fähret auf mit Jauchzen » (1726), thus one per year over three years.

BWV 11 was first performed on May 19th, 1735, nine years after the last one of the series. Why did Bach feel the need to write it at such moment of his life, which we briefly situated last week when discussing BWV 14? Less than five months before the first performance of BWV 11, Bach had presented the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). Here Bach titles BWV 11 as "Oratorium Festo Ascensionis Christi". Thus Bach wrote in a short lapse of time two oratorios (of quite different lengths!), one corresponding to the beginning and the other one to the end of Christ's earthly life.

At first view, the hypothesis of an "Oratorio" series does not hold, as the only other cantata considered by Bach as "Oratorium" is the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 «Kommet, eilat und laufet», which was first performed in 1925. But it appears that Bach revised the cantata between 1732 and 1735, giving it then the title of «Oratorium Festo Paschali». The three Oratorios might thus be seen as parts of a new creative "concept".

What is an oratorio for Bach? According to the «Guide de la musique sacrée et chorale profane - L'âge baroque 1600-1750» (Fayard 2003) "J.-S. Bach Oratorios are distinguished from the cantatas by their textual organization. While the cantatas present a contemplative character, oratorios may be singled out by their narrative dimension. As in the Passions, a tenor plays the role of the Evangelist (exception made of BWV 11)" (my own clumsy translation from French). Note that this already makes an exception in a set of only 3 Oratorios! But I think it actually concerns BWV 249 rather than BWV 11, where the tenor indeed plays the role of Evangelist (while in BWV 249, the narrative part relies on several "characters").

Another common feature of the 3 Oratorios is that they recycle material from previous secular cantatas. We have seen such "parodies" when discussing other cantatas, and sometimes they were attributed to lack of time (or inspiration). Here (in 1935) we can hardly invoke lack of time. Lack of inspiration may be discussed. But there is another (more convincing, in my opinion) explanation in Martin Geck («Johann Sebastian Bach - Life and Work», page 446), which precisely takes example from the first aria of BWV 11 and its further recycling in the B-minor Mass (BWV 232). Geck thinks that one of the motivations was that "initial attempts need to be finished and put into a definitive final context". And Martin Geck shows how Bach, for the B-Minor Mass (BWV 232), "selects from the wealth of existing works and individual sections those that are particularly deserving of 'promotion'".

Can we not see the Oratorios as a first attempt in this way? I can imagine that Bach regarded highly the task of designing music so closely linked with the main events of Christ's life and with the very words of the gospels, as he did in the Passions. This would explain how carefully selected and beautifully arranged are the parodies in these works. In this way, his music got also more chances to be heard on different occasions and maybe preserved (this is indeed confirmed by the fact that the music of the secular works which have been used as a base for BWV 11 is now lost).

Whereas the Passions are based on the words of one single Evangelist, the Ascension story relies on three different sources: the gospels of Luke (24: 50-52) and Mark (16:19) and the Acts of the Apostles (1:9-12), used in the tenor recitatives and also in the first recitative of the second part (Mvt 7). Recitatives play a major role in BWV 11, which includes only two arias.

The Chapelle des Minimes will perform BVW 11 on May 24th, 2008. I already have the score, but of course not the guidelines and elements of interpretations given by the conductor, which are always interesting. I hope to be back in late May to give you some echoes of this performance... But there were previous performances of the same work by the Chapelle des Minimes. I have collected helpful information about the more recent one (May 2000), in particular the concert notes of William Hekkers translated by Julius Stenzel. There was also (at least) one earlier performance, which was recorded on LP, but unfortunately I am currently not able to listen to it.

Before saying a word about the different movements, I must say that I was puzzled by the different numbers attributed to them according to the source. For example Boyer mentions 11 movements, but the home page of the cantata on the Bach Cantatas website only 9. Actually this discrepancy comes from the last recitative(s), which may be considered as a single movement in 3 parts or as 3 different movements. Here I choose the second option, not only because it is easier to refer to each one, but also because it helps to detect a more balanced architecture of the work.

Indeed, if we consider that there are 11 movements, we have the central chorus (Mvt. 6) in the exact middle of the work. The cantata is framed by the two opening and closing choruses much in the same style (festive, all instruments participating). In each half delimited by the central chorus we find three recitatives and one aria.

Like the two other Oratorios, BWV 11 has a rich instrumentation, with three trumpets, timpani, and two flutes in addition to the two oboes, strings and continuo. This fits with the fact that all three works relate to a feast for a joyous event. But in BWV 11, there is also some melancholy which is linked to the departure of Christ. This will be particularly emphasized in some movements.

I have listened to two recorded versions: by Leusink (in the Brilliant set ) [19] and by Herreweghe [15]. I will not detail each movement here, but just highlight a few points (I hope members ofthe discussion list will complement and
enrich these comments):

Mvt. 1. Opening chorus «Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen»
According to William Hekkers "the opening chorus borrows its substance from a cantata composed in 1732 for the consecration of buildings of the St Thomas school". This is indeed the opinion of Dürr (cantata «Frohe Tag! Verlangte Stunden!»). But Smend thinks this chorus derives from the final chorus of a birthday cantata of 1726 («Auf zum Scherzen, auf! zur Lust!»). Maybe this could be discussed by our experts in provenance? I continue to quote Willam Hekkers: "The opening chorus asks the assembly to praise God in his Kingdom, splendour and glory by offering a 'canticle of honour' worthy of him. Flutes, oboes, trumpets, timpani and strings open the jubilation in a rich concertante polyphony. The chorus enters homophonically, setting off perfectly the first words, 'Lobet Gott in seinem Reich'. Later, the vocal writing becomes more complex and borrows elements
from orchestral counterpoint."

I find Leusink's version [19] more dynamic than Herreweghe [15] (more articulation), but both are quite enjoyable.

Mvt. 4. Alto aria «Ach! Bleibe doch»
Martin Geck gives some interesting detail about the successive adaptations of this music. The music originally came from a (lost) wedding cantata. The text set in BWV 11 has indeed a link with love, as the aria pleads for the loved one (Jesus) to stay. With some adaptations, the music will again be used by Bach for the Agnus Dei of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232). As Martin Geck writes: "The gesture of pleading supplication, which was directed at cold hearts in the Wedding Cantata, and at Jesus as he departs this world in the Ascension Oratorio, is now directed at the Lamb of God as the heavenly mediator who decides on eternal salvation or damnation. Jesus is the final authority to which this plea of all pleas must be addressed, and this authority is ultimately the best repository for Bach's musical gesture of supplication" («Johann Sebastian Bach - Life and Work», page 446).

I find this piece really moving, especially in Herreweghe [15] (alto: Catherine Patriasz).

Mvt. 6. Chorus «Nun lieget alles unter dir»
Henry Boyer, in his book «Les mélodies de chorals dans les cantates de Jean-Sébastien Bach», notes that the melody used here is also used in BWV 43 (another cantata for the Ascension Day), and in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) (part II - «Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht»).

It is interesting to note that, although the tonality is different, the first notes of this melody are almost the same as the ones of the choral melody of BWV 14 that we discussed last week: a series of six ascending notes, starting and ending on the same notes. But here the melody is transposed lower - even unusually low - for the soprano part which sings the cantus firmus. The Fayard Guide suggests that this might express the idea of the text "Nun lieget alles unter dir" ("Now all lies beneath you" - translation Francis Browne).

Mvt 7. Recitative - Tenor, then tenor + bass
I really like the duet of tenor and bass that follows the Evangelist's words in this piece. The two singers play the role of the "two men dressed in white" who say to the disciples to go back to Jerusalem. I appreciate both Leusink [19] (Knut Schoch and Bas Ramselaar) and Herreweghe [15] (Christoph Pregardien and Peter Kooij) in this piece, with a slight preference for the latter. In Spring 2007, I heard Pregardien and Kooij live, in the SJP (BWV 245) conducted by Herreweghe, and naturally Pregardien was also the Evangelist - really impressive.

Mvt 10. Soprano aria «Jesu, deine Gnadenblicke»
The unusual accompaniment - no bass instruments but a trio of respectively two flutes, one oboe and violins and altos together - produces a particular feeling of aerial grace for this aria, very appropriate for the theme of the
work (Jesus ascending to the Heaven). Willam Hekkers writes: "Celestial music, one might say, with nothing of earthly heaviness".

Again both versions I listened to are worth it, I like better Barbara Schlick (Herreweghe) [15] for the melismas, and Marjon Strijk (Leusink) [19] for the "straighter" parts.

Mvt. 11. Chorus « Wenn soll es doch geschehen»
In the sleeve notes of Herreweghe's recording [15], Alberto Basso writes: "Notice has been drawn in particular to the fact that the grandiose concluding Choralbearbeitung using the melody of 'Von Gott will ich nicht lassen' as a cantus firmus - confirmed, moreover, by unequivocal signs in the autograph score - proves to be a reworking of an earlier composition and that, unlike the other fragments, it might lead back to a lost sacred cantata". Maybe someone on this list knows more about this?

It should be noted that the second choral melody used in this chorus is less specific of the Ascension Day than the first one (Mvt. 6): it has been used by Bach for a number of other occasions. About the author of the melody: Boyer refers to Joachim Magdeburg, but I noted it with a "?", as I saw on the Bach Cantatas website an in-depth discussion on its origin: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Von-Gott-will-ich-nicht-lassen.htm.
This chorus is particularly joyous as performed by Herreweghe [15].

I hope this rich work will inspire lively discussions! There are for example no less than 24 recordings listed on the dedicated page of the Bach Cantatas website...

For more detailed information, including previous discussions, refer to the home page of the cantata http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV11.htm, with plenty of links, including one that Aryeh just added, pointing to the BGA Score. As he would say: enjoy!

Peter Smaill wrote (October 26, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thank you Therese for an excellent introduction to this work which set me scurrying to find the Kurt Thomas/Leipzig mono LP (1961) [5] which was my first hearing of the work as a student in 1973. It is as splendid and accessible now as then, but there is perhaps more to think about!

It is intriguing that Bach appears to be working with pitch to achieve contrast. The central chorale, BWV 11/6 "Nun liegt alles unter dir" indeed has the voices lying low as the text suggests, the sopranos no higher than B. Conversely, the tenor (evangelist) recitative BWV7c (otherwise 9) looks on paper to create the image of the mountain peaks in the text, and often hits high G.

Apart from the jazzy rhythms of the trumpets in the opening and closing numbers Bach also I think significantly emphasises the dancelike response to the Ascension by emphasising triple/compound rhythm from the aforesaid Chorale onwards, such that the last three main sections BWV 11/6, 8 and 9 (the Choral, soprano aria and final chorus) are in 3/4, 3/8 and 6/4 respectively. The orchestral arrangement of the soprano aria is unusual, the instruments being arranged in three groups ( flutes, oboes and the violins and violas together in unison (Duerr calls this a "bassett") which the hermeneuticists may take to be an image of the unity of the Father and Son in the godhead.

The librettist's triple reference to Jerusalem in the last tenor recitative (7c) continues the emphasis that I find in late Bach on the image of the celestial city.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 26, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< At first view, the hypothesis oan "Oratorio" series does not hold, as the only other cantata considered by Bach as "Oratorium" is the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249 «Kommet, eilat und laufet», which was first performed in 1925. But it appears that Bach revised the cantata between 1732 and 1735, giving it then the title of «Oratorium Festo Paschali». The three Oratorios might thus be seen as parts of a new creative "concept". >
Once again I wonder if the Catholic oratorios of the Dresden court chapel are an influence. One point about Bach's librettos: Bach always had the evangelist sing the actual words of scripture in his oratorios and passions.

The character names were removed for the second version of the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) so that the biblical characters would not be singing verse. Whether this was Bach's decision because of ecclesiatical critcism or his own
scruples is probably beyond the historian's scrutiny.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 26, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Mvt. 4. Alto aria «Ach! Bleibe doch»
Martin Geck gives some interesting detail about the successive adaptations of this music. The music originally came from a (lost) wedding cantata. The text set in BWV 11 has indeed a link with love, as the aria pleads for the loved one (Jesus) to stay. With some adaptations, the music will again be used by Bach for the Agnus Dei of the B-minor Mass (
BWV 232). As Martin Geck writes: "The gesture of pleading supplication, which was directed at cold hearts in the Wedding Cantata, and at Jesus as he departs this world in the Ascension Oratorio, is now directed at the Lamb of God as the heavenly mediator who decides on eternal salvation or damnation. Jesus is the final authority to which this plea of all pleas must be addressed, and this authority is ultimately the best repository for Bach's musical gesture of supplication" >
We can't be certain as to whether Bach took his model for the Bm Mass (BWV 232) directly from this oratorio or from the original lost cantata. Nevertheless there is much to be learned from a comparison of BWV 11 and the Mass because this is a case where the arrangment shows alteration of many tiny details AS WELL AS an important alteration of the macro structure.

To take the latter point first, it is not normally Bach's practice to radically change the fundamental structure of a movement when paraphrasing it. He does it occasionally but not often. Here he omits the C maj section of the Oratorio version from Bar 29 making a very different shaping for the Agnus Dei version. (He also transposes the piece down to Gm, the only use of this key for a full movement in the whole of the mass.)

But what is equally interesting is the many changes of detail. Taking just the opening 8 bar ritornello theme, he omits the little skirls of notes in bars 2 and 7. He adds a couple of notes to the bass line in bar 5 which assist in pointing the change of harmony. He simplifies the pre-cadence harmony in bar 8 (1, 1b 1c and V rather than 1, VI, 117b and V) in bar 8 and changes the bass line accordingly. At this point he also makes a tiny change of just one note in the melody line----the third to last note is changed from supertonic (re on the sol fa scale ) to dominant (soh)---albeit a tiny detail but arguably making the line more expressive.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that Bach, in the revision of his own work ,is paring away the inessential and getting closer to the fundamental core of what makes the ultimate result so movingly expressive. Here is a first rate example of a genius having second thoughts and really applying himself to the process of making something that is 'good' in the first place, even better.

The keen student can learn a lot from the comparison of these two versions of this movement from beginning to end.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 26, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It is hard to escape the conclusion that Bach, in the revision of his own work, is paring away the inessential and getting closer to the fundamental core of what makes the ultimate result so movingly expressive. Here is a first rate example of a genius having second thoughts and really applying himself to the process of making something that is 'good' in the first place, even better. >
The paring back in both the Benedictus and the Agnus Dei has always reminded me of the Magnificat where the arias are not developed as Bach normally would because the movements are meant to follow closely on, perhaps more closely than in a cantata where the recitatives dictate a different forward motion

There is some merit in the supposition that Bach thought of the Sanctus, Osanna, Benedictus, Osanna, Agnus and Dona Nobis as one continuous sequence as in the Magnificat.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 27, 2008):
BWV 11 - Recordings

To complete the introduction:

I checked both the previous discussions about BWV 11 and the list of recordings on the BCW.

There are apparently three new recordings since the last round of dicussions, when recordings had been abundantly discussed:
- Ton Koopman (2002-2003) [22]
- Sigsiwald Kuijken (2004) [23]
- Masaaki Suzuki (2004) [24]

I have not heard any of them (shame on me, as Kuijken [23], but also Karthaüser and Van Goethem, are Belgians...). If anyone has an opinion to share...

Note that there was no new recording since 2004... but of course there are already so many!

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 28, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks for your interesting comments Peter.

I find the topic of (earthly / heavenly) Jerusalem fascinating.

I would be interested to read cross analyses of Bach's works (and others) on this question (including also what concerns "Zion", and the link with the city of Leipzig, etc.). Is it linked to particular rythms, instrumentation, musical phrases?

Jerusalem also makes me think of the "Leçon des Ténèbres" (Couperin, Charpentier,...) with the ever returning motive of "Jerusalem, convertere".

Peter Smaill wrote (October 28, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks for your interest in the significance of the Jerusalem/Zion image for Bach. This a subject for me of ongoing research which one day I will try to write up in full, but here is a precis of what is emerging so far.

The identification of Leipzig with Jerusalem is an analogy already in place in the music of Kuhnau, but under Bach the tradition intensifies especially in the Ratswahl Cantatas.

Trinity 10 was the Sunday when the account by the Jewish historian Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem was read out in Leipzig, here the meaning being not so much a glorification of Leipzig as a potential New Jerusalem , but as a warning as to the fate that awaited if sin took hold. Cantatas for this Sunday (BWV 46, BWV 102) are parodied in both the BMM (BWV 232) and the Lutheran Masses (BWV 233-236), the only Sunday for which this double sourcing is the case.The BMM (BWV 232) derives parts from several cantatas in which Jerusalem as the endpoint of Christian longing is a theme.

The entire sequence of Cantatas ending on the 27th Sunday in Trinity is as we discussed concluded with BWV 140 which is the Zion image full on.

As a source at present as far as I know it is only the Bach Textlexikon by Haeselbock which lists the many references . I'm intrigued by the idea that there may be a musical idiom too, but as the meaning of Zion/Jerusalem varies this will not be a single hermeneutic if there is one. Many of the Ratswahl Cantatas have three trumpets but sometimes that is more likely an allusion to theTrinity rather than Jerusalem, but it is also conceivable that the Holy City is celebrated by this orchestration.

Any further thoughts on this image in Bach from other BCW participants would be most welcome!

Paul T. McCain wrote (October 29, 2008):
Bach and Jerusalem/Zion

Bach's cantatas that make reference to Jerusalam/Zion, etc. are merely reflecting common Lutheran theology that in turn is reflecting the imagery in the New Testament which speaks of heaven being "the new Jerusalem." In the New Testament Jerusalem/Zion/Israel are all used to describe the Christian Church, the "Israel of God" and Zion, "city of our God" is yet another term for the Christian Church.

Mary wrote (October 30, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< .................
Mvt. 6. Chorus «Nun lieget alles unter dir»
Henry Boyer, in his book «Les mélodies de chorals dans les cantates de Jean-Sébastien Bach», notes that the melody used here is also used in
BWV 43 (another cantata for the Ascension Day), and in the Christmas
Oratorio (
BWV 248) (part II - «Brich an, o schönes Morgenlicht»). It is interesting to note that, although the tonality is different, the first notes of this melody are almost the same as the ones of the choral melody of BWV 14 that we discussed last week: a series of six ascending notes, starting and ending on the same notes. But here the melody is transposed lower - even unusually low - for the soprano part which sings the cantus firmus. The Fayard Guide suggests that this might express the idea of the text "Nun lieget alles unter dir" ("Now all lies beneath you" - translation Francis Browne). >
The use of this chorale in both the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) and the Ascension Oratorio has always intrigued me. In the former, the chorale is cast in duple meter, tempus imperfectus; in the later in triple meter, tempus perfectus. I think there is a symbolic meaning in this. The former represents Jesus becoming a man -- in all its imperfections. The later represents Jesus ascending to perfection.

Just a thought.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 30, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
>Before saying a word about the different movements, I must say that I was puzzled by the different numbers attributed to them according to the source. For example Boyer mentions 11 movements, but the home page of the cantata on the Bach Cantatas website only 9. Actually this discrepancy comes from the last recitative(s), which may be considered as a single movement in 3 parts or as 3 different movements. Here I choose the second option, not only because it is easier to refer to each one, but also because it helps to detect a more balanced architecture of the work.<
Thanks for pointing out this detail, and also for the evident work you have done preparing the introductions. The numbering of the eleven movements of BWV 11 would be especially confusing in the booklet notes to the Koopman recording [22], without this explanation.

I also note with agreement, Therese makes the point that getting the details correct helps to appreciate the architectural balance of the work.

Paul T. McCain wrote (October 30, 2008):
[To Mary] Thanks for your comments.

Just a word of response: Lutheranism, with historic Christianity, does not teach that Jesus in becoming a man was in any way "imperfect" in the sense of having any sin. The meter changes may well however hearken to the doctrine of the "humiliation" and "exaltation" of Christ, in which the Lutheran church understands that in the act of become incarnate God became a man, in order to save mankind, and then was exalted again at the Ascension.

Hope that sheds a tad more light.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (October 30, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] I just made a Google search on the term "Zion" in the BCW, it provides 253 references. This shows once more how fantastic a tool is this site!

The question of textual references in the Cantatas if complex, as we have several layers of meanings, in particular when the texts come from the Scriptures.

The reference to cities interest me particularly, as the relation between rural and urban is a topic that I encounter often in my work.

In the Scriptures, it seems that cities may be symbols of sin (Sodome, Gomorrhe) as symbols of heavenly bliss (in the Apocalypse). I wonder how cities were regarded in Bach's times...

The association between trumpets and cities seems to make sense. What it evokes also for me is the fall of Jericho (provoked by trumpets players ...).

Peter Smaill wrote (October 30, 2008):
[To Mary] Thank you for this fascinating observation- a chorale which is duple (God/Jesus) in the XO (BWV 248), but triple at Ascensiontide, which accords with the liklihood that Trinitarian imagery became highly significant in late Bach.

It is also true that the Jerusalem image increases in frequency, but that is not to say that it is an unorthodox feature . "Jerusalem the Golden" is of ancient origin, and later the mystic William Blake sets the poem "Jerusalem" in the dark satanic mills of England. It is the reading of Josephus on its destruction (which surely no longer occurs even in the most traditionalist Lutheran circles), and the identification of Leipzig with Jerusalem , that marks out this historical/ontological image of particular interest in examining Bach texts.

If Paul or others have recourse to any contemporary sermons or Luther passages on Jerusalem I would be most grateful since my slim library on Lutheran topics does not specially identify this image. In Haselbock it is a significant entry and an attractive feature to me of Lutheran hope amongst the despair following the Thirty Year's war, an image used both in a negative and positive sense.

Jean Laaninen wrote (October 30, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Apart from the jazzy rhythms of the trumpets in the opening and closing numbers Bach also I think significantly emphasises the dancelike response to the Ascension by emphasising triple/compound rhythm from the aforesaid Chorale onwards, such that the last three main sections BWV 11/6, 8 and 9 (the Choral, soprano aria and final chorus) are in 3/4, 3/8 and 6/4 respectively. The orchestral arrangement of the soprano aria is unusual, the instruments being arranged in three groups ( flutes, oboes and the violins and violas together in unison (Duerr calls this a "bassett") which the hermeneuticists may take to be an image of the unity of the Father and Son in the godhead. >
Although this has been a very tight week time-wise for me, A I finally had a chance to listen to this very special cantata. There is a deeply moving sorrow within these inner movements to my ear. Yet some passages offer a more uplifting hope. But the emotional concept of 'separation' seems to be both musically and textually apparent in my listening. From a perspective of a Lutheran upbringing this to my ear is a conveyance of the idea of leaving behind those to whom one is emotionally bound, ascending to a beauty also seen similarly in other Bach movements...though I do not have time at the moment to trace this thought. Transcendance is apparent, and maybe this reminds me of the BWV 82, when I think about it, even though they are quite different.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 2, 2008):
I add this information provided by Benoit Jacquemin (organist, conductor and musicologist) in answer to my introduction (I translate as well as I can from French):

"Concerning the choral melody of nr 11, Peter Williams in his book about organ works gives as probable source the melody of the popular song "Ich ging einmal spazieren" (he reproduces Terry's hypothesis in 1921). But he specifies that it is not known whether the popular melody is anterior or posterior to the choral. Magdeburg is the editor of the first verison, which explains Boyer's doubt."

Mary wrote (November 2, 2008):
[To Paul T. M] Paul, I should warn you, I was raised Lutheran, but got over it. I think Bach is using this metric relationship in the metaphorical sense, referring back to the old meanings of meter signatures. I just found the meter sequence, in both order of writing and the liturgical year, interesting and am not convinced that it was merely a coincidence. It is also no coincidence that this chorale and Cantata BWV 11 are in the "royal key" of D.

When I was in Germany in 2004, I played the duple meter version of the chorale in Eisenach at the Bachhaus and the triple meter version at the Thomaskirche for JSB himself. I would have played the first in the church, but I was in the emergency room at the time the group visited it. It's on my list of things to do.

 

OT: Webcast BWV 11 St John's College Cambridge

Chris Stanley wrote (November 26, 2009):
http://www.sjcchoir.co.uk/default.php?page=webcast#

Please note also that BWV 3 will be performed in January

For those not familiar with a Church of England Choral Evensong, the inclusion of a Bach Cantata might be a bit of a novelty.

St John's College Choir is, along with St Thomas Church Choir New York City one of the choirs pioneering regular webcasts.

PS Did I see mention from Ed of my favourite "Hitchcock birds" cantata BWV 62 the other day?

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 11 [Himmelfahrts-Oratorium]: 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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