Cantata BWV 113Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of August 6, 2006 (2nd round)
Peter Smaill wrote (August 5, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 113, "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes gut"
Week of 5 August 2006
Cantata BWV 113, “Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut”
1st performance, 20 August 1724 - Leipzig
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)
Previous Discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV113-D.htm
Main Cantata Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV113.htm
The Cantata for the 11th Sunday after Trinity is a gloss on the parable of the Pharisee and the publican, the passage in Luke read for the day, thus emphasising contrition as the route to the forgiveness through Jesus. For the opening chorus Bach adopts the technique of a homophonic choral setting of the Ringwaldt hymn-tune, creating scope for the prominent flowing orchestral background to colour the reference to “Brunquell,” the “wellspring of all grace”, by which means Bach alleviates the penitential nature of the chorale in favour of a wistful atmosphere.
The doctrinal emphasis of BWV 101 continues in the exposition of the atonement in the Alto chorale verse BWV 113/2, and throughout the Cantata the tension is maintained between the brooding reflection of the Christian on sin, and an altogether jollier and rhythmic use of strings and woodwind to counteract with the joy of reconciliation.
The image of Christ as Fount of Mercy recurs in the tenor recitative BWV 113/6; “Quelle” and “Brunquell” being a group of images which (per Lucia Haselbock in her "Bach Textlexikon") occurs at least nine times in the Cantatas. It may well thus be the keyword for this Cantata and part of the justification for the musical lightening of the otherwise daunting text and downbeat chorale. In this tension, between the sensual fluidity of the instrumental and vocal lines with the dry constructs of the text, lies the quiet charm of the work.
Quotations from selected Commentaries
The chorale is sung in a simple harmonisation to a melodious accompaniment which may be intended to illustrate the reference in the second line to Christ as the wellspring of goodness.
At the time of writing this cantata Bach must have been in no mood for introspection. He is generally ready, at the slightest provocation, on the most remote suggestion, to depict a tortured spirit and a conscience weighed down with sin, even though his object be merely to heighten the contrast with the comforts that his religion affords.
One of the loveliest of Bach’s flute melodies opens the tenor aria, BWV 113/5. There are no fewer than five motives in the long, blissful introduction. There is first an exquisite fragment of a tune above a rocking bass; the a series of ascending scales; a triplet –embellished scale now mounts for more than an octave, followed by a brilliant five bars of demisemiquavers interspersed with semiquaver arpeggio.
BWV 113/8 is the simple final chorale; lines 3 and 4 contain an expression repulsive to modern taste: “Wash me with thy death-sweat in my last hour”. The remainder is “And take me one day, when it pleases Thee, in true faith from the world to thy chosen”.
(Mvt. 1) The melody is not treated as a soprano cantus firmus in long notes supported by more active lower voices, but instead is quite plainly harmonised in triple metre. Also, most of the instruments that play the ritornellos separating the chorale lines fall silent each time the voices enter, leaving only the first violin to maintain continuity with its almost unbroken stream of semiquaver figuration.
(Mvt. 7) In the continuo-accompanied duet for soprano and alto virtuosity resides entirely in the long melismas attached, like comets’ tails to nuclei formed in the chorale melody.
In BWV 113/5 and 6 the librettist instead goes more deeply into the ideas of the Gospel reading. Forgiveness-for which Ringwaldt’s hymn only prays-is here granted to the penitent Christian. It is these movements that give the text its sermon-like character.
(Mvt. 5) The flowing melody and hovering compound time of the first aria give way here to a more richly articulated ritornello in common time. Over extended passages, however, this common time becomes a latent 3/2, and here lies its charm.
(Mvt. 6) The concluding chorale ..... is designed with a notably strong rhythmic differentiation of the accompanying parts, which once again lends powerful emphasis to the prayer for mercy.
Despite Whittaker’s reservations, we cannot avoid the death-sweat image in its prominent position in the concluding chorale – a medieval affair exemplified in the handkerchief ("Il Sudario") of St Veronica (illustrated in Stations of the Cross) and of course the Turin Shroud – the idea that Christ's sweat produced an image of His face. Washing in Christ's blood occurs frequently; but do we have any other examples in the Lutheran world of this sweat image surviving the Reformation as a devotional aid to Protestants?
Spitta noted that the doctrinally central line of the Cantata, the last-positioned of the Tenor aria BWV 113/5, quotes the melismatically adorned melody of the last line of the chorale. This occurs at the words, “Dein Sünd ist dir vergeben” (“Thy sins are forgiven thee”), even though the words do not relate to the chorale. Is this technique, emphasising important “Spruch” i.e. doctrine, with unrelated chorale allusions, especially rare?
Richter does not appear to have recorded this fine cantata. Do we know what his selection criteria were?
I hope that the streams of inventive music in BWV 113 will give contributors much to add to the review of this Cantata; and, for once, there is a DVD available as well as a Suzuki version  not yet reviewed on BCW.
Libretto: (?) Andreas Stübel (per Wolff)
“Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut”
Bartholomäus Ringwaldt (1588)
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Herr-Jesu-Christ-du-hochstes.htm
Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale008-Eng3.htm
Instruments: 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Cont
Written for the 11th Sunday in Trinity, Leipzig, 20 August 1724
Other Cantatas written for this Sunday
BWV 199 Meine Herze schwimmt im Blut, Weimar, 27 August 1714 (?12 August 1714)
BWV 179 Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei Leipzig, 8 August 1723 (? performed with BWV 199)
Texts of Readings:
Epistle: 1 Corinthians 15:1-10
Gospel: Luke 18: 9-14
Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download)
DVD: See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-DVD.htm
Music (free streaming download):
Performances of Bach Cantatas:
Order of Discussion (2006)
Ed Myskowski wrote (August 8, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Week of 5 August 2006, Cantata BWV 113,
Richter does not appear to have recorded this fine cantata. Do we know what his selection criteria were? >
From booklet notes, Karl Richter's Bach, by Nicholas Anderson:
<it was in the early 1970's that Archiv provided him with an opportunity of recording a cantata for every Sunday and Feast Day of the Lutheran church year. The project, embracing 64 cantatas, most of them newly recorded for the Archiv cycle, was one which gave Richter particular pride...>
Uncharacteristically, Richter does include two cantatas for Trinity 11, BWV 179 and BWV 199, without explanation in the notes. I am just getting to know Richter (indeed, just getting to know the cantatas in general) as we go through the discussions. I did have a quick scan of the texts, and neither mentions <death-sweat> (Todesschweiss), perhaps reason enough on its own to choose something other than BWV 113 to represent Trinity 11?
For those itching to start some mini-sets, the three cantatas for Trinity 11 might make a good one.
Ed Myskowski wrote (August 10, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Week of 5 August 2006, Cantata BWV 113
In this tension, between the sensual fluidity of the instrumental and vocal lines with the dry constructs of the text, lies the quiet charm of the work. >
Eloquently, and concisely, stated. On my first listening to two recordings (Rilling  and Leusink ) the tension and charm came across immediately, through the sound, even before looking at the texts.
< The image of Christ as Fount of Mercy recurs in the tenor recitative BWV 113/6; “Quelle and “Brunquell >
Not quite as helpful. I eventually sorted out the cross reference to <Brunnquell aller Gnaden> (wellspring of all mercy) between the chorale and recit., BWV 113 /1 and 6. I am just now listening again. I expect it is important, and could have been pointed out more clearly.
< Quotations from selected Commentaries >
Nicely selected, and very helpful.
< we cannot avoid the death-sweat image in its prominent position in the concluding chorale >
Once you (or Whittaker) have pointed it out, Todesschweiss will be on my mind until February. Do you suppose this was a special image for the heat (northern hemisphere) of August?
< do we have any other examples in the Lutheran world of this sweat image surviving the Reformation as a devotional aid to Protestants? >
Devotional aid? Well, who knows, I have never been a Protestant. Protestor, perhaps. I bit my tongue for several days, in case there was a devotional response, but it is now open season for Todesschweiss banter.
Another detail of the text that I noticed with bemusement is the absence of the Pharisee. Only the publican, or contrite taxman (Zollner treten, BWV 113/6) is carried over from the Epistle of the day. Early political correctness, or just focussing on the good example?
< Spitta noted that the doctrinally central line of the Cantata, the last-positioned of the Tenor aria BWV 113/5, quotes the melismatically adorned melody of the last line of the chorale. >
This is a lovely detail, easily overlooked if it is not pointed out. I hope there is some response as to its uniqueness (or not).
< I hope that the streams of inventive music in BWV113 will give contributors much to add to the review of this Cantata; and, for once, there is a DVD available as well as a Suzuki version  not yet reviewed on BCW. >
The DVD is reviewed on BCW, with special mention for a coupling, BWV 199. I am awaiting the Suzuki , and will add a few lines. No doubt there is a lot of inventive, and very compact, even dense, music here (BWV 113). Not to mention the almost weekly flute magic, only touched on, as yet. The outstanding distinction between the two recordings that I have is Rilling's  approach to the chorale, BWV 113/2, noted in the previous round, alternatively:
Rilling  gives the alto part to a small group from the alto section of his splendid choir.
Rilling  has all the altos in the choir sing this chorale melody.
It is August, I prefer to stay neutral, and cool (probably not what you want to hear in Oz. Thanks for the reminder, and dialect, Julian).
Julian Mincham wrote (August 10, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< Spitta noted that the doctrinally central line of the Cantata, the last-positioned of the Tenor aria BWV 113/5, quotes the melismatically adorned melody of the last line of the chorale. >>
< This is a lovely detail, easily overlooked if it is not pointed out. I hope there is some response as to its uniqueness (or not). >
Ed some interesting points in your last posting.
Re the issue you raised above, it's not unique. One other example that comes readily to mind is the sop aria from 93. Here Bach introduces the last 2 phrases of the chorale in the middle of the aria.
Ed Myskowski wrote (August 17, 2006):
A few additional words, as promised, to comment on Suzuki 
If you want to hear maximum contrast, make a comparison of Blaze/Suzuki  with Rilling's choir section , in the A chorale (Mvt. 2). The chorus sounds so correct in the chorale, that it seems like that should be the only way. Perhaps that is just a habit of the ear?
The first impression of Blaze , with Rilling  in mind, is: that's not a chorale. Pretty quickly, that changes to: what a lovely, transparent, but not too delicate voice. Truth is, I have not played them side by side, and wanted to write because time has a way of going by, it is already last week's topic. I don't think it is an issue of one better than the other, more an issue of two totally different approaches, performed near perfection.
Then the S/A duet, Mvt. 7, Blaze/Nonoshita , compared to Augér/Schrekenbach. Same problem, this is so hIP vs trad, that it almost seems pointless to compare. If you prefer one style to the exclusion of the other, there is no choice. But why that restriction? Why not enjoy both. I doubt that any boy, past or present has sounded
like Arleen Auger. Does that make her performance inauthentic? Perhaps. Does it make it less good? Not to my ears.
By now, I am taking the time (and enjoyment) to replay Rilling  one more time. The T aria (Mvt. 5) with traverso is another point of comparison. With Rilling, the flute is more forward. Suzuki  relies on the resonance of the venue to bring it out, a much more subtle and balanced approach, which I find wears well on repeated listening.
There have been many endorsements for Son BCW, for which I am grateful. It gave me the incentive to try one, and the first gave me the need for more. With so many good, and ongoing recording projects, it is probably outside the scope of anyone but Aryeh to think about hearing them all. Suzuki  s not to be missed, for at least a sample. My suggestion: try one with Robin blaze if you haven't heard him. The present disc is a good choice, quick tempo on BWV 33/1 notwithstanding.
Continue on Part 3
Cantata BWV 113: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Par 4