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Cantata BWV 114
Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of September 22, 2002 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 23, 2002):
BWV 114 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (September 22, 2002), according to Klaus Langrock’s suggested list, is the Chorale Cantata BWV 114 ‘Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost’ (Ah, dear Christians, be consoled). An unknown librettist arranged the hymn by Johannes Gigas for Bach’s Chorale Cantata on the 17th Sunday after Trinity. Verses 1, 3 & 6 are set in their original form for movements 1, 4, & 7 of the cantata accordingly, while the other verses are paraphrased for the intervening movements. The poem does not have a direct connection with the scriptures prescribed for this Sunday, apart from a Gospel reference in the recitative for bass (Mvt. 3). It simply admonishes the Christian for his sins and advice him to patiently bear the punishment they bring, so that Christ will redeem him now and console him in his hour of death.


The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 114 - Recordings

This cantata has only four complete recordings, all of them come from cantata cycles: Rilling [1], Leonhardt [2], Leusink [3] and Koopman [4]. Bach’s music draws deep emotion and some picturesque imagery from the text. The result is a very fine cantata, which raises the question why it has not been more often recorded. Nevertheless, the aria for alto (Mvt. 5) was also recorded individually by the renowned contralto Marian Anderson in the company of Bach Aria Group.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to:
The original German text (at Walter F. Bischof Website); English translations by Francis Browne, and Z. Philip Ambrose; Hebrew translation by Aryeh Oron;
Score (Vocal & Piano version);
Commentary: in English by Simon Crouch, and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes:

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 28, 2002):
BWV 114 - The Recordings

Last week I have been listening to the following recordings of the Cantata BWV 114:

[1] Helmuth Rilling (1974+1981)
[2] Gustav Leonhardt (1981)
[3] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
[4] Ton Koopman (2000)

[M-1] Bach Aria Group (1951): Aria for alto (Mvt.5)

Background & Review

Only Mvts. 2, 4 & 5 (all of them for solo voice) are reviewed.

The background below is taken from the following sources:
Alec Robertson: ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972),
W. Murray Young: ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’ (1989), and
Nicholas Anderson (?) in ‘Oxford Composer Companion – J.S. Bach (1999).
The English translation is by Francis Browne.

Mvt. 2 Aria for Tenor
Flauto traverso solo, Continuo
Wo wird in diesem Jammertale
(Where will there be in this valley of misery)
Robertson: It is a beautiful obbligato for the flute that carries the deep emotion of this aria, the tenor’s part being declamatory. He asks the question seven times and his persistence is rewarded in the vivacious and lyrical music of the middle section of the aria, with the flute contributing wide-flung phrases of delight. The words that inspire this outburst are ‘Allein zu Jesu Vaterhänden / Will ich mich in der Schwachheit wenden’ (Only to Jesus' fatherly hands / do I want to entrust myself in my weakness).
Young: The solo transverse flute obbligato contrasts the emotions felt by a pilgrim in the two parts of the text. First he is wandering in weary disconsolation through a gloomy valley, and then he turns to Jesus for comfort, his grief-motif changing to a joy-motif. His repetition of the last four words ‘weder aus noch ein’ (an idiom for ‘which way to turn’ – literally, neither out nor in) marks the beginning and leads back to the da capo.
Anderson: [Comparing with the soprano] For the other singers the challenge is greater. In this aria the tenor must not only negotiate some tricky intervals and rhythms but also synchronise with an almost hyperactive flute obbligato, whether suggesting the vale of lamentation at the opening or the joy with which the Christian turns to Jesus for help in the central (Vivace) section of this da capo aria.

[1] Rilling with Equiluz (9:31)
Equiluz proves convincingly that although his part is apparently declamatory, how much emotion can be drawn from his simple line: Deep sorrow in the first half and overt joy and enthusiasm in the second. He is supported by the beautiful, clean and warm flute playing of Peter-Lukas Graf.

[2] Leonhardt with Equiluz (9:09)
The magical playing of the flute which precedes the entry of the tenor seems to come from a different world from the one that was proposed to us in the previous rendition. And indeed this is Brüggen playing. Equiluz seems to be inspired and to out do his previous recording. There is more tenderness and sensitivity here, which are mostly moving.

[3] Leusink with Schoch (9:06)
Schoch is the nice surprise here. The solo instrumentalists of Leusink have been quite often the most enjoyable participants of his cantata cycle, and so is the flutist here, Kate Clark. But Schoch is doing his best, as if he really understands what he is singing about. The way he expresses the question of the last words of the aria should be mentioned as an example. Of course, he is not up to the level of Equiluz, who finds many more nuances in this aria (especially in his second recording), but this rendition of the aria can still please many.

[4] Koopman with Prégardien (8:28)
The obvious change here is that this performance is much faster than the others. Why does Koopman prefer such brisk tempi I do not know. Prégardien has a lot to offer, but with such velocity, he is not given as much room to express himself as he deserves. As a result part of the gloomy mood of the first part of his aria is almost getting lost. The playing of the flutist (Wilbert Hazeltet) leaves nothing to be desired, and the dialogue between the singer and the player reflects mutual listening.

Personal favourite: Equiluz with Leonhardt [2]

Mvt. 4 Chorale for Soprano
Kein Frucht das Weizenkörnlein bringt
(The tiny grain of wheat bears no fruit)
Robertson: Jesus’ words in the Gospel (John 12: 24), ‘Except a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it abideth by itself alone; but if it die, it beareth much fruit’. The detached phrases in the continuo suggest the sowing of the grain.
Young: She sings this third verse of the hymn accompanied by continuo only. The transformation of out body through death is metaphorically compared to the sprouting of grains of wheat when they are buried in the earth (John 12: 24). Bach’s short, quavering rhythm in the continuo portrays the action of sowing wheat throughout the movement.
Anderson: It is worth remarking how Bach in this cantata, as in others, minimises the demands placed on his least experienced singers, the trebles of the Thomasschule. [snip] There is no recitative for the soprano, and in the only aria for that voice, accompanied by continuo, the soloist again sings the same chorale melody, only lightly decorated in the second line. The trebles therefore needed to learn (and probably already knew) one simple hymn tune.

[1] Rilling with Schnaut (2:33)
The playing of the continuo by the organ is a little bit strong to my taste. Some more delicacy have helped. The same could be said about the singing of Schnaut. She has a dark voice may suit this chorale, but her vibrato is too strong and her expression is too dramatic.

[2] Leonhardt with Hennig (2:17)
Sebastian Hennig justifies Anderson’s claim that the soprano part of this chorale is relatively simple. Or maybe he is well-equipped to sound as if he is singing the chorale effortlessly. The accompaniment he is given, portraying the sowing of the grain, has the needed delicacy.

[3] Leusink with Holton (2:07)
Holton’s boyish timbre suits the chorale better than the voice of any other singer. Not much expression is conveyed here, only simple purity. And I like it that way.

[4] Koopman with the Soprano section of the choir (2:12)
Koopman is the only conductor who chooses to use the soprano section of the choir, rather than a soprano singer, singing the chorale. Only few singers participate and one can almost hear each one of them individually. The non-uniformity of the singing spoils the enjoyment. On the one hand, the singing sounds almost neutral; on the other hand the playing of the continuo is very picturesque.

Personal favourite: Hennig with Leonhardt [2] or Holton with Leusink [3]

Mvt. 5 Aria for Alto
Oboe I, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Du machst, o Tod, mir nun nicht ferner bange
(You make me, O death, no longer afraid)
Robertson: The moral of Jesus’ words is drawn in this predominantly joyful aria in the middle section of which the words recall Simeon’s ‘Nunc dimittis’, and look forward to the day when, pure and transfigured, the soul is called to its Redeemer.
Young: This splendid aria, joyfully accompanied by an oboe and strings, radiates confidence in our transfiguration through death. The last three words ‘verklärt und rein’ (transfigured and pure), summarise the perfection awaits us after inevitable death. This aria and the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) contain profound emotion. Bach’s mysticism is involved in the musical setting of this aria, which contrasts with the pictorial quality of the preceding movement.
Anderson: The other aria (in B flat major), for alto accompanied by oboe, strings, and continuo, is more straightforward and forthright in expression, and again in da capo form. But it is by no means unadventurous in its modulations, which take us into the dark regions of E flat minor at the words ‘Es muß ja so einmal gestorben sein’ (for this reason once and for all I must die).

[1] Rilling with Hamari (5:43)
Hamari sounds as the ideal singer for this aria. She does not have any technical difficulties, and she manages to convey the complicated message of the aria splendidly: confident joy with a hint of sadness underneath. The weak part of this rendition is the accompaniment, which is too thick and heavy up to becoming a burden rather than a soft platform for her traversal to her Redeemer.

[2] Leonhardt with Jacobs (5:17)
Something which is hard to describe is not working here. Maybe it is the accompaniment, which almost never sound jolly throughout the aria. Maybe it is Jacobs, although he has a voice that is very much to my liking, seems to have full control on the message he has to convey. Or, maybe it is simply the lacking of chemistry between the singer and the accompaniment.

[3] Buwalda with Leusink (5:08)
I should better avoid writing about this performance.

[4] Markert with Koopman (4:38)
I like very much the dark voice of Annette Markert. But she, as Prégardien, is not given enough time to express convincingly and to reveal the multi-layered mood of this aria.

Bach Aria Group with Anderson (4:13)
Purists might turn their head away from this recording. I found much to enjoy. This is the most vivacious and joyful rendition of the aria, I have heard. Without knowing the words, one would never guess what is the subject of the aria. In the voice of Anderson you could hear reminiscences of her glorious prime. Her vibrato is indeed too strong for contemporary ears.

Personal favourite: Hamari with Rilling [1]


A movement to take away: The aria for Tenor with Equiluz & Leonhardt [2]

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

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 29, 2002):
BWV 114 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 114 - Provenance

The Recordings:

The recordings that I listened to were:

Rilling (1974, 1981) [1]; Leonhardt (1981) [2]; Leusink (1999) [3]; Koopman (2000) [4]

Mvt. 1

Orchestral Characteristics:
There is a great difference between the more legato (portato where the notes have dots over them) playing that is evident in the Rilling recording and the slightly faster, much more staccato style that Leonhardt [2] uses. Leonhardt pushes this envelope to an extreme by allowing the staccato notes to have shortened note value and by having these notes played in a more spiccato, strongly accented style. If Leonhardt’s interpretation is meant to portray the agitated turmoil that precedes the words of comfort sung by the choir, then this version is perhaps the most successful in portraying this aspect. The Rilling version [1] seems geared more toward expressing solid, substantial support for the text.

The Leusink [3] and Koopman [4] versions are much less engaging. The Leusink orchestral accompaniment, although correctly played, lacks any form of character or style that would distinguish it from the others. Throughout this mvt., the sound of the ensemble is muffled and soft with the exception of the bc which has a double bass that is much too loud for this group. Koopman, on the other hand, not only has greater clarity in the instrumental parts, but the oboes and violins have the necessary overtones that one would expect from these instruments. There is even a lute to be heard in the continuo group. Somehow Koopman’s orchestra still does not rise to the occasion as well as Leonhardt [2] and Rilling do. This is due to Koopman’s penchant to have the orchestra play lightly without ever showing any serious intensity that one might expect from a cantata with such a earnest text.

Choir Characteristics:
The only two choirs that are able to sing with precision and balance all the notes in this 4-pt. composition are Rilling’s [1] and Koopman’s [4]. Rilling’s choir sings with full voices that produce a sound loud enough to carry the words to the listener with conviction. Koopman’s choir, although accurate and well-balanced, remains primarily at a sotto voce level. This undermines the solid foundation that would make this version more convincing than it is in this ‘lite’ style of singing. Both Leusink [3] and Leonhardt [2] demonstrate quite obvious weaknesses in their choirs. While Leusink’s choir might seem clearer than the muffled sounds produced by Leonhardt’s choir, there is much unevenness in the manner in which these voices present themselves. Individual voices with their characteristic timbres suddenly appear unexpectedly when straining for the higher notes. The altos in both groups are either quite weak or wavering about with strange vibratos as they attempt to sing the notes. Balance and precision are serious problems for both choirs.

The least satisfactory performancis Leusink’s [3]. There are simply too many distractions in the choir and a very lackluster performance on the part of the orchestra. Koopman’s rendition [4], although more polished in some ways than any of the other performances, nevertheless, is unable to really engage the listener. There is a curious disconnection between the text and the music. It is easy to imagine all the Bach chorale cantatas being sung essentially the same way by this group. This leaves Leonhardt’s interpretation [2] which is certainly different. It is as though he is almost trying too hard to make something out of this. Once you adjust to his playing style and consider how this might represent the text, this becomes a very viable approach, but then, as the choir begins to sing (or is it ‘shout’ or ‘abbreviate’ the note values) in a indistinct manner, any sense of conviction that the listener is being sincerely comforted from a firm position that the choir must have is lost and the mvt. fails its purpose. This leaves only Rilling [1], who, despite the fact that he uses trained voices that sometimes tend to exaggerate their vibratos, is able to convey the necessary conviction that this mvt. demands.

1st Choice: Rilling [1]

Singing a Simple 4-pt. Chorale (Mvt. 7)

Imagine the Rilling version [1] of the final chorale without the wavering (vibrato) voices, particularly in the sopranos and you will have a chorale properly sung: the voices sing full-throated from the heart the words of the chorale text. There is no attempt to skimp on the fermati that occur at the end of almost every line. Unless there is a good reason for it, each note is sung legato. This is in accordance with Agricola's book on singing (Agricola, who participated in Bach's performances of his cantatas, emphasizes this point.) Each voice section is in balance with all the others. The instruments that are playing colla parte enhance the choir sound without overshadowing it. The German pronunciation is impeccable. Moving down the ladder we come to Koopman [4], whose choir has little or no vibrato (too bad Rilling is unable to achieve this!) It seems that Koopman was intrigued by “wir schlafen ein” [“we are falling asleep”] for this is the effect that is apparent here: everything is understated and much more impressionistic. The moving parts in the harmonization are hurried over very lightly and the fermati are severely abbreviated causing important words at the end of the line (“Not” and “Tod”) to appear simply as an unaccented afterthought. The notion that the listener would gain a sense of power through faith and would praise the Lord in the last line is completely overlooked here. Is this a nice musical background for someone who wishes to listen to a Bach chorale without knowing anything about the words? Yes. Is this a fitting conclusion for a cantata with such a solemn text that leads to an expression of great joy at the end? No. This criticism can be equally applied to Leusink’s version [3] of this chorale. Many of the features are quite similar, although the choir sound and singing is much less sophisticated than Koopman’s. A very deplorable aberration from what a chorale should sound like can be heard in Leonhardt’s rendition [2]. Here Leonhardt follows completely in the misguided footsteps of his pioneering leader, Harnoncourt, who, in his infinite wisdom about Bach’s performance style, concocted what can only be considered a ludicrous caricature of a finale chorale. This sounds very much like an amateur conductor attempting to make certain that members of the choir should all land on their notes at the same time. For this reason there is a thumping on each quarter note with spaces left between them just in case the singers need to draw a breath after having expended so much air in emphasizing heavily each note. Eccentricity, but at what a price! Now consider repeating this situation for almost every Bach cantata in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata series and not realizing that this is a dead end in musical interpretation! This type of chorale singing is truly a monstrosity!

1st Choice: Rilling [1] with reservations

Mvt. 2 (Tenor Aria):

[1] Equiluz, in the Rilling recording, shows a greater range of expression and intensity than in the later Leonhardt version. He is singing with his full voice here and it carries over directly to the listener. The impact of the emotions expressed is very moving indeed.

[2] In the Leonhardt recording Equiluz demonstrates a more restricted range of expression. His volume level remains more narrowly confined without fluctuations to either a very loud or soft extreme. I can not believe that Frans Brüggen is playing the wooden transverse flute in this recording. There three other players listed as a possibility. The playing here, although correct in intonation, lacks character and sounds generally ‘dead’ or uninteresting.

[4] If anyone can even be considered as approaching Equiluz’ level of performance, it would have to be Prégardien in the Koopman recording, but he is unable to attain the intensity that can be heard in the Rilling recording. There is a tendency for Prègardien to sink back to a sotto voce level very similar to Equiluz’ performance with Leonhardt. In the Leonhardt and Koopman recordings, the tenors, despite obvious differences in the voices and styles of singing, nevertheless can be considered as giving comparable performances.

[3] Schoch, in the Leusink recording, has a very limited range of expression. He tends to howl occasionally on certain high notes that he is attempting to reach. This is obviously a small (half) voice that would have difficulty projecting emotional content to a larger audience than might be found in a small chamber setting.

1st Choice: Rilling/Equiluz [1]

Mvt. 4 (Soprano Chorale):

Holton’s [3] naïve, child-like presentation might seem to resemble a performance given by a boy soprano, but actually it sounds more like a timid boy or girl that has a great fear of singing. Hennig [2], a true boy soprano, also sounds a bit forlorn (although this may have been intentional due to the text.) A much better solution would have been to have two or three boy sopranos sing this chorale. Koopman [4] attempts to do this, but he uses female sopranos instead. This can only partially give the intended effect that the singing of this chorale should have. Rilling’s version [1] with Schnaut giving an operatic version (with wide vibrato and all) is an example of the worst that non-HIP performances have to offer a listener. (We should probably be very thankful that Rilling did not unleash all his sopranos to sing the chorale melody. That would truly have been horrible!)

Mvt. 5 (Alto Aria):

[1] Hamari is in a class all by herself very much the same way the Equiluz’ performances generally excel. There is a warmth in her voice that is particularly moving in the low range, the very range where most counter tenors struggle to find sufficient volume to produce the notes that are indicated in the score. Everything in Rilling’s performance seems just right: the tempo, the dynamics, the balance between instruments and voice, and the expression of the words in the text.

[4] Koopman, on the other hand, gives this aria another one of his ‘lite’ treatments. It sounds rushed and, as a result, lacks some of theintensity (‘serious joy’ if you can live with this apparent oxymoron.) Markert sings extensive sections sotto voce. It becomes very apparent in the middle section that this tempo is too fast because the meaning associated with the words is, for the most part, lost. The Savior quickly? watches over the individual (the vocalist, singing in the 1st person) in the grave. It makes little sense to hurry through this section as if it meant practically nothing.

[2] The Leonhardt version virtually swings along like a courtly dance with special dance-like emphases. Here the contrast with the serious nature of the tenor aria is quite extreme. The instruments are quite loud and even tend to drown out the voice when Jacobs has to sing in the low range. When Jacobs has to swoop to a high note, he automatically joins the group of acclaimed counter tenors who indulge in this operatic technique as well. In a church cantata such a singing mannerism has no place. It begins to sound too much like a ‘Tiny Tim doing his thing’ on a church balcony.

[3] Buwalda in Leusink’s recording is even less convincing in this role. Buwalda’s half voice almost gets lost in the instrumental texture at times. This is not a good sign, since it means that the listener has to strain to hear the actual notes and words. The range of expression is much less than Jacob’s. Again the characteristic sound of Leusink’s ensemble lacks the richness of overtones that can be heard in the Leonhardt version.

1st Choice: Rilling/Hamari [1]

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (September 29, 2002):
[3] I fully agree with Thomas Braatz that the choir on Kruidvat is struggling in BWV 114. But in general, homogeneity is absent Leusink’s performances. Being a tenor myself, my ear is especially on the tenors. I use Kruidvat as study material. There is often one tenor with a loud, sharp voice. He can only sing with declamatoric accents. In our choir we call this tenor a "Leih-tenor", i.e. somebody who comes in at a late stage, who knows his part, but hasn't a clue about interaction with the other voices of his vocal group, let alone the other voices.

Philippe Bareille wrote (September 29, 2002):
I have listened to Leonhardt [2].

I think Gustav Leonhardt is almost unrivalled when it comes to bringing out the rhythmic texture of Bach's works. You can feel the internal pulse of the score. The music flows and breathes naturally. The continuo is lively. The pick of cantata BWV 114 is the poignant lament of the tenor aria. Everything is superlative here, the music, Equiluz who always inject an emotional element with his splendid tone, the beautiful flute of Frans Brüggen, etc.

The young Sebastian Hennig (the son of the chorus master) was at the beginning of a short but distinguished career.

I'm always surprised that so many Bach cantatas like this one have so few recordings available. Why for example the BWV 80 has become so popular (however splendid it is) and so many works by minor composers have been recorded dozens of times, is quite bemusing!

Francis Browne wrote (September 29, 2002):
This is a cantata that richly repays repeated listening. My own experience is, I suspect, typical of many listeners to such a cantata. It takes some time for those who live in a secularised society to understand and become attuned to the emotional and spiritual territory that Bach is exploring and to which he gives memorable expression.

The content of the text set by Bach in the first chorus (Mvt. 1) sounds strange today: 'be consoled, you are being punished because you deserve it and must admit this'. Cold comfort perhaps, but seriously meant for the punishment sent by God implies a plan and purpose for our lives. The complexity of feeling these concepts evoke – acceptance of suffering as deserved leading to sober and realistic hope – are conveyed in Bach's music. Both the energetic agitated music of the orchestra in the ritornelli , the accompaniment and the singing of the lower voices contrast with the simple enunciation of the text by the sopranos in the long notes of the cantus firmus. The effect is to suggest simultaneously both the problem and its solution, our experience of life's turmoil and the consolation of faith in God. Such music at first hearing may seem neither one thing or the other, neither sorrowful nor triumphant: instead on repeated listening it seems to convey marvellously a rich ambiguity of experience.

Each of the performances I have heard – Leusink [3] and Koopman [4] – succeed in conveying some of this, but not completely. Aryeh and Tom have, as always, commented in detail and perceptively on the recordings and it would be pointless to echo their remarks. But I do feel that anyone who listens to either of these flawed performances will still gain an idea of what Bach intended.

In the rest of the cantata Bach continues, I believe, to express both the problem and its solution. Aryeh quoted Robertson's comment on the tenor aria:"[the tenor] asks the question(where will I find a refuge in this valley of misery) seven times and his persistence is rewarded in the vivacious and lyrical music of the middle section of the aria, with the flute contributing wide-flung phrases of delight. "

Of course the da capo structure of the aria means that having asked the question seven times and having in the vivace section given the answer to the question himself ….the tenor goes on to ask the same question another seven times!. This is a logical absurdity but, as Philippe indicated, the haunting, deeply moving music carries utter conviction: again I feel Bach's music corresponds to lived experience, where the solution of hope often coexists with the problem of feelings of despair . In this aria hope and despair are both expressed, but –as in life – despair and discouragement – are more prominent.

I wish I could share Aryeh's more positive evaluation of Schoch's performance with Leusink [3]. But despite the good flute playing and slower tempo on the Leusink recording, it was only in listening to Pregardien's much more accomplished singing with Koopman [4] that I thought I felt something of the power of this aria.

The fourth movement (Mvt. 4), the chorale for soprano intrigues me. The bare, austere, archaic sounding setting of a text that seems both simple and profound, in its acceptance of death and expression of faith, is a technique that Bach uses elsewhere. It reminded me of some of the music Mozart wrote for the drei Knä bchen, jung, schön, hold und weise in Die Zauberflöte. The boyish soprano of Ruth Holton, on which others have commented ,seemed therefore singularly appropriate an effective in this movement and better than Koopman's solution [4] of a small choir.

At first hearing I thought the alto aria was an enjoyable but fairly predictable joyful resolution of previous problems , as in many cantatas. But Nicholas Anderson's comment about ' the dark regions of E flat minor at the words 'Es muß ja so einmal gestorben sein' made me listen more closely to this section , and it does repay attention. The music is 'multi-layered', as Aryeh says, an does indeed go into 'dark regions'. Again I hear the coexistence of problem and solution: the slight variation Bach introduces into the third and final repetition of the key word ' einmal' is very effective. The implications of the word are understood and accepted.Similarly the sombre middle section – where the identification with Simeon implies acceptance of death – contains marvellously expressive writing in the held notes on bewahren and the varied repetition and emphasis on verklärt by which Bach makes clear (pardon the pun) the implications of being 'transfigured'. The total impact of the aria is greatly enhanced by the complexityand ambiguity of the emotions expressed

Like Aryeh I prefer not to comment on Buwalda's performance with Leusink [3]. But since Annette Markert's performance with Koopman [4] is the only other performance I have heard I can understand but not share fully Tom's opinion that the performance fails to convey the 'serious joy ' that Bach wrote. I can only report that for me this performance did succeed – but it does make me seriously joyful to think that, judging from what Aryeh and Tom have said, there are even greater riches and beauty to be revealed in other and future performances of this cantata. Like Philippe, I cannot understand why it is not better known and more recorded.

Hurry up , Suzuki [6]! What about it, Herreweghe?

Robin Crag wrote (September 30, 2002):
A beautiful cantata! (Even if it is not quite as cheerful as we would like :-)

The chorus (Mvt. 1):
A wonderful piece of music. This somehow reminds me of a dream I had a long time ago, where I could fly. To my ears, there is almost more of the sense of a "God's eye" view, looking down on the sinner, than of one sinner addressing another. (I appreciate this is only a personal reaction: I'm not trying to say that this is what Bach intended). I feel this movement would bear much closer scrutiny than I have given it, exploring the connections between the music and the text, and getting deeper into the ounterpoint. I shall return, and listen more closely some other time! Bach chooses to use a harsh dissonance on the word "verzagen", which is very effective. A small puzzle I have, how does "lieben", mean "fellow", instead of love, here? Leusink+co [3] struggle a little, and things are a little unbalanced. But hey, they were in a hurry.

The tenor aria (Mvt. 2):
Bach chooses to make things simple here, with only the flute and the voice active most of the time (the bass-line seems mostly only to accompany them, rather than saying anything of its own). But how well Bach expresses the anxious searching! And how beatifull it is, in a slightly painful way. At the words "Allein zu Jesu Vaterhaenden", everything lightens, we have found what we're looking for. But then on the next line, things begin to darken again, and by "Sonst weiss ich weder aus noch ein", the music is anxious and frantic. And then... we're back to where we were. Bach is very human here, he admits that the believer seeks his salvation from a position of weakness and vulnerability, rather than actively wanting his saviour otherwise. (I'm not sure if I'm making sense here, I'll probably offend you if I do, so never mind.)

To my ears, the Leusink performance [3] sounds good here: expressive and beautiful.

Basso recitative (Mvt. 3):
"Wie oft erhebst du dich mit schwuelstigen Gebaerden, Dass du erniedrigt werden must."

Here Bach portrays the pomposity in the music. And then the music turns around pointing at you: "YOU must be humbled".

The soprano chorale, and the alto aria:
Hear we have celebration of death. (Bach often deals with this subject, I think. i.e. the famous BWV 82). Their attitude then to death, (I believe) is a useful counterpoint to today's ignoring of death (often an irrational attempt to put it off). But. As someone who doesn't believe in an afterlife, I can't help but see some of this as rather silly and overdone.

In the chorale (Mvt. 4), Bach again chooses simple means. But this time, he doesn't use this to communicate expressively like in the tenor aria. Rather, the simplicity talks for itself. I think anyone would need to know the words to understand their meaning here (if
u c?).

The alto aria (Mvt. 5) struck me at first as sickeningly overconfident. After a little more listening, though, I enjoy it more. Thanks for your comments, other people, you made me listen again. So I here a humble expression of joy in the music. I will join you in leaving poor Sytse Buwalda [3] alone..

Tenor recitative (Mvt. 6):
"Im tod und Leben offenbar."
The music goes down for death, and up for life.

The "final chorale" (Mvt. 7):
Bach completes the structure of the cantata with a humble and heartfelt chorale in the usual manner. Without it the cantata would be like a good bicycle without a seat.

Sorry this is a little late, no one said anything till Friday, and I didn't go online till Sunday. Anyway, Im looking forward to discussing BWV 169 (a little more cheerful..)

Thanks for tolerating me :-)


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Cantata BWV 114: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 05:25