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Cantata BWV 119
Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn
Discussions - Part 1

Previous Messages

Peter Lewis wrote (November 19, 1999):
I recently read in a history of the Cold War that public performances of the secular cantata Preise Jerusalem were banned in West Germany because of the complimentary references to Leipzig and its river. However, the version allowed used sacred texts, which date from Bach's time in Leipzig. Does anyone know if this latter version was used by the Kapellmeister in his lifetime?

Johan van Veen wrote (November 20, 1999):
It seems to me that this is total nonsense. West Germany has been a democratic state since the war and I don't think the government would ever even consider banning public performances of any piece of music. Besides, the connection between Leipzig and the "city" which the cantata is about, is an indirect one. It was written for the inauguration of the town council in 1723. So it is obvious that when the text is referring to "die Stadt" (the city), everyone realized that Leipzig was meant. But the text can easily be connected to any city. So the writer of the history you have read was ill informed, both on the matter of censorship and the content of the cantata.

TPower5085 wrote (November 20, 1999):
This rings a (distant) bell. I think Mr. Lewis may be referring to textual alterations, which occurred in Germany before and during WWII. I can hardly see ardent National Socialists singing the praises of Zion. Mr. Lewis' source may have mis-stated the facts, but there is more to this than meets the eye. More later...

 

BWV 119 – modernised text

Francis Browne wrote (May 4, 2003):
The recording of this cantata by the Mainz Bach choir and orchestra conducted by Diethard Hellmann [2] was among the very first recordings of Bach cantatas I ever bought over thirty years ago. When I came to listen to it again I still greatly enjoyed the performance, but was surprised to find that the text sung was 'a modernised version by Albrecht Goes'.

The opening and concluding choruses are the same but all intervening movements have been rewritten. Alterations to the magnificent chorus 'Der Herr hat Guts an uns getan' are slight, but elsewhere the subject matter has been completely changed. The tenor aria , for example, becomes:

Wohl dem, der so vertrauet
Derewgen Lieb und treu!
Sein Herz wird alle Stunden
Ja ganz getrost erfunden,
und jeden Morgen neu
Wird ihm der Mut erbauet.
(Happy is he who puts his trust in eternal love and faith! His heart will ever be full of comfort and each morning his courage renewed).

The alto aria 'Die Obrigkeit ist Gottes Gabe' (which does sound rather hard
to swallow today) becomes:

Des Friedens teuer werte Gabe
Ist seiner Leibe Unterpfand.
Doch wird er deinem Haus nicht bleiben,
Du selbst wirst ihn von hinnen treiben,
wenn du den Bruder nicht erkannt!
(The precious gift of peace is the pledge of his love.But he will not dwell in your house, you yourself will drive him hence, if you know not brotherly love)

According to an obituary Goes (1908- 2001) was an interesting and able character, a writer and pastor ( http://www.aphorisma.net/Albrecht-Goes-www-1.htm ). Carus- Verlag lists an edition of this cantata with his modernised text, but no others.

I am curious why this cantata in particular was chosen for modernisation and why a recording was made of the modernised text. Clearly the subject matter of the election of the Leipzig Town Council in 1723 no longer has immediate appeal , but the same could be said of other Ratswechsel cantatas and some secular cantatas. Have any of these been been rewritten in this way ?

An earlier discussion on Aryeh's website about an altered text of this cantata reached no conclusion. Possibly the Mainz Bach choir just used an easily available text . Does anyone have more information?

Roland Wörner wrote (May 4, 2003):
[To Francis Browne] A note on the back cover of the first release of this recording in Germany (1967) says (in the translation):

"The festival music 'Preise, Jerusalem..." BWV 119 is, with respect to its plan, its richness of forms and its orchestration one of the most magnificient of the surviving Bach cantatas. Its musical content and its directness occasioned its first rediscovery in a period of time which hardly took notice of the creations of the organist of the St. Thomas Church in Leipzig: Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy arranged the work for the dedication of the Bach Monument (which he had himself brought into being) on April 23, 1843 in the Gewandhaus Leipzig. Bach wrote this composition a few weeks after assuming the post of organist (better: cantor. RW) at St. Thomas Church for the service in commemoration of the yearly election of the town council of Leipzig. Alfred Duerr gives the date of the first performance as August 30, 1723 (Bach's Yearbook, 44th year of publication, p.61). The original text is especially calculated for the situation and for Leipzig, "the city of the Linden-trees". Yet this criticism of the text is an essential reason why the work so seldom appears among musical presentation today. In order to eliminate this defect, Albrecht GOES attempted to modernize such cantata texts as are only understandable with historical explanations. His work must be subject to the position of religios poetry in Bach's works. The nature of the language comes to life for the soul which accords with the texts. The progression of text is closely related to musical development. (The preface of the new edition of Bach's cantatas from Hänssler Publishers of Stuttgart describes this parodistic procedure in detail.) ..."

One can say that Diethard Hellmann, conductor of this recording [2], (a good friend of Karl Richter and one of his collegues from Leipzig times) always was interested in reconstructions of Bach works for the practical use. See his reconstruction of the St. Marc's passion (BWV 247), of cantata BWV 82 for soprano and flute, he also published Bach's Psalm 51 after Pergolesi (BWV 1083) and others. Out of this reason may have been created these new texts. And remember, that in the fiftys and sixties of the 20th century first began a broad interest in Bach's cantatas. The cantata cycles of Ramin [1] in Leipzig, Grischkat in Stuttgart, Richter in Munich and Ansbach were pioneering works. (It seems that this is forgotten sometimes in the discussions of our time as like as on this website ...).

Francis Browne wrote (May 4, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] Thank you for your informative and interesting reply. The cover of the English edition simply has the text and a translation but no notes. The information you give makes the situation much clearer.

What you say about interest in the cantatas in Germany in the 50s and 60s is also fascinating. When I listen to the few cantate LP recordings I have or more recent CD reissues of these or Werner's recordings at Pforzheim, I often wonder what has happened to what must have been a strong and vibrant musica tradition that could produce performances that are often impressive, moving and exhilarating : the Mainz Bach Choir, Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra, the Deutsche Bachsolisten, Westfallische Kantorei, Suddeutscher Madrigalchor Stuttgart, Heidelberg Chamber Orchestra, Mannheim Bach Choir etc. What are these now? Are there many equivalents in today's Germany ?

Many thanks again for your help.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 5, 2003):
[To Francis Browne] A good example of something you just can't do if you have any respect for Bach's intentions. If one thinks that the teBach used are not relevant anymore, then why should one perform these cantatas at all?

The worst aspect of these 'modernisations' is that the heart of the original texts - the sting, so to speak - has been removed. All references to God gave been removed. The 'vertical' message has been 'horizontalised' - which is diametrically opposed to Bach's intentions and to what was expected from a cantata like this one in his days.

Dick Wursten wrote (May 5, 2003):
Johan van Veen asked:
<<If one thinks that the texts Bach used are not relevant anymore, then why should one perform these cantatas at all?>>
RE: Because it 's just good music !

And when Johan van Veen adds:
<< The worst aspect of these 'modernisations' is that the heart of the original texts - the sting, so to speak - has been removed. All references to God gave been removed. The 'vertical' message has been 'horizontalised' - which is diametrically opposed to Bach's intentions and to what was expected from a cantata like this one in his days.>>
then I suggest he has to reread the text of Albr. Goes, in which God indeed - very respectfully - is not named explicitly, but is not absent at all.

In general:
One can differ whether it is suitable to provide a modern 'Text-Unterlegung' to a specific cantata, but the tradition (parody) is very old and used many times by Bach himself, not only in his own cantatas but also in reproducing other composer's work. R. Wörner in his very illuminating mail [same subject] already mentioned Bach’s own 'TextUnterlegung' of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater: Ps 51 instead of Stabat Mater dolorosa. And... doing so he changed Pergolesi’s musical score...

Francis Browne wrote (May 5, 2003):
Johan commented:
"The worst aspect of these 'modernisations' is that the heart of the original texts - the sting, so to speak - has been removed. All references to God gave
been removed"
I must apologise for misleading by quoting only the arias, which I thought would be of most interest. In the recitatives of Goes' modernisation 'Gott' and 'der Herr' are mentioned explicitly four times each.

Dick Wursen wrote (May 6, 2003):
[To Francis Browne] Is it possible to publish the complete german text of BWV 119 as revisited by Albr. Goes. His name sounded familiar to me. I looked in the encyclopedia and then remembered I once read a novel of Goes: 'Das Brandopfer' when I was young, which impressed me much... So, please.

Francis Browne wrote (May 6, 2003):
Dick Wursten asked for the German text of Albrecht Goes ' modernised version of BWV 119. I have copied below what is printed on the LP cover of Hellmann's recording [2]:

BWV 119 Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn
(Modernised version by Albrecht Goes)

1. Coro
Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn, lobe, Zion, deinen Gott! Denn er machet fest die Riegel deiner Tore und segnet deine Kinder drinnen, er schadet deinen Grenzen Frieden.

2. Recitativo T
Erwünschter Tag, willkommne Zeit
Da alles Volk sich naht in Dankbarkeit.
Wer wollt die Gab ermessen
Und den, der also gibt,
Den Herrn darob vergessen?
Wer ist, der Tag für Tag,
Lebt als von Gottes Geschenke,
und dennoch blinden Sinns
Sein eigen Glück bedenke?
Da uns Frühlicht zu erquicken
Und das Gestirn der Nacht
Zu trösten weiß,
Erwachen Leib und Seele,
Frei zu verkünden Gottes Preis!
Volk Gottes, rufe weit:
Erwünschter Tag, willkommne Zeit

3. Aria T
Wohl dem, der so vertrauet
Derewgen Lieb und treu!
Sein Herz wird alle Stunden
Ja ganz getrost erfunden,
und jeden Morgen neu
Wird ihm der Mut erbauet.

4. Recitativo B
Es ist der Herr,
Der alle Welt
Und Macht
In seinen starken Vaterarmen hält!
Doch ists sein heilger Wille,
Daß , die sich Christen heißen
Zu jeder Zeit und Stund
Als Boten auch des Friedens
Sich erweisen.
Ja, ist des Streites rings
Kein Ende abzusehn,
Dann - welcher hier gehört zum heiligen Stamme, -
Tracht, ob auch fremder Widersinn
Des Friedengeistes Werk verlacht,
Wie er den Feind zum Freunde sich gewinn!
Drum gib, du Gottesvolk,
Auf dieses Zeugnis acht -
Wie würde sonst geehrt
Sein heilig-großer Name ?

5. Aria A
Des Friedens teuer werte Gabe
Ist seiner Leibe Unterpfand.
Doch wird er deinem Haus nicht bleiben,
Du selbst wirst ihn von hinnen treiben,
wenn du den Bruder nicht erkannt!

6. Recitativo S
Nun, nun wir erkennen wohl
Wie du uns rufst
und, höchster Gott,
den Nächsten uns zugut erschufst,
Fürwahr, da du des Bruders Herz,
Sein Herz
Zu öffnen selbst gewillt,
So dringt dein Volk durch Zäune und durch feste Schranken
Und rühmt anbetend deine
Gott'sgedanken,
Darin der Streit der Welt gestillt, -
Und stimmt also vereint
Das Danklied freudig an:

7. Coro
Der Herr hat Guts an uns getan,
Des sind wir alle fröhlich.
Er seh sein Volk in Gnaden an
Und schütte uns auf ewig
Und gute, lange Zeit hinaus
Den Segen üunser Haus,
So wollen wir ihn preisen.

8. Recitativo A
Wohlan!
Da du, o Herr, so viel an uns getan,
so wollest du gewähren
Daß alle Welt sich mög
Zu deinem Reiche kehren.
Laß Vater, laß geschehen
Wie Herz und Mund
Und Seele dich anflehen.

9. Choral
Hilf deinem Volk, Herr Jesu Christ,
Und segne, was dein Erbteil ist.
Wart und pfleg ihr zu aller Zeit
Und heb sie hoch in Ewigkeit!
Amen.

 

Discussions in the Week of May 4, 2003

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 5, 2003):
Fritz Werner recording of BWV 119 [3]

I do recommend to listen in AMAZON.DE to samples of the complete cantata. It is a double CD BOX on the ERATO lable. It has BWV 28, 85, 90, 119, 140, 147.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 6, 2003):
BWV 119 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (May 4, 2003) is the Rastwahl Cantata BWV 119 ‘Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn’ (Praise, Jerusalem, the Lord) for the Inauguration of Leipzig Town Council [St. Bartolomew’s Day]. For Bach, the modern equivalent of Jerusalem was Leipzig, with its four Lutheran churches and local government, represented by the church-school consistory and the town council respectively.

Background

The short background below, quoted from the liner notes to the Erato reissue of Werner’s recording, was written by Lindsay Craig [3]:

See: Cantata BWV 119 - Commentary

Recordings

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 119 - Recordings

The 10 complete recordings of this festive cantata are equally divided between traditional and HIP. The HIP recordings are: Günther Ramin (1953) [1], Diethard Hellmann (mid 1960’s?) [2], Fritz Werner (1965) [3], Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1974) [4] and Helmuth Rilling (1977-1978) [5]. The HIPs are: Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1981) [6], Ton Koopman (1998) [7], Philippe Herreweghe (1999) [8], Masaaki Suzuki (1999) [9] and Pieter Jan Leusink (2000) [10]. It means that we have variety of approaches from almost every school of the last 50 years. Most probably each member will find among them a personal favourite. Nevertheless, considering the high level and reputation of the performers, I am sure that we can learn something from each one of them and expand our horizons.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to the original German text and various translations, three of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron). There are also links to the Score (Vocal & Piano version, located at the BCW) and to commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

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

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 6, 2003):
I was recalling ae mail talking about the French overture STYLE on some of the JSB works:that person gave as example the Prelude in E flat for organ BWV 552 that opens the collection of Chorals based on Luther's writings also called organ mass. Well this cantata has AS A FIRST movement a SINFONIA that is what a solemn overture in the french style is.

I have no more time.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (May 6, 2003):
< Hugo Saldias wrote: Well this cantata has AS A FIRST movement a SINFONIA that is what a solemn overture in the french style is. >
BWV 119 has no Sinfonia.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 7, 2003):
BWV 119: changing tastes

The score of the opening movement (Hugo, you were correct, in so far as the opening ritornello is named "Sinfonia" on this score) demonstrates the change in fashion regarding performances of theFrench overture style.

The tempo (David Zale site) is given as crotchet (ie quarter note) = 60, and marked 'Grave'.

Both versions I have heard, the Herreweghe [8] and Harnoncourt [6], take it much faster (my guess is c. = 80), and display the 'bouncy' style I have spoken of before. The demi-semi-quaver runs are mere wisps at this tempo.

(Hugo mentioned BWV 552 as an example of the French overture style, in his initial reference to this present cantata; as far as I know, BWV 552 has not been presented with this staccato treatment of the dotted eighth notes. Nor should it be, IMO).

The liner notes to the Herreweghe CD speak of the solemn and triumphant nature of this music, but I have trouble equating this HIP style with these words - the music sounds more like a courtly dance to me, rather than a regal procession.

Can anyone report on an example of this movement with the tempo as suggested by the above score, ie, crotchet = somewhere around 60?

Perhaps then we can make a final judgement on this matter.

BTW, both the Herreweghe [8] and the Harnoncourt [6] recordings of this cantata contain many great moments. In the words of the site's founder, enjoy!

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 7, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks very kindly.

Bob Henderson wrote (May 7, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias & Neil Halliday] Re BWV 119 opening chorus. The Suzuki [9] takes the opening at almost the same pace as the Herreweghe [8], Yet to me the Suzuki does sound somewhat stately and formal in spite of the pace. Until the chorus breaks in (and in this cantata they really do break in....) Then the pace is fully justified for the text shouts "Praise!" And all thought of formality disappears.

'Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem, praise thy God O Zion'

The text directs us to a wonderful sequence within which the quickened pace is fully justified. Enthusiastic praise. Kick out the jams....as it were.

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 7, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] What I am looking for is a solemn overture French style overture. I know that if Karl Richter had this cantata recorded he will do it the way I think it... So far any performance gets me 100 % happy... He recorded just Händel overtures from oratorios and if you hear that you will understand what I want to hear in this cantata, that kind of focus.

Bob Henderson wrote (May 7, 2003):
[To Hugo Saldias] As a Richter collector I think I know what you mean. And I still love many of his LPs. But others seem dated these days (His 'Sleepers Awake' ecourages me to sleep on...and on) Yet I would love to hear him do this cantata. If you find anything approaching that which you are seeking, let us know!

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 8, 2003):
[To Bob Henderson] Sleepers awake:

The way Richter sees this cantata is like going into a dormitory, were everybody is asleep...mmmmm... Then lights, music and sleepers !! AWAKE! Like an opera: The overture sets the climax... The curtain opens and you see what the idea is.... So to start sleepers awake choir fast it will be not creating the atmosphere of sleeping. Same thing happens in his recording of the organ chorale prelude that Bach transcribed and included as a set of 6 called Schübler collection. He plays it all legato and very slowly...Other organists like Helmut Walcha (also Prof. Günther Ramin pupil) plays it very fast and phrases it in groups of 2 notes...Both are valid for me but I do prefer the slow one for the reasons given above.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 9, 2003):
BWV 119 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 119 - Provenance

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 9, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] This is very interesting.

Are there any other cantatas with 4 trombas and such a large continuo as you say below?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 9, 2003):
Hugo Saldias asked: >>Are there any other cantatas with 4 trombas and such a large continuo as you say below?<<
In addition to BWV 119, only BWV 63 has 4 trombas.

Dreyfus mentions 2 bassoons are also used in BWV 69a, BWV 75, BWV 194, BWV 208, BWV 232, BWV 243, BWV 245, and BWV 248.

It is also highly unusual to have 2 Violones playing simultaneously. Dreyfus indicates that only sometimes did Bach have 2 violoncellos playing at the same time.

To have all of these instruments playing the bc simultaneously seems quite unusual. At the moment I can not find any other similar situation in Bach's oeuvre.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 9, 2003):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The score of the opening movement (Hugo, you were correct, in so far as the opening ritornello is named "Sinfonia" on this score) demonstrates the change in fashion regarding performances of theFrench overture style.
The tempo (David Zale site) is given as crotchet (ie quarter note) = 60, and marked 'Grave'.
Both versions I have heard, the Herreweghe
[8] and Harnoncourt [6], take it much faster (my guess is c. = 80), and display the 'bouncy' style I have spoken of before. The demi-semi-quaver runs are mere wisps at this tempo. <
An appropriate tempo, as in all this music, is determined by quite a few factors: the meter marking (cut C, followed by 12/8, followed by cut C); the rate of harmonic change; the acoustics of the hall; the types of figuration in the music; the abilities of the performers; the conventions of performing music that is in this dotted "French ouverture" style (including a non-literal reading of the dotted figures); .....

The "Grave" marking, the "Sinfonia" marking, and the metronome marking of 60 are all invented by a late 19th or early 20th century editor of this piano/vocal edition. At least they're acknowledged as such by being in parentheses.

The editor's wrong thinking is revealed in that metronome marking, too: he has marked it as crotchet (quarter note) = [whatever, in this case 60] instead of semibreve (half note) = [whatever]. The meter is clearly a cut C, not C: both because it's marked that way, and because of the style of the music. The semibreve is the main beat. If the conductor and players feel this music in crotchets, as recommended by this editor, they won't play the dotted figures correctly!

Also, I haven't seen another score of this yet, but I'd be very surprised if the first 21 bars are not notated as a repeat with first and second endings. Instead, this piano/vocal edition has the music written out in full twice.

I've listened to the Herreweghe [8], Harnoncourt [6], and Leusink [10] recordings of this. They all seem TOO SLOW to me in those opening and closing sections of this movement (and Leusink's is the slowest). And I also think they all sound too cautious in character. How can such a slow and logy introduction the words "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn!"?

Looking at the meter and the harmony, I conducted and hummed through the opening section, beating semibreves (of course), with the grand and energetic character I feel it should have. It took me 90 seconds. Since it's 41 bars, that tempo works out to just a shade under 60 for the semibreve...that is, almost twice as fast as the tempo recommended by that anonymous editor. Changing tastes, indeed!

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 9, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks again for all this information. Regarding BWV 63 it has been analized some years ago. I went to the Bach Cantatas web site files and it is very interesting what they say compparing the BWV 119 and the BWV 63. I might be wrong on this but I feel that Bach wanted a larger continuo more large than usual. So if he had 4 or 5 violoncellos (it was too expensive may be or not space to place such a large orchestra) he would have used them.Well sorry, I do not base this idea on nothing or have any evidence to substanciate this but it makes me think what if he had the chance to add more and more instruments, for this unusual works with large instrumentation...

It keeps me thinking...

Thanks again this information helps to understand the proportions of this great musical composition.

Bob Henderson wrote (May 9, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Absolutely. The great opening chorus must be more propulsive, more energetic than the Herreweghe [8] which I find sedate and too refined. Mind the text, as ever. "Praise the Lord"!

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 9, 2003):
Hugo Saldias mused:
>> I might be wrong on this but I feel that Bach wanted a larger continuo more large than usual. So if he had 4 or 5 violoncellos (it was too expensive may be or not space to place such a large orchestra) he would have used them.Well sorry, I do not base this idea on nothing or have any evidence to substanciate this but it makes me think what if he had the chance to add more and more instruments,for this unusual works with large instrumentation... It keeps me thinking...<<
Well, Hugo, keep thinking because I find a great deal of merit to this idea at a time when current musicological thinking emphasizes the minimal approach to size of Bach’s musical forces.

Here are some interesting points to add to your thoughts:

In Schering’s “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik”( Leipzig, 1936), there is a detailed description of the balcony(ies) where the first performance of BWV 119 would have taken place under Bach’s direction in August of 1723. This special (festive) church service took place in the St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig as you could probably figure out from the previous report on the pastor who delivered the sermon. This comes somewhat as a surprise to me (and perhaps to many other listeners) who have come to think of the St. Thomas Church as being more important than the St. Nicholas Church: the prime cantata performances (those not given between 6 and 7 am at St. Nicholas but rather as part of the most important ‘main’ service toward noon at the St. Thomas Church – these times are approximate because I do not have time to look them up right now) with the primary choir and soloists were given in the St. Thomas Church.

Now comes this performance (BWV 119) where Bach uses some of the largest musical forces that he had ever assembled in Leipzig, but the performance does not take place at the St. Thomas Church where Bach would have more room for his musicians. Bach chooses (is forced to choose) the St. Nicholas Church which is a smaller church with (a) much smaller balcony(ies). Why? Schering gives the answer on p. 144: “It is the foremost and most distinguished church in Leipzig in Bach’s time.” Why? Because high ranking royalty (kings) attending church in Leipzig would only take up their position in the ‘Fürstenstuhl’ a special, private area which occupied a portion of the larger, extended balcony (this balcony was divided into 3 parts as seen from the altar: the organ at the left (with very little space left on this balcony {1 ½ meters}for something/someone else), the choir & orchestra loft (4 ½ meters wide by c. 5 meters deep with space lost on either side to cabinets {for instruments, etc.}), and the ‘Fürstenstuhl’ reserved for visiting royalty. Imagine physically trying to fit this large orchestra consisting of at least 21 musicians (23 if you allow 3 players on each of the 1st and 2nd violin parts – why wouldn’t you use 3 players per part on the violins, and perhaps even a another viola player with such a huge continuo group?)! Consider the balance here! Even with the timpani being smaller in those days, such players do need a certain amount of space. Schering even suggests that most, if not all, the musicians were standing!

Doesn’t this give the impression that Bach used as many musicians as he could in order to make his music as festive as possible and that, had he been given more performance space, he would have wanted even greater forces to perform his music? Bach performed the SJP (BWV 245) several times (4) in the St. Nicholas Church, but the SMP (BWV 244) which he eventually expanded into double choir and double orchestras (perhaps he had already envisioned this possibility before he actualized it) was always performed in the St. Thomas Church where there were greater possibilities for expansion.

It is interesting that Laurence Dreyfus, who, if I remember correctly, does not put much faith in deriving information about performance styles from considerations pertaining to the physical arrangement of musical forces, may be missing an important point here. In his book, “Bach’s Continuo Group” (Harvard University Press, 1987), he has only a single reference to BWV 119 which I shared on the previous reports regarding 2 bassoons being used. If I were Dreyfus researching everything that I could find out about Bach’s continuo group, I would have at least included a complete picture about the unusually large (perhaps the largest?) continuo group that Bach had documented in his own handwriting. Is it possible that Dreyfus was less than entirely objective and swayed by the Rifkinesque notion that minimal is the most authentic, hence the best way to hear Bach? Perhaps Dreyfus, instead of restricting himself primarily to a study of the original parts (many or most of which were not Bach autographs), should have examined the autograph scores as well where we find the following continuo group for BWV 119: ‘Organo, Violoncelli, Bassoni è Violoni | all’ unisono col’ | Organo’ = organ with the cellos, bassoons and violones all playing in unison with the organ. Now listen to many of the Leusink recordings which usually have a string bass player 'holding forth' in the continuo. Consider the balance between this single string bass vis-à-vis the rest of the orchestra and choir (to my ears the string bass is usually too loud, too intrusive against the reticent sounds emanating from the rest of the orchestra.) Now imagine the powerhouse continuo group that Bach has assembled for BWV 119. How many upper strings will you need in order to create an appropriate balance? What will the size of the choir need to be? OVPP?

It is revealing to see how Bach pushes against the existing physical limitations. There are even church records (St. Nicholas, 1724, where Bach needed more room for his SJP) that indicate that Bach made requests for some modest, feasibly possible reconstruction (expansion) of the balcony areas.

This brings up the question of the ‘Entwurff’ (which is always used in an attempt to 'prove' OVPP and OPPP) where Bach spells out his needs for accomplishing an appropriate church music for all the churches in Leipzig. I still see this not as an opportunity for Bach to sout for the authorities what his idea for a ‘pie in the sky’ would be, but rather an attempt on Bach’s part to play a political ‘shell-game’ in order not to reveal completely his hand (Bach’s trump cards were the university and private students and the Stadtpfeiffer who were able to fill in on various instruments so that the students from the St. Thomas School would not have to play all the instrumental parts, thus taking away from the number of singers available in the main choir, as Rifkin and others would have it. Bach's 'shell-game' with the authorities was not successful in changing the situation with the musical forces at his disposal.

In BWV 119 (1723) we can see a Bach with his ideals not yet shattered by the authorities. The authorities are sitting in the audience in the church where only royalty otherwise assemble. Bach must have been thinking to himself: “Certainly they will realize that I can use even greater forces than these to glorify the higher powers, when they see and hear what kind of great music I am capable of producing with limited means and space.” Unfortunately, they, in their miserly ways, not really recognizing Bach’s greatness because he was not really the top-name musician that they originally had in mind, decided: “He has proven that he can do much more with much less space and with a limited number of musicians. What incentive do we have to spend more money to help him out, when he has done just fine with what he has available to him?"

Bart O’Brien wrote (May 9, 2003):
A first for me. I actually possess two recordings of this week's cantata to compare: Herreweghe [8] and Leusink [10].

Should we really regard this as a sacred cantata? There are a few perfunctory references to God and it was performed in a church, but the music and most of the words inhabit the world of secular cantatas like BWV 206, BWV 214 and BWV 215 that celebrate royalty rather than that of, say, Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen.

Has anyone ever suggested anything other than the simple sacred/secular classification of the cantatas?

I hate the sound of the trebles and altos of Leusink's choir [10] - in all the other cantatas too, not just this one. It's not just a matter of male voices; I have no problem with Harnoncourt's [6]

Some say that the music of the tenor aria (3rd movement) suggests the swaying of Leipzig's linden trees mentioned in the text. If you heard Herreweghe's performance [8] without understanding the German text I don't think you'd be able to spot that they were linden rather than beech trees. In fact, you might not do any better than feeling an atmosphere of pleasant elegance and prosperous contentment - which is perhaps near enough, if less concrete. Leusink's performance [10] on the other hand sounds decidely like a lullaby, and that can't fit the words. But does it matter?

In the alto aria (5th movement) Leusink [10] is much slower than Herreweghe [8] (3:22 against 2:48). If you told somebody the text was all about modest stillness and humility, he might very well find Leusink's performance very appropriate. But of course, it's not. The text is about the concept of `authority'. I wouldn't say Herreweghe depicted that; I'd say he just performed a fine piece of music without depicting anything in particular. Which is better than a performance that contradicts the text. Or is it?

I happen to prefer Herreweghe [8] to Leusink [10] in every movement. Is there a causal relation between this fact and the fact that the music that Herreweghe produces fits the text better? I doubt it. I just think that more musical skill and more rehearsal time went into Herreweghe's product.

Dick Wursten wrote (May 9, 2003):
BWV 119: Herreweghe [8]
Bob Henderson wrote:
< Herreweghe ... too refined. >
IMO the nail on the head !

Too refined = the power and the weakness of Herreweghe. I am a great admirer of Herreweghes Bach-recordings, but am always in doubt, whether he seduces or convinces. Religion in the realm of the esthetical, not the ethical (Kierkegaard perhaps would say).

Bob Henderson wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Bart O’Brien] I think that the secular and the sacred were so closely associated in the 18th century that one cannot separate cantatas into classes. Yes the cantata BWV 119 was written for an occasion. But mind the text. It is not incidental to the work.

Bob Henderson wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Dick Wursten] I like the Herreweghe [8]. Were it the only recording available I would be satisfied. It conveys the essence of the work. But Suzuki [9] takes all the essential elements a step further. Its more propulsive. It has more energy. (Suzuki has been accused, too, of limiting his effectivness through overly refined performance) But, if you love this work, get the Suzuki recording [9].

Neil Halliday wrote (May 10, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote: "An appropriate tempo, as in all this music, is determined by quite a few factors."
One should bear in mind that many of these factors are of a subjective nature, influenced by one's psychological temperament (oops, there's that word again), philosophy, and I suppose, many more. Therefore, in the abscence of actual directions from the composer, an "appropriate" tempo cannot be set by objective, scientific considerations alone.

(In passing, I was surprised to see the 37 year old Michael Wersin writing this statement, shown at Tom's message #4869 - "why is it that the historical performance practice, which is based on {musical} principles and is otherwise satisfying, is often accompanied by tempi that are much too fast and a ragged/coarse/shabby manner of making music that has placed an overemphasis on rhetorical mannerisms. The musicians during the baroque period must have been very nervous individuals who were constantly under the pressure of time", - thus dispelling my suspicians that anyone under the age of 50 automatically prefers fast tempi.)

"The metre is in cut C".
Brad, this is of-course one consideration among many; you seem to put an enormous amount of weight on this point. I recall you were inclined to envisage the opening chorus of the SJP as being cut C, and gave this as a reason for a fast tempo. (SJP's metre is in fact 4/4.)

"The editor's wrong thinking is revealed in that metronome marking, too: he has marked it as crotchet (quarter note) = [whatever, in this case 60] instead of semibreve (half note) = [whatever..."
I have an example of an organ chorale, edited by Dupre, in cut C, (2 minims in a bar), with the suggested tempo of chrotchet = 66; the editor could have written minim = 33, but who cares, since the chosen tempo is the same in both cases (This chorale, no. 36 from the "Orgelbuchlein", has the chorale theme in minims, but there are plenty of semiquavers (no demi's) in the others voices, including pedals.) The question is - is Dupre also wrong in his choice of tempo?

"I've listened to the Herreweghe [8], Harnoncourt [6], and Leusink [10] recordings of this. They all seem TOO SLOW to me in those opening and closing sections of this movement"
All these HIP conductors sound too slow? Hmm.

Today I listened to Menuhin and the Bath Festival Chamber Orchestra playng the comparable music (to the opening of BWV 119) in the 3rd and 4th Orchestral Suites, tempo about crotchet = 60, (or minim = 30; I dont know if the score is designated in cut C in these slow dotted rhythm sections, or 4/4).

The tempo seems PERFECT to me. In the 4tSuite, in the middle of the first 'slow' section (trumpets and timpani silent), the semi quavers give out a lovely serene melody (minor key) with a hint of melancholy , suggestive of the fragility (very real, of course) of the beautiful, aristocratic world Bach is describing...double the tempo, as is usual with HIP, and all this disappears.

"How can such a slow and logy introduction prepare the words "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn!?"
For me, long held chords from the full orchestra, slow dotted rythmn, trumpets blaring, punctuated by timpani, and interspersed with dazzling, yet clearly delineated demisemiquaver figures, are the ideal way to set the scene for the words "Preise, Jerusalem, den Herrn!"?

It's a matter of taste, indeed. Let's see how Ramin [1] or Richter perceived it.

Roy Reed wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] Hear!! Hear!! SPEED KILLS !!!!

Bart O’Brien wrote (May 10, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, I've read the above a couple of times, and I'm still not quite sure what you are saying.

You certainly say that when you hummed the piece through the way you like it, it was faster than the tempo of all these conductors. OK.

But are you saying more than that? Are you saying that by studying a score, and ignoring explicit indications like metronome markings, you can DEDUCE what the most appropriate tempo for a piece is?

I would have thought that was logically impossible - unless of course you bring in some explicitly stated assumptions along the way.

Can you clarify this please?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 11, 2003):
BWV 119 - Commentaries: [Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Eric Chafe]

See: Cantata BWV 119 - Commentary

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 11, 2003):
[To Bart O’Brien] Bart, those metronome markings in that piano/vocal score were put there more than 150 years after the piece was written. As "explicit indications," yes, they should be ignored! (As our Mr Braatz has pointed out, it's important to know which markings in a score come from a composer and which ones are from elsewhere.)

And, as I've said, there are quite a few clues directly in the composition
to determine (deduce) tempo:

< An appropriate tempo, as in all this music, is determined by quite a few factors: the meter marking (cut C, followed by 12/8, followed by cut C); the rate of harmonic change; the acoustics of the hall; the types of figuration in the music; the abilities of the performers; the conventions of performing music that is in this dotted "French ouverture" style (including a non-literal reading of the dotted figures); ..... >
The hall acoustics and the performers' abilities are of course not in the score, but those other things are....

As I pointed out before, with other cantatas and the SJP and SMP etc., the most important considerations are the speed of the harmonic motion and the figuration of the fastest non-ornamental notes. The meter signature also usually gives a confirmation of that same thing, the rate of harmonic motion (changing at half-bars, quarter-bars, whatever). If the music is at all based on dance forms, that too suggests a tempo: how does a dancing human body obey the laws of gravity? And if there are words, at what rates are they intelligible? All these are notated clues to finding an
appropriate tempo.

Either on this list or the BachRecordings list, maybe both, I've already recommended the book Dance and the Music of J S Bach by Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne. They present this material well. The speeds for given dance forms could vary, of course, but the basic way of feeling the meter is pretty straightforward.

That doesn't mean one should bash headlong through every piece at a strict, straitjacketed tempo; everything has to breathe. I'm simply saying: the metric and harmonic layout of the music suggest a most natural tempo range. Start off on "the correct foot" by picking a good tempo, and then play/sing musically!

=====

Here's an example from the concert I played on Friday night. The gig was at president James Madison's house, and it was supposed to be rather patriotic, so as the encore we (the singer and I) did a song that was written during Madison's presidency: "The Star-Spangled Banner". The tune is a popular 18th century song (drinking song), "Anacreon in Heaven"...and we performed from the first printed edition that put the music and words together, 1815. (The new words alone were published in 1814 in several journals, saying they should be applied to this tune.)

The meter in that score is 6/4, that is, two beats per bar subdivided into three each. And the harmony changes (not unexpectedly) at that same rate: twice per bar, or sometimes only once per bar...also making it clear that this piece is "in 2." So we picked a straightforward, moderate, easily dancing tempo, felt in 2. The words "Oh, say, can you see by the dawn's early light, what so proudly we hailed by the twilight's last gleaming" lasted about 10 seconds. (Try it. It's about the same speed at which one would speak the words, without music.) And we gave a little bit of lilt and snap to the quavers, the few that there were ("by the dawn's", "what so proud-")...a slight inequality to them...bouncy, like a nice little dance, or like guys heartily singing in a pub, swinging their beer mugs. All a very easy flow of all the normal notes, those crotchets. Then along the way we modified the tempo a bit, for example giving a bit more emphasis to "the rockets' red glare" and the "in God is our trust" (in the fourth
stanza), to go with the drama of the words, but then picked back up to that basic tempo.

After the program, several people came up to us and said, "Wow, I've never heard that song done that way before, but it's really beautiful that way! And it sounds so much better like this than it does the much slower baseball-game way! Thank you!"

Heck, we weren't out to strip off 100 years of bad performance tradition (although we did so); we were just trying to present the music beautifully from its notation, and from its background as a pop song, and according to the most natural rate of its words.

Bart O’Brien wrote (May 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks Brad for your detailed reply, and congrats on the successful concert.

Now I'm a long-time listener rather than a real musician, but I'm also interested in logic and reasoning. I never had any problem with you ignoring the metronome markings. What interests me is the notion of reasoning from those elements of a score that don't explicitly specify tempo to arrive at a decision on an appropriate tempo.

You give, I think, these factors to be found in the score for use in this kind of reasoning:
1 speed (or rate) of harmonic motion
2 figuration of the fastest non-ornamental notes
3 meter signature
4 ease of physically dancing the dance form
5 ease of singing the words intelligibly.

Unfortunately I'm not well enough up on music theory to understand (or even ask sensible questions) about how you would evaluate factors 1-3 and reason from there to arrive at the most appropriate tempo.

I mean, in the example of your concert, which was plainly a success, I don't see how you can take data in the score (such as, in this case: meter 6/4; change of harmony a bit less than twice per bar on average) and reason from that to arrive at a particular tempo (in this case 10 seconds for a particular passage).

I'm not a performer or even a reviewer, so I don't care that much about exactly how one finds an appropriate tempo. What intrigues me is whether it is logically reasonable to derive a conclusion about tempo from data that apparently doesn't say anything about tempo.

Factors 4 and 5 - the ones I can understand - seem a bit weak to me.
(4) I don't see that a piece cast in a dance form necessarily sounds best at a tempo convenient for dancing. A given piece might, but then again it might not. All Haydn's symphonies have minuet movements (I think), but they don't all sound best played at a tempo that would be suitable for dancing.
(5) The factor of singing the words intelligibly would only set a ne plus ultra at both end. But the fastest possible tempo on this basis might still be five times the speed of the slowest, so that does not help very much.

Another purely logical point. Are these five factors all independent variables? If so, what if they suggest different tempi? For example, suppose it's a tarantella but evaluation of the speed of harmonic motion indicates that it should be played very slow?

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 11, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Taking advantage of the snow we had in Denver, I went to the mountains. So, sorry for not answering the message before today. Thank you so much.I am 53 and still learning from all these important pieces of information you write. First Arnold Schering: Is an authority that I do respect a lot.The balcony it was so small! And the musicians had to play standing! This is unthinkable. But according to Herr Arnold Schering was the reality of Bach working place. That had put a lot of stress in everybody there in Leipzig.No union to help them... Even the place was not relaxed he managed to make great music showing us the size of his talent!!!

Also in did learn from you that the SJP (BWV 245) was played several times requesting more space and using additional choir and orchestral forces...

And I see now all that I was thinking made sense...

I did not know all about this you wrote above!!!

As you said:Bach could show what kind of music he was able to write.I say:Imagine Bach today let us say in the Berlin Philarmonic after hearing let us say a Beethoven piece what could that size of orchestra and choir inspire him to write...

Well thanks a lot. I am convinced that everyday I learn something... Someone said: What we know is a minimal part of what we ignore.Who said that? I forgot, sorry...

Best regards and thanks again

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 12, 2003):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< (...) I have an example of an organ chorale, edited by Dupre, in cut C, (2 minims in a bar), with the suggested tempo of chrotchet = 66; the editor could have written minim = 33, but who cares, since the chosen tempo is the same in both cases (This chorale, no. 36 from the "Orgelbuchlein", has the chorale theme in minims, but there are plenty of semiquavers (no demi's) in the others voices, including pedals.) The question is - is Dupre also wrong in his choice of tempo? >
If you're referring to "Dies sind die heilgen 10 Gebot", BWV 635, minim=33 seems like a pretty good tempo to me...provided that the player really feels it (and projects it) in minims! "Minim=33" and "crotchet=66" are NOT the same tempo! (Your "who cares" here steamrolls an important point.) Yes, in those two tempos, the notes are going by at the same rate (arithmetically speaking), but there is a crucial difference of emphasis in the way the music flows.

< "I've listened to the Herreweghe [8], Harnoncourt [6], and Leusink [10] recordings of this. They all seem TOO SLOW to me in those opening and closing sections of this movement"
All these HIP conductors sound too slow? Hmm. >
They are not "HIP conductors." They are conductors. When can we stop using these labels that betray prejudiced thought?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (May 12, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< They are not "HIP conductors." They are conductors. When can we stop using these labels that betray prejudiced thought? >
And when will you stop comparing with racists posters here who label performers in any way that you object to?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] If you wish to defend the phrase "HIP conductors", go ahead: exactly what set of circumstances magically transforms a "conductor" into a "HIP conductor"?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 12, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, I've had a look at the scores of the Bach Suites, and BWV 119, and listened to Herreweghe's BWV 119 again [8].

(BTW, I use the terms HIP and non-HIP without prejudice, and as a short cut only; in a considersation of the French overture style, I thought it convenient to denote the typically faster, staccato treatment of the dotted notes in this form, as HIP.)

After noting that BWV 119 does have a different metre (cut C as opposed to 4/4 in the Suites), and structure (BWV 119 has plain minims in the bass at the start as opposed to quite intricate writing in the Suites), I have come to the conclusion that the problem I felt with Herrewghe's performannce is not one of speed, but results from his staccato treatment of the dotted notes.

His performannce would sound quite impressive were it not for this; the trumpet fanfares and timpani are splendid, but the staccato dotted notes detract from the solid, festive, ceremonial impression that the music should convey; rather, we get a dance-like, even 'choppy' (that word again) presentation.

These considerations have, however, convinced me that Menhuhin and the non-HIP conductors have got it right when it comes to the Suites (dotted rhythm sections). The Suites are abstract music representing the IDEA of majesty - its nobility, authority, serenity, splendour, and, unlike BWV 119, are independent of any actual occasion or ceremony. Certainly, the 4/4 metre and different structure noted above, does not prohibit a speed of crotchet = around 60, and staccato treatment of the dotted notes is impossible at this relatively slow speed.

So, while agreeing that BWV 119 should probably be faster than crotchet - oops, I mean minim = 30, (limited by a clear delineation of the demisemiquaver figures - surely Herreweghe [8] is as fast as you would want in this regard) I would suggest that the staccato treatment of the dotted notes is inappropriate for both the Suites and BWV 119: this treatment probably belongs more to the French court itself, with its unique array of instruments and compositional techniques used to express the French overture 'style'. My impression is that such treatment does not work well with German realisations of the French overture style. Different national characteristics?

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 12, 2003):
BWV 119 - The Recordings

Last week I have been listening to 10 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 119:

[1] Günther Ramin (1953)
[2] Diethard Hellmann (Mid 1960’s?)
[3] Fritz Werner (1965)
[4] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1974)
[5] Helmuth Rilling (1977-1978)
[6] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1981)
[7] Ton Koopman (1998)
[8] Philippe Herreweghe (1999)
[9] Masaaki Suzuki (1999)
[10] Pieter Jan Leusink (2000)

Many commentaries were quoted by Thomas Braatz in a message sent to the BCML couple of days ago. These commentaries supply enough background for informed listening to this cantata. I would only like to add that my impression after intensive listening to the above recordings during last week is that this is a very intense cantata, full of surprises and various moods. You cannot take a rest for a second, otherwise you might lose something: the wonderful festive choruses, the unusual recitatives, the splendid arias, each one accompanied by another instrument, etc. I have had problem choosing a movement for review. So my choice is somewhat arbitrary.

Short Review of the recordings of the two choruses (Mvts. 1 & 7)

The two choruses are very different from each other. The first (Mvt. 1) begins with French overture in slow-fast-slow structure, in which all the instruments play. The choir sings only in the fast section, where the vocal lines are separated by instrumental interludes. This is quite unusual structure which never fails to impress, even after listening to it dozens of times. The second chorus (Mvt. 7) is a massive fugal movement, in which also all the instrumeand voices take part. It abounds the joy-motif, expressive of the people praise. In its happily rolling rhythm, gradually slowing towards the end, it is panoramic revelation to the congregation.

Bach was a master of making the outmost of minimal means. With these two choruses he proves, if such a proof has ever been needed, that he knows how to use large-scale forces - including a sumptuous orchestra with 4 trumpets, timpani, two flutes, three oboes, strings and organ – with dexterity to achieve the effect he wants. These two movements are so neatly and spectacularly written that even a mediocre performance will impress the occasional listener. It does not mean that we do not expect the performers to do their best to bring more of the possibilities of these choruses out. The instruments should play clean, the separation of the vocal lines, especially in the second chorus should be clear, and the co-ordination between all the components should be maximal. The good rendition should be done with solemnity and grandeur, with enthusiasm and joy. Above all is should have the rarely found quality, which is difficult to describe but easy to feel. I mean - SPIRIT.

Apparently, as some members have mentioned, these characteristics can be found in recorded performances of Richter and Gönnenwein, and I would add Gardiner to this group. Alas, the first two have not recorded this cantata, AFAIK. The third indeed recorded it in year 2000 in the course of his famous Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. But this recording has not yet seen the light of the day. We have to be satisfied with 10 other recordings.

Here is a summary of my impressions from the 10 recordings:

[1] Ramin (5:57 + 5:20): Spirit can be found in this rendition abundantly. The sloppy playing of the trumpets is almost unforgivable. The balance between the voices in both choruses is problematic to say the least. Ramin had proved in other cantata that he could do better. Spirit is important, but is not everything.

[2] Hellmann (5:56 + 6:43): Low-profile and anaemic. Fails to convey the grandeur and the festive mood. The trumpets do not glow and the timpani are barely heard. The choir sounds amateurish, the playing leaves a lot to be desired. The lines are not clear. Quite a disappointment, because I have had high expectations from Hellmann, who was a respected authority in the Bach research field during the 1950’s and the 1960’s. I am quite sure that conductors of his generation, who also recorded for Cantate label, as Ehmann, Kahlhöfer, Gönnenwein and Thamm, would have achieved better results.

[3] Werner (6:31 + 6:11): This rendition, although lacking some polish in the instrumental playing, has dignity and seriousness. The voices are clearly separated, but the timpani are barely heard. The overall rendition of the two choruses lacks some bite and internal rhythm and as a result it is dragged and spread.

[4] Rotzsch (6:27 + 6:43): I have nothing but praises to this rendition. It is delicate and vivid, warm and rich, symphonic in its approach yet intimate in its clarity, unpretentious yet tasteful and natural. All is done in the service of the music with lot of heart and humanity. The trumpets glow yet their sound is softened. This effect creates unique atmosphere. The trumpets and the timpani integrate in that way naturally into the overall picture, where in some the other renditions they sound almost violent in comparison. However contradictory it may seem, this rendition is both intense and relaxed, and above all, it has the SPIRIT.

[5] Rilling (6:57 + 6:22): Rilling’s rendition of the instrumental Overture has three major problems – it is too slow, it has too much legato, and it is played too strong. Things are getting better when the voices burst in. We hear lot of enthusiasm in their singing, not to found in the two previous renditions. Every participant in the second chorus plays or sings too loudly and most of the delicate balance between the components, which is essentially need for the fugue, is lost that way.

[6] Harnoncourt (5:10 + 7:05): The rendition of the opening chorus is so fragmented up to being almost unbearable. It lacks any flow and any inner balance. The timpani and the trumpets play too loud and the later are not very well co-ordinate with each other. The second chorus is so slow up to being almost boring.

[7] Koopman (5:04 + 5:33): Koopman’s Overture is very elegant, but a little bit too decorated. In that sense it might sound even compulsive. As if Koopman wants to force his approach on the music instead of keeping it simple and letting it speak for itself. On the other hand, it is very rhythmic and flows lightly ahead, but some of the internal tension is lost by the over decoration. The sound of both the orchestra and the choir is warm and clean. The second chorus is delicate, but somewhat superficial and hasty.

[8] Herreweghe (4:59 + 5:40): This rendition is too tender. It lacks volume, as if the means Herreweghe uses do not feel the full capacity of the chorus. The leading of the instruments and the voices is transparent, the fugal lines are very clear, and it has unique delicacy, but all these merits do not compensate for lack of vigour and boldness.

[9] Suzuki (5:11 + 6:07): The sound of the orchestra in the Overture is strong and clear. The two choruses sound right, well balanced, and juicy. I have the impression that Suzuki is freer here than what he used to be in his earlier recordings. It moves vigorously ahead, without being heavy. The fugue is clear and well-balanced, as one could wish for. In short this is the best of the HIP recordings of the cantata as a whole and of the two choruses in particular.

[10] Leusink (5:24 + 6:02): The Overture of the first chorus reminds somewhat Koopman’s but lacks its polish and elegance. As things go along this rendition crumbles. We can easily hear that the voices and the instruments are not cleanly tailored. The general line lacks coherence and clear direction. The second chorus is even worse, where it is very difficult to follow the different voices of the fugue.

Conclusion

Suzuki [9] is the best of the HIP recordings, but if I have to choose only one recording, or if I want to listen to this cantata again, my choice would definitely be Rotzsch. Listening to his rendition of the two choruses my spirit is uplifted and I am deeply moved. Hearing Suzuki back to back with Rotzsch [4], I am very impressed by its clarity and coherence but feel somewhat detached. With Rotzsch I feel at home where with Suzuki I look at a beautiful house from the outside. Furthermore, Rotzsch has the best soloists: himself as the tenor, Evangelist in his blood and bones, Polster with deep voice as the aria for bass calls for where most of the other bass/baritones fail, and above all the contralto Heidi Rieß. After hearing her singing both the aria and the recitative for alto I am almost convinced that Bach wrote these two movements especially for her.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 13, 2003):
BWV 119 - The Recordings:

The past week I listened to the following recordings:

Ramin (1953) [1]; Werner (1965) [3]; Rotzsch (1974) [4]; Rilling (1977-78) [5]; Harnoncourt (1981) [6]; Koopman (1998) [7]; Suzuki (1999) [9]; Leusink (2000) [10]

The Timings from slowest to fastest:

TT: Rotzsch (27:54); Werner (26:26); Ramin (26:12); Harnoncourt (25:18); Rilling (25:10); Leusink (24:19); Suzuki (23:21); Koopman (22:41)

Mvt. 1 (Cor): Koopman (5:04); Harnoncourt (5:10); Suzuki (5:11); Leusink (5:24); Ramin (5:57); Rotzsch (6:27); Werner (6:31); Rilling (6:55)

Mvt. 2 (Recit): Harnoncourt (1:08); Koopman (1:16); Leusink (1:18); Suzuki (1:20); Rilling (1:22); Werner (1:31); Ramin (1:33); Rotzsch (1:36)

Mvt. 3 (Aria): Rilling (3:08); Werner (3:40); Suzuki (3:41); Leusink (3:50); Koopman (4:14); Harnoncourt (4:19); Ramin (4:22); Rotzsch (4:25)

Mvt. 4 (Recit): Koopman (1:38); Suzuki (1:49); Harnoncourt (1:52); Leusink (1:56); Rilling (1:56); Werner (2:08); Rotzsch (2:09); Ramin (2:11)

Mvt. 5 (Aria): Suzuki (2:29); Koopman (2:38); Rilling (2:48); Ramin (3:15); Harnoncourt (3:23); Leusink (3:27); Werner (3:31); Rotzsch (3:49)

Mvt. 6 (Recit): Koopman (0:45); Leusink (0:46); Suzuki (0:51); Harnoncourt (0:52); Rotzsch (0:56); Rilling (1:02); Werner (1:10); Ramin (1:20)

Mvt. 7 (Coro): Ramin (5:20*); Koopman (5:33); Leusink (6:02); Suzuki (6:07); Werner (6:11); Rilling (6:22); Rotzsch 6:43); Harnoncourt (7:05)

Mvt. 8 (Recit): Koopman (0:32); Harnoncourt (0:37); Leusink (0:40); Suzuki (0:45); Rilling (0:46); Rotzsch (0:49); Ramin (1:03); Werner (1:30)

Mvt. 9 (Coro): Harnoncourt (0:52); Rilling (0:55); Leusink (0:56); Koopman (0:58); Rotzsch (0:58); Suzuki (0:59); Ramin (1:12); Werner (1:34)

*Due to radio broadcast time restriction, Ramin does not repeat the A section entirely, he only has the orchestra play the initial ritornello once again and ends just before the choral fugue should be repeated.

Choral Mvts. 1, 7, 9:

Mvts. 1 & 7:

Although I have not heard and do not possess the Herreweghe recording of this cantata, I still think I detect a Herreweghean style of performance in the following renditions:

Werner [3] and Koopman [7]
Although these recordings were made 33 years apart, with one non-HIP and the other HIP, both exhibit the best traits of a mixed chorus combined with an aesthetically pleasing but effete sound that is caused by restraint that makes everything sound ethereal (a dominant quality in most Herreweghe Bach cantata recordings.) Despite the 1 ½ minute difference which underscores the disparity between the two performance styles, you will hear clear, well-balanced choirs that are accompanied by equally well-trained instrumentalists. These recordings are satisfying in many ways, but one factor is missing in both: the sound created by an all male choir with boys singing the soprano and alto parts (without counter tenors!)

Ramin [1] and Rotzsch [4]
The Thomanerchor gives the listener an idea of what this cantata would have sounded like in its original performance. Here the choir sings with tremendous enthusiasm as it projects the feeling that theses voices are ‘singing from the bottom of their hearts.’ Such enthusiasm is infectious and moving at the same time, notwithstanding the poor audio quality and the sometimes sloppy playing of the instruments that are playing this together for the 1st time (in the Ramin recording.) The spontaneous, live quality of the Ramin radio recording gives it the edge over the later Rotzsch recording.

Harnoncourt [6] and Leusink [10]
Ah, but there are these other recordings which also use a boys’ choir. These have definite drawbacks. The Tölzer Boys’ Choir frequently sings with a muffled sound. This is due, in part, to the lower voices, but even in the upper voices the blend is not very good when it is possible for a listener, for instance, to pick out Huber’s shaky vibrato/intonation. However, compared to the Tölz group, Leusink’s vocally uncontrolled boys and counter tenors spell real disaster when they try to sing their parts.

Rilling [5] and Suzuki [9]
Here again there are two performance groups with mixed choirs, but the results differ from the quite excellent renditions by Werner and Koopman. Now, with Rilling and Suzuki, some of the strength, stamina and conviction that were previously lacking reappear, but do not expect the upper vocal parts to have the same ‘beaming’ sound that only good boys’ choirs can create. As different as both recordings are in many respects, they do stand out because they have recaptured the monumentality of sound that Bach must have wanted here. Both renditions are very festive and display a much higher level of energy than the ‘Herreweghean’ Werner and Koopman groups do in their recordings.

Mvt. 1: Harnoncourt’s Aberration [6]:
In the slow section of the French overture, Harnoncourt uses extreme gestures or gesticulations based on his conception of the ‘saccadé’ [French for ‘jerky’] rhythmic performance style. This is his notion of startling the listener with rough edges [still a common trait among numerous HIP groups] which is a presumption on his part that this is somehow authentic. The interesting aspect of this term ‘saccadé’ is that it is very much like the term ‘secco’ which also was unknown to Bach. This term ‘saccadé’ never existed in Bach’s time and yet it is applied by HIP practitioners to lend credence to an extreme mannerism. If you listen to Harnoncourt’s method of rendering this music in an unforgettably ‘jerky’ style with the shortening of the note values in the score (the notes are abbreviated in duration and rests take the place of notes), then you will know why it is important for Harnoncourt’s recordings to be listed as Bach/Harnoncourt and not simply Bach. [There are numerous reasons why this should have been done; for example, in the alto aria, Harnoncourt uses only 1 recorder rather than the 2 which Bach required. Also the bc group in the large mvts. with choir is reduced considerably from what Bach indicated on the score.]

Mvt. 9 (The Chorale):

The best renditions of the chorale are by Suzuki [9], Koopman [7], and Rilling [5]. Almost all the rest have problems with the fermati by disregarding or misreading them, or there are problems with de-emphasizing key words at the end of the line of chorale text.

Soloists not to be missed:

Basses (in order of preference – top down):
McDaniel, Oettel, Schöne, Polster, Kooy, Mertens, Holl, Ramselaar

Tenors (in order of preference – top down):
Jelden, Equiluz, Rotzsch, Kraus, Sakurada, Beekman, Lutze, Agnew

Sopranos (in order of preference – top down):
Augér, Werner, Friesenhausen, Unnamed Boy, Hida, Stam, Holton, Huber

Altos (in order of preference – top down):
Lisken, Rieß, Esswood, Buwalda, Solleck-Avella, Biederbeck-Schuster, Chance, Murray

Neil Halliday wrote (May 13, 2003):
Looking at the 1st movement (French overture style), with the data supplied by Aryeh, we have from slowest to fastest:

(Non-HIP) 1. Rilling (6:57) [5] 2. Werner (6:31) [3] 3. Rotzsch (6:27) [4] 4. Ramin (5:57) 5. Hellman (5:56).

(HIP): Leusink (5.24) [10] 7. Suzuki (5:11) [9] 8. Harnoncourt (5.10) [6] 9. Koopman (5.04) [7] 10.Herrewghe (4.59).

Notice that in these examples of the French overture style, ALL of the HIP versions are faster than the non-HIP, with over half a minute gap betwwen the fastest non-HIP (Hellmann [2]) and the slowest HIP (Leusink [10]). Such absolute consistency is unusual; for example, in the second chorus of this cantata, Harnoncourt's version [6] is the slowest.

Aryeh objects to Rilling's slow speed and legato [5], dislikes Harnoncourt's fragmented (staccato?) approach [6], and has chosen Rotzsch [4] as his favourite. I hmentioned my dislike of Herreweghe's detached (non-legato) method [8]. Brad says they are ALL too slow.

Any other thoughts?

Santu de Silva wrote (May 13, 2003):
Brad writes:
< They are not "HIP conductors." They are conductors. When can we stop using these labels that betray prejudiced thought? >
Alex:
< And when will you stop comparing with racists posters here who label performers in any way that you object to? >
Brad again:
< If you wish to defend the phrase "HIP conductors", go ahead:exactly what set of circumstances magically transforms a "conductor" into a "HIP conductor"? >
I'll leave Alex to answer this--it's going to be one more long litany of attributes that we've already had a surfeit of, but I'm surprised that there's such an extreme reaction to the usage of the term.

However, I have to grant that HIP and Authentic are what I would call 'transitional' terms; terms used at a time when a certain philosophy was struggling to establish itself: (namely) that the sensibilities of one time and its standards of quality might not be absolute; that 'modern' might not be synonymous with 'better.' This point of view
does for style what Wagner did for tonality. (I don't want to push the analogy too far.)

Now that HIP and Authentic have been around for half a century, it seems that the other party--those who claim that the proper style of performance is justified by subtle qualities visible only to experts, (who may choose to use modern instruments or not, provided some mysterious something is "right") and not according to arbitrary rules of instrumentation and tempo and such like (1960s HIP)--that these people are the new underdogs, e.g. Rilling [5].

So it may be that it is no longer PC to accuse someone of being "not HIP". After all, we don't accuse people of being black, or Taleban, or English, or whatever--we're past that, aren't we?

That would be a pleasant state to be in. It does have the drawback that it nullifies a term that has been useful to a lot of us!

Hugo Saldias wrote (May 13, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you for the nice review on the Thomaskantors recordings.

Remember also that under Prof.Ramin [1] the war situation had everybody in the former DDR (Deutsche Demokratic Republic) in stress and it is not easy to make music under those conditions, for the conductor,orchestra and most the young kids that sing... Most of them will not understand was was going on, in regards to HItler and the invasion...

Uri Golomb wrote (May 13, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad: If I understand correctly, you object to the use of the term HIP becasue "Performances can't be categorized reliably by a criterion of style=quality". I accept this claim, of course. But granted this -- do you believe that it is useless, or pointless, or impossible, to characterise a performer's style? Does the fact that you cannot equate style with quality mean that discussions on style are meaningless? Judging by your own valuable contributions to this list, I would think not... And do you really think it is possible to discuss any topic while using no labels whatsoever? If you are suggesting that labels should be used with care, I agree; if you are suggesting that HIP is a bad label -- well, I don't have firm view yet... (I'll say this, though: if you feel that a certain performer is more historically informed than another, you should say so! -- and you {Brad} do say so)

Yes, the term Historically Informed Performance is prejudicial -- it suggests arrogance; it implies that non-HIP are uninformed, as Taruskin pointed out years ago. But I think there's a genuine problem here. The term HIP refers to a real phenomenon in 20th century performance history (whether it is the right term for it is another matter). There has been a revival of historical instruments and performance practices, and (in some cases) of past aesthetic ideals as well (e.g., the revival of musical rhetoric). Almost any term intended to designate performers engaged in these activities (HIP, "authentic", Early Music Movement, period-instrument performance {but what about the reconstruction of historical singing styles?} etc. etc.) is problematic. But this does not mean that the distinction it alludes to is entirely bogus .And it is important -- or at least interesting -- to know to what extent a given performer sought to be historically informed, and what impact historical research has had on the resulting performance.

If there's a genuine historical development, you need to find some way to talk about it. I think we're all agreed that Harnoncourt and Leonhardt did something that was clearly different from what Karl Richter and Eugen Jochum were doing (and yes -- there are differences between Harnoncourt and Leonhardt, and between Jochum and Richter...), and that the differences had much to do with the way these musicians understood the relationship between musical-historical research and performative pratice. Surely it's OK to talk about that!

What I'm saying is this: it would be foolish and pointless to deny that there are schools of performance, though it would also be foolish and harmful to try and attach a definite label to each and every individual. In avoiding one of these extremes, we need not jump into the other. If anyone can make a serious claim that performers a, b, and c have something in common, whereas performers x, y, and z have something else in common -- surely it's OK to point out the commonalities within each group, and the differences between the groups? Of course, all such claims are open to question and debate.

and, to change the subject, an OT question to Arch:

< So it may be that it is no longer PC to accuse someone of being "not HIP". After all, we don't accuse people of being black, or Taleban, or English, or whatever--we're past that, aren't we? >
Sorry -- but what is the word "Taleban" doing in this list? Do you really believe it's wrong to condemn someone for belonging to the Taleban or supporting them? (Of course, if someone is unjustly accused of being a member or supporter of the Taleban, that's unacceptable -- but because it's a libel, not because the term itself deserves to be treated with respect. It's wrong to call someone a "racist" or "sexist" if they are not; that doesn't mean that racism and sexism themselves are acceptable). As far as I understand it, being "Taleban" is not equivalent to being black, or English, or Jewish, or Muslim (to the extent that these terms are equivalent to each other -- which is not entirely the case). "Taleban" is more like "fascist", "racist" or "fundamentlist". It does not designate ethnicity, nationality or religion -- it's a specific political movement, which holds views (and, when they were in power, implemented policies) which we have every right -- indeed even a duty -- to condemn. I don't believe that all ideologies are equally valid. I'm all for pluralism -- but not moral relativism.

My apologies if the term "Taleban" has a more neutral meaning... But I'm not aware of one.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 119: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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Last update: ýApril 25, 2013 ý19:58:42