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Cantata BWV 12
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Discussions - Part 1

Cantus Cölln

Johan van Veen wrote (February 29, 2000):
[15] Some time ago there was a discussion on the performance practice of Bach's cantatas in which every part is sung by only one singer. A new recording has just been released with four cantatas performed this way, by the German ensemble Cantus Cölln. I would like to give my impressions. First the details.

Four cantatas are performed (in this order):
1) Christ lag in Todesbanden (BWV 4)
2) Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (BWV 106)
3) Der Herr denket an uns (BWV 196)
4) Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen (BWV 12)

The ensemble Cantus Cölln consists of:
Johanna Koslowsky (Soprano), Elisabeth Popien (Contralto), Gerd Türk, Wilfried Jochens (tenor), Stephan Schreckenberger (bass), Karin van Heerden, Beate Knobloch (recorder), Uwe Hartwich (trumpet), Katharina Arfken (oboe), Andrea Keller, Werner Ehrhardt (violin), Antje Sabinski, Claudia Steeb (viola), Werner Matzke (cello), Jean-Michel Forest (violin), Lorenzo Alpert (bassoon), Carsten Lohff (organ)
Director is Konrad Junghänel.

The performances are excellent from a technical point of view. All players belong to the very best on the early music scenes. The string players for example are all members of Concerto Köln, one of the best orchestras in baroque and classical music.

One of the preconditions for a successful one-to-a-part performance is that the voices blend. You just can't put some solo singers together and hope they will do their best to sound like an ensemble. But although these singers all have solo careers, they work together very closely in this ensemble, and have done so for years. That definitely pays off. The Choruses and chorales as well as the duets sound great. They all use hardly any vibrato, and in particular in some Choruses where the harmonies are very important, that has a very striking (positive) effect on the emotional impact of the performance.

The programme contains four early cantatas, all composed around or before 1714. I don't know what view Konrad Junghänel holds on the point of one-to-a-part performances (the booklet doesn't give any information about that), but in general the performance of early cantatas in this manner doesn't meet as much opposition as does such a performance practice in the Leipzig cantatas.

What about the interpretation? My feelings about that are somewhat mixed. I feel that the emotional content of some of the cantatas isn't fully exploited.

Cantata BWV 12 is a very gloomy piece, which starts with a Sinfonia (Mvt. 1), which has the character of the slow movement of an oboe concerto. The Chorus 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen' is excellent - it is especially here where the almost vibrato-less sound of the ensemble is so imto bring out the chromaticism in this piece. In the Arias the singers are sometimes a little too pale. In particular the bass Stephan

Schreckenberger is not the most expressive singer I have heard. Wilfried Jochens does really well. Impressive is Uwe Hartwich on the trumpet, who plays the melody of 'Jesu, meine Freude' in the tenor Aria (Mvt. 6), and also (together with a violin) the upper part in the chorale at the end (Mvt. 7) 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan'.

As far as the instrumental aspect of this CD is concerned, the players may be technically better than for example those on the Teldec recording. But they are far less colourful. What I am missing is the characterisation of the content of the text by the instruments. They are too often just accompanying the singers.

On the whole, an interesting recording, and - with all the reservations I have - one of the best of its kind.

M. Saramago wrote (February 29, 2000):
[15] Hi Johan. Thanks for your impressions on that cantata CD. Could you tell us the label and if possible the catalogue number?

Johan van Veen wrote (March 1, 2000):
[15] Sorry I forgot that. It is on Harmonia Mundi France - HMC 901694; playing time: 70'23".

Matthew Westphal wrote (March 19, 2000):
[15] Here are some more impressions. (This is the long version of what I whittled down to make a review for

The one-singer-per-part theory seems to have made the most headway in the early cantatas -- probably because the arguments over the interpretation of the Entwurff don't apply.

Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, BWV 12 is most famous, of course, for its first Chorus (Mvt. 2) which Bach adapted to make the Crucifixus of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). But it has a lovely opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) with oboe solo and three lovely meditative Arias for Alto with oboe (Mvt. 4), bass with two violas da gamba (Mvt. 5), and tenor with trumpet playing a chorale melody (Mvt. 6).

I haven't yet praised Wilfried Jochens' singing, at once vigorous and sensitive, or that of the ladies, who are outstanding. Soprano Johanna Koslowsky can float an ethereal chorale melody, toss off virtuoso runs and take your breath away with a descending figure trailing off into silence (the end of "Es ist der alte Bund" from the Actus Tragicus). All done with equal skill, and all in a tone so pure she could almost pass for a boy Soprano. Alto Elisabeth Popien is every bit as good.

With Herreweghe and Jacobs already on Harmonia Mundi's roster and with some expressed reluctance on Junghänel's part to bring the one-on-a-part approach to some of the larger Leipzig works), I don't know how many more cantata recordings we'll get from Cantus Cölln. But I hope they at least do some more early works like Aus der Tiefe and Gott ist mein König.

Harry Steinman wrote (March 22, 2000):
[15] Hey, a quick note to Matthew and Frank and All. Thanks for the recommendation of the Cantus Cölln recording that included the Actus Tragicus (Harmonia Mundi 901694) as well as BWV 4, BWV 12, and BWV 196. This is WONDERFUL singing and instrumentation. Everything is so crisp and clean...the soprano is wonderful (as are the other singers). This ensemble has quite a distinctive and pleasing sound. I HIGHLY recommend this recording to any and everyone.


Discussions in the Week of May 14, 2000 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 14, 2000):

Weeping, wailing, fretting, fearing (by Richard Stokes)
Richard Stokes translates the German of the title as above but there are many variants!

Weeping, complaining, sorrowing, fearing ) (by Alec Robertson)
Weeping, complaining, worries, fear (by W. Murray Young)
Weeping, wailing, grieving, fearing (by Z. Philip Ambrose, Ramin & Rilling)
Weeping, wailing, anguish, dread (by ?, Wöldike)
Weeping, lamenting, worrying, losing confidence (by Derek McCulloch, Richter)
Weeping, wailing, grief and fear (by Vera Lucia Calabria, J. Thomas)
Weeping, complaining, caring, quailing (by Kelly Baxter, Suzuki)
Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing (by ?, Harnoncourt & Koopman)

This is the week of cantata BWV 12, according to Jane Newble's suggestion. This is one of the most irresistible cantatas. Firstly, its title is so captivating, that you are tempted immediately to listen to the music. I mean that even if you are not familiar with the music, then the magic of the words will evoke your curiosity. It is easy to identify with the words, because they touch every human heart, being Christian or not (like me). Secondly, the music stands well on its own feet, even without understanding the words. When you listen to the music, you are becoming curious what are the words to which this sublime music was composed. Whatever way you reach this cantata, text or music, it is almost inevitable that you want to complete the picture to yourself, and when you do, you realise what a strong connection is there between the two faces of this cantata. The sound of these 4 words: 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen' is rolling so fluently on the tongue, that it was very tempting to try and find an English equivalent. I wrote above all the translations of these 4 words to English I could find. To my humble opinion, none of them is a definite success. But, believe me, getting satisfying translation of these 4 words into Hebrew is much more problematic! It sounds like: "Bechi, Nehi, Tzaar, Pachad' or 'Bechi, Anachot, Deagot, Yeush'. It is even less convincing than all the English translations, and is far away from rolling on the tongue like the German origin.

About this cantata Alec Robertson wrote (in his book - The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach):
"Verses 20-22 of the Gospel provide the clue to the progression from sorrow to joy found in the 3 cantatas (BWV 103, BWV 12, & BWV 146) Bach composed for 'Jubilate' Sunday - so named after the Motet 'Jubilate Deo omnes terra' (Psalm 66:1-3) sung earlier in the service: in the present one (BWV 12) and in the 3rd (BWV 146) the joy in not exuberant, for Jesus is not only telling his disciples that He must leave them, but that during 'the little time' before they see Him again, great trials are awaiting them."

The Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) and the Chorus (Mvt. 2)

I like all movements of BWV 12, but I have to limit myself somehow. Therefore I will compare the recordings regarding only the first 2 movements. These movements - The Sinfonia and the Chorus - may be symbolised to a springboard, which send you way along all movements of this very spirited cantata. As a reference point, I will rely again on Robertson, who wrote:

Mvt. 1. Sinfonia
Oboe, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Fagot, & Continuo
"The eloquent arabesques of the oboe solo, the tearful detached phrases for the violins, growing in the closing bars into one long phrase that brings the music to a halt, as if Jesus and His disciples were overcome by emotion, form a most poignant introduction to the Chorus that follows."

Mvt. 2. Chorus
SATB. Oboe, 2 Violins, 2 Violas, Fagot, & Continuo
"It is inevitable that we should compare the music of this Chorus to Bach's adaptation of it in the 'Crucifixus' of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), composed many years later, and find the latter superior. One example of this must suffice. The ground Bass in the cantata is written in minims, in the 'Crucifixus', to express greater poignancy and pain, in crotchets: the marvellous modulation at 'sepultus est' is also absent here. It is fair to say that the words of the cantata present a different picture. Here 'Anxiety and need are the Christian's tears-bread'. The tempo changes to un poco allegro for the second half of the Chorus, 'who the mark of Jesus bear', accompanied only by the Continuo. The tempo slows to andante for the last repetition of the words. This section is certainly on a lower level of inspiration compared with what has gone before."

Before summarising my impressions from the 8 recordings below, I would like to say that this time I do not agree with Robertson's, whose opinions I usually appreciate very much. I believe that his view came from the fact that BWV 12 was much lesser known work than the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) (and it still is). I can enjoy this cantata as a whole and its first 2 movements in particular, without thinking on the B Minor Mass for a second. It is a complete marvellous piece of art into itself.

Review of the Recordings

[2] Günther Ramin (1947)
This is one of the earliest recordings of Bach cantatas by Ramin and one of the earliest in general. I think that at this stage Ramin was not yet sure about his way with the cantatas and what he wanted to achieve. This is a very slow and heavy performance, which lacks any internal pulse. On the other hand, the expression of sadness reinforced by the astonishingly beautiful playing of the oboe above the strings is touching. The singing of the boys contribute to the feeling of pain, but the poignancy Robertson is communal and not individual. I have learnt to appreciate this rendering with every repeated hearing.

[4] Mogens Wöldike (1960)
Ramin laid the foundations and Wöldike seems to carry the torch. 14 years passed and it looks like Wöldike is trying to step in the same route that Ramin prepared. The orchestra sounds smaller, a little bit less expressive. The choir is also smaller, but when they enter, they go directly into your heart. They want to bring you the deepest sorrow in the world, and ask you to weep with them. Both the playing and the singing here are cleaner than those of Ramin are. Yes, it is a slow performance, but you do not want it to come to an end. This is the best recording of BWV 12 in the 'old' style.

BTW, according to the linear notes, Mogens Wöldike (1897-1988) was born in Copenhagen, and from the 1920's to the 1960's he played a major role in Denmark as a conductor,organist, choirmaster, and scholar. So, Marie Jensen has here a performer she can be proud of. What a pity that Wöldike did not record more Bach's cantatas, although he did record the complete cantatas of Buxtehude. This CD has also an Israeli connection, because the Soprano singer in the second cantata - BWV 29, is the Israeli Netania Davrath. I believe that we shall have the opportunity to review her singing when we get to discuss BWV 29.

[6] Gustav Leonhardt (1972)
The charm of hearing the sound of the old instruments playing this cantata for the first time on record is there. But most of the expression is dried out. This performance has a chamber like quality, but it does not compensate for the lacking of any emotion. If there is any sadness here, then it comes from the music and not from the performance. This is not one of the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt recordings I will return to very often.

[5] Helmuth Rilling (1972)
We are back to the old school. The playing here is too soft to bring out the poignancy. Actually it is too nice to bring out also the sadness in a convincing way. Wöldike plays the first movement in similar approach a lot more moving than Rilling does. There is kind of tenderness in the singing of the choir, which exposes unfamiliar face of the second movement. But something is missing, perhaps deeper emotion. Rilling does not succeed in holding your attention along this movement as Wöldike does.

[7] Karl Richter (1973-1974)
This is a much more sensitive performance than could be expected from Richter. He is back in Ramin's route. But we do not have to wonder. After all, Richter learnt directly from Ramin and even played the continuo parts in some of Ramin's recordings. In this case we can say that the master did better than his disciple. Yes, the playing here is better, but Ramin's choir is more expressive. There is some dogmatic conducting from Richter's baton, which stands in the flow of the music and spoils the feeling that Richter is trying to express. I can say that this rendering left me impressed but unmoved.

[8] Jeffrey Thomas (1994)
This performance brings us all the poignancy; we have missed in the previous recordings. The means here are of the smaller type, but the expression here is of the bigger type. This is a very original approthat seems to open new ways of interpretation for this cantata. In previous discussions I expressed my admiration from the special combination of the voices in the singing of the Choruses. Here it is exploited to the maximum. This is very pungent rendering, which lacks maybe a little bit of delicacy that would make it even more convincing.

[9] Ton Koopman (1995)
If the previous performance lacked some delicacy, but had a lot of pungency, Koopman's rendering has exactly the opposite qualities. This is a very pleasant performance with beautiful playing from the small orchestra (should I mention Ponseele?) and singing from the small choir, but a little bit superficial. The sorrow is not deep enough and all the performance lacks some tension.

[11] Masaaki Suzuki (1996)
I tend to agree with Ryan Michero, even before reading his review on the recordings of BWV 12. Suzuki's rendering is very right and balanced. Every part falls into its place. Nothing is exaggerated. The tempo is fine. Every voice can be heard. The tension between the beauty of tone and the will to expression is well kept. The exact measures of delicacy and pungency are blended splendidly. With every one of the previous recordings I missed something, or thought it could be improved, but not here. This is a beautiful, sorrowful and perfect performance.

[15] Konrad Junghänel & Cantus Cölln (2000)
I have not had the Junghänel's CD while we were discussing BWV 106, BWV 196 & BWV 4 in previous weeks. Sorry, but I still do not have this CD, but it should arrive to my door very soon. I shall send my impressions from this recording of BWV 12 to the group, as soon as I get to hear it.


Actually, for quite some time, since we started the weekly cantatas discussions in this group, I have come to conclusion, that there is not such a thing like an ideal recording of a cantata, a recording that is perfect from every angle. Every performance has its own virtues, and our view may change from day to day, as has already been wisely said by some members of our group. But this time I have to admit that I found a perfect performance of a cantata. And this impression has even strengthen with every repeated hearing of the various recordings of BWV 12. I am not saying that I do not enjoy most of the other recordings of this cantata, but Suzuki's rendering is better than the others are, much better.

Personal Viewpoint

One final thing I would like to note. Liszt wrote variations for organ on the theme of 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen'. I have not heard them performed on organ, but I have them recorded on piano. This is a very special recording and the pianist is also very special - Alfred Brendel. Brendel's playing has the combination of clarity, intellect, and restrained emotion, which are essential virtues for performing Bach on satisfactory level, especially on Piano. Unfortunately, Brendel made oone Bach piano record. It was issued by Philips, and besides the above-mentioned characteristics, it shows a touch which combines Schubertian sensitivity and Mozartean gentleness, together with meditative abstraction. The result is very unconventional and unique Bach playing. I am not tired from repeated hearings of it, although it is not probable that it will replace for me the high place of Gunnar Johansen in the Bach's Klavier music played on piano (I wrote about Johansen last week to the Bach Recordings List). The above mentioned variations do not appear on this record, but on another one, issued also by Philips, and which contains also the Fantasy and Fugue on the theme B-A-C-H and some more piano works by Liszt. Hearing the variations by themselves is fascinating. This is not Bach. This is Liszt's view on Bach and his way of appreciation of the great master from the past, the man who laid the foundations to all the Western music. The set of variations is on the theme of Bach which is the Basso Ostinato of the first movement of BWV 12 (and also appears in the Crucifixus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)). In his book 'Musical Thoughts and Afterthoughts' Brendel himself wrote: "That some of Liszt's own major piano works have fared no better is exemplified by the total neglect of his Variations on 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen'. To me this is one of his most moving masterpieces…The variations are in fact a Passacaglia, leading into a fantasy on its chromatic ground bass and concluded by a Chorale (Mvt. 7)… Stirred by the psychological implications of this title, Liszt produced a superb example of a program music at its most emotional, and least pictorial. A very wide range of human suffering is suggested with almost austere concentration. Chromaticism stands for suffering and insecurity, while 'pure' diatonic harmony, introduced at the conclusion of the piece, represents the certainty of faith. We are reminded of the opening of Haydn's 'Creation', where Chaos and Light follow one another in comparable way. In Liszt's work 'Light' is identical with the Chorale 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan', which, incidentally, also closes Bach's cantata. Liszt succeeds in offering relief without a trace of triviality: the entry of the Chorale is a miracle of tenderness". Hearing the Liszt's variations before and after the first two movements of BWV 12, reveal inner voices and internal layers, which I was not aware to them. Liszt's variations and Bach's cantata reflect and refract in each other with thousands views at a distance of 150 years. I recommend to everybody reading this review to try this experience by himself. It illuminates the cantata in a new light.

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

Marie Jensen wrote (May 16, 2000):
Describing our black holes and deep sorrow in music is a paradox, because music itself in all its harmony and rhythm is a consolation, at least when we don't take in the 20th century. Now black holes are when even harmonies and rhythms disappear in chaos! (For example Ruders Bach inspired symphony: Himmelhoch Jauchzend -zum Tode betruebt)

[11] With Bach by the hand there is always light at the end of the tunnel. His music has never left me sad, but often moved, and that is not the same, and moved is what I am, when I listen to cantata BWV 12 (Suzuki) especially by the arias. This is a spiritual journey similar to BWV 21 (though that cantata takes us out to the extremes) starting in depression ending in consolation, or going from struggle to victory, from Kampf to Kleinod! from oboe to trumpet! from chromatism to whole tones!

There is only one thing that distracts me a little, Mera's slight accent, it is a bit like he sings Klein-od in stead of Klei-nod, but I know this is a bagatelle. "Ich folge Christo nach" has its own slight magnetism. Shimada's tromba is very fine. "False" HIP brass some times spoils much for me. Of course, the two movements are not virtuoso parts, but in a slowly triumphing manner he brings out the golden tone of victory. I can exactly as Aryeh and Ryan highly recommend this recording.

[4] PS about Wöldike highly recommended in Aryeh's posting: I don't know any of his recordings. But he has done a lot for Bach's music in Denmark, most of all educational. He founded in 1924 St. Anna School and Gymnasium in Copenhagen inspired by Bach's St. Thomas. Every year the schools of Copenhagen test their 8-9 year old pupils. The best singers are sent to an audition, in the beginning boys only but now girls too. The best ones form new classes on St. Anna. In contrary to Bach's old Leipzig school only highly musical gifted children are taken in, and besides their normal school education they get a musical one. Three years later the boys sing to the services in Vor Frue Kirke (Copenhagen Cathedral) Four years later they become soprano and alto members of Köbenhavns Drengekor and perhaps as grown ups tenors and basses. The choir performs lots of Bach, such as every year the Christmas Oratorio. The girls have their own non-Bach traditions. Many Danish singers and instrumentalists have got their first education at Sct. Annae. If you are interested, more can be read on

Roy Reed wrote (May 17, 2000):
(To Marie Jensen) Thank you Marie, for the information about some of the work of Mogens Wöldike [4]. I have that recording, but I find that my turntable has apparently revolted from neglect, and will run only at some "under" speed. Awful. I will have to take it to school to hear it again. I must have gotten that some time in the 60's. I do have the Koopman [9] and Suzuki [11] CD's. Both are excellent performances. I like different features in each. For instance: in the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) I very much prefer the oboe in the Koopman reading (Ponseele). And I prefer the treatment there too, albeit the Suzuki reading really wrings the dolefulness out of the piece to the max. But it is doleful enough as it is. Emotional preparation for the weeping chorus (Mvt. 2). And Suzuki really does get the "weeping" into 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen'. But again, it is weepy enough on its own. The quality is built into the music in the chaconne and the over-lapping and chromatic vocal entries. I do not find BWV 12 all that compelling a cantata, but it will always be beloved of Bach fans because of the window that it is into the mind of the composer. Looking at the seed bed of the Crucifixus in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)… the faithfulness to the idea, what is left out and why, the use of the words, the added modulation into the et sepultus est, to get into position for the Et resurrectus. And so much time separating the compositions. You have to be fascinated.

The Gospel lesson for this Sudsy is John 16: 16-23. The poet picks up on verse 20: "you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy." The last part of the verse is a word of grace, as is the ending of the lesson, verses 22-24. I sometimes want Bach to focus more on the grace than on travail and conflict. Take the alto aria (Mvt. 4) for instance. Much conflict: cross and crown, battle and treasure. The real grace word here is in the last line...comfort. Bach ends his little B section of the ABA with this line. It has at least the import of a cadence, but then Bach is back into conflict. Admittedly, emphasising the conflict no doubt suits the poetic/musical possibilities of this text. Four good strong words to land on. You can see how Bach gets there. Even so... more on the grace side. The counter tenor Kai Wessel does not fall happily on my ears. A really dull, flat sort of tone that tries my endurance. This is the last thing that this aria needs. Pale enough stuff as it is. Yoshikazu Mera is, I think, and better singer and a better interpreter. His voice is rather retiring though. Both leave me imagining other singers.

A few years ago a student preached a sermon in chapel challenging the "no cross, no crown" theology. She was opposing the "suffering is good for you" understanding. Saw it as part of the Old World denying, joyless, and no doubt "male" ideology of yesterday. After chapel I spoke to her and acknowledged that she had a point, but missed another. You don't have to go looking for 'Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen'. They will come looking for you. The question is...what do you do with them?

Mertens and Kooy are both wonderful Bach singers, but for this aria, one needs a good low B flat. Neither of these gentlemen really has a good one. Mertens, with Koopman has the better. In the Kooy reading, the final cadence is a "virtual" cadence. "Bring up the strings; rub your shoe on the floor; look confident." Better a real upper note than a "virtual" low note, no matter what the score says. Think like a musician.

The way this aria begins puts me in mind of a couple of other arias: the "Ich will bei meinum Jesum wachen", in the St. Matt. Passion (BWV 244), and "Ich folge dir gleichfals" in the St. John (BWV 245).

The tenor aria (Mvt. 6) is a clever chorale movement. One needs to read it not only as a musical trio: voice, continuo, tromba, but also a duet between the text of the aria and the "Jesu, meine Freude" chorale played by the tromba. And I very much prefer the tromba in the Suzuki performance. What is that thing in the Koopman set? Sounds like a reed to me.

Sorry for the homily...occupational hazard.

Ryan Michero wrote (May 17, 2000):
Ah, here is another great cantata with that favourite of Lutheran themes--that one must pass through sorrow to achieve everlasting joy. "Wir men durch viel Trbsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen" ("We must go through great affliction to enter God's kingdom")--a motto that can be applied to many of Bach's cantatas, and an idea in which Bach surely believed. After all, he suffered many great losses throughout his life, surviving the death of his first wife, Maria Barbara, and many of his children, yet he seems to have also experienced great joy creating music.

John Butt comments on the theme of BWV 12 in the notes to Jeffrey Thomas' recording:
"...the text is based on the Gospel reading (John 16: 16-23). This saying of Jesus is particularly well suited to Lutheran dogma, and is central to a great number of Bach cantatas: namely, Jesus predicts his death but also prophesises his resurrection; sorrow is turned to joy, just as a woman suffers in childbirth. In sum, the suffering is, to some degree, necessary to achieve the ultimate joy."

This cantata features one of my favourite pieces of Bach's music--the music of the opening chorus (Mvt. 2), reused for the Crucifixus of the B-minor Mass (BWV 232). As I commented on the Bach Recordings list recently, that was one of the first Bach vocal pieces I ever heard, and it had a profound effect on me. I'm fascinated by the form of the piece, a Passacaglia, with variations over a repeating, descending chromatic bass line. The Passacaglia originated as a Spanish dance but came to be associated with a lament in the Baroque period--"When I am laid in earth" from Purcell's Dido and Aeneas comes to mind. Think of how a Romantic composer, say Wagner, portrays sorrow in his works--loud crashing chords, soaring violin melodies, unresolved dissonance. How alien it is to Wagner's world for a repetitive, triple time dance to represent sadness! Yet, how natural it is in Bach's world--the emotions distilled and transfigured into the most sublime art.

As far as interpretations go, I'm not too picky with this one. I can appreciate interpretations that enhance the sorrow of the first half, like those of Suzuki and Thomas, as long as the ending is appropriately joyful. However, I can also appreciate a more straightforward interpretation, like Koopman's [9], because as Roy Reed recently said, there's enough sorrow in the music already. I can't really say which approach I prefer overall--they are both valid ways to look at this cantata.

[6] Leonhardt's version is very good, I think. It begins with an arresting account of the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) where the oboe makes you sit up and take notice instead of just playing a sad tune. In the chorus (Mvt. 2), I rather like the even tread of the bass in his Passacaglia, steadily walong like fate itself; however, I don't like the rather dull tempo he takes in the B section. Esswood is fine in the ensuing recitative and aria, sounding a bit more engaged with the text than he often does. Max van Egmond is great in "Ich folge Christo nach" (Mvt. 5), but Leonhardt's tempo strikes me as slow. Leonhardt's recording falters in the tenor aria (Mvt. 6) due to the rather unsteady tone of the natural trumpeter. The trumpet is not a problem in the chorale ((Mvt. 7)), though, and a fine performance of the lovely chorale setting ends this one on a good note.

[8] (Jeffery Thomas) Aryeh said about this performance, "This is a very original approach that seems to open new ways of interpretation for this cantata." I know what he means, but I'm not completely convinced by Thomas' approach. The singers in the one-voice-per-part chorus (Mvt. 2) are encouraged to sing as if they are suffering, heavy on the Weinen and Klagen. As a result, the voices don't blend a bit and the music gets lost amidst all the "expression". Minter continues this approach with his recitative and aria, and I was not really impressed by his performance. The bass (Mvt. 5) and tenor (Mvt. 6) arias sound better, altogether more assured and confident. However, the final chorale (Mvt. 7) is almost comically rushed. For me, this is an unsatisfying performance.

[9] (Koopman) I disagree with Aryeh's assertion that Koopman's performance is superficial. I think here he just lets the music speak for itself, and it speaks beautifully. Ponseele is of course magnificent with his solo lines, and he is a great asset to Koopman here (I wonder if he has really decided not to play with Koopman anymore?). I really like Koopman's chorus (Mvt. 2) enhanced by the gorgeously blended sound of his choir and orchestra. I find the choral singing quite affecting and beautiful--there may be little Weinen and Klagen but there is plenty of sorrow. Kai Wessel can sound a bit "hooty", but I think he sings well in his solo parts here. Mertens is fantastic in his bass aria (Mvt. 5) and Prégardien is also satisfying in the ensuing tenor aria (Mvt. 6). But Roy is right--that is an oboe in place of the tromba in the final aria and chorale (Mvt. 7). I assume Koopman did this because the Weimar-era version probably didn't have a trumpet? (Or maybe he thought Ponseele was more reliable than his trumpeter?) But why, in a series usually so thorough in giving alternate scorings for certain movements, is there no trumpet version in an appendix?

[11] (Suzuki) Aryeh wrote about this version: "I tend to agree with Ryan Michero, even before reading his review on the recordings of BWV 12".
Am I really so predictable? Seriously though, I do love this performance, but not without some reservations. I must admit I prefer Ponseele's renderings of the solo oboe parts over the BCJ oboist's. However, the chorus (Mvt. 2) is excellent--very serious and emotional without being sentimental. I listened to other recordings before hearing this one, and I imagined I would like Mera's version better than anyone's. Unfortunately, as Marie noted, some strange pronunciation mars what would have been a fine performance (I noticed it with the word "vereint", which he sings as "ver-eint", as if it were two words). More experience would cure Mera of this problem, and on later volumes he is more satisfying. The highlight of this recording is for me "Ich folge Christo nach", featuring wonderfully joyous singing by Kooy (even if his lowest notes are a bit weak) and a really soaring violin sound. I want to "folge" them too! Sakurada sounds a little unsteady in the high-lying tenor a, but Toshio Shimada's natural trumpet is really marvellous. (The BCJ should record a disc of baroque trumpet music with him--he's one of the best I've heard.) The trumpet glows in the final chorale (Mvt. 7) too, topping off a fine performance.

[15] (Junghänel) I had high hopes for this one because I loved this team's recordings of BWV 196 and BWV 106 so much. Now that I've heard it, I can say Junghänel's recording is my favourite OVPP version (if by default since I'm not fond of Thomas'), but it is not my overall favourite. It is very good, especially the choral pieces where the Cantus Cölln ensemble sounds beautiful and clear. However, Junghänel's orchestra pales in comparison with other versions, and the singers, while sounding beautiful and assured in their technique, lack character and expression in their arias. (The exception to this is Schreckenberger, who is fantastic.) Perhaps this version will grow on me over time, but I'm a bit underwhelmed.

Aryeh said: < CONCLUSION - Actually, for quite some time, since we started the weekly cantatas discussions in this group, I have come to conclusion, that there is not such a thing like an ideal recording of a cantata, a recording that is perfect from every angle. Every performance has its own virtues, and our view may change from day to day, as has already been wisely said by some members of our group. >
Wise words from Aryeh, and words that apply to my own thoughts about the recordings of BWV 12 (even though he goes on to say that Suzuki's version of BWV 12 is the perfect one for him!) Sorry for backing out on another Suzuki fan, but I can't say that I've found my perfect version of this one yet. I will say, though, that Suzuki's is my personal favourite and probably the best available.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 24, 2000):
[15] I have not had the Junghänel's CD while we were discussing BWV 106, BWV 196 & BWV 4 in previous weeks. I still have not had it, while I sent to the group my review of the recordings of BWV 12 last week. But, at last I have it, I manages to listen to it couple of times, and my initial conclusion is that this record is well deserved almost every praise it got in the Bach Cantatas Mailing List. However, I do not find it wholly convincing from every aspect. Indeed, its intimate atmosphere is the best visit card of the OVPP approach, the voices are very well balanced and blend charmingly together, the instruments are beautifully played, and the emphasis on the words rather than on the music is well justified. The pronunciation of the words is so clear, that you could almost write them on paper according to what you hear (BTW, it is not mentioned in the booklet, when each tenor is singing. I believe that Türk is singing the Solo parts and Jochens the Chorale parts). The balance between the instrumental and the vocal parts is perfect. They are on equal level. I mean that you do not have the feeling that the instruments accompany the voices or that they overshadow them, but that they play together or one against the other, as needed. The fugal parts obtain the best clarity from this approach. What I miss is a little bit more drama and emotion, and a little bit more softness and tenderness. Don't understand me wrongly. I like this CD very much, because it illuminates special sides of the cantatas, which are rarely revealed in other performances. And the aspects that I miss here, I find in other recordings. The cantatas sound so different in this rendering than any other recording, almost like new works of art, and this approach is performed so convincingly, that this record becomes a 'must have' for every cantatas collection. But, I also believe that this record should not be the only version one should hold of each cantata included it. Since all the cantatas in this record has been discussed in our group in the last couple of months, one can easily come to conclusion that there are other recordings for each cantata with different approaches indeed, but not less valid. Regarding BWV 12 in particular, I love Wöldike, Suzuki, and Junghänel almost on the same level, different as they are, and maybe exactly for this reason.

Matthew Westphal wrote (May 24, 2000):
[15] [To Aryeh Oron] I'm glad you finally got the Cantus Cölln CD and I thank you for your comments on it.

One tiny point: you said you think Türk is singing the solos and Jochens the chorale parts. I can't remember where I heard or saw this (Junghänel may have mentioned it when I interviewed him for, but I believe that Jochens is singing all of it and Türk wasn't involved in this recording at all. (He was probably in Japan singing for Suzuki!)

The article for has five performers -- conductors Paul McCreesh, Konrad Junghänel and Philippe Herreweghe and singers Drew Minter and Julianne Baird -- talking about performing Bach one-singer-per-part. I will let the list know when the article is up on the site.

Johan van Veen wrote (May 24, 2000):
[15] I have just looked at this recording and this is who is singing what:
- BWV 4: Aria Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn - Jochens; Duet So feiern wir das hohe Fest – Jochens
- BWV 106: Aria Ach Herr, lehre uns bedenken - Türk; Aria Heute wirst du mit mir im Paradies sein – Jochens
- BWV 196: Duet Der Herr segne euch – Türk
- BWV 12: Aria Sei getreu, alle Pein – Jochens

Ryan Michero wrote (May 24, 2000):
[15] I think Johan is right. Türk's voice is pretty recognisable, and I know I heard him in a few places on the recording. I also remember that Jochens sings for sure in BWV 12.


Translation “Weinen…”

Thomas Boyce wrote (October 29, 2001):
Is "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" translated
as "weeping, lamenting, caring, qualing"?
Or is it "weeping, complaining, worries, fears"?

Michael Grover wrote (October 29, 2001):
[To Thomas Boyce] Philip Ambrose opts for "weeping, wailing, grieving, fearing." Tom? What's your take?

Thomas Boyce wrote (October 29, 2001):
[To Michel Grover] I like it. (Better than "quailing"!)

p.s.: I hope everyone's familiar with Liszt's take on this piece. I have versions
on organ and piano. Fantastic.

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 29, 2001):
[To Thomas Boyce] In the page of the Bach Cantatas Website dedicated to discussions about Cantata BWV 12:
I put 9 variants of the English translations of these 4 words. IMO, none of them has the fluency of the original German words. Which translation is truer is debatable.


BWV12--- Winen, Klagen,Sorgen, Zagen --query

Ludwig wrote (July 23, 2002):
One of the first Bach cantatas I was ever exposed to aside from the ubiquitous 'Jesu, meine Freude' was BWV 12. It was sung by the Harlem (as in New York not Holland) Boy's choir. In my opinion, the performance was excellent in a masterful way with the libretto easily understandable and each note precisely attacked on key with a wonderful crispness and toe patting rhythm. The apparent result of months perhaps years of rehearsals and careful preparation as opposed to some noted choirs who seem to just walk through a piece.

Unfortunately the Harlem group never recorded the entire Cantata (that I am aware of)but did record the 'Winen--etc". However, what they sang does not match up with any of the BWV music that I have since heard or purchased.

Would anyone know if Bach alledgedly wrote other Cantatas by this name which has since been shown not to be his??? If there is another Cantata by this name or even movement that fits the description above please let me know. For some strange reason I am thinking that the title (which could be a misprint by the recording company) was "Winen, Zagen Klagen, Sorgen' or something not in the right order. Unfortunately as the result of several moves; I no longer have this LP but it's memory plays in my minds ear.

Ludwig wrote (July 24, 2002):
I forgot to mention that in the version I heard with the boys choir--it was a rather joyful contrapuntal fuge at an allegro vivace tempo whereas in BWV the "Winen" comes across more like a dirge in Leonhardt's performance as the libretto would indicate and the music does not seem to be the same as the Harlem and there is none of the liveliness of the Harlem group.


Period strings: getting it right (with BWV 12, and 61)

Neil Halliday wrote (October 5, 2003):
Cantata BWV 12 – Music Examples

Compare the Heinrich Schütz Ensemble, and Ton Koopman [9], in the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) from BWV 12.

With Koopman [9], we can hear all the notes in the upper strings; whereas Schütz takes the 'strong-note, weak-note' doctrine to ridiculous lengths, so that one begins to imagine one is hearing two notes instead of four.

In the chorus (Mvt. 2), with Cantus Cölln [15], we have an anaemic staccato treatment of the upper-string chords; this is unfortunate, because this OVPP choir packs a lot of power and emotion into this glorious, sombre music.

Compare with:

Here, Suzuki [11] shows a sensible semi-legato treatment of the string parts, which complements the pathos in the choral writing.

Suzuki's treatment of the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is also satisfactory; one can hear the violas as well (there are two viola lines in this sinfonia score).

The American Bach Soloists (BCW link, above) [8] give a good account of the sinfonia (Mvt. 1), but use the inappropriate staccato upper-strings' articulation in the chorus (Mvt. 2).

For the ultimate light, 'jerky' performance of a French overture, check out the American Bach Soloists version: Cantata BWV 61 - Music Examples.

(Back to my dictionary for the meaning of 'grand', 'royal' 'majestic' etc.)

Thank God for Richter and Rilling (and others)!

Neil Halliday wrote (October 5, 2003):
Only the top link appears to be working.

For the Suzuki [11], try: and press the volume 3 details button.

(If that doesn't work, go to, and select 'classical music' and type in: BIS AND Suzuki AND Vol. 3.

For the ABS and BWV 61 (overture), go to the BCW and select 'music' in the left-hand column.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 12: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Recordings of F. Liszt: Prelude / Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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