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Cantata BWV 12
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of March 8, 2015 (4th round)

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 8, 2015):
Discussion-BWV 12

This week’s cantata, BWV 12, Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, is, like last week’s Christ lag in Todesbanden, a work of profound intensity. Bach first wrote it in 1714 for the Weimar court, but he revised and presented it on the third Sunday after Easter (Jubilate) in Leipzig in 1724 near the end of his first cantata cycle. The Gospel reading for the day was John 16: 16-23, drawn from the chapters at the Last Supper in which Jesus speaks of his looming sufferings and bids farewell to his distressed disciples. Its core message is, “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy,” and this work conveys the depth of Christian sorrow in its very first words. I was quite taken with the list of translations of the opening phrase that Aryeh provided in the first round of discussions back in 2000 (, so much so that decided to repeat it here:

Weeping, wailing, fretting, fearing (by Richard Stokes)
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)
To which I would add—Weeping, lamenting, grieving, trembling (by Richard D.P. Jones, Dürr, Cantatas)

No matter how it is translated, the lamenting is clear.

Bach matched those words with music of peerless articulation; the sighing half-step descents in the voices fairly wail with grief, and the chromatically drooping ground bass sags under the weight of anguish. This movement is also famous for providing the poignant passacaglia for the Crucifixus of the B minor Mass. It also reminds me of the passacaglia from Cantata 78, Jesu, der du meine Seele, which addresses repentance with strikingly similar musical representations of mourning.

And like last week’s cantata, this is also one of dualisms. Christ lag contrasted suffering with resurrection joy; Weinen, Klagen balances the pain often encountered on earth with the comfort provided by Christ. In Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S. Bach, Eric Chafe comments on the importance of deliberate dualism in Bach’s works, and dualisms operate to a high degree in Cantata 12. John Eliot Gardiner writes in his Cantata Pilgramage of the “fusion of alliterative opposites” in the alto aria in such word pairings as “Kreuz und Krone” (cross and crown), “Kampf und Kleinod” (conflict and jewel). In the Suzuki CD liner notes, Isoyama writes of the pain of the “descending chromatic passages to convey suffering, while joy is depicted by ascending whole-tone scales.” There are more, too numerous to mention here, but available in past discussion rounds and sources listed on the BWV 12 page.

Of most interest to me is the appearance of the chorale tune Jesu, meine Freude in the tenor aria floating above the tenors exhortation to be faithful, all pain will pass. Julian Mincham refers to three other cantatas in which Bach harmonized this tune: Cantatas 81, 87, and 64. ( Bach also built a masterful eleven-movement motet around this tune, Motet no. 3, Jesu, meine Freude. It would seem he was fond of this chorale! Bukofzer says (Allegory in Baroque Music) that Bach often used the trumpet to represent the majesty of God, even the voice of God, and always put the trumpet staff at the top in his scores. He calls it a kind of spatial allegory of God’s supremacy. I checked the facsimile of Bach’s manuscript at the IMSLP site and it is indeed the top line of the staves—although, of course, there are only two other staves, for tenor and continuo. (In modern orchestral scores the brass always appear above voices and strings, but I have not checked more Bach manuscripts.) The chorale expresses deep devotion to Jesus in the face of the wiles of the Devil, the allure of worldly pleasures, and the sufferings of life. So in BWV 12, what are we hearing embodied above the tenor? The voice of God? The voice of the aspiring Christian? A pointing upward to heaven? A reminder that the Christian’s joy lies in his relationship with Jesus? I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on this.

Finally, in a purely practical piece of insight, Gardiner notes that Jubilate traditionally marked the opening of the Easter trade fair, an important, free-wheeling, three-week business event that swelled Leipzig’s population to around 30,000 people. Bach timed the release of his Clavier-Übung sets to coincide with these fairs, surely to increase sales, and, according to Gardiner, would have understood the need to produce worship music of special distinction for the town’s distinguished visitors. This combination of sublimely spiritual music with business shrewdness makes Bach irresistibly human for me.
Peter Smaill wrote (March 8, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Well recalled that this work has strong verbal cues for Bach, in the antitheses and alliteration. It is also rhetorically structured using a device called asyndeton- the title is a list of qualities unlinked by "and" , giving an insistent quality to the text to which Bach responds with entries starting before the previous one has quite finished.

The opposite rhetorical device is polysyndeton, which we find in " Herz und Mund und That und Leben", BWV 147. Here the fugal treatment accordingly links the nouns rather than chopping up the qualities as in BWV 12.
Linda Gingrich wrote (March 9, 2015):
[To Peter Smaill] That is really interesting, and makes perfect sense in light of Bach's setting of the words: in the intensely weeping lines, the overlapping of the phrases that seems to stretch them endlessly out, and in the number of measures he spends on just those four words before he moves on to the next phrase--24! He moves fairly quickly through the "Angst und Not" sentence, then when he returns to the weeping theme on "Angst und Not" he spends 8 bars on those two words before concluding the A section, again in just a few measures, on the Tränenbrot phrase. It makes those four opening words very insistent.
Luke Dahn wrote (March 9, 2015):
Two documents comparing BWV 12.2 with the Crucifixus from the Mass are available -- a score of the two versions placed side by side and in the same key (transposing BWV 12.2 down a step) and a document with harmonic analysis of the two versions side by side with commentary.
Comparative Score:
Comparative Analysis:

Such side by side comparison shows that Bach increased the chromatic saturation and intensified the biting dissonances when revising for the Crucifixus. But since BWV 12 is our current topic, a discussion of the Crucifixus should wait.

There is a noticeable instance of the B-A-C-H motive in retrograde at the return to opening passage in m.31, which Linda referenced. The text is "Angst und Not" and the soprano's line is Db--B--C--A--Bb. Would this be one of the earliest instances of Bach inserting his name into his score?

The final chorale of this cantata features one of my favorite hymn tunes of all, Severus Gastorius's Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan. There are six other extant Bach chorale settings of this tune: BWVs 69a.6, 75.5=75.14, 99.6, 100.6, 144.3, 250. Asix of these are in G major. BWV 12.2, however, is a third higher in B-flat major. Might this tonal elevation be in indication of Bach "pointing upward toward heaven", as Linda suggested?

Ralf Steen wrote (March 10, 2015):
[To Peter Smaill] I would like to point out that, though the cantata's title certainly suggests it, the rhetorical figure is not exactly an asyndeton.

The full text is: "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, Angst und Not..."; the last two elements of the list haven't made it into the title.

Linda Gingrich wrote (March 10, 2015):
[To Ralf Steen] True, but it's interesting to note that Bach considerably shortened the "Angst und Not" section and gave much more musical space and attention to the four words that Peter pointed out. It appears to me that even though Bach applies the same musical theme to the "Angst und Not" text, his treatment of "Weinen, Klagen, Sorge, Zagen" differs significantly from the rest of the A section. The musical emphasis he gave them matches the rhetorical device.

Juliam Mincham wrote (March 10, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Yes it is interesting how Bach will manipulate the structures of his movements in order to give particular emphasis to the meanings. There are examples, in some of the da capo arias where the middle sections are inordinately long---or short---for this reason.

Ralf Steen wrote (March 10, 2015):
[To Linda Gingrich] Well, I don't think the section commencing "Angst und Not" is shortened. The number of bars on "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" ist exactly the same as on "Angst und Not sind der Christen Tränenbrot".

That said, I on the other hand certainly do agree that Bach's handling of the first (Weinen, Klagen ...) section differs so much from the following part that it almost appears as if it were an asyndeton (which it, very technically speaking, is not...).

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 19, 2015):
Cantata BWV 12 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 12 "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" for Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter] on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of trumpet, oboe, bassoon, strings & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (35):
Recordings of Individual Movements (41):
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page:
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive and detailed discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 12 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW last week's discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):


Cantata BWV 12: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Recordings of F. Liszt: Prelude / Variations for piano 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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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