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Cantata BWV 123
Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 25, 2009

William Hoffman wrote (October 26, 2009):
BWV 123: Intro

Cantata BWV 123

EPIPHANY: 123; Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen [chorale]
1/6/1725 (Cycle 2), no reperformance documented; hymn text with additions
Sources: (1) score Krakow P.875, ?WFB); (2) parts set (Thom.); (2,3) 3 doublets, 10 parts copies (Nacke, Penzel 1759, SPK St. 359)
Literature: BG XXVI (Doerffel 1878); NBA KB I/5 (Helms, 1976; min score. Eulenberg (Schering 1932); Whittaker II:428-34; Robertson 47f; Young 181f; David Humphries (OCC:JSB: 267f), Duerr 176-78
Text: chorale, Fritsch (paraphraser unknown)
Forces: ATB, chs., 2 fl, 2 ob d'a, str, bc
Movements: chorus, 2 recits. (A, B), 2 da-capo arias (T,B), chorale
1. Chs. (tutti): Beloved Immanuel, Lord of the Righteous (S.1) (pastorale-giga)
2. Rec. (A): Heaven's sweetness.fills.my heart (S.2)
3. Aria (T, obs): Even the hard cross journey and.affright me not (S.3)
4. Rec. (B): No hell-foe can devour me (S.4)
5. Aria (B, fl): Leave, O world, me from contempt (S.5)
6. Cle. (tutti): Be gone forever, you vanities (S.6)


Discussions in the Week of December 31, 2006
Roar Myrheim wrote (December 31, 2006):
Week of December 31, 2006

Cantata BWV 123, "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen", Chorale Cantata for the Feast of Epiphany

Composed for 1st performance January 6, 1725 in Leipzig

Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV123.htm
Previous Discussion http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV123-D.htm

Provenance: (Origin & Owner history): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV123-Ref.htm
Comentaries: (Oron, Braatz, Robertson, Young, Whittaker, Finscher, Schweitzer, Dürr, Humphreys): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV123-Guide.htm

Text:

German: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/123.html
English: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV123.html
English, interlinear: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV123-Eng3.htm
Other translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV123.htm

Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV123-V&P.pdf

Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV123.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV123-Leusink.ram

Libretto: Unknown
Based on the hymn of Ahasverus Fritsch: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Fritsch.htm
with the same name as the cantata (1679).

Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale124-Eng3.htm
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Liebster-Immanuel.htm

Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Epiphany.htm
Epistle: Isaiah 60: 1-6 "The Gentiles shall come to thy light"
Gospel: Matthew 2: 1-12 The Wise Men seek Christ

======================================


I take the liberty of reproducing Aryeh's Introduction:

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 6, 2002):
Background

The background below is based on several sources (Robertson, Young, Whittaker, Finscher, etc.) and something of my own. The English translations are taken from Richard Stokes' book.

Like last week BWV 122, the ensuing cantata in the BWV list is also a Chorale Cantata. It is based on the hymn of Ahasverus Fritsch (1679). The first and the sixth stanzas are quoted for the opening and the final movements, and the intervening stanzas are paraphrased for the arias and recitatives. It seems that the hymn. And so the libretto, has no connection with the Gospel or Epistle for the Feast of Epiphany, for which this cantata was composed.

Mvt. 1 Chorus
Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen
(Dearest Emmanuel, Lord of the righteous)
This is a magnificent chorale fantasia for full chorus and orchestra on the first verse of the hymn. The text suggests a crowd, appealing to Jesus to come to them. The construction of the chorus is original. The 11 lines of the chorale are divided into the order of 4-3-4, with ritornelli in between each. The prevailing theme, based on the melody of the first bars of the chorale `Liebster Immanuel`, is a French dance, a courante, which Bach uses only once here in all his cantatas. It is at once heard on the oboe d'amore, then on the flutes and in the continuo. Bach dwells lovingly on this theme throughout, both in the voice and the ritornelli. The unison flutes are especially picturesque, evoking a blissful picture of the Saviour in heavenly glory. The melody is full of devout longing; the instrumental introduction, followed by its ritornelli, adds an aura of mysticism to the voices of the choir. The whole movement, with its beautiful dance-like accompaniment, makes an intimate and tender meditation on the `beloved Emmanuel'.

Mvt. 2 Recitative for Alto
Die Himmelssüßigkeit, der Auserwählten Lust
(Heaven's sweet delight, the chosen people's joy)
The secco recitative tells how much joy one feels at being one of the elect. When he speaks Jesus' name, his heart is refreshed by His manna, just as dew revives dry land. Even in danger and pain, his heart is gladdened by His strength.

Mvt. 3 Aria for Tenor
Auch die harte Kreuzesreise
(Even the cross' cruel journey)
The last words of the recitative preceding this aria prepare one for the abrupt change in mood of the aria. Three changes of tempo by the accompanying oboes d'amore and continuo mark the three different states of mind in the tenor's text. He appears to be a traveller through life who struggles along under his burden (lento), who confronts storms periodically (allegro), but who finally receives light and salvation from Jesus (adagio). In the first section Bach's vocal line at `Shreckt mich nicht' (Do not frighten me) contradicts the sense of the words. The word `Kreuz' (Cross) in the opening line is always placed on high note, as also is `Tränen' (Tears) in the second line. In the second section the rage is expressed in a flurry of demi-semiquavers in the voice part.

Mvt. 4 Recitative for Bass
Kein Höllenfeind kann mich verschlingen
(No fiend of hell can devour me)
This secco recitative relates his confidence in Jesus. No hellish enemy can devour him, since now his crying conscience is silent. Why should the host of the enemy encircle him? Even death itself has no power over him. He is destined for victory because Jesus is his Helper.

Mvt. 5 Aria for Bass
Laß, o Welt, mich aus Verachtung
(Leave me, O scornful world)
He begins on a pessimistic note that reflects his loneliness because the world despises him. The drop of a seventh in this D major aria is explained when the bass sings it at `Verachtung' (contempt). There is a moving bar at the end of the section where the bass sings of his loneliness. The loneliness of the sinner is emphasised by the silence of the instruments during the line 'In betrübter Einsamkeit'. His mood than changes to a joy-motif at the thought that Jesus is always near him. The word `bleibet' (remains) is set to a run that goes up to the da-capo, as if he does not want to be separated from Jesus. The da-ca, however, brings him back to his misery. The continuo only accompanies his first sadness. A transverse flute illustrates his turn to joy.

Mvt. 6 Chorale
Drum fahrt nur immer hin, ihr Eitelkeiten
(Be gone, then, for evermore, you idle fancies)
This stanza six of the hymn, performed tutti and plainly in a very slow tempo. It is as impressive as the opening chorus. They are the picks of this cantata. Bach directs, in a unique procedure, that the last three lines be sung a second time piano, to interpret the peace implied in these significant words, descriptive of a burial scene. The courante rhythm of the opening chorus returns in this concluding number.

Clarification: Opening movement chorale fantasia in 9/8, dance influence: "Giga I - like" (Little & Jenne <Dance in the Music of JSB> BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Dance.htm and, "pastorale-giga" (Doris Finke-Hecklinger <Dance Character in the Vocal Music of JSB> 1970).

Humphries OCC:JSB): "The text makes little specific reference to the events commemorated during Epiphany, but oblique references to the Gospel for New Year and the Epistle for Epiphany are pointed out in Dürr Cantatas (p. 177): "Jesusnamen" in Mvt. 2, alto recitative, "may have been a recollection of the Gospel for New Year's Day" (Luke 2:21). "Heil und Licht" (salvation and light) in Mvt. 3, tenor aria, "is reminisecent of the Epistle for Epiphany" (Isaah 60: 1). In Mvt. 5, bass aria "Jesus, der ist Fleisch gekommen" (Jesus, who has come in the flesh), from 2 John 7, "reminds us of the Christmas season which is now drawing to a close." "But for the rest, the cantata text, like the hymn on which it is based, derives its substance from the World-Jesus contrast: the world's hostility and contempt cannot do my any harm, for Jesus stands at my side."

William Hoffman wrote (October 27, 2009):
BWV 123: Epiphany Chorales

Chorales

Bach's chorale Cantata BWV 123, "Liebster Immanuel, Herzog der Frommen" (Dearest Emmanuel, Lord of the righteous), is one of the most finely-crafted and engaging works in his unique genre. With its symmetrical ABA form (dal segno in the opening chorale chorus), its contrasting closing chorale, and the chorale melody's triplet rhythm in dance form, BWV 123 begins Bach's most intense and varied "season" of chorale cantatas as well as utilization and exploration of chorales.

The Epiphany time allowed Bach to reveal the greatest variety of chorales, from Christmas at the Feast of Epiphany) to Passion hymns in his cantatas for the three pre-Lent Sundays. The some three to five Sundays in Epiphany itself focus on Jesus presented in the temple, the wedding at Canan, and the first miracles.

For these, Bach utilized texts and melodies from the omnes tempore theme Sundays, primarily Jesus Hymns, as well as chorales specifically for Epiphany time and even a Passion and a wedding chorale, based on the biblical readings for those specific Sundays. Most significantly, Bach used a festive setting of the so-called "Passion Hymn," "O sacred head now wounded," to inaugurate the closing Feast of Epiphany section in his Christmas Oratorio, on January 6, 1735.

Epiphany was a serendipitous and revelatory opportunity. In Bach's time and before, the Epiphany period was not observed in the Lutheran hymn books as a season for distinct chorale settings, between hymns for the Advent-Christmas Season and Easter-Pentecost Season. In both the Neumeister and Orgelbüchlien collections of organ chorale prelude settings for the church year, there are no designated Epiphany hymns, just as in the hymn books there are no sections titled "Epiphany Hymns." Instead, the hymn books have a topical, "omnes tempore" collection of some 28 chorales under the heading "Jesus Hymns." These include Jesus hymns used by Bach in four cantatas for Epiphany time (BWV 81, BWV 123, BWV 124, BWV 154): "Liebster Immanual, Herzog des Frommen," Meine Jesum lass ich nicht," Jesu, meiner Seelen wonne," and "Jesu, meine Freude," says Günther Stiller in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (p. 249, Concordia, 1984).

Thus, the Feast of Epiphany includes Christmas hymns like "Peur natus in Betlehem," closing the Christmas Season, while the Epiphany Period emphasizes "Jesus Hymns" which can be used at other times, as well as Passion-related hymns. The closing, fixed three pre-Lent (Vorfastenzeit) Sundays are misnamed Septuageisma, Sexageisma, and Quinquageisma (70, 60 and 50 days before the Lord's Day) and can include Lenten hymns. Bach seized the advantage, using a range of chorales to fulfill his plan and calling for a "well-regulated church music."

Bach's chorale cantatas (Cycle 2) for the First through the Fourth Sundays after the Feast of Epiphany are: 1. BWV 124, "Meinen Jesum, lass ich nicht;" BWV 3, "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid"; 3. BWV 111, "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit"; and 4. BWV 14, Waer gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit."

In the Haenssler recordings of the Complete Bach Edition of the chorales BWV 250-507, there is no listing for "Epiphany" cantatas. Instead, there is the listing: Edition Bachakademie Vol. 84, "A Book of Chorale-Settings for Patience & Serenity/Jesus Hymns." The 25 settings of 18 titles of "Jesus Hymns" are: BWV 335, 352, 353, 355, 356, 357, 358, 359, 360, 361, 380, 409, 467, 468, 470, 472, 473, 474, 485, 490, 496, 497, 610; BWV 1103, 1118. Of these 18 titles, Bach set four, marked +:

Ich lass dich nicht (467)
Ich liebe Jesum alle Stund (468)
Jesu, der du meine Seele (352, 353)
Jesu, der du selbsten wohl (?247/56=355) [mel. Jesu Leiden, Pein & Tod]
Jesu, du mein leibstes Leben (356) [BWV 248IV/3(58), NY]
Jesu, Jesu, du bist mein (357, 470) (?Lent)
+Jesu, meine Freude (BWV 81/7; 358, 610, 1103; 64/8; 227/1,3,5,7,9,11)
+Jesu, meiner Seelen wonne (BWV 154/3, 359, 360, 1118) [mel.Werde munter, mein Gemuete]
Jesu meines Glaubens Zier (472)
Jesu, meines Herzens Freud (361, 473) (?Christmas)
Jesus ist das schoenste Licht (474)
+Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht, weil (BWV 124, BWV 154/8, 380; 70/11, 70a/6, BWV 157/5, 244b(29a)
Nur mein Jesu ist mein Leben (490)
O Jesu, du mein Braeutigam (335) [mel. Herr Jesu Christ, mein's Lebens Licht]; Tr.+13, P 56/5 [mel. Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid]
Seelenbraeutigam (409, 496)
Seelenweide (497)

(It is noted that lines 5-8 in the Jesus Hymn, "Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben," above, are set to an original chorale melody, possibly by Bach, beginning with text "Jesu, meine Freud' und Wonne," in the soprano-bass arioso, No. 5, in the Christmas Oratorio, Part 4, for New Year's Day.)

The Haenssler Vol. 84 lists the chorale setting BWV 339, "Herr, wie du willt, so sichts mit mir," under the heading "Patience and Serenity." The chorale is the basis for chorale Cantata BWV 73 for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany, 1725, and is the closing plain chorale setting in Cantata BWV 156, also for the same Sunday in 1724.

The chorale text or melody Bach used most (in four services) at Epiphany time is "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit." The first verse and melody are used in tclosing plain chorale in BWV 72/6 for the Third Sunday after Epiphany 1726, and in BWV 144/6 for Septuageisma Sunday (Third Sunday Before Lent) 1724. The entire text is utilized in chorale Cantata BWV 111, also for the Third Sunday after Epiphany 1725. The melody was used to in BWV 65/7 for the Feast of Epiphany, and in the chorale Cantata BWV 92, "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn," for Septuageisma Sunday, 1725. Bach also used the opening verse and melody as the plain chorale in the St. Matthew Passion, No. 25.

In his Epiphany time cantatas, Bach used four non-Epiphany chorales:
Peur natus in Betlehem, Christmas (BWV 65/2),
Ich stehe in deiner Krippen hier, Christmas (BWV 248VI/6[59])),
Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid, omnes tempore (BWV 3)
In allen meinen taten, wedding (BWV 13/6).

Bach also used these two chorales in Epiphany time cantatas:
+Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (BWV 32/6), mel. Weg, mein Herz, omnes tempore
+Machs mit mir Gott, nach deiner Gut (BWV 156/2 Eph.+3, Passion mel.)

For the three pre-Lent "geisma" Sundays, Bach composed chorale cantatas BWV 92, "Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn"; BWV 126, "Erhalt uns, bei deinem Wort"; and BWV 127, "Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott.

Bach also composed three cantatas for each of the three pre-Lent Sundays:
Septuageisma (BWV 144, BWV 92, BWV 84), Sexageisma (BWV 18, BWV 181, BWV 126) and Quinquageisma (BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127, BWV 159).

In addition, Bach used both Passion and non-Passion omnes tempore chorales in his nine pre-Lent cantatas:

Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan (BWV 144/3), omnes tempore and wedding
Wer nur den lieben Gott, laesst walten (BWV 84/5), omnes tempore amd wedding
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (BWV 18/5), omnes tempore
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr Mensch und Gott, Passion
Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (BWV 22/5), omnes tempore
Christe, du Lamm Gottes (BWV 23/4), Passion
Herzlich tut, mich verlangen (BWV 159/2), Passion
Jesu, (Kreuz,) Leiden, Pein und Tod (BWV 159/5), Passion

After creating three cantatas for virtually all the Sundays in Epiphany Time, Bach was tempted with the Picander text cycle, 1728-29. Of nine services, Bach left only two complete cantatas but did composed plain chorales for most of the other services in the Epiphany segment of the Picander Cycle:

Date; No., Occasion, Incipit; Chorale (stanza), other chorale use

1/6/29; P11, Feast of Epiphany, "Dieses ist der Tag, den der Herr"; Lobt Gott, ihr (1/8), Xmas, 375-6.
1/9/29; P12, Sun.a.Epiphany, "Ich bin betruebt"; Meinen Jesum (6), Jesus Hymn, 380.
1/16/29; P13, 2nd. Sun.a.Epi., "Ich hab in mir ein frohehlich Herz"; Wer nur (4), omnes tempore, 434.
1/23/29; P14/BWV 156, 3rd Sun.a.Epi., "Ich steh mit einem Fuss im Grabe"; Herr, wie (1), Eph., 339.
1/30/29; P.15, 4th Sun.a.Epi., "Wie bist du doch in mir"; Herr J.C., ich weiss (mel, H.J.C.,du hoechstes), (1), unclear, 1114 (mel).
2/6/29, P.17, 5th Sun.a.Eph., "Erwache, du verschlafnes Herze"; Es wohl (3), omnes tempore, 311-12.
2/13/29, P.19/?84, Septuageisma, "Ich bin vergnuegte"; Wer weiss (mel. H.J.C., du hoechstes) (12), unclear
2/20/29, P.20, Sexageisma, "Sei getreu bis in der Tod"; Ich dank dir (?6), unclear.
2/27/29, P.21, Quinquageisma, "Sehet, wir geben hinauf"; Jesu Leiden (33), Passion

Thus, in Picander's design for a complete cantata cycle that he hoped Bach would set, Bach's Leipzig literary collaborator focused closely on the readings for the services as well as the appropriate chorale, particularly during the very diverse Epiphany time. Apparently, Bach was only able to set two solo cantatas, BWV 156 for the Third Sunday After Epiphany and BWV 84 for Septuageisma Sunday. Bach originally composed the latter in 1727 during the third cycle. It may have been repeated as part of the fragmentary fourth cycle in 1729, shortly before the definitive version of the St. Matthew Passion.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 27, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
>Chorale, Mvt. 6.
Bach directs, in a unique procedure, that the last three lines be sung a second time piano, to interpret the peace implied in these significant words, descriptive of a burial scene.<
This procedure is certainly most effective and very expressive.

Surely the major chord (tierce de Picardie) should only be used at the close of the repeat, thereby saving this expressive device for the end of the cantata.

I surmise that Bach realised the expressiveness of a 'piano' repeat after he had already finished the score, simply indicating 'la seconda volta piano', on the score but he failed to indicate the natural d in the tenor line's closing chord first time through.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 27, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I surmise that Bach realised the expressiveness of a 'piano' repeat after he had already finished the score, simply indicating 'la seconda volta piano', on the score but he failed to indicate the natural d in the tenor line's closing chord first time through. >
This "concerted" approach to chorales can probably be considered another type of evidence that congregations did not sing chorales in the cantatas. The other categories would be high tessiatura (as at the end of the St. John
Passion and "Wachet Auf") and a new poetic text.

However, a couple of years go, a member on the list provided documentary accounts of congregations in other cities joining in on familiar chorales. Occasionally, Bach has a chorale which has the same key and text as the
Leipzig chorale books. A good example is Cantata 91 which closes with/ the final verse of "Gelobet seist du". The Christmas chorale was practically the "Joy to the World" in the 18th century and the congregation had aleady sung it earlier in the service.

Would Bach have allowed a 1000 people down in the nave to sing along?

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 27, 2009):
>Would Bach have allowed a 1000 people down in the nave to sing along? <
(1) How could he stop them?

(2) Is a thousand (1000) a credible church attendance number?

Get those statistics out and crunching. How many folks for Tuesday after Pentecost (oops, Whit Sunday) in 1725, just for example.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 27, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (2) Is a thousand (1000) a credible church attendance number? >
Get those statistics out and crunching. How many folks for Tuesday after Pentecost (oops, Whit Sunday) in 1725, just for example.

I think that average came from Stiller who analyzed the attendance records at St. Thomas.

William Hoffman wrote (October 27, 2009):
BWV 123 intro, church attendance

As many as 3000 attended at St. Thomas' Sunday Morning main service, in the winter, keeping warm. A little singing helped, especially with all those hymn books in the pews.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< As many as 3000 attended at St. Thomas' Sunday Morning main service >
Geck (Bach: Life and Work, p. 148) writes, re St. Thomas: <given its two thousand-odd seats and a good deal of standing room.> So 3000 is perhaps a bit (but only a bit) on the high side? Thanks, as always, forprsuing these key details.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 28, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Geck (Bach: Life and Work, p. 148) writes, re St. Thomas: <given its two thousand-odd seats and a good deal of standing room.> So 3000 is perhaps a bit (but only a bit) on the high side? Thanks, as always, for prsuing these key details. >
In the 18th century, there were side galleries which were torn down in the 19th century. The acoustic effect of a large crowd dampens the reverberance in a big Gothic building and even modest sized ensembles would have filled the space. Never judge the acoustics of a German church, Lutheran or Catholic, by concerts where the performers stand in front of the altar. The forces were always in a gallery at the back or on the side, high above the congregation's heads.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 29, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< In the 18th century, there were side galleries which were torn down in the 19th century. The acoustic effect of a large crowd dampens the reverberance in a big Gothic building and even modest sized ensembles would have filled the space. Never judge the acoustics of a German church, Lutheran or Catholic, by concerts where the performers stand in front of the altar. >
This invites hypothesis (OK, speculation) as to whether Bach might have adjusted his composition forces and techniques for varying (diminishing) attendance on the three-day feasts. Which in turn brings me back round to my original question: any data on attendance for Whit Tuesday? I originally specified 1725, but that was arbitrary. Any year at all, any data, would be welcomje, if it exists.

I would suggest that would probably establish a minimum attendance for a Bach premiere. I have no problem acccepting that the maximum is a sellout at St. Thomas, significantly upward of 2000. I also agree (or suggest?) that the acoustic would probably be significantly different between minimum and maximum attendance, even with performance from the gallery.

Emmanuel Music plays from the altar, in Boston, a 20th C. performance appreciation, rather than an acoustic choice, I believe. Dougs point is well taken, lets leave it at that.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 29, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Emmanuel Music plays from the altar, in Boston, a 20th C. performance appreciation, rather than an acoustic choice, I believe. Dougs point is well taken, lets leave it at that. >
The Tallis Choir of Toronto is performing a recreation of Victoria's Office of Tenebrae of Good Friday. In the 16th century, the choir of nuns sang the Gregorian chant from their stalls at the front of the church, while the
polyphony was sung from the rear gallery. For this concert, we will reverse the placement so that the audience can see the polyphonic choir while the plainsong schola will be invisible in the rear gallery.

There's no business like show business ...

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 29, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< There's no business like show business ... >
I am grateful that Doug said that, rather than me!

Announcements of and reports on performances of Bach (and related) music are always on topic and welcome. We could use more, no need to be shy (reticent?)!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 29, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I also agree (or suggest?) that the acoustic would probably be significantly different between minimum and maximum attendance, even with performance from the gallery. >
Also a similar interesting point arises with respect to different resources. Prior to his first Christams at Leigzig Bach wrote a number of chamber cantatas -----assuming OVPP and same for strings and sometimes just the one oboe, such works would require less than a dozen musicians. In fact the first solo cantata at Leipzig 199 has no chorale and can be done with only eight--2 vlns, vla, cello, bass, keyboard, oboe and soprano.

But the first really celebratory piece, BWV 65 for Christmas day has four trumpets, drums, oboes, bassoons etc and the vocal writing suggests strongly the use of concertante and ripieno singers i.e. a choir of at least eight. If we assume for balance that there was a minimum of two strings per part we are looking at nearly 30 musos!

Bach wrote these works and some of the other chamber cantatas at Weimer so he clearly didn't compose them specifically to test out the accoustics at the two big Leipzig churches--but I guess that by bringing back several of these works with such different requirements of resources he was at least keeping an ear to what worked best in the accoustics.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 29, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Bach wrote these works and some of the other chamber cantatas at Weimer so he clearly didn't compose them specifically to test out the accoustics at the two big Leipzig churches--but I guess that by bringing back several of these works with such different requirements of resources he was at least keeping an ear to what worked best in the accoustics. >
The acoustics of the Leipzig churches accommodated and enhanced a wide spectrum of sound. On a decibel level from greatest to least:

1) The organ played fully in work such as the Fantasia in G Major,
2) A 1000-voice congregation singing a chorale with organ accompaniment
3) A large-scale cantata such as "Christen Ätzet" with brass and timpani
4) An 8-voice motet with continuo such as "Singet den Herrn"
5) A small-scale cantata such as "Christ Lag in Todesbanden"
6) A "solo" cantata with "chamber" orchestra
7) 4-voice polyphonic responses with continuo
8) Unaccompanied solo voices singing plainsong

The range is striking.

William Hoffman wrote (October 30, 2009):
BWV 123: Fugitive Notes

Fugitive Notes

Bach created two works for the Feast of Epiphany, the rich panoply of the Magi Cantata BWV 65 of 1724 and the triumphal splendor of the Christ child in the 1735 Part 6 of the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248.

Meanwhile, Bach began in the other remaining work for the 1725 Epiphany Feast, Cantata BWV 123, to turn to texts and music with more seemingly Pietistic personal intimacy and introspection. These increasingly are found in the Epiphany omnes tempore period of the six to nine weeks leading to Lent and the Crucifixion. Gone are the massed trumpets and drums with full wind accompaniment. Gone are the joyous texts of canticles and the German Te Deum. Gone is the element of dance. Extensive choruses and accompanied recitatives (ariosi) often are replaced with arias, unaccompanied recitatives, and varied chorales. The male voices of solo tenor or bass, accompanied by plaintive oboe and string quartet, sing somber, reflective moods.

From Matthew's Gospel story of the Three Kings, Bach in chorale Cantata BWV 123 sets music to the libretto sprinkling of Old Testament and New Testament post-Gospel images. In the tenor aria, No. 3, "Even the cross' cruel journey," there is a passing reference to the first verse of the day's Epistle, Isaah 60: 1-6, "The Gentiles shall come to thy light." It is embedded in the psalmaic references to tears and sustenance (42.4), light and salvation (27:1). Handel in his "Messiah" with its emphasis on prophetic texts uses the Isaiah Epistle reading most effectively in the alto air and chorus, "O Thou that tallest" ("for thy light has come, v.1) and succeeding bass arioso "For behold, darkness shall cover the earth" (verbatim, vv. 2-3) in the Christmas Part 1 of his oratorio. In Bach's Cantata BWV 123, there are Old Testament references such as Emmanuel and "hidden manna," as well as the post-Gospel phrases of "full heart" and "come in the flesh."

The next year, Bach composed his third cycle, beginning with the official start of the church year, the first Sunday in Advent in December 1725. Then, he presented appropriate new works foall of the first five Christmas season services. He used older established texts of Georg Christian Lehms, published in 1711. The Second and Third Days of Christmas are based on the alternate, less festive readings for the Feast of St. Stephen, the First Christian martyr, for December 26, and the Feast of the Apostle and Gospel writer John, for December 27.

Bach returned to the gala spirit of Christmas in Cantata, BWV 28, on the Sunday after Christmas, December 30. It is set to a Neumeister 1714 text, since the Lehms cycle had no setting for that service. Then Bach returned to Lehms for the New Year's celebration, using Luther's chorale setting of the German Te Deum, Cantata BWV 16.

For the Feast of Epiphany, Jan. 6, 1726, which coincidentally fell on a Sunday, there is no record of a Bach cantata performance. It was of one only three services documented which Bach had missed setting since starting his annual cycle production in Leipzig in June 1723.

It is documented that subsequently, Bach presented Cantatas BWV 32 and BWV 13 for the next two Sundays, the first and second after Epiphany, also to Lehms 1711 texts. Then Bach performed Cantata BWV 72 for the Third Sunday after Epiphany, Jan. 27, 1726. It uses a Salomo Frank text, possibly composed in Weimar for the same service on Jan. 27, 1715. For the next two extended Sundays after Epiphany, the Fourth and Fifth Sundays, Bach resorted to the first two of some 18 cantatas composed by his cousin, Johann Ludwig Bach, set to so-called Rudolstadt texts.

At this point, Bach apparently took a three-month sabbatical from composing and presenting his own works. Instead, he probably performed only Sunday service cantatas of J.L. Bach and on Good Friday revived the so-called Keiser St. Mark Passion (BWV 247). Nothing original is documented until May 30, 1726, when Bach presented the new Ascension Day Cantata BWV 43, also set to a Rudolstadt text.

So, what had happened at the Feast of Epiphany, 1726? Stephen Daw in his book, <Bach's Choral Music>, suggests that Bach may have substituted a cantata of Georg Philipp Telemann. Daw proposes two appropriate from the Lehms 1711 cycle. These Telemann composed as part of his annual Lehms cycle presented in Frankfurt in 1715, also about the time J.L. Bach composed his Rudolstadt cycle, remnants of which were later found in Frankfurt. Descriptions and recordings of the Telemann works can be found at BCW:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Telemann-Cantata-TWV1-826.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Telemann-Cantata-TWV1-795.htm
Both Telemann cantatas are concise, intimate works for two voices and strings. The timings on the liner back show that Cantata TVWV1:795 takes 12:49 and has seven movements: opening and closing tutti movements, interspersed with short, alternating recitatives and arias.

IMVHO, as a gross generalization and based on established practice, it is possible to suggest that: Bach's cantata settings of omnes tempore service cantatas are brief and intimate, as are the older cantata texts of Lehms and Rudolstadt, as well as their respective settings of Telemann and J.L. Bach.

Bach in the later stages of hiscantata composition seems to have adhered to prevailing conventions. As to the reasons, he could have lacked well-appointed musicians, competent librettists, and support from Leipzig authorities. Perhaps the answer is simpler and positive: The ever-calculating Bach was content to move on to other challenges like his great Christological vocal cycle as well as keyboard, instrumental and hypothetical studies and collections.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (October 31, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This invites hypothesis (OK, speculation) as to whether Bach might have adjusted his composition forces and techniques for varying (diminishing) attendance on the three-day feasts. Which in turn brings me back round to my original question: any data on attendance for Whit Tuesday? I originally specified 1725, but that was arbitrary. Any year at all, any data, would be welcomje, if it exists.
I would suggest that would probably establish a minimum attendance for a Bach premiere. I have no problem acccepting that the maximum is a sellout at St. Thomas, significantly upward of 2000. I also agree (or suggest?) that the acoustic would probably be significantly different between minimum and maximum attendance, even with performance from the gallery.
Emmanuel Music plays from the altar, in Boston, a 20th C. performance appreciation, rather than an acoustic choice, I believe. Dougs point is well taken, lets leave it at that. >
Bach's performances were almost never, if ever, in front of the altar. They were done from the Organ Gallery above. The only time that this was done --as far as I know was when Mendelssohn was re-introducing Bach with his much too large orchestras and too large choruses.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2009):
Ludwig wrote:
>Bach's performances were almost never, if ever, in front of the altar. <
The almost is probably unnecessary. This is the point which Doug has kept in the forefront of discussion, whenever appropriate.

Business is business (show, or otherwise). Keep that cash flowing! If music helps, so be it. In the unlikely event that the odd schekel sticks to a musician, so much the better.

 

Cantata BWV 123: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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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Last update: ýSeptember 27, 2011 ý09:24:44