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Cantata BWV 127
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of May 2, 2010

David Jones wrote (May 2, 2010):
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott

This Sunday's cantata is Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott

Composed:

Leipzig, 1725 (Stokes,
Robertson, Finscher) or 1735-1744 (Young)
1st performance: February 11, 1725 - Leipzig

Readings: Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13; Gospel: Luke 18: 31-43

As always, my preference is for Gardiner's dancing, floating interpretation. Gardiner is even brazen enough to add words to what he calls the *"*Agnus Dei strophes"; the wordless intoning of the *Agnus Dei, *in a soaring
descant. Stunning!

William Hoffman wrote (May 2, 2010):
Cantata 127: Estomihi & Fugitive Notes

Estomihi Cantatas

The most recent recording of Bach’s cantatas for Quinquagesima Sunday (Estomihi) (the last Sunday before Lent), is “Jesu, deine Passion,” Philippe Herreweghe, Collegium Vocale Gent, Harmonia Mundi France 901998. The informative notes on Cantatas BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127 and BWV 159 are written by Peter Wollny. He is the editor of the <Bach Jahrbuch> and has an article in the current 2009 edition, “Observations on the Autograph of Bach’s Mass in B Minor,” (BWV 232) as well as a paper to be delivered next weekend at the American Bach Society Biennial meeting, “Bach’s Cantata Performances in the 1730s – New Findings, New Perspectives.”

Citing the “special place” of Estomihi Sunday in Leipzig, Wollny says Bach “quite deliberately designed his cantatas intended for this day as musical highlights of the church year.” The sister probe pieces, Cantatas BWV 22 and BWV 23, showed his “full technical capacities” and his “artistic program.”

Chorale Cantata BWV 127 of 1725 is “at once the highpoint and the conclusion” of the abbreviated chorale cantata cycle, says Wollny. Calling the opening fantasia chorus “monumental” (a term usually reserved for Bach’s opening Passion choruses), Wollny notes that BWV 127/1 “once again recapitulates all the ingenious compositional devices of chorale arrangement.” He calls the soprano aria, “Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händed” (The soul will rest in Jesus’ hands) “a particular gem.” The next movement, between bass recitative and aria, “Wenn einstens die Posaunen schallen” (When one day the trumpets sound), is a “dramatic depiction of the Day of Judgement.” I would add that, like Handel’s setting of 1 Corinthians 15:52, Bach uses a bass and trumpet, 15 years before “Messiah.” It also could be Bach’s “Dies ire” without the chant. Also, note the reference to trombones (Posaunen), which also is found in Brahms “A German Requiem.”

Picander’s contribution to Estomihi, BWV 159 of 1729, “Seht, wir gehn hinauf gen Jeusalem” (Behold, we go up to Jerusalem), is one of only ten surviving cantatas from his full 70-work cycle. Wollny points out its connection to the sound-world of the concurrent St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), particularly in the chorale strophe, “Ich will hier bei dir stehen,” inserted into the alto aria “Ich folge dir nacht,” the bass aria “Es ist vollbracht,” and the concluding chorale, “Jesu, deine Passion.” Wollny calls Cantata BWV 159 an “impressive work, which may be seen as one of the peaks of Bach’s cantata output.”

While there is no evidence yet that Bach repeated Cantatas BWV 127 and BWV 159, the sister Cantatas BWV 22 and BWV 23 may have been presented in some form in 1724, 1727, and 1730. There is no record for Estomihi 1728 but Bach did present another work on March 3, 1726 -- Johann Ludwig Bach’s Cantata JLB 5, “Ja mir du arbeit gemacht” (Yes, now hast thou labor made). It is a full 20-minute, two-part piece with eight movements and there is a recording, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Max.htm, P-2, Hermann Max, Carus CD. Scored for SATB solos, chorus and strings, it has the usual Old Testament dictum from Isaiah in the opening bass aria and Gospel quotation from Luke in the bass recitative ending Part 1. The second part has a soprano aria and recitative in Rudolstadt penitential Passion mood and closes with two stanzas of Johann Heermann’s “Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen.”

Here is the abstract for Wollny’s ABS paper: “Bach’s Cantata Performances in the 1730s – New Findings, New Perspectives, Peter Wollny (Bach-Archiv, Leipzig)

“Recent findings of printed textbooks and musical sources (see BJ 2008, contributions by T. Shabalina, M.-R. Pfau, and P. Wollny) have shed new light on Bach’s Leipzig performance repertoire of the 1730s and pointed to an almost dramatic shift towards the works of other contemporary composers, providing a new facet to the theme “Bach and His German Contemporaries.” For his weekly cantata performances Bach apparently refrained from presenting exclusively his own compositions (as he used to do in the first few years of his tenure as Thomaskantor), and instead made use of annual cycles such as the “Saitenspiel-Jahrgang” by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel. This decision not only provided the necessary time for him to focus on ambitious projects of his own (e.g. the Clavier-Übung collections and the oratorios) and to undertake engagements outside Leipzig, it also may have had a significant impact on his artistic development and on the way he defined his office. My paper will discuss the various implications to be drawn from Bach’s decision to broaden the scope of his cantata repertoire. It seems that Bach, after he had completed three cantata cycles, reserved his own works for special occasions and may have seen them as highpoints within the annual sequence of church music. This concept also provides a new vantage point on the mysterious Picander cycle, which is illuminated by a newly discovered source that will be discussed here for the first time.”

IMVHO, it is possible that as early as 1726, Bach turned to the works of his cousin to fill in the later Epiphany and pre-Lenten Sundays as well as the succeeding period to Pentecost, perhaps originally to provide an alternative to the period void of chorale cantatas the previous year. If Bach had been unable to secure the libretto
services of Mariane von Ziegler, the J.L. Bach cantatas could have filled the bill. The ever-calculating Bach always had something substantial available, and if Wollny’s thesis is correct, it opens up a whole new world of “Bach and his German Contemporaries” (the theme of this year’s ABS conference) in Bach’s quest for a “well-ordered church music to the glory of God.”

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 3, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< IMVHO, it is possible that as early as 1726, Bach turned to the works of his cousin to fill in the later Epiphany and pre-Lenten Sundays as well as the sucperiod to Pentecost, perhaps originally to provide an alternative to the period void of chorale cantatas the previous year. If Bach had been unable to secure the libretto services of Mariane von Ziegler, the J.L. Bach cantatas could have filled the bill. The ever-calculating Bach always had something substantial available, and if Wollny’s thesis is correct, it opens up a whole new world of “Bach and his German Contemporaries” (the theme of this year’s ABS conference) >
I find that very exciting, especially the part about Bach's contemporaries. ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Citing the "special place" of Estomihi Sunday in Leipzig, Wollny says Bach „quite deliberately designed his cantatas intended for this day as musical highlights of the church year. >
Quinguagesima (Estomihi) Sunday is the last Sunday that a cantata was sung before the "closed" season of Lent began and concerted music was prohibited until Good Friday. Did Bach make the musical change to motets the following week more dramatic by the sheer luxuriousness of this cantata's scoring? The next time his listeners would hear a trumpet would be Easter morning.

If so, this trajectory through the church year speaks volumes about Bach's attitude to cantata compositions. They aren't 20 minute miniatures but parts of a grand year-long structure.

Now that's a well-regulated system!

Julian Mincham wrote (May 3, 2010):
BWV 127

For those who would like to glance over the essay on this week's cantata on my website, the link is below:
www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-40-bwv-127.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] None of the links to the site seem to be working.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] It's back up.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for the alert. I think it may not be available when I am uploading some editing changes when you try to get on.

Let me know if you have further problems with it--it's still somethiong of a honeymoon period--technically, that is!

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Julian Mincham's article is also linked from the main page of Cantata BWV 127 on the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV127.htm
[The link "Mincham" in the Commentary line]

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2010):
BWV 127 & Year 1725

Julian Mincham wrote:
< For those who would like to glance over the essay on this week's cantata on my website, the link is below. >
Thank you for the detailed musical analysis: this raises so many fascinating questions.

Your comment about the Annunciation falling between this Sunday and Good Friday, sent me to the calendar pages on BCML: 1725 was a VERY interesting year!

LENT AND EASTER 1725

Sunday, February 11 - Estomihi Sunday (Quinquagesima)
Cantata BWV 127, "Herr Jesu Christ"

Wednesday, February 14 - Ash Wednesday
Lent begins. Polyphonic music replaces concerted cantata.

Sunday, March 25 - Palm Sunday AND Annunciation
The two feasts occur together this year.
Cantata BWV 1, "Wie Schön Leuchtet"

Friday, March 30 - Good Friday
St. John Passion (BWV 245) (2nd Version)

Sunday, April 1 - Easter Day
Easter Oratorio (BWV 249)
Cantata BWV 4, "Christ Lag in Todesbanden"

There are so many links across these works it's hard to know where to begin.

The most unusual feature is the occurrence of Palm Sunday and Annunciation, and the insistence in Leipzig that a cantata be performed even though Holy Week was beginning (Cantata BWV 182, "Himmelskönig sei Willkommen" also fell on Palm Sunday). I quickly scanned the text of BWV 1 to see if Bach introduced Passion themes as he does in BWV 182, but I was struck by the tenor recitative which begins, "Du wahrer Gottes und Marien Sohn" - that carries us back to these pre-Lent cantatas we're discussing.

Bach's interest in the German Agnus Dei in these cantatas carries us ahead to the conclusion of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) (2nd version). Was the emphasis on the chorale, as well as the revival of "Christ Lag", intended as a balance to the novelty of the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) with its complete absence of scriptural dicta or chorales?

Julian, one quibble with your statement about the music during Lent:

"It is for the Sunday before Lent, during which time music was generally banned from services"

To be more precise, concerted music was prohibited during Lent, but the choir sang from the rich 'a capella' repertoire of the 16th and 17th century with organ accompaniment. There was no lack of expressive music, just no fiddles! If I remember, I'll try to check Terry who lists the works from the Bodenschatz collection.

Thanks for your terrific resource.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks for the reactions and the comment about music during Lent. Yes that probably should be refined. (To be honest I have been learning about this sort of historical background information bit by bit as I worked on the project over the years).

William Hoffman wrote (May 3, 2010):
BWV 127, Lenten Time 1725

Bach’s Calendar Lenten time 1725

1. Sunday (Estomihi), Feb. 11, Cantata BWV 127

2. Monday, Feb. 12, lost sacred wedding Cantata BWV Anh. 14, “Sein segen fließt daher wie ein Storm,” four arias may have been adapted in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), says William Scheide. They are opening aria, "His blessings flow" (Ecc. 39:22), as No. 5, "Laudamus Te" for alto and violin; BWV Anh. 14/3, aria "Happy are you" (Ezek 47:1,4), as No. 10, "Quoniam," for bass and horn; Arioso No. 4, "Bitterness withdraws from you" (Ex. 18:25) as No. 22, Benedictus qui venit," for soprano and flute; and Aria No. 6, "So step into paradise" (Gen.
2:11), as No. 18, "Et in Spiritum Sanctum" for bass and two oboes d'amore. While all the music is lost, Bach took the text directly from the Bible, as he had done in some of his earliest cantatas.

3. Friday, Feb. 23, Weissenfels, Shepherd Cantata BWV 249a, “Entfliehet, verschwindet, ihr Sorgen” birthday of Duke Christian (text, Picander)

4. Sunday (Annunciation), March 25, Cantata BWV 1, Wie schön leuchtet der Mogenstern” (last chorale cantata in Cycle 2, with two horns, oboes da caccia).

5. Good Friday, March 30, St. John Passion (BWV 245), second version with insertions.

6. Easter Sunday, April 1, Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, “Kommt, eilet und laufet” (?text, Picander; performance at Leipzig University Church).

7. Thursday, April 5, Birthday Cantata BWV 36c, “Schwingt freudig euch empor” (for Leipzig University professor, text pPicander), later parodies.

8. Quasimodogeniti Sunday, April 8, BC A 64 (Neumann XXXII), 7-bar sketch of opening sinfonia (2 obs., str., bc; ¾ time, e minor) ?to chorale cantata; at end of autograph score of Cantata BWV 103, first cantata set to von Ziegler text for Jubilate Sunday, 4/22/1725.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< 2. Monday, Feb. 12, lost sacred wedding Cantata BWV Anh. 14, >
I wonder if this was a shotgun wedding. Tuesday, February 13 was the last day that weddings could be celebrated before Lent began (I'm assuming Lent was closed to weddings -- does someone have Stiller to hand?) It appears that royal occasions trumped the church year.

Fascinating to see how the convergences of the various calendars dictated Bach's musical administration and composition. There is no way that he didn't plan in yearly cycles. The notion that he stumbled exhausted from week to week just isn't credible. It was hard work but it was not haphazard.

William Hoffman wrote (May 3, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of JSB (p. 743): Anh. I14 (BC [B12]: <It is apparent from the printed text, which is all that survives of this cantata that Bach performed it at the wedding of Christoph Friedrich Loesner, 'Proviant- und Floss-Verwalter (Provisions and Raft Manager), and Johanna Elisabetha Scherling in Leipzig . . . .>

I didn't know there was any white water is the Pleisse River.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Let me know if you have further problems with it--it's still something of a honeymoon period--technically, that is! >.
I wish you better long-term prospects than the average honeymoon, these days.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< To be more precise, concerted music was prohibited during Lent [except for special feasts, e.g., Annunciation], but the choir sang from the rich 'a capella' repertoire of the 16th and 17th century with organ accompaniment. >
Thanks for ongoing emphasis on these enlightening and enjoyable details. A wealth of information in that one sentence.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 4, 2010):
BWV 127 trumpet

In his article, Julian mentioned a trumpet doubling the cantus firmus (sopranos) in the opening chorus; the BGA doesn't show it but Thomas suggested it was added later to bolster the c.f.; apparently the NBA confirms this.

As far as I can tell, Suzuki [10] is the only recording that features brass on the soprano line, adding a pleasing brightness and clarity to this chorale melody in long notes, in the context of an already richly scored movement.

Is employment of a colla parte trumpet confirmed in other recordings?

[BTW, Aryeh posted several examples of 127/1 during previous discussions]:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV127-Mus.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< As far as I can tell, Suzuki [10] is the only recording that features brass on the soprano line, adding a pleasing brightness and clarity to this chorale melody in long notes, in the context of an already richly scored movement.
Is employment of a colla parte trumpet confirmed in other recordings? >
One of Suzuki's [10] stated objectives, in places in his booklet (aka liner) notes, is to add to the diversity of the valid performance options, available on recordings.

Confirmed is probably not the proper word, for comparison with other recordings? Did Suzuki [10] add the trumpet, precisely for contrast with other recordings?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Alfred Dürr, Cantatas of JSB (p. 743): Anh. I14 (BC [B12]: <It is apparent from the printed text, which is all that survives of this cantata that Bach performed it at the wedding of Christoph Friedrich Loesner, 'Proviant- und Floss-Verwalter (Provisions and Raft Manager), and Johanna Elisabetha Scherling in Leipzig . . . .>
I didn't know there was any white water is the Pleisse River. >

The white water would be the result of thrashing about on the raft? Or have I overstepped (again) the bounds of propriety?

Julian Mincham wrote (May 4, 2010):
Cantata 127: Estomihi & Fugitive Notes

[To Douglas Cowling] If so, this trajectory through the church year speaks volumes about Bach's attitude to cantata compositions. They aren't 20 minute miniatures but parts of a grand year-long structure.

Now that's a well-regulated system!

Neil Halliday wrote (May 7, 2010):
BWV 127/4

For an exciting reading of the unique Mvt. 4, Gardiner [7] certainly fits the bill. By comparison, the dramatic 'concitato' effects are rather low-key, in Rilling.

This site offers mps downloads of individual movements, useful for supplementing one's own recordings without necessarily purchasing the whole cantata: ClassicsOnline

[For an informative analysis of this movement, you can consult Julian's site (linked from the BCW)].

After such a movement, I would at least employ the trumpet - colla parte the sopranos - in the final chorale (Mvt. 5), to aid in avoiding disappointment, so to speak.
(I think another member mentioned experiencing a 'let-down', in previous discussions. A shame, because the chorale has some very interesting harmonisations).

 

Cantata BWV 127: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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