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Cantata BWV 131
Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 9, 2005

Neil Halliday wrote (January 7, 2005):
Cantata discussions: BWV 131 (introduction)

(Please excuse the somewhat early arrival of this message, due to my involvement with other comitments).

The cantata to be discussed during the week of Jan. 9-15 (see the BCW for order of discussion details) is BWV 131 "Aus der Tiefen rufe ich".

Event in Lutheran Church Year: Penitential. The Rilling booklet [8] proposes a first performance on the 11th Sunday after Trinity, with the year of composition being 1707. (See the BCW for details of the LCY).

[That makes this cantata, along with BWV 150, and indeed all six Mühlhausen cantatas, a products of Bach's early 20's; the mastery of the form is already becoming quite evident in this cantata. Note that the Weimar cantatas are products of Bach near his 30's (c.1715) and the Leipzig cantatas were started when Bach was near his 40's, c.1724 etc.].

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1. Cantata details, with links to texts, scores, commentary and music examples: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV131.htm

2. Contributions by list members, during the first cycle of cantata discussions (1999-2003): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV131-D.htm

List members are invited to relate their own impressions, ideas, and comments.

For me, this cantata provides some of the first truly memorable and moving writing from Bach's pen, especially in Mvt. 3, on the words "meine Seele harret, und ich hoffe auf sein Wort".

The juxtaposition of "my soul waits" and "I hope on his Word" within a choral fugal setting, accompanied by an exquisite indepedent motive which is constantly swapped between the violins and oboe, creates an intensely moving apparent combination of ecstasy and lamentation.

Listen for the precursor to the second half of this fugal subject - descending long notes - in Mvt. 2, when the bass sings the word "bestehen", accompanied by delicious oboe writing.

Further exceptionally beautiful writing occurs in the last movement, at the words "for with the Lord is grace (Gnade)'; and Mvt. 2 and Mvt. 4 demonstrate Bach's special skills in combining chorale melodies with independent material.

Those with broadband will be able to listen to Leusink's lovely recording [22], at the BCW; and Harnoncourt's recording [11] can be accessed at the David Zale site.

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

Peter Smaill wrote (January 9, 2005):
"Aus der Tiefe" brings us to solid ground, in that Bach's mss. survives (illustrated, and the Cantata extensively discussed, in Wolff). Much musicological discussion precedes this interchange including the previous contributions of the website's members.

Therefore I'd like again to go outside the work itself, and dwell on the wider significance of the chorale and text of "Aus der tiefe", the "De Profundis " of Psalm 130.

It is of special significance to Lutherans, having been sung at Luther's funeral and was the last chorale to be sung, we are told, in Strasburg cathedral before it was overrun by the French in 1681.

There are grounds for thinking that the chorale was especially inspiring to Bach. The obvious reference point is BWV 38, the paraphrased "Aus tiefer not", cantata for October 27 1724. The magnificent Pachelbel-style canonic opening chorus by this date is archaic ; while the unusual minim introduction to the schlusschoral is innovative, and harmonically adventurous, the use of the Phyrigian mode in the cadences produces overall a mystical, pietistic effect.

To this can be added the Clavierubung BWV 686 and BWV 687, again looking backwards sylistically but to magnificent effect.

The apocryphal St Luke Passion (BWV 246), partly transcribed and first performed by Bach c. 1731, features in relation to this chorale. "Aus der Tiefe" concludes the first part, a significant placing. The curiosity here is that a second version of the setting of the chorale, for a second performance in 1745, became detached and was discovered in Japan; and is featured in the Bach-Jahrbuch of 1971. Quite how did it get to the Far East?

The predominant common thread in Bach's deployment of "Aus der Tiefe" is archaism, which trait recurs throughout his career.

One of the pleasures of an interest in Bach is that discoveries do occur in our lifetimes. The Arnstadt / Lowell Mason 38 Chorale preludes and the Kiev Archiv being cases in point. In that instance acording to Wolff we have rediscovered Bach's arrangement of his father's cousin Johann Christoph Bach's "Lieber Herr Gott, Wecke uns auf", composed just before Bach's death in 1750, the very last manuscript to bear JSB's handwriting.

That he should have adopted a piece written in 1672, possibly for his own funeral, confirms a reverent attitude to the relationship between older musical forms and illustrious antecedents, the same reason to treat "Aus der tiefe" in a conservative fashion in honour of Luther himself.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 9, 2005):
BWV 131 - Cantus firmus performance

Peter Smaill wrote:
< That he should have adopted a piece written in 1672, possibly for his own funeral, confirms a reverent attitude to the relationship between older musical forms and illustrious antecedents, the same reason to treat "Aus der tiefe" in a conservative fashion in honour of Luther himself. >
I'm enjoying hearing these early cantatas for the first time precisely because they show the continuity of Bach's art from earlier generations, particularly in the use of favoriti "verses" and tutti "full" sections. It's interesting to see how conductors assign solo and chorus passages. I think the work would gain immeasurably in transparency with OVPP.

The only sections which are problematic are the two duets which have the chorale as a sustained 'cantus firmus'. The poor soprano and alto soloists have difficulty sustaining the long lines, and I was left wondering whether two or three singers on the chorale wouldn't be "better".

It's certainly common still in performances of the "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248) do have the entire soprano section sing the chorale in those bass-soprano duets. This question of choral "cantus firmus" rages in all the Baroque repertoire, particularly in the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers where conductors may or may not assign the plainsong cantus firmus to the full section of the choir against the solo singers (the opening of the "Gloria" is a gnarly problem)

One small point. I was interested to see how Bach articulated the opening figure with the second syllable of "Tie-fe" anticipated on the sixteenth note. I think of that as an early 17th century convention in England and France. Are there other examples in Bach?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2005):
BWV 131 - anticipatione della syllaba

< One small point. I was interested to see how Bach articulated the opening figure with the second syllable of "Tie-fe" anticipated on the sixteenth note. I think of that as an early 17th century convention in England and France. Are there other examples in Bach? >
Like the word "Sanctus" in the Quoniam of BMM, where the "-ctus" comes in ahead of the beat?

It's called anticipatione della syllaba - see Tosi's vocal treatise. See also John Butt's Articulation Marks in Primary Sources of J S Bach p22 & following. He cites BWV 211 mvt 8 as one of the Bach examples of that.

And it's a standard th-century way to handle the tierce de coulee and some of the other ornaments that happen between beats. For example, Quantz and Francois Couperin. These same issues are fundamental to correct tongueing/bowing/fingering on instruments.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 9, 2005):
< Like the word "Sanctus" in the Quoniam of BMM, where the "-ctus" comes in ahead of the beat? It's called anticipatione della syllaba - see Tosi's vocal treatise. >
And an egregious example is the opening aria of cantata BWV 84 (1727), "Ich bin vergnuegt". The oboe has the falling figure with the short notes slurred to the preceding note, but the voice brings in the same figure with the syllable coming ahead of the beat, i.e. slurred the opposite way.

Francis Browne wrote (January 9, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote :"I think the work would gain immeasurably in transparency with OVPP." But added :
"The only sections which are problematic are the two duets which have the chorale as a sustained 'cantus firmus'. The poor soprano and alto soloists have difficulty sustaining the long lines, and I was left wondering whether two or three singers on the chorale wouldn't be "better". "
The choice of soloist or choir for a cantus firmus chorale is a topic which I am sure will frequently come up in this cycle of discussions. I am not qualified to pronounce on the issue in general. But before reading Doug's interesting comments I had just listened to two recordings which, though they are similar in approach, differ in how they treat the two movements with chorale.

Stephen Varcoe, a singer I greatly admire, sings bass in both John Eliot Gardiner's recording from 1980 [10] and in the much more recent recording by Daniel Taylor with the Theatre of Early Music [24]. JEG uses his excellent choir for the chorales, while in the later recording Varcoe is accompanied by Suzie LeBlanc and Daniel Taylor sings alto with Jan Kobow as tenor in the second chorale.

Both performances of this cantata are excellent. Varcoe's later performance, as one might expect, is more assured and confident. But on the point of whether soloists or choir should be preferred I can only report that in this specific instance it is the performance by the Theatre of Early Music to which I am more likely to return. The two soloists seem to me to sustain the long lines excellently, and there is a gain in intimacy and detail, that makes me value highly the OVPP approach here. Since I have already written about my enthusiasm for Daniel Taylor and his group, I shall not say any more now. (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/TaylorDaniel-C3.htm )

With soloists of sufficient ability OVPP seems then a valid option for performance of chorales in some cantatas, perhaps particularly these early works we shall be discussing. On the other hand, I can recall that listening to the Leusink cycle with a number of cantatas I felt that the soloist was not successful in the cantus firmus, and in numerous cantatas the chorale cantus firmus seems expressly designed for singing by the choir since it conveys the firm unwavering confidence of the whole church while the cantata text against which it is set - whether it is sung by a solist or other voices of the choir - expresses the anguish or fears of the individual Christian.

Inconclusive, impresionistic, unscholarly conclusion : as a general rule the cantus firmus is better sung by the choir but in certain works with able singers OVPP may lead to very worthwhile music.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 9, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And it's a standard early-18th-century way to handle the tierce de coulee and some of the other ornaments that happen between beats. For example, Quantz and Francois Couperin. These same issues are fundamental to correct tongueing/bowing/fingering on instruments. >
It was certainly a standard of French articulation (did anyone see Raneau's "Les Boreades" from the Paris Opera last night on tv? I just never think of it as very common in Bach's vocal underlay.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 11, 2005):
Oboe in BWV 131

Doug Cowling wrote:
< And back to Cantata BWV 131 for a moment... Was anyone else struck by the sheer stamina required by the first oboe who plays almost continuously throughout the work? >
A good point -- especially as the oboe also has some fairly exposed passages (starting with the long opening obbligato). He does have a long rest, however, in the tenor-and-alto aria-and-chorale.

Interestingly, the superb oboist Marcel Ponseele recorded this part at least four times -- with Herreweghe [14], Suzuki [18], Koopman [17] and the Ricercar Consort [15] (an OVPP performance, without a named director). I have all four recordings, and hopefuly will have the time to do a comparison of his playing in these different contexts in the next few days. Though perhaps another member will beat me to it! In general, I remember the Ricercar [15] as my favourite among these four (not just, or even primarily, because it's OVPP), though my view might change on re-hearing.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 11, 2005):
BWV 131: 5 recordings

1. Werner (1964) [4].
This is a lovely, 'gentle' large-scale performance.
Stämpfli (B) and Jelden (T) are pleasing in Mvt. 2 and Mvt. 4 respectively.

2. Rilling (1975) [8].
Schöne (Mvt. 2) is almost drowned out by the sopranos and orchestra in places; and Kraus is close to 'barking' in several places in his movement (Mvt. 4).

Mvt. 3 and Mvt. 5 are quite effective; this recording has the strongest rhythm, and instrumental colour, in the final fugue (movement 5), of all the recordings.

3. Harnoncourt (1983) [11].
This recording shows that, if a soloist is to sing the chorale parts (S in #2 and A in #4), vibrato must be kept to a minimum. In this regard, Bergius (S) starts off on a shaky footing, but fortunately settles down into some appropriately 'pure' singing. Esswood, with Equiliuz, is mostly fine in #4.

Of all the recordings, Harnoncourt has the slowest 'fugue' in movement 3. Consequently, the expression of lamentation at the beginning of "meine Seele harret" (marked 'Largo' in the score) is quite strong, but the overly strong contrasts between 'strong' and 'weak' notes, especially in the upper strings (violin and violas) is a distraction, with some of these notes becoming inaudible; and the timbre of the choir (and strings) seems 'scratchy' at times, so that this movement is not entirely satisfying.

Harnoncourt spoils the 'gentle majesty' of the massive opening chords in the last movement, by causing the choir to sing the 2nd syllable of "Is-ra-el" very quickly.

4. Herreweghe (1990) [14].
This is a very polished performance with fine soloists (Crook (T) and Kooy (B)); this cantata responds to Herreweghe's 'ethereal' style. Indeed the oboe playing is fine, and I like the sound of the lute in the continuo. However, the fast pace of the final fugue detracts from the music's 'solidity' and effectiveness, IMO. (I note that Herreweghe is 3rd fastest overall, in the recordings shown at the BCW, 'beaten' only by Gardiner [10] and Rifkin [12]).

5. Leusink (2000) [22].
A nice 1st movement, but with too much staccato for my taste, in the 2nd section (but this does overcome the problem of an overly resonant continuo). Ruth Holton, sounding like a boy soprano, makes the chorale part contrast nicely with bass Ramselaar, in the 2nd movement.

This performahas the slowest 4th movement (over 7 mins.) of all the recordings. It works, with fine singing from der Meel; and alto Bulwalda is suitably 'ethereal' in the chorale part.

[General comment: Note that BWV 131 has one violin and 2 viola parts, in contrast with BWV 150 (discussed last week) which has 2 violin parts and no viola].

John Reese wrote (January 12, 2005):
[To Uri Golomb, regarding Oboe in BWV 131]
I think -- I seem to remember reading this in an orchestration book -- that the oboe used by Bach had more loose reeds than we have today, which would have made it a little easier on the lips.

I had a theory that Bach may have used alternating oboists on long solo passages, but that theory was knocked into a cocked hat when I recently studied BWV 10, and found that both the first and second oboes had to play almost continuously throughout the opening chorus. On the first aria, the first oboe caught a break -- it fell silent whenever the soloist was singing, probably for balance reasons.

John Pike wrote (January 12, 2005):
Despite being Bach's earliest extant cantata (Mühlhausen, 1707), this is one of my favourites. There is some really very beautiful music here.

I have listened to Harnoncourt [11], Rilling [8] and Rifkin [12] so far. I enjoyed all performances but my top choice of these 3 goes to Rifkin [12]. I found the clarity of OVPP very satisfying and highly appropriate for such intimate music. General musicality and technical standards are excellent. The final choral fugue was electric to me, and far more satisfying than what I found to be a rather ponderous tempo from Rilling [8]. Nevertheless, overall, Rilling was my next favourite recording, since I felt it was technically more assured than Harnoncourt [11]. There was much to be said for musicality in the Harnoncourt performance, and the large forces used by Rilling are a drawback for me, but the standard of singing in the Harnoncourt recording is a bigger drawback to my ears.

I will try to find time for Leusink [22] on line and see if I have the Herreweghe recording [14] later in the week.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 12, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
<"I enjoyed all performances but my top choice of these 3 goes to Rifkin [12]">.
I was not able to find an example of Rifkin's BWV 131 [12] on the web, but a sample of the OVPP recording of the ABS sounded very appealing, at the start of "meine Seele harret". However, the large chords at the beginning of the last movement lacked the impact of larger-scale performances: Amazon.com

I suppose there are advantages and disadvantages in any given approach.

Thanks for your report.

Uri Golomb wrote (January 12, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] That's actually the reverse of my impression: to my ears, the ABS's rendition [16] of "Israel" is perhaps the most dramatic I've ever heard (and I know about a dozen recordings of this work...). True, the first "ISRAEL" exhortation sounds timid, but that's because Thomas treats the entire three-fold invocation as a crescendo: each exhortation is stronger and more confident than the last, as well as containing a smaller internal crescendo. The overall effect is of a growing confidence. To me, this is a highly convincing and expressive alternative to the usual reading of these bars as a monumental, internally uniform exhortation. Perhaps this effect is more convincing when you hear it within this performance as a whole, rather than when listening to just this movement in isolation; but then, that's the best way to listen to it anyway...

The whole performance is very expressive and very fluid: there is a sense -- especialy in the "choral" movements -- of constant flux and questing. The music certainly doesn't sound grand and monumental; but it does sound highly expressive, and I find its spirit highly appropriate for the feelings of prayer, supplication, longing and hope that are expressed in text and music alike.

On the whole, though, my favourite OVPP version of this cantata remains the one by the Ricercar Consort [15]; Thomas's version [16] has a few rough and rigid moments, and the Ricercar seem more attentive to details. (I should add, however, that I'm not famliar with the Theatre of Early Music version [24].

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 13, 2005):
Cantata 131 - and general thoughts about conducting

Uri Golmb wrote About the American Bach Soloists / Jeffrey Thomas [16]:
< The whole performance is very expressive and very fluid: there is a sense -- especialy in the "choral" movements -- of constant flux and questing. The music certainly doesn't sound grand and monumental; but it does sound highly expressive, and I find its spirit highly appropriate for the feelings of prayer, supplication, longing and hope that are expressed in text and music alike.
On the whole, though, my favourite OVPP version of this cantata remains the one by the Ricercar Consort
[15]; Thomas's version [16] has a few rough and rigid moments, and the Ricercar seem more attentive to details. (I should add, however, that I'm not famliar with the Theatre of Early Music version [24]. >
Another fan of the ABS/Thomas recordings [16] here, although I don't have their rendition of BWV 131 yet.

I feel fortunate already to have three recordings of this marvelous cantata, all of which I enjoy: the Ricercar Consort [15] and Rifkin's (both OVPP) [12] and Herreweghe's [14].

I participated in a performance of BWV 131 about ten years ago, when some of my classmates put together an orchestra and chorus to get themselves more experience for their doctoral conducting projects. At the time, it struck me how much interdisciplinary work it really is to put together a production of Bach's music, let alone a series of pieces. The conductor must have skill in all of the following areas: enlisting suitable players and singers, arranging suitable rehearsal schedules both with the musicians and the church, stylistic awareness in the music to be performed, German language and diction, rehearsal efficiency, conducting technique for clarity, the ability to provide technical suggestions to singers and any of the instruments, good placement of people in the given space, selection of appropriate pieces for a program or a worship service, making sure a complete set of performance parts is available and appropriately marked ahead of rehearsal for any interpretive decisions, spiritual focus in the themes of the music, and the ability to inspire musicians to do their best. If some of the musicians require additional private rehearsals and teaching, that's part of the job too.

Conductors also have to have decent musicological savvy themselves, or good friends and continuo players who will help out with any research to be done: i.e. the ability to deputize tasks and motivate assistants, asking forthrightly for help when it's needed. The conductor needs the authority to be the ultimate boss of the venture, but also the flexibility to let his/her people use their own strengths. The ability to improvise is also necessary, in any and all areas of coordinating the performance, because things never go exactly as theydid at rehearsals. The conductor must be able and sensitive to focus attention on any given player or singer(s), in any emergency, to help things get back on track with confidence.

It also works organizationally to deputize some of the tasks back to the singers and players, so the whole venture becomes a collegial effort with each person contributing something to the leadership. In our rehearsals of BWV 131, as I recall, the conductor asked one of the sopranos to resolve all language issues since she was both a native German speaker and a doctoral student of musicology. Several other singers were appointed to take care of all the publicity and stage management. The continuo players coordinated all the tuning, in cooperation with the concertmaster and oboist. That means getting there at least an hour ahead of each rehearsal and performance to make sure the keyboards are ready...and the pitch might change during a concert or a composition due to temperature and humidity. Some of the orchestra players took care of the printed programs, both in the research and the layout and then getting enough copies printed. All this is too much work for any single director to do himself/herself, whether we're talking about now or 250 years ago; good musical performance is a team effort and the best directors have a tremendous balancing act to accomplish, coordinating it all so it comes together at performance time.

We did cantata BWV 82 "Ich habe genug" in the same series (maybe even the same concert) making good additional use of the oboist and bass singer. Anybody in the ensemble who wasn't currently involved in playing or singing a particular movement sat farther back in the church and offered suggestions about articulation and balance, since the music comes across differently at different spots in large rooms. Performers must adjust accordingly to make it sound good at appropriate distances, by making the notes shorter or more emphatic or whatever, according to the acoustics of the room. As the regular organist at that church I happened to know where the nodes (the standing waves) of the room were, and made sure that some of the rehearsal listening was done from those dead spots. Those are the freaky spots in a room where some of the pitches disappear or sound oddly amplified, throwing off all the balances. For recordings, one doesn't want the microphones to be anywhere near these spots! It's important for the conductor during rehearsal to hop around to different parts of the room, to listen; and/or to have trusted listening assistants strategically placed and able to give honest reports when things aren't as good as they might be. Conductors have to be the most thoroughly objective listeners they can be, to get the job done for the music's clarity, and yet also convey spontaneity and a sense of being moved by the music, to inspire all the musicians. It's a huge job.

Then, factor in the situation that Bach doing all this also had to write the music and pull together suitable libretti, coordinated with the church officials...and a somewhat different pool of musicians on each occasion...and training those musicians in all the basic instrumental and vocal techniques they need to get the job done........ And then sometimes conducting while playing one of the instruments, either violin or keyboard...!

Lex Schelvis wrote (January 13, 2005):
If I had to make a list of my top 20 favourite cantatas, BWV 131 would certainly be on it, just like BWV 4 and BWV 106. Young Bach composed some very fine music that seems to be easy to appreciate: when I introduce some of his vocal music to friends who are not "in" Bach, they are often preferring the compositions from his prime. So we have some good weeks to come.

I listened to Rifkin [12], Herreweghe [14], Suzuki [18], Harnoncourt [11] and Leusink [22]. The best recordings to me are Rifkin and Herreweghe. Rifkin is the first recording I ever heard of this cantata and for that reason kind of a standard. Besides it's OVPP and that always is a pro for me. But Herreweghe equals it now because of the insertion of a laute in the fourth movement. I was flabbergasted when I heard it for the first time. I didn't realise before how important a interpretation can be for the appreciation of a piece of art: it is not just the genious of Bach that makes his music so great, a part is due to the interpreter too. And Herreweghe is doing a more than perfect job here. I liked the movement before, but from the moment I heard the version of Herreweghe it became one of the most enjoyable compositions of Bach for me.

John Pike wrote (January 13, 2005):
Herreweghe BWV 131 [14]

I listened to this today. Another superb performance with beautiful phrasing, top notch singing and another electrifying last movement.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 14, 2005):
[To John Pike] [14] Yes, I listened to it last night and today also, and I concur. And as somebody else mentioned, it's nice to hear the lute in there.

Bart O'Brien wrote (January 16, 2005):
I listened to the Herreweghe [14], Rifkin [12] and Leusink [22] recordings. Though I've had them all for some years I'd never compared them.

I loved the OVPP Rifkin, especially the 2nd and 4th movements. It made me want to go out and collect more OVPP recordings.

Listening to the start of the last movement on the Herreweghe and Leusink recordings (the choral Israel!), I thought that an OVPP surely couldn't compete there. And yet when I went back to check I found that the Rifkin performance started out fine and actually held my interest through the whole movement better than the others.

In general, I'd happily exchange any Leusink 5-CD box for one Herreweghe CD. In this cantata the difference in quality is fairly clear. But the Leusink recording [22] is OVPP in the 2nd and 4th movements. Even though the performance isn't as good as Rifkin's and even though Herreweghe has the bonus of the wonderful sound of the laute - I still enjoyed the Leusink performances [22] of these two movements more than Herreweghe's [14].

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2005):
Rifkin's BWV 131 and 106 [12]

< I listened to the Herreweghe [14], Rifkin [12] and Leusink [22] recordings. Though I've had them all for some years I'd never compared them. >
Anybody here happen to have the first CD issue of the Rifkin recording of BWV 131 and BWV 106, and willingness to post a list of the orchestral players?

I have the Florilegium reissue from 1995 where these two are coupled with the later cantatas 99 and 8. It's convenient to have all four on a single disc, but the booklet omits performer information other than the different set of singers in each pair of cantatas. There would have been plenty of room in the booklet's 30 pages (which have lots of white space) to include orchestral personnel rosters. I'd like to print out such a roster and slip it into my copy of the booklet.

Thanks,

Bart O'Brien wrote (January 16, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Anybody here happen to have the first CD issue of the Rifkin recording of BWV 131 and BWV 106 [12], and willingness to post a list of the orchestral players? >
Sorry, I've got the Decca Eclipse version, which after deletion was available only from Vroom and Dreesman department stores in the Netherlands for almost nothing. Virtually undocumented.

Rianto Pardede wrote (January 18, 2005):
Sometime last week Lex Schelvis wrote soto the effect that the interpretation of performers takes an important role in listener's appreciation of music. Well, I couldn't agree more. For cantata BWV 131, I listened to the recordings of Leusink [22] and Rifkin [12]. I've had Rifkin's around for 5 years now, Leusink's I've just acquired a few months back. And, guess what, I prefer the latter more than the former. Don't get me wrong, the music in Rifkin's is off course beautiful, there's the clarity of vocal lines, and all.

Yet, in my humble opinion, the interpretation in Leusink's overall is more than just beautiful, it's the one that I can readily relate to. The vocal soloists are fine, the choir is not that bad, and the instruments playing, love it. For example, from the moment the instrumental introduction to the choir in the 1st movement commences with that tempo and playing, a picture of gloomy atmosphere, loneliness, helplessnes, and sinners cry silenty, and achingly -- whose consciences weighs heavily on themselves -- dawns vividly in mind. Within this atmosphere, the choir sings the first line: 'from the deep I'm calling out to You, Lord', slowly. The violin, the oboe, and all, o how I wish I were able to describe them appropriately!

In Mvt. 4, the cellist phrases his lines doggedly and repeatedly, I guess signifying the waiting and hoping -- persistently from day to day. It's good, even if the duration of this movement is stretched to 7 minutes (compared to Rifkin's, which finishes off at 4, 41').

 
 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 131: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movementss | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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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