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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

Cantata BWV 131
Aus der Tiefen rufe ich, Herr, zu dir
Discussions - Part 6

Continue from Part 5

Discussions in the Week of June 16, 2013

David D. Jones wrote (May 24, 2013):
Essay on BWV 131

I need a bit of a favor. If anyone has a copy of Gerhard Herz's essay on BWV 131 and is willing to send that to me, I'd appreciate that very much.

William Hoffman wrote (May 24, 2013):
Will Hoffan replied to David Jones:
Yo Tomita, Bach Bibliography (http://www.qub.ac.uk/music-cgi/bach1.pl):

9. Herz, Gerhard: BWV 131: Bach's first cantata. [fs]Geiringer70 (1970), 272-291
Landon, H. C. Robbins; Chapman, Roger E. (eds.): Studies in eighteenth-century music. A tribute to Karl Geiringer on his seventieth birthday. [fs]Geiringer70 (1970), 425p
I'll try to check it out from Univ. of New Mexico Library tomorrow.

10. Herz, Gerhard: BWV 131: Bach's First Cantata (1970). StudMcol 73 (1985), 127-148

David D. Jones wrote (June 17, 2013):
Today's Cantata: BWV 131

At last we come to one of my absolute favorites: Aus Der Tiefe rufe ich zu dir. One of Bach's earliest cantatas from the Mühlhausen period, I did extensive research for my discussion leading on this particular piece. Here are Joshua Rifkin's thoughts on the context of this piece; it is hypothesized that it was written for a penitential service. Mr. Rifkin calls this a "useful fiction". The two questions that I posed to Joshua Rifkin, Markus Rathey, Robin Leaver and a whole slew of Lutheran pastors were these:
1. I can't find an exact rite for a penitential service. Could you give me some context and share with me the propers for such a services?
2. Why would the Lutheran Christians of Bach's day have a penitential service for something that was akin to a natural disaster and wasn't their fault?
Here are the responses:
Joshua Rifkin:
Do not worry about the phrase "penitential service"; it is nothing more than a useful fiction.

We do not know the occasion for which Bach wrote BWV 131. The nature of the text, however, suggests an event of some solemnity -- and if not one of the usual Sundays or feast days (which he does not indicate), then a special service. The order of such a service would presumably have been fairly standard; but again, we really do not know anything.

Christians do, however, do penitence for ills visited on them, whether they knowingly caused them or not; there are always such services, for instances, after natural disasters. I hope this is of some help.

My Reply:
It is, although I am curious as to what makes you doubt this particular contextual assertion
JR:
It is not that I doubt it -- it's certainly a very plausible interpretation.

< But we shouldn't treat something so general as a "penitential service" as fact; certainly, it makes no sense to try to establish the specifics. >
I didn't think what he said was particularly helpful. My reply:

Understood. I don't know how helpful it is to necessarily have yet another Bach piece in a contextual vacuum, but I hear you loud and clear. Thanks for being kind enough to write! I wasn't sure you'd get back to me; I'll
remember your kindness.

Robin Leaver:


Thank you for your email. I do not have time to answer in detail but at least I can give you some information.

The Lutheran churches in Saxony, and elsewhere, regularly called for "Buss Tagen." It is important to distinguish "Busse" and "Beichte." The ELCA "service of corporate confession and forgiveness" is a modern version of "Beichte," which in Bach's time was individual confession at Saturday Vespers before taking Communion the following day. "Buss-Tagen" were a regular occurrence but were also called on special occasions, such as in response to fire, flood, pestilence, war, or some other disaster. They were church services of prayer and preaching, apparently no set order. For example, the *Gothaisches Kirchen-Buch* [2nd ed.] (Gotha, 1724) simply gives a long prayer for such occasions - 7 pages long! - "Gebet an solnnen Buss-Tagen."

Hope this is helpful.

–RAL

Markus Rathey answered my questions thus:

Dear Mr. Jones,

Thanks you very much for your e-mail. BWV 131 is indeed a fascinating-and also difficult piece. Difficult because we do not know for what occasion it was originally written. The assumption that is was written for a "penitential service" is unfounded. It is based on an a-historical chain of arguments: As you probably know, parts of the city of Mühlhausen were destroyed in a fire in 1707. Charles Sanford Terry assumed in his Bach-biography that the city must have commemorated this event in a penitential service at the day of the anniversary of the fire on May 30, 1708, during which BWV 131 might have been performed. Alfred Dürr, in his book on Bach's cantatas, refutes this assumption and argues that the style of BWV 131 rather points to 1707 than to a later date in 1708.

I have shown a few years ago in an article in Bach-Jahrbuch (2006) that we can rule out the hypothesis of a penitential service in 1708 entirely. In my article, I have published a list that was printed in 1708 and that contains all the penitential services for the year: Good Friday, July 10, Sept. 11, and Nov 30. There is no sign of a penitential service in commemoration of the fire from 1707.

As for Dürr's thesis, there is no evidence for a special service in 1707 either. We have detailed records from the archives in Mühlhausen (I have done extensive research there myself) and if there had been a special penitential service, there would have been some kind of paper trail. To make a long story short, we don't know for what occasion Bach composed BWV 131. The remark on the title page make unequivocally clear that it was "commissioned" (whatever that means in this context) by Eilmar; everything else is conjecture.

As for the penitential services in general, they were an integral part of the liturgical calendar in the Lutheran church year. The purpose was to remind the congregation of their sins and to ask God for forgiveness. In fact, until a few years ago, a "Day of Repentance and Prayer" (Buss- und Bettag) was still an official holyday in Germany! The liturgy of these days of repentance revolved around prayers and scripture readings. We don't know exactly what such a service would have looked like in 1707/1708 but we have a general outline from a Mühlhausen source that describes a penitential service in 1641:

"[...] Zu Anfang ward gesungen: Komm heil'ger Geist, dernach die Collecte: Schaff in mir Gott etc., darauf die Litanei, darnach die Col­lecte: Hilf uns, Gott unsers Heils etc. Anstatt der Epistel ward gelesen der 51. Psalm, danach ward gesungen: Erbarme dich mein, du Herre Gott etc., oder: Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält etc. Danach ward gelesen: Daniel Cap. IV, Vers 4-20, dann gesungen: Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ etc. Die Predigt war aus dem Propheten Joel. Nach der Predigt ward gesungen: Nimm von uns, Herr Gott etc., hierauf: Wenn wir in höchsten Nöthen etc., oder: Wäre Gott der Herr nicht mit uns diese Zeit etc., unter der Communion: Jesus Christus unser Hei­land etc., zum Ausgange: Erhalt uns Herr bei deinem Wort. Nachmit­tags war der Anfang wie des Morgens; nach der Litanei ward gelesen das 26. Capitel aus dem 3. Buch Mosis, oder das 28. Capitel aus dem 5. B[uch] M[osis], danach gesungen: Vater unser im Himmelreich etc., oder: Erbarme dich mein, o Herre Gott etc., darauf die Predigt Evang. Lucae am 13. Nach der Predigt wurde gesungen: Nimm von uns Herr etc., Darnach: Aus tiefer Noth schrei' ich zu dir etc., zum Ausgang: Erhalt' uns Herr bei deinem Wort etc." (Jordan, *Chronik der Stadt Mühlhausen* III, 94-96)

He also sent me a copy of his article in the Bach Jahrbook, in German unfortunately.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 17, 2013):
David Jones wrote:
< We don’t know exactly what such a service would have looked like in 1707/1708 but we have a general outline from a Mühlhausen source that describes a penitential in 1641: >
It's worth outlining this service, for it shows that is a normal Lutheran Mass such as would be celebrated in the "closed' penitential season of Lent:

Introit: Komm, Hel'ger Geist
Litany [replaces Kyrie and Gloria in Advent and Lent]
Collect: chanted Prayer of the Day
Epistle: Psalm 51 [German "Miserere Mei" - penitential psalm] is sung
instead of a New Testament reading
Hymn of the Day [Gradual] Erbarme Dich - with two other options
Gospel: Luke 13
[Cantata?]
Hymn before the Sermon: Allein Zu dir
Sermon
Chancel Offertory Hymn: Nimm Von Uns
[Preface and Sanctus
[Lord's Prayer]
[Words of Institution]
Hymn during Communion: Jesus Christus Unser Heiland]
[Post-Communion Prayer]
[Blessing]
[Final Hymn]

This mass could have been celebrated on any day of the week that was designated as a Buss-Tag. A cantata such as BWV 131 could easily have been performed after the Gospel. Note that the Psalm 51 was sung (in chant?) instead of the Epistle reading. "Miserere Mei" was one of the Seven Penitential Psalms. BWV 131 is a German adaptation of "De Profundis", another psalm from the set.

David D. Jones wrote (June 17, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thanks Doug! I've been needing a historical context!

William Hoffman wrote (June 17, 2013):
[To David Jones] Bach's penitential chorale settings

Penitence and Amendment (Confession, Penitence & Justification)
OB/Title/Uses
67. "Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir" (Zahn 4438); CC BWV 38, BWV 686-7(OBIII), BWV 1099(NC)*
68. "Erbarm' dich mein, O Herre Gott" (Psalm 51); BWV 305(PC), 721(MC)*
69. "Jesu, der du meine Seele"; BWV 352-4(PC), BWV 752(MC)-D; Krebs, Krebs-WV 53*
70. "Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ"; CC BWV 33, BWV 261(PC), BWV 1100 (NC)*
71. "Ach Gott und Herr"; BWV 255(PC), BWV 692-3(KC, J.G. Walther); BWV 714* (MC in NC)
72. "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut"; CC BWV 113, BWV 334(PC); ?BWV1114(NC); Zachow, LV 11*
73. "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder," melody "Herzlich tut, mich verlangen"; CC BWV 127, BWV 270-71(PC), BWV 742(MC, NC)*
74. "Wo soll ich fliehen hin"; CC BWV 5, BWV646(SC)=188/6, 694(KC)* cf."Auf meinen lieben Gott," OB136
75. "Wir haben schwerlich" (Zahn 2099) (no NLGB);
76. BWV 637 - Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt; BWV 705(KC); 1101(NC), alt. mel. "Ich ruf zu dir, H.J.C." (OB91, BWV 639
77. BWV 638 - Es ist das Heil uns kommen her; CC BWV 9(Tr.6)

Saturday Penitential Vespers: Vesper Penitential Psalms, 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, and 143
-- "Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen"; BWV 256(PC); BWV 770(CP-spurious)
-- "Christe, du Beistand deiner Kreuzgemeine"; BWV 275(PC)
-- "Eins ist not! ach Herr, dies eine"; BWV 304(PC), BWV 453(SG)
-- "Erwürgtes Lamm, das die verwahrtwn Siegel"; BWV 455(SG)
-- "Herr, ich habe Mißgehandelt"; BWV 247/32=?BWV 330-31(PC)
-- "Herr, nicht schicke deine Rache"; BWV 463(SG)
-- "Mache dich, mein Geist bereit" (mel.), "Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn" (Psalm 6); CC BWV 115
-- "Mein Jesu, dem die Seraphinen"; BWV 486(SG)
-- "Wo ist mein Schäflein, das ich liebe"; BWV 507(SG)
-- "Tilge, Höchester, meine Sunden" (Psalm 51, motet; Pergolesi Stabat mater, Vesper hymn, BWV 1083

ABBREVIATIONS

AMB - Anna Magdalena Buch
AS = Alternate setting
CC = Chorale Cantata
CP = Chorale Partitas, BWV 765-771
Cü III = Clavierübung III (Mass & Catechism Chorales), BWV 669-689
D = Doubutful work of JSB
KC = Kirnberger Chorales, BWV 690-713
MC = Miscellaneous Chorale Preludes, 714-64, etc.
NC = Neumeister Chorale Collection, BWV 1090-1120
OB = Orgelbüchlein Collection, BWV 599-644
PC = Plain Chorale, BWV 250-438, etc., c.1730
SBCB = Sebastian Bach's Chorale Buch c.1740
SC = Schubler Chorales, 645-50 1746
SG = Schmelli Gesangbuch 1735
18 = Great 18 (Leipzig) Organ Chorale Collection, BWV 651-668

CH = Communion (& vespers) hymn
GH - Gradual Hymn (between Epistle & Gospel), Hymn de tempore
PH = Pulpit Hymn before sermon

CC = Chorale Cantata, (CC) = Chorale Chorus
EC == Elaborated Chorale setting
Emans = NBA KB IV/10 (2007)
NLGB = Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> 1682 (Gottfried Vopelius)
Z = Johannes Zahn Melody Catalogue

* OB substitute. Muziekwetenschap - De cantus firmi in de Noord- en Midden-Duitse koraalbewerkingen
"De cantus firmi in de Noord- en Midden-Duitse koraalbewerkingen voor orgel van 1625 tot 1750"
door drs. J.A. van Pelt

William Hoffman wrote (June 18, 2013):
Will Hoffman writes to Douglas Cowling:
Expaning on Doug Cowling's last paragraph below, is it possible that the daily penitential Mass, possibly on Saturdays before the vespers penitence service leading to Sunday communion Mass could have included special penitential music? Besides the Cantata 131 setting of the de profundis (Psalm 130), there is the Psalm 51 adaptation, "Tilge, Hoechster," BWV 1083 (c.1745) and the arrangement of Conti's "Languet anima mea" (1724 added organ continuo part for church service). This is special service music that Bach provided as part of a well-ordered church music, like the weekly catechism service music of the Clavieruebung III chorales. Other music could have involved:

Bach's penitential chorale settings

Penitence and Amendment (Confession, Penitence & Justification)
OB/Title/Uses
67. "Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir" (Zahn 4438); CC BWV 38, BWV 686-7(OBIII), BWV 1099(NC)*
68. "Erbarm' dich mein, O Herre Gott" (Psalm 51); BWV 305(PC), 721(MC)*

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 18, 2013):
Penitential Music

William Hoffman wrote:
< Is it possible that the daily penitential Mass, possibly on Saturdays before the vespers penitence service leading to Sunday communion Mass could have included special penitential music? >
The provision of a cantata always seems to indicate a high ranking for the day, either a Sunday or one of the 8 or 9 saints days for which Bach conventionally wrote a cantata.

Was a penitential day a "high holiday" which for which Bach was obligated to write a cantata? The Bodenschatz collection has one motet for a Buss-Tag, so there is provision for a penitential occasion.

The only exception might be might be a royal order for the observance of a penitential service during some national calamity. Were such things ordered in Bach's time. BWV 131 might fall into that category although it
could just as easily be a Lenten or Holy Week cantata.

It also worth pointing out that some of the motets in the Bodenshatz are settings of penitential texts for the pre-Lenten season, Lent and Holy Week, and there are a number of Bach cantatas which can be construed as "penitential" (e.g. "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen.")

David D. Jones wrote (June 18, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug you mean to say that such things were ordered in Bach's time for sure?
natural disaster of any kind was cause or occasion for a penitential service.

Peter Smaill wrote (June 18, 2013):
Penitential Music and disasters

A great turning point in the religious treatment of natural disasters in the mid eighteenth century is the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, which sparked the dispute between the civil authority (the Marquis of Pombal, who saw it as a natural disaster to be overcome by rebuilding ) and the Jesuits led by Malagrida, (who believed it a judgement of God requiring penitential processions and suchlike). For those with an interest in the grisly result of the dispute: http://www.unicamp.br/~jmarques/pesq/Paths_of_Providence.pdf

One sad side effect is that we have as a result of the destruction of the Royal library in Lisbon, only two surviving motets written by the musical King John IV, of which " Crux Fidelis" is polyphony of the highest order.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 18, 2013):
David Jones wrote:
< Doug you mean to say that such things were ordered in Bach's time for sure? >
My question as well.

I suspect that intercessory state occasions declined in the 18th century.That party animal, the young Queen Victoria complained that her Governmenthad decreed a day of national fasting and abstinence. One wonders what a such a custom looked like in late Regency England!

Howe, the liturgical discipline of corporate and individual confession was still alive and well in Bach's time. Bach made his confession every week in preparation before receiving the Sacrament on Sunday.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 18, 2013):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< A great turning point in the religious treatment of natural disasters in the mid eighteenth century is the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 >
Ben Franklin incurred the displeasure of clerics when he invented lightning rods. Their use was considered an impious attempt to thwart divine judgement.

George Bromley wrote (June 18, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] a lightning conductor. (sorry)

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 19, 2013):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< For those with an interest in the grisly result of the dispute: >
Is this the grisly result you had in mind?

<Pombal’s steps in the ascent to almost un
limited power received in fact a decisive
boost from the earthquake.>

Well, it is an ill wind that blows no good, or do I have that mixed up with the definition of the oboe: <An ill wind that nobody blows good.>

Coincidentally, there was also a significant earthquake in New England USA in 1755, fortuitously a bit offshore, but nevertheless with significant damage. An increase in church attendance in subsequent years is documented.

I guess this all gives anecdotal support to the concept of a penitential service.

David D. Jones wrote (June 19, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] I was typing on my tablet so my question didn't come out just right. I know from research that penitential services followed natural disasters in the Lutheran tradition as recently as the early 20th century; There is a 150 year old German Lutheran Church in the next state over, David's Star Lutheran Church, whose steeple was struck by lightning during its building. A penitential service was held immediately after. I tried to get a copy of the agenda for that service, without success.

Julian Minchams wrote (July 23, 2013):
[To David Jones, in response to his intro message above] A bit late as I am clearing up emails I have got behind with. I heard this cantata (along with BWV 199) performed in the Divi Blasii-Kirche Mühlhausen a couple of weeks ago.

Also heard in Ohrdruf a performance of the Goldberg (BWV 988) by the British harpsichordist Steven Devine. Does anyone happen to know if there is a particular system of tuning which he uses?

 

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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Last update: ýOctober 13, 2013 ý08:12:00