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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 134
Ein Herz, das seinen Jesum lebend weiß
Cantata BWV 134a
Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahre macht
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of August 2, 2009

William Hoffman wrote (August 2, 2009):
BWV 134a: New Years in Köthen

While Bach scholars have spent much of the 20th century seeking some 100 presumed lost sacred cantatas, the only significant group of vocal works to surface are as many as 24 secular serenades and sacred cantatas Bach possibly composed in Köthen. During his six-year tenure from 1718 to 1723 at the Calvinist Reform Court, Bach possibly produced pairs of secular and sacred vocal pieces for just two occasions: New Year's Day celebrations for the Anhalt-Köthen principality and Prince Leopold's birthday three weeks previous on December 10. These findings are based on court treasury receipts as well as a collection of published poetry, an occasional cantata instrumental part dated to Köthen, and a handful of parodied sacred works with new texts presented during Bach's first year at Leipzig, recycled from dance-infused secular serenades with vocal soloists.

Beyond the appealing pastoral works (BWV 66a, BWV 134a, BWV 173a, BWV 184a, BWV 194a), the overall Bach Köthen cantata picture is still greatly fragmented, with only remnants and suppositions based on scattered circumstantial and collateral evidence. The picture for the annual New Year's secular serenades, one quarter or six works, is the most substantial:

1/1/18 ?BWV Anh. 197 "Ihr wallenden Wolken"; lost, no text, incipt cited in Forkel estate 1819.
1/1/19 BWV 134a "Die Zeit, die Tag, die Jahre macht"; reconstructed from BWV 134, Hunold text
1/1/20 BWV Anh. 6 "Dich loben die lieblichen Strahlen der Sonne"; Hunold text only, no music
1/1/21 BWV 194a ?"Hochsterwünschtes Freudenfest"; no text, 6 dance arias in BWV 194
1/1/22 BWV 184a "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht"; 5 mvts. survive in BWV 184
1/1/23 BWV Anh. 8 title unknown ?= BWV 184a (repeat)

For the December 10 Prince Leopold Birthday celebrations, here is an accounting of the secular serenades:

12/10/17 existence uncertain
12/10/18 BWV 66a, "Der Himmel dach auf Anhalts Ruhm & Glück"; 4 mvts. survive in BWV 66
12/10/19 existence uncertain ("So bringt, Durchlauchtigster Leopold" Hunold text only)
12/10/20 BWV Anh. 7, "Heut ist gewiß ein gutter Tag"; Hunold text only
12/10/21 existence uncertain
12/10/22, BWV 173a, "Durchlauchster Leopold"; text poet unknown, survives complete as BWV 173

The picture of the 12 presumed sacred works cannot be determined other than one cantata: BWV Anh. 5, "Lobet den Herrn, alle seine Herrscharen" (Ps.130:21), presented on December 10, 1718. Only Hunold's seven-movement festival cantata text for a sacred service, presumably at the Calvinist Jacobi church, survives. Based on the survival of performing parts, four cantatas composed in Weimar may have been reperformed at Köthen sacred services on December 10 or January 1: BWV 21, "Ich hatte viel Bekümernis," Trin.+34 or anytime; BWV 199 "Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut," Trin.+11; BWV 172; "Erschallet, ihr Lieder...erklinget," Pent.; and BWV 132, "Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn," Adv. 4. Cantatas BWV 21 and BWV 172 may have been performed on Dec, 23, 1720, during Bach's Hamburg probe.

Also, movements from four Leipzig sacred cantatas may have been originated in Köthen, although the evidence is based solely on musical style. According to Friedrich Smend, <Bach in Köthen> (Eng. Ed. 1985), they are BWV 32, BWV 145, BWV 190, and BWV 193. Also, Christoph Wolff in <The New Grove Bach Family> 1983, p. 70) suggests that Bach may have been involved in the presentation of a sacred cantata in May 1719 at the dedication festival of the Köthen Lutheran Agneskirchke, based on a church bill. In addition, in the summer of 1721 and 1722, Bach may have been involved in festive cantata presentations at neighboring principalities: a homage cantata for Friedrich II of Saxe-Gotha, August 2, 1721; a church performance at the Schleiz Court of Heinrich XI Count von Reuss, around August 10, 1721; and a birthday cantata, O vergnügte Stunden, raphs from my BCW Article, "Bach's Dramatic Music: Royal Court at Köthen: Serenades" in: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/HoffmanBachDramaII.htm

Alfred Dürr (Bach Cantatas, p. 21f) says the Köthen works "chiefly belong to the `serenata' type," "a species of mini-opera with modest dramatic action," with possible scenic representation. They consist almost entirely of dialogue for allegorical characters, "gods or shepherds, who praise the excellence of the prince and unite at the end in general good wishes." Musically, they "assume the lightly draped, cheerful character of their poetic texts. Dance-like melodies are often heard." The dramatic nature of the serenata, says Dürr, involves duet passages, musical design involving the choir division into concertists and ripienists in BWV 66a and BWV 134a, and recitative narrative introducing arioso lyrical reflection.

Significant is the element of dance in the five Hunold-texted works as well as another five composed after his death in the summer of 1721. The poet is unknown but the music survives in three works parodied as sacred cantatas in 1724 in Leipzig, Bach's first known efforts at text substitution. All five extant cantatas have dance-like character in their arias and closing tutti "choruses": BWV 194a, ?1/1/1723 (pastorale, gavotte, gigue, minuet); BWV 66a, 12/10/1718 (gigue-passapied, pastorale), BWV 173a, 12/10/1722 (gavotte, minuet, bourree, gavotte, polonaise), BWV 184a, ?1/1/1722 (minuet, polonaise, gavotte); and BWV 134a, 1/1/19 (gigue, minuet, gigue). Only some of the performing orchestral parts survive in the parts sets of the parodied sacred counterparts to BWV 184a and BWV 194a. Cantata BWV 194a (?1/1/1721), has a French Overture and four arias derived from an instrumental dance suite, as well as BWV 184a (?1/1/1722), and BWV 173a (12/10/22).

Another characteristic is the demanding music for both the vocal soloists and the orchestra. Wolff points out (JSB:TLM, p. 198) the solos and elaborate duets in the form of allegorical dialogues between Fame and Fortune in BWV 66a, and Divine Providence Time in BWV 134a. The lost pastoral dialogue, Cantata BWV Anh. 7 has three allegorical figures in Hunold's text: the shepherdess Sylvia, the huntsman Phillis, and the shepherd Thyrsis. This 10-movement work (no music survives) alternating recitatives and arias, including a terzett and a closing tutti, was probably performed on December 10, 1720, and was Hunold's last collaboration with Bach. Wolff also notes the challenging orchestral music for four-part strings and pairs of oboes or flutes (Bach's first use in place of recorders). There is no surviving music or texts for New Year's Cantatas BWV Anh. 197 (?1/1/1718 or 1722), and BWV Anh. 8 (?1/1/1723), a "Musicalisches Drama."

Cantata BWV 134a is quite typical of Bach's earliest serenades, composed in Köthen. It begins with a plain recitative announcement instead of a sacred chorus dictum; the plain recitatives are dramatic dialogues, the arias are often derived from dances; and the entire ensemble unites only at the end in an interchange between the two allegorical figures and the four tutti singers in celebration in 3/8 gigue time.

NEW YEAR: BWV 134a, Die Zeit, die Tag und Jahr macht [Serenade, Chorus, Parodied]
1/1/1719, Prince Leopold of Köthen; formely titled "Mit Gnaden bekröne" (#2); score lost,
text survives, parodied in BWV 134, "Ein Herz das seinen Jesum, Easter Tuesday, 4/11/1724
(#3 new); 134-II, 4/15/1727, 4/9/1728, 4/11/1730 (#5 new); 134-III, 3/27/1731 (#1 new, #3 altered)
Text: Hunold II serenata, dialog (Zeit & Göttliche Vorsehung, Time & Divine Providence)
Lit.: BG XXIX, Anh. incomplete (Waldersee 1881); NBA I/35 complete (Dürr 1964); Whittaker II:518-20; Smend, Bach in Köthen, 43-49; Dürr:809-815
Forces: TA, 4vv, 2 ob., str, bc
Movements: 3 arias (T, TA, A), 4 recits. (all TA), chorus
1. Rec. (TA): The time, the day and year make (parodied in 134-I-II/1
2. Aria (T, tutti): With gifts Heaven may crown (BWV 134-I-III/2, gigue)
3. Rec. (TA): House of the times (BWV 134-I)
4. Aria (TA, str): There strive, there conquer the future (BWV 134-I-III/4, minuet)
5. Rec. (TA): Remember now, fortunate land (not in BWV 134)
6. Aria (A): The times, Lord, have many pleasing hours (not in BWV 134)
7. Rec. (TA): Help, highest, help, that me, men praise (BWV 134-I/5)
8. Chs. (tutti): Resound, ye heavens (BWV 134-I-II/6), gigue).

The other two original Köthen New Year's serenades, BWV 194a and BWV 184a, cannot be reconstructed as neither the original text nor the basso continuo parts are extant. From the surviving music parodied in Leipzig, both originated as dialogue works with duets, while BWV 194a, like the complete BWV 134a, is an extended work with 11 movements involving six arias all set to dance forms and probably based on a Köthen orchestral suite beginning with a French Overture.

There is little evidence to help determine the fate of the five lost Köthen works, three of which have texts and would have been found in their subsequent parodied counterparts. Apparently Bach had no further use for these four serenades and a sacred cantata. Thus five Köthen serenades do survive in parodied form as sacred works in Bach's first Leipzig church year cycle for the festivals of Easter, Pentecost, and Trinity Sunday, as part of Bach's well-appointed church music, while the other five served their original purpose and were not salvaged by Bach the Borrower. Perhaps the works simply remained in the Köthen court library as property of their owner and dedicatee, where Bach visited in 1726 and 1729, and eventually were consigned to ashes by Prince Leopold's successor.

For more information on Cantata BWV 134a, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV134a.htm

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 2, 2009):
Introductory remarks on Cantatas 134a and 134

I will divide my introductions to BWV 134a and BWV 134 as follows:

Cantata 134a:

Sunday:
1. A lonesome exordium on parodies... with no further development

Monday:
2. A seeming inappropriate introduction to the libretto of BWV 134a

Tuesday:
3. Cantata BWV 134a in the present time

Cantata 134:

Wednesday:
1. Respect the pertaining Bible readings connected with Cantata BWV 134, and what, from them, can be properly said before listening to such a masterpiece

Thursday:
2. A word in honor of the "general" purpose of Cantata BWV 134

Friday:
3. The Cantata 134 through the lens of its highest purpose

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 2, 2009):
1. A lonesome exordium on parodies... with no further development

In the realm of a cultivated creativity, there is no place for a green adaptation, since a mature ability is able to transfigure every previous achievements through the same refined talent that brought it into light. Without taking it into consideration, our reasons could be wasted in inefficient diversions, prompting questions that are irrelevant for whatever purpose the artist had in mind for his different versions. Now, the Occident should never had forgotten what engraved its civilization, but since it decided to revolve its culture till finding something opposed; since, through a new predominance of sophistry, it decided to implode itself into chaos, more than never it is necessary to revive the roots of a well-balanced inquiry, which learned what Socrates had indirectly taught, the importance of a pertinent question, without forgetting the Savior who, giving us the truth and the condition to understand it, freed us from the chains of doubt with its unending aporias.

Let us, therefore, disentangle our minds from whatever could sterilize the earth, giving place for the seeds of fruitful aims, this way finding, through downcast eyes, what a misleading lordly one cannot see, the profound sense, which, although elsewhere affirmed non-existent, still beckons at us, waiting to be properly understood, in what we are charged to say on cantata BWV 134a and its parody.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 2, 2009):
Henri N. Levinsopuhl wrote:
>[...]more than never it is necessary to revive the roots of a well-balanced inquiry, which learned what Socrates had indirectly taught, the importance of a pertinent question, without forgetting the Savior who, giving us the truth and the condition to understand it, freed us from the chains of doubt with its unending aporias. <
I ask the thoughtful reader to ponder the internal contradictions, which may be the result of linguistic and/or logic compromise, rather than lack of good intention. OTOH, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, as some wag once said. As some other wag pointed out, it is a road we all inevitably tread, acccording to the laws of thermodynamics and theologics.

The unique irony of Socrates and the Savior selected for comparison, I will credit as fully intended, if perhaps misunderstood. Consider their outcome, and its origin. Social misfits.

Which one to follow? Socrates, in a heartbeat (or failure thereof, via the painless poison).

As both Socrates and the Savior might have said: Question Authority. I do not find aporias in my American English Dictionary. Elucidation invited.

William Hoffman wrote (August 3, 2009):
BWV 134a: More New Year's in Köthen

Of Bach's annual secular cantatas for New Year's in Köthen, 1718-23, only three dates are confirmed: BWV 134a, 1719; BWV Anh. 6, 1720; and BWV Anh. 8, 1723, with the last work possibly a duplicate of BWV 184a, a New Year's work which has been variously dated to 1721, 1722, or 1723.

Only one New Year's work, the serenade BWV 134a, survives complete, with music and text. Music only but no text survive for Cantatas BWV 184a and BWV 194a. Only text but no music survive for BWV Anh. 6.

There are several common characteristics among Bach's New Year's vocal works praising Prince Leopold and his domain. It is utility music for celebratory occasions with appropriate if lackluster texts. The basic character of these chamber operas as serenades involves dance-style pastoral arias and often allegorical figures in unaccompanied recitatives. While the music was designed for one particular occasion, Bach was able, as Handel did in celebratory early Italian cantatas and oratorios, to salvage some of the music, Bach by parody or text substitution, Handel by transcription or adaptation.

The size of Bach's Köthen works involve a small orchestra of pairs of flutes or oboes plus strings and only two to four voices. Meanwhile, these works with their alternating recitatives and arias in the Italian style often ran longer than Bach's sacred cantatas, more than half an hour. Thus, while Bach in Köthen took an extended holiday from composing chorale-driven church cantatas on a regular basis, we have extensive evidence that he perfected the art of extended arias and recitatives, adopted the more modern gallant style of dance music, and crafted appealing yet challenging vocal and instrumental music for the immediate occasion.

NEW YEARS: BWV Anh. 6, Dich loben die lieblichen Strahlen der Sonne [MUSIC LOST]
1/1/1720 Prince Leopold; score lost text extant
Text: Christian Friedrich Hunold (Menantes) III (Halle, 1720)
Literature: NBA I/35 KB (Dürr 1964); Smend, Bach in Köthen (1985 ed.), Dürr Cantatas (2005: 798),
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh6.htm
Movements: 6 arias, 5 recitatives
1. Aria: You praise the loving beams of the Sun
2. Recit.: The eyes, the sun's luster to see
3. Aria: How loving is to Anhalt's well-being
4. Rec.: Who not the light's beauty praises
5. Aria: We are deceived by night
6. Recit.: Yes, what delight, consider how
7. Aria: (same first line as 3 and 9)
8. Recit.: O hope, the compact is
9. Aria: (same first line as 3 and 7)
10. Recit: The whole Creator must you acknowledge
11. Aria: So beam glorious, Prince-Sun (da capo)

NEW YEARS: BWV 184a, possibly "Erwünschtes Freudenlicht" (text lost, parodied)
1/1/1721-23, Prince Leopold; text lost; parodied in BWV 184, Erwünschtes Freudenlicht, 5/30/24, Pent. Tues.); instr. parts survive: 2 fl., vns, vcl bc frag. (cf. NBA I/14)
Text: lost; BWV 184a=?BWV Anh. 8, 1/1/1723 (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh8.htm)
Literature: NBA I/14 KB (Dürr 1963), I/35 KB (Dürr 1964); Smend, Bach in Köthen (1985:60-63), Dürr Cantatas (2005:798), http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV184a.htm
Forces (BWV 184): SAT, 4 vv, 2 fl, str, bc
Movements (surviving): 2 arias (SA, T), chorus, ?3 recits
1. Rec. (?S, fls.): Wished-for Joy-Light =BWV 184/1
2. Aria (SA, fls, str): (minuet) =BWV 184/2
3. Rec. (?S): =BWV 184/3
4. Aria (T, vn.,): (polonaise) =BWV 184/4
5. Rec.: (?B): not parodied in BWV 184
6. Chorus (?SB, tutti): (gavotte): =BWV 184/6

?NEW YEARS: BWV 194a, possibly "Hochster wünschtes Freuden fest" (text lost, parodied]
?1/1/1722 Prince Leopold; text lost, instr. parts survive: 3 ob., str
parodied in BWV 194, "Hochsterwünschtes Freudenfest" (og. ded. 11/11/1723), Trinity (1724)
Text: unknown (not Menantes, d.1721)
Literature: NBA I/35 KB (Dürr 1964); Smend, Bach in Köthen (1985:123-27), Dürr Cantatas (2005:798),
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV194a.htm
Forces (BWV 194): STB, 4vv, 3 ob. (2 fl.), str., bc w/bn.
Movements: tutti, 5 arias, 5 recits.
1. Aria (tutti): "Highest Wished-for Joy-Feast" (French overture) = BWV 194/1
2. Rec. (?B):
3. Aria (B, fls, str): (pastorale-siciliano) =BWV 194/3
4. Rec. (?S):
5. Aria (?S, str): (gavotte) =BWV 194/5
6. Rec. (?T):
7. Aria (?T): (gigue) =BWV 194/8
8. Rec. (?S):
9. Aria (?SB): (minuet) =BWV 194/10
10. Rec. (?B):
11. Aria: (?B, 3 ob. str.): (minuet) replaced by chorale, BWV 194/12

In all, it is quite pleasing and accessible music which Bach was able to transform into church-year cantatas in Leipzig. Who knows? Perhaps if Bach had been able to remain in Köthen a while longer, he might have composed full-length operas and eventually move on to the Catholic Saxon Court in Dresden, usurping Hasse and competing with that German fella in London!

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 3, 2009):
2. A seeming inappropriate introduction to the libretto of BWV 134a

A merely informative result from the most extensive researches furnishes preparatory paths for a possible accomplished work in the vastness of art and culture, being information nothing more than a step to apprehend selectively a kind of raw material in the process of creation. Apart from understanding it humbly, scholarship would be too much self-satisfied with itself, till the point of harming the culture severely. For scholarship may be blessed for what it does, but never for what it elusively thought to have done; it is blessed when ascribed to its proper place, but never when tries to conquer all. For culture is creation, not merely data, and no nation will ever be able to prompt its golden age if refuses to unroll the carpet of cultural importance to the most benefic creations, and if, on the contrary, it chastens the salutary fruits of gifted conceptions through an official power that refuses to recognize them. Culture is not like populists, sophistically established; for every craft to supplant what is worthy turns a nation unworthy. A salutary nation is just in prompting a place to whatever dignity it finds, and therefore justice is not "evolution", not the fight of conquering, but to give the right place of honor to what is honorable. For what is worthy is not necessarily skillful to appear likewise, and only when sagacity is ashamed of occupying the place of honor, refusing to win in order to deny itself, only this way a civilization may emerge in its golden age.

But if the exact opposite is now a principle and a praxis, can we avoid a continuous debasement in almost every single nation in the world? Or is it not true that whatever seeks desperately for power in order to dominate will destroy to conquer its dominion? The empire of sophistry is a delusion, a corrupted balance of divers weighs and divers measures, the prevalence of indignity to the damage of multitudes dragged by a complete confusion of slanders and malice, but the world is choosing such an empire, because iniquity is growing; and iniquity chooses badly, as evildoers chooses evil; and when evil is chosen to govern, evil incriminates goodness, and that is why the present age claims to change the laws. But good is the pillar of culture, whether intellectuals recognize it or not, and without goodthere is only debasement under the prevalence of the seeming superiority of the worse, which sophistically gains the podium it should not occupy.

The tragedy of culture is an emancipation that does not help it, like a house "released" from its pillars! The culture is falling, and everything is being called culture, since everything is achieving ideologically the right of seeming even without being culture.

But now, if someone, in a seemingly appropriate fury, defied us to prove in what extent the precedent lines have any connection with the libretto, and adding that, contrariwise, we have entirely forgotten it, we would remind him that someone in this list has said that the libretto of this cantata was "rather forgettable" - and so, according to his judgment, are we worthy of being accused of having forgotten the libretto, or, more accurately, has such a judgment reproached... the libretto?

One of the greatest illusions of the present age is the idea it has an extraordinary ability to judge the precedents, above all debasing their wisdom. Our age embraced the idea that any kind of malice against wisdom and virtue is an excellent psychological insight. And all this has a base, or even several foundations like evolution in science, or the materialistic creed in an almost metaphysical historical progress, toward what liberalism fight with all its honorable militant lies and astuteness. The past had his villainies, for sure, but perhaps could, if it had a voice, stand up against the present age, saying that, except for the amount of villainy, the present stage of "evolution" could be rather forgettable. We are not endorsing the past against our age, which nevertheless would gain a great deal with a bit more of humbleness.

So, let us subsequently respect the libretto, and, according to the highest purposes of Cantata 134a, speak about the duet between Time and Divine Providence.

Jean Laaninen wrote (August 3, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
< The past had his villainies, for sure, but perhaps could, if it had a voice, stand up against the present age, saying that, except for the amount of villainy, the present stage of "evolution" could be rather forgettable. We are not endorsing the past against our age, which nevertheless would gain a great deal with a bit more of humbleness.
So, let us subsequently respect the libretto, and, according to the highest purposes of Cantata 134a, speak about the duet between Time and Divine Providence. >
Thank you for making these points, Henri. I do not think this libretto is so forgettable, but rather another piece of the story which Bach was once again sharing through his work. I find the final chorus most excellent.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 3, 2009):
Henri N. Levinsopuhl wrote:
< someone in this list has said that the libretto of this cantata was "rather forgettable" >

Specific reference? I am unable to find the description forgettable in the BCW archives, with respect to BWV 134 or BWV 134a. Incidentally, I wonder whether Henris defense against this characterization is specific to BWV 134a, as indicated in the subject line, or is it also/instead intended to apply to the subsequent sacred parody, BWV 134?

In any case, I question the logic (both theo- and secular) inherent in the defense. The relevance of the librettos to this discussion list applies strictly to Bachs music, not to the absolute verity of any of the texts. Please note, this is not to question the spiritual value of Bachs music (both sacred and secular) to his own 18th C. Leipzig Lutheran culture, and ongoing through our increasingly global and ecumenical perspective.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 3, 2009):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< Thank you for making these points, Henri. >
You're welcome, dear Jean.
And I also do thank you for reading them with a good grace.

Respectfully,

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 3, 2009):
I previously wrote, in response to Joel Figen, available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/BCML-2008-2.htm
>The Sermons and homilies of the time [Bach's] are long forgotten. These (cantata) texts tell us why: they pretty much sucked. The cantata texts would be forgotten too, but for one thing: Bach's music.<
From my samplings, the sermons and homilies of today are equally forgettable. I might have groped for more delicate language, but I agree with Joel in principle: it is the music which inspires and endures, not the accompanying sermons. I would also suggest that the Biblical texts that Bach set are the most durable, as texts, pretty much covered by Joels thoughtful (or lucky) <pretty much>.

I expect it may be this exchange which Henri characterized as a reference to the libretto of BWV 134a as rather forgettable?

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 4, 2009):
3. Cantata BWV 134a in the present time

Not absorbed in historical minutia, but in apprehension of good, life sees things his own way, and do not trust in objective distance, so that, interested in living, and not merely in watching someone else's life, we will, without disdain, put aside the past of Anhalt, for although "there is no remembrance of former things", time still flows and is now, when the blessings renew, and salvation is still said today, being for those who hear his voice, not hardening their hearts, "a noble time, with God's own grace united", and the most providential one. Yea! "Lift up your heads, O gates! And be lifted up, O ancient doors; that the King of glory may come in". For the triumph of time is to surrender to grace, and the triumph of grace is to conquer man in time; inasmuch as, when there is no triumph, the strings are without hearts, whereas light shines when mercy crowns the time, triumphing over judgment in forgiving you, for God has loved you eternally, and now conquers time in you, who thanks him through this pious aria, and for your sake and eternal goodness.

Nevertheless, cantata BWV 134a is sometimes too circumstantial, and in order to apprehend the next recitative existentially, we have to face a real problem. We have no perfection in this world, and will regard our nation blessed if our ruler, even a sinner as a man is, does not cause his people to err, if he is not an astute populist confusing and throwing one class against another with a fusion of flatteries and slanders, and if he is not an oppressive regent. If he at least establishes his throne on peace, without embittering his people through the noxious emphasis on irrelevant differences, not stressing the variance of status and race and richness and rank and culture; if he leads their citizens in loving each other, in an appropriate thought of the highest duty of love, rather than misleading them in an unending and acrimonious strife for an impossible equality, something that can only diffuse an increasing mutual hatred; and if he establishes justice through the just laws we all have received, without needing more than judging according to them, no matter gender and color and status and rank, instead of creating strange commandments against family and innocence, and instead of destroying the equality before the law through the injustice of divers weighs and measures, now nevertheless strangely proclaimed as justice under the excuse of attaining equality - if so, we can sing this recitative in truth. But, in fact, almost every nation nowadays is turning into an easy pray of orators who, far from fearing God, and even far from having a worthy ciceronian eloquence, trust in their fetid ability of deluding the masses with an astute tongue, and, before such a reality, we need some extra vigilance in an evolved world of animal wisdom; for, in such a world, the State is a beast, the beast that, although mortally wounded some decades ago, is being healed to marvel their followers.

We are not before a princely house beaming the light of grace, for even if some abundance remain, there is anxiety in time, and no golden age is expected, although we still praise God on high for his good will. Sure. Fame is, more than ever, a dangerous weapon, and we are in guard befora politician flourishing in the bosom of fame. For the present time does not lack in gifts of favor, but in love for them. Divine Providence would have greater favors to offer in a time of repentance; but this is a time of haughtiness, and fame is an unjust prey in the hands of corruption.

So, the wisdom of the past, as seen in this cantata, is somewhat intempestive, but not because the present time is showing a better and evolved wisdom, for, else, a new advent of iniquity, and a massive and strong delusion spread all over the world, all these are enough to persuade us that if there is a time to laugh and another to weep, there is also a time to rejoice before the trends of a particular nation, but this time is to lament them. Of course, we will not object if a most illustrious list member decide to reveal his nation in a quite different situation, and we are not only disposed to rejoice with him for his luck, but also to strive, in peace, and along with his fortunate nation, to the glory of the Almighty God, as the subsequent aria prompts the lyre. For this stupendous aria fits immensely into such an advantageous situation. Indeed, this wonderful cantata deserved a parody, not because its libretto is forgettable, but because our time is regrettable, as the days, wounded by sin, are frequently evil. On the other hand, if we take back our first fruits in this reflection, we are again before the triumph of time viewed as surrender to grace, being you, propitious reader, the one through whom God now conquers the time, both rejoicing, God in his triumph for your sake, and you in thankfulness for his glory, in a sweet dispute of jest, in a vivacious merriment that transcends these evil days, and empower you with enough cheer to combat peacefully for God's honor in a world that continually blasphemes of his sacred name.

For this is an age whose wisdom is not godly, and the spring of culture is no more; and if God still works, there is not a general perception of his benefaction; if periods of peace are still shared throughout the globe, it is as from a provisional treaty among enemies; for purity is now an isolated instance, an exception before the increasing of defiled minds; and harmony is presently chaos; stability, a promise of populists; prosperity is overtaxed; and poverty, embittered and deluded. Naturally, the drama has not reached its climax yet, being still possible to stifle anxiety and despair through a kind of Dionysian forgetfulness. But who believes in the optimistic previsions of Enlightenment anymore? As a hope, human science is destroying, even if not purposely, the nature as never before, and no brake is able to stop the acceleration of a scientifically robust sin. If faith still rejoices, it is not refusing to acknowledge the disastrous paths of humanity, but because it relieves itself in God, as Bach's music has taught us to do many times. Bach's cantatas are not a Dionysian way of affirming the life of sin, not a predominance of the unconscious and lethargic, but of conscience and opened eyes. Aesthetically, to jollify was to indulge in an immediate and unreflectively celebration, ready and at hand for those who want merely an easy laughter. But such is a state of slumber, during which conscience is suspended. So, even if joy is a Christian virtue and a fruit of the Holy Spirit, it needs not to avoid conscious reflection, but to transcend it, finding a solid reason to merriment. For the conscious of sin is not propitious to joy, but to sadness; yet, simply to avoid it is a delusion and a great deviation. A pious joy is found after facing the most earnest sorrow, for grace is spirit after flesh, life after death, virtue after repentance and merriment after lament. That is why Christianity is not a desperation, but a winning over it; not an oblivion of heavy drinkers, but cheerful conscience of God.

So, even if our time is neither majestic nor alluring as a blooming youth, Divine Providence is still offering both the covenant of grace and his pure wisdom to strengthen us before the future, and we are at least content of not lacking God, to whom we pray with ardent wishes, so that, tending to us, our worship is kindled in heartfelt love for him, as the penultimate recitative remarks.

On the other hand, it is indeed possible that you, predisposed list member, experimenting a personal golden season, are delighted under the heaven, reaping the happiness you've sown, prosper in health and dancing your minuet of affection; and we salute your blissful moments, even more if God found in your heart a privileged place to rejoice with you. In this case, you are perhaps under the proper affect to be guided through this cantata; for God, who had stored the happy moments of your life, is a shield to your unharmed gladness, so that we plead him to conserve your peace along with that prudence through which no joy will harm your soul. Let your joy be blessed, and let faith works through divine love in your breast, and may you be so noble as an honored gracefully prince, both celestial and terrestrial gladness in harmony of innocence!

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 4, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
< [...] merriment that transcends these evil days, and empower you with enough cheer to combat peacefully for God's honor in a world that continually blasphemes of his sacred name. >
>For this is an age whose wisdom is not godly, and the spring of culture is no more; and if God >still works [...]

Durr points out the relation between the text of BWV 134a/7, and Lamentations 3:23. <The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning [...]> (RSV, Lamentations, 3:22-23)

The RSV also points out in a footnote that the original Hebrew (given as Syr Tg) is more literally translated we are not cut off.

To my ears and mind, the fundamental optimism of this simple language is diluted in the BWV 134a libretto (though not in the music itself). To suggest that the language of the libretto is forgettable is not necessarily to demean the underlying ideas, so much as to question the poetry of expression, that is to say, the lack of poetry in the expression. Compare, for example:

<We are not cut off from the steadfast Love of the Lord.>

Which I find supportive of my previous point, that Bachs texts are at their best when they are closest to Biblical language.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 5, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< To suggest that the language of the libretto is forgettable is not necessarily to demean the underlying ideas, so much as to question the poetry of expression, that is to say, the lack of poetry in the expression. Compare, for example:
<We are not cut off from the steadfast Love of the Lord.>
Which I find supportive of my previous point, that Bachs texts are at their best when they are closest to Biblical language. >
I know what you mean, dear Ed. Thank you. I intend to broach this particular subject in my second and third remarks on BWV 41.

William Hoffman wrote (August 5, 2009):
BWV 134a: Köthen's Significance, IMVHO

While music history, taking Bach's words and music, has treated Köthen as one of Bach's best times, I think it was much more: a needed respite from the eventual loss and betrayal of Weimar; an opportunity to work with talented musicians and a supportive employer; and, most important, Bach -- like Telemann, Handel, Mattheson and other colleagues - confronting unexpected challenges in a changing world, temporarily abandoning his roots and grounding, his deep commitments and resolute psyche, Bach experiencing new pursuits in the creative, interpretive, and personal arenas.

Köthen provided unexpected opportunities and serendipitous situations for Bach at the Crossroads, a chance to challenge and be challenged by his God and his muse. The Köthen Court provided a dramatic and symbolic arena at this stage in his genesis. Baccontinued to expand his performing forces and their abilities, present more varied styles compatible with the available resources and requirements, elaborate the types of movements, and solicit more subtle, engaging yet learned libretti.

Bach exploited the serenata form -- with its chamber, oratorio, and operatic elements -- as his vocal centerpiece. He produced more challenging yet accessible music, creating utility vocal works on demand. Most important, Bach experienced formative and unfettered encounters and experiences in travels to Dresden with Kapellemeister Johann David Heinichen, Carlsbad with Catholic Count Anton Sporck, Berlin with instrument makers and ascending Prussian culture, Halle with poet Hunold-Menantes, Hamburg with Erdmann Neumeister, and finally, the fruitful world of Leipzig.

At the end of five-and-a-half years in Köthen, Bach was poised to assume his final, sustaining tenure and ultimate calling. Looking backward, I think we can only guess at the underlying influences of those years of reconciliation, restoration, and renewal. I think we can trace directly to Köthen crucial seeds and currents that found completion in Leipzig. Without the fruitful years of Köthen, where would the St. John Passion (BWV 245) have found its voice (see my BCW discussion next year), the cantata cycles have gained their substance, the drammi per musica their character, the oratorios their Christological grounding, and the Latin music its diversity of style and unified voice?

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 5, 2009):
BWV 134, Bible readings here

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Easter-Tuesday.htm

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 5, 2009):
1. Respect the pertaining Bible readings connected with Cantata 134...

... and what, from them, can be properly said before listening to such a masterpiece

The apostles have supplied us with a most bright proof of resurrection of Christ, after which, hobnobbing with him during forty days, they have been persecuted, beaten, whipped, imprisoned, tortured and put to death in response for their announcement. More exactly, since they took no earthly advantages from their proclamation, it was manifest that they meant the announced resurrection, being honestly witnesses that Jesus Christ had indeed raised from the dead. Naturally, skepticism will not be satisfied with it, but, anyway, nothing suffices to a skeptical propensity. Be that as it may, and apart from the factual resurrection of Christ, in which I personally believe with all my heart, and even if an age decides to kill God again, if a previous one declared him dead, and the present age acts as if he was, God will resurrect to occupy the highest throne of human heart, a message to be proclaimed not only during the Passover, but whenever despise and indifference misjudge their temporary forefront, as if such a vanguard was a victory and not the most catastrophic reverse, sooner or later unmasked - for, through pride, an age wins over grace to lose... grace. And so, hear this, O Jews! For the Occident is near to close its last doors, and nations will not stand listening to the Gospel anymore. Wherefore, take heed, O remnant of Jacob, children of the stock of Abraham, and whosoever among you fears God, for he turns his loving attention to you, and to you, more and more, is the word of this salvation sent.

Bruce Simonson wrote (August 5, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< While music history, taking Bach's words and music, has treated Köthen as one of Bach's best times, I think it was much more ... >
Thank you for raising and elaborating on this question. I have occasionally wondered about the Köthen period, and if Bach purposely "hung out with a more secular crowd" during this time. And, if he did, was he "relieved" for the "reprieve", and to coin an inelegant phrase, to "take religious less seriously"?

I asked this question at a recent conducting workshop. If I remember this part of the ensuing discussion correctly, the historic record shows that Bach and his family attended Lutheran church services while in Köthen, to the extent of even having a pew assigned (allocated? ... reserved? ... traditionally used by?) them in church in Köthen.

Anyone know if Bach was a "churching guy" while at Köthen?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 5, 2009):
BWV 134a: Köthen & Conformity

Bruce Simonson wrote:
< I have occasionally wondered about the Köthen period, and if Bach purposely "hung out with a more secular crowd" during this time. And, if he did, was he "relieved" for the "reprieve", and to coin an inelegant phrase, to "take religious less seriously"? >
Living as we do in an age where religious belief and practice is a personal and private choice, it's hard to imagine a life where public conformity was a social and often legal requirement.

As Wolff recounts, the situation in Köthen was bizarre. The prince was Calvinist and so the principality was Calvinist: cuius regio, ejus religio -- whoever rules, it's his religion. However, when the prince succeeded to the throne, he was a minor and his mother became regent. The mother was a Lutheran who refused to become Calvinist: therefore the principality became officially Lutheran when she became regent and then back to Calvinist when the prince came of age! In practical terms that meant that the court was obliged to attend the services in the ruler's religion and the top officials were from that church.

Bach was an outwardly conforming Lutheran -- what his interior belief system was will always remain speculative and it is pointless to try to extrapolate from his works. He may have been a deeply believing Lutheran; he may have been a free-thinking atheist. We will never know. And frankly, debates never tells us anything about the music. The music conforms as surely as its composer.

What we do know is that he was publically conforming Lutheran when he went to Köthen. We lump Lutherans and Calvinists together as Protestants, but they saw themselves as different as Lutherans and Catholics saw each other. Conformity meant that Bach had to establish his public religious persona when he arrived. In practical terms that meant that he had to rent a pew in the small Lutheran church, ensure his family's attendance there, and personally make his private confession and receive the Sacrament weekly in the Lutheran rite -- the latter he must have done on weekdays when he was not obliged to be at the organ in the court chapel. There was no option to miss church attendance. The one non-conforming event during his tenure was the baptism of one of his children in the court chapel -- there the social prestige may have trumped the confessional exclusivity.

Bach must have kept his Lutheran credentials clean for there were no questions raised when he applied to Leipzig. Even a whiff of a rumour would have torpedoed his application.

On a related note, one of the essays in "Bach's Changing World" mentions that the Dresden court maintained a small Catholic church in Leipzig run by the Jesuits as a pro forma Chapel Royal when the King-Elector visited the city. Do we know what music was performed there?

William Hoffman wrote (August 6, 2009):
[To Bruce Simonson] William Hoffman replies:

Bach and family were practicing Lutherans at the Agnuskirchke in Köthen and the kids attended church school. Bach had to import singers from Halle and elsewhere and an organist from Leipzig for the Dec. 10, 1718, double bill of a sacred and secular cantata, BWV Anh. 5a and BWV 66a, both commissioned by Prince Leopold, presumably at the Calvinist Jakobikirchke Castle Church and the Court Capelle. Bach's first wife, Maria Barbara, was buried July 7, 1720, and the Lutheran school choir participated. The Prince participated in two services involving the Bach family: baptism of the Bachs' son, Leopold Augustus, at the Castle Church, Nov. 17, 1718, and Bach's marriage to his second wife, Anna Magdalena, Sept. 21, 1721, at the Bach "home, by command of the Prince." The sources are NBR:82-98. According to C. Wolff, TNGBF and JSB:TLM, Bach may have been involved in church and organ music at the court and two church venues but there is no record. Bach held no official position at either church.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 6, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The Prince participated in two services involving the Bach family: baptism of the Bachs' son, Leopold Augustus, at the Castle Church, Nov. 17, 1718, and Bach's marriage to his second wife, Anna Magdalena, Sept. 21, 1721, at the Bach "home, by command of the Prince." >
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The one non-conforming event during his tenure was the baptism of one of his children in the court chapel -- there the social prestige may have trumped the confessional exclusivity. >
Ed Myskowski replies:
First, a sincere thank you from this corner to Will for his always careful and concise provision of source references. Setting the standard for BCML.

We have had some entertaining and perhaps even enlightening discussion in the past, re Bachs home wedding. I do not recall that the Calvinist/Lutheran fluctuations at Köthen came up at that time. What a convenience, if Bach was able to avoid the church fee, and be spiritually correct, by having a Lutheran home service in a Calvinist state, all at the command of the Calvinist Prince, if I have not misundertood the chronology of the fluctuations.

BWV 134a/7: <Refresh his [the Prince] divine breast!>

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (August 6, 2009):
2. A word in honor of the "general" purpose of Cantata 134

Whoever is endowed with an authoritative status may speak without being scrutinized by malice, what would be an immense benefit if not counterbalanced by the risk of indulging in careless sayings, something that, although needing a friendly correction, passes unnoticed as sense and knowledge. For being a faultfinder is certainly a fault and a kind of delusion, but it does not follow that we should hasten with what could crystallize a cliché, being such the reason why we cannot refrain from pointing out that, although the purpose of this cantata has been criticized whether for being general, whether for being little, we are compelled not to take it for granted, and since the critic, who seemed to know so much about the supposed weak qualities of the purpose, did not even tell us what precisely the purpose was! We are not ready to assume it as weak without even knowing what it was, and prefer to embrace the task of understanding the purpose of this undoubtedly extremely tuneful and uplifting cantata. But now, and since it is necessary that we should not detain ourselves on suggestive stereotyped ideas of "no sense of dialogue", something that at least does not convey an usual "hair-raising psychology", it is enough to say, and especially as a consequence of the last noteworthy remark, that, through a little less light and airy way of analyzing existence, not merely life is deeper, but even the cantata's purpose itself. Let us not belittle it, and let the critics not be mad at us, for we are not indeed yearning for disagreement, but for their agreement; not intending to be impolite with them, but rather courteous with the purpose! And - who knows? - a list member, as soon as aware of it, may be enthusiastically filled with the goal of fulfilling it rather than entombing it under a new aesthetic design. Why not, if, honestly, there is space for pluralism? Besides, and as far as God's glory is recognized as the ultimate purpose of a sacred cantata, an obsequious plan in this direction is always much more than the general and little aim of merely amusing the ears, and even if - let us clarify our sentence - we are not attacking such an innocent pleasure, being rather affable with the ultimate purpose! Let it then not be frustrated by any censure, as no disapproval will be ever pertinent enough to refrain us from glorifying God. And let no silence be able to belittle this faultless purpose, for no apathy in the world is appropriate when it is case of loving God above all things, even above music and Bach. For a sacred cantata and his composer are rather instruments in the process, never the final goal. On the other hand, and this is quite odd, when music is settled in its proper place; when, in our hearts, it is not in the highest throne, than music sounds even better, not merely amusing, since it then recovers its supreme significance in praising God on the highest throne.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 6, 2009):
BWV 134,134a

Rilling's April 2000 recording of 'secular' BWV 134a [3] is of the highest quality. More exhilarating music than the 1/16th note melismas on "leben" on all voices and instruments in the middle section of the final chorus would be difficult to find (BWV 134 has these melismas on "stellet").

The 'sacred' BWV 134 recorded by Rilling almost 25 years earlier [2] has slower tempos as expected, and this recording also remains enjoyable.

All the recitatives differ in the two works; the charming little arioso at the end of the opening recitative of BWV 134 is not in BWV 134a, and there is tone painting on "Strom" (stream) - a descending vocal scale - in BWV 134a (recitative Mvt. 7) that does nor occur in BWV 134.

BWV 134a has two extra movements; a recitative (Mvt. 5) with a most expressive arioso on the line, repeated five times, "Come, Anhalt, pray for more years and times".

[The BGA shows a rather odd arrangement of key signatures in this movement, swapping between one and two flats as the movement progresses, and yet the arioso section noted above is mostly in E minor and related keys (B minor, A minor)! (This score is shown in a supplement at the end of Volume 28, on the CD ROM of the BGA)].

BWV 134a also has the alto aria (Mvt. 6) not in BWV 134 - a lively little piece that Rilling [3] performs with the chamber forces of voice, cello and harpsichord alone. The cello continually repeats an ostinato-like figure, the first part of which is reminiscent of the subject of the BWV 539 D minor organ fugue (which itself is an arrangement of a G minor fugue for solo violin).

In the tenor aria (Mvt. 2), there is typical lightening of the instrumental forces (to one oboe and one violin, or two oboes, etc,) at the beginning of the middle section; and the AT duet (Mvt. 4) trips along melodiously with its ritornellos featuring concerto-like passages for the first violin.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 6, 2009):
2. [...] general purpose of BWV 134

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
< [...] the purpose of this cantata has been criticized whether for being general, whether for being little, we are compelled not to take it for granted, and since the critic, who seemed to know so much about the supposed weak qualities of the purpose, did not even tell us what precisely the purpose was! We are not ready to assume it as weak [...] >
I see nothing to this effect in the BCW archives. Who is the critic under discussion?

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 6, 2009):
I previously wrote, in response to Henri's comments:
< I see nothing to this effect in the BCW archives. Who is the critic under discussion? >
Henri very kindly provided the source for me, off-list. I will respect his request to leave it anonymous, although it is in fact from a published (on-line) review.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 7, 2009):
The 'purpose' of 134a, 134

That Bach can compose music for the New Year's Day celebrations in Köthen, 1719, to honour the esteemed ruler Prince Leopold, and reuse this music for an Easter Tuesday service in Leipzig, 1724, to celebrate Christ's resurrection, and the victory over death, need not be controversial if we remember that this was the age of the 'divine right of kings'.

This is made explicit, for example, in the alto aria of BWV 134a, where the prince's house is likened to the house of God, and the souls living therein partake of heaven's happiness. The esteemed Prince (Leopold) is seen as God's represetaive on earth.

(I previosly described this alto aria as "lively", but it creates quite a more emotionally substantive effect than mere liveliness. Ingeborg Danz, with Rilling, is superb).

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantatas BWV 134 & BWV 134a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 134 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 134 | Details & Recordings of BWV 134a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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