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Cantata BWV 14
Wär' Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of February 14, 2010

Peter Smaill wrote (February 14, 2009):
Introduction to BWV 14, "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit"

Cantata BWV 14, Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit

Written for the 4th Sunday after Epiphany

First performance January 30th, 1735

(Bach did not compose for this day in Jahrgang II, 1725, due to an early Easter; this chorale Cantata is a late addition)

1. Chorale, “Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit” SATB, (chorale horn/oboes)
2. Aria (soprano): “Unsre Stärke heisst zu swach
3. Recitative (tenor): “Ja, Hätt es Gott nur zugegeben
4. Aria (bass): “Gott, bei deinem starken Schützen
5. Chorale: "Gott Lob und Dank"

Liturgy: Romans 13: 8-10; Gospel: Matthew 8: 23-27

Libretto is an adaptation of Luther’s version of Psalm 124 (1524)

BCW Resources and Previous Discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV14.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV14-D.htm (two parts)

Introduction

Thanks to the recent discovery of Leipzig text booklets previously hidden away in the vaults of the Russian State Library in St Petersburg, we now know that two previously identified late Cantatas by J S Bach do not actually belong to his creative output of the 1730’s and 1740’s. BWV 35, “O Ewiges Feuer” was first performed in 1727, not 1742; and the charming fragment BWV 200, “Bekennen will ich deinen Namen” of 1742, the last discovered Cantata attributed to Bach (1924) is in fact by Stölzel. So this work BWV 14, undoubtedly signed off by Bach with “Fine” and “Soli Deo Gloria” and marked “1735” is looking increasingly isolated; and as far as can be determined is a single specially composed outlying work.

The traditional view is to relate it to the second Jahrgang of 1724/5, an assumption which can however be challenged on stylistic, structural and contextual grounds. Rather this work is in a particular, unique, format wholly outside an identified cycle but not unrelated to Bach’s activity in 1735. The five-part BWV 14, which has interpolated text in the two arias due to the brevity of the chorale, on reflection neither, belongs with the second Jahrgang or in a supposed late cycle.

As to the latest scholarship on the existence of a fourth (“Picander”) cycle (this is looking more likely) or even a fifth (very doubtful, despite the stated five cycles mentioned in the necrology), a useful link is to Tatiana Shabalina’s discoveries presented at BNUK in Oxford last year, at:
http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub4/shabalina.pdf

For BWV 200, Peter Wollny is the authority and the reference is:
http://homepages.bw.edu/bachbib/script/bach2.pl?23=27636

Purpose of BWV 14

The conventional wisdom is that BWV 14 is an infill to the Jahrgang II chorale series; in the case of BWV 14, because there was no fourth Sunday after Epiphany in 1725. However, as Dürr points out, it is uniquely structured, quite unlike the Jahrgang II works, in that the massive, intense opening chorus does not have any part of the choir sing the chorale; this is assigned to the instruments and creates, together with the insistent chromaticism and inversion of the fugal writing, a profound development of the motet model. Yet, even in this categorisation, we have to note that, contrary to the monumentally slow time signatures of late Bach (e.g., the Schlusschorale of BWV 140, or the minim adaptation of “Dona Nobis pacem” in the BMM), this work BWV 14/1 (Mvt. 1) is assigned a 3/8 time signature. BWV 14 is a work that refuses to be categorised along with other groupings of Cantatas, and is also a special type of motet writing.

The Church Year Problem

For this Sunday it is also notable that Bach did not have to rely entirely on the Gospel-driven BWV 81 from 1724; he had at his disposal, and had performed, his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach’s setting for the day, “Gott ist unsre Zuversicht”, from 1726. Hans-Joachim Schulze, while identifying years when the Sunday did not occur, or clashed with Mariae Heimsuchung (Purification) (February 2nd); or when Bach was away testing organs (1732) admits, however, that there were years between 1724 and 1735 when Bach could have earlier filled in Jahrgang II, but simply did not. For example, 1734, by contrast with 1725, had an exceptionally late Easter (25 April) with consequently no less than six Sundays after Epiphany. A rigid policy by Bach of infilling the chorale series of Jahrgang II would have meant three new Cantatas there and then; but in fact, we have apparently none at all by J S Bach for the fifth or sixth. (On 10 February 1726 Bach performed, for the fifth Sunday after Epiphany, J.L. Bach’s “Der Gottlosen Arbeit wird fehlen”.)

This is a situation of course in contrast to the rare 27th Sunday in Trinity which brought into being BWV 140: on that occasion even though the work will be rarely played in the future, Bach creates a new Cantata. So, either Bach does not strictly infill previously omitted Jahrgang II dates; or he does, in which case we may have some lost Cantata issues as late as 1734. But, if Bach can be presumed to have composed for all the late Epiphany Sundays of 1734, why should he a write another Epiphany 4 Cantata for January 30th 1735?

The intriguing possibility if there have been losses from this point in the Church calendar is that there was another chorale Cantata for this Sunday, based on the other hymn associated with the day in Saxony, “Jesu meine Freude”, (the chorale closing off BWV 81) but which is now lost. Of all the six harmonisations we have by Bach of the famous hymn, five can be attributed either to Cantatas or the motet. The exception is BWV 358: could it be the ending of a lost Cantata for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany?

Thanksgiving in Time of War?

BWV 14, almost entirely inspired by Old Testament texts seeking divine aid in conflict, nevertheless also fails to be categorised as a historically-inspired interloper. From Spitta through Whittaker and Robertson, the War of the Polish Succession is related to the grim sonorities of Luther’s text, crying out for divine assistance against the enemy. However, since that war ran from 1733 to 1738 then the timing is questionable and, simply put, no actual evidence exists for this connection. As with old attempts (Whittaker) to link BWV 101 to the second Silesian War of 1745, and BWV 39 to the expulsion of Swiss Protestants received in Leipzig in 1732, the dates do not really agree and there is no known documentation connecting events and Cantatas, however appropriate the texts might be to the circumstances.

However, along with the Chorale “Jesu mein Freunde” as used in BWV 81 for this day in the church calendar, Luther’s chorale which forms the incipit of BWV 14 is definitely identified by Stiller as being strongly correlated to the fourth Sunday after Epiphany at Leipzig (and Dresden). Tchorale was the local tradition for this day. The desire for rectification of this omission by Bach, producing a work based on this locally important psalm adaptation, is the key driver for the creation of BWV 81 in my view; just as Bach fills out the ten “per omnes versus” Chorale cantatas in later years (one per hymnodist, of which BWV 112 is a case in point), so does he infill this missing key Chorale interpretation, but not because Jahrgang II “needs” additional material for every Sunday missed in the 1724/5 period.

BWV as part of a creative surge in late 1734/1735?

The more promising line of enquiry as to why and how this late Cantata is brought into being is the relationship to the Christmas (BWV 248) and Ascension Oratorios (BWV 11); the former ends on Epiphany in 1735, the latter was performed on 19 May 1735. Both the oratorios are largely parody works; and yet this Cantata is never analysed as a pastiche perhaps due to the tight libretto, even more symmetrical/chiastic than BWV 81. (The Christmas Oratorio VI for Epiphany is like BWV 14 also strictly chiastic, focussing on a central chorale which Hirsch indicates has 14 bars, “Ich stehe bei deinen krippen”). The abrupt change between the solemn chorus BWV 14/1 (Mvt. 1) and the jaunty aria BWV 14/2 (Mvt. 2) (Robertson relates this to the style of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)) leaves for this listener at any rate a lingering thought that the Cantata arias are parody work, set around the three verses from Luther.

Notable also is the fact that Bach sets the chorus BWV 14/2 (Mvt. 2) in triple time, even though the chorale has a simple/common time signature. In the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) Bach also changes the meter to compound, there in the case of the setting of “Von himmel Hoch” which closes Part 2.

The Last Original Cantata for the Church Year?

Aside from the “must-do” Council Cantatas, Bach’s work for the Church Year thus ends with three powerful bookmarks in 1735 - the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), BWV 14 and the Ascension Oratorio (BWV 11). It is true that there is one later Cantata left standing, BWV 30 from 1738 adapted to St John's Day, but this is almost entirely created from a secular original. The only subsequent major Church work, perhaps the greatest parody work of all, the B minor Mass, originates in 1733 as an adaptation in part of a Kyrie by von Wilderer. At this date, is it plausible that BWV 14 is the only wholly original composition amongst the choral works in late Bach? Particularly, does that first aria BWV 14/2 (Mvt. 2) come from a secular original like so much of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)?

This work throws up many questions but, quite apart from the pleasure of those challenges, we receive from Bach in BWV 14/1 (Mvt. 1) a work of outstanding five part polyphony and a unique timbre as the low lying corno di caccia/ horn arises out of the intertwining imitations and inversions of the vocal line. Not an easy initial listen, this part of work after frequent hearing develops a mesmeric quality, the triple time suggesting a solemn procession emerging from an atmosphere of tribulation to victory, expressed in the final resolution in the major.

Hopefully other BCW members will also find much fresh interest in this work and together we can attempt a reappraisal of the significance of BWV 14, for it appears to be the last full chorus setting of a chorale in a Cantata relating to the Church Year: if the last, displaying innovation even in the conservative format of the motet long after his contemporaries had begun to abandon that medium. In this the opening chorus is the harbinger of the B Minor Mass, in which no less than seven parts are inspired by the motet style.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 14, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks for an interesting intro on this cantata. it's a stunning work and not performed often enough. I think there is a good case for arguing that along with BWV 80 (with which it shares a number of interesting characteristics) this was very probably the last chorale/fantasia cantata that Bach composed.

Time willing, I hope to add a few notes later in the week Julian.

Evan Cortens wrote (February 14, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks for a great intro!

Folks might be interested to know that this is one of the few (but growing) number of cantatas whose sources are available online, through the Bach Digital project:
http://vmbach.rz.uni-leipzig.de:8971/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00001915

There's an entry for the parts as well (which have also been published in facsimile) but regrettably it seems only to include the Titelblatt at this point.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 14, 2009):
[To Evan Cortens] Thanks Evan, this is a fascinating link.

In my introduction I had no doubts about locating this work in 1735, because that is what H.J. Schulze emphatically states, and no-one has ever doubted it. However, the first page of the score as per your link raises the puzzle of the date which appears to be "1762" - something I'd dismissed before as a later copy. It was known to me through reproduction of this exact page in the booklet for the boxed Leonhardt/Harnoncourt set. Presumably the NBA has the answer to this further mystery!

Evan Cortens wrote (February 14, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] The relevant date here is the one a few lines up, the "Entstehungszeit" or time of composition. You're right, the date of first performance (Auffuehrungsdatum) is unequivocally established at Jan 30, 1735.

The 1762 you're looking at is in the provenance/collector line, and is a rough estimate at when this score came into the possession of Nacke. There are later copies of this work (including even a set of parts prepared by Nacke, D-B St 398 Fasicle 2), but P 879 isn't one of them.

This page gives a whole list of sources, though pictures are not available:
http://vmbach.rz.uni-leipzig.de:8971/receive/BachDigitalWork_work_00000016

Apologies for the confusion!

Evan Cortens wrote (February 14, 2009):
I should say one more thing, about the text on the title page itself.The main title and instrumentation is in J. S. Bach's hand, the text in the upper left corner is a librarian's hand, giving the call number for the Berlin Staatsbibliothek. "Hauser" is also written there, indicating from whose collection it was donated. (For those interested, the definitive work on Franz Hauser's Bach collection is Yoshitake Kobayashi's dissertation, in German.) The text in the lower left "J. G. N. | 1762" is in yet a different hand, perhaps Nacke himself, indicating when it came into his possession, for those are his initials: Johann Georg Nacke. The provenance line guesses that the cantata was inherited by W.F. Bach; it was through an estate sale in 1759 that Nacke acquired much of his collection.

The transmission and reception history of Bach sources, especially in the second half of the eighteenth century, is fascinating stuff! The definitive work on this subject, though a few years old now, is by the very same Hans-Joachim Schulze you just mentioned: Studien zur Bach-Überlieferung im 18. Jahrhundert (Leipzig, 1984).

Peter Smaill wrote (February 14, 2009):
[To Evan Cortens] Thanks Evan, very much. I have the Hauser work by Yoshitake Kobayashi but your speedy detective work saves the task of ploughing through it! (It is not really indexed).

This explanation will help anyone puzzled by the apparent discrepancy of dates. It is also interesting that W F Bach is the transmission source, as is the case for the late chorale Cantata BWV 112, performed in 1731, and also considered an infill to Jahrgang II, though it is in per omnes versus form.

My general understanding is that little survived through him due to profligacy and if there are lost Cantatas, they will mostly have been through his hands; and yet, a few have come down to us where their existence is attributed to the gaps in the earlier cycle, and not the existence of a fifth cycle. On this view the losses may be slight unless it is thought that all the unattached chorale harmonisations were at some point linked to Cantatas.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2009):
Introduction to BWV 14, 5 year cycle?

Peter Smaill wrote:
< As to the latest scholarship on the existence of a fourth (³Picander²) cycle (this is looking more likely) or even a fifth (very doubtful, despite the stated five cycles mentioned in the necrology) >
Why did the notion of a five-year cycle come to be recorded in Bach's obituary? If there's less and less documentary evidence for it, where did the number come from? Was it perhaps a number that Bach spoke as an ideal to his sons and contemporaries? Presumably five years would be enough to cover all the calendar variations over the Christmas and Epiphany and end of Trinity seasons, so that he would have a body of fashionable concerted cantatas to perform. With various members' postings about the large number of cantatas and oratorios of Telemann and Graupner, Bach's body of cantatas begins to look very small in comparison. Why?

Evan Cortens wrote (February 15, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Why did the notion of a five-year cycle come to be recorded in Bach's obituary? If there's less and less documentary evidence for it, where did the number come from? >
This is actually a topic that has occupied me on and off for some time now. An interesting starting point is the article by William Scheide, "Ist Mizlers Bericht ueber Bachs Kantaten korrekt?" in Die Musikforschung. (Regrettably, I didn't write down the issue number, though I'm sure I have it somewhere... sometime in the 1960s, iirc. At the very least, it begins on page 60.) In this piece, he proposes that the number "five" results from a double counting of cycles, based on a mistaken understanding of how Bach's estate was distributed. He doesn't suggest this as a definitive answer, merely one possibility.

In a funny bit of circular logic, folks often defend the adjacent line in the obituary, namely that Bach wrote five passions, by saying that they (namely C.P.E. Bach and Agricola, the writers) suggested this number so as to harmonize it with the number of cantata cycles he wrote. Needless to say, when one begins to question the number of cantatas, this whole hypothesis comes apart.

I suppose the best thing to say is: the obituary ought not to be taken as a definitive list of J. S. Bach's works, especially sacred works, which were at that time not though of as his principal achievement.

P. S. For an example of the exact opposite, one need only look to the aforementioned son. When C.P.E. Bach died, he had already prepared a thorough catalogue of his entire musical estate, listing everyone of his own compositions, as well as those of his father in his possession. This "Nachlass Verzeichnis" remains a starting point for C.P.E. Bach studies to this day.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2009):
Introduction to BWV 14, Facsimile

Evan Cortens wrote:
< Folks might be interested to know that this is one of the few (but growing) number of cantatas whose sources are available online, through the Bach Digital project:
http://vmbach.rz.uni-leipzig.de:8971/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00001915 >
This is a WONDERFUL resource and well worth looking through. All kinds of information jumps out:

Bach doesn't name a genre: he doesn't call the work a "cantata" or "concerto" on the title page.

The first movement has some revisions which Bach has furiously obliterated with an enormous number of cross-hatchings. On the fifth page there are two attempts to get what he wants.

Why does he have to make a note that the "Recit" follows the 1st aria? Seems obvious, as does the marking to turn the page in the second aria where the second half of the bar continues on the next page. No performer would think that was the end of the movement.

Is the music added above at the end of the first line of the choral a mistake or a revision?

Fascinating glimpse into Bach working if not in haste then with great passion.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (February 15, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Why did the notion of a five-year cycle come to be recorded in Bach's obituary? If there's less and less documentary evidence for it, where did the number come from? Was it perhaps a number that Bach spoke as an ideal to his sons and contemporaries? Presumably five years would be enough to cover all the calendar variations over the Christmas and Epiphany and end of Trinity seasons, so that he would have a body of fashionable concerted cantatas to perform. >
Nothing trumps primary evidence in my opinion, and if it's stated there were five cantata cycles, I'd believe it. Aeschylus wrote dozens of plays, we know they are missing too because of the primary sources that mention them, but why would we discount that evidence simply because they're missing? There were weekly Collegium Musicium concerts in Leipzig (that's about 1000 concerts during Bach's tenure in Leipzig, and that's just for ONE of the ensembles, there were several), yet we have very little of that music, so did they simply perform the same 4 Bach orchestral suites and the very few concertos that survive? Of course not.

< With various members' postings about the large number of cantatas and oratorios of Telemann and Graupner, Bach's body of cantatas begins to look very small in comparison. Why? >
Good question Doug. You left out Stölzel, and Fasch, between the two of them, they more than likely wrote 20 cantata cycles-- most of which have vanished. Stölzel's heritage was the victim of Benda's neglect-- which was so bad that charges were filed against him by the court at Gotha-- Fasch's son may have had a hand in the destruction of his father's music but it's an unsolved mystery for now. New research seems to indicate that Telemann's grandson must have destroyed huge swaths of pre 1740 cantatas simply because he didn't think it warranted performance and it was too "old fashioned." Graupner wanted every bit of his music destroyed at his death, and when his co-director Grunewald died at Darmstadt in 1739, every single scrap of music written was destroyed. From what I can gather, there were easily 700 cantatas written by Grunewald. Graupner's music only escaped destruction because the Landgrave seized it and prevent the family from owning it. Thank goodness.

We may have differenof opinion about the quality of Bach's peers and their cantatas as you know, I make every effort to champion their music in the context of Bach. Such large scale destruction of other composers music should give us some sense of what may have tragically happened in Bach's case. I've suggested doing a spreadsheet for Bach's career in Leipzig and plug in the numbers of specific cantatas. Using 40 weeks as the low end for concerted music-- 40 X 25 gives you nearly 1000 Sundays. We have no where that number of cantatas, so what did Bach perform? There's no doubt in my mind he performed at least a few cantata cycles of Telemann and Stölzel when he wasn't mounting repeat performances of his music. I'm pretty sure there must have been some editing by Bach of these other composer's cantatas.

But even if Bach wrote 5 cantata cycles, you're question why he wrote a relatively smaller corpus is a valid one. I am completely convinced that most Baroque composers were workaholics, and in particular Graupner was OCD (the music calligraphy in his scores and parts is over the top in quality). 1415 cantatas? Why didn't he just stop at 800? I don't understand it honestly. It wasn't the fact these composers didn't have wives and children to raise. I think there was just a completely different mind and work ethic in the 18th century. Maybe seeing so many of their colleagues starve and die without a penny to their name was a great motivator for working all the time.

Fascinating thread Doug ;)

Thanks!

P.S. Aryeh will be placing a complete listing of all the Graupner cantatas with the newly crafted GWV listing for them on the Bach cantata website. I'm having some issues with the spreadsheet, but stay tuned ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2009):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Using 40 weeks as the low end for concerted music-- 40 X 25 gives you nearly 1000 Sundays. We have no where that number of cantatas, so what did Bach perform? There's no doubt in my mind he performed at least a few cantata cycles of Telemann and Stölzel when he wasn't mounting repeat performances of his music. I'm pretty sure there must have been some editing by Bach of these other composer's cantatas. >
Here's a bit of heresy.

Michelangelo thought of himself as primarily as sculptor rather than a painter, although his fame rests on his great frescoes. Could Bach have thought of himself primarily a performer who dabbled in composition? A couple of hundred cantatas begins to look like diletantism compared with the musico-industrial complex of Teleman et al churning out literally thousands of cantatas.

Perhaps Bach enjoyed performing his relatives and contemporaries' works more than writing his own.

(Ducking and covering)

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (February 15, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Here's a bit of heresy.
Michelangelo thought of himself as primarily as sculptor rather than a painter, although his fame rests on his great frescoes. Could Bach have thought of himself primarily a performer who dabbled in composition? A couple of hundred cantatas begins to look like diletantism compared with the musico-industrial complex of Teleman et al churning out literally thousands of cantatas.
Perhaps Bach enjoyed performing his relatives and contemporaries' works more than writing his own.
(Ducking and covering) >
Makes sense to me to be honest.

I don't know why you're ducking and covering ;)

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 15, 2009):
BWV 14 - Provenance

Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for the discussion of Cantata BWV 14.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV14-Ref.htm
This page also includes a section about the horn part problem.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 15, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding Introduction to BWV 14, 5 year cycle?] One theory is that the posthumous listing of works, the early cantatas from Weimar and Cothen counted as one of the five cycles. Of course that in itself means a lot of doubling up as all but a handful, I think about seven, were reused as a part of the first cycle.

For Bach not to have gone on composing cantatas year after year seems eminintly reasonable. He certainly had amassed enough so as not needing to repeat them more than every three years if not the full five. One hearing everyso often of a cantata could hardly be thought excessive by members of the Leipzig congregations. He must also have worked as hard as any other composer on new repertoire in his fisrt 2 years at Leipzig---around 120 cantatas in all and many of those reuses were quite substantially reworked. Such an approproach also seems to fit in with what we know of Bach's life and character------he was always doing other things, teaching, organ inspections, performing--and of course the composition of the big works. I suspect that he didn't think of himself as a practicioner of one skill i.e composition, organ expert, teacher, but as an all round professional musician. Such subdivisions of career designations came, historically later.

Did Mozart think of himself as a composer or performer? A lot of his stuff was written for him to perform.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 15, 2009):
Some reflections on the opening chorus from BWV 14 (Mvt. 1)

As Peter intimates, some commentators have suggested that BWV 14 was another example of Bach’s attempting to ‘fill the gaps’ where chorale/fantasia cantatas had been lacking in the second cycle but I believe this to be most unlikely. In terms of its overall architecture, this cantata fits the general pattern of those works but technically and stylistically it has gone far beyond them: it has no initial instrumental ritornello and the allotting of the chorale melody to instruments was never a feature of the second cycle fantasias.

It was certainly one of the last and perhaps, with the possible exception of the first movement of BWV 80, the very last chorale/fantasia that Bach composed. Stylistically the fantasia remains something of an enigma, having features which look both backward and forward in time. It can be usefully compared with its BWV 80 because they are, in many ways, complementary works. One is relentlessly minor, the other insistently major. Both begin with huge fantasias constructed on the principle of the motet, displaying awesome contrapuntal virtuosity. Both relegate the chorale cantus firmus to instruments. (Of course much of BWV 80 was composed several years earlier and some will recall discussion of its uncertain history on list a few years ago—I think that Ed was quite involved with investigating it. However it is not known when the opening chorus was added; Dürr suggests 1735 which makes a lot of sense considering the elements they have in common)

Whilst the motet structure, style and orchestration are essentially backward looking, the harmony is daringly modern. It is the sort of writhing, chromatic counterpoint that we find in the great works of the following decade e.g. the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) and the Musical Offering (BWV 1079). All three are dominated by the minor mode and intense, severe harmonies that depict arid and barren landscapes although, almost paradoxically, not without great passion.

The seeds of this language may be found in the first bar of the chorale where, unusually, the melody rises chromatically from a Bb to a B natural.

It is true that dark, forbidding motet-like fantasias may be found in the second cycle (see BWV 2 and BWV 38). But those movements both retain the chorale in one of the vocal lines aneither has the relentless, almost brutal chromaticism of BWV 14.

The sheer intensity and concentration of this fantasia make it a movement not instantly accessible to everyone. It may help to hear it a few times concentrating principally upon the chorale entries, of which there are seven, each played by horn doubling oboe. From there one might focus upon the sections, which precede each of these phrases. Again one may wish to return to the opening movements of BWV 2 and BWV 38 to remind oneself of the conventional motet format. The traditional procedure was to have the voices not carrying the cantus firmus melody to precede, herald and introduce each chorale phrase with an imitative discussion of it.

This is precisely what Bach does here, but with an added complication. He has noticed that, with a little tweaking, each of the seven phrases will work in canon, but with the following part inverted or upside down. This is most clearly heard from the very first bar where the rising tenor line is immediately followed by the bass’s falling version of the same theme. Six bars later the upper voices do the same thing: altos leading (with the original tenor theme) and sopranos following.

This takes us to the first full phrase of the chorale melody played by horn and oboes (bar 13).

Repeated listening to the first twenty bars thus equips one to follow the architecture of the music through to the end because the principle has now been clearly established i.e. each chorale phrase is introduced by canonic pairs of voices, the following part being an inversion of that which led. Each of these discussions leads naturally into the horn and oboe sections of the chorale.

It now becomes clear why Bach did not allot the chorale to any of the vocal lines. For one thing, the instrumental statements give it a tone quality and cutting edge that allows it to stand out from the richness of the choral texture. But more importantly, the four vocal lines remain free to be employed throughout in canonic pairs. Thus, what seems at first to be an impenetrable tapestry of intense chromatic counterpoint resolves itself into a clearly transparent, if emotionally intense texture.

For the listeners who do not read scores fluently but who wish to follow Bach’s strategy through the entire movement, the orders of the canonic choral entries are given below.

Preceding chorale phrase 1 tenor---bass alto---sop
Preceding chorale phrase 2 tenor---bass alto---sop
Preceding chorale phrase 3 alto---tenor bass---sop
Preceding chorale phrase 4 sop---alto bass---tenor
Preceding chorale phrase 5 alto---bass sop---tenor
Preceding chorale phrase 6 bass---alto sop---tenor
Preceding chorale phrase 7 sop---alto bass---tenor

The movement ends with repetition of the last line of text----[the enemies] who set upon us. Bach sets these words as a musical discussion making much use of the final chorale phrase.

(Apologies for a rather long posting---one tends to get carried away when looking at a work as interesting and, unfortunately as neglected as this one!

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2009):
BWV 14 - WFB Bach rehabilitated?

Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for the discussion of Cantata BWV 14.
See:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV14-Ref.htm >
"This manuscript, like all the other autograph scores belonging to the Chorale Cantata Cycle, most likely was inherited by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Forced by the dire conditions surrounding him during the Seven-Year War during which the assessment on his house and property was increased radically the latter probably needed to liquidate some of his valuable holdings in the form of cantata manuscripts from his father."

Is the myth of the profiigate, short-sighted, philistinic Wilhelm Friedemann dead?! Was it economic hardship which drove him to "lose" his father's scores? I've often thought it was odd that JSB made such a careful disposition of his library both as a practical performing collection and as an obvious testament for posterity, and passed so much to WFB. If the son was a sleaze-bag, the father would have known about it -- the Bach family mafia would have reported it. Did any of his brothers comment on his character? It would be sad if the annual ritual accusations in concert programs of the Bach Passions against WFB as "The Man Who Lost the St. Mark Passion" were unfounded.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 15, 2009):
Opening chorus from BWV 14 - Chorale canons

Julian Mincham wrote:
< This is precisely what Bach does here, but with an added complication. He has noticed that, with a little tweaking, each of the seven phrases will work in canon, but with the following part inverted or upside down. >
Bach developed quite a taste for presenting chorale preludes in canons. There is a collection of organ preludes which are arranged as trios with thechorale in very close canon in the upper voices. They are short, rather claustrophobic to play, and not particularly beautiful. It was almost as if Bach enjoyed the technical challenge. They would have been useful as preludes or interludes to hymns. I've never heard anyone play them in public. The fantasy in BWV 14 is a much more expansive and expressive movement.

Stephen Benson wrote (February 15, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Apologies for a rather long posting >
Don't apologize! Rather than being too long, you've provided clear and concise analytical notes that can only enrich one's listening experience. Speaking for myself, this is precisely what I look for from the List.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 15, 2009):
[To Stephen Benson] Steve Kind words, many thanks. Worth it if a few people feel they get something that might take them more deeply into this great music.

William Hoffman wrote (February 15, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding BWV 14 - WFB Bach rehabilitated?] I think that, as with so many Bach topics, this one is quite complex, and subsequent posterity will foster more revisionists histories, especially as new documentation arises and scholarship promulgates new theories and concepts. Thus, I like the BCW concept of the "Multiple Approach to Bach," as opposed to what I call Western Civilization's "Dualistic Thinking" trap. Put another way, "History is a trick which the living play on the dead," or conversely, and simultaneously(?), ". . . the dead play on the living (mort-main)."

Having said this, with re. to Friedemann, as with so many issues, much depends on the perspective of the observer. I would personally point out the strong contrast between Sebastian's two oldest sons. Bach clearly favored Friedemann and knocked himself out to educate and advance his oldest son. C.P.E. on the other hand took his own counsel and path. He got a law degree as central to a university education, which his father lacked. He made his own way to Berlin and languished under Frederick the Great. Finally his patience paid off when he succeeded his godfather, Telemann, in Hamburg.

Back in 1994, I did an in-depth study, "Bach's Chorale Cantata Cycle: Genesis, Provenance, Gaps, Poets." I was struck by Friedemann's central role in this cycle, beginning with his first parts' writing with Cantata BWV 111, to his probable selection of the actual estate division of the cantatas in late 1750, to his proposal to sell his entire cycle scores to Forkel, who was only able to pay a much smaller, affordable price to examine the cycle and copy BWV 9 and BWV 178, in the 1770s.

I deduced form my studies that there were actually three variants of the cycle:
1. 42 chorale cantatas, as composed chronologically, from BWV 20 presented on June 11, 17for the Third Sunday After Trinity, to BWV 1, March 25, 1725, for the Feast of the Annunciation.
2. 49 cantatas, with seven (BWV 9, BWV 14, BWV 112, BWV 129, BWV 137, BWV 140 , BWV 177) composed 1725-35 to fill gaps in No. 1
3. 52 cantatas assembled in 1750, with scores to Friedemann and parts to Anna Magdalena:
a. 42 1724-25 cantatas (No. 1, Anna Magdalena getting 41 parts sets, Friedemann keeping BWV 111 set);
b. 4 non-chorale cantatas (with chorale incipts), BWV 58, BWV 156, BWV 68, and BWV 128 (Friedemann kept the parts set);
c. 6 parts sets for chorale cantatas (BWV 135, BWV 113, BWV 8, BWV 180, BWV 115, and BWV 80) not found at the Thomas School (donated by Anna Magdalena).

Now, the mystery of the chorale cantata cycle deepens -- and the plot thickens -- with the four per-omnes versus works composed between 1729 and 1735: BWV 117, BWV 192, BWV 97, and BWV 100. The works went to C.P.E. since their incipits bore no church service designation and they were not found with the church year cantata manuscripts.

Interestingly, some Bach scholars have recently suggested from all this evidence and more that Bach repeated the entire chorale cantata cycle in 1732 or 1734.

I conclude by quoting Christoph Wolff, who has suggested that Sebastian designated the general allocation of his estate works shortly before he died. "Where is Bach's fifth annual cycle?" Bach Jahrbuch 1981, p. 151, here is my humble translation:

"To what extent each of the five collective cycles at any time was completely altered withholds itself from our knowledge. It is quite plausible that smaller and larger gaps endured in all the annual cycles (cf. the interruption of the composition of the chorale cantatas at Easter 1725), that is, if the occasion arose, the cycle would simply be altered partially, or on the other hand, it would never happen during already existing cycles, being well-balance in relation to later, subsequent compositions."

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 16, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Michelangelo thought of himself as primarily as sculptor rather than a painter, although his fame rests on his great frescoes. >
Worse than that. He considered painting the Sistine Chapel an onerous chore, almost beneath his dignity. He accepted the task only out of professional necessity, and to obrain his papal commissions for sculpture. Nice decisions, those commissions continued throughout his life, and he continued carving Carrara marble into his tenth decade (nineties). Speaking of OCD, he reportedly had a near nervous breakdown in his nineties, when there was a lack of stone to work on.

Perhaps I exhibit a sculptors prejudice, but I think his fame rests at least equally on some of his classic earlier sculpture, David or Pieta, for example, as on the frescoes, including Sistine chapel. I had best get cracking (heh), while I still have a couple decades (potential) of stone carving, in order to catch up. As John Harbison satd, comparing talking about one of his compositions in relation to Bach: <Not even in my wildest dreams!>

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 16, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< (Of course much of BWV 80 was composed several years earlier and some will recall discussion of its uncertain history on list a few years ago—I think that Ed was quite involved with investigating it. However it is not known when the opening chorus was added; Dürr suggests 1735 which makes a lot of sense considering the elements they have in common) >
No original work on my part, but a review and summary of Christoph Wolff's publications, which in turn brought out a lot of discussion as to whether his publications represented his latest thinking. That remains an open question, which may be best answered by those of you who encounter him at conferences. I had no response to a couple eMails, and have only seen him once in the interim, giving a conert intro, with no opportunity to ask.

The chorale <Eine Feste Burg> was the source for an opening chorus perhaps as early as 1724, and certainly no later than 1727-31; this is the version designated BWV 80b. The final version with reworking of the chorale-based opening chorus would be very satisfying if more or less concurrent with BWV 14 (1735). Rather than a filling in of the chorale cantata cycle, this pairing might represent Bachs final word on the subject, all the more fascinating if some early version related to BWV 80b had been performed in 1724, and was the initial inspiration for the chorale cantatas.

Earlier discussion and details on the evidence for chronology of the various iterations of BWV 80 are archived under that heading on BCW.

Lex Schelvis wrote (February 17, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< (Apologies for a rather long posting---one tends to get carried away when looking at a work as interesting and, unfortunately as neglected as this one! JM) >
Too long?
This is the kind of contribution I want, that helps me to understand the music better. I would say: More, more!

Terejia wrote (February 17, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/32882
(..)
< Whilst the motet structure, style and orchestration are essentially backward looking, the harmony is daringly modern. It is the sort of writhing, chromatic counterpoint that we find in the great works of the following decade e.g. the Art of Fugue (
BWV 1080) and the Musical Offering (BWV 1079). All three are dominated by the minor mode and intense, severe harmonies that depict arid and barren landscapes although, almost paradoxically, not without great passion.
The seeds of this language may be found in the first bar of the chorale where, unusually, the melody rises chromatically from a Bb to a B natural.
It is true that dark, forbidding motet-like fantasias may be found in the second cycle (see BWV 2 and 38). But those movements both retain the chorale in one of the vocal lines and neither has the relentless, almost brutal chromaticism of BWV 14.
The sheer intensity and concentration of this fantasia make it a movement not instantly accessible to everyone. It may help to hear it a few times concentrating principally upon the chorale entries, of which there are seven, each played by horn doubling oboe. From there one might focus upon the sections, which precede each of these phrases. Again one may wish to return to the opening movements of 2 and 38 to remind oneself of the conventional motet format. The traditional procedure was to have the voices not carrying the cantus firmus melody to precede, herald and introduce each chorale phrase with an imitative discussion of it.
This is precisely what Bach does here, but with an added complication. He has noticed that, with a little tweaking, each of the seven phrases will work in canon, but with the following part inverted or upside down. This is most clearly heard from the very first bar whthe rising tenor line is immediately followed by the bassâ?Ts falling version of the same theme. Six bars later the upper voices do the same thing: altos leading (with the original tenor theme) and sopranos following.
This takes us to the first full phrase of the chorale melody played by horn and oboes (bar 13).
Repeated listening to the first twenty bars thus equips one to follow the architecture of the music through to the end because the principle has now been clearly established i.e. each chorale phrase is introduced by canonic pairs of voices, the following part being an inversion of that which led. Each of these discussions leads naturally into the horn and oboe sections of the chorale. >
Which reminded me of "Suscipit Israel" in BWV 243/BWV 243a Magnificat in a smaller scale and maybe in a less stern form. In this case, too, the instrument has cantos firms line and the pattern one voice follows the another in reverse vector can be observed, too.

Considering the possibility (or probability) that someone has already pointed this out in former discussions and I have missed the message due to lack of whatever...

Adding my own gratitude to Julian for sharing this great insight.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 17, 2009):
Terejia wrote:
< Which reminded me of "Suscipit Israel" in BWV 243/BWV 243a Magnificat in a smaller scale and >maybe in a less stern form. >
Note the interesting and accurate usage of the word stern (in the sense of strict, or rigorous), new to me. Thanks, Terejia, for the music insights as well as creative use of English.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 17, 2009):
Lex Schelvis wrote (response to Julian):
< Too long?
This is the kind of contribution I want, that helps me to understand the music better. I would >say: More, more! >
I agree. Julian has been to known to respond positively to encouragement, BTW.

Ocaasionally he buries a little quiz near the end of a lengthy post, just to check us out.

Old academics never die, they just ...

Julian Mincham wrote (February 17, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski]
Old academics never die, they just ...

Continue to make a nuisance of themselves!

Neil Halliday wrote (February 18, 2009):
The grass is greener over there....from the sample, I prefer Gardiner's recording [4], which I don't have, to Rilling's [2], which I do have.

Gardiner's [4] opening chorus (Mvt. 1) has a driven aspect (but not too fast) which suits the works 'stern' polyphony, as noted by others. The choral work is alive and vivid, and the horn timbre is resplendent.

The attractive horn timbre is carried over to the soprano aria (Mvt. 2). Superb singing complements the lilting triple time rhythm that is totally natural and engaging, in Gardiner's hands [4].

Likewise the rhythm of the bass aria (Mvt. 4) has a kind of measured, jazzy vitality under Gardiner [4] (its actually slower, 3.59, than Rilling, 3.47 [2]), and the singer seems a better choice than Huttenlocher's huge, operatic voice.

[But Gardiner's [4] recitative needs a 'total transplant'...and the final chorale is of the 'slap-dash' type].

 

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