Cantata BWV 150Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of December 9, 2001
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 11, 2001):
BWV 150 Is it, or is it not by Bach?
It should cause you to wonder about the authenticity of this work when the NBA almost did not include it in the section devoted to Bach’s cantatas. Finally, in the year 2000 it appeared as NBA I/41 “Varia…” the final volume of the cantata category, a volume that contains various works that were not included in the volumes already published by the NBA.
One of the strongest, perhaps earliest critics to take a stand against considering this work to be authentic was Arnold Schering in the Bach Jahrbuch (BJ 1913, p. 39ff.) Arnold Schering (1877-1941) was a respected Bach scholar, but also a leading musicologist specializing in Baroque music (also the editor of the BJ until his death) and was well-known in the musical world for his “Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik” (1936) in which he did pioneering work in describing the original performing conditions for Bach’s cantatas.
The most recent attack on the authenticity of BWV 150 took place in 1988 (a BJ article (1988), p. 196 by Andreas Glöckner). Perhaps “the turning of the tide” took place with Alfred Dürr’s doctoral dissertation on the subject of Bach’s early cantatas (1951). This dissertation appeared in an expanded book form in 1977. In his comprehensive book, “Johann Sebastian Bach Die Kantaten” (1971), he cautiously suggests: “If this cantata turns out not to be by Bach, then perhaps it might be the work of a student who studied under Bach, and that it was Bach himself who worked alongside this student and gave considerable help wherever necessary.”
In the light of this extensive criticism over the course of the last century, Spitta’s high regard for BWV 150 pays tribute to one of his most Spitta’s most outstanding qualities: his ability to understand intuitively various aspects of Bach’s compositions. His rather detailed discussion of this cantata demonstrates how he analyzed its characteristics and even came quite close to assigning the year of its composition correctly. Philipp Spitta (1841-1894) is most famous for his monumental biography of Bach, a task which took him from 1867 to 1880 to complete. Spitta ties in many details from Bach’s biography to make the necessary connections between the music and the influences Bach experienced from a number of directions, the most important of these resulting from his visit to Hamburg and Lübeck just a year or two prior to the composition of BWV 150. It was in Lübeck where Bach made the acquaintance of Buxtehude who dominated the musical scene there. These influences are quite apparent in BWV 150, especially in the use of the two violins and no middle voice such as a viola.
With great enthusiasm Spitta maintained a lengthy correspondence with Johannes Brahms who received from Spitta a somewhat incomplete copy of the score of BWV 150 before the score in Spitta’s temporary possession was published in the BG. This correspondence, compiled by C. Krebs [published in 1920] (an connection to one of Bach’s most famous students?) is contained in a book devoted solely to this interesting exchange of ideas between these two men. It is Spitta who points out “the very clever application by Bach of the Ciacona-form to choral music,” this, of course, being the model on which the final mvt. of Brahms’ 4th Symphony is based. Brahms writes back to Spitta regarding another passage in the cantata, asking whether the phrase markings were incorrectly copied and makes some suggestions. He wants Spitta to check the copy which Brahms received against the original copy (which is, in itself, a copy of Bach’s original score that was lost very soon after Bach’s death. The copier upon which most of the music in the current NBA is based was Christian Friedrich Penzel who made his copy in 1753.) At the end of the letter Brahms asks Spitta, “How long are we still going to have to wait for the second volume of your Bach biography?”
Isn't it an ironic twist that Andreas Glöckner, the main editor of the NBA volume that contains BWV 150, was also one of the last scholars to take a stand against its authenticity? Without the necessary help by Dürr and the final turnaround by Glöckner, BWV 150 would have met the same fate as BWV 53 “Schlage doch, gewünschte Stunde” which I remember hearing on a recording (with Hilde Rössl-Majdan) in the late 1950's and other cantatas as well, which Aryeh has listed on his site. And doesn’t Spitta earn our praise for making the correct assessment about this cantata in the first place? He may also have been instrumental in getting the BG to include this cantata, as there were always doubts about any Bach work for which there was no additional evidence that such a score had ever existed after the original score and parts had been lost.
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 12, 2001):
BWV 150 Final Proof of Authenticity?
What if we considered BWV 150 as a painting presumed to be by an artist named J.S.Bach? Because the provenance of this painting had been disputed for a century, it had been relegated to a storage room of a museum, the directors of which were somewhat reluctant to display it along with the other originals on the main floor of the museum. They were concerned that they would be criticized for having paid too much for an apparent counterfeit painting. Scientific analysis, however, had confirmed that it had been completed in the 18th century, probably more toward the beginning than the end of that century, but a key piece of evidence was still lacking: the artist’s usual signature that could be found on almost all of his other paintings. After having examined the work from a stylistic standpoint and also having determined that some features could only be explained as the mannerisms of an immature artist, many art critics concluded that it could possibly be the work of an apprentice who was known to have worked in the master’s studio. There were simply too many inexplicable elements present that continued to cause doubts in the minds of many concerning its attribution to this great artist.
One day, one of the museum’s caretaker volunteers took it out of its dark hiding place and wanted to see this work that had, more often than not, spent more time in the museum’s basement than in the main gallery. Looking in one corner of the painting as he was musing about its content, the caretaker thought he caught a glimpse of something slightly unusual. It appeared as if someone many years ago had carefully restored a damaged corner of the painting, but under this restoration there seemed to be something else. Looking about to see if anyone was watching him (he was relieved to determine that he was all alone,) he decided to use some of the tools that he had seen professional restorers use when they work on paintings of this sort. When he began to remove some of the top layer, his mouth opened in wide amazement as he began to decipher the letters being revealed: BACH. At first his heart jumped for joy, but then he remembered that he might be fired for tampering with the painting. And who knows? Perhaps the directors would think that this too was a forgery by someone who wanted to increase the resale value of the painting.
Now it is up to you to decide!
BWV 150 has a sinfonia as its 1st mvt., but in reality, it is more like the frequently-used ritornelli that Bach included in his mature sacred cantatas. So, in essence, mvt. 2 is the introductory 1st mvt. of this cantata. In any case, the significant entrance of the choir is the 1st major statement that the composer makes here. Also, this major statement is clearly an entity separated from the rest of the mvt. by a final fermata on “Mein Gott” and a change of tempo that begins a new segment of the mvt. The vocal parts enter with fugal entries that are based on a descending chromatic scale figure already presented in the sinfonia. There are three sets of vocal entries and each hasa different sequence: Set 1 – the entries begin in the bass and move upwards sequentially to the soprano; Set 2 – the soprano begins, followed by the bass, after which the alto and then the tenor enter; Set 3 – first the alto, then soprano, then bass, and finally tenor. This type of variation in these entrances is a typical feature in Bach’s sacred cantatas. With 3 sets of 4 entrances each, the main descending motif is presented 12 times; however, there are two ritornelli sandwiched between these 3 sets, and each of these has one instance of the descending chromatic scale in the bc. Aha! Now we have a total of exactly 14 entrances in this 1st major section of the entire cantata! Applying gematria, one of the most important numbers in Bach’s compositional world is 14 because it is the total derived from the letters of this family name: B = 2; A = 1; C = 3; and H = 8. Hence we have BACH = 14. In this manner Bach managed to imprint his signature on his music in such a way that if his original score was lost, a copy thereof would still contain his signature embedded in the music itself. To all today’s ingenious software engineers devising methods for protecting the sources of CD’s and DVD’s, “Eat your heart out!” With Bach, however, the purpose of such a scheme was to create a completely personal, yet recognizable imprint in the music itself. This is comparable to the methods employed by a number of artists beginning with the early Renaissance. These artists would paint themselves into a major painting as a bystander observing the scene that was the subject of the painting. Likewise Bach would feel himself even more directly and intimately connected with the text being presented in the cantata.
Dick Wursten wrote (December 11, 2001):
Whether from Bach himself or not: I enjoyed listening to this cantata. Psalm 25 being one of my favorites, I was pleased to hear parts of it 3 times (coro) There must be much more interesting and subtle interpretations of these coro's.
What I particularly liked about this cantata is its simplicity.. I hope you understand that I use this word in a positive sense. What I missed in BWV 36 I find here: The cantata is 'a whole', the message is clear, the music is homogeneous (??).
Thanks for suggesting this cantata..
Dick Wursten wrote (December 11, 2001):
BWV 150 – Zippel Fagottist
The most over-interpreted story from Bachs early biography (Arnstadt) is his quarrel with a student named Geyersbach (1705).. Bach called him a 'Zippel-fagottist' (translation: ??? ) and had somtehing of a fight with him on the street afterwards. Too much has been written about this incident (The Dutch author and Bach-lover Maarten 't Hart uses the different versions of this incident in the different biographies as an exercise in historical criticism. Sometimes it is hilarious to read what some popularizing authors make of it by 'creative and imaginitive copying' from others...
Two things are certain:
1. (Bach 20years young) demanded concertant music of his student-musicians, who were only prepared and hired for choir-music...
2. Geyersbach played the fagot not well enough for that kind of music according to Bach..
Chr. Wolff sometimes likes to speculate (but he usually admits that it only is a speculation). He connects this fagot-incident with cantata 15, which demands a Fagotto in Chor-Ton. In mvt 5 this fagotto plays an important role (Aria Alto, Tenore et Basso con Fagotto)... He suggests: perhaps this particular part for Fagotto was too difficult for Geyersbach to play and was the cause for Bach calling him a 'Zippel-fagottist'..
This kind of speculation I like in Wolff....
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 11, 2001):
Dick Wursten commented:
< The most over-interpreted story from Bachs early biography (Arnstadt) is his quarrel with a student named Geyersbach (1705).. Bach called him a 'Zippel-fagottist' (translation: ??? ) and had somtehing of a fight with him on the street afterwards. Too much has been written about this incident (The Dutch author and Bach-lover Maarten 't Hart uses the different versions of this incident in the different biographies as an exercise in historical criticism. Sometimes it is hilarious to read what some popularizing authors make of it by 'creative and imaginitive copying' from others... >
Zippel is a dialect form of Zwiebel = "Onion" a derogatory term which probably implies that he 'stinks' as a player. Wolff waters this down to a tame-sounding phrase: 'a greenhorn player.'
< Two things are certain:
1. (Bach 20years young) demanded concertant music of his student-musicians, who were only prepared and hired for choir-music...
2. Geyersbach played the fagot not well enough for that kind of music according to Bach.. >
3. Bach was involved in hearings before a consistory in Arnstadt that lasted from August 5 to August 21 in 1705. These hearings always came back to the incident with Geyersbach, but included many other issues as, for instance, Bach's overstaying his stay in Lübeck, other church and instruction-related matter, and Bach's having taken a young woman up into the organ balcony (she was to be his first wife). According to Barbara Catharina Bach's (the woman in question) testimony (she was present when this incident took place), Geyersbach first hit Bach in the face whereupon Bach drew his sword, but did not use it. The two men scuffled, and when Geyersbach dropped his stick during the scuffle, the other students stepped in at this point and told Bach that if he left now, the whole matter would be over. She also testified that Bach did not have a pipe (for smoking) in his mouth at the time. (The pipe would have been an additional provocation.)
< Chr. Wolff sometimes likes to speculate (but he usually admits that it only is a speculation). He connects this fagot-incident with cantata 15, which demands a Fagotto in Chor-Ton. In mvt 5 this fagotto plays an important role (Aria Alto, Tenore et Basso con Fagotto)... He suggests: perhaps this particular part for Fagotto was too difficult for Geyersbach to play and was the cause for Bach calling him a 'Zippel-fagottist'.. This kind of speculation I like in Wolff.... >
Some other mvts. in BWV 150 also have a separate bassoon part that would require more than an just an ordinary bassoon player to perform properly. Mvt. 2, 4, and 6 as well as mvt. 5 which Wolff mentioned.
Aryeh Oron wrote (December 12, 2001):
The subject of this week's discussion (December 9, 2001) is Cantata BWV 150, according to Michael Grover's proposed list. This is most probably the earliest of Bach's surviving cantatas, composed sometime between 1704 and 1707. In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 150 - Recordings
You can notice that this cantata is included in all five complete cantata cycles (H&L, Rilling, Koopman, Suzuki and Leusink), as well as in a recording from mid 1950's by Marcel Couraud. All of these recordings are available in CD form. If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata not listed in the page of recordings, please inform me and send the relevant details, so that I shall be able to update the page.
I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.
The earliest cantata?
The question, which is Bach earliest cantata, will most probably remain forever a matter of speculation. Hereinafter is what some of the scholars thought about this subject (in chronological order).
Albert Schweitzer (‘Johann Sebastian Bach’, 1905-1908)
Schweitzer considered BWV 15 to be the first cantata composed by Bach. He thought it to be the only cantata that Bach composed in Arnstadt. He did not dream at the time of writing his book that this cantata will be declared by the scholars about half a century later as a non-Bach cantata. After that Bach composed in Mühlhausen BWV 71 and BWV 131. From the earlyWeimar period two cantatas survived – BWV 150 and BWV 106. Schweitzer had no doubt that BWV 150 is a genuine Bach composition and found in it expressions of sorrow and joy, typical to the way Bach would treat these subjects in years to come.
W. Gillies Whittaker (‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach’, 1959)
“BWV 150 is for an unspecified occasion; 1712 is quoted for an approximate date. It is certainly early, as certain features of BWV 71 and BWV 131 recur. There are short chordal passages for the choir, brief choral passages answered by the orchestra, delight in vocal fugues wherever the text affords opportunities, frequent contrasts of style and tempo within a movement, and occasionally a resultant stiffness. The brief non-Da-Capo soprano aria is distinctly of an early type.”
Alec Robertson (‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’, 1972)
Robertson does not include BWV 150 in his book, most probably because this cantata is not connected to any event in the Lutheran Church Year.
W. Murray Young (‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’, 1989)
“The occasion for this cantata is unknown. It is still in the old style of alternating choruses and arias, without recitatives and da-capo repeats. The text is based on Psalms 25 (1, 2, 5, 15) for the first three choruses, with original additions to the libretto for the soprano aria, the trio and the final chorus. Bach’s arrangement of the text and his authorship have been questioned, but the music is certainly his, I feel.” Young assumed that the cantata was composed between 1708 and 1710.
Gerhard Schumacher (Liner notes to Teldec/Leonhardt, 1985)
“BWV 150, being written for an unspecified occasion, has often had its authencity called into question. However, certain features, such as the brief Sinfonia, the scoring and its resemblance to other works suggest that it was composed in 1708-1709.”
Christoph Wolff (Liner notes to Erato/Koopman, 1995)
“BWV 150 is believed to be the oldest Bach cantata in existence, assumed to have been written before 1707, that is to say during the Arnstadt period. The definitive source of the work is a copy made by Christian Friderich Pensel in 1753, showing the eight-part scoring for four voices and four instruments (2 violins, bassoon and basso continuo) [snip] Bach’s cantata BWV 150 appeared for the first time in 1884 in the old Bach complete edition.”
Tadashi Isoyama (Liner notes to BIS/Suzuki)
“The circumstances of the writing of this cantata, compared with the others (early cantatas of J.S. Bach), are shrouded in darkness. Recently it is being more widely held that it may be the earliest of Bach’s surviving cantatas, and it seems possible that it was composed before Bach’s Mühlhausen years. The theme of the final movement seems to be derived from a chaconne by Pachelbel, which may indicate that it was intended by Bach as a tribute to that composer, who died in 1706. The existing score was copied after Bach’s death by his student C.F. Penzel in 1753.”
Clemens Romijn (Liner notes to Brilliant Classics/Leusink, 1999)
“We do not know whether Bach really composed Cantata BWV 150, and if so, when and for what occasion. It is possibly an early work, and the Bach scholar Alfred Dürr has estimated that it was written around 1708-1709.”
Nicholas Anderson (‘Oxford Composer Companion – J.S. Bach’, 1999)
“Modern scholarship has been reluctant to accept this work as an authentic item of Bach canon. Yet, while it is true that the piece contains technical insecurities of a kind not found in Bach’s well-authenticated earliest cantatas, there are also features which invite us to consider it as a genuine product of his youth. If we do so, we may assume, both on stylistic grounds and in view of immaturities and curiosities in the part-writing, that this is Bach’s earliest surviving cantata. The years 1704-1707, when Bach was in Arnstadt, are currently accepted as the most likely period of composition.”
a. The scholars who wrote the liner notes to the recordings by both Koopman and Suzuki, think that BWV 150 is most probably the earliest extant Bach’s cantata. Why therefore was not this cantata placed as the first in the first CD of their cycles? I wonder.
b. After hearing this cantata several times in each one of its sic recordings, I am quiet sure that this is a Bach’s composition. I can rely only on my ears, and this is what they are telling me. It certainly less coherent than most the other early cantatas (BWV 4, BWV 106, BWV 131, etc.) and therefore most probably was composed before them. The first Bach biographer Johann Nicolaus Forkel wrote in 1802: “His music is not merely agreeable, like other composers’, but transports us to regions of the ideal. It does not arrest our attention momentarily hut grips us stronger the oftener we listen to it, so that after a thousand hearings its treasures are still unexhausted and yield fresh beauties to excite our wonder.” I have the same feeling also with cantata BWV 150 and for me this is the absolute proof that this a genuine Bach work. Isn’t it?
Review of the Recordings
 Marcel Couraud (Mid 1950’s)
Couraud’s rendition is the slowest of all the recorded performances of this cantata. However he succeeds to hold our attention along the whole work. He has an excellent choir, which does not sound very big, although it was recorded in the mid 1950’s. They sing smoothly with deep conviction, so that the longing theme is becoming very meaningful. Friederike Sailer knows how to convey the emotional contrast between the rage and the restrain, and she is doing it with enthralling simplicity. The trio in the fifth movement can teach some more contemporary performers how to transfer the complicated message of a man whose faith is so strong that he is not upset by the windstorm. And they are doing it without competing with each other, but by complementing each other. The choir shows us in the final chorus that they can keep the majestic flow of the lines with captivating slowness.
 Helmuth Rilling (1970)
Rilling’s rendition was recorded early in his complete cantata cycle and with unfamiliar singers. I could not find biographical material about any one of them for the bios section of the Bach Cantatas Website. But even at this early stage of his long and fruitful career, Rilling was very much aware of what he is doing. Under his direction the cantata sounds as a complete work of art, as though it was recorded continuously in one sitting. The choir sounds fuller than Couraud’s and more colourful and enthusiastic. Magdalene Schreiber is on the same par with Couraud’s Sailer. She sings with full voice and a slight vibrato, and her singing is loaded with emotion. The Terzetto is given to the choir, which sings fine, but I prefer this movement with solo singers. Rilling keeps his surprise for the last chorus, which is given to the four vocal soloists. Would you believe? – Rilling performs a choral movement OVPP, and he gets excellent results. His singers have good voices and they sound indeed as a mini choir, a phenomenon which most of the modern OVPP recordings of Bach Cantatas fail to achieve.
 Gustav Leonhardt (1985)
Leonhardt creates a unique mystical and ancient atmosphere in the opening Sinfonia. The choir enters quietly and continues to keep that atmosphere. Although it is somewhat fragmented and dry, it is still fascinating in a way very different from those of Couraud and Rilling. The longing is revealed to our ears in an intimate way. Unlike some other boy sopranos in H&L cantata cycle Ansgar Pfeiffer does not succeed to convey a mature human feelings. In the Terzetto we have three mature singers (Esswood, Equiluz and Egmond) who have already sung in many cantatas together. At this stage of their career they do not have to prove anything to anybody. They can focus on getting the best of their singing together and the result is indeed moving. I believe that Leonhardt gives also the concluding chorale to the four soloists, buI find this rendition less fascinating than that of Rilling. Along this whole recording I had the feeling that Leonhardt knows exactly what he is doing and how to get his forces convey his intentions, but that he is not really enjoy doing it. A feeling of weariness and routine characterise this rendition.
 Ton Koopman (1994)
Koopman, like Rilling, recorded this cantata also early in his cantata cycle and with unfamiliar singers. All of them belonged to the Amsterdam Baroque Choir at the time this cantata was recorded. In the opening Sinfonia Koopman outdoes Leonhardt. He keeps the same mystical atmosphere, but with cleaner, lighter and warmer playing. In the ensuing chorus the difference is even bigger, because Koopman keeps the continuity of this movement without the dryness of Leonhardt. Maybe the reason is that he performs this movement in OVPP approach. Like chamber music, we get the best results from singers (with good and matching voices) who have been trained to sing together (in a choir) rather than from a group of singers who have developed solo career. The Chorus (Mvt. 4), Terzetto (Mvt.5), the Chorale (Mvt. 6) concluding Chorus (Mvt. 7) are all performed wonderfully by the vocal soloists. To conclude, this is one of the best performances in Koopman’s cycle.
 Masaaki Suzuki (1995)
In the opening Sinfonia Suzuki is so touching, as though he is shooting arrow directly into your heart. The choir continues the same impression. Hearing them expressing the longing so movingly and you understand the real meaning of this word. The whole rendition is somewhat bolder and penetrating than Koopman’s who sounds more delicate and soft-centred in comparison. Kurisu is a better singer than Koopman’s Grimm is at this stage of their career. Her expression is simply more meaningful and she is taking care of every word. The least satisfying movement of this high-level recording is the Terzetto, which is interwoven less cleanly than some of the other recordings. The same could be said about the concluding chorus, which is performed by the four vocal soloists.
 Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
Leusink’s approach to the opening Sinfonia is very light. I would even say too light. Because both this movement and the following chorus are somewhat superficial. One can enjoy it, because the musical material is so good, but you have the feeling that Leusink does not get the essence of these movements in particular and the cantata as a whole. Holton excels in the aria for soprano, which is the best part of this recording. Her innocent voice is much suitable to convey pure belief with the right weight of emotion. The Terzetto here is the least successful of all the six recordings, as if the singers do not have the knowledge how to sing together such complicated movement.
Level A – Couraud , Rilling , Koopman , Suzuki 
Level B – Leonhardt 
Level C – Leusink 
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Andrew Oliver wrote (December 13, 2001):
While this cantata does not sound like 'typical Bach', there is something about it which makes me think it is his, but I cannot define just what it is.
The word-painting? The descending chromatic themes? The unusual harmonic progressions, (especially towards the end)? I don't know, but I do know that I like it, whether by Bach or not. I agree with Dick that the apparent simplicity is appealing, but I say 'apparent' because it is not really as simple as it sounds.
I can quite see why musical authorities have been reluctant to accept J.S.Bach as the composer. Some sections seem unpolished, or not as fully developed as the sort of compositions we normally associate with Bach are, e.g. those ritornelli which simply repeat the previous phrases.
On the other hand, there seems to me to be a sense of experimentation about the work, which just makes it more interesting to me. I like the whole work, but if I had to single out specific movements, I would choose the terzetto, and the following chorus, but, as I said, I like it all, in both the versions which I have, Leonhardt  and Leusink . In fact, I like this cantata from Leusink better than several others from him.
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 13, 2001):
This week I listened to the following recordings:
Rilling (1970) ; Leonhardt (1985) ; Koopman (1994) ; Suzuki (1995) ; Leusink (1999) 
Compared to many recordings in this series, this one is of poor quality. This seems to be due to a combination of a number of different factors: 1) the recording engineers may still have been experimenting with the setup of their microphones; 2) Rilling had difficulty in assembling a good set of soloists, or perhaps felt that they were not really needed here when he could simply choose some voices from the choir; 3) Rilling, affected by the Bach scholarship findings and perhaps his personal assessment of this work, decided that it would not need such a polished performance as with the better-known cantatas. One way to assess the difference between this and Rilling’s many other recordings of the cantatas is to think of his usual quite excellent choir sound that almost always demonstrates precision and balance between the voices. As I have frequently pointed out, the only negative factor would be the operatic quality of the voices in the Gächinger Kantorei, which has as a noticeable feature specific voices that refuse to blend with the other voices. Take this choir and exaggerate this characteristic sound so that the choir now begins to sound more like an opera house chorus, then you know what I am referring to here: truly excessive vibratos with the sopranos being the worst offenders throughout the entire recording. The tenors are weaker than usual. The vocal parts are not always clearly delineated which is rather uncharacteristic for Rilling. In mvt. 4 there are imprecise attacks and the soloists in mvts. 3 and 7 leave much to be desired. In particular, the soprano soloist, Schreiber, with her trembling, extremely fast vibrato is rather disconcerting.
Leonhardt, at this late point in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series on Teldec, demonstrates complete submission to Harnoncourt’s ‘pioneering’ performance practices. For anyone who does not know about these, simply listen carefully to the strange thrusts and accents. The melodic lines are punctuated with momentary short pauses that undermine the continuity and integrity of these lines. Add many staccato notes where nothing of this type is noted in the score and you will perceive the elements of a non-legato style of singing and playing. In the final Ciaccona the dinosaurs are once again marching across the musical landscape. You can feel the ground shake with each heavy step that they take. Although the balance between the choir and solo parts is reasonably good, the soloists in mvt. 5 do not blend at all because they have too much vibrato in their voices. For a series that takes pride in its historical accuracy, my faith is thoroughly shaken when the soloists indulge in changing the words of the original text, a text that is correctly printed out in the accompanying booklet. In the Ciaccona Equiluz sings, “Bleibet Gott mein treuer Schatz” instead of “Schutz” [“treasure” rather than “protection”] and van Egmond manages to sing, “Achte ich nicht Menschenkreuz” instead of “Menschentrutz” [“human cross” rather than “human defiance”.]
There are some wonderful moments in this recording of the cantata, but let me stress the key word, ‘moments.’ Koopman’s interpretations tend to be rather whimsical with occasional attempts at Romanticism and Impressionism, but then just as suddenly he will press the choir, soloists and orchestra through a tour-de-force race to see who will finish first. And, of course, he always wins, but the soloists and the music suffer greatly from this approach. Actually, this type of Bach score is completely suited to Koopman’s personal style of interpretation, for there are many sections within the mvts., thus giving Koopman ample opportunity for frequent changes from one extreme to another. The result is that he is able to conjure up a few moments when everything seems just perfect and Bach’s magic seems to take on an additional power that you will hear nowhere else. An example of this occurs in the final mvt., when for a few measures the choir sings “Freude” and the violins follow with an exquisite musical device taken directly from Buxtehude’s compositional techniques. But very soon thereafter there is a bad soprano entrance with the tenor voice equally bad and the final bass entrance quite weak. Koopman’s impressionistic approach is apparent in mvt. 6 where the sound and blend of voices seems almost too perfect at first, but things soon fall apart quickly as the voices engage in much too much sotto voce. It is as though Koopman is saying to the listener: “I don’t really want you to hear what they are singing about. Just listen to the effect that they are creating. Isn’t that marvelous enough?” OK, so the whole performance is OVPP. So what? Koopman has the same difficulties that Rifkin had: try to find 4 voices that can sing like a choir and blend perfectly, yet be able to perform some rather difficult solos as well. To demonstrate the problems Koopman has here, just listen to the soprano soloist, Grimm. There are moments, and this is true for the other soloists as well, when everything seems to come together extremely well. These moments occur when the OVPP choir sings simple quarter notes, such as you would find in a chorale. Intonation, attack, blend, in short, everything seems ideal for the OVPP approach, but the moment Bach unleashes the voices to perform coloratura and other fast-moving choral sections the magic quickly dissipates and becomes difficult to listen to. Grimm, in particular, with her trembling, extremely fast vibrato is very unnerving as she attempts to go beyond the limitations of her small half-voice. It is also unfortunate that Koopman follows the same strong accents that the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series demonstrated in BWV 150. Not much originality here! Another whim that I find extremely bothersome is Koopman’s destruction of Bach’s ‘ladder to heaven,’ the deliberately, rather slowly ascending scale passage that begins in the bass and ascends into the highest heaven (in the violin parts.) What does Koopman do here? He has Grimm perform an appoggiatura on the final note of her portion of the scale. This is the equivalent to changing momentarily to a single skip during a long walk you are taking. There is simply no rhyme or reason for this ad lib embellishment that has absolutely no place being in this serious section of the cantata.
What a relief! Finally the musical, melodic lines really sing from beginning to end. No unnecessary, strange accents or hiatuses between notes where they do not belong. The use of a few more voices immediately endows the choral sections with a necessary dignity that befits the text. There is a firm, serious foundation upon which everything is constructed and continues to grow throughout the cantata. Even the special ‘push’ on the first syllable of “Schanden” [“shame, disgrace”] takes on special meaning here, because this type of accent has not been excessively used as in the Leonhardt and Koopman renditions. Contrary to all the other versions, the soprano soloist delivers her aria with firmness and excellent expression. One has the feeling that she really means what she is singing about. I would beg to differ with Suzuki in his treatment of the final mvt. With him it begins to sound almost like a waltz – a strong accent on the 1st beat followed by 2 very light beats. This type of treatment simply does not relate to the seriousness of the text and even the monumental musical structure of this magnificent mvt.
More of the usual amateurish performance style that I have become accustomed to from this group! Leusink uses Leonhardt’s performance as a guide, even to the point that the bass soloist makes the same mistake in pronunciation!!! [“Menschenkreuz” instead of “Menschentrutz.”] Week after week of hearing an unchanging approach toward Bach’s great choral music, with the same problems in diction, balance, choral singing style, and with the same steady diet of half-voice soloists who hardly ever seem to be going anywhere, I now find it necessary to say, “Es ist genug!” Listening to Leusink’s recordings repeatedly is causing an emotional response that I do not wish to have. Henceforth, unless there is something truly noteworthy, I will reduce my commentary on this group to a few standard phrases that characterize generally my experience in listening to this series of recordings.
Summary: 1. Suzuki ; 2. Koopman ; 3. Leonhardt , Rilling ; 5. Leusink 
Kirk McElhearn wrote (December 13, 2001):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< You can notice that this cantata is included in all five complete cantata cycles (H&L, Rilling, Koopman, Suzuki and Leusink), >
A small question of semantics - perhaps you should not call them all complete. Only three of them are for now. We don't know if, for a variety of reasons, Koopman and Suzuki will complete theirs....
Richard Grant wrote (Decmber 13, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Isn't it true that in Bach's time, as in our own, appoggiaturas could be used to denote serious as well as light and decorative embellishment, indicating in the former instance deep emotion or great anxiety.
Phrases like "where they shouldn't be" and "don't belong" would seem to ignore or question the performance practices of Bach's own time where embelishment and ad libida were the norm and expected in both sacred and secular music.
Its one thing to advance a personal distaste or preference for one performing style over another; but don't you think that to hold that one or another style has no right to exist for anyone's delectation has to be done on firmer ground than the practices of Bach's own time would seem to provide you here?
By the way, my tastes in this are apparently similar to yours in that I often find Harnoncourt, for all his well documented gifts, seeming to be more interested in "stirring things up" than in illuminating and revealing truths.
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 13, 2001):
What to listen for in this cantata:
See: Cantata BWV 150 - Commentary
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 13, 2001):
Richard Grant commented:
< Isn't it true that in Bach's time, as in our own, appoggiaturas could be used to denote serious as well as light and decorative embellishment, indicating in the former instance deep emotion or great anxiety.
Phrases like "where they shouldn't be" and "don't belong" would seem to ignore or question the performance practices of Bach's own time where embellishment and ad libida were the norm and expected in both sacred and secular music.
Its one thing to advance a personal distaste or preference for one performing style over another; but don't you think that to hold that one or another style has no right to exist for anyone's delectation has to be done on firmer ground than the practices of Bach's own time would seem to provide you here? >
Richard, you are correct in pointing out these things, for I have overstated what I was trying to say. PeI identified too strongly with the passage in question. In once again attempting to assess Koopman's  use of the appoggiatura and what it may signify in the place where he uses it (at the top of the vocal range) the effect that the appoggiatura might have is to express an additional weight of feeling, felt by the soprano after making it to the top. This might be a possible interpretation, but an interpretation that disregards the extension of the 'ladder' through the two violins after that point. It is as if Koopman disgards the presence of the further extension through the violin parts or considers it unimportant. In any case, the appoggiatura has the effect of calling special attention to a particular note, which, in this case, is not the ultimate goal toward which Bach is aiming. In essence the soprano using the final appoggiatura is saying, "Whew! I made it to the top of the mountain!" But did she really? There is always more to come. She is simply a quitter and does not want to continue even higher on this ladder.
My personal view is that commonsense would dictate that the 'ladder' not be interrupted as there is no valid reason for special emphasis at that point. Koopman  seems to be indulging in a common Harnoncourt characteristic. Also, very likely Bach would have written out the appoggiatura if he felt it would carry significance here.
Richard Grant wrote (December 18, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] That's an inrtiguing view. I'm glad you elaborated.
Dick Wursten wrote (December 14, 2001):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< 14 is the total of BACH (B=2, A=1, C=3, and H=8) and can be viewed as his personal signature embedded in the music >
And it is not the first time he refers to the use of numbers to analyze Bachs music (and even find deeper and hidden meanings). I'm not able to judge this. As a theologian I'm very sceptical, because sects always use these unfamiliar kind of interpreting texts.
But: abusus non tollit usum.
So only one remark: From a famous science-philosopher I learned that a theory is not 'strong' because there is a lot of evidence. No for almost every proposition you can 'collect' evidence in such a manner that a not-insider is flabbergasted (nice word, don't know exactly what it means, but it sounds appropriate here). He (Karl Popper) states: A theory is strong when you can think of an experiment to FALSIFY it and you really try to make that falsification work out and then have to conclude that the test to falsify fails.
So: I propose two falsification-tests (for people who have very little else to do, I m afraid).
1. Formulate a name as musically usefull as the name B-A-C-H and try to find
the numerical equivalents (+, -, :, x 7cetera) it in a number of works of Bach.
2. Try to find the name B-A-C-H (and its numerical ...) in compositions of some else.
But in the meantime, don't forget to listen to BWV 150, because the proof of the pudding is in the eating... the proof of the Bach-signature in this particular work is in the hearing.
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 14, 2001):
Commentary on BWV 150 by Eric Chafe
from Eric Chafe’s “Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J.S.Bach” (1991)
See: Cantata BWV 150 - Commentary
Thomas Braatz wrote (December 14, 2001):
Aryeh Oron wondered:
< a. The scholars who wrote the liner notes to the recordings by both Koopman and Suzuki, think that BWV 150 is most probably the earliest extant Bach's cantata. Why therefore was not this cantata placed as the first in the first CD of their cycles? I wonder. >
At the time when the notes were written those experts who considered the cantata to be authentic still thought it was a product of the Weimar period, an early one in that category. It was not until the NBA I/41 KB was printed in 2000 that issue regarding the authenticity was resolved and the time and place of composition were specified as having been in all probability Arnstadt, circa 1706, thus definitely making this the earliest extant Bach cantata and no longer considered to be among the Mühlhausen cantatas BWV 71, BWV 131, BWV 106, BWV 196, and BWV 4.
It appears that the scholars who wrote the notes for the Koopman (Wolff)  and Suzuki  recordings already suspected this earliest date, but there was still insufficient evidence to back up their suspicions, hence BWV 150 was not the first in either series.
Dick Wursten wrote (December 15, 2001):
BWV 150 - last impression
After having re-listened to this cantata several times, I am still charmed by it. Ruth Holton  IS a boy disguised as a woman, I'm sure now. I like her performance very much (but have no comparison... so). Together with the general 'mood' of this cantata and - indeed - the only 'apparent' simplicity of it (thank you, Andrew) this cantata is one that will last.
I listened to some older music too, Buxtehude (6 cantatas by Jos van Immerseel. Peculiar interpretation, magnificent music), Strungk, Weckmann and N. Bruhns and indeed I am convinced that Bach must have written this cantata with their examples still in his ear.
Biographical: the Arnstadt period is not only the period of the quarrel with Geyersbach (not important for his musical development), but is marked by Bachs trip to Lübeck to hear (and meet and work with?) Buxtehude (masterclass) and his discussions with the Church-board on concertant music for the church. This cantata has everything in it to be a cantata from Bach from that specific period for that church. Therefore not tied to a specific sunday, but one for 'general' use. One of his first experiments on this field of music.
I want to recommend what Wolff writes about this episode in his book on Bach. His excursion into the work of Buxtehude (c.s.) is very lluminative (? from: illuminatio). He also gives some examples and short analysis of music from that time, including the beginning of BWV 150 mvt 4.
Jane Newble wrote (December 16, 2001):
It is a bit late, and the past week has been hectic, but I did want to say that I absolutely love this cantata.
Somewhere I read that Bach admired Schütz (one of my other favourite composers), and some of it very much reminds me of him. I have Leusink , Koopman  and Suzuki , and I have got stuck with the Suzuki. It is so beautiful, the serenity of the instruments and the voices and the words. I could listen to it over and over again.
Keyboard part for #150
Sarah Graham wrote (April 9, 2002):
I am currently seeking a keyboard part for Cantata BWV 150 ("Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich"). I've tried several publishers through Malecki Music and have not been able to find one. Would anyone happen to know where I might find one?
Michael Grover wrote (April 9, 2002):
[To Sarah Graham] Are you looking for a score where the whole cantata is arranged for keyboard and vocal only, or are you simply looking for the keyboard continuo part from the full score?
There are several possibilities at sheet music plus:
Click on "Classical sheet music" under power search. Then I put "150" in the "composition or movement" search field and "Bach" in the composer field. Came up with 18 hits. I checked Breitkopf and Haertel's website and this one is a piano reduction score:
Kantate 150 Nach dir, Herr By Johann Sebastian Bach. For solo parts, mixed choir, orchestra. Edition Breitkopf.
Published by Breitkopf and Haertel. (EB--07150) 2+ pricing available.
Your price $10.00
Lead time before shipment - 4 to 6 weeks.
Add to shopping cart or see more info
(copied and pasted off sheet music plus - you can also order it direct from
B&H for 8.50 Euro www.breitkopf.de)
This is the organ continuo part:
Kantate 150 Nach dir, Herr By Johann Sebastian Bach. For solo parts, mixed choir, orchestra. This edition: organ. Breitkopf Orchestral Library.
Published by Breitkopf and Haertel. (OB--04650-Org) 2+ pricing available.
Your price $12.50
Lead time before shipment - 4 to 6 weeks.
Add to shopping cart or see more info
(or 10.50 Euro from B&H)
Hope this helps.
Sarah Graham wrote (April 9, 2002):
[To Michael Grover] Thank you for the information! I was looking for the organ continuo part, so your e-mail was very helpful. I appreciate your help.
Continue on Part 2
Cantata BWV 150: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4