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Cantata BWV 155
Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange?
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of December 6, 2009

Neil Halliday wrote (December 5, 2009):
Intro. to BWV 155: Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange

The first of Bach's three cantatas for the 2nd Sunday after Epiphany was composed in Weimar in 1716, and repeated at Leipzig in 1724 (16th Jan).

Again we have modest instrumentation: strings, bassoon and organ; plus as few as four singers, probably sufficient for this small-scale cantata (see Suzuki, below).

Epistle: Romans 12: 6-16.(Love and duty). Gospel: John 2: 1-11 (Christ turns water into wine).

The previous discussions cover all aspects of the text and its symbolism, including references to the day's gospel reading, provenance, commentary, etc. etc. and some interesting personal reactions to the text and music.

In this introduction I will concentrate on some aspects of the music that have not been commented on previously.

Opening recitative (Mvt. 1):

Once again we see the odd convention (in the score) of repeating the same note where an apoggiatura (in quavers) is surely required (beginning of bars 2, 5, etc.). Check out Suzuki's expressive, highly wrought example. Some may find the 'gesture' in Gardiner's [6] upper strings (sample) to be excessive.

AT Duet (Mvt. 2):

The opening A minor phrase of the bassoon obbligato is arresting, owing partly to the wide intervals of a tenth (ascending), an eleventh (descending) and 7th (ascending) on the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th notes.

The vocal parts (A.T) feature mini-canons: beginning in bar 13, at the 7th; in bar 27, at the 5th; and in bar 35, at the 2nd (with alto and tenor in close proximity on the stave). In fact, much of the middle section of the duet is a string of mini-canons at various intervals. The three canons mentioned above conclude with parallel melismas - on "gelassen", "erfreun" and "offen", respectively'.

I don't think the bassoon part should be sempre staccato, as is heard in several samples. Emmanuel music mentions a melancholy aspect to this movement, nicely realised in Leusink's recording.

Soprano aria (Mvt. 4):

Robertson insightfully describes the opening ritornello of this F major soprano aria thus: "The melody of the aria vividly reproduces, on the violins, the gesture of abandonment (by this, he means releasing oneself from inhibition and doubt) referred to in the opening words and, two bars before the voice comes in, its loving reception" (ie, "in the Highest's loving arms", in bars 7 and 8 (and later), where the continuo adopts the "abandonment motive" while the rich, warm tones of the long-held chord on the upper strings sound above).The opening soprano phrase is a variation of the melody first heard on the violins.

It's worth playing this melody a few times (from either of the BCW scores) on a keyboard (or whatever) to aid familiarisation; it's another one of Bach's engaging, longer melodies.

The dotted rhythm of the melody is intertwined with flowing triplets as the movement progresses. In bars 14-15 the soprano has two downward leaps of a 7th on "wirf" ("throw").

The abrupt change to the minor key in bars 15 - 16 (and in later occurances), and back to major, not uncommon in Bach, is most effective, as is the modulation from D minor to Bb major, on "Gnaden" (bars 31-35).

Gardiner [6] has a very 'pointed', fast version, with the dotted notes and continuo all sempre staccato, effecting a somewhat rigid articulation. Leusink, also with a lively tmpo, is much finer in this regard. Koopman [3] seems a bit slow.

In the context of this small-scale cantata, Suzuki's closing OVPP chorale is certainly satisfactory.

Such engaging, charming music as this cantata is (apart from the secco) must surely be at home in the concert hall.

The link to the BCW page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV155.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 5, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The opening A minor phrase of the bassoon obbligato is arresting, owing partly to the wide intervals of a tenth (ascending), an eleventh (descending) and 7th (ascending) on the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th notes >
There are certainly virtuoso bassoon parts as trios with oboes in "Am Abend aber" and the Easter Oratorio, and the "Quoniam" of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) has that amazing double bassoon scoring, but I can't think of another cantata with a show-stopping obligato like this. The may have a small-scale scoring, but the technical demands on both singers and instrumentalists are formidable. No exhausted performers here.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 9, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>I can't think of another cantata with a show-stopping (bassoon)obligato like this.<
Perhaps not as show-stopping, but certainly virtuoso, the bassoon obbligato in 149/6, which is also a duet - in this case for AT.

Craig Smith (of Emmanuel Music) gives this imaginative characterisation:

<"The duet for alto and tenor with sparkling bassoon obbligato is another highpoint of this wonderful cantata (BWV 149). The bassoon provides the perfect picture of the lonely watchman making his rounds.">

 

Cantata BWV 155: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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