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Cantata BWV 157
Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 23, 2008

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 23, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 157 - Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn

BWV 157 - Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn (I will not let you go unless You bless me!)

BWV 157 Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV157.htm

BWV 157 Discussion Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV157-D.htm

Set for the memorial of Johann Christoph von Ponickau, chamberlain, court counselor and appeal judge, the first date of performance was February 6, 1727. Ponickau was buried at Pomßen in the family vault.

Robertson relates that the scholar Terry states that this cantata was finished four days before the performance. Another interesting element seems to have been that Bach wanted all personal allusions left out, so that perhaps in time the work could be used in other settings, so Ponickau is not mentioned.

Of special interest in this work, Robertson mentions strands of melody in canon, and some florid passages to suggest a spiritual context. Additionally, Robertson shares that the range is high, and there are no places for singers to take a breath. Again, the tenor aria is said to be set too high. However, movement four seems to have great appeal for him as he calls it splendid, built around the fine and confident theme the flute announces at the beginning that is a kind of motto refrain confidently heard throughout the aria. The coda in this movement is marked arioso. Terry, according to Robertson questions the wording in the final chorale.

Again, in this cantata we have the instance of Simeon’s encounter with the infant Jesus. The theme as in Cantata BWV 82, is, “I have enough.” Unger translates the voice of Simeon as: “I have enough; my faith has Jesus to my heart pressed (and) in faith hold I him. I have the Savior, the hope of the godly.”

Here we have the Christian paradigm for approaching death. A reference to Genesis 32:26 where Jacob will not let go of the angel until he blesses him, also bespeaks a best form of consolation in distress and temptation, and ties the Old Testament in with the New Testament story in the matter of holding on to what matters most.

The final chorale is attributed to Christian Keymann written in 1668, and a notable feature is more polyphony than is usual in the chorales of Bach in the cantatas. There is also a strong connection to Psalm 87:2. To bring this into context a little more closely, Simon seems to be seeking Jesus blessing. As the work continues he speaks of holding fast to Jesus as he enters heaven where Jesus blessing will remain with him. Simeon even seems to delight in his future ‘casket’ because of his belief that holding onto Jesus he will also enter heaven. Simeon’s desire is to be in the beautiful heavenly place where God and the Lamb’s guests are feasting, wearing their crowns. Finally, blessed is he, who will not let go of Jesus.

Mvt. 1: Duetto: TB, flute, oboe d’amore, violin I, solo, BC

Ich lasse dich, nicht, du segnest mich denn! - I will not let You go until You bless me! This text is from Genesis in a free manner.

Mvt. 2: Ich halte meinen Jesum feste… I hold my Jesus firmly (Dürr p. 765)
Tenor, oboe d’amore, solo, BC

Simeon professes his faith that Jesus is his dwelling place, and he intends to hold on.

Mvt. 3: Recitative: Mein lieber Jesu du…My dear Jesus
Tenor, strings, BC

Simeon brings to the fore the vapid nature of life with all of its unfaithfulness and fleeting meaningless moments. He asks the question, ‘If I did not have you, my Jesus, To whom should I otherwise hold?” He affirms his commitment again.

Mvt. 4: Aria (+ Recitativo) – Ja, ja, ich halte Jesum feste…Yes, Yes, I hold Jesus firmly.
Bass, flute, violin I, solo, BC

In an interesting poetic manner, Simeon foretells that when he is in his casket, Jesus will lie in his arms; therefore, his spirit can rest joyfully. Then he will also enter heaven where he will celebrate with God and his lamb’s guests…Jesus blessing remains with him there, moreover.

Mvt. 5: Chorale – Meinen Jesum lass ich nicht…I will not let go of my Jesus
SATB, BC and instrumentation

The chorale presents a strong and faithful affirmation – Christ lets me forever and ever be led to the stream of life (Dürr). I will not let go of my Jesus.

A few details from the score: BGA Full Score

Mvt. 1: The flute, violin and oboe embellish a duet between the tenor and bass in the opening. Rhythmic motives in the continuo establish a pace, while the activity in the three upper parts sets a forward motion. All of this continues as the voices enter. The texture thins and thickens over various phrases, mostly in contrary or oblique motion with the continuo. The duet ends with eight measures of instrumentation reiterating previous motifs.

Mvt. 2: Aria – Tenor, oboe d’amore and continuo. The oboe takes the lead, and the tension mounts through the use of 32nd notes several measures before the voice enters. The oboe maintains a varied and active pace above (score placement) the tenor, who also has a part with great variety of movement. Following the initial verse there is a duet of sorts between the continuo and the oboe. When the voice re-enters the continuo settles into a simple rhythm for five measures while the oboe and tenor have an opportunity to exhibit their virtuosity due to an alternating succession of 32nd notes in the two parts. The complex and simple patterns fade in and out as the number progresses, also accommodating some possibility of interesting dynamic changes. At the end the continuo and oboe stay together at a relatively stable pace until five measures before the ending, when the oboe once again adds faster rhythmic tension, and then slows down for the conclusion.

Mvt. 3: This recitative begins with long note values in the instrumentation, and basically maintains a framework for the singer. Since violins, violetta and continuo are included one can hear a pleasant enough chordal structure throughout with some extra movement in the middle and again at the end.

Mvt. 4: Aria – includes flute, violin, bass and continuo. One element that I notice here that I have not seen in too many places in the cantatas before is a sustained note in the center of a measure that modifies the phrasing. If you have a score handy, perhaps you will find this figure in measures, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10. It occurs in some other places, along with shifts in this pattern to the third beat of a measure. Perhaps the shifts in instrumental phrasing are the most unique aspect of this movement. This movement then shifts to include some new elements…

Recitative, Arioso and Adagio: These alterations break up the work before it returns to the more predictable established pattern. Again this combination pattern occurs a little bit later. Eleven measures before the ending, and just after the vocal part finishes, we have a high point in the work for the flute, finishing out the piece with a forte marking.

Mvt. 5: Chorale – as mentioned before more polyphony is seen in this number than we ordinarily encounter in chorale work in the cantatas.

Please add your comments to the list this week. I’m sure many of you have some special insights into some of the features I have noticed or even missed.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 26, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 157

I have started to listen to this weeks cantata, BWV 157, while continuing with the large number of recordings from the previous week. I want to record two details, so I do not overlook them later. The omotto of Mvt. 1 is reminiscent of the closing chorus of SMP, BWV 244/68, although in different key and at double-time, in BWV 157. I do not see that anyone else has pointed this out, so perhaps I am over-extending.

Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Robertson relates that the scholar Terry states that this cantata was finished four days before the performance.<
The chronology is confusing, and the various scholars are not consistent. Robertson, citing Terry, suggests that the cantata was performed (not finished) for the Purification, Feb. 2, 1727, as well as at the memorial service for Ponickau, Feb. 6, 1727.

Whittaker notes that the text by Picander is inscribed <Funeral music at the grave of Herr J. C. von P[onickau], October 31, 1726> and states directly: <The music would be hurriedly written for that date.> He goes on to suggest that <we may assume that the cantata was performed again twice [Feb. 2 and 6, 1727]>.

Dürr is less speculative. From his liner notes to the Hellmann LP [1], and his cantata text:

(1) <In Picander's collection of verse, we find an extended funeral ode on his [Ponickau] death, followed by the text of the cantata [BWV 157].>

(2) Liner notes only, <It seems possible that Picander had a hand in commissioning the cantata from Bach.>

(3) <[BWV 157] was performed at a solemn memorial service at Pomßen Church on Feb. 6, 1727.> This is the implied first performance, according to Dürr. Also note that a performance on Feb. 2, 1727 would coincide with Dürr's proposed first performance for BWV 82.

(4) <Picander's text survives only in later manuscript copies which specify the Feast of the Purification as the occasion of the work. It seems that Bach revived it, at some time after it had fulfilled its original purpose, as an independent cantata for the Marian feast.>

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 26, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Whittaker notes that the text by Picander is inscribed <Funeral music at the grave of Herr J. C. von P[onickau], October 31, 1726> and states directly: <The music would be hurriedly written for that date.> He goes on to suggest that <we may assume that the cantata was performed again twice [Feb. 2 and 6, 1727]>.
I still resist what I call the Rossini Syndrome in Bach's compositional method. I just don't believe that Bach waited until he heard that some civic or royal worthy was dead and then scrambled to write a cantata. The high and mighty were always dying, and Bach must have had several funeral cantatas filed away or in draft form ready for such inevitabilities.

Bach himself had the motet of a relative specially copied for what was probably his own funeral. The music for the Queen Mother's recent funeral had been finalized for over 10 years! These high-class funerals were opportunities for Bach to show off his handiwork and I doubt he risked his reputation with half-baked goods.

The interesting thing is the connection between the funeral and Purification. Many of the Purification cantatas could easily have served double duty as funeral cantatas which always admonished the living to holier lives. In fact, there are many cantatas which have a Holy Death theme that could have been dusted off whenever Bach heard that a prominent figure was on his/her deathbed.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 26, 2008):
Doug cowling wrote:
>These high-class funerals were opportunities for Bach to show off his handiwork and I doubt he risked his reputation with half-baked goods.<
To take it a step further, once an idea was used for a funeral (or other specific) occasion, Bach was very careful to ensure that it was not compromised for further use. In the immediate instance, BWV 157 lives on for the Marian feast.

Given Bach's reputation for virtuosic improvisation, he must have had a mind, and closet, full of themes. I remain struck by the opening motto of BWV 157, which might otherwise pass by barely noticed, almost trivial. Slowed down, and adjusted to conclude SMP, BWV 244/68, it is unforgettable.

I wrote specifically to provide alternative thinking to the suggestion that BWV 157 was written in a hurry. From the accepted evidence, it could have been composed over the period from Oct. 1726 to Feb. 1727. Or even longer, given Doug's suggestion.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 26, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks to both you and Doug for adding insights here. I do not have a copy of Robertson, so when I did my library research I must have read that one sentence wrong and typed an incorrect word. This is the kind of thing that I find helpful--when I miss a detail someone is there to refine the process and extend the discussion we have a better online record. You both have my sincere appreciation for corrections and expansion of ideas.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 27, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>The opening motto of Mvt. 1 is reminiscent of the closing chorus of SMP, BWV 244/68, although in different key and at double-time, in BWV 157.<
Hi Ed, this figure jolted my memory also; I dredged up the opening motif of the aria "Schlafe, mein Liebster, geniesse der Ruh'" from Part 2 of the XO (BWV 248). Your suggestion has the advantage of being in the minor key, while mine has the advantage of having a more similar rhythmic setting for the figure - 2/4 time, cf. 4/4 in 157/1 (Mvt. 1) (just alter the length of the 1st note); perhaps the triple time of the final movement of the SMP (BWV 244) is the reason why no-one has commented on the similarity that you have correctly noticed. [There are other occurences of these 7 notes all starting on the mediant (without the little 1/32nd note figure), eg, the Eb prelude WTC Book I].

In any case, the polyphony of this movement is impressive, with three contrasting upper instruments, two voices and continuo.

Jean wrote of the bass aria (Mvt. 4):
>One element that I notice here that I have not seen in too many places in the cantatas before is a sustained note in the center of a measure that modifies the phrasing. If you have a score handy, perhaps you will find this figure in measures, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 10.<
I'm not sure I have identified this figure, but I can see a tied crotchet on the 2nd beat of bar 3 (violin) in what might be termed the 'subject', and a tied crotchet in bar 5 in what may be termed the 'counter-subject', and again in bar 7 (flute) in the subject, and so forth. There is also a frequently occurring little trill-like figure that first appears in the subject (1st beat of the 4th bar), and then in the countersubject (inverted) on the fourth beat of bar 5, etc. The bass vocalist takes up the subject at the conclusion of the ritornello. This subject is certainly a catchy little tune.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 27, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] You described the syncopation between the flute and violin better than I did--going beyond the visual representation of note placement, with the quarter note tied to an eighth note in the middle of the measure. Thanks. Thanks also for your additional informative comments.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 27, 2008):
To illustrate the current discussion of Cantata BWV 157/Mvt. 1, Thomas Braatz has contributed a few score samples. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV157-Sco.htm

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 27, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you, Aryeh and Thomas. This is helpful.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 27, 2008):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
>To illustrate the current discussion of Cantata BWV 157/Mvt. 1, Thomas Braatz has contributed a few score samples.<
Thank you, Thomas and Aryeh, for providing NBA input to our discussions. As we are all aware, this is essential to remain up to date, and difficult of access for most us. I find these examples especially relevant and informative!

William Hoffman wrote (March 28, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] William Hoffman replies. Ref. BWV 157/1 (Mvt. 1) and other examples. Both examples not in common time, BWV 244/68, and BWV 248/19, are sarabands, according to Little/Jenne "Dance and the Music of J.S. Bach" in 3/4 and 2/4 time respectively, pp. 219 and 104 respectively; the latter ref. also liststhe "reminiscent" sarabande melodies in BWV 806 and in the "Quia respexit" in BWV 243. Further, the monumental closing choruses in all three JSB passions are dances: BWV 245/67 is a minuet; and BWV 247/46 (198/10) is a gigue. I guess that makes JSB a "swinger."

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 28, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Charming conclusion, William. Thanks for your additions here.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 28, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 157 (tenor aria)

Listening to samples of the tenor aria (Mvt. 2), I would select Leonhardt's [4] as the finest recording. He has the cleanest continuo, lovely oboe d'amore, and probably the finest tenor (Equiluz). Koopman's and Rilling's [3] tenors have unpleasant, hard-edged vibratos. Rilling and Leusink [5] have their (somewhat typical) 'scraping' continuo-string timbre. Koopman seems too fast, thereby losing the lovely plaintive character of the oboe d'amore melody, and has his (also somewhat typical) 'rattly' noise in the continuo. I like the slower tempo adopted by Rilling [3], Leonhardt [4] and Leusink [5].

There is a 1/32nd note scalar passage on the oboe toward the end of the ritornello that is swapped between the tenor and oboe in a lovely 'cycle of fifths' passage later in the aria.

[The 1st 10 notes in the continuo of this aria (in 3/8 time) have me searching my memory for a similar phrase somewhere in the cantatas (I'm thinking 12/8 time.....)].

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 28, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for adding these notes, Neil.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 28, 2008):
It appears that the game is to find Bach pieces that have a prominent motive of scale degrees 3-4-5-4-3-2-1, seven notes going up and then down a diatonic scale, and ignoring differences of rhythm.

The "similarity" of BWV 157/1 (Mvt. 1) and BWV 244/68 (concluding movement of St Matthew Passion) was already mentioned, and it works if and only if we ignore what happens after the seventh note: step vs leap into the eighth note.... At least both of these examples are in minor scales.

The page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV157-Sco.htm has those two plus two additional examples, but they only work if we relax the rule yet more: not only cut off the eighth note of the melody (different in each one of these!) but allow the scale to be major instead of minor. The E-flat prelude of WTC book 1 (BWV 852) and the "Schlafe" aria of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248/19, also from secular cantata BWV 213/2) get included.

With this same relaxed rule (going to major), one could also throw in the 3-4-5-4-3-2-1 that happens all the way through the opening movement of cantata BWV 17. The opening of the A major English Suite's Sarabande (BWV 806/5) might also be included, if this game is in any way more than an idle scavenger hunt.

Relaxing it still further and putting the 3-4-5-4-3-2-1 onto the dominant, so its initial appearance is on 7-8-9-8-7-6-5, we could throw in the opening of the F major prelude of WTC book 2, BWV 880.

If we're allowed to slip out a decorative note from a weak beat, making it 3-4-5-4-3-2-something-1, I guess we could also throw in the polonaise of the E major French Suite (BWV 817/5), and the ornamental right-hand opening of the chorale prelude "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier" BWV 713.

Slip a couple more notes into the middle of it, so we allow 3-4-5-3-5-4-3-2-1, and suddenly we've got the plainchant of "Kyrie, Gott Heiliger Geist" as used in the pedal cantus firmus of BWV 671. Or is that one really 5-6-7-5-7-6-5-4-3 in Phrygian? Once we're transposing scales, keys, and modes, and inserting any further notes we want to, yee-haw! The similarities of melodic shape blossom.

So? Keep relaxing the rules of the game, and keep finding more and more twiddling of diatonic motion that looks similar...by eliminating whatever comes next in the piece, ignoring rhythm, and ignoring harmony. So? If we are allowed to search for this 3-4-5-4-3-2-1 farther inside pieces and not only at the beginning bars, there would be hundreds more of them across the corpus of Bach's music, just by virtue of there being a lot of music, and a predominantly diatonic manner of composing it. It's a garden-variety bit of scale material that's easy to sing, or to play on any strings/winds/keyboards, making it readily useful...no matter if the composer using it was Bach or somebody else. Three notes go up, and then four notes go down. Umm...so?

Anyway, the search for them is its own reward, and kind of fun. See what a composer does with an uninspiring pattern of 3-4-5-4-3-2-1, juicing it up in different ways using basic compositional techniques, and revel in the way all the examples sound so different from one another. None of it is of course any kind of proof that Bach was thinking of any one of these pieces specifically while writing any one of the others. He was just doing his job as a composer, wasn't he?

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 28, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>It appears that the game is to find Bach pieces that have a prominent motive of scale degrees 3-4-5-4-3-2-1, seven notes going up and then down a diatonic scale, and ignoring differences of rhythm.<
Actually, I find the slow-quick-quick rhythm on 3-4-5 an important part of the comparison as well, in the two examples I cited, which were:

>The "similarity" of BWV 157/1 (Mvt. 1) and BWV 244/68 (concluding movement of St Matthew Passion) was already mentioned, and it works if and only if we ignore what happens after the seventh note: step vs leap into the eighth note.... At least both of these examples are in minor scales.<
I agree, the differences in the two phrases are as noticeable as the similarity. The tempo, the 4/4 vs 3/4 meter, and especially the different continuation, give a comletely different character to BWV 157/1 (Mvt. 1) and BWV 244/68. I wrote my original thought quickly, so as not to forget, and hopefully to stimulate this discussion, as well. I meant the difference between the two pieces to be understood, but it would have been better to check and mention the diffference in continuation before bringing up the comparison at all.

If I had thought about my point before writing, it would have been to highlight what different effect Bach could get from the same material. I do find the proximity in time of the composition of BWV 157 and BWV 244 is interesting.

>The page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV157-Sco.htm has those two plus two additional examples, but they only work if we relax the rule yet more: not only cut off the eighth note of the melody (different in each one of these!) but allow the scale to be major instead of minor. The E-flat prelude of WTC book 1 (BWV 852) and the "Schlafe" aria of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248/19, also from secular cantata BWV 213/2) get included.<
I find it helpful to have the examples posted, since they come up in the discussion. The interested reader is free to find more, or less, similarity among them, or to point out the differences, as Brad has done.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 29, 2008):
As an example of the various ways that Bach can treat a melody, please examine carefully the contents of the following BCW page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV127-M1-Inc.htm

Neil Halliday wrote (March 30, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>The 1st 10 notes in the continuo of this aria 157/2 (Mvt. 2) (in 3/8 time) have me searching my memory for a similar phrase somewhere in the cantatas (I'm thinking 12/8 time.....)].<
I think the phrase I had in mind occurs in the ritornello of the opening chorus of BWV 125 "Mit Fried und Freud"; the 1st violins (starting in bar 1) and then the continuo (starting in bar 3) have an extended version of a similar phrase to the continuo at the start of 157/2 (Mvt. 2) - in 12/8 time.

Looking at the BGA score of 157/2 (Mvt. 2), one wonders whether the low C# was unavailable on the organ for performance of this aria, as shown by the peculiar avoidance of the expected cadential octave leaps in the continuo in bars 13 (and consequently 14), and 26. Indeed one can confirm these octave leaps in the corresponding places in the second ritornello, which is a repeat of the first ritornello, in the dominant (C# minor cf F# minor).

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 30, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for an interesting observation, Neil.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 30, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Looking at the BGA score of 157/2 (Mvt. 2), one wonders whether the low C# was unavailable on the organ for performance of this aria, as shown by the peculiar avoidance of the expected cadential octave leaps in the continuo in bars 13 (and consequently 14), and 26. Indeed one can confirm these octave leaps in the corresponding places in the second ritornello, which is a repeat of the first ritornello, in the dominant (C# minor cf F# minor). >

The "low C#" couldn't have existed because BWV 157 --like most of Bach's other Leipzig church music-- was written for the transposing Chorton/Cammerton situation: the organist reading his part a step lower than the rest of the band. Since the aria is in F# minor, that means the organist was playing in E minor. The corresponding "low B" is off the bottom of the keyboard. Organ keyboards stop at C.

The original parts and score of BWV 157 are gone, but the edition is from a copy of both by C. F. Penzel.

Another practical remark from organ continuo playing: the lowest several notes on an 8-foot manual stop are often quiet anyway, and slow to speak, such that it doesn't contribute much to take octave leaps down to them (had the "low B"/"low C#" been available at all here). That, along with expense and some other reasons (temperaments, compositional customs, etc), is why so many 17th and 18th century organs didn't bother to have a complete octave of notes down there at the bottom of the manual: they don't get played often, they're hard to hear, and the money to build those largest manual pipes can better be used elsewhere. It's everyday technique to take some left hand notes up an octave, or let one of the other continuo-team members play the lowest several without the organ, if the music sounds better that way.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 30, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>It's everyday technique to take some left hand notes up an octave, or let one of the other continuo-team members play the lowest several without the organ, if the music sounds better that way.<
Thanks for the detailed explanation, Brad.

The notes do look strange on the page, cf. the 2nd ritornello; I'm surprised Bach did not notate the cello notes at the lower octave, letting the organist play the higher octave as required.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 30, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for these expansive details, Brad.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 30, 2008):
To illustrate the current discussion of the tenor aria (Mvt. 2) from Cantata BWV 157, Thomas Braatz has contributed a few more score samples. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV157-Sco.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 30, 2008):
< The notes do look strange on the page, cf. the 2nd ritornello; I'm > surprised Bach did not notate the cello notes at the lower octave, > letting the organist play the higher octave as required. >
We can't be sure, or even assume, that Bach assigned any bowed-string instrument to this movement (BWV 157/2 aria (Mvt. 2)). The original parts and score are lost. Doubly lost, here: the whole first version of the piece as a funeral cantata from 1727 is lost altogether (other than a record that it happened), and so is all the performing material from Bach's later performance. All we have are Penzel's copies from later arrangement.

The tenor aria BWV 157/2 (Mvt. 2) has oboe d'amore, tenor, and continuo. The continuo could have been organ alone. Or, there might have been a bowed string of some kind. Or, there might have been a bassoon of some kind. The original version for the funeral might even have had something other than oboe d'amore, or some voice other than tenor, if this movement was even present(!). We don't know.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 30, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for adding these details, Brad.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2008):
BWV 157 recordings

I listened to Hellmann [1], Leonhardt [4], Leusink [5], and Koopman [6]. I generally agree with the previous comments on these recordings, especially in the first round from Dick Wursten, regarding Leusink, which version I find as good as the other HIP choices. Hellmann would be a superb option in the traditional style, if it ever becomes available again. In fact, only Hellmann and Leusink follow Bachs specified instrumentation, if I understand it correctly.

Aryeh mentioned that the use of flute and oboe in the Mvt. 3 recit., by Leonhardt [4], adds to continuity, but do we have any evidence that Bach intended that as an option? From another perspective, the correct (?) string instrumentation provides contrast, with each movement having a unique instrumental character.

Neil has already commented on some of Koopman's [6] typical characteristics. In addition, lute is added to the continuo in Mvt. 4 (I believe this is Koopmans only instrumental variance), and the chorale tempo, Mvt. 5, is especially quick. On the plus side, regular bass Klaus Mertens is excellent. All in all, these details add up to a performance with Koopmans distinct characteristic, certainly enjoyable for many of us, but it is difficult to hear it as superior to Leusink in this instance.

I was curious about the chorale (Mvt. 5) tempo, and checked the timings: Leonhardt, 0:54 [4], Leusink, 1:01 [5], Koopman 0:45 [6], all published, and Hellmann, 0:55 [1], timed by me. Something did not seem right, Koopman sounds even quicker than that, and Leusink does not seem slower than Hellmann. In fact, the actual times for music are Leusink, 0:54 [5], and Koopman, 0:34 [6]. The published timings for those two include the lengthy silent breaks between cantatas.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks, Ed. Adding to the comments on recordings is good. In some way keeping tabs on these multiple presentations reminds me of my Dad. He loves to listen to baseball games on the radio and keep a scoring sheet during the process. Tabulation on this kind of activity and recordings might be more native to men than to women, but I am not sure.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 2, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Adding to the comments on recordings is good. In some way keeping tabs on these multiple presentations reminds me of my Dad. He loves to listen to baseball games on the radio and keep a scoring sheet during the process. Tabulation on this kind of activity and recordings might be more native to men than to women, but I am not sure.<
I am note sure either. I enjoy statistics, but I have worked with some ladies who made the field their specialty. Not to mention your suggestion to make a chart to compare performances, which I immediately adopted.

I am writing again mainly to repeat and emphasize my previous point that timings (and liner notes, as well) published with recordings are not necessarily of scholarly accuracy. Worth repeating every now and then.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks, Ed. It takes a serious study and excellent communication skills to make a clear presentation. I imagine those who prepare CD folders, for example, appeal to a certain level of the market--not necessarily those who have studied Baroque technique quite seriously.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 2, 2008):
BWV 157 recordings (and Suzuki BWV 82)
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> In fact, the actual times for music are Leusink, 0:54 [5], and Koopman, 0:34 [6]. <
This is worth noting; Koopman [6] seems to trivialize the closing chorale, and the true timing at close to 1/2 a minute explains why.

Rilling [3], Leonhardt [4], and Leusink [5], all closer to a minute, bring more substance to this closing movement, IMO. (However, Leonhardt seems to somehow stress or separate each word, creating an odd effect, IMO.)

BTW, I don't know if anyone has commented on Suzuki's BWV 82; Volume 38 has beem released and sound samples are available: http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-SACD-1631

Superb singing by Kooij, in flowing performances of BWV 82's arias. The recits have too much string-bass sound and not enough organ treble sound if you want to hear a realisation of the figured bass harmonies. (If continuo strings must be used in seccos, I would ensure they are very quiet, with treble tones on the organ clearly heard).

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks Neil, for adding your comments.

 

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Last update: ýDecember 30, 2012 ý14:26:14