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Cantata BWV 159
Sehet! wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 8, 2008

Uri Golomb wrote (June 8, 2008):
Cantata 159: Sehet! Wir gehen hinauf gen Jerusalem

This week's cantata is the Quinquagesima cantata Sehet, wir gehn hinauf gen Jerusalem (see list of recordings and resources on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV159.htm, and previous discussions on: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV159-D.htm). According to Dürr (p. 251 of the English edition), "The libretto of this cantata is drawn from Picander's cycle of 1728; and although we cannot determine the precise date of Bach's setting, it is reasonable to place its first performance in close temporal proximity to the publication of the text -- perhaps 27 February 1729". Dürr adds that, if this date it correct, this makes it "Bach's last cantata before the performance of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) on Good Friday 1729", due to the absence of music in Leipzig's churches during Lent.

The cantata can indeed be regarded as presaging a Passion, in both content and form. Two things will remind many Bach lovers of the Passions:

1) The use of two Easter-associated chorales: the soprano sings the chorale "Ich will hier bei dir stehen", a verse of the Passion chorale "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden"; and the cantata concludes with "Jesu, deine Passion";
2) The bass aria (Mvt. 4) begins with the words "Est ist vollbracht" -- Christ's final words in the St John gospel, which inspired one of the most famous arias in the Johannes-Passion (BWV 245). This aria also contains the words "Welt, gute Nacht" -- reminiscent of the "Welt, geh aus" in the final bass aria of the SMP (BWV 244).

The links with the passions go deeper. WE have here, basically, a piece of Biblical narrative to which representatives of "modern" believers ("modern" from Bach's viewpoint -- representatives of his own Lutheran-Christian community) respond with great emotional immediacy, as if they are witnessing the events in real time, yet are also aware of their ultimate, eternal significance for all Christians. This close bond between "history" and the "here-and-now" is at the heart of both of Bach's passion settings -- more strongly, perhaps, in the SMP (BWV 244) than in the SJP (BWV 245). [In light of previous discussions, I should emphasise that, when talking about "historical events", "eternal significance" and the like, I am not articulating my own beliefs or disbeliefs. I am trying to give a brief, and possibly shallow, account of how BACH and his intended audience would have perceived these texts. As it happens, I don't share Bach's beliefs; but I do think it's essential to know something about them in order to understand his music better].

It is clear, from the start, that the believers' perspective is wider than that of the original characters -- with the exception of Jesus. BAch had already set this cantata's opening verse in a previous cantata, BWV 22 (another Quinquagesima cantata, written as Bach's probation piece for the Leipzig position in 1723). There he used a fuller Gospel text (Luke 18: 31, 34): "Jesus took the Twelve to Him and said: 'Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and what is written of the Son of Man shall all be accomplished', But they understood nothing of this and did not know what was said". In BWV 159, the narration is removed, and we are left only with a recitative (with the bass as Vox Christi) which releases Christ's opening words -- "Look, we are going up to Jerusalem" -- bit-by-bit. These words are contrasted with the anxious commentary from the alto -- who, unlike Christ's disciples, understand exactly the true meaning of His words. [BTW, we have here a reversal of the SMP (BWV 244) strategy: the Vox Christi is rendered secco, and the alto is accompanied by the strings]. The alto tries to stop Jesus from going to Jerusalem, knowing full well what awaits him there as he climbs the "monstrous mountain my sins display"; yet also realises that Jesus's sacrifice will him/her -- the Christian soul -- from Hell. This mixture of empathy, guilt and hope encapsulates neatly the theological and emotional message that runs through most of Picander's arias in the SMP (BWV 244). And in the SMP (BWV 244), too, we see the modern believers comprehending the significance of the events better than the Disciples. As for the music -- Dürr aptly describes this as "a dialogue of exceptional dramatic power and stirring descriptiveness", and (at least for the purposes of this would-be-brief introduction) I have little to add on that.

The next number -- a duet -- gives a different type of dialogue: two expressions of willingness to stand by Jesus, one modern and new for Bach's congregation (the Picander text "Ich folge dir nach" -- another echo of an SJP (BWV 245) aria, "Ich folge dir gleichfalls"), the other traditional and familiar to Bach's congregation (the chorale "Ich will hier bei dir stehen"). This complenetary dialogue -- "similarly wide-ranging and powerfully expressive" (Duerr) -- is nonetheless calmer and more reflective.

For many (myself included) the highlight of this cantata is the bass aria "Es ist vollbracht" (Mvt. 4). Other than the opening words and the general context, this aria has little in common with the SJP (BWV 245) alto aria of the same name. The latter is more dramatic -- the almost numb (yet lyrical) pain of the outer sections encasing a stormy, defiant middle section ("Der Held aus Juda"). The BWV 159 bass aria (Mvt. 4) seems, by contrast, more unified, calm and reflective. The bass here switches from Vox Christi to a modern believer who "hasten[s] to give thanks to my Jesus" -- a similar switch to that accomplished by the singer of Christus in the SMP (BWV 244), who also sang two arias, one of which -- "Mache dich" -- includes a similar sentiment: grateful acceptance of Christ's sacrifice, and a farewell to the world.

The aria is not entirely calm and reflective. Calm is indeed generated by its slow tempo and peaceful rhythms, and the beautiful melodies; but the harmonies, and some of the melodic twists and turns of both soloists (oboe and bass), contain traces of pain and tension. Overall, the aria is delicately and beautifully poised -- introverted yet intense. There is greater energy in the middle section -- but it emerges, not as a total contrast (as in the SJP (BWV 245) "Est ist vollbracht"), but rather as an eager intensification of the outer sections' sentiments. The basic feeling is modified, but not entirely changed.

I hope to contribute something about performances later this week (unfortunately, I failed to do this last week on Cantata 156). For the moment, I'll just say taht my favourite version of this cantata is Gardiner's [8] -- which I was fortuante enough to hear, not just on record, but also in the original live performance (I reviewed the concert, somewhat belatedly, on http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Gen6.htm).

Peter Smaill wrote (June 8, 2008):
This is surely one of 's greatest Cantatas, consisting of an exceptionally dramatic introductory recitative and Arioso, and closing with an aria of outstanding beauty and compass, which is perfectly coupled to (for me) an exceptional chromatic harmonisation of a chorale.

The conception of the Quinquagesima work is yet again an invocation to a Leipzig congregation to contemplate Jerusalem, the dramatic tension between the reenactment of the journey to Calvary with the response of the onlooker, and between movement of the Christ figure and the desire of the believer to be static , beside the Cross.

In theological terms it presages the outlook of the SMP (BWV 244); the sacrifice of Jesus has accomplished justification for all. the need for belief, essential to justification in Lutheranism , is only subtly present; common hints such as "glaube" or "Trost" do not appear, but the suggestion of "folge" (" follow") hints at the condition for salvation.

John Eliot Gardiner [8], in his compilation CD for "Alles mit Gott", wisely keeps this Cantata to last and plays both the Bass aria BWV 159/4 (Mvt. 4) and the Chorale BWV 159/5 (Mvt. 5). The unity of these two movements , the latter a collective commentary from an individual standpoint ( the aria is the opposite , the bass sings that "from our sinful fall we have been justified in God"), is a masterstroke. The harmonic tendency in the aria to the subdominant creates an affect of longing.

The emotional response and even the musical analysis of experts to Bach, is sometimes highly subjective. The words and music of the mystical final Chorale (Mvt. 5), with its hints of the medieval cult of the rose, cause Whittaker to say:
"The ante-penultimate line of the closing chorale (Mvt. 5) contains wonderfully beautiful chromatic harmonies",

whereas Düerr can only say:
"a plain four-part setting of the thirty-third verse of the hymn "Jesu Leiden Pein und Tod" by Paul Stockman (1633) brings the work to an end."!

I am afraid the methodical Dürr loses to the impulsive and often inaccurate Whittaker on this point; it remains one of the most pleasurable Chorales to play by virtue of the intense harmonic colour and for once, highly poetic
imagery.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 8, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The conception of the Quinquagesima work is yet again an invocation to a Leipzig congregation to contemplate Jerusalem, the dramatic tension between the reenactment of the journey to Calvary with the response of the onlooker, and between movement of the Christ figure and the desire of the believer to be static , beside the Cross. >
We see this same imagery of journey in the Palm Sunday/Annunciation Cantata BWV 182, "Himmelskonig Sei Willkommen" which concludes with a chorus "So let us go to the Salem of joy". It's no accident that Bach uses the same chorale, "Jesu Leiden Pein Und Not", for the preceding extended chorale fantasy in that cantata. Lots of connections here to the great processional choruses which open both of the Passions.

And in passing, may I commend Peter's commentary as a model for discussing how biblical and theological themes influenced Bach's composition.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 8, 2008):
BWV 159 introduction

Douglas wrote:
>And in passing, may I commend Peter's commentary as a model for discussing how biblical and theological themes influenced Bach's composition.<
I second that compliment, both for this specific instance, and more importantly, Peters ongoing posts re theologic interests. Always reasoned and informative, to my way of thinking.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (June 8, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I agree, and would say the same of the comments of Uri and Doug himself in the same thread. This is the sort of discussion one would hate to lose and that ought not in my view to be suppressed.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 9, 2008):
BWV 159 introduction (day 1)

Why did I listen to the Marriner [3] recording first?

I had misfiled this on the shelf in previous discussions of the other works included (BWV 82 and BWV 170), and had realized that with a bit of regret when I eventually encountered the CD. I did not realize that there would soon be another opportunity, which I now seize.

I read Peter Smaills post first, with great interest to the parallel theology discussions, etc. I specifically deferred reading Uris introduction until after I listened to a recording or two, my usual method to try to get a fresh, personal impression of the music.

[I earlier wrote some quite eloquent and spontaneous (IMO) thoughts beyond this point, which I sent. I did not receive them, nor are they saved. Ach, to put it mildly.]

The gist:

(1) Uri's introductory sentence is carefully phrased, helpful, especially re the structure, intro and chorale.

(2) Marriner's interpretation [3] is old, but Janet Baker, John Shirley-Quirk, and Robert Tear are classic.

(3) If you have a recording, listen to it, and tell us what you think.

I enjoyed Marriner [3], but I am looking forward to more recent performances for comparison.

Nel Halliday wrote (June 9, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
>This (bass) aria also contains the words "Welt, gute Nacht" -- reminiscent of the "Welt, geh aus" in the final bass aria of the SMP (BWV 244).<
and also the last words of the beautiful penultimate movement of the SMP (BWV 244): "mein Jesu, gute Nacht".

Thanks to Uri for an informative introduction to this lovely cantata with the bass aria (Mvt. 4) that the OCC rates as "among Bach's finest vocal creations".
----
Robertson perceptively notes that the first phrase of the bass aria (Mvt. 4) melody is inverted in the 2nd phrase. With its accompanying sustained string chords and oboe melody, this aria has a timeless quality.
---
An unusual indication in the score of the alto duet stipulates two bassoons ("Fagotti") on the continuo line (as well as continuo stings). I can't hear bassoons in Rilling's recording [4], only an unpleasant scraping timbre emanating from the continuo strings in both this movement and the arioso sections of the 1st movement. He uses the choir sopranos to fine effect on the chorale line in the duet. Both Hamari (her expression in the recitative sections of the 1st movement is heart-rending) and Huttenlocher (if unusually in his case) are magnificent in Rilling's recording.

The practice of slghtly increasing the tempo in the bass aria (Mvt. 4) in the section toward the end - "Nun will ich eilen" - seems reasonable and is very convincing in Rilling's performance [4], even though there is no indication for a tempo change in the score.

Apparently Gardiner [8] has adopted one of the slowest versions of this bass aria (Mvt. 4) (over 7 mins); does he speed up the tempo in the section noted above? Koopman has one of the quickest versions; in one sense it's pleasing to hear such divergent readings from recent recordings.

Robertson sets the scene for this cantata with his introductory remarks:

"Pascal wrote in an unforgettable phrase 'Jesus Christ will be in agony until the end of the world', suffering with man in his trials, and from man's sins. Alto, tenor and bass soloists, in the four numbers of this beautiful cantata all give expression, in varying ways, to this poignant saying, from the setting out of the Saviour to his death on the Cross".

[BTW, those playing the cantata from the BCW score will note that the Fb the accompaniment in the 4th bar of the tenor recitative should be an Ab].

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 9, 2008):
BWV 159 [was: New Discussion List Descriptions]

>Ed, have you been reading the list lately?<
Only with with difficulty, because of my unreliable ISP.

Perhaps the writer noticed that I credited Peter Smaill's eloquence to Uri, without citing the specific language?:

Peter Smaill wrote:
>This [BWV 159] is surely one of Bach's greatest Cantatas, consisting of an exceptionally dramatic introductory recitative and Arioso, and closing with an aria of outstanding beauty and compass, which is perfectly coupled to (for me) an exceptional chromatic harmonisation of a chorale.<
I expect both Uri and Peter will forgive my conflation of their posts, in my haste to generate a bit of interest in discussion of the weekly cantata. In any event, most of my words ended in cyberspace (along with the toilet repair parts, I suppose). They were quite good (the words), I assure you.

If I disappear from the discussions, it will be the result of a technical glitch, not out of frustration with BCML participants. Just to be sure no one takes satisfaction from driving me away.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 10, 2008):
BWV 159 (day 2)

I did not yet get past the Marriner [3], for a variety of reasons:

The couplings are outstanding, it is imposssible to have this CD in hand without listening to everything on it, the alto solo cantata BWV 170 with Janet Baker and the bass solo cantata BWV 56, with John Shirley-Quirk.

These two, along with tenor Robert Tear, in BWV 159, provide a clinic in classic vibrato, which meshes conveniently with our parallel <trills> thread. My impression is that the vibrato is equally broad from bass to alto, but more noticeable in the higher, alto, voice.

The recording is a Penguin Guide rosette selection (mystical quality, beyond words), plus the words:
<Classic accounts of three cantatas, including [BWV 159], one of Bachs most inspired works....this collection of cantatas is among the finest in the catalogue and is well worth seeking out. The mid-1960s recordings are of Deccas best vintage quality.>

See also Aryeh's comments from the first discussions.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 12, 2008):
BWV 159 (days 3-4)

The response is underwhelming. I may as well write a bit more.

Last night I read Uris introduction, including his cross-referenced, previous review of the actual Gardiner performance [8]. I chose that recording next. Full disclosure: back on day 1, I also had a quick listen to Thomas [2], on LP, after my post re Marriner [3].

Forward (day 3, last night), I decided to read the OCC on BWV 159; I have been neglecting readings for a few weeks. After the content, I noticed it was signed RAL. Robin Leaver? You betcha.

The cluttered desktop of my mind immediately recognized my recent conflation with John Butt (because they are both associated with the Cambridge Companion). I wrote a correction, and in the process, realized how convenient it is to spend an hour or so listening to a Gardiner CD [8], reading Dürr, and checking out the scriptures for the day (Quinquagesima). I had a cursory listen to BWV 22, BWV 23, BWV 127 (with memories of <Toddesschweiss> (cold death sweat. Ouch, or Ach.)), and BWV 159.

I was especially struck by the Epistle for the day, 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13, from which come many great lines of Human thought, including:

<If I ... have not love, I have nothing.

Love does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but it rejoices at the right.

For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophecy is imperfect ...

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then [?] face to face.

So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.> (end quote)

I do not find any reference to this scripture in any of the texts for Bachs four cantatas for the day. Perhaps I am overlooking something?

A neat sidelight to the Gardiner [8] is that, in BWV 127, Ruth Holton is the soprano in an important aria, including vibrato, for comparison with her performance on the Leusink version [7]. See <trills> thread. I have not yet made the comparison.

Aloha (including generosity of spirit, thanks to Neil M. for that phrase, even if first mentioned in the breach), Ed Myskowski

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 12, 2008):
BWV 159 (day 5, early?)

One of the good things about Old Dudehood, is that the clock is no longer such a tyrant. Especially after sunset, before sunrise, where there are not many natural markers. Do you suppose Peter noticed this, in his hours of crisis?

I listened to Leusink [7], BWV 159, and left it on, without paying attention to what was coming. Before long, I am again hearing <Jerusalem>. Get up to look, it is BWV 22, on the same disc.

The similarity of that phrase, when I am caught by surprise, is more noticeable to me than when I listened to the Gardiner disc [8] in sequence, early yesterday.

So what? Hit delete, or write something better yourself.

Terejia wrote (June 12, 2008):
a good article is a good article [was: BWV 159 (day 5, early?]

Ed Myskowski wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28257
< So what? Hit delete, or write something better yourself. >
I'd very much like you DON'T cease writing your enriching posts for us. Enriching posts are enriching, regardless of how many responses it get. Isn't that there are so many OVPP fans on the list a proof that quality doesn't always have to depend on quantity?

As for myself, I often fail sending replies to the post that interests, inspires, enriches me-I try to write a response but delete it before sending it to the list after some careful thoughts.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 12, 2008):
I have uploaded an mp3 file of the duet (Mvt. 2) from BWV 159 [M-8]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV159-Mus.htm

In the light of the recent discussion on vibrato, we have here two female singers (Sarah Macliver sop. and Sally-Anne Russell alto whose voices blend very well, and whose use of vibrato is tasteful and sparing - just about the right degree of vibrato for this music, IMO. Both voices are reasonably powerful; the score calls for an oboe to double the soprano chorale line, as can be heard in the Leonhardt [5] and Leusink examples [7], but the soprano's voice in this recording is strong enough on its own, with both voices giving a good OVPP rendition of the duet, IMO.

The continuo bassoons are not featured in this performance - I think I prefer those examples where basssoon(s) are highlighted (as designated in the score) - such as Leonhardt [5] and Leusink [7] - in place of the usual continuo string timbre such as we have in this recording.

The recording [M-8] is listed at the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV159-2.htm

[N.B. Allow about 4 minutes for the mp3 file to download to your computer - that's how long it takes here].

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (June 12, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] I completely agree with you. This is an excellent example.It is indeed in duets that vibrato can be the most annoying. Some singers have beautiful voices but that do not blend well together. am thinking of a double CD of duets by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, I cannot help hearing their voices as distinct, probably due to their different vibrato. It spoils a great part of the listening IMHO.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 12, 2008):
BWV 159

Neil H. wrote, re BWV 159, Mvt. 2:
>the score calls for an oboe to double the soprano chorale line, as can be heard in the Leonhardt [5] and Leusink examples [7]<,
From BCW archives
<Holton’s voice is too weak for the chorale, so Leusink [7] has the oboe double her part (not in the score!)>
The latter is a very questionable and misleading characterization. The more likely explanation is that Leusink [7] simply did not use the most recent score edition, but rather the edition that Neil referenced. The doubling oboe is delicate and very enjoyable with Holtons voice (not weak at all, to my ears), whatever the authenticity of the scoring.

I do not have a score at hand, but Dürr's text indicates use of the oboe for Mvt. 2. By the time of BWV (dated 1998), the oboe is gone. OTOH, one of the earliest recordings (Thomas, 1962 [2]) uses soprano choir section, without oboe. Perhaps someone can clear up the recent history (past 40 years or so) of this editorial detail in the score?

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 12, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
>As for myself, I often fail sending replies to the post that interests, inspires, enriches me<
It is not so much replies to posts, as responses to the music of the week, that I hope to stimulate.

In any case, you certainly make your share of contributions of both types, very enjoyably so. Thank you.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 13, 2008):
BWV 159 - Provenance

Thomas Braatz updated the Provenance page of Cantata BWV 159.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV159-Ref.htm

William Hoffman wrote (June 13, 2008):
BWV 159 (days 3-4) Fugitive Response

[To Ed Myskowski] William Hoffman responds to some thought provoking questions about texts (Epistle reference), and the significance of Quinquagesima Esomihi Sunday.

1. I have not done an analysis of the use of Epistle references in Bach cantatas but I think the basic rule is that the cantata as a musical sermon is keyed to the Pastor's sermon for that service, with the emphasis usually on the Gospel. For Cantata BWV 159, Bach seems to have had a particularly close collaboraiton with his Pastor, Christian Weiss Sr., as well as Picander. By this time, Bach has had a long and fruitful association with both. He's putting the final touches on the Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244) as well as assembling the Köthen Funeral music parody. He's on a roll. He has surmounted many challenges: composing in various cantata forms, regulating the church music well to his satisfaction, finding effective texts, pleasing the religious authorities (His Leipzig conflicts were solely with civil authority), fulfilling the requiements of his job contract, and dealing with less than ideal performing forces -- all the while serving his muse, his art, and his God.

2. While the religious significance of this Sunday, the last before Lent, has been explored extensively, I think the historical timing and context of Bach's Estomihi cantatas, especially as they relate to the Passions, are important. Cantatas BWV 22-BWV 23, were Bach's test for a position that would require him to present biblical Passions annually. The unknown lyricist, could be Weiss, who was Bach's primary contact in 1723, and who may be Whittaker's Author A, who he also identified also with Cantatas BWV 65, BWV 75, BWV 76, BWV 154, and the SJP (BWV 245). Chorale Cantata BWV 127 in 1725 comes just before Bach's SJP (BWV 245) second version with the added chorale movements. In 1726, Bach, working on the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), relies heavily on Johann Ludwig Bach cantatas at this time and presents JLB 5, "Ja, mir hast du Arbeit gemacht," at Estomihi Sunday and on Good Friday presents a revival of the (presumed Keiser) St. Mark Passion (BWV 247). For 1727, Bach probably presents Cantata BWV 23 at Estomihi with the addition of the German Agnus Dei chorale chorus. And for 1729, Bach produces a very remarkable, heart-felt, striking Cantata BWV 159.

Sidebar: During the recent Bethlehem Bach Festival and joint biennial conference of the American Bach Society, there was an enlightening discussion of the complex lyrics of the SJP (BWV 245) as an oratorio, the topic of the gathering. All agreed that Bach's use of literary works and the efforts of the unknown librettist in the SJP (BWV 245) are significant. Christoph Wolff suggested that Bach's literary efforts require much more attention. Daniel Melamed, the presenter of the paper "Bach and Brockes," said that he wouldn't hazard a guess as to the SJP (BWV 245) librettist but that after much study he believes that Bach did not have the literary ability to write significant lyrics, unlike Telemann, the author of his own Passion Oratorio, Seliges Erwaegan.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 13, 2008):
BWV 159, Fugitive Response

>William Hoffman responds to some thought provoking questions about texts (Epistle reference), and the significance of Quinquagesima Estomihi Sunday.<
I folowed Dürr, in preferring Quingagesima as the more widely acccepted name. I gather that the preference for <Estomihi> is specifically Lutheran, and shared by Bach. Elaboration welcome.

WH:
>I have not done an analysis of the use of Epistle references in Bach cantatas but I think the basic rule is that the cantata as a musical sermon is keyed to the Pastor's sermon for that service, with the emphasis usually on the Gospel.<
EM:
I was responding to another post in choosing the language <scriptural readings> (Gospel and Epistle), and perhaps I was overly general in citing the WPRB interview from memory of casual listening, as well. The more important point is that the analysis of correlations of Bachs texts has probably not yet been done, and is worth doing. To the extent that the analysis may already have been done, it is worth summarizing and citing on BCML. Thanks for getting it started.

WH:
>For Cantata BWV 159, Bach seems to have had a particularly close collaboraiton with his Pastor, Christian Weiss Sr., as well as Picander. By this time, Bach has had a long and fruitful association with both.<
A point worth exploring in future discussion.

WH:
>He's putting the final touches on the Saint Matthew Passion (BWV 244) as well as assembling the Köthen Funeral music parody. He's on a roll. He has surmounted many challenges: composing in various cantata forms, regulating the church music well to his satisfaction, finding effective texts, pleasing the religious authorities (His Leipzig conflicts were solely with civil authority)<
EM:
The latter point habeen suggested by others, as well, but seems to me to be in conflict with Bach's own words, as well as with my understanding of the separation (or lack thereof) of church and state in Leipzig back then. Are there references from Wolff (B:LM), or other widely respected sources, in support?

William Hoffman wrote (June 14, 2008):
Will Hoffman observes:
>>(His Leipzig conflicts were solely with civil authority)<<
Ed Myskowski replies:
> The latter point has been suggested by others, as well, but seems to me to be in conflict with Bachs own words, as well as with my understanding of the separation (or lack thereof) of church and state in Leipzig back then. Are there references from Wolff (B:LM), or other widely respected sources, in support? <
Will Hoffman replies: The best source is German theologian and writer Friedrich Smend, Bach in Köthen, p. 158: ...there is not a single known instance during [Bach's] 27 years in office in Leipzig of the consistory or the clergy objecting to any form of secularization in the Kantor's sacred composition."

The best understanding of Bach's relationship to Leipzig authority, and the source of the contining conflicts with the Town Council (Leipzig Music Director Bach's employer and authority over the Thomas School) is Ulrich Siegel's monograph, "Bach's Situation in the Cultural Politics of Contemporary Leipzig" in Carol Baron's Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community, as well as the previous four monographs.

Bach's conflicts with the Town Council and the Thomas School, including his appeals to the Saxon Court in Dresden, are documented in the New Bach Reader. While Bach has been portrayed, variously, as irascible, contentious, argumentative, and hyperbolic, he didn't suffer fools well but did respect authority, rendering to all the various Caesars, including that character in Berlin. Fortunately, he didn't often get his foot caught in his mouth; he was too busy biting his sharp tongue.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Will Hoffman replied to my post:
>Bach's conflicts with the Town Council and the Thomas School, including his appeals to the Saxon Court in Dresden, are documented in the New Bach Reader.<
I rely on The Bach reader, Revised Edition (1966), but I expect the documents which formed my impression are in all editions. From Septemper 8 and 20, 1728, at Leipzig, there is a complaint about Bach from church to town council, and a complaint from Bach about church, seeking relief via town council. The nature of the dispute is authority for the choice of hymns for services. <Whether the council took any action is not known. But the subject came up again in the memorandum from the Consistory to Deyling dated February 16, 1730, which seems to indicate that Bachs view prevailed.>

Admittedly, this is not much evidence, but note that the statement cited from Smend is based on the complete absence of evidence, always a dicey stance which is vulnerable to a single contradictory fact. The Smend statement is also quite limited in scope, on careful reading of the exact language.

I conclude that the very limited evidence suggests:

(1) From 1728 to 1730, Bach had an ongoing dispute with church authorities.

(2) He was confident enough in his relation with the town council to apply there for relief.

(3) His confidence was supported by a positive outcome.

This hardly seems consistent with the generalization: <His Leipzig conflicts were solely with civil authority>.

Thanks for the Carol Baron reference, I will keep an open mind until I have a chance to track it down. In fact, I will keep an open mind, period. Recommended to all.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 14, 2008):
<< William Hoffman responds to some thought provoking questions about texts (Epistle reference), and the significance of Quinquagesima Estomihi Sunday. >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I folowed Dürr, in preferring Quingagesima as the more widely acccepted name. I gather that the preference for <Estomihi> is specifically Lutheran, and shared by Bach. Elaboration welcome. >
Actually, Esto mihi Sunday was and is the more accepted (both in society and liturgically). Quinquagesimae was merely significant of its distance (5th Sunday) before Easter.

Neil Mason wrote (June 14, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< I completely agree with you. This is an excellent example. It is indeed in duets that vibrato can be the most annoying. Some singers have beautiful voices but that do not blend well together. I am thinking of a double CD of duets by Felicity Lott and Ann Murray, I cannot help hearing their voices as distinct, probably due to their different vibrato. It spoils a great part of the listening IMHO. >
Talking of vibrato in duets, there is an interesting phenomenon that when two singers of differing speeds of vibrato sing a duet together, their speed of vibrato normally sychronises to some speed in the middle.

If this does not happen, the piece is called a "duel".

Terehia wrote (June 14, 2008):
BWV 159

Ed Myskowski wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28263
>> It is not so much replies to posts, as responses to the music of the week, that I hope to stimulate.<<
Could it be also possible that real aethetics (such as BWV 159) sometimes stimulate more silence than discussions? For sure if it were always the case, then, the music discussion forum couldn't stand, I like participating in and listening to discussions. On the other hand, I also like silence before aethetics, which feels uniting.

Thank you for your kind words. I can feel your deep insights in the power of aethetics.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Terejia replied to my post:
EM:
>> It is not so much replies to posts, as responses to the music of the week, that I hope to stimulate.<<
Terejia:
>Could it be also possible that real aethetics (such as BWV 159) sometimes stimulate more silence than discussions? For sure if it were always the case, then, the music discussion forum couldn't stand, I like participating in and listening to discussions. On the other hand, I also like silence before aethetics, which feels uniting.<
It is not necessarily one or the other, more like yin/yang? The deepest appreciation of music goes beyond words, I agree. But the discussion, the words, are necessary for sharing, at least via internet

>Thank you for your kind words. I can feel your deep insights in the power of aethetics.<
And yours, as well. I have listened more carefully, and enjoyed many of the works more deeply, as a result of your posts. Your often eloquent use of English, even though it is not your first language, sets an inspiring example which others may follow.

Peter Smaill wrote (June 14, 2008):
BWV 159 - B flat minor

Before we leave BWV 159 it is worth considering the remarkably dramatic impact of the first movement, which, being a recitative, might be thought a weak counterpoise to the powerful final Chorale and second aria which anchor the sentiments of the work.

That it is not so is in part due to the drama of the dialogue, but also to the remarkable use of tonality by Bach. As with the SJP (BWV 245), Bach especially uses obscure keys when contemplating the Crucifixion. Whittaker notes that the first movement passes from A flat through B flat minor , F minor, G minor and F minor to C minor. Especially here, as Chafe points out, it is the use of B flat minor at the words "Dein Kreuz is die schon gericht't". Likewise the SJP (BWV 245) uses B flat minor during the narration of the Crucifixion, and it is used in BWV 127/2 (Jesus' sufferings) and BWV 102/2 at the word "Herzens dunkel" ("Heart's darkness").

Chafe does not note that B flat minor occurs also early on, being the key in BWV 106 at "In deine Haende befehle ich meinen Geist", the giving up of the spirit in death.

Finally we have the Preludes and Fugues in the key in the "48", each of exceptionally quality in this sombre key. The religious character of the Prelude and Fugue XXII of Book 1 particularly accords with the affekt which the minor key of five flats possesses for Bach. Whether the hermeneutic of the Five Wounds is at work here is a thought to be pursued at a later date.......?????

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 14, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>Chafe does not note that B flat minor occurs also early on, being the key in BWV 106 at "In deine Haende befehle ich meinen Geist", the giving up of the spirit in death.
Finally we have the Preludes and Fugues in the key in the "48", each of exceptionally quality in this sombre key. The religious character of the Prelude and Fugue XXII of Book 1 particularly accords with the affekt which the minor key of five flats possesses for Bach. Whether the hermeneutic of the Five Wounds is at work here is a thought to be pursued at a later date.......?????<
Seven periods, five question marks? Is something numero-cryptic going on here?

See also the particular improvement in five flats with Bach/Lehman tuning, perhaps Brad can elaborate and/or provide the appropriate links.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 15, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>Especially here, as Chafe points out, it is the use of B flat minor at the words "Dein Kreuz is die schon gericht't".<
Even on the first hearing I found Hamari (with Rilling [4]) to be particularly moving in this section, with the striking harmony on "Ach, gehe nicht, dein Kreuz..."; as the continuo arrives at Ab major (from C minor), she caresses the note Gb on "Ach", on the way to Bb minor.

It's certainly an effective, dramatic movement.

The continuo, with it's angular scalar passages with falling (or rising) 7th intervals (suggesting movement toward the cross) in the arioso sections sung by the bass, presents problems of phrasing, clarity and balance not always satisfactorily managed in the recordings.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 15, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< That it is not so is in part due to the drama of the dialogue, but also to the remarkable use of tonality by Bach. As with the SJP (BWV 245), Bach especially uses obscure keys when contemplating the Crucifixion. Whittaker notes that the first movement passes from A flat through B flat minor , F minor, G minor and F minor to C minor. Especially here, as Chafe points out, it is the use of B flat minor at the words "Dein Kreuz is die schon gericht't". Likewise the SJP (BWV 245) uses B flat minor during the narration of the Crucifixion, and it is used in BWV 127/2 (Jesus' sufferings) and BWV 102/2 at the word "Herzens dunkel" ("Heart's darkness"). >
I believe Bach picked B flat minor and other "obscure" keys as much for their actual sound, as for any additional symbolic/mystical associations. The sound is the musical content. Anything extra (if present at all) is extra-musical.

lso keep in mind: in this Leipzig music, including the SJP (BWV 245), B flat minor for the orchestra/singers is A flat minor (seven flats) for the organist. I have a video about that: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ziJE_tXS9Ac

Terejia wrote (June 15, 2008):
Many thanks (was: Re: BWV 159)


Ed Myskowski wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28329
Thank you, for your more than kind reply. I have been much encouraged to continue to study about Bach's cantata masterpieces since when you were the discussion leader.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 16, 2008):
BWV 159 recordings (day late)

I am alway reluctant to rave about an unavailable recording (Thomas [2]), but this one is special for a couple reasons, beyond its sublime musical quality:

(1) Aryeh has already endorsed it in the first discussions.

(2) It is a recent, as most LPs go (1.5 years ago), acquisition for me, in response to my offer at that time to provide respectful burial for deceased records. You may have thought it a joke. I certainly intended the humor when I wrote it, but I also recalled the Old Bard (Shikespower! Onanymoses! JJ, joyce!): <Many a truth is writ in jest>, or what now appears to be a transposition: <Humor is just the truth writ large>.

Bottom line (ACE?), I am respectfully enjoying the LP, in its now extended lifetime. Thanks as always, Old Dude! Back row of the pub is the place to be. Discographic improvements (recording date and location) to be forwarded to Aryeh off-list.

Of the modern recordings, Leusink [7], Gardiner [8], Koopman [10], I lean to Koopman, but only because of my personal preference for alto Bogna Bartosz, who has a strong role in Mvts. 1 and 2. The continuo lute is prominent, enjoyable, and decidely inauthentic, as I understand the scholars.

Thanks to Thomas Braatz, via Aryeh, for providing additional details on the score provenance. I interpret that the oboe, backing soprano in Mvt. 2, is decidedly a matter of interpretation, as to whether it was ever specifically intended or not, but that the score is clearly marked <Duetto (or equivalent)>. My inference: no one gets this exactly in accoradnce with the score, but Leusink [7] comes closest! Ruth Holton, in duet with Sytse Buwalda, plus delicate oboe support, seems closest to what is written? Not exactly written by Bach, in this instance, but backward extrapolated by <experts>. The majority performance for mvt. 2 is alto solo plus soprano choir, with absolutley no score justification. Help me out here, scholars. What am I overlooking.

Way off topic:
My advice? Get out to hear live performances whenever possible. Enjoy your records. If you dont have any, buy some soon. Marshall McCluhan: <There are no passsengers on spaceship Earth, we are all crew>. I am unable to recover the exact source. If all else fails, blame me.

BCW, better than a book. On to BWV 145.

Jane Newble wrote (June 16, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Of the modern recordings, Leusink [7], Gardiner [8], Koopman [10], I lean to Koopman, but only because of my personal preference for alto Bogna Bartosz, who has a strong role in Mvts. 1 and 2. The continuo lute is prominent, enjoyable, and decidely inauthentic, as I understand the scholars.>
After an absence of about 6 years, I have been reading the posts for a few days, and decided to jump in again.

I am grateful for your recommendation of Koopman - shall have to get it. All I have on BWV 159 is Leusink. The opening movement is rather painful, with Buwalda coming in as if he has just sat on a pin!

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 159: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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