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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

Cantata BWV 165
O heilges Geist und Wasserbad
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of May 1, 2005

Thomas Shepherd wrote (April 30, 2005):
BWV 165 - Introduction

The cantata for discussion this week (May 1-7) is:

Cantata BWV 165
O heilges Geist- und Wasserbad

Event in the Lutheran church calendar: Cantata for Trinity Sunday

Composed: Weimar, 1715 1st performance: June 16, 1715 - Weimar; 2nd performance: June 4, 1724 ? - Leipzig

Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV165.htm

Link to previous discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV165-D.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV165-D2.htm

Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear Leusink's version of the whole cantata [5]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV165-Leusink.ram

Link to liturgical Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity.htm

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From Tadashi Isoyama's 1996 notes for vol 4 of Suzuki's Cantata cycle on BIS records [4]:

"This cantata is believed to have been first performed on Trinity Sunday (16th June) in 1715. It does not include wind instruments, and the chorus's participation is limited to the final chorale; the work ranks among the chamber cantatas. The libretto is by Salomo Franck (1715). Bach has set the text, which is based on the Gospel reading for the day (John 3: 1-15), with conciseness and clarity; it exemplifies the cantata's function of 'a sermon in music'. The subject is the emphasis upon the spiritual importance of baptism. The reading from St. John relates the conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus the Pharisee on the subject of new life. Jesus tells Nicodemus, who has only a concrete understanding of the words 'life' and 'death', that 'Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God'.

"Explaining further, Jesus adds the phrase 'Except a man be born of water and the Spirit'. Baptism, which is 'washing with water and the Spirit', is the beginning of the path leading man to the kingdom of God - 'the wearing of Christ' (second movement). Baptism is not a simple ceremony, but should he renewed for 'the entire duration of life' (third movement). This is made possible through God's grace, as made manifest in Christ's crucifixion (fourth movement). Thus the cantata prays to Jesus, 'death's death' (fifth movement), for forgiveness and salvation, and ends with praise for the sacrament of baptism. This cantata was revised for re-performance on Trinity Sunday of 1724 in Leipzig. The cantata survives in a copy of the full score dating from this performance. The opening soprano aria (G major) has a ritornello in fugal form, and generally keeps to a polyphonic structure. It suggests the character of the 'pledge' of baptism. The fertile strength of this writing illustrates the image of the 'new lifegiving flood'. The second movement is a bass recitative. It compares mankind's sin and the joy of those who are Christians through baptism. The alto aria in E minor (third movement) which follows is a prayer to Jesus in baptism. The piece is an aria on the concept of 'love', structurally unified by its foundation on a smooth continuo theme. Beginning with the fourth movement (bass recitative), with its image of 'the soul's bridegroom', Franck's libretto moves toward the mystical, turning a reflective eye toward the Passion and mankind's redemption. The concept of 'The Lamb of God' is given emphasis by an Adagio melismatic phrase, and the double meaning of the image of the 'serpent' is illustrated in an arioso for interweaving violins. This double meaning is, first, the 'old serpent' which symbolises sin, and second, the 'fiery serpent' (Numbers 21: 6-9) which Moses made and raised on a pole to take away sin. This second meaning is also seen as a symbol of Christ's crucifixion, referring back to the Gospel reading for Trinity Sunday. The tenor aria in the fifth movement (G major) sings to the 'salvation snakelet', 'death's death', Jesus Christ. The movement of the 'snakelet' appears in a writhing ritornello melody, and the mood feels suitable to a prayer text. After this, the fifth verse of Ludwig Helmbold's 1575 chorale Nun laßt uns Gott dem Herren is sung in a simple and powerful harmonisation (sixth movement, G major); encompassing the ideas of life and death, the libretto thus returns to the theme of baptism at the end."

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This week the only available recording not represented is that of Ton Koopman [3]. As Kurt Equiluz has recorded with both Leonhardt and Rilling, I thought it might be of interest to hear the tenor aria Jesu, meines Todes Tod. The examples also range in tempo from the sedate Leonhardt to the dance-like Suzuki. Rilling's tempo is the speed marked in the piano score, but it feels like a big piece of machinery on the move - perhaps a steam locomotive picking up momentum. Sometimes I feel that there is an illusion of getting faster as the aria progresses!

Rilling: Kurt Equiluz [1]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV165-M5-Rilling.mp3
crotchet = 72 duration 2.39

Leonhardt: Kurt Equiluz [2]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV165-M5-Leonhardt.mp3
crotchet = 63 duration 3.10

Suzuki: Makoto Sakurada [4]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV165-M5-Suzuki.mp3
crotchet = 80 duration 2.23

Leusink: Nico van der Meel [5]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV165-M5-Leusink.mp3
crotchet = 66 duration 2.58

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I hope to see many of you enjoying the music and joining in the discussion about this aria or any other aspect of the cantata.

Peter Smaill wrote (April 30, 2005):
The mystery of BWV 165 is surely the very modest forces required for a great feast of the Church- contrast the string quartet plus doubling bassoon in "O Heilges Geist und wasser bad" with the triple trumpets, double oboe, flute, strings and timpani for the magnificent Trinity Cantata, BWV 129, "Gelobet sei der Herr"; granted, BWV 194 and BWV 176, also for Trinity Sunday, have forces in between these extremes.

We reviewed BWV 31, text by Salomo Franck, performed on 21 April 1715; BWV 165 comes on 16 June 1715. Franck seems to be in a mood for repetition, because he uses in his poetic palette red and purple again, and white ; as mentioned the incidence of colour being rare in Holy Writ.

In stressing the Sacrament of Baptism, the text is prefiguring BWV 37, "Wer da glaubet und getauft wird", in which baptism is strangeallied to another great feast day, in that case, Ascension. In one case, BWV 165, water/baptism and the Spirit are the preconditions of salvation/blessedness; in the other, water/baptism and Belief. The implications in both are that baptism, although theologically linked to the work of the Holy Spirit, is not of itself complete ("ex opere operatu").

Malcolm Boyd's discussion of this cantata reveals the structural complexity underlying its seemingly modest pretensions - yet again, the young Bach is experimenting with form, (BWV 165/1 (inversion, variation, recapitulation) symbol, (BWV 165/5, serpent motif) devices (missing chord, (BWV 165/5), key shifting (BWV 165/1)). It deserves to be better known.

Thomas Shepherd wrote (May 6, 2005):
BWV 165 & BWV 194

Would anyone be able to explain more fully the interesting passage in Wolff "The learned musician" p. 269 where he states that Bach's "first cantata cycle of 1723-24 was to include the integration of the bulk of his Weimar cantata repertoire as well as the adaptation of Cöthen cantatas. " Bach was so ambitious about the cycle that he had paired several cantatas to be performed before and after the sermon. BWV 194 was to be paired with BWV 165 - both Trinity Sunday cantatas. BWV 194 seems already to be in two parts, presumably the first part before the sermon the latter after. So how would the second cantata BWV 165 fit in liturgically?

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 6, 2005):
Cantata during Communion

[To Thomas Shepherd] In his table listing the order of service on p. 257, Wolff includes a second cantata which might be sung during the administration of the sacrament. In his Epiphany Mass reconstruction, McCreesh performs "Schmücke Dich" which is based on a popular sacramental chorale.

I've often wondered if "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" (BWV 4), with its restrained scoring and style (for an Easter cantata) was another cantata "sub communione". Its text certainly emphasizes the sacramental and the crowds of recipients on Easter Day would certainly dictate extended musical "cover".

Thomas Shepherd wrote (May 6, 2005):
Cantata during Communion BWV 165

[To Doug Cowling] Thank you Doug for pointing towards p. 257. It would explain why on a major feast of the church's year, Trinity Sunday, there is such a modest, short and reflective cantata. This would be a good pairing with BWV 194 as that is a very jolly and bright piece. It would also explain the sacramental nature of the words of BWV 165 and the sense of personal devotion culminating in the first line of the ending chorale Sein Wort, sein Tauf, sein Nachtmahl (His word, his baptism, his supper).

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 6, 2005):
Thomas Shepherd wrote:
>>Bach was so ambitious about the cycle that he had paired several cantatas to be performed before and after the sermon. BWV 194 was to be paired with BWV 165 - both Trinity Sunday cantatas. BWV 194 seems already to be in two parts, presumably the first part before the sermon the latter after. So how would the second cantata BWV 165 fit in liturgically?<<
Without trying to force Bach into performing both BWV 165 and BWV 194, already in itself a 12-mvt. Cantata in 2 pts., on June 4, 1724 (no cantata of any kind was performed by Bach the previous year on Trinity Sunday, 1723 - "Zu Trinitatis 1723 hat Bach in den Leipziger Hauptkirchen noch keine Kantate aufgeführt" p. 15, NBA KB I/15), it should be noted that BWV 194 was performed in an abbreviated version "ferner in verkürzter Fassung (die Sätze teilweise umgestellt)" ["moreover in a shortened version with some of the mvts. rearranged from their original order"] p. 792, Alfred Dürr "Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Kantaten" [Bärenreiter, 1971-2000]. This would allow for both cantatas, as regular-length cantatas, to be performed on a special holiday based upon what is known about the state of each on that given date. BWV 194, for one of its later performances on May 20, 1731, was performed at both St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches in Leipzig with only 6 mvts. (pt. 1 of the full version of BWV 194), the last mvt. of which was the chorale. This is documented in print in one of the cantata text booklets covering that date. [facsimile contained in NBA KB I/15 pp. 23-25.]

There is a singleton continuo part for BWV 194 which Dürr conjectures [NBA KB I/15, p. 23] was used for a Trinity Sunday performance on June 16, 1726. It is in Ab major and contains the mvts. in the following order: 12 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 7 - 10. Missing from the complete 12-mvt. version of BWV 194 are mvts. 1, 6, 8, 9, and 11.

From the above it appears that Bach would not have used an especially long cantata (most of these are broken into two parts - one part before and the other after the sermon) for communion service on Trinity Sunday.

Doug Cowling wrote (May 6, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< From the above it appears that Bach would not have used an especially long cantata (most of these are broken into two parts - one part before and the other after the sermon) for communion service on Trinity Sunday. >
I'm curious. Are you suggesting that every Sunday morning was not a eucharist/messe in St. Thomas?

Doug Cowling wrote (May 6, 2005):
[To Thomas Shepherd] Has anyone done any scholarly research to decide which Bach cantatas may have been intended as Communion cantatas? On great festivals such as Christmas and Easter, the music required to "cover" the reception of the sacrament must have been extensive.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 7, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>Has anyone done any scholarly research to decide which Bach cantatas may have been intended as communion cantatas?<<
I have not come across such a study.

>>On great festivals such as Christmas and Easter, the music required to "cover" the reception of the sacrament must have been extensive.<<
If I remember reading this correctly somewhere, certain congregational hymns were sung during communion, but I have not read anywhere that the cantata would be very lengthy or that several cantatas might have been sung. The information given on BWV 165 and BWV 194 should be a fairly clear indication of what the situation may have been like: a fairly short cantata (BWV 165) before the sermon and an equally short cantata (BWV 194) after it during communion.

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 7, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>I'm curious. Are you suggesting that every Sunday morning was not a eucharist/messe in St. Thomas?<<
No, that was not the intended implication of my statement.

John Pike wrote (May 12, 2005):
BWV 165 and 185

I have been listening to 3 recordings each of BWV 165 and BWV 185, while reading e mails at the same time, so I only had a little of my attention on the music. I listened to L/H [2], Rilling [1] and Leusink [5]. I enjoyed all as background music, but most of all wanted to say how much I am enjoying my new complete cantata box set of Leusink's recordings. For 2 years I was put off acquiring these (cheap though they are) because of some critical comments on the list, but early experience has shown that they were a wise investment and I would recommend them to anyone looking to buy a complete cantata set at budget price. While they may not be the best recordings around, there is nevertheless much to enjoy. Try www.jpc.de

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 165: 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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