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Cantata BWV 168
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 1, 2007

Russell Telfer wrote (June 30, 2007):
Introduction to Cantata BWV 168

Introduction to J.S.Bach's cantata BWV 168
Week beginning 1st July 2007

Following Julian's tour of duty, I am providing the introductions for the next few weeks.

The work was previously discussed in the week beginning 28th July 2002. This is often a good starting point for those of us who do not know a particular cantata well. You will note that several current contributors were active in discussing this work at that time.

On the webpage http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV168.htm
you can find Salomo Franck's German text with more than one English translation for comparison.

For the benefit of (new) members, Aryeh Oron has placed the Leusink recording of the complete recording of the cantata for study purposes.

BWV 168 - Give An Account of Thyself! Thunderous Words! is a solo cantata for the 9th Sunday after Trinity. It was first performed at Leipzig on 29th July 1725 and was not used again by Bach until 1746. 1725, of course, was one of the most productive periods of Bach's life. The text for the first five movements was provided by Salomo Franck. Bartholomäus Ringwaldt, Pastor of Langfeld, wrote the text used by Bach in the last movement.

The first movement is nominally in common time but semiquaver triplets pervade the whole, which is resolutely in B minor throughout. In my view the bass part is of medium difficulty for an aria singer. There are allegro passages (the semis) mainly in triplet semiquavers. There are a few demisemiquavers with their dotted semi partners. The animation of the staccato strings emphasises the stark message of the words: we are veritably in a God fearing world.

Make a reck'ning! Thund'rous word, Which e'en rocky cliffs split open,
Word by which my blood grows frigid!
[Acknowledgement: Translations by Z Philip Ambrose.]

Next follows a tenor recitative on the theme of the anguish of a terrified soul fearing damnation from a vengeful God. It is scored for continuo and two oboes whose languid tones, so typical of Bach in this sort of writing, bring this short passage together with a touching beauty.

The third movement (Kapital und Interessen) is somewhat more cheerful. It adopts the same format of a da capo aria with a shortish repeat stopping where the soloist would have re-entered. The menace has dissipated, but there is still a heavy debt to pay.

After a simple bass recit, we have in BWV 168'5 a duet for soprano and alto accompanied only by continuo in which the words:

Build for me a solid house,
Which in heaven ever bideth -

indicate the simple prayer-like nature of this movement.

In conclusion we have an austere chorale on the theme:

Make me strong with thy Spirit's joy, heal me with thine own wounding,
Take me then, whenever thou wilt, to thine own chosen people.

Penance has been done and the cantata ends with a sense of turmoil assuaged: peace has been purchased at the price of purgation.

On a personal note, this cantata is comparatively new to me, and I have, unfortunately, no further bons mots to offer. I do know that list members will be able to furnish information lacking here.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 1, 2007):
BWV 168 is a puzzle. Why did Bach write nothing, apparently, between the last of the von Ziegler texts and his utilisation of Salomo Franck's eccentric imagery in "Tue rechnung! Donnerwort!"? He closes on Trinity Sunday with BWV 176 and then, unles manuscripts have disappeared, writes nothing for two months.

Is it because there was an absence of choice for this Sunday? Not so; the marvellous BWV 105 - one of the great librettos- and workmanlike Chorale cantata BWV 94 were both available. Many Sundays in Trinity do not appear to have more than two Cantatas extant. Is the cause theological? For it cannot be musical dissatisfaction given the quallities of the existing repertoire for the day.

The themes of rejection of Mammon and salvation through the blood of Jesus are themes in all three. If there is a special trend in BWV 168, it is to pietism, especially in the sentiment of the Chorale: "wash me with Thy death-sweat" (Mvt. 6). Schulze agrees that this Cantata is a little lost, a maverick, "Im Kontext von Bachs Leipziger Vokalwerk nimmt diese Kantate sich ein wening verloren aus". The origin he reveals is Pietist, for before Franck we have a sermon by the Rector of Rostock, Heinrich Müller, from 1679 expressing the same sentiments and language as BWV 168/1.

Müller, a follower of Arndt, is quite bolshie. He censored his contemporaries for trusting the "four dumb idols of the church....the baptismal font, the pulpit, confessional and altar" while "denying the inner power of Christianity". Pace Arndt , the movement is Pietist in that the aim is to establish the Kingdom in us, not Jesus for us. Müller was was also among the chorale writer Paul Gerhardt's early trailblazers.

Thus this Cantata, marooned as it is, remains a witness to the ability of Bach to get away with Pietist materials while remaining an orthodox Lutheran. But why did he write this Cantata for that day? remains an open question.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>Why did Bach write nothing, apparently, between the last of the von Ziegler texts and his utilisation of Salomo Franck's eccentric imagery in "Tue rechnung!Donnerwort!"? He closes on Trinity Sunday with BWV 176 and then, unless manuscripts have disappeared, writes nothing for two months.<<
Based upon NBA KB I/17.2 and Konrad Küster (Bach Handbuch, Bärenreiter, 1999, pp. 303-304, it becomes evident that Bach may have composed at least some of the cantatas for the missing Sundays of Trinity 1 - 8, if not all of them. A cantata booklet which Bach had had printed for the the 3rd through 6th Sundays of Trinity including the Feast Day for Mary's Visitation, shows the usual type of cantata text that Bach employed. While there is always the possibility that some of these cantatas might have been composed by other composers, there is enough evidence to affirm that at least some of these cantatas were by J. S. Bach. For instance, the titles of two of the cantatas for the 5th and 6th Sunday after Trinity respectively are written down in Bach's handwriting. For the 5th Sunday after Trinity there is a folder titled by Bach (contents missing) and for the 6th Sunday after Trinity an autograph title page that reads:

Dominica 5. post Trinitatis | Concerto | à | 4 Voci |e | 4 Stromenti

but otherwise this page is still unwritten.

It is a reliable fact that on the 5th Sunday after Trinity, Bach performed a cantata called: "Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe" and on the following Sunday: "Wer sich rächet, an dem wird sich der Herr wieder rächen", both texts by Erdmann Neumeister [btw, this means that Bach would no longer have had to struggle with the these texts. As a rule Bach composed Neumeister's and Franck's texts without changing a single word. Together with BWV 168, we see Bach returning to two of the best cantata librettists {Erdmeister, Franck} he had used previously.] Originally, when this text booklet was discovered, it had been thought that Telemamight possibly be the composer. However, the more recent NBA KB discounts this hypothesis as now being improbable.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
>>It is a reliable fact that on the 5th Sunday after Trinity, Bach performed a cantata called: "Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe" and on the following Sunday: "Wer sich rächet, an dem wird sich der Herr wieder rächen", both texts by Erdmann Neumeister<<
Here are the complete libretti for these cantatas as printed in Bach's cantata booklet from 1725. If there is no translation already available for these, perhaps Francis Browne may want to translate these for this list and for the BCW.

(Spellings are original! Notice also that both of these cantatas were performed at the same, more conservative church, St. Nicolai, on subsequent Sundays. TB)

Dominica V. post Trinitat. zu St. Nicolai.

DEr Seegen des HERRN machet reich ohne Mühe.

Recit.
Was hab ich noch zu hoffen,
Des Tages Last und Hitze macht mir heiß,
Die Sorgen aber bange,
Der Seegen bleibt zu lange,
Und will mein Hauß gar nicht beziehen,
Was hilfft mir mein Bemühen?
Wenn tausend Tropffen Schweiß
Von mir getroffen,
Und wird die Nacht mit Kummer hingebracht,
So kan ich doch nichts vor mich bringen,
Und habe stets diß Klage=Lied zu singen:
Ich hab hier wenig guter Tag,
Mein täglich Brodt ist Müh und Klag.
Die Nahrung ist zu schlecht,
Der Vorrath wird geschwächt,
Wo endlich her zu nehmen?
Ach solt ich mich nicht grämen.

Wohl dem, der den Herrn fürchtet, und auf
seinen Wegen gehet, du wirst dich nehren
deiner Hände Arbeit, wohl dir, du hast es gut.

ARIA.
Was sorgst du doch so ängstiglich,
GOtt lebt ja noch und sorgt für dich,
Drum stelle dein Hertze zufrieden,
Er ist dein Licht, dein Trost und Heyl,
Er läst dich nicht und hat dein Theil
Dir zeitlich und ewig beschieden.

Choral.
Sing, beth und geh auf GOttes Wegen,
verricht das deine nur getreu
und trau des Himmels reichen Seegen,
so wird er bey dir werden neu,
denn welcher seine Zuversicht,
auf GOtt setzt, den verläst er nicht.

ARIA.
Drum thu nur das, was dir gebührt,
Das andre laß, wie er dich führt,
Nach GOttes Gedeyen sich fügen,
Wer ihn vertraut und liebt sein Wort,
Hat wohl gethan, und wird sich fort
Nach Wunsche des Hertzens vergnügen.

Choral.
Hierauf so sprech ich Amen,
und zweiffle nicht daran,
GOtt wird es allzusammen,
ihm wohlgefallen lahn,
und streck drauf aus meine Hand,
greiff an das Werck mit Freuden,
darzu mich GOtt bescheiden,
in mein'n Beruff und Stand.

Dominica VI. post Trinit. Zu St. Nicolai

Wer sich rächet, an dem wird sich der Herr
wieder rächen, und wird ihm auch seine Sünde behalten.
Vergieb deinem Nechsten, was er dir zu leide
gethan hat, und bitte denn, so werden dir
deine Sünden auch vergeben.

Recit.

Nichts schwehrer geht dem alten Adam ein,
Als wenn er soll vergeben und vergessen,
Versöhnlichkeit wird ihm zu bittrer Pein,
Die Rache schmeckt nur süße,
Und wenn man ihm die freyen Hände ließe,
So solte wohl das Maaß noch mehr als zehnfach seyn,
Womit er seinem Feinde würde messen.
Doch Christlich ist das nicht,
Wer diß im Vater Unser spricht:
Vergieb uns unsre Schuld,
Der muß auch dieses sprechen:
Als wir vergeben unsern Schuldigern,
Wer sich will selber rächen,
Verschertzet GOttes Huld,
Und wird selbst über sich
Den Stab zum Urtheil brechen,
Drum überwinde dich,
Denn nur der heist ein Christ,
Der seines Willens Herr und sein selbst mächtig ist.

ARIA.
Fried und Liebe krönt die Christen,
So ein Schmuck ist ungemein,
Und die sich mit Sanfftmuth rüsten,
Die werden Helden Christi seyn.
Wer durch einen stillen Geist,
Zorn und Grimm im Hertzen dämpfet,
Dieses heist
Einen guten Kampff gekämpffet.

Recit.
Ein Hund beist in den Stein,
Womit man nach ihn wirfft,
Und ist doch nur vergebens.
Was bringts vor Vortheil ein,
Wenn Gall und Gifft im Hertzen kocht?
Man wird ein mörder seines Lebens,
Und löscht das Tacht deßselben vor der Zeit nur aus,
So wirff den Greuel naus.
Die Menschen machet er zu Bären und zu Wölffen,
Wer ihm will selbst durch eigne Rache helffen,
Der reitzet GOttes Rache wieder sich.
Drum noch einmahl: ach überwinde dich!

ARIA.
Seegne dem, der dich verflucht;
Welcher dein Verderben sucht,
Diesem solt du guts erzeigen,
Und bey Läster=Worten schweigen.
Gehet dir das Unrecht nah,
Dencke GOttes Huld ist da,
Der wird die Schmach in Ehren,
Und den Fluch in Seegen kehren.

Choral.
Verleih, daß ich aus Hertzens Grund
mein'n Feinden mög vergeben;
Verzeih mir auch zu dieser Stund,
schaff mir ein neues Leben,
dein Wort mein Speiß laß allweg seyn,
damit mein Seel zu nehren,
mich zu wehren,
wenn Unglück geht daher,
das mich bald möchte abkehren.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2007):
Based upon NBA KB I/17.1 (p. 126) and Konrad Küster (Bach Handbuch, Bärenreiter, 1999, p. 304, it becomes evident also that Bach performed and may have composed a chorale cantata for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity: "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" per omnes versus (there are 5 verses in Johann Agricola's chorale from 1529{?})

Bach composed another chorale cantata using exactly the same text: BWV 177 which was first performed on July 6, 1732, but on the 4th Sunday after Trinity and not the 3rd as indicated above.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 3, 2007):
"Do a reckoning" of your debts: this is a metaphor for the sins that will be taken into account by God on Judgement Day, as emphasised by the characterisation of this "reckoning" as a "thunderous word" ("Donnerwort").

Bach sets this idea in a splendid bass aria that combines triplet and dotted rhythm motives in all parts. The string writing is particularly rich and vivid, and there is a powerful unison passage for all the instruments at the end of the opening ritornello and occurring twice later on, particularly effective in Rilling's recording [1]. Nimsgern (with Rilling) brings an appropriate `heroism' to his vocal part.

Notice that all the movements of this cantata are in minor keys; but the minor tonality is alleviated by modulations into major keys.

The tenor aria has a lovely, calm tunefulness, attractively sung by Altmeyer (in Rilling's recording [1]), whose voice reminds me of Schreier (I think).

The SA duet is attractive with its melodious semi=canonical writing for voices, and quasi-ostinato continuo that (as the OCC points out) is largely based on the notes of a descending scale.

In the duet, Rilling [1] has two problems: the continuous vibrato of the vocalists is disturbing, and the continuo line with double bass as well as cello, is too thick/heavy. The period versions overcome the first problem (excessive vocal vibrato), as one would expect; and Leusink, apart from having a better bass string line with cello alone, also has a particularly attractive, `ethereal' organ realisation that is perfect in the ritornellos. The other period version for which there is a sample - Koopman [5] - probably has the best vocalists; Zomer (S) and Bartosz (A) combine beautifully, with each singer presenting her line with the utmost clarity.

Rilling's [1] final chorale (Mvt. 6) sounds a bit laboured, but OTOH Koopman [5] sounds too brisk; somewhere in between might be best.

Russell Telfer wrote (July 6, 2007):
My thanks to Peter Smaill and Thomas Braatz for information new to me on cantata 168.

Peter Smaill wrote:
< The themes of rejection of Mammon and salvation through the blood of Jesus are themes in all three. If there is a special trend in BWV 168, it is to pietism, especially in the sentiment of the Chorale: "wash me with Thy death-sweat" (Mvt. 6). Schulze agrees that this Cantata is a little lost, a maverick >
I suspected from Peter's comment that the cantata didn't conform to Bach's regular patterns, but the information provided makes clear that at least textually Bach was exploring foreign , so to speak.

Thomas provided information about other cantatas generated at this closely similar time in the church calendar:
< Based upon NBA KB I/17.1 (p. 126) and Konrad Küster (Bach Handbuch, Bärenreiter, 1999, p. 304, it becomes evident also that Bach performed and may have composed a chorale cantata for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity: "Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ" per omnes versus (there are 5 verses in Johann Agricola's chorale from 1529{?})
Bach composed another chorale cantata using exactly the same text:
BWV 177 which was first performed on July 6, 1732, but on the 4th Sunday after Trinity and not the 3rd as indicated above. >
After this, I listened again to BWV 177, and reassured myself that BWV 177 has many lasting musical (and textual) values that are less apparent in BWV 168. But they're all unique and worth cherishing.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 6, 2007):
BWV 168 [WAS: Another assessment of the BWV 244 at Glyndebourne]

Neil Halliday wrote:
< It's an interesting issue. I heard a bit of the final chorus in a radio news item, which the director Katie Mitchell (not the conductor) described as a lullaby, and yet I found the tempo to be unnecessarily brisk.
I have the same concern about the tempo of Gardiner's
[4] (and Koopman's [5]) bass aria in this week's cantata. [BWV 168]
Presumably some like these fast tempi, but many people don't. >
Thanks for comments on the music of the week. To me, it seems less important whether we agree or disagree, and more important whether the discussion stimulates more careful listening, and enhanced enjoyment. As you have pointed out, from time to time.

By coincidence, the two recordings you mention (Gardiner [4] and Koopman [5]) are the two I have listened to. I did not find the bass aria noticeably quick, but I do not have a slower (more solemn?) alternative for comparison (Rilling [1]?). I will try to use your post as a stimulus for some additional listening and thoughts.

I did find BWV 168 to be a wonderfully balanced work, and a nice variant to the more familiar chiastic architecture. Its compact structure could be interpreted in many ways , I suppose, including Bach writing in a hurry, or not wanting to work harder than necessary. Why not Bach looking for ways to condense his ideas? That would be consistent with the final cantatas of Jahrgang II, as well.

One of the advantages of the chronologic discussion is the opportunity to examine the transition points, from Easter 1725 through Trinity, the Sundays after, and the start of an 'out-of-phase' liturgical year for Bach. Or perhaps kicking back for a bit to get back in phase?

Neil Halliday wrote (July 7, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>Gardiner [4] and Koopman [5]) are the two I have listened to. I did not find the bass aria noticeably quick, but I do not have a slower (more solemn?) alternative for comparison (Rilling [1]?)<
The Rilling [1] is 'heroic' rather than 'solemn', although I can understand some may perceive his tempo to be too slow. Timings: Rilling 4.04 [1], Leusink 3.24 [3], Gardiner [4] and Koopman [5], my estimate c.3.04.

Leusink [3], with the intermediate tempo, is as fast as I want to go (personal opinion).

[The problem of tempos that are too fast is more significant in the SMP, for the reasons hinted at in the two opinions I highlighted].

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 10, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< BWV 168 is a puzzle. Why did Bach write nothing, apparently, between the last of the von Ziegler texts and his utilisation of Salomo Franck's eccentric imagery in "Tue rechnung! Donnerwort!"? He closes on Trinity Sunday with BWV 176 and then, unless manuscripts have disappeared, writes nothing for two months.. >
Apologies for the delay., but I think this detail worth noting, especially in the chronologic context of the next work for discussion, BWV 205. Ruth Tatlow, in the notes to the Gardiner [4] recording suggests:

<Problems in Leipzig went from bad to worse over the next few months [Trinity to Trinity 9].
[...] He had not written a cantata, for over eight weeks.>

By my calculation, it is exactly eight weeks missing, not over. You might expect a gemiatrist to get it right, but never mind.

<Recently he had heard of the death of a well-loved colleague, the Weimar court poet Salomo Franck. This in itself revived painful memories. Having been virtually banished from the Weimar court, Bach could not even return to pay last respects to his friend. As storm clouds gathered within and without, he turned to his copy of Franck's Evangelisches Andachts-Opfer. His eye fell on the perfect text: a cantata libretto for the 9th Sunday after Trinity, enriched with dramatic expletives. Turning to a well-tried technique for speeding up the planning stages of his composition, he decided to give the four most complex movements 275 bars, apportioning exactly 50 bars and 150 bars to the first and third movements, respectively. To complete the work he wrote a short secco recitative and made a simple adaptation of a pre-existent chorale, written a year earlier for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity, BWV 113, Mvt. 8.>
I pass this along with no opinion implied, on my part. Note the contrast with other conjecture, in recent posts and also cited by Woolf, that the existence of text booklets suggests the continuous composition of cantatas during those missing eight (exactly) weeks, despite the absence of any surviving music.

Also note, compositions since lost, for Trinity 1-8, would be consistent with 'well-tried technique for speeding up the planning stages of his composition'.

Planning? Who has time to plan. On the other hand, speeding up the planning leaves more time available for the writing. See you at BWV 205.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 10, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed pulls out some very interesting observations from JEG's commentator Ruth Tatlow [4]. She certainly writes about gematria, being an expert on Smend, but is not a gematrist (if such a word exists) in that her writings have generally inclined to a healthy scepticism on number patterns and Bach.

Could this Cantata be a homage to the recently deceased Salomo Franck? Quite possibly; two of the Chorales for the 16th Sunday after Trinity are taken from deceased Leipzig predecessors, including the (disgraced) * Rosebmüller, so the idea of honouring Franck in this way - even with a Pietist text- is not improbable.

As to bar structures, Renate Steiger has observed that in BWV 5, "Wo soll ich fliehen", Bach makes the orchestral ritornello exactly double (52 bars) the choral section bar-length (26 bars). It may be recalled that this Cantata provided a lively discussion on Fibonacci and uniquely has a central Recitative of 13 lines.

Quite the significance of 275 bars, with 150 and 50 in Mvt 1 and 3 , the pattern in BWV 168, is elusive. However, in the case of BWV 5 -where the English translation by Stokes gives only on the surface weak textual cause for proportionality and numerology ("littlest" versus "infinit", for example), there is a clue in the last line of the Chorale. The German word "Gliedmass", which is translated as "member", is more literally "member-measure", referring to the incorporation of the believer in Christ. It is a sense difficult to convey in English.

The suggestion behind the gematric features of BWV 5 -which no doubt remain controversial-is thus IMO that they form an extended hermeneutic reference to man's proportion to God in a structured universe.

The wider point is that Bach premeditates bar numbers; the SJP (BWV 245) and BMM (BWV 232) having exactly (from memory) 2800 and 2500 bars, no more, no less.

* For Rosenmuller a (questionable ) source is: http://www.androphile.org/preview/Library/History/jsbach/bach.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 10, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The wider point is that Bach premeditates bar numbers; the SJP (BWV 245) and BMM (BWV 232) having exactly (from memory) 2800 and 2500 bars, no more, no less. >
From my limited experience with the wider point, it seems worthy of consideration. I have never personally counted the bars in any score, so I am relying on others. It does seem to go far beyond coincidence, whatever the interpretation may be.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 10, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The Rilling [1] is 'heroic' rather than 'solemn', although I can understand some may perceive his tempo to be too slow. Timings: Rilling 4.04 [1], Leusink 3.24 [3], Gardiner [4] and Koopman [5], my estimate c.3.04. >
Pretty good! Gardiner lists at 3:11 [4], Koopman at 3:03 [5]. Gardiner 'sounds' quicker to me, because of the rhythmic accents.

I had just written some more detailed comments, which sadly disappeared into the crash zone, before I finished. Sorry I don't have time at the moment to recreate them.

Thanks for your comments, which stimulated more careful listening.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 168: 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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Last update: ýSeptember 26, 2011 ý13:00:57