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Cantata BWV 170
Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 4, 2007

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 5, 2007):
BWV 170 - Weekly Discussion Nov 4, 2007 (not an intro)

It is the turn of Uri Golomb to lead the cantata discussions this week. The work for discussion is the solo cantata for alto BWV 170 'Vergnügte Ruh', beliebte Seelenlust'.
Since Uri has not sent yet his intro, I send you a reminder, because I would not like us to miss the opportunity of discussing one of the most beautiful works in the canon of Bach Cantatas.

I wrote an intro for the previous discussion of this cantata in July 2000 (over 7 years ago). See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV170-D.htm

The recordings of the this cantata are presented at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV170.htm
Since the previous discussion, at least 6 new recordings of BWV 170 have been released, including the most recent by Blaze/Suzuki [32]. I have not had the opportunity of listening to this one. However, 3 new
others have joined the short list of my favourite recordings of this cantata: Scholl/Lutz [24] (not available commercially), Laurens/Fasolis [26], and Kielland/Muller-Bruhl [30].

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. I do also hope that every member of the BCML has at least one recording of this cantata. If this is not the case, it is the time to fill the gap. You owe it to yourselves.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2007):
BWV 170

Following Aryeh's email earlier this evening I offered to cobble a few words together as a primary focus for discussion on this important cantata.

INTRODUCTION: BWV 170 Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust Rest contented, beloved Soul.

WEEK OF NOV 4TH 2007.

For solo alto
Aria—recit—aria—recit--aria.
For the 6th Sunday after Trinity.

This must rank as one of Bach’s most original cantatas. It is not his first for solo alto, the claim for which goes to BWV 54, a particularly early work written in the Weimar years. BWV 170 was certainly the first written during the Leipzig years, but not the last; BWV 35 and BWV 169 were to follow within three months.

Perhaps the most significant point of originality in this work is Bach’s first use in arias of the organ as an obligato instrument. The organ was well established as the principal instrument of the church but its role in choral music was limited to that of the continuo. Bach had already made recent use of it as a soloist in the opening sinfonia and first chorus of Cantata BWV 146 (chapter 14) and here he takes matters a stage further. The organ is, for the first time, acting as an obligato instrument in an aria as well as performing its continuo duties. It is not a matter of ‘either/or’---it is both.

The theme of the work is that popular Lutheran one of sin and the necessity for us to renounce it in order to claim inner peace and salvation. It is interesting that the poet begins with the representations of peace and rest rather than ending with them.

The first stanza (Mvt. 1) is enigmatically poetic and its essence is an evocation of that peace and inner contentment which is to be found not in the context of sin, but only in the concord of heaven. The feeling of quiet, almost introverted elation is the principal image depicted throughout. . However there are touches of darkening chromaticism the first of which is encountered just before the voice enters. They are suggestive of the caverns of hell where, we are clearly told, contentment may never be found.

This is an evocation of the dignified, personal appreciation of contentment in the arms of the Saviour. The shadows of past sins may echo in the backs of our minds but they trouble us no more; at least not for the moment.

But while remaining in this earthly life we require constant reminders of the dangers of sin and the Devil. The first recitative paints a graphic picture of the world, not only drenched in sin but conniving with the devil against the word of God. It is a dramatically operatic condemnation of the state of the world.

In the central aria (Mvt. 3) the organ erupts for the first time, almost certainly surprising those members of the congregations who followed the weekly music for the services attentively. The extreme chromaticism and broken melodic lines make additional rhetorical points. One becomes aware that this is going to be a movement of substance almost before the end of the very first bar.

Two points of curiosity remain. There is no continuo part in this movement ,the bass line being carried by violins and violas in unison. Opinions differ as to the reason for this, Boyd (p 489) suggesting that it is intended to convey a sense of ‘fear or uncertainty’. Dürr (p 435) has a more developed argument claiming that this loss of the ‘foundation’ of the music symbolises something or someone that is absent, in this case those who have withdrawn from God.

The suspensions, dissonances and chromaticisms of the ritornello give it a bleak but almost modern quality and, unlike in the first aria, the voice enters with its own stretching, pleading, aspiring melody. The singer aligns himself to God whilst conveying a sense of pity for the perverted who continue to offend Him. The aria might have continued in this way as, indeed many of them do, but at the mention of of ‘ trembling’ and the innumerable agonies felt when sinners find their satisfactions in vengeance and odium, the movement takes on a different character.

The second half of the aria begins by imploring God (bar 27) as to His reactions to those who ignore and distain His stern judgements. But the movement ends by stressing compassion rather than vengeance. The pause (bar 55) followed by the repetition of the last line declaring pity for the perverse ones remains in our mind as the grinding ritornello returns, in full, to close.

The second recitative, unlike the first, is accompanied by sustained string chords, replicating the pattern Bach had employed just a fortnight before in Cantata BWV 39. There are two obvious moments of word painting: one is the fleeing heart and the other the God whose name is Love..

However, Bach’s movement from C# minor to D major, the key of the first and last movements, is significant. The previous two movements had been very much based in the minor modes and the return to the major is symbolic of hope and anticipation. Technically it also prepares us for the concluding aria; not a chorale but one which has rather more of the character of a final concerto movement.

The organ takes up a similar role to that we discovered in Cantata BWV 146; the right hand playing a distinctive obligato melody and the left simply doubling the continuo bass.

Despite the first words and the dissonant opening chord, the focus of the movement is not upon the revulsion of a sinful life nor of sin itself. Such feelings have been fully articulated in the previous movements. Here the emphasis is upon seeking one’s ultimate place with Jesus and consequently finding that everlasting contentment pictured in the first aria. The mood is cautiously joyous with the feel of a gavotte, although strictly speaking it is not one

This cantata has been a popular one with countertenors for many years. There is no reason to suppose that Bach wrote it for or ever heard it performed by other than a boy with an unbroken voice. Nevertheless there are many performances that readers may enjoy, not the least of which is that by the great English pioneer Alfred Deller directed by Gustav Leonhardt [5] and including Nicolaus Harnoncourt, recorded over fifty years ago!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 6, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Perhaps the most significant point of originality in this work is Bach¹s first use in arias of the organ as an obligato instrument. The organ was well established as the principal instrument of the church but its role in choral music was limited to that of the continuo. Bach had already made recent use of it as a soloist in the opening sinfonia and first chorus of Cantata BWV 146 (chapter 14) and here he takes matters a stage further. The organ is, for the first time, acting as an obligato instrument in an aria as well as performing its continuo duties. It is not a matter of 'either/or'---it is both. >
Do we have any historical evidence why Bach suddenly had this interest in the organ as a solo instrument in cantatas?

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2007):
Organ in Cantata 170

Do we have any historical evidence why Bach suddenly had this interest in the organ as a solo instrument in cantatas?

Not as far as I know but there is a contextual point in that Bach, after the long experiments with the chorale cantatas in the second cycle, seemed to turn to a number of new experiments in the third, of which the use of the organ was but one of several. Some of the many other examples?are the combination of the chorale?with last movement, the solo cantata (seven in the third cycle none in the second indicating perhaps an opera induced change of taste at Leipzig) use of the 'dialogue' cantata (4 in the third cycle, none in the second) ) use of large movement sinfonias (only one in the second cycle) etc

So there is clear evidence of Bach's playing with a range of new or relatively new ideas at this time, presumably in the continual working towards an elusive goal----of producing a canon of 'well regulated' church music, an ambition he had expressed some years earlier.?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2007):
< Perhaps the most significant point of originality in this work is Bach¹s first use in arias of the organ as an obligato instrument. The organ was well established as the principal instrument of the church but its role in choral music was limited to that of the continuo. Bach had already made recent use of it as a soloist in the opening sinfonia and first chorus of Cantata BWV 146 (chapter 14) and here he takes matters a stage further. The organ is, for the first time, acting as an obligato instrument in an aria as well as performing its continuo duties. It is not a matter of 'either/or'---it is both.
Do we have any historical evidence why Bach suddenly had this interest in the organ as a solo instrument in cantatas? >
One standard line had been the conjecture that Friedemann at 16 was now old enough and good enough to play those parts. But, Laurence Dreyfus debunked that in his article "The Metaphorical Soloist: Concerted organ parts in Bach's Cantatas". Friedemann was old enough and good enough, but he was out of town at the time....

It's pp 172-189 of the book J S Bach as Organist edited by Stauffer and May (1986). Probably available elsewhere, too, as an individual article.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2007):
[To Bvradley Lehman] There are various intriguing possibilities about the organ part of the 3rd movement which is written in two parts in such a way as would have required two manuals or two instruments. Did he play it himself? If so that does little to explain the strange layout of organ writing.

or was Bach writing for his students? Did he write the two parts for two students in order that they each got experience of playing for the services--one student to each line? I read somewhere that he arranged one part for another instrument for a later performance which might suggest that the odd arrangement for the two organ manuals, with no figured bass or harmony had a specific, possibly pedagogical purpose.

Very odd.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 7, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< There are various intriguing possibilities about the organ part of the 3rd movement which is written in two parts in such a way as would have required two manuals or two instruments. Did he play it himself? If so that does little to explain the strange layout of organ writing.
or was Bach writing for his students? Did he write the two parts for two students in order that they each got experience of playing for the services--one student to each line? >
I'm not sure I understand why two players are required. Many organ works by Bach -- the Trio Sonatas for instance -- have equal independent lines in the same range and were played by the organist on two manuals. And a bass line in the pedal as well.

What does the full score look like?

Julian Mincham wrote (November 7, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] They are not required and it can be played by the one competent player.? But as far as I am aware this is the only occasion on which bach has written a complete movement, certainly in the cantatas, in this way.

I was just wondering whether there may have been a particular pedagogical reason for it.?

Neil Halliday wrote (November 7, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>Many organ works by Bach -- the Trio Sonatas for instance -- have equal independent lines in the same range and were played by the organist on two manuals. And a bass line in the pedal as well. What does the full score look like?<
Yes, the ritornello of the third movement resembles a slow movement from an organ trio sonata, with the unison strings taking the place of the pedal part. The BGA has the upper two staves - both treble clef - marked 'Organo obligato a 2 Clav.' The bottom stave (unison strings) is also marked treble clef (but with many of the notes on ledger lines below the stave). There are many delightful details to listen for in this movement, not least the brilliant short organ ritornello after the second "erfreuen" (even though this rejoicing is that of the "perverted spirits").

In the final movement, a single clavier will suffice, with the left hand having only a swinging bass figure in the bass clef; it's possible this bass figure (which always 'echoes' the continuo strings with this same figure) could be played on the pedals. Listening to Suzuki's excellent new recording [32] of this work, I suspect this may be the case. Suzuki does have a substantial instrument at his disposal, which gives better results than the 'miniature' sound from the typically small organs often heard in these works. BTW, this 'echo' effect, most effective in Suzuki, which accompanies the brilliant little solo demi-semi (right-hand) figures, might suggest an image of the "dwelling house" (heaven) to come?

Neil Halliday wrote (November 7, 2007):
BWV 170

I have two recordings, Rilling [12] and Herreweghe [21], and have listened to the available amazon samples at the BCW, as well as the Suzuki [32] Naxos sample (link kindly supplied in a previous post).

Herreweghe/Scholl [21] is rightfully rated very highly, at least in the first movement; Scholl's voice, approaching vocal perfection, has an other-wordly quality (in any case, aesthetically pleasing), and the orchestration is sympathetic and engaging. Rilling [12] lacks a deeper emotional impact, partly (maybe) because the tempo is leaning toward the brisk side (6.14, cf. Herrewghe 6.43). But for the rest of the cantata, I prefer Rilling; in the third movement, because of the more substantial, colourful organ registration, complemented with expressive singing by Hamari. In the fifth movement, Rilling has one of the few recordings with obbligato flute, and this again is more engaging than the 'miniature' organ sound in the Herreweghe recording.

(Apparently Bach replaced the organ obligato with a flute in a later (?) performance; the BGA shows both parts (there are differences, as well as (ofcourse) the absence of the basclef stave for the flute part).

However, Suzuki/Blaze [32] sets a very high standard in the three main movements (if one can judge from the samples); and the organ is perhaps preferable to flute in the final movement, if the timbre of the organ is as pleasing as that heard in Suzuki's recording.

Some further observations of the recording samples (mainly a few of the negatives, since it's easier to note these - no news is good news):

The early Leonhardt/Deller recording [5] still has impact, despite some of the instruments playing a bit out of tune (not unusual in recordings of this vintage).

Natalie Stutzman (with Goodman [19]) has too much vibrato (I'm agreeing with Aryeh in the 2000 discussions).

I found that Monica Groop [22] 'micro-manages' her notes excessively in the third movement. (see the BCW recordings page for details of recordings).

Leusink [23] (1st movement only: I haven't heard the rest) seems light and quick, lacking emotional impact.

Goebel [28] totally ignores the idea of "contented rest", in a fast/vigorous dance rendition of the first movement.

Koopman [29]: Bartosz, lovely voice; organ, miniature; instruments in opening movement,on the light side; some excessive HIP micro management of individual notes (IMO).

--------

Study of the score is rewarding, especially in the third and fifth movements; there is too much happening in these highly original movements to fully appreciate them with only a few hearings.

For example, in the third movement, the highly chromatic material in the right hand organ part in the first three bars is taken up at a lower interval by the L.H. in the next three bars, while the R.H now has material that is also heard later in the left hand; material is swapped between the hands, and heard later on in the voice part, and so on. Notice also the stepping down of the unison strings over a whole octave, after the brilliant 2-bar organ ritornello following "erfreu'n"; the accompaniment to the long trill on "verlacht" and the 'yearning' pause on "Herzen" (two chords suspended over B natural); contrary motion D major scales (voice ascending and flute descending) bar 14 in the fifth movement. And so forth.

Richard Raymond wrote (November 7, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] of course Julia Hamari [12] is spendid. Among several old-styled recorgings, we can still admire Aafje Heynis [6] and Maureen Forrester [7]. Roessl-Majdan/Scherchen [4] is very disappointing.

Chris Kern wrote (November 7, 2007):
So far I have only listened to Leusink [23]. Of course this cantata largely stands or falls on the strength of the alto soloist; I find Buwalda's voice fine, although overall this is a rather undistinguished cantata to me. The organ obbligato is interesting, of course. I hope to go into the library later this week to listen to Rilling [12] and Leonhardt [14] with the score.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 7, 2007):
BWV 170 - Organ

Neil Halliday wrote:
< In the final movement, a single clavier will suffice, with the left hand having only a swinging bass figure in the bass clef; it's possible this bass figure (which always 'echoes' the continuo strings with this same figure) could be played on the pedals. Listening to Suzuki's excellent new recording [32] of this work, I suspect this may be the case. Suzuki does have a substantial instrument at his disposal, which gives better results than the 'miniature' sound from the typically small organs often heard in these works. >
A constant feature of contemporary Bach performances both live is the ubiquitous use of a small portative organ with little more than three ranks 8',4',2'. This gives a false sense of the wide variety of tonal colour and heft which Bach had at his disposal. The portatives in these concerted cantata movements almost always sound udner-nourished -- the solo organ in Leusink recordings are particuarly tinkly. And I haven't heard a cantata performance in 25 years that used pedal in the continuo. One of the great moments of the old Richter "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248) was the opening note which had a big, bright organ chord with pedals. I would love to hear movements such as "Sicut Locutus Est" or "Dona Nobis Pacem" performed with a big organ registration with solid 16' pedal sound.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 7, 2007):
BWV 170 - Concerted organ mvts

Julian Mincham wrote:
< I was just wondering whether there may have been a particular pedagogical reason for it.? >
Perhaps Bach is experimenting with the organ as an orchestral instrument. Except for continuo work, there are not many Baroque organ concertos, primarily because the instruments were located in churches and not available for concerts. Handel had a special organ built which could be moved from concert hall to opera house. I suspect that Bach's listeners thought that the sound of a large-scale concerted movements with organ was quite a novelty.

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 8, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] I have never heard the term 'swinging bass figure.' Could you define it for me? Thanks.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 8, 2007):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
> I have never heard the term 'swinging bass figure.' Could you define it for me? <
I actually meant to say "swinging octave figure" in the bass. Sorry for this oversight.

Thanks for mentioning this, because it relates to a comment in the OCC concerning the last movement of BWV 170:

"It would have required a second keyboard instrument to furnish the continuo realisation, and it was possibly in order to avoid this complication that Bach reassigned the obbligato part in the last movement to the flute when the work was repeated in 1746 or 1747."

The BGA clearly shows this "complication": eg, in the 4th bar, the four 'swinging octave' quavers (a,A,a,A) of the continuo actually all have figured bass numbers under them, and these are immediately followed by the same four notes in the bass of the obbligato organ (while the other instruments fall silent - resulting in the 'echo effect' you can clearly hear in Suzuki's recording [32]). (The obbligato organ has its own treble and bass staves).

Julian, in his excellent contribution (see post #25824; thanks, Julian) suggested that the organist combines the obbligato and continuo roles, but the complication noted above makes this difficult (the obbligato organist's right hand is already occupied, so he can't improvise the continuo chords indicated by the figured bass).

If the organ obbligato is replaced by a flute, another question arises: does the continuo keyboard player still repeat those four "swinging octave" (echo) notes notated in the origical obbligato organist's score, even though these notes are not notated in the continuo part?

BTW, the OCC notes the striking tritone interval (D-G#) at the start that represents the "disgust" the singer has in living further, in the context of confident expectation of attainment of heaven. Also listen to the brilliant obbligato demi-semi figures in the section just before the 'da capo'.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 8, 2007):
BWV 170 - Continuo

Neil Halliday wrote:
< "It would have required a second keyboard instrument to furnish the continuo realisation, and it was possibly in order to avoid this complication that Bach reassigned the obbligato part in the last movement to the flute when the work was repeated in 1746 or 1747." >
A second portative organ is not an improbability: Bach has two (actually three) in the St. Matthew Passion. Dreyfus notes that there are two continuo parts, one figured at Kammerton with the cello, and the other in Chorton fothe main organ.

I wonder if harpsichord is a possibility for the continuo.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 8, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>A second portative organ is not an improbability<
Yes, although it occurred to me after I sent my previous post that if an obbligato - concertante - organ is to be used in BWV 170/5 (rather than flute), as well as in BWV 170/3, then (as I think we have already agreed) it might be desirable to have an obbligato instrument with 'grander' resources than the usual small continuo portative organ. (Harpsichord for continuo keyboard is another possibility in BWV 170/5; BWV 170/3 does not have a continuo keyboard).

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 8, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, Neil. I appreciate the points you have made below, and the clarification. Everyday that I am able to continue my music education, now retired, is a great day.

Chris Kern wrote (November 8, 2007):
Although overall I don't like the McCreesh BWV 244 that much, one of the best parts about it is the large, vibrant organ. It is a shame that more recordings don't use that kind of thing, particularly ones that are supposedly HIP. Richter's BWV 244 on DVD seems to use a wider variety of organ registrations as well.

I listened to Rilling [12] and Harnoncourt; I retain my opinion that this is a mediocre cantata but I did find the third movement interesting with the canon-like organ obbligato. I don't think I can pick one recording as standout.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 9, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Some interesting points made about the continuo in your posting Neil.

I still feel that Bach may have had some reason other than experimentation with timbres with reference to the organ writing in this cantata which turns out to be unique as far as I know in this repertoire.?

Peter Smaill wrote (November 9, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] The text of BWV 170 is predominantly deist and it may be, in accordance with the musical theorists view from the seventeenth century, that Bach is emphasising the God image with the device of octave prominence. This is also IMO what occurs in the BMM (BWV 232), especially in the Sanctus.Throughout the Mass perfect cadences are frequently prefaced by an octave drop in the dominant before the tonic is expressed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 9, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The text of BWV 170 is predominantly deist and it may be, in accordance with the musical theorists view from the seventeenth century, that Bach is emphasising the God image with the device of octave prominence. This is also IMO what occurs in the BMM, especially in the Sanctus.Throughout the Mass perfect cadences are frequently prefaced by an octave drop in the dominant before the tonic is expressed. >
Wait; I don't get it. How is "octave prominence" in any way reliably symbolic, deistic, or both? Isn't such an "octave drop in the dominant before the tonic is expressed" merely a standard and formulaic way of making a cadence, irrespective of text? A straightforward musical device?

In the C minor keyboard fantasia BWV 906, there are octave leaps in the bass all over the place, whether at cadences or not. Is Bach "emphasising a God image" here? Why?

In BWV 71 Bach has the bass singer and players often negotiating octave leaps. But is any of that reliably symbolic, either, or (again) is it merely a typical musical device?

Is Vivaldi being definitely deistic/symbolic with the octave thingy in the instruments at the beginning of his well-known "Gloria"? How and why would this be necessarily so? Wasn't he just writing music with a catchy and vigorous musical idea?

Handel's "Hallelujah Chorus" has lots of octave leaps in it, for everybody. How about that one?

How about Bach's BWV 214, the birthday cantata for Maria Josepha, before the same music got reused into the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248)? The aria "Kron und Preis" (the one that became "Grosser Herr" in the XO (BWV 248)) has the continuo line leaping octaves all over the place, and the chorus "Bluhet, ihr Linden" (became "Herrscher des Himmel" in XO (BWV 248)) does too. But those weren't "emphasising a God image" in the originals with their first text, for a secular occasion, so why would it magically become so when rearranged into the XO (BWV 248)?

Stephen Benson wrote (November 9, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The text of BWV 170 is predominantly deist and it may be, in accordance with the musical theorists view from the seventeenth century, that Bach is emphasising the God image with the device of octave prominence. This is also IMO what occurs in the BMM, especially in the Sanctus.Throughout the Mass perfect cadences are frequently prefaced by an octave drop in the dominant before the tonic is expressed. >
One seventeenth-century theorist, in fact, suggests that the octave interval represents not God, but Christ. According to George Stauffer, in describing the octave leaps of the horn in the Quoniam in his book on the BMM: "Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706), a Thuringian whose progressive ideas on tuning and other matters seem to have had a considerable influence on Bach, stated that since the unison symbolized God, the octave, with its perfect proportional relationship of 1:2 with the unison, represented the figure of Christ." Whether or not this is the reason for the octaves here, and Brad rightfully points out the dangers of overusing constructionist thinking, such an interpretation does seem to be more in line with the text, where Jesus is the object of this petitioner's plea.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 9, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Of course the octave is commonplace. But sometimes it is very prominent.?I did'nt say it was reliably symbolic. On the other hand, the theorists are making a point about it so it would be surprising if it had no musical? symbolic application ever, would it not?

Certainly the Vivaldi Gloria would be a good example- the text being "Gloria in excelsis Deo". ?The key is unusually prominent or repeated application. Likewise ,?I do not think the traid always represents the Holy Trinity, even though this is also a theorist idea. It always depends on context and emphasis.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 9, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill] It's an interesting idea--although the octave drop at the perfect cadence --often in conjunction with a 6/4---5/3 progression (1c--V--1) is very common and cliched.

I see the point in the Sanctus---maybe the same might be said of the bass line in the Cum Sancto Spiritu? There are clear octaves in the bass linefrom the beginning and the figuration from bar 5 is also a filling in of the octave interval???

Julian Mincham wrote (November 9, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill] Following this correspondence I just thought i'd?chuck in the ?truism that context is everything in music.

e.g. a G major chord sounds very different in the context of the key of G than in the key of C. Same chord but in one it sounds finished in the other unfinished. Try the same chord in the key of F#minor and notice how different it sounds there.

In one sense i side with Brad in that its can be dangerous to take an oft repeated musical idea, motive or process and imbue it with particular significance. On the other, repetition within certain contexts (particularly when words give us further clues) can allot them a significance they might not otherwise have.

A falling semitone is a falling semitone is a falling semitone.? But in the context of Purcell's When I am laid in Earth or the Bach Crucifixus does it not take on, through the contexts, different significances???

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 8, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] Music is emotional, and as I see it, Bach was a genius at employing typical motifs to bring a fullness to a text or story. I don't mean to imply that every instance paints a certain , but in the context of church music some familiar motifs and methods of cadence probably had some ideas attached to them that were handed down. For example, in sonorous chants of the Benedictine monks, the idea of holiness or otherness comes through musically to the listener who is conditioned by the Roman Catholic faith. Also, recent studies in health, healing and music have revealed that the chants provide a vehicle for wellness in the monastic setting. So it is reasonable to conclude that there are times when in Lutheranism and perhaps deism when certain figures with certain types of texts have a special meaning. That doesn't mean that the same technicque used in another context, such at flute octaves in the Marcello Concerto in D (actually a violin work), hold the same meaning, but they are used in this particular instance close to the end of an inspirational and uplifting work as candance preparation.

Therefore some discretion is needed, and if the text and historical references supply the idea that a phrase in a text is a very key phrase to the whole topic, and it is accompanied by octave swings or leaps, perhaps the idea of text painting will hold up. I think if the idea of the text is not central to the whole theme...maybe a side benefit of some point of view textually, there would be less that might be said about whether the example is valid as text painting or not.

Music is communication, and as a nearly life long friend said, recently, "Bach is about the soul." I think Bach is very much about one's inner being and relationship to the whole matter of existence and whether or not there is a survival beyond the present life. But I can also see the points that Julian and Alain have made to simply enjoying Bach for the contrasts. Octave figures that swing or leap offer an interesting contrast. Maybe there were times when Bach simply moved to such a figure at that change of a topic, or for special emphasis to keep the listener awake. Making sense of text painting, rather than fearing it seems to be the essential factor in attaining a peaceful view toward text painting. I always chuckle a little (since I have also been teased a little on this forum) when someone says it is 'dangerous' to interpret phrases as text painting. The enjoyment of music is subjective or else we could not sit down and write out so many details.

It is also intellectual and historical, and the exegesis of texts is a considerable exercise for which I admire Unger greatly now that I've had a little exposure. I don't think interpreting texts subjectively is dangerous. Instead, I think applying descriptions is a highly creative process that allows one to say to another person, so, what do you get out of this passage. I mean to say, are the musicologist police going to come after us if we interpret something meaningfully, and in many cases with good exegesis of the music and text. The academic risk, as I would rather call it than danger, is that we open ourselves up to questioning, and vulnerability.

That's not all bad, and if I had the ambition and the time (but I would rather sing, play the flute and skip the organ pedals) I'd make a psychological study of some of these cantatas, and I know where and how to find the references. But my point is that we should all be able to look critically and thoughtfully and contextually at the material, and enjoy it for every notes-worth we can. Without the aural and emotional factor we might as well be working as accountants cracking figures in some drab office cubby.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 9, 2007):
< One seventeenth-century theorist, in fact, suggests that the octave interval represents not God, but Christ. According to George Stauffer, in describing the octave leaps of the horn in the Quoniam in his book on the BMM: "Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706), a Thuringian whose progressive ideas on tuning and other matters seem to have had a considerable influence on Bach, stated that since the unison symbolized God, the octave, with its perfect proportional relationship of 1:2 with the unison, represented the figure of Christ." >
"Considerable" influence? First, I'd need to become convinced that Werckmeister's writings had any discernible influence on Bach's compositional processes or his tuning procedure(s).

Bach didn't even necessarily get the adjective "wohltemperirte" from Werckmeister, as is still popularly held. Rudolf Rasch debunked that one at least as long ago as 1985, in an article that surveyed all of Werckmeister's books. Werckmeister's use of the phrase "wohl temperieren" was always as an adverb and a verb.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 12, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] Surprised I was to hear from Brad that Werckmeister had not referred to "woltemperierte" ("well-tempered ") as an adjective. By chance Werckmeister's comments on temperament and on the hermeneutic possibilities of intervals are in one single quotation by the scholar Soeren Soerensen and I quote, with apologies if aol-itis causes problems to the transcription:

“Andreas Werckmeister (1645-1706) – organist, organ-expert, cantor and theorist within the Lutheran German baroque tradition to which J.S. Bach also belonged – devised throughout his long career a greater number of systems of temperament. In his posthumous Musikalische Paradoxal-Discourse he for the first time explicitly advocates equal (“gleichschwebende”) temperament.

"Wir … / wißen, wenn die Temperatur also eingerichtet wird / daß alle Quinten 1/12 Commat: die Tert: maj: 2/3 die min: 3/4 Comm. schweben und ein accurates Ohr dieselbe auch zum Stande zubringen / und zustimmen weiß / so dann gewiß eine wohl temperirte Harmonia, durch den gantzen Circul und durch alle Claves sich finden wird."

Werckmeister’s position appears surprisingly modern in its reference to the perfect circularity of the tonal system and the harmonic equality of all pitches, which are obtained if the 12 fifths of the circle of fifths are all diminished by a 1/12 of the Pythagorean comma (“… a well-tempered harmony through the whole ‘Circul’ …”). A much more conservative spirit speaks out of his arguments for this ‘progressive’ tuning system.

In the Musikalische Paradoxal-Discourse Werckmeister draws his lines of thought from the tissue of Lutheran theology, numerology, and Pythagorean-Platonic cosmology that experienced a late blooming in Werckmeister’s and Bach’s conservative ‘Kantorenwelt’.

In this universe the issue of musical temperament is unavoidably also a theological issue, as are all matters of music theory:

“GOtt selber [ist] Autor und Fautor [protector, promoter] der Music” he has ordered everything “… in Zahl / Maß und Gewichte …/ und die Welt also erschaffen”, music is sounding numbers, and the row of proportional numbers 1:2:3:4:5:6 from which the consonances are derived is part of the divine cosmos. The row constitutes a declining scale of ‘perfection’ which is allegorically interpreted in a heavy-handed way:

1:1 = God; 1:2 octave = His Holy Word = Jesus Christ; 2:3 fifth = the Holy Spirit; 3:4 fourth = the Angels; 4:5 major third = man; 5:6 minor third = animal.”

From this two conclusions

1) The octave may in fact represent Christ, whereas unison represents God. This is not as I recall what earlier theorists say (octave=God) , and such obvious unison passages in BWV 64 "Sie werden aus Saba" or in BWV 198 "Trauerode" do not seem to be especially God-centred. (The vocal lines are also at the octave). If the hermeneutic language is variable then one has to be even more tentative in drawing conclusions but that does not mean there are never any to be drawn as to the symbolism of intervals!

2) "Wohl temperiert" is indeed used adjectively "=well tempered harmony", leaving open the question of Werckmeister's significance to Bach.

On both issues an undogmatic approach seems best.

 

Cantata BWV 170 with Bernarda Fink - JSB FREE .....

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 20, 2009):
I received the message below from Michael Woge off-list.

**********************************************
Shalom
maybe this could be of interrest to you and all oyour mailinglists :

SWR2 Musikstück der Woche 19.10.-25.10.2009
[34] Johann Sebastian Bach: Kantate "Vergnügte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust" BWV 170
Schöner kann man die Scheußlichkeiten der Welt nicht zum Klingen bringen:
Die Altistin Bernarda Fink und das Freiburger Barockorchester sind die Musiker unseres "Musikstücks der Woche". Unser Konzertmitschnitt stammt vom April 2008 aus dem Konzerthaus Freiburg.
Musikstück anhören und herunterladen....
listen & download free ,but only this week
http://www.swr.de/swr2/musik/musikstueck/-/id=2937886/nid=2937886/did=5469870/p9znx3/

toda raba for all your JSB-avoda !
*********************************************

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 170: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2

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Last update: ýSeptember 22, 2011 ý10:39:36