Cantata BWV 173Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut
Cantata BWV 173a
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of May 14, 2006
Eric Bergerud wrote (May 14, 2006):
May 14, Introduction BWV 173
Introduction to BWV 173: Erhöhotes Fleisch und Blut
The first thing noted about BWV 173 in books, liner notes and our own list is that it is a slightly modified version of a secular work written to celebrate the birthday of Prince Leopold probably in 1713. It was, as Wolff notes, a degree of "borrowing" unprecedented in Bach's cantatas. And for good reason as Bach had to lead three Pentecost works in as many days, and, only six weeks after a similar marathon at Easter. This circumstance leads naturally to a comparison of the two works. Some list members a few years back found either the secular cantata too heavy or the sacred version too light. I'm not sure I agree with the dichotomy. Check the texts on this one if you wish. Some of Bach's secular cantatas are witty or light affairs. This is not one of them or at least not entirely so. As Peter Bloemendaal pointed out, in the Lutheran paternalistic view of the state, an occasion like a birthday could be festive but was also ceremonial carrying religious meaning. (Think of the religious imagery of safe sheep in BWV 208 for a better example.) At the same time Pentecost begs for a joyful message, which Bach delivers. But joyful in the traditional Lutheran sense, always colored by gratitude to God for providing the believer the ability to escape the consequence of universal human inadequacy. (If you want to hear the two versions back to back, track down the Gewandhaus/Thomanarchor CD under Hans Rotzsch. This is my favorite "big battalion" ensemble. About a dozen Berlin Classic cantata CDs are back in print in the USA now selling for a discount price.)
Maybe it's better not to compare the two at all. Thinking about extraneous matters may distract the listener from simply listening to some splendid music. There was, after all, a reason that Bach felt that he could employ his earlier work nearly intact. The vocals are lovely as one might expect. When I try to prod my friends that like Bach but don't care for choral works, I point out that some of Bach's best instrumental music is found in the cantatas. I think BWV 173 exemplifies this pretty well. Hope to hear your views on this lovely work.
BWV 173 Details:
BWV 173: Erhöhotes Fleisch und Blut ('Exalted flesh and blood')
Solo Cantata for Whit Monday [2nd Day of Pentecost]
First Performance Leipzig May 29, 1724
Readings: Epistle: Acts 10: 42-48; Gospel: John 3: 16-21
BWV 173 Provenance: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV173-Ref.htm
BWV 173 Discussions from 2003: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV173-D.htm
German-English Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV173-Eng3.htm
Complete Leusink Performance: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV173-Mus.htm
Excerpt by Clemens Romijin from liner notes accompanying Leusink's performance:
Cantata BWV 173 'Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut' is a work for the second day of Pentecost, probably 29 May 1724; there is also evidence of later performances. The cantata is really a remodeled version of the early Cantata BWV 173a 'Durchlauchtster Leopold', written for the birthday of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen on 10 December 1717 or 1722. The six-movement work includes two recitatives, three arias and a final chorus: a chorale is omitted, and it is therefore two movements shorter than the original version. Bach has occasionally adapted the texture and distribution of parts. In BWV 173 the first recitative is sung by the tenor, while in the birthday cantata it is for the soprano. Remarkable is the apparent ease with which Bach replaced the final chorus text 'Nimm auch, grosser Fürst, uns auf' in the birthday cantata by the sacred text 'Rühre, Höchster, unser Geist'. Listening to the music rather than the text, one hears in both cases a light dance-like piece in the form of a polonaise.
Structure and Timings (from Leusink)
1. Recitativo [Tenor] ('43)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
2. Aria [Tenor] (4'01)
Flauto traverso I/II e Violino I all' unisono, Violino II, Viola, Continuo
3. Aria [Alto] (1'39)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
4. Aria (Duetto) [Bass, Soprano] (4'24)
Flauto traverso I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
5. Recitativo (Duetto) [Soprano, Tenor] (1'18)
6. Chorus [S, A, T, B] (2'44)
Flauto traverso I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Peter Smaill wrote (May 14, 2006):
BWV 173, "Erhoetes fleisch und Blut," evinces little discussion other than the elaboration of its descent from the congratulatory BWV 173a, "Durchlauster Leopold." In passing it is one of many instances where Bach must have commissioned a libretto to fit secular words, a process he never reverses: sacred works do not become adapted to the secular.
The striking breakthrough from a Cantata viewpoint is not the adaptation as such, but IMO the sudden appearance in BWV 173/2 for the first time, the newfangled transverse flute. To be sure, these were employed on the special occasion of the SJP (BWV 245) on 7 April 1724. Only in 1720 had the instrument developed into the twin-bodied model with an allowing greater variation of pitch.
This seems to be the first outing for the instruments (29 May 1724) since the SJP; but then they are used again in the secular-derived BWV 184 for Whit Tuesday. Thereafter [Bach] "made positively virtuoso demands of the flautist in arias in 12 Cantatas written between 6 August and 19 November 1724, and evidently had an expert player in the early Leipzig years - probably his pupil, the law student Friedrich Gottlieb Wild" (Ullrich Prinz, in Boyd).
So in the SJP (BWV 245) and this unusual Cantata the burghers of Leipzig were hearing (plausibly for the first time) the sound of the instrument destined to displace the recorder (or what you will) in the palette of the modern orchestra.
Neil Halliday wrote (May 16, 2006):
This cantata features the `sweet melodious-ness' that is characteristic of Bach's secular cantatas, aided and abetted here, in movements 2, 4, and 6, by the romantic, pastoral timbre of the transverse flute (especially in Rilling's recording [BWV 173-2] with modern instruments; the modern flute is more evocative/expressive than the baroque flute in this music, IMO).
There is not a fugue in sight in this cantata.
The tenor aria (BWV 173/2) has an especially elaborate setting for the second two lines of text, with triplet motives shared between flutes/violins, voice, and continuo, and long passages on "auszubreiten". (Rilling is a tad slow in this movement, but some of the period performances are too fast).
The alto aria (BWV 173/3) has an attractive accompanying figure in the violins that is reminiscent of the violin accompaniment in the tenor aria of BWV 165 (BWV 165/5).
The so-called `aria', 173/4, is in three sections: the first for bass vocalist and strings, the second for soprano, flutes and upper strings without continuo (the viola line serves as the bass), and the third section is a S,B duet with all the instruments, with a fast moving `perpetual motion' figure in the violins.
Likewise the so-called `recitative' (BWV 173/5) is in fact a lovely S,T due, mostly in arioso form, with the voices loosely in canon. (Rilling's recording [BWV 173-2], with harpsichord in the continuo, and well-matched vocalists, is particularly appealing)
The final chorus is an example of particularly sweet, melodious music from Bach's pen, derived from the relatively early 1717 birthday cantata, which, as has been noted, probably was the first instance of Bach's use of the then-new transverse flute.
Ed Myskowski wrote (June 10, 2006):
I meant to post this sooner, better late than never, I hope. In the discussions for BWV 173, it is cited as the first use of transverse flute in a cantata in Leipzig. We had a long thread on this topic a few months back, with the last word being:
Thomas Braatz wrote (March 29, 2006):
< I may have mistakenly omitted important information in my previous post:
1st use of the traversa by Bach ever: BWV 173a, BWV 184a, BWV 194a (Köthen)
1st use of the traversa in Leipzig: BWV 245 April 7, 1724 (no wind parts available for this performance)
1st use of the traversa in a cantata in Leipzig: BWV 67 April 16, 1724 >
Then comes BWV 173, May 29, 1724
Continue on Part 3
Cantatas BWV 173 & BWV 173a: Complete Recordings of BWV 173 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 173 | Complete Recordings of BWV 173a | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 173a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3