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Cantata BWV 177
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 1

Regarding "Ich ruf zu dir"

Juozas Rimas wrote (March 18, 2002):
There are at least 3 works by J. S. Bach titled exactly the same - "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ": BWV 639, BWV 177 and BWV 1124?

Could anyone tell me if these are all variants of one piece (arranged for organ
or voice) or if they're separate works?

Thomas Radleff wrote (March 20, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] The cantata BWV 177 is named "Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ" after the words in its opening four-part chorale; sometimes the chorale itself is called BWV 177, and for example included in the Brilliant fourpack of Chorales sung by the Nordic Camber Choir - very charming this one; we´ve been discussing it on the list a few weeks ago.

BWV 639 is the Choralvorspiel for organ on the same theme: a variation. This is one of the highlights in Wolfgang Rübsam´s first complete recording (Philips 1977). This piece is also part of the Neumeister Sammlung which has been published by Wolff in 1985 ; the new discovered Bachworks in it reach from BWV 1090 to 1120.

The number 1124 I haven´t found my BWVs. But on Franz Haselböck´s world premiere recording (Hänssler 1993) of the recently discovered so-called Rinck collection, there is another Choralvorspiel, still without WV number, but under the same title, and IT IS the same motive as BWV 639. I guess it is this one which has been numbered 1124 in the last years.

 

Discussions in the Week of June 23, 2002 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 23, 2002):
Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (June 23, 2002), according to Francis Browne’s suggested list, is the Chorale Cantata BWV 177 ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’, (I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ) for the 4th Sunday after Trinity. This cantata consists of only arias between the opening and the closing choral movements, and no recitatives! This is a true chorale cantata, having all movements based on the original five stanzas of Johannes Agricola’s hymn with the same title. On this Sunday, the congregation sang this chorale. Its text somewhat reflects the Gospel, Luke 6: 36-42 – be merciful and judge not – in its personal prayer for mercy and for guidance from the Lord.

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 177 - Recordings

Three complete recordings of this cantata come from the regular forces (Rilling, Harnoncourt, and Leusink). The fourth, by Ramin, is the first recording of this cantata. There are also some recordings of individual movements: the aria for tenor (Schreier), the aria for soprano (Ameling), and the two choral movements (Rilling). Have we had a recording of the aria for alto, and we could assemble another complete recording (-: The chorale was also transcribed for piano by Rüdiger Dippold, who also plays it on a CD dedicated to piano transcriptions. I find that transcriptions of this kind almost always illuminate the music from a new and fresh angle.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Francis Browne wrote (June 24, 2002):
BWV 177 Johann Agricole

For the text of this cantata Bach used a hymn by Johann Agricola (1494-1566). As background to this week's cantata there are two points about him which may be of interest.

In 1536 he was involved in controversy with Luther over what Luther termed antinomianism (Greek anti,"against"; nomos,"law"), the doctrine that faith in Christ frees the Christian from obligation to observe the moral law as set forth in the Old Testament. Some of this concern with faith can be seen in our cantata, though the hymn predates the controversery.

Further details about Johann Agricola (from a Lutheran perspective) can be found at: http://www.blc.edu/comm/gargy/gargy1/ELH.biographies.ABCD.html

More detail (but in German) at: http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/a/agricola_j.shtml

For those who read English poetry there is another interest in this hymn writer which I realised only after I had translated this cantata. Johann Agricola is the subject of one of Robert Browning's self-revealing, dramatic monologues "Johannes Agricola in Meditation". The text of Browning's highly unsympathetic portrait and some discussion of the literary and religious background can be found at:
http://www.ksu.edu/english/baker/english233/Browning-JAM.htm

Dick Wursten wrote (June 26, 2002):
[To Francis Browne]
1. Thanks for the tips for further reading... (the temptation to write about this subject is enormous, but till now I am able to resist)
2. Just being curious: Where do you see traces of his anti-nominianism in this hymn/cantata-text ?

P.S. Dutch translation of this hymn in three verses by J.W. Schulte
Nordholt: Liedboek voor de Kerken, nr. 404

Francis Browne wrote (June 26, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] I'm sure Lutheran theology and antinomianism are topics about which you must know a good deal.I have no theological expertise but to understand fully Bach's cantatas it seems to me that the very least we must do is to try to understand as sympathetically as possible the religious meaning of the text. When Bach made use of Agricola's hymn it had presumably been used in worship for almost two hundred years and, as your p.s suggests, it is still in use today. The hymn therefore clearly expresses something valuable and meaningful to many communities and individuals.

This led me to try to find out more about Agricola and so also about the antinomian controversy, and I thought this might be of some interest also to some other members of the list. Browning's portrayal of Agricola- superb poetry though it is - is so blatantly unfair that there is need of some balance - such perhaps as Bach's music provides in the way it conveys and enriches the meaning of the hymn.

I wrote earlier that "some of this concern with faith can be seen in our cantata" and you asked " where do you see traces of his antinomianism". There is of course no surprise in a Lutheran hymn being concerned with faith and perhaps antinomianism can be seen as an exaggeration of elements in Luther's own thought. The passages I had in mind were in the second movement:

Daß ich dir mög vertrauen
that I may place my trust in you
Und nicht bauen
and not rely
Auf alles mein Tun,
only on my own works,
Sonst wird mich's ewig reuen.
otherwise I shall regret it for ever.

and again in the fourth movement:

Es kann niemand ererben
No man can inherit
Noch erwerben
nor acquire
Durch Werke deine Gnad,
through his works your grace

These sentiments are not antinomian and would be acceptable to most Christians -but if given a onesided emphasis might lead to antinomianism.

What Bach made of this hymn - how his music interprets the text -is a topic that interests me and to which I hope to return, and I would be grateful for any illumination that may be provided by those who have far more expertise in theology and music than I have.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 27, 2002):
I am receiving all sorts of mixed messages on the chorale text and melody upon which this cantata is based. First of all, there are a number of Johann Agricolas associated with music (not to mention Agricolas with other first names):
The most famous is:

1. Johann Friedrich Agricola [“Bauer” or “Pauer” = ‘farmer’] who was among other things a private student of Bach’s and lived from 1720-1774. He wrote the “Anleitung zur Singkunst” published in Berlin, 1757. This book gives us some insight into how voices were taught to sing properly in Bach’s time.
2. Johann Agricola [Pauer] (1579-1602), a music publisher appointed by the court in Innsbruck, Austria. He published 2 editions (1588, 1589) of the Innsbruck Hymnal (Innsbrucker Gesangbuch) which contained 69 hymns, 22 of which were published here for the first time.
3. Johann Agricola (the antinomianist) (1494-1566) considered by some to be the author of the chorale text on which BWV 177 is based, is very likely not the author of this chorale.

To trace the musical and textual footprints left by this Johann Agricola we need to turn to Sigmund Hemmel (? – died 1564), known as a singer and conductor who is famous for his main work, the ‘Psalter Davids,’ a collection of 4-pt. chorales (his own settings) published posthumously (actually composed between 1561-1564.) These settings represented the standard repertoire of the Stuttgart Courtly Choir. The chorale melodies were drawn primarily from the psalms sung by congregations in Straßburg, Augsburg, Konstanz, and Basel, and his choices were influenced by the Bonn Hymnal (1561 edition.) Among the psalm texts were those by J. Aberlin (60 hymns), J. Dachser (30), and S. Salminger (8) all of whom were from Augsburg. Other sources were not represented in such great numbers: The reformed church was represented by only 30 psalm chorales and from the Lutheran region only 23 among which the contributors were M. Luther (8), H. Sachs (8), A. Knöpken (2), J. Agricola (1), J. Dietrich (1), J. Gramann (1) (remember him?); J. Jonas (1) and B. Waldis (1). It is probable that Hemmel accepted the melodies along with the texts for those hymns supplied by M. Luther and J. Agricola.

The MGG, the source for the above, also reports the following: Various versions of Luther’s own hymnal appeared in varying forms beginning with the Achtliederbuch” (Wittenberg, 1523/24), later the “Enchiridion” (Straßburg, 1525), and finally culminating in “Geistliche Lieder zu Wittemberg” the editions of which appeared from 1529-1539 and were published in various cities. Luther’s hymns are presented first (his total output of chorale texts is 36), after which “andere, der unsern lieder” [“some other songs that we sing”] follow. These include texts by J. Agricola, E. Hegenwalt, J. Jonas, E. Kreuziger (do you remember her?), L. Spengler, P. Speratus, among others, all of whom Luther asked for their contributions for this new style of evangelical church hymn. Luther also included older chorale melodies to which he supplied a German text. Luther controlled the selection of texts and melodies in these hymnals, but as time went on, he began removing the ones he did not like because they simply were not good enough: he did not want these less successful hymns to continue to be sold under his name. Between the editions of 1524 and 1529, the chorales by J. Agricola and A. Knöpken were removed.

In his book on the Bach Cantatas, Alfred Dürr still lists Johann Agricola as the author and composer of “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” and assigns 1530 as the date. I have a German hymnal (published in 1952) which lists this chorale as no. 244 and indicates that the melody was first documented in Wittenberg in 1533 and the text author is listed as Johann Agricola (? sic ) c. 1494-1566. He was born c. 1494 in Eisleben, Germany, and was a pupil and friend of Luther, but later was estranged from him. He became the court preacher in Berlin and a “Generalsuperintendent” of the Mark Brandenburg. He died 1566 from the plague. His authorship of the chorale text is questionable.

I also have the “Orgel Choralbuch zum evangelischen Kirchengesangbuch” (published in the 1960’s.) This is a companion volume to the standard hymnal intended for use by organists in North Germany. They give the chorale melody’s origin as Wittenberg, 1535. The melody, the text of which is not yet known, could be either secular or sacred in origin. It can be found in a hymnal, “Enchyridion…” as having the melody first documented in Wittenberg, 1533 and the text author is listed as Johann Agricola (?) c. 1494-1566.

From what I can determine, using various sources, the authorship of the chorale, “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” is very much in question. The chorale melody is definitely not by Johann Agricola as it appears possibly to be even secular rather than sacred in origin, a contrafact that still remains to be traced to its true origin.
Thus the subject of antinomianism is very moot indeed when you consider what connection this may have in Bach’s theological views as applied to his cantata texts.

Francis Browne wrote (June 27, 2002):
BWV 177 Bach NOT antinomian

After a careful investigation of the evidence for the authorship of the text
of this week's cantata Tom Braatz concluded :
"From what I can determine, using various sources, the authorship of the chorale, “Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ” is very much in question".
Where Dürr led, I followed -but on the evidence presented this seems a just conclusion annd ,as always, I am grateful to Tom for his research.

Tom also commented :
"Thus the subject of antinomianism is very moot indeed when you consider what connection this may have in Bach’s theological views as applied to his cantata texts"

Since it was I who first mentioned antinomianism, I hasten to add that I did not have, have not now, nor will ever have the slightest intention of ascribing antinomian views to Bach. Antinomianism and other theological controversies of the reformation have great interest for me for non-musical reasons. But my interest in the text of this week's cantata is rather more narrowly focussed : whoever wrote it - and for this purpose that does not matter - it seems to date from the sixteenth century and was used in worship from then until Bach's time and so familiar to Bach and his congregation. My interest is in what Bach's music adds to such a text, not some speculative, highly questionable deduction of his own theological views.

Bach an antinomian? Never!

Dick Wursten wrote (June 27, 2002):
BWV 177 Agricoltural debate and melody

Thomas Braatz spread reasonable doubts about the authorship of Johann Agricola of "Ich ruf zu dir..."...

I can only quote my source that attributes this hymn to him: J.W. Schulte Nordholt.
He writes in 'compendium' to the 'Liedboek voor de Kerken' (Dutch Hymnal), 1977 (my translation):
"Perhaps it is because of the opposition of lutheran orthodoxy that this hymn was often published without mentioning the author (anonymous). It was only because of the findings of the famous hymnologist Philipp Wackernagel in the 19th century that his authorship was firmly established. He found it printed on a paper, from before 1530 with the title:
'Ein neues Lied, zu bitten um Glauben, Liebe und Hoffnung und um ein seliges Leben, gemacht durch Joh. Eysleben des Herzogs Hans von Sachsen Prediger".
[A new song, to pray for Faith, love and hope and for a blessed life, made by Joh. Eysleben, preacher to the Duke Hans of Saxony]. At that time this preacher was identical with Johann Agricola.

Further I found that in 1541 Agricola published a hymn-book of his own (Sangbuchlein). I don't know whether someone has access to this, because this hymn might be in it.

As I am still convinced (until further teaching shows...) of Agricola's authorship of this hymn, prob. somewhere at the beginning of the antinominiastic fight (which started already in 1527 by the way. see PS), I still am charmed with Francis Brown's thesis, that a slight influence of this fight is present in the hymn - I hope you don't mind Francis, that I take over your position after you have left it ;-)

The beautiful melody by the way is at least as intriguing as the text (author).The same source as I quoted above (but other author: W. Mudde) suggests that the 'Wittenberger Kreis' worked in the tradition of the 'Meistersinger', that is to say: The words and the tune were composed at approx. the same time (one invention) by one person. 'Phonascus' these wonderful poet-composers were called. To mention a few names (compare Thomas Braatz list):
Luther (esp. as adaptor of old hymntunes to metrical verses, but also freely: Christ lag in Todesbanden, Nun freut euch lieben Christgmein), Speratus (es ist das Heil uns kommen her), Johann Gramann (Nun lob mein Seel, den Herren), Elisabeht Kreuziger (Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn), Bartholomaus Ringwaldt (Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit), Konrad Hubert (Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ) and....

Isn't amazing what beautfiul hymns and melodies in that rather short period were created ?!Evergreens, known at least by all organist from the (Bach-)choralvariatons and choral-predudes.

If Johann Agricola also belonged to this 'Kreis' (circle) why shouldnot he also be the author of the beautiful melody... The same goes for Anonymous if he is the author.

P.S.
STOP HERE, if you are not interested in theology.
The Antinomianism-fight started as a reaction to Phil. Melanchthons thesis 1527, that the preaching of the gospel (saved by grace by faith alone) had to be preceded by the preaching of the LAW (to cause awareness of sin and a readiness to penitence) AND the same law (10 commandments) had to be implemented again after the preaching of this gospel of grace (to serve as a guidance for the new life.) Agricola found this too much of the good... and not surprisingly: Luther at first also had some difficulties with this Melanchtonian stressing of the law. This conflict was finally 'settled' (what an overstatement) by the lutheran Formula Concordiae of 1577: The preaching of the law had to be part of the preaching of the gospel.

Rev. Robert A. Lawson wrote (June 27, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Thank you for you post. The Formula of Concord attributes the extreem response to the so-called antinomian position, i.e., that "the Law is necessary to salvation" to George Majors, which is undoubtedly correct. However, it is interesting that in his book Law and Gospel, Timothy Wengert (one of the editors of the new English translatin of the Book of Concord) shows quite convincingly that Majors was really echoing Melanchton, who by 1534 had made the Law the center of his theology.
"Again, Melanchthon tried to ground his discussion of good works in the consolation of God's mercy. However, he wanted to do this without compromising the necessity of good works. The very order of his argument--from the necessity of knowing how we are frogiven, to the necessity of obeying the law, to the necessity of knowing how this obedience pleases God--placed the law and obedience to it squarely at the center of Melanchthon's theology. Not death and resurrection or even repentance and faith, but knowing (that we are declared righteous and that our imperfect works are accepted) and obeying (the law) had become the center piece of his theology."
(emphasis in the text, p. 189)

Well, none of this has anything perse to do with Bach. I mention it only to point out what a great theologian and a great blessing Bach was and is. Unlike Melanchton, G. Majors, John Agricola, and of course many others, he understood the relationship between Law and Gospel. At the center of Bach's theology, as for Luther, was the Cross of Christ. Good works were merely a fruit of faith.

Anyway, thank you again for you post!

Phillipe Bareille wrote (June 27, 2002):
I'm sure Tom Braatz will slag off Harnoncourt again but I cannot help being stirred by the Austrian performance of this cantata. Panito Iconomou (alto) is first rate again in a very demanding aria. He has no problems with intonation or expression and he does more than justice to the subtle nuances of the score. Helmut Wittek comes off well although he may not at times live up up to the exacting demands of his aria. [His voice is quite attractive; he was chosen by Leonard Bernstein to record live the soprano aria of the Malher 4th symphony so he mustn't be as bad as Tom Braatz implies!]. Harnoncourt, Leonhardt (and the Tölzer knabenchor) have devoted decades to Bach cantatas. Hence I presume that they have something valuable to say about this music! Their performances are characterised by the enthusiasm of pioneers. Rhetoric so important in this music has always been uppermost in their mind. I understand (and accept) that some do not share my enthusiasm but it is unfair to write off Harnoncourt et al with such contempt.

Enjoy the BWV 177

Charles Francis wrote (June 27, 2002):
Phillipe Bareille wrote:
< I'm sure Tom Braatz will slag off Harnoncourt again but I cannot help being stirred by the Austrian performance of this cantata. >
His interpretation of fellow-Austrian Johann Strauss is also noteworthy: http://www.es123.com/sl1/sl4/32.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 28, 2002):
Dick Wursten stated:
< Further I found that in 1541 Agricola published a hymnbook of his own (Sangbuchlein). I don't know whether someone has access to this, because this hymn might be in it. >
The MGG lists this work, but it is not by Johann Agricola:
„Ein Sangbuchlein aller Sontags Evangelien ...“ Magdeburg, 1541, Lotther (spätere Ausg. 1560, 1563, 1568 bearb. von Wolfgang Figulus). [Lotther is the publisher and Figulus was responsible for the later editions after the death of the composer.
The complete title is: „Sangbüchlein aller Sonntagsevangelia nebst einer deutschen, an den Rudimenta ausgerichteten Leyen Musica, mit dem Ziel, die Kirchgänger zu schulen und sie zu befähigen, eigene Hausandachten fruchtbar und nach persönlichem Geschmack auszugestalten.

Guess who composed these chorales? The author of this ‚Sangbüchlein’ is none other than Martinus Agricola (1486-1556), cantor of the Magdeburg City Latin School.

Dick Wursten also stated:
< "Perhaps it is because of the opposition of lutheran orthodoxy that this hymn was often published without mentioning the author (anonymous). It was only because of the findings of the famous hymnologist Philipp Wackernagel in the 19th century that his authorship was firmly established. He found it printed on a paper, from before 1530 with the title: 'Ein neues Lied, zu bitten um Glauben, Liebe und Hoffnung und um ein seliges Leben, gemacht durch Joh.Eysleben des Herzogs Hans von Sachsen Prediger". [A new song, to pray for Faith, love and hope and for a blessed life, made by Joh. Eysleben, preacher to the Duke Hans of Saxony]. At that time this preacher was identical with Johann Agricola. >
Another significant hymnologist who translated Latin hymns into German and had them published is:
"Witzel (Wizel, Wicelius), Georg, * 1501 in Vacha (Rhön), † 16. Febr. 1573 in Mainz. Witzel stud. in Erfurt (1516/17) und Wittenberg (1520). Nach sehr kurzem Studium wurde er durch den Bischof von Merseburg zum Priester geweiht und erhielt ein Vikariat in seiner Heimatgemeinde Vacha. Da er sich aber Luther zuwandte und sich verheiratete, verlor er 1524 sein kirchl. Amt und wurde zunächst Stadtschreiber in Vacha. Durch Vermittlung des luth. Predigers J. Strauß in Eisenach erhielt er Pfarrstellen in Wenigen- Lupnitz und in Niemegk. Nach eifrigem Kirchenväterstudium wandte er sich jedoch wieder von Luthers Lehre ab und wurde kath. Prediger in Eisleben (1533). Sein erfolgreiches Eintreten für die kath. Sache in vielen polemischen Schriften verschaffte ihm einen Ruf nach Dresden an den Hof des Herzogs Georg von Sachsen. Hier wirkte er für die Reunion beider Konfessionen." ["An ordained priest before the reformation, he lost his position because he turned to Luther and married. He became a city scribe in Vacha. Through a connection that he had to a Lutheran preacher, J. Strauß, (No! Not yet another 'J.' which most likely is 'Johann.' What is Johann Strauß doing back here during the Reformation? If a N. Harnoncourt also shows up here, then I will know that serendipity really works!) he became a preacher in Wenigen-Lupnitz and in Niemegk. After studying zealously the history of the church fathers, he rejected Luther's teachings and became a Catholic preacher in Eisleben (1533). Because he successfully argued for Catholicism in numerous polemic articles, Herzog Georg von Sachsen called him to the court in Dresden, where he worked toward reuniting both confessions (Catholic and Lutheran.)"] So now we have a Georg Eysleben, preacher to the Duke of Saxony. The similarities seem too coincidental to be true.

There seems to be much confusion and misinformation regarding all these Agricolas and Pseudo-Agricolas, so that I have lost what little confidence I still had regarding the possibility that Johann Agricola (you know which one we are talking about) might be the author, or even composer of the chorale for BWV 177. It looks to me like Martinus Agricola would be a much better candidate as being the real author rather than Johann who seems to have written only one chorale text that happened to be published in Martin Luther's collection, but then was removed because it was inferior.
As compensation for all the frustration I felt while spending time researching the MGG, I found a marvelous quote from Luther’s “Tischreden” Nr. 2545: “: »Die Noten machen den Text lebendig.« [“The notes are what make the text come alive.”] I can imagine quite easily how Bach would have underlined in red these words in his edition of this book.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 28, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Very illuminating! Thanks

Esp. because the source I quoted, J.W. Schulte Nordholt (d. 1995), poet and famous translator of many Latin, English en German hymns (& hebrew psalms) for the Dutch Hymnbook, was a history-professor at Leiden (American History) and someone whose hymnological biographical background information generally can be trusted. But here he has done as I so often do, let your thoughts sail away on secondary sources without verifying the references, forgivable for an amateur (no easy acces to the sources) but a serious flaw for a professional... He himself would be ashamed, and offer his apologies for this lemma in the Compendium, I'm sure... and then as a recompensation create/translate some splendid hymn instead... But alas, he's dead. My personal penitence will be translating this cantatatext into Dutch.

By the way: I checked Fr. Blume (Geschichte der evg. Kirchenmusik) and only found 2 references to Johann Agricola, one referring to a letter Luther wrote to him in 1530 (about Luther’s own compository activity !) and the other referring to a hymn of Johann Agricola 'Ach Herre Gott, wie haben sie sich wider dich so hart gesetzet'. No reference is made to 'Ich ruf zu dir'... Chapeau for Blume! Martin Agricola (the publisher) has 8 references.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 28, 2002):
[6] I listened to Leusink and enjoyed this cantata very much, esp the first and last part.

Mvt. 1: The soloviolin plays a very addictive repetitive figure. And as always the combination of solo violin 2 oboes with strings and bc is irresistible... esp. if played with a baroque-orchestra, of which I am generally very content in the Leusink edition. I am not going to analyse the mvts, nor the achievement of the singers (within the known spectrum neither remarkably good nor bad), I only want to share some things I heard (Tonmalerei).

Mvt. 3. last word 'abkehren': very special effect on the line and the word-repetition or did Holton do something too special ?

Mvt. 4: beautiful how Bach stresses the 'Beständigsein' in line three. The movement of the music is very quick and goes up and down... first 'bestandigsein' also is taken in the same way, but the second time this line appears, the notes are 'beständigt'..: »Die Noten machen den Text beständig.« to paraphrase the quotation of Luther by Braatz. The figure on 'Sterben' is as expected... It would be more a suprise if it weren't there..

Mvt. 5: The rich setting of this choral is esp. striking in the end of line 5: 'umstoszen'. I know nothing of compositiontheory and harmonisation rules, but here something special happens... to illuminate the 'umstoszen' ??

I wondered about the date of this cantata. Dürr says its 1732, so relatively late, which makes this cantata interesting.. It is supposed to fill up the gap in the choral-canatatacycle of 1724. Dürr also mentioned a lost cantata from 1725 with the same text. Intrigued me: why can't this cantata be that lost one ? The argument of Dürr: autograph sketch on paper dating from 1732... That is enough ? can't be a sketch for a 're-creation' or a adaptation of an older work?

What also intrigued me (again: It also happened when I read the text) is the difficulty in getting the predominant atmosphere of the cantata. The beginning of the text (I cry to thee) suggests that we will have another example of a plea, a cry from the depth.. something like 'Aus tiefer Not'... but the rest of the text is much more 'at ease', even contemplative. The form of a prayer is kept, but the dangers are all hypothetical (f.i. Spott, Anfechtung), or future (f.i. death). The occupation with the 'love for the neighbour' (v.1) and the 'love of the enemy' (v.3) even makes it a prayer for moral improvement. The anti-nomianistic subtone, which I still hear in it, even when Agricola Johann, is not the author, gives it an aspect of theological teaching (which is very normal for the first hymns of the Reformation, which were often complete catechisms)... or at least: faith improvement.

The title on the paper of Wackernagel is quite correct: when the hymn is characterized as 'Ein neues Lied, zu bitten um Glauben, Liebe und Hoffnung und um ein seliges Leben [A new song, to pray for Faith, love and hope and for a blessed life]

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 29, 2002):
BWV 177 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 177 - Provenance

Dick Wursten wrote (June 29, 2002):
Message for the Dutch and Flemish members of BCML:
belofte maakt schuld: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV177-Dut1.htm

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 29, 2002):
BWV 177 - Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ - Background

The background below is based on several sources (mostly Alec Robertson and Murray Young) and something of my own. The English translation is by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

Mvt. 1 Chorus
Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ
(I call to you, Lord Jesus Christ)
Oboe I/II, Violino concertante, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
This movement is a chorale fantasia for strings and oboe. It sounds like a slow movement of a violin concerto. The chorus sings a personal appeal to the Lord, representing the mental agony of one believer who seeks spiritual help. This prayer contains a grief-motif, which is expressed by the solo violin through its decorated playing of the hymn-tune. A look at the score focuses attention on a remarkable feature of the elaborate part of the solo violin. The grief-motif, entering in the first full bar is repeated no less than 118 times in the course of the movement, stressing the urgency of the prayer to Christ. The sopranos sing (as usual) the chorale melody, doubling by the first oboe, each line of it being anby independent parts for the other voices. The emotional quality of the music makes it one of Bach’s most deeply felt chorale fantasias.

Mvt. 2 Aria for Alto
Ich bitt noch mehr, o Herre Gott
(I pray still more, o Lord God)
Continuo
With organ continuo only, the singer’s request to the Lord is the first of those which will follow in the next two arias. Each aria is a prayer for a favour from God, sung to the chorale melody. In this case, and with a variation of the hymn-tune, he (or she) asks God not to let him (or her) be mocked, not to build all her hopes on his good acts, for these may lead her to eternal regret. The continuo derives its first phrases from the first line of the chorale, following this with semiquavers rising in semitones, both of which prayerful motifs are constantly repeated. Young thinks that this is not one of Bach’s better arias. Perhaps he was not inspired by this text.

Mvt. 3 Aria for Soprano
Verleih, daß ich aus Herzensgrund
(Grant that from the bottom of my heart)
Oboe da caccia, Continuo
This aria is more expansive. The oboe da caccia accompaniment gives this movement more interest and variety, but it still seems to lack something. The singer asks God to grant her the indication to forgive his (or her) enemies, so that He will then forgive her, too. From that time, she will have a new life, in which His Word will nourish her soul protect her against misfortune.

Mvt. 4 Aria for Tenor
Laß mich kein Lust noch Furcht von dir
(Let no pleasure or fear)
Violino concertante, Fagotto obbligato, Continuo
This is a Bach aria as it should be; probably the composer was stimulated more by this text than by the thought in the previous two movements. A Joy-motif, heard in the solo violin and in the obbligato bassoon, lifts this movement well above the previous arias. This is a delightful and uplifts the heart at once in the orchestral introduction with its firm three B flats in the continuo, above which rises the confident melody expressive of the steadfastness spoken of in the third and fourth line of the hymn. The last line ‘Die uns errett' vom Sterben.’ ([A mercy] that delivers us from dying0, is twice expressively repeated, with an especially beautiful shaped phrase at ‘Sterben’ (dying), ending with a pause on the last syllable just before the da capo.

Mvt. 5 Chorale
Ich lieg im Streit und widerstreb
(I lie amidst strife and I resist)
Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Fagotto, Continuo
All voices and instruments join in a straightforward presentation of the last verse of the hymn, which implores Christ for His help against temptation. This movement is the complement to the opening chorus, both texts stressing the need for Christ’s help, in order to make the individual stronger in his effort to attain faith and mercy.

Personal Viewpoint

a. Although I tend to agree with the two respected commentators about the relative merits of the three arias, I do not agree with them about the conclusion. Looking at the text it seems to me that the five stanzas are of equal merits. Why, for example, has Bach given so little melodic material for the alto singer to work with? Bach has never written anything unintentionally. I believe that in the opening chorus he set a level, as if saying to his singers, ‘This is the emotional quality I expect from you to express’. In the ensuing aria the singer is forced to give as much of herself as she can in order to give the aria a substantial meaning. Quite a challenge, indeed!

b. I have not seen any commentator mention this, but the music of the aria for soprano (Mvt. 3) is almost identical with the opening aria (for alto) of Cantata BWV 24 for the same event. In the Ramin and Rilling recordings these two cantatas are included on the same CD (in the case of Rilling – the first CD edition). Therefore, if you hear the whole CD from beginning to end, you will easily reveal the secret!

The Recordings

During last week I have been listening to four complete recordings of this cantata.

[1] Ramin (1954)
To contemporary ears the violin playing in Ramin’s rendition of the opening chorus might sound anachronistic. Other recordings from the mid 1950’s prove that even than we could expect to a technically better violin playing than what we get here. Yet, rarely we hear violin playing so loaded with emotion. We feel that the violin embodies sincere plea to God’s grace. The choir singing is also much better on the expressive side than choir sound, which is inhomogeneous, lacking cohesiveness, almost unforgivable in modern terms. Gerda Schriever does not make it in the aria for alto. Considering the time this recording was made, it is understandable that her voice is full of vibrato. The main problem for me is that her singing lacks direction, and there fore does not hold the listener’s attention. All we want is that she finishes her aria faster than what she actually does. The soprano Ulrike Taube is not much better in the ensuing aria. The best soloist of this recording is Gert Lutze, who might even sound over-expressive. I like it because I find that his singing reflects honesty.

[3] Rilling (1981)
Rilling’s approach to the opening chorus with larger than life. I mean that everything seems to be magnified: the playing of the violin, the singing of each voice of the choir, the accompaniment, and most important, the expression of all the participants. . Everything is so clear and bright, and overwhelming with emotion. Hamari accedes to the challenge set by Bach in the aria for alto. She holds the simple line gloriously, manages to put the right amount of expression into each word. Through her singing you can hear the plea, the hope, the longed for confidence. The accompaniment supports her sensitively, as if the instrumentalists are inspired by her singing. With this kind exemplary rendition you find yourself wanting to pay attention continuously. Augér continues to carry the torch on the same high level, in expressive terms. However, I she is using here too much vibrato for my taste. Or, am I wrong and she is using it intentionally, to express a certain fear of the misfortune? The ensuing aria starts with joyful playing of the violin and the bassoon. Than enters Schreier, his singing is full of confidence and happiness. Rilling was clever enough to choose three-first vocal soloists, who can meet successfully the challenges set by Bach. I doubt if this rendition as a whole could be ever improved upon.

[4] Harnoncourt (1988)
Harnoncourt’s opening chorus is much more rushed than Rilling’s (6:32 against 7:17). It is also more homogeneous; the different voices are harder to follow; the violin playing is a part of the whole rather than independent. I find this approach less appropriate to convey convincingly the message, and therefore less heart-rending. A heavy task is given to Panito Iconomou in the aria for alto, and he carries it out honourably. He has a full-developed voice, not boyish at all, a beautiful voice along the whole range he is given to sing in this demanding aria. His production is very natural, unlike some mature counter-tenors singers. Regarding expressive powers, he falls only short of Hamari. He is supported by sensitive accompaniment. In short, a fascinating performance. In the ensuing aria, the boy soprano, Helmut Wittek, is not up to Panito’s achievement. His voice tend to sound screamy in the upper register and regarding expression he does not have much to offer. Equiluz is up to himself, which means Bach singing of the highest level. Nevertheless, I find Schreier here more convincing, because his expression is freer and reflects more bravery and joy. The accompaniment he gets from Harnoncourt is also less supportive. It seems that the singer and the accompaniment are progressing in different rou.

[6] Leusink (2000)
The instrumental introduction of Leusink is inspired, with attractive playing, full of anticipation. The sopranos enter into the picture elegantly, carrying the chorale melody. The playing of the violin is more expressive than Harnoncourt’s. The prayer to hear the lamentation is less overt than Rilling’s, yet no less convincing. Buwalda convinces in what was clear in advance. There are certain movements that he should not take upon himself to sing. He does not keep the tension along the aria for alto, and the deficiencies of his voice come forth – fragility, instability, and unnaturally. I shall better stop here; otherwise I might say things about which I shall regret. Ruth Holton makes the outmost of the aria for soprano. Her timbre of voice suits perfectly the demands of the aria, and her counter-part; the oboe da caccia plays marvellously. She gives true meaning to the text and the music – the forgiveness she wishes to have, the fear from misfortune, the plea for protection. It is always a pleasure to meet the tenor Marcel Beekman, one of the hidden treasures of Leusink’s cycle. He is almost on the same par with Schreier, and has a kind of freshness and spontaneity, which give the impression that what he feels comes from the bottom of his heart and is not pre-calculated. The cheerful playing of the fagot and the violin contribute to the success of this rendition of the aria for tenor.

Conclusion

Personal preferences:
Opening Chorus (Mvt. 1): Rilling [3], Leusink [6], Harnoncourt [4], Ramin [1]
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 2): Hamari/Rilling [3], Panito/Harnoncourt [4], [big gap], Taube/Ramin [1], Buwalda/Leusink [6]
Aria for Soprano (Mvt. 3): Holton/Leusink [6], Rilling/Augér [3], [big gap], Wittek/Harnoncourt [4], Schriever/Ramin [1]
Aria for Tenor (Mvt. 4): Schreier/Rilling [3], Beekman/Leusink [6], Equiluz/Harnoncourt [4], Lutze/Ramin [1]
Concluding Chorale (Mvt. 5): Rilling [3], Leusink [6], Ramin [1], Harnoncourt [4]
Overall performance: Rilling [3], Leusink [6], Harnoncourt [4], Ramin [1]

As always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 30, 2002):
Inspired by the comments made by Spitta, Dürr, Aryeh, and Dick, I used them as a starting point from which I extended them and added ideas of my own:

See: Cantata BWV 177 - Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2002):
Here is an attempt to summarize, but also extend the commentaries I related in my last posting:

See: Cantata BWV 177 - Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2002):
This week I listened to:
Ramin (1954) [1]; Rilling (1981) [3]; Harnoncourt (1988) [4]; Leusink (2000) [6]

Mvt. 1 Chorus
Timings:
[1] Ramin 8:40
[3] Rilling 7:17
[4] Harnoncourt 6:32
[6] Leusink 7:40

[1] Ramin:
This very slow version was taken directly from an AM radio broadcast where only one microphone was used. There is an uneven sound quality throughout which the listener needs to contend with. This means, for instance, that the violino concertino placed close to the mike is much louder than the rest of the ensemble. The violins in general sound very wiry and have considerable vibrato. Who knows? Perhaps a wire recorder was used to record this from the air. The oboes sound very distant indeed. Considering the fact that the entire instrumental ensemble had little or no rehearsal at all, things still hang together fairly well. In any case, at the extremely slow tempo for this mvt. (8:40) there still is an intensity not found, for instance, in the Leusink recording. I was also able to hear things that otherwise are quickly glossed over in the other recordings. There are many instances where the violins are not quite together. The ritardandi are particularly treacherous in this regard. The choir sound, however, was reasonably good, but I found the tenors, and particularly the basses, to be on the weak side, not producing sufficient volume in order to achieve a better balance between the lower and upper voices. Because of the slow tempo, the interpretation necessarily changes the many leaping intervals from what looks like it should be a fervent, somewhat agitated appeal for Christ’s help (in the Rilling and Harnoncourt recordings) to an interpretation which is rather solemn and makes a sad request for aid such as would come from individuals who had almost given up hope entirely. I suppose this type of dark treatment was generally preferred a half century ago, not only because the players and singers were living in East Germany at a time relatively soon after WW II, but also because this mode of performance with full orchestral forces (including double basses) was still favored at that time. There are a few redeeming qualities in listening to this version such as to gain a historical perspective and come to terms with this performance style that was probably used for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. I found this recording to be above average when compared with the other Ramin recordings included in this set.

[3] Rilling:
This very moving version expresses strongly the feeling of earnest entreaty. In particular, the voices that accompany the cantus firmus in the soprano have a special quality in their manner of singing that reflects a genuine commitment to expressing sincerely the words that they are singing. This is a magical quality comparable to the honest type of expression that Kurt Equiluz often has in his arias and recitatives. Some may question how it is possible to detect sincerity in the manner of singing. All I can say is that if these voices are ‘faking it’, they have succeeded superbly, since I feel that they have conveyed what seems to me to be a genuine feeling that they actually believe in what they are singing. Certainly I have no way of knowing whether their religious convictions are Lutheran or not. What does matter is that they have convinced me that the emotions they convey musically are honest and true. Perhaps this situation may be compared to a great actor/actress who literally becomes the role that he/she is acting. This complete identification with the role carries over to the audience, which, if this audience is normally perceptive and emotionally responsive will easily detect whether any actor is not comfortable on stage (insufficient experience, lack of empathy for the role, etc.) or whether this actor superciliously treats this role as something to be played with, perhaps even to the point of ‘hamming it up.’

I generally find Rilling’s bc treatment to be too strong (this is perhaps a remnant of the non-HIP school where double basses and modern-day bassoons are added to the continuo group. [Lest you think that the cois true and that HIP interpretations are always in better balance in this regard, simply listen to Leusink who usually has a heavy-handed bc treatment as well.] Unlike Ramin, where the wiry violin stood very close to the only microphone, Rilling’s balance between all the instruments and the choir is generally excellent with the exception that the choir succeeds in drowning out the solo violino concertino part in ms. 104-112.) In this segment, without additional amplification, this solo section can not be heard. Nevertheless, this is a benchmark recording of the non-HIP variety. Even when compared on an equal basis, the following HIP recordings can not be considered to be on the same highly inspired level of performance:

[4] Harnoncourt:
With Harnoncourt we cross over to the other side of the great divide between non-HIP and HIP interpretations. This means we have moved from the late romantic style orchestral manner of performance with its slower tempi, its more legato-style playing, and its louder instruments that have been used in various orchestra settings for the past two centuries, to the so-called transparent baroque-style orchestras with instruments of less volume that play with a breathless quality that resembles a swimmer who needs very frequently to gulp for air. What happens in a period-instrument performance that changes its sound so radically from the sound created by symphony orchestras today? The musical phrases are fractured and dissected into micro units that receive strong and weak accents. After each of these units, there is a point where the weak, unaccented note is terminated prematurely. In essence, the music stops at this point and nothing is heard. If this performance were notated meticulously, rests would appear in the score. At this point the violin bow stops moving and the vocal cords no longer vibrate. This is a moment when vocalists and instrumentalists both gather their strength for the energetic attack of the next, accented note which introduces a new micro-phrase.

As you listen to Harnoncourt’s interpretation of the ritornello, you will hear the overly heavy accent on the 1st eighth note of each set of 3 notes when the instruments are in an accompanying mode (particularly in the bc.) [If you are still unable to hear these strong accents in this mvt., simply try listening to track 6 on the same CD (the opening mvt. of BWV 178.) This is a veritable ‘ear-opener’ if there ever was one. Notice also what happens there to the choir after the first unison line!] In the ritornello Harnoncourt establishes a ‘dah´ da da’ pattern with the 3 eighth notes being relatively legato despite the strong accent on the first beat of each group. But when the choir enters, he changes this pattern (ms. 56-64) to “dah´-hup’dot” where the first two notes are strongly tied together, but a tiny separation occurs after the second note and the 3rd note is a very light staccato with an even greater break or rest occurring after it.
Does all this effort expended lead toward hearing all the parts with greater clarity and transparency? No, just the opposite happens as the words and syllables become indistinct or inaudible. [Try to hear, if you can, the final syllable of ‘verzogen’ in ms. 146; the alto line disappears entirely in ms. 203-206.] As a result of this distortion, much is lost in the music. The actual message that Bach is trying to convey disappears in the process of attempting to force this style (the Harnoncourt style of HIP) on the entire musical ensemble without regard for the difference between voices singing and instrumentalists playing. To me it appears that Harnoncourt has put the cart before the horse by insisting that vocalists, particularly those in the choir, should sing the way a short-bowed baroque violin supposedly was played. All the major primary sources from Bach’s time state that, ideally, instruments should be played the way a voice sings, which, as I understand this, means that instrumentalists should emulate the legato, cantabile singing voice, not the everyday voice of conversation, which in German, with its strong accents on 1st syllables, glottal stops, and strong, hardened final consonants could have occasioned Harnoncourt’s notion of a choir sound. What Harnoncourt seems to disregard is the fact that speech can be elevated to the level of a truly singing style of speech that is used in reciting poetry or delivering monologs in plays. I have attended plays and poetry recitals in German (which is commonly regarded as a language that sounds as if one were chopping wood – remember also Frederick the Great’s statement about his use of German: “I only use German when speaking to my dog or horse.”) where German takes on a singing quality and is projected to a large audience without a microphone. The effect is similar to that of a good, well-trained singer who can engage an audience without resorting to grunts and unmusical, heavy accents. Unfortunately, in reacting against the traditional legato style of playing and cantabile singing of the pre-HIP period, Harnoncourt throws out the child with the bathwater. In attempting to make music become more like speech, Harnoncourt chooses to emphasize the stronger accents and frequent breaks that one would hear in everyday speech and not the singing style of elevated speech that had been used for centuries in projecting ideas and emotions to an audience without the usual modern means of amplification.

[6] Leusink:
This is pleasant background music with a slightly languid, nostalgic sound, but there is also an odd contrast here between this generally languid (almost disinterested) style of singing on the one hand, and the momentary strong efforts on the part of certain individuals, on the other hand, to overcome difficulties in the voice parts. The individual singers (the Buwaldas or Buwalda-type voices, or the tenor who has to force his voice to get to the note properly) can be detected easily and are very distracting because they call unnecessary attention to themselves. The soprano part has an almost dead quality that only occasionally thrusts itself forward with great effort by increasing volume considerably on the high notes (f and g.) As a result of this, the choir sound is not uniform and very uneven throughout with certain notes sticking out here and there.

Leusink has decided not to emulate Harnoncourt’s strong accents (There is light at the end of the HIP tunnel!) Thus there is more flow to this performance compared to Harnoncourt’s. For some reason the oboes and the bc are louder than the rest of the ensemble (mike placement?) The pronunciation of German is abysmal. When I try to listen carefully without a score or text before me (by now I should almost have memorized it) it is extremely difficult to discern the words that are being sung.
If this is the only recording of this cantata that you have, use your imagination to conjure up the strong fervency which this mvt. should evoke.

Summary:
[3] Rilling (way up there somewhere)
Much empty space here
[1] Ramin (not quite as bad as some of the other performances that were recorded)
[4] Harnoncourt & [6] Leusink (these do not give a good introduction to this marvelous mvt.)

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 8, 2002):
Another Footnote to BWV 177 Mvt. 1 Chorus

Applying the notion first proposed, as far as I know, by Schweitzer, I have pointed out before that the beginning few measures of the violino concertino (did Bach perhaps play this part himself?) contain the essence of the 1st mvt. and also, in a broader sense, that of the entire cantata as well. This special musical figure incorporates the dramatic contrast between opposite directions. It is the antithesis of up and down when understood as follows: 1) Christ’s coming DOWN from on high to aid humanity in recovering from the ‘Great Fall’ that occurred in the Garden of Eden and to aid also thindividuals who call upon him for help; and 2) the individual’s calling UP to Christ to ask for his aid and blessing.

At first it seems amazing, even unbelievable, that such a figure could function as a symbol that consists of such contrary meanings, but I have now seen a number of situations with similar figures/symbols in the Bach cantatas, that it now seems plausible to me that Bach would begin his compositional process in this manner. With the words of the chorale foremost in his mind, he would reduce or distill the entire text to arrive at a pregnant motif where the musical essence of the idea is expressed in a succinct form, from which the entire composition could evolve. As this motif then grows in Bach’s mind, it supplies direction and movement on various levels and can even be extended from the 1st mvt. to all the other mvts. in the cantata as well. Bach must have soon decided that the UP and DOWN directions represented architecturally in the musical structure would enhance the listener’s understanding of the words by emphasizing these directions through musical illustration. This he does in the very first measures of Mvt. 1 by having the 1st oboe perform an interval leap (a 5th) upwards to a long, held note. While this is taking place, the 2nd oboe drops down a minor 3rd from its first note. This echoes precisely the same notes at the beginning of the chorale melody. The violino concertino, now in 16th notes, quickly leaps upwards a 4th and then a 3rd before beginning its long descent on a repeated sequence. The remaining instruments (violins, viola and bc) enter with descending intervals as well. Not only do we hear the descending intervals (with the exception of the 1st oboe and the violino concertino) in all the instruments, the entrances of the instruments are staggered. This is very important to note (I missed this at first, and all the commentaries I read said nothing about this.) In the highest range, the listener hears first the two oboes, then the violino concertino, and then, always at a lower pitch and later than the instruments before them, the 2nd violin, then the viola, and then the bc in the bass. What an obvious way to illustrate DOWN or falling! This sequence is repeated once more before being developed with shorter quotes from this sequence. The bc has an octave dropping figure (the fall of man?) in ms. 5, 13, 19, 21 (and also when the voices enter ms. 35, 37, and 39.)

When the accompanying voices singing “Ich ruf” [“I call”] begin to enter one by one before the cantus firmus sings the chorale, Bach makes them open with an upward leaping interval, an interval that increases (like the opening of a scissors) from a 5th in the bass (ms. 32-33) to eventually jump an octave in the alto (ms. 40) and even more than an octave in the tenor (ms. 41-42.) With each higher jump there is greater tension and urgency.

I have already discussed the role that this interval jumps play in the subsequent mvts.

Mvt. 5 Chorale
Timings:
[1] Ramin 1:47
[3] Rilling 1:30
[4] Harnoncourt 1:07
[6] Leusink 1:15

[1] Ramin:
This version is very slow and deliberate, almost dirge-like. Despite the slow tempo there is an inner force that makes the choir sound as though it is thoroughly committed to singing the music from the heart. Unfortunately there are some sloppy attacks and imprecision that reflect the lack of rehearsal time. The sound of the soprano cantus firmus, however, is very good.

[3] Rilling:
The only thing lacking here is the clear and strong soprano part that a good boys’ choir can provide. Otherwise this version is excellent in every respect (precision, clarity, balance within the choir and between the choir and the instrumentalists) and represents the best style for singing a 4-pt chorale properly.

[4] Harnoncourt:
In attempting to introduce lively expression in the singing of a chorale, Harnoncourt loses sight of the real meaning behind the text of the chorale. By introducing a very obvious diminuendo each time at the end of the repeated line, the effect is one of a lack of conviction or belief in text of the chorale. It is bad enough that he has attempted to fracture the strength that Bach had built into the opening mvt., but here, in the chorale, this attempt to ‘make Bach more interesting and come alive for the listener in the here and now’ has failed completely. Harnoncourt, from his individualistic viewpoint, is looking only at the music as music, and he disregards the meaning expressed in the text. He also does not understand what a chorale means at the end of a cantata: it is the high point toward which all the mvts. have been striving. The 1st mvt. makes a strong statement about the conflict or problem that faces the believer. The inner mvts. frequently move even deeper into the subject matter, and they usually begin to the resolve many problems in the last aria as they move toward a joyful state. The chorale then confirms the resolution of these problems with strong feeling and conviction. This cantata follows this type of sequence and demands that the choir should sing with conviction (whether they believe it or not) and not be forced into half-hearted drooping diminuendi at the end of a phrase. There is only one way to interpret this type of diminuendo: it is a sighing resignation on the part of very weak individuals to accept the inevitable since all the music that preceded it was unable to bring the singers to recognize a strength that comes from knowing what the text indicates. Bach’s harmonization makes this very clear as well. Only Harnoncourt seems to be oblivious to the importance that the final chorale has for the entire cantata. The extremely fast tempo for his version is already an indication of this. The diminuendi only serve to make this failing utterly clear to any observant listener.

[6] Leusink:
Almost immediately the cantus firmus is spoiled by the warbling sopranos who warble all the more, the higher they have to sing. They simply do not have proper control of their voices. In the altos there are Buwalda-type voices, while in the tenor part, the thin, raspy voices make themselves heard. As usual, the fermati are lopped off prematurely in a rush to get to the next phrase (this is a general characteristic of Leusink’s chorale singing style, a style which he has perfected to an extreme and one which makes it even more difficult to understand the chorale text.)

Since I will not have time to review the other mvts., I only wish to agree with Aryeh’s assessment of the other singers. Hamari [3] and Schreier [3] are superb. There is no one in the HIP recordings that can even come close to what was achieved here. Augèr [3] and Equiluz [4] were not ‘up to par’ in their renditions.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (July 4, 2002):
BWV 177 = Albert Schweitzer

The full text of your post did not come through and what did ---came through with some strange charecters that my system does not apparently recognize--which I do not understand as my system recognizes charecters and squares from Russian and Slavic Languages, Oriental, Middle Eastern, African as well as European ones.

When I was young and just getting started with my Bach studies---Albert Schweitzer was one of my heros and also someone whose writings on Bach I took as gospel. I was fortunate to be able to communicate with him also through a local physician who worked with Schweitzer in his African Clinic.

However, the more I have studied Bach since then the less impressed I have become with Schweitzer's interpetations and studies which are just too colored by the Romantic age of Music and his recordings made late in his life are sadly a poor reflection of his former great sas an Organist. In this respect Harnoncourt's studies have gained great validity—even if sometimes controversial interpetations.

This is not to denigrate Schweitzer's place in Bach musicology for he still holds a great place as a pioneer in this area. It is that many of the things that he thought were correct have now been found not to hold the validity that was former ascribed to them.

Likewise Wanda Landowska--whose techniques of playing the Harpsichord with only four fingers etc. only has now been found to be wrong and this is further backed up from paintings and other art from the baroque and rococo age in which players are clearly shown using thier thumbs (depressed keys with the thumb) to play the harpsichord. Unlike Schweitzer, Landowska, the Mother of the modern harpsichord, remained at or near her full artistic powers until her dying day.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 177: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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