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Cantata BWV 178
Wo Gott derr Herr nicht bei uns hält
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of September 4, 2011 (3rd round)

Francis Browne wrote (September 4, 2011):
BWV 178 Notes on the text

My anticipatory cynicism about possible responses to my notes on the text of the cantata proved to be unfounded and I am grateful for those who commented so positvely.I note particularly Douglas Cowling's valuable suggestions -to which I would add that Z. Ambrose Philips notes explicit quotations but not always allusions to the bible . I would like to include such references in my notes and therefore would be grateful if anyone points out any references I miss.There are many members who know the bible more thoroughly than I . Since the notes will be available on the website I shall not post them on the list again.

Notes for this week's cantata can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV178-Eng3.htm

My intention is to provide notes in time for the weekly discussion - as always with Aryeh's kind help.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 4, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Z. Ambrose Philips notes explicit quotations but not always allusions to the bible . I would like to include such references in my notes and therefore would be grateful if anyone points out any references I miss. >
I'm curious about the Christ image of the "Hero of Judah" in mvt 5:

Der Held aus Juda schützt uns noch,
the hero from Judah still protects us,

which you point out appears so arrestingly in "Es ist vollbracht" in the St. John Passion:

Der Held aus Juda siegt mit Macht
Und schließt den Kampf.
Now Judah's hero wins with might
And ends the fight

What is the source or the image? It doesn't appear in the Bible, although it seems closely allied with a similar Christ image as the "Lion of Judah" which can be seen in both the Hebrew and Christian scriptures at Genesis
49:8:

You are a lion's cub, O Judah; you return from the prey, my son.

And Revelation 5:5:

The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David has prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.

Bach uses the image at the end of the Easter Oratorio:

Der Löwe von Juda kommt siegend gezogen!
The Lion of Judah with triumph shall enter!

Are the "hero" and "lion" part of the same medieval literary type for Christus Victor?

Francis Browne wrote (September 4, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote :
"Are the "hero" and "lion" part of the same medieval literary type for Christus Victor?"
Thank you for the references to Genesis and Revelation. There is also a lion and Judah in Hosea 5:14 - but since the lion threatens to tear Judah it isprobably not relevant!


Doug raises interesting questions about the biblical image and its later use - to which I do not have the knowledge to answer - neither in the bible nor in later Christian tradition - but I would hope that among the (almost) thousand members of the list there is someone who may know more.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 5, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Z. Ambrose Philips notes explicit quotations but not always allusions to the bible . I would like to include such references in my notes >
Bach's libretto plays with the image of the sea in a fascinating variety of ways. The most striking is Mvt. 2 to where Christ's salvific death is compared to the passage of the Israelites through the Red Sea:

Er führt die Seinigen mit starker Hand,
he leads those who are his own people with a mighty hand
Durchs Kreuzesmeer, in das gelobte Land,
through the sea of the cross into the promised land,

The Exodus through the Red Sea was a traditional image for baptism developed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:2:

"and and all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea"

and Romans 6: 3,4:

"Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptised into Christ Jesus were baptised into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death".

The image of the Sea of the Cross is quite a unique expression of the theology and seems to draw to itself the allegory of Christ, like Moses, leading the believers through the sea of his Passion, Death and Burial to Resurrection and eternal life in the Promised Land of Heaven.

It is significant that Bach was drawn to these librettos which contained such complex layers of meaning and allusion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 5, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 178 -- Wo Gott der Herr

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 178, the second of three works for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV178.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 178 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner [6] and Koopman [5] (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via links beneath the cover photos.

The chorale text and melody are also accessible via links at the BWV 178 page.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 5, 2011):
der Held/Löwe aus Juda

Thomas Braatz contributed an article for the present discussion on the BCML.
It is primarily a translation with the additional full quotes from the Bible.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/HaselbockLowe.pdf
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/IndexArticles.htm

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 5, 2011):
[To Thomas Braatz & Aryeh Oron] Great article. Thanks Thomas and Aryeh!

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 5, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 178 -- Wo Gott der Herr
Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV178.htm >
See in particular the recent commentary by Francis Browne on text sources and details, available at the [English 3] translation link.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 5, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] I usually hesitate to recommend Wiki but the recent organ chorale discovery with this incipit is covered quite extensively by them: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wo_Gott_der_Herr_nicht_bei_uns_h%C3%A4lt

There is a recording too of both the Chorale Prelude and Cantata, a type of juxtaposition which should be encouraged; but then, it leaves the question of what to do with the rest of the time left on the CD...the nineteenth-century owner of the manuscript of the lost Chorale Prelude was Johann Rust, whose own compositions are far removed from the Baroque IMHO. The related recording is: JPC

The organists I have discussed the rediscovered work with consider it demanding but it is of great quality, and well worth tracking down, if that is the right expression for a recording..

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 5, 2011):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The organists I have discussed the rediscovered work with consider it demanding but it is of great quality, and well worth tracking down, if that is the right expression for a recording. >
How could such a monumental work by Bach with such ferocious technical demands have escaped inclusion in the Bach canon when its provenance seems so assured and the work was known to Mendelssohn and the publisher C.F. Peters in the first half of the 19th century?

Are there any critical reservations about the music itself? It does have a rather extraordinary format which I can't recall in the works of Bach. It begins as a three-voice fughetta over the melody in the pedal. But having completed the chorale at bar 20, the piece shifts into a frfantasia which leads into an extended fugue on a variant of the chorale. The coda is given over to quite spectacular passagework - triplet arpeggios and heavy block chords -- over a pedal.

But then who else but Bach could have written it?

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 5, 2011):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed an article for the present discussion on the BCML.
It is primarily a translation with the additional full quotes from the Bible. >
Thanks for assembling all of the citations in one place. A supplemental note that it was a medieval commonplace that the lion was an image of Christ and resurrection because it was believed that lions were born dead and were given life three days later by the breath of their father. These bestiary fantasies still linger in the modern mind (e.g. The "industrious" ant)

It's worth noting that the cantata's libretto plays with the ambiguity of the image of the lion:

Nach Löwenart mit brüllendem Getöne;
like a lion, with sounds of roaring;
Sie fletschen ihre Mörderzähne
they bare their murderous teeth

In true Metaphysical fashion, the lion is both the image of good and evil.

I don't think we've tracked down the "Hero of Judah" title yet. There are lots of references to Christ as Victor, but the specific designation is not scriptural. I would guess it probably originated in a patristic commentary and then passed into medieval theological works. Anyone have a search engine for the works of Luther?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 5, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] The Jewish Encyclopedia has this article about the "Hero of Judah"

Judah is furthermore represented as a man of extraordinary physical strength. When he shouted his voice was heard at a distance of 400 parasangs; when he became angry the hair of his chest became so stiff that it pierced his clothes; and when he took into his mouth lumps of iron he reduced them to dust (Gen. R. xciii. 6). According to others, blood flowed from his two bucklers (ib. xciii. 7). He was a prominent figure in the wars between the Canaanites and his father's family after the latter had destroyed Shechem. These wars are alluded to by pseudo-Jonathan (on Gen. xlviii. 22) and in Midr. Wayissa'u (Jellinek, "B. H." iii. 1-5), and are described at great length in "Sefer ha-Yashar," section "Wayishlaḥ" (see also Jubilees, xxxiv. 1-9; Test. Patr., Judah, 3-7). Judah's first remarkable exploit was the killing of Jashub, King of Tappuah. The latter, clad in iron armor, came riding on a horse and shooting arrows with both hands. While still at a distance of thirty cubits (according to Midr. Wayissa'u, 177⅓ cubits) from him, Judah threw at Jashub a stone weighing sixty shekels, unhorsing him. Then in a hand-to-hand fight Judah killed his adversary. While he was stripping the armor from the body, he was assailed by nine of Jashub's companions, of whom he killed one and put to flight the rest. Of Jashub's army he killed 1,000 men (comp. Test. Patr., l.c.), or, according to "Sefer ha-Yashar" (l.c.), forty-two men. Great exploits were performed by him at Hazar and Gaash, where he was the first to jump upon the wall and create havoc among the enemy. Midr. Wayissa'u describes also the battle between the children of Jacob and those of Esau, in which the chief part was taken by Judah. When Judah interfered in behalf of Benjamin (Gen. xliv. 18-34), he at first had a heated discussion with Joseph, which is given at great length in the "Sefer ha-Yashar" (section "Wayiggash," agreeing in many points with Gen. R. xciii. 7). The following incidents may be mentioned: When Joseph retained Benjamin, Judah shouted so loudly that Hushim, the son of Dan, who was in Canaan at a distance of 400 parasangs from him, heard his voice. Hushim came immediately to Egypt, and with Judah desired to destroy the land. In the "Sefer ha-Yashar" it is stated that Judah lifted a stone weighing 400 shekels, threw it into the air, and finally ground it to dust with his foot. He then told Naphtali to count the districts of Egypt, and when the latter reported that there were twelve of them, he said to his brothers: "I take three for myself and let each one of you take one, and we shall destroy the whole of Egypt." It was this decision that induced Joseph to disclose himself to his brothers.

Because Judah had pledged himself to bring Benjamin back to his father, saying, "If I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever" (Gen. xliii. 9), his bones were rolled about without rest in the coffin during the forty years that the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Moses then prayed to God, arguing that Judah's confession had induced Reuben to confess his sin with Bilhah (Soṭah 7b; B. Ḳ. 92a; Mak. 11b). Judah's name was engraved on the emerald in the high priest's breastplate (Num. R. ii. 6).

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 5, 2011):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< There is a recording too of both the Chorale Prelude and Cantata, a type of juxtaposition which should be encouraged; but then, it leaves the question of what to do with the rest of the time left on the CD...the nineteenth-century owner of the manuscript of the lost Chorale Prelude was Johann Rust, whose own compositions are far removed from the Baroque IMHO. The related recording is: JPC >

I believe this is the same recording listed first for the current week, at the BCW home page.

Francis Browne wrote (September 5, 2011):
Douglas Cowling asked :
"Anyone have a search engine for the works of Luther?"
A quick search of Luther's Gesammelte Werke in the Digitale Bibliothek yielded nothing sgnificant for Held and the dozen references for lion are mostly concerned with 1 Peter 5:8 where the reference is to the devil going around wie ein brüllender Löwe.

I am grateful for the excellent contributions by Doug , Thomas Braatz and Kim Patrick Clow. Perhaps in future it will be best to post my notes on the text as a first draft on the list and then revise them in the light of any discussion or additional information before adding them to the website. What I intend will be far more useful as a collaborative project.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 5, 2011):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< There is a recording too of both the Chorale Prelude and Cantata, a type of juxtaposition which should be encouraged; but then, it leaves the question of what to do with the rest of the time left on the CD...the nineteenth-century owner of the manuscript of the lost Chorale Prelude was Johann Rust, whose own compositions are far removed from the Baroque IMHO.
The related recording is:
JPC >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I believe this is the same recording listed first for the current week, at the BCW home page. >
This recording is listed [7] at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV178.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 6, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Perhaps in future it will be best to post my notes on the text as a first draft on the list >and then revise them in the light of any discussion or additional information before adding >them to the website. What I intend will be far more useful as a collaborative project. >
I certainly encourage that. I will continue to post weekly reminders as appropriate, but these were never intended to be a means of adding new information from me, so much as a quick reference to what is already available on or via links at BCW. That was already quite an impressive body of information, but the glosses by Francis in the past two weeks have stimulated discussion and new additions.

I find the separate posting of the interlinear translations, plus commentary, as [English 3], along with the parallel translations [English 3] very useful. I will make it a point to mention this detail again in coming weeks.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 6, 2011):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< This recording is listed [7] at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV178.htm >
A detail for USA correspondents: the BCW homepage listing indicates that the CD is available from amazon.com (USA). This may in fact be the most convenient source. I will report further.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 6, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< when he became angry the hair of his chest became so stiff that it pierced his clothes >
Hey, that happens to me! You can check it out in BCW archives. Perhaps that is what Francis had in mind when he said he aniticipated controvesry?

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 7, 2011):
der Held/Löwe aus Juda [BWV 178]

Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< I don't think we've tracked down the "Hero of Judah" title yet. There are lots of references to Christ as Victor, but the specific designation is not scriptural. >>
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< The Jewish Encyclopedia has this article about the "Hero of Judah"
Judah is furthermore represented as a man of extraordinary physical strength. >
EM:
I hope everyone interested in these textual underpinnings has taken a few moments to appreciate the recent additions of commentary and translation by Francis Browne. A few additional thoughts.

FB:
<Reading through the two later texts it is difficult not to feel that much of the Psalm’s force is dissipated by the paraphrase of Justus Jonas and then further weakened by the verbose expansions of the cantata text. But a closer examination shows that Jonas has purposefully adapted the ancient poem to make it relevant to his own times.> (end quote)

EM:
The newly posted translation of the Jonas hymn [Chorale Text link from BCW, BWV 178 page] is an aid (perhaps necessity) to understanding the link from Psalm to Bach.

As the posts from Doug and Kim amplify, we have not yet identified any scriptural link from the Old Testament Hero of Judah, to his Reformation equivalence with Jesus.

I am greatly relieved by reviewing this point. I had a momentary second thought (too late!) about making a joke about his (?!) bristling chest hair.

FB:
<Justus Jonas, as his colourful and interesting biography makes clear, was passionately involved throughout his life in promoting Luther's reforms. This hymn dates from 1524 and so in the midst of years of struggle for the reformed religion. From the perspective of our pluralist society where many people have no religious belief and others are, in Matthew Arnold's phrase, “light half believers of our casual creeds” it can seem difficult to understand the passionate certainty and commitment that made people ready to die for their faith and -human nature being what it is -also to kill others for their faith.>

EM:
I find the conclusion quite an eloquent statement by Francis, worthy of emphasis. Also note the use of the 1524 Jonas hymn (or chorale), which reinforces the 1724 bicentennial aspect of Bach’s chorale cantata cycle (Jahrgang II). Worthy of further investigation, I believe.

FB:
<But for Jonas and those who first sang his hymn what was at stake was more than a matter of life and death - it was a question of eternal salvation or everlasting damnation. In such circumstances it would have seemed natural to apply to their opponents the words of the life and death struggle depicted in the psalm. Seen from this perspective the differences between the psalm and the chorale can be understood.

Two centuries later, when the author of the cantata text adapted the chorale, Luther's reforms had become established and were no longer threatened in the same way. But a different threat was perceived in the rise of rationalism in the 17th century, which gave supremacy to reason instead of accepting revealed religion and led ultimately to the Enlightenment( Aufklärung).>

EM:
In other discussion, we have suggested that the threat of Turks and Papists remained real indeed at the outset of Bachs Leipzig career. But Francis point is important: Bach spanned a time when that earlier threat was overtaken by the onset of rationalism. An ongoing struggle (not often rational), at least in my regional (USA) electoral process.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 7, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 178, the second of three works for the 8th Sunday after Trinity.
Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV178.htm
The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. >
I found this discussion by Julian especially relevant to my impressions on a first [re]listening, after several years away:

<Alto chorale/recitative. [Mvt. 2]

Bach's interest in combining recitative phrases with the chorale melody has been noted previously (see chapters 3 [BWV 2] and 7 [BWV 93]). Though primarily a unifying device, it might also have been a way of ensuring that the congregation did not lose contact with the chorale melody (or its message) on the various excursions through which the cantata led them. It was certainly a way of breaking up long tracts of text (sometimes over thirty lines). Unsuitable for setting as an aria or chorus, the only other solution was to set them as extended recitatives. But it is the nature of recitative to be fragmented and sparse and to lack variety of texture or timbre. So Bach's solution seems to have been to splice in phrases of recitative, arioso, instrumental ritornello and/or chorale, often (but not always) changing the tempo and generally aiming for a greater range of musical contrast.> (end quote)

Indeed, after the storminess of the opening chorus, the chorale phrase that opens Mvt. 2 is like a friendly familiar port, refuge from the storm.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 9, 2011):
BWV 178 -- Wo Gott der Herr - Chorale Interludes

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< So Bach's solution seems to have been to splice in phrases of recitative, arioso, instrumental ritornello and/or chorale, often (but not always) changing the tempo and generally aiming for a greater range of musical contrast. >
The structure of interspersing each line of a chorale with a free-rhythm interlude was conventional practice for several congregational hymns each Sunday and would be familiar to Bach's listeners. Bach of course was famous for his improvisatory genius but we don't have much evidence of what the interludes sounded like. He did however provide examples for three Christmas chorales -- perhaps as teaching aids. The most arresting is "In Dulci Jubilo": http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lKCYNkdUsgU

Bach had a keen interest in the chorale with interlude as a formal device. The Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) shows a variety of exceptionally beautiful variants.

The two bass recitatives with chorale are exquisite:

1.7 Er ist auf Erden kommen arm
3.40 Wohlan! dein Name

Also in the chorale-cum-interlude tradition, although not freely rhythmic, are the closing chorales of Parts 1, 2 & 4:

1.9 Ach mein herzliebes Jesulein!
2.29 Wir singen dir in deinem Heer
4.42 Jesus richte mein Beginnen

Julian Mincham wrote (September 9, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< So Bach's solution seems to have been to splice in phrases of recitative, arioso, instrumental ritornello and/or chorale, often (but not always) changing the tempo and generally aiming for a greater range of musical contrast. >>
Douglas Cowling
< The structure of interspersing each linof a chorale with a free-rhythm interlude was conventional practice for several congregational hymns each Sunday and would be familiar to Bach's listeners. >
Also changing time signatures, using fragments of the chorale in the melodic line or the bass and often embellishing the chorale melody almost to the point of distortion. Frequently when he did this he supplied a strongly rhythmic continuo line beneath the chorale phrases so as to clearly mark their presence. He also used a wide range of accompaniment instruments, wind and strings.

Bach's experiments with such 'hybrid' recitative structures was at its most marked in the second Leipzig cycle. In the first he almost invariably combined arioso sections with the recitative lines but tended not to go further than that. From the second cantata of the second cycle (BWV 2) he demonstrates the new tack.

It is interesting how opposed Schweitzer was to these second cycle recitative practices. I suspect he may have taken a rather traditional romantic view that Bach was departing from a position as 'purist' and 'dumbing down' for his massed congregations. Odd that he should have been so vehement about such practices when he was one of the first to point out the 'non purist' nature of Bach's invention linked, as it so often was, to ideas, actions and events from the world we live in.

William Hoffman wrote (September 11, 2011):
BWV 178 -- Wo Gott der Herr - Trinity 8 Chorales

See: Motets & Chorales for 8th Sunday after Trinity

William Hoffman wrote (September 12, 2011):
[To Julian Mincham] Besides "hybrid" chorales, anther appropriate term is "troped" chorales in the early music tradition.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 178: 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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