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Cantata BWV 183
Sie werden euch in den Bann tun [II]
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of May 12, 2002

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 18, 2002):
Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (May 12, 2002), according to Francis Browne’s suggested list (of which this cantata is the first), is the Solo Cantata for Exaudi (Sunday after Ascension, 6th Sunday after Easter) BWV 183 ‘Sie werden euch in den Bann tun’. We have another fine libretto from the pen of poetess Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, who wrote the libretto also for Cantatas BWV 103 & BWV 128, discussed in the BCML during last weeks. Like Cantata BWV 44 (which was discussed in the BCML two years ago) for the same day, it takes its text for the opening movement from the Gospel for the day, John 16: 2, but this time for a bass recitative (Mvt. 1) instead of a choral duet. All the movements reflect on the persecution, which the disciples and their followers will have to undergo, according to Christ’s prophetic words. As for Cantata BWV 128, Bach emended the libretto and also used unusual combination of four oboes (2 oboes d’amore and 2 oboes da caccia) for his instrumental setting, which he never did again in ant of his other sacred cantatas.

In order to allow the members of the BCML being prepared for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata, the details of which can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 183 - Recordings
You can see that there are only four complete recordings of this cantata and none of individual movement from it. Besides the usual Rilling, Harnoncourt and Leusink, we have a special one from the lovely mini-series of Coin, dedicated to cantatas that feature violoncello piccolo.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. In most of the discussions during the last couple of weeks the participation of other members has been rather slim. Where are you all?

Background

The background below is taken completely from the liner notes to the CD ‘Cantatas BWV 85, 183, 199, 175’ with Christophe Coin – Violoncello Piccolo & Direction.

See: Cantata BWV 183 - Commentary

Review of the Recordings

[1] Rilling (1981)
I do not recall Walter Heldwein so frightening as he is in the opening recitative. He conveys so much meaning in very few words. Peter Schreier gives as usual an exemplary and fascinating rendition of the ensuing aria for tenor. Julia Hamari is good in the recitative for alto, and for Augér in the aria for soprano I have nothing but praises. The choir in the concluding chorale is warm, confident and comforting.

[2] Harnoncourt (1988)
After Heldwein, Hampson sounds almost superficial in the short recitative for bass. It is as if he is too kind and pleasant to make justice to the message he has to deliver. A fine playing of cello piccolo (Nikolaus Harnoncourt himself!) opens the aria for tenor. Equiluz gives a more subdued rendition than Schreier does, but he is no less convincing with his outmost sensitivity. Esswood is smooth and flowing in the aria for alto. The voice of Helmut Wittek, the boy soprano, is very nice in the middle register, but in expressive terms he does almost has nothing to offer. The singing of the choir in the concluding chorale is good, but why does Harnoncourt feel the necessity to cut it into fragmented section? The strange phenomenon is the contradiction between his almost legato playing of the violoncello piccolo and his staccato conducting.

[3] Coin (1994)
I find the singing of Gotthold Schwarz in the opening recitative somewhat dry and not enough interesting. Christoph Prégardien is almost on the same par with his two predecessors. His voice is a joy and his sensitivity to the words is something to marvel at. But bot Schreier and Equiluz, each one in his own personal way, also manage to put some dramatic flavour into their singing. I am more impressed with the playing of the violoncello piccolo by Coin, which is no less beautiful that Harnoncourt’s. Andreas Scholl is the star of this recording in the recitative for alto. I wish he had a longer part to sing. Barbara Schlick is in good form in the aria for soprano, but she does not have the depth that Augér has. The small choir is fine with simple, accurate, delicate, and convincing singing.

[4] Leusink (2000)
Ramselaar stands half-way between Heldwein and Hampson. He has a good and solid voice, but the drama is only partly achieved. Schoch is the least successful of the four tenor singers. His voice has less beauty than theirs does and his interpretation fails to interest. The good playing of the violoncello piccolo by Frank Wakelkamp cannot compensate for the failure of the singer. Poor Buwalda! Hearing him back to back with Scholl is not really a fair game. But the playing of oboes in this rendition is simply a joy. Marjon Strijk in the aria for soprano has a nice voice but not interesting interpretation. The chorale is the best movement in this recording, simply moving.

Conclusion

Personal preferences:
Mvt. 1 Recitative for bass: Heldwein/Rilling [1], Ramselaar/Leusink [4], Hampson/Harnoncourt [2], Schwarz/Coin [3]
Mvt. 2 Aria for Tenor: Schreier/Rilling [1] = Equiluz/Harnoncourt [2], Prégardien/Coin [3], Schoch/Leusink [4]
Mvt. 3 Recitative for Alto: Scholl/Coin [3], Hamari/Rilling [1], Esswood/Harnoncourt [2], Buwalda/Leusink [4]
Mvt. 4 Aria for Soprano: Augér/Rilling [1], Schlick/Coin [3], Strijk/Leusink [4], Wittek/Harnoncourt [2]
Mvt. 5 Chorale: Rilling [1], Leusink [4], Coin [3], Harnoncourt [2]
Overall Performance: Rilling [1], Coin [3], Harnoncourt [2], Leusink [4]

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

Marie Jensen wrote (May 19, 2002):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. In most of the discussions during the last couple of weeks the participation of other members has been rather slim. Where are you all? >
Listening to cantata BWV 175 "Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen" the Richter version (vol 3 CD 2)
It is a pearl!
A Leusink version of BWV 183 [4] and a cantata fragment BWV 59 cannot compete with it.

Don't forget to let the Whitsun lark ascend (The soprano aria in BWV 68) . It is the same CD.

Pentecost greetings

Komm, leite mich,
Es sehnet sich
Mein Geist auf grüner Weide!
Mein Herze schmacht,
Ächzt Tag und Nacht,
Mein Hirte, meine Freude.

(BWV 175)

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 20, 2002):
Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 183 - Provenance

Review of the Recordings

This week I listened to: Rilling (81) [1]; Harnoncourt (88) [2]; Coin (94) [3]; and Leusink (2000) [4]

[1] Rilling:
The opening recitative with the ‘vox Christi’ and the halo effect in the strings gets the best treatment here. With Heldwein Christ’s words are not simply an afterthought, but treated with the power and solemnity that needs to be accorded to these words. Schreier is excellent here, but Rilling’s bc is too loud. Hamari gives her recitative a truly heartfelt expression that supports the words both on the level of the community of believers, but also on a very intimate and private level as well. Her warm voice expands to fill space with a loving, comforting quality, while all the other singers of this mvt. tend to want to hurry through it. Perhaps they do not really have anything to say musically except that they sing the notes correctly (at a faster tempo.) Only one oboe da caccia is used (the score calls for two playing in unison). Augér, although just a bit forced at times, gives the best performance of this aria when compared to all the others. The second section (usually called the middle section, but in this aria the voice does not repeat the first section) has a particularly beautiful melodic line. Rilling’s chorale version is the only one to be ranked at the top. All the other versions are average to poor.

[2] Harnoncourt:
There is nothing very memorable or outstanding about Hampson’s voice. To make matters even worse, Harnoncourt insists on dismantling the halo (played by the strings) that Bach placed as background to the ‘vox Christi.’ How does he do this? The score shows whole and half notes that follow each other without rests. Following one of Harnoncourt’s discoveries of Bach’s performance practices (the bows for string instruments were shorter back then, hence the strings are unable to sustain notes for very long), Harnoncourt has the strings lift the bow or stop moving it over the strings and stop playing for a split second before attacking the next note with a special accent. By doing this, he causes Christ’s halo to become defective, to split apart. All of this seems to fit Harnoncourt’s non-legato style of playing string instruments. If there ever was a place in Bach’s music where playing legato made sense, it would be in creating this halo effect! In the tenor aria (Mvt. 2), where Harnoncourt plays the violoncello piccolo, Equiluz has to contend with Harnoncourt’s rubato (this means that he does not play the notes mechanically, but rather takes freedoms with the tempo (speeding up and slowing down) which is fine as long as he comes back to the original tempo on important beats or the first beat of a measure without losing any time in the process. Both the tenor and the cello are moving along on 16th notes, but the tenor also has 32nd notes occasionally. As Harnoncourt is trying to maintain the rubato that he had established in the ritornello, a clash occurs (ms. 13, for instance) when Equiluz is also trying to squeeze 32nd notes in on top of a span of rhythmically spread out 16th notes to which Harnoncourt has applied a rubato. In ms. 37 Harnoncourt actually changes the rhythmic structure of the notes that Bach indicated in the score. In the soprano aria (Mvt. 4) Harnoncourt uses only one oboe da caccia although two were indicated by Bach. Because of the strong accentuation of each quarter note the wonderful passing notes (eighth notes) receive such a strong emphasis (Harnoncourt sees all these passing notes as written-out appoggiaturas) that the second note in the pair becomes almost or entirely inaudible.

[3] Coin:
The bass, Schwarz, is just about as weak as Ramselaar (both are half-voices) Coin imitates Harnoncourt’s non-legato, broken-up halo. Scholl’s recitative is simply marvelous. Too bad there was no alto aria in this cantata! Schlick’s warbling half-voice has nothing at all in the low range. She sings mainly sotto voce throughout. This voice is very unfulfilling and it also makes me very uncomfortable when I am forced to listen to it. This is probably due to the fact that she always seems to be close to losing control of her voice, but somehow she just barely manages to make it through without creating an obvious problem such the problem that Harnoncourt’s Wittek has. Somehow I had remembered that Coin’s chorale renditions were quite acceptable, but this one is simply terrible. There is some thrusting on individual notes as with Harnoncourt, but quite unbelievable is the fact that many of the passing notes are simply swallowed up and can not be heard at all. Coin cuts the fermati short (a technique that Leusink also relishes.)

[4] Leusink:
Here you can hear the lack of stature in Ramselaar’s voice as it is covered up easily by the instruments (remember that these are soft, period instruments, one to a part!) The tenor, Schoch is concentrating so hard on getting all the notes right that nothing is left for attempting to insert his personal expression into the music as represented by the text. Buwalda? Now I am glad that this recitative was not any longer than it was. Strijk’s fragile half-voice lacks any sort of conviction to lend expression to the words of this wonderful aria. Leusink tries to help the situation by providing a very light accompaniment, but the heavy bc with a double bass playing along is much too loud and never cuts back even where Bach frequently indicated ‘piano’ in the score. Leusink’s chorale version is very much like his predecessors whose performance style he evidently copied. This means that all three HIP conductors can only provide mediocre or poor renditions of Bach’s chorale.

Personal preferences:

Mvt. 1 Recitative for bass: Heldwein/Rilling [1], Ramselaar/Leusink [4],
Hampson/Harnoncourt [2], Schwarz/Coin [3]
Mvt. 2 Aria for Tenor: Schreier/Rilling [1] = Equiluz/Harnoncourt [2],
Prégardien/Coin [3], Schoch/Leusink [4]
Mvt. 3 Recitative for Alto: Scholl/Coin [3], Hamari/Rilling [1],
Esswood/Harnoncourt [2], Buwalda/Leusink [4]
Mvt. 4 Aria for Soprano: Augér/Rilling [1], Schlick/Coin [3], Strijk/Leusink [4],
Wittek/Harnoncourt [2]
Mvt. 5 Chorale: Rilling [1], Leusink [4], Coin [3], Harnoncourt [2]
Overall Performance: Rilling [1], Coin [3], Harnoncourt [2], Leusink [4]

If you think these are the same ratings that Aryeh gave, you are correct. It seems that Aryeh and I are in complete agreement on all of these recordings.

Francis Browne wrote (May 21, 2002):
This is the first cantata on the list that I suggested to Aryeh. Others who have made suggestions for the order of discussion have, I am sure, chosen cantatas they know and love. Coming late in the day and still being in the happy position of exploring the cantatas for the first time I have adopted a different approach and sucantatas that were all completely unknown to me. As the list has been going every week since December 1999 it seems probable that many of the most appealing cantatas may have already been discussed. Perhaps others have picked the cherries and now only the bran is left. Something cynical and pessimistic within me says that even with Bach there must be a dull cantata, one without a single redeeming movement.

[4] But if there is , BWV 183 is not that cantata. I say this despite having only listened to the Leusink version and agreeing in general. with the views of that performance taken by Aryeh and Tom. The orchestral playing is good, particularly the violoncello piccolo and the oboes, and the chorale is better managed than often in this cycle, but none of the singers carries full conviction. And yet I have enjoyed this cantata.

To explain. Having followed the discussions on this list for some months now I sense something of a division in those who make contributions - not quite a division between sheep and goats, since we all share a love of Bach's music- but between on the one hand those who have known and studied, perhaps even performed the cantatas for many years, have heard many different performances and multiple recordings , and so have clear expectations of what they want to hear in a recording, a sort of Platonic ideal form of a cantata against which generally imperfect reality may be measured; and on the other hand those like myself who have no profound usicological knowledge and are often hearing a work for the first time. The idealists, if I may so term them, listen to a performance and are aware of its shortcomings, of how much better it could be; we ignorant others listen to the same performance and - since it is Bach - hear something of amazing beauty and may remain unaware of how much more amazing and beautiful it could be. It is all a question of emphasis and this division is of course too schematic.

And so in listening to this week's cantata I have been delighted particularly by the two arias. The notes quoted by Aryeh talk about the violoncello piccolo 'uncoiling its tender spirals of consolation' and Robertson says that the 'cello's aspiring arpeggios seem to express the generosity of a willing sacrifice of life if that is demanded.' I'm not sure that either of these views articulates fully the effect of the marvellous writing for the violoncello piccolo ; but the music turns what by itself would be the superficial bravado of the text into something most memorable and moving. As for the soprano aria (Mvt. 4) I agree with Robertson ' in this gloriously melodic aria...it is as if Bach wanted to let the instruments fully express the joy of the coming of the Holy Spirit in anticipation of Whitsunday,'

Since it is through Leusink and his musicians and singers that I know this cantata, I am grateful to them. But I would listen to other recordings with great interest.

Marie Jensen wrote (May 21, 2002):
Francis Browne wrote:
< This is the first cantata on the list that I suggested to Aryeh. Others who have made suggestions for the order of discussion have, I am sure, chosen cantatas they know and love. Coming late in the day and still being in the happy position of exploring the cantatas for the first time I have adopted a different approach and suggested cantatas that were all completely unknown to me. As the list has been going every week since December 1999 it seems probable that many of the most appealing cantatas may have already been discussed. Perhaps others have picked the cherries and now only the bran is left. Something cynical and pessimistic within me says that even with Bach there must be a dull cantata, one without a single redeeming movement. But if there is , BWV 183 is not that cantata. >
< Aryeh wrote: I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. In most of the discussions during the last couple of weeks the participation of other members has been rather slim. Where are you all? >
< I wrote: Listening to cantata
BWV 175 "Er rufet seinen Schafen mit Namen" the Richter version (vol 3 CD 2) It is a pearl! A Leusink version of BWV 183 and a cantata fragment BWV 59 cannot compete with it. >
[To Francis Brown] It was certainly not my intention to criticize the cantatas you have chosen. I can see now that my mail could be understood that way. I want to apologize. There is nothing wrong with your order of discussion for the summer 02. I am looking forward to listen to the selected BWV's .I have not met a lousy Bach cantata yet .

When Aryeh asked his question , I simply felt: what a chance to make a little PR for a cantata I love (BWV 68) and one I just fell in love with (BWV 175). Both not reviewed yet.They have to come up next year, as well as BWV 26, BWV 43 or BWV 140. Wonderful cantatas, and I could easily go on.

What I wrote was about Leusink [4].There is absolutely nothing wrong with BWV 183 itself. But those weeks where I only have Leusink’s version I find it hard to write, as I don't want to yell at Buwalda and Schoch all the time. With many experts around my writings are not needed any more. We were only a few members in dec 99 , so I tried to write so much I could, so that Aryeh and a few others had a little response, because I wanted the list to survive. Thank you Aryeh: You are still going strong! You have not skipped one single week since Dec 1999!

Francis Browne wrote (May 21, 2002):
[To Marie Jensen] I know no offence was taken and I am sure no criticism was meant. But since my mathematical inability means that I have chosen cantatas not only for the next ten weeks but into August I thought I had better explain at the start of my suggestions the lack of principles in my choice -namely that whatever cantatas you choose there will be something of interest, usually of great interest.

I suspect that you are right -that there is no such thing as a lousy cantata. If a cantata or other music of Bach does not appeal at first, I have always found that if I persist in listening my first impressions change. As I listen to more of the cantatas and work my way through past discussions, I have often found your personal reactions valuable and illuminating.

Dick Wursten wrote (May 22, 2002):
Listened to this cantata...

I can only add to the positive criticism. It is a delightful and a varied cantata, esp. when you are fond of the instrumentation of Bach. Once again the 'Nederlands Bach Collegium' proves to be able. from the singers again only Ramselaar convinces as the viva vox Christi.

Mvt. 2 I myself wondered about the meaning of the contrast between text [firm believing], the melodic line [Kunstvoll (Dürr): artistic, with large intervals, changes in register] and the accompaniment [walking 16ths of the violoncello].. beautiful... but what does it mean?

Brorimbach (Francis Browne) speaks about the superficial bravado of the text; Aryeh though hears dreaded pangs of a tragic death in the text and uses words like tormented and agitation. Dürr characterizes the accompaniment as 'streng, unerbittlich' ... Francis +Aryeh though speak about tender spirals of consolation.

Is there an objective criterium to decide what Bach intended or is the 'significance' of these musical figures purely subjective ?

mvt 5. The ornamentation of the ending of the melodic lines: is that the original choral-melody or an extra of Bach ?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 22, 2002):
Dick Wursten inquired:
< Mvt. 2 I myself wondered about the meaning of the contrast between text [firm believing], the melodic line [Kunstvoll (Dürr): artistic, with large intervals, changes in register] and the accompaniment [walking 16ths of the violoncello].. beautiful... but what does it mean? ?

Francis Browne speaks about the superficial bravado of thtext; Aryeh though hears dreaded pangs of a tragic death in the text and uses words like tormented and agitation. Dürr characterizes the accompaniment as 'streng, unerbittlich' ... Francis+Aryeh though speak about tender spirals of consolation. >

Is there an objective criterium to decide what Bach intended or is the 'significance' of these musical figures purely subjective ? >
The stalking bass (bc) which seems to keep a rather strict (Dürr's 'streng, unerbittlich') rhythm and become quite insistent could possibly represent 'firm believing.' Perhaps this is the regular heartbeat of a soul unafraid of death. Some commentators have likened this to a clock. The twisted, contorted opening melody in the violoncello piccolo and later in the voice seem to hint at the irregularity caused by fear. The tenor solo also leaps about quite a bit as well. While the tenor goes through all these contortions and jumps, the cello provides a seemingly endless stream of 16th notes. This is quite comforting in itself for the tenor who is also trying to jump about and fit in the 32nd notes as well. [As I pointed out before, Harnoncourt's expressivity in the form of a rubato breaks down this regularity (which Bach may have intended) in favor of a soloist's idiosyncratic meanderings which undermine the firm foundation that the tenor (even Equiluz!) relies upon (not to mention the fact that the solo instrument should be involved in this performance as a member of a duet and not as a soloist who cares only about his own part.) There are some interesting passages where the violoncello piccolo comes down from his stratospheric level of performance of 16th notes and joins the bc in playing the bc's continuing motif of 8th notes (ms. 5,6, 10, 28, 29, 30, 34, 35, 37) albeit in octaves (a type of unison).

When the tenor sings "[be]ruhn" (ms. 38) ["to be content with" but Bach uses the meaning of "to rest upon" which everyone in his audience would be aware of - this is a type of punning that I have frequently referred to before] on the only whole note in this entire mvt., it is objectively clear what Bach is attempting to express. There is nothing subjective about this. This type of musical interpretation becomes more subjective when attempting to link the clocklike regularity of the musical patterns with 'tragic death' unless you consider everybody's death as being tragic. But the clock analogy is not too far fetched. But then the firm repetitiveness representing a strong belief is also expressed by this type of pattern. I think Bach loved this type of multiple application. If two differing interpretations make sense in a given context, it only enhances the significance of the musical figures that Bach chose for the composition. I personally believe that Bach was aware of these multiple associations, but there may be some that he did not think of at the time. I think that Spitta, Schweitzer, and Dürr have provided some of these 'subjective' insights.

Think of other authors and poets who were fortunate enough to hear from their readers interpretations that had not occurred to them as they were thinking about and writing down the text. They are pleasantly surprised at recognizing a different, viable approach to the subject matter. I wish I could give you examples of this. I vaguely remember that something of this sort happened to Goethe, but I do not think I can find the quote easily.

< Mvt. 5. The ornamentation of the ending of the melodic lines: is that the original choral-melody or an extra of Bach? >
I could not find the simple version of the chorale melody in a modern German hymnal. They have substituted another melody for the text of the melody used in Bach's day. But my familiarity with Bach's 4-pt. treatment of chorales that I can compare this to allows me to state that he frequently (not always) added extra notes or embellishments even to the melody line. In this case (BWV 183, Mvt. 5) Bach's treatment of the notes for "lehret and "[er]höret" is significant. He is putting very special emphasis on these words. I had wanted to comment on the tenor voice moving beyond the other voices that have already reached the fermata. I sense a pleading quality (not to be heard in any of the HIP recordings because they swallow up the second note of anything that looks or sounds like it might be an appoggiatura. Rilling got it right. If you could hear his version of this, you would be amazed at what you are missing in the other recordings. The soprano, at this point, with the exposed melody line, has a trill on an eighth note with two sixteenth notes following. Bach meticulously writes out this embellishment precisely. On 'steigen' ["climb"] Bach has the bass voice 'ascend' scalewise or by leaps and when help comes "bis der geholfen habe" the bass pattern moves downwards. Bach uses whatever it takes to express the text even when encumbered somewhat by the strict, rather unyielding form of the 4-pt. chorale in the form that it usually takes, as for instance, at the end of many cantatas.

René de Cocq wrote (August 20, 2003):
[To Arjen van Gijssell] No. It's the elderly gentleman you can see in the Holland Boys Choir in live performances, constantly holding a hand against his ear. He may sing well, but has no inkling of what being a choir singer is all about. I am delighted, by the way, that at long last some members deem it time to complain about Leusink's trebles. Their screaming must be a pain to anyone's ears.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 183: 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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Last update: ýMarch 18, 2012 ý09:22:21