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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

Cantata BWV 192
Nun danket alle Gott
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of August 17, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 22, 2003):
BWV 192 –Introduction

The chosen work for this week’s discussion (August 17, 2003) is the Chorale Cantata BWV 192 ‘Nun danket alle Gott’ (Now all thank God). This Chorale Cantata is very short, consisting of only 3 movements, all of which are set on the original 3 stanzas of Martin Rinckart’s hymn (1636) bearing the same title as the cantata. Terry thinks that it is an incomplete cantata for an unknown occasion, while Whittaker assumes that it was for a Reformation Festival. David Schulenberg (Oxford Composer Companion, 1999) writes that the cantata adds another option, a wedding. Bach’s original manuscript parts date probably from 1730. These are the sole source, and at least one part, that of the tenor, is lost. The NBA includes Alfred Dürr’s reconstruction of the tenor part.

The (remaining) vocal soloists are only soprano and bass. The two chorales have a four-part chorus. The orchestra is also meager: 2 transverse flutes, 2 oboes, strings and continuo. Nevertheless, whether it is complete or incomplete, it is a beautiful and outstanding work in all its movements.

Recordings

The details of the recordings of the cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 192 - Recordings

This cantata has at least 5 complete recordings, 4 of which are available: Helmuth Rilling (1975) [2], Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1981-1982) [3], Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1989) [4] and Pieter Jan Leusink (1999) [5]. The 5th recording, by Hermann Achenbach [1], has never been issued in CD form.

Due to some technical difficulties, there are not Music Examples at the moment.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to useful complementary information:
The original German text and various translations, three of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron).
Links to the Score in Vocal & Piano version and BGA Edition (temporarily unavailable).
Links to commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide) and James Leonard (AMG), and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. Only 17 cantatas (6 of which are sacred), including this one, remained to be discussed in the BCML! Last week’s Cantata, BWV 190, has had only one contributor. Discussion means exchanging ideas, and not only one person expressing his thoughts to an unresponsive audience!

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 24, 2003):
BWV 192 – Nun danket alle Gott

Recordings & Timings

Last week I have been listening to 4 (out of 5) complete recordings of Cantata BWV 192 (listed below, except [1]), and one of the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) only.

No

Conductor

Year

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2

Mvt. 3

TT

 

[1]

Achenbach

1960’s?

         

[2]

Rilling

1974

6:50

3:45

4:06

14:48

 

[3]

Rotzsch

1981-2

6:26

3:21

3:09

12:57

 

[4]

Harnoncourt

1989

5:28

3:40

3:05

12:23

 

[5]

Leusink

1999

5:22

3:05

2:56

11:23

 

[M-1]

Iseler

1985

5:55

-

-

-

 

Commentaries

In the (temporary?) absence of the knowledgeable Thomas Braatz from the discussions, I have compiled for you most of the commentaries on this cantata I could find.

General & Mvt. 1 Chorus [S, A, T, B]
W. Murray Young (1989): Bach decorates in his own style the hymn-tune for this stanza, creating a marvellous chorale fantasia. The divided choral parts sing the lines in canon and, at the end of the stanza, they repeat the first line twice in unison.
Kenneth Winters (1985, liner notes to Iseler’s recording): The joyous and exuberant opening chorale-fantasia of Cantata BWV 192 is based on the familiar Rinckart (words)-Cruger (music) chorale ‘Nun danket alle Gott’.
Christiane Krautscheid (1999, liner notes to Rotzsch’s recording): Although it ranks among Bach’s shortest works in this genre, it is just as sumptuous and richly scored as the other Reformation cantatas. Bach retains the 3 stanzas of Martin Rinckart’s song without making any changes. The first stanza of this chorale was first used in the third movement of his Cantata BWV 79. The work opens and closes with extended chorale settings entrusted to the chorus.
Nele Anders (1989, liner notes to Harnoncourt’s recording): For this text, Bach had recourse to three verses of the hymn of the same name by Martin Rinckart. But Bach’s mastery of his art is evident in his treatment of the three stanzas of Rinckart’s text, which are absolutely identical in terms of form. The four-part choir, whose lost tenor part can easily be reconstructed from the context, can be heard in the two outer movements with their respectively contrasting treatment. In verse 1, Bach combines contrapuntal writing with the concertante principle and places alongside the choral writing evolved from the chorale melody thematically independent instrumental section, whose individual groups of instruments (2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings) even engage in concertante dialogue amongst themselves.
David Schulenberg (1999, Oxford Composer Companion): The opening chorus is a chorale fantasia of the type familiar from the 1724-1725 cycle of chorale cantatas. But whereas those works usually present the cantus firmus (text and melody) one line at a time, here the first two verses of the chorale melody, in the soprano, are preceded by an extended fugal exposition of their text by the three lower voices, using an essentially unrelated subject. Following a repetition of the same music for phrases 3-4, the Abgesang (phrases 5-8) is treated in similar fashion. Throughout, the orchestra of 2 flutes, 2 oboes, and strings provides a contrapuntal accompaniment derives from the opening ritornello.

Mvt. 2 Duet [Soprano, Bass]
Young: They sing their lines in canon, with the bass leading in the first half of the stanza and the soprano in the last half. They are accompanied by a flute, an oboe, a violin and strings, which also play an interlude between the two halves of the stanza. This duet is a fervent song of thanks to God, who has protected us in out troubled lives and will continue to do so. Whittaker states that ‘while bright and effective, the duet is not particularly notable’. I would disagree with this judgement, since I feel that both the text and Bach’s musical interpretation of it have deeply emotional appeal for the listener in Bach’s mystical transformation.
Krautscheid: These two sections enclose a duet for soprano and bass, its motivic substance partly derived from the initial part of the chorale.
Anders: The harmonically complex, two-part second verse with its measured, dance-like air, clearly periodic structure, orchestral ritornelli, which are one again thematically independent, and chorale melody presented by the soprano and bass soloists, forms an effectively contrasting, calm central section.
Schulenberg: The ritornello of the second movement, a duet, opens with several short fragmentary phrases of the type favoured by galant composers (including C.P.E. Bach). These later provide an affecting accompaniment to the more sustained lines of the soprano and bass soloists, whose parts employ the quasi-fugal imitations typical of Italian operatic dueof the time. The movement falls into a highly regular binary symmetry, the second half presenting almost precisely the same material as the first even though the long note of the opening vocal subject, on 'ewig' ('eternally'), no longer accords with the text, 'uns' ('us').

Mvt. 3 Chorus [S, A, T, B]
Young: This third stanza of the hymn is set to a pastoral melody, with the transverse flutes and the oboes doubling the strings in a dance-like tune. Perhaps Bach wished to paint a picture of an assembly giving joyous thanks to the Trinity. There is a joy-motif in the music, which evokes an image of the Good Shepherd with His flock in their pasture, rather than merely a solemn hymn of praise suggested by the text.
Anders: Verse 3, on the other hand, takers its character from the dance-like triple rhythm of the gigue; here, polyphonic vocal writing and the orchestral ritornello are based on the chorale melody, which is allotted to the soprano in the long note-values.
Schulenberg: The work closes with a second, considerably more compact, choral fantasia setting the chorale's doxology-like final strophe. The ritornello theme is reminiscent of the gigue from the third Orchestral Suite (probably performed, if not composed, during the same period).

Short Review of the Recordings

If you read carefully the various commentaries above, you can easily conclude that for a good performance of this cantata, one needs first-rate choir with the ability to present clear and well defined vocal lines with good balance between the voices in order to achieve the maximum clarity from the complex fugal writing of the first chorus. The choir should also be flexible enough to adhere to the jumping rhythm of the concluding chorus. In terms of expression, the choir should sound glorious in the first chorus and joyous in the third.

I find that only two renditions achieve satisfactory results in these terms: Rilling [2] and Rotzsch [3]. The two choirs sound similar in size, but their timbre is definitely different, because the first uses mixed choir and the second boys/male choir. The sound of Rotzsch is somewhat fuller and has more warmth, and his choruses are sharper and have more focus. To these two I would add Iseler [M-1] with his well-trained choir (Mvt. 1 only). The other two choirs are a big disappointment. It seems that Harnoncourt [4] had not read Anders’ commentary before recording his rendition. The phrases of the choir are so short up to prevent continuity of the vocal lines, and the movements in the third movement are mechanical rather than dance-like. Neither glory (Mvt. 1) nor joy (Mvt. 3) can be heard in this rendition. Leusink’s choir [5] proves that enthusiasm is not a real compensation for lack of preparation.

The second movement calls for two first-rate singers and good instrumental soloists (oboe, flute & violin). We are lucky to have two renditions which fulfil the promise this movements proposes. Again these are Rilling [2] and Rotzsch [3]. If I thought, after hearing Donath and Tüller with Rilling, that this couple was hard to beat, came Augér and Adam with Rotzsch and showed me that there is a room for more than one rendition in the first place. I could go on describing the characteristics of each singer, but it is not so important. All four singers have glorious (full and rich) voices in good shape; all four have taste, intelligence and sensitivity, and all four know how to sing in duet, realising that presenting the music to its best is more important than pushing themselves forward. Rilling’s rendition has a slight edge because his singers sound a little bit fresher. The other two renditions - Wittek and Hampson with Harnoncourt [4], and Holton and Ramselaar with Leusink [5] - can please, but their emotional and artistic achievement is on much lower level than the first two.

Conclusion

Choose whichever you like of Rilling [2] and Rotzsch [3], or better, both.

And now, next week’s cantata is knocking on the door; welcome BWV 193.

Jane Newble wrote (August 25, 2003):
Listening to this cantata reminds me of the motto of Rutland, the smallest county in England "Multum in Parvo" - much in little. It starts with a masterly fugal embroidery of instrumental and vocal parts on a straight underlying chorale. Wonderfully energetic!

The whole -short- work is joyful and one can only wonder what the original would have been like. At the same time I am very thankful that at least these three movements have been spared to us.

Philippe Bareille wrote (August 25, 2003):
This joyful cantata rounds off nicely our first round of discussion as far as sacred cantatas are concerned.

I have heard Rilling [2] and Harnoncourt [4].

[2] I personally don't like the former (the continuo and the sopranos in the choir are quite irritating) even if I have nothing but praise for Helen Donath.

[4] The BWV 192 is one of the last recorded cantatas by Harnoncourt and Co. The Vienna Concentus captures remarkably the dance-like element of this music. The musicians are technically assured and their playing finely honed after more than twenty years of regular practice. The Tölzer knabenchor is in natural territory especially in the contrapuntal opening chorus. Their exceptional diction and tonal purity are irresistible. Wittek (the soprano) is admirable but unfortunately his singing partner Hampson is not so stylistically satisfying. This buoyant and treasurable performance concludes this pioneering series on a rather happy note.

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 25, 2003):
[To Philippe Bareille] Usually I do not respond to other reviews, feeling that it is everybody's right to express freely his own opinion regarding the work under discussion. However, following your positive review of Harnoncourt's rendition of Cantata BWV 192, and knowing that this week's cantata BWV 193 has only two recordings, I could not resist the temptation to listen again to his recording, trying to find what have I missed.

< This joyful cantata rounds off nicely our first round of discussion as far as sacred cantatas are concerned. >
Please, hold your horses! You are running too fast. We still have 5 sacred cantatas to discuss, including this week cantata BWV 193. The other arrows in the quiver are first-rate cantatas - BWV 17, BWV 100 and BWV 188 – and the alto aria BWV 200.

[2] < I have heard Rilling and Harnoncourt. I personally don't like the former (the continuo and the sopranos in the choir are quite irritating) even if I have nothing but praise for Helen Donath. >
and for Niklaus Tüller? I find his singing admirable.

[4] < The BWV 192 is one of the last recorded cantatas by Harnoncourt and Co. The Vienna Concentus captures remarkably the dance-like element of this music. The musicians are technically assured and their playing finely honed after more than twenty years of regular practice. The Tölzer knabenchor is in natural territory especially in the contrapuntal opening chorus. Their exceptional diction and tonal purity are irresistible. Wittek (the soprano) is admirable but unfortunately his singing partner Hampson is not so stylistically satisfying. This buoyant and treasurable performance concludes this pioneering series on a rather happy note. >
I concur with you regarding the clean of the choir and the quality of the instrumentalists. But I have reservations with the approach of the conductor. He forces his choir and orchestra to break their lines into small fragments. Following the fugal lines is very difficult when you have to find your way in this pointillism. I think that I understand your disliking of Rilling's choir [2], but you must listen to Rotzsch [3] to realise that much more satisfactory results can be achieved with similar choir.

Wittek's voice is to my liking. However, in terms of emotional delivery he is far behind either Donath [2] or Augér [3]. Hampson sounds indifferent to his part and alien to Bach's idiom. Hearing him after Tüller or Adam [3] and the difference is immediately revealed.

So, we do not have to agree regarding the various interpretations. At least we love the same music.

Marie Jensen wrote (August 25, 2003):
Nun danket alle Gott
Mit Herzen, Mund und Händen
.... that is to perform a cantata... isn't it ?

I like the opening chorus very much. The various instruments thank God in turn with their theme of praise, and series of small figures to me sounding like hallelujas follow. Leusink [5] emphasizes the first "Nun" too much. It stops the flow, but nevertheless .. soon it flows again. Perhaps it would be better, if he slowed down a bit, but I like the energy and enthusiasm.

In my hymnbook this very popular hymn only consists of three stanzas. I don't know if there ever were more of them. This cantata is over too soon..what a pity.

Lob, Ehr und Preis sei Gott! ( BWV 192)

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 26, 2003):
The Music Examples Section of the Bach Cantatas Website is back in action!

I uploaded Music Examples [mp3 format] of Mvt. 2: Duet [Soprano, Bass] from 4 recordings:
[2] Helen Donath & Niklaus Tüller / Rilling
[3] Arleen Augér & Theo Adam / Rotzsch
[4] Helmut Wittek & Thomas Hampson / Harnoncourt
[5] Ruth Holton & Bas Ramselaar / Leusink

You can listen to them all through the page: Cantata BWV 192 - Music Examples

Some members have already sent their reviews of some of these recordings.
Now, I would like to read yours.

Philippe Bareille wrote (August 26, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] Oops; I didn't realise that there were more sacred cantatas to come!

[2] I agree that Tüller is a very good bass. As for Helen Donath I strongly recommend her poignant rendition of the BWV 146 soprano aria with Rilling.

[4] Harnoncourt does not necessary try to produce "beautiful sound" but his rhetorical approach is centred on the message (the text is paramount!). He used to be a bit too dogmatic at times but he has gradually improved over the past 15 years in that respect.

Boy sopranos, [as long as they are talented and have received proper training like Wittek] have a distinctive flavour with a spontaneity (see children actors) and a natural sense of this music often unmatched by their more mature female rivals. Yet it is silly to compare for example Donath with Bergius (outstanding treble) in the BWV 146 because they elicit very different reactions from the listener and project a dissimilar sound. In the end it is just a matter of preference. I wouldn't listen to a boy performance of a Bach cantata to the exclusion of a woman soprano and vice versa. But I may not have fully appreciated Bach, had it not been for Harnoncourt, Leonhardt and their distinguished successors.

Charles Francis wrote (August 27, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron, regarding Music Examples]
[5] My favourite is Ruth Holton & Bas Ramselaar conducted by Leusink. Ruth Holton sings particularly well with a fine voice quality that I imagine to be very close to a Bach treble; musical, controlled and perfectly in tune. Ramselaar also has an excellent voice quality and although a little weak in the opening bars really comes alive when Holton joins in. The instrumentalists in the Leusink recordings are typically first rate and this cantata is no exception. Leusink's fast tempos and light touch are sometimes problematic in other cantatas, but are ideally suited to this movement.

[4] In the Harnoncourt recording, Helmut Wittek (treble) sings well enough, if a little flat when he starts off, although recovering later on with only one noticeable error. Thomas Hampson's uncontrolled vibrato is off-putting, however and, although the orchestral playing is mostly unaffected, the occasional Harnoncourt peculiarities can be heard. The slower tempo Harnoncourt adopts places more emphasis on noble peace than the joyful heart.

[3] Rotzsch adopts a somewhat faster tempo than Harnoncourt, although I still have difficulty hearing the joyful heart. His strings are very nice, however. Theo Adam and Arleen Auger use too much vibrato and fail to create the lightness necessary to express the peace and joy in this movement; moreover, they try to out-sing each other.

[2] Rilling has his usual excellent modern instrumentalists, but what horrible singers he chooses on this occasion. One is so used to hearing Arleen Augér in Rilling's hands, that Helen Donath's warble positively offends. And, unfortunately, Niklaus Tüller is little better. Neither peace nor joy in this performance.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 27, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron, regarding Music Examples]
My impressions:

Despite the somewhat pronounced vibratos of Donath and Tüller, heard in the Rilling recording [2], this is the version I keep returning to, with Rotzsch [3] a close second.

The reason for this is the gloriously rich orchestration supplied by Rilling, which best sets the scene for the opening words of the aria's text: "Der ewig reiche Gott..."

Rotzsch uses too much staccato for my liking; Harnoncourt [4] has a sensitive orchestration, but the period instrument timbre is not my first choice; and Leusink [5] is very light, and prim to a fault in places.

None of the vocalists are ideal in these recordings, in my opinion; Rilling's [2] and Rotzsch's [3] singers, although all strong and capable, with naturally attractive timbres, all employ too much vibrato; boy soprano Witteck (Harnoncourt) [4] does not blend with Hampson's rich (though here restrained) voice, and Holton's voice (Leusink) [5] sounds small in comparison to the female sopranos heard on the other recordings.

With the variety shown in these recordings, there is bound to be a recording of this pleasant music that will satisfy all tastes (with the reservations noted above).

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (August 27, 2003):
Not very often I had the chance to compare several different recordings. This time I listened through headphones and found out that some of the things I like/dislike are not just a matter of interpretation but also of recording/micing and mixing.

Let me explain:
When you listen to Rilling it sounds like sitting in church, in a good place to listen to the music performed. You hear the whole of the music without loosing track of single voices. To me it sounds natural.

When you listen to the other recordings it sounds like your ears are very close to every single instrument (on the Harnoncourt recording you can even hear the players breathe). You don´t usually hear it that way when you sit in church or a concert-hall. Even as a conductor you don´t hear it that way.That is why I like the overall sound Rilling produces.

The interpretation:

[2] Rilling:
Even though I do like his sound, the aria doesn´t produce the "fröhlich Herz" atmospere. The articulation is too smooth - too indifferent. The soprano sounds too majestic to my ears - doesn´t fit the music. The bass does a real good job - a little less vibrato would sound even better though.

[3] Rotzsch:
What I miss in the Rilling-recording (a lighter articulation) can be heard hear - but, like I meantioned earlier, Rotzsch, overemphasizing staccato, looses the tutti-sound. Even though I didn´t like Augér on BWV 184, she sounds perfect here. The same is true to Adam. A perfect duet.

[4] Harnoncourt:
Whether you like boy-sopranos or not - a soloist should sing in tune. It may sound the way Bach heard it - I´m sure he wouldn´t have liked it and I´m also sure he tried hard to get singers able to sing in tune. The bass is hard to judge because the way he is recorded sounds like he is way behind the orchestra and the soprano.

[5] Leusink:
Very different compared to Rilling but somehow convincing. The soloists lack the musical possibilities Auger/Adam produce. But still nice to listen to.

The sound of Rilling - Augér/Adam as singers - Leusink´s interpretation (maybe slowed down just a bit) - that would be it.

Uri Golomb wrote (August 27, 2003):
Hans-Jochim Reh wrote:
[4]< When you listen to the other recordings it sounds like your ears are very close to every single instrument (on the Harnoncourt recording you can even hear the players breathe). You don´t usually hear it that way when you sit in church or a concerthall. Even as a conductor you don´t hear it that way. >
An interesting side-comment: Cantata BWV 192 obviously comes late in Harnoncourt's cycle -- which means that he really did conduct it (from the podium). But, through most of the cycle, Harnoncourt did not actually conduct -- he directed the ensemble from the cello, and was therefore seated among his fellow-instrumentalists. The perspective Hans-Joachim describes here might well match Harnoncourt's perspective during those early sessions. It wasn't ideal, of course -- for one thing, in the earlier recordings he allowed the chorus master (Hans Gillesberger and later Gerhardt Schmidt-Gaden) to conduct the choir with his back to the orchestra (presumably the same thing hapenned in Harnoncourt's recording of the motets -- the actual conducting of the choir, but not of the orchestra, was done by Öhrwall, the director of the Stockholm Bach Choir). This mean that, even though Harnoncourt had the ultimate conductorial responsibility, he did not even have eye contact with someone who did a lot of the actual conducting. Presumably he himself found this arrangement unsatisfactory, which probably explains why he abandoned the cello in favour of the podium -- first in choruses only, then in choruses and arias, and finally throughout. (In saying this, I rely on the very detailed personnel lists supplied with most cantatas in the original issues: it says exactly which movements Harnoncourt himself played in, and which were entrusted to another cellist{s}).

None of this has any significance _in re_ the aesthetic merits of close miking vs. more distant/comprehensive perspectives from the listener's point of view, of course. For me, the fact that a recording balance is not similar to the balance you might get in a concert hall or a church is not, in itself, a dis-advantage. Sometimes I actually enjoy hearing more details than I could possibly hear in the concert hall; on other occasions, I might find close miking (or what I assume is close miking) intrusively analytical. In either case, my judgement depends on my home listening experience, including my listening circumstances: some recordings sound very well on speakers and less on headphones, others vice versa.

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (August 27, 2003):
[To Uri Golomb] I do agree with your last paragraph. Different ways of micing/mixing do not neccesarily mean good/bad recordings.

For myself however, when listening to Bach´s church music, I want to mainly enjoy it, not so much analyze it. And I prefer music that sounds like a good recorded performance in a good sounding church.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 27, 2003):
Miking and perspective

Uri Golomb wrote:
< For me, the fact that a recording balance is not similar to the balance you might get in a concert hall or a church is not, in itself, a dis-advantage. Sometimes I actually enjoy hearing more details than I could possibly hear in the concert hall; on other occasions, I might find close miking (or what I assume is close miking) intrusively analytical. In either case, my judgement depends on my home listening experience, including my listening circumstances: some recordings sound very well on speakers and less on headphones, others vice versa. >
Here's something I don't think we've ever talked about: what do you (anyone) think about mono vs stereo, as to clarity and enjoyment in contrapuntal music?

Especially, in cases where the original recording was high-fidelity mono:
should the engineers try to put in a fake stereo field for added spaciousness, or leave things as they are?

Personally I feel that mono isn't a disadvantage...for one thing, the recording stays mixed exactly as the artists put it out there, not subject to the weird configurations or wrong phasing of people's listening systems. And mono can be just as thrilling as stereo, but in a different way.

Peter Blomendaal wrote (August 31, 2003):
Yes, thank God for this marvellous cantata. Short in duration, limited in instrumental forces, with only two vocal soloists not even singing an extensive da capo aria but a tranquil, subtle duet, yet … Wow! He did it again! Bach completely knocked me over with this infectiously glorious work, written relatively late in his career as a cantata composer. It is a sheer joy singing and playing it as well as listening back to it on CD, humming and moving your body on this invitation to dance.

Dürr informs us that, by comparing manuscripts, it was detected that this cantata showed the same writing as BWV 51Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen” , dating from 17 September 1730, and therefore must have been composed and probably performed in the same year as well, either for the Reformation Festival or for an unknown wedding. Listening to the cantata I definitely opt for the former occasion.

Bach used the three stanzas of Martin Rinckart’s hymn with the same title from 1636 integrally, thus creating a “per omnes versus” cantata like he did with BWV 117Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut”. For reasons of symmetry and organic unity, he turned both the opening and final movement into an extended chorus or chorale fantasy and added a contemplative middle section to balance the whole.

The first chorale fantasy is a jubilant song of praise to God who has done great things to us even from before we were born and throughout our childhood. It opens with a ritornello theme played by the orchestra, consisting of strings, BC, traverso 1 and 2, oboe 1 and 2. Independent from the chorale melody, it returns regularly throughout the movement. It is composed in double counterpoint between the traversos and the first violins on the one side and the second violins and the viola on the other, while the basso continuo remains silent. The lively concertante playing with the separate instrumental groups alternating on the foreground makes this movement a feast for the members of the orchestra. And it is a treat for the choir as well. They open with a strong homophonic chord on “nun” and then especially the three lower voices become involved in an extended fugal exposition before the chorale melody is heard in long-held notes by the sopranos. The voices imitate each other until in the end they come together in a unison repetition of the first l“Nun danket alle Gott”.

The second movement, a beautiful duet of soprano and bass, expresses God’s nature and intentions. He wishes to give us an ever cheerful heart and noble peace, already in our lifetime on earth. Again the opening is for the orchestra in an independent ritornello in the strings doubled by the first traverso and the first oboe. It has a stylised elegant dance character, a moment of tranquillity between the upbeat outer choruses. The movement is split up in two almost identical halves, in which the bass and soprano change parts at half time. It starts as a catch song with the bass soloist opening on the first half of the hymn text. After the soprano’s canonical repetition, a beautiful polyphonic duet develops. Towards the end of the first half, Bach changes the key from D to A. Then the orchestral ritornello leads up to the second half, which is a total inversion of the first half. Now the soprano begins and the bass follows. The music remains the same, but the keys are also reversed. Starting in A, the duet ends in D with both singers in homophonic harmony on what the Germans call with a nice nucleus word the “Abgesang”, the concluding line, “Und uns aus aller Not erlösen hier und dort.” Finally the circle is closed by the returning ritornello in the orchestra.

The third movement shows similarities to the opening chorus. The orchestration is the same. Again the hymn melody lies with the sopranos in long-held notes and the three lower voices of the choir accompany them in lively free polyphony. However, the instrumental ritornello that opens the movement is already based on the chorale melody. Choir and orchestra are united in the cheerful triple rhythm of the gigue, reminiscent of the one from the third orchestral suite in D major BWV 1068, which is another gorgeous piece of music in itself. Once more the instruments have the honour to make this cantata complete.

In view of the many characteristics of a secular cantata, there will always remain the question if there did not exist an earlier similar vocal work for a non-sacred occasion. We will never know, unless some researcher (or cleaning lady, for that matter) would make a miraculous find in the future. Anyhow, this work of praise must have made quite an impression on the thousands attending the services in the Lutheran churches on that Reformation Day in October 1730 in Leipzig. Like it still does to us and millions of others any time anywhere today and will continue to do so from henceforth even for ever.

Of course I have the Leusink recording [5]. Having read the first paragraph above, you will not be surprised to learn that I like it a lot. I was also very happy to be able to listen to the music examples Aryeh prepared for us. There is no recording I dislike. Yet, like every one else, I have my preferences. Here is my ranking list:

1. Ruth Holton with Bas Ramselaar [5]. The perfect pace. A bit faster than the rest, they produce a nice dancing rhythm. Fine playing by the orchestra. Great singing by both soloists. They do not impose themselves on Bach’s music. Yet, their expression is not flat at all. Ruth Holton’s angelic voice combined with Bas Ramselaar’s mature interpretation makes for an utterly convincing rendition.

2. Helmut Wittek with Thomas Hampson [4]. Certainly not the best, but to me the most moving performance. A young innocent boy and an experienced soloist with a large voice, who is continually withholding himself to give the boy the space he needs. This singing may annoy some, but it really gets to me.

3. Arleen Augér and Theo Adam [3]. Also a nice tempo, a bit slower than Holton/Ramselaar, but it works. Two great soloists. An excellent orchestra.

4. Helen Donath and Niklaus Tüller [2]. Not bad, but Donath has too much vibrato and too much presence. The orchestra sounds too symphonic. In short, not my cup of tea.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 1, 2003):
[To Peter Blomendaal] Beautiful review, Peter!
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/6143

I have only the Harnoncourt recording of this [4], and I'm dissatisfied with it. In all three movements the boys are often painfully sharp. I blame the "dry" acoustics of the recording location, a Casino in Vienna. The instruments sound choked off, with no help from the room. And the singers probably had a dickens of a time hearing anything other than themselves.

I'm continuing to watch the online "bins" at Berkshire Record Outlet, hoping to pick up the rest of the Leusink volumes [5] that I'm missing (including this one). But right now, they don't have any of them!

Yesterday I listened to the cantata BWV 100: both the Leusink and another recording I like very much (Beringer: Windsbach boys' choir and a Berlin orchestra of modern instruments). I wouldn't want to be without either one. In the Leusink performance I especially noticed the extreme clarity of all the orchestral parts, but also a pleasant amount of resonance in the hall.

Peter, how many different locations were used in the Leusink series? And, do you remember, was it a fairly simple mike setup (anything more than one or two stereo pairs)? The impression I get from listening to these is that the balance and blend sound natural, with no strange spotlighting (such as sticking soloists too close to mikes). And the room sounds like an inspiring place to make music: an easy place to work with. Another nice feature I especially appreciate in the Leusink series is the beautiful phrasing of the continuo cellist, treating that crucial bass line as a line....

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (September 2, 2003):
< Bradley Lehman wrote: Beautiful review, Peter! >
My pleasure to hear you liked the review.

About the missing Leusink cantatas, when you mail me which of them you still want, I will try and see if I can get them here.

As to the recording technique of the Leusink cantatas, I am not an expert in that process. The two guys who were responsible besides Leusink had already earned their spurs in this field. As far as I remember, they used three or four pairs of mikes and the soloists had separate mikes. The placing of the microphones was aimed at creating a direct sound without losing the acoustics of the church. Especially those of the soloists were carefully tested and their height and the distance from the singers were different for each of them. The engineers marked the soloists' individual positions with tape on the floor so that they were sure that the singers' positions would be exactly the same after a coffee or lunch break and the sound would remain optimal. All the recordings were done at St. Nicholas Church, Elburg.

Hereby two questions and answers from my interview with Leusink, which you can read at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Leusink-Interview.htm

· Was the choice of St Nicholas Church Elburg just a practical option or were other considerations involved?
- My first vinyl record "In English Style" with the then-called Stadsknapenkoor Elburg was recorded in this, the Great Church of Elburg. At the time I did not like the sound. So I took my refuge to Vollenhove, where we recorded St Matthew Passion and Messiah. That church had the right acoustics for our choir. Minor mistakes were veiled by the convenient resonance there. Two years ago, I had to record three CD's in one week with a Hungarian orchestra. Logistically, we had no other alternative but the Great or St Nicholas Church in Elburg. Those recordings pleased me a lot, so I decided to do future recordings in Elburg as well. The logistic advantage is evident. It makes a two hours' travelling difference for the choir each day we are recording. We have all the complementary facilitiat hand in Elburg. And then it is a very pleasant church to work in: spacious, sunny and with a lot of atmosphere. Moreover, it disposes of two magnificent organs, which you can hear, besides the chest organ, in a prominent role in our recordings. What appeals to me personally is the fact that St Nicholas Church may well be compared to Bach's Thomaskirche in Leipzig as to size and acoustics. For that is the place where he wrote most of his cantatas.
· * How important are Louis van Emmerik and Jean van Vugt for the recording process?
- Extremely important. I had never worked with them before. I was looking for a recording engineer and a producer/music editor, specialized in baroque music, with whom I would and could cooperate very closely without any major frustrations or disagreements. When I first met Louis and Jean, who had gathered quite some knowledge and experience with Philips, we hit it off from the start. Louis is incredibly enthusiastic. He is at the project night and day. He convinced me that the recordings should be that open and direct. Everybody was startled at the directness when they heard the first recordings, but in hindsight we are very pleased we did it that way. All polyphonic lines were made clearly audible by Louis. Unique. Jean is the man whom I can rely on concerning the quality of every bit we recorded. He follows the score during the recordings and immediately makes notes what is OK and what is not. He indicates what has to be done once more. When he tells me we've got all we need, I can rely on his judgment. Only once or twice, we later agreed that after all it would be better to do something again. In those cases we were able to do so in a later session.

With regard to Frank Wakelkamp, the cellist you are referring to, I admire him a lot, too. That's why I interviewed him at the time. You can read it at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Wakelkamp.htm
We mailed some months ago and he is still very enthusiastic and full of ideas. You can visit his website and contact him, if you wish to.

Pieter Pannevis wrote (September 2, 2003):
The Kruidvat chain (Holland) that distributed the cantatas is currently redistributing the Leusink recordings

I listen to Bach to clear my head, first thing in the morning, starting the day and last thing at night. He's my handle on the possibility of continuing human-ness and human creativity in an increasingly inhumane and destructive world.

John Pike wrote (September 3, 2003):
[To Pieter Pannevis] Very well put and something I can totally identify with. I know that András Schiff (and Pablo Casals in the past) starts his day by playing Bach Preludes and Fugues as a sort of benediction to the house and to prepare one's soul for the day ahead. Doubtless many others have done the same over the years. I love listening to some Bach on the CD player in the car on my way to work.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 192: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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: ýOctober 12, 2013 ý09:48:21