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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 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 27, 2008

Stephen Benson wrote (July 27, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 192 "Nun danket alle Gott"

...or "The Apotheosis of the Dance", and, no, we're not talking about Beethoven's Seventh Symphony.

"Nun Danket Alle Gott", BWV 192, despite its brevity, is an absolute gem. Some commentators have suggested that it is incomplete -- its conciseness (three movements) and the absence of the tenor part being cited as evidence. On the other hand, all three verses of the 1636 Martin Rinckart hymn which forms its text are present, and the balanced structure, bite-sized though it might be, of the two outer chorale movements sandwiching a soprano-bass duet is immensely satisfying.

Once again, we have a cantata whose original performance is shrouded in uncertainty. Dürr suggests that it was written "most likely as a wedding cantata", although the liner notes to the Rilling recording [2] also cite Dürr as positing the Feast of the Reformation as the original impetus, a contradiction which I would assume has its origins in differing editions. (My source is the 2006 English translation; Rilling's is an earlier German edition. Did Dürr change his mind, or is this simply a case of mistranslation?) Other sources suggest an unspecified festive occasion. The dating of the cantata is based primarily on the fact that the same hand that wrote out the parts for BWV 51 wrote out these parts. Whatever the cantata's original purpose, the universally positive implications of its text -- the first movement focusing on thanksgiving, the second petitioning God for joy, peace, and freedom from distress, and the third, praise -- and the dance-like idiom of the musical score result in a work whose demeanor is sunny and angst-free. I like to think of it in the light of John Eliot Gardiner's observation [6] that "...[T]o me it seems entirely apt -- Bach's particular way of celebrating the joyous throwing off of shackles achieved by Luther's reformation."

Given that overall character, a conductor's focus on an underlying unifying essence of the dance is not an unreasonable goal, and the writing in "Nun danket alle Gott" lends itself to that kind of an interpretation. Both the first and third movements incorporate ternary rhythms. All three movements contain suggestions of the chorale melody. An evanescent lightness, delicacy, and grace abound. Personally, I’ve never accepted the justification for slower performance tempos used by some conductors and performers that Bach’s dance forms were a “stylized” mode of expression. According to that argument, since they weren’t meant to be danced, they could be eviscerated of their dance expressiveness. To my mind, and I do realize that this is very much my own personal sentiment and opinion, performances that take the expressivity out of the dance suck the life out of the music. What is a gigue without the rollicking and rolling of triplet figures?

All three movements of BWV 192 betray that dance logic. The opening first-movement ritornello of woodwinds and violins percolates with energy. Ideas are thrown back and forth in a joyful interplay. As the voices enter, the sopranos can hardly contain themselves. For much of this first movement, they intone the cantus firmus. At other times they seem to be struggling to break free. "Let us play, too!" (It is very strange to read through the score with the entire tenor part blank.) The homophonic choral outburst of the cantata's title phrase that ends the movement is an unrestrained shout of joy.

A piquant, pixiesh two-step marks the opening of the ritornello for the soprano and bass duet in the second movement. Decisive eighth-note rests set off playful figures which provide continuity throughout the soprano-bass dialogue, in itself flirtatious and impetuously seductive. The bass leads on the the soprano in the first half of this binary movement, with the soprano coquettishly turning the tables in her response of the second half.

That playful interaction (attraction?) between the soprano and bass leads directly into the physical expression of an exuberant gigue. The more I listen to Bach, the more I picture him as a lusty old fellow who channeled some of that libidinous energy into his music, and "Nun danket alle Gott" turns out to be a particularly appropriate vehicle (lending credence, perhaps, to the belief that this cantata may have first been performed as part of a wedding celebration?).

I do realize that this is a highly idiosyncratic and personal interpretation, but it's one that works for me. Please feel free to criticize, and please do. I'd love to hear your reactions.

As usual, reading through the opinions and observations generated during the previous round's discussion is nothing less than essential. (Links to texts, discussions, musical examples, etc. can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV192.htm .) Since then, three more complete recordings have been produced, those of Gardiner [6], Koopman [7], and Folan [8]. I've heard the Gardiner and the Koopman. I suspect Brad -- not to put him on the spot or anything -- might be able to fill us in on the details of the Folan.

Have fun! I am!

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 27, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< A piquant, pixiesh two-step marks the opening of the ritornello for the soprano and bass duet in the second movement. Decisive eighth-note rests set off playful figures which provide continuity throughout the soprano-bass dialogue, in itself flirtatious and impetuously seductive. The bass leads on the the soprano in the first half of this binary movement, with the soprano coquettishly turning the tables in her response of the second half. >
Her??? We'd have to be very sure it was really a wedding cantata, and not a church cantata, right? I mean, weren't women forbidden to sing in church back then? I mean, I've heard people claim to hear some sort of eroticism in something like 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus', which is part of BWV 80, a cantata for either Reformation Sunday or the Feast of the Reformation itself (don't remember which off the top of my head). But there's nothing overtly sexual, the context would suggest we ought to interpret the soprano simply as 'the soul' (as is done explicitly in other cantatas). Is it possible that's what's going on here as well?

William Hoffman wrote (July 27, 2008):
Intro to BWV 192: Fugitive Notes

Pure-hymn Cantata BWV 192 is dated to 1730, based primarily on the surviving parts from copyist Johann Ludwig Krebs, who did similar work for Cantata BWV 51 for the Fifteen Sunday after Trinity, on September 17. Because of the proximity of the date of the latter and the former's hymn for Reformation Day Festival, BWV 192 is often dated to October 30, 1730.

During the year 1730, virtually all of Bach's church presentations were for special events. It is documented that Bach composed no other new cantatas for the church year and reperformed only three: BWV 82 (Purification), BWV 23 (Quinquagesima Estomihi) and BWV 175 (Pentecost Tuesday). It is possible that Bach presented an
intermediate version of Cantata BWV 80, "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott," for Reformation Day, either alone or on a double bill with Cantata BWV 192.

Also in 1730, Bach probably presented the St. Luke Passion, BWV 246 (now attributed to J.M. Molter), on Good Friday, April 7, and three scared cantata parodies for the three days of the Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the Augsburg Confe, Cantatas BWV 190a, BWV 120b, and BWV Anh. 4a, on June 26-28, respectively. In addition, lost Town Council Cantata BWV Anh. 3 was probably performed on August 28, based on the surviving Picander text.

As to the issue of Cantata BWV 192 written for a wedding, it is known that Bach may have written several wedding cantatas in 1729-30, including BWV 120a, BWV Anh. 211, BWV Anh. 212, and BWV 202, as well as the wedding chorales, BWV 250-252. During the period 1729-35, Bach also composed three other pure-hymn cantatas associated with weddings: BWV 117, BWV 100 and BWV 97. The Bach Compendium considers these three and BWV 192 for unspecified occasions.

Another possible church year use was suggested by Günther Stiller in Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig (Eng. Ed. 1984, p.236). It is possible that Cantata BWV 192 was presented during the Christmas Season, "for we learn from Weißenfels that the main services of the Sunday after Christmas and of New Year's Day concluded with the hymn "Nun danket alle Gott."

As to the dance element, the time signatures alone of the three movements lend themselves to such possibilities: ¾, 2/4, and 12/8 respectively. The third movement chorale fantasia is classified as a gigue in Little-Jenne Dance and the Music of Bach and Finke-Hecklinger Dance Character in the Music of JSB. Imagine, dancing hymns! Why not. Bach sacred and secular cantatas are replete with dance elements, not just because they make good music but, I think, as Bach thumbing his nose at the Pietists, having his cake and eating it too! Remember all those dancing choruses and arias finding their way from dramma per musica to the parodied feast day oratorios, as well as those great closing choruses in the Leipzig Oratorio Passions: sarabande in BWV 244, minuet in BWV 245, and gigue in BWV 247, uniting a time to mourn and a time to dance.

As for Bach spicing up his cake with a little hanky-panky, that's quite possible. Virtually all of Bach's scared and secular wedding cantatas, according to Finke-Heckling, have dance movements: BWV 196/4, BWV 216/5,7; BWV 202/3,7,9; BWV 195/1, BWV 117/3,7; BWV 120a; BWV 97/2,7; BWV 100/3-5; BWV 210/2,4,8; BWV 197a/3, and BWV 195/1. Caveat amoritus et musicantus!

Stephen Benson wrote (July 30, 2008):
Hey, folks!
Just a reminder that the cantata on the table this week is a sweetie!
As presented three days ago,
< "Nun Danket Alle Gott", BWV 192, despite its brevity, is an absolute gem...the balanced structure, bite-sized though it might be, of the two outer chorale movements sandwiching a soprano-bass duet is immensely satisfying.
Whatever the cantata's original purpose, the universally positive implications of its text -- the first movement focusing on thanksgiving, the second petitioning God for joy, peace, and freedom from distress, and the third, praise -- and the dance-like idiom of the musical score result in a work whose demeanor is sunny and angst-free. I like to think of it in the light of John Eliot Gardiner's observation
[6] that "...[T]o me it seems entirely apt -- Bach's particular way of celebrating the joyous throwing off of shackles achieved by Luther's reformation." >
Anybody got any thoughts they'd like to share? How about the role of dance in the work? Tempos? The unusual structure? The role of the soprano? The interplay between the soprano and the bass? The attributes of different recordings? In particular I'm curious about reactions to two recordings at either end of the tempo spectrum, at least, of the ones in my library -- and I'm referring here to the Gardiner [6] and the Rilling [2]. And how about its original intended purpose and audience?

William Hoffman wrote (July 31, 2008):
Intro. to BWV 192: More fugitive notes

Stephen Benson wrote:
< Anybody got any thoughts they'd like to share? How about the role of dance in the work? Tempos? The unusual structure? The role of the soprano? The interplay between the soprano and the bass? .... And how about its original intended purpose and audience? >
Since Cantata BWV 192 is only one of two new cantatas Bach composed for the church year in 1730, I think Bach put considerable effort into it and got much from it. In this context, I would suggest that Bach indeed presented it initially on the Reformation Day Feast, October 1730, on a double bill with a version of his masterpiece, Cantata BWV 80.

This could be the intermediate, simplified version version, BWV 80b, established in the early 1980s through the discovery of its opening four-part chorale (Verse 1), which was inserted before the original opening bass chorale aria (Verse 2), "Alles, was von Gott geboren," BWV 80a, composed at Weimar in 1715 for the Third Sunday in Lent. This later version was presented in 1723 with the remainder of BWV 80a for Reformation Day. This information is based on the Christoph Wolff essay, "The Reformation Cantata 'Ein feste Burg," in his Bach: Essays on his Life and Music (1991).

As for the final version, BWV 80 with its monumental opening chorale motet, set to the first verse, Bach's score and parts, inherited by Friedemann, are lost. The surviving initial copy by Altnikol, dates after 1750.

The first performance of this final version was thought to be in 1730 during the gala 200th anniversary year of the Augsburg Confession, June 26-28. However, there are indications that this final setting may have been premiered later. Altnikol's score marks the opening chorale motet chorus as "Choro alla Capella," in the "stile antico" manner Bach pursued throughout the 1730s and 1740s. Further, there are two other copies from the same post-1750 Altnikol circle in Berlin: a setting by Kirnberger of the bass solo suggesting changes of the order of the chorale verses, and an anonymous copy of the score with differentiated two-fold continuo accompaniment, first used by Bach in the 1736 version of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

As an aside, Bach set the fourth (final) chorale stanza, "Das Wort sie sollen," for his St. Mark Passion, BWV 247, in 1731, as found in Picander's surviving, complete text.

To make a long story even longer, I think Bach repeated the intermediate version, BWV 80b, without the great opening chorale chorus, in 1730. Instead he took the three-verse setting of "Nun danket alle Gott," the second most popular Reformation chorale, and composed the opening and closing movements as chorale fantasia choruses. Thus, I think, BWV 192 was presented before the sermon and BWV 80b after the sermon, but the latter without the trumpets and drums; Friedemann added those later in his three-movement Latin contrafaction, "Gaudete omnes populi." Shades of Cantata BWV 51!

And, I would suggest, my hypothesis re. the , method, and opportunity for composing Cantata BWV 192 also dovetails with some of the questions posed above.

P.S. We will take up Cantata BWV 80 in the Discussion order, just after Reformation Day and following Ascension Oratorio BWV 11, composed in 1735.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 31, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
>In particular I'm curious about reactions to two recordings at either end of the tempo spectrum, at least, of the ones in my library -- and I'm referring here to the Gardiner [6] and the Rilling [2].<
I have the Rilling [2]. I wondered (while listening to it) if the opening movement is a bit slow (6.56); Gardiner's tempo (5.25) [6] does have a lovely rhythmic lilt (listening to the BCW amazon sample).

However, Rilling [2] nicely captures the rich timbre of the piece, with its contrasting episodes for flutes, oboes (with trills) and strings.

The structure of this movement is unusual; the choir sings four lines of text before the sopranos present the cantus firmus in the usual fashion, and likewise for the following four lines of text. Notice the CM itself only moves from one note to the next via intervals of a 2nd. (The CM may remind listeners of BWV 80, though this CM includes a 4th interval drop).

I do find Gardiner's [6] Mvt. 3 to be on the rushed side (2.40); here the rhythm projects a 'bouncing' effect that is not altogether pleasing. I prefer the 'siciliano - like' lilt of the Rilling (4.04) [2]; somewhere between the two might be ideal.

Rilling [2] also nicely projects the interesting effect in the 2nd and 4th lines where the sopranos clash with the altos as they move from unison notes to notes that are a minor 2nd apart.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 31, 2008):
[To Stephen Benson] The peculiar tripartite shape of this attractive work has always suggested to me that the original purpose was to celebrate Trinity Sunday, and indeed the final verse of the Chorale has the only reference in all the Cantatas (checked this on the University of Alberta text database) to the Trinity in the form "Dreieinigen".

The other explicit reference and even more interesting theologically is in BWV 7, in the form "dreifaeltigkeit". This Canata is about the Baptism of Christ; and the Trinity emphasis may reflect the continuance of the interpolated "Johannine Comma" , a pious text added by a medieval scribe to establish that the baptism of Christ was an explicit (rather than implicit) work of the Trinity "agreeing in Heaven". The interpolation in the Letters was denounced by Erasmus and Luther also knew it to be questionable, but until the late nineteenth century both Anglican and Lutheran versions of the Bible continued to print the added words.

Although there are many wonderful doxologies set by Bach and much hermenetical underpinning of Trinity related images it is perhaps strange that this central doctrine is so rarely named directly in the texts. If there are any Lutheran scholars to hand I would welcome observations on this paradox.

Jean Laaninrn wrote (July 31, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Just a reminder that the cantata on the table this week is a sweetie!
As presented three days ago,
<>
The role of the soprano? The interplay between the soprano and the bass? The attributes of different recordings? In particular I'm curious about reactions to two recordings at either end of the tempo spectrum, at least, of the ones in my library -- and I'm referring here to the Gardiner
[6] and the Rilling [2]. And how about its original intended purpose and audience? >
The voice of Helen Donath in the Rilling [2] (Mvt. 2) is simply superb. I am not sure about this, but her flutey sound then followed some nice woodwinds in the final chorus certainly produces a celebratory character. To me, Rilling put this cantata together just beautifully.

As was Peter, I was immediately drawn to the idea of the three part work representative of the Trinity. And thank you for the reminder...I think need to focus on the cantata of the week as much as possible, too. I will listen again and see if anything strikes me beyond what I have already mentioned.

Jean Laaninrn wrote (August 1, 2008):
BWV 192 - Dance Rhythms and Dance Rhythms in Bach

William Hoffman (maybe Stephen, too) raised the opportunity for those of us who like to write to think about the dance rhythms in this week's cantata, and this led me to think about the dance rhythms in Bach, generally speaking.

My discussion takes a bit of a circuitous route here, but while I have been letting the topic free float in my mind I have been working on two projects. The first is the decoration of a bushel gourd - and thinking about the use of musical instruments in primal religion and society made from these objects of nature. A few weeks ago I had the unique but brief opportunity to visit with a Native American Indian medicine woman. She happened to be at the gourd farm in Casa Grande, Arizona when we took our granddaughter to explore the bins of vegetables that are nature's canvas. This lovely woman about my age was purchasing gourds to make instruments for the Native American Indian ceremonials. To just add a word about these events, they are designed as healing festivities which bring restoration and harmony to the people. That being a very brief comment, I have also been studying a book on Navajo (American Indian) philosophy, and the combination of these factors and thinking about J.S. Bach using dance rhythms reminded me that he often selected dance rhythms as a basis for his many organ works, and they are often found in the cantatas. (Buxtehude, too, I believe.) I don't know if people will think my analogy goes too far here, but I have an idea Bach found life and healing in these rhythms.

To come a little more into context, the rhythms of the dance, though varied are well documented in the Hebrew worship in scripture directly or indirectly as one looks at the cadence of verses and stories. The people of God danced...but we also have the fateful story of the dance before the golden calf so the dance matters but discretion is a factor. I will bear correction on this if warranted. By the time the the Christian scriptures I can't recall worship in this fashion, but maybe this is a senior moment.

Were Bach's rhythm's libidinous, as has been suggested, or were they a product of the wholeness of life and creation in a healing fashion?

Incidentally, though the topic hasn't really come up in a while, the matter of Bach's twenty children surfaces from time to time. This discussion has largely come from the male contingent in our group, but I got to thinking about the fact that Bach also happened to marry women who were perhaps for that time unique in their capacity for bearing so many children. It takes two to tango, as the expression goes, and birth, maturation, marriage and children all fall ((neatly)) into the plan of creation. I think Bach was awfully smart and ever so aware--and certainly not afraid to use the common meter for communication musically.

Those are my free floating thoughts at the moment...perhaps a closer look at the texts and scriptures would provide more detail but I will leave the topic for now for the comments of others.

Bruce Simonson wrote (August 1, 2008):
It's been a while since I have been able to post to the group, but I am glad to see some discussion on BWV 192 (and also on BWV 51, for which I had some elaborate program notes in 2005). I intend to program BWV 192 as part of our Christmas program in early December.

It's a beautiful , and one that lends itself to using a children's choir on the CF, so I'm looking forward to that.

I am quite happy with the Rilling recording [2], but a little piqued at the overengineering with reverb and such (not Rilling's fault, to be sure).

In any case, if anyone can point to interesting details in the work, (like the way the hymn melody informs the bass and soprano lines in Mvt. 2), I'd like to hear your thoughts. Makes for a deeper understanding of the work.

As an aside, I haven't been able to find any performance materials for BWV 192, so I expect to have to work them up in Finale or something. I'd rather avoid the drudgery, so if anyone has a lead on orchestral performance materials, I'd be in your debt.

On another aside, I was priveleged to attend the Oregon Bach Festival this summer, in the conducting class as an auditor. Rilling teaches a fantastic class (2 1/2 weeks). Also, they performed the B- Mass twice (once in Portland, two days later, in Eugene). The performances were quite different ... different tempi, different coloring, ... all by intent.

Also, Rilling's current choruses are very very good. And, I find that he is very particular about vibrato in his chorus these days (relative to some of his earlier recordings). He completed his recording of the six Haydn Masses in Eugene this summer ... if you can get a chance to hear these recordings, you'll see what I mean about vibrato.

Another highlight of the Eugene festival was a performance, under Rilling, of the Magnificat (BWV 243), sung by the Stangeland Youth Choir ... high schoolers! An amazing good performance, with really good kids too. Choir of about 100. The festival also studied the St John Passion (BWV 245) (conducted by student conductors), and performed the St Matthew (BWV 244), under Rilling.

Well, hello again group ... I hope all are well, and in good Bach spirits!

Peter Smaill wrote (August 2, 2008):
[To John Pike] The idea that this work would have been suited to Trinity Sunday by virtue of the unique three verse structure and rare explicit reference to the Trinity ("dreieinigkeit") sems to have legs, quite apart from the emphatic triplet figuration?noted by Dürr in BWV 192/3, the doxology itself, where IMO the hermeneutic intent can be heard in the music.

Like BWV 129 for Trinity Sunday, BWV 192 consists of a text purely derived from the exact text of a chorale. Here Bach is of course not working with a living librettist, so the choice of text is perhaps exclusively his own by taking the words as it were, off the shelf.

There are exactly ten surviving Cantatas composed purely of the Chorale, commencing with BWV 4, "Christ lag in Toedesbanden", by Luther. Never does Bach return to a Chorale author to set another of the writer's?Chorales again in this way, even of? the prodigious Luther himself. Thus each stands as a representative work?for each Chorale poet.

Apart from Luther we have (poet and BWV number)?:

Agricola BWV 177
Fleming BWV 97
Heermann BWV 107
Meuslin BWV 112
Neander BWV 137
Olearius BWV 129
Rinckart BWV 192
Rodigast BWV 100
Schuetz BWV 117

It would be interesting if there is more to be said about this distinctive sub-group of the Cantatas and to discover whether there is any overarching reason why from time to time Bach simply reaches for the hymnbook?to find?a text!

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 2, 2008):
BWV 192 "Nun danket alle Gott" Eroticism

Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< I mean, I've heard people claim to hear some sort of eroticism in something like 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus', which is part of BWV 80, a cantata for either Reformation Sunday or the Feast of the Reformation itself (don't remember which off the top of my head). But there's nothing overtly sexual, the context would suggest we ought to interpret the soprano simply as 'the soul' (as is done explicitly in other cantatas). Is it possible that's what's going on here as well? >
Recent scholars have only begun to tackle the question of cross-gender voices in the Baroque period. This was resisted as "taboo" in Shakespesare studies fof a long time even though it is quite clear that the Bard had a Baroque interest in sexual identity -- in "The Winter's Tale", a boy plays a woman playing a man.

The 18th century was fascinated with castrati playing heroic male roles to contralto female heroines. Nor was the interest restricted to the opera house. There is some evidence showing that the girls in Vivaldi's Pieta school sang the tenor and bass parts in his church music at pitch. It is only in the late Classical period that the "natural order" is asserted: heros are tenors, heroines are sopranos, villains are basses and villainesses are contraltos.

What then of Bach? Most commentators simply do not address the question of musical cross-dressing because it's assumed that homoeroticism is implied. And yet Bach certainly plays with the conventions -- the Hyancinth aria in "Phoebus und Pan" (BWV 201).

In many cantatas, there is a real question of eroticism and its musical expression. 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus' from Cantata BWV 80 is full of unavoidable double-entendres despite is allegorical dress. Even more "shocking" are the two duets in "Wachet Auf". This is music of full-blown eroticism (no pun intended) -- the opening duet is as sexy as the closing duet of Monteverdi's "Poppea".

And then add to the mix that this is a schoolboy soprano singing to an adult bass and you are right in the centre of this Baroque fascination. At modern performances of "Wachet Auf", I've seen female sopranos and male basses hamming it up as if it was an opera performance. That's not what Bach's congregations saw or heard. I suspect we can never recover how Bach's listeners heard music like this.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (August 2, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote [Eroticism]:
< In many cantatas, there is a real question of eroticism and its musical expression. 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus' from Cantata 80 is full of unavoidable double-entendres despite is allegorical dress. >
Umm, I've sung 'Komm in mein Herzenshaus' so many times I've lost track. These 'double-entendres' can't be that unavoidable, or I would have 'gotten' them by now... Of course, it may be that since I view the counterpoint here as three-voice instead of two-voice (I wrote my own realization of the figured bass to this piece), that would go a long way to obviate any double-entendres. At most, I would have triple-entendres in mind ;-) But that begins to sound vaguely Trinitarian, and seriously, I've never heard anyone try to say anything perverted about the Trinity. (In case anyone is busying their little mind with thinking up something juicy in this area, I cordially invite them to keep it to themselves ;-) ).

William Hoffman wrote (August 3, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote [Dance]:
< in part: thinking about J. S. Bach using dance rhythms reminded me that he often selected dance rhythms as a basis for his many organ works, and they are often found in the cantatas. (Buxtehude, too, I believe.) I don't know if people will think my analogy goes too far here, but I have an idea Bach found life and healing in these rhythms. >
William Hoffman responds:
Buxtehude, I believe, came from the branch of Lutherans called "Happy Danes," as opposed to "Dour Danes." I think most Scandanavians, and perhaps most European Lutherans can be divided into these two groups -- a gross oversimplification. Yes, dance rhythms are found in his praeludia, ritornelli, sonatas, suites and variations, according to the Iin Kerala J. Snyder's biography, "Dietrich Buxtehude: Organist in Lübeck." In progressive Northern Germany, Buxtehude found numerous opportunities to challenge the conservatives and stimulate his audiences. His Abendmusik is a great example of theatrical, operatic, oratrorio influences in a church but not during a service. The annual Advent public concerts included impressive lighting and decorations but no dramatic movement. Still, close your eyes and let your imagination go!

I think it's all in the eyes -- and ears -- of the beholder. Also, there's an old Navajo or Zuni saying to the effect that "If you destroy a song of nature you destroy the place where the song was made."

Vivat205 wrote (August 3, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote [Dance]:
<< I believe.) I don't know if people will think my analogy goes too far here, but I have an idea Bach found life and healing in these rhythms. >>
< William Hoffman responds:
there's an old Navajo or Zuni saying to the effect that "If you destroy a song of nature you destroy the place where the song was made." >
Wow-the start of a new thread: imagined "new age" implications in Bach!

Jane Newble wrote (August 3, 2008):
[Dance] < I don't know if people will think my analogy goes too far here, but I have an idea Bach found life and healing in these rhythms. >
Funny, I always think that when I listen to the strange and beautiful Canons (BWV 1087).

But perhaps those were the things he dreamed and wrote down in the morning.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 3, 2008):
Jane Newble wrote: [Dance]:
< Funny, I always think that when I listen to the strange and beautiful Canons (BWV 1087).
But perhaps those were the things he dreamed and wrote down in the morning. >
It is only recently that scholarly and interpretative attention has been turned on the dance elements in Bach's sacred music, so relentless was the desire to make a division between a "sacred style" and a "secular style". This distinction has been effectively debunked in the last 20 years as the homogenity of Bach's musical language has been asserted. No longer is there any sniffiness or embarrassment that Bach used concerto movements in the sacred cantatas although the concomittant "Exhausted Choir Theory" still appears in discussion of the solo cantatas.

There has also been a substantive change in interpretation with faster tempos and more crisply articulated rhythms. A classic example of the old resistance to "dance elements" is "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" from "Herz und Mund". Bach takes his cue from the text, "Jesu bleibet meine Freude" and writes what is manifestly a brisk dancing gigue. Yet the old Romantic prejudice still lingers, and even in HIP performences, we still hear overly cantibile, legato phrasing.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Dance Movements in Bach’s Vocal Works [General Topics]

Ed Myskowki wrote (July 31, 2008):
BWV 192

William Hoffman wrote:
>Since Cantata BWV 192 is only one of two new cantatas Bach composed for the church year in 1730, I think Bach put considerable effort into it and got much from it. In this context, I would suggest that Bach indeed presented it initially on the Reformation Day Feast, October 1730, on a double bill with a version of his masterpiece, Cantata BWV 80.<
Ed Myskowski responds
The performance chronology of BWV 80 (three or more versions) has been a topic of discussion on BCML (archived on BCW), especially with respect to publications of Christoph Wolff. There is evidence in support of a performance of the version known as BWV 80b in the period 1727-31. However, in his notes to Koopman, Vol. 16, Wolff suggests a repeat performance of BWV 79 (from 1725) for Reformation Day, 1730.

In either case, I gather that Reformation Day 1730, would be an appropriate anniversary for special celebration. Is that the reason to suggest a new piece for a <double bill>, and is there any supporting evidence?

I certainly agree that BWV 80 is a masterpiece, but I find it a bit misleading to single it out for that designation. Despite his frequent reuse of material, Bach also took efforts to make nearly every work unique, striving for a masterpiece. I am hard pressed to think of an instance where he might be said to have failed.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 31, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] We now have a number of theories for BWV 192; for a Wedding, for Trinity Sunday; or for the Reformation Festival. I can see reasons for all but perhaps to even out the debate it is worth setting out the Wedding case, referred to by Dürr who takes that line.

The source is Stiller; apologies if this has already been posted:

"No public weddings or funerals were held without the participation of a choir, already because the choir was indispensable for leading public singing. A small choir would take part even in weddings at home.Thus we are told of a house wedding at which eight pupils were appointed to sing the usual wedding hymns. At the beginning they sang "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" and "In allen meninen Taten," then after the vows the hymn "Sei Lob und Eht dem hoechsten Gut" and after the benediction "Nun danket alle Gott". [Source: account of the services and festal music at St Thomas Leipzig, 1716, Johann Christoph Rosten]

Stiller goes on : "These are the same hymns about which Johann Sebastian Bach composed Cantatas that significantly lack application to a worship service... and cannot be assigned to a specific Sunday of the year. These are cantatas BWV 97, BWV 100, BWV 117, BWV 192......it must be concluded that Bach composed those cantatas for weddings, although that does not preclude a later use of these works in Sunday services".

Stiller then argues that the five known wedding cantatas are all in two parts, whereas as we note BWV 192 (c.15 mins) is only of three movements. So, if it was part of the wedding service at a "full bridal mass" in 1730 there would likely have been also a separate earlier Cantata or motet in the service, and as he hints, perhaps both. But, this being the case, Bach had quite a varied formula for music at wedding services and the case for BWV 192 is therefore not wholly certain; setting the traditional hymns is not an invariable practice.

Wedding services must have been very long. The guests when I was married 20 years ago were thus let off lightly by only having to sit through the Partita in E for solo violin, BWV 1006! I wonder how many other BCW participants managed to find sympathetic musicians (and parents-in-law) to fit a Bach spot into their wedding services.....? or perhaps how few did not?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 3, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< I wonder how many other BCW participants managed to find sympathetic musicians (and parents-in-law) to?fit a Bach spot into their wedding services.....? or perhaps how few did not? >
We had a friend play the slow movement of the E Major Flute Sonata. The organist played the Big "Schmücke Dich" during the communion and people left to the Really Big "Komm Heilger Geist".

At both of my parents' funerals, the organist dodged my request for "Schmucke Dich" by playing the other Bach chorale prelude. I have left specific instructions that at MY funeral the Big "Schmucke Dich" must be played or I will emerge from the casket.

John Pike wrote (August 3, 2008):
Bach at weddings (was: BWV 192, "Nun danket alle Gott")

Peter Smaill wrote:
< I wonder how many other BCW participants managed to find sympathetic musicians (and parents-in-law) to?fit a Bach spot into their wedding services.....? or perhaps how few did not? >
We had "two" weddings; the first was in a registry office in Berlin, after which we had a recording of the last movement of Brandenburg 5. Our second wedding was a Church blessing here in Bristol. We were very fortunate in having an excellent flautist, organist, violinist (my violin teacher) and harpsichordist (her husband) at our disposal. A blessing is a slightly different service from a standard wedding. The regulations state that we should enter the service together "without ceremony" so we had the flute/organ playing the Sicilliano from the E flat flute sonata (BWV 1031). During the service the choir sang "Jesu bleibet meine Freude". We left to the E flat organ fugue, BWV 552. At the reception afterwards, my violin teacher and her husband played the violin and harpsichord sonata in A major, BWV 1015 (complete, but without repeats). No other composer got a look in, I'm afraid. That's a lot of Bach across 2 weddings but you do want the best on your wedding day, don't you?

My parents had "Schmueke dich, Liebe Seele" at their wedding.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (August 4, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>> I wonder how many other BCW participants managed to find sympathetic musicians (and parents-in-law) to?fit a Bach spot into their wedding services.....? or perhaps how few did not? <<
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I have left specific instructions that at MY funeral the Big "Schmucke Dich" must be played or I will emerge from the casket. >
Almost fell on the floor laughing at this! Did I ever tell you guys the story about an organist friend on vacation in a certain parish abroad, who was practicing 'Wachet auf' one day, then turned around and saw... a casket lying in state waiting for the funeral to happen?

I am not (yet?) married, but my ensemble has promised that they will play at my wedding if it ever happens. And as far as Bach goes, I dream of coming in to the St. Anne's and having the Benedictus from Bach's MBM (BWV 232) sung during the service. I also admit to, um, dreaming of going out to the famous Mendelssohn march, but other than that, as far as I'm concerned, the rest could be all Bach! And at my church that means we could have as many as 5 pieces during the service proper, exclusive of the processional and recessional. I'd vote for doing that rather than strewing God knows what flowers and ribbons all over the church!

 

Continue on Part 3

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

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