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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 198
Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of April 13, 2008 [Continue]

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 14, 2008):
[To Chris Rowson, regarding noch] I am impressed with the fact that this woman's presence is still so highly regarded. Having lived on this side of the pond and not having had access to any information about Christiane Eberhardine - though I have studied quite a bit of history - the enlightenment you bring to this point in discussion takes on more meaning.

Because there are many things I do not know about European history generally as I have studied European history largely in the theological vein, I did not anticipate that BWV 198 would be a big topic. And I had sort of imagined a more limited discussion, and that I would ease out of my final week without being on email too much. So much for imagining.

Obviously I was quite wrong and had I recognized the significance of this work to Europeans and others who know this history I would have taken the time to do the score analysis. As it is, I have three recitals and filming on one to do this week, along with other appointments, so I cannot attempt that approach right now. But since there is considerable important imagery in this work, I have decided to do a score analysis with a little deeper
look to the text in relation to the notes and form at some point in the future. When I have completed this task I will mail it to the group--perhaps later this summer.

I think it is good that you have made your points because we cannot know everything here, and perhaps even some in your area do not realize the contribution this woman made to history.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 14, 2008):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>This depth of feeling is what Bach has expressed so powerfully in the cantata that makes it so particularly impressive – an amazing achievement given the shortage of time. “O Königin, Du stirbest nicht …”<
I see that this is an important point, and so it is worth getting the details as accurate as possible. I believe Doug Cowling is making the opposite argument, that Bach must have had the music prepared in advance, either because the event is so important to Bach, or so inevitable. That is, shortage of time is not a factor.

I am not clear as to whether there is any conflict with the time line, or only with the motivation, as presented by William Hoffman. My impression of his point is that Bach would not have had any music specifically available until the commission was securely in hand for BWV 198. However, there is the suggested analogy with BWV 193a, which was parodied from older material despite the lack of time pressure.

>So what do you think about taking the whole of the Soprano aria 198/3 in triplet rhythms, Ed?<
Sorry I overlooked this question the first time it came around, in the midst of the Diana discussion. In my responses, I did not mean to imply that there has been no discussion of music re BWV 198. Just the opposite, in fact, there is much more than usual. The question is welcome, the sort that stimulates careful listening.

To be responsive, a quick look at a couple references (Whittaker, BWV, no score at hand), and a listen to Scherchen [1], indicate that the triplet phrases are intended to provide contrast, and Scherchen plays the aria exactly that way. Does anyone take the entire aria in triplet rhythms?

Neil Halliday wrote (April 14, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 198 (Mvt. 1)

Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
>in the Breitkopf score, there is a small line above with the same music with a dotted rythm. Here is what the Preface says: "It can be assumed with certainty that the vocal parts were intended to be performed as dotted notes in the same manner, as notated by Bach himself in bars 28, 30, 31, 35, 36, 60, 62, 67 and 68. It is possible that we are witnessing here a remarkable example of Bach's compositional process in which he became increasingly aware of the kind of dotting he wanted in this movement as the work progressed."
I have not listened to any recordings yet, how do they deal with this question?

Of Scherchen [1], Jürgens [4], and Rilling [7] (the recordings I have), only Rilling dots the vocal parts from start to finish. It's not easy to nominate a definite preference in this matter, because other matters such as tempo and phrasing are also important, so one would have to hear a performance where these parameters were constant in order to form an opinion about the dotting; apparently it's not a 'make or break' matter, judging from these examples.

On the matter of tempo, I prefer that of Jürgens [4], Koopman [12], and Parrott [13] (from samples of the latter two), all around 7 mins.

On phrsasing, Jürgens [4] excessively separates the dotted 1/16th notes from the following 1/32nd notes, IMO; from the samples, Parrott [13] and Koopman [12] have more varied phrasing - sometimes connecting the the dotted 1/16th note to the following 1/32nd note with a slur, as shown occasionally in the score, eg, in the second bar, third beat, with the d'amore and gamba parts; and in the 4th bar from the end, with the flute I and violin I parts. Why only these parts are marked in this fashion in the score is a bit of a mystery, similar to the situation with the vocal writing, where only short sections of the vocal parts are notated with the dotted rhythm (Rilling [7] dots all of it, as noted above).

Rilling's version [7] flows nicely enough, though it seems a bit brisk (5.45). Gardiner's brisker tempo (5.17) [10] creates the unfortunate image of the celebrants dancing around the queen's coffin (IMO), but to his credit Gardiner does have more flexibility of phrasing than Fasolis' equally fast version (5.09) [15]. At the other extreme, Scherchen's very slow 9.38 [1], with heavy vocal vibratos heard seemingly from all the members of the Vienna Chamber Academy Choir, makes for a laboured performance.

The score shows other signs of loss or rush, eg, no figured bass extant, or indications of phrasing/articulation for the swinging octaves in the continuo.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (April 14, 2008):
[To William Hoffman, regarding Genesis] Your post answers a question I had about the genesis of the Markus Passion (BWV 247).

At our first rehearsal for the Markus Passion (BWV 247), Julius Stenzel precisely (who conducted the performance) told us that he thought that the Markus Passion (BWV 247) was written prior to BWV 198, as the words fitted the music so well (I hoped I understood him correctly). I was puzzled then to read on our concert notes that "it is probable that the Markus Passion (BWV 247) was first heard on Good Friday, 23rd March 1731" (while BWV 198 was written in 1727). But this interesting hypothesis would confirm that Bach thought well in advance.

No link with this, but last Wednesday Julius told us that there will probaly be a CD of our performance of the Markus Passion (BWV 247), as the recording seemed satisfying. I will be interested to listen to it "from the other side"!

John Pike wrote (April 14, 2008):
[To Chris Rowson, regarding Diana] Sorry to go off topic, but I have read these and other comments about Diana and Camilla with some sadness. I found them quite gauche.

I was never a great fan of Diana, nor am I of Charles or Camilla, but some of these comments are really not in order. Whatever her faults (and there were many), Diana was greatly loved by the Britipeople, and she did indeed do a lot of very good work, much of it already mentioned on list. She also communicated very well with ordinary people. Anyone who saw the mountains of flowers in London after her death could have been left in no doubt about that. I remember seeing footage once of her playing a snippet of the slow movement of Rachmaninov's second piano concerto, with nice touch. I imagine there was a lot more to her than some are prepared to give credit for.

The comments about Camilla's personal appearance were also inappropriate for members of a list where this week we are discussing one of Bach's greatest cantatas, in my view. I have not had time to listen to any recordings this week, but it has always been one of my favourites. I find it extraordinary that Whittaker was unable to appreciate the supreme genius of Bach in the unison passage...indeed a deeply moving moment and entirely appropriate given the libretto at that point.

John Pike wrote (April 14, 2008):
[To Neal Mason, regarding Jean Laaninen] I agree with all this. I, too, have little free time now, but I have greatly enjoyed reading Jean's excellent introductions and, it should be added, the very high standard of contributions (broadly speaking) from list members over the weeks since I rejoined the list. A few years ago, the list was marred by recurrent unpleasantness, in which I must confess I allowed myself to slip, but the current discussions are very enjoyable and stimulating.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 14, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote (regarding Genesis):
< I was puzzled then to read on our concert notes that "it is probable that the Markus Passion (BWV 247) was first heard on Good Friday, 23rd March 1731" (while BWV 198 was written in 1727). But this interesting hypothesis would confirm that Bach thought well in advance. >
Again, there is no evidence to support my presupposition, but I believe that Bach conceived many of his secular cantatas with their eventual reuse as sacred works. The ill-named "parody" technique unfortunately has fostered the Rushed Bach Myth ("Mein Gott, it's Friday night and I don't have a cantata for Sunday!) and the Bored Bach Myth ("Mein Gott, I can't think of another damned cantata; I'll use that old one from What's-Her-Name's funeral") Far from being lesser works because they reused musical material, Bach more often than naught transformed them: the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) and the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) are the greatest examples. In fact, the versions in those works have become "the" versions and the earlier incarnations often considered run-ups. All of these popular Romantic myths do not help get us closer to the real Bach who I believe was the Well-Regulated Bach.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 14, 2008):
BWV 198 - Provenance

Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for Cantata BWV 198.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV198-Ref.htm

Santu de Silva wrote (April 14, 2008):
The rhythms of the French Funeral March pervade this work. It has been some time since I listened to the whole thing, but at least one aria (a contralto aria?) is in that slow 12/8 time, or at least quadruple time with triplets.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 15, 2008):
The text of this cantata contains some striking images, eg, a ray of light (ie, a last glance from the queen) from the starry vaults of heaven (Salem = heavenly Jerusalem, I presume) looking down on the misery of the mourners (Mvt. 1); the tolling bells with their resounding bronze awaking the mourners' souls' terror, and piercing them to the depth of bone marrow and arteries (Mvt. 4); Eternity's sapphire house, with a brightness that makes our day look like night, and our sun appear dark by comparison, drawing the queen's lively glance (in life) away from earth's lowly state (Mvt. 8), and the vanity of the royal purple robe replaced by a pearl-white robe of purity (Mvt. 9), etc.

Th 1/16th note string motive in the 1st recitative (Mvt. 2) appears in the accompaniment of the following soprano aria (Mvt. 3), which has affecting chromatic melismas on "Schmezenswort" ("painful word"). Scherchen [1] gives the violin I part to a solo violin. Rilling [7] is a bit fast and unaffecting. Gardiner [10] probably has one of the finest recordings of this aria (not to ignore the others).

Perhaps the tolling of different size bells is represented by the 1/16th, 1/8th, and 1/4 note figures (broken chords) in the accompaniment of the following recitative (Mvt. 4). Scherchen [1] has pizzicato double bass in the continuo for the largest bell.

The following alto aria (Mvt. 5) is nearly as moving as the "Ewäge" aria in the SJP (BWV 245) (which has 2 violas d'amore, cf. 2 violas da gamba in this movement BWV 198/5); the long-held notes in the instruments are heard later in the voice on the words "starb" (died") and "besiegt" ("vanquished") set to affecting changing tonalities. (Some recordings are a bit light on the long notes on the gambas).

Listening to Jürgens [4], I noticed an independant entry of the fugue subject on the flutes in the central chorus, BWV 198/7 (Mvt. 7). It is in fact the only independent instrumental entry of the fugue subject (apart from the flute entries in the central ritornello); otherwise the instruments double the (fugue subject) vocal entries. This entry of the unison flutes can be heard in the second fugal exposition within the sequence A,S,unison flutes, T, B. The flutes are silent in the first fugal exposition, first appearing in the central ritornello in a dialoque with the gambas. Rilling [7] has a particulaly grand entry of the subject when it appears in the (vocal) bass line doubled by continuo.

The tenor aria (Mvt. 8) is very moving, another candidate for a "Bach's Greatest Hits" selection. (BTW, is Parrott's flute [13] loud enough?) Baldin with Rilling [7] brings a pleasing gentle expression to his voice (for a change?).

In the following movement (Mvt. 9), Scherchen's bass vocalist [1] has a magnificent but gentle bass voice, making this recitative/arioso/accompanied recitative movement a joy to listen to. The harpsichord has arpeggio chords in the arioso that mimic the rhythm of the accompaniment in the preceding aria ie, one (silent 2) three; 1,(silent 2), 3. Some recordings in the arioso reveal the common problem of bass strings 'sawing away' without any treble material. The succession of diminished 7th and minor chords (on woodwinds) in the accompanied recitative reflects the text ("the land loses its eyes' delight").

The final chorus (Mvt. 10) has that affecting combination of sweetness and sorrow that marks the closing of Bach's passions, with a sweeping melody given to 1st violins doubled by woodwinds, that is taken up by the choir in a mostly homophonic setting. (The 12/8 rhythm of this chorus is also seen in the alto aria).

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 15, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The text of this cantata contains some striking images, eg, a ray of light (ie, a last glance from the queen) from ...etc. >
I have saved your notes to my computer so that when I get some time in the summer I can compare what strikes me with what you have written, regarding the score.

Chris Rowson wrote (April 16, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< ...
(1) Does her status as a female politchero make new social advances for women, at the time?
(2) Is her religious affiliation specifically Lutheran, or more generally anti-Catholic.
(3) Was her spiritual affiliation the inspiration for the music, for the fee, or a little of each?
An aside to Chris: good to see you back on-list, with a spirit of give and take in the discussions. I think Diana is principally remembered for her spectacular death, rather than for either her looks or accomplishments (potential or actual). What she shares with Christiane is the willingness to confront and question male hierarchy. Were I a lady, I might admire them both equally, for that quality alone. >
1) I've not been conscious of this as a gender issue, I never thought of it like that before.

2) I have always assumed she was specifically Lutheran, as was all (?) of Saxony.

3) She was an inspiration to the people and they loved her. I'll try to give a bit more background.

I grew up as an English organist, entranced by JSB, but knowing I could never visit Leipzig - it wasn't impossibly far but I'd get shot if I tried. Time went by, the wall came down, and I found myself living in Dresden. And the Frauenkirche was being rebuilt.

I consider myself privileged to have experienced the latter stages of this, and many times as I crossed the bridge looking at the rising profile I thought of how JSB had also seen this. And during this time, I read the Wolff biography and came to understand much better JSB's position in time and space.

It is not possible to spend much time in Dresden without becoming aware of August der Starke - August the Strong. His influence is everywhere, still. As just one example, I will mention the Golden Rider, an extremely imposing statue of August dressed as a Roman emperor mounted on an equally imposing horse. It stands, in splendid isolation at the top of Dresden's Main Street, completely covered in gold.

It survived the famous firestorm of 1945 by being disassembled and stored in a cave by the people of Dresden, and reassembled and restored later.

August's reign (1694-1733) was very much a Golden Age for Saxony. Initially looking to France as the senior monarchy, Saxony's power was secured and increased while that of the ailing Louis XIV waned. By 1715 Saxony was one of the most powerful states in Europe. The capital was Dresden, and Leipzig its 2nd city.

Saxony and its ruling Wettiner dynasty had been supporters of Martin Luther from the beginning, even before the Diet of Worms in 1521. But August wanted to become King of Poland, partly for the royal title - like King Louis of France - as well as for economic and military reasons. He won the necessary battles and the necessary election, but to secure the crown he had to convert to Roman Catholicism.

In the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries, a principle had been established by which the religion of a people must follow that of the ruler. Thus Saxony was going to have to accept an influx of Roman Catholic priests, acceptance that communication of man could no longer be direct but must be mediated by a Latin-speaking priest, that the Lutheran German Bible must be replaced by the Latin form, and that all rituals and rites must be conducted in a language incomprehensible to most Saxons.

I imagine August was very pleased to be turned away from this course. But it was Queen Christiane Eberhardine who was credited with having accomplished this, and she remained the defender of the people´s religion in the eyes of the public, who called her "The Pillar of Saxony". She was also involved in many more projects to benefit the people of Dresden and Saxony, not least the construction of the Frauenkirche.

Her death in 1727 was correspondingly mourned and memorialised. JSB was commissioned to provide music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 16, 2008):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< In the religious upheavals of the 16th and 17th centuries, a principle had been established by which the religion of a people must follow that of the ruler. Thus Saxony was going to have to accept an influx of Roman Catholic priests, acceptance that communication of man could no longer be direct but must be mediated by a Latin-speaking priest, that the Lutheran German Bible must be replaced by the Latin form, and that all rituals and rites must be conducted in a language incomprehensible to most Saxons. >
This description is a tad on the polemical side. Luther assumed that Latin would remain in the liturgy of the church when he produced his two forms of the mass. Bach's choir sang in Latin every Sunday, and not just an optional motet but parts of the ordinary such as the Kyrie, Gloria, Credo and Sanctus.

I'm not sure that history is served by the image of bogeyman Jesuits swarming over Saxony. The Lutheran settlement was established and demanded conformity with civic and ecclesiatical penalties. Clergy were the monitors of this orthodoxy and maintained visitations which were judicial inquisitions. Even Luther was hardly a promoter of the freedom of relgious conscience -- his writings against the Jews are primarily arguments against their refusal to see things his way.

Lutherans did not think of themselves as having individual theological freedom in some proto-democracy. The queen was making a stand for the old establishment of relligion probably out of personal conviction and the Lutherans who benefted materially and politically from that regime were grateful for her stand. The world was a very different place fifty years later in 1776 and 1789.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 16, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'm not sure that history is served by the image of bogeyman Jesuits swarming over Saxony. The Lutheran settlement was established and demanded conformity with civic and ecclesiatical penalties. Clergy were the monitors of this orthodoxy and maintained visitations which were judicial inquisitions. Even Luther was hardly a promoter of the freedom of relgious conscience -- his writings against the Jews are primarily arguments against their refusal to see things his way. >
Going off-topic, but there is an interesting hymn that came out of the 17th century Jesuit evangelization of the natives of Toronto and its environs. They came in with one of their own hymn tunes, and made up a text that was supposed to connect with the natives' own tribal imagery about God, and then gently steering them toward Jesus. It's #17a and #17b here: http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/misc/fillette.htm

To get at that, I worked my way through some 100+ year old library book in French, whose name I don't remember at the moment, but it was in my notes at the time.... It was about the Jesuits' missionary adventures there.

But, the hymn continues to be in hymnals today, usually with the bowdlerized 19th century retranslations such as "Twas in the moon of wintertime", or indexed as "Huron Carol". And Bach used the related chorale melody (the one the Jesuits brought over before changing it) in cantatas BWV 73 and BWV 107, and the Ascension Oratorio BWV 11, and the organ setting BWV 658.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 16, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 198 OFF TOPIC

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< But, the hymn continues to be in hymnals today, usually with the bowdlerized 19th century retranslations such as "Twas in the moon of wintertime", or indexed as "Huron Carol". And Bach used the related chorale melody (the one the Jesuits brought over before changing it) in cantatas BWV 73 and BWV 107, and the Ascension Oratorio BWV 11, and the organ setting BWV 658. >
Di't Charpentier use that tune, "Une Jeune Pucelle," as one of the motifs in the Messe du Minuit?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 16, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Didn't Charpentier use that tune, "Une Jeune Pucelle," as one of the motifs in the Messe du Minuit? >
Yes, and in his little mass that uses other instruments "instead of the organ", too. I found more than 100 settings of it by various composers.

This puts me into the mood to listen to Eustace du Caurroy's consort settings of it right now...if I could remember which CD they're on!

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 16, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski, Chris Rowson & Douglas Cowling] When I studied History of Theology at Fuller, my reading produced very little that would have suggested the actions of women recorded would have had much political influence, let alone changed anything that would have amounted to advancement for women. This is a general statement. If this woman was included in the history of theology it was usually only a line or two in passing.

If she was included in my textbooks which I sold when I retired, my guess is that the emphasis would have been on her stronghold to Lutheranism as her birth and spiritual heritage. Since the marriage endured I'm inclined to think that Augustus the Strong must not have thought any consequences coming from such a decision to be major.

When I have time to analyze the whole score later this summer I will come back to your last question, but I asked a professor friend at ASU what he thought, and he said Bach was deeply and kindly disposed to this woman and it shows in the music. That's a paraphrase, but you get the idea.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 16, 2008):
< This puts me into the mood to listen to Eustace du Caurroy's consort settings of it right now...if I could remember which CD they're on! >
Aha, here it is, track 24: Amazon.com
along with three other settings roughly contemporary with it, 1576-1616.

My mistake, it might not be in the Charpentier "messe pour plusieurs instruments au lieu des orgues" after all; I'm not sure. I was mis-remembering across from Charpentier's "noels pour les instruments", where it's definitely included. Both that and the Midnight Mass are well done in this delightful disc by the Boston Camerata:
Amazon.com

Carry on.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 17, 2008):
BWV 198 OFF TOPIC---Alto Aria and Ken Burns

I have never been a fan of the Ken Burns documentaries that go on forever. In fact I have never watched them but caught snippets of some of them here and there by accidentally having the tele on and leaving it on. Having said that, every time since his Civil War documentary, when I listen to the alto aria of this sui generis cantata, the theme played by the pair of viole da gamba (if only English or rather Italian had a "dual"!) very much puts me in mind of a theme that was used in KB's Civil War. I don't know whether he actually employed Bach's vdaG writing or whether he was just using generic vdaG music.

I am sure that others have noticed this resemblance before.

Anyway,

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 17, 2008):
on-topic joke

Sorry, if this offends anyone. One can always ignore. I however am deeply struck by my own sense of humor in the present case and am only intent on bringing some joviality to anyone who may share my sense of humor and simultaneously be a Bach-devoté(e).

While listening to the Ricercar Consort's recording [17] of BWV 198 (the cantata which I personally have more recordings of than any other),I recalled that, when I first posted on that recording when it appeared, another lister found it too anemic vel sim bc. of the OVPP chorus.

Personally I have no doctrinaire viewpoint on OVPP. If it works, it works; if it don't, it don't. For me it works on this recording of this work gloriously.

Anyway I had come to listen to the recording tonight after shutting the debate of the two Democratic candidates (couldn't take it no more, no more) but then I recalled that Hillary said to Barack that, IF they sang Bach OVPP in my church.....

That's it,

Chris Rowson wrote (April 17, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This description is a tad on the polemical side. . >
More ignorant than polemical, I´m afraid, Doug. Or not historically informed - I´m no historian, I was just doing my best because this aspect didn´t seem to have been covered here.

I do think the queen was very much perceived by the public - rightly or wrongly - as protecting them from being forced into Catholicism. This perception persists even in present-day Dresden. The building of the Frauenkirche was also associated with her, and that towering dome was very much an assertion of independence from, if not defiance of, August´s Catholicism.

It is significant that it was not possible to hold the major act of public mourning for this very popular Queen in her own capital city.

BWV 198 is a very special cantata, and I think these circumstances explain why.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Chris Rowson] I am very glad that you shared your perspective Chris. When you've lived where people still discuss these things you have first-hand knowledge of how the matter exists in people's mind's even today. Those of us who have the little knowledge of this cantata that we have gained only recently are enriched by the experiences and opinions of others. I would like to see more of your detailed thoughts on the cantatas in the future. History is a compound/complex matter and the post that you gave us provides the kind of detail that would encourage one to read further on this topic in the future.

William Hoffman wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] William Hoffman replies to the most recent posting that gives me a reply opportunity:

I have just finished reading the first two chapter's of Carol Baron's recent book, Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Comunity, Univ. of Rochester Press, 2006. As editor, she also is author of the first two chapters, 1. "Transitions, Transformations, Reversals: Rethinking Bach's World," and 2, "Tumultuous Philosophers, Pious Rebels, Revolutionary Teachers, Pedantic Clerics, Vengeful Bureaucrats, Threatened Tyrants, Worldly Mystics: The Religious World Bach Inherited." The titles themselves tell a lot. My initital impression is that Bach's Time and World was an incredible era of ferment and he was right in the thick of it. Major currents included, of couse, the Enlightenment, Lutherans involved in three directions (Orthodoxy, Pietism, and Reform), and Protestant and Catholic finding common ground and accomodation thru Rationalism, Absolutism, Skepticism, and Heterdoxy.

Here's the concluding paragraph of Chapter 2 (p.73f): "By focusing on the variety of shared religious, philosophical, and spiritual experiences Bach's community shared, this essay attempts to facilitate entry into that vortex of flux and fusions. It encourages the reader to compare the complexities in Bach's world to the disparate religious parameters in our own. Beyond that, this essay presents the view of a complex world that was worthy because of its multifaceted aspirations and enthusiasms, of the monumentally great musician who made his way there." I would add: ...and who was profoundly influenced by all of it and in turn left a towering legacy that endures and enlivens all posterity.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] The very titles of these chapters are simply astounding. This is one book I am going to add to my reading list.

Chris Rowson wrote (April 17, 2008):
BWV 198-3 (Mvt. 3)

I wrote:
>So what do you think about taking the whole of the Soprano aria BWV 198/3 (Mvt. 3) in triplet rhythms, Ed?<
And Ed Myskowski replied:
"To be responsive, a quick look at a couple references (Whittaker, BWV, no score at hand), and a listen to Scherchen [1], indicate that the triplet phrases are intended to provide contrast, and Scherchen plays the aria exactly that way. Does anyone take the entire aria in triplet rhythms?
I´ve not heard it done in triplets, other than in my imagination. I also haven´t seen a score of the cantata other than the V&P available here. It just struck me when I looked at it like one of those cases where everybody reads it according to 20th century conventions and never wonders about it.

But when I read the score it just seems to me to be crying out for triplets throughout. So then I wonder how JSB would have notated that if he had intended it, and think, "Well, like this". Whereas reading it according to the 20th C convention (as the recordings apparently do) gives an effect which I find limping, with that perpetual backwards and forwards between twos and threes.

For example, it flows so beautifully in bars 5 to 8 that it seems a terrible shame to play pedantically "egal" in bars 10 to 15, and then to find disjointed triplets in bars 16 and 17, before the flow is resumed in bar 18. It seems like a fight.

Admittedly, the later text does indeed speak of vanished peace and of strife, but did JSB intend to word-paint that when he wrote the Trauerode? And if so, what do the lyrically flowing triplets represent? And Gottsched´s original text has in any case a very different message, speaking of "lovely lyres".

Julian Mincham wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Chris Rowson] There are good examples of Bach's playing with the 2 and 3 groupings within a particular movement and the tensions that they produce. One of my farourites is the first movement of the Fm keyboard concerto. The opening bars are stolidly 2/4 with a bass line constructed from a repeated figure thus---quaver, two semi-quavers and then two more quavers. Half way through the (lengthy) ritornello the main melodic line becomes a stream of continuous triplets which dominate much of the rest of the movement. However the foursquare bass figure is also retained throughout creating a delicious rhythmic tension between the outer parts, most notably in the climactic section near the end over a repeated dominant pedal. I think that Bach is also deliberately playing with the 2 against 3 rhythmic groupings in this aria from BWV 198 and, in this case at least, I don't see any need to assume an archaic form of notation which is intended to convey something different from what is actually written on the page.

A final point about the Fm concerto is the subtle, almost throw-away reference to the triplet grouping at the end of the first phrase, a masterpiece of compositional skill (and artistic judgement) in preparing the listener for what is to come later.

Lissette Jimenez wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] I know, right? I'm building my Bach library, and it's great to see a positive review of a new book pertaining to Bach.

Thanks for the recommendation

Nessie (Anne) Russell wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman, regarding jok] I don't get it. I think only Americans would get it.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 17, 2008):
Chris Rowson wrote:
> I´ve not heard it done in triplets, other than in my imagination. I also haven´t seen a score of the cantata other than the V&P available here. It just struck me when I looked at it like one of those cases where everybody reads it according to 20th century conventions and never wonders about it.<
Give this a try (for access to the BGA, if you have acrobat reader): http://www.kantate.info/BG/BGA_BWV198.pdf

No convention there (20th C or otherwise), it's obviously written as Bach intended it to be played.

Bars 28-30 in particular make this clear (or rather, one can see there is no possibility of a 'convention' applying); after two beats of 'duplets', the violin I line is specifically written in continuous triplets, while the voice part, with 1/16th notes, remains "egal".

In bar 9, the strings fall silent (thus obeying the text - the OCC refers to this as a "Bachian pun"); the continuo has a solidly 'square' rhythm (albeit syncopated); perhaps Bach does not wish the violins to sound too 'lively' staightaway.

[The situation with the dotted notes in the choral parts of the 1st movement is less certain; having been made aware of it, I think (though not sure yet) I like Rilling's approach [7] (dotting all the vocal as well as the instrumental parts].

Terejia wrote (April 17, 2008):
First, I thought I could postpone my own comment to next week, but then I remembered this is the last week to have Jean as our discussion leader.

I consider this to be superb example of h-moll cantata. Somehow, I find my favorite pieces in this particular key. It might be a special key for this greatly admired composor, though I lack in academic knowledge.

Neil Halliday wrote:
< Th 1/16th note string motive in the 1st recitative appears in the > accompaniment of the following soprano aria, which has affecting > chromatic melismas on "Schmezenswort" ("painful word"). Scherchen [1] gives the violin I part to a solo violin. Rilling [7] is a bit fast and unaffecting. Gardiner probably has one of the finest recordings of this aria (not to ignore the others). >
which just reminds me of terzet by soprano-tenor-alto/solo-violin in BWV 248 Part 5, BWV 244 "Erbarme Dich", (just a subjective association): http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/27352

I enjoyed your beautiful inspirational writing at the beginning paragraph in the post.

Terejia wrote (April 17, 2008):
belated thank you to Julian

Julian Mincham wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/27344
Thank you for your information, Julian. I will look for BWV 135 CD and come back to this interesting topic
later.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Terejia] Cheers?? Let me know what you think of it.?

Peter Smaill wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Terejia] A very interesting thought and observatiuon regarding this work - is B minor a key special to Bach? Both this and the B minor Mass (BWV 232) were dedicated or gifted to the Saxon royal house.

The B Minor Mass however does not much work for this possibility. It was never so called by Bach and in point of fact the bulk of it is in the relative major key, i.e. D major.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 17, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The B Minor Mass (BWV 232) however does not much work for this possibility. It was never so called by Bach and in point of fact the bulk of it is in the relative major key, i.e. D major. >
It's interesting that Bach never gave the B Minor (BWV 232) a title: the title page merely lists the names of the principal sections. The Bach family refrred to it as "The Great Catholic Mass" as it called the St. Matthew (BWV 244), "The Great Passion" (or Big Passion)

John Pike wrote (April 17, 2008):
[To Terejia] An interesting thought. I'm very fond of the first violin and harpsichord sonata in B minor, but then I love them all!

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 20, 2008):
BWV 198 recordings

The recording by Thomas/American Bach Soloists [11] is worthy of special mention, see comments by Aryeh from the first cycle discussions. I expect to have the well-received Ricercar [17] for comparison soon. In the meantime, the Thomas alto movements (Mvt. 4 and Mvt. 5) strike me as especially outstanding, Mvt. 4 for the delicate expression of the pealing of bells, Mvt. 5 for the crisp 12/8 rhythm, and both for the vocals by Judith Malafronte. Not to be missed, for those who enjoy a female alto (and to be avoided for exactly that reason, if a counter-tenor is your requirement). The entire performance shows clear textures and balance, with the special instrumentation (gambas and lutes) articulated throughout. The 12/8 dance character of the closing chorus (Mvt. 10) is emphasized, as pointed out by William Hoffman

Thanks to everyone who contributed to the stimulating discussion of this work, and of the recordings. For me, its special character came out by considering it in chronology, and in relation to the Passions, especially first SMP (BWV 244) of April 1727.

Stephen Benson wrote (April 21, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< I do not feel the final chorus dissatisfying at all. For me the dance-like music expresses the idea that the dead princess will always be there in the memory of her people and be their joy and proudness. >
I just wanted to throw my hat in with Thérèse and the few others who find the dance-like quality central to their appreciation of the final chorus (Mvt. 10). The rocking triplet rhythm, the lilting upward punctuation at the end of each phrase, the arching melodic line that follows---all those musical elements carrying a text proclaiming "Thou shalt not die!" and testifying to Christiane Eberhardine’s "joy and fame" produce a chorus that, to me, is a celebration and affirmation of the life of the deceased princess. This kind of thinking, I would suggest, does not take place in a vacuum. I doubt that anyone who has experienced the ecstatic outpouring of life through music at the end of a New Orleans jazz funeral can question its legitimacy or authenticity.

I am also quite taken with the resemblances between this chorus and the rondo finale of Beethoven's Piano Sonata Op. 10, No. 3. Here we find the same upward inflection at the end of three-note figures (not triplets, but three-note figures nevertheless) followed by an arching line of a remarkably similar melodic shape. It's almost as if Beethoven has condensed, at a time when he was actively experimenting with concentrating themes and ideas, the essential elements of Bach's entire chorus into the rondo's first four measures. That the sonata was dedicated to the Countess Margarete von Browne, wife of one of his aristocratic Viennese patrons, makes the correspondences even more intriguing.

 

Continue on Part 5

Cantata BWV 198: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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