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Cantata BWV 198
Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

198 and which passion!!!!

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 19, 2008):
One of our announcers speaking of some forthcoming program (i didn't pay attention) said of BWV 198 that it encapsulates the essence of the Saint John Passion.

Whatever,

John Pike wrote (May 19, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] I'm sure he meant the St Mark passion (music lost). It is now generally accepted that Bach used the same music in both works.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 19, 2008):
[To Yoël L. Arbeitman] John is of course correct.
The info is also presented at the main page of Cantata BWV 198.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV198.htm
Most recordings of Markus-Passion BWV 247 use the reconstruction of Diethard Hellmann, based on 5 Mvts. from BWV 198, among others.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV247.htm

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 20, 2008):
Yes, Aryeh and John, I knew what he meant. Did he know what he meant? The trouble is that these announcers are not necessary for the informed. They mislead those who would like to be informed. Not all of us come from homes, let's say, where our parents hand on such knowledge. Many of us, I as a younger person when I was, depend for our education on such announcers and, when they do not do their homework but simply state something they vaguely remember, they are doing an ill-service.

That's my two cents.

As to recreating the Markus, I think that's an awful idea personally. Recently I relistened the Lukas and was very moved by it. I find it to have wonderful music and, if we forget to compare Bach, it is a very satisfying work.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 20, 2008):
Yoel wrote:
>I knew what he meant. Did he know what he meant?<
Perhaps he did, and he simply misspoke? Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who can keep track? Not so easy to go back and fix a mistake on the radio, not as simple as posting a correction on BCML.

Personally, I am much more concerned with the BBC hyperbole, which appears intentional.

Anyway, it just goes to show, you cant trust anyone anymore. Especially radio.

 

Is 'Der Ewigkeit Saphirnes Haus' from Trauerode, BWV 198, a chaconne?

Navneeth wrote (September 23, 2010):
I have been listening to Bach's choral and vocal works only recently. One piece of music that became an instant favourite on first listen is the aria mentioned in the title of this post. After listening to the work a couple of times, it resembled (to me, at least) a chaconne (or a passacaglia?) in its style. Looking a score up will not help me confirm or refute my suspicion since I'm not musically trained -- I'm basing this simply on my familiarity with a few other Baroque pieces which I know are chaconnes. And Google hasn't been much of a help, either. I hope someone here will be able to answer my question.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 24, 2010):
Navneeth wrote:
< I have been listening to Bach's choral and vocal works only recently. One piece of music that >became an instant favourite on first listen is the aria [BWV 198/8 (Mvt. 8)] mentioned in the title of this post. After listening to the work a couple of times, it resembled (to me, at least) a chaconne (or a passacaglia?) in its style. >
This strikes me as a reasonable interpretation, although I also do not see (from a quick look) that anyone else has commented on it. Note recent discussion, to the effect that you cannot get instant wisdom via Google. You can, however, usually get a start on where to look. In this instance, as in most questions relative to Bach, the bach-cantatas website is the source of choice.

Note comments (Neil H.) from the BCW archives re BWV 198, identifying his impression of dance forms, with no mention of Mvt. 8.
<Bach's autograph score calls the work a "Tombeau," which is for "instruments douces" and for the occasion. Two movements have a dance feel. The alto aria (Mvt. 5) is a pastorale and the closing chorus is a gigue.>

Note also that it is not mentioned by Little and Jenne, <Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach.> However, their comment (p. 202) is relevant:
<In contrast to the wealth of information about the chaconne and passacaglia in France, there is no firm evidence concerning these dances in Germany at the time of Bach.> (end quote)

They choose to discuss only movements specifically so titled by Bach.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 24, 2010):
[To Navneeth] Well it's in 3/4 time, and that's a good reason to suspect a dance form. But I have a hunch this maybe more a "tombeau" form in this instance. It's not labeled as such in the score, but the form is used in cantatas by Bach's peers, including Graupner, and Telemann, and Fasch.

"Nevertheless, certain typical onomatopoetic features were used:repeated note motifs depicting the knocking of Death at the door, ascending or descending diatonic or chromatic scales which depict the soul's tribulation and transcendence. Froberger's Lamentation on the Death of Ferdinand III or the Meditation sur ma Mort Future would be a prime example of such a form. Some tombeaux include a motif of four descending notes, a metaphor for grief given influential expression by John Dowland in his Lachrimae (1604)."

Hope this helps!

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 24, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Two questions:
(1) What is the source of the quotation?
(2) The tombeaux sounds like a special usage of passacaglia. Is this accurate? Compare this weeks cantata, BWV 12, Mvt. 2, for example, which is characterized by Dürr as a chaconne.

I think Little and Jenne are spot on: none of these terms are precisely defined, nor precisely distinguished from each other, in German baroque usage. <There is no firm evidence of these dances in Germany at the time of Bach.>, and <Dance as a premise is only a distant memory, however, in the gigantic Ciaconna that concludes the Fourth Sonata for solo violin (BWV 1004).>

I find the observation by Navneeth to be interesting and accurate. Surprisingly enough, it also appears novel, whether we choose to call the form chaconne, passacaglia, or tombeaux.

Origins of the Dance of Death? Let us Google that.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 24, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Two questions:
(1) What is the source of the quotation? >
Wikipedia.

< (2) The tombeaux sounds like a special usage of passacaglia. Is this accurate? Compare this weeks cantata, BWV 12, Mvt. 2, for example, which is characterized by Dürr as a chaconne. >
I don't that's accurate at all since the tombeau is very distinctive, and used in connection with death, funeral marches, and the like. Graupner uses the form to great effect (with trumpet sand timpani!) in some of his orchestral suites.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 24, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Not comparing like with like. Tombeau denotes a style or function of a piece written in memory of someone. It could, theortically make use of any given musical structure. Chaconne and passicaglia are the names of actual musical structures, in their cases indicating a particular repetitive use of the material. This movement is not one composed using one of those strict forms as it the one quoted from BWV 12.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 24, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks for pointing out the distinction. I posted rather quickly last evening, and came to the same conclusion afterwards. In fact, Gilles Cantagrel in his notes to the Ricercar CD of BWV 198: <Bach entitled his score Tombeau de Sa Majeste la Reigne de Pologne.> That is, tombeau is the function of the entire cantata, not the musical structure of any particular movement(s).

Julian, do you have a description of the structure of BWV 198/8 (Mvt. 8), the tenor aria under discussion, which sounded like a chaconne to Nanveeth (and with which I agreed from a quick relistening)? I did look at the BCW home page, but see that you do not as yet have a link to commentary there.

A correction to my previous posts: the comments re dance character of particular movements (not including No. 8) which I attributed to Heil H. were in fact posted by William Hoffman in earlier discussions, now archived at BCW.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 24, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] I have been researching and working on the (nearly) 40 secular cantatas over the last five months and they are now ready to upload. I will be doing this next week and also rejigging the site. I have categorised them as--cantatas for weddings, funerals, municipal events, cantatas of homage and those for sundry or unknown events. BWV 198 was not strictly speaking composed for the funeral but it fits well into that category so it is shortly to go on line as one of the secular bunch.

In the meantime I will send you the essay off line (I have sent some notes to Navneeth off line after his initial question).

Navneeth wrote (September 25, 2010):
Hello, everyone. Thanks to all those who answered my query. While I will admit that some of the discussion and terminology flew over my head, I'm glad that it set off a discussion from which I can possibly learn more about Bach's music.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 2, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Not comparing like with like. Tombeau denotes a style or function of a piece written in memory of someone. It could, theortically make use of any given musical structure. Chaconne and passicaglia are the names of actual musical structures, in their cases indicating a particular repetitive use of the material. This movement is not one composed using one of those strict forms as it the one quoted from BWV 12 >
Well, the problem is that "chaconne" and "passacaglia" both have two meanings:

1) A dance

2) A set of variations over a repeating bass line

As far as this movement goes, as we can tell, there's debate about the former, but it's certainly not the latter. The bass does begin with an initial descent, which is common in passacaglia/chaconne basses, but just a coincidence here. It repeats anew when the voice enters, but this is just a function of ritornello "form" (which isn't a form at all, but rather a technique).

I'm not sure what the original poster intended... I read it as asking if it was a set of variations, but both Kim and Ed assumed the question was concerning a dance form.

Hope this helps,

P. S. You're exactly right about "tombeau", which denotes a function, not a style or structure. From the French for tomb, it's simply a musical commemoration.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (October 2, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< P. S. You're exactly right about "tombeau", which denotes a function, not a style or structure. From the French for tomb, it's simply a musical commemoration. >
Well, I'm not so sure about that. The tombeau definitely has a particular style, at least in early 18th century instrumental music: The wikipedia article describes several elements of the Tombeau. Having worked on many of the Graupner suites, I can verify that he emulates many of the points outlined in that article, which makes sense because the Darmstadt court (and Ernst Ludwig) was so in love with the French style of instrumental music. You can also hear at least two examples of Tombeau's on the CPO website:
http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/art/Christoph-Graupner-Ouvert%FCren-GWV-420-421/hnum/3661472
If this url doesn't work, make sure you don't have a line break in the address bar (Yahoo mail may reformat the text in such a way as to insert one).

Graupner also used the tombeau in several arias in his cantatas. Intensely morose music making (especially the ones with chalumeau)

Julian Mincham wrote (October 2, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< Hope this helps, >
Not at all sure that it does! The 3/4 dance origins of these forms are both archaic and the contemporary use of these terms tends to related to the (repeated) use of the material, not the outdated notions of dance (completely lost by the 18th century and even more so today) which in any case seems to have no relevance for the movement under discussion. If it is a dance (which many Bach movements are) I don't see it.

Also the distinction between 'form' and 'technique' is a spurious one. Where does fugue lie in this? Of course it is both----- as is ritornello form.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 2, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Well, I'm not so sure about that. The tombeau definitely has a particular style, at least in early 18th century instrumental music: >
Well, first I'm hardly an expert here, and I don't at all disagree with your experience in Graupner's music. My statements are based on the Grove article on Tombeau, by Michael Tilmouth and David Ledbetter. As I read it, though there may be stylistic associations with the tombeau genre, what makes it a tombeau is it's function (that of a memorial/commemoration) rather than any particular musical device. Certainly by the time of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries this is true, but that's of course beyond the scope of this list.

Julian Mincham wrote:
< Not at all sure that it does! The 3/4 dance origins of these forms are both archaic and the contemporary use of these terms tends to related to the (repeated) use of the material, not the outdated notions of dance (completely lost by the 18th century and even more so today) which in any case seems to have no relevance for the movement under discussion. If it is a dance (which many Bach movements are) I don't see it. >
Your original email said: "Chaconne and passicaglia are the names of actual musical structures, in their cases indicating a particular repetitive use of the material." All I had meant to say was that though that is the usage of these terms now, and fore the most part in the eighteenth century, they were at one time terms that referred to
dances.

That being said, it doesn't really matter. I'm sure the original poster was referring to the use of a repeating bass pattern. This movement, as has been said, is not an instance of that.

Julian continues:
< Also the distinction between 'form' and 'technique' is a spurious one. Where does fugue lie in this? Of course it is both----- as is ritornello form. >
I confess, I would beg to differ on this. Rather I would say that there's something of a continuum between the two. A binary dance form is surely a "form". There's a regular harmonic structure, phrase structure, length, and so on. If one were to write a movement that didn't comply with this form, it would be deemed a poor composition, I imagine. This is why Koch and so many others use dance forms to teach compositional techniques.

That said, I agree with you about 'fugue' and 'ritornello', neither of which are forms in the same way that a binary dance is. Sonata form lies somewhere in between the two, I'd say, especially in the eighteenth century. (I'd go on to give examples, but sonata form is certainly off topic on a Bach list.)

Neil Halliday wrote (October 3, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>If it is a dance (which many Bach movements are) I don't see it.<
I agree; at most it might suggest dance in the abstract in a highly stylized form.

I have noticed the similarity of the motion of the continuo's crotchets to the bass line of Bach's famous organ passacaglia - with the emphasis on the first and third beats of the bar (in 3/4 time) - confirming Navneeth's original impressions of a chaccone/passacaglia-like character in this beautiful aria. (Not every recording emphasizes this motion; I prefer those that do).

Neil Halliday wrote (October 3, 2010):
Navneeth wrote:
>After listening to the work a couple of times, it resembled (to me, at least) a chaconne (or a passacaglia?) in style.<
The continuo's motion, consisting of crotchets on the first and third beats of the bar (un 3/4 time), is certainly similar the rhythm of Bach's famous organ passacaglia.

The poetic images of this beautiful aria are especially striking: In Heaven ("eternity's saphire house") the princess, transfigured, and removed from the lowliness of earth's state, is now enclosed in the brightness of a thousand suns that make our day look like midnight and our sun seem dark.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 3, 2010):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< I confess, I would beg to differ on this. Rather I would say that there's something of a continuum between the two. A binary dance form is surely a "form". There's a regular harmonic structure, phrase structure, length, and so on. >
This is the basis of an interesting debate--what precisely is 'musical form' and how might one define it?

Actually, Evan, I disagree with your rather conscribed definition of binary form. I would say that the 'regular harmonic structures, phrase structures, length etc' are not defined in the case of binary form. Bach and Scarlatti write binary form pieces which differ in all three aspects from each other. Nor does it define the use of material. I can quote you Scarlatti movements which have up to 6 individual themes. Compare that with, say the gavotte from the 5th French suite in which all the material is derived from the initial bar. The thing that defines binary form (I would suggest) is thatit is constructed of two complementary parts thr first of which is unfinished, (usually but not always modulating to a related key) the second of which is finished (and which, according to length, may or may not modulate to further keys) it is, therefore, an extension of the simple principle of the question and answer phrase. Ternary form is different and slightly more conscribed adding another dimension in that it presrcribes the reuse of material---as does rondo-----in Binary form, material may or may not be recapitulated. Fugue adds yet another dimension, that of texture---try writing a homophonic fugue!

To get back to where we came in, I didn't think it helpful to apply a term which communicates something about the character or function of the music as if it says something about its structure and the way the musical materials are used by the composer---'cos it simply doesn't!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 3, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>If it is a dance (which many Bach movements are) I don't see it.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I agree; at most it might suggest dance in the abstract in a highly stylized form.
I have noticed the similarity of the motion of the continuo's crotchets to the bass line of Bach's famous organ passacaglia - with the emphasis on the first and third beats of the bar (in 3/4 time) - confirming Navneeth's original impressions of a chaccone/passacaglia-like character in this beautiful aria. (Not every recording emphasizes this motion; I prefer those that do). >

Neil I suspect you have hit the nail on the head (in this and your other email) in noting that the shape of the theme is similar to that of certain well known chaccones or passicaglias.

However, it is clear that the material is certainly not subsequently developed as such. But this may well account for the confusion.

 

Continue on Part 6

Cantata BWV 198: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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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