Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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 199
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut
Discussions - Part 1

A little book

Anthony Owen Colby wrote (June 21, 1998):
No one knows when or how Anna Magdalena met J.S. I have written a chapter about the meeting, but it is a novel---and I don't care to discuss it or reveal it on the Internet since it is in the formative stages. Bach scholars would cringe at what I've done, but---, the more I read about the social history of the times the more liberties I take with 'possibilities'. I placed her at the age of 12 and she sang for him in a practice room. She was 20 when they married.

What have you read concerning the wedding? I've not found anything of substance. As far I know, no one knows in which room they were married, whom, other than Leopold and his wife to be, were there. No one knows if Sebastian and Magdalena lived in the castle afterwards. If you know something about the wedding, I'd be grateful to hear from you.

I personally think this marriage was a major factor in Bach's life and has totally been ignored---for good reason, as we don't know much. On the other hand, there is an abundance of circumstantial evidence to create a 'fiction' about it. If you get a chance, read Otto Bettman's "J.S. Bach, As His World Knew Him'. He devoted some very interesting pages to the marriage and how important she was to him.

[22] And when you get time I'd love to hear about your studied in the cantatas. Through Koopman's CD's I'm learning so much---it is like discovering the treasures in Pharoah's tomb, all this music hitherto so infrequently played or neglected altogether. And, for me, studying Magdalena, so much of relevance. She was believed to have sung BWV 199 (Mein Herz Schwimmt im Blut) at Köthen. When I listen to the Amsterdam's rendition of it I get gooseflesh---for the main aria, while having a decidedly religious theme, cold easily be a haunting love song if the lyrics were different. It's a haunting melody in any respect.

You mentioned Magdalena's father. He and her brothers and brothers in law give rise to some marvellous speculation about what she might have learned and for whom some of the music may have been written, for her father, a brother and two (or was it three) brothers in law were trumpeters in castles!

This becomes very ironic and plaintive when you realise she spent the last years in an almshouse and at night a trumpeter tolled the midnight hours away. What memories must have coursed her mind.

 

Never in America!

Russ Weber wrote (August 12, 1999):
Earlier this week, I went in to New York City and saw the Broadway play, Cabaret. It was more bawdy and crude than the movie, but it was a very polished professional performance.

I had forgotten that the plot included the beginnings of the Nazi persecution of Jews. I had just read an article about someone (I can't recall... just another senior moment) who stated that he denounced a God who could permit a Holocaust.

[10] The next day I selected a tape to listen to on my daily walk, by my favourite soprano Elly Ameling performing Bach's cantata BWV 199 (Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut).

I reflected on the strange bifurcated legacy of the German people that produced both the genocidal Godlessness of the Nazis, and the beautiful religious music of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Then I read about the "Wake up call to America to kill the Jews." Never in America, I thought. Things were different in the Germany after WWI. The Germans were defeated and humiliated... they were suffering through political and economic unrest... in the midst of a murderous inflation... and looking for a strong leader and a saviour to lead them back to respectability.

Then I remembered the words of Herr Schultz in Cabaret, that he was more than a Jew, he was a German.

How will Americans react to this "Call To America" and to the continuing availability of assault type of guns to every hatemonger who wants to use them?

 

Teldec vs. Hänssler "Complete" Bach Editions

Wim Huisjes wrote (October 7, 1999):
Sybrand Bakker wrote:
< She has never sung with Herreweghe. A few years ago however there was an Elly Ameling Edition published by either Philips or Decca (probably Philips) and I remember there was one volume devoted to Bach. There should be some on the market! >
Could you tell us more about an Elly Ameling Edition? All I know is the following: the only Ameling set from Philips is a 4 CD set with Schubert songs (I think about to be re-released in the series "Dutch Masters"). She recorded a few cantatas on Philips (Raymond Leppard conducting the ECO: BWV 51, 80, 140 & as part of a 5 CD box: "13 sacred cantatas" (Helmut Winschermann conducting the Deutsche Bachsolisten: BWV BWV 32, BWV 51, BWV 57, BWV 199) [10]. Several Philips Bach cantata recordings with Ameling never made it on CD. She did participate in 4 secular cantatas on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi, with the Collegium Aureum. So I'd be very curious about any Ameling Edition (can't be on Decca).

 

Kruidvat cantatas?

Johan van Veen wrote (February 1, 2000):
Eltjo M. wrote:
[29]< Any expert opinions yet on the latest 2 Kruidvat boxes with cantatas? >
I bought both sets (Cantatas, Vols.III and IV) last Thursday. I haven't had the opportunity yet to listen to all of them carefully. I have played them all just to see whether they were technically alright. As we know by now, you have to listen from a technical point of view, since too many Kruidvat CD's have technical failures. Fortunately I haven't heard any irregularities.

Earlier today I have listened more extensively to two of the cantatas from vol. III, BWV 106 and BWV 199. This CD (the second of the set) has been sensitively programmed, since both these cantatas and the third (BWV 161) have in common that they are all early works (between 1705 and 1715). They also have in common a somewhat sombre mood: BWV 106 and BWV 161 about death and BWV 199 about sin and repentance. They all end - as is usual with Bach's cantatas - on a positive note. The two first cantatas on this disc represent perhaps the best and the worst performances of this edition so far. (Snip paragraph about BWV 106)

BWV 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, is a solo cantata for soprano, oboe, strings and bc. It is a very contrasting cantata which goes from an aria (preceded by a recitative) full of grief, to a joyous gigue on the words 'Wie freudig ist mein Herz'. This performance is certainly one of the worst in this series. Ruth Holton doesn't know what to do with the text. In the first recitative all words which ask for special treatment (because they are crucial for what the cantata is all about), are not taken any notice of, like 'Süden', 'Ungeheuer', 'Pein', 'Höllenhenker', 'Lasternacht', 'Schmerz' etc. The whole performance - by singer and orchestra - misses the tension that this recitative distinguishes. The first aria is too fast, therefore the sighing motifs in the oboe part don't come across strongly enough. The second aria is too slow. It is, as one commentator writes, an aria with broad Händelian gestures. You won't hear that here. The poignant contrast between the A and B section has almost disappeared. A faster tempo in the A section could have made that contrast much stronger. The last aria is the best, although with a livelier articulation it could have been a lot more joyous.

There are the usual problems with pronunciation. Ruth Holton sings 'Seufzer' as 'seuf-ser' in stead of 'seuf-tser'. She does it several times - was everybody else asleep? There are also some errors in the text as sung compared with the text printed in the booklet. The first recitative says: 'Mein ausgedorrtes Herz will ferner mehr kein Trost befeuchten' - no comfort can moisten my dried out heart anymore. Ruth Holton sings: 'befruchten' (fertilise). What sdoes that make? It is fair to say that Ruth Holton is the main liability in this series. Couldn't she be replaced by someone else?

 

Brilliant Classics - Bach Cantatas. Vols. 3&4

Johan van Veen wrote (February 23, 2000):
[29] Some time ago I have already written about some of the cantatas from the latest sets in the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition. Since then I have listened to these two sets more extensively, and I am going to give my opinion on them. Hopefully others will give theirs.

The first two sets have been criticised by several people in this newsgroup. Are these two sets (volumes III and IV) any better? In some respects they are. There is some improvement in the performances of Bas Ramselaar. I also liked Nico van der Meel better than in the previous sets. The orchestra and choir give some very vivid performances of a couple of opening choruses. In other respects there isn't. As said before, Ruth Holton remains her inexpressive self. I can't see real progress in Knut Schoch's performances either. There are the usual differences between the text as printed (the NBA-text) and the text that is sung. The booklets haven't improved - on the contrary: in contrast to the first two sets, these two volumes have booklets with lots of printing errors. (Snip)

As far as Ruth Holton is concerned: she doesn't show any improvement. As I wrote earlier, her performance of cantata BWV 199 (Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut) is one of the worst of this edition, and maybe one of the worst I have ever heard. Just another example: Cantata BWV 150, the aria 'Doch bin und bleibe ich vergnügt'. She doesn't do a lot with words like 'toben', 'Kreuz', 'Sturm', 'Tod' and 'Höll'. She has problems with the low notes on 'Höll'. She is easily beaten by a boy: just listen to Ansgar Pfeiffer in the Teldec-recording. Ms Holton is the main liability of this recording. Wasn't there an alternative? What about a young German singer, like Nele Gramß? She would certainly have given far better performances. And she wouldn't have had pronunciation-problems. The contributions of the Dutch soprano Marjon Strijk (BWV 106 and a recitative in BWV 138) are too small to assess whether she could replace Ms Holton. (Snip)

 

Bach cantatas on Brilliant classics

Johan van Veen wrote (March 28, 2000):
Michael Osoffsky wrote:
[29] < Has anyone heard any of these sets of Bach cantatas. I am assuming they are on period instruments. How are the interpretations and playing? Is it worth getting all of the volumes? >
There are very different opinions on this series. I have bought them all (yesterday I purchased Vols.5 & 6), and have written about it in some Usenet-newsgroups and on a Dutch Bach site. It strikes me that some people get pretty angry when one has the guts to say that these recordings are basically disappointing (or worse). The recordings have been ill prepared. They didn't always have the Neue Bach-Ausgabe at hand. I understand that the soloists used their own scores, obviously sometimes old ones, since there are differences between the text they are singing and the text of the NBA (which is printed in the booklets). And then this only regards the text. Who knows how many wrong notes are played, compared with the NBA... They are recording all cantatas within one year. Everyone knows that that's impossible. Even people like Koopman and Suzuki who are working very hard, can't do that. (Snip)

As far as the soloists are concerned: Ruth Holton sings like a treble - I like that, but the trebles in the Teldec series are far more expressive than she is. The solo cantata BWV 199 is a striking example - almost everything that can go wrong, is going wrong. And apart from that she has problems with the pronunciation. (Snip)

Whether it is worth purchasing these recordings is up to you to decide. I buy them because I want to know how they are, and because of Sytse Buwalda. But I would never buy any of them if they were more expensive than they are. Basically this isn't a bargain - a bargain is something you buy for a lower price than it is worth. This series isn't worth a penny more than its actual price.

 

Discussions in the Week of September 3, 2000

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 3, 2000):
Background

This is the week of cantata BWV 199 according to Ryan Michero's suggestion. Last week we discussed a cantata (BWV 46), with solo movements for alto, tenor and bass, but not for soprano. Here the soprano singer has the whole podium for herself. She even sings the chorale movement. Like most solo cantatas, such as BWV 82 (mainly for bass) or BWV 54 & BWV 170 (for alto), which have already been discussed in this group, BWV 199 is also very well represented in recorded form. The reasons are simple - a showcase for the soloist to display his (or her) powers, and easiness of organisation (simple orchestra, no choir, no other soloists, etc.). One could also say that captivating arias are also the cause for the relative popularity of this genre. But, as all the Bach cantatas lovers know, it is not a challenging task to find beautiful, delightful, touching, moving, high spirited movements, in the forms of arias, choruses, recitatives, dialogues, and other forms, in almost every Bach cantata. But what I said does not mean to take a bit from the sublime of this cantata. Yes, it is not varied in the means it uses, but this apparently deficiency is compensated by variety and profundity in almost every other aspect. This cantata cannot fail to touch every human heart. It is a masterpiece.

As a general background to the review of this cantata, I shall quote nobody this time. The subject of the cantata is simple and easy to follow. I believe that everybody in the group has at least one recording of this popular cantata, and I recommend to you reading the linear notes of the recordings you have at your disposal. I found out that the most instructive linear notes to this cantata are included in the Schlick/Coin CD.

If your CD does not include any linear notes, or if you happen not to have any recording of BWV 199 yet, I suggest to you reading the concise description of this cantata by Simon Crouch. It can be found in 'Listener's Guide to the Cantatas of J. S. Bach' Website: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/199.html.

The role of the oboist in this aria is also very important, because he has the heavy task of being the helpmate of the vocal soloist in the two challenging and contradictory arias - the poignant 'Stumme Seufzer stille Klagen' (No.2) and the cheerful 'Wie freudig ist mein Herz' (No.8). And bach always wrote exquisitely for the various kinds of oboes. There is a long article about 'The Oboe and the Oboe d'amore in Bach's Church Cantatas', by J. William Denton from Indiana State University, in the following address: http://idrs.colorado.edu/Publications/Journal/JNL6/bach.html

Review of complete Recordings

I have found information about 16 complete recordings of BWV 199, of which I have 14. On top of it I know of some recordings of individual movements from this cantata. What a roster of female soprano soloists we have in front of us to listen to, to compare with, and to enjoy from - Schwarzkopf, Horne, Ameling, Mathis, Augér, Bonney, Gruberova, Argenta, Schlick (twice!), Suzuki, Holton, Kirkby, and some more. See: Cantata BWV 199 Recordings.

Because there are so many recordings of this cantata, I chose to concentrate in my review in two factors - the female soprano soloist (beauty of voice, sensitivity to the text, variety of expression, etc.), and the accompaniment.

[2] Thurston Dart with Elisabeth Schwarzko(soprano) (1958, EMI)
Soprano singer: I have to admit that was not always admirer of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. She sounded to me many times with opulent and clean voice, perfect diction, admirable and impeccable technique, precise singing; in short, a lot to praise, but very little emotion. But here she marvels. There are warmth and nobility to her singing, which are rarely matches by other singers. Her silver tone with economical vibrato is a joy to the ear. She is using her many years of Lieder singing to give the right emotional weight to every phrase, word and syllable. She is in full control, understands what she is singing, and very much aware of what she is doing. In the slow movements she goes deep to the heart of the matter, and in the concluding fast aria she seems to stress virtuosity, pushing the tempo up to the limit. But she never exaggerates her particular qualities beyond the bounds of good taste. Maturity is needed to perform this cantata convincingly, and Schwarzkopf indeed sounds mature but not old, experienced but not worn.
Accompaniment: Surprisingly good, and not at all old-fashioned. Sutcliffe plays the oboe with sinuous lines and his tone matches the singer's voice and blends splendidly with it, where the first aria (No.2) is the pick of an overall excellent performance.
Remark: I believe that Schwarzkopf made another recording of this cantata in the late 1950's, but I am not sure.

[5] Henry Lewis with Marilyn Horne (soprano) (1963)
Soprano singer: A famous opera singer is turning her energy to perform a Bach cantata. This is not the only Bach cantata that Marilyn Horne recorded. I have also a recording of another cantata, BWV 51, sung by her on another CD from the same label. I hope to review the recordings of this other Bach solo cantata for soprano, in due time. This is a live unofficial (bootleg) recording, which is relatively short in playing time, despite its slowness, due to heavy cutting and editing. Regarding Horne's singing, I was surprised to find that she saved most of her naturally operatic approach to other occasions. Here she is trying to do her best in a field, which is somewhat alien to her. She is restrained and her voice is impressive, as could be expected. But one could feel that this is not her natural idiom. Although her approach is basically dramatic, she misses some expressive points, hinted in the text and the music, which only experienced and trained Bach singer knows how to convey. In many places along this recording I had the feeling that her glorious tool was simply not suitable to the task. But I have a lot of appreciation for her for trying.
Accompaniment: Awfully recorded, however it can be heard that it is not much Bach oriented. The unknown oboe player should be stayed with his anonymity. His playing is smeared and not clean, his lines are unstable, and his sound is not pleasant. I have the impression that he is like a millstone on the neck of the singer.

[10] Helmut Winschermann with Elly Ameling (soprano) (1970)
Soprano singer: I could not find anything I would want to improve in Ameling's singing. She was one of the pioneers in singing with that angelic quality. But she also showed that it could be successfully combined with deep understanding of the textual content of the material she is singing. She can be light and she can be heavy, she can express deep sorrow, and she can express utmost happiness. And she is doing all that with internal conviction and easiness of delivery that are irresistible.
Accompaniment: Colourful, rich, delicate and sensitive. I do not know why did Winschermann not choose to play the oboe part by himself (he was a wonderful oboist before he became a conductor), but his replacement, Gernot Schmalfuss, has nothing to be ashamed of, in his elegant, smooth and supportive playing. The chorale is accompanied here by viola.
Remark: The booklet attached to Philips 5CD set, in which this recording is included, mentions the participation of a vocal group named 'Berliner Capella' in the recording of BWV 199. I could not find a hint of their existence in the recording of this cantata, although it could have been an interesting idea to use them in the chorale, instead of the solo soprano.

[11] Karl Richter with Edith Mathis (soprano) (1971-1972)
Soprano singer: Mathis is surprisingly good. Good voice she has always had, and it is in marvellous shape here. But here she does also not save her feelings and she expresses them precisely as needed, without exaggerating in anything. Her performance is moving and fascinating from beginning to end. She left me breathless.
Accompaniment: Full, rich, and responding to the singer. The heaviness and over-boldness sometimes found in Richter's cantata recordings are not present here.

[12] Helmuth Rilling with Arleen Augér (soprano) (1976)
Soprano singer: One can only marvel at Arleen Augér singing. Especially when we hear here immediately after another singer performs this cantata. The level of interpretation is immediately uplifted. There is feeling of continuous thinking of a very knowledgeable and sensitive mind behind everything she is doing.
Accompaniment: Colourful and vivid. Goritzki's playing contributes an equal part to that of the singer for the success of the two arias in which he participates. Viola is the solo string instrument in the chorale.

[14] Helmut Winschermann with Edita Gruberova (soprano) (1979 or earlier)
Soprano singer: Gruberova's voice production and general approach is simply not suitable to performing convincingly this cantata. Her voice is heavy, her delivery is operatic, her vibratos are too much felt, her accentuation is not Bach-oriented, and her expression is not varied. Horne in lesser company is doing better.
Accompaniment: Rich but dragged. Suitable to the singer, but not to the cantata. It is very strange to find Winschermann, who has done so many wonderful Bach cantatas in the past (most of them are collected in the 5CD box set from Philips), in such a company. His recording with Ameling is superior in many degrees to this one. The oboe playing is competent. The obbligato part in the chorale is played by viola.

[15] Max Pommer with Venceslava Hruba-Freiberger (soprano) (1986-1987)
Soprano singer: Hruba-Freiberger has a pleasant and attractive voice, and good technique, but she lacks in variety of expression. She sings only above the surface of vocal lines.
Accompaniment: The oboe player is good, but all the other players do not seem to take care to what the singer is trying to do. It diverts our attention from listening to the singer.

[18] Nikolaus Harnoncourt with Barbara Bonney (soprano) (1989)
Soprano singer: For the last recorded cantata in the monumental project of recording all the sacred cantatas, together with Leonhardt, Harnoncourt was clever enough to use a female soprano rather than the usual boy soprano. The various states through which the sinner, conscious of his sins, has to pass in the transformation, through regret and repentance, to the forgiveness of God, is too heavy task for inexperienced and immature boy. The vocal challenges are also too demanding. Bonney is a good choice. Her singing is expressive and articulation is faultless, and there is some innocence in the way she sings, which cause us to look at the familiar cantata from a new angle. With such naivety it is hard to accept that she was ever a sinner.
Accompaniment: The oboe is played by Westermann with grace and beauty of line, and its timbre is so unique - bitter-sweet and ancient, unlike any other oboe among the other recordings of this cantata. His playing in the first aria (No.2) is the main cause for its attractiveness. Alice Harnoncourt plays the viola in the chorale with touching sensitivity. The tempos in some movement are a little bit brisk to my taste. In the very last aria the instrumental accompaniment is bubbling in a way unto me from previous recordings of cantatas by this group. Maybe it reflects not only the happiness of the sinner caused by his acceptance by God, but also the uninhibited rejoicing of the performing group stem from finishing the monumental project.

[19] Christian Brembeck with Friederike Wagner (soprano) (1991)
Soprano singer: Wagner singing is full of natural liveliness. Where most of the modern singers are a shade restrained, Wagner is enthusiastic. Some might say, too enthusiastic, but I find her approach attractive. She has pure tone, good technique and expressive abilities. I find her rendering convincing and quite to the point, although she misses some of the inner depth contained in the first movements. Her pick is the last aria, in which she excels.
Accompaniment: Although, this is relatively new recording, I discovered that Capella Istropolitana is a non-HIP ensemble. I do not find that issue of much importance in this cantata. The accompaniment is full and rich, and somewhat romantic. The oboe playing in the first aria is sympathetic, and the viola playing the obbligato part in the chorale movement is also satisfactory.

[20] Monica Huggett & Ensemble Sonnerie with Nancy Argenta (soprano) (1994)
Soprano singer: I find Argenta's voice here nice but not exceptional. Her expression is economical up to being somewhat cool. She does not penetrate below the surface.
Accompaniment: The accompaniment is light, transparent and water-coloured. Goodwin playing of the oboe is pleasant and restrained. The solo instrument in the chorale is viola da gamba.

[21] Christophe Coin with Barbara Schlick (soprano) (1994)
Soprano singer: Schlick has a smooth voice and fantastic technique. This cantata is very demanding, and sometimes a slight strain in her upper can be heard. But as occasionally happens with her, I feel as if she is so enjoying hearing herself singing, that she forget to give the right emotional weight to the words she is singing, to give their expression significant meaning.
Accompaniment: Tender and delightful, sensitive to the singer and supportive where needed. Coin is playing violoncello piccolo in the chorale, and his marvellous playing is one of the high points of this recording.

[22] Ton Koopman with Barbara Schlick (soprano) (1995)
Soprano singer: There is not much difference between this recording and her previous one (with Coin).
Accompaniment: Mellifluous, light, polished and clean. The chorale is played by viola. Ponseele's playing does not need any recommendations. The dialogue between his oboe and Schlick's voice, and his caressing, twisting and warm lines in the first aria (No.2), put her somewhat in the shade.

[23] Masaaki Suzuki with Midori Suzuki (soprano) (1996)
Soprano singer: Suzuki has a very young, pure and light voice, which is pleasant to hear. However, I feel that she lacks the maturity needed to perform this challenging cantata convincingly. She does not vary her expression according to the various situations and moods of this cantata.
Accompaniment: Bold, clean and match perfectly the voice. The chorale is played here on viola. Bernardini is adding some enthusiasm in his playing of the oboe parts, especially in the concluding fast and happy aria.

[29] Pieter Jan Leusink with Ruth Holton (soprano) (1999)
Soprano singer: The colour of Holton's voice reminds me very much Suzuki's voice. Holton has a better technique and she passes the coloratura parts easily and effortlessly. Holton has also the knowledge and maturity, which help her to do a satisfying rendering of this cantata. Hear, for example, how elegantly she emphasises the word 'Seufzer' (sighing) by lengthening it a little bit, or upraising slightly her voice in the word 'Schmerzen' (agony) (both in the aria 'Stumme Seufzer stille Klagen' (Mvt. 2)).
Accompaniment: Light, pungent and interesting. The oboe playing has some insecurities and over sharpness. I feel as if the soprano singer has sometimes to fight with it, rather than being supported by it. But it may be done deliberately.

[28] Gottfried von der Goltz with Emma Kirkby (soprano) (1999)
I do not have this record, but I am very curious to hear it.

[7] Helmut Müller-Brühl with Maria Stader (soprano) (1960s?)
I do not have this record. I find review of it in the 2nd Penguin Guide to Bargain Records (Published 1970): "The balance is not too good in Cantata 199, with a solo oboe rather in the way of Maria Stader, but she sings beautifully and otherwise the recording is good. The conductor is not very stylish here and in No.199 (the other cantata on the record) he seems stiff and unrelaxed. But again Maria Stader sings flexibly and with good sound this is fair coupling."

Recordings of individual Movements

(M-1) Victoria de Los Angeles (soprano) (1954; only Mvt. 6)
I do not have this record.

(M-2) Elly Ameling (soprano) (1983; only Mvt. 2)
This is a problematic record. I wrote something about it in the review of BWV 75.

(M-3) Paul Shure with Christopher Parkening (guitar) (1985; only Mvt. 8)

Conclusion

To conclude my review I chose to rate the various recordings in a rating system similar to the one I used in the review of the various recordings of BWV 82. I divided the recordings into 5 categories:

A+ - If I was forced to choose only one, this would be it.
A - First rate. Should be included in every collection of Bach's cantatas.
B - Second rate. If you can allow yourself, get it.
C - Third rate. A recording I could live without having it.
D - A recording I personally do not like.

And here are my suggested ratings:

A+ - Augér/Rilling [12]
A - Schwarzkopf/Dart [2], Ameling/Winschermann [10], Mathis/Richter [11]
B - Bonney/Harnoncourt [18], Schlick/Coin [21], Schlick/Koopman [22], Suzuki/Suzuki [23], Holton/Leusink [29]
C - Horne/Lewis [5], Hruba-Freiberger/Pommer [15], Wagner/Brembeck [19], Argenta/Huggett [20]
D - Gruberova/Winschermann [14]
Unclassified - Kirkby/Goltz [28]

But, please remember that all those ratings are very personal and should be taken with caution, because I could not find a really BAD recording of this cantata (OK, maybe Gruberova/Winschermann).

As you can see, most of the soprano singers from the past were rated in the upper levels, where most of the modern singers fall somewhere in the middle. Although it was not done intentionally, I believe that its also is not accidental. Most of the modern female singers have a boyish, light, almost vibrato-less kind of voice, rarely found in female singers from the past, and more suitable to the modern ears. But in terms of multi-layered paints, richness of expression, and exposure of feelings, and yes this over-used word (in my review, at least) 'maturity', they (the modern generation) still have something to learn from their predecessors. Comparing recording of one of the old generation singers to one of the modern ones is like comparing old painting with strong oil-colours to water-colours drawing.

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

Marie Jensen wrote (September 3, 2000):
Aryeh wrote about Bach sopranos:
< (snip) Comparing recording of one of the old generation singers to one the modern ones is like comparing old painting with strong oil-colours to water-colours drawing. >
Wise words! Good to remember in future HIP debates!

Marie Jensen wrote (September 3, 2000):
BWV 199 is a long solo cantata for soprano (24 min 28 sec, Leusink) [29] following the usual plot: remorse, pardon, joy. The remorse part takes 19.03, pardon 2.59 and joy 2.26. It gives a rather "heavy" balance, long, long, long complaints and a joy, oops! Soon over, when the orchestra and singer stop short at the same time. It feels like the last joyful movement just by routine is there (not that the movement is bad), like leaving a party suddenly before it is over, without saying good bye to any one. I don't understand Bach here, or is it his author Lehms wallowing in different kinds of "Klagen"?

On the other hand length of text and music will never be equal proportional. Aria No.4 "Tief gebückt und voller Reue" and the final aria No.8 "Wie freudig ist mein Herz" both have 5 lines but the first one takes 9 minutes, the last one only 2.26.

We have met Lehms before as author of pietist solo and duo cantatas. In another solo cantata recently discussed BWV 170 "Beliebte Ruh" he also he writes more about the terrible sinful world than about joy in Jesus, but Bach takes him by surprise by making a gay dance to "Mir ekelt mehr zu leben". Yet Lehms is not always that austere. It was a surprise to me, that he wrote the text for the wonderful cantata BWV 110 "Unser Mund sei voll Lachens" and next week's cantata BWV 35 "Geist und Seele".

Hruba-Freiberger (Neues Bachisches Collegium, Pommer) [15] does better than Ruth Holton (Leusink) [29]. Take the word "Fröhlich" in the recitativo No.7. Holton sings the notes, but Hruba-Freiberger throws them out like cascades. I don't like the organ registration in Chorale No.6 (Pommer). It is too dominating, and does not suit the deep strings.

Anyway, no matter who the performers are, nothing can be done with the balance mentioned above. It is wonderful music especially "Stumme Seufzer, Stille Klagen", but the cantata is not a favourite of mine.

Ben Mullins wrote (September 3, 2000):
Aryeh wrote about Bach sopranos:
<< (snip) Comparing recording of one of the old generation singers to one of the modern ones is like comparing old painting with strong oil-colours to water-colours drawing. >>
< Marie Jensen wrote: Wise words! Good to remember in future HIP debates! >
Very true. Sometimes I think we should have a running count of how many days it has been since the last HIP battle. Similar to what you often see at construction sights, that count the days from the last accident.

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 7, 2000):
Unlike Marie, I have to say that this is one of my favourite cantatas. Wouldn't it be boring if we all liked exactly the same things?

The three versions I have are Winschermann/Ameling [10], Huggett/Argenta [20], and Leusink/Holton [29]. They are all excellent, but Huggett's version is, to me, a little less excellent than the other two. (Having said that, I do think that some of the other cantatas in the 2CD set suit Nancy Argenta's talents better than this one does.)

I like Ruth Holton's voice, and as well as being highly competent technically and interpreting the libretto well, she also seems to have, to my ears, a sort of vulnerability in her voice which I find appealing, especially in this cantata. However, if I had to choose just one out of these three, it would definitely be Elly Ameling. She is supremely professional, full of dramatic contrasts without ever over-acting, but best of all, she convinces the hearer that this is not a performance at all - she sings straight from the heart. I cannot believe that she does not identify herself with the words.

There is some word-painting in this cantata, but not as much as in some others. True, the oboe playing in the first aria is very expressive, but I don't think Bach had much of an option here. How else could he have illustrated words such as "Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen... weil der Mund geschlossen ist"? In last week's cantata, Bach was able to paint us musical pictures of streams or storms. In this week's, he has no such physical conditions or entities to portray, and those that do exist in the libretto (e.g. Quellen, Asche) are not easy to depict musically.

The heart of this cantata is found in movements 3 and 4. I say that because, while in most other cantatas there is some sort of reference to the Epistle or Gospel for the day, in this one Lehms (the librettist) actually quotes verbatim from the Lutheran Bible "Gott, sei mir Sünder gnädig!". This (from Luke 18.13) is found in the recitative (no.3), which leads directly (...meine Seele spricht:) into the aria which follows, and which is my favourite part of the work, as I find it very moving, especially the way Elly Ameling sings it. In Oxford Composer Companions (edited by Malcolm Boyd), Nicholas Anderson says, "The second aria... brings Händel to mind with its broad, sweeping gestures", and so it does. A Händelian aria, written by JSB. What a combination!

Mere words cannot convey the power of this whole work. What I need is the music...

Harry Steinman wrote (September 7, 2000):
I guess I have to side with the "not my favourite cantata camp" (if there were to be cantata camps!). I have not been able to really connect with this cantata. Part of the reason for this, I think, is that the cantata starts with a recitative rather than a Sinfonia, chorus or aria. In so many of Bach's cantatas, there is a musical statement that grabs my attention; here it is in a recitative and it leaves me cold. Now, I'm not a big fan of recitatives...perhaps because I have no connection to the words, as I don't speak a bit of German or anything close to it, so the recordings leave me cold. The arias in this work are lovely, no question, but I just haven't connected well with BWV 199 I almost feel guilty! A Bach work that doesn't grab me and send me to the stars! Unthinkable! Unpardonable! Unbelievable! I ache with remorse over this lapse every time I look at my tattoo of the JSB family crest (right shoulder). Sigh.

I've listened to the Huggett/Argenta [20] and Koopman/Schlick [22] versions and although I'm a big fan of Argenta, I find Schlick (also a big fan!) to be a bit warmer and more accessible.

Ah well, on to the next one. Perhaps this cantata will be lurking in my unconscious mind, waiting for just the right moment to ambush me!

Marie Jensen wrote (September 8, 2000):
Andrew Oliver wrote:
< Unlike Marie, I have to say that this is one of my favourite cantatas. Wouldn't it be boring if we all liked exactly the same things? >
I can only agree!

(Snip) < There is some word-painting in this cantata, but not as much as in some others. True, the oboe playing in the first aria is very expressive, but I don't think Bach had much of an option here. How else could he have illustrated words such as "Stumme Seufzer, stille Klagen... weil der Mund geschlossen ist"? In last week's cantata, Bach was able to paint us musical pictures of streams or storms. In this week's, he has no such physical conditions or entities to portray, and those that do exist in the libretto (e.g. Quellen, Asche) are not easy to depict musically. >
Thank you for reminding me of this. This is another reason why I find the first long part of the cantata so "heavy". Yes of course: It is the publicans humble prayer the gospel deals with (Luke 18.9-14). Bach did not have much of an option here. Absence of word painting is in his case word painting too.

"Quellen" can be depicted musically... but this is not "Die Moldau".

Jane Newble wrote (September 8, 2000):
This week's cantata I find extraordinarily moving. A human being confronted with the fact of having offended a holy God, and that there is no way in which he/she can make it right.

It was obviously one of Bach's favourites, and it is not difficult to see why. The whole gospel in a nutshell. From deepest contrition and misery to highest joy of knowing the relationship with God. Marie pointed out the imbalance of misery and joy. I had to think of a text in Psalm 30: "Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning." A night of looking at one's own failures can seem a lifetime, and Bach certainly makes the most of it, especially in that incredibly beautiful and moving second aria.

I had been wondering what it would sound like sung by a boy soprano, and it is probable that Ruth Holton [29] comes closest to it with her very pure voice. Listening to several different versions, I still prefer Elly Ameling [10], but the music seems to be so strong, that it must be difficult to make a total mess of it.

Roy Reed wrote (September 8, 2000):
Hello All: Put me in the plus column. I first heard this cantata years ago at Symphony Hall in Boston. Can't recall who, but it was a baroque ensemble. (By the way SH in Boston is a great place to hear music.) I loved the piece, and recalled especially No.4. Back in Ohio I picked up a CD. It was Rilling with Augér [12]. I now have 9 CD's of the work: Schlick (twice) [21] [22], Bonney [18], Augér [12], Argenta [20], Holton [29], Schwarzkopf [3], Gruberova [14], Suzuki [23]. For who is who in these I refer any and all to the Doyen of JSB cantata recordings, Aryeh Oron.

For my tastes, Schwarzkopf [3] and Gruberova [14] are just out of the running. I love Schwarzkopf in Strauss, even Mozart and Schubert. I once got her autograph after a concert in Symphony Hall in Boston back in the 1950's. She was very gracious to a smitten young student. But this Bach is not her thing. I like all of the other singers, but not all in the same way. If I have a gripe about these fine recordings, it is about the tempo of No.4. This seems to me to be an aria of acceptance. Acceptance of guilt, and readiness to confess, and acceptance of God's grace. It is an aria that moves us in this cantata from anguish and pain, from disgust and self-hatred to the release of acceptance. For most of us, confession comes hard and sometimes even harder is the acceptance of the message that we are accepted. In this aria this "coming clean" and the acceptance of grace are both spoken: "I lay myself, loving God, before you." It's all there in the music. To me this means that almost everyone takes this aria much too fast, and phrasing much too sharply. The strings need to make softer landings. This hits me hardest with the Harnoncourt/Bonney CD [18]. She is so wonderfully expressive throughout, without overdoing it...and then this brisk No.4. I was so disappointed. So who takes the right tempo? Would you believe, Leusink. And I do like the singing of Ruth Holton [29]. Probably a voice more like Bach heard. A lovely pure sound, some very nice ornamentation. Some unfortunate phrasing in No.2. If you are going to have to take a breath in a long line of 16ths on one word, do it somewhere in the middle of the line where it sounds like your idea rather than just before the end when it sounds like you just ran out of air. Moreso with JSB than anybody, phrasing needs to be deliberate.

A few random comments: I think that Schlick comes off better in general with Koopman [22] than with Coin [21]. Somehow on the Coin's CD she sounds like she is maybe off in a back row. Seems that she is recorded better with Erato. But on No.6 her singing and Coin on the piccolo cello are just magic. Lovely sound. I am a great fan of Argenta [20] and I think she sounds wonderful here. Not the kind of expression that Bonney and Augér put into it, but nicely expressive even so.

Ironically, a colleague of mine and I are working on a book on Reconciliation, i.e. the whole set of themes that go into that: sin, contrition, confession, forgiveness, reconciliation. A business we Christians have never figured out how to do very well. And here I am listening to the 9 CD's of BWV 199. I don't have time for this, and how do I feel...GUILTY!!... I am behind schedule, and my assiduous partner is getting out of sorts with me. And the driveway has to be resurfaced and the lawn and garden prepared for winter. And here I am retired and burdened with guilt...about work. Life is hard. I have a ways to go before I can get to the joyous release of the final aria. And, by the way, that should go at a really good clip.

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 8, 2000):
Roy mentioned the importance of restraining the tempo of the fourth movement. This is one of the reasons why I did not like Nancy Argenta's performance [20] as much as the singers on my other two recordings, though I suppose it is more Monica Huggett's fault than hers. Nancy Argenta sings it in 7'01, Ruth Holton [29] interprets it in 9'00, and the unsurpassed Elly Ameling [10] lives it for 9'19.

Roy Reed wrote (September 9, 2000):
(To Andrew Oliver) Good point, Andrew, about Argenta [20]. Got to hear Ameling [10]. I was able to find it on Amazon, UK. It doesn't seem to be in the inventory this side of the pond. Look forward to hearing it.

Johan van Veen wrote (September 10, 2000):
[29] I haven't been able to follow the discussions lately. Only tonight I had the time to read the postings regarding Cantata BWV 199. I was surprised to read so many favourable comments on Leusink's performance with Ruth Holton. To my view, it is one of the worst performances of the Brilliant Classics Bach-Edition. I copy my comment from one of the Usenet-newsgroups.

"BWV 199, Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, is a solo cantata for soprano, oboe, strings and bc. It is a very contrasting cantata which goes from an aria (preceded by a recitative) full of grief, to a joyous gigue on the words 'Wie freudig ist mein Herz'. This performance is certainly one of the worst in this series. Ruth Holton doesn't know what to do with the text. In the first recitative all words which ask for special treatment (because they are crucial for what the cantata is all about), are not taken any notice of, like 'Sünden', 'Ungeheuer', 'Pein', 'Höllenhenker', 'Lasternacht', 'Schmerz' etc. The whole performance - by singer and orchestra - misses the tension that this recitative distinguishes. The first aria is too fast, therefore the sighing motifs in the oboe part don't come across strongly enough. The second aria is too slow. It is, as one commentator writes, an aria with broad Händelian gestures. You won't hear that here. The poignant contrast between the A and B sections has almost disappeared. A faster tempo in the A section could have made that contrast much stronger. The last aria is the best, although with a livelier articulation it could have been a lot more joyous. There are the usual problems with pronunciation. Ruth Holton sings 'Seufzer' as 'seuf-ser' in stead of 'seuf-tser'. She does it several times - was everybody else asleep? There are also some errors in the text as sung compared with the text printed in the booklet. The first recitative says: 'Mein ausgedorrtes Herz will ferner mehr kein Trost befeuchten' - no comfort can moisten my dried out heart anymore. Ruth Holton sings: 'befruchten' (fertilise). What sense does tmake?"

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 11, 2000):
Johan van Veen wrote: (Regarding Cantata BWV 199):
[29] < I was surprised to read so many favourable comments on Leusink's performance with Ruth Holton. To my view, it is one of the worst performances of the Brilliant Classics Bach-Edition. I copy my comment from one of the Usenet-newsgroups. >
1. I intend to listen again to this cantata in Holton/Leusink recording [29] and follow your enlightening remarks. You addressed at couple of points I was not aware of.
2. What is the Usenet-newsgroup from which you took your comment?

Johan van Veen wrote (September 11, 2000):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
[29] < What is the Usenet-newsgroup from which you took your comment? >
That was alt.music.j-s-bach.

Michael Kennedy wrote (September 11, 2000):
The four recordings of BWV 199 that I have are Ameling/Winschermann [10], Augér/Rilling [12], Bonney/Harnoncourt [18] and Stader/Müller-Brühl [7]. I used the book, "My Only Comfort" by Calvin R. Stapert to guide me through work. I valued all four offerings. My favourite for sheer beauty and musicianship is the Augér/Rilling and most have stated their appreciation of this performance. However, I wish to commend the Maria Stader performance on Nonesuch. It has taken me a week to decide whether I like the recording because it was my first or that she convinced me that she knew the text. I'm now convinced that she knew the text and from that knowledge presents it quite marvellously. Her articulation is admirable and commendable.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 11, 2000):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
[29] << What is the Usenet-newsgroup from which you have taken your comment? >>
Johan van Veen wrote:
< That was alt.music.j-s-bach. >
I was searching in the archive of alt.music.j-s-bach Usenet, but I could not find that message. Instead I found a discussion about Leusink's cantata recordings in nl.muziek.klassiek. I believe that this is the discussion you refer to, but unfortunately (for me, at least) it is in Dutch. It seems that you the Dutch people have lively discussions there about Bach cantatas. Am I right? How can we, the members of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List, enjoy your discussions, but in English?

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 12, 2000):
[29] Concerning the comments about pronunciation in Ruth Holton's performance of BWV 199 with Leusink, I think that, although what Johan said is true, I would still rather listen to that than Buwalda's performance of BWV 35. I can forgive the occasional misreading of a word, and slight mispronunciations and variations of vowel sound simply make the recording human rather than mechanical. Besides, what should the correct pronunciation be? Logically, for anyone who chooses to insist that a recording should use instruments constructed and played precisely in the manner of Bach's time, with just the same number of performers as Bach may have used, then the vowel sounds of the singers ought to be as in the late 17th/early 18th century local Thuringian dialect that Bach himself would have used, rather than a modern standard High German pronunciation. Does anyone know how Bach spoke? It is possible for a piece of music to be delivered with such technical perfection that it loses its 'soul'.

Johan van Veen wrote (September 20, 2000):
[29] [To Aryeh Oron] I am surprised you were not able to find the discussion I referred to. Did you look at dejanews? I have the impression the archive isn't what it used to be. And yes, we have had quite a number of discussions about the Brilliant Classics Bach-Edition. It is in Dutch of course. The newsgroup was started because some Dutch music lovers don't feel comfortable to write in English, and there are interesting topics, which are only relevant to Dutch people. But someone is building a Website, which is entirely devoted to the Bach-Edition. It will contain some contributions to the discussions we have had. If it is finished, I will try to excerpt some of the arguments regarding the performances in the series in English in this group. Sorry for the delay of my reply.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 199: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Article: Sellars Staging [U. Golomb]

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: November 26, 2011 22:23:28