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Cantata BWV 2
Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 9, 2002

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 9, 2002):
BWV 2 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (June 9, 2002), according to Francis Browne’s suggested list, is the Chorale Cantata for the 2nd Sunday after Trinity BWV 2 ‘Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein’ (Ah God, look down from heaven). Luther’s hymn upon which the libretto is based is a paraphrase of Psalm 12. According to some sources, Picander was probably the librettist. Stanzas one and six are retained for the first and sixth movements, the intervening stanzas being paraphrased for the arias and recitatives. Luther’s hymn refers more to the Epistle, 1 John 3: 13-18, concerning brotherly love, rather than to Gospel for the day, Luke 14: 16-24. The cantata was first performed in Leipzig on June 18, 1724, exactly a week after last week’s cantata - BWV 20. The soloists here are also alto, tenor, and bass, most probably because Bach had not had a capable boy soprano singer at his disposal during those weeks.

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 2 - Recordings
Looking at the list of recordings of this cantata, one can simply says, “the same forces ride again”. Because the details of the 5 complete recordings of this cantata (Harnoncourt [1], Rilling [2], Koopman, Leusink [4], Smith & Emmanuel Music [6]) reminds very much those of the recordings of BWV 20. The conductor, choir and orchestra are identical in all the 5 recordings. The same vocal soloists of Harnoncourt [1], Koopman and Leusink [4] appear in both cantatas. Only Rilling [2] and Emmanuel have different line of soloists.

BWV 2 is an unusual cantata, because it contains just one melancholy theme throughout, without any uplifting ray of hope, which Bach usually puts at the end of his cantatas. The compulsion to deal with the lamentation and moralising of the text drew from Bach a level of inspiration, which imparts this cantata a unique beauty.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 10, 2002):
The hymn on which this week’s cantata is based is one of the first 'products' of Luther's poetical activity.

The output of hymns of Luther is not numerous (max. 45) but the variation in genre is impressive. As far as we know he had no poetic ambitions at all until mid-1523. He had finished his Opus Magnum: the complete translation into German of the New Testament and the psalms (The rest would follow later) in 1522. In 1523 he got the message that in Brussel’s two Augustine monks (from Antwerp) were burnt because they had spread his thoughts. Luther must have been moved so deeply by this message, that he had to do something to express his grieve and his even firmer conviction that the struggle had to continue, that he started to sing a song, which he published (propaganda fidei): "Ein Lied von den zwei Mätyrern Chrsisti, zu Brüssel von den Sophisten von Löwen verbrannt, geschehen im Jahr 1523" (A song about two martyrs for Christ, burnt at Brussels by the sophists of Leuven (Louvain), anno 1523): 'Ein neues lied wir heben an.'

This was his opus 1, a little bit rough but powerful in conveying message and feeling; opus 2 being already a mature hymn, semi-autobiographical: 'Nun freut euch lieben Christen gmein'. In this song he applicates the reformatorical convictions about grace and faith to the individual believer. It is a song in first person singular about what God has done. Magnificent, but it is hardly usuable in service because one has to sing it completely (10 verses), because it is almost a ballad. The next songs he produced were metric psalms. Perhaps he can be named the inventor of this genre. He created 7 of them. The first probably 'Es woll uns Gott gnädig sein' (ps 67), the very powerful: 'Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir' (ps 130). And the most famous of all: (probably not before 1528): 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' (ps 46).

In the same first cycle of 1523/1524 we also can find the choral which underlies the cantata of this week: 'Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein' (ps. 12). Personally this hymn is one of my favourites (text and melody) and I have always regretted that the Dutch hymnbook (which has taken over a lot of Lutheran hymns) doesnot provide a translation of this hymn. The first harvest was gathered and published already in Neurenberg 1523 and in 1524 a four-part Chorgesangbuch was published in Wittenberg.

I took the liberty to give this long introduction, because I think Luther’s contribution to the church-music can not easily be overestimated, esp when the participation of the people in the liturgy is concerned. He provided the people who went to the church-service with great spiritual and powerful poetical texts from the bible and the church tradition. The next category of Luther’s songs were his translations of the Latin hymns of the old church: Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (Veni Redemptor gentium), Kom, Gott Schöpfer heiliger Geist (Veni Creator Spiritus), Christum wir sollen loben schon (A solis ortus cardine). The co-operation with the all-round musician, cantor-organist Johann Walther made this to a world-historical event, because not only a high level text was offered to the people, but also a fitting melody, begin newly composed (Aus tiefer Not) or arranged to fit a metrical verse (old hymns). The other genres being: Liturgical hymns (f.i. Sanctus, Da Pacem Domine), biblical canticles and spiritual songs in the folk-song tradition, contrafacts of worldy songs (Von Himmel hoch), catechizing songs (10 commmandments etc..) and songs of free invention.

The source he found and opened himself has been springing since then and the harvest of good (poetical and musical) church-music is enormous. Bach’s music is unthinkable without this impulse.

When I can find a little more time I will try to offer a small analysis of the hymn 'Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein', because the cantata-text of Bach refers to Luther’s hymn much more than often is assumed. Even Alfred Dürr, usually quite adequate in finding extra-references (extra, i.e. not taking into count the first and last verse of the hymn), falls short in analysing the text of this cantata.

Francis Browne wrote (June 11, 2002):
I was very interested by Dick Wursten's account of the background to the hymn of Luther on which BWV 2 is based . Dürr's brief account had left me curious about the hymn but I had not managed to find much more than the text and the English verse translation. I attach these so that other members may read the complete text, and I look forward to Dick's analysis.

Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein

1. Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein
Und lass' dich des erbarmen,
Wie wenig sind der Heil'gen dein,
Verlassen sind wir Armen:
Dein Wort man laesst nicht haben wahr,
Der Glaub' ist auch verloschen gar
Bei allen Menschenkindern
.

2. Sie lehren eitel falsche List,
Was eigen Witz erfindet,
Ihr Herz nicht eines Sinnes ist
In Gottes Wort gegruendet;
Der waehlet dies, der Ander das,
Sie trennen uns ohn' alle Maas
Und gleissen schoen von aussen.

3. Gott woll' ausrotten alle Lahr,
Die falschen Schein uns lehren;
Dazu ihr' Zung' stolz offenbar
Spricht: Trotz, wer will's uns wehren?
Wir haben Recht und Macht allein,
Was wir setzen dagilt gemein,
Wer ist der uns soll meistern?

4. Darum spricht Gott, Ich muss auf sein,
Die Armen sind verstoeret,
Ihr Seufzen dringt zu mir herein,
Ich hab' ihr' Klag' erhoeret.
Mein heilsam Wort soll auf dem Plan,
Getrost und frisch sie greifen an
Und sein die Kraft der Armen.


5. Das Silber durch's Feuer siebenmal
Bewaehrt, wird lauter funden:
Am Gottes Wort man warten soll
Desgleichen alle Stunden:
Es will durch's Kreuz bewaehret sein,
Da wird sein' Kraft erkannt und Schein
Und leucht't stark in die Lande.

6. Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein
Fuer deisem argen G'schlechte,
Und lass uns dir befohlen sein,
Das sich's in uns nicht flechte,
Der gottlos' Hauf' sich umher findt,
Wo diese lose Leute sind
In deinem Volk erhaben.
______________________________________________________________

Look down, O Lord, from heaven behold

1. Look down, O Lord, from heaven behold,
And let thy pity waken!
How few the flock within thy fold,
Neglected and forsaken!
Almost thou'lt seek for faith in vain,
And those who should thy truth maintain
Thy Word from us have taken.

2. With frauds which they themselves invent
Thy truth they have confounded;
Their hearts are not with one consent
On thy pure doctrine grounded;
And, whilst they gleam with outward show,
They lead thy people to and fro,
In error's maze astounded.

3. God surely will uproot all those
With vain deceits who store us,
With haughty tongue who God oppose,
And say, "Who'll stand before us?
By right or might we will prevail;
What we determine cannot fail,
For who can lord it o'er us?"

4. For this, saith God, I will arise,
These wolves my flock are rending;
I've heard my people's bitter sighs
To heaven my throne ascending:
Now will I up, and set at rest
Each weary soul by fraud opprest,
The poor with might defending.

5. The silver seven times tried is pure
From all adulteration;
So, through God's word, shall men endure
Each trial and temptation:
Its worth gleams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross,
It shines through every nation.

6. Thy truth thou wilt preserve, O Lord,
From this vile generation;
Make us to lean upon thy word,
With calm anticipation.
The wicked walk on every side
When, 'mid thy flock, the vile abide
In power and exaltation.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 11, 2002):
I'm working on a Dutch translation. Who can help me with two translation problems with BWV 2:

1. - minor problem
mvt 3... Tilg die Lehren so dein Wort verkehren..
I wondered: are the teachings or the teachers envisaged? Every translation chooses for 'teachings'. I initially read this line in one motion and understood the 'teachers' ([diejenigen'] die lehren: they that teach)..

2. - major problem
mvt 6... Das sich's ins uns nicht flechte.
I wondered:
1. How to translate 'sich flechten' (reflexive verb, I presume);
2. WHAT is so dangerous that we should be 'recommended to Gods care' (lass uns dir befohlen sein) in order to prevent that IT 'sich flechte' in us.

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV2.htm: The translation of both Ambrose and Brown use the verb 'twist', but in my opinion (my understanding ?) miss the point... but the problem is, I also don't know what point it is, they miss. The French translation uses the technique of paraphrasing difficult passages, but I think a point is made there but too general: It has something to do with 'being contaminated' by the 'evil generation'... but what exactly?

The English hymn, provided recently by Francis Browne, also walks widely around the problem and is just trying to by pious there.

Anyone any ideas about what Luther really wanted to say?

Margaret Mikulska wrote (June 11, 2002):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< I'm working on a Dutch translation. Who can help me with two translation problems with BWV 2:

1. - minor problem
mvt 3... Tilg die Lehren so dein Wort verkehren..
I wondered: are the teachings or the teachers envisaged ? Every translation chooses for 'teachings'. I initially read this line in one motion and understood the 'teachers' ([diejenigen'] die lehren: they that teach). >
There is no choice here: "die Lehren" means "the teachings"; "the teachers" would be "die Lehrer". I think you are subconsciously thinking in terms of the Dutch/Flemish plural -(e)n marker.

< 2. - major problem
mvt 6... Das sich's ins uns nicht flechte.
I wondered: 1. how to translate 'sich flechten' (reflexive verb, i presume) >
"To weave"(itself into something), "to mix", even "to mingle". Yes, the German verb is reflexive, but its counterparts in other languages don't have to be.

< 2. WHAT is so dangerous that we should be 'recommended to Gods care' (lass uns dir befohlen sein) in order to prevent that IT 'sich flechte' in us. >
"It" is "das arge Geschlecht", here something like "the evil race". The point is that "the evil race" (the dangerous thing) should be prevented (by God) from mixing or mingling (to put it colloquially) with us, the Christians; it should not "weave its way" into the Christian community. That's the point of this passage.

Francis Browne wrote (June 11, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] I have no solution to your major problem, but I think Margaret has. As I said when I started translating the cantatas I am doing this precisely because my German is self-taught and by no means fluent. But I shall explain how I construed the text, so that one mistaken version may be clearly eliminated.

The text I sent earlier did not print German very clearly so I attach another text (from http://www.acronet.net/~robokopp/hymn/olordloo.html) which prints the German characters more clearly.

5. Das Silber, durchs Feu'r siebenmal
Bewährt, wird lauter funden;
Am Gotteswort man warten soll
Desgleichen alle Stunden;
Es will durchs Kreuz bewähret sein,
Da wird sein' Kraft erkannt und Schein
Und leucht't stark in die Lande.


6. Das woll'st du, Gott, bewahren rein
Vor diesem argen G'schlechte,
Und laß uns dir befohlen sein,
Daß sich's in uns nicht flechte!
Der gottlos' Hauf' sich umher find't,
Wo diese losen Leute sind
In deinem Volk erhaben

I took 'das' in the first line of the last stanza to be the neuter relative pronoun referring back to Gotteswort which was prominent in the previous stanza. In the fourth line I took 'Daß' as the subordinating conjunction and understood sich's to be an abbreviation for es, which I referred back again to God's word. Thus on my interpretation Luther is praying that God's word may be kept pure and (as part of this preservation of the true teaching) we should entrust ourselves to God for fear that something sinful in us may make God's word twist itself i.e. become twisted - as has happened with the false teachings condemned earlier in the hymn.

But having read Margaret's interpretation -es refers to the neuter noun ‘Geschlect’ - I think it gives easier grammar and better sense, and makes clear something that puzzled me, the connection of thought of the last three lines. On my interpretation Luther somewhat abruptly changes the subject from the preservation of God's word to a final complaint about the godless crowd. On Margaret's interpretation the references to the godless crowd surrounding us and honour given to 'losen Leute' make it very clear why we need to pray to God that das arge ‘Geschlect’ may not mingle or insinuate itself among us. I am sure Margaret's interpretation is along the right lines.

(May I take this opportunity to add more generally that I would be very grateful for any corrections or improvements that any one might suggest to my translations. If any one is kind enough to take the trouble to do this, please contact me directly at brorimbach@aol.com to avoid clogging up the list)

Dick Wursten wrote (June 11, 2002):
[To Margaret Mikulska] Thanks Margaret!

I am convinced about your interpretation of 'sich flechten'. It makes good sense. I will try to put it in proper Dutch. (I now see that Francis Brown also agrees, so...)

About 'die Lehren' I bow my head and accept, - stubborn as I am – I still am a little bit unhappy with the syntaxis of this phrase. I miss something. Is it a phrase, or a double exclamation...? (text and interpunction from Dürr).
Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren,
so dein Wort verkehren!

But I supppose this will be caused by my not-being-native-German-speaker.

But more important : I forgot to mention my main problematic word: 'Rottengeistern', a riddle which I partly solved...

mvt.3.. Wehre doch die Ketzerei und allen Rottengeistern.
My dictionary failed me completely. I looked it up in some Luther-texts. There it is certain that it has to do with some of the sectarian groups (named often in one breath with the anabaptists and the romancatholics). Whether this is a general term for sectarian spirits of a specific kind (I also found the combination with Verstand, Vernunft..) I can't figure out.

Strangely enough I also found the word (only once) in the Luther Bible, where it has a positive connontation: Hosea 9,7. There it is a translation of the Hebrew construction 'man of spirit' The context in Hosea parallels it with the word prophet: so: spiritual man. This clearly is a positive meaning... which in BWV 2 is certainly not the case.

I stick to 'sectarian spirits' unless someone...

Klaus wrote (Junwe 11, 2002):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< I still am a little bit unhappy with the syntaxis of this phrase. I miss something. Is it a phrase, or a double exclamation...? (text and interpunction from Dürr).
Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren,
so dein Wort verkehren ! >
In my poor English it is something like "Wipe out, o Lord, the teachings that reverse Your Word!"
Maybe Your problem is the older form "so", which in this case is to be read as "die"

< But more important : I forgot to mention my main problematic word: Rottengeistern', a riddle which I partly solved...

mvt.3.. Wehre doch die Ketzerei und allen Rottengeistern.
My dictionary failed me completely. I looked it up in some
Luther-texts. There it is certain that it has to do with some of the sectarian groups (named often in one breath with the anabaptists and the romancatholics). Whether this is a general term for sectarian spirits of a specific kind (I also found the combination with Verstand, Vernunft..) I can't figure out. >

Strangely enough I also found the word (only once) in the
Luther Bible, where it has a positive connontation: Hosea 9,7. There it is a translation of the Hebrew construction 'man of spirit' The context in Hosea parallels it with the word prophet: so: spiritual man. This clearly is a positive meaning... which in BWV 2 is certainly not the case.

I stick to 'sectarian spirits' unless someone... >
"Rotte" (Engl. "gang") is a term that indicates a group of people, in most cases used for outlaws. These form a `gang` ("rotten sich zusammen"). In my opinion the connection with "geister" includes the meaning of "spirit" as well as "sense" or even "mind". I think it is meant a group of people with an anti-Christian or anti-Lutheran spirit or only their intellectual spirit. You find something similar in the Choral by Paul Gerhardt "Ist Gott für mich, so trete gleich alles wider mich", the first verse ends "was kann mir tun der Feinde und Widersacher Rott(e)?"

Hope this helps

Margaret Mikulska wrote (June 12, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] You're welcome. I didn't intend to make you feel bad about "die Lehren", sorry for that.

The sentence "Tilg, o Gott, die Lehren, so dein Wort verkehren !" is simply a prayer/request (if it weren't for God, it could be also a demand or an order): it's quite simply a construction with the imperative. Thus: "Destroy [wipe out, erase], o God, the teachings that corrupt your word!" - an expression of a wish or even a request.

"Rottengeister" are trickier. On the page
http://www.luther.de/leben/bauernk.html there is an explanation:

"Nun erwächst der Reformation neue Gegnerschaft. Diesmal sind es die radikalen Kräfte aus den eigenen Reihen, von Luther Schwärmer und Rottengeister genannt."

Thus we have radical, evil forces from inside the Reformation, apparently called this way by Luther himself, which makes it even more difficult to translate. The word occurs indeed in some of Luther's sermons, in a definitely pejorative meaning. To me, it seems a rather generic word for various groups within the Reformation that didn't quite think the way Luther wanted them to think.

"Die Rotte" can mean a mob, crowd, rabble, but words change their meanings with time, and during a few centuries their connotations and associations certainly undergo changes. It's really hard for me to advise you anything, but your translation seems a good one – those radicals seem to have been a sort of sectarian group(s).

Dick Wursten wrote (June 12, 2002):
As Francis Browne already provided us with the complete German & English text of the hymn 'Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein', I can now easily proceed in trying to analyse the text a little, that is: in 'trying to sketch the background' of both the text of the hymn and of the cantatascenario, based on it. The hymn itself is based on a bibletext (Psalm 12). This makes the number of texts present in the cantata: three. Each of these three texts has its own historical background (in which it was meant to 'say ' something meaningful and the least one can say is that such background knowledge explains a lots of the particularities of each text, quod est demonstrandum).

[If you are not interested in the textual aspects of the bachcantatas, you should stop here and push the delete button]

I myself found it very interesting to see what has happened with the psalm, when Luther 're-creates' and re-applicates this powerful complaint from the Hebrew Bible in his hymn in 1524. Also it is also very interesting (for me at least) to try to understand what happened with this hymn, at the moment that NN (Picander?) integrates and re-applicates it for a Lutheran Mass in Leipzig in 1724 (because Bach asked him to do so?) to serve as a cantata-text.

The fundamental text is psalm 12. So I start with that one. Luther had already translated this psalm in German before he created this hymn (probably, because the psalter in German also appeared in 1524, the same publication-year as the hymn based on the psalm). You can find the German Text from the Luther-bible (followed by an English translation at the end of this mail).

It's a pity that in BCML we cannot send in text in columns, because the best thing to do is to juxtapose the three texts. The strong connection between all three would be very obvious. Everybode can make this exercise for himself/herself .

I only will provide some 'reading-help' for the three texts.

1. The original psalm (almost undatable, because the content gives no clues. 'From David' in the first line is probably more a tribute to the great poet-king than a statement about the author) is a complaint of a single person (representing a group) who feels himself and his group threatened by some people outside. He feels that they might be annihilated when these outsiders can continue their plans.
Help, LORD; no one loyal (no godly man) is left;
for the faithful disappear from among the children of men.

This small threatened group is characterized by four words: First the untranslatable 'chasid'> Luther 'Heiligen', King James Version: 'the godly man' modern English translation sometimes 'loyal men'. Then the 'Gläubigen' (faithful). And in the midst of the psalm (vers 5): 'die Armen' (the poor) and 'die Elenden' (the needy, the wretched). These four terms are more or less standardized terms to identify that group of people who tries to keep loyal to God, but is heavily oppressed by 'others'. In psalms these 'others' are oftreferred to as 'enemies' or the 'god-less, the wicked, the evildoers, also more or less technical terms in an 'incrowd-outcrowd' scheme.

But - interesting - these 'enemies' are sketched in more detail. Their threat is special. They are named: hypocrits, liars speaking with a double heart (tongue), talking in vanity (idle, wind) with flattering lips, and above all: they are very self-assured, 'proud': They don't accept a 'master' above them. (Hebrew counterpart of 'hubris'). The German equivalents of all these words are present in the hymn and many of them also in the cantatatext. This situation caused the cry for help with which the psalm opened:

Help, LORD; no one loyal (no godly) is left;
for the faithful disappear from among the children of men.
2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
And the tongue that speaks proud things,
4 Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail;
Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?"
The shift in this psalm happens in verse 5. There a word of God himself is introduced, a kind of oracle (transmitted by a prophet during a liturgy in the temple?). He will rise up to help the poor and needy.
5 "For the oppression of the poor,
for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise,"
says the LORD; "I will set him in the safety for which he yearns."
These promises of God are reliable. Completely the opposite of the idle words of the enemies. They will not be in vain, they are no lies, but are trustworthy and tested like silver in a fire (bewährt)
6 The words of the LORD are pure words,
Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
Purified seven times.
These words will stand forever. and by this word God will protect 'the people who called to him for help' from all the attacks of 'this evil generation' (das böse Geschlecht).
7 You shall keep them , O LORD,
You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
them refers the first time refers to these words the second time (according to Luther) to the poor and needy people mentioned in verse 5. [Luther translates: Du, HERR, wollest SIE bewahren und UNS behüten vor diesem Geschlecht ewiglich!]
This will be necessary because everywhere where these wicked people will spread their vileness and they will seize every opportunity to impose themselves.
8 The wicked prowl on every side,
When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.
Here the psalm is back at the situation it started with: the faithful are in danger to disappear from the earth, because vileness is axalted among the sons of men.

A powerful poem (I find) and a strong (a little brutal) prayer. It is very clear that both the hymn and the cantatatext follow this line of thought and have kept intact all the constituting elements, but at the same time both texts have more or less subtly changed the scopus of this psalm in a direction, which can only be clearly seen, when we know something of the historical and religious context in which these re-creations and re-adaptations were made. Next time I'll show which scopus Luther had in mind when he made psalm 12 to the hymn 'Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein'.

----

Here follows the texts of psalm 12.:

Hilf, HERR! die Heiligen haben abgenommen, und der Gläubigen ist wenig unter den Menschenkindern.
2 Einer redet mit dem andern unnütze Dinge; sie heucheln und lehren aus uneinigem Herzen.
3 Der HERR wolle ausrotten alle Heuchelei und die Zunge, die da stolz redet,
4 die da sagen: Unsere Zunge soll Oberhand haben, uns gebührt zu reden; wer ist unser HERR ?
5 Weil denn die Elenden verstört werden und die Armen seufzen, will ich auf, spricht der HERR; ich will Hilfe schaffen dem, der sich darnach sehnt.
6 Die Rede des HERRN ist lauter wie durchläutert Silber im irdenen Tiegel, bewähret siebenmal.
7 Du, HERR, wollest sie bewahren und uns behüten vor diesem Geschlecht ewiglich!
8 Denn es wird allenthalben voll Gottloser, wo solche nichtswürdige Leute unter den Menschen herrschen


Help, LORD; no one loyal (no godly) is left; for the faithful disappear from among the children of men.
2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, And the tongue that speaks proud things,
4 Who have said, "With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; Who is lord over us?"
5 "For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, Now I will arise," says the LORD; "I will set him in the safety for which he yearns."
6 The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times.
7 You shall keep them, O LORD, You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
8 The wicked prowl on every side, When vileness is exalted among the sons of men.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 13, 2002):
PART II

The hymn of Luther
Compare the hymn to the psalm and you will see that almost every ingredient of the psalm is used in the hymn, but that a few new words are introduced and a few others are interpreted into a certain direction. This elaboration gives this hymn a new meaning. Esp. the quite vague 'enemies' of psalm 12 have become identifiable enemies of the 'Word of God'.

This makes this hymn a very suitable example of how Luther read the bible very carefully, translated it meticulously and at the same time was able to give it an interpretation which actualised the text almost immediately. The hymn is a mini-sermon against die 'falsche Lehr' (false teaching) the 'Ketzerei' (heresy) as Bachs librettist rightly summarizes in Mvt. 3.

In the hymn the small group of loyal believers of psalm 12 (Heiligen, Glaübigen, Armen) get as extra epitheton: that they stick to Gods word. This accent on 'Gottes Wort allein' (Gods word alone, sola scriptura) is the Lutheran extra of the hymn, it appears several times (explicit verse 1,2,4,5; NB: the English version of the hymn has sometimes translated away this crucial term!!). The enemies are characterized with the elements from psalm 12 (no faith, deceit, idle talk, lies, no master above them) and also with the Lutheran-extra: 'Dein Wort man laesst nicht haben wahr' 'nicht in Gottes Wort gegruendet', 'lehren was eigen Witz erfindet'.

These elements enable us to build an image of which danger Luther had in mind when re-creating te prayer for help from psalm 12 to his hymn: Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein.

Explanation: In 1524 Luthers 'group' was still very small. The opposition of the roman-catholic church was still very strong, but I don't think the Roman Catholics are Luther's principal enemies in this hymn. Since 1522, 1523 the reformation got to deal with its first internal crisis, which became apparent in 1524 and broke out in a war in 1525.

The anabaptists ('Täufer', 'Schwärmer', radical reformation with spiritualizing accents) were popular and the 'peasants' of Germany started to revolt against the feudal system in which they were enslaved. They thought that their call for social reformation was a logical consequence of the religious reformation of Luther.

But Luther remained quite conservative in his political views. He himself had survived because of the protection of sympathizing rulers and he defended the legitimacy of the existing economic-social-political system (the beginning of his 'teaching of the two regiments'). Then the "Twelve articles" were published in which the biblical grounds of this 'proletarian revolution' avant la lettre were delivered. Luther wrote against it, but in a sympathetic and peace-seeking way. He insisted on a peaceful solution, he even tried to mediate. But when he heard that the peasants had taken up arms, he started to write fiercely against them. He called their activities: 'Rotten' (illegal uprisings).

Thehymn is from 1524, so from before the war, but thematically the 'Anabaptist' theology and the call for 'social reformation' was already present, but not at the point of armed uprisring. This is indirectly confirmed (I think) by the 'naïve' way Luther still uses the term 'Armen', and that God will 'arise' to help them and be 'the power of the poor' (die Kraft der Armen), (verse 4). Something he would be more careful to say one year later.

The hymn focusses on the 'falsche Lehr' (which is NOT the meaning of psalm 12, in my opinion), where 'own inventions' have taken the place of Gods Word. This new teaching looks beautiful at first sight (Sie gleissen schön von aussen), but are not. They are schismatic (sie trennen uns) and their preachers are deceitful and full of 'hubris'.

The anabaptists were separatists, according to Luther. They wanted to break completely with the traditional church and tried to step forward to the Kingdom of God immediately. The Holy Scripture was good, but even better was the direct inspiration of the Holy Spirit himself. Their leaders were 'men of spirit'. I think Luther esp. aims at this 'teaching', which seduced many of his followers, because ist was more readical and more appealing. He considered it as 'hubris' and as a 'devaluation of the Word of God'. So finally he can call them 'Gottlos Hauf' (Verse 6).

In the 'shift' of the psalm Luther - of course - inserts Gods Word as the salutary power itself (new compared with the text of ps 12): 'Mein heilsam Wort soll auf dem Plan' (vers 4, my salutary word should be put forward), followed by the (also new) adhortation 'Am Gottes Wort man warten soll' (verse 5, Wait for Gods word, be patient). This completely coincides with Luther's preaching to the anabaptist and the peasants at that moment. He wrote (before the war began) 'Ermahnung zum Frieden' (admonition to peace), in which he criticizes the aberrations of the feudal lords, but refuses to mix the call for religious reformation with that for socio-economical reformation. In suffering everybody should live an evangelical life.

In 1522 (when the radicalization of the reformation began in Wittenberg, while he was away, still in hiding on the Wartburg, translating the bible) he had written a pamphlet in which the 'true christian' should beware himself for uprising and revolution (Aufruhr und Emporung). His opinion at that moment was: 'aus übel wirt ergers' (from evil comes worse ??) and the only weapon allowed was Gods Word: 'der Mund Christi musz es thun': The mouth of Christ has to do it all (= exact match with the hymn!). Three years later, when the cruel Peasant War (thousands of peasants were brutally slaughtered) he wrote his notorious pamphlet: 'Wider die mörderischen und räuberischen Rotten der Baueren' (Against the murderous and plundering uprisings (gangs) of the peasants'). In those years tirades against Täufer (anabaptists), Schwärmer, Rottengeister appear often in his sermons and writings.

To summarize: Luther interpretes the psalm by redirecting its 'scopus' againt the heresy of his days. He identifies himself with the 'small oppressed group' and at the same time admonishes his followers to expect everything from Gods Word and.. very significant in the light of the imminent uprising of the peasants: to see all suffering as Gods way of testing.. Verse 5 could be written for the peasant who were deliberating among themselves whether of not to take arms (this part of the hymn is entirely Luther's invention.)
Am Gottes Wort man warten soll
Desgleichen alle Stunden:
Es will durch's Kreuz bewaehret sein,
Da wird sein' Kraft erkannt

through God's word, shall men endure
Each trial and temptation:
Its worth gleams brighter through the cross,
And, purified from human dross..

Last remark: To retract everything I have said above: In the same year 1524 Zwingli started with a 'rationalist' approach towards the doctrine of the 'Holy Supper' (est = significat, symbolism) and Erasmus wrote his clever defense of the 'free will'. One could also read the hymn Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein as directed against these 'very clever' theologians and philosophers', who had a renaissance-humanist background.. Just hear again the words 'was eigen Witz erfindet' , 'nicht In Gottes Wort gegruendet' and 'falschen Schein'..

The prayer ends, as it is clear now, with asking Gods to prohibit the intrusion of these heresies in the community of the true people of God.. (the already discussed phrase: das es sich in uns nicht flechte..)

Dick Wursten wrote (June 14, 2002):
PART III

First some textual remarks.
Alfred Dürr argues in general terms that the cantatatext follows the hymn very closely.

Though in his layout he forgets to substantiate these references (He prints every exact reference in bold). This time he only identifies the first line of verse 2 in mvt 2 and three lines from verse 4 in mvt 4. But the trick of the cantatatext is that every verse is paraphrased very precisely in the corresponding movement (even when exact matches are absent, as esp. is the case in mvt 3): 6 verses in 6 movements. To prove the point. Just compare: first the hymn, than the corresponding cantatatext. Between square brackets the 'substantial' [reference, when litteral reference is absent.

Mvt 2:
Sie lehren eitel falsche List, Sie lehren eitel falsche List, (..)
Was eigen Witz erfindet, was der eigen Witz erdenket
Ihr Herz nicht eines Sinnes ist ..
In Gottes Wort gegruendet; ..
Der waehlet dies, der Ander das, Der eine waehlet dies, der andre das
Sie trennen uns ohn' alle Maas
Und gleissen schoen von aussen. Ob sie zwar van aussen schoen...

Mvt 3
Gott woll' ausrotten alle Lahr, [>Tilge]..Lehren
Die falschen Schein uns lehren; [> das Wort verkehren]
Dazu ihr' Zung' stolz offenbar [>ohne Scheu]
Spricht: Trotz, wer will's uns wehren? Trotz. [as a reaction: Wehre doch
Wir haben Recht und Macht allein,
Was wir setzen das gilt gemein,
Wer ist der uns soll meistern? Trotz dem der uns will meistern!

Mvt 4.
Darum spricht Gott, Ich muss auf sein, Darum spricht Gott, ich muss ihr Helfer sein
Die Armen sind verstoeret, Die Armen sind verstört
Ihr Seufzen dringt zu mir herein, Ihr seufzend 'Ach'
Ich hab' ihr' Klag' erhoeret. .... ängstlich Klagen.. Ich Hab ihr Flehn erhoeret
Mein heilsam Wort soll auf dem Plan, Mein heilsam Wort..
Getrost und frisch sie greifen an [> erquicken]
Und sein die Kraft der Armen. soll sein die Kraft der Armen.

Mvt 5.
Das Silber durch's Feuer siebenmal Durchs Feuer wird das Silber rein
Bewaehrt, wird lauter funden: (bewaehrt)
Am Gottes Wort man warten soll [das Wort] Drum soll ein Christ
Desgleichen alle Stunden: zu allen Stunden geduldig sien
Es will durch's Kreuz bewaehret sein, Durchs Kreuz das Wort bewaehrt erfunden
Da wird sein' Kraft erkannt und Schein
Und leucht't stark in die Lande.

After having shown how closely the scenarist of Bach followed the contents of Luther’s hymn, it now becomes extra interesting to see where he allows himself to go on building on the given lines of thought and esp. where he adds new elements. These could give us a clue about the particularities of the (religious, theological) situation in Leipzig (Germany) in 1724. In my opinion mvt 2 is the most interesting from this perspective. Here I taste something of a contemporary debate. The additions to Luther's hymn are:
1. the characterization of the 'false teaching' as 'against God and against his truth' and more important,substantial: The 'inventions of the own human wit' are said to have 'taken the place of the Bible'. This of course is the most terrible thing that can happen according to a 'true Lutheran' (orthodox).
2. This line of thought is followed by the accusation, that 'foolish reason is their compass'. Reason is called a false compass. The only right compass (expliciting the implicite) ithe 'bible'.
3. Also the next elaboration is illustrative. The (let me call them:) theological rationalists are compared with the 'tombs of dead men, that may be outwardly fair, but contain within themselves only stench and corruption, and reveal uncleannes'. This is the elaboration of the oneliner of Luther:
'sie gleissen schoen von aussen' (they shine bright on the outside).
It is a scripturequotation from the gospel of St. Matthew: 23, 27 where this is said about the scribes and the pharisees. Jesus calls them hypocrits, because in their heart the scribes and pharisees are not really interested in the object of their study (Scripture, Law) and commitment. They polish the monuments of the prophets and the other 'Fathers', but don't act according to their teachings.

Here I hear a protest from an orthodox Lutheran against the first influences of the Aufklärung (Enlightenment) in which the ratio gets higher authority than the Bible. The historical-critical examination of the Bible is at his starting point (Reimarus, one of the first, was born 1694). 1724 is the birth-year of Immanuel Kant, by the way.
Is this far-fetched ? I don't think so. I can't produce the evidence from cantatatexts, but I remember other passages which made me think the same. And even more: In the 1730's Bach gets into conflict with Gesner, who tried to reform the Thomasschool according to modern insights, i.e.: 'enlightened paedagogical and didactic principles'. This Gesner was 'up to date' and wanted to update everything (including hymns and theology). He thought the idea of a school in which every boy must be able to sing a stupid institution, something from the Middle-Ages (=true, but not stupid). He had a classisist view (filology, old languages etc..), much more directed towards the acquiring of knowledge than to raising (Bildung) a young man to 'homo universalis', with a broad spectre of knowledge, abilities and arts. The 'allegorical' and 'metaphorical' exegesis of the bible and the sometimes very speculative imagery of piety which was exposed in sermons he also criticized. for not being historical correct and litterally exact. (By the way: The end of of creative bible-reading and explaining coincides with the end of the cantata as liturgical form!)

Still not convinced that this polemics is present in BWV 2? Well I can get even closer: In 1728 Bach had a conflict with Deacon Gaudlitz (from the Nicolai, where most of the university professors went to Mass) about the choice of the chorals for the vespers. Gaudlitz wanted to add some modern chorals to the list, not comprised in the Standard Hymn Book (Dresdner Gesangbuch) of Leipzig. Not only new chorals and texts were composed then, but also old ones were 'gebessert' (purified from too old-fashioned expressions ans theological thoughts). Bach reacts furiously and starts a fight for the old-fashioned hymns and the traditional liturgy. This has to do with a a 'struggle for authority, power', of course, but also with the contents. Bach prefers the old. His choice for the choral (-cantata) itself is old-fashioned, his preference for the (relatively) old chorals among them is even more surprising. Musically and poetically superior. Sure. But I also think that a conservative view on bible and religion with Bach is part of it.

This I heard also in this cantata. Perhaps some others can find corroborating evidence from other cantatatexts... or prove the opposite. That would also be nice.

By the way: the Dutch translation I prepared is open (also for critic)
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV2-Dut1.htm

'Was Bach war und erlebt hat steht in den Tönen'. (A. Schweitzer)

Francis Browne wrote (June 15, 2002):
At first hearing this cantata may not have the immediate appeal or movements of arresting beauty that so many other cantatas do have. But in listening to the work some weeks ago for the purposes of translation and listening again for this week's discussion I have found that this cantata richly repays the persistence of repeated hearing.

I have read Durr's notes and listened to Leusink's recording [4]: as often this is a performance with shortcomings, but they are not generally so gross or obtrusive that the quality of the music cannot be discerned. Particularly with vocal scores now being easily available I find myself not so much listening to Leusink but listening through, enjoying what is achieved and conveyed but aware there is more in Bach's music. The Brilliant cycle is an excellent and affordable introduction to the cantatas ,but it is very much a starting point rather than the last word.

Aryeh has remarked before on the excellence of those cantatas based on the psalms and in his introduction to this cantata has talked of its unique beauty and suggested 'it contains just one melancholy theme throughout, without any uplifting ray of hope, which Bach usually puts at the end of his cantatas.' I understand the basis for this judgement but think that rather than one melancholy theme throughout there is development and a structure in both the text and Bach's setting that is worth defining more closely.

Dick Wursten has given such an excellent analysis of the psalm, Luther's hymn and the cantata text that it would be superfluous to repeat what he has said about the text and the 'shift' that comes with God's speech. Instead I shall concentrate on what Bach makes of this in the music.

Ignorance sometimes has its advantages. I was not familiar with the hymn tune which is so important for this cantata, so what is sung by the tenor at the opening of the first movement and the cantus firmus in the alto voice had great impact : in itself the anonymous melody has an austere , moving beauty and this is deepened by the fugal treatment in the other voices - in the archaic style of a Pachelbel motet, say the commentators. The tone does not strike me as melancholy but rather of one of embattled faith in a hostile world, the Christian life seen as a hard, uphill struggle. This is largely conveyed by Leusink's choir [4] but there are places where the upper voices seem to yelp - Tom Braatz would say yoddle - in a most distracting way. I presume their schedule did not allow for more rehearsal or a retake.

Dick has given a very interesting account of the context of the second movement. Within the cantata this recitative gives substance and detail to the mood established by the opening chorus . The expansion that Dick has pointed out of 'Luther's oneliner' is interesting: Stank, Moder and Unflat (which my English dictionary coyly translates feculence) are all strong terms. The author of the text (and Bach?) clearly felt strongly about this matter. This engagement does not come across in Leusink [4]: Kurt Schoch as usual sings adequately but without giving much expression to the recitative.

On first hearing the alto aria, rather like the bass aria in BWV 20 last week, struck me as rather inappropriately cheerful , given both the context and the content of what is being sung. But I found Robertson's comment helpful : 'The violin solo part contains frenzied phrases of demisemiquaver triplets that that dash up and down, while the continuo part, marked staccato, breathes out defiance. All this perhaps illustrates combat with the enemies of the Church.' This I feel sure is along the right lines : the tone is not so much cheerfulness as defiance, almost a desperate whistling in the dark to keep one's spiritsup. As such it prepares the way for God to speak in the following recitative. Leusink's orchestra play well and since it is vain to keep wishing that Buwalda were Scholl, I pass on without further comment.

In his analysis Dick pointed out the important 'shift' in the psalm that comes with God's words. I think that this is true also in the cantata and Bach conveys this effectivewith very simple means : in the section marked arioso the strings rise high above the voice in long notes as God speaks. This is a passage of great beauty and for me is the turning point in the cantata and crucial to its structure : the embattled struggle of the Christian life is seen to be ultimately supported by God, part of a divine plan.

But it is still not easy. After repeated hearing it is the tenor aria (along with the opening chorus) that I regard as the jewel of this cantata. It expresses something that does not have the immediate appeal of other arias of jubilation or deep sorrow but is valuable nonetheless. Both this aria and the concluding chorale seem to me to give moving expression to what I have referred to as embattled struggle. The mood reminds me of the end of Sibelius' last symphony or - for once to compare Bach's music with music in this particular instance of greater achievement- the last movement of Beethoven's C sharp minor quartet. (Since it is vain to wish that Schoch were Schreier, I pass on without further comment)

Perhaps a literary analogy may make my meaning clearer. Dante is one of the very few artists fully worthy to be compared to Bach. For most readers the Inferno and the Paradiso have more immediate appeal. But on repeated reading the Purgatorio often seems to be the poetry that connects most directly with ordinary life as it is experienced from day to day. BWV 2 is a purgatorial cantata, giving expression to life as a struggle that seems uphill but not meaningless. It is a cantata worth persisting with and living with.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 15, 2002):
Francis Browne's translation:

6. Chorale

Das wollst du, Gott, bewahren rein
May you, God ,keep pure that [Word]
Für diesem arg'n Geschlechte;
in the face of this evil generation
Und laß uns dir befohlen sein,
and grant that we may entrust ourselves to you,
Daß sichs in uns nicht flechte.
so that nothing in us may twist it.
Der gottlos Hauf sich umher findt,
The godless crowd surounds us
Wo solche lose Leute sind
where such mischievous characters
In deinem Volk erhaben.
are exalted among your people.

In light of the extended discussion on this cantata text, including Margaret's input, and while comparing all this with the article on 'flechten' in the DWB [Deutsches Wörterbuch] (Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm's German Dictionary), I would come up with the following meaning for the first sentence:

"Dear God, keep us pure from (being contaminated by) this evil group of people and let us be committed entirely to you (let us remain unaffected by their clever arguments or charismatic appeal) so that it (the evil group of people whose tempting arguments are difficult to resist) can not insinuate itself into our hearts. You can find such godless groups [I know 'Hauf' is singular!] all around us where there are such individuals who interpret your word too freely and yet are (seemingly) exalted among all your people (all those who believe in you.)"

The DWB indicates that 'flechten' can be construed as an interweaving of heart and mind where the emotions as well as the logically thinking mind are affected leading to love or a strong emotional attachment. 'Flechten' is also used to describe a creeping motion as, for instance, in the growth of wild thyme, where the plant extends itself almost unnoticeably over a rock and eventually, before you have really noticed it, the entire rock is covered with its tiny shoots and tiny blossoms. From this the idea of insinuation is derived.

Luther (Letters 3,9) writes, "ir wisset auch was mir geschehen ist, das ich meiner metzen in die zöpfe geflochten bin." ["you also know what has happened to me: I have fallen entirely in love with my girl friend (literally: that I have been woven into my girl friend's braids -- a process that begins gradually with loose ends or strands of hair and eventually, before he even recognizes it fully, he can no longer easily escape the bonds of love. She has 'braided' or 'woven' his heart into a strong connection with her almost before he could recognize what was happening to him.]

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 15, 2002):
Background

As with last week’s Cantata BWV 20, the exemplary background below, written by Craig Smith, music director of Emmanuel Music, is also taken completely from the liner notes to their recording of this cantata for Koch International label [6].

See: Cantata BWV 2 - Commentary

Review of the Recordings

[1] Harnoncourt (1971)
For me, as for most other members of the BCML, the first recording I have heard of a cantata, seems almost always to be the best, the one according to which others should be measured. With the recording of Cantata BWV 2 by Harnoncourt I have fallen into the same trap. There is a simple reason for it. As a young student in the first half of the 1970’s, I invested a big amount of money in buying the first two ‘Brown’ volumes of the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cantata cycle. The packaging was something I had never experienced before, with detailed commentary, mini-score, etc., and that unusual smell of something fresh and unique. I have listened to the four LP’s (2 in each volume) endless times until they were engraved in my memory. Usually, when I am listening to the various recordings of a cantata for the weekly cantata review, I am trying to erase such reminiscences from my memory and to listen to the recordings with fresh and clean mind. I realise that I am trying to achieve the impossible, but when I listened to this recording, I thought to myself ‘Why should I?’ and let the memories of almost 30 years ago flooding me.

After comparative listening for more than 130 cantatas in the last two and a half years, my temporary conclusion is that Harnoncourt was at his best at the beginning of his recorded cantata cycle and as the project progressed his renditions became more and more routine, what Tom Braatz calls ’the Harnoncourt Doctrine’. In other words, that means that BWV 2 is among the best performance of Harnoncourt. The main characteristic of this recording is the subdued way with which it is performed. All the three vocal soloists convey their respective messages so convincingly by keeping themselves restrained, letting the music and the text expressing themselves. Harnoncourt’s choir has rarely sounded better, and the ancient instruments are glorious. It seems that Harnoncourt prepared this recording with lot of care and thought.

[2] Rilling (1979)
After Harnoncourt, Rilling’s opening sounds almost too rough and pungent. The singing is clear, but too loud. The balance is OK, but all the components seem to be exaggerated. The delicacy, which Harnoncourt has, is missing and with repeated listenings it is becoming somewhat disturbing. I have always liked Aldo Baldin’s voice, but I have almost always had problems with his interpretation of Bach Cantatas. I think that I have found why. He seems to approach the cantatas as an Italian tenor, of the Mario Lanza type. Sometimes it can work. After all, as every human being has his way of praying to his God, so every singer has his (or her) way of performing a Bach piece (which, in many cases, is like a prayer). But here it does not work. Hearing the recitative and especially the aria for tenor with Baldin immediately after Equiluz, and Baldin’s interpretation is becoming almost intolerable. Watts is definitely past her prime in the recitative for alto with strong vibrato and a voice that has lost its beauty. She is intelligent enough to find the way to convey the severe message.

[3] Koopman (1998)
Delicacy and gentleness are not missing from Koopman’s performance of the opening chorus. On the contrary, it is almost transparent, up to loosing some of the dramatic content of this movement. However, this is one of those renditions, which never tires the ear, even after dozens of times, almost on the same par with Harnoncourt. Chance, Mertens and Agnew keep the high level

[4] Leusink (1999)
Leusink sounds here as the poor cousin of Koopman. His opening chorus is inferior to Koopman’s in every parameter: cohesiveness, balance, transparency, separation of voices, etc. It lacks both delicacy and drama. The message of forsaken wretches asking for God’s mercy is not really conveyed. The aria for alto was not tailored for Buwalda’s powers, and so are the two movements for tenor regarding Schoch. Ramselaar’s recitative, although satisfactory done, is too short to save the overall performance from failure.

[6] Smith & Emmanuel Music (2001?)
As with last week’s Cantata BWV 20, Craig Smith & Emmanuel Music’s opening chorus is the best movement of their recording. I found myself swept away by the dramatic power of this chorus. It is performed with technical excellence and high spirit. The rest of the cantata is on a lower lever, since the vocal soloists are not of the first rank. At least it sounds as if they are making the best of their capabilities, and for me this characteristic is very important. The tenor William Hite is the best of them, although it seems that he has a way to go to come closer to Agnew or Equiluz.

Conclusion

My preferred recording of this cantata is Harnoncourt’s [1] (in all the movements and the overall performance). Second comes Koopman [3], and after him Smith & Emmanuel [6], Rilling [2], and Leusink [4].

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

Dick Wursten wrote (June 15, 2002):
Listened to Leusink [4]:
To quote (and vary on) Francis Browne: "Since it is vain to keep wishing that Buwalda were Scholl, and Schoch were Schreier", I had difficulty in appreciating the aria's (exit mvt 3and 5). [After reading the comments of Francis Brown I will retry to listen to mvt 5]. Since it also is in vain to expect some phantasy and phrasing in performing of polyphonic passages the splendid opening chorus also could not please my ears (exit mvt 1). This left me with mvt 2 (the recitative) and the concluding
Choral (mvt 6).

I just want to pull attention to this beautiful recitative mvt 2.
I paraphrase the short passage from Alfred Dürr’s book on this cantata, which says everything. Afterwards just listen:
Mvt 2 is a secco recitative with continuo, but Bach accentuates the 'quotes' from the hymn in a very special way. The two textual quotes are set as an Arioso ('adagio' in the score).
The melodic lines of the hymn which belongs to these two textual quotes (musical quotes) not only are sung by the bass, but are also subject of a small canonic variation in the continuo. The two lines are: "Sie lehren eitel falsche List" (hymn line 1) and "Der eine wählet dies, der andre das" (hymn line 5)

By the way: 'Unflat' (last line of mvt 2) is an exact quotation from the ORIGINAL Luther-bible (Mt 23,27) and is a crude (rude?) word (Luther is famous/notorious for his very close-to-ordinary-speech bible-language). The original greek word in Mt 23,27 is a-katharsia, generally translated as un-cleannes. I noticed that the word 'Unflat' is replaced in the modern revision of the Luther-bible by 'Unrat'. (Why ? Is 'Unflat' out of use, un-understandable ; or considered to be too rude for a religious book, or has the meaning changed during the centuries? I don't know.)

Philippe Bareille wrote (June 17, 2002):
[1] [Like Aryeh] I was introduced to Bach cantatas by Harnoncourt/Leonhardt (but in the mid-80's when they were half-way through their complete Bach cantata project). I was so taken that I gradually (given my meagre student income at the time) bought all the records (it was fantastic to get the bonus of having the scores as well). Later on I embraced other versions which are usually more polished and maybe less controversial. Yet I realise that despite all their shortcomings Harnoncourt/Leonhardt performances remain largely satisfying, not the least because of Equiluz, who proved to be a constant strength endowed with outstanding expressive potential. The beautiful tenor aria of Cantata BWV 2 sung by Equiluz can only reinforce my views. In my opinion it is the memorable part of this cantata.

 

Continue on Part 2

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

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Last update: ýOctober 1, 2011 ý14:17:43