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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 201
Geschwinde, ihr wirbelnden Winde
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 29, 2008 (2nd round)

Stephen Benson wrote (June 28, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 201 Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan

Poor Midas can't catch a break!

Lackey and witless toady to the teflon-coated Pan, who manages to slip off into the wings unscathed, Midas winds up the butt of everyone's joke in this comic masterpiece.

Twenty years separate two notable performances of BWV 201, Bach's musical indictment of musical ignorance. The first performance, as suggested by most authorities, came in 1729 during Bach's first appearance as leader of the Collegium Musicum at Zimmermann's coffeehouse. A specific target, if one existed, for this initial performance has not been identified. The second performance, 20 years later, came in 1749 in the form of a scathing response to those whom Bach considered at that moment to be particularly ignorant critics -- either Johann Gottlob Biedermann or the Saxon premiere Count Bruhl or both. Clearly, unenlightened criticism was an issue which plagued Bach throughout his career and to which he was particularly sensitive. Koopman [11], in the liner notes to his recorded performance, suggests that there may, in fact, have been several performances of this cantata. But whatever the immediate motivation, no more apt vehicle could have been chosen to explore musical aesthetics than the mythical confrontation between Phoebus Apollo and the clueless Pan.

I do find it curious that Pan gets off so lightly in Bach's reading while the scapegoat Midas, who appears to be nothing more than a dumb patsy, bears the brunt of the ridicule. Pan carries the onus of pride as well as of ignorance and therefore deserves a more humiliating fate. I can't help but see him chortling to himself about his good fortune as he sneaks out the back door: "Boy, I got away with one there, didn't I?" The visual image I associate with the Pan of BWV 201 is that of him returning to sylvan settings and frolicking with nubile nymphs as depicted in William Bougereau's "Nymphs and Satyr", a painting frequently cited as displaying the same kind of bad artistic taste being skewered here by Bach. (I have to confess that I enjoy the painting. No visit to the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, would be complete without experiencing its lighthearted vulgarity.)

Despite the fact that the subject matter of this cantata was indeed of great moment to Bach, its secular format allowed him to indulge the whimsical, playful side of his musical personality. (The graphic recreation of the braying of an ass in Midas's aria was a crudeness we normally might not expect from Bach!) It also allowed him to narrate a story with a clearly identifiable plot line. Based on the account provided by Ovid, Bach and his "librettist" Picander adapted the tale to meet the exigencies of a sendup of their contemporary enforcers of musical conformity.

Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan ("The dispute between Phoebus and Pan") or Geschwinde, geschwinde, ihr wirbelneden Winde ("Haste, haste, you whirling winds"), as it is also known, is, at approximately 50 minutes, one of Bach's longest cantatas. Consisting of 15 movements bookended by two marvelous choruses, the six principal characters alternate arias with recitatives which define the plot line and keep the action moving orward. The text is by Picander (Christian Friedrich Henrici) after Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book 11). Among other alterations to Ovid's account, Picander adds two characters -- Mercurius (god of merchants, probably representing the merchants of Leipzig) and Momus (god of satire) -- and makes the contest vocal rather than instrumental. Tmolus's role changes from that of being sole judge to becoming Apollo's second, as does the role of Midas, who becomes Pan's second. In its barest outlines, the boastful Pan (bass) gets his comeuppance at the hands of Phoebus Apollo (bass) who challenges him to a contest to be decided by their respective seconds, Midas (tenor) and Tmolus (tenor). The ignorance and sycophancy of Midas betray the emptiness of Pan's claim, and the added support given by the ostensibly more neutral Momus (soprano) and Mercurius (alto) to Tmolus's judgment in favor of Apollo results in Midas's ultimate disgrace. Pan somehow manages to slink out the back door unnoticed.

The cantata opens with a choral display, Geschwinde, geschwinde, ihr wirbelneden Winde, a large, da capo chorus (Mvt. 1) which doesn't tell us much of anything other than that the subject of the cantata is music itself, with references to "to-and-fro" alluding to the impending contest. Swirling instrumental flourishes represent the agitated winds, triplet figurations which are passed continuously among the instrumental voices so that they appear in every single measure of the first 106. Could the banishing of the winds with this grand tutti opening serve a dual purpose? Could it be not only an introduction to the plot, but also a very pointed message to potentially unruly patrons of Zimmermanís coffeehouse where this was first performed by the Collegium Musicum in 1729? "Hey, folks, listen up!" (What was, in fact, expected etiquette from a coffeehouse audience in early 18th-century Leipzig? Other accounts that Iíve read of audience behavior at that time would suggest that perhaps rude and boisterous conduct might be the rule.)

Over the course of the next 13 movements, each of the 6 soloists has his opportunity to shine, 6 arias alternating with 7 recitatives, with each aria setting out a clearly defined position for each soloist.

The opening salvo belongs to Momus, who, not surprisingly, characterizes Pan as nothing more than a windbag. Her Patron, das macht der Wind is followed by the competition arias of Phoebus and Pan, their differences only accentuated by their proximity. Phoebus's tribute to youthful love and beauty as personified by the comely Hyacinth is, oddly enough, accompanied by the flute which one might associate with Pan, whose own accompaniment to his blustery aria is provided by relatively more neutral unison violins. The competition is no contest, and designedly so. Phoebus's passionate utterance provides an eloquent contrast to the simplistic buffoonery of Pan's coarse melody, 8 different examples of which can be found on the website at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV201-Mus.htm

I would like to interject here that one of the challenges of providing introductions to the cantatas during this second round is the comprehensive and often exhaustive material provided by Aryeh during the first round. I cannot recommend strongly enough that readers return to those discussions for an overview. With respect to BWV 201, Aryeh suggests (at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV201-D.htm): "Good commentaries on this cantata can be found in most liner notes to the recordings as well as elsewhere. But after reading many of them, it seems to me that Alfred Dürr has said almost every important thing that should be said about this work." Aryeh offers this observation, of course, after providing us with Dürrís complete commentary, unquestionably a tough act to follow!

The competition arias of Apollo and Pan are followed, set off by recitatives, of course, by the judgment arias of Tmolus and Midas. Tmolus's judicious response is followed by the misguided inanities of Midas, highlighted by the imitative donkey hee-haw that definitively puts him in his place.

The ensuing recitative gives everyone an opportunity to dump on Midas, including even Pan, who clearly enjoys the opportunity to divert attention from his own losing cause. Mercurius's aria follows in which he metaphoskewers ignorant criticism, and Momus, in the penultimate movement, sends Midas on his way with a warning to him and those like him that their fate will be banishment from and ridicule by the company of cultured listeners. The proceedings end in a chorus that Dürr calls "an enthusiastic hymn to music." Both instruments and voices are given prominence in a reconciliation of art and music that stands as a rebuke to the ignorant.

BWV 201 is what I like to think of as unbuttoned Bach at his best. I can only imagine what enjoyment he must have experienced in writing and performing such an engaging assortment of recitatives, arias, and choruses. One cannot but respond immediately to the comedic character and charms of this cantata, and I hope List members will share their reactions. Comments and observations on all aspects of the music, the drama, and/or noteworthy performances are welcome.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 29, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< BWV 201 is what I like to think of as unbuttoned Bach at his best. I can only imagine what enjoyment he must have experienced in writing and performing such an engaging assortment of recitatives, arias, and choruses. One cannot but respond immediately to the comedic character and charms of this cantata, and I hope List members will share their reactions. Comments and observations on all aspects of the music, the drama, and/or noteworthy performances are welcome. >
Bach's comic secular cantatas have always been a problem for the Romantic myth of the Pious Earnest Bach. Bach was supposed to be devout and serious, writing religious music not heading out to Zimmerman's for an afternoon of secular romps. These cantatas are a wonderful corrective to the notion of Leipzig as a provincial backwater. An extended satire written in a fashionable operatic style tells us that Leipzig was a sophisticated cultural centre where there was the tug and tustle of artistic and philosophical taste and debate. Bach was clearly in the centre of the intellectual life of the city and not some grumpy old puritan.

Although it's highly unlikely that the cantata was staged with elaborate sets and machinery to depict the whirling winds, there was certainly a tradition of semi-staging of works like this in which the characters were costumed and stood before a painted backdrop. A small corps of dancers may have performed during dance and choral movements. Händel's 'Acis and Galatea' is a good example. It was written for performance in a hall not an opera house.

Those of you who have seen the productions ot Opera Atelier will know that extremely effective dramatic presentations can be fashioned from the simplest of sets and costumes.

And while we're in the operatic sphere, the Ovidian contest of singers can be seen as late as Wagner's "Meistersinger".

Neil Halliday wrote (June 29, 2008):
The choruses of this cantata are scored for remarkably large forces: 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings, S,A,T1,T2,B1,B2, and continuo.

The vocal lines are marked:
1. (S) Momus e Soprano
2. (A) Mercurius ed Alto
3. (T1) Tmolus e Tenore 1
4. (T2) Midas e Tenore 2
5 (B1) Phoebus e Basso 1
6 (B2) Pan e Basso 2

Interestingly, according to the BGA this implies 4VPP on the vocal bass line because B1 and B2 are virtually identical, except for a few instances in the final chorus where B1 is an octave above or below B2.

Stephen Benson wrote (June 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The choruses of this cantata are scored for remarkably large forces: 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 flutes, 2 oboes, strings, S,A,T1,T2,B1,B2, and continuo. >
Could this have been the result of Bach having the Collegium Musicum resources at hand for the first time?

Neil Halliday wrote (June 29, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
>Could the banishing of the winds with this grand tutti opening serve a dual purpose? Could it be not only an introduction to the plot, but also a very pointed message to potentially unruly patrons of Zimmerman's coffeehouse where this was first performed by the Collegium Musicum in 1729?<
I doubt Bach would have intended to admonish his audience in this fashion; in setting the scene, I'm sure his overt purpose (in this opening chorus) is to denigrate certain fatuous critics and their wayward ideas, by representing them as whirling winds which are to be banished together into a cavern, with the resonating echo of their disappearance being pleasing even to the airs - quite an effective insult if my reading is correct.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 29, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< in setting the scene, I'm sure his overt purpose (in this opening chorus) is to denigrate certain fatuous critics and their wayward ideas, by representing them as whirling winds which are to be banished together into a cavern, with the resonating echo of their disappearance being pleasing even to the airs - quite an effective insult if my reading is correct. >
Not having access to any recent recordings, I'm curious how various conductors handle the straight sixteenth notes in the voices when pitted against the triplet sixteenths in the orchestra.

Bars 70 -75 are a good example.

Is the pickup on "Gescwinde" a straight sixteenth or adjusted to agree with the final triplet sixteenth of the instruments?

In bar 71, is the sequence of straight sixteenths in the vocal bass adjusted to become triplet long-short figures? (the harmony is more consonant if they do)

The problem doesn't arise in the B section as both voices and orchestra have the same rhythhmic figures (except for the brief triplet run in bar 138). The shift back to the A section is a very tricky transition for any ensemble. If the B section picks up speed, even marginally, it is hard to recover the original tempo. I half-wonder if this rhythmic instability is Bach's way of depicting chaos in nature and thereby in art.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 30, 2008):
BWV 201 Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan - triplets

Douglas Cowling wrote:
>Bars 70-75 are a good example. Is the pickup on "Gescwinde" a straight sixteenth or adjusted to agree with the final triplet sixteenth of the instruments?<
In Rilling's brilliant 1996 recording [12], the 'whirlwind' speed makes this difficult to answer, but I expect the answer is yes.

>In bar 71, is the sequence of straight sixteenths in the vocal bass adjusted to become triplet long-short figures?<
No; and the contrast between the straight 1/16ths in bars 33 and 35 (and bars 71 and 73) with the triplet 1/16ths in bars 37 and 39 (and 75 and 77) is most effective; I expect it would be difficult, and probably unnecessary, to actually try to line up the 1/16th notes in the manner you suggest, at the rapid tempo of this chorus.

BTW, apart from some tiny instances, only the vocal basses among the voice parts are expected to tackle these very fast triplet 1/16th figures that are continually tossed around between the instrumental groups (including continuo with some extended passages that no doubt give the violone player quite a workout!). Perhaps this reflects the importance of the basses in the upcoming play, which revolves around a contest between two bass singers (Phoebus and Pan). Frequent instrumental trills also enliven the proceedings.

Note the 6-part vocal unison on "Auf einmal zusammen zur Hoehle hinein" ("all together into the cave"), in bars 26-29.

The middle section is remarkable for the musical illustration of "dass Hin- und Widerschallen" of the vanishing winds, through alternating syncopation between choir and orchestra. Rilling [12] maintains the same tempo in this section.

What we have with this brilliant 'tour de force' (the opening chorus) is nothing less than Bach the magician/sorcerer summoning the wayward winds (wayward critics) and banishing them to a cave.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 30, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Note the 6-part vocal unison on "Auf einmal zusammen zur Hoehle hinein" ("all together into the cave"), in bars 26-29. >
Bach has a similar unison passage at the end oeach section of the opening chorus of "Ach Flüchtig" -- another depiction of the stormy passage of human life.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 30, 2008):
Bach & Kuhnau [was: BWV 201]

Steve Benson wrote (BWV 201 intro):
>The second performance, 20 years later, came in 1749 in the form of a scathing response to those whom Bach considered at that moment to be particularly ignorant critics -- either Johann Gottlob Biedermann or the Saxon premiere Count Bruhl or both. Clearly, unenlightened criticism was an issue which plagued Bach throughout his career and to which he was particularly sensitive.<
Ed Myskowski replies:
I was about to let this detail from Kuhnau pass, but I cannot help but notice the similarity (and contrast). I previously cited a few sentences, directly, from: A Treatise on Liturgical Settings (1710), Johann Kuhnau, included in Carol K. Baron, Bachs Changing World (thanks again, Will!). I originally meant to illustate Kuhnaus sense of humor. Faced with an earlier predicament (1710), which strikes me as analogous to Bachs, Kuhnau states (I paraphrase, and state Kuhnaus inference):

I take efforts to avoid suspicion of writing theatrical music [opera], despite the fact that the people who make the rules do not know the difference between theatrical and church music! (see Baron, p.221)

I am enjoying Bachs recits more with every listen. Does it make an <operatic impression>, or does it <inspire devotion>, if the text is appropriately devotional? Who shall decide? In the context of the human comedy, the folks who cannot tell the difference shall decide.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 30, 2008):
BWV 201 introduction

Steve Benson wrote (BWV 201 intro):
>Other accounts that Iíve read of audience behavior at that time would suggest that perhaps rude and boisterous conduct might be the rule.<
I am speechless! Dumbfounded. As a change of pace from the more characteristic rude and boisterous.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 30, 2008):
BWV 201 - Provenance

Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for Cantata BWV 201 discussion.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV201-Ref.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 30, 2008):
Bach & Kuhnau [was: BWV 201]

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I take efforts to avoid suspicion of writing theatrical music [opera], despite the fact that the people who make the rules do not know the difference between theatrical and church music! (see Baron, p.221)
I am enjoying Bach's recits more with every listen. Does it make an <operatic impression>, or does it <inspire devotion>, if the text is appropriately devotional? Who shall decide? In the context of the human comedy, the folks who cannot tell the difference shall decide. >
We've had this debate about "sacred" and "secular" styles before, and despite all the treatises and commentaries from the 18th century, I just don't see any differences between the two bodies of cantatas. Much is made of the comic staccato on "wackelt" in Pan's aria, "Zu Tanze", yet Bach uses precisely the same effect on "lachen" in the opening chorus of the "Easter Oratorio" (BWV 249). When does boisterous guffawing become pious rejoicing? In fact, I'm susprised that "Geschwinde" with its big choruses was never recycled as a sacred cantata.

And despite all the contemporary commentaries about performing styles, did Bach perform "Tönet ihr Pauken" differently when it became the opening of the "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248). Were there differences in tempo, articulation, dynamics, ornamentation, singing styles? I doubt it.

I suspect that the whole debate about "sacred" and "secular" styles of music and performance was a faux-debate which allowed musicians to defend the "modern" concerted style against a growing sentiment against elite art music in the liturgy which ultimately triumphed at the end of the 18th century. Where are the great Lutheran composers of the last quarter of the 18th century? There are none because the sacred music business changed and put them out of work.

Uri Golomb wrote (June 30, 2008):
[Regarding Bach & Kuhnau] In Bach's case, I believe there really is little or no distinction between church and secular style. This distinction is usually made in an attempt to find things you can do in secular contexts but not in sacred ones; but in reality, the only distinction I noticed works the other way around. To wit: there are no chorale melodies in secualr works, at least as far as I know. Which means that all chorale-related manners of writing -- harmonised chorales, chorale-and-aria combinations, chorale fantasias for choir and orchestra, and so forth -- are absent from the secular works. But this is about something you cannot take out of the church. I doubt if Bach ever stopped himself from bringing anything into the church.

Some of my readings suggest that this general merge between the sacred and the secular was very much in the spirit of the time: the union of secular and liturgical music was increasingly advocated in Bach's lifetime by several prominent figures, such as Erdmann Neumeister and Johann Mattheson. Gottfried Ephraim Scheibel's 1721 treatise on church music (partly translated in Bach's Changing World) includes a detailed argument in favour of adopting secular, even operatic music into liturgical works, advocating much of what Bach has been practicing (again, see Joyce Irwin in Bach's Changing World). But these writers advocated this as an innovation -- a way to enrich liturgical music. So perhaps earlier composers made more of the sacred/secular distinction. There are several earlier German BAroque composers whose sacred music I've sampled quite extensively (e.g., Weckmann, Rosenmüller, Schelle, Knüpfer, Tunder), but not their secular music; so I cannot really say how the two compare (I'll have to check again which of these composers actually wrote secular vocal music).

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 30, 2008):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for Cantata BWV 201 discussion.
See:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV201-Ref.htm >
Despite the valuable factual information in this description, there are several imbedded opinions which cannot be admitted as fact.

"This is a composing score that makes quite clear that parodies are not involved in any of the movements: it is definitely an original composition composed in great haste as apparent from the many corrections ..."

We simply don't know if parodies are involved. "Composing score" makes it sound like this is a special genre of manuscript. It isn't. This was a conducting score as well. Nor is the state of the score any indication of haste. That assumption has also been levelled at immaculately-transcribed scores and parts.

Nor is there any evidence that did Bach not conduct the performance:

"His ill health would most likely have prevented this".

Harrer's audition for Bach's position in June 1749 was premature. Wolff points out that Bach oversaw the performance of the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) in 1750.

My chief concern here is that these "Provenance" pages are being given a status which no other submissions receive. Many visitors to the site will assume that these are factual reference pages.

Lest I be accused of fanning flame wars, let me state that I miss Thomas Braatz's regular contribution of original documentation and especially the translations. The original problem -- and it continues in this posting -- was that historical data was not kept separate from the personal commentary.

We should all welcome speculation, but not in a FAQ page.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 30, 2008):
Uri Golomb wrote:
< To wit: there are no chormelodies in secualr works, at least as far as I know. >
I've always thought that the little folk melodies throughput the "Peasant Cantata" (BWV 212) are a secular wink at chorales in a church cantata.

Stephen Benson wrote (June 30, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
> Bars 70-75 are a good example. Is the pickup on "Gescwinde" a straight sixteenth or adjusted to agree with the final triplet sixteenth of the instruments?<
In Rilling's brilliant 1996 recording
[12], the 'whirlwind' speed makes this difficult to answer, but I expect the answer is yes. >
Since this is a "yes" answer to an either/or question -- 'straight' or 'adjusted' -- I'm not sure what the answer represents. There do seem to be differences among the three recordings to which I listened, especially if one listens to the "Geschwinde" entrances throughout the rest of the movement. Koopman [11] and Schreier [6], at slower tempos than the 1996 Rilling [12], seem to give greater emphasis to that first syllable of "Geschwinde", stretching it out a little bit, giving it more of a straight sixteenth feel, and thereby giving it more of an independent existence. Rilling, and it IS difficult to hear at the faster tempo, seems to utilize the syllable more as an upbeat anticipating a stronger downbeat and therefore feels a little shorter. Please note that I used the word "seem" three times here. All of this, of course, may simply be a function of the differences in tempo.

>In bar 71, is the sequence of straight sixteenths in the vocal bass adjusted to become triplet long-short figures?<
< No; and the contrast between the straight 1/16ths in bars 33 and 35 > (and bars 71 and 73) with the triplet 1/16ths in bars 37 and 39 (and 75 and 77) is most effective; I expect it would be difficult, and probably unnecessary, to actually try to line up the 1/16th notes in the manner you suggest, at the rapid tempo of this chorus. >
This is true of the Koopman [11] and Schreier [6] recordings, as well. It may also be worth noting that the same rhythmic contrast occurs in the B section in mm. 124-126, although there the opposition is not between voices and instruments, but between trumpets and woodwinds. As clear as the distinction is there -- and it IS easier to hear with these instruments than in the other examples -- consistency would suggest that the vocal/instrumental contrasts in the other examples would be handled in the same way.

William Hoffman wrote (July 1, 2008):
Wink & Nod [was: BWV 201]

Douglas Cowling
"I've always thought that the little folk melodies throughout the "Peasant Cantata" are a secular wink at chorales in a church cantata."
William Hoffman replies: I think Bach was following a long-standing tradition, adding a twist or two. Go back to the Middle Ages when folk-drinking, -fighting, and -loving-songs made their way into the Mass. Only the monks (and the people) knew for sure and they had a field day in Carmina Burana, which incidentally has a section of Passion Music in all its forms (intensity, suffering, eroticism, and anger -- the makings of an opera seria?). And there is Palestrina's "Missa sine nomine," (which Bach presented c1742) "without an acknowledged known thematic source," says the Naxos program notes, because it "may be based on material of secular origin, carefully hidden to follow the dictates of the Council of Trent, which had forbidden such practice." There are many examples in Bach of the 1730s which we can discuss. Bach had his cake, and ate it all, too -- with a wink and a nod!

William's speculations: The flow was often from the profane to the so-called sacred and with special thanks to the Catholic bretheren for their self-indulgences and universal contributions. You see, we can have the best of both worlds -- or all possible worlds!

Neil Mason wrote (July 1, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding Bach & Kuhnau] I am absolutely sure you are correct, with all your examples. I can't help thinking that there were a number of contemporaries who wished it were otherwise, but the music itself supports you, in my opinion.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 1, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
>Since this is a "yes" answer to an either/or question -- 'straight' or 'adjusted' -- I'm not sure what the answer represents.<
Sorry, I rewrote that in haste after losing my first reply; I meant to answer Doug's second proposition - "adjusted" - in the affirmative (agreeing with your subsequent observations about Rilling's 1996 recording [12]).

Yes, the straight 1/16th trumpet notes in the middle section can be clearly heard (briefly) against the triplets in the woodwinds; thanks, I hadn't noticed this.

>As clear as the distinction is there -- and it IS easier to hear with these instruments than in the other examples -- consistency would suggest that the vocal/instrumental contrasts in the other examples would be handled in the same way.<
Agreed, and in any case the 'two against three' effect is pleasing especially at this tempo, so why change it?

------

Phoebus' aria (Mvt. 5) has some striking examples of this 'two against three' effect in the latter bars of the ritornello (bars 17-20 and 22) and later in the aria. The continuo's straight 1/16ths (2nd and 3rd beats - the first beat has triplets) contrast strongly with the first violins' triplets.

Something I first noticed in the score even though I had heard the piece a couple of times before: as the bass vocalist enters (in Mvt. 5), the upper instruments successively pass on a lovely phrase - from flute, to oboe, to 1st violin to 2nd violin.

------

Stephen Guy in previous discussions wondered about continuo instrumentation; Rilling [12] has considerable variety of continuo instrumentation, to good effect, depending on the cast in the particular aria. eg, Momus' aria has cello and harpsichord; Mercurius' aria has bassoon and harpsichord (plus flutes - a delightful aria); Tmolus' aria has bassoon, double bass, harpsichord (plus oboe d'amore); Midas and Pan have cello, double bass and harpsichord ( plus unison violins); and Phoebus has all four continuo instruments (plus flute, oboe, and upper strings).

--------

Speaking of rhythm, there is a striking little rhythmic feature at the end of the middle section of Mercurius' (alto) aria, on "drowns in injury and disgrace".

-----

Re the discussion of church versus secular, I can't help thinking that Pan's aria, as vividly performed by Rilling [12] (wack-ack-ack-ack; and the deliberately laborious descending chromatic phrase on the violins in the middle section), would be out of place in a church setting, not to mention Midas' aria with the 'growing asses ears' imagery in the violins (and continuo). However, Tmolus aria could no doubt slip into a church service without causing any consternation.

William Hoffman wrote (July 1, 2008):
BWV 201 - Provenance -- Time Out!!!

William Hoffman responds [to Douglas Cowling]: In the midst of a wide-ranging, stimulating, thoughtful discussion of topics provoked by Cantata BWV 201, comes a critical note. I wonder if this in part is the successor to the personal controversies Bach had: with Gaudlitz, both Ernesti's, Scheibe, and Biedermann -- the last, not his finest hour. His was dying, weary and it was the last straw -- the ultimate insult and Bach did take it very personally. He'd had, quoting Carol Baron, a lifetime of "Tumultuous Philosophers, Pious Rebels, Revolutionary Teachers, Pedantic Clerics, Vengeful Bureaucrats, Threatened Tyrants, Worldly Mystics" -- all good old boys! I have thoroughly relished all the positive, constructive, insightful, generous comments from everyone. Perhaps we should divide the Cantata Weekly discussions into severasections: Recordings, the Music itself, Search for Truth, and Thoughts from Tumultuous Philosphers, etc. etc.

Respectfully, the World's Oldest Living Graduate Student and Recovered Journalist.

William Hoffman wrote (July 2, 2008):
Cantata 201: Fugitive Notes

Cantata BWV 201 could be a secular repertory work which Bach kept readily at hand for future performances. Besides the specific 1729 inaugural performance and the 1749 Biedermann presentation, there appears from the materials small changes presuming at least one performance in the latter 1730s, perhaps in conjunction with the Scheibe affair.

Beyond any historical-cultural references, I think the work is a substantial generic, satiric commentary on the conflict between so-called "high" and "low" art. Also, it is an ambitious work in length, performing resources, and treatment of the subject. Other secular repertory cantatas could be BWV 208(a) tafelmusik, presented in 1713 as well as in Köthen and in 1742, and perhaps Cantata BWV 205(a), 1725 and 1734. There is no record that any of these three secular works being substantially parodied into sacred works.

As to possible parodies, Douglas Cowling wonders: "I'm surprised that `Geschwinde' with its big choruses was never recycled as a sacred cantata." There is the slightest possibility that the opening chorus as well as substantial arias and choruses from Cantatas BWV 205(a), BWV 206 and BWV 207(a) may have been parodied in a lost Pentecost Oratorio in 1735, text by Picander? That concept was raised by Alfred Dürr in his comments to the 1962 Baerenreiter edition of the Christmas Oratorio and repeated in passing in his Bach Cantata Book (p.44). Picander's words of whirling wind and Bach's musical affect in the opening chorus of Cantata BWV 201 are reminiscent of Luke's text in Acts 2:2 , (Martin Luther translation) where the Holy Spirit descends, "als einer gewaltigen Windes." Is this more than a mere coincidence; a serendipitous situation?

Beyond the comments in the NBA KB I/40 from Thomas Braatz and Dürr's, here are some interesting insights and my fugitive thoughts:

Martin Geck, JSB Life and Work, pp. 189-194: An account of the Leipzig Collegium musicum, with its 40-plus performing members; Bach's succession to the directorship in 1729; and the immediate opportunity its resources offer Bach, especially Cantatas BWV 174, BWV 149, and BWV 171. I also think it's possible that Bach had opportunities to lead members of the Collegium musicum, who also performed at the University New Church, in works performed there previously, such as Cantatas BWV 59 in 1723 and BWV 198 in 1727; works Bach presented to the Dresden nobility (Cantatas BWV Anh. 9 and BWV 193a, in 1727); and University events (Cantatas BWV Anh. 1 in 1723, BWV 205 in 1725, and BWV 207 in 1726).

Peter Williams: JSB: A Life in Music, pp. 206-09, writes about the significance of the Bach involvement with the Collegium musicum: opportunities not only for him but his two oldest sons, the resources available, motive and method of Bach securing the position, and the influence on chamber repertory which I think could include Cantatas BWV 209, BWV 202, and BWV 210. Also, I think it's no coincidence that not only was Bach able to get some of the necessary resources for a well-appointed church music, belatedly, and still sporadically, but also that he had just enjoyed two personal triumphs and creative benchmarks with his SMP (BWV 244) and its parody, the Köthen Funeral Music, BWV 244a, as he moved to assume the Collegium musicum leadership and leave behind the daily frustrations of church life for stimulating and greater new vistas.

Stephen Benson wrote (July 3, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
> In Rilling's brilliant 1996 recording [12] <
The three recordings to which I've been listening each elicit different and distinct reactions from me. (I realize I have to be particularly careful about expressing my preferences with respect to this cantata, with asses' ears so readily available for distribution!) Koopmanís performers [11], for the most part, seem remarkably distanced from both the text and the music. The notes are all there, but the performers don't seem to be. They just don't seem to connect. Schreier's recording in the Brilliant Classics boxed set [6] is quite enjoyable -- a marked improvement from Koopman in liveliness and energy. Rilling's 1996 recording [12], however, is in a class by itself. He, his instrumentalists, and his singers all seem to have jumped wholeheartedly into the group spirit of the thing from the beginning. Everybody is immediately engaged and takes part in the fun. I like to think of it as the 'thrilling' Rilling. To me it is one of THE essential Bach recordings.

I do have a decided preference for the Momus of Koopman's Caroline Stam [11], who displays just the right degree of a sort of saucy, impudent, mocking buoyancy. As for Mercurius, the performance of Ingeborg Danz in Rilling's recording [12] deserves special mention. Along with her singing, the ebullience of the flute duet and the playful bassoon of Gunter Pfitzenmaier, which percolates along at a merry clip, stand out in her "Aufgeblasne Hitze". For what it's worth, especially from such a small sample, my other preferences with respect to the principal characters include Peter Schreier's [6] Tmolus, James Taylor's Midas, Siegfried Lorenz's Phoebus, and Dietrich Henschel's Pan. The choruses, for me, both belong exclusively to Rilling. His opening "Geschwinde" generates the energy of the winds he is describing, and his triumphant concluding chorus proves a fitting finale.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 3, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
> I do have a decided preference for the Momus of Koopman's Caroline Stam [11], who displays just the right degree of a sort of saucy, impudent, mocking buoyancy.<
I agree completely; hers is the most attractive soprano voice among those that can be heard in the available BCW amazon samples, viz. Leonhardt [10], Rilling [12], Koopman [11], and Albrecht [14].

Otherwise, Rilling's recording [12] is most likely the exemplar.

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 5, 2008):
BWV 201 - catching up and thanks to Stephen and Uri

After puzzling over which direction to go with future listening I finally decided on Classical.com. The price is reasonable, and the results are very good. I finally got to listen to this cantata (BWV 201) all the way through and I loved it. I believe Doug might have been the one who mentioned the sophistication of the time of Bach's writing, and certainly this little pastoral style opera is a delight representing Bach's versatility as a composer. I particularly liked the instrumentation in the alto aria.

I want to thank Stephen for his comprehensive introduction - it was great. And belated thanks to Uri for his recent work. am only just now starting to catch up with the schedule, but happy to have a good listening set-up that works well with my computer finally.

Stephen Benson wrote (July 5, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< I finally got to listen to this cantata (BWV 201) all the way through and I loved it. >
As this week's discussion draws to a close, Jean's comment gives me an opportunity to express my surprise that such a wonderful piece of music elicited so few responses. Has everything been said about BWV 201?

I'd still like to find out what performing conditions were like at Zimmerman's, if only to see what kinds of challenges Bach would face there, an issue that I was sure someone on the List could shed some light on. Is there anything in the music that might be a reaction to that change in venue? I refer here to the brilliant opening, the appearance at several places in the score of explosive punctuations on the single-syllable "Pan!", the exigencies of the more theatrical dramatic medium, and the possibility of contemporary allusions which might be overlooked by modern audiences. After all, a coffeehouse is NOT a church! (And, to go back to my earlier question, how would an 18th-century Leipzig coffee-house audience have reacted to the "hee-haw" in "Pan ist meister"? A slight smile? A suppressed giggle? Guffaws? Hooting and hollering?)

Only three of the 14 available recordings (according to the website) were even mentioned, although it IS hard to imagine anyone topping the 1996 Rilling [12]!

And a question that occurred to me later in the week that has particular relevance to the recent discussions about recitatives -- is there anywhere else in Bach's works where 6 principal singers get to state their positions so clearly in a single recitative as they do in "Wie, Midas, bist du toll" (Mvt. 12).

Yet another question that occurs to me as I write this: were the all-encompassing late works of Bach -- the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), etc. -- the final answer to the very questions posed in "The Contest between Phoebus and Pan"? Were those works Bach's fulfillment of the need to justify the compositional ideals expressed here and thus constitute a direct link to this 1729 "operatic" farce?

Finally, I come full circle to the why of the question I posed in the beginning, the relatively minimal punishment suffered by Pan from all of this, and the image I have of him returning to the woods to frolic with his groupie nymphs as expressed in the Bougereau "Nymphs and Satyr"

Oh, well, maybe next round!

P.S. If anyone IS in the vicinity and does visit the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA, to check out the Bougereau painting -- to my mind, a worthy objective -- remember that you'll be only a hop, skip, and a jump away from Ed's (figuratively!) Berkshire Record Outlet. I think the definition of "immediate gratification" is, after walking in with a prepared list of CD's and handing it to one of the helpful staff members, walking out of there 20 minutes later with an armload of ridiculously inexpensive discs. No fuss. No muss. No shipping and handling. No waiting for the package to arrive at the post office.

Vivat205 wrote (July 5, 2008):
BWV 201 Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan - Recordings

Stephen Benson wrote:
>> I do have a decided preference for the Momus of Koopman's Caroline Stam [11], who displays just the right degree of a sort of saucy, impudent, mocking buoyancy.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I agree completely; hers is the most attractive soprano voice among those that can be heard in the available BCW amazon samples, viz. Leonhardt [10], Rilling [12], Koopman [11], and Albrecht [14].
Otherwise, Rilling's recording
[12] is most likely the exemplar. >
Absolutely agree that Rilling's recording [12] sets the standard. What I find really intriguing about the well-performed Albrecht [14] is its imaginary performance as "a complete dramatic opera rather than a hommage," with a 3-part overture (Sinfonia & Adagio from BWV 249a plus a march lifted from a propulsive chorus from BWV 207a); after 201 proper is done, the performance wraps up with a repeat of the BWV 207a marche. Purists would conspicuously roll their eyeballs at this, but Bach did self-parody after all, and it works--both as to content and performance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 5, 2008):
Vivat205 wrote:
< Absolutely agree that Rilling's recording [12] sets the standard. What I find really intriguing about the well-performed Albrecht [14] is its imaginary performance as "a complete dramatic opera rather than a hommage," >
I'm surprised that this list hasn't gone to town on the possibility of this as Bach's "opera".

We have endless tiffs about religion, but here is a work which is unabashedly secular and worldly and we haven't talked about comparable works in the Leipzig-Dresden axis, or the performing conditions: semi-staged? Women singers? Who attended the performance? What other works had similar performances?

Come on folks, ain't nothing Lutheran here!

Vivat205 wrote (July 5, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] The phenomenal Washington Bach Consort (J. Reilly Lewis, cond.) has a history of performing the non-liturgical secular cantatas as mini-operas/dramas, complete with costumes and some staging. Their #205 a couple of years ago was the highlight of my concert-attending life (which includes lots of Karajan, Haitink, Muti, Böhm, and others). Last fall they did BWV 211 and this September will do BWV 207. I came to the secular cantatas late but now am "hooked" on them to the extent that I have to remind myself to listen to the sacred cantatas from time to time.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 201: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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