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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 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of June 29, 2008 [Continue]

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 6, 2008):
BWV 201 Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan - The Opera

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," with a 3-part overture (Sinfonia & Adagio from BWV 249a plus a march lifted from a propulsive chorus from 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. >
Here are Albrecht's liner notes [14] for Bach's "opera". The imaginary description of the performance is intriguing. I like this comment:

"Let us put aside at this point all musicological knowledge and attempt to separate ourselves from our view of the spiritual Bach. Let us imagine the normal person, the worldly Johann Sebastian with his tendency towards
sensuality, esprit and humour, and let our imagination run wild."

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Dramma per Musica (Cantata BWV 201)
Münchener Bach-Chor · Bach-Collegium München
Hansjörg Albrecht, conductor

If Bach had written an operaS Bachıs secular cantatas live and breathe due to the musical-dramatic talent of the baroque masterıs polyphony. A talent that also distinguishes his oratorios and that confused not a few of his contemporaries, who did not expect such intense dramatic action in the context of sacred spaces. He often titled his secular cantatas ­ as in the case of BWV 201 ­ "Dramma per musica". If Bach had written an operas. This thought inspired Hansjörg Albrecht to develop Cantata BWV 201, '"Der Wettstreit zwischen Phoebus und Pan", into a mini-opera. He added an overture as well as beginning and final choruses from other Bach works to create a musical-dramatic work that would have been appropriate for an evenings entertainment at any baroque court.

Founded in 1954 by Karl Richter, the Münchener Bach-Chor has been directed since the 2005/2006 season by Hansjörg Albrecht, who has given the choir a new artistic profile within a very short time.

Johann Sebastian Bach
Der streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan
The Contest between Phoebus and Pan
Dramma per musica (Cantata BWV 201)

Momus ...... Simone Nold, soprano
Mercurius ...... Annette Markert, alto
Tmolus ...... Markus Schäfer, tenor
Midas ...... Werner Güra, tenor
Phoebus ...... Konrad Jarnot, baritone
Pan ...... Stephan Genz, baritone

Münchener Bach-Chor
Bach Collegium München
Hansjörg Albrecht

Bach and the "Dramma per musica"
"Heaven forbid! It is as if one was in an opera comedie."

This sole surviving critique by an unknown noblewoman of the performance of Bach's Passion of St. Mathew on Good Friday in the year 1729 allows us to sense the impression left by this grand musical drama. Bachıs music, in which elements of the Italian opera and concert-style are fused together, was anything but simply "beautiful", its drama and the absence of any visual depiction on stage forced the audience to experience the piece at the spiritual level. The interpretation of a "theater for the mind" is called for, and one need not be bothered by the word Ocomedieı, for it has nothing to do with what we understand as comedy today. Theater troupes often performed serious pieces, but the actors themselves remained "comedians". Comedie in this context then means simply a piece for the theater.

Johann Sebastian Bach never composed an opera, but the question is repeatedly and justifiably raised as to whether he might have become the most important opera composer of the Baroque, if he had received a position at the court in Dresden for example. The transition between church and secular music was nothing unusual in his work, and the courtly Baroque aspiration to rank and honour was certainly well known to him. It was a matter of course for him to effectively incorporate kettle drums and trumpets, either as the regalia of nobility and might, or for the glorification and praise of God and the monarchs chosen by him to rule on earth. This equivalency of spiritual and secular power has become as strange to us as the world view held at that time.

Throughout his life, Bach concentrated on solidifying his professional authority through tenaciously pursued career advancement and nominations: he was musical director in Köthen until 1729, and titular musical director of Weissenfels until 1735. Starting in 1736 he carried the title of "Court Composer of the Saxon Electoral Prince and Polish King". Bach was not just the pious man and cantor that he is gladly seen as, but rather he considered himself a bandmaster and worked as such during his lifetime. As such, he left artistic creations to posterity, such as his Four Orchestral Suites and his Concerts avec Plusieurs Instruments (Six Brandenburg Concertos), that were meant for more than just a church performance. And his secular cantatas, which he often labeled as "Dramma per musica" are among the best music for a bandmaster, although today they are often, and unfortunately, considered ³occassional compositions² performed as niche work.

"A cantata looks like a piece from an opera."

This quote comes from Bachıs friend, the first pastor of Hamburg and cantata text author Erdmann Neumeister. His credo was directional for Bach from the very beginning, and although he ­ unlike his colleagues Reincken and Telemann ­ never wrote an opera, he was always inclined towards the dramatic. In Hamburg, where Bach spent considerable time, he may have visited the opera house on Gänsemarkt (which was then a leading theater where works from Handel, Mattheson and Keiser were performed) and derived important inspiration for the, in parts, very dramatic musical language of his cantatas and passions. And in Leipzig, the German trade and exposition city, which was no less important than Hamburg, and which Bach visited from his position at the Köthen court, enjoyed numerous popular opera performances. Thereto he was acquainted with various musicians of the Dresden court chapel. He was also friends with the ³master² of the court opera, Johann Adolph Hasse and his wife, the opera diva Faustina Bordoni, and both visited Bach in Leipzig. In 1731 Bach experienced the premier of Hasse's opera Cleofide in the court theater during a concert tour through Dresden, and affectionately termed the arias "beautiful songs". The "Grand Opera House" in Dresden, built at the behest of August II ("the Strong") was erected by both German and Italian artists and architects such as Pöppelmann, Permoser and the Mauro brothers. It boasted not only 2000 seats, but also attained the reputation of the largest German theater in Europe. During the reign of the italophile ­ a Saxon Electoral Prince and Polish King who converted to Catholicism ­ and his son August III, composers such as Lotti, Hasse and Naumann provided for Italian operatic majesty at the Saxon court. Johann Sebastian Bach as an artistic "fuser" of the Italian, French and German styles possessed a great affinity for opera; at least the new opera house stood close to the Church of St. Sophia in which his son Wilhelm Friedemann was organist starting in the year 1733.

Let us put aside at this point all musicological knowledge and attempt to separate ourselves from our view of the spiritual Bach. Let us imagine the normal person, the worldly Johann Sebastian with his tendency towards sensuality, esprit and humour, and let our imagination run wild. May it not have been that Bach dreamt of a short opera during his composition? One of his new "Drammae per musica" composed not as music of homage, but as that of "opera comedie"? A work that was performed as the season opening in 1729 in a public "concert" that freed him for that evening from all churchly liabilitiess?

SIt is a tepid late summer evening. A stage has been erected on the marketplace in Leipzig, directly in front of the Apel house. Hundreds of eager spectators, many of them students, intellectuals and professors of the university, are waiting anxiously to hear what "grand music" Bach will present this evening, with his compliment of six soloists, his choir and the recently acquired student-comprised Collegium musicum. Bach had long since had his opponents, both in the church bureaucracy as well as among the musicologists, who considered his compositions as both too demanding and antiquated. Bach had to fight time and again against the council and school to demonstrate his skill in composing church music, and at the same time he had to defend himself against the proponents of the "sentimental style" who accused him of apparent artificiality and a lack of feeling. Due to rehearsals at the Café Zimmermann, it was known that this new cantata was something different, and that Bach had adopted the position of an "intellectual" and composed a lavish work that was worthy of being considered true music. In addition, the Electoral Prince has come with his family to Leipzig from Dresden in order to be honoured by the composer.

The entire square is lit by hundreds of torches, and with a virtuoso overture that Bach had composed years ago for his Shepherds Cantata (­ debuted for the birthday of Duke Christian von Sachsen-Weissenfels), and that he had also used as a sinfonia in his Easter Oratorio, the evening begins with drums and the resplendent clangor of trumpets. The solo voice of the corresponding Adagio ­ in Bachs favorite tone of B minor ­ is performed on this evening by a flute (and not an oboe as previously). This new instrumentation is consciously chosen, and portends that this instrument will play a special role in the plot of the coming "drama". At the silent conclusion of this adagio accompanied by strings, one naturally expects another quick concerto movement. The orchestra begins with a variant of the third movement from Bach's Brandenburg Concerto Nr. 1, and the choir ­ positioned to the right and left of the podium ­ answers in response to the obvious orchestral prelude with the words "Rise clangorous tones of cheerful trumpets". Later it recites: "search for the most beautiful in the flutes". It is an homage to music and will find its counterpart during the evening's finale.

The last bar of the powerful three-part overture has just faded out when suddenly drums roll over the vast expanse of the square. One stands and the Electoral Prince and his family appear. The orchestra begins to play a march, the monarch gives a sign, and the curtain opens in the middle of the Competition between Phoebus and Pan.

The introductory music formally begins, whirls wildy and almost runs out of control. Bachıs poet Christian Friedrich Henrici Picander tells of the musical competition between two vainglorious gods in an adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphosis, namely between Phoebus (Apollo) on his lyre and Pan on his flute. Bach himself sets the arias of the actors in respective keys, characteristic descriptions and refined instrumentalisation in highly artistic relation to each other. But let us return to the action on the stage. In the beginning, Aeolus the god of the winds appears to enjoy playing particularly loud during the competition by evoking a howling storm. Directly following the end of the storm, the voice of Phoebus rises from a forest glade. For him, the aesthete without equal, it is insufficient to be the god of light and art, he wants to prove that he is the best of the musicians as well. But his antipode doesnıt wait long to appear. The goat-legged Pan, for his part god of the forests and fields, provides resistance; he himself had invented the flute, built from seven reeds of varying length. And where a duel takes place, not only of a musical nature, a critic must be present. In this case Momus, laden with wisdom, the god of criticism and scorn, begins to amuse himself at Panıs cost and presents himself with a basso continuo in ³middle style² (G-major) as immensely precocious. But Mercurius canıt stand this any longer and tries to settle the dispute as a judge. He is however between two fronts, for he is the half-brother of Phoebus, and had sired Pan together with a nymph. What to do? He makes it easy on himself and suggests that each search a judge. Phoebus decides for Tmolus, the god of the mountains where the competition takes place, and Pan decides on Midas, who just happens to be present. This is the Midas who was considered a fool in ancient Greece, for he wished that everything he touched would turn to gold and almost starved as a consequences.

The decision for the judges has barely been made when Phoebus raises his voice in the esteemed circle and sings ­ again in Bachıs favorite key B-minor ­ of his beloved Hyacinth. A majestic aria with the oboe d'amore, muted strings and a flute (!) ­ the most modern sound of the late 1720s, and approaching the "sentimental style". The intelligent Momus taunts Pan at this point, although he has yet to perform a single note. Pan remains unimpressed however and leaps goat-legged to take the stage. Violins, oboe dıamore and a basso continuo support the awkward dance and heart-rending sobs of the singer in this swashbuckling A-major. Tmolus immediately renders his verdict (made before the competition) for Phoebus, whom he adulates and imitates, having nothing but praise for his chosen god. One hears a wonderful trio of tenor, oboe d'amore and violoncello in F-sharp Minor. Could anyone object? Midas of course, for he is to take the side of Pan. In his foolishness however he overdoes it ­ the strings imitate the ugly sound of a donkeyıs braying in this aria in D-major. He has barely finished when the experts and music critics puff themselves up and berate him liberally. Even Panıs father Mercurius takes the side of the victorious opponent. Phoebus not only enjoys his victory at this point, but also humiliates Midas. He begs for mercy, but Phoebus turns his ears into those of a donkey anyway. Mercurius raises didactically and full of warning his forefinger and demonstrates in his aria in E-minor how one is to play the flute. Momus, the spirit of criticism, claims the final word for himself: good music is victorious over bad music, and expert knowledge trumps ignorance. In the final movement of the chorus, which once again refers to the blare of the trumpets, the praise of high art is sung with grace.

The curtain falls, the Electoral Prince rises and the applause begins. While the family of the Electoral Prince departs, the orchestra plays the march once again in a courtly and majestic manner.

Ovid managed success in his poetry without the howling winds, the scornful Momus, the sly god Mercurius ­ god of trade and, too, of the merchants of Leipzig. These two celestial figures were added by the libtrettist Picander to raise the tension on the stage. The evening of the premiere in Leipzig wasnıt lacking in excitement. Johann Sebastian Bach nonly composed a piece full of entertainment in his "dramma per musica", but also a desired explication of the contrast between the "artistic, dedicated and serious style, and that of the easy complaisant style" (Philipp Spitta).

We all very much enjoyed the Baroque resplendence and theatrical musical effects during this recording ­ even though we didnıt record an opera comedie such as Bach's Passion of St. Mathew. I would like to thank the soloists and musicians of the Bach Collegium in Munich who were willing to experiment, as well as Torsten Schreier, our inspiring sound engineer. And it wasnıt just Bach who was dependent on finacing and favour in order to bring his pieces to the stage, therefore I thank our sponsors, the Friends of the Munich Bach Choir the Bavarian Radio and our producer Dieter Oehms who made this recording possible. I am also pleased to thank the Munich Bach Choir for their cooperation.

We wish joy and pleasure to you the listener!

Hansjörg Albrecht
translation: Maurice Sprague

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 5, 2008):
Cantata 201 - Homoerotic Love Aria?

Now here's a new take on Cantata 201: Picander as gay poet and the 1655 Rosenmüller sodomy scandal at the St. Thomas School!

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A Homoerotic Love Air in the Cantata
''The Quarrel Between Phoebus And Pan''
By Johann Sebastian Bach

By Frank Schrader
(translated by the editorial staff of the Androphile project)

http://www.androphile.org/preview/Library/History/jsbach/bach.htm

Preliminary Remarks

Many of the lyrics to Bachıs cantatas appear strange to the modern listener, because they are too much rooted in the time and circumstances of their creation. Bach scholars have explored the sacred cantatas and scrutinized almost every word for its theological content; some of them even regard the texts as a direct expression of Bach's piety and attitude of mind. An interpretation of the secular cantatas seems to be more difficult, as they are often topical, and the local facts and affairs that are alluded to were well known to the audience at the time but are not easily comprehensible today. Frequently, especially in the homage cantatas, the text is based upon antique myths. Though there are extensive studies in the secular cantatas too, apparently the theologically formed image of Bach as it was developed in the 19th century has been an obstacle to full understanding. Actually a close look at the mythological background may lead to interesting observations, as the following example will show.

The Creation Of The Cantata BWV 201
(Translators' note: BWV = ''Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis'', index of the works of Bach)

Johann Sebastian Bach's 'dramma per musica' 'Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan' BWV 201 tells of the quarrel between the Olympian god Phoebus Apollo, the creator of the kithara, and the rural god Pan, who invented the flute. The text was written by a postal clerk and amateur poet in Leipzig, Christian Friedrich Henrici, called Picander, and published in 1732. The exact occasion for the creation of this cantata of approximately one hour playing time is not known. C. L. Hilgenfeldt remarks in his Bach biography of 1850 that the cantata was probably written in 1725 for the Saxon court. However, the features of the paper and the handwriting of the score reveal that the cantata was not written before autumn 1729. Klaus Häfner assumes that BWV 201 together with two other cantatas of the same length, of which only the texts by Picander have survived, formed a kind of trilogy produced by Bach when he had assumed his duties as director of the ''Collegium Musicum'' in the spring of 1729.

Two other performances during Bach's lifetime can be proved. The first one of them, in the second half of the 1730s, was probably Bach's reaction to attacks on his music by Johann Adolf Scheibe in the year of 1737. The performance in 1749 and the change of the text of the last recitative were presumably caused by a quarrel about a headmaster in Freiberg named Biedermann, who in his school programme maintained that too intensive a
musical culture was detrimental to young people. Bach may also have alluded to the test for the office of a choirmaster undergone by Gottlieb Harrer, a protegéé of Count Heinrich von Brühl, on the 8th of June, 1749.

The Mythological Background of the Phoebus Air

It is to be supposed that Bach was less interested in giving an exact account of the antique tale, but mainly used it as a representation of the then current conflict between ''highly artistic, metrical, serious style'' on the one hand and ''light, merely pleasant style'' on the other hand; in the guise of Phoebus he says something for his own cause, in order to fight for his demanding music. Therefore in Bach scholarship special attention has been paid to the cantata and above all the Phoebus air. According to Philipp Spitta, the air in B minor, ''very beautiful and written with obvious passion, is a self-portrait of Bach''. Its text runs:

Mit Verlangen
Drück ich deine zarten Wangen,
Holder, schöner Hyazinth.
Und dein' Augen küss' ich gerne,
Weil sie meine Morgen-Sterne
Und der Seele Sonne sind.

(With longing
I press your tender cheeks,
Lovely, beautiful Hyacinth.
And I like to kiss your eyes,
Because they are my morning stars
And the sun of my soul.)

from Apollo, Hyakinthos and Kyparissos singing and playing (1831<1834), by Alexander Ivanov - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.

Apollo and Hyacinth

The Phoebus air is probably the first clearly homoerotic love air in musical history. That it is held in high esteem among experts could be proved by several other quotations. Nevertheless most of the authors who wrote about this cantata passed over in silence the homoerotic content of the air and restricted themselves to musical analysis; apparently it did not fit in with the traditional image of Bach that the master should have given his artistic credo in an air that depicts a homoerotic love affair. For information about the mythological background of the air, a listener of the performances directed by Bach might have resorted to a book entitled ''Gründliches Lexicon Mythologicum'', an encyclopedia of antique mythology by Benjamin Hederich, published in Leipzig in 1724, according to which ''HYACINTHUS [...] was an exceedingly beautiful boy, wherefore not only Thamyris conceived with him a kind of love that is against nature [...] but also Zephyrus and Apollo at once fell in love with him. But as he esteemed the latter higher than the former, this one was piqued, wherefore once upon a time when they both were exercising with the discus, and Apollo had thrown it high, Zephyrus blew it at Hyacinth's head so that he remained thus henceforth lying, whereupon Apollo pursued Zephyrus with his arrows, while he changed Hyacinthus into a flower of his name.''

(Bach was not the only composer to treat the theme ''Apollo and Hyacinth''. At the age of eleven years, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart composed a Latin school comedy ''Apollo et Hyacinthus'', which was first performed in 1767 in Salzburg. However, the author of the libretto, the Benedictine Father Rufinus Widl, transformed the tale thoroughly. As the performance of a play with homoerotic content by the pupils of a Catholic school would have been impossible for reasons of morality, the father added a female character, Melia, the sister of Hyacinthus, and lets Apollo fall in love with her. Another work treating the theme, the chamber cantata ''Apollo und Hyacinth'', improvisations for cembalo, alto and eight solo instruments after lyrics by Georg Trakl, was composed by Hans Werner Henze [*1926] in 1948.)

Bach exercises all his skill to give an adequate idea of the passion with which Phoebus deto kiss Haycinth. He shows his mastery of metrics without making the air appear studied. Phoebus's voice is accompanied by strings and basso continuo, a flute and, very appropriately, one ''oboe d'amore''. Musically the air is of no different model than heterosexual love airs by Bach. In 1865, the Bach biographer Carl Hermann Bitter wrote of the air of Phoebus: ''It is worked with great care and of the noblest melodic charm. Obviously Bach wanted to represent the perfect art of the god not only in his singing but also with the orchestra. The instruments, led in sweet mellifluence, move, elaborately entwined, with and beside the singing. This develops into a love song on the beautiful Hyacinth, which speaks of yearning and tender desire. Here is the feeling and soul of expression, here are the sighs of ardent love dying away in soft chords breathing voluptuousness, here rises the melody in swelling modulation, all enveloped with a fragrant filmy veil woven by the instruments. We see the divine form of the handsome singer, wrapped in the heavenly charm in which ancient Greek myth lets the sun god so often descend to human propensities, and we see next to him the blooming beauty of the boy, for whom the soft enraptured singing sounds. Bach wanted to give the best he could give in such a way, and he has delivered a delicious masterpiece which would have done the immortal singer of love, Mozart, honour.'' In a review of the cantata by Selmar Bagge which appeared in a magazine, the ''Leipziger Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung'', in the year of 1866, it is said that the competition between Phoebus and Pan begins with Phoebus

. . . singing a tender air to the "beautiful, lovely Haycinth". It would appear more appropriate by our modern standards that he should direct his tenderness to some beautiful goddess. However, the tale is set among Greek gods, and in the last century one was not yet prudish enough to take umbrage at such things [...] Our highly educated age condemns, certainly with perfect consistency, such a text as childish or even silly. The refinement that reigns today is indeed not capable of taking a naive point of view. One shrinks back at a gross expression as a sign of a crudeness luckily overcome, while the vileness and villainy that is offered us from the stage in a thousand colors is accepted without special disapproval by our 'educated' society.

How Bach's contemporaries reacted to the performances, whether they really did not ''take umbrage at such things'', as Bagge says, has not come down to us. Since Bach repeated the performance at least two times, it seems that no one was especially infuriated by the love ''against nature'' between Apollo and Hyacinth. Considering the great reservations against homoerotic love that the vast majority of the population was prone to at that time (and still is nowadays), this appears at first quite surprising. But in view of the high esteem and rank of antique fables and myths in 17th and 18th century poetry, such a benevolent reaction appears understandable, even though there was also no lack of criticism of mythological subjects, particularly on the part of orthodoxy and pietism.

The Author of the Text

Bach never used text of his own for his music. Little is known of his literary criteria and his relations to the librettists. Usually he took the lyrics for the cantatas as he got them. Therefore it is not possible to say exactly whether Bach or his good friend Picander was responsible for the content of the Phoebus air. But with this special cantata, which he used to defend his view on music, Bach might have left nothing to chance and also had an influence on the text.

Contemporaries reproached Picander with ''leading a dissolute life''.
J.S. Bach
J.S. Bach
In view of the Phoebus air the question arises if he might have been homosexual. At any rate it is conspicuous that he did not marry until the age of 36. Only four years after the death of his first wife he married for the second time. Both marriages remained childless. Still, his family circumstances might also have been owing to his changeable career. Picander's poetic talent is now considered negligible. In his own time, his writings were quite popular but also infamous for their very free language, as they did not recoil from erotic suggestiveness. Picander had a partiality for provokingly lascivious wording and had ''the most offensive and nasty things printed''. The council of Leipzig even confiscated several of his works. A biography from the 19th century relates that he tried to amuse rough minds with tasteless humor and coarse, indecent jokes, and that his poems contained many proverbial sayings of an often obscene nature. So some Bach scholars were troubled about the provable fact that Picander was on good terms with Bach. For example, Albert Schweitzer remarked in 1908: ''One wonders that the master should have been drawn to such an unmannerly and barely engaging man.'' Schweitzer did not object to the content of the Phoebus air, though.

From such opinions on his poetry, it does not appear very surprising that Picander should have chosen the sexual relationship between two males as subject of an aria, though he also could have let Apollo sing of one of his 42 female ''courtesans'' that are listed in Hederich's mythological encyclopedia.

The Case of Johann Rosenmüller

Maybe the Phoebus air has an actual historic background. About 75 years before its first performance, a scandalous incident shook the musical life of Leipzig. In 1655, the composer Johann Rosenmüller (c1619-1684), who had been designated choirmaster of the ''Thomaner'' by the council of Leipzig in 1653, was accused of sodomy with boys of the Thomas School. He had to flee to avoid punishment, presumably first to Hamburg, and then went to live in Venice, from which he did not return to Germany before 1682, when he became director of music at the court of Duke Anton Ulrich of Brunswick in Wolfenbüttel. Despite the moral accusations against him, Rosenmüller was already considered a musician of distinction by his contemporaries, and is now regarded as ranking with Buxtehude and Pachelbel among the foremost German composers between Schütz and Bach.

So the question arises whether Bach's homoerotic Phoebus air might be an allusion to the Rosenmüller scandal, a veiled protest against the unjust persecution of Rosenmüller. (The survival of Greek mythology in the Renaissance and the baroque period, and therefore also of the theme of ''homosexuality'', combated by Christianity, offered to authors and artists a possibility of at least indirectly expressing things that were socially tabooed.) This seems to be a daring hypothesis, but a close inspection of the circumstances allows the assumption that it is at least possible, even though, like so much else of Bach's life, it cannot be proved. Johann Rosenmüller is not mentioned in the remaining documents of Bach's life, but there is sufficient indication that Bach knew him and his life-story. For the cantata BWV 27 ''Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende'' (''Who knows how near my end is''), Bach adopted the choral movement for five voices ''Welt ade, ich bin dein müde'' (''World farewell, I am tired of thee'') from Rosenmüller. Bach probably took the movement from the hymnbook of Leipzig by Vopelius from 1682. It was quite unusual for Bach to adopt a foreign choral movement: only three choral movements are proved to be from other comin his extensive cantata works. So the use of this choral most likely shows his great appreciation of the outlawed Rosenmüller. Already in Lüneburg, where Bach attended the Michaelis School from 1700 to 1702, he might have got to know music of Rosenmüller in the extensive musical library of the school. Also in Erfurt and Weimar there were quite large collections of Rosenmüller's works. In 1712 or 1713 Bach performed his ''Jagdkantate'' (''Hunting cantata'') at Weißenfels, where he had many relations and acquaintances, and where Johann Philipp Krieger was director of music between 1680 and 1725. Krieger had been a student of Rosenmüller in the 1670s in Venice. During his 45 years of work in Weißenfels, Krieger performed numerous compositions of Rosenmüller. In Leipzig itself there were also some works by Rosenmüller in the musical library of the Thomas School. In addition, Bach had personal connections with Wolfenbüttel, where Rosenmüller had once been director of music. Perhaps Bach, through his cousin and friend Johann Gottfried Walther, also had access to the musical library of Heinrich Bokemeyer at Wolfenbüttel, which contained over 100 works of Rosenmüller.

Johann Gottfried Walther explicitly mentions the accusations against Rosenmüller in his ''Encyclopedia of Music'' of 1732. Walther completed the editorial work on his encyclopedia provisionally in August 1729. Could Bach, who presumably collaborated on Walther's encyclopedia, have been prompted to write his Phoebus cantata in the autumn of 1729 by the article in the encyclopedia? Or did Bach plan to perform a work of Rosenmüller in Leipzig, but failed because of the opposition to the person of Rosenmüller? Doubtless the scandal of 75 years ago was still remembered by the citizens and the authorities of Leipzig. Even though the circumstances of its creation cannot be entirely elucidated, the air of Phoebus in Johann Sebastian Bach's cantata ''The Quarrel between Phoebus and Pan'' has remained up to now the most important treatment of a clearly homoerotic love affair in Western music.

(Translators' note: The copious notes to this essay, mostly referring to source material written in German, have not been translated. They may be looked up in the original, which is also available on the World History of Male Love site.)

William Hoffman wrote (July 5, 2008):
BWV 201 - More Fugitive Thoughts: Motive, Method, Opportunity

Stephen Benson wrote:
< posed some interesting question and observations re. performing conditions and the significance of this cantata. >
First of all, I'm spending a great deal of time trying to find a history of contemporary German drama per musica, especially through the operatic connection with the Leipzig-Dresden axis and the earlier efforts in Hamburg. There is also a history of coffee houses, social gatherings, and the beginnings of so-called "public" concerts. Much of this was subject to local conditions and I think varied greatly. Most of the accessible writings on the former issue of dramma per musica speak at length about opera in Dresden and Hamburg but pay only passing attention to this semi-opera. Don't forget, Handel also got caught in the dilemma of staged opera and static oratorio; just look at Sampson.

We can never know all the currents that converged at Zimmermann's in 1729 but what a serendipitous situation, I think, it must have been for everyone involved. I think Cantata 201, as Stephen has suggested, that "the all- encompassing late works of Bach -- the Art of Fugue, the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), etc. -- (are) the final answer to the very questions posed in "The Contest between Phoebus and Pan." I also think that perhaps Cantata 201 was Bach's Declaration of Independence from authority to embrace new principles. We can all fill in the blanks on authority and new principles.

I have copied Douglas' submission and value the information, insights, and perspectives. I reserve judgement on some points while remembering the dictum that "History is a trick which the living play on the dead." And then there is the statement from my college freshman History of Civilization professor when asked to give HIS definition of history, he replied to 250 students in the lecture hall: "History is what I say it is."

Stephen Benson wrote (July 6, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Now here's a new take on Cantata 201: Picander as gay poet and the 1655 Rosenmüller sodomy scandal at the St. Thomas School! >
Thanks for this contribution and the reiteration of the Albrecht notes [14]. They really helped to end the week's discussion with a provocative twist!

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 6, 2008):
Doug Cowling wrote:
< Here are Albrecht's liner notes [14] for Bach's "opera". The imaginary description of the performance is intriguing. I like this comment:
"Let us put aside at this point all musicological knowledge and attempt to separate ourselves from our view of the spiritual Bach. Let us imagine the normal person, the worldly Johann Sebastian with his tendency towards sensuality, esprit and humour, and let our imagination run wild." >
Ed Myskowski replies:
I enjoyed both of Dougs closing posts, especially significant and appropriate given his professional platform. My chosen citation seemed like the most concise reference.

I am inspired to track down the Albrecht recording [14]. Until then, my preference of the two I have available is for Schreier [6] (included with the Brilliant Classics complete edition) over Koopman [11], to a large extent because of the continuo treatment with recitatives, noted by Neil H. I did not have an opportunity to listen to Rilling [12].

With the many other recordings available outside the mainstream, perhaps there are some nuggets hidden? Or not. Someone must have them, give us a clue.

Thanks to everyone who takes a moment to post, or even just read until the end. My eMail service remains erratic, but I will do my best to communicate whenever possible and meaningful (IMO).

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 6, 2008):
BWV 201

Frank Schrader
(translated by the editorial staff of the Androphile project), relayed by Doug Cowling:
>Mit Verlangen
Drück ich deine zarten Wangen,
Holder, schöner Hyazinth.
Und dein' Augen küss' ich gerne,
Weil sie meine Morgen-Sterne
Und der Seele Sonne sind.

(With longing
I press your tender cheeks,
Lovely, beautiful Hyacinth.
And I like to kiss your eyes,
Because they are my morning stars
And the sun of my soul.)

from Apollo, Hyakinthos and Kyparissos singing and playing (1831‹1834), by Alexander Ivanov - Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow.
Apollo and Hyacinth
The Phoebus air is probably the first clearly homoerotic love air in musical history.< (end quote)
Ed Myskowski replies:
Clearly an abuse of the logical connector, <clearly>?

 

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

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Last update: ŭOctober 3, 2011 ŭ14:16:43