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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 21
Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of March 13, 2005

Thomas Shepherd wrote (March 12, 2005):
BWV 21: Introduction

The cantata for discussion this week (March13-20) is:

Cantata BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis"

Event in the Lutheran church calendar: 3rd Sunday after Trinity, or for any time / ’Per ogni tempo’. (Probably a Farewell Cantata for Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar.)

Composed Original version: Weimar, 1713; 1st revised: Weimar, 1714; 2nd revised: Köthen, 1720; 3rd revised: Leipzig, 1731

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Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21.htm

Link to previous discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21-D.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21-D2.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21-D3.htm
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The comparisons of the two Suzuki recordings are particularly interesting as one possible interpretation of how the work was modified and evolved through several performances over a period of 18 years. Bach must have been quite satisfied with his initial composition as there are no substituted movements, and really nothing more than cosmetic changes made over the years. The differences in versions of BWV 21 (from Suzuki's notes) are to be found in the table below:

The different versions of BWV 21

 

Format before 1714

1714 Weimar

1720 Cöthen

1723 Leipzig

Pitch of Strings

?

Kammerton

Kammerton

Kammerton

Tuning

C minor?

C minor

D minor

C minor

Mvt. 1. Sinfonia

       

Mvt. 2. Chorus

       

Mvt. 3. Aria

Sop

Ten

Sop

Sop

Mvt. 4. Recitative

Sop

Ten

Sop

Ten

Mvt. 5. Aria

Sop

Ten

Sop

Ten

Mvt. 6. Chorus

     

Soli/Tutti

Mvt. 7. Recitative

Sop/Bass

Ten/Bass

Sop/Bass

Sop/Bass

Mvt. 8. Duet

Sop/Bass

Ten/Bass

Sop/Bass

Sop/Bass

Mvt. 9. Chorus (Chorale)

     

Soli/Tutti + 4 Trombones

Mvt. 10. Aria

Sop (possibly Ten)

     

Mvt. 11. Chorus

     

Soli/Tutti

Extensive extracts from the CD booklet notes in the two Suzuki recordings follow:

1 Concerning the Cantata

"In the latter part of his tenure as organist at the court chapel in Weimar (1708-17, when he was 23-32 years of age), Bach composed approximately 20 church cantatas to be used in feast-day services. These are filled with youthful sensibility and vitality, and are considered to have been a stepping-stone to the greater Leipzig cantata series, which Bach began in 1723......

"BWV 21 is a large cantata consisting of 11 movements organized into two parts - notable even among Bach's cantatas for its scale. The circumstances of its composition are convoluted, but Martin Petzoldt's recent analysis suggests the following. The original form of the work (movements 2-6 and 9) was produced for a memorial service held on 8th October 1713 at the Church of SS. Peter and Paul in Weimar for the former Prime Minister Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt's wife, Aemilia Maria Haress. In 1714 Bach expanded the cantata to its present 11 movements for performance on the Third Sunday after Trinity (17th June), encompassing in its scope a farewell to Duke Johann Ernst, who was then setting off on a journey. This is now referred to as the Weimar version. Subsequently, in the autumn of 1720, when Bach was a candidate for the position of organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, he produced a new manuscript in D minor (which is the basis for the version on this recording). Yet another manuscript, this one strengthening the brass, was created for performance on the appropriate Sunday in 1723 (13th June), immediately after Bach took up the position of Kantor at the Thomaskirche. For a detailed discussion of the variations in the voice parts and in pitch between the various versions, please refer to Masaaki Suzuki's notes in this booklet.

"Cantata BWV 21 has at its heart the text from the Gospel for the Third Sunday after Trinity: the parable of the lost sheep (Luke 15: 1-10). It illustrates the message, 'Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents, more than over ninety and nine just persons, who need no repentance.' This parable was told by Jesus, who was with a group of tax collectors and sinners, as a reproach to the discriminatory and critical Pharisees and scribes. Salomo Franck's libretto is from the perspective of one of these sinners, who, overwhelmed by the evils of the world, is on the brink of the abyss of despair when he sees the light of Jesus and is filled with joy, praising God. The lamenting first part is grounded in D minor, while Part II, which sings of the joy of salvation, moves through G major to an eventual B major resting place.

"The first movement (Mvt. 1) opens with an instrumental Sinfonia, an Adagio assaiin D minor. It is a sorrowful piece dominated by the oboe and first violin.

"The chorus enters with the word 'Ich' ('I') repeated three times in overlapping progression, and moves into the main chorus (number 2, D minor). Following a Vivaldi-like free fugue, the word 'aber' ('but') introduces a shift to a Vivace F major for the latter half of the movement. For all of that, it is no more than a preview of the consolation to follow.

"The soprano aria (Mvt. 3) (Molto adagio, D minor) in the third movement itemizes a list of synonymous expressions of the sinner's sorrow and tribulation. A gentle basso continuo underlies the oboe that illustrates the suffering expressed with deep sentiment by the soprano. The soprano builds on this imagery of suffering in the next movements (Mvt. 4, a recitative, and Mvt. 5, a Largo aria in G minor). The weeping introduced in Mvt. 3 becomes 'streams of salt tears...', and in the middle section, images such as 'storms', 'waves' and 'hell' are vividly illustrated. The chorus closes the first part with a quotation from Psalm 42: 'Why troublest thou thyself, my soul?' (Mvt. 6, G minor). In comparison with the opening chorus, this movement begins with a call of consolation and is uplifting both in tempo and in mood.

"Part II opens with a dialogue between the soul (soprano) and Jesus (bass). The soul, wandering in darkness, calls to the Lord for help, and Jesus answers, promising light and protection. The two then sing a charming love duet (Mvt. 8, F major). Skilful exchanges of 'ja' ('yes') and 'nein' ('no') resemble the Italian opera buffaform. At this point, the chorus presents the text of a psalm verse in polyphony, interwoven with a chorale melody (Mvt. 9, A minor). Explaining the pointlessness of fear, the chorus exhorts the soul to be contented in this movement initially conceived of as the ending of the cantata.

"The soprano aria which was added ('Erfreue dich, Seele' ['Rejoice th, soul'], number 10, F major), has joyful steps as the return to the fold is sung, and all the shadows of the first aria (number 3) are lost in heavenly light. This moves into the finale, a very lively chorus which calls for three trumpets and timpani (number 11, D major). It begins with a massive Grave, and flows into an Allegro fugue that would not seem out of place in Handel's Messiah."

2 Concerning the Editions

"A number of problems attend today's performance of the very broad-scale cantata BWV 21 ('Ich hatte viel Bekümmemis').

"The form of this work which we have today is derived from a collection of 28 instrumental part manuscripts resting in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin, Germany (5t354), but at the very least, Bach used these instrumental parts for three separate performances of the cantata. (See table below.) We cannot trace every change Bach made for the purposes of each discrete performance, but it is known that the arias for high voice were sung by a tenor in the 1714 Weimar performance, whereas in Cothen in 1720 (the performance was probably in Hamburg), a soprano sang them all, limiting the demand for soloists in both cases to two voices. It is also clear today that in 1723 in Leipzig, solos were assigned to soprano, tenor and bass, requiring that there be three soloists available. Also in Leipzig, all the chorus parts (except No. 2) were sung with alternating soli and tutti, and trombones were appended in No. 9.

"According to Martin Petzoldt, there is evidence that the first performance of this cantata occurred sometime before 1714, probably just after its composition in 1713. If this is indeed the case, it appears very likely that the arias for high voice were performed by a soprano at this early performance.

"The 1714 performance took place at a service to bid farewell to Duke Johann Ernst, who was travelling to Frankfurt am Main for the sake of his health. At this performance, all the high arias were given to the tenor for reasons relating to the young Duke, but from the fact that all subsequent performances assign the duet between the soul and Jesus to soprano and bass, it can be inferred that this was the original intention, and the 1714 performance was an exception. At any rate, it is certain that in 1720, when Bach revisited the work as part of his application for the position of organist at the Jacobikirche in Hamburg, the arias were left to the soprano, and in Leipzig as well, the dialogue between the soul and Jesus was taken by soprano and bass.

"Determining the exact pitch and key for each performance is another interesting question. At Weimar in 1714, all cantatas without exception were performed with all instruments including oboe tuned to C minor. Since no Chorton (a' = ca.465) oboes exist, this indicates Kommerton (a' = ca.415). It is also certain from the instrumental parts still in existence from the 1720 performance that it was played in Komnserton tuned to D minor. The Leipzig rendition was clearly played in Kaminerton in C minor, because there is an organ part in B flat minor extant from that performance. (The organ part for Leipzig was normally one tone lower than those of the other instruments.)"

3 Concerning the two recordings

FIRST RECORDING (BIS CD 851 - Volume 6)
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21.htm#C17
"After much consideration and consultation, the decision was that for this recording, we would present a version which attempts to portray the full scope of Bach's revisions. That is, we have recorded the cantata according to the D minor manuscripts from the 1720 Hamburg performance during the Cothen days, but include excerpts from the Weimar edition (1714) in an appendix at the end of the CD. Contained in this appendix are Nos. 3 (Aria), 7 (Soul/Jesus Duet Recitative), and 8 (Duet, Tenor/Bass). In addition, a second recording of the full cantata according to the Leipzig edition (1723) will be completed in the near future for inclusion in the framework of 'Cantatas composed in 1723' later in this series."

SECOND RECORDING (BIS CD 1031 - Volume 12)
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV21.htm#C18
"We have recorded Cantata BWV 21, Ich hotte vie! Bekümmernis, again for inclusion on this recording to keep the promise made in the booklet for Volume 6 of this series (BIS-CD-851) of allowing listeners an opportunity to hear a different version of the work. It is common knowledge that, after its debut in Weimar, this cantata was at the very least performed in Hamburg (1720) and Leipzig (1723), and in each of these venues different arrangements for voice and instrument were used. In Volume 6 we presented the entire work in the form in which it was performed in Hamburg and included No. 3, No. 7 and No. 8 in their Weimar forms as an appendix; here we offer the entire work in the form in which it was heard as part of the 1723 cantata series in Leipzig. …… the major differences between the version on Volume 6 and the present recording are as follows:

1. The work is performed in Kammerton in C minor. (The Hamburg version was in D minor.)
2. No. 4, No. 5 and No. 10 are not for solo soprano but for tenor.
3. No. 6 and No. 9 are arranged to alternate between soli and tutti.
4. A trombone is added to the instrumental parts for No. 9."

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IMO, perhaps the most striking difference between the two versions that Suzuki has recorded, is the 9th movement. In the first recording of the 1720 version the choir sing tutti throughout. In the recording for the 1723 version the soloists and full choir are augmented throughout the second half with 4 trombones (Concerto Palatino). As an admirer of Suzuki I think both examples are wonderful - (the first time that I heard the trombones I thought of the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble playing a 16-17th cent. piece by someone like Palestrina or Gabrieli.)

So I have put some examples for comparison on my web site for a few weeks. In each example the passage is the same middle section starting at the second half of the first verse of the chorale, and finishing just before the repeat of the first line of the chorale melody in the second half of the movement. As I have Leusink [23], Harnoncourt [9] & Rilling [10], I have also made extracts of their recordings.

Harnoncourt [9]: http://www.zen20101.zen.co.uk/Stuff/BWV%2021%252fmvt%209/Harnoncourt.mp3

Leusink [23]: http://www.zen20101.zen.co.uk/Stuff/BWV%2021%252fmvt%209/Leusink.mp3

Rilling2 [10]: http://www.zen20101.zen.co.uk/Stuff/BWV%2021%252fmvt%209/Rilling2.mp3

Suzuki1: http://www.zen20101.zen.co.uk/Stuff/BWV%2021%252fmvt%209/Suzuki%201.mp3

Suzuki2 [22]: http://www.zen20101.zen.co.uk/Stuff/BWV%2021%252fmvt%209/Suzuki%202.mp3

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

Peter Smaill wrote (March 12, 2005):
So much has been rightly written about this superb work that what follows are a few apercus (please imagine the sibilant cedilla there as you must likewise construe umlauts and other diaereses where they are called for ).

Boyd puts me onto the possibility that this is, like BWV 22 relative to Leipzig, the Probe Cantata for Weimar in 1713 (first certain performance 1714, departure of Duke Ernst).The effect of its enormous variation of mood and orchestration- proceeding from the "old law " of death via the new covenant of Christ's insistent forgiveness, to the Revelation with triumphant brass interjections at the asseveration of the Trinity - on the first listeners, can only be wondered at.

Chafe is particularly interesting on the numerological implication of the doxology, with its fourteen fold entries and cycle of key changes. The use of multiples (and intervals) of seven, long observed as a feature of the Sanctus of the B minor Mass (BWV 232) (1724/1733), thus occurs very early in Bach's career.

The alto aria, however, Chafe treats as an allusion to the Flood which I am inclined to dispute since he is reliant on a single word for this tack:

(tr.Stokes):

Streams of salt-tears,
Floods are flowing ever on.

Storms and waves are wounding me,
and this sorrow-laden sea
Would seek to drain my life and spirit,
mast and anchor are about to break,
here I sink into the depths,
There look into the jaws of Hell.

However, "Fluten" translates variously as floods, tides, high tides, the latter particularly in a nautical context as here. Overall, it is I think the mystical "navigatio vitae "coming in as an image; a mediaeval/early baroque impulse rather than Old Testament.

"In the seventeenth century, the image was usually connnected with the unpleasantness and uncertainty of a sea-voyage, with consequent dangers of storms and so on. In the allegory, these stood for passions and emotions. The ship is usually the individual soul, though Rumpius (in 1609), Josua Stegman (16270, and Simon Dach (1642) write of the ship of the Church. August Buchner (1628) refers to the the waves of human desires; faith is the steersman. Variations of this treatment occur throughout the century; Gryphius, Rist and David Peck ( in "Wenn wir in hoechste Noten seyn") being examples of poets who followed this fashion." (James Day, Literary Background to Bach's Cantatas).

Bach's relation to the texts of Rist and Peck, plus the later quotation of "Wer nur den Lieben Gott" of 1641, suggests strongly that the source for the aria (?unknown librettist?) was related to the milieu of the baroque rather than biblical allusions.

Chafe's central perception, the eschatological perspective of Bach - the progress from sin to salvation, the old law to the new, from death to eternal life, -something often encountered but rarely more emphasised than in the structure of BWV 21 - remains a key observation of Bach's purpose in this work. But who wrote the Libretto? Some think it was Salomo Franck. Could it have been that the texts were in fact selected by Bach himself from various sources, in view of the diversity of styles and images ?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 12, 2005):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>The alto aria, however, Chafe treats as an allusion to the Flood which I am inclined to dispute since he is reliant on a single word for this tack: tr.Stokes):
Streams of salt-tears, / Floods are flowing ever on. / Storms and waves are wounding me, / and this sorrow-laden sea / Would seek to drain my life and spirit, / Mast and anchor are about to break, / Where I sink into the depths, / There look into the jaws of Hell.
However, "Fluten" translates variously as floods, tides, high tides, the latter particularly in a nautical context as here. Overall, it is I think the mystical "navigatio vitae "coming in as an image; a mediaeval/early baroque impulse rather than Old Testament.<<
Lucia Haselböck "Bach Textlexicon" [Bärenreiter, Kassel, 2004] has commentaries on the following religious metaphors from BWV 21. There is no way that I can translate all her entries, but if there are a few, specific symbols that any list member would like to find out more about, do ask and I might see what I can find time to translate quickly.

Abgrund
Anker
Bach
Bett
bitter
Blitz
Blut
brennen
erben
Flut (fließen)
Freund
grausam
Heil
Herz
Höhle
Hölle
Kampf
Kraft
Kreuz
Krone
Lamm
Leben
Licht
Liebe
Lust
Mast
Meer
Nacht
Ruhe
Saft
Schalk
Schoß
Seele
sterben
Sturm
suchen
Tränen
Wein
Wellen
Wunden

Here is Haselböck's entry for 'Fluten':

>>fließen, Fluß, Flut, zerfließen

Mystics use this metaphor of 'flowing' ["Fließen"] (the eternal, never ending, immeasurable) to express the incessant rivers of heavenly grace, but also the great number of repentant tears of human beings. Many of these notions appear in Bach's texts.

1) Metaphor standing for God's love and affection in bestowing an unending stream of mercy and kindness

Examples: "Gnadengaben zu genießen, / die wie reiche Ströme fließen; Ströme deiner Gnad, die du auf mich läßt fließen" BWV 17/6; BWV 173/4 ["To enjoy the gifts of mercy which flow in abundant rivers/streams; Streams of Your mercy, which You allow to flow down upon me."] BWV 244/52 (SMP) has the heart serve as an offering-cup to receive the 'floods' of the blood of Christ.

2) The immeasurable number of repentant tears

These are the tears shed by the sinner smitten with remorse at the sight of Christ's Passion: a typical example to clarify this can be found in Johann Rist's "Paßions-Andachten" p. 147 (Bach has set several of Rist's chorales): "Was? Thränentropfen sind zu schlecht / o meine Seele /wilt du recht den Bräutigam beklagen; so führe bald ein großes Meer von neuvergoßnen Thränen her" [What?!! Teardrops are too plain/simple, O my soul. If you wish to mourn the Bridegroom properly, then let loose an entire sea {a torrent} of newly-shed tears."] In this sense, the 'zerfließen' [the repeated crying to the point of exhaustion, to be dissolved in one's own tears] of human hearts must take place so that they become 'soft' with pity. This idea appears in several cantatas: BWV 245/35; BWV 244/12,19; BWV 185/1,2.

3) A picture representing the world's dangers and its transitory nature

"Ach wie flüchtig" ["O how fleeting"] the world is: "Wie rauschen und reißen die wallenden Fluten" BWV 26/4 [How the storm waters roar and the surging tides can tear {your footing from under you.}] "Doch suchet die stürmende Flut / die Kräfte des Glaubens zu schwächen" BWV 81/3 ["And yet the raging flood waters attempt to undermine the power of one's faith."] This can also be found in the Luther-based cantata "Wär Gott nicht mit uns diese Zeit" ["If God did not stand by us at this time"] where the synonym for "Israel" is the church "die so ein armes Häuflein sind" ["which consists of such a small number" based upon "und ein klein heuflin uberbleib, und ein fürst im hause David" Sir. 48, 15 = "Sirach 48:15 For all this the people repented not, neither departed they from their sins, till they were spoiled and carried out of their land, and were scattered through all the earth: yet there remained a small people, and a ruler in the house of David.] This small church is seen in its distress/difficult situation as threatened in the midst of the 'ocean of the world.' "Ja, hätt es Gott nur zugegeben, / wir wären längst nicht meham Leben, ..es hätt uns ihre [der Feinde] Wut / wie eine wilde Flut / und als beschäumte Wasser überschwemmet / und niemand hätte die Gewalt gehemmet" BWV 14/3 ["To be sure, if God had allowed it, there is no way that we would still be alive today,.for the raging of our enemies would have engulfed us with a spuming tidal wave and no one would have been able to stop such a violent force."]<<

John Reese wrote (March 12, 2005):
See (or rather, hear) the Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541, for a major-key version of the fugue from the opening chorus. Interesting.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 12, 2005):
[To John Reese] Alfred Dürr in his book on the cantatas, "Johann Sebastian Bach : Die Kantaten" [Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1971-1995] p. 461 mentions that Bach begins the 1st chorus with a favorite, fugal theme which he probably derived from Vivaldi's D minor Concerto op. 3, no. 11 (Bach has his own transcription of this: BWV 596), but it also resembles a similar theme in his G major fugue for organ BWV 544. Dürr states that "it is probably not a coincidence that a thematic relationship also appears between a cantata and an organ piece when you compare BWV 152 and BWV 536." BWV 152 was composed at the end of 1714.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 13, 2005):
Thomas Shepherd wrote:
< The cantata for discussion this week (March13-20) is:
Cantata BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis"
Event in the Lutheran church calendar:
3rd Sunday after Trinity, or for any time / ¹Per ogni tempo¹. (Probably a Farewell Cantata for Johann Ernst von Sachsen-Weimar.)
Composed Original version:
Weimar, 1713; 1st revised: Weimar, 1714; 2nd revised: Köthen, 1720; 3rd revised: Leipzig, 1731 >
This cantata offers us a superb opportunity to see Bach and Handel setting the same text text from Revelation -- "Worthy is the Lamb" closes "Messiah". Both composers treat the text in the manner of a prelude and fugue with the opening words in block chords followed by a choral fugue. A comparison of the fugal treatments is endlessly fascinating with Bach using one of his great festal subjects developed in the most monumental proportions where Handel is almost writing fugato from the outset.

Has there been any speculation why Bach reserves the brass until the final movement? I can't think of another example from the cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 13, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>Has there been any speculation why Bach reserves the brass until the final movement? I can't think of another example from the cantatas.<<
BWV 149 "Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg" does have 3 trumpets in the 1st mvt. but they fall silent with not even a single trumpet being used in the bass aria. The latter aria, however is singing about longing for the night to be over as it is not yet quite morning. Then Bach has a magnificent final chorale with all the instruments except the trumpets and timpani playing. Not until the very last two notes in the chorale are being sung and played do the trumpets come in with a final flourish rather unexpectedly. So here Bach did withhold the brass until the very end for a special effect based upon the text and they appear as a surprise ending to the listener but also as a confirmation that daybreak has occurred.

In BWV 21 the preceding aria Mvt. 10, already prepares the listener to the fact that all worries and troubles are disappearing. The final mvt. (11) is a song of eternal praise to God. The words, 'von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit' are very similar to the final phrase of BWV 149: "ich will ihn preisen ewiglich" ["I want to praise him forever and ever"] where the key word "ewiglich" calls forth the final fanfare by the trumpets and timpani, a fanfare that had been held back (discounting the celebration of victory in the 1st mvt.) until the last 1 1/2 measures of the cantata. It always sends chills up and down my spine when I hear this unusual, unexpected ending played well by good trumpeters.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 13, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The words, 'von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit' are very similar to the final phrase of BWV 149: "ich will ihn preisen ewiglich" ["I want to praise him forever and ever"] where the key word "ewiglich" calls forth the final fanfare by the trumpets and timpani, a fanfare that had been held back (discounting the celebration of victory in the 1st mvt.) until the last 1 1/2 measures of the cantata. It always sends chills up and down my spine when I hear this unusual, unexpected ending played well by good trumpeters. >
I've always said that the effect of the Hallelujah Chorus in Messiah is due not so much to the beauty of the music as to the fact that Handel has kept the trumpets silent for over an hour and their sudden reappearance is always electrifying, no matter how many times you've heard the oratorio.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 13, 2005):
Thanks to Thomas Shepherd for taking over the task of introducing the cantatas!

[Re the four examples of that section in the third chorus where the soloists are overtaken by the full choir and trombones, the Rilling recording [10] sounds better (less 'thick') on good speakers, and this performance builds up to a pleasing sombre magnificence. Yes, the trombones in Suzuki 2 [22] are great].

This cantata contains four large choruses; I can't think of another cantata that has this number of choruses.

The first is in three sections; the stretto-like treatment of the initial repeated 5-note figure is striking, in the first section, and the score of the second section ('Vivace') has a couple of pages of 'wall to wall' semiquavers, as all vocal and instrumental parts join in the melisma on "Seelen".

The second, and remaining choruses, feaure contrasting sections for soloists and full choir (although Richter [7] and Werner [6] use the choir throughout).

In the second chorus, the fugue in the final section (also beginning with a repeated note figure) is first introduced by the soloists (ASBT); whereupon the instruments take over the theme (Oboe, 1st violin, 2nd violin, viola; followed by the entry of the full choir (BTAS). This apparent increase in power as the movement progresses is very effective.

The third chorus at first has the soloists (SAB) accompanying the chorale sung by the choir tenors; then, for the second verse of the chorale, the sopranos take over the chorale line, and the full choir with col' parte trombones join in. It's a powerful movement. (A curious and effective detail occurs with the entry of the chorale tenors on the second beat of the bar, meaning that their first note is shortened by a third in length. This does not happen when the sopranos take over the chorale).

The glorious final chorus, trumpets blaring (Richter [7] raises the roof!), can be compared (as Doug hinted) to the thrilling conclusion of the Messiah. Once again, the fugal section is introduced by the soloists (BTAS, except Werner [6] and Richter who use full choir), then given to the full choir accompanied with trumpets and timpani, for a rousing conclusion.

John Pike wrote (March 14, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] This was the first cantata I ever heard. It left a very deep impression on me even as a child and it remains one of my favourite cantatas. I will write again when I have had a chance to listen to some of my recordings.

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 16, 2005):
Back to Bach and Cantata BWV 21

<snip>
The subject of this week's discussion is one of the greatest cantatas - BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis" (in terms of both length and quality). I have 5 recordingsof this sublime work in my car and to the rest I am listening at home. After hearing it dozens of times, I am still not exhausted. I wrote about it in the 1st round of cantata discussions, almost 5 years ago. The podium is now open for each one of the other 481 members (most of whom were not members of the BCML at the time of the previous discussion of Cantata BWV 21) to give us his/her impression of this work.

Bob Henderson wrote (March 16, 2005):
BWV 21 Belatedly

I had not listened to Richter's Archiv LP (2533 049) [7] in 20 years. And in the meantime I have become accustomed to the quite wonderful contributions of HIP. I was simply thrilled to hear this recording again. A reminder: there is simply nothing like the Muncheners in full voice and flight! I don't care that they violate every canon of HIP practice. (But do they? Don't they in their precision and transparency anticipate HIP?) "Lob und Ehre und Preis und Gewalt..." is overwhelming! The use of modern trumpets underscores the drama and articulation. Squalk away! All cantata lovers owe themselves a chance to hear this recording.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 17, 2005):
Bob Henderson wrote (of Richter's recording) [7]:
"Lob und Ehre und Preis und Gewalt..." is overwhelming! The use of modern trumpets underscores the drama and articulation".
Agreed. And what about the ending!

Richter [7] rushes toward the staccato, triple forte, closing chord, in tempo (without rallentando), with trumpets blaring, timpani pounding, and choir in full flight - bang! 'Alleluja' indeed!

The effect is astounding and exhilirating; talk about an "abrupt, pitiless" ending (Ansermet's view of the ending of the 2nd Brandebburg).

Bob Henderson wrote (March 17, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for the response, Neil. The ending is abrupt. But remember that a literal translation of the title is "I have much worry". (What a contemporary theme) The ending is like a spear hurled at Heaven. Have that then!

Neil Halliday wrote (March 17, 2005):
Schweitzer on Bach cantatas

Uri Golomb wrote:
"....as I understand it, Schweitzer feels that even an inferior libretto cannot simply be ignored. Bach's music was still inspired by the ideas and images contained in these texts, and performers and listeners should still be aware of what these ideas and images were if they are to apprehend the music's meaning."
Yes, for example, in this week's cantata BWV 21, at the last words of the first chorus, namely "...erquicken meine Seele', the the music quivers with animation, the score black with semiquavers in all parts; and in the 2nd chorus, after an initial slow section, the tempo increases with the words "und so unruhig in mir?" A less concrete example is the shape of the motives in the first tenor aria, with the string parts suggesting the waves of tears of the singer. etc. etc. etc.

BTW, Werner [6], Richter [7] and Rilling [10] are all eminently enjoyable from beginning to end; though perhaps Werner overall is the least distinctive, his duet has a lovely gentle aspect. Rilling's continuo harpsichord in this movement and the final tenor aria can be tedious. All the solo vocalists are fine, suprisingly so for three non-HIP performances. Even Edith Mathis, Richter's soprano, is pleasing - probably because this is a relatively early recording, 1969.

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (March 17, 2005):
Hello! And BWV 21

My name is Jeremy Vosburgh. This is my first email to this group. I am, by no means, an expert in Bach's music, history, or even the lexicon of his day. I do, however, love his music, especially his cantatas; specifically, as a Christian, I find in his music a form and beauty that transcends the performers and points to a greater joy AND purpose than most people listening to the pop music of today could ever imagine. I am excited to join this group and ask for your patience as I have only listened to about half of Bach's cantatas thus far and may ask questions and make statements that will appear naive.

The topic of discussion is cantata BWV 21. How wonderful! It is one of the few cantatas in which the "story" is so well told that one can listen to the entire thing for the first time and appreciate every movement in tandem. I have only heard three recordings of this cantata: Sternberg (1950) [2], Suzuki (Vol. 6) [20], and Suzuki (Vol. 12) [22]. Suzuki I am generally very impressed with, as far as his sensitivity and professionalism, and both his recordings do not dissappoint.

I specifically would like to briefly mention the exploits of Hughes Cuenod in the recitative and aria (the stormy ocean aria) in the Sternberg recording. Cuenod is one who certainly sounds like an autodidact (many would think bizarre), but he manages very good pitch and steady vibrata and fantastic breath control. Above all, his expressivity is incredible (at least to my ears). Cuenod, who was not a Christian, is evidence that one does not need to be a Christian to do justice to Bach's music. I wonder if anyone out there has heard this recording?

John Pike wrote (March 18, 2005):
BWV 21 "Ich Hatte Viel Bekümmernis"

Cantata for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity. First preformed June 17, 1714, Weimar. Several further performances in Köthen and Leipzig.

This is a masterpiece, one of my very favourites of the Bach Cantatas, The music is extraordinary throughout and, as a Christian, I find the libretto particularly moving. The way in which Bach sets the libretto, paying so much attention to detail in the words, is very apt throughout, and adds great depth. I was reminded of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in that extraordinarily beautiful recitative "Ach Jesu, meine Ruh". There are so many wonderful recitatives in the SMP as well.

It was the first cantata I ever heard. My father had the Richter recording on DG Archiv [7]. I used to listen to incessantly as a child and it left a deep impression on me. I still remember it as a very fine recording although I don't have access to it at present. I share the views of Bob, I think it was, who said how much he admired the recording. I particularly remember the incisive way in which "dass Er meines Angesichtes Hilfe und mein Gott ist" is delivered.

This time, I have listened to Herreweghe [13], Rilling [10] and Harnoncourt [9].

I was extremely impressed and moved by Herreweghe's superb recording [13]. I have heard performances such as this described as "over-mannered" in the past, but I strongly disagree. From beginning to end he shapes the music beautifully, with well chosen tempi and dynamics that come so naturally. There is nothing done here to draw attention to itself, but everything is given in service of the music. Every note is carefully considered, but the overall shape and sense of flow is also very fine. I found the sudden drop in dynamic before "Harre auf Gott" particularly moving. The singing is superb throughout.

I also enjoyed Rilling's performance [10]. He, too, engages well with the music and draws many nuances from it. I found the soloist good and the soprano's vibrato was less obtrusive than in some of his other recordings.

I enjoyed much in Harnoncourt's performance [9], especially the Tenor Kurt Equiluz, and the soprano soloist from the Wiener Sängerknaben seemed rather better than some others he has chosen. However, of these 3 recordings, this was the one which I found the least interesting musically. I felt that the music was less well shaped then in either He[13] (especially) and Rilling [10].

 

Bach on radio/BWV 21

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 3, 2006):
Today's broadcast (web at www.wgbh.org; Boston, USA, FM broadcast at WGBH, 89.7, Sunday morning at 8:00 AM Eastern Time - 1:00 PM UT) was BWV 21 for the Third Sunday after Trinity, in the version recorded live by Fasolis/Swiss Radio Chorus [17].

Unfortunately, I did not prepare in advance to listen, and so I was not aware of what the recording would be, or how important it was in previous BCW discussions. Nevertheless, I was happy to hear it. The texture and tempos are in the vein that I am going to call historically informed modern performance (I will not insult anyone with an acronym, even in jest), very bright and energetic despite what sounds to be a fairly sizable choir, but also very distinct from the Leusink HIP sound [23]. Perhaps the live recording contributes to the energy, as Leonard Bernstein always claimed?

I had a quick listen to Rotzsch [11] with the Thomanerchor Leipzig (how authentic is that?), along with very non-HIP soloists Arleen Augér, S and Peter Schreier, T. Rotzsch was also a previously recommended recording, and I concur. Very much in the traditional modern vein (better label needed), and very enjoyable, especially the strong soloists along with the Thomanerchor. If I did not already have several versions, I would probably opt for Fasolis [17] - despite unknown (to me) soloists, the overall balance is superb, at least on one hearing, which I am very happy I got to enjoy without having to add another CD to the stack.

I regret that did not get to BCW for the beginning of the chronological discussions. At one point I thought I might try to do the current discussion, plus an earlier work each week, to catch up. This is clearly overly ambitious, at least for me. So I will get back to BWV 21 in depth in future years. The two alternate versions performed by Suzuki [20] [22] sound especially intriguing. Never mind, back to Jahrgang II. I will just add some random comments (like this one) when radio or live performances seem worth sharing.

 

BWV 21 - Contemporary criticism [was: BWV 116: the recordings]

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 21, 2006):
I wrote yesterday, Nov. 19, 2006:

Marie Jensen wrote (July 11, 2000):
< Ich, Ich, Ich it begins. A music critic contemporary with Bach ridiculed him saying, BWV 21 was a talentless mess, one couldn't start an entire work with repeating the same three words. >
Can we document the contemporary critic who ridiculed Bach? Related to the thread on 18th C. reports on performance practice.

Nov. 20
It is Matheson, cited by Wolff (Essays, p. 378) in an article titled <Bach's Vocal Music and Early Music Criticism.> There is not a lot, and what there is, mostly negative.

A thread worth pursuing?

Eric Bergerud wrote (November 21, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] There was also Johann Scheibe who set off the debate with Bach's friend Birnbaum. Scheibe hasn't gotten the best press (Wolff describes his attack on Bach as "infamous.") A couple of years ago I read: Berkley Puvlic Library true life of Johann Sebastian Bach by Klaus Eidam. Eidam is a journalist so the book has its quirks. He does, however, make an interesting defense of Scheibe, or at least tries to explain why someone with ears could find JSB less than a master. Let's not forget that for a generation Scheibe and company were closer to the heart of Europe's music than JSB.

 

Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis, Recordings

Jens F. Laurson wrote (May 4, 2009):
A little early for posting on "Bach Cantatas", but should be appropriate here.

from: http://www.weta.org/fmblog/?p=531

BWV 21, associated with the third Sunday after Trinity (which would be June 28th this year), is one of the great Bach cantatas-literally at the very least, because it is his longest: eleven movements, two parts, and about 40 minutes of music. It is also among Bach's very early cantatas, perhaps composed to apply for an organist position in Halle in 1713 and it has everything a cantata needs: intimacy, a touch of grandeur, arias, choruses, and one of the most beautiful oboe solos in the sinfonia. The first verifiable performance took place on June 17th, 1714 in Weimar. That Bach was aware of the cantata's quality is shown by revisions he continued to make, presenting the work (most likely) in 1720 in Cöthen and again that year to attain an organist job in Hamburg, and yet again as part of his Leipzig cantata series in 1723.

The result is that there are several different versions available, at least three of them reconstructable. The differences are mostly in details; the enjoyment of the work is not in the least determined by whether BWV 21 is listened to in C-minor (1714 Weimar & 1723 Leipzig versions) or in D-minor (1720 Cöthen/Hamburg) nor whether the solo arias and high voice parts of the duets with bass are sung by a tenor (Weimar), a soprano (Hamburg), or alternatingly among them (Leipzig). Additionally, in the (three-soloist demanding) `luxury'-Leipzig version, the choruses alternate between the soloists and the whole group of ripienists and trombones are added to the penultimate chorus ("Sei nun wieder zufrieden."). The last aria ("Erfreue dich, Seele.") can be alternatively taken by either of the high voices, soprano or tenor.

Usually, it is the Leipzig version that finds its way onto recordings; among others Richter (Archiv, 1969) [7], Rilling II (Hänsler, 1976) [10], Kuijken (Virgin, 1988) [12], Herreweghe (Harmonia Mundi, 1990) [13], and Suzuki (BIS, 1999) [22]. In 1994, Ton Koopman included BWV 21 in Volume 1 of his Cantata cycle [18] (then still on Erato, now Challenge Classics and just reissued on a single disc), but chose to record the Hamburg version, using alternating soloists and tutti in the choruses, Leipzig-style and adding the alternatively scored chorus in an appendix. In his first recording (volume 9 of the BIS series, 1997), Suzuki also keeps to the Hamburg version, except still more strictly and he offers some of the soprano parts (the opening aria "Seufzer, Tränen, Kummer, Not." and the duet including recitativo) in alternative movements.

The latest addition to the BWV 21 discography comes from The Purcell Quartet (Chandos, 2007, 38:55) [27] whose third release of the "Early Cantatas" builds on the success of their previous work. They regale us with the version that would have been heard in Weimar of 1714. The Purcell Quartet (so much is in the name) adheres strictly to the OVPP (one voice per part) approach, so even in the chorus sections there is only the quartet of soloists employed. That particular element, admittedly, is very unlikely to be historically correct-even in Weimar, Bach will have surely found at least four or eight more singers to give him a little oomph for the festive, often grandiose sounding choral parts.

Their chamber-style sinfonia is tremendously moving with the intimacy of lament; the latter generally being more a solitary than communal activity. But-perhaps not surprisingly-when the cantata turns celebratory in the second part and it is upon the chorus to assure us that we have "not been abandoned by God" and then extol the "glory and power [of] him that sitteth upon the throne", the rigid OVPP approach does miss out on something that even the slimmed down choruses of all the other HIP conductors deliver.

(Continued at http://www.weta.org/fmblog/?p=531 )

Josh Klasinski wrote (May 5, 2009):
[To Jens F. Laurson] Thanks! very informative, and makes me want to hear this cantata.

Why do you suppose Bach in the Leipzig version added a wealth of instrumentalists to put together what was quoted as "luxury-Leipzig version"?

For a newcomer to this cantata what do you recommend as a starter performance?

Jens F. Laurson wrote (May 5, 2009):
Josh Klasinski wrote:
"Why do you suppose Bach in the Leipzig version added a wealth of instrumentalists to put together what was quoted as "luxury-Leipzig version"?'
I should point out that I'm not quoting any authority on "luxury-Leipzig version". (I'm not quoting at all... [hence the single quotation marks.) I just made it up as I went, because it's the only version where three soloists are absolutely necessary, apart from having thrown in extra brass.

The answer to your question, though, would presumably be: Because he could!

Josh Klasinski wrote (May 5, 2009):
[To Jens F. Laurson] Thanks, I think the local library has a copy of the Ton Koopman [18], perhaps will start there.

Robert Sherman wrote (May 5, 2009):
Josh Klasinski wrote:
< For a newcomer to this cantata what do you recommend as a starter performance? >
I recommend Rilling [10], without reservation. The finale is the most thrilling Bach I've heard anywhere.

Josh Klasinski wrote (May 5, 2009):
[To Robert Sherman] Rilling [10] is familiar to me via a Bruckner performance recording. And it is by far one of my favorites!

Will keep it in mind Bob.

John Pike wrote (May 6, 2009):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< The Purcell Quartet [27] (so much is in the name) adheres strictly to the OVPP (one voice per part) approach, so even in the chorus sections there is only the quartet of soloists employed. That particular element, admittedly, is very unlikely to be historically correct-even in Weimar, Bach will have surely found at least four or eight more singers to give him a little oomph for the festive, often grandiose sounding choral parts. >
I agree this is one of Bach's finest cantatas. it was also one of the very first I discovered, as a child, thanks to my father owning the Richter recording [7]. I have adored it ever since.

Is there any evidence to suggest that this work should not be performed OVPP? What parts are available for each of the versions? If only part is available for each voice, surely that would be some evidence, as good as for any other Bach work, that the work was performed OVPP. As you comment in your introduction, this work has great intimacy, amongst many other qualities, and I think it is well suited to an OVPP performance, regardless of any evidence for or against that.

Francis Brownr wrote (May 5, 2009):
BWV 21 or 121?

BWV 21 is indeed a marvellous cantata, but am I alone in thinking that it was BWV 121 that was to be discussed this week ? Kim's introduction last week was so thorough and excellent that I have made a point of becoming better acquainted with what I took to be the next cantata to be discussed. Am I missing something? Has Kim given himself a very difficult act to follow ?

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 6, 2009):
John Pike wrote:
< Is there any evidence to suggest that this work should not be performed OVPP? What parts are available for each of the versions? If only part is available for each voice, surely that would be some evidence, as good as for any other Bach work, that the work was performed OVPP. As you comment in your introduction, this work has great intimacy, amongst many other qualities, and I think it is well suited to an OVPP performance, regardless of any evidence for or against that. >
This piece [BWV 21] has one extant part each for concertist and ripienist, per voice, for a grand total of 8 parts. Parrott's book (p61) says that the ripieno parts come only from the later Leipzig performance(s), not from Weimar, and that they were probably added at the same time as the voice-doubling trombones.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 6, 2009):
BWV 21

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< This piece [BWV 21] has one extant part each for concertist and ripienist, per voice, for a grand total of 8 parts. Parrott's book (p61) says that the ripieno parts come only from the later Leipzig performance(s), not from Weimar, and that they were probably added at the same time as the voice-doubling trombones. >
I continue to marvel at the virtuosity of the trombones/sackbuts/zinken which Bach's players dislayed. They were of course smaller instruments which could be played with greater agility than modern trombones but the players' technical prowess is amazing.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 7, 2009):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< This piece [BWV 21] has one extant part each for concertist and ripienist, per voice, for a grand total of 8 parts. Parrott's book (p61) says that the ripieno parts come only from the later Leipzig performance(s), not from Weimar, and that they were probably added at the same time as the voice-doubling trombones. >
And actually, there were two versions and performances of this work in Weimar (the first ever one on 8 October 1713 for the funeral fo Amelia Maria Harreß (using only Movements 2-6 and 9-10, with Soprano soloist in C minor Kammerton[?]), and the third ever performance of the work (on 17 June 1714 (3rd Sunday after Trinity), with Tenor and Bass soloists and in C minor Chorton), one in Halle-an-der-Saale (the second ever performance of the work in December 1713 as the trial piece to fill the vacant post of Organist at the Liebfrauenkirche zu Halle (the post left vacant by the death of Zachow, Haendel's teacher), with Soprano and Bass soloists in C minor Kammerton), and one in Hamburg (the fourth ever performance of the work in November 1720 as trial piece to fill the vacant post of Organist at the Jakobikirche zu Hamburg, with Soprano and Bass soloists in D minor Kammerton) before the final (fifth ever performance of the work) version on 13 June 1723 in Leipzig (with Soprano, Tenor, and Bass soloists in C minor Kammerton and with the Trombone quartet in Movement 9). So, which Weimar version are you talking about?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 7, 2009):
John Pike wrote:
>Is there any evidence to suggest that this work should not be performed OVPP?<
Brad has pointed to the existence of the ripieno parts; the BGA has 'solo' and tutti' markings over the voice parts in the final two choruses.

Interestingly in "Sei nun", at the start we have solo SAB set against tutti tenors, the latter having the chorale line - good evidence for the practice of alloting tutti voices to chorale lines in movements sas the famous tenor aria/chorale in "Wachet auf".

>As you comment in your introduction, this work has great intimacy, amongst many other qualities, and I think it is well suited to an OVPP performance<
I have trouble regarding the the massive final chorus ("Das Lamm") - with three trumpets, timpani, oboe, bassoon, strings and continuo as an example of intimacy. Not to mention the full ensemble required for the entire work - add four trombones which are required for "Sei nun", to the above orchestra!

A OVPP performance will ofcourse miss the thrilling effect of the solo voices being gradually overtaken by the full choir, from the bass up, as shown in the score of the last movement.

BTW, is there an OVPP recording available?

Evan Cortens wrote (May 7, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
> BTW, is there an OVPP recording available? <
As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be an OVPP recording of this work available. Kuijken [12] recorded it back in 2006 with a fairly small choir, but this was before he started his OVPP cantata cycle.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 7, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
>> BTW, is there an OVPP recording available? <<
< As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be an OVPP recording of this work available. Kuijken
[12] recorded it back in 2006 with a fairly small choir, but this was before he started his OVPP cantata cycle. >
The Purcell Quartet's excellent recording of BWV 21 (released 2008) [27] is OVPP. The set also has 172 and 182. It's slightly over 80 minutes, so they released it as a 2-CD set priced as one. I have a link to it here:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/recordings.html

Evan Cortens wrote (May 7, 2009):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< The Purcell Quartet's excellent recording of BWV 21 (released 2008) [27] is OVPP. The set also has 172 and 182. It's slightly over 80 minutes, so they released it as a 2-CD set priced as one. I have a link to it here:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/recordings.html >
Ah, I wasn't aware of that one!

Here's a link to it on Amazon: Amazon.com

From what I can tell from the samples, it sounds great!

Glen Armstrong wrote (May 7, 2009):
[To Evan Cortens] While BWV 21 on Chandos may be purchased as "2 for 1" in its physical form, to buy as an MP3 from iTunes or Classics Online is no bargain. There, you pay the same as for 2 CD downloads. There does appear to be the first part of 21 in another OVPP recording: Dale Higbee with Carolina Baroque. Haven't heard it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 7, 2009):
BWV 21 recordings [was something else]

< As far as I can tell, there does not seem to be an OVPP recording of this work [BWV 21] available. Kuijken [12] recorded it back in 2006 with a fairly small choir, but this was before he started his OVPP cantata cycle. >
Brad has already responded re the Purcell Quartet 2008 OVPP release [27], also mentioned in the original post from Jens Laurson.

Re Kuijken [12]: exactly correct, except for the recording date. It was done in 1989, according to my copy. It is a fine performance, my first introduction to him, via a radio broadcast (ca. 2006, coincidentally). I have found it enlightening to follow from there to the later [ongoing?] OVPP series. Everyone is free to gather data and make up their own mind. I find the recordings and the accompanying articulation of the evolution of his (Kuijken) thinking to be the finest exposition of the OVPP theory, as of early 2009, building on the pioneering work of Rifkin, Parrott (sp?), and others.

Not necessarily the final answer, but it is the pinnacle (better yet, plateau?) of a dedicated, professsional musician. OVPP scoffers, take note.

Evan Cortens wrote (May 7, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> Re Kuijken [12]: exactly correct, except for the recording date. It was done in 1989, according to my copy. <
Ah yes, a date of 1989 makes more sense... I must have been looking at a re-release date...

Neil Halliday wrote (May 8, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
Ah, I wasn't aware of that one!
Here's a link to it on Amazon:
Amazon.com >
From what I can tell from the samples, it sounds great!<

Thanks for the link to samples.

The massive start at the beginning of the last movement (Adagio), sounds much too small and genteel for my taste. I won't be rushing to get this one.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 15, 2009):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< I’ve since read some unfavorable reviews Barbara Schlick has gotten for both, her Herreweghe [13] and Koopman [18], recordings. But re-approaching these interpretations with some caution, I wasn’t turned off by her voice—even if I do prefer de Reyghere (Kuijken [12]),------------------- >
I was searching for Schlick and couldn't find her and then I remembered that your post continued on a website. OK, here is what I wish to say (disregarding our esteemed moderator's suggestion that cantatas should go elsewhere, where I do not participate):

I was forced by your remark and your whole review to see what recordings I had and was surprised to find that I had 5: Herreweghe with Schlick [13], Harnoncourt-Leonhardt [9], Werner [6], Sternberg 1950 [2], and Lehmann [3] (I guess mostly old recordings). I played the Herreweghe first and found Schlick, I regret saying this about anyone, a cipher, she simply is not there and to the extent that she is, I would that she were not. I listened on another day to the Werner which is a fine recording. Today I listened to the Sternberg (which I oddly have a CD set of with five cantatas). I was shocked at just how superb it was, as a whole, and each and everyone of the four soloists. This is what Bach needs to be. It simply ain't satisfactory that some conductor is idolized, such as Gardiner or whomever one chooses and then the uninteresting singers don't count.

The only thing that one must adjust to is that the great tenor Hughes Cuénod as always, has a somewhat "odd" voice and one must learn, if one finds it a problem, to come to him.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (May 15, 2009):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< I was forced by your remark and your whole review to see what recordings I had and was surprised to find that I had 5: Herreweghe with Schlick [13], Harnoncourt-Leonhardt [9], Werner [6], Sternberg 1950 [2], and Lehmann [3] (I guess mostly old recordings). I played the Herreweghe first and found Schlick, I regret saying this about anyone, a cipher, she simply is not there and to the extent that she is, I would that she were not. I listened on another day to the Werner which is a fine recording. Today I listened to the Sternberg (which I oddly have a CD set of with five cantatas). I was shocked at just how superb it was, as a whole, and each and everyone of the four soloists. This is what Bach needs to be. It simply ain't satisfactory that some conductor is idolized, such as Gardiner or whomever one chooses and then the uninteresting singers don't count. >
I am quite sure that everyone has been waifor the outcome of my journey (I really can't listen to five recordings of a Bach cantata or anything else for that matter in one sitting or even in one day and this is a long one; in some recordings very long).

At all events, I had indicated that the Sternberg [2] was my favorite of the three I had listened to and the Herreweghe [13] was one I would not bother with again. I have since then listened to the Lehmann [3]. The Lehmann, although the conducting and the pacing and all that are quite different from the Sternberg, shares with the latter having wonderful vocal soloists. The tenor, Helmut Krebs, is simply magnificent here (he is often dismissed as one of those uninteresting singers), the bass, Hermann Schey, who sang forever and survived the German occupation and eventually lived in Israel and then continued his career in Europe, is excellent, while the most appealing soprano is somewhat too soprano-y for Bach in my opinion, but nevertheless appeals and hardly hurts.

Now just now I re-listened to Harnoncourt [9] and did not expect anything special. Wow! First and foremost the baroque bowing is amazing (OK, Kim, that's a joke). Obviously we have a different orchestral sound here, one I like. The Knabensopran is one of the best in the whole H-L set and he dominates the whole performance. This guy is wonderful. I do not find tenor Equiluz (as good as he always is) on the level of either Cuénod or Krebs. Nothing to complain about bass Wyatt or about alto Esswood although, in listening to the whole set last year, I got so bored with his sound, his ever being a falsetto.

In summary: for me the Harnoncourt [9] and the Sternberg [2] and, sad to say, the Herreweghe [13] is nowhere in that league and, if most modern recordings will have such adequate or inadequate singers as the Herreweghe, I will gladly avoid more sets.

 

BWV 21 "Ich Hatte Viel Bekuemmernis"

John Pike wrote (February 27, 2010):
Sorry to post this on Bach recordings but I left the Bach Cantatas list some time ago.

The latest discs in Gardiner's cantata series arrived this week, Vol. 2. Disc 2 [24] includes the utterly remarkable BWV 21 "Ich Hatte Viel Bekuemmernis", one of the very first Bach Cantatas I ever heard, and I have listened to to it so many times since that first experience as a child, listening to Bach in total wonderment.

Gardiner gives a very fine account of this work, which he also adores and on which he gives us some very valuable programme notes. Gardiner comments on some similarities with BWV 106 and BWV 4, both works which I think particularly benefit from an OVPP approach.

Listening to this work for the first time in several years, I thought that it was crying out for an OVPP performance. I therefore decided to investigate this aspect further. The "Essential Bach Choir" by Parrott reveals that this is one of only 9 works by Bach in which there are separate Concertist and ripienist parts. Parrott mentions the work several times, and it is also mentioned in Rifkin's original essay. Rifkin also dedicated an article to the concertist and ripienist parts for Early Music in 1996. Does anyone know this article and can they give us some more information on what Rifkin has to say?

Many thanks

 

Continue on Part 6

Cantata BWV 21: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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