Cantata BWV 211Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Kaffeekantate)
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of October 12, 2008
William Hoffman wrote (October 12, 2008):
BWV 211, Coffee Cantata, Introduction
There are three examples of Bach's "'endorsements' of contemporary stimulants": tobacco wine, and coffee, according to Andreas Bomba in the Hänssler Bachakadamie Edition notes for the Clavier-Büchlein for Anna Magdalena Bach (begun in 1725), V. 136. They are: 1. the Büchlein entry, "Erbauliche Gedanken eines Tobackrauchers: Sooft ich meine Tobackspfeife" (Edifying Thoughts of a Tobacco-Smoker: Whenever I take my good pipe), BWV 515(a), written before 1735; 2. Bach in 1748 thanking a cousin for sending him a "barrel of fruit wine"; and 3. the Coffee Cantata BWV 211 of 1734.
1. The Bach household Buchlein entry shows a melody possibly by son Gottfried Heinrich Bach, and a text by an unknown author before 1735. The melody and bass of this song are found, with its completion on the facing page, in the hand of Anna Magdalena transposed a fourth higher into the soprano register with first verse of text, and Sebastian filling out the bass system, as he often was want to do. All six text verses later were appended on a loose leaf.
BWV 515a Erbauliche Gedanken eines Tobackrauchers (#20b and 20c) Poet unknown.
Each time I take my pipe'n tobacco
With goodly wad filled to the brim
For fun and passing time with pleasure,
It brings to me a thought so grim
And adds as well this doctrine fair:
That I'm to it quite similar.
The pipe is born of clay terrestrial,
Of this I am as well conceived.
Ah, one day I'll become earth also---
It falls and breaks, before ye know't,
And often cracks within my hand:
My destiny is much the same.
The pipe our wont is not to color,
It's always white. And thus I think
That I as well one day while dying
In flesh at least shall grow as pale.
But in the tomb my body will
Be black like it when used at length.
When now the pipe is lit and burning,
We witness how within a trice
The smoke into thin air doth vanish,
Nought but the ashes then are left.
And thus is mankind's fame consumed,
Its body, too, in dust assumed.
How oft it happens when we're smoking
That, when the tamper's not at hand,
We use our finger for this service.
Me thinks, then, when I have been burned:
Oh, if these cinders cause such pain,
How hot indeed will hell yet be?
I can amidst such formulations
With my tobacco ev'rytime
Such practical ideas ponder.
I'll smoke therefore contentedly
On land, at sea and in my house
© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose
2. On November 2, 1748, Bach expressed his gratitude to his Schweinfurt cousin Johann Elias Bach for the gift of wine, although noting that on arrival in Leipzig, "the excellent little cask" "was almost two third empty, and . . . contained no more than six quarts; and it is a pity that even the least drop of this noble gift of God should have been spilled." (BD 1, No. 50; cited in NBR: 235).
3. As for the Coffee Cantata, it has both an intriguing compositional history as well as an engaging and checkered reception history. Bach's Obituary of 1754 specifically cites under occasional sacred and secular unpublished vocal works "several comic vocal pieces" (NBR: 304). Forkel's Bach Biography of 1802/1820, repeats the Obituary's basic, almost verbatim, summary account of the vocal music and under occasional music adds "Italian (secular) Cantatas" but omits "several comic vocal pieces." Then, at the end of the section on Vocal Music, Forkel provides a detailed listing of the 31 works he knows first-hand from Prussian Princess Anna-Amalia's Bach collection. Near the end he cites "A Cantata, with recitatives, arias, a duet, and a chorus. This is a peasant cantata (BWV 212). To this last cantata is prefixed a notice" (NBR: 72f).
Phillip Spitta in his Bach Biography traces the introduction of coffee into European Society, following wine and tobacco, and the extolling of its virtues in song in the first quarter of the 18th Century. In 1725, Leipzig had some eight licensed coffee houses. "In this Picander found material for satire" (p.641f), first in poetry and then as the subject of a comic cantata. In Bach's treatment, the three characters -- father, coffee-loving marriageable daughter, and narrator -- "are kept clear and distinct, and drawn with great power." "This original couple seem to have delighted the world," says Spitta. He cites an account in the Frankfurt News in 1739, and assumes that it is Bach's composition.
Four compositions to Picander's drama per musica text have been reported, according to Katherine A Goodman in her recent account of Leipzig's historic coffeehouse culture in "From Salon to Kaffeekranz," in <Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community,> ed. Carol K. Baron, University of Rochester Press, 2006. These are: 1. one by Johann Sigismund Buchberger, 2. the "comic cantata" by Bach with a similar text, 3. possibly another by C.F. Penzel, and 4. "possibly another which Spitta found in a newspaper announcement from 1739. Only the score copied by Penzel is still extant, and its text lacks the two extra strophes of Bach's composition" (Footnote 63). Penzel's source could have been Anna Magdalena, who may have kept some drafts as well as a few early and very late Bach cantatas.
The Schmieder Catalog notes that the Cantata BWV 211 score copy and performing parts set written by Penzel is dated April 6 and 7, 1754. This is 15 months before Penzel began copying the Chorale Cantatas from the performing parts sets at the Thomas School, starting July 24, 1755, shortly after the death of Bach's successor, J.G. Harrer, on July 9. "As Chorus Perfect he (Penzel) filled in as director of the choruses until the official assumption of the Cantor's post by J. F. Doles" (MGG: 1021f). The Penzel score and parts, without the final two added movements, were found among the Franz Hauser collection of later copies. It appears that a few cantatas were shared by the two oldest brothers. These could include BWV 211, BWV 205a, BWV 194, BWV 30, BWV 172, and BWV 125, based on manuscript alterations for performance or copies from originals. Also, W.F. performed a few of his father's works at his post in Halle, beginning in 1746. Bach's BWV 211 complete original score and parts set survived through the C.P.E. Bach estate catalog (1790).
Schweitzer essentially repeats Spitta's information, suggesting BWV 211 is a one-act operetta. The next writing I found is Whittaker's <Cantatas of JSB> and here's a brief summary (II:603ff): Cantata BWV 211 has been staged in England, and of course, recently, the SMP (BWV 244) and SJP (BWV 245). There also is a brief history of coffeehouses in Europe and Picander's related literary efforts. "It is not known for what purpose the cantata was written," says Whittaker. Most current writers believe it was written for and performed at Zimmerman's Coffee House. Katherine Goodman, cited a, has the most current, extensive writing on the issue. Her article is subtitled "Gender Wars and the Coffee Cantata in Bach's Leipzig." The title speaks volumes about the specific coffeehouse culture and the literary scene in Leipzig, as well as Bach's involvement through Zimmermann's.
The most important characters in Goodman's closet drama, besides Bach and Picander, are the writers J.C. Gottsched and his wife, poetess Luise Kulmus, and another Bach librettist, Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, whose father was the notorious Mayor of Leipzig, F.C. Romanus. Sounds like a household French farce or a Western melodrama (villains, heroes, maidens)? Actually, we're dealing here with very learned, talented people. All they needed were outlets, or stages, whether a University lecture hall, moral weeklies, satirical works like Sperontes' "The Singing Muse on the Pleisse," or, of course, a coffeehouse, where everyone gathered for public concerts and, hopefully, there were no duels.
One very critical note: Goodman (p. 196) points out that often daughters would marry men in the same craft (guild) as their fathers. "While the tradition of musicians in this regard has not been investigated, it is notable that neither Bach not his contemporaries mention his giving his daughters the musical education that might have preserved them and their mother from destitution. Given his meticulous efforts to train his sons, his lack of care regarding his daughters remains a particular tragedy." Goodman suggests that Ziegler may have written the added two stanzas of the Coffee Cantata text, perhaps even being involved in the staging as well as singing and playing the flute. While women were forbidden from frequenting coffeehouses, they attended public concerts at Zimmermann's, both outside and inside, and did participate, given the lead role of the soprano playing Liesgen/Lieschen. Women musicians performed with the Leipzig Collegium musicum. Remember the Italian soprano solo cantatas Bach presented. They were not sung by castrati. Recently, more works for soprano have been suggested, according to George B. Stauffer's "Music for `Cavaliers et Dames': Bach and the repertory of his Collegium Musicum" in <About Bach>, Festschrift for Christoph Wolff (University of Illinois, 2008). In addition to the established six cantatas of Porpora and the Alessandro Scarlatti and Handel cantatas, Stauffer adds the Gerlach-Dietel copying of two arias from Handel's Alcina as well as another cantata and three arias (all in the Breitkopf 1768 catalog).
Bach's Daughters. Bach had eight daughters and 12 sons. Of the daughters, Catharina Dorothea was his oldest child (1708-1774). She was a spinster and her "calling" was to assist her mother and especially her step-mother raising the remaining offspring. Maria Sophia, born in Leipzig in 1713, between W.F. and C.P.E., lived three weeks and was the first of 10 offspring, including four more daughters, all by Anna Magdalena, to die in infancy. Surviving were: "Lieschen" (Elisabeth Juliana Friderica, 1726-1781), only daughter to marry (J. C. Alnickol); Johanna Carolina (1737-1781), whose Godparents included Johanna Elisabeth Henrici (Picander's wife); and the last child, Regina Susanna, 1742-1809). Picander probably was a frequent visitor to the Bach household, especially in the 1730s, and could have worked closely with Bach on the production of the BWV 211 text. Besides the dramma per musica productions, other close collaborations included the Augsburg Confession Bicentennial three-day festival in mid-1730, the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247) at Lent 1731, and the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) in late 1734.
Bach's Household. The following, I think, is a relevant passage taken from my unfinished, "Sebastian":
On the first day of January, 1730, the Bach household welcomes its newest member. A very frail daughter is delivered. She is the eight child born alive to Sebastian. Taken almost immediately to the St. Thomas Church to be baptized, she is christened Christiana Benedicta. Her godparents, who had accepted months before but are assembled in haste, are recorded as the following: Benedicta Carpzov, daughter of St. Thomas' Archdeacon D. J. G. Carpzov; Christian Gottfried Mörlin, Leipzig attorney; and Catharina Louisa Gleditsch, wife of Leipzig bookseller J. G. Gleditsch. (Carpzov performs baptisms. Mörlin is Bach's personal attorney, especially regarding his estate, contracts, and his protracted and stressful dealings with his employer, the Leipzig Town Council. Gleditsch provides Bach with books primarily for his theological library and some printed music, as well as helping him to find music publishers and local printers of librettos.)
Bach and his oldest spinster daughter, Catharina Dorothea, who has just turned 22, take turns trying to stimulate and feed the child. They no longer have the great assistance of one Friedelena Margaretha Bach, oldest sister of Bach's first wife, Maria Barbara. Friedelena had joined the household when Catharina Dorothea, the first child, was born in 1708 in Weimar.
Friedelena, born in 1675 and the eldest of five daughters of Sebastian's first cousin, Johann Michael, was a welcome addition to the Bach household. She had had little prospect of marriage. Her father had died in 1694 when she had just reached marriageable age. She was needed to assist her mother in sustaining the family and raising the other four daughters, including the youngest, Maria Barbara then age 10. When their mother, Catharina, died ten years later in 1704, Maria Barbara moved to Arnstadt, to live with her godfather, Feldhaus. There she met Sebastian and they were married on October 17, 1707.
Initially, Friedelena assisted her sister, and then, as the household expanded and Sebastian married Anna Magdalena following Maria Barbara's death in 1721, Friedelena became essential. She had died the previous summer at the age of 53 and was greatly missed, especially now.
Besides music, death was the common denominator in the household. Waves of plague and influenza cut down many adults and children alike. Periodic religious wars also took their measure. Most unsettling were the unrelenting deaths of the children. It was difficult to understand why so many infants perished, most often in the first days, the first months, or the first years. Even when they were healthy and had passed these fateful milestones, children were struck down, often without warning. Meanwhile, others struggled, even into adulthood and were perpetually in ill health, yet sometimes lived long lives. Contemporary observers suggest that there were unhealthy conditions, especially in the towns and cities, as well as the stifling family quarters during the winter months. Other blamed it on Fate or Divine Providence, as was the case with the Black Plague which still threatened Europe. Still others attributed it to bad blood, an unfortunate set of circumstances, or misguided intentions, especially with daughters.
Christiana Benedicta lived for three days. The high incidence of the Bach children's deaths diminish, especially after the family home was repaired and remodeled in the early 1730s. Of the final five children to enter the household, only one perished, Johann August Abraham, who survived one day in 1733. The four who thrived were composers Johann Christoph Friedrich (the "Bückeburg Bach") and Johann Christian (the "English Bach") and the two spinsters, Johanna Carolina and Regina Susanna.
* * * *
The most recent comments on the Coffee Cantata come from Martin Geck in <JSB: Life and Work> (Eng. Ed. 2006). Cantata BWV 211 and its companion cantata burlesque, BWV 212, Peasant Cantata, are "carefully drawn and imaginative character studies with an element of farce" by Picander. Geck compares the two works to Dutch
tableau genre etchings of Jacques Callot's "Capricco" series. The works also are considered forerunners to the opera buffa and singspiel genres. The best study is Thomas Bauman's "Opera from Hiller to Reichard" in "Courts and Municipalities in Northern Germany," in <The Classical Era: From the 1740s to the end of the 18th Century>, ed. Neal Zaslaw; Music and Society Series, ed. Stanley Sadie (1989, pp. 256-263.
Geck also points out Schlendrain's first aria (Mvt. 2, free-da capo) is a mock-lament over his daughter's condition. Her response aria (Mvt. 4) with flute is one of charm and onstinacy with conflicting metrical, musical and verbal accents. His next (Mvt. 6) continuo aria is awkward yet earnest, with moralist overtones found in cantata continuo arias BWV 3/3 and BWV 25/3.
The period of the last half of 1734 was a remarkably creative time for Bach. Not only did he compose two new chorale cantatas and the Christmas Oratorio, but also he produced two drammi per musica: the ceremonial BWV 215 serenade on four days' notice and the comic Coffee Cantata with real human characters.
Cantata BWV 211 "Coffee Cantata"
During his time in Leipzig, Bach was responsible not only for music for the church, but for a good deal of music for the community. His collegium musicum in Leipzig was the principle beneficiary of Bach's secular musical composition, including, in all likelihood, this "Coffee Cantata."
Although nowadays we associate really good coffee with France and Italy, coffee did not arrive in Europe until about the same time that Bach was born. It did not take long, however, for coffee to become the fashionable drink in European cities, and by the time Bach wrote the Coffee Cantata (around 1732-1735), coffee houses were commonplace.
The work can be viewed as a miniature comic opera-although Bach never wrote any operas in his life. (It was the only genre of his day in which he contributed nothing.) The text was written by Picander (pseudonym of Christian Friedrich Henrici, who contributed a number of texts for Bach, including the poetic texts in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244)).
The work is scored lightly, for three solo voices (soprano, tenor, and bass), strings, flute, and continuo. Only in the final number, which bears the designation "coro" (usually indicating chorus), do all voices and instrumentalists participate. The use of the term "coro" was a common device in operatic works of the time, even
where a chorus was not present-by using this conventional term, could Bach have been thinking of this as a miniature opera?More than his other works, Bach's Coffee Cantata presents a little drama. It begins with a recitative, rather than a concerted, melodic work, for solo tenor and continuo. The tenor, our narrator, appears only in this first and the final numbers. He begins with the text
"Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht "Be quiet, stop chatteringund höret, was jetzund geschieht!" And listen to what will happen now!"
This serves the role of an overture, fanfare, or theatre bell; the narrator appears to be speaking to the invisible patrons in the coffeehouse, but his announcement helps quiet the audience and focus their attention on the drama about to unfold. The narrator then announces the arrival of Herr Schlendrian (solo bass) and his daughter, Lieschen (solo soprano). But the continuo serves as another character here, with its dotted rhythms (marked "con pompa" - with pomp) mocking Herr Schlendrian ("Humbug") as he approaches the coffee house.
The drama unfolds between Schlendrian and his daughter. She will not obey him, he reveals in Mvt. 2; in the following recitative (Mvt. 3), we discover that the culprit, the vice causing her disobedience, is coffee, which Lieschen refuses to do without. The fourth number is an aria for soprano, which fuses together two other genres with the solo aria: the trio sonata and the minuet. It is a trio sonata in that Bach includes two independent and equal melodic lines with continuo. The obbligato flute is completely independent of the soprano, sometimes standing entirely on its own (as at the beginning, the ending, and in transitions between verses); it never takes the deferential role of resorting to playing in parallel thirds or sixths with the voice. At the same time, this number is a minuet (as identified by Little and Jenne, in Dean and the Music of J.S. Bach); that is, it is a medium tempo, triple meter movement which symbolizes elegance and nobility (the minuet may have started in the lower classes, but it eventually became strongly associated with the aristocracy). What is unusual, however, is that the phrases here are grouped in threes, where we are conditioned (by the Viennese Classicists, primarily) to expect four-measure phrases.The next number is another simple recitative. Schlendrian threatens his daughter: he will not give her a wedding breakfast, a fancy dress, a walk, a silver or gold decoration for her bonnet.if she will not give up coffee. She chooses coffee over all these things. In the next aria (Mvt. 6), Schlendrian sings again of his daughter's obstinancy (and that of all women). In the subsequent recitative, he finally gets the brilliant idea to tell his daughter that she will not be able to marry unless she gives up coffee-something she suddenly is quite willing to do. In the da capo aria which follows (Mvt. 8, pastorale gigue), Lieschen sings blissfully, anticipating the greater joy a husband will bring, instead of that of her coffee. The narrator returns in the recitative, Mvt. 9, announce how the drama concludes. Schlendrian decides to rush off to find a husband for his daughter; Lieschen, meanwhile, has secretly announced that she will put in the marriage contract a stipulation that she be permitted to brew coffee whenever she wants! The text for Mvt. 9 does not exist in Picander's text; apparently, Bach added this little plot twist himself.
The concluding number Mvt. 10, marked "coro", involves the full complement of voices and instrumentalists. It is a bourreé (Little and Jenne), but has the feel of a chorale fantasy, of the kind Bach might write to open a chorale cantata. The instruments set the tempo, key, and mood, keeping the texture rhythmically lively. The singers enter, almost always simultaneously and in a homophonic texture; the strings and flute double the voices, while the continuo keeps the motion alive. Bach writes two da capos in this movement: one after the first verse returns the music to the opening; after the repeat, the music continues to stanza two, at the end of which is another da capo marking. Thus, the opening instrumental passage is heard three times.
Mere words cannot express the general deof this work of Bach; one must hear it, following the libretto, to appreciate all its charms, and then lament that Bach never produced a full comic aria for the ages. This is as close as he gets. © 2003 Carol Traupman-Carr
* * *
BWV 211 Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Kaffeekantate)
Specific occasion unknown, probably in Zimmermann's Coffee House.
Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte, Teil III (Leipzig, 1732); Facs: Neumann T, p. 348 (the last two movements are not in the PT). Late 1734 or early 1735, Leipzig.
BG 29; NBA I/40.
Liesgen (S), Narrator (T), Schlendrian (1)(B)
1. Recit. (T) Narrator
Be quiet, chatter not,
Give ear to what will now transpire:
Now Mister Schlendrian
Comes with his daughter Liesgen here
And rumbles like a honey bear;
Now listen what she's done to him!
2. Aria (B) Schlendrian
Don't we have with our own children
Hundred thousand woes to see!
What I'm ever daily saying,
To my daughter Liesgen praying,
Passeth fruitless on its way.
3. Recit. (B, S) Schlendrian and Liesgen
Thou naughty child, thou wanton hussy,
Ah, when will I achieve my way?
For me, off coffee lay!
Dear Father, do not be so strict!
For if I may not thrice each day
My little cup of coffee drink,
I'll turn indeed to my distress
Into a dried-up goat for roasting.
4. Aria (S) Liesgen
Ah! How sweet the coffee's taste is,
Sweeter than a thousand kisses,
Milder than sweet muscatel.
Coffee, coffee, I must have it,
And if someone wants to treat me,
Ah, my cup with coffee fill!
5. Recit. (B, S) Schlendrian, Liesgen
If thou for me not coffee quit,
Thou shalt attend no wedding feast,
Nor ever take a stroll.
But here to me my coffee leave!
Here now I've got the little monkey!
I will most sure a whalebone dress of latest girth refuse thee.
I can with ease learn this to bear.
Thou shalt not to the window venture
And no one see who walks beneath it!
This also; but heed my petition
And grant that I my coffee keep!
Thou shalt as well not from my hand
A silver or a golden band
Upon thy bonnet gain thee!
Yes, yes! But leave to me my pleasure!
Thou wanton Liesgen thou,
Then dost thou yield me ev'rything?
6. Aria (B) Schlendrian
Maidens who are steely-hearted
Are not easily persuaded.
But just hit the proper spot,
Oh, ye'll have a happy lot.
7. Recit. (B, S) Schlendrian, Liesgen
Now, follow what thy father bids!
In all things, only coffee not!
Go on, thou must then be contented
To lack as well a husband ever.
O yes! Dear Father, please, a man!
I swear it, it will never be.
Until from coffee I abstain?
Well! Coffee, be forever conquered!
Dear Father, mark, I'll never drink a bit.
And thou in turn at last shalt get him.
8. Aria (S) Liesgen
This day, still,
O dear Father, do it, please!
Ah, a man!
Truly, he would suit me fine!
If it only soon might happen
That at last in coffee's stead,
Ere I yet shall go to bed,
I a gallant lover find me!
9. Recit. (T) Narrator
Old Mister Schlendrian now goes to seek
How he for this his daughter Liesgen
Soon may a husband here procure;
But Liesgen secretly makes known:
No suitor come into my house
Unless he's made to me the promise
And put it in the marriage contract, too,
That I shall be allowed to brew,
Whenever I desire, my coffee.
10. Chorus (S, T, B)
A cat its mousing never quits,
A girl remains a coffee-nurser.
The mothers love to use the brew,
The grandmas fondly drank it too,
So who would now the daughters censure?
1. This name translates into something like "Stick-in-the-mud" or "Slowpoke."
© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose
1. Francis Browne's literal and rhythmic translation, interspersed with the German can also be found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV211-Eng3.htm
2. Furthermore, when the subject of 'Bach and Opera' is discussed, Cantata BWV 211 is often mentioned as an example. You can read lively discussions about this subject in the Bach Cantatas Website in the General Topics section, in the following address: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Opera.htm
3. See: Cantata BWV 211 - Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV211.htm
4. Also: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV211-D.htm
Jean Laaninen wrote (October 12, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< There also is a brief history of coffeehouses in Europe and Picander's related literary efforts. "It is not known for what purpose the cantata was written," says Whittaker. Most current writers believe it was written for and performed at Zimmerman's Coffee House. Katherine Goodman, cited above, has the most current, extensive writing on the issue. Her article is subtitled "Gender Wars and the Coffee Cantata in Bach's Leipzig." The title speaks volumes about the specific coffeehouse culture and the literary scene in Leipzig, as well as Bach's involvement through Zimmermann's. >
I was delighted to hear this cantata live on a recital about a year and a half or two years ago at ASU. At that time I also looked at the score and text and background prior to attending, and I found myself chuckling all the way through the performance. I think maybe this cantata is Bach at his most humorous, but there might be other opinions.
John Pike wrote (October 12, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] I agree, Jean. It gives me a great laugh every time I hear it, and the music is superlative.
BWV 211 - staged performance
Bill Mimi wrote (March 24, 2013):
I am wondering whether anyone might be able to provide information that might eventually lead me closer to a recording of a staged performance of the Kaffee-Kantate I saw on German television station ZDF one Sunday morning in 1993 (it made an indelible impression on me).
Over time I forgot who the principals in that performance were. An excerpt from the aria "Heute noch" was, however, included in Mordecai Baumann's documentary "The Stations of Bach" and, according to the credits, Carola Nossek was the soprano, Peter Schreier the conductor, and the now defunct Deutsche Film AG (DEFA) in East Germany the production company.
The performance does not appear to be listed anywhere on the bach-cantatas.com site, and, so far, all leads have gone cold.
Does anyone know anything about this production?
Cantata BWV 211: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2