Cantata BWV 211Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Kaffeekantate)
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 2
Discussions in the Week of December 15, 2013 (3rd round)
William Hoffman wrote (December 14, 2013):
Cantata 211: Intro, Opera, Coffee House Culture, "Stagings"
The watershed year of 1729, with Bach taking the reins of the Leipzig Collegium musicum, produces real people in progressive music of opera buffa/singspiel as part of the Coffee House middle-class culture (including women singers) -- the two main themes that embued Bach’s Coffee Cantata, BWV 212. Here Bach in the mid-1730s, still pursing a cantor’s larger church works in the feast day oratorios and Mass while addressing worldly concerns as Leipzig music director, takes a composer’s holiday, recalling the tradition of Bach Family gatherings, particularly with comic and serious nuptial overtones. The fruits of these labors can be found in a plethora of audio-visual YouTube recordings of the Coffee Cantata, including “stagings” with the three characters and the orchestra.
“Coffee” Cantata BWV 211, “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” (Keep quiet, don’t chatter), was first performed by the Collegium Musicum in Zimmermann's Coffee House, about 1734-35. The text author is Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), for Movements Nos. 1-8, 1732, while Nos. 9-10 were added by Bach and attributed variously to Bach, Picander, and Christiane Mariane von Ziegler. The original German text and Francis Browne’s English translation is found at BCW http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV211.htm. The characters are: daughter Liesgen (soprano), Narrator (tenor), and father Schlendrian (bass). The orchestra scoring is: transverse flute, 2 violins, viola, harpsichord continuo. The BCW Details are found at http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV211.htm
References are: BGA XXIX (Secular Cantatas, Paul GraftWaldersee, 1885); NBA KB I/40 (Cantatas for wedding & various secular occasions, Werner Neumann, 1970); BC G 48 (Secular Cantatas, Vaious Occasions, 1989); Zwang W 17; first published: Berlin, Vienna & Leipzig, 1837; autograph score (facsimile): Berlin, Staatsbibliothek (Vienna, 1923; Leipzig, 1971).
The Cantata 211 movements/scoring (5 recitatves, 4 arias, chorus) is:
1. Recitative, Narrator [Tenor], Continuo: “Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht” (Keep quiet, don’t chatter);
2. Aria, Herr Schlendrian [Bass]; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: “Hat man nicht mit seinen Kindern / Hunderttausend Hudelei!” (Don’t we have with our children / a hundred thousand muddles!);
3. Recitative, Schlendrian [Bass], Liesgen [Soprano], Continuo: “Du böses Kind, du loses Mädchen” (You bad child, you wild girl!);
4. Aria, Liesgen [Soprano]; Flauto traverso, Continuo: “Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süße” (Ah! how sweet coffee tastes!);
5. Recitative, Schlendrian [Bass], Liesgen [Soprano], Continuo: “Wenn du mir nicht den Coffee lässt, So sollst du auf kein Hochzeitfest,” (If you don’t give up coffee, / you won’t be going to any wedding);
6. Aria, Schlendrian [Bass], Continuo: “Mädchen, die von harten Sinnen, / Sind nicht leichte zu gewinnen” (Girls with obstinate minds / are not easily won over);
7. Recitative, Schlendrian [Bass], Liesgen [Soprano], Continuo: “Nun folge, was dein Vater spricht!” (Now follow what your father says!);
8. Aria, Liesgen [Soprano]; Violino I/II, Viola, Cembalo, Continuo: “Heute noch, / Lieber Vater, tut es doch! / Ach, ein Mann! / Wahrlich, dieser steht mir an!” (This very day, / dear father, do it now! / Ah, a husband! / That’s just right for me!);
9. Recitative, Narrator [Tenor], Continuo: “Nun geht und sucht der alte Schlendrian, / Wie er vor seine Tochter Liesgen / Bald einen Mann verschaffen kann” (Now old Schlendrian goes off and looks out / for his daughter Liesgen / to see if he can get her a husband soon); and
10. Chorus (Terzetto) [Soprano, Tenor, Bass]; Flauto traverso, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo: “Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht” (The cat does not leave the mouse). [The ccore BGA [2.77 MB], is found at BCW http://bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV211-BGA.pdf .
Julian Mincham’s Commentary (The Cantatas of JSB) provides an Introduction to Cantata 211: <<A musical drama for Zimmermann's coffee garden. What can one say that has not already been said of a work that almost certainly enjoys the position of being the best known and loved of Bach's secular cantatas? Like the Peasant Cantata, it is not about winds, oceans mythical or historical characters; this is a miniature operetta about recognisable people, their preoccupations and interests. It evokes, for the modern listener, echoes of that attractive and manipulative minx, Suzanna, in Mozart's Marriage of Figaro, and it doubtless was composed to be presented dramatically for the entertainment of the customers in Zimmermann's coffee house. Dating from the mid 1730s, it remains a perfectly conceived mini-drama that amuses and reflects aspects of human characteristics with which we all find ourselves familiar.>> [http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-104-bwv-211.htm]
Basic description of Cantata 211 is found in Christoph Wolf’s Liner notes to the Koopman-Erato CD, Vol. 4 (complete Cantatas) <<"Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht", BWV 211, after the poem "Über den Caffee" by Henrici (Picander), was printed in the collection from which Bach took his text for BWV 201; the text of movements 9-10 is an addition of unknown origin. The dialogue opposes two players, the naive honest bourgeois Schlendrian (meaning "humdrum", sung by a bass) and his coffee-addicted daughter Liesgen (soprano), plus a narrator (tenor). Bach's autograph score calls the work a "comic cantata", and the original sources can be dated to about 1734. Picander's libretto of the Coffee Cantata was also set by other composers.>>1
Bachground and plot details of Cantata 201 are found in Klaus Hoffmann’s liner notes to the Suzuki-BIS CD:
<<Schweigt stille, plaudert nicht (Be quiet, chatter not; BWV 211), the so-called 'coffee cantata', is by some margin the most popular of Bach's secular cantatas. The witty text is by his Leipzig 'poet in residence', Christian Friedrich Henrici (alias Picander, 1700-1764), who published the libretto in the third part of his collection Emst-, Schertzhaflte und Satyrische Gedichte (Serious, Amusing and Satirical Poems). Bach's composition probably dates from 1734. The work is a little 'dramma per musica', the plot of which makes satirical reference to the drinking of coffee, a practice that had been popular since the late seventeenth century. The origins of the cantata seem to be associated with this specific content: it is assumed that Bach wrote the work for a performance either in the Zimmermann Coffee House or in its coffee garden. The premises of the Leipzig coffee-house proprietor Gottfried Zimmermann also served as a concert venue, and since 1729 Bach had made regular weekly appearances there with his Collegium musicum.
The plot of this little family comedy is almost self-explanatory: the daughter, Liesgen, is an enthusiastic coffee drinker who does not want to give up her passion at any cost. The father, Schlendrian, refuses to drink coffee and attempts in vain, using all kinds of threat, to prevent his daughter from indulging. Finally, however, he works out a cunning plan and promises to find her a husband if she renounces coffee - and, indeed, she agrees to the deal.
But she employs a trick of her own: Liesgen secretly lets it be known that she will only entertain a suitor who is prepared to allow her to drink coffee. Overall, the conclusion 'Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht' ('A cat its mousing never quits') seems to mean that all the paternal education has been in vain: everything will remain as it was, and Liesgen - like her mother and grandmother - will soon be eagerly consuming her coffee again.
Bach set the libretto to music with a sure senof the effect it would have upon the audience. The recitative-like dialogues are lively and articulated; the arias characterize the people and situations with unerring accuracy: the resigned ranting of the father in the first aria (second movement), the capricious daughter in her solo 'Ei! wie schmeckt der Coffee süße' ('Ah! How sweet the coffee's taste is'; fourth movement) introduced by the flute in the style of a minuet. In Schlendrian's second aria, 'Mädchen, die von harten Sinnen' ('Maidens who are steely hearted'; sixth movement), with a melodically bizarre and persistently recurring basso ostinato theme that is shot through with chromaticism, the expression of stubbornness is combined with that of lamentation. Liesgen's second aria, 'Heute noch' ('This day, still'; eighth movement), a charmingly animated siciliano, is filled with writing that conveys naïve effusiveness.
At the end we find the tercet about the girls who remain 'coffee sisters'. Bach knew what he owed his audience, and wrote a movement that is lively and easily understood. The theme, heard in association with the words 'Die Katze lasst das Mausen nicht' ('A cat its mousing never quits'), at times virtuosically from the flute and repeatedly from the other instruments, leaves an indelible impression on the listener. Many members of Bach's audience in Leipzig must have hummed it on their way home from the Zimmermann Coffee House and wondered if the Thomaskantor might possibly be secretly concealing the soul of an opera composer.>>2
Background and plot details also are found at Carol Traupman-Carr, "Cantata BWV 211 "Coffee Cantata"". Bach Choir of Bethlehem, in BCW Cantata 211 Discussion 2,http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV211-D2.htm, scroll down to Cantata BWV 211 "Coffee Cantata”. Discussions 2 in the Week of October 12, 2008, also includes materials on Bach's "'endorsements' of contemporary stimulants": tobacco wine, and coffee; readings from Forkel’s Biography, Philipp Spitta, and W. Gillies Whittaker; Bach’s daughters and household; and comments from Martin Geck in JSB: Life and Work (2000).
Discussion 2 also deals with the coffeehouse culture, Bach’s involvement, and Picander’s settings described in Katherine A Goodman’s 2006 account, "From Salon to Kaffeekranz."3 <<Four compositions set to Picander's Cantata 211 text have been reported, according 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 Frankfurt 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.
Goodman’s 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 songs 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 (BWV 203 and 209, BCW Discussions, December 22 and 29, respectively). 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).>>
“Opera and Dramma per Musica” are the subjects of Thomas Braatz 2008 BCW article, a summary translation of “Oper und ‘Dramma per Musica’” by Alberto Basso.4 "This article [is] on Bach's relationship to opera and the definition of 'Dramma per Musica’ by a noteworthy Bach scholar, Alberto Basso,” says Braatz. Observes Basso: “Only in two instances, the Coffee (BWV 211) and Peasant (BWV 212) Cantatas are people from everyday life represented: Liesgen and Schlendrian (BWV 211); Mieke and a peasant (BWV 212). Here the contrast between the opera seria with all of its variants,: drama eroico, favola pastorale, favola boschereccia, melodrama, etc. all of which borrow their figures from history or mythology, and the intermezzo or opera buffa with all of their typical characters drawn from common life.”
Increasingly in the 1730s, Bach was influenced by the music from the Saxon Court. “The secular cantatas of the late 1720s and 1730s are essentially oriented toward the opera styles of the day: the homage cantatas appear to resemble opera seria, while the cantatas with middle-class subjects seem to resemble opera buffa or intermezzos,” says Hans Joachim Marx in “Bach and the ‘Theatralischer Stil’” (Bach and the Theatrical Style).5 “It is very likely that Bach attended the premiere of this work [Hasse’s opera “Cleofide”] on 13 September 1731. Hasse’s arias have a rather galant, almost sentimental quality. Their musical idiom captivates through the simplicity and naturalness that elucidates the text. This quality is precisely the reason Scheibe, in his criticism of Bach’s ‘Kirchen-Stücken,’ chose the arias of Hasse as positive, up-to-date, galant examples of text setting. Most of the arias of Bach’s secular cantatas of the 1730s, however, show Scheibe’s critique, in many instances, to be ill conceived. The melodic style of the arias of the Peasant Cantata, BWV 212, in particular, seems to exhibit the unmistakable influence of Hasse’s intermezzos.”
The progressive elements in Cantata 211 are outlined in Robert L. Marshall’s 1976 essay, “Bach the Progressive: Observations on his later works”6 “It is not necessary to elaborate at length hereon the modernity of this highly popular composition. For its similarities to the works of the young opera buffa have long been recognized: the choice of contemporary middle-class characters, plot, and milleau, the scoring basically for just two roles sung by soprano and bass, the rapid parlando style of Bach’s vocal writing, as in Father Schlendrian’s opening aria, ‘Hat Man nicht mit seinen Kindern.’ Consider, too, the modern jaunty rhythm of ‘Heute nich’ [No. 8] and the strictly chordal setting in which, the soprano is often dby the first violin, a characteristic common in pre-classical scoring.” Marshall observes (Ibid.: 39f) that about the same time as Bach’s composition of Cantata 211, two works with similar features were quite popular: Pergolesi’s comedy, La serva pardona, and Sperontes best-selling song collection, Singende Muse an der Pleisse, “a volume which helped prepare the emergence of the modern German lied in the second half of the eighteenth century and which fulfilled a need among the new German middle class with a deliberately unpretentious poetry that affirms the middle class values and depicts everyday activities. Bach is thought to have contributed the music to at least two songs in the collection, BWV Anhang 40 and 41.”7
The Coffee Cantata BWV 212 “was an ideal piece for Bach to perform with his Collegium musicum at their usual concert venue,” Zimmermann’s coffee house, says John Eliot Gardiner in his new Bach musical biography, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven.8 “No need for gods dressed up as Baroque royalty or cardboard cut-outs of shepherds or shepherdesses: the domestic piccadillos and irritations of those around him could provide Bach with all the material he needed, observes Gardiner. The opening narrator recitative quieting the house and the introduction of the “grumpy old codger of a father, Schlendrain (Literally ‘lazy bones’)” has clear autobiographical overtones of a “harassed parent” suffering the “vexations of living (and having to compose) in a house full of querulous children and with a rowdy boys dormitory overhead.”
Father’s first aria (No. 2), “Don’t we have with our children a hundred thousand muddles!,” is a “singularly good-humored portrayal” from “a composer practiced at sliding barbed references and covert satirical pen-portraits of his clerical tormentors into his church cantatas.” The father’s other aria (No. 6), “Girls with obstinate minds are not easily won over,” “shows how Bach could bridge the worlds of church and café: with its twists and turns.” “But then, from the pretty and disarming music he allots to [daughter] Liesgen, you feel Bach to be on her side.” Her first aria (No. 4), “Ah! how sweet coffee tastes!,” has “an ambivalence of verbal stress and metre wavering between ¾ and 3/8, as though she and her accompanying flute . . . are hankering (Like Jonathan Swift and his Vanessa) after the sweetness of something more than coffee.”
Gardiner suggests that “Bach was recalling the rich subtext and multiple double-entendres of his cousin Johann Christoph’s 1679 wedding cantata,” Meine Freundin, du bist schön(My love, your are fair). Gardiner describes the cantata (vocal concerto) as an extended nuptial dialogue between bridegroom (bass) and bride (soprano) in which citations from the biblical Song of Songs (2-8) and Ecclesiastes 3 -- treated literally, topically or as poetic conceit -- are interspersed with written narrative description of the earthly lovers by Johann Ambrosius Bach.9 The 20-minute work is divided into three parts: The couple out strolling meet and in a duet plan an encounter in the groom’s garden. In the long chaconne scene, the woman bride a solo and then meets two companions (tenor and alto) and they accompany her to the garden where they meet the groom and the four celebrate with eat and drink. In the closing, a chorus joins the four in a song of grace.10
The cantata story reminds Gardiner of the Bach family gatherings, beginning with a chorale and including the Bach 1707 Wedding Quodlibet, BWV 524, as well as Bach’s two mature burlesques, the Coffee and Peasant Cantatas and a number of wedding cantatas. Although Bach did not compose such a nuptial dialogue, Gardiner points out that Bach in his sacred cantatas creates the allegory of the bridegroom and bride in mystic union as Jesus and the Christian soul in bass-soprano duets that show loving reciprocity and mutuality in a tradition dating to Palestrina.
Picander’s text in Cantata 211 ends with Liesgen agreeing to forsake coffee for the sake of marriage (No. 8, aria), “This very day, dear father, do it now! Ah, a husband! That’s just right for me!). Bach adds two stanzas “in place of a banal truce between father and daughter”: the return of the narrator in a “final recitatuve and tutti for all three voices telling the audience that, while old Schlendrain is on the prowl looking for a suitable son-in-law, Liesgen has put it about town that she will insist on a ‘pre-nup’ – one that guarantees her the right to drink coffee whenever she wants.”
“Stagings” with the three characters and the orchestra are found in several YouTube audio-visual recordings, most notably two “live” productions by Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Ton Koopman. A listing is found with visual icons in the BCW Cantata 211 Details and Discography, http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV211.htm, scrolling down to Recordings. Here are two stagings as well as complete recordings found scrolling down to the icon at the bottom of the listing:
+Recording No. 18, Harnoncourt staging (1984), Janet Perry, Sopran (Liesgen); Robert Holl, Bass (Schlendrian); Peter Schreier, Tenor; Concentus Musicus Wien, Nikolaus Harnoncourt; DVD, Recording Details, BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec3.htm#L12.
+Recording No. 32, Koopman staging (1997), The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra & Choir, Conductor Ton Koopman; Soprano Anne Grimm, Tenor Lothar Odinius, Bass, Klaus Mertens; BCW DVD Recording Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-TV.htm#D1 (Episode 5).
+Recording No. 10, Harnoncourt, concert perfromance (1967), Recording Details, BCW:; http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/H&L-Rec3.htm#L1.
+Recording No. 22, Christopher Hogwood, Academy of Ancient Music; L'Oiseau-Lyre, 1986.
+Recording No. 39 (semi-staging), Jaap Hille, Netherlands Instrumental Ensemble, 2008.
+Recording No. 40, Thomas Crawford, American Classical Orchestra (English recitatives, German arias).
+Recording No. 42, Ben Hildner, Les Alchimistes Berlin.
+Recording No. 43, student concert performance, Idaho Bach Festival (2012).
+Recording No. 44, (semi—staging), Bach Collegium, San Diego (2013).
1 See Christoph Wolff 1996 liner notes, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Koopman-C04-2c[AM-3CD].pdf, and BCW Recording Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman.htm#C4.
2 See Klaus Hoffmann 2004 liner notes, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-S01c[BIS-CD1411].pdf ; and BCW Recordings Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec5.htm#S1.
3 In Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Community, ed. Carol K. Baron, University of Rochester Press, 2006.
4 From Die Welt der Bach Kantaten (The World of the Bach Cantatas), Vol. 2, Secular Cantatas, “The Composer in His World” (Stuttgart: Metzler/Bärenreiter, 1997). See: :http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Opera-Drama[Braatz].htm.
5 Translated by Reginald Saunders, American Bach Society, Bach Notes No. 5 (Spring 2006); see http://www.americanbachsociety.org/Newsletters/BachNotes05.pdf.
6 Reprinted in Marshall’s collection of Bach essays, The Music of JSB: The Sources, the Style, the Significance (New York: Schirmir Books, 1989: 39f).
7 The Bach Compendium (BC) catalog of 1989 accepts BWV Anh. 40, “Ihr Schönen, höret an” (Murky bass), a parody of the Sperontes text, “Ich bin nun, wie ich bin,” as H 3 under the “H” cateof vocal chamber music. It is discussed in Goodman’s "From Salon to Kaffeekranz" (Ibid.: 197-200). The BC also lists the Quodlibet, BWV 524, and the Anna Magdalena Songbook tobacco song, BWV 515, as vocal chamber music, BC H 1 and H 2, respectively. For further information, see recent BCW Discussion of the strophic aria, BWV 1127, http://bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV1127-Gen.htm, Sperantes’ “Singende Muse an der Pleisse”.
8 In Chapter 8 (260-262), “Cantatas or Coffee (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013).
9 In Chapter 3, “The Bach Gene” (Ibid.: 74-76).
10 A recording of the vocal concerto is found at http://www.allmusic.com/album/alt-bachisches-archiv-cantatas-by-members-of-the-bach-family-mw0001411965.
For further reading, see
+Burkhard Schawlbach, “Eighteenth-century Coffee-House Culture: A New Context for Bach’s Music?”, Understanding Bach, 3, 105-108 © Bach Network UK 2008. Conclusion: A “more comprehensive understanding of Bach’s role in Leipzig’s eighteenth-century coffee-house culture will help to overcome some of the traditional limitations inherent in both ‘Romantic’ and ‘abstract’ approaches to Bach’s music” [http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk/ub3/SCHWALBACH%20-%20YSF.pdf]
+Rudolf Eller, “Thoughts on Bach’s Leipzig Creative Years, BACH 21 1990: 31-50. Scholarly study with extensive footnotes; background of Bach’s transitions from positions at Mühlhausen to Weimar to Cöthen to Leizig involving “new and different opportunities to pursue his artistic goals” and considering “the boundaries between necessities and possibilities” and the “harmony or conflict between prescribed commitments and individual intentions.”
William Hoffman wrote (December 18, 2013):
I don't suppose there has ever been a connection made between the final number of BWV211 ("Die Katze lässte das Mausen nicht") and "Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer" from BWV249 (Easter Oratorio)? There are a number of striking surface similarities here, the most obvious being the Mixolydian-flavor opening melodies. BWV211: 1-5-4-3-4-5-6-b7-6-5 compared to BWV249: 5-4-3-4-5-4-3-4-5-6-b7-6-6-5 (decoration removed). In both pieces, the flat-7 appears over a tonic pedal (though in the first iteration of the opening phrase in BWV211, the bass moves). Consequent second phrases in both bear affinities as well: both contain a descending 4-3-2-1 pattern at their beginnings and both ultimately arrive at a metrically stressed scale-degree 2 (semi-cadence). Both pieces are in G major and both feature flute parts that heterophonically decorate string melodies below. Both date from the mid to late 1730s.
All this may be purely coincidental, or perhaps we simply have no evidence to think otherwise.
Final Chorus of Coffee-Cantata and Handel's Giulio Cesare
Alexander Volkov wrote (May 25, 2015):
Could you help me a little bit with the following question.
Recently my friend, Alexander Konstantinov, noticed certain similarities between the music of the final chorus from "Coffee-Cantata", BWV 211, composed between 1734-1735 and the final chorus from "Giulio Cesare in Egitto", HWV 17, premiered in 1724 - both are in G major, both follow similar bourrée-like rhythm, the melody motifs are also sound similar. Could Bach somehow parodied Handel's opera in the finale of his secular cantata, or these similarities just reflect certain commonplace customs of opera-like endings?
Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2015):
Alexander Volkov wrote:
< Could Bach somehow parodied Handel's opera in the finale of his secular cantata, or these similarities just reflect certain commonplace customs of opera-like endings? >
Giulio Ceasre was performed in both Hamburg and Brunswick Some of Cleopatra's arias circulated as excerpts.
Luke Dahn wrote (May 25, 2015):
[To Alexander Volkov] This is interesting! I do not know the Handel well enough to comment, but when hearing the final chorus of BWV 211, I always thought it had striking parallels to "Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer" from the Easter Oratorio, written 7 years earlier (I think). Both are in G major, both begin with a Sol-Fa-Mi-Fa-Sol melodic figure before moving to Te immediately after, giving it a Mixolydian flavor. Could the parallels reflect a conscious adaptation of the earlier work?
Judge for yourself:
BWV 211 final chorus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YC5KpmK6oOs#t=20m20s
"Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X_hIDGRbdfM
William Hoffman wrote (May 25, 2015):
W. Gillies Whittaker has wriiten about (Cantatas of JSB, I:110, 133) Mr. P. Robinson's claim in Handel and His Orbit (Musical Times, May 1907), that Handel's German bass aria "Der Mund Spricht zwar" shows "one tiny similarity" with "the fugal theme 'Ich hatte viel Bekuemmeris'" and the soprano aria (no. 5) in Weimar Cantata 70 comes from "Almira," performed in Hamburg c.1705-06. I think its is quite possible that Bach while living in northern Germany then visited the opera. Peter Williams thinks so and there is some on-going research (collateral evidence). Beginning about the time of Forkel, Bach scholars pooh-poohed the idea of a connection between the two or any comparison.
Walstedt Jyrki wrote (May 25, 2015):
[To Luke Dahn] What I’ve understood is that parodies go always (by Bach, at least) from secular to church music, never the other way… I might have understood wrong, but this makes some sense, anyway.
Luke Dahn wrote (May 25, 2015):
[To Alexander Volkov] After looking at the Handel score, some of the parallels between BWV 211 and it are impossible to ignore. While the opening of the main melody parallels the BWV 249 aria I mentioned, the cadential figures of the BWV 211 chorus are virtually identical to that of Handel's chorus. Furthermore, the fact that the submediant is tonicized prior to movement to the dominant in both pieces further support a connection. I may create a comparison score that highlights these parallels.
I'm intrigued. Thanks for sharing, Alexander.
Alexander Volkov wrote (May 26, 2015):
[To Luke Dahn] Thank you for your interest!
However your thanks should be readdressed to Alexander Konstantinov who is the artistic director and the principal violin of the Moscow State University Chamber Orchestra (and prof. in Biochemistry): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Konstantinov-Alexander.htm
Thank you for mentioning "Sanfte soll mein Todeskummer", I also observed a quote on it here: http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV211-D3.htm
Thanks to the replies by Douglas Cowling and hawaiivanared, I tried to find a bit more details on the performances of Giulio Cesare in Germany and found the following paragraph, which explains that the were the performances of 'Giulio Cesare' not quite distant in time from the performance of Coffee-Cantata, so the audience of the latter might have been quite familiar with the parodied (if that indeed was an intention) music:
Giulio Cesare was the most successful of Handel's operas in Germany. Brunswick (Braunschweig) produced it in 1725, adding ballets at the end of the first two acts - for Egyptians in one, eunuchs and Seraglio favourites in the other - and revived it in 1727 and 1733. Hamburg produced it in 1725, as was its practice leaving the arias in Italian but putting the recitatives into German. This production included six ballets, for, among others, Egyptians, Moors, concubines and eunuchs, and peasants. It remained in the repertory till the Hamburg opera collapsed in 1738, though not always attracting an audience, On at least one occasion Telemann's intermezzo Pimpinone was given between the acts.
(quote from: 'Orientalism and the Operatic World', by Nicholas Tarling)
Cantata BWV 211: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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