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Cantata BWV 212
Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 10, 2013

William Hoffman wrote (November 12, 2013):
Peasant: Cantata 212: Introductioin

Cantata BWV 212 (BC G32), Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet (We have a new governor) is a “Cantata Burlesque” [Peasant Cantata], in homage of Carl Heinrich von Dieskau of Klein-Zschocher [BCW Details, ]. It was first performancd, Thursday, August 30, 1742, and is set to a German text, Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander), English translation Francis Browne, ; Z. Philip Ambrose English text and footnotes, ; Scoring| Soloists: Soprano, Bass; Orchestra: transverse flute, horn, 2 violins, viola, continuo; Score, BGA [2.63 MB], .

Commentary of Julian Minchem, summarizes the significance of the Peasant Cantata: “Much has been written and supposed about this work, partly because it is like no other of Bach's cantatas. It is a burlesque, bordering at times on farce, a late composition (1742) composed at a time when Bach appeared to be turning his mind away from operatic-type pieces of entertainment and more towards music in its purest and 'least adulterated' sense. It contains more movements (24) than any other cantata but, typically lasting barely half an hour, it is by no means the longest; compare it, for example with Cantata 205. It is written in a Saxon dialect, has no chorus, employs just two singers and is very lightly orchestrated. “Elsewhere readers will find opinions as to whether Bach was, uniquely, using the piece in order to make social comment. It is, perhaps, more convincing to argue that he set out to parody aspects of musical composition rather than social milieu, much in the way that Mozart was later to do in his Musical Joke. What we know is that it was written as a work of homage to Carl Heinrich von Dieskau, a tax superintendent who had inherited a number of properties (Dürr p 888). What we can reasonably safely infer is that the work was intended as entertainment, probably for a relatively elevated social class rather than that from which the characters are drawn” [

Christoph Wolff’s commentary cites dance and popular melodies: “Musically too, the piece is emphatically burlesque in tone, as is clear even from the overture, which parodies a rustic ensemble with a three-part writing for violin, viola and continuo, its apparently unmotivated shifts suggesting a potpourri of dances. At various points in the work, moreover, Bach quotes snatches of popular tunes of the day: in the third movement for instance, we hear the “Großvatertanz”, Mit mir und dir ins Federbett , in the eighth movement the Folies d’Espagne and in the sixteenth movement the drinking song Was helfen uns tausend Dukater” [(Recording Liner Notes, Koopman, Erato V. 5), ,[AM-4CD].pdf ].

BCW Discussions, No. 1, Week of November 16, 2003, Aryeh Oron, Introduction, Recordings, Additional Information; Extracts from Oxford Composer Companion (Editor: Malcom Boyd; Consultant Editor: John Butt; Article Author: Tim Crawford; Published by Oxford University Press, 1999):

<It has long been known that the Peasant Cantata is not only composed in a deliberately 'rustic' style but actually quotes a number of popular tunes of the time. A sufficient number of such quotations have come to light to suggest, perhaps, that Bach based his entire work on existing music, possibly at Dieskau's request.

Mvt. 1. The opening sinfonia (untitled in the autograph manuscript) is a potpourri of dance tunes, anyone of which could be a true folk melody. The tune immediately following the opening Presto is very similar to certain examples of the so-called 'Heyducken Tanz'popular in Germany and Poland, and the central Adagio section is an excellent example of a true polonaise. A number of other movements from the cantata are in Polish style, which may have had a strongly pastoral connotation for the composer.

Mvt. 2:. The duet 'Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet' is based on a variant of a rustic bourree in a German keyboard manuscript from 1693-6 (St Petersburg, Academy of Sciences, the Michael Hansch MS, fo, 71) and also in a Polish tablature for an unspecified plucked instrument from the early 18th cen­tury (Warsaw, Biblioteka Narodowa, MS 2088, fo, 1V). In an early 18th-century Dutch collection, Qude en nieuwe Hollantse Boerenlieijes en Cantre­dansen (Amsterdam, 1700-16 [facsimile, Amster­dam, 1972], Part 4, p. 16, no. 287), it is called 'De lustighe Boer' ('The jolly farmer').

Mvt. 3. In the recitative 'Nu, Miecke, gib dein Guschel immer her' the strings quote two popular dance tunes. The second of these was also cited by Bach in the final Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations, and is a version of the traditional 'Grossvater Tanz', which has survived with a variety of song texts. In Picander's libretto, responding to the Man's advances, Mieke sings: 'I know you, you saucy devil; later you'll only want to go further and further!' Bach may have expected his audi­ence to supply for themselves one of the best­known 'Grossvater- Tanz' texts at the end of their dialogue: 'You and me together to the feather bed, you and me together to the straw'.

Mvt. 4. 'Ach es schmeckt doch gar zu gut', is clearly another tune in polonaise style; a closely related lute piece (entitled simply 'Allegro') sur­vives in a copy of a lost 18th-century German lute manuscript transcribed in the 19th century (Venice, Fondazione Cini, Chilesotti papers).

Mvt. 8. The strings announce the well-known tune 'Folies d'Espagne' at the beginning of'Unser trefflicher lieber Kammerherr', and it recurs throughout the aria. However, this is not merely a set of variations; the vocal melody itself sounds like a different popular tune, yet to be identified.

Mvt. 12. The aria 'Funfzig Taler bares Geld' uses a polonaise tune in mazurka rhythm that appears in two tablature manuscripts from the mid-18th century (Nuremberg, Germanisches National­Museum, MS 274, fo. 8; Leipzig, Musikbibliothek der Stadt, MS III.12.18, no. 22) as well as in i col­lection of Polish dances for violin from 1742 (Mar­tin, Matica Slovenska, 'Uhrovec' MS, fo. 6v).

Mvt. 14. The opening phrases of the 'courtly' aria, 'Klein-Zschocher müsse', closely resemble the beginning of a minuet from Gregorio Lam­branzi's Neue und curieusetheatralische Tantz­ Schul (Nuremberg, 1716), part 2, p. 51.

Mvt. 16. The 'aria col corne de chasse', 'Es nehme zehntausend Dukaten', uses a very well-known hunting song, originally French, popular all over Europe, and said to have been introduced to Germany by Count Franz Anton Sporck.

Mvt. 22. 'Und daß ihrs aIle wißt' was probably based on a student song (see Spitta, iii. 178, n. 331); a version of the piece without text, but called 'Aira' (recte 'Aria') can be found in the Polish tab­lature mentioned above (Warsaw, Biblioteka Nar­ odowa, MS 2088, fo. 29)> [

Dance-style, Parodies

The brief, dance related movements are: Polonaise (Mazurka); 1, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12; bouree 2, 24; and menuett 14, 20 (Doris Finke-Hecklinger, Tancharakter in Vokalmusic JSB; Trossingen: Matth. Hohner AG Musikverlag, 1970: 158).

The two substantial da-capo menuett-style arias are parodies: No. 14, soprano aria with flute and strings, Klein-Zschochermüsse/ So zart und süße / Wie lauter Mandelkerne sein(Klein-Zschocher should be / as tender and sweet /as pure almonds), is from No. 9, the Love of Country aria Ich will Ihn hegen (I will extol him), from Cantata BWV Anh. 11, Es lebe der König, der Vater im Lande (Long life to the King now, the nation's true father), a draami per musica for the name day of Augustus the Strong, August 3, 1732, and No. 20, the bass tripartite trio aria with violin, Dein Wachstum sei feste und lache vor Lust! (May your growth be steady and laugh with delight!), from Pan's bass aria, Zu Tanze, zu Sprunge, so wackelt das Herz (In dancing and leaping my heart shakes) in the 1729 dramma per musica Der Streit zwischen Phoebus und Pan (BWV 20l:7), repeated 1736-40, and 1749.

I think that in Cantata BWV 212 Bach is having his cake and eating it too. He's making money, having fun, thumbing his nose at those pedants Johann Adolph Scheibe, Johann Christoph Gottsched and Johann Mathesson and perhaps showing that German burlesque opera is indeed alive and well in Saxony. The Peasant Cantata was his last original hurrah. Remember also that Bach could not get the Dresden Court Capellemeister position (vacant 1730-35) because he didn't have fluency in Italian opera. And by the early 1740s Bach had lost interest in Dresden Italian style except for stile antico.

I think the ever-calculating Bach, the well-regulated and well-appointed composer, functioned at many levels simultaneously -- sacred and secular, parody and original, repertory and transformation, moderno and antico, serious and satirical -- best exemplified in his secular cantatas [ ]

Recordings, YouTube, (Nikolaus Harnoncourt, BCW,

Staged productions of the Peasant Cantata from 1928 to the 2006 are documented from various sources:

1. In 1928, The New York Times reported the presentation in Paris of two secular Bach cantatas by opera soprano Marguerite Bériza and her company in staged productions, The Peasant Cantata and The Coffee Cantata: (fee).

2. Clarion Singers. “The singers were committed to taking music to the masses and as part of this performed excerpts from the Marriage of Figaro from the back of a lorry in Balsall Heath and staged Bach's Peasant Cantata on Bournville village green” (England, WWII): [ ]

3. “Soprano Suzie le Blanc Adds Opera to a Burgeoning Concert Career; Magazine article from: Opera Canada ...Orchestra in performances of Bach's ‘Coffee’ and ‘Peasant’ Cantatas in Toronto on March 26, 27 and 28, 1999” [ ].

4.. Soprano Kate Vetter Cain. “After her 2003 debut with the Washington Bach Consort in a semi-staged performance of J.S. Bach's "Peasant Cantata" (BWV 212), Cain has become a frequent soloist with the group, returning every season in various cantatas including a staged "Coffee Cantata." (BWV 211)” [BCW,

5. BCW Cantata 212 Recordings No. 37; Susan Hochmiller, soprano; Cantata BWV 211 [28:32] Instrumental Ensemble| Soprano: Susan Hochmiller; Tenor: Pablo Bustos; Baritone: Jeffrey Goble
Tabatha Easley (Flute); John Vaida (Violin); Zach Dellinger (Viola); Jordan Allen (Cello); Daniel Aune (Harpsichord); Eastman School of Music; Oct 7, 2006 CD / TT: Recorded at Kilbourn Hall, Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York, USA. Staged by Steven Daigle. Candidate for the degree of Doctor of Musical Arts.
Source: WorldCat Libraries. .

NEXT: Rustic elements in Bach’s cantatas, Zimmermann’s and the Coffeehouse Culture, and Bach’s other Secular Cantatas for Members of the Nobility (Bach Compendium Work Group G) and Alfred Dürr’s commentary in the Cantatas of JSB.

William Hoffman wrote (November 12, 2013):
Details of Peasant Cantata 212 to its honoree, Carl Heinrich von Dieskau, is found in Alfred Dürr’s commentary in the Cantatas of JSB (Oxford University Press, 2005: 888ff). “Upon the death of his mother in 1742, Dieskau, who was born of an old noble family, inherited a number of properties, and on 30 August he was paid the customary homage by his subordinates at the village of Klein-Zschocher near Leipzig. As superintendent of the collection of taxes in the Leipzig area, Dieskau was the immediate superior of Henrici, alias Picander, and it may have been Picander who, seeking Dieskau’s favor through his poetic talent requested Bach to set the text he had written and to perform the homage cantata.”

“The choice of a rustic setting for the typically modest plot,” Dürr continues, “is probably symptomatic of the gradual decline of the baroque gods-and shepherds dramas towards the middle of the century.” Bach’s last composed cantata, this peasant burlesque contains every possible element – orchestral sinfonia, polish-style pastoral connotation, folk and dance pieces primarily in polonaise-mazurka style, and even two quodlibet references to various popular tunes in counterpoint [ ]: the sinfonia with a potpourri of seven brief phrases and the third movement soprano-bass duet recitative quoting the popular dance tune “Grossvater Tanz,” also quoted in the final Quodlibet of the Goldberg Variations. Bach’s Quodlibet, BWV 524, will be part of the BCW Discussion of secular wedding cantatas next week (November 17), featuring BWV 202, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten.

The contrasting “town-style” borrowed (parody) arias are the “high-point” for the soprano and bass,” says Dürr, that is the substantial da-capo menuett-style movements, Nos. 14 and 20. As Dürr concludes: “we cannot help admiring the fact that Bach maintained his close link with dance and folk music, as well as hymn and chorale, throughout his life.”

To hear the entire “Peasant Cantata,” go to YouTube, ;
Nikolaus Harnoncourt [BCW, ].

Pastoral-Style Cantatas

Bach’s composition of pastoral-style cantatas spanned thirty years, from his first modern-style vocal work, the “Hunt Cantata,” BWV 208, of 1713 for the birthday of Duke Christian of Saxe-Weißenfels, to the Shepherds’ Cantata, BWV 249a, for the same prince in 1725, to his “Peasant Cantata” of 1742. Often involved in dance-style choruses and arias, this music is particularly notable in his Köthen vocal serenades (1718-23) later recycled as sacred church-year cantatas in Leipzig [“Bach’s Dramatic Music, Royal Court at Köthen: Serenades,” ], the five “Good-Shepherd” sacred cantatas (BWV 85, 104, 112, 174, 185) for the 1724 Easter Season, the parody 1725 Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, and the Adoration of the Shepherds cantata in the 1734 Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248II.

Operatic style

Particularly in his later profane cantatas, Bach “incorporated and modified the operatic style,” says Han Joachim Max in “Bach and the ‘Theatralischer Stil’ (English translation Christoph Wolff, in Bach Notes,Spring 2006, Newsletter of the American Bach Society [ ].

“The melodic style of the arias of the Peasant Cantata, BWV 212, in particular, seems to exhibit the unmistakable influence of Hasse’ intermezzos,” Marx suggests (Ibid.: 3). “The secular cantatas of the late 1720s and 1730s are essentially oriented towards 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” (Ibid.: 5).

Cantata 212 Honoree

Bach’s “Peasant Cantata,” BWV 212 is classified as a Secular Cantata for Members of the Nobility (Bach Compendium Work Group G) and in Alfred Dürr’s commentary in the Cantatas of JSB, Part 3, Secular Cantatas, Chapter 5, “Leipzig Music of homage for Nobles and Burghers.” Dieskau, the honoree of Peasant Cantata, BWV 212 (BC G 32), as superintendent of the collection of taxes in the Leipzig area, served the Saxon Court as did the honorees of the other five cantatas honoring nobility. As a feudal landholder with aristocratic privilege, these former commoners who had received redistributed land and “provided outstanding service to the Saxon electors as either state bureaucrats or merchants were rewarded with special privileges,” says Carol K. Baron, “Transitions, Transformations, and Reversals: Rethinking Bach’s World,” in Bach’s Changing World: Voices in the Community (University of Richester (NY) Press, 2006): 19).

Five Other Nobility Cantatas

The other five nobility cantatas honoring Leipzig area residents with strong connection to the Saxon Court involve the three “lost” congratulatory serenades (BWV 249a, Anh. 10, and 210a) for Joachim Friedrich Graft von Flemming, City Governor for the Saxon Court; the dramma per musica, homage cantata BWV 30a, Angenehmes Wiederau, Johann Christian Hennicke, protégé of the all-powerful Count Heinrich von Brühl, leader of the Saxon Court Party faction on the Leipzig Town Council; and the major repertory parody, BWV 36c, Schwingt freudig euch empor, for an unknown old teacher probably with connections to the Saxon Court. The six nobility cantatas on the Bach Compendium are:

BC, BWV, BGA, NBA, Year, Title, → Parody Relationship [lost music, text only]
[G 28], 249b, -, -, 1726, Verjaget, zerstreuet, zerrüttet, ihr Sterne (music lost) → D 8a/b, G 2
G 29, 210a, XXIX, I/39, 1738, O angenehme Melodei (3 versions, incomplete) → G 31, G 44
[G 30], Anh 10, -, -, 1731, So kämpfet nur, ihr muntern Töne (music lost) → A 190, G 7
G 31, 30a, V/1
XXXIV, I/39, 1737, Angenehmes Wiederau → A 178, G 16, G 29, G 44
G 32, 212XXIX, I/39, 1742, Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet (Bauernkantate - Peasant Cantata) → G 16, G 46
(Originally classified under Work Group G, For University-related Events, Homage to members of the faculty)
G 35, 36c, XXXIV, I/39, 1725, Schwingt freudig euch empor → A 3a/b, G 12, G 38

*BWV 249b, August 25, 1726; Die Feier des Genius: “Verjaget, zerstreuet, zerrüttet, ihr Sterne“ (The Celebration of Genius: Drive away, Scatter, you stars); dramma per musica, text Picander; congratulatory serenade for Count von Flemming; music lost, survives as parody in BWV 249; characters: Genius, Mercurius, Melpomene, Minerva [Cantata 249b BCW Details, with Picander German Text and Z. Philip Ambrose English translation and notes, ]

*BWV 210a, “O angenehme Melodei” (O pleasing melody), soprano solo homage serenade (three versions); originally composed as a homage to the Duke of Saxe-Weißenfels, January 12, 1729; for the birthday of Governor Count von Flemming, August 25, 1729-30; and repeats for him and unknown patrons (through text revisions) between 1738-1740; and finally, parodied as the extant secular wedding cantata, “O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit” (O glorious day, longed-for time), 1738-41 (no librettist identified for any version). [Cantata BWV 210a BCW Details, with anonymous German text, and Z. Philip Ambrose English translation and notes, .

*BWV Anh. 10, “So kämpfet nur, ihr muntern Töne“ (So battle now, ye courageous sounds); text by Picander, serenade for the birthday of Count von Flemming, August 25, 1731; opening chorus parodied to open Part 6 of Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248; closing chorus parody of Cantata BWV 201, closing chorus, and parodied likewise in Cantata BWV Anh. 19, Thomas School welcome, 1734. [Cantata BWV Anh. 10, BCW Details, with Picander German Text and Z. Philip Ambrose English translation and notes,

Governor Flemming

Bach’s music of tribute to members of the Saxon Court and their supporters make “liberal use of polonaise rhythms,” says Szymon Paczkowski’s “Bach and the Story of an "Aria Tempo di Polonaise" for Joachim Friedrich Flemming, BACH* Vol. XXXVIII/2 (2007), 71). Besides the pervasive influence of the polonaise-mazurka style in the “Peasant Cantata,” BWV 212, this popular dance, especially at the Saxon Court where the Elector also held the title of King of Poland, is found in two Flemming serenades: soprano aria in BWV 249b/4, Süße, wundersüsse Triebe / Quellen ietzt in meiner Brust (Charming, rare and charming instincts / Well up now within my breast), BWV249a Hunderttausend Schmeicheleien / Wallen jetzt in meiner Brust (Thousands are the artful praises / Welling now within my breast), and Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, Seele, deine Spezereien / Sollen nicht mehr Myrrhen sein (My soul, your spices / should no more be myrrh (Mary, daughter of James). Soprano aria in Cantata BWV 210a/8 “Großer Flemming, alles Wissen / Findet Schutz bei deinen Füßen,” (Mighty Flemming, ev'ry science [Worthy patrons, ev'ry science] / Finds before thy feet protection [Finds before your feet great favor]. Cantata BWV Anh. 10 has the texts for two arias, Nos. 3 and 5, but no parodied music is found.

Flemming is referred to in Cantata BWV Anh. 9 as the court’s “most trusted” who had been present at this “mighty feast one year ago,” for Augustus’ birthday visit in May 1726. Bach’s first extant work for the Saxon Court at Dresden is Cantata BWV Anh. 9, “Entfernet Euch, ihr heitern Sterne” (Disperse yourselves, ye stars serenely), dramma per musica with published text of Christian Friedrich Haupt. It is an evening serenade commissioned by Leipzig University students for the birthday of Augustus II, “The Strong”; May 12, 1727.

Flemming “served from 1724 to 1740 as Governor of Leipzig and became one of Bach’s most supportive aristocratic patrons there,” says Christoph Wolf in <JSB: The Learned Musician (New York: W>W. Norton & Co., 2000: 180f). Flemming represented the Dresden Court at resided at the Pleisenburg mansion, not far from the St. Thomas Church (Wolff, Ibid.: 319), and was one of Bach’s “staunchest patrons.”

William Hoffman wrote (November 16, 2013):
Cantata 212, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten”: Intro

Bach’s principal poet, Christian Friedrich Henrici (1700-1764), alias Picander, was the key factor in many of Bach’s secular cantatas involving the Saxon Court and the Absolutists in Leipzig. Not only did Picander provide the texts for many of these homage works but he also introduced the Leipzig director of music to crucial court figures. This began as early as 1725, when Bach turned from church-year cantata as Cantor or lead church musician to profane music as Kapellmeister. In particular, that collaboration between composer and lyricist also produced other homage works, particularly the 1725 proto Cantata BWV 36, “Steigt freudig euch empor” (Swing yourselves joyfully on high), and its four profane and sacred variants, as well as Bach’s 1737 dramma per musica, “Angehnemes Wiederau, freu dich sehr” (Pleasant Wiederau, rejoice thee), BWV 30a.

The dye already had been cast in the spring of 1723 when Bach was chosen Leipzig Kapellmeister and Cantor at St. Thomas Church because of the support of the so-called absolutist court party. Bach’s initial contact may have begun through Picander soon after the new Saxon Governor of Leipzig, Count Joachim Friedrich von Flemming (1665-1740) took office in Leipzig on 31 July 1724. Picander’s first volume of poems and cantata librettos “contains as many as four texts written in Flemming’s honor,” says Szymon Paczkowski’s “Bach and the Story of an "Aria Tempo di Polonaise" for Joachim Friedrich Flemming (BACH Vol. XXXVIII/2, 2007: 67).

Picander-Bach Flemming Tributes

Picander initially composed a dramma per musica honoring Flemming’s governorship assumption, followed with an ode soon after celebrating Flemming’s birthday on 24 August 1725, at which in succeeding years Bach would provide music several times. This possibly began in an Abendmusik (evening music) Bach may have set to a Picander serenade text presented on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1725 at the Flemming royal residence, the Pleissenburg Castle not far from the Thomas Church. Entitled Erhabner Graft (Sublime Count), the music includes an “Aria Tempo di Polonaise,” entitled “Großer Flemming, dein Vergnügen” (Greatest Flemming, thy contentment), a text incipit that Bach later used in the Flemming birthday homage Cantata BWV 210a/8, presented at least three times between 1729 and 1739, and its wedding parody, BWV 210/8, dating to 1738-41 (BCML Discussion, week of November 24). The polonaise-style aria is entitled,“Großer Flemming/Gönner, alles Wissen / Findet Schutz bei deinen Füßen,” (Mighty Flemming/Patron, ev'ry science / Finds before thy feet protection).

Elder brother of Jakob Heinrich von Flemming, powerful Field Marshall of Saxon Elector and Polish King August the Strong and Prime Minister of the Royal Secret Cabinet, Joachim Friedrich was commander of the Saxon troops stationed in Leipzig and overseer of city fiscal issues. Flemming also was responsible for providing music to celebrate his monarch’s birthday, including ordering the commissioning of Bach to compose his first celebratory serenade for the Elector, August the Great, BWV Anh. 9, Entfernet euch, ihr heitern Sterne (Remove yourself, you clear skies), on May 12 1727.

Another Saxon court connection is the controversial Johann Christian von Hennicke (1681-1752), prominent Leipzig area landowner and Saxon Secret Council member and cabinet minister, who is the honoree of Bach’s 1737 Cantata BWV 30a, “Angehnemes Wiederau, freu dich sehr.” Hennicke commissioned Bach and noted Leipzig poet Johann Christoph Gottsched, who, incidentally, ridiculed Picander’s poetry, to present an homage serenade, BWV Anh. 13, “Wilkommen! Ihr herrschenden Gotter” (Welcome, you ruling royalty of earth), on Monday, April 28, 1738, before August III and family visiting for the Leipzig Easter Fair. Since only the Gottsched text survives, it is difficult to determine which arias were set in polonaise style, as is the case in the Flemming 1731 homage Cantata BWV Anh., “So kämpfet nur, ihr muntern Töne“ (So battle now, ye courageous sounds).

Polonaise Style Works
The importance of Bach’s use of polonaise-style is based on several factors. Presumably, Bach and Picander took into account Flemming’s close ties to the royal Polish Saxon court in Dresden. The polonaise was then “immensely fashionable in Saxony, and it carried connotations of royal power and court ceremony, which may explain why the arias were devised as sung polonaises,” says Paczkowski (Ibid.: 98). Two other factors may be Flemming’s brother, Jakob Heinrich, the most powerful person at the court who had twice been married to women from Poland, and the fact that the gallant dance polonaise generally “dovetailed with the most recent musical tastes in courtly and aristocratic circles.” In particular is popularity of the strophic song collection of some 250 satirical poems of Sperontes, Singende Muse an der Pleisse (Singing Muse on the Pleisse river), published in Leipzig in 1736. With fixed stanzas set to popular tunes, one-third of the music is polonaises and may be the source of some of the tunes Bach could have used in the arias of his profane works dating to 1725-39.

Besides the some five polonaise-style arias in the “Peasant Cantata,” BWV 212, of 1742 for the Saxon-favored landholder, Carl Heinrcih von Dieskau, there is the single polonaise aria in the Flemming 1725 Birthday Cantata, BWV 249b/5, and the later one, BWV 210a/8 first performed on 12 January 1729 to celebrate the arrival in Leipzig of Bach’s patron, Duke Christian of Weißenfels, and twice later between 1729 and 1739 on Fleming’s birthday. Paczkowski also cites the following arias in polonaise style: the alto-tenor duet, No. 13, in the 1725 University of Leipzig homage Cantata BWV 205, its parody in the August III coronation homage, BWV 205a, of 1734, as well as further use in the 1728 secular wedding, Cantata BWV 216/7, and its parody BWV 216a for the Leipzig Town Council, after 1728; the soprano aria in the Saxon Court congratulatory Cantata BWV 214/3 of 1735; and the alto aria in the 1729 Zimmermann entrainment Cantata BWV 201/13.

Only one Bach sacred cantata, BWV 190, “Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied” (Sing unto the Lord a new song, Psalm 149:1) for the 1724 New Year’s Feast, contains a polonaise style, aria, No. 3 for alto, “Lobe, Zion, deinen Gott” (Praise, Zion, your God), showing possible influences from Bach’s Köthen period, 1717-23. Two serenades for Prince Leopold, composed about 1722 for his December 12 birthday or New Year’s day, contain polonaise-style arias, BWV 173a/4, and BWV 184a/4, that were parodied as cantatas for the Feast of Pentecost, Monday and Tuesday, respectively, in 1724.

Three Bach instrumental polonaises survive, cited in Meredith Little and Natalie Jenne, Dance and the Music of JSB (Indiana University Press, 1991: 197f). The “couplet” in a minuet in rondeau form that closes Brandenburg Concerto No 1, BWV 1046, was added to the original work possible during Bach’s first visit to Dresden in 1719, best known for his attempted contest with French composer/organist Jean Louis Marchand at the home of Jakob Heinrich von Flemming. Bach’s other two uses are the Polonaise (No. 5) in the French Suite No. 5 in G Major, now dated to Bach’s Weimar period, 1708-17, and the “Polonaise: Lentement & Double” (No. 5) in the Orchestral Suite (Overture) No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067 for flute and strings, surviving in a 1738 manuscript but possibly dating to a lost Köthen suite for strings before 1723.

Bach-Picander Collaboration

The successful collaboration between composer Bach and lyricist Picander had its genesis in the initial, practical need to produce profane music as part of Bach’s worldly duties as Leipzig civic music director. It began at Lent 1725 when Bach was virtually free from his cantor responsibilities to produce sacred cantatas weekly. During these six weeks, Bach not only set aside his initial plans for his second original Good Friday oratorio Passion but he also abandoned the challenge of creating large-scale, totally new chorale cantatas for the remaining Easter Season of his second annual church-year cantata cycle.

Instead, Bach and Picander produced two seminal works in different genres that formed the foundation of Bach’s worldly vocal music repertory for special occasions primarily honoring members of the Saxon Court in Dresden while serving as parodied sacred works. On February 23, Bach journeyed to Weißenfels to honor his friend and mentor, Duke Christian, with another birthday serenade, the allegorical She’s Cantata, BWV 249a that he then parodied as his first major feast-day oratorio on Easter Sunday, April 1. It soon became a double-parody as a congratulatory dramma per musica,BWV 249b, for the birthday of Count Joachim Friedrich von Flemming on August 25, 1726.

Meanwhile, on the Thursday following the three-day Easter Festival, April 5, 1725, Bach produced an extended congratulatory cantata for a still-unidentified teacher with connections to the Saxon Court, BWV 36c. It is possible that the teacher was Gottfried Lange (1672-1748), Bach’s patron, friend and initial champion on the Leipzig City Council and law professor at the University of Leipzig, who governed in Leipzig as Mayor from 1728 to 1734. Bach subsequently parodied the extended opening chorus and three striking arias with obbligato instruments, composing only new interspersed recitatives, first as a birthday piece, BWV 36a, in 1726 for Prince Leopold second consort, Charlotte Friederike, as well as a congratulatory cantata, BWV 36b, in 1735 for the learned Rivinius family. Meanwhile, Bach parodied the opening chorus and three arias as a sacred cantata for the festive First Sunday in Advent, BWV 36, probably with recitatives initially as early as 1725, then in 1728 and 1731, substituting chorale arrangements. Details of the sacred cantatas are found at BCW, , , . A reconstruction of Cantata BWV 36a by Alexander Grychtolik is available on CD, see BCW

Bach in Leipzig: An Absolutist

That Bach in Leipzig could so easily flourish in both the profane and sacred realms, often simultaneously and integrally, was due to both his innate pragmatism (and some would say, opportunism) and the favorable conditions and cross-currents that existed in this flourishing community of learning, publishing, worshiping, and music-making. Bach as a composer and musician had thrived at the courts of Weimar and Köthen. Caught in the “divergent cultural-political views of two competing political parties” Leipzig, the progressive court absolutists and the civic and sometimes reactionary Estates party, Bach sided with the former, says Ulrich Siegele’s “Bach and the domestic politics of Electoral Saxony” in the Cambridge Companion to Bach, edited by John Butt (Cambridge University Press, 1997: 25ff). “Like Gottfried Lange, he came to act as an external agent of the Dresden Court. As a cultural-political representative of the absolutist party, he was subject to repeated attacks and criticism from the Estates’ party, the main problem of his entire career.”

“To what extent did political developments influence Bach’s musical development?” asks Siegele. He cites four of Bach’s sacred masterpieces: Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, “whose librettist, Picander, was also a partisan of the absolutists,” the “parodic relationships between works of homage and religious works” such as the Christmas Oratorio; and the Mass in B Minor and D Major Magnificat” with their “common characteristics of the different [Catholic and Lutheran] confessions.” In many ways Bach through his music was a powerful manifestation of his times. For further reading, see Siegel’s, "Bach's Situation in the Cultural Politics of Contemporary Leipzig” in Carol K. Baron, Bach's Changing World: Voices in the Commuity (University of Rochester Press, 2006). Other articles are: Baron, "Transitions, Transformations, Reversals: Rethinking Bach's World"; Baron, "Tumultuous Philosophers, etc."; John Van Cleve, Family Values and Dysfunctional Families: Home Life in the Moral Weeklies and Comedies of Bach's Leipzig"; and Katherine R. Goodman, "From Salon to Kaffeekranz: Gender Wars and the Coffee Cantata in Bach's Leipzig."

Picander Postscript

Picander benefitted greatly from his lyrics praising Count Flemming and other notables, especially in Bach’s settings. In 1727, Picander began a career in Leipzig civil service. First he was postmaster then postal secretary, then postal commissioner. In 1740 he became the wine inspector for the Kreis-Landsteuer- und die Stadt-Tranksteuereinnahme of Leipzig until his death in 1764, all the while continuing to publish his poetry [see Wikipedia,,_Christian_Friedrich ].

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 17, 2013):
Pleissenburg again!

William Hoffman wrote:
< Picander initially composed a dramma per musica honoring Flemming’s governorship assumption, followed with an ode soon after celebrating Flemming’s birthday on 24 August 1725, at which in succeeding years Bach would provide music several times. This possibly began in an Abendmusik (evening music) Bach may have set to a Picander serenade text presented on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1725 at the Flemming royal residence, the Pleissenburg Castle not far from the Thomas Church. Elder brother of Jakob Heinrich von Flemming, powerful Field Marshall of Saxon Elector and Polish King August the Strong and Prime Minister of the Royal Secret Cabinet, Joachim Friedrich was commander of the Saxon troops stationed in Leipzig and overseer of city fiscal issues. Flemming also was responsible for providing music to celebrate his monarch’s birthday, including ordering the commissioning of Bach to compose his first celebratory serenade for the Elector, August the Great, BWV Anh. 9, Entfernet euch, ihr heitern Sterne (Remove yourself, you clear skies), on May 12 1727. >
This is a fascinating connection with our earlier discussion about the Bach masses and the Catholic Chapel Royal in the Pleissenburg Castle. This would suggest that Bach was responsible for or at least part of the music in the surrogate court in Leipzig. If Bach was physically present at these court occasions, it seems logical that he would have had a good knowledge of the Catholic music in the chapel. Was that the source of the mass movements he copied and arranged? I've always thought of Leipzig and Dresden as being polar opposites, but it appears that the Pleissenburg was a mini-Dresden in the heart of Lutheran Leipzig. What DID Protestants think of this Catholic cuckoo's nest in their midst?

William Hoffman wrote (November 18, 2013):
In contrast to Bach’s festive, often outdoor homage and congratulatory profane cantatas, the works composed for civil marriages, usually held in homes, are intimate with simple sentiments using few instruments. They also are a contrast to Bach’s festive sacred church wedding cantatas often with trumpets and drums as well as prescribed chorales. Before his final tenure in Leipzig, Bach composed two civil wedding works with older techniques: Weimar Cantata BWV 202, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” (Vanish now, mournful shadows), and Quodlibet (Fragment), BWV 524, probably performed at an annual Bach Family gathering in Thuringia c.1707.

Bach’s most popular solo soprano wedding Cantata BWV 202, “Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten” was composed for a wedding in springtime, says the text, but cannot be dated. It survives in a score copied in 1730, with antiquated notation. It is scored for solo soprano in five striking arias alternating with four recitatives. The instrumental accompaniment is oboe, strings and continuo. Details & Recordings, see with German text and Francis Browne’s English translation, BCW . For an extensive discussion, especially Thomas Braatz’ contributions in Nos. 2 and 3, see: . For JuliMincham’s recent commentary, see, .

“The fact that the work contains no courtly allusions suggests that it was written for a burgher couple in Leipzig before 1730,” says Christoph Wolff in the liner notes to the Ton Koopman Erato recording ([AM-4CD].pdf , recording details at BCW, ). “It begins with a highly expressiveombra [shadow] scene of a kind often found in Baroque operas. The second aria is accompanied by continuo alone, the third introduces a solo violin and the fourth includes a solo oboe, while the fifth (a gavotte) draws – like the first – on the full orchestra.”

The style of Cantata 202 shows features of both Köthen and Weimar cantatas. Originally, it was dated to Bach’s Köthen years (1717-23) because of the “dance-like character of the last two arias, for example, and the generously proportioned ritornellos they contain,” as well as the thematic resemblance of the first aria of the to the last movement of the Köthen “Violin Sonata in G Major,” BWV 1019, saysOxford Composer Companion (Editor: Malcom Boyd; Consultant Editor: John Butt; Oxford University Press, 1999: 510).

Evidence suggests that Cantata 202 may date to Bach’s Weimar period (1708-17), says Alfred Dürr (Bach Cantatas 2005: 893f). Its secular libretto appears to be by Weimar Court poet Salomo Franck and its musical style has Weimar features in its alternating recitatives and arias. In particular are the “brevity and arioso endings of the recitatives,” the “sinuous oboe line and slow-fast-slow design of the opening aria,” and the “specific mode of combining voice and obbligato instrument (oboe) in the aria, no. 7.”

There are four recorded performances available with fine sopranos on-line:
1.YouTube (Collegium 1704):
2. YouTube (Stader, Richter, Arkiv), , BCW Recording Details,
3. YouTube (Kirkby, Parrott, Hyperion), , BCW Recording Details,
4. YouTube (Battle, Levine, RCA), , BCW Recording Details,

Bach also may have set Salomo Franck’s texts to two Weimar court cantatas, for the wedding of Ernst August, January 24, 1716, titled “Diana, Amor, Apollo, Ilmene,” and a birthday cantata for his new Duchess Eleonore from Köthen (sister of Prince Leopold), on May 18, 1716, titled “Amor, die Treue und die Beständigkeit,” (cited by Wolff and Smend). No music survives.

Köthen court events for which Bach may have provided music include the weddings of Prince Leopold and the Princess of Anhalt-Bernberg, December 11, 1721, as well as his wedding to Anna Magdalena on December 3, 1721

In Leipzig Bach sporadically composed a handful of secular wedding cantatas with only one extant, a parody piece also for soprano solo, O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit (O glorious day, longed-for time), BWV 210, dating to about 1742 (BCML Discussion, week of November 24).

Bach Compendium (BC) catalogue of works lists only four profane wedding cantatas, under Work Group G: Secular Cantatas for Court, Nobility and Bourgeoisie:

BC, BWV, BGA, NBA, Year, Title, → Parody Relationship [lost music, text only]
G 41, 202, X1/2, I/40, 1718-23, Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten
|[G 42], Anh. 196, I/40, 1725, Auf! süß-entzückende Gewalt (music lost) → D 9, E 1
G 43, 216. -, I/40, 1728, Vergnügte Pleißen-Stadt (incomplete) → G 36, G 45, G 47
G 44, 210, XXIX, I/40, 1742, O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit → G 29, G 31

Bach Compendium Work Group H, Vocal Chamber Music, lists the Quodlibet, BWV 524, listed as BC H 1, with no BGA listing, referred to in NBA I/41 critical commentary, composed 1707/1708? (transmitted incompletely). Not catalogued with no BC listing is the wedding cantata, Dort wo der Pleissen Urn’ und Fuß, BWV deest (text only), for Johann Gweorg Artopae and Johann Judith Härtel in Leipzig on 5 July 1729, referred to in NBA I/33 critical commentary and in Hildegard Tiggemann’s “Unfamiliar Printed in Bach Texts of Three J.S. Bach Occasional Cantatas from the Year 1729” in Bach Jahrbuch 80 (1994), 7-22.

Klaus Hofmann provides commentary in his liner notes to the new Maasaki Suzuki recording BIS recording:

“This charming wedding cantata would have been lost forever if a 13-year-old boy, Johannes Ringk, in the province of Thuringia had not made a copy of it in 1730. Might this same boy – who later became a respected musician as organist of the Marienkirche in Berlin – have been the soprano soloist in the cantata?

We know nothing about the origins of the work; the name of the librettist is unknown, as are the identities of the bride and groom for whom the piece was intended. Clearly, however, they were from the bourgeoisie; otherwise the focus would have been more on display and the sounds of trumpets and drums, whilst charm, grace, amiability and humour might possibly have been replaced by convention and stately manners. A stroke of luck, in other words.

“The cantata text, which the poet presented to the bride and groom as a wedding present, is a loosely arranged set of tableaux in baroque style. Clearly referring to the seasonal events at the time of the wedding, it depicts a landscape that gradually becomes populated with some well-known mythological figures. It is the season in which the ‘sorrowful shadows’ of the long winter nights and spring mists yield, and the ‘frost and winds’ attain ‘peace’; ‘the world becomes new once more’, ‘spring breezes flutter’ – in short: spring has arrived. Flora appears, the goddess of flowers, with a cornucopia of blooms. And she is not alone: Phoebus Apollo, ‘hastens with swift horses through the new-born world’ (third movement). He is followed by Amor (fourth and fifth movements), sneaking through the fields and keeping a lookout for loving couples – and hey presto! here is one: our bride and bridegroom.

“After that, the poet himself puts in an appearance with the recommendation: ‘To become proficient at love, to embrace with good humour…’ (seventh movement) and with the friendly wish: ‘May the band of virtuous love, o betrothed pair, thus be free from the fickleness of changeability’ (eighth move ment), in other words that their love should be long-lasting and unshakeable – neither by ‘sudden mischance’, giving the composer an implicit cue, nor by ‘clap of thunder’ (at which point the composer promptly includes a rumbling in the continuo). The end of the work is full of good wishes: ‘gratification’, ‘a thousand bright days of prosperity’ and, of course, that love should ‘bring forth blossom’ – in other words, that children should ensue.

“Bach was inspired by the sprightly libretto to produce some beautiful music, and has charmingly coloured the poetic images with the broad palette of his formal, descriptive and expressive artistry. The weightiest piece in the cantata is without question the opening aria. It is astonishing how Bach begins the movement, preparing the listener for the first words of the aria even before they are heard by means of a musical depiction full of nature . Before the oboe and vocal line enter, the strings’ calmly rising chords portray the shadows which – as the text will soon inform us – yield and, as Bach’s music shows, are in fact already lifting like spring mists. Then the oboe comes in and, with its long-held note immediately followed by the soprano’s entry, sunbeams seem to penetrate the walls of cloud.

“In the other movements, too, Bach writes in an unusually descriptive way. On occasion he appears very folksy, as in the next aria (third movement), in which he sets Phoebus’s horses galloping in an Allegro assai in 12/8-time. And in the next aria (fifth movement) Amor seems to want to tease the lovers with the solo violin’s playful little echo phrases.

“In the last movements the dance-like element comes to the fore. The oboe aria ‘Sich üben im Lieben’ (seventh movement) is a sung passepied with folk-like traits. The finale is not even called an ‘aria’ any more, but rather a ‘gavotte’ – which is entirely apt; indeed it is a particularly attractive example of the form which, more over, must have indicated to the wedding party that it was now time to push the tables o one side and start dancing.

[Liner Notes (Suzuki, BIS),[BIS-2041-SACD_booklet].pdf © 2013] .

To come this week: wedding Quodlibet, BWV 524 .

William Hoffman wrote (November 18, 2013):
Peasant Cantata 212: Picander, Flemming, Absolutists

Meanwhile, on the Thursday following the three-day Easter Festival, April 5, 1725, Bach produced an extended congratulatory cantata for a still-unidentified teacher with connections to the Saxon Court, BWV 36c. It is possible that the teacher was Gottfried Lange (1672-1748), Bach’s patron, friend and initial champion on the Leipzig City Council and law professor at the University of Leipzig, who governed in Leipzig as Mayor from 1728 to 1734.

Liner notes from Maasaki Suzuki BIS recording on Cantata BWV 36c,[BIS-2041-SACD_booklet].pdf :

Schwingt freudig euch empor…, BWV 36c

Soar joyfully upwards…

Bach’s score, from the spring of 1725, tells us nothing about the occasion and purpose of this congratulatory cantata. Some information can, however, be gleaned from the text: the congratulations are addressed to a teacher, and the day of the celebration is when ‘the years renew themselves’ (ninth movement), in other words his birthday. The references to the ‘constant suggest many years of service and a man who has teachings’ and the ‘silver embellishment of age’ reached a considerable age; the reference to him as a ‘man of outstanding merit’ and of ‘high est honour’ (fourth movement) indicates that he had at tained an elevated rank. Remarks concerning his renown as a teacher (second movement) and his wide spread recog -nition (ninth move ment) reinforce this impression. So far, however, all of these hints – plus other references in the text – have proved in sufficient to permit us to identify this learned gentle man.

David Jones wrote (November 20, 2013):
[To William Hoffman] One of my favorite performances of this cantata, although it is far from "authentick", is the young Kathleen Battle's. Her tone is watery silver.......

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 20, 2013):
[To David Jones] I once heard Elly Ameling. Magical.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 18, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] one of my best ever experiences was hearing it performed in the little church where Bach was married.


Cantata BWV 212: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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