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Cantata BWV 214
Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 30, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 30, 2003):
BWV 214 - Introduction

The chosen work for this week’s discussion (November 30, 2003) is the Drama per Musica ‘Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!’ (Sound, you drums! Ring out, you trumpets!).

The short commentary below is quoted from the liner notes to the American issue by Vanguard (early 1970’s?) of the original Kahlhöfer’s recording of this cantata on the German label Cantate. The name of the author is not mentioned.

The Cantata BWV 214, ‘Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten’, was composed by Bach in 1733 for performance by the Collegium Musicum, to honour the birthday of Maria Josepha, wife of the Elector. Here, too, Bach wished to give the truly magnificent music a renewed life, and so a year later he transposed it almost bodily - namely the opening and closing choruses and two of the three arias - into his Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).

In adapting these four movements to the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), Bach found religious texts very similar in spirit and imagery to the secular ones of the cantata. Thus the cantata's alto aria, "Patient muses," which calls for happy songs, becomes the tenor aria, "Haste ye shepherds," in Part II of the Oratorio, transposed from B minor to E minor and with flute replacing the oboe. The bass aria, "Crown and prize of crowned ladies," becomes "Mighty Lord and King" in Part II of the Oratorio, and the trumpet parts fill both texts well. Yet there are subtle musical illustrations that are lost in the adaptation. Thus in the cantata's opening chorus, the introduction of drums, trumpets and strings graphically illustrates the opening words, but becomes a purely musical effect in the Oratorio's opening chorus, "Exult and be joyful!" In the final chorus of the cantata, "Flourish like cedars," the fugal textures have more illustrative point than when they are heard as the introductory chorus to Part III of the Oratorio, "Ruler of Heaven, hear our voices.”

Recordings

I am aware of 7 complete recordings of this cantata, 5 of which are available in CD form. The recordings are listed at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW): Cantata BWV 214 - Recordings

Additional Information

In the page of complete recordings mentioned above you can also find links to useful complementary information:
a. Original German text and various translations, two of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne) and French (Jean-Pierre Grivois).
b. Score from BGA Edition.
c. Commentaries: in English by Joseph Stevenson (AMG), and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

A major part of the music from the last three cantatas in our long traversal of weekly cantata discussions found its way to the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). As, most probably, the music is familiar to you, I do really hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. Only 2 cantatas, including this one, remained to be discussed in the BCML!

Neil Halliday wrote (December 2, 2003):
"Toenet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!"

The opening chorus with full orchestra, written in 1733, is brilliant and exciting. At first I felt that the speed taken by Rilling [7] was too fast, but repeated hearings seem to have enabled me to now enjoy this masteful rendition. (Rilling's timing: 7.22). "Sound the drums and trumpets", indeed!

The playing from the whole ensemble is marvellously accurate, considering the fast tempo; the double bass player must confront those demisemiquaver runs with some trepidation! (BTW, the BGA score at those runs is marked alternatively 'violoncelli' and 'bassi' - suggesting more than one for both of these continuo instruments.)

The arias are performed in the current brisk and light manner that is not to my taste; and the soloists – Rubens (s) especially, Danz (a), and Schmidt (b) to a lesser extent, employ too much vibrato, so we miss out both ways (one could at least hope for minimal vibrato from a modern performance.)

The accompanied recitatives are attractive, as usual, and the final chorus is another exciting, if brief (1.51), Bach creation, well played on this recording.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 14, 2003):
BWV 214 Tönet, ihr Pauken! Erschallet, Trompeten!

What is this cantata all about?

If you read the libretto of this cantata, you realise that it is the absolute expression of joy. When you listen to the music, you realise that joy has many faces, as indeed each one of us, the human beings, has his/her way to express his/her joy. Bach has never written more enthusiastic movement than the opening chorus of this work, which became, almost unaltered, the opening chorus of the Weihnachts-Oratorium (BWV 248). No further proof is needed to convince the most sceptical listener that the sacred and secular merged in Bach’s music. The amazing thing is that Bach completed composing the music for this Dramma per Musica only the night before the celebration of the birthday of Queen Maria Josepha.

Recordings & Timings

During last week I have been listening to 5 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 214:

No.

Conductor

Year

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2

Mvt. 3

Mvt. 4

Mvt. 5

Mvt. 6

Mvt. 7

Mvt. 8

Mvt. 9

TT

[1]

Kahlhöfer

1967

7:21

0:52

4:18

0:41

3:54

0:51

5:32

1:03

1:57

16:53

[3]

Schreier

1977

7:43

1:15

3:50

0:51

3:33

1:06

4:44

1:08

1:49

25:55

[6]

Koopman

1996

7:54

0:51

3:17

0:48

3:31

1:06

4:27

1:18

2:08

23:50

[7]

Rilling

1999

7:22

0:56

3:14

0:48

3:23

1:04

4:16

1:05

1:51

23:59

[8]

Hennig

2000

8:06

0:58

3:52

0:50

3:38

1:03

4:55

1:13

2:06

26:41

Short review of the recordings

[1] Kahlhöfer (1967)
The roster of conductors who have participated in the mini-cycles of Bach Cantatas recorded by the German Cantate label included Ehmann, Gönnenwein, Thamm, and others. Helmut Kahlhöfer belongs to this group of gifted German conductors, and I have always looked forward with anticipation to hearing his few cantata recordings. He has never disappointed me, and the case of his rendition of Cantata BWV 214 is no exception. He has clear sense of direction and full control of the proceedings, good taste and deep understanding of the Bach’s idiom. The balance between the vocalists and the instrumentalist is exceptionally good. None of them is less than good, and most of them are excellent. Take, for example, the bass Eduard Wollitz. He has soft, velvety, deep voice, with inner power, to which you want to listen more and more. In both the aria & recitative of Fama (Mvt. 7&Mvt. 8) he is second to none. We are lucky that Kahlhöfer gave him much room to express himself. The aria in this rendition is the slowest of all five recordings to which I was able to listen. Nevertheless, with him and his conductor the tempo sounds so right, that all the others seem to be rushed. The other three vocal soloists are on the same par. The assured and clear singing and warm dark voice of Emmy Lisken is simply a joy to the ears. The opening chorus is so perfectly performed, with the right amount of joy and vigour, clarity of instrumental and vocal lines, and subdued tension. Kahlhöfer uses clarino trumpets with soft timbre, which help him keeping everything in balance. No instrument dominates the scene and everything integrates into the overall texture. This recording should be transferrto CD.

[3] Schreier (1977)
The shining trumpets and the timpani dominate the opening chorus of Schreier. After Kahlhöfer, it seems ill-balanced and it has taken me some time to get used to this approach. Even so, with repeated hearings this approach has become somewhat irritating. Two of the soloists – Schreier and Adam – are in good form, expressing successfully the happiness, glory and joy of their parts. Hamari’s voice starts to show signs of age, where from Mathis I do not have very high expectations. Here her expression is so restrained and dull, that you can hardly believe that Bellona sings of ‘ring out with jubilant song!’

[6] Koopman (1996)
The opening chorus of Koopman, although beautifully played by the orchestra (in which Koopman incorporates lute and guitar rather than harpsichord) and sung by the choir, and very well balanced (unlike Schreier), it is also lacking in intensity. This is a legitimate approach, which might please some, but I find it not very convincing. All the singers are doing competent job, but none of them attracts any special attention here. In short, an ordinary performance, the main fault of which is lacking of real inspiration.

[7] Rilling (1999)
What the opening chorus of Koopman is lacking, Rilling has in abandon. The playing of the orchestra and singing of the choir are similarly good, but Rilling has more vigour and vitality, bright and colour, by which he manages to sweep the listener with him. Three of the singers – Rubens, Ullmann and Schmidt - are better than their respective rivals in Koopman's rendition. I like both their voices and their convincing expression. This is the best of the modern recordings of the cantata.

[8] Hennig (2000)
Only last week I reviewed the recording of Cantata BWV 213 by the same performers. What I wrote there might well be applicable to this work.

Conclusion

Kahlhöfer would be my first choice in every aspect: vocal soloists, the choral parts, the instrumental playing, the choice of tempi, inner balance, and the rendition as a whole.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 18, 2003):
I was able to tape Koopman's recording of this work [6] from the radio.

A comparison with Rilling's recent recording [7], which I commented on last week:

My overall impression of the Koopman recording is positive; while the period instruments, (trumpets, etc) especially in the opening chorus, are not as brilliant as those in Rilling's modern orchestra, they are very well performed, and the final chorus benefits from Koopman's slower speed. Both cboirs are very good.

I find Koopman's soloists, especially contralto Magnus, and bass Mertens, to be 'easier on the ear' than Rilling's soloists (about whom I commented negatively because of their somewhat disturbing vibratos); and because there are relatively few (from my point of view) distracting period idiosyncracies from the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, I prefer the arias in Koopman's recording.

Some may find the trumpet in the bass aria a little 'soft', but nevertheless Koopman (and Mertens) gives a pleasing performance of this tuneful aria.

Warning: the secco recitatives are equally repulsive in both recordings; I'm not sure which would be the worse torture - listening to these, or 'rap' music, non-stop, for an hour!. But don't let this prevent you from listening to this otherwise bright and lively
cantata.

 

Festive cantatas

Jack Botelho wrote (February 10, 2004):
"After the dedication [to the new Elector, Friedrich August II, in Dresden] of the 'Missa' [Mass in B minor] in July 1733, Bach kept the Saxon royal family's interests in mind with his 'extraordinaire' concerts of the [Leipzig] collegium musicum. On 3 August, the name day of the new elector, Bach began his remarkable series of secular cantatas of congratulation and homage with BWV Anh.12 (music lost), followed by Cantata BWV 213 (5 September, for the heir to the electorate), BWV 214 (8 December, for the electress), BWV 205a (19 February 1734, for the coronation of the elector as King of Poland; music lost), an unknown work (3 August, again for the elector), and BWV 215 (5 October, also for the elector, who was at the performance). Much of the festive music was performed in the open air with splendid illuminations, and according to newspaper reports the music benefited from a resounding echo. (On the day after the performance of BWV 215 Bach's virtuoso trumpeter and the leader of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer, Gottfried Reiche, died as a result of the exertions of his office.) During the following Christmas season Bach gave the people of Leipzig a chance to hear much of the music from his secular festive cantatas in modified form, as the "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248), which was heard in six sections between Christmas Day 1734 and Epiphany 1735 (and consisted predominantly of parodies of Cantatas nos.213-15)."

Wolff, Christoph: "Bach, Johann Sebastian" in
The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
2001 edition.

The above is some basic information regarding the "remarkable series of festive cantatas" that contributed to the composition of the 1734 Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). It would seem that the highly skilled musical forces of the Dresden court instrumentalists and singers (male and female) contributed to Bach's enthusiastic hopes for an important appointment to this musical centre, especially in light of the succession of the new elector.

Please note the academic bull shit concerning the death of Gottfried Reiche "dying as a result of the exertions of his office". Reiche was (I believe) in his sixties at the time, so it may have been a case of over-enthusiastic playing of very tasty trumpet parts by this old man, rather than Bach himself pushing Reiche "too far".

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 214: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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