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

Cantata BWV 25
Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 22, 2012

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 22, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 25 -- Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 25, the first of three works for the 14th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV25.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. Julian includes many brief music examples in his essays. I find the chorale melodies particularly relevant, but all of the concise examples are helpful to unsophisticated music readers (such as myself).

The BWV 25 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner and Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 25 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English-3I]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages.

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 22, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Julian includes many brief music examples in his essays. I find the chorale melodies particularly relevant, but all of the concise examples are helpful to unsophisticated music readers (such as myself). >
Hi Ed I considered putting in all the chorale melodies but decided against it as I thought they could be in danger of clogging up the text. In the first cycle there up often two or three to a cantata! In the end i compromised and wrote them in for the chorale cantatas only (they form pretty well exactly one third of the church cantatas).

Glad people find it helpful.

Francis Browne wrote (January 22, 2012):
BWV 25 Notes on the text

BWV 25 was first performed in Leipzig on the 29th August 1723. The gospel for the 14th Sunday after Trinity is Luke's account of how Jesus healed ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19). To the one leper who returns to give thanks Jesus says, " Thy faith hath made thee whole".The anonymous librettist of this cantata develops this implied connection between faith and healing, sin and sickness. There is a strong tradition of identifying illness in general and leprosy in particular as a punishment for sin. Hans- Joachim Schulze sees Exodus 15 : 26 as a key text, where God promises that if the Israelites will obey him he will not lay upon them the diseases with which he has inflicted the Egyptians " for O am the Lord that healeth thee" or as Luther translates denn ich bin der Herr, dein Arzt

A quotation from Psalm 38:3, the third penitential psalm, a lament in the midst of affliction and suffering, is used for the first movement .As the cantata progresses it becomes clear that the text is meant to refer not only to physical suffering but the situation of people without Christ.

In the second movement tenor recitative this spiritual sickness is luridly portrayed and its origin traced to human sinfulness .Here and elsewhere Bach's librettist seeems to have made use of recent work by a contemporary theologian ,Johann Jacob Rambach's Geistlichen Poesien in zwey Theilen which was published in Halle in 1720. Rambach wrote :

Die ganze Welt ist ein Spital
wo eine Schaar von unzählbarer Zahl
an tausend Seuchen lieget.
Der fühlet in der Brust
das hitzge Fieber böser Lust,
den macht der Ehrgeitz mißvergnüget;
wenn die Begierde nach dem Geld
den dritten auf der Folter hält.
Und wer kan alle Martern zählen,
die Adams krancke Kinder quälen; /
wer giebt sich nun auf diesen Jammer-Plan
zum Artzt und Helfer an?"

Bach's librettist strives to intensify what Rambach has written by vivid examples and by making a personal application of what is said : wo find ich, wer stehet mir etc.

The bass aria gives the answer to the urgent questions about help in sickness: Jesus is the doctor and healing balm that mankind needs .Rambach quotes Wisdom 16 :12 : Es heilte sie weder Kraut noch Pflaster, sondern dein Wort, Herr, welches alles heilet.Bach's librettist combines this with refers to verses in Jeremiah (8.22,46:12) where the area of Gilead east of Jordan is referred to as the source of balms and spices that were widely sought.

The second recitative is an urgent plea in the first person for healing from Christ and like the first recitative with its mention of the `leprosy of sin' (Sündenaussatz )refers implicitly to the Sunday's gospel. It is followed by a joyful soprano aria which anticipates the joys of heaven. As often the structure of the text is a progress from statement of problem, suggested solution to concluding celebration.

The final movement is the last stanza of Treuer Gott, ich muß dir klagen written by the Silesian pastor Johann Heermann in 1630. It sums up the message of the cantata in promising God praise and gratitiude for his help in saving us from physical and spiritual distress

The text of this cantata causes problems for some commentators. Whittaker speaks of `nauseating lapses of taste', Dürr argues that ` the graphic Baroque metaphors are hardly tolerable and anything but poetic' and Mincham refers to `an extraordinarily inflated piece of Baroque rhetoric'. For an opposing view in the first discussion on the Bach Cantatas Website Thomas Braatz vigorously defends Bach's choice of text.

Each reader will decide for himself, but perhaps the problem arises both from most of us fortunately being less familiar with the physical reality of death and suffering in our daily life than Bach and his contemporaries and also from a too narrow conception of what poetry should be . Andreas Gryphius' Gedancken Uber den Kirchhoff und Ruhestädte der Verstorbenen and other German Baroque poetry are a better preparation for understanding such a text than Gray's Elegy or Tennyson's In Memoriam.

What is evident to anyone who gets to know this cantata is the deep humanity and insight of Bach's music which as so often is a sure guide to the deepest meaning of such a text. If we read such a text with our own preconceptions and expectations we may not be impressed, but if we read with Bach's music as our guide we may gain a different and valuable understanding.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 22, 2012):
Francis Browne wrote:
< The text of this cantata causes problems for some commentators.Whittaker speaks of `nauseating lapses of taste', Dürr argues that ` the graphic Baroque metaphors are hardly tolerable and anything but poetic' and Mincham refers to `an extraordinarily inflated piece of Baroque rhetoric'. >
Just by way of clarification I don't think I was implying either lack of taste or judgement on Bach's part--as always we do not know what his involvement with, or opinions about the text may have been. In a number of my essays I note Bach's enthusiasm to paint graphic picture musically in the earlier years, and his disinclination to allow emphasis upon individual images to interrupt the general flow and outlining of structure in the mid-later years.I suspect he was happy to find images he could paint in this work--maybe 15 years or so later he might have approached such a text quite differently.

This also touches upon that recuring theme, does great music, when setting words, demand great language? I think that there is much evidence to the contrary-----great verse has its own rhythms and implied music which mwell not be enhanced when set to music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 22, 2012):
BWV 25 The Seven Penitential Psalms

Francis Browne wrote:
< A quotation from Psalm 38:3, the third penitential psalm, >
The Seven Penitential Psalms (Die Sieben Busspsalmem) form an important background to Luther and the Reformation and can still be seen as an influence in the works of Bach:

1. Psalm 6:
Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me
Lord rebuke me not in thy fury

2. Psalm 31:
Beati quorum remissae sunt iniquitates
Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven

3. Psalm 37:
Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me:
Lord rebuke me not in thy fury

4. Psalm 50:
Miserere mei Deus:

5. Psalm 101:
Domine exaudi orationem meam
O Lord hear my prayer

6. Psalm 129:
De profundis clamavi ad te Domine
From the depths I have cried

7. Psalm 142:
Domine exaudi orationem meam
Lord hear my prayer,

The seven psalms were popular lay devotions in the Middle Ages, and the Latin texts were memorized by lay people as an aid to self-examination for confession. The seven psalms became associated with the Seven Deadly Sins and were often given as appropriate penances to penitents at confession (It's worth remembering that Bach routinely made his private confession during the week in Leipzig.) They were also traditionally said on the five Fridays in Lent to anticipate the Passion on Good Friday.

The psalms were an established genre for composers in the Renaissance: Lassus wrote as set of all seven for use at the catholic court in Munich. Bach would have encountered musical settings in the court in Dresden. The association of 6. De Profundis with funeral rites ensured many settings from Josquin in the 15th century to Delalande in 17th century. Bach's cantata "Aus der Tiefe" (BWV 131) may be part of this traditional connection with death.

The Seven Penitential Psalms were Luther's first biblical translation in 1519, and his later recensions and commentaries suggest that he used the texts as an allegory of his own tribulations (Oscar Wilde would do the same in his 1897 essay "De Profundis")

Given the use of verses from the Penitential Psalms in the cantatas, I would be curious to know if the penitential tradition passed down to Bach. Will and Francis, were the Psalms translated as chorale texts? Were they grouped together in hymn books? Were they assigned to specific times for performance (Fridays?).

John Charles Francis wrote (January 23, 2012):
BWV 25 - ALTA CAPELLA (Moscow)

Members may be interested in this live video recording of the opening chorus:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-rV8-Spf9s

It demonstrates that with the quality of male singer still to be found in Russia and with a suitable tempo, the bass vocal line can be clearly heard, even during a OVPP performance.

The venue can be readily identified by virtue of the distinctive Khun organ as the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, one of only two Catholic churches in Moscow:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cathedral_of_the_Immaculate_Conception_in_Moscow

The performer's web page is here: http://altacapella.ru/?lang=en

and two other Bach videos with them are here:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Jrs_0Ge4fo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1fe2NWx9Wo

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 23, 2012):
BWV 25 Theorbos & Lutes

John Charles Francis wrote:
< Members may be interested in this live video recording of the opening chorus:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-rV8-Spf9s >
It interesting to see theorbos and lutes used increasingly in modern performances of Bach's church music. Handel's Italian works are not really relevant here but the lutes an therobos in this performance of Dixit Dominus make it sound like heavy metal!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWh0jXAHZ4o

Dreyfus points out that there are only two Bach works with lutes specified:
the St. John Passion (BWV 245) and the Trauerode (BWV 198). However, there were expert luthiers in Leipzig, and his predecessor, Kuhnau, used them extensively in his cantatas in St. Thomas.

Remarkable how tastes have changed. Thirty years ago, harpsichords and lutes were excoriated as secular instruments never to be admitted to holy precincts. I suspect the rise of HIP of 17th century sacred music changed attitudes.

William Hoffman wrote (January 23, 2012):
Douglas Cowling asks: Will and Francis:
< were the Psalms translated as chorale texts? Were they grouped together in hymn books? Were they assigned to specific times for performance (Fridays?). >
Will Hoffman replies: As noted in my first Trinity Time Chorales studies, Psalm paraphrase chorales were an important part of the hymn books, beginning with Luther. This tradition continued until Bach's time and in the Neu Leipziger Gesangbush 1682, there is a large section in <omnes tempore> Trinity Time, beginning with "Christian Life and Hope," p.622, followed by thematic hymns, "Persecution, Tribulation & Challenge"; "The Word of God and the Christian Church," "Of Death & Dying," etc. Certain Psalmic chorales were assigned to early Trinity Time Sundays.

I would have to look deep into Robin Leaver's "<Luther's Liturgical Music> to find the origin, genesis and application of Psalm chorales. I recall that these hymns were not written for Vesper services as in the Catholic tradition but to impart Biblical teaching of the word through text and song for the individual Christian. Also, Luther's Circle composed various Catechism hymns, particularly Penitential ones. As I recall, Luther accepted only two sacraments, Baptism and Communion, but saw a particular need for corporate confession and attendant penitence, especially through congregational hymns.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 23, 2012):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Psalm paraphrase chorales were an important part of the hymn books, beginning with Luther. This tradition continued until Bach's time and in the Ne Leipziger Gesangbush 1682, there is a large section in <omnes tempore> Trinity Time, beginning with "Christian Life and Hope," p.622, followed by thematic hymns, "Persecution, Tribulation & Challenge"; "The Word of God and the Christian Church," "Of Death & Dying," etc. >
Have you ever encountered a section entitled "Die Sieben Busspsalmen" or the like? Or do those seven psalms appear together as a group in a "Buss" section? I ask primarily because the penitential theme is so pronounced in
some of these Trinity cantatas.

 

Cantata BWV 25: Details & Complete Recordings | 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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Last update: ýMarch 12, 2012 ý07:25:15