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Cantata BWV 29
Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of August 10, 2008

Stephen Benson wrote (August 11, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 29 - Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir

On August 27, 1731, the annual service for the inauguration of the Leipzig Town Council took place in the Nikolaikirche. As was the custom, a sacred cantata thanking God for His previous beneficence and asking Him to bestow His blessings on the newly seated governing body was composed for the occasion by the St. Thomas cantor and performed under his direction. With its festive scoring, which included three trumpets, tympani, two oboes, strings, and continuo, "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir" -- one of eight so-called "Ratswahl" cantatas known to have been written by Bach -- more than adequately satisfied the requirements for pomp and circumstance inherent in such an assignment.

Given the demands on the organist of the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1), a question of great moment would be who was sitting at the organ that day. Various commentators have suggested either Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel. Others have suggested Bach himself. Christoph Wolff, in his "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician", writes: "From the summer of 1726 on, obbligato organ parts in BWV 146, BWV 35, BWV 169, and BWV 49, later also in BWV 188 and BWV 29, introduce a completely new dimension into Bach's Leipzig church music. Perhaps his eldest son, Friedemann, was drafted to take the solo parts, but the often incomplete notation of the organ parts suggests that the composer himself took his place at the organ bench, leaving the conducting to the first choir prefect."

That sinfonia (Mvt. 1) would have gotten everyone's attention. A brilliant orchestral transcription of the Prelude from the third unaccompanied Violin Partita in E (BWV 1006), the entire violin part was assumed here by the organist, played within the framework of support provided by the instrumentalists. There was no dialogue between soloist and orchestra as would have been expected in a concerto, for the sole function of the orchestra here was to provide window-dressing for the organist's brilliance. Is it possible that Bach himself took the opportunity of displaying his own virtuosity to show up the city fathers with whom he was doing constant battle?

The contrast between this provocative instrumental introduction and the following choral fugue, "Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir" (Mvt. 2), could not have been drawn more sharply. The voices of this dense fugue in "stile antico" enter immediately in stretto. By the time the fugue subject has been completed for the first time, all four voices are already involved. Clearly, this was one of Bach's favorite conceptions, for he subsequently utilized it twice in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), once for the "Gratias agimus tibi" and then again for the magnificent closing chorus, "Dona nobis pacem". I find it difficult to disagree with Simon Crouch who refers to it in its incarnation as the "Dona nobis pacem" as "probably the most moving three minutes in all of music." A large part of that, I believe, is due, not only to its climactic position at the conclusion of the Mass, but going back to its earlier BWV 29 configuration, to the impeccably designed massing of layer upon layer of the fugal theme, with the strings and woodwinds initially doubling the voices "colla parte", and the initial trumpet entries following suit. It isn't until two-thirds of the way through the movement, at measure 62, that two trumpets enter, casting aside the colla parte restraints and initiating independent fugal entries in stretto, to be followed by yet another independent trumpet entry, ultimately producing a majestic canvas of seven distinct fugal voices. (Several commentators make vague references to an eighth fugal voice, but I can't find it!)

The overall organization of the cantata is noteworthy for its partition into two distinct personalities: the two opening movements and the concluding chorale function as extroverted bookends framing a section of five relatively intimate arias and recitatives. Not surprisingly, it’s the extroverted material that garners much of the attention, but the internal arias contain music of great beauty of their own, particularly the graceful central soprano aria, “Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe” (Mvt. 5). Those five interior movements exhibit their own symmetry. The two outer arias of that group (Mvt. 3 and Mvt. 7 -- "Halleluja, Stärk und Macht") employ identical material, the second substituting alto for tenor, and organ for violin, as it otherwise repeats the A section of the first. (I find it intriguing that a cantata that provided a repeated movement for the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) contains in itself what is essentially a repeated movement of its own.) The two recitatives setting off the central aria are noteworthy primarily because of the number of Biblical references in the first, and the unusual outburst of "Amen" in all the voices at the end of the second, immediately following the words, "und alles Volk soll sagen" ("and all the people will say"). The centerpiece of this structure, the soprano aria (Mvt. 5) mentioned above -- "Gedenk an uns mit deiner Liebe" ("Think of us with your love") -- is undeniably and appropriately pastorale in affect. It's almost as if Bach did not want to let go of the shepherd metaphor of BWV 112, asking the city fathers to act as shepherds guiding their flock. [This last sentence was already written and ready to send out when I received Peter's post re. the "Shepherd Cantatas", a fascinating and timely reference!] Taking on the guise of yet another dance movement, a captivating siciliana, the soprano and oboe charm and beguile with a gentle, swinging delicacy.

With the appearance of the second round of “Halleluja, Stärk und Macht”, the central, more subdued section comes to a close, to be following by the concluding chorale, "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" (Mvt. 8), whose source is the 1548 lied 'Nun lob, mein' Seel', den Herren' by Johann Gramann. With the reappearance of the full orchestra, and particularly the brass, the cantata returns to the radiance and resplendence of the opening movements.

There's a lot of good "stuff" for discussion here, and this is a great and significant work. Not only is the writing extraordinary, but there is no lack of excellent recordings, including one, the Herreweghe, which several list members have identified as a "desert island" choice. (See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Herreweghe-C13.htm ). Other material, including much from the first round of discussions, can be found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV29.htm . Feel free to contribute. The more the merrier!

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Given the demands on the organist of the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1), a question of great moment would be who was sitting at the organ that day. Various commentators have suggested either Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel. Others have suggested Bach himself. >
I'd be interested in Brad's comments on this movement, but there is nothing terribly superhuman about the organ obligato part. Bach merely transposed the single line of the violin down and added the very simple bass line of the orchestra. It's no more diffilcult than the G Major Toccata which is also a single line of melody. Bach's notattion suggests that two hands played the line. It is a measure of Bach's genius that the brilliant combination of brass and solo organ (a rare occurrence in his works) is breathtaking - audiences are stunned by its effect. I certainly was.

The larger question is who played the continuo realization and on what instrument. The bass line has the figures while the organ part does not. That would suggest that two instruments were used. In "Bach's Continuo Group", Dreyfus shows that the continuo is not transposed, which indicates that a harpsichord was probably used when the organist was not engaged on obligato solo.

And yet there is a long tradition of editions by notables such as Schweitzer and Durufle who have filled in the organ part with inner voices and produced an elaborate pedal part. I suspect that the organ part is not a sketch to be improvised upon as Handel did, but rather an example of Bach's interest in the acoustic effects and ghost polyphony which a rapid unison line produces. There are several places in this movement where the organ part produces the illusion that the first beat of the bar has shifted and that the whole thing is about to come unglued. I once watched orchestral player become quite panicky in rehearsal when their music seemed to be disengaging from the organ.

For concert programmers, this Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) makes a great prelude to a stand-alone performance of the Credo from the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232).

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 11, 2008):
Quoting Douglas Cowling:
Stephen Benson wrote:
<< Given the demands on the organist of the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1), a question of great moment would be who was sitting at the organ that day. Various commentators have suggested either Wilhelm Friedemann or Carl Philipp Emanuel. Others have suggested Bach himself. >>
< I'd be interested in Brad's comments on this movement, but there is nothing terribly superhuman about the organ obligato part. Bach merely transposed the single line of the violin down and added the very simple bass line of the orchestra. It's no more diffilcult than the G Major Toccata which is also a single line of melody. Bach's notattion suggests that two hands played the line. It is a measure of Bach's genius that the brilliant combination of brass and solo organ (a rare occurrence in his works) is breathtaking - audiences are stunned by its effect. I certainly was. >
Doug's right: the organ part really isn't very hard at all. I played it with my college's orchestra way back when I was 19 or something; the left hand part is almost nothing, and the right hand just keeps going with fairly easy figurations. And as Doug said, the piece gets a bigger effect audience-wise than the effort put into it.

There's also an E major keyboard version of this, and of that whole violin partita. BWV 1006a, if memory serves. A nice arrangement.

In BWV 29's original organ part, is the solo organ written in C major or D major? And what key is the organ notated in, within the full score? The orchestra is of course in D, but the organ would have been playing at Chorton. (Our college performance had the organ part in D, but that might have been a modern transposition....)

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2008):
BWV 29 - Wir danken dir -- Organ & Harpsichord

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< In BWV 29's original organ part, is the solo organ written in C major or D major? And what key is the organ notated in, within the full score? The orchestra is of course in D, but the organ would have been playing at Chorton. >
The BG full score has the bass and organ parts in D major, but that doesn't tell us about the keys on the parts. Does someone have access to the Neue eidtion?

Dreyfus discusses the presence of both organ and harpsichord parts. Perhaps I'm being thick but I can't figure out what was in the full score, organ or continuo part:

"The performance of Cantata 29 in 1731, on the other hand, offers an instance in which Bach unquestionably planned for dual accompaniments even in the moevements where the organist was not playing a concerted part. This is clear from from Bach's complete organ part, which includes both solos (Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 7) as well as the continuo parts for the remaining movements. Only Movements 2 through 6 are figured here, so that the organist played continuo when he was not occupied with the solos. However, Bach also figured one of the Cammerton continuo parts in its entirety. It therefor follows that the harspichord played not only in the solo movements but throughout the cantata. Consequently, the organ and the harpsichord realized the continuo simultaneously in the inner movbements, which include -- no longer surprisingly -- two secco recitatives."
"Bach's Continuo Group", L. Dreyfus, p, 67

Neil Halliday wrote (August 11, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>Dreyfus discusses the presence of both organ and harpsichord parts. Perhaps I'm being thick but I can't figure out what was in the full score, organ or continuo part:<
Dreyfus has confused me as well; here is the situation in the BGA:

Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 7 - alto aria - have organ obligato (unfigured) on two staves, with a separate figured continuo line - suggesting harpsichord in the ensemble.

Mvt. 2 and Mvt. 5 have an organ line on one (bass) stave which is figured, and a separate continuo line which is *not* figured! No harpsichord?

[In Mvt. 5 - soprano aria - there are sections in the organ part marked 'tasto solo', still on the single bass stave; here the figures disappear, at which times, moreover, the continuo line itself is silent (blank)].

Mvt. 3, Mvt. 4, Mvt. 6, and Mvt. 8 have 'organ and continuo' written on one stave, figured; at first sight no conclusions about the presence or otherwise of a harpsichord in these movement can be drawn.

I'll have to study Dreyfus' statement more closely to see if I can understand his conclusions.

Nicholas Johnson wrote (August 11, 2008):
This must have been one of a number of favourite melodies as there are 3 versions rather like the lute, violin and organ version of the 'fiddle fugue' BWV 1001.

Stephen Benson wrote (August 11, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And as Doug said, the piece gets a bigger effect audience-wise than the effort put into it. >
Would this also have been true in 1731, or would the average church-goer in early 18th-century Leipzig have been more knowledgeable about organ practice than the average church-goer of today? Despite the piece's lack of technical challenge, is it possible that Bach, because of its impressive effect, might still have used it to thumb
his nose at his employers? Is it possible that the mere fact that he chose to feature the organ was significant? I suppose we're getting into pure speculation here, and, lacking any documentation, we'll never know the answers to these questions. Probably the best we can do is to say, "I'd like to think that Bach might have..."

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Would this also have been true in 1731, or would the average church-goer in early 18th-century Leipzig have been more knoabout organ practice than the average church-goer of today? Despite the piece's lack of technical challenge, is it possible that Bach, because of its impressive effect, might still have used it to thumb his nose at his employers? Is it possible that the mere fact that he chose to feature the organ was significant? >
I'm not suggesting that Bach's organ part is any less inspired because it it not terribly demanding technically. The famous opening of the D Minor Toccata is great fun for every beginning organist because the first page is so easy to play (it too is a predominantly unison piece). As a 16 yr old student, I remember bringing along a hoped-for girl friend to a practice and thrilling her with the sound of the D Minor on the full organ in a dark church. (Alas, there was no successul social coda).

I suspect that Bach's employers were equally impressed when the Sinfonia filled the church. I can't think of another orchestral movement by Bach which has an obligato organ part supported by a festive orchestra with 3
trumpets and timpani.

It's worth remembering that the whole service was filled with large scale organ works, especilly the preludium and the closing music. It's not hard to imagine big prelude and fugues accompanying the entrance and exit of the
council.

It's interesting to compare this cantata to "Gott ist Mein Konig". In both Town Council cantatas, the opening chorus begins "abrupto" without an orchestral introduction to establish the key for the singers. It is not unreasonable that the cantata had a major organ movement before it as an "intonazione". In Cantata 29, Bach really wanted to bring all his guns into play so he wrote an especially impression intonazione. Was there someone important there that day?

Other examples of cantatas which have no orchestral introduction are "Ein Feste Burg", "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit" and "Nun ist das Heil". The last two are for St. Michael's Day. Perhaps that day had a tradition of an organ prelude like the Council's coronation.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 12, 2008):
Steve Benson wrote (BWV 29):
>The two outer arias of that group (#'s 3 and 7 -- "Halleluja, Stärk und Macht") employ identical material, the second substituting alto for tenor, and organ for violin, as it otherwise repeats the A section of the first. (I find it intriguing that a cantata that provided a repeated movement for the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) contains in itself what is essentially a repeated movement of its own.)<
The essence of fugue is repetition, and Bach is the master of fugue. Perhaps he is extending it to a grander level, in his later years, and for his carefully constructed, monumental masterpieces?

I find the repetition of Halleluja (also recently discussed re BWV 51) intriguing, and worthy of further consideration. I note with interest Dougs comments re changing popular tastes, and Kims ongoing emphasis on Bach in the context of other composers of the Baroque.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 12, 2008):
Steve Benson wrote (in response to Brad)
< I suppose we're getting into pure speculation here, and, lacking any documentation, we'll never know the answers to these questions. Probably the best we can do is to say, "I'd like to think that Bach might have..." >
Bradley P Lehman 1 wrote:
< And as Doug said, the piece gets a bigger effect audience-wise than the effort put into it. >
Ed Myskowski ressponds:
This is what we call <productivity improvement> in 21st C. USA economic theory?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 12, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>I note with interest Dougs comments re changing popular tastes, and Kims ongoing emphasis on Bach in the context of other composers of the Baroque. <
Thanks Ed ;)

I just uploaded to the files section, a screenshot of a Stolzel manuscript for a small Easter cantata that has 3 Trumpets, timpani, strings, and an obbligato organ part, along the lines of what Bach has in BWV 29. Now this cantata is from a group Stolzel composed for the court at Sonderhausen. Cantata cycles for this court consisted of two short pieces, either for a morning and afternoon service or before and after the sermon. Brevity is the key word for this cantata (the whole thing lasts no more than 15 minutes), but the music is very joyous and beautiful. These cantatas were written in the early 1730s, so I don't know of any influences between either composer at all. BUT we do know Bach performed some of Stolzel's music in Leipzig.

But up to this point, I know of no other cantatas with such elaborate keyboard obbligato solos, definitely not Telemann or Graupner.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 12, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I just uploaded to the files section, a screenshot of a Stolzel manuscript for a small Easter cantata that has 3 Trumpets, timpani, strings, and an obbligato organ part, along the lines of what Bach has in BWV 29. >
Looks yummy. Interesting. It looks like the figures in the bass part (left hand of organist) disappear when the obligato passagework begins in the right hand.

William Hoffman wrote (August 12, 2008):
BWV 29 introduction: Fugitive Notes

Psalm Reference: The bass recitative has a reference to Psalm 85:10, the most common in the Town Council cantatas: "goodness and faith are met together, righteousness and peace kiss each other." These also are found in the recitatives of Cantatas BWV 119/2 and BWV Anh. 4/3, as well as the soprano aria BWV 120/4, "Heil und Segen." Unfortunately the Psalm passage was not the basis for the sermon preached at the Nicholas Church in any of the three Cantata BWV 29 performances (1731, 1739, and 1749), according to Thomas Braatz in the BWV 29 Provenance. And although there were no appointed readings for this non-church year sacred service, I think it was one of Bach's favorites.

Dance-Influence. All six of the extant Leipzig Town Council cantatas contain usually one aria in pastorale, shepherd-like style. Cantata BWV 29, as pointed out by Stephen Benson, is a siciliana, a specific and popular shepherd's dance in the late Baroque. And, I would venture to say it has trappings of stile moderno, figuratively speaking. The pastorale-style is also found in all five of the Leipzig 1723-24 sacred parodies of the Köthen
serenades Bach had repeated earlier in 1731: BWV 66, BWV 134, BWV 173, BWV 184, and BWV 194 for, respectively, Easter Monday and Tuesday, Pentecost Monday and Tuesday, and Trinity Sunday. Cantata BWV 194 was previously presented by Bach for a dedication service and Reformation festival in 1723 before being reperformed on Trinity Sunday, May 30, 1731. I think it was no accident that Bach chose those works from the first of his three available annual church cantata cycles. Also, as noted by Peter Smaill, the sacred "Shepherd Cantata" BWV 112 was presented on the Second Sunday after Easter in 1731. It is the only new Bach composition presented until - you guessed it - this Town Council Cantata for Bach's civic masters on August 27, 1731.

Biographical Reference (Nose-Thumbing?). Is it possible that Bach, by presenting all these cantatas in 1731, was not only rebuffing the Town Council's complaint that he didn't do any work but also in the renewed reference to Psalm 85, that "goodness and faith are met together, righteousness and peace kiss each other." Further, the incipit to Cantata BWV 112, refers to a related Davidian Psalm 89, Misercordias Domini, about the Lord's faithfulness, especially in the "assembly of the holy ones" (Vers5) and that (Verse 14a) "Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your (God's) throne." Also, The Calov Bible Commentary glosses show Bach's
intense interest in Psalms, including a note that the prophet Asaph was King David's Capellmeister (p. 100f). Bach had a perpetual feud with the Cantor Faction of the Town Council and many of these marginal notes were his response to his adversaries.

Peter Smaill wrote (August 12, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] It's true that both the famous Toccata in D minor as the Sinfonia to BWV 129 are fun and easy (ish) to play but.... the Cambridge Companion to J S Bach emphatically states that the Toccata is not by Bach!

Chapter and verse on this debate welcome as I don't suppose everyone agrees.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 12, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] I think the current theory is that it is an arrangement by someone of someone else's sonata for solo cello piccolo. Most attention was turned on the Toccata which is not very characteristic of Bach. The fugue however shows pretty decided Bach features. An arrangement of an arrngement of an arrangement?

Julian Mincham wrote (August 12, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I think the current theory is that it is an arrangement by someone of someone else's sonata for solo cello piccolo. Most attention was turned on the Toccata which is not very characteristic of Bach. The fugue however
shows pretty decided Bach features. >
Or for violin. The BBC did a broadcast some years ago analysing the (many) features of the toccata which are decidedly not Bachian and also made a claim that the fugue was based on some?pretty run of the mill ideas and harmonic progressions which, if they originated with Bach, could be thought to be Bach at his least inspiring level. It also picked out some parts of the fugue (particularly near the end) which verged upon formulaic note spinning.

Can't recall now who the presenter was--I've got the tape somewher eif I can dig it out.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 12, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] Andrew Manze has recorded a solo violin version transposed to A minor. He was probably the BBC presenter, too.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 12, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Peter Williams wrote an article "BWV565: A Toccata in D Minor for Organ by J.S. Bach?" that was printed in Early Music (Early Music, Vol. 9, No. 3, Wind Issue, (Jul., 1981), pp. 330-337) giving lots of reasons why the Bach's authorship is questioned. He also examines the work being a transcription as well. It's a fascinating read.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 14, 2008):
Bach & Scripture [was: BWV 29]

William Hoffman concluded:
>Also, The Calov Bible Commentary glosses show Bach's intense interest in Psalms, including a note that the prophet Asaph was King David's Capellmeister (p. 100f). Bach had a perpetual feud with the Cantor Faction of the Town Council and many of these marginal notes were his response to his adversaries.<
Ed Myskowski responds:
I note with appreciation the open-minded approach to interpreting Bach's personal (well substantiated) notes and highlights in his copy of Calovs Lutheran commentary to Luthers German translation of the Bible, sometimes referred to as Bachs Calov Bible.

I have reviewed my previous comments on the subject, and see no need for changes or retractions.

I also point out that Bachs markings may well have decreased the resale value of the Calov books when sold from his estate, which may in turn have contributed to their provenance. The provenance (how Bach/Calov ended up in Missouri, USA) is nicely documented in the Cox edition; I do not see that detail in the Leaver/Concordia edition.

I am fortunate to have access to both, at a local library. They differ significantly in basic content. Both include reproductions of the original pages. Cox is comprehensive for pages with Bachs markings, and he also includes the scientific basis for authenticating Bachs markings. Leaver is selective, from the source data, but he also includes other pages with no markings at all by Bach, when that is convenient for his objective, to support his own glosses. In fairness, the full title is J. S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses From the Calov Bible Commentary

That is the title recently rediscovered by the publisher, as noted on BCML, available at $20 while copies last. Avoid that $190 secondary market copy, unless it happens to have markings by the Pope (just for example).

It is a chore, but serious scholars will probably need to be familiar with both.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Texts of Bach Cantatas [General Topics]

Chris Kern wrote (August 15, 2008):
Digest Number 3747 (Gratias Agimus Tibi)

I haven't actually listened to BWV 29, but I just want to say that the Gratias Agimus Tibi from the BMM (BWV 232) is one of the best pieces of music I have ever heard. There's something inspiring, uplifting, and awe-inspiring about it. I compose music sometimes as a hobby and I remember one time listening to this and feeling like I never wanted to write anything else, because there was no need to since this piece existed. (I'm prone to exaggeration, I guess. :-)

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Mass in B minor BWV 232 - General Discussions Part 16 [Other Vocal Works]

Neil Halliday wrote (August 15, 2008):
The real surprise in the Koopman recording is the lovely slow tempo siciliano (soprano aria). Otherwise nothing to write home about; Mvt. 2 is overly brisk and loses its grandeur, the continuo has the odd sound (typical of Koopman) in the other arias, and the seccos are best omitted.

Leusink [7] has a grander second movement with its more measured tempo, and the first secco demonstrates an attempt at making music out of a secco. Interestingly Leusink [7] replaces the solo violin with an obbligato organ in the tenor aria.

Both suffer from the use of tiny organ stops in the opening sinfonia, resulting in the brilliant organ figuration sometimes disappearing behind the orchestra.

Peter Smaill wrote (August 15, 2008):
BWV 29 -Bach & Bar Numbers

Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< "Gratias/Dona," which is adapted from "Wir Danken," is perhaps the most dramatic of them all. The first trumpet does not enter until Bar 16 and then merely doubles the soprano line. At bar 31 (with only 16 bars until the end), Bach brings the brass and timpani with new independent contrapuntal lines which take the first trumpet up to a high D. >>
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Note that, although taken from BWV 29, the Gratias and Dona choruses in the BMM (BWV 232) differ in measure numbers from BWV 29 (see the introduction to BWV 29 and Doug's recent post) because of the difference in time signatures. Same measures; different numbers. >
Stephen raises the question of time signature variance in the transposition of BWV 29/2 by parody to the BMM (BWV 232). Why did Bach bother to do this?

It is curious that Bach changes the time notation such that BWV 29/2 has 92 bars of 4 crotchets, whereas the Gratias and Dona Nobis Pacem in the BMM (BWV 232) each have the same music expressed in 46 bars of 8 crotchets. This suggests that there may be a structural cause, following the amazing discoveries by Ruth Tatlow regarding the B Minor Mass (BWV 232).The arguments are complex but also compelling from a number-sceptical source and I touch on some of the most striking analyses.

In the BMM (BWV 232) the Kyrie/Christus/Kyrie has 270 bars in stile antico notation, a Trinitarian number.

The Symbolum Nicenum in the original setting through to the Osanna has exactly 1100 bars; the remainder (including the BWV 29 transpositions) precisely 300, bringing up 1400 bars.So if Bach had left the transpositions in the original notation, his overall bar symmettry proportions would havbeen disturbed.

By comparison,there are precisely 2800 bars in the SMP (BWV 244).

Now, is there any significance for BWV29? This late work is directly related to the BMM (BWV 232); could Bach have been in it also working out bar number proportions?

The answer is (work in progress!) up to a point. BWV 29/1 has 138 bars; BWV 29/2 as stated has 92, or 46 in the BMM (BWV 232) setting. This is the exact ratio of 3 to 2 as set, or of course 3 to 1 in the BMM (BWV 232) setting (i.e., 46x3=138).

As for the rest of BWV 129, the complications (also in the BMM (BWV 232) research) are how to count da capos and part bars. I have'nt figured anything more yet but there could be a link....note that in the lute transcription of the related BWV 1006/1 Bach extends by a further bar to 139, also a number of Trinitarian appearance. (1-3-9)?Or is the last extra bar just a final chordal strum?

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Number Symbolism in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 2 [General Topics]

 

BWV 29 and BWV 215 in Brussels

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (June 26, 2011):
Ed's post reminded me that it has been a long time since I gave a report of performance, and precisely this morning, the Chapelle des Minimes performed two festive cantatas: BWV 29 ("Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir") and BWV 215 ("Preise dein Glücke, gesegnetes Sachsen") (actually only the opening chorus).

Next year, the Chapelle des Minimes will be 30 years old. At this occasion, we will perform the B minor Mass (BWV 232) in December. As we usually have only three or four rehearsals for each concert, our artistic director (Julius Stenzel) had the excellent idea of making us prepare this huge work by selecting for this year cantatas wich have been "parodied" in the B minor Mass. Hence the choice of the chorus of BWV 215 which will later become the Osanna of BWV 232.

Our conductor for this concert was Benoît Jacquemin, which is also organist, harpsichordist and musicologist. We had a large orchestra with notably 2 oboes , 2 flutes, 3 trumpets, and timpani. Our new organ was played for the first cantata by Andre Roe and for the second by Philippe Gerard (one of our regular conductors).

The soloists were Nadia Hidali (soprano), Piers Maxim (alto) and Jan Caals (tenor, but which also sang the short recitative for bass). The two latter, besides being excellent singers, have also conducted some of our concerts during the 2010-2011 season. And another one of our regular conductors, Julius Stenzel, played the cello.

I will not go into all details of the concert, but the choir had much fun, in particular with the requiring chorus (for double choir) of BWV 215, which was taken at a quite lively pace. While the melismas are not particularly difficult, the challenge is more to articulate distinctly (at this tempo) some parts of the texts such as "die deine Wohlfahrt lässt täglich wachsen"...

The tempo was also (unusually) quick for the closing chorus of BWV 29. This emphasised the (also unusual) dancing character of this piece in 3/4.

The audience seemed to have appreciated this last performance of the season. Not quite the last, actually, as next Sunday a part of the orchestra (called chamber orchestra) will perform two solo cantatas for soprano (BWV 84 and 204), with as soloist Charlotte Panouclias.

For those interested (and for Aryeh!), a link to the programme of our next season:
http://www.minimes.be/images/saisons/2011-2012/affiche_saison_2011-2012.pdf

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 29, 2011):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< Ed's post reminded me that it has been a long time since I gave a report of performance, and precisely this morning, the Chapelle des Minimes performed two festive cantatas >
Thanks for the report, Therese! Always nice to hear from you, it reminds to have an occasional Chimay Bleu in your honor.

 

BWV 29

David McKay wrote (October 14, 2011):
G'day. Is BWV 29 spurious? I note Julian doesn't seem to have commented on it at http://www.jsbachcantatas.com and that John Eliot Gardiner does not seem to have recorded it.

Evan Cortens wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To David McKay] I'm not sure why Julian hasn't commented and JEG hasn't recorded, but BWV 29 is most certainly not spurious. It survives in an autograph manuscript by JSB himself, and its first movement (the sinfonia) is based on an earlier cantata, BWV 120a (4th mvt), itself based on the solo violin partita BWV 1006 (1st mvt).

David McKay wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] Thanks for your fast reply, Evan.
I see that some call it a church cantata and others note its connections with a town council. Wondering if that means it might have been thought of as secular?

Evan Cortens wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To David McKay] This is one of those situations that seems funny to us today. It was a cantata written for the inauguration of the town council in 1731. (One of the few instances when Bach dates a score, by the way; you can see an image of the title page here: http://tinyurl.com/5s32f2x) However, this ceremony was actually a sacred one, and was conducted in the church itself, and not at the town hall, or anything like that. The Bach Compendium classifies town council cantatas separately, but I think it's best to think of them as sacred, even though they aren't for a Sunday or feast day.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 14, 2011):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< The Bach Compendium classifies town council cantatas separately, but I think it's best to think of them as sacred, even though they aren't for a Sunday or feast day. >
I understood that the Council attended church officially as a body on Sunday and the cantata, always to a sacred text, replaced the Sunday cantata.

David McKay wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Evan Cortens] Wowzers, as Inspector Gadget would say! I had never heard of this site. Thanks!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To David McKay] David there is a complete essay on BWV 29 in the secular cantata section of Volume one on my cantata site----chapter 85.

It comes up with the search engine in the top right hand corner of the home page.

David McKay wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks Julian. I couldn't find it before. But got it now.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 14, 2011):
[To David McKay] You should be able to find any cantata on my site by putting its bwv number in the search box to the top right of the home page.

HOWEVER this works best if the letters are in upper case and there is a space between letters and number.

e.g. BWV 29 should come up every time (if it doesn't ask for your money back!)

but BWV29, bwv29 and bwv 29 may not always work.


BWV 29 is definitely worth exploring because of the splendid tenor and soprano aria which, from memory, I think do not occur anywhere else in Bach's output, unlike the first two ,movements.

It is probably because it is a secular cantata that JEG has not recorded it yet. Koopman certainly has.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Secular Cantatas - General Discussions Part 2 [Geberal Topics]

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 14, 2011):
Finding Julian's Commentaries [was: BWV 29]

[To David McKay & Julian Mincham] Another way of getting directly to the a cantata commentary on Mincham's website is via the BCW:
a. Each cantata page on the BCW has a link to Mincham's relevant page in the box "Commentary"
For example, BWV 29: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV29.htm
b. Index to web-commentaries by Mincham and others sorted by BWV Number: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/index.htm
[Mincham is in the 7th column from left]

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 29: 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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Last update: ýMay 20, 2013 ý23:14:56