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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 34
O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe [I]
Cantata BWV 34a
O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe [II]
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

BWV 34 /BBC Prom/Bach Choir of Bethlehem, USA

Thomas Shepherd wrote (July 30, 2003):
Just finished listening to the late night Prom from the Albert Hall, London on digital radio (DAB - we are so very lucky in the UK with this new technology!!). Its a big venue and the choir did very well to fill it with the exuberance of the musical "fireworks" (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV34-D.htm) conjured up by the words and music. There was a real feeling of joy and enjoyment in their performance. Probably not as Bach would have heard it or imagined it as a concert piece , certainly not for our precious HIPsters, or those who feel Bach has to be heard OVPP - but who cares! - the music was radiant, spoke lovingly of a good God and was very moving. What a wonderful piece - performed with such a intimacy and passion.

Thank you to the choir under Greg Funfgeld for making the end of a tiresome day full of radiance and light.

Philippe Bareille wrote (July 30, 2003):
[To Thomas Shepherd] Thanks to your previous email Thomas I tuned in to radio 3 last night. It is always a pleasure to listen a live concert despite obvious imperfections. It was a large choir but befitting such a big concert hall. They tackled this music with great (and infectious) enthusiasm. I was, however, less impressed by the soloists including the countertenor Daniel Taylor whose voice was probably not suited to such a big space.

 

BWV 34

Benedikt Haag wrote (February 26, 2004):
I want to discuss about recordings of the cantata BWV 34 "O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe":

Does anybody know very excellent recordings of the cantata 34? Can anybody tell me something about such recordings? Are there any online-shops which sell bach cantatas?

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To Benedikt Haag] My favorite currently is the one by the Windsbach choir, with orchestra of modern instruments, conducted by Beringer [14]: http://rondeau.de/webbusiness/query.php?cp_sid=2382daf371&cp_tpl=5504&cp_pid=15

A 3-minute sample of the opening chorus is available on that page, or directly at: http://rondeau.de/webbusiness/files/samples/ROP2007/BWV34OEwigesFeueroUrsprung.mp3

I ordered it from http://www.jpc.de but it looks like it's available directly from Rondeau also.

The performance? It sounds very well rehearsed, yet still also fresh and spontaneous. It conveys very strongly the fire in the music and text. The other two cantatas here (93 and 100) are also vivid. From cantata BWV 93 Bach reused the soprano/alto duet as a solo organ piece, in the Schüebler chorales BWV 647.

I bought this CD because the alto (Rebecca Martin) was a friend of mine in college and I wanted to hear what she has been up to, with her opera and oratorio career in Germany. And she sings regularly in the Thomaskirche in Leipzig.... But I was impressed with this entire CD, one of my favorites (any CD) of 2003. And especially I like the singing of Markus Schaefer, whom I had not heard before. What a voice! What an interpreter, so clear with the meaning and pronunciation of the words, singing the drama of his texts!

The choir's web site is: http://windsbacher-knabenchor.de

Lawrence Walker wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To Benedikt Haag] For a list of the recordings of BWV 34, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV34.htm

Uri Golomb wrote (February 27, 2004):
Of the four recordings I know (Richter [6], Christophers [9], Leonhardt [10], Gardiner [11]), my personal favourite is Gardiner, which combines energetic enthusiasm with meticulous attention to details. Gardiner can be a bit "glib" sometimes, but happily this does not happen in this work: Gardiner employs fast tempi in the opening and closing choruses, but he varies the articulations, timbres and dynamics throughout, creating clear textures and an overall electrifying atmosphere. And I very much enjoy Bernarda Fink's singing in the central alto aria (Mvt. 3).

I do not know Beringer's recording [14], which Brad Lehman recommended, but I have heard Cantata BWV 100 from the same disc (in a listening session at Aryeh Oron's house a few months ago), and enjoyed it very much -- so I have reason to believe that I would enjoy Berginer's Cantata BWV 34 as well.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To Benedikt Haag] The Beringer version [14] is very good, especially in the choruses, but I think both Rilling/Watts (1972) [5] and Richter/Reynolds (1975) [6], with slower tempi and richer orchestration in the exquisite alto aria (Mvt. 3), reveal the rapture of "the souls chosen to dwell with God" more convincingly than Beringer's [14] more 'matter-of-fact' approach (in the aria).

There are many online shops; a good list is at: http://www.jsbach.org/purchasing.html

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 27, 2004):
[To Benedikt Haag] This cantatas was discussed in the BCML in June 2003. That discussion (including my contribution) was compiled into the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV34-D.htm

BTW, I think that the place to discuss the cantatas is the BCML and not the BRML...

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2004):
< The Beringer version [14] is very good, especially in the choruses, but I think both Rilling/Watts (1972) [5] and Richter/Reynolds (1975) [6], with slower tempi and richer orchestration in the exquisite alto aria (Mvt. 3), reveal the rapture of "the souls chosen to dwell with God" more convincingly than Beringer's [14] more 'matter-of-fact' approach (in the aria). >
I haven't heard those Richter [6] and Rilling recordings [5]. But, I must say, I don't notice anything left to be desired in Beringer's [14] orchestra in that aria...it has gorgeous playing from the flutes and strings, a magical texture perfectly balanced. No, it doesn't resemble a Stokowski sound, which could be magical in other ways. But the approach here, IMO, expresses the text well.

I'm curious what "richer orchestration" means in the above paragraph. It's the same orchestration, is it not? All three of these recordings are with orchestras of modern instruments. Are Rilling's [5] and Richter's [6] thicker somehow, with more players and/or more vibrato, or something? The word I think of, listening to Beringer's orchestra [14], is "elegance"...plenty of rapture and an ecstatic hush in that texture. Such gracefully shaped phrasing!

From a concert photo in the booklet it looks as if Beringer [14] has 4 violins per part, and 2 violas.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 28, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, in deference to Aryeh, who correctly points out that this discussion should take place at the BCW, please see a reply to your query concerning whaI meant by "richer orchestration" at: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/7235

Neil Halliday wrote (February 28, 2004):
BWV 34 alto aria (Mvt. 3): Rilling, Richter v. Beringer

[To Bradley Lehman] For Brad, who asked what I meant by a "richer orchestration", in comparing the Rilling [5] and Richter [6] versions of this aria, with the more recent Beringer recording [14] (all using modern instruments).

It is simply this, that at a slower tempo and with more legato articulation (Rilling [5] and Richter [6]), one can hear more intermingling of the delicious harmony, as well as more of the individual lines themselves, from the flutes and all the string parts (including viola and continuo), because the notes are being held for a longer time.

It is probably what you referred to as the "Stokowski sound" and yes, in the case of this aria, with Rilling [5] and Richter [6], it is magical. I don't believe it's a question of more instruments (not sure on this), or more vibrato; and I would not use the word "thicker", which suggests loss of transparency of sound.

Beringer [14] is indeed elegant, but in a direct comparison with R and R, is not as rapturous, lacking the 'soft sheen' that colours the orchestra, in the case of Rilling [5] and Richter [6]. (This statement is of course a personal opinion, but is based on the "richer harmony" that is an objective fact, as noted above).

(BTW, with these views in mind, it will be of no surprise to you when I say that Beringer [14], in the recitatives, seems to be following certain 'rules' that result in the vocalist being left 'high and dry').

Beringer's recording [14] features excellent acoustic in the choruses, with fine playing from the orchestra, including resonant but well-balanced timpani, brilliant trumpets, and clear choral singing.

While some may find the tempo of the opening chorus from both Rilling [5] and Richter [6] to be on the 'slowish' side, all three recordings are of the highest standard.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 29, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for the response, Neil.

I realized last night that I do have the Richter recording [6] after all, on an LP that I had mis-filed to the wrong place, so I listened to it today. I hear what you mean by the description below, about that alto aria (Mvt. 3).

But, as beautiful and well-done as it is...I believe the effect he got here with that super-legato is more appropriate to Wagner and Richard Strauss than to Bach. I miss the natural (like the syllables of language) rise and fall of strong and weak "syllables" in the notes. Yes, there is a decent overall shape to the phrases, but that is only one level of interest and I'd rather hear several more dimensions to it. More gracefulness and naturalness from smaller groupings of the notes, while still having the forward flow and longer shapes as well.

Such shaping of good/bad notes makes it easier to follow as many lines as one wants to, with the ear, not more difficult. For example: in Harnoncourt's [7] and Leusink's recordings [13] of this aria, no trouble at all picking out anything. By comparison, in my opinion, Richter's [6] is an amorphous blob of pleasant sound, all run together. (And Harnoncourt's tempo there, even slower than Richter's, seems to me to be eccentrically slow...but they make it work nicely in the shaping of all the parts.)

Anyway, as I said recently on that other list, overall for this cantata my favorite recording remains Beringer's [14]; but all of these are enjoyable. Beringer's is so simple and unproblematic, and well-rehearsed yet fresh...so elegant and exciting at the same time.

Has anybody pointed out the thematic ties that alto aria (Mvt. 3) has with the "O Mensch, bewein" chorus of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244)? The instrumental parts are so similar!

I noticed with interest, in the documentation of the Richter album [6], it took them two days in March and May of 1974 and two more days in January 1975 to get this 18-minute cantata recorded. I'd guess that's one day for both choruses, and one each for the three solos. And they list just about everybody in the orchestra except the violinists and violists. Then five days in those same two years for cantata 68, and four days for 175. I understand the exigencies of recording sessions, but that still seems awfully widespread for any hope of a unified forward flow.... Whatever happened to getting the people all together on the same day and giving it a couple of tries, the way music is normally played and sung outside recordings? It's only 18 minutes long!

Neil Halliday wrote (March 1, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I quite like the Leusink example [13], available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV34-Mus.htm

Notice that Leusink [13] does in fact employ more legato than Beringer [14] (who breaks the flute line after the first two notes, for example). The use of legato - to give a flowing 'line' to a (longer) phrase - seems to be important in this aria.

In general, while Brad's point that

"Such shaping of good/bad notes makes it easier to follow as many lines as one wants to, with the ear, not more difficult"

alerts me not to necessarily equate legato articulation with greater clarity of the parts (and consequent "richness" of harmony), I would point out that if one note in a particular line is given special emphasis by means of an increase in volume, then, at this instant, the notes in the other lines will more likely become (in effect) inaudible. (This is the reason for my aversion to the exaggerated articulation, or micro-management, we sometimes hear from period groups).

 

BWV 34 & 34a (was: Religious Affiliation (was: Introducing Myself)

Continue of discussion from: Members - 2004 [General Topics]

Charles Francis wrote (May 22, 2004):
[To Smoovus] As one who worships FIRE, I imagine you'll appreciate one of Bach's late cantatas, BWV 34:

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe,
Entzünde die Herzen und weihe sie ein.
Laß himmlische Flammen durchdringen und wallen,
Wir wünschen, o Höchster, dein Tempel zu sein,
Ach, laß dir die Seelen im Glauben gefallen.

[O eternal FIRE, o source of love
ignite our hearts and consecrate them.
Make heavenly flames penetrate and flow through us,
We wish, o most high Lord, to be your temple,
Ah, make our souls pleasing to you in faith.]

A reference, one suggests, to the alchemical transformation of the temporal to the eternal (Re: turning lead into gold).

Johan van Veen wrote (May 22, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] What a load of rubbish.

This is a cantata for Whit Sunday. The text of the opening chorus refers to the "cloven tongues like as of fire" which appeared to the apostles and "sat each of them" - as told in Acts 2.

This is a symbol of the Holy Spirit moving in with them and making them to his 'temple'. In the cantata this is connected to the Gospel reading of that Sunday, in which Jesus says: "If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him."

The "eternal fire" (= thHoly Spirit) is asked to fill the heart with love and then to move in and make it to his temple.

No connection to alchemy whatsoever.

Charles Francis wrote (May 22, 2004):
[To Johan van Veen] I don't believe your somewhat parochial interpretation of the text corresponds to the facts we have available. If one looks at the original wedding cantata from 1726 (BWV 34a) ones reads:

O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe,
Entzünde der Herzen geweihten Altar.
Laß himmlische Flammen durchdringen und wallen,
Ach laß doch auf dieses vereinigte Paar
Die Funken der edelsten Regungen fallen.

[O eternal FIRE, o source of love,
ignite the sacred altar of their hearts.
Let heavenly flames penetrate and surge,
Ah, may upon this united pair
the sparks of noblest impulse fall.]

Given the purposes of the original (BWV 34a) was a wedding, there is no reason to assume a connection to the apostles in Acts 2. In the parody (BWV 34) Bach made for Whit Sunday, he therefore leverages an existent wedding text, almost certainly making the needed textual adjustments himself. This is fully aligned with the Lutheran-inspired alchemical treatise "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz", which was first published in 1616 with a commentary published in Lüneburg in 1617: http://www.hermeticgoldendawn.org/Documents/Archives/chemical.htm

(Lüneburg will be known to many on this group as the place where Bach worked as a chorister at the Church of Saint Michael).

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (May 22, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Given the purposes of the original (BWV 34a) was a wedding, there is no reason to assume a connection to the apostles in Acts 2. >
Yeah there is. It's in Ephesians 5:22-33. This passage is about marriage, and an explicit parallel is drawn between the relationship of husband and wife, and the relationship of Christ and the Church. Furthermore, in Eph. 1:13-14, there is something about the function of the Holy Spirit - in this context, He serves as a deposit on our inheritance [as children of God] until the day of redemption. In the wedding imagery, He could be viewed as an 'engagement ring' - the wedding to take place in due time in heaven, as I understand it (I'm not much into eschatology, in that I am already living in eternity and considering all those things that are 'yet to come' as present reality).

Johan van Veen wrote (May 22, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote:
< This is fully aligned with the Lutheran-inspired alchemical treatise "The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rosenkruetz", which was first published in 1616 with a commentary published in Lüneburg in 1617: http://www.hermeticgoldendawn.org/Documents/Archives/chemical.htm
(Lüneburg will be known to many on this group as the place where Bach worked as a chorister at the Church of Saint Michael). >
And what has the one thing to do with the other? Is the fact that Bach worked in the same place as the treatise was published evidence that he has been influenced by it, or even read it? Is there any proof he even knew that it existed?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 22, 2004):
BWV 34 &34a (formerly: Religious Affiliation (formerly:Introducing Myself))

Just checking quickly in the NBA KBs and Dürr’s book on the cantatas, I discover the following theories about both libretti:

1) the authorship of both libretti can be attributed to Christian Weiß, senior, pastor of St. Thomas Church in Leipzig from 1714-1736. He would have written, in all probability [„es ist von großer Wahrscheinlichkeit” – Frederick Hudson based on research by Werner Neumann, NBA KB I/33 p. 46] the libretto, as father of the bride, for her marriage ceremony on November 8, 1728, and then later, for the parody, have been of assistance to Bach as well. Alfred Dürr places BWV 34a even earlier: March 6, 1726, based upon the early watermark and a probable connection to a theologian indirectly referred to in the text, while the parody BWV 34, again based upon the paper used, must have been created in the early 1740s but not 1742 because it (Pentecost) was during the 2-week time of mourning for the queen-widow Maria Amalia (last fact courtesy of Fr. Smend.)

2) the librettist for both compositions is still unknown.

3) the least likely theory is that Bach wrote both libretti, or that he may have attempted to rewrite/modify the original for the parody.

Christian Weiß, senior, was Bach’s ‘father confessor’ 1723-1736 and had defended him against Leipzig City Councillor Lehmann who represented the city over against the authority of the church (Weiss.) As Christoph Wolff puts it in his Bach biography “Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Scholar” [Norton, 2000] p. 245:

“The cantor [Bach] was expected to respond, but on the instruction of superintendent Deyling, pastor Christian Weiss quickly rose to make the presentation and carry out the official installation on behalf of the consistory, an act branded by Lehmann as “an innovation which must be brought to the attention of a Noble Council.” After extending his congratulations to the new cantor, Lehmann put this to the assembly “at once,’ having perceived Weiss’s action as an encroachment by the church on the civic authorities, already a sore point between the church consistory and the city council. But before the unexpected interruption led to a sidebar dispute between Lehmann and Weiss, ‘the new Cantor expressed his most obliged thanks to a Nobel and Wise Council, in that the same had been most graciously pleased to think of him in conferring this office, with the promise that he would serve the same with all fidelity and zeal, would show due respect to his superiors, and in general to conduct himself that his greatest devotion should always be observed. Whereupon the other instructor of the School congratulated him, and the occasion was concluded with another musical piece.’

Christian Weiß, senior, died in 1736, so that the Hudson’s theory that Weiss, senior, might have helped Bach with the Pentecost parody BWV 34, which was subsequently dated to the early 1740s, can be scratched.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantatas BWV 34 & BWV 34a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 34 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 34 | Details & Recordings of BWV 34a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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