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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 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of February 24, 2008

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 22, 2008):
Introduction to Cantata BWV 34 - O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe

Introduction to Cantata BWV 34 - O ewiges Feuer, o Ursprung der Liebe
(O eternal fire, O source of Love) Dürr
(O eternal fire, O fount of love) Unger

URL for BWV 34 page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV34.htm

URL for BWV 34 previous discussion page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV34-D.htm

Created for Pentecost or Whit Sunday, the high day of celebration of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit promised by Jesus before his ascent into heaven, this cantata is based upon a wedding cantata, number 34a (Dürr).

The following sections offer development of the theme:

(Mvt. 1) Opening Chorus: SATB, trumpets I-III This is a petition to God, the eternal source of fire and love to enkindle ‘our’ hearts and to build within ‘us’ the desire to be a pleasing temple for His Spirit.
(Mvt. 2) Tenor Recitative: This section is in the form of a prayer upon the established theme, but progresses from the corporate angle of a congregation of those whom the Spirit will inhabit to the personal element of the individual making his/her own heart a dwelling that may be pleasing.
(Mvt. 3) Alto Aria: The textual direction returns to the corporate or congregational scene as the alto proclaims the benefits of being chosen by God to be His temple.
(Mvt. 4) Bass Recitative: Reinforcing the words of the alto aria the bass pronounces that if God has chosen people as His tabernacle He will pour out blessings over His consecrated house with the following words:
(Mvt. 5) Tutti SATB trumpets I-III, timpani and strings, oboe I and II and continuo: “Peace upon Israel” (that is, peace to the church in traditional Lutheran theology and in the context of the liturgical service). The chorus speaks forth thanks for God’s thinking of them (His people) through His works of blessing in sending to them His peace, and on this particular Sunday the outpouring of His Spirit.

In the libretto, the vocal and verbal elements fit quite adequately with the preaching texts for the day. Poetically, the word occurrence alone is also interesting. The librettist is anonymous in this case. In the opening aria following the first two lines that do not rhyme, the remaining six lines follow in pairs with rhyming or similar sounding endings. These rhyming words are particularly appealing in German rather than English, as they highlight the text so well. The first pair ‘Flammen’ (flames) and ‘Wallen’ (wall, as in flames moving up a wall) depict the flames of the Spirit and the welling up of His spiritual flames. The second pair ‘dein’ (yours) and ‘sein’ (to be) indicate the idea that ‘we wish to be yours.’ This builds upon the idea of the flames building up in a corporate sense in the congregational community. In the final two lines the words ‘gefallen’ (please), Seelen (soul or life) and Glauben (to believe) work together poetically to give the idea ‘to please by belief’ and provide the singers an expressive tool. As a former chorale member and still a singer these details are perhaps the most interesting elements for me.

Schweitzer also points out something interesting in regard to the score of the first chorus (Mvt. 1). He shares that by the existence of some older parts this verse has been based on a mourning cantata of the same title (II, p. 347). He says, regarding the first violin part that “the semiquaver figure of the first violins run through the whole first chorus like the lambent flames that are to set the heart on fire.”

Score-wise, the tenor recitative provides a long sustained four measure basso continuo note that may or may not be harmonically realized, but that provides a break from the enjoyable and frenetic activity of the violins in the preceding verse. The remainder of the score in the tenor aria does not show figured bass numbers, and if so one might consider that the simplicity of the underlying lines allows for a more personal and reflective contemplation of the text. As a matter of text painting the ascending figures in the tenor line in my view also reflect the prayer aspect of this recitative.

As the progression moves to the alto aria (Mvt. 3), the basso continuo engages in an undeveloped pattern of two sets of quavers--or as we say in the US, sets of four eighth notes--in a very simple pattern. Above, flutes, violins and violas accompany the alto. A repeated motive of four semi-quavers and eighth notes tied together in the strings form one pattern that is repeated in the accompaniment many times over. Variations on this motive also can be seen in the flutes. I cannot say that this necessarily involves some text painting, but I see the motive as an aural/textual figure that adds expansion to the cantata as a whole, and provides a nice contrast to the tenor part.

Moving to the bass recitative, the continuo provides just the barest of lines to undergird the vocalist. The technique imparts some solemnity before the pronouncement of “peace” in a measured slow tempo, followed by an exuberant move to cut time punctuated with rising motives in octave scale patterns. These are contrasted with some straight quarter note rhythms placed against periodic sets of eighth note patterns that then accompany straighter rhythms when the vocal parts enter. Even rhythm prevails in the continuo for the most part. The rising scale motif on ‘Dankt’ (thanks) seems to me to be a matter of text painting. I have occasionally mentioned in writing that the falling motives are sometimes interpreted either as blessings or judgment from heaven, and ascending motives may be seen as a response to God’s blessings or prayer petitions. Dürr emphasizes the declamatory character of this final movement.

Some scoring elements:

Taking a little more detailed look at the score, beginning in measure four of the opening chorus, both the continuo and the timpani have an interesting figure for two measures. The continuo pattern is to sustain, and the timpani provides a trill on a single pitch above. This pattern is a kind of echo of the trumpet part in full measures two and three and the sustain pattern occurs again in measure eight, once again for the trombone. The timpani and continuo pick up this pattern again in measure 10. Going on to measure 12 the strings join with the same motive. Other parts move in eighth and sixteenth notes supplying forward motion that is then taken on by the singers when the chorus enters. The sustain motives develop eventually in the chorus with the arrival of a new motive in four sixteenths and an eighth note in the high range of the trumpet for a dramatic moment on ‘entsunde die Herzen und weihe sie ein’. From this point, what we have is a lengthy opening chorus with repeats and diminution of some motives, and some passages that are more sustained. After the fermata there is a chorus and continuo section alone, presented with greater simplicity as the strings re-enter using some of the prior motives which are joined with fragments or variations on others. At this point the oboes, trumpets and timpani drop out. The form is ABA.

The tenor Recitative II opens with a three measure sustained note, and is followed by half and quarter notes, with no syncopation. To date, most of the recitatives I have observed either have some dotted notes, or they have some flourishes. Figured bass is available if an arrangement is desired. This is one of the simplest recitatives I’ve seen so far.

The tempo picks up, using two sets of eighth notes in four in the continuo moving into the aria, Mvt. 3. However, the sustained figure we have seen in the previous movements is also used in the viola in this instance. Parallel, oblique and contrary motion are presented in the flutes and other strings with a new rhythmic motive we have not seen so far in this cantata. The alto enters in measure nine with the motive that has been offered in the introduction by the flute and strings. A bit further on her part becomes smoother over fewer notes as the flutes and strings continue with greater activity. A new motive appears in the flutes in measure fifteen, and is used alternatively with prior motives. Further enhancing the work, voice and continuo proceed along together for about six measures before all the other instruments re-enter. These basic motives again continue to be mixed and matched until the end. There is no return to the beginning.

With even greater simplicity, the accompaniment for Recitative IV is built primarily via long sustained notes. Here no figuration is given for the continuo.

All parts join in a final chorus. In this case there is no return to motives from the previous numbers. A rising motive of an eighth note rest followed by seven eighth notes is seen frequently, along with other eighth note clusters. The continuo for the most part keeps the rhythm in quarter notes throughout.

Once again I am impressed with the way Bach masters, mixes and remixes his motives to produce a work that vibrantly moves, carrying a message for the day.

Please add your comments and observations to my writings to enrich this discussion. And if you have comments on the recordings of this cantata please step in to share your thoughts. In particular, if you have studied BWV 34a, please add your views.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 22, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thank you for your excellent introduction to BWV 34, and your insights for the group.

I look forward to discussing a number of topics on this cantata, so I think I'll start another thread on text issues, for now. And I would like to respond directly to your introduction, after I have some time to think about it in detail. Thanks again for getting this cantata started.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 22, 2008):
BWV 34 - which text is best, BWV 34 or BWV 34A ?

Short question:

Which text is best matched to the music ... BWV 34 or BWV 34A?

Longer Explanation:

We anticipate performing this cantata (BWV 34) in May, here in Juneau. I very much look forward to getting to know this work in detail, and to the many pleasures provided by studying it and preparing its performance.

It is interesting reading the previous BCML discussions, dating back to 2003, for this cantata. It's probably inappropriate to rehash All Of The Issues here, even though they are still interesting, and I'd love to do it.

At the outset, though, I'd like to get the group's advice and thoughts on one point.

Before each of our concerts, I like to discuss the work with the audience, and highlight important ideas with musical examples.

One of the recurring points I find myself making is the way Bach amplifies his texts, and particular words in the texts, with his music. This isn't a new idea with me, of course, ... consider Harnoncourt's "Music as Speech", and practically any discussion of specific cantatas and their texts.

In BWV 34, specific examples come to mind, just from the title and first line of text, including the words "ewiges", "Feuer", and "Ursprung".

Here's my dilemma however. It's BWV 34A, to be precise.

If Bach pays so much attention to text, and composed this music for BWV 34A, then the music should fit the words to 34A, and shouldn't (necessarily) be expected to match up with the text for BWV 34. Specifically, the music is for a wedding, or it's for Pentecost, but it's surely not for both ...

I'm not comfortable calling this out as a coincidence, and also a little squeamish saying something like "weddings and Pentecost have a lot in common (or at least, something in common...), so ... uh ... naturally, the same music is appropriate for both."

(Although something like this must have been what Bach was thinking when he adapted BWV 34A for use in BWV 34, 20 years later ... or, maybe, he was thinking Pentecost 20 years earlier, as he worked on a Cantata for a wedding on November 8? ... ).

What is troubling me, is my belief that Bach thought deeply about his texts, and thought how he could best set them to music, and then in this instance, we find the same music fits (magnificently!?) in two different contexts.

Anyone have some suggestions on how to resolve this quandry for me?

The extent to which the texts are unchanged in the movements common to BWV 34A to BWV 34 is remarkable, of course, and adds credibility to using the music twice. And the music does seem to fit the text so very well, in both cases. (Only once, perhaps, a little more obviously in BWV 34A:4 than in BWV 34:5, where the ascending D major scales can be easily analogized to "Stufen").

Anyway, here are the texts ( from
http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/34.html and
http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/34a.html ), which are in "possible conflict":

---------

Specific texts, differences in bold face (if yahoo groups will display them that way):

---------

BWV 34A:1

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.

BWV 34:1

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.

---------

BWV 34A:5

Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Schafe,
Die ein getreuer Jacob liebt.
Sein Lohn wird dort am größten werden,
Den ihm der Herr bereits auf Erden
Durch seiner Rahel Anmut gibt.

BWV 34:3

Wohl euch, ihr auserwählten Seelen,
Die Gott zur Wohnung ausersehn.
Wer kann ein größer Heil erwählen?
Wer kann des Segens Menge zählen?
Und dieses ist vom Herrn geschehn.

---------

BWV 34A:4

Friede über Israel.
Eilt zu denen heilgen Stufen,
Eilt, der Höchste neigt sein Ohr.
Unser Wünschen dringt hervor,
Friede über Israel,
Friede über euch zu rufen.

BWV 34:5

Friede über Israel.
Dankt den höchsten Wunderhänden,
Dankt, Gott hat an euch gedacht.
Ja, sein Segen wirkt mit Macht,
Friede über Israel,
Friede über euch zu senden.

---------

Question rephrased:

One way to make this issue concrete would be:

If you were given the music to BWV 34, and both of the above texts, which text would you guess inspired the music?

I look forward to your comments (and help!) ... please.

PS: Here are some thoughts on possible connections between BWV 34A, a wedding cantata, and BWV 34, a cantata for Pentecost:

a) Christ is the Bridegroom, the Church is the Bride.

b) Pentecost (for which BWV 34 is composed) starts the portion of the Lutheran Church year assigned to the Church (the "Bride"). From Advent, up to Pentecost, the portion of the Church year is assigned to Christ (the "Groom", i.e., Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and six more Sundays, before Pentecost). Hence Pentecost is the first day of the liturgical year when the Church (as the "Bride") is identified, and the relationship ("marriage"?) between Christ and the Church is explicity defined.

c) Ascension Day is forty days after Easter (on a Thursday); Pentacost is fifty days after Easter, including Easter, and there is a Sunday in between ("Exaudi"). Technically, Christ ascended "off this mortal coil" for approximately a week and three days, before the Church's portion of the liturgical year begins. Don't know if this helps or complicates a "wedding" interpretation of Pentecost.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 22, 2008):
BWV 34 - recitativs and quick questions

[To Jean Laaninen] In her introduction, Jean mentions a couple of items that I would like clarified a bit:

a) Schweitzer mentions something about a "mourning" cantata as a source ... is this onof those unfortunate typos passed forward in the chaos of transcriptions, where "Trauung" (wedding) and "Trauer" (sorrow) have been confused? Is there really a funeral cantata or motet somewhere in the mileau?

b) Jean mentions the tympani has a roll on a "single pitch above". In my scores (sorry, I only have the BG on CD, and a score from Hannsler (1960)), timpani is in A and D (like the trumpets), so the pitch of the tympani rolls are the same note as in the continuo. However, in the piano vocal transcription on the web-site, this tympani roll is very odd ... indeed, appearing as a whole note above the continuo pitch: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV034-V&P.pdf .

This is very odd to me, perhaps a means to somehow making a tympani roll more playable on the piano (why not octave tremolos)? (Incidentally, this piano reduction is very challenging; the one currently available from Hannsler (Carus) is much easier to play).

c) Jean mentions that in the two recits (tenor, Mvt. 2; bass, Mvt. 4), only the first three measures of the tenor recit have continuo figures. I don't have access to NBA, or the Kritical Bericht; is there anything in here that explains the lack of figures? On the other hand, is it common to not have figures in recits? (I have a copy of Dreyfus's "Bachs Continuo Group", but haven't read it in a while, and don't have it here, right at hand, at the office). Can anyone provide information on the lack of continuo figures in most of the measures in these recits?

Salute! my Bach friends and aficionados!

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson] Thanks for your support of the work I've done so far. Prior to this my involvement in writing in this vein has been limited to two papers prepared in a Baroque Music Theory graduate level class at ASU in Tempe. I am retired now, and my academic work was spread between the disciplines of Sociology, Theology and Music. I am not a musicologist, and I rely a great deal on the opinions of those with such training when I encounter questions. However, having said that, if you are presenting material to a Bach chorus (and most of these people are accomplished, educated, and intelligent) you will no doubt want to 'feed' the group with an understanding of the material which will inspire their performance.

I cannot say which might have been written first, but the most meaningful connection I find at surface level is that Pentecost is a huge celebration in the church, and a wedding is quite often a huge celebration in a family. Both Pentecost and wedding gatherings are highly communal activities in which the blessing of God is poured out as it is sought. The imagery of the church as Christ's bride in my view compares favorably to the wedding celebration. In some of the weddings where I have played or been a singer, attendant or guest, the prayers for future children to extend the family, and thereby the growth family of God is a given in parallel to the growth of the church at Pentecost.

The joining of families in Roman Catholic services, and perhaps in some Lutheran services sometimes involves the lighting of a candle (unity candle) by the bride and groom, followed by their lighting of candles of the parents of both couples. Here we have the 'flammen' imagery imparted. I do not know whether this tradition may or may not have passed down from Catholism to Lutheransim in Bach's day, but there is a parallel here that I find very interesting, that joins these two works for the purposes of illustration.

For Bach to use such material with some similar wording twice bodes for the fact that he found some association. Could it be too far fetched to imagine that someone loved the music so much from the 'original' that they asked Bach to set the second cantata to this score?

In my past history I was in charge of the music for a large Lutheran Women's convention in Michigan many years ago. I hired an organist from Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan (one of my past teachers) for the job, and we selected some hymn tunes and I wrote song text for these tunes related to the theme of the convention. We had some quick work to do as we'd hired some brass players and at the last minute had to re-write their parts for the staff in which they ordinarily read. Sometimes there is no reason to reinvent the wheel...I'm sure Bach was quite comfortable with reworking his material the way preacher's often rework theirs.

So I cannot see as a rule the kind of chicken and egg question too well...who knows, and maybe someone does, which text or music came first. The main thrust in my thinking is whether a thing works or not, and inspires or fails to inspire. I will never forget that convention because on top of everything we could not find a choir director who would travel to the location and I had to undertake the choir director's job as well as being a presenter for one discussion group. Somehow it all worked out, and within the time frame. So, there is also the possibility that Bach had a time constraint and may have wished to re-use which ever came first to get a job done effectively. But I think he would have seen meaningful associations between the work in the vein that I have just written. And, I hope others will add their thoughts.

Additionally, you wonder how it was possible for him to make things work so well in both cases. He was smart, he was inspired, he was experienced and he was needed. Bach could rise to the occasion--but I think the parallel went quite deep with him in this case. He knew the struggles of the church and the importance of the inspiration of God's spirit, and certainly marriage in Lutheran views, God's Spirit to make things work and hold things together. This is my opinion. I don't think it is superficial. I've been married forty years as of this past week. That's one reason I endorse my own ideas. IMO.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
Scroll down for some answers:

Bruce Simonson wrote:
< In her introduction, Jean mentions a couple of items that I would like clarified a bit:
a) Schweitzer mentions something about a "mourning" cantata as a source ... is this one of those unfortunate typos passed forward in the chaos of transcriptions, where "Trauung" (wedding) and "Trauer" (sorrow) have been confused? Is there really a funeral cantata or motet somewhere in the mileau? >
I'm glad you mentioned this...I don't know the answer, but tried to include a variety of material for the group to peruse. This is probably one of those typo issues that occasionally occured, to my guess.

< b) Jean mentions the tympani has a roll on a "single pitch above". In my scores (sorry, I only have the BG on CD, and a score from Hannsler (1960)), timpani is in A and D (like the trumpets), so the pitch of the tympani rolls are the same note as in the continuo. However, in the piano vocal transcription on the web-site, this tympani roll is very odd ... indeed, appearing as a whole note above the continuo pitch: >
I believe I pulled this from the BGA , but I wrote the intro six months ago and have not revisited the score. I do know that today we have quite a few different scores, and they do not always all show the same thing; even more, sometimes the scores available are in different keys. Here, at least we have the possiblility of a typographical error, but I do remember Brad sharing with Julian not so long ago that a score Julian felt to be clearly in error was a case of scores that were compiled at different times from different sources. For practical purposes, then, the only choice seems to be to use the score you have for your work, and disregard this particular feature of my writing as it is not useful for you. If it is wrong...well, it would be fine with me if someone were to correct it.

< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV034-V&P.pdf
This is very odd to me, perhaps a means to somehow making a tympani roll more playable on the piano (why not octave tremolos)? (Incidentally, this piano reduction is very challenging; the one currently available from Hannsler (Carus) is much easier to play). >
c) Jean mentions that in the two recits (tenor,
Mvt. 2; bass, Mvt. 4), only the first three measures of the tenor recit have continuo figures. I don't have access to NBA, or the Kritical Bericht; is there anything in here that explains the lack of figures? On the other hand, is it common to not have figures in recits? (I have a copy of Dreyfus's "Bachs Continuo Group", but haven't read it in a while, and don't have it here, right at hand, at the office). Can anyone provide information on the lack of continuo figures in most of the measures in these recits? >
This is likely due to a difference between editions. Due to the fact that we have recitatives with developed continuo (arrangements) in the scores Aryeh has obtained, I was curious about the scores without figuration or missing elements. I had read somewhere that continuo players were often so developed that they did not need lengthy figuration, but that is only occured sometimes where the composer had something very specific in mind. Going back to my work with Sibelius, just using the melody and the bass note produced a chord sequence for a recitative that matched the online scores in terms of chord progression. The two book series which Thomas Braatz recommended by F. T. Arnold will show you, if you desire, an amazing array of possibilities for fb as they were worked out in time.

Best wishes on what I hope will be a superb performance of this work.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 23, 2008):
BWV 34 & BWV 34a

Some questions have been raised as well as confusing statements made (as for example: it appears not to be clear to some as to which version came first) in the present discussion.
Thomas Braatz asked me (off-list to) indicate that important information that may have been overlooked can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV34-Ref.htm
He also sent me more material, which has been added to this page.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 23, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron & Thomas Braatz] Thanks Aryeh and Thomas.

I appreciate this information (below) being added as these finer details were not available to me, and of interest to individuals based on past discussions. My own efforts are basically to provide a foundation for the discussion, and every valuable addition that others can offer certainly enhances the discussion. As a singer, flute player and keyboard player my primary interests lie with the matter of performance, but as we discuss these matters I can see that the educational factor for someone like Bruce who wishes to offer his chorale the greatest informative detail can also become important to the outcome of a performance. Thanks so much to both of you for staying on top of this.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 24, 2008):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
>Jean mentions the tympani has a roll on a "single pitch above". In my scores (sorry, I only have the BG on CD, and a score from Hannsler (1960)), timpani is in A and D (like the trumpets), so the pitch of the tympani rolls are the same note as in the continuo.<
The two-bar-long notes in the opening bars are all D's, but at different pitches. I expect Jean was referring to the fact that the timpani part is above the continuo part in the 14 stave score.

Allowing for the transposition of the timpani and trumpets (written in C major; the rest of the score is written in D major), my reading of the BGA has bars 2 and 3 with held D on 1st trumpet (the D on 4th line of treble clef); bars 4 and 5 with timpani roll on D ( the D on 3rd line of bass clef); and simultaneously long held D on continuo above the bass clef (after an initial leap from the D an octave below); these three D's span two octaves (I think they are referred to as D3, D4 and D5. In another system I have seen them referred to as d, d1 and d2).

<I don't have access to NBA, or the Kritical Bericht; is there anything in here that explains the lack of figures?>
Thomas Braatz has supplied the answer to that question: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV34-Ref.htm

"Normally there are 3 continuo parts. Since the Organo or transposed continuo part is the only part or source that usually contains the figured bass that J.S. Bach adds after it has been copied is missing, there is no other source for Bach's figured bass intentions. His autograph scores do not, as a rule, contain any figured bass."

[BTW, I am pleased to report what I regard as satisfactory secco accompaniment from another HIP ensemble, heard on the radio recently in BWV 66: Philip Pickett and the London Consort. His method, similar to Coin that I reported recently, was with pratically full-length organ chords - similar to those shown in the BCW scores - with bright upper harmonies, and without the bass strings that often thicken the texture in an unpleasant manner. OTOH, he only had one anaemic little violin in his ensemble in the other movements....)

Re the textual points mentioned by Bruce: (a) it seems inconceivable (following Schweitzer?) that this cantata (BWV 34 or BWV 34a) has anything to do with a funeral. (b) I find both both texts (of BWV 34 and BWV 34a) to be equally appropriate; I would use BWV 34a for a wedding and BWV 34 for a more general occasion (including ofcourse a church service at Pentacost); the brilliance of the music will make a profound impression regardless of the occasion.

The imagery of the opening line, the same in both texts, is fantastic: "O eternal fire, O well-spring of love".

This image perhaps relates to many cultures and religions, eg, the fire constanly burning at Delphi in ancient Greece, the eternal fire of Zoroastrianism which was likely assimilated by Judaism and Christianity, with God represented by fire (the burning bush seen by Moses, Pentacost). Modern listeners might also think of the fire of sexual passion as well the mystical union of souls (soul-mates) that occurs (hopefully) in marriage. The Pentacostal event itself, where the fire of the Holy Spirit ("as with tongues like fire") revealed itself, was also an event of great joy.

{Fire is obviously a fascinating topic - the first technology mastered by man, it also has a negative side, reflected in the eternal fires of Hell, and destructive power).

Thanks to Bruce (or was it originally Jean) for mentioning the frequent occurence of long-held notes; they are certainly an important feature of the opening chorus.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks so much, Neil. As always, your years of working with the material add so much comprehension. I mention the continuo sustaining--which was my reference to the long held notes. All the features of these works are fascinating just to view, but become meaningful in the performance. I can imagine conductors over the years experiencing some real excitment when they have the right ensemble to highlight the interesting techniques of the Baroque period and especially Bach's works.

As always...I look forward to what you will add to each week's cantata.

Terejia wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Thank you so much for taking time on this inspiring contribution.

Again, being rather pressed in schedule(I have to do a legal lecture tomorrow), I cannot afford spending my time on a score analysis. To reply to your kind regards for me in your last e-mail quickly, being priviledged to full time study in music is definitely an essential part of musical talent/gift, in my personal opinion.

Now as to this joyous cantata, this is definitely one of my favorite. I have Leonhardt. Quoting from the bottom :

>> All parts join in a final chorus. In this case there is no return to motives from the previous numbers. A rising motive of an eighth note rest followed by seven eighth notes is seen frequently, along with other eighth note clusters. The continuo for the most part keeps the rhythm in quarter notes t. <<

If you permit me to post my casual non-academic comment, I can feel outpouring joy of "Danken"(i.e. gratitude) in in an ascending melody all the way to octave higher in eighth notes.

As to what Ed mentioned about the link of text and music, I don't know for sure if voice is just "another instrument" or has some distinct independent aethetic factor in the music. At least sometimes text might have significant influence on music, and this final chorus feels like so, as it feels like to me...

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 24, 2008):
[To Terejia] You're most welcome...any way any of us can help each other contributes to the good of all of us.

You wrote:
< As to what Ed mentioned about the link of text and music, I don't know for sure if voice is just "another instrument" or has some distinct independent aethetic factor in the music. At least sometimes text might have significant influence on music, and this final chorus feels like so, as it feels like to me... >
Most of my teachers and directors take the view that Bach wrote the vocal parts instrumentally. That is to say that they think in Bach's mind the voice was yet one more instrument. To support this evidence vocal teachers I have known often refer to the demanding lines Bach produces for both chorus and soloists--this in regard to the sixteenth note runs as quite instrumental. To my mind, sometimes the instrumental aspect of the chorus seems to carry the words in a very inspirational manner. At times, when the continuo sustains and the other instrumentation is light, the singers seem to carry the day. Sometimes there is a well constructed balance. But when singers are instructed in Bach's music they are often told not to regard themselves too highly (as we are sometimes apt to do) but to see themselves as Bach would have--as just one more instrument in the total ensemble. When one takes into context the liturgical setting of Lutheran worship, and local young boys and some that were older as the primary singers--one gets perspective. This is why my choice of singers in the soprano range is more toward the lyric quality if I am thinking in terms of Bach's music in church. There are a number of Lutheran choir directors who also choose for personal and historical reasons to focus on a lyric quality traditionally for their entire repetoire--I also think of the work of St. Olaf College, and they have web casts of many performances that you can listen to, and the young voices are very refreshing.

In terms of Bach in professional concerted settings I am sometimes enthralled by the amazing voices that God-given gifts and professional training have produced, and I enjoy the more operatic qualities. From some of these performances perhaps at times it could seem as though the singers are more important, and certainly they deserve to be featured in the publicity before concerts for all their efforts, but in my view it is most in the line of tradition to think of the singer as one more instrument. Thereby, a unity of purpose may be more easily attained.

I'm glad that you enjoyed this work so much, and best wishes for all your continuing endeavors.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 24, 2008):
As I had raised some questions about the recitatives over the past weeks, Brad Lehman sent me a link to an article that he posted on the web a while back detailing some aspects of the recitative form. I have excerpted a quote from this article that seems relevant to me, to share with the group:

"Overall: the accompaniment is there to heighten the intensity of the singer's delivery...which itself must already be committed and intense, like the spoken word that has already crossed into the realm of pitches, because a merely spoken delivery is not enough to contain it! The point is for everybody to put the message across as vividly as possible: the singer as (by far) the most important, supported by accompaniment that punctuates and affirms it. The accompaniment is like an eager group sympathetically nodding along with the points the singer is making, interjecting the equivalent of "amen!" "preach it, brother!" to heighten what is being said/sung."

Brad's article makes it clear to me that the questions I raised about syncopation in the recitative are probably not where the focus belongs--but rather to the side of communication.

If anyone would like to read Brad's article in its entirety or check out the bibliography here is the link:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 24, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 34

Brad Lehman wrote (Feb. 2004):
>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!<
More recently, we have been speculating (I think it is OK if I say that with reference to myself?) on other connections among cantatas of 1726 and SMP (BWV 244). Suddenly, I feel I am in good company!

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 25, 2008):
Off Topic - New Real Player Update

For those who listen to the cantatas via the web, if you have been using the Beta Version of RP, a new edition was made available today. I just added it to my computer in lieu of the old version and it works splendidly. I had some problems with the Beta Version, so I took the risk of the fastest download speed when I reinstalled and it works great.

Of course, if you use the graphic screen that sometimes shows the flames leaping up--this was perfect with Cantata BWV 34 which I listened to again today. Due to guests and other responsibilties I had not had time before now--but I have to say that I love this cantata, and with the new Real Player the sound also seemed better than with the Beta Version...an no interruptions.

Just FYI.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 25, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 34 [was: OT - New Real Player]
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Of course, if you use the graphic screen that sometimes shows the flames leaping up--this was perfect with Cantata BWV 34 which I listened to again today<
I usually try to listen to the music <cold> once or twice, to get an unbiased impression, before starting to read, but I couldn't wait to respond to this comment, as well as Neils.

From the text it appears that there is no Hellfire in BWV 34 - the Sacred Flame has been reclaimed for Mankind? OK, Heaven as well.

But that text is twenty years and more in the future, in the Bach chronology. How much of this is fortuitous, and how much forward looking, from the wedding cantata, BWV 34a, from 1726.

That will be my thought for the week, also as possible input for Bruce's upcoming performance.

BTW, what is this <graphic screen> stuff? I am happy when I plug in the headphones, push some buttons, and get sound. Time for a visit to the computer store?

OTOH, amazon.com is ingenious. Push some buttons, and a couple days later a CD arrives via post, playable on the old stereo or the laptop. Somehow, I never seem to go out of date with Amazon. I know, I know, I can combine all those functions.

That will be my thought for the coming year.

Also, I am taking a chance with an apostrophe to see what comes back to me. i would appreciate hearing if it gets scrambled to anyone. That would be the apostophe in <Bruce's>, two times now.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 25, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] You do make me chuckle, Ed. Your sense of humor is up to date even if your computer is not at this point. No, I don't find any hellfire in Cantata 34, and I don't know that I can say that the chronology you mention offers me anything intelligent to add except to humorously note that weddings came in great numbers before Pentecost.

The graphics come on Real Player like a kaleidoscope configuration or flames or something similar on the screen when you click off the advertising that comes onto Real Player. I am never sure which button makes it work, but I keep clicking the x's in the corners until the advertising goes away...then I get the graphidisplay. Amazon works well for me, too--sometimes too well, as my husband gives me some trouble about the packages that have arrived from that company over the years. Space for books and CDs has become something of a problem, so he advocates as his thought every year the use of the library.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 25, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Space for books and CDs has become something of a problem, so he advocates as his thought every year the use of the library.<
This is something of an issue for many BCML correspondents, mostly men avoiding their spouses complaints. Nice to learn that it is not gender specific.

I am reverting to my regular mode of listening and thinking first, but you will hear more from me later in the week regarding the relation of texts in BWV 34 and BWV 34a.

Nice job managing the introductions, and especially with the replies to correspondence. I will write a brief congratulatory note when you survive the next eight (!) weeks.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 25, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I'm enjoying the ride--a wonderful new experience musically and in cyberspace.

Thanks again, Ed.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 25, 2008):
The opening chorus (Mvt. 1) seems to work over a wide range of tempos, although Gardiner's 2nd recording (6.53) [12] and Werner (10.00) [4] will test the limits of most listeners' tolerance. Gardiner's 1st recording is better at 7.27, about the same as another excellent recording, that of Beringer (7.16) [14]. Koopman [16] (from the sample) sounds substantial and thrilling, despite nearing the speed limit (6.58). I enjoy both Rilling [5] and Richter [6], in the 8's.

In the alto aria (Mvt. 3), Gardiner's 2nd recording [12] has a female alto who reminded me of a counter-tenor. I like Bernada Fink in the 1st recording [11]. Gardiner and Richter [6] both adopt a measured tempo for this lovely aria (c. 6.20); I feel this tempo captures the enchanted mood more successfully compared with the somewhat prosaic impression engendered by Beringer's rather brisk 5.08 [14]. (The similarities of this aria's instrumentation to that of the SMP's "O Mensch, bewein'" (BWV 244), previously mentioned by Brad, are interesting.)

Gardiner definitely sounds like he is racing in his 2nd recording of the grand, exciting final chorus (Mvt. 5) (1.58) [12]; once again the earlier recording [11] is more pleasing at 2.07. (You can listen to mp3 samples at the BCW).

I can't recall anything particularly off-putting (apart from the seccos) in the samples of the cantata's recordings, so most people will probably be happy with what they have. (I have Werner [4], Richter [6], Rilling [5] and Beringer [14]).

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 25, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks Neil, for adding this information on the recordings.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 26, 2008):
BWV 34 - those pesky staccati

I'd like to get the group's thoughts on the staccato figures in the first movement of BWV 34. This has been discussed briefly before, in another context, but it would be helpful to me if we discussed this again.

There seems to be a commonly held interpretation of the first violin figure, (running sixteenths (semiquavers)), in Mvt. 1, as "fire". This also makes sense to me, as "dancing flames", both as a motif in sound, and perhaps as a visual image on the page.

The staccatos I'm thinking about now show up in the (unison) 2nd violin/viola part, in the first two measures, on the four eighth notes starting on beat two. This articulation is repeated when this motif appears in the trumpets (bars 3 and 4), and in the oboes (bars 9 and 10). After that, the articulation appears to be shown again in any part that plays this motif at the same time as the "fire" figure of 1st violins. However, if the 1st violin figure is performing scale passages (e.g., bars 16-20), instead of playing with "fire", the staccato articulation is missing from the other parts.

I'm currently thinking of this staccato motif as a musical representation of "Ursprung" (translated, for me, as "fountainhead" or "wellspring"). To me, this becomes really obvious in bars 51-56, where the tenors and basses "have a dialog" (every other bar), singing this motif, on the word "Ursprung". In fact, to coin a poor way of saying it, the text "bubbles up from a spring" in the lower voices.

One of the reasons I like this interpretation is that it allows for the juxtaposition, in time, and in music, of the "fire" and "water" motifs in BWV 34 (and BWV 34A, for that matter). I could go on, but I hope that introduces the notion.

So, to practical a question of performance -- just what to do with those staccatos?

a) If they are ignored, and the line is played legato, the figure becomes a simple chordal accompaniment to the "fire" figure (sounding a third below the strong notes in this fire figure); this seems like a particularly weak and unimaginative thing to do with this music.

b) If they are played short (the way I learned as a general rule in public schools), as a sixteenth, followed by a sixteenth rest, the lower notes (ostinato) of the "fire" figure might sound cleanly, in their own temporal space. However, I think too much of this shortening may short-change the motiv in the violin2/viola, and de-emphasize it. If this is exactly what Bach wanted, he _might_ have written it that way, but I'm not sure. Does anyone know of examples in other works where this way of performing staccato eighths just makes total sense?

c) Somewhere between the two, with a detache stroke, and giving the overall figure a bit of presence through accents; I like this way the best (so far), as it brings out both of the fugal themes of "fire" and "water". However, in the fine-tuned, detailed analysis (which may or may not be discernable in any performance), there will be overlap in the lower ostinato notes of "fire", and the eighth notes of "water". This delicate overlap may be justifiable, as a discussion point at the "Bach Stammtisch", but as a practical performance matter, it may just sound muddy.

The Hännsler score ((c)1960) available from Carus has six pages of facsimile, where these pesky staccati are very much in the autograph score.

PS: This may, of course, all be somewhat moot. It is one thing to plan for an interpretation before rehearsals start; it's another thing entirely to pull off these things in performance. For an excellent discussion of this, with concrete examples from the B Minor Mass, I recommend Uri Golomb's dissertation, "Expression and Meaning in Bach Performance and Reception." This link links to it (don't be afraid, the document is in English, although the initial link page is Deutsch): http://www.snipurl.com/ugphd_abs

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 26, 2008):
BWV 34 - recits and those (dang) missing continuo figures

At the risk of beating a very live, and interesting, horse; here goes:

It's about the recits in BWV 34, and the interesting point that except for 3 measures, there are no figures for the continuo in the recits.This observation is based on my review of the BG score, and Hannsler 1960. I don't have the NBA or KB at hand, so I don't know for sure what's in the performance materials or the autograph score. Thomas Braatz's discussion of provenance is an excellent start: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV34-Ref.htm

The figures that are present are in thfirst 3 bars of the tenor recit in movement 2 ... and they are interesting, non-trivial figures. But I am puzzled by why they don't continue on in the continuo ... why didn't Bach complete the figures for all of this movement?

(Or, if he did, why don't the editors/publishers include the rest of the figures? ... a less interesting question, in some respects, but if this happens, what else is left out in these editions?!).

And then there's the usual performance questions -- sustain or shorten notes in the bass lines of the continuo? I have thoughts on this, that briefly, start with "play full value", then say "shorten them!", and then come full circle, to "play full value" again. How's that for riding the fence? I completely concur, however, with Brad Lehman, that both should be considered allowed, and up to the performers and interpretters, depending on context: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/recits.htm

But most important -- for BWV 34:2 (Mvt. 2), Bach surely didn't intend for realized continuo for just 3 bars, and then nothing more? Did he? Does anyone know of other secco recits where figures are just kind of sort of partially present, for a couple of bars? A cursory review of the BG scores, shows one can't count on figures in recits, at all; but how many cases are there where figures are just there for a few bars?

Isn't this just too weird to ignore?

PS: We performed BWV 10 last Christmas, which has probably one of the most difficult secco recits on this point (sustain or shorten) ... 19 beats of sustained G (in the continuo tied across 5 bars), with figures moving with and around the tenor soloist's line. Stunning music, ...
btw, we opted for sustained continuo.

Nicholas Johnson wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson, regarding recits]The recits are relatively straight- forward to work out, surely. What about the arias? Surely there, the possibilities are far more interesting.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Bruce Simonson, regarding recits] I've checked out the Arnold text in a few places, and the author suggests that sometimes the composer did not have time to write out entire figuration, or, alternatively in keeping with the voice (what would sound well) that the continuo player might have had the responsibility of writing out the accompaniment to avoid an unpleasant result. One might consider what a recitative would sound like with a few measure realized, and the remaining left to simplicity, just as a general idea, but I am inclined to think with only a few measures realized the issue would have been one of time limits.

As to note lengths, the nature of the text might help to determine what sounds good, and whether or not much difference in texture within a given cantata as to recitative would be desirable.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 26, 2008):
[To Nicholas Johnson, regarding recits] Not that arias are not more interesting in terms of variety perhaps, but recitatives are declamation that set them, and I find the form an interesting aural break that is kind of special. They are also, if it is appropriate to say this--a lot of fun to sing.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 26, 2008):
BWV 34 - crusades, the plague, Spitta, and Pietism

Here's one that's probably a little of the wall:

I am curious, is there much in the historical Bach Dokumentia that confirms that Bach was very much aware of the Crusades, and/or the Plague?

I ask for a couple of reasons, the most immediate of which is due to the "Friede uber Israel" declamation at the beginning of mvmt 5 in BWV 34. (Sorry, can't make the Umlauts show up).

"Peace over Israel" may have (probably did?) different connotations to Bach's congregations, than that which might occur to modern listeners (e.g., those in Juneau Alaska around Pentecost Sunday, 2008). Unless your world view is limited to Paris Hilton and her dog, and maybe Brittney Spears (sp), the Middle East surely inspires much emotional response, whenever it is mentioned, period.

A simple reading of "Peace over Israel" could say, "lookee here, Bach acknowledges the State of Israel", which might be true, who knows, and certainly could lead to all kinds of spinning, if he did. Or, perhaps "Israel" is intended as a place-holder for the concept of the entire world: as in, "sein geweihtes Haus" from the preceding bass recit in mvmt 4.

First question: Did Bach know of the Crusades, and if so, did they inform his world view, with regards to Israel? Surely, if Bach's perception of the Levant is informed by the Crusades, then a cry for "Peace over Israel" makes sense, both as a prayer, and a command from God. (There wasn't much Peace over Israel during the Crusades, to be sure). Does anyone have any information on whether Bach knew of the Crusades, and was affected by them?

Second question: Did Bach know of and/or have personal experience with the Plague? Seems hard to believe he didn't, but I'm curious if there is documentary evidence? I ask, because after recently performing BWV 137 (Praise to the Lord, the Almighty, the King of Creation), and researching this hymn (Lobe den Herrn - by Joachim Neander), I was particularly struck by the faith of Neander: he apparently died of tuberculosis or the Plague, but while he suffered from the symptoms of one of these dread diseases, he still managed to compose this wonderful hymn, based largely on the first five verses of Psalm 103. Faith in the face of extreme trials. And I wonder, did Bach know of Neander (who lived a generation before), and did Bach know of these horrible blights, and did Bach respond to the human need for faith in the face of extreme suffering, from personal experience? (E.g., any plague deaths in his immediate family? how did his children die, who didn't survive childhood? were there large decimations of populations due to health or natural catastrophes?)

I wonder.

I surely will follow up on the recent excellent discussion on Pietism, via Spitta, but perhaps someone can help me with these two questions?

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 27, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen, regarding recits] I actually find dealing with recits one of the most challenging and interesting aspects of Bach's work; unfortunately, they are often under-rehearsed and dismissed as short filler stuff, and not very important. (And sometimes the figures that Bach provides are really quite remarkable and surprising!)

For an example, from my recent experience, the tenor recits in BWV 10 are a case in point: Bach leaves the tenor in a sea of dysfunctional harmony, when asked to sing "zerstruen" (as in "scatters" the proud); and yet, in the final recit, when the text speaks of dispersing Abramham's descendents like the sands of the ocean, and stars of the firmament, the "dispersal" or "scattering" is completely different in the music ... stunningly beautiful, and it cadences in absolute confidence.

I could cite other examples, but that's my 2 cents; the recits are great!

(And please understand, I'm not saying or implying anyone said they aren't; I'm just getting a little carried away here ...).

Oh yeah, certainly one can figure out the figures on the fly, sometimes even if they are missing, but it's odd in BWV 34:2 (Mvt. 2): at bar 3, Bach gives us a final figure of 8/3 (and then leaves 6 measures without figures). 8/3 is surely one of the most obvious and unnecessary figures, I imagine.

And Jean's probably right, whoever played continuo was probably on his own, and developing continuo realizations from context, even in the absence of figures. Certainly beyond my "real-time" ability.

 

Continue on Part 4

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

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