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Cantata BWV 36
Schwingt freudig euch empor
Cantata BWV 36a
Steigt freudig in die Luft
Cantata BWV 36b
Die Freude reget sich
Cantata BWV 36c
Schwingt freudig euch empor
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of December 2, 2001 (1st round)

Dick Wursten wrote (December 1, 2001):
BWV 36: First Sunday in Advent, Liturgical positioning / BWV36: Christmas- Weihnachten – Jul

The first Sunday of Advent is the Church's New Years Day. So: I wish every member of the BCML a happy New Year! (or with Bach’s word from BWV 61, also for the 1st Advent: a blessed new year).

Advent literally means: the coming, the arrival, the visit. The word 'Adventus' was used in biblical times for the visits of kings, emperors and other 'divine' personalities (or at least: persons who thought themselves to be divine, August... etc.). By the way: those visits were sometimes so expensive that the cities introduced special 'Advent-taxes' to pay for it.

In Christendom Advent has become the technical term for the 4 weeks before the Arrival of Jesus... The colour purple is back in church: A time of preparation it was (including: fasting). Why? Because the Adventus Christi was not just a historical Advent, but was/is supposed to be followed by another Advent... not only at the end of time, but also an arrival in the 'heart of man'.

This notion of Advent is dominant in the first Sunday of Advent. The Epistle reading (Pauls letter to the Romans 13: 11-14) makes clear that the Arrival is at hand... and that the listener should be preparing himself for his coming, which is compared with the coming of the first daylight. "Let us walk honestly, as in the day" is the ethical demand, the right preparation to make the Lord enter into the heart of the believer. In the gospel-reading this is even more clear: Here Jerusalem organizes a wonderful reception for the Lord, who is coming as a humble king to his city. Jerusalem, Sion, the daughter of Sion... always an image for the 'people of God', in Bach’s days: the community gathered around the Scriptures. The gospel-reading being finished, the lector returns to his seat, everything in church becomes silent.

Let the music begin. BWV 36.

Richard Grant wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Dick Wustern] I have a general question of only marginal relevance to the matters at hand. Is there anyone etymologically-minded out there who can tell me why what is called "Christmas" in English is called "Weiihnacht" in German?

Michael Grover wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Richard Grant] Well, you probably already know the literal translation of Weihnacht... although I'm sure Tom Braatz could render a better one -

weihen - verb, to consecrate
Nacht - noun, night
Weihnacht = Consecrated Night

Which is a pretty good description of Christmas, in my opinion.

That's as far as I'm going to put my limited knowledge out on the limb. Eagerly awaiting one of Tom's (as always) wonderfully informative posts on this subject...

Thomas Gebhardt wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Richard Grant] To your "general question":
The term "Weihnacht" ("wihenaht" or "wihenahten" in Middle High German) means no other thing than "Holy Night", a term used in German from the 12th century. But there are other terms, too, one of them resembling (etymologically) the English "Christmas", which is "Christfest" or also "Christnacht" for the Holy Evening. The nightly mass on Christmas Eve is called "Christmette" in Catholic context, which is again close to "Christmas". If you want to know more, don't hesitate to contact me again (I haven't had a closer look at etymological dictionaries to answer that...).

Best wishes for Christmas and Weihnachten,

Richard Grant wrote (December 7, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] Thanks, that was described exactly as I like questions of language to be answered.

Dick Wursten wrote (December 7, 2001):
Although Richard is already satisfied (see below), I am so stubborn as to still continue with the search for the original Christmas-Weihnachten..

The word (and the feast) of Weihnachten is often linked to the pre-christian celebrations around midwinternights, the turningpoint of the sun. (Weih-nachten (plural) rather then Weih-nacht)... with huge fires and lots of food around the evergreen tree and shouting (in Dutch: joelen) In the scandinavian language: 'Jul'.. appears to have the same pre-christian asscociations.. But perhaps there is a Scandinavian member of this group who can shed some light on this issue..

Jane Newble wrote (December 7, 2001):
There used to be a 'joelblok' too - originally a whole tree, later a log, which was burnt during the 'joelfeest'. The ashes were kept, as they were supposed to have fertilising powers, and as a protection against lightning.

The origin of the word 'joel' is not certain. It is possibly connected with the old-Saxen wotd for wheel "hweol", but it is much more likely just to mean the obvious: "shouting". The Gothic name for December used to be 'juleiss', the month of celebrating and festivals.

If you want to read a very entertaining book about the real origin of christmas etc. complete with all the pagan celebrations etc. it is by Tonny van Renterghem. I only have the Dutch version, but it was originally (1995) published as "When Santa was a Shaman, The Ancient Origins of Santa Claus and the Christmas Tree." (St. Nicholas is thrown in for good measure.) You'll find all your questions answered in this book! And some fond ideas of christmas as a Christian festival shattered in the process!

Michael Grover wrote (December 7, 2001):
[To Jane Newble] Joel = has obviously come down to us in English as yule. Joelblok must be the same as Yule log.

Dick Wursten wrote (December 3, 2001):
BWV 60 / 36 Es ist niemals genug, I can get no satisfaction

I want to thank Thomas Braatz for his extensive excursion into the field of liturgy and (changed) spirituality. Many things he says invoke (provoke?) a reaction. I will start with some minor details and when time comes (but it never comes, it always flies away) I want to dig a little deeper in some serious and profoudn statements of his.

About the change in the Church-Year. From 'Totensonntag' to the sunday of 'Christ-king'... (for the Dutch speaking: In Flanders they dare to write: Kristus-Koning, my bakery on the corner is called that way... very special bread.). This is a very beautiful topic. Originally the monks from Cluny (around 1000) thought it good to introduce All-saints day and All-souls day (1 & 2 november), to commemorate the exeplaric death of the saints and to stimulate the prayer for the dead (and of course to stimulate the 'meditatio vitae futurae', which will follow your own dead and to take precautions). You can evaluate this positively... Spiritual improvement. From a more historic-materialistic point of view it also was a means of getting a better gripp on the souls of men. When I'm cynical I say: That is a way of better exploiting the fear-of-death of men, his fundamental anxiety [Angst]. Power and influence... binding the people to your way-out of the fear by first increasing the fear and then offer the solution... More masses, more prayer, more funds, more donations etc....

This religion around death and the dead, appeared to have been one of the most successfull ideas of the Cluny-monks. Men around 1000 in Western Europe were still half - heathen, the veneration of the ancestors had hardly been changed in veneration of the saints (their relics were the most powerfull weapons and valuable possessions).

It was not by accident, that Luther started his protest against the 'Ablass' (I dont know the English word) on the eve of All-Saintsday. That was the 'Sales' periode of the Ablasse... big business...

In the next years the fight against the 'Roman superstitions' also included the battle against all kinds of rituals &cetera around the dead: The abolition of All Saints Day and All Souls Day ! (In the calvinist tradition, which is always a little sharper on these points, the funeral in itself became non-liturgical matter. Prayers had tobe said at home and the funeral itself was family business. No church-service at all. How tough those kind of tradition are: In the Dutch Reformed Churches the Book of Prayer from 1951 only gives in the appendix some tips for prayers and Lectiones around the burial)

In stead in the protestant tradition the last day of the Year became the day on which the names of the dead were commemorated. I suppose from what Thomas Braatz writes, that in the Lutheran tradition this was also the case, but more liturgically correct: on the last sunday of the Church Year, which nowadays also is mainstream in calvinist churches.

There is congruention in the different church-traditions today, that the last sundays of the church year, starting from All Saintsday best should be considered - liturgically & spiritually - as sundays of the 'last things', the last sunday automatically becoming the crown on the job: Sunday of Completion, Fullfillment (Vollendung).

This is in line with the Lutheran tradition as I find it in the Readings for the last sundays of the churchyear: The parables of preparation, the coming of the Son of man etc...

Now the most interesting point is: How do you prepare yourself - as a believer - for 'the last things'... the essentials, fundamentals, life & death. Here the tradition has changed enormously...

In Bach’s days the 'mediation of your own death' is central... not meant negatively, but in order to 'cling unto Christ' and go with him into eternal life... 'Ich wunschte mir den Tod, wenn du mein Jesu mich nich liebtest' In our days the accent has shifted, spirituality has changed... better now (many say); worse (so Thomas Braatz says).... something essential is lost. I agree. Death often is 'under-estimated'.

But have to go now... to a burial.

Ricahrd Grant wrote (December 4, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] Dick, you used the word "exeplaric" in this or one of your other communications. Was that a typo?

Dick Wursten wrote (December 5, 2001):
[To Richard Grant] exeplaric should have been exemplaric (a meaningful word in Dutch anyway: as an example).

Richard Grant wrote (December 5, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] Thanks. In English we should probably say "exemplary", meaning a particularly good example of a thing, at least that's become its usage in modern times.

Dick Wursten wrote (December 4, 2001):
BWV 36 - Lutheran hymns for Advent / BWV 36 - Lutheran hymn: Christum wir sollen loben schon

Some small remarks:

The hymns for Advent, sung in church (on which Thomas Braatz wrote some interesting lines) are often based on very old material.

1. 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland', which is the most prominent of them all is Luther's 'Verdeutschung' of the old church hymn: 'Veni redemptor gentium' of Ambrosius. Both the literary and musical achievement of Luther /Walther in transforming the gregorian hymn to a 'modern' song can hardly be underestimated. Here the Lutheran tradition is fully catholic.

2. Another hymn Thomas Braatz mentioned "O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf" is not only completely in the catholic thradition, it is also from the roman-cathlic tradition. The 4th Advent Sunday is called: Rogate, because the antiphone of that sunday is: the prophecy-prayer of Isaiah: 45, 8: Rogate coeli... (Dew down, heavens) Combined with the prayer elsehwere in Isaiah: 64:1: "Oh, Lord, that thou tearest the heavens and came down" is the 'trick' of this hymn. It clearly is a hymn for the 4th sunday of Advent...

Both hymns are 'adventical' because they appeal to God, redeemer of all people, to come down.

3. In the history of Advent during the Middle-ages Mary (Myriam) gets an ever more prominent place in Advent, she being venerated as the 'mother of Jesus' (since the council of Ephesus in the 5th century = mother of God, how blasphemous this must sound to Jews and muslims..). As Luther always did, he also did here: He tried to save as much as possible of the old traditions by not abandoning them totally, but by redirecting them... 'Christlich gebessert' [improved so that they are 'christian' again] is his slogan. The liturgy of the HOLY MASS he did not abandon, but purify. The catholic hymns were 'revised'. The Maria-hymns, which were very popular he also tried to 'redirect' towards Christ himself (or towards the 'religious community': Mary = the Church). Sometimes succesfull, sometimes not. In this tradition songs like 'Es ist ein Ros entsprungen', 'Es kommt ein Schiff geladen' are creatively remade. ('Es ist ein Ros entsprungen' = Mary becomes 'Es ist ein Reis entsprungen' > Reis = a little branch, cf Isaiah 11:1)

4. Combine 3 with 2 and you can understand how 'Rogate coeli' (Dew from heaven, drop down and fill the opened earth') was connected with the 'conception of Jesus' and still was able te get his place also in the Lutheran tradition.

Enough for tonight.

Santu de Silva wrote (December 4, 2001):
Can anyone report on the history of the hymn "Christum wir sollen loben schon" which I first heard on Paul McCreesh's Schütz Vespers? I think it was featured in at least one Bach Cantata (or was it the Oratorio?)

P.S. I wonder whose harmony was used on the Paul McCreesh / Gabrielli Consort disk?

Dick Wursten wrote (December 5, 2001):
[To Santu De Silva] You probably mean Paul McCreesh: PRAETORIUS Christmas vesper. The harmonisation is (says my CD leaflet) from Lucas Osiander....

"Christum wir sollen loben schon" is one of Luther's first translations (appeared in the Enchiridion of 1524).

And since you asked, this is one of my favorites too... The hymn is originally a latin hymn of Sedulius (around 450) in which the whole story of Christ is told (from the cradle to the grave and afterwards). To read the whole text gives a very good insight in how in the MiddleAges people lived and thought of their faith. The most interesting part is that the Latin hymn has 23 verses, every verse starting with the next 'letter' (or should I say character?) of the ALPHABETH.. A so called 'abecedarium'... The verses A - G are very suitable for christmas and H - N comprise all stories related to epiphany... In the Lutheran hymnbook from 1524 it is hymn nr. 2 (nr. 1 = Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland) and Luther translated only the Christmas part... So it became a christmas song.

The melody has a long tradition and there are all kinds of versions.
The Lutheran hymnal gives a simplified melody.
The hymn 'Hostis Herodes impie' is derived from this hymn...

Santu De Silva wrote (December 4, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] Thanks for all the information!

(It indeed was the Schütz vespers; the music in the compilation was not all Schutz. It was intended to represent an entire Christmas Eve celebration at the Dresden court.)

Dick Wursten wrote (December 5, 2001):
BWV 36 No concert-music during Advent? / BWV 35 Advent - Lent

Thomas Braatz already touched the subject.

During Advent there are no cantatas during the service. He suggested, if I remember well, that the few cantatas that exist for Advent were performed after the ending of the service.

The first Advent though seems to be the exception.

source of the next: CHR. WOLFF: Johann Sebastian Bach (Dutch Transl. The Learned Musician)

BWV 61: 1723
BWV 62: 1724
BWV 36 (first version between 1726-1730, second version 1731)

On BWV 61 Bach noted the scheme of the service

prelude for Kyrie in the style of a concert
intonation for the Altar
Prelude to and singing of a hymn
reading from the bible
prelude to and performance of the 'Haupt-music'
singing of the Creed (Wir glauben all an einen Gott..)
hymnsinging (alternatim)
prelude to and performance of other concert-like music
prelude - singing of hymns - communion etc.... etc..

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 6, ):
Dick Wursten stated:
< Thomas Braatz already touched the subject. During Advent there are no cantatas during the service. He suggested, if I remember well, that the few cantatas that exist for Advent were performed after the ending of the service. The first Advent though seems to be the exception. >
Correction: "before and after the main service(s)--more clearly stated: "performed during (in the middle, if you will) of church services that were not considered to be the main services such as the 9:00 and 11:00 am services" I had wanted to point out the position of the cantata BWV 61 placed in the very earliest and the latest timeslots available so as to avoid a conflict with the "Quiet-rule" that existed in Leipzig.

In the English translation of Wolff's Bach biography: The Learned Musician on p. 265, he indicates the Christmas performance schedule for 1723-1724 in Leipzig. As I pointed out the main services were 'quiet' (without concerted music). BWV 61 was the only Advent cantata performed on the 1st Sunday of Advent. After that -- NOTHING until Christmas Day. To emphasize even more the stress upon not having concerted music, Bach was allowed to perform the cantata only at a less important church or at the main church at an uncommon time. (Perhaps Bach reached a sort of compromise, so that he could at least perform this cantata which he had previously composed before coming to Leipzig?) Certainly, you would agree that the Vespers service at 1:30 in the afternoon is not one of the main services. You seem to imply that this cantata was performed in the middle of the main services at St. Thomas Church. I do not see that in my translation of Wolff. The other early service at the St. Nicholas Church (one of the lesser churches in Leipzig) was at 7:00 am, also not one of the main services at that church. My guess is that these services were not as well attended as the main services, and perhaps the warm-up rehearsal at St. Nicholas Church, the less important church, with not too many important people listening at 7:00 am in the morning was a good opportunity to fine-tune (make a few corrections in the score and the parts - there is ample evidence of that) while at the same time allowed for sufficient time for the choir and orchestra to assemble later at the St. Thomas Church after lunch.

Dick Wursten wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] I think we refer to the same passage in Wolffs book... The schedule is the list on the manuscript of BWV 61 (p. 284 of the Dutch edition in the paragraph entitled: The cantata as musical sermon)

But you confused me this time on a different point. (and here we disagree)

I am almost sure that in Leipzig there were only TWO services on sunday. Bach performed either in STthomas or in STNicholas... on the great feasts in both.

The first service, i.e.: on sunday morning started at 7.00 a.m and the cantata was performed on 7.30 am.. This is not a early rehearsal or warming up. This IS as far as I know THE performance. Don’t forget: the service lasted about 3 hours, 31/2 (The sermon was very long, and communion was sub utraque specie, that is both bread and wine for all believers.. So it ended around 10.00 am. 10.30)

The SECOND service was in the afternoon, started at 13.30 h... This was called the 'Mittags-Predigt' or Vesper. This one didnot last so long..

IN my edition of WOLFFs book the scheme of a vesper is TABLE 8.4 the scheme of a MORNING service TABLE 8.3

conclusion: on the first sunday of ADVENT Bach performed his cantata BWV 61 at the normal place in the main service.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] Here is what Philipp Spitta says about the church services in the Leipzig churches:

The 1st church service (Mass) in the Nikolai Church began at 5:30 am and lasted until 11:00 am (sometimes a little shorter if there were fewer communion takers!) The sermon lasted one hour from 8 to 9 o'clock. There was a sandclock (hour glass) on/in the organ balcony (for whose benefit? the pastor's or the organist's?) [The repair of the hour glass was among the bills submitted for the St. Thomas Church 1739-1740.] I wonder if someone knocked it down in exasperation, hoping perhaps that the pastor would then be forced to end his sermon early?

There was a "Mittagsgottesdienst", a noon service that began at 11:45 am. and at 1:15 pm the Vespers began. So there was another service sandwiched in between the other two, but it was an abbreviated one.

During Lent even the organ was not played [can we not infer from this statement, that Advent which was also a quiet period, with the exclusion of Advent Sunday, would be treated similarly?]

Spitta indicates that on special Church holidays (such as Advent Sunday which was special or the 1st Day of Christmas) the 1st service at St. Nicholai was the primary cantata performance under Bach's personal direction with the best singers and instrumentalists that he could muster. On the 2nd Feast Day (2nd Day of Christmas, but not Advent) the situation would be reversed with the St. Thomas Church having the best performers, and on the 3rd Feast Day the cantata would be performed only once in either one or the other of the main churches, but not twice.

When did Bach rehearse with his best choir and instrumentalists? Spitta thinks it happened after one of the 4 weekly services (Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday - Spitta comments that Leipzig had a 'very rich' church experience, no understatement here!) On Saturdays at 2:00 pm there was a "Beichtgottesdienst" ('Repentance Service') after which the choir and instrumentalists who also participated in the service began their main rehearsal for Sunday while the congregation was engaged in silent thoughts in preparation for communion on the next day (you could not participate on Sunday in the Mass with Communion if you did not attend the Saturday afternoon service.)

Dick Wursten wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] How trustworthy is Spitta compared with the information that is digged up by Dürr, Wolff etc... ? Because there is a difference.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] The difference is primarily one of their relative position in history. If you mean to imply that Spitta was a more careless scholar than Dürr or Wolff, then I would beg to differ at this time in this assessment of Spitta's work. The advantage that Dürr and Wolff have is due in part to the continuing scholarship built upon the shoulders of such Bach scholars as Spitta. This is an advantage based also upon the more recently developed expertise in assigning the dates to and determining the authenticity of the Bach scores that have come down to us. Based on this type of new information, a number of the educated guesses that Spitta had put forth, have had to be completely revised and corrected, but other basic information, such as that about the quiet times in the churches of Leipzig, were also available to Spitta and needed no special handwriting nor paper water-mark expert to interpret, and unless there was a recent discovery of hitherto unavailable documents, I see no reason to dispute his claims. Hence, if you can point to a reference in the Bach Jahrbuch or in the works published by Dürr and Wolff, that differs substantially from that which Spitta indicated, I would like to know about this. If Wolff discovered a document in a library in Russia, a document that no one previously knew about and which specified the schedule and content of the services during Bach's tenure, then, of course, I would also like to know about this so that I can determine for myself if Spitta was 'making up' information, referring to actual sources (he lists them and has footnotes) that do not exist or have a disputed validity. It is very importato me to uncover fraud of this type, because my reliance on works that have engaged in these unsavory practices will cease as soon as this is proven to my satisfaction. There may even be a book-burning in my back yard.

Another way to view this question of trustworthiness is to consider the case of Nicholas Harnoncourt, the recent musicologist who purports to know what Bach's performance style was. Is his more recent discovery, recent in terms of knowledge about the performance practices of the Bach cantatas, more valid because it is closer to our time, or could it be possible that his 'research' is quite faulty indeed, hence untrustworthy, and this despite the fact that he had access to historical sources more quickly and in greater quantity than those who may have pursued this subject before he did. Perhaps Harnoncourt's view and apparent level of scholarship was based upon allowing for greater carelessness in matters of scholarship than existed for those scholars that preceded him. Perhaps the overabundance of information led to some 'bad' decisions on his part as he had to decide between all the evidence that presented itself, some of it contradictory and other parts not even directly related to Bach's time and performance practices.

The point that I am trying to make is that even recent scholarship can be called into question. Rather than simply questioning a scholar's trustworthiness because he happens to represent an earlier period in Bach scholarship, would it not be preferable to point to specific sources and attempt to resolve the issue in this manner? I am just as interested as you are in finding a trustworthy source. In the case of Harnoncourt, my faith in his recent attempt to revolutionize the performance of the Bach cantatas has been thoroughly shaken. Perhaps this will happen with Spitta as well, if you can provide the information that will want to make me move in that direction.

Dick Wursten wrote (December 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Sorry Thomas,
I did not want to discredite Philipp Spitta. On the contrary I read somewhere on the internet: Philipp Spitta deserves a statue.. I agree. Only on historical factual level (= not musical) there is progress. We are dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants... (a Middle-Age – philospoher once said) That means we can see further in all modesty.

These are facts:
1. the description of the service on First Advent 1723 is a source. The reference: BD I, nr.178; NBR, nr. 113
2. This is not a Early service, this is the Hauptgottesdienst with a complete cantata and other 'concertant' music.

Chr. Wolff - in the mentioned paragraph of his book - mostly refers to work of Petzold in WBK 3 (p. 88 among others) for liturgical orders and to many contemporary 'Kirchenordnungen' (Kirchenbuch & Agenda). He also mentions the Leipziger Editionen of this kind of works. (Leipziger Kirchen-Andachten, Leipziger Kirchen-Staat).

I suppose (I'm only an amateur, esp. of old books: So Thomas if you want to get rid of your old books, don't burn them in your backyard, but send them to me) that Wolffs tables about the TWO main services are based on lots of serious investigation (acta et facta). His publications and books give the impression that he really is a trustworthy man in the Bach-Forschung as far as it is on a historical / sociological level. Musically I don't know him. The fact that he cooperates with Ton Koopman makes me fear... Albert Schweitzer - though on many points outdated - was a monumental musician and his remarks are still worthwhile. And so there are many others, long dead, who could teach us a lot in the area of 'appreciating Bach’s music'.

Time to prepare the sermon for the 2nd advent... A small piece of Bach will be performed after I have said 'amen'... ... concerted music in Advent.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 8, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] The acta et facta are very interesting the way Wolff presents them, and this causes me some concern.

You stated:
< These are facts:
1. the description of the service on First Advent 1723 is a source. The reference: BD I, nr.178; NBR, nr. 113
2. This is not a Early service, this is the Hauptgottesdienst with a complete cantata and other 'concertant' music. >

1. The English original edition of Wolff's "The Learned Musician" gives only one source for the service on the First of Advent 1723. Footnote 41 indicates only NBR nr. 113. This I find rather self-serving on Wolff's part. It turns out that NBR = "The New Bach Reader" is also under the editorship of Wolff. So this means that an English-speaking individual would have to buy his book, "The New Bach Reader" in order to find out the actual source of this handwritten document by Bach. In his Preface to "The Learned Musician" p. xv, Wolff indicates that this book ["The New Bach Reader"] contains new materials (discovered by Wolff in Kiev, Ukraine recently), but he adds that the effects of this discovery on understanding Bach are minimal, because most of these materials are more concerned with members of the family other than Bach, particularly CPE Bach. So why should anyone seriously interested in J.S.Bach be forced to purchase or locate a copy of "The New Bach Reader" in order to determine the actual source of this key J.S.Bach document? Certainly, they should not have to buy a copy of "The Learned Musician" in Dutch or German so as to find the other source that you found in your Dutch translation.

Rather than engaging in this rather roundabout, time-wasting search for a simple reference, would it not have behooved Wolff to indicate the most reliable source (which in this case is not his, since errors will easily creep into the process that leads from one source, "The Learned Musician" on a detour to another source, "The New Bach Reader," the purchase of which will benefit Wolff's pocket, and another source, which you mention, "Bach-Dokumente" that happens to be, in my estimation, more reliable than a second-hand reprinting by Wolff.) Better yet, Wolff should have pointed out to the reader that the facsimile of this document is contained in the NBA I/1 p. VI. with the proper attribution, its actual location: Deutsche Staatsbibliothek Berlin, Mus. ms. Bach P 45, fol.1. Would this have involved too much effort on Wolff's part to include in his footnote? Dürr has reprinted this facsimile in his book "Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Kantaten" on p. 41. It was also given as a facsimile in BG 44, Bl. 5; Wolfrum I, after p. 74; Terry's "Bach Cantata Texts after p. 32. There is a text representation in Bitter I, p. 176. Why do we (in the English-speaking world) have to buy the NBR to find out the actual source and its location?

Dick, do not allow yourself to be carried away by Wolff's presentation of facts, in particular, the manner in which he establishes his references. I still admire Wolff's work as a whole and derive bits and pieces of valuable information from his biography, but this little exercise does uncover what is beneath the surface. It should also help you to gain a perspective that does not allow you to think, "Isn't this great? Wolff has uncovered this specific document that explains exactly what Bach did during the early morning church service (at St. Nicholai and not at St. Thomas, as we found out!)" Now we can see that many other scholars, including Spitta, had access to the same document. It is only Wolff, in his English original version of the Bach biography, who engages in some obfuscation by not including the evident sources that I had to spend time searching for.

Scholarship is important to me, but let's try to refocus our attention on the music. Let's assume (a dangerous assumption, I know) that most of the information that we post is reasonably reliable in the main sources that we are using, or does it really bother you that Spitta found that St. Thomas Church in Leipzig had 3 services on a normal Sunday during Bach's tenure there? I have learned from this discussion as well, in this regard this discussion was fruitful. If you read my responses carefully, and I quoted both Spitta and Wolff on this point: It is agreed that the early servicebegan very early and lasted many hours. This service at St. Nicolai is where Bach gave his main performance of the cantata, after it had been rehearsed at the end of the Penance-Service on Saturday afternoon. The second performance of the cantata took place at the Vespers-Service at St. Thomas in the early afternoon, and did not necessarily have all the best singers and instrumentalists on hand. If you find any documents that contradict this information, post it to the list with a 'real' source.
Oh, BTW, I just read in Wolff's biography on p. 254 that Wolff, trying to use English to explain the quiet period, calls Advent "Lent." He speaks of the "two Lenten" periods. The first period between the 1st of Advent and Christmas is called "Lent." I have lived in the USA all of my life, and have yet to hear this word applied this way. One never stops learning! My Lutheran church experience has deprived me of understanding the true importance of Lent in the weeks before Christmas. Only a person truly immersed in Lutheran church history might be able to answer the question, why Wolff refers to Advent with this term. I wonder if Bach would have understood "Lent" this way? Another investigation is in order!

Paul Farseth wrote (December 8, 2001):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< One never stops learning! My Lutheran church experience has deprived me of understanding the true importance of Lent in the weeks before Christmas. Only a person truly immersed in Lutheran church history might be able to answer the question, why Wolff refers to Advent with this term. I wonder if Bach would have understood "Lent" this way? Another investigation is in order! >
Well...the view of Advent as the "little Lent" isn't particularly new. It was known at least among the Scandinavian immigrants in the U.S. The liturgical color back when I was younger was purple/violet for repentence, and the lectionary readings from the Bible had to do with repentence and the Last Judgment.

Richard Grant's posting on Dec. 6 to this mailing list is a nice treatment of the topic.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 8, 2001):
Paul Farseth stated:
< Well...the view of Advent as the "little Lent" isn't particularly new. It as known at least among the Scandinavian immigrants in the U.S. The liturgical color back when I was younger was purple/violet for repentence, and the lectionary readings from the Bible had to do with repentence and the Last Judgment. >
Yes, I remember the purple/violet for repentence (even the huge Advent candles were purple! ughh!), but I never heard the word Lent used in reference to Advent. The Lutheran churches that I attended were all based on the German Lutheran traditions. Does anyone else know about the Lutheran tradition in Germany, particularly in a historical sense pertaining to the time of Bach?

Skeat's Dictionary of English Etymology (unfortunately all my German etymological dictionaries are packed away where I can not find them easily) indicates Lent as meaning the fast of 40 days, beginning with Ash-Wednesday, "The fast is in spring-time; the old sense is simply spring." This is where German has the word 'Lenz' referring to springtime or to the prime of life. Dutch has 'lente' = spring, and Old High German has 'lenzin' = spring; and Anglo-Saxon has 'lencten' = spring. The association of 'lent' with 'spring' seems rather clear to me. So far I can accept the words 'quiet time' for Advent, but I still see no reason why Wolff should call 'Advent' 'Lent.' Germans, however, do not use this word base in referring to Lent; they call it "Fastenzeit," which makes clear the association that Skeat pointed out: "The fast is in spring-time."

I just checked the Oxford English Dictionary before sending this off:

"The ecclesiastical sense is peculiar to English; in other Teutonic languages, the only sense is spring. Lent is the shortened form."

Was Christoph Wolff simply not aware of this difference, when he tried to call 'Advent' 'Lent?' But perhaps the blame for this lies with Susan Gaustad at W. W. Norton, who, according to Wolff, engaged in 'vigilant copyediting' when reading through his manuscript for "The Learned Scholar?

Dick Wursten wrote (December 8, 2001):
I missed part of the discussion (email is not a trustworthy means of communication i guess. simply did not receive any mail from you for 1 ½ day..)... Luckily, happily Aryeh already placed it on the website. So I could read and learn a lot.

Thomas, thank for your scrutiny in matters of scholarship. By the way: Dürr also mentions the 'order of service list' on BWV 61. Het also claims the same list is on BWV 62 (Die Kantaten, p 102) But I 'm again confused. I thought (but i m not a scholar) that normally Bach performed a cantata in ONE Hauptkirche (either Thomas or Nicolai). The next sunday he was in the OTHER one. The second choir performed a different programma in the other church... (motet). I think the source for this is again Wolff & Dürr. Only on the great Feasts there were two performances per day...
Or am I misguided again ?

I also noticed on the bachcantatawebsite an interesting follow up of the discussion about Advent, fasting and Lent (I also was not sure whether the word Lent could be used for fasting during Advent too). By sheer coincidence I prepared something on this subject too. Here it comes, esp on the parallellism of Advent & Lent.

Advent originally was the 'time of preparation' for the celebration of the coming of God (in persona Christi), which was celebrated not at 25 December, but on 6 January. This date still is Christmas in the East (The date of 25 December was fixed later by pope Julius I to christianize the very popular celebration of 'sol invictus', it is Christmas of the West)

A proper duration for a time of preparation: 40 days. Proper preparation according to the religious leaders of those days (almost unisono in all religions) was: praying and fasting. This means that the from 11 November to 5 January there was a period of Fasting. (A clever mathematician would say: this is far over 40 days, of course, but you have to subtract the Saturdays and sundays, on which there was no fasting.The same happens with Lent: Sexagesima and Septuagesima are extensions of the periode of 40 days in order to reach the full sum of 40 real fasting-days.

The parallellism (?) between both periods of fasting goes even further. Epiphany (6 January) also was the second possibility to get baptized as Easter was the first. (at least in the churhces of the East).

Now the fact that in the Lectionaria there is a great similarity in themes between the last sundays of the Church Year and the sundays of Advent (as already noticed by Thomas Braatz, some time ago) becomes more understandable. One theme unites them: Be ready is the message, Prepare yourself for the meeting with the Lord. Only gradually Advent (as the abiding of the coming of the Lord Jesus AS A CHILD) emancipates out of this general period of fasting, until it generally looses its 'fasting'-character at all. Whether the Feast of the Epiphany of Christ (or Christmas) is deepened by this transformation is another question.

The fact that in Germany in Weimar there was full-score music in church during Advent and in Leipzig - apparently - only on the first Sunday of advent (to celebrate New Yearsday?) is an interesting example of how historical evolutions don't take place on the same time at every place, but that different stages of one evolution can be observed simultaneously.

Andrew Oliver wrote (December 8, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] Just one additional comment here; the reason why the words Tom quotes are applied to springtime is shown by the archaic form of the Old English 'lencten'. It means 'the lengthening of days', hence Spring. This rules out applying the term to Advent, except by reference solely to its ecclesiastical meaning in English.

Rev. Robert A. Lawson wrote (December 9, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] I've enjoyed your comments very much. Thank you.

There is another theory about the date of Christmas (Dec. 25). I don't know where it originates, but like it. Supposedly the ancients believed that the date of a person's death coincides with the date of their conception. Since the date of Jesus death is associated with the Jewish Passover, the Festival of the Annunciation was set very early as March 25. Having established March 25 as the date of Jesus' conception, Christmas would then be celebrated -- you guessed it, December 25. It is also interesting that Christians (also Lutherans) celebrate the Nativity of St. John the Baptist on June 24. The summer solstice is June 22. From then on the days get shorter and shorter until the winter solstice, December 22, at which time they begin to get longer. John said, "He must increase, but I must decrease" (Jn 3:30). Interesting how picturesque and full of imagery the Church year is, and how much it teaches.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 9, 2001):
Dick Wursten asks:
< Only on the great Feasts there were two performances per day...Or am I misguided again ? >
I have not determined if this was true ONLY on special church holidays. What I did find, I reported on earlier:

Spitta indicates that on special Church holidays (such as Advent Sunday which was special or the 1st Day of Christmas) the 1st service at St. Nicholai was the primary cantata performance under Bach's personal direction with the best singers and instrumentalists that he could muster. On the 2nd Feast Day (2nd Day of Christmas, but not Advent) the situation would be reversed with the St. Thomas Church having the best performers, and on the 3rd Feast Day the cantata would be performed only once in either one or the other of the main churches, but not twice.

< Dick also stated: The fact that in Germany in Weimar there was full-score music in church during Advent and in Leipzig - apparently - only on the first Sunday of advent (to celebrate New Yearsday?)... >
Your comment has given me a possible answer to what puzzled me about BWV 36 in its original form as a birthday cantata and its parody for the 1st Sunday of Advent. It simply did not seem appropriate for Bach to utilize the birthday concept as applying to Jesus' birth, "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" when the time established by the church was still weeks away. Now , with your question about celebrating New Years Day, it makes more sense to me. Bach is celebrating the birth of the church year, and by removing the original recitatives and overlaying the cantata with Luther's hymn in a minor key, he has preserved the true feeling of Advent and has not preempted the actual celebration of Christmas with overly joyful music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 9, 2001):
This afternoon I heard Richard Gladwell's program on WFMT "With Heart and Voice" in which he tried to explain Advent as "Winter Lent" with a roundabout explanation about how the necessary fasting period from St. Martin's Day until Christmas was shortened to only the four weeks of Advent at some early point in church history. Then I checked once again with the OED and found some rather obscure references (word meaning designated as obsolete in the English language) that do not confirm Gladwell's statement that there was a shortening of the Martinmas fast so that all that was left of it were the 4 weeks of Advent:

The OED gives the use of this word as referring simply to a period of fasting, a meaning that is now obsolete.

c. 1380 Wyclif "Eng. Wks." Tho holy lenten that bygynneth fro the twelthe day of cristemasse to the fulle fourti daies.
[This quote establishes that there was no 'shortening' of the fast period as Gladwell implied. Also the fast began on the 12th day of Christmas!]

c. 1653 Greaves "Seraglio" The Ramazan [probably Ramadan] being ended, which is their day lent.
[Now we are getting close to the time prior to Christmas, but it seems to be the wrong religion.]

c. 1780 Lady M.W.Montagu "Let to C'tess" Their lents...are at least seven months in every year.

c. 1727-41 Chambers "Cycl." The antient Latin monks had three Lents: the grand Lent before Easter, another before Christmas, called the Lent of S. Martin, and a third after Whit-sunday, called the Lent of S. John Baptist each of which consisted of forty days.
[No shortening of the fast period indicated here. St. Martins or Martinmas began on the 11th of November.]

I still fail to see how an English-speaking person would properly understand Advent=Lent even with Gladwell's attempt to explain a connection.
The OED lists practically all word phrases but "Winter Lent" does not appear in this truly comprehensive dictionary. If this combination exists anywhere in the English language past or present except perhaps in the mind of some episcopalian prelate in the Anglican Church, it would be in the OED. Hence it would appear that, in England at least, nothing has been documented to make any firm connection between Advent and Lent.

Roy Reed wrote (December 10, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] What connects Advent with Lent is repentance and fasting.....not in high fashion these days. We know already that by the late 4th century, in at least part of the Latin church, that a time of fasting preceded the Christmas feast. Cf. "Liturgical Practice in the Fathers" (Ed. T K. carroll and T. P Halton, (1988) p. 321. Also secondary sources, "Waiting for the Coming," J. N. Alexander (1993) and "The Origins of the Christian Year," T. J. Talley (1986) among others. Advent and Lent begin as mirrors of one another. After all, Jesus is coming and he is not happy. Judgment Day!! And there is John the Baptist standing in the middle of the road to Bethlehem. We have little trouble getting around him. In another time we did and Advent like Lent was a penitential time. It didn't get purple for no reason.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 5, 2001):

The subject of this week's discussion (December 2, 2001) is Cantata BWV 36, according to Michael Grover's proposed list. No other cantata in Bach's total production was borrowed from by him more than this one. There are three secular versions and two sacred ones. The music set to three versions has survived. These versions are:
Sacred Cantata BWV 36 Schwingt freudig euch empor, for the 1st Sunday in Advent;
Secular Cantata BWV 36b Die Freude reget sich, in homage of Johann Florens Rivinius, on his appointment to the Rectorship of Leipzig University for;
Secular Cantata BWV 36c Schwingt freudig euch empor, for the Birthday of Johann Matthias Gesner.

Although it has not been proposed to us by Michael Grover, I suggest to discuss next week all the three versions together. In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled lists of the recordings of the three survived versions of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following pages of the Bach Cantatas Website:
BWV 36 -
BWV 36b -
BWV 36c -

There is also a link to the page of Cantata BWV 36 from the Home Page of the Bach Cantatas Website (in the middle of the right side). There are links to all three versions from the page 'Cantatas - Index to Recordings & Discussions': There are also inter-links between the pages of the three versions.

With so many versions and recordings it is unavoidable that most of the members in the BCML have at least one recording of this cantata. I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.


Some historical background is needed in this case to understand the circumstances to its having so many versions. Nicholas Anderson describes briefly this background in ‘Oxford Composer Companion’:

“Cantata BWV 36, which is known in five different versions, of whithree are secular and two are sacred. The complex history of the work is perhaps indicative of Bach’s own high regard for it. The earliest version, Schwingt freudig euch empor BWV 36c, was written in 1725 to a text probably by Picander, and performed as a birthday tribute to a Leipzig academic. His identity has not been confirmed, but the Bach Scholar Werner Neumann suggested that the recipient night have been Johann Burckhard Mencke (1675-1732), a professor at the university who celebrated his 50th birthday that year.

In 1726 Bach revived the piece for the birthday of Princess Charlotte Friederike Wilhelmine of Anhalt-Cöthen (1702-1785), the second wife of Prince Leopold. Once again the text was by Picander, Steigt freudig in die Luft (‘Rise joyfully into the air’) BWV 36a; the text was published the following year in Picander’s Ernst-Scherzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte.

Almost ten years later, in 1735, Bach performed the music a third time, on this occasion as a birthday offering to the Leipzig University professor Johann Florens Rivinius (1681-1755). The text was again rewritten, perhaps by Picander, this time as Die Freude reget sich (‘Joy rouses itself’) BWV36b.

Meanwhile, some time between 1726 and 1730 Bach had prepared from some of this existing material a cantata for Advent Sunday, BWV 36 (1). While retaining the title of the original, the text was adapted by an unidentified hand and cast into five numbers.

Evidently the result was not entirely satisfactory to Bach for, in 1731, he expanded the work and made several major structural changes. The most important of these were the addition of three chorale arrangements of Luther’s celebrated Advent Hymn Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (1524) and the division of the cantata into two parts. Bach, however retained the concluding chorale of the earlier Advent cantata, the last strophe of Philipp Nicolai’s hymn Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (1599), but he set instead the previous strophe and used it to round off part 1 of the new work. In this highly effective revised form BWV 36 (2), consisting of eight sections as opposed to the earlier five, it was performed on Advent Sunday (December 2) 1731.

Each of these two sacred parodies has in common its opening chorus and its three arias, all of which are to be found in the earlier secular version; but, as so often with Bach, the music of the 1731 revision was subjected afresh to close scrutiny and improved upon in many details. Its alternating pattern of aria and chorale is unique among the cantatas.”

Background - The Chorales

After several listenings to this cantata in all its three versions, I found the four settings of the chorales in the second sacred version of this cantata as the most entrancing. The first (Mvt. 2) is a duet for Soprano and Alto; the second (Mvt. 4) is set to all four voices of the choir; the third (Mvt. 6) - for solo Tenor; and the last (Mvt. 8) – again to all four voices. As a background for the review of the recordings of these chorales I shall quote this time from the books of both Robertson and Young:

Mvt. 2 Choral (Duet for Soprano and Alto)
Robertson: “The chorale as in Cantatas BWV 61 and BWV 62, Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, is begun, after a general introductory bar, by the alto, and takes up a fourth higher by the soprano. After her first bar the two voices continue independently, echoing one another here and there. It is a lovely setting, dwelling tenderly on the Virgin Mary; then on ‘the wonder of all the earth’, the birth of Christ.”
Young: “The two voices present a moving scene of the wonder shown as Christ’s birth. The mystical fervour in their voices is enchanted by the oboes d’amore and the organ continuo.”

Mvt. 4 Chorale (SATB)
Robertson: “Verse 6 of Philipp Nicolai’s hymn ‘Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern’ (1599) with its melody greets the coming of the heavenly bridegroom.”
Young: “The chorale continues the thought of Christ being bridegroom, whose coming they are celebrating in this song of joy. Its straightforward four-part delivery makes a suitable conclusion to part I.“

Mvt. 6 Chorale (Tenor)
Robertson: “This is the 6th verse of Luther’s hymn sung by the solo tenor in long notes.”
Young: “The oboes d’amore replace the strings in this number. The text praises Christ for His coming in the flesh to preserve our weak flesh.”

Mvt. 8 Chorale (SATB)
Robertson: “The 8th and last verse of Luther’s hymn”.
Young: “This chorale has the same voices and instruments as in Mvt. 4. It is a very short praise of the Trinity and is plainly sung.”

Personal Comments

a. This cantata is the absolute proof to the claim that for Bach all his music was to glorify God, whether in church or in court. IMHO, it causes us to re-consider the general claim that that Bach’s secular cantatas do not have the same worth as his secular ones.

b. The structure of the second sacred version of the cantata is unique in Bach’s oeuvre – Chorus, Chorale, Aria, Chorale, Aria, Chorale, Aria, Chorale. I cannot recall another cantata with such layout. It is evident that in the final version the chorales occupy the musical proceedings. As much as Bach loved the previous material to have been using it five times, the balance between that material and the chorale movements was entirely changed in the last version. Therefore I chose to review only the recordings of this version.

Review of the Recordings

[1] Günther Ramin (1952)
Ramin decided to give the soprano and alto parts in the first chorale to the according sections of his children’s choir – the famous Thomanerchor Leipzig. As much as I like to hear children’s choirs, I have to admit that their singing here is almost painful. The choir sounds untuned and not focused. Individual voices can be heard, as if they want to attract attention to themselves. Or maybe is it simply that they had not got enough preparation before they got to make this recording? There is no improvement in the second and fourth chorales, where the general good intentions are marred by the singing of the sopranos and the altos. The third chorale is also sung by the choir, this time by the tenor section. This is the best chorale movement in this recording. The singing of the tenors is coherent and full of confidence, as it should be according to the text.

[2] Wilhelm Ehmann (1969)
Before getting into reviewing this recording, couple of words have to be said about the printing. I have had this recording on LP for many years, actually from the early 1970’s. It was issued originally by the German label Cantata in the mid 1960’s in a frame of mini-series of more than 20 LP’s of Bach Cantatas conducted by very knowledgeable and spirited conductors, most of them Cantors in various German cities. You can see a list of these recordings (or links to the relevant pages of the conductors) in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website:
Many of these recording were issued in the USA during the early 1970’s by labelssuch as Vanguard, Musical Heritage Society (MHS) and Nonesuch. Since the Bach Cantatas Mailing List was launched by Kirk McElhearn in October 1999, I have been hoping that some day these recordings will be redeemed from their neglecting and will be issued in CD form. This was the subject of my very first message to the list. You can read it in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website:
I am happy to inform you that at last it happened. The label Baroque Music Club issued last month the first 5 CD’s of cantatas from the vaults of Cantate and other labels. These recordings are treasures and I warmly recommend to the members in the BCML (yes, even the HIP-ers!) try getting at least one of these CD’s. I bought them directly from the site of this label:
Should I say that I do not have any personal benefit from recommending this label (or with any other label)?

And after such enthusiastic introduction, can I say anything negative about the recording of BWV 36 by Wilhelm Ehmann? Why should I? Ehmann was a gifted Bach conductor and I appreciate almost all his recordings of Bach Cantatas. Unfortunately they are too few. For the first chorale he is using his two female soloists - Maria Friesenhausen (soprano) and Andrea von Ramm (alto) - and both are in fine form and their voices blend nicely. Their approach is tender and intimate. For the second and fourth chorales Ehmann is using the full choir and this is German choir singing at his best. Full, warm and confident, but also humble and intimate. The tenor Johannes Feyerabend is magnificent and glorious in the third chorale, and his rich voice and sensitive expression are a joy to the ears. The most important aspect about Ehmann’s approach to all four chorales is that he manages to cause them sound natural and unforced, and above all moving.

[4] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1974)
Straight line, pause, straight line, pause, like wood chopping. This is the way I hear the chorale movements as they are sung by the choir in Harnoncourt’s recording (Mvts. 2 & 4). No flow and no legato can be found here. Furthermore, they sound dry and calculated. One can clearly hear that the problem lies with the approach of the conductor and not with the abilities of the choir itself. We are fortunate to have a good (anonymous) boy soprano and the counter-tenor Paul Esswood in the first chorale and the tenor Kurt Equiluz in the third. All of them are in good form (yes, even the boy soprano). The singers dominate their respective chorales and Harnoncourt is clever enough to let them express themselves freely without standing in their way.

[5] Helmuth Rilling (1980-1982)
Like Ehmann, Rilling is also using for the first chorale his two female soloists - Arleen Augér (soprano) and Gabriele Schreckenbach (alto). Where Ehmann’s rendition could be described as intimate here we have more extrovert approach. Both approaches are legitimate, but personally I prefer the first. For Schreier in the third chorale I have nothing but praise. The two chorales for four-voices we hear a grand-scale choir in the old tradition singing enthusiastically. Although their singing is fine indeed, I prefer smaller choir with chamber approach in these chorales.

[6] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1981)
With Rotzsch’s rendition we meet Augér again, and it was also recorded around the same time as Rilling’s. Alas, she does not sing in the first chorale. Rotzsch decided to adopt the same approach of Ramin, who had recorded this cantata as a Thomaskantor about three decades earlier, meaning that the soprano and alto parts of this chorale were given to the sections of the choir. This is a major improvement over Ramin’s recording. The singing is cleaner, warmer and more homogenous. The same can be said about the second and fourth chorales for the full choir. Rotzsch is the only conductor who gives the chorale for tenor to the choir and he achieves fine results.

[7] John Eliot Gardiner (1992)
I do not what is the technique that Gardiner is using, but most of his Bach Cantatas recordings sound to me simplified versions of the works. It is as if he cuts corners, smoothes things, lets the jolly atmosphere dominating his interpretations. With his recordings I often feel that he covers only one dimension of the music, and that he does not try to dig deeper. This certainly is the case with the performance of the two chorales that are given to the choir (the second and the fourth). The Soprano Nancy Argenta and the Mezzo-soprano Petra Lang sing the first chorale nicely but superficially. Not much feeling is conveyed here in comparison to the best of the other renditions being sung by a team of soloists or by a choir. Rolfe-Johnson is good and reliable in the chorale for tenor, but no more than that. He is certainly not on the same par with either Johannes Feyerabend (Ehmann) or Schreier (Rilling) regarding the emotional content he delivers.

[11] Pieter Jan Leusink (2000)
Leusink’s rendition gives also the impression of superficiality. But where in Gardiner’s case, it seems to be a result of over preparation up to losing any spontaneity, with Leusink it comes from lack of enough preparation. The singing of the choir in the second and fourth chorales is enthusiastic but not coherent. The match between the voices of Holton (soprano) and Buwalda (counter-tenor) in the first chorale sounds strange not only regarding their timbre of voices but also their approaches. They seem to be in different worlds, as if they were recorded separately (I do not believe that this is really the case). Knut Schoch’s singing in the third chorale leaves me indifferent and his voice is less pleasant than that of Rolfe-Johnson (Gardiner).

Other Recording

The recording by Kevin Mallon and Aradia Ensemble [10] was not reviewed here, because this is actually the first sacred version, without the three added chorales (Mvts. 2, 4, 6). The recordings of the secular versions – BWV 36b and BWV 36c – were not reviewed here because both versions have recitatives instead of chorales for movements 2, 4, 6.


EHMANN - in all four chorales. His is also my preferred recording of the whole cantata.


Every week it happens again. I start to listen to the weekly cantata without knowing in advance what to expect, what will my conclusions be, and what part of the cantata will stay with me for years to come. After finishing listening to this cantata and writing the review I took a look at Simon Crouch’s Listener’s Guide Website. I have noticed that he writes about this cantata things like: ‘without being as memorable’, ‘an unremarkable but jolly bass aria’, ‘the attractive string introduction might suggest that better is to come’, etc. Reading such views one cannot have too high expectations from this cantata. But the conclusion I have reached at after so many listenings to this cantata is quite different. This cantata has a memorable movement, from which I am sorry to depart in order to start listening to next week’s cantata (BWV 150). This movement is the chorale ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ in the version for soprano and alto (Mvt. 2). This movement has now become my preferred vocal version of this chorale.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned renditions, or other recordings.

Marie Jensen wrote (December 6, 2001):
Drum Schallet nur der Geist dabei.....of course... it should do - in all kinds of music performance!

If you don't know what I am talking about it is a line from the soprano aria: Auch mit gedämpften schwachen Stimmen from BWV 36 "Schwingt freudig euch e"
Such a head line indicates joy and lightness. The music has to move upwards to the angels and the stars. Nothing must tie it to the world.

The conductors I have listened to are : Rilling [5], Leusink [11] and Mallon [10].

[10] Mallon makes me ambivalent: His Aradia ensemble plays wonderfully. The instruments sound so clear and beautiful. Could be the acustics in the Church of St. Mary Magdalene Toronto too? But why have some of the movements been let out? And why does Naxos call the CD "Christmas Cantatas", when the cantatas on it are related to Advent? ( a minor complaint of course)

The OVPP chorus begins well. The tempo and mood feels right. But when the singers go solo the tenor John Tessier and especially the bass Steven Pitkanen have the typical rolling American accent. Tessiers vibrato is to much.

The soprano aria mentioned in the beginning is to slow for my taste. I like Terri Dunn’s voice much ( vibrato or not) and there are no rolling r's and l's.

In spite of its weaknesses this recording fascinates me. Rilling [5] is to heavy this time. Leusink’s Ruth Holton [11] does a good job. But the instrumental play of the Aradia ensemble makes it..

And it is of course always refreshing to hear a new sound.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 7, 2001):
This week I will have to skip the usual background research. For some reason I have been falling behind in just about everything. Perhaps I need a vacation. Aryeh’s presentation was excellent and referred to the Nicholas Anderson article which covers all the important points.

Personally, this cantata takes me way back to my teenage years when I copied out the parts of the soprano aria because it appealed to me very much (I had never heard this cantata performed or on recordings until about 7 years ago.) However, it was to remain a dream because I could not find the singer and the instrumentalists to perform it. Now I can get to choose between the various versions available with quite a range of interpretations. The soprano sings “mit gedämpften Stimmen” (“with muted voices”) while Bach has the violinist place a mute on the bridge of the violin to give it less volume, thereby creating a very intimate sound that you can hear on the recordings. On the word “schallet” (the sound going out) Bach has the voice and the instruments play staccato. If this is recorded correctly, you can sense a bit of the echo in the church. That is the way it should be.

The recordings that I listened to were: Ramin (1952) [1]; Harnoncourt (1974) [4]; Schreier (1979) [BWV 36c-1]; Rilling (1980-1982) [5]; Rotzsch (1981) [6]; Leusink (1999) [11]

[1] Ramin:
There are some major difficulties here with the performance and the technical aspects of the recording. This recording is primarily of interest for historical reasons. With almost no time to rehearse and faced with time constraints, it is amazing that this performance is not worse than it is. The loss of fidelity when recording with home equipment available at that time with a microphone placed in front of the radio speaker causes strange things to occur: The tenor soloist in his aria sounds as if he is singing under water! At times, when the choir sings, the listener can identify the voices of certain singers in the choir because they evidently are standing closer to the microphone than the others are. Precision is definitely lacking both in the choir and the orchestra. There are some very sloppy attacks. I am amazed that the boys have so much vibrato that it becomes distracting. The tenors in the choir, rather than a soloist, sing the chorale and perform quite well. The soprano aria here, unfortunately, is one to forget because the soloist is much too operatic. She even manages to take a breath in a short coloratura on the first syllable of “Majestät.” The first section is not repeated because of time constraints, and perhaps this is a blessing to be thankful for. The bass soloist has a fast vibrato. This recording is not to be recommended.

[4] Harnoncourt:
From the 1st sick-sounding oboe d’amore sound, I knew this was going to be a rough ride with Harnoncourt in charge. The short phrases in Mvt. 1 are made even shorter by Harnoncourt. The choir is involved in a rather joyless performance with the tenors and basses sounding rather muddy and weak as a whole. It truly sounds like a chore to perform and it becomes a chore to listen to. The manner of performance of music can be infectious. The chorales sung by the choir become plodding monstrosities that resemble a slowly moving dinosaur. Mvt. 2 In the very 1st measures, Harnoncourt inserts a break in the middle of the bc accompaniment figure (a motif from the chorale) in a place where it simply does not belong. He is saying musically, “Hey, look here, I’m doing something very different from what you expect. Isn’t that great?” What is not so great is that the musical edifice which Bach has erected begins to crumble away when treated in this illogical fashion. Equiluz is great in his area, but in the chorale he is pushed too much because he is forced to overcome the extremely loud accompaniment. The performance of the soprano aria here is a gem. A number of things have come together just perfectly to accomplish this feat: the unnamed boy soprano is greatly superior to almost all of the named sopranos in this series. Perhaps realizing that this gem of a voice should not be covered up by one of the typical, heavy bc accompaniments that are frequently found in this series, Harnoncourt dispenses with the indications in the score and decides to make this a simple trio with Alice doing the honors on the violin and Harnoncourt playing the cello very delicately and wonderfully. Putting the damper on Alice’s screechy, scraping sound was Bach’s doing when he indicated: ‘con sordino’, and now her violin suddenly sounds beautifully sensitive. This mvt. and Equiluz’ aria need to be specially marked, but relegate the rest of the cantata to a place where the Ramin recording is located.

[5] Rilling:
Here you will find the usual excellent choral precision with every vocal line extremely clear (no muffled or weak voices to be noted), however the voices in the choir are operatic and that always detracts somewhat from the firm solidity of sound that I would tend to expect. The tenor and bass arias are truly excellent. I heard Schreier perform this aria on three separate recordings this week, and the performances were all up to his usual very high standard. Heldwein’s performance I would rank at the very top because he combines a full voice (no cheating with sotto voce passages) with excellent expression. Augér’s aria has a very fast tempo, and although she manages everything quite well, she tends to hit the high notes too hard (high notes which are really not that high for a soprano.)

[6] Rotzsch:
With Rotzsch the bc is much too loud. In the choir the inner voices tend to be weak. A nice touch occurs when the command “haltet ein” [“stop”] is performed softly and not shouted as in some of the previous versions. Mvt. 2: The choral duet is my favorite here because the voices sing in unison very well. The shaky oboe d’amore in the tenor aria detracts from an otherwise excellent performance by Schreier. The bass, Lorenz, uses too much sotto voce which then becomes a rather half-hearted performance. In Mvt. 6 the tenors sing the straight tones of the chorale without any vibrato. This lends great strength to the cantus firmus. Now Augér is confronted with one of the slowtempos for this aria. She manages quite well, but I have reservations about the violinist with the rather apparent vibrato. In the final chorale the organ is too loud.

[11] Leusink:
There is the usual heavy bc., but otherwise Leusink opts for the extremely lite entertainment style of playing. There is no substance, and hence no solidity. Individual voices are clearly recognizable. The basses are weak. The yodelers are also present. Sometimes the choir screams instead of singing. There are some special, strong accents that sound unnatural. Mvt. 2 has Holton attempting to sing in her non-existent low range and Buwalda’s singing characteristic is his thin, reedy voice that does not blend well with other voices (it blends well with the oboi d’amore, however.) Schoch has a rather dead, dull, dreary, expressionless voice. The chorales are performed in the usual abrupt-ending type style. Ramselaar’s half-voice seems to be ideal for this lite entertainment treatment that Leusink prefers. No one bothered to tell Holton how to pronounce “Majestät” in German. This is truly a black mark against the person responsible for allowing this mistake to go through unnoticed!

[BWV 36c-1] Schreier:
This is BWV 36a with the inclusion of quite a number of recitatives. My general impression of this recording is that it was intended as a showpiece for Schreier. What happens? Every mvt. that he participates in is of high quality, but the rest can not measure up to that standard. The choir members are all operatic soloists. Take Rilling’s choir and exaggerate the worst qualities and what you get is the lack of any unified choir sound that you have here. The orchestral sound is very bouncy and punchy. Even in Schreier’s aria you will notice the very heavy double bass sound that is rather distracting, particularly in the middle section, where the bc is marked piano, but you will not hear any gradation in volume.

The bass, Lorenz, indulges in too much sotto voce. With Mathis you have a soprano who is vocally ‘over the hill,’ definitely past her prime, and it shows when she has a ‘Glottisanschlag’ at the end of the middle section of the aria. Some of her coloraturas are still fine. The final chorus (this is not a chorale!) has all the singers appear in short recitatives, and if you want to hear how bad Mathis can sound, just listen to her short recitative in this section. Again the choir lacks a unified sound. It never helps when the sopranos are warbling as they attempt to hit the notes that they are supposed to be singing.

My favorites:
Mvt. 1 and the chorales: Rilling [5]
Mvt. 2 Duet using choir members: Rotzsch [6]
Mvt. 3 Tenor aria: Schreier [5], Equiluz [4]
Mvt. 5 Bass aria: Heldwein [5]
Mvt. 6 Chorale for tenor voice: Schreier [5], Equiluz [4]
Mvt. 6 Chorale for tenors: Rotzsch [6]
Mvt. 7 Soprano aria: Unnamed boy soprano [4], Augér [5]

Jane Newble wrote (December 7, 2001):
The only two performances I have of this are Leusink [11] and Herreweghe [8].

[11] Yesterday I listened to Leusink, and I did not like it. The Boys choir frightens me.

[8] Today I listened to Herreweghe, and I was immediately conscious of why I am an incurable Herreweghe fan!! It is loaded with atmosphere, expectation, jubilance and tender longings (especially in the first tenor and the soprano aria). In the opening chorus there is the mystery of man singing to God, as if to bring Him down, and the promise: "Es naht sich selbst zu euch der Herr der Herrlichkeit." The text of this cantata, the music by JSB and the performance by Philippe Herreweghe combine to bring about this wonderful tension between expectation and coming fulfillment.

Does anyone know when Herreweghe is doing the next cantata recording?

Dick Wursten wrote (December 8, 2001):
Personal reaction:

I listened several times to the Leusink performance [11].
I can not get very enthusiastic about BWV 36.
I don't want to blame Bach, neither do I want to blame Leusink - exclusively - for this. Usually I am able to listen through his non performant performance. I read Thomas Braatz comment on Leusink and I agree. In my experience though I cannot sense the unity of this work. The movements are so different and the atmosphere from 'lite' entertainment (suited for birthday...) to almost severe in the chorals. To paraphrase Thomas Braatz: the different movements do not blend.

Isolated from the cantata as a whole I can appreciate mvt 7. Very nice piece of music. I suppose that in a proper performance I also could appreciate the way bach treats the Advent-hymn Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, esp the one with the two soloists (mvt 2).

So I start to become curious about BWV 36c and BWV 36b...

Jane Newble wrote (December 8, 2001):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< personal reaction: I listened several times to the Leusink performance [11]. I can not get very enthusiastic about BWV 36. >
You might if you listened to your fellow countryman :o)
I agree about the lack of unity in the work itself, but I personally think Herreweghe [8] has done a wonderful job with this cantata.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 36: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 36a: Details
Cantata BWV 36b: Details & Complete Recordings
Cantata BWV 36c: Details & Recordings
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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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