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Cantata BWV 37
Wer da gläubet und getauft wird
Discussions - Part 1

Previous Messages

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (November 18, 1999):
I'm glad to hear your brief descriptions, it is so nice to feel to be part of a sort of virtual family, and that there are a lot of people sharing the same crazy passion for these treasures! My fear is that now a LOT of ideas are shared and we do not have time to get into them deeply! I can't see a real solution to it, so I post my discussion that is about BWV 37 (should I wait till BWV 37 turn? please not!)

Yesterday I was listening for the first time to this Cantata, about which I have two different miniature scores: Eulemberg and Kalmus. With great surprise, I discovered that Aria No.2 for tenor was for voice and continuo on Kalmus, and voice, Violino solo and continuo on Eulemberg! So, I made some research, and discovered that the survived parts for that Aria were only the tenor and continuo parts, but some evidence demonstrates that there should have been other instrumental parts, since the continuo line is too poor, and harmonic progressions implies some other instrument. Mr. Dürr has reconstructed a solo violin part. The Teldec recording [3] also uses the Dürr reconstruction, but what I heard is different from the Eulemberg score reconstruction! I am very confused, and I have a lot of questions. Why only one instrument? Why violin? How is it possible to call it "reconstruction", instead of "composition"? What kind of creative process should a scholar-composer follow in such a hard task? Do you think it is a correct thing to do, instead of leaving it alone like it was found? Could someone list all the missing & reconstructed parts in the Cantatas? I mean, I absolutely agree with reconstruction processes if the material is enough. For example, the lost oboe concert from the harpsichord one, sorry can't remember BWV or tonalities... but in that case, no new notes were added. Here you have to decide the number and the type of instruments, and to create from scratch (Almost, OK, you can take the theme from the tenor, and harmonies from continuo, but....) an important melodic and harmonic line! If there was a viola part missing from a 4-part string arrangement, it was quite different! I think this complex problem has something to do with art restorations in general. For example, do you know debates about Sistine Chapel? In this particular situation (the tenor Aria) my opinion is to leave it like it was found. BTW, I don't like this Aria very much...

Simon Crouch (November 18, 1999):
[To Vincenzo Vennarini]The Kalmus scores are (I believe) photo-reductions of the nineteenth century Bach-Gesellschaft (BG) complete edition. At that time, it seems, no one had spotted that one of the violin parts was missing. Alfred Dürr edited the NBA version, and in his investigations concluded that such a part was missing. It's not too surprising on musical grounds - the Basso Continuo in this movement is very lacking in melodic interest and two continuo-only Arias in a row would be very unusual.

Funnily enough, I picked up a cheap copy of the Eulemberg edition a few weeks ago at a second hand bookshop in York. This edition borrows Dürr’s reconstruction.

[3] < The Teldec recording also uses the Dürr reconstruction >
Are you sure about that? My set had no details of editions used and I remember hearing that they weren't consistent about using the NBA in the Teldec set.

< But what I heard is different from the Eulemberg score reconstruction! >
You're quite right. What's played in the Teldec set bears a resemblance to the Dürr reconstruction but no more than that - for starters, the violin plays in different places! I do have a theory though: Dürr writes the sleeve notes for this set - maybe he was involved with the recording itself and decided to have another go! After all, this set was recorded (1974?) well after his original reconstruction. Another theory - the violinist him/herself took Dürr's reconstruction and used it as a basis for another try. Anybody got the score that went with the original LP release?

[4] Incidentally, the Rilling set on Hänssler follows the Dürr reconstruction fairly accurately.

< I am very confused, and I have a lot of questions: Why only one instrument? Why violin? >
(i) This is a common form of Aria, with one accompanying violin.
(ii) Dürr demonstrates in the critical commentary to the NBA that the leader's violin part is missing.
(iii) And argues that the accompaniment in this Aria is too spare.

< How is it possible to call it "reconstruction", instead of "composition"? >
Yes, reconstruction really is the wrong word. Dürr himself writes that his work is "in the style of" rather than a strict reconstruction. It's a term that gets used rather loosely.

< What kind of creative process should a scholar-composer follow in such a hard task? >
I'd try whistling various attempts in my bath after having listened to other examples of the genre. When my family stops complaining, I'd use that version.

< Do you think it is a correct thing to do, instead of leaving it alone like it was found? >
Well, it sounds pretty dull without it!

< Could someone list all the missing & reconstructed parts in the Cantatas? >
I think I have on my Cantata pages. Oh, you wanted them all in one place.

< I mean, I absolutely agree with reconstruction processes if the material is enough. For example, the lost oboe concert from the harpsichord one, sorry can't remember BWV or tonalities... but in that case, no new notes were added. Here you have to decide the number and the type of instruments, and to create from scratch (almost, OK, you can take the theme from the tenor, and harmonies from continuo, but....) an important melodic and harmonic line! If there was a viola part missing from a 4-part string arrangement, it was quite different! >
Well, you are quite right - but I think that it comes down to being able to provide reasonable performing editions. Let's face it, if reconstructions (or recomposing) were not done, we would certainly never get to hear recordings of certain work and would be very unlikely to hear them in performance at all. A case in point - have you ever heard BWV 216? The voice parts survive, but because there's no instrumentation at all, you never get to hear this. There are other examples - take a wander through the BWV some time and see how many fragments and torsos we never get to hear. As long as the rework is done with good taste, I see nothing too objectionable - after all, you can leave the re-work out if you want!

< I think this complex problem has something to do with art restorations in general. For example, do you know debates about Sistine Chapel? >
True - but the difference there is that the restoration is irreversible (in some sense). In music, you can just leave the new bits out. Take a look at the many different ways the St. Mark Passion (BWV 247) has been reconstructed, for example. Some do a minimal job, fitting only the parody music to the words, others construct a full performing edition borrowing music from other composers and doing new composition to fill the gaps.

< In this particular situation (the tenor Aria) my opinion is to leave it like it was found. BTW, I don't like this Aria very much.... >
It's not very sparkly is it?

Gabriele Vallini wrote (November 18, 1999):
I don't know that much on BWV37, but I am sure about the wonderful job of Mr. Alfred Dürr. The case is very similar to BWV 166 (Wo gehest du hin?), one of my favorites among the JSB Cantatas, which has the tenor Aria "Ich will an den Himmel denken", that has the violin part rebuild by Mr. Dürr. It and is really impressive because he based the “lost” violin part on it's organ transcription, g-moll trio BWV 584. In other words, he simply added the trio with the Cantata tenor Aria. For the central section of the Aria no information survives, but the violin impact is really minimized. Also in this case the violin Aria is missing in Kalmus (based othe original surviving score) but present for all the other releases.

 

Discussions in the Week of May 27, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 29, 2001):
Background

This is the week of Cantata BWV 37 according to Thomas Braatz’ suggestion, the first one in his proposed list of cantatas for discussion. I would like to use this opportunity to thank him for his enormous and invaluable contribution to the weekly cantata discussions and consequently to the Bach Cantatas Website.

Recordings

I am aware of 6 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 37, and during last week I have been listening to them all. I do not know of any other recording of this cantata, but there is a recording of the opening chorus by familiar forces. See: Complete Recordings and Recordings of Individual Movements.

Mvt. 5 - Aria for Tenor

Although this cantata have many fine moments, which deserve more expansive review, I shall limit myself this time to the aria for bass (Mvt. 5), which I find the most irresistible and catchy number of this cantata. This is the movement I was singing to myself along this week and it is still stuck in my memory, unwilling to make a room for next week’s cantata. Before sitting down to review the various recordings of this aria, I collected all the written material I could find from every source I had at my disposal.

Original German text:
Der Glaube schafft der Seele Flügel,
Daß sie sich in den Himmel schwingt,
Die Taufe ist das Gnadensiegel,
Das uns den Segen Gottes bringt;
Und daher heißt ein selger Christ,
Wer gläubet und getaufet ist.

English translation (by Richard Stokes, 1999):
Faith provides the soul with pinions,
On which it shall soar to heaven,
Baptism is the seal of mercy,
That brings us God’s blessing;
A blest Christian is therefore one
Who believes and is baptized.

Albert Schweitzer (1908, rough translation from Hebrew into English):
“Blue skies are spread above this cantata for Ascension Day. In what way does the composer in the last aria, express the first two lines, we can easily imagine to ourselves.”

W. Gillies Whittaker (1959):
“One is rewarded musically for this theological speculation in the next number, a bass aria with oboe d’amore (never independent) and strings. Bach seizes on the opening sentence and does not concern himself about the remainder. A joyous melody is accompanied homophonically, the middle strings reiterating chords (the fluttering of wings) at the same time as the bassi. As the result of this method of treatment, unusual in Bach, the confident aria is more easily grasped than are most. The first clause is set to a modification of the above, the bassi alternate with the rest of the orchestra. The introduction is repeated, moving from D to F# minor, the voice adding counterpoint, with the runs on ‘Seele Flügel’ and ‘Himmel’. The oboe d’amore is now silent for five bars…[snip]“

Alec Robertson (1972):
“Perhaps there is a remote reference to the Ascension here in the sense that Christians can share by analogy with it until the last day. The repeated chords on second violins, violas and continuo joined, when the voice comes in, by the other instruments may be meant to suggest the stirring of the wings.”

Murray W. Young (1989):
“Bach’s tune for this aria was probably suggested by the first line, which mentions that faith gives the soul wings to soar into heaven. The oboe d’amore and strings play a joy-rhythm. Representing a fluttering of wings to illustrate the text. The melodic imagery is so well done that it overshadows the Lutheran dogma in the libretto.”

Simon Crouch (1996, 1998):
“The final aria for bass follows a recitative and benefits from a catchy orchestral accompaniment. Perhaps the vocal line doesn't quite come up to the standard of the orchestral line.”

Stephen A. Christ (Oxford Companion, 1999):
“The aria that follows is in the same key (as the recitative – B minor) and has the same scoring (oboe d’amore, 2 violins, viola, continuo), except that the first violin is doubled by an oboe d’amore. The text is not in da capo form, but divided into three segments of two lines each, which Bach sets in three musical paragraphs (A-B-C) separated by brief ritornellos in closely related keys.”

If I have to choose only one explanation, It would be Young’s. In few words he gets the essence of this aria.

Review of the Recordings

(1) Wilhelm Ehmann with Wilhelm Pommerien (3:20)
Pommerien gives you a hand and leads you safely to heaven. With his guidance you do not fear from anything. He has this kind of low baritone voice, which is so much suitable to performing the bass parts in Bach’s vocal works. The ordinary baritone lacks some weight to be fully convincing in some cases, where the real bass voice is sometimes too heavy to give full expression to every nuance. But Pommerien has baritone timbre with BOTTOM. And he also sounds very natural in his expression. Nothing is forced and nothing is exaggerated. The accompaniment is of course non-HIP, but it has that aura of authority that leaves you speechless.

[3] Nikolaus Harnoncourt with Ruud van der Meer (3:01)
In Harnoncourt’s hand the wings are waving with sharp and short movements. I wonder if anybody would trust these wings to take him (or her) to heaven. On the other hand, Ruud van der Meer has a very pleasant and warm voice. Its timbre is very similar to that of Pommerien, and his expression touches your heart. He reveals so many nuances that Huttenlocher, for example, fails to convey. But even Meer cannot overcome the problematic accompaniment that Harnoncourt supplies to him.

[4] Helmuth Rilling with Philippe Huttenlocher (2:42)
There is a big contradiction between the singer and the accompaniment. The orchestra’s playing is cheerful, colourful and sweeping. If these are wings than they are waving wit strong movements. On the other hand, The singing is not varied, inflexible and lacking warmth. Huttenlocher’s singing here has some stiff edge to it that I find disturbing, especially when Pommerien’s rendition is still fresh in my memory.

[5] John Eliot Gardiner with Stephen Varcoe (2:49)
Gardiner’s whose approach is similar to that of Harnoncourt, shows us that it could be done better. The movements are larger and smoother and reflect more confidence. Varcoe interpretation has the needed authority and warmth, but his voice is not multi-layered as that of Meer, and consequently his rendition is less varied.

[6] Ton Koopman with Klaus Mertens (2:24)
The accompaniment in Koopman’s rendition is light and airy and really soar high. The problem is that is done too fast. I believe that if somebody had to be taken into heaven, he would like to do it tranquilly and not in a rush. Mertens’ voice has the needed warmth and pleasance, but in comparison to Pommerien it is somewhat light and lacks bottom. His rendition here has more vigour than usual. Probably he is encouraged by the fast movement of the accompaniment. I think that in several places the he has some difficulties to cope with the speed of the accompaniment.

[7] Pieter Jan Leusink with Bas Ramselaar (3:02)
This is not the first time in our weekly discussions, that I find Leusink takes similar approach to that of Koopman, but does it better. The accompaniment here is also light but more cheerful and pungent. His tempo for this aria is slower and therefore better. Ramselaar voice is fuller and a little bit lower than that of Mertens, and I find it more suitable to this aria. Regarding the interpretation I find that Ramselaar has nothing to be ashamed of in comparison with his more famous colleague. When I heard this rendition the picture that came into my mind was of a coachman (the bass singer) riding a carriage, and the movemts of the horses (oboe d’amore and strings) are so well matched with his will, that he does not have to do to spur them. He is pleased with them, and they feel comfortable with him, and so am I (with both of them).

Conclusion

My first choice for this cantata as a whole and the aria for bass in particular is Ehmann (1). After some research I managed to compile a short biography of him and I put it in the Bach Cantatas Website for anybody who is interested to know more about this excellent Bach conductor. The address is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Ehmann-Wilhelm.htm. I find that all his (too few) recordings of Bach cantatas are authoritative, satisfying and pleasing. As they say, what Ehmann had already forgot, other, more modern, conductors have not even started to learn.

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

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 30, 2001):
BWV 37 Mvt. 1 "A Masterpiece" (Simon Crouch)

Just as Aryeh had a specific mvt., the bass aria Mvt. 5, 'stuck' in his mind after hearing a number of recordings, I likewise found myself coming back again and again to Mvt. 1, which Simon Crouch calls a masterpiece without explaining why. Whereas it was not so difficult to find and detect the various motifs and descriptions of Mvt. 5 with the help of Schweitzer et al., I found only two sources that ventured to go into a description of Mvt. 1 more deeply to offer assistance to those of us who wish to delve more deeply: Alfred Dürr and Stephen A. Crist (Oxford Composer Companions [Boyd.]) Both approach this mvt. with different techniques, Crist from a textual standpoint and Dürr a more musicological one.

In a simplified overview of Mvt. 1, it is easy for any listener to detect the introductory instrumental section, often called a ritornello. This is the section that introduces and also develops (!!!) the themes that will be essentially repeated by the voices in the vocal section. Dürr points out that this repetition is almost exact except for some transpositions, but he also states that the vocal section can be subdivided into two distinct sections in contrast to Crist who has divided this section into four parts, based on the fact that the text is presented four times. Crist's division is as follows:
1) measures 27-40 having fugal entries beginning in the bass and ending in the soprano;
2) measures 40-63 having almost the reverse with entries as follows: soprano, alto, bass, tenor;
3) measures 63-71 having the soprano alto duet in a 'thinning of texture;
4) measures 71-87 having a tenor bass duet beginning the section that ends the mvt.

In contrast Dürr has three parts for the entire mvt. with the vocal section ending its first section at a point that I will describe as follows: the length of the first section of the vocal section is essentially that of the ritornello with the only difference being that the point near the conclusion of this section has many swiftly moving eighth notes after all the half and quarter notes that predominate in this section, but instead of landing on the tonic, Bach has a dominant indicating for the listener that the piece has not finished yet. This is the important marker for the beginning of the last section that has soprano and alto with the instruments hushed (a 'piano' is marked for the strings in the score) continue a duet until joined a few bars later with the other voices after which the tenor and bass have a similar duet followed by a full chorus conclusion.

Mvt. 1, therefore, consists of three distinct sections that you might be able to identify without the help of the score:
1) measures 1-27 Ritornello (instruments only)
2) measures 27-63 Repetition of section 1 with chorus
3) measures 63-87 Concluding section

As you listen to this mvt. more carefully each time, you may begin to wonder if there is still more to be found below the surface of this masterpiece. Was Bach in this music 'speaking' primarily from the standpoint of Lutheran theological doctrine, as Crist would have it: "the anonymous librettist (who may well have been a theologian or cleric, judging from the dogmatic and didactic tone of the text?" Or is there another layer of depth, an added dimension that we might be missing here, as cautiously hinted at by Dürr. As a noted Bach scholar, he knows that he would have to supply more evidence of proof for any supposition he has. (Perhaps he would rather leave that to a future doctoral disseration done by student pursuing this type of thing.) But it is very interesting for me that he goes through the effort of supplying an elaborate illustration with musical examples that could offer a key to understanding this mvt. and the cantata as a whole. With the help of examples from the score and elsewhere which I hope to supply, you should be able to gain a better understanding of what I am talking about. But until then, let me try to explain in (many) words what you are hearing as you listen to this mvt. using the tri-partite division outlined above:

This mvt. opens with a single A-major chord played by all the instruments except the 1st Oboe da caccia (hereafter referred to simply as 'oboe'), which announces in its high range a specific pattern to be used also by one of the voices later on: two half notes followed by a jump to a higher note which is sustained for 3 measures on the main syllable of "gläubet" ("believe") later on when a vocal part sings it. Let's call this the 'belief'-motif with the long held note emphasizing the need to 'hold' on to this belief.

While the long note is being held, the 2nd oboe answers with a musical figure that will be the basis for many of the fugal entries consisting of half notes.

Summary thus far: measure 1 has a solitary A-major chord and the 1st oboe begins to announce the 'belief'-motiv by moving up to the held note after having only two half notes at a lower pitch preceding it

Measure 2 (Do you think this is a rather inauspicious beginning for a Bach cantata? --Well, now 'all hell breaks loose.') While the 1st oboe continues to play the long held note at the highest pitch, the 2nd oboe announces in half notes the fugal theme that accompanies the 1st oboe. But, at the same time, the 1st violin begins the wonderful, contrasting, faster-moving (quarter and eighth notes) theme which is 'worlds apart' from the key elements in the oboes. This violin theme, eventually taken up later by all the other parts/performers, is representative of the Old Testament in direct contrast to NT Mark 16: 16. It is a quote from the beginning of a well-known (at least in Bach's time) Martin Luther hymn, "Dies sind die heiligen zehn Gebot" ("These are the Holy Ten Commandments"). In the samples from the score, I will show you the melody of this hymn as it might appear in a hymn book of that day. On first inspection you might justifiably say that it might only vaguely appear to be related. However, when you examine BWV 635 (BWV 679, a fughetta, is already so melodically contorted that you would perhaps have difficulty recognizing it) a choral prelude for organ, it becomes much more apparent how Bach treats a theme of this sort in an organ prelude, in which, by the way, the canonically stated pairs appear a total of 10 times with a crucial (crux) turning point occurring in the middle where one statement stands alone without pairing. This then is the '10 Commandment'-motif taken from the incipet of a Luther chorale that everybody in church at the first performance of the cantata would know (probably backwards and forwards.)

In the same 2nd measure, the continuo makes its initial statement with material that is anything but introductory. I am reminded here of the description that Forkel gave of a Bach family reunion where much time was spent musically with the impromptu creation of quodlibets. This is a musical form in which quotations fsongs widely known and sung by all who were present, were entered into quodlibet at just the right time and pitch to make music with all the other songs (unrelated in text!) sung by other voices that were participating in this musical contest. Although incipets (the first line in a song) were usually used, this was not always the case. The source could be a refrain or a striking or catchy turn of words and music in the middle of the piece. Such is the case here, except that now we are using only sacred music as a source and not folk songs etc. Dürr points out that the continuo motif is the final line of the very famous chorale, "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" ("How brightly shines the Morning Star") with the words indicated (by Dürr) "ewig soll mein Herz ihn loben" ("my heart should praise him eternally"), the very words and melody that you will find at the end of Mvt. 3. Would that be Bach's primary purpose here, to achieve a unity between various mvts. in a single cantata? Would he be announcing to the listener in advance, what they would be hearing later on? I found yet another hymn contained in a German hymnal dating from 1952, but not in later editions: "Mit Freuden will ich heben an" ("With joy I will begin [to praise God]") sung to the melody of "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" and written by Matthäus Wieser (1617-1678), a hymn that Bach could well have been acquainted with. This hymn of only five verses is rather unusual in that four of the five verses have for this final line of verse (the one in question here) the exact same words each time: "Und lobt Gott mit großem Schalle" ("Praise God with a great sound/noyse") on the same notes that Bach uses here as underpinning throughout the entire mvt., a total of 4 times, twice in section 1 and twice in section 2. Let's call this the 'Praise-God"-motif.

So far in measure 2, the only part not accounted for is the viola part, the very part, according to one of Bach's sons, he would occasionally play himself in the performance of his cantatas.

Is this all? Besides a secondary theme consisting of a three-note pattern consisting of 2 eighth notes followed by a quarter note in a downward motion on the notes of the scale, there is a strong motif announced in the continuo for the first time in measure 6. This motif consists of an upward moving (stepping at the interval of a fourth) figure, all in half notes –very majestic in character -- followed by a step down by one note on the scale, to be followed by another leap upwards by another fourth to an even higher pitch. This happens at least three times in section 1, twice in the middle section, and once in the conclusion. Just hearing the mvt now as I write this, it seems to occur even more frequently than this, but then it is of such a character that you will not miss it. This motif is reminiscent of the incipet to another Martin Luther hymn, "Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam" ("Christ, our Lord, came to the Jordan River"). With the help of an additional passing note that Bach sometimes includes (in a choral prelude), the comparison becomes even more apparent. Here then is THE event that epitomizes what baptism was all about. For the librettist (who was possibly also a pastor), the sacrament as a preordained, prescribed routine occurrence in church as one of the holy sacraments is uppermost in the mind, while Bach sees, in addition to this, with the help of his musical imagination based on pictures of the mind, the scene of a remarkable baptism, unlike the many others that John the Baptist had been performing all along, a singular event in mankind. This is the picture that Bach conjures up by using the reference to the melody of the baptismal hymn that everyone listening at that time would know.

Summary of motifs in Mvt. 1

The Belief-motif (unintentional rhyme) Lutheran Doctrine New Testament
The 10-Commandments-motif Old Testament
The Praise-God-motif Both Testaments
The Baptism-of-Christ-motif New Testament

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2001):
In my last posting I should have summarized the characteristics of each motif once again, so that a listener can hear them without the aid of a score. I had listed them as follows:

Summary of motifs in Mvt. 1

The Belief-motif Lutheran Doctrine New Testament
The 10-Commandments-motif Old Testament
The Praise-God-motif Both Testaments
The Baptism-of-Christ-motif New Testament

Here are the characteristics of each:

The Belief-motif Two half notes at the same pitch followed by a dotted whole note held for 3 measures (1st oboe at beginning) The other oboe states the fugal theme that is also used by the vocal parts later on.

The 10-Commandments-motif A repeated quarter note pattern (4 times) at the same pitch, then two eighth notes moving up the scale and a final quarter note. The latter pattern is reversed, going downward to finish out the ritornello.

The Praise-God-motif Appearing at the beginning of the continuo part, this motif consists of half and whole (only two) notes on a downward movement on the scale

The Baptism-of-Christ-motif This motif consists of two jumps upward at the interval of a fourth with a step downward (either semitone or whole tone) after the first jump before taking the final jump to an even higher pitch

I have only four recordings for comparison of this first mvt.: Harnoncourt (1974) [3], Rilling (1979) [4], Koopman (1998) [6], and Leusink (1999) [7].

The pitch for Harnoncourt, Koopman, and Leusink is a half step lower than Rilling's, with Harnoncourt's slightly higher than either Koopman and Leusink who are exactly the same.

So as to prepare you for the type of performance that I will be looking for, allow me to present the context of the words used in Mvt. 1: Mark 16: 14-16 "Still later he appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating together. He rebuked them for their unbelief -- their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen. And then he told them, "Go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere. Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned." (NLT)

[3] Harnoncourt
The oboes are trying very hard to play smoothly, but are still shaky as the players attempt to master their instruments. I do not care for the sound of these instruments as it is too thin, with no 'roundness' to the sound they produce. The strings are squeaky and scratchy as usual. You will simply have to become accustomed to this sound since it does not vary much throughout the entire series of cantatas. Harnoncourt's 'Dying-Note' syndrome seems to work in his favor some of the time here, particularly with the '10-Commandments'-motif which requires the notes to be detached slightly from each other, thus creating a contrast to---well, that's the problem! Harnoncourt does not sustain even the half and whole notes in a series. Everything has to be 'cut up,' otherwise he is not satisfied. Thus there is little contrast to perceive here. The Baptism-of-Christ motif is dissected to such a degree that each jump upward at the interval of a fourth becomes a separate entity with a breath in between, as if to say, "Whew! I made the first jump, let me catch my breath before I attempt the next jump which takes me even higher." The effect is one of being very belabored and weary. The same is true of the stepwise downward descending notes of the 'Praise-God'-motif. All of this lack of extended phrasing (lasting more than a measure or two) causes the fragmentation which any normal listener will hear as such. The flowing continuity of the musical line is lost. This is a very typical characteristic of Harnoncourt's style in the Bach cantatas. When the chorus enters, the 'thumpiness' of the bass becomes somewhat disturbing, all of this caused by not holding the noout for their full value. The basses and tenors tend to overwhelmed when the 'prima donnas' in the sopranos and altos take over. The volume of the latter group is much greater than the former. One place to watch for a good quality in singing and choral sound production is at the beginning of the final section when the sopranos and altos have a duet for 5 measures. On the word 'gläubet' ("believes") which is held for more than one measure, there is a jump upward at the interval of a seventh. Listen for the uncontrolled volume in the voices as they try to 'hit' the high note. There are better ways of handling this situation than what is heard here - have the voices reduce volume when they attack the high note.

Summary: Harnoncourt 'thumps' the 10-Commandment-motif with appropriate energy, but fractures too many beautiful phrases to make this mvt. very enjoyable for me.

[7] Leusink
Leusink has a much better quality of sound and balance in his instrumental ensemble than Harnoncourt. Above all, the oboes lack the restless sound of those in the Harnoncourt recording. The string orchestra and continuo play legato. Did you hear that Nicholas? LEGATO! The statement of the '10-Commandments'-motif by the strings is not very strong, but passable; but when the motif goes into the basso continuo (particularly when it jumps up an octave), it loses the necessary 'punch' that Harnoncourt was able to provide. After a bit, it becomes clear that this is a much 'sweeter' version of this piece, that sounds as if an angelic choir from afar were attempting to bring us some pleasant news. But we know from above (Mark 16) that Christ was in more of an angry, scolding, threatening frame of mind. This is why I have a problem with this 'pleasant' interpretation which lacks real stamina, stamina that Harnoncourt had in some places where needed and in many others where it should have been expressed differently: with firmness and authority that comes from building a musical line that extends beyond just two or three notes in each phrase. With Leusink everything is generally on the light side with lax entrances and a general lack of conviction on the part of the singers. As usual the falsettist in the alto and soprano voice take over and tend to cover the tenors and basses. I have great difficulty with this type of vocal sound production because it sounds unnatural, strained, forced into the back of the throat from which it tends to 'nasalize' the sound and becomes unwieldy for the singer. Listen to the beginning of the final section (soprano, alto duet) and what happens here? It's very predictable -- the jump of the seventh from the low part of the range where the volume is diminished to the higher part of the vocal range where it becomes uncontrollable. Listen to this part carefully! It sounds amateurish, not worthy enough for singing Bach, let alone being recorded as well. It destroys the continuity and draws attention to itself for no reason that can be seen indicated in the score.

Summary: Leusink has a good beginning, but after that the usual problems that he has become apparent. Sometimes I wonder, what would happen if someone the caliber of Robert Shaw were to direct these singers. Could he have 'turned them around' and improved what he had there, or would he have had to choose different singers in order to reach his much higher level of choral conducting?

[6] Koopman
Koopman approaches this mvt. with a light touch and a slightly faster tempo. Much of what we hear is subtle understatement of Bach's intentions. He has clean choral lines with crescendi and diminuendi, and the intonation is superb. Listen for the jump of a seventh in the final section. Here it is done properly without a strong emphasis on the high note. Another angelic choir sings to us from a great distance. It has some problems with interference from the various layers of the atmosphere. When the '10-Commandments' -motif appears, everything becomes even more subdued than before, as if the 10 Commandments were something to hurry over and get out of the way quickly. Basically the strong foundation upon which this mvt. should stand is lacking. We once again have both Koopman and Leusink skipping lightly through the mvt, making it a sort of invitation to the dance. It is very pleasant music from this standpoint. However, we might as well have the chorus singing Oo's and Ah's, and put this on a CD for listeners only interested in Bach for the music and not the texts. The Swingle Singers could then add this to their repertoire as well. The unity between the message and the music is completely lacking, as much as I do like the sheer sound of this recording and the quality of choral singing that Koopman produces.

Summary: This is the best version for those who enjoy a satisfying choral sound together with a nimble and precise instrumental accompaniment. As background music, I could hear this version many times without tiring of it.

[4] Rilling
Rilling to the rescue? Notice the slightly slower tempo which allows for a more deliberate statement of the music based on the text. Although the oboes are not as pleasant sounding as those of Leusink and Koopman which I prefer in this regard, the violins have a singing quality as they sweep through their extended phrases. The vocal lines are presented with enthusiasm and precision. The only blemish on this otherwise excellent recording is in the sopranos, among which there are one or two that should not have been singing for this recording. There is a vibrato that refuses to blend in with the others and creates a 'shaky' sound on some notes. The correct note is in there somewhere, but I do not hear it correctly, nor do these voices fully control what they are singing. Again, check the final section, when the sopranos and altos have to jump from a low note to a high note! This will reveal what is quality and what is not. At times these voices (or this voice) consist more of vibrato than of actual sound volume being produced. This is where a Bach choir begins to sound like an opera chorus. Otherwise the whole conception of the mvt. based on affirmation, conviction, and belief is conveyed by the singers and instrumentalists alike. There is no light tapping of notes, there are no fractured phrases.

Summary: This version speaks directly to the heart. The German words are clear and deliberate and the vocal and instrumental attacks are performed with cleanly with precision. All the pieces (motifs, etc.) fit together very well and are enunciated clearly as necessary. I am disturbed only by the soprano problem, which, by the way, continues on into the other cantatas on this disk. Perhaps you can overlook or overhear this, then this is the version to enjoy from all aspects already discussed – the cantata's message, and its construction based on various motifs. It is a masterpiece of beauty on many levels by a genius whose depths we are unable to fathom completely. That is the very reason why this music is so rewarding.

PS I forgot to include my little investigation into the '10-Commandment'-motif as it appears in this mvt. Here are the occurrences of the motif as they appear in each part in each of the three sections:

Instrument/Voice Ritornello Middle Ending
Basso continuo 5 10 5
Oboe 1 1 1 1
Oboe 1 0 1 1
Violin 1 5 7 5
Violin 2 5 7 5
Viola 0 0 4
Soprano 0 1 1
Alto 0 1 1
Tenor 0 4 3 = 10
Bass 0 4 3 = 10

The continuo, tenor, and bass look interesting, don't they?

Thomas Braatz wrote (May 31, 2001):
Comments on recordings of other mvts. (other than 1 [Chorus] and 4-5 [Bass]):
I only have Harnoncourt, Rilling, Koopman, and Leusink.

Mvt. 2 Tenor Aria

The experts have definitely determined that there was a solo violin part that is missing. Reconstructions began in the 19th century with Robert Franz, a composer of that period, providing the missing part. One of the reasons given as proof that this part is missing, is to simply look at or listen to this aria arecorded by Leusink who does not use any reconstructed violin part. It definitely sounds empty, particularly when you compare it with the next mvt. which also has only a basso continuo. This continuo part (Mvt. 3), however, stands up very well without any additional instrumental part, because Bach intentionally composed it to stand alone. Leusink's Knut Schoch [7] sings this aria with a clean tone and good pronunciation. It is rather expressionless when compared to the other versions I have. Rilling [4] has a slower tempo with an interesting violin part reconstruction. The continuo is too loud for my taste, but Kraus can handle this without a problem. I do not like how he attacks the first phrase which is repeated many times in this mvt. He sounds like he is forcing his voice when he reaches for the high notes here, but when he gets to the melismas, this is where he shows his mastery in singing Bach properly. Koopman's Prégardien [6] has very good expression. The balance between the voice and the instruments (Koopman wrote the missing violin part!) is excellent, perhaps the best of the recordings that I have, but when it comes to the singular expressive quality in Equiluz' voice [3], I am willing to put up with Harnoncourt's muffled continuo and the thin sound of the baroque violin. Using an oxymoron, I would say that I enjoy Equiluz' expression of serious joy. Yes, there is joy, but it relates to a very serious matter of the gift of Belief and the feeling of gratitude for such a gift being bestowed. Equiluz seems to capture both feelings.

Mvt. 3 Soprano & Alto Chorale

For simply hearing a well-balanced duo without expression, Leusink's Holton [7] and Buwalda do very well together. I can hear every note sounded clear as a bell. There is nothing to distract from the chorale text. This makes me wonder, whether chorale texts should be sung with the same emotional expression as an aria. Perhaps they should be treated differently? Koopman's Rubens and Landauer [6] have to put up with a faster tempo established by Koopman. The balance is not quite as perfect as in Leusink's version. In Harnoncourt's recording [3] the Vienna Choir Boys' unnamed soloist is almost too forceful for Esswood, but some very beautiful effects are nevertheless achieved. If you want expression, then Rilling's version [4] with Augér and Watkinson should serve you well. The balance between the voices is fairly good, but when Augér reaches for the higher notes (which really are not that high for a soprano) her volume increases and her voice takes on an angry (to my ears at least) expression. The total effect of these two voices with Rilling's accompaniment is one of greater heaviness compared to the others, which, in order to be fair, are not like the tradionally trained voices that can also sing operas.

Mvt. 6 Chorale

Amazingly, (this is too good to be true, we 'must be on a roll' here the last few weeks) even Harnoncourt's version is very good, as are all the others. Because a good portion of the soprano melody is in the low range, there are no problems to detect in Leusink's falsettists [7]. In Rilling's version [4], the soprano problem noted in mvt.1 seems to be temporarily under control, for the same reason. High marks for all the chorale versions in this group.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 1, 2001):
Concerning the '10-Commandments'-motif as it appears in Mvt. 1 of this cantata, here is a list of the occurrences of the motif as it appears in each instrumental and voice part in each of the three sections:

Instrument/Voice Ritornello Middle Ending
Basso continuo 5 10 5
Oboe 1 1 1 1
Oboe 1 1 1
Violin 1 5 7 5
Violin 2 5 7 5
Viola 4
Soprano 1 1
Alto 1 1
Tenor 4 3
Bass 4 3

The continuo and the balance between the outer sections in the violins look interesting, don't they?

While I am counting, I might as well count the others for the sake of completeness.

The 'Praise-God'-motif occurs 3 times in the continuo in its full form, once coupled with the bass voice. There is another occurrence in a modified form because the bass line could not continue lower out of its range, it had to jump up an octave and continue down from there.

The 'Belief'-motif occurs 7 times, mainly in the oboes, switching between the 1st and 2nd oboe for variation. The bass and soprano get to sing it alone just once .

The 'Baptism-of-Christ'-motif is in the continuo 6 times with the bass voice joining in 3 times.

When Aryeh places my examples from the score on the Archive Site, you should be able to view the sources of these motifs so that you can make up your own mind in this matter concerning the existence and possible origins of these motifs.

Andrew Oliver wrote (June 5, 2001):
All I wanted to say about this delightful cantata amounts simply to concurrence with observations which have already been made. To take the last movement first, I do think the closing chorale is sung on both Leusink's [7] and Harnoncourt's [3] recordings with a calm dignity which is very pleasing. I usually like Leusink's rendering of these chorales, and, of the two, I prefer his on this occasion, but Harnoncourt's is much better than normal. It is more legato, and although there is still a trace of accented beat, it is not enough to spoil my enjoyment. As regards the soprano/alto duet, again, I like both recordings, but prefer Leusink's. Sometimes I really do not like Sytse Buwalda's voice at all, but on this occasion his voice blends particularly well with that of Ruth Holton, and I think that this is partly because, as Tom has put it, the singing is expressionless. Actually, I don't think that is quite true. They seem to me to sing, perhaps without emotional involvement, but with controlled, cantabile phrasing which allows the pure music to convey all the expression that is needed. This is not sensual drama but unsullied ART.

 

Some help "auf Deutsch" [BACH-LIST]

Carl Grapentine wrote (July 7, 2006):
Hello.
I will be conducting a performance of Bach's Cantata BWV 37 "Wer da glaubet und getauft wird." The question is: is there an umlaut on the "a" in "glaubet?" The Bach Cantata website uses the umlaut in every mention. Christoph Wolff's book mentions the cantata twice--both time with the umlaut. All seven recordings I have found use the umlaut.

BUT...some German speakers I know have questioned the use. And the Kalmus score does NOT use the umlaut in the title or in the opening chorus.

Zu Hilfe!

John Briggs wrote (July 7, 2006):
[To Carl Grapentine] Why do they just question the umlaut? The current word would be "glaubt". It was "gläubet" then. Languages change.

Peter Stoll wrote (July 7, 2006):
[To Carl Grapentine] in present day standard German 'glaubet' with the umlaut would be plain wrong, so it is not amazing that many native speakers question the umlaut. We are, however, talking about a variety of German several hundred years old, and there are many instances of words, word forms, phrases etc. in the cantata texts which are not compatible with modern standard use. So, if there are reliable sources and if cumulative evidence (hundreds of mentionings with umlaut via Google) suggests an umlaut, there seems to be nothing wrong with it.

Daniel E. Abraham [Director of Music - Musicologist & Director of Choral Activities - American University (Washington, DC)] wrote (July 10, 2006):
[To Carl Grapentine] Also, I would recommend the use of anyone but Kalmus for Bach -- there are so many better editions readily available with excellent, thorough and sound research behind them. Try Bärenreiter, the new Breitkopf scores, Carus or even Peters long before relying on any of the Kalmus materials. Itwill make your work as a director so much easier -- particularly if you are only working with the instrumentalists for a more limited time. We often have time to correct the choral issues in rehearsal, but unless you are ready to correct many editing problems in the Kalmus orchestral parts, go with any of the other publishers mentioned. it would be worth the expense out of pocket. Sorry to sound like a score snob, but as conductors, we all know that time is the most valuable commodity.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 37: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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

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Last update: ýOctober 2, 2011 ý07:58:40