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Cantata BWV 37
Wer da gläubet und getauft wird
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 28, 2007

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2007):
Discussion for the week of January 28, 2007

Cantata BWV 37 - "Wer da gläubet und getauft wird", Ascension Day

Date of composition for first performance, May 18, 1724. Text, data on recordings, readings for the day, commentary, and previous discussion can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV37.htm

including the following specific links:

Previous Discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV37-D.htm
Provenance: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV37-Ref.htm
Commentaries: None.

It is important to emphasize that this week continues our break in chronologic discussion of Bach's Sacred and Secular Cantatas. In contrast to the preceding three weeks, in the case of BWV 37 there is no question of the authenticity, or of the date of composition. It appears that it is misplaced in the BCML chronology through simple oversight.

I continue to rely on Dürr for the basis of the introduction. His text is concise, with up to date scholarly status, and likely priced out of the range of most BCML participants.:

<The Gospel for the day first tells of Jesus' injunction to undertake mission and baptism, and then of his Ascension. Bach's cantatas for this feast-day refer to either one or the other of these narratives. Accordingly, in the present cantata the account of the Ascension remains unmentioned. Its theme is faith and the Christian's justification by faith. [...] Despite its concise form [...] the cantata is bipartite: each half concludes with a chorale setting.

<The opening chorus sets the theme by quoting Mark 16: 16 from the Gospel read out beforehand. The following aria, Mvt. 2, celebrates faith as the sign of Jesus' love for His own people; and the chorale Mvt. 3 - the fifth verse of the hymn Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern by Philipp Nicolai (1599) - is a prayer of thanksgiving by the Christian for the love shown him in Jesus. In a manner reminiscent of the structure of a sermon, the recitative that introduces the second part, no. 4, now brings a refutation of the false view that a Christian could be saved by good works alone. With reference to Romans 3:28, the librettist emphasizes that faith alone justifies man before God. The following aria, Mvt. 5, recapitulates: faith is the pre-condition and baptism the confirmation, that the Christian is saved. Like the chorale Mvt. 3, the concluding chorale Mvt. 6 - the fourth verse of the hymn Ich dank dir, lieber Herre by Johann Kolrose (c. 1535) - takes the form of a prayer.

<For a feast day cantata, Bach's setting is modest in its requirements: apart from four voices, strings, and continuo, it requires only two oboes d'amore. Bach nonetheless knew how to achieve exceptionally attractive effects from the scoring, and in the nineteenth century the cantata already enjoyed a relatively large circulation and popularity. The extended introductory sinfonia of the first movement develops three melodic lines, which are stated simultaneously. The first of these, played on the oboes, later forms the opening theme of the chorus, to the words 'Wer da gläubet'; the second, assigned to the violins, recalls Luther's chorale Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot, though it is doubtful whether the allusion to this melody (originally of secular origin) was intentional. Finally, in the continuo we hear a descending note sequence that recurs in the third movement as the last line of the chorale Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern, though here again we are not obliged to hear a conscious allusion of Bach's to the chorale melody: [score examples follow] The chorus itself proves to be largely a combination of vocal writing with parts of the introductory sinfonia. Each of its two large sections contains an almost complete reprise of the sinfonia (partly transposed) with choral insertion, interrupted by brief passages in which the lead is taken by the choir, which adopt the the oboes' theme and later occasionally the string theme.

<The second movement is unfortunately incomplete, lacking a solo violin part [support for reconstructions]. In the third movement, Bach, by contrast with his contemporaries who showed little interest in the chorale, takes up an older form: the modestly scored chorale concerto [...]. A more modern feature, however, is the greater flexibility of Bach's texture, especially the lively and motivically structured lead taken by the continuo - the sole instrumental accompaniment of the two voice parts. According to the substance of the text, the chorale melody undergoes various expressive modifications, particularly on the words 'dort oben' ('there above') and 'loben' ('praise').

<A recitative accompanied by strings, no. 4, leads to the second aria, Mvt. 5, in which Bach achieves charming sound effects through the full string accompaniment and the alternation between the playing and resting of the oboe. The concluding chorale, Mvt. 6, is set in the usual plain four-part texture. In the first Stollen of its melody, we hear the change to the minor mode that was probably usual at the time, whereas the corresponding passage in the second Stollen - now on the word 'verzeihe' ('cleanse') - is, surely on textual round, in the major instead. <end quote>

Some additional, interesting (to me, at least) thoughts, from the notes by Ruth Tatlow to the CD of Ascension cantatas by JEGardiner [5]:

<With one of the number-alphabets used by several of his friends to generate ideas in poetry, the words in the title of this cantata represent a total of 283 [...] Bach gave the cantata 283 bars, set out as 250 bars in the score with a 33 bar da capo section in the second movement. And why should he not have enjoyed a private smile at the preacher's expense? It was springtime. His 22 year old wife had recently given birth to their second child [...] <end quote>

I will leave it to devout Lutherans to comment as to whether a numerologic (all right, OK, gemiatric!) joke at the preacher's expense conforms to devout Lutheran behavior? Commentators requested to provide credentials as to their qualifications re Bach and Lutheran theology (in any century of your choice). Any defense or attack on the topic of <Bach and numbers> would also be appropriate here.

Tatlow again, in conclusion, relating BWV 37 to the three subsequent Ascension cantatas:
<Four cantatas for Ascension Day, each a cameo of Bach's life-experience and faith - from the optimism of the early Leipzig years to the brokenness of a decade later; from a joyful acclamation that the baptized believer will be saved, to a yearning for the appearance of the Ascended One. <end quote>

There are extensive and excellent comments on the music and recordings in the first round of discussions. I will provide some additional personal thoughts interactively, during the week.

Those with an eye and taste for fine detail (not to say nitpickers) may enjoy the commentary in the first round on the umlaut in gläubet.

Thanks to everyone who has participated in (or even just read) the discussions these past few weeks. Please carry on.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 27, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Tatlow again, in conclusion, relating BWV 37 to the three subsequent Ascension cantatas:
<Four cantatas for
Ascension Day, each a cameo of Bach's life-experience and faith - from the optimism of the early Leipzig years to the brokenness of a decade later; from a joyful acclamation that the baptized believer will be saved, to a yearning for the appearance of the Ascended One. <end quote> >
I have to admit to little patience for this kind of mining of a composer's works for biographical information --

"The composer must have been feeling particularly sad that morning as he began writing a G minor Adagio. Things seem to have picked up later that day for he was cheerfully writing a C major Allegro by tea time."

Bach's autobiographical references to himself, mostly notably the B-A-C-H theme, are far more objective and intellectualized than these so-called "cameos". I just don't believe that a composer's oeuvre is a family photo album or diary.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Aha! I tend to agree. How then do so many BCML participants insist on Bach's orthodox Lutheran devotion, as demonstrated by the librettos he set, written by others?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 27, 2007):
< I have to admit to little patience for this kind of mining of a composer's works for biographical information -- "The composer must have been feeling particularly sad that morning as he began writing a G minor Adagio. Things seem to have picked up later that day for he was cheerfully writing a C major Allegro by tea time." >
The closest thing that I can think of that is musically biographical, in a humorous way, is: a theme in Beethoven's second symphony, last movement, depicting some of his chronic gastric problems.

Or on the other side into the 17th century: Marais's little melodramatic suite for viola da gamba that explicitly depicts a gall bladder operation (without anaesthetic, of course).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Or on the other side into the 17th century: Marais's little melodramatic suite for viola da gamba that explicitly depicts a gall bladder operation (without anaesthetic, of course). >
Ouch! Sounds a bit too genuinely painful for melodrama. Of course, if the patient was a hypochondriac, and the operation not actually necessary, who knows? Just wild speculation.

Xavier Rist wrote (January 28, 2007):
Cantata BWV 37 "Wer da gläubet und getauft wird"

For me the two gems of this cantata are its opening chorus and the unique Choral duet (n°3). But the Bass Aria is beautiful too and overall it's a first rate piece. All numbers are quite short. I have listened to 3 versions: Harnoncourt [3], Rilling [4] and Leusink [7].

Mvt. 1 Chorus
The orchestral introduction (personally I prefer to reserve the term "ritornello" to a shorter phrase) uses a main 3 notes motive that sounds like a call, complemented by a more rhythmic one in the violins. The choir comes in with loose imitations on the main motive (always in close entrances) and will sing until the end, developing a free counterpoint and varying the entrances on the call theme. The atmosphere is at the same time cheerful and solemn, full of warmth and perfectly fitting the meaning of the words. With such a beautiful material you kind of expect a longer piece (no coda of any sort either, it's just cut short quite abruptly) but as it is it's a wonderful piece nonetheless.
[For more details on the musical and symbolic elements go read M. Braatz' post. Fascinating stuff, even if I don't buy it all]
One of the most annoying things in Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series [3] is that the sound recording quality varies a great deal from one cantata to the other, from very good to so-so. But here it is beautifully captured and it's a real pleasure to hear the boy sopranos (and altos too! sometimes you get tired of counter tenors.) sing with all their heart and enthusiasm, with male voices perfectly balanced and excellent as well. Lucky us, we have Nikolaus in a very good day here, not one bit dogmatic: the instrumental introduction is crisp and lively yet expressive, even moving (oboes dare sustaining their long notes). The whole movement comes out splendidly.
Rilling [4] in a slower tempo takes a more lyrical approach, as he often does. It works well for that movement, the choir is excellent as usual and it is for me a very good rendition.
Leusink [7] seems really pale in comparison. With him we are used to good instrumental introductions but here it is just acceptable. It sounds timid, like he doesn't take any stand and stays on the threshold of any musical emotion. The entrance of the choir is miserably tentative. After that, they sing with a remarkable lack of conviction. To my ears, a routine performance.

Mvt. 2 Aria (T)
Only the continuo and singing part of this aria remain but it is established that there was a solo violin part, so it has to be "reconstructed" (in this case recomposed from scratch).
Harnoncourt [3] and Rilling [4] use two very different reconstructions. My preference goes to Harnoncourt's version not so much because of the reconstruction itself than the way it is played, elegantly phrased and airy when Rilling's violinist uses a very heavy "à la corde" style from beginning to end. Equiluz is his usual beautiful self but Kraus is very good too here.
I couldn't help burst out laughing when I listened to Leusink's version [7] after the two others. He simply recorded it without any violin part and it is the stupidest choice he could make. Come on, man. Either you play it with violin, either you don't play it at all! As it is, it looks like a stool with a missing leg.

Mvt. 3 Choral-Duet (S, A)
On an animated bass line, the soprano sings the choral melody, freely imitated at close range by the alto. Composition wise it will remind you of BWV 4 n.3 ("Den Tod.") although the mood is very different, restrained and severe in "Christ lag.", confident and cheerful here. But then come big differences. First, after the second period of the choral the singers switch their parts (alto takes the choral) and the effect is absolutely exquisite. Second, as it goes along ("Eya, eya"), the choral phrases are progressively enriched by long ornamental vocalise codas. Literally enchanting. And what an imaginative and accurate way to convey the meaning of the text! I wonder if there is any other movement with the same structure in all Bach's vocal work.
Good news: Harnoncourt's Viennese boy [3] is totally up to his task here! Add Esswood in good form and a beautifully phrased cello and you get a perfect moment of music.
Rilling's version [4] is good too with Augér (always a pleasure to listen to) and Watkinson. I have two (small) reservations though: the bass line is played in a very uniform way, all legato, it really could be lighter ; also, as the duet goes by, the two ladies have a tendency to sing in a more and more operatic way (lots of vibrato!). It actually sounds nice, you can feel the joy, but I'm not sure this style of singing is really what the piece calls for.
Leusink [7], Holton and Buwalda sound like it is 7 pm, they have been recording all day and they want to go home. Singing is correct (Holton doing her usual "Rather drop dead than vibrate" whisper, Buwalda buwalding gently), playing is correct, tempo is fast. But if you are looking for any form of musical or spiritual feeling (trust, faith, exultation, elevation, joy, you name it) go on your way, Bach ! That's a shame considering these artists are able to do so much better (with the same team listen to the delicious duet BWV 3 n.5 "Wenn Sorgen auf mich dringen").

Mvt. 5 Aria (B)
The rhythmic motive (3 repeated chords) in the accompaniment of this small but appealing Bass aria in B minor (preceded by a recitative supported by strings) sounds to me like the believer solidly planted in the ground before his baptised soul raises to the sky (lots of ascending scales in the vocal part), but this is the highly personal and humble interpretation of a heathen.
Rilling [4] is quite fast, alive and intense. He emphasizes the rhythmic element at the beginning and catches our attention. But I must confess I never really cared for Huttenlocher's singing in Bach. To me he sounds like a very dull van Egmond (who is anything but dull).
Van der Meer is much better with Harnoncourt [3]. The latter takes the piece more lightly and gives it a dancing quality which comes through in the most charming way.
Leusink's conception [7] is close to Harnoncourt's [3], yet much less alive. Ramselaar is one of Leusink's best assets. I love the naturalness of his voice and the simplicity of his singing. At the same time I often feel that, in terms of musical expression, he stops in the middle of the road when, with a little push, he would easily be able to take it to the next level. Nevertheless his aria is, in my opinion, by far the best number of Leusink's recording.

In the final Choral (Mvt. 6) -- Bach's way to make us smoothly land back on earth -- I like Harnoncourt [3] the best because of his relaxed tempo (yes!) and his magnificent choir sound.

In conclusion
Harnoncourt [3] is truly at his best in this cantata, all fervor, enthusiasm and superior musicianship. There is no week link, and the mannerisms that too often undermine his work are kept to a minimum. Even if you are not a fan, go for it you won't be disappointed. Rilling [4] gives a beautiful interpretation in a more conventional way. This time Leusink [7] is off and misses the point completely, except in the Bass aria.

OK guys, this was my first contribution... hope it won't be the last but I wouldn't bet on it... so hard to write in English... sorry for the mistakes... thanks for your patience... looking forward to read your input... so long...

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 28, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< OK guys, this was my first contribution... hope it won't be the last but I wouldn't bet on it... so hard to write in english... sorry for the mistakes... thanks for your patience... looking forward to read your input... so long... >
We cherish our scarce ladies, presumably they are included with the guys? They certainly would be, in current American English, but I am unsure where that leaves anatomical guys. Or rather, I am not unsure at all, I just don't know what we call ourselves. Dudes? That should du it.

I also hope it won't be your last contribution. Writing in English is just as hard for all of us. Like driving in Boston (full contact sport, some of you may recall), there is no advantage to home turf. Sometimes a disadvantage. The rules change so often, that if you think you know what is going on, you are overlooking something.

Good thing you didn't write about BWV 87, Julian would really be worrried that someone might be overtaking (or taking over?) him! Thank you for having the courtesy to wait for my introduction before posting. I can see that you have listened to BWV 37 more than I have. I will try to catch up (if not overtake).

Aloha, Ed Myskowski (the friendly Dude, at least to some perceptions)

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 28, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< OK guys, this was my first contribution... hope it won't be the last but I wouldn't bet on it... so hard to write in english... sorry for the mistakes... thanks for your patience... looking forward to read your input... so long... >
Come on, that was a very fine contribution and I hope you'll carry on! Besides, my english, which is far worse than yours, is apparently received with ... tolerance? generosity of spirit? Why not write an introduction about you, tell us your bachground, and so on... (apparently you haven't done so so far, unless you have two or more email adresses).
<>

Julian Mincham wrote (January 28, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< The orchestral introduction (personally I prefer to reserve the term "ritornello" to a shorter phrase) >
Welcome to the list and an insightful contribution, hopefully the first of many more.

May I be forgiven for making a suggestion, intended to be helpful rather than critical, relating to the above? The terms 'introduction' and 'ritornello' are not actually related to length. The latter is properly used when the material returns in whole, or in part, in the middle and/or end of the movement. A ritornello can be quite long and complex--those of the first movements of the Fm keyboard concerto, double violin concerto and last movement of Brandenburg 4 are good examples. These would be correctly labelled ritornelli as indeed, are most of the instrumental sections with which Bach begins his vocal and instrumental movements.

The term 'introduction' is perhaps best applied when the opening section is not conceived as an organic, returning part of the musical structure. Haydn's slow introductions to his symphonic movements are a case in point. The music here 'introduces' the movement proper without being conceived as a part of its ultimate structural development.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 28, 2007):
I am grateful for the opportunity to revisit this charming work which I have not heard for a couple of years. As Ed points out it is misplaced here since it should clealy be seen as a part of the first not the second Leipzig cycle.

No matter, it's worth a re-hearing at any time. A sunny work principally in major keys (excepting the bass recit and aria). Re the missing violin part, Koopman has reconstructed it effectively in his recording of the cantata (box 9 of his complete set). Stylistically it works well, suggesting other Bach violin obligato of this kind such as that for the Laudamus Te from the Bm Mass which it reminds me of---although this may be mainly due to the concurrence of key, A major.

Russell Telfer wrote (January 28, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks to Ed for a clear introduction.

I have a non-scholarly snippet to add, which will be of particular interest to those who have access to UK television programmes.

As Julian Mincham writes:
< (this is) .... a sunny work principally in major keys (excepting the bass recit and aria). >
Having just revisited BWV 37 after a long while, I have the strong feeling that the first chorale could have formed an unconscious inspiration for the theme music of the BBC's The Vicar of Dibley, about a newly appointed lady vicar dealing with a gang of unreconstructed parishioners.

The words, translated:
He who trusteth and is baptized, he shall have salvation... are quite appropriate too.

How many other of Bach's themes could yet emerge?

Julian Mincham wrote (January 28, 2007):
Russell Telfer wrote:
< I have the strong feeling that the first chorale could have formed an unconscious inspiration for the theme music of the BBC's The Vicar of Dibley, about a newly appointed lady vicar dealing with a gang of unreconstructed parishioners. >
Russell I'm make a point to listen to this next time a repeat of the programme is aired.

Of course the inspiration might also not have been wholly unconscious???

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 28, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Discussion for the week of January 21, 2007
Cantata BWV 37- "Wer da gläubet und getauft wird",
Ascension Day >
I'm curious how the cpart of the tenor aria, "Der Glaube ist das Pfand," is realized in various recordings. The opening of the aria has a bass line which is really not a solo line in the way "Geduld" in the SMP (BWV 244) or "Quia fecit" in the Magnificat (BWV 243) are. At bar 15, the principal vocal melody is combined with it and seems to "complete" it. The question is ... Should the keyboard anticipate the vocal melody in its realization of bar 1? The Leusink recording [7] doesn't. The piano-vocal score available here provides a realization which looks like an obligato organ part. How do other recordings handle the implied realization?

Julian Mincham wrote (January 28, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The opening of the aria has a bass line which is really not a solo line in the way "Geduld" in the SMP (BWV 244) or "Quia fecit" in the Magnificat (BWV 243) are. At bar 15, the principal vocal melody is combined with it and seems to "complete" it. The question is ... Should the keyboard anticipate the vocal melody in its realization of bar 1? >
Surely what the continuo player does will depend a lot on the realisation of the violin part. Koopman [6] has the violin entering at the beginning with the opening tenor's idea before developing itself into a typically idiomatic violin ritornello melody. In this case (which seems to me to be very effective) the continuo player has no need to consider the point of emulating the tenor motive. at this stage.

But whatevr he does must surely depend on what the obligato line does as he would (or should) be aware of and sensitive to it. No problem for Koopman [6] of course who performs both functions-- reconstructing the obligato line and playing continuo.

Xavier Rist wrote (January 28, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks for your message J M but you opened a big can of worms. or did I?

First, I would like to know your sources for the definition that you propose.
Second, admitting we take it for granted, it does not apply in any way whatsoever to the orchestral section of this chorus.

Now let's try to go one step further, let's consult dictionaries.

Starting with the Italian one (it's an Italian word after all) this is what we get:

ritornèllo s. m.
verso o strofe che si ripete invariata a intervalli regolari in una composizione poetica o musicale, frequente nei canti popolari (line or stanza that is repeated unvaried at regular intervals in a poetic or musical composition, frequent in popular songs).
fig., in alcune espressioni, discorso noioso, ripetuto troppe volte (Figuratively, in certain expressions, annoying talk repeated too many times).
in musica, segno che prescrive la ripetizione della musica che lo precede ovvero, quando è costituito da due elementi, della musica fra essi compresa; in particolare, con lo stesso sign. del frs. refrain, parte strumentale che viene ripetuta tra una strofe e l'altra nelle canzoni.
(Here, it explains that, in music, it also names the musical sign indicating you have to repeat a previous element, in particular the instrumental part that is repeated between the verses of a song. It is in fact the S crossed with two dots that you find in so many baroque and classical scores)
With such a definition it is not surprising that when you type "ritornello" in an Italian-English dictionary you get refrain as a translation, not ritornello. So it's not really helping.

Now let's go to an English dictionary (American Heritage Dictionary):

ritornello
1. An instrumental interlude recurring after each stanza in a vocal work.
2. A passage or section for full orchestra in a concerto or aria.
3. An instrumental interlude in early 17th-century opera.
4. The refrain of a rondo.

Well, if it isn't confusing! No less than 4 definitions (with yours it makes 5) quite vague, several of them contradictory. Not helping either.

In French we have our own word (and quite ancient too, it's attested in 1671) "ritournelle". We also have "refrain" that is used a lot with the same meaning than in English.

Let's look it up in the "Trésor de la langue française":

ritournelle n. f.
A. MUSIQUE
1. Court motif instrumental qui introduit ou rappelle une mélodie au début, à la fin ou entre chaque strophe d'un morceau.
(Short instrumental motive that introduces a melody or reminds of it in the beginning, end, or between each stanza of a piece)
2. P. ext. (extensively)
a) Petit air servant de refrain à une chanson. (small tune acting as the refrain of a song)
b) Chant ou chanson à refrain, facile et monotone. (song or popular song with refrain, easy and monotonous)
B. Au fig. Ce qui est répété trop souvent, à satiété.(Figuratively.
What is repeated too often, ad nauseam)

I'll add that the word is commonly used in this acceptation among music students or in Musical Analysis classes (we do a lot of that here, lol).

So you see there is in fact, at least in French, a notion of shortness and simplicity and repetitiveness in that word plus, and in Italian as well, a pejorative connotation through the figurative sense. The little phrase on the continuo in BWV 3 n.2, or the violins music in BWV 13 n.3, that would be typical examples of Ritournelle. Anyway, that's enough reasons for me not to use it (even in English) to name the big orchestral tuttis starting Bach's cantatas, at least most of them. Sometimes the term "Sinfonia" could be appropriate (BWV 109 comes in mind) or "Fantasy" or even "Concerto" (BWV 124) or "Concerto grosso" (BWV 1) or French Overture (BWV 20) but no, not "Ritornello", it just doesn't fit.

As for your suggestion to use the word "introduction" in music only to designate the slow liminary parts of classical symphonies or similar structures, I think it is much too much restrictive. It's a very generic word with a broad meaning, able to be used in many musical contexts and IMHO it should stay that way.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 28, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< As for your suggestion to use the word "introduction" in music only to designate the slow liminary parts of classical symphonies or similar structures, I think it is much too much restrictive. >
Firstly I didn't say this at all. I merely mentioned Haydn as an obvious example but I did not make a limitation of tempo or period as you suggest.

Secondly, terms do, of course, change their use and definition over the years. Nevertheless there are usually broad areas of concurrence and that of 'ritornello' suggesting a 'returning' of some sort is one. Many writers use the term' ritornello form. to designate a particular baroque musical structure.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 29, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Nevertheless there are usually broad areas of concurrence and that of 'ritornello' suggesting a 'returning' of some sort is one. Many writers use the term' ritornello form. to designate a particular baroque musical structure.<<
There is a rather lengthy definition of 'ritornello' in the Grove Music Dictionary. Skipping the early meaning and development of this term, here is what Michael Talbot in Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2007, acc.1/28/07 says about the later developments of this term:

>>The parallel emergence, towards the 1680s, of the 'church aria' in the form ritornello-vocal period 1-ritornello-vocal period 2-ritornello and the da capo aria (the same stated twice over and enclosing a third vocal section) provided the opportunity for ritornellos to become a fixed component of vocal music in many genres. Unlike their detached counterparts, integrated ritornellos tend not to be the same (allowing for transposition) on each appearance. They are frequently pared down or modified in some way. In certain arias written just before 1700 by such composers as Alessandro Scarlatti, detached anintegrated ritornellos appear in tandem; the former, entrusted to a string orchestra, precede, follow or frame the movement, while the continuo supplies the latter on its own.

Soon after 1700 ritornello technique was transferred to the concerto. From the start, homophonic fast movements in concertos employed motto-themes to introduce successive periods. A logical extension of this practice was to model the structure on the church aria, using episodes for the soloist as the equivalent of vocal periods. The number of episodes, and thus of foreign keys visited, could be increased at will, making this 'ritornello form' almost indefinitely expandable. Although examples of primitive ritornello form exist in concertos by Giuseppe Torelli (op.6, 1698; op.8, 1709) and Henricus Albicastro (op.7, c1705), the fully developed structure is encountered first in Antonio Vivaldi's concertos written towards the end of the same decade, and most notably in those published in his op.3 (1711). This is the model described by J.J. Quantz in his Versuch (1752). A few slow movements also employ the same form, miniaturizing the ritornello or reducing it to a simple frame. Later Vivaldi concertos, like those of his younger contemporaries Locatelli and Tartini, often turn the opening ritornello into a virtual piece in itself, featuring extensive thematic contrast and modulation to related keys (the tonal plan may prefigure that of the movement as a whole). Such ritornellos, expanded still further, constitute for the classical concerto of Mozart's era what, in an effort to assimilate the structure to sonata form, has become known as the 'preliminary' exposition. With the first movement of Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto (1803), the decisive move towards textbook sonata form was made. Thereafter ritornello form quickly disappeared as a general constructive principle, although it was occasionally revived in the 20th century in homage to the Baroque.<<

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 29, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] We already had long discussions about terminology on this list. It is quite reasonable to spend some time pondering terminology, however experience proves that it can easely become rather counter-productive.

In the chorale fantasias which introduce many of the cantatas, we very often have an instrumental structure which introduces the vocal structure, is repeated (in a more or less modified form) in the end, often provides thematic material for the parts accompanying the cantus firmus (whether they be instrumental or sometimes even vocal), and also appears in modified form between the verses.

It's very convenient to have a name for that. 'Ritornello' has its merits, it suggestive of what the thing is, it is used by Duerr, and besides I've got used to it. I would need serious reasons to replace it with another word. 'Introduction' sounds too general to me, as it may apply to the introductory instrumental structure, but also to the introductory chorale fantasia (or to the initial sinfonia, if there is one). I'm quite ready to consider any other suggestion.

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 29, 2007):
In fact, BWV 37/1 is a special case : it is not a chorale fantasia, the vocal structure is not organized in verses but forms a single uninterrupted block. Besides the introductory instrumental structure goes on along with the vocal structure, but both stop simultaneously at the end.

Therefore Xavier has a point here: the 'returning' characteristic of the ritornello is absent. One may argue in both directions here;

a in this instance the term 'ritornello' doesn't apply (Xavier's point of view);

b although the ritornello doesn't 'return' here, it functions much in the way a ritornello does, providing both an introduction and an accompaniment to the vocal structure, and is written in a style very similar to a ritornello; therefore by extension/abuse one may call it a ritornello still.

Both points of view seem perfectly acceptable to me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] It strikes me that "ritornello" as a musical term is best left to the music of the 17th century. In the works of Monteverdi and Praetorius, a ritornello is what its name suggests, the "little one who comes back", a short (often no more than 7 or 8 bars) which functions as a tutti interlude between solo sections or verses. The ritornellos in the Magnificat of the 1610 Vespers of Monteverdi are probably the best example. Purcell uses an even shorter ritornello in his anthem, "Rejoice in the Lord".

By the time we get to Bach, I can hardly think of an example where a short distinctive interlude returns without development. One example could be the orchestral figure which recurs in the opening chorus of Cantata BWV 78, "Jesu der du meine Seele", but even here Bach combines it with chorale melody. I would say that "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" in Cantata BWV 147 is not a ritornello even though it is not developed but it is interrupted and combined with the chorale on its repeitions.

In concertos, Vivaldi uses a very old-fashioned ritornello in his Concerto in C "ogni instrumenti" but there it's used for a comic touch as every instrument in the orchestra gets a crack at being the soloist. By the time we get to Mozart, only the recurring section of a Rondo finale somewhat reflects the old ritornello. It's a rather misleading term to use when discussing Bach.

Can anyone think of any strict ritornello moevments in the choral works?

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 29, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It strikes me that "ritornello" as a musical term is best left to the music of the 17th century. In the works of Monteverdi and Praetorius, a ritornello is what its name suggests, the "little one who comes back", a short (often no more than 7 or 8 bars) which functions as a tutti interlude between solo sections or verses. The ritornellos in the Magnificat of the 1610 Vespers of Monteverdi are probably the best example. Purcell uses an even shorter ritornello in his anthem, "Rejoice in the Lord".
By the time we get to Bach, I can hardly think of an example where a short distinctive interlude returns without development. One example could be the orchestral figure which recurs in the opening chorus of Cantata
BWV 78, "Jesu der du meine Seele", but even here Bach combines it with chorale melody. I would say that "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" in Cantata BWV 147 is not a ritornello even though it is not developed but it is interrupted and combined with the chorale on its repeitions. >
>>
Things change in time (and also in Bach's hands!). When do we decide that the thing which used to be called A has changed so much that we can no longer call it A and must devise a new name for it?

In any case what word would you suggest for the 'little one who has grown up but keeps returning?' Ritornellone, perhaps?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 29, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< Thanks for your message J M but you opened a big can of worms. or did I? >
Perhaps a bit of each?

Here is the definition of ritornello, quoted from Robertson (hence specific to Bach cantatas), and posted on the BCW glossary of musical terms:

<The recurrence of an instrumental introduction to choral or solo numbers, coming between lines or complete verses. The material is usually developed and so differs from the rondo-refrain type. The term is sometimes applied to the introductory matter itself. <end quote>

Dürr does not include ritornello in his glossary, but uses it consistently with Robertson, for example (p. 19):
<During Advent 1716 a new compositional technique appears, formerly employed in aria composition: the incorporation of the voice parts within a reprise of the whole or part of the opening ritornello. <end quote>

< So you see there is in fact, at least in French, a notion of shortness and simplicity and repetitiveness in that word plus, and in Italian as well, a pejorative connotation through the figurative sense. >
Full : my name betrays my Polish heritage, but that is only the half of it. The other half is Quebecker (rhymes with pecker, as in peckerhead (ACE?)), so I have to love the French. It is not always easy.

As used and defined on BCW there is no limitation on length, and especially no pejorative sense. An instrumental introduction is an introduction, once. If it is repeated, especially with development or variation, it becomes a ritornello. I believe the words are used clearly, consistently, and most important of all, usefully, in the BCML discussions and BCW archives.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it (ACE).
<>

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 11, 2007):
BWV 37 - Provenance

See: Cantata BWV 37 - Provenance

Julian Mincham wrote (January 29, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's a rather misleading term to use when discussing Bach. >
Not for the first, nor I guess the last time do I find myself in disagreement with Doug Cowling. If the term is misleading in a Bachian context a hell of a lot of books and articles should probably be rewritten.

Alain is correct in that there have been disputes here before on matters of terminology. However, often they seem to miss the point and obfuscate rather than clarify.

Years of attempting to persuade under- and post- graduate students to think logically and communicate clearly has led me to believe that there are some simple guidelines (or rules of thunb) which are helpful to apply when using specific and technical terms.

1 always be quite clear yourself as to what you mean when applying any particular term (probably the most broken rule of all)

2 Try to ensure that your use of the term is not wholly at odds with the conventional and established useages of it within a given period or style.

3 Wherever it is thought necessary, explain fully your useage of the term to your audience.

For the moment, and for purposes of illustration, let's move away from the two terms under dispute. To some audiences I would be happy to refer to a Beethoven 'violin sonata' knowing that our use of the term for that period is quite specific. But for others I might feel it necessary to say 'sonata for violin and piano'. This is a simple clarification for someone who may not be aware of the specific meaning attributed to the word 'sonata.in this period i.e. a piece usuually for 3/4 movememts for keyboard or for one other instrument AND keyboard. Some pedant is always going to say that the term 'sonata' is hereby misleading because you can also have an unaccompanied sonata for violin--true but there is a period perspective here--how many unaccompanied sonatas for violin did Beethoven or Mozart write? Nor does it help to envoke the much broader, less specific C16 meaning of the term of 'sounding together'. The meaning has altered but may be clearly applied within designated contexts.

With 'ritornello' it is clearly obvious that the use of the term in the works of Vivaldi, Bach and a large number of other composers of religious, instrumental and operatic music of the period has not the same meaning we would atribute to it when analysing, say, the repeated instrumental sections ater the fanfare in Monteverdi's Orfeo. I guess that Doug Cowling and I might agree on the point (which I made originally) that such terms alter their meanings and frequently become 'period specific' Where I disagree is that because the meaning has altered or evolved, it becomes either misleading or redundant.

In the late baroque period i think that it has a specific and extremely useful meaning which describes a particular and very common compositional process i.e of a slab of material (of undetermined length and complexity---compare for example the highly focussed 6 bar ritornello of Bach's great Dm keyboard concerto with the more discursive one in F minor) which, by returning in part or in whole in various keys and at the end in the tonic, defines the overall movement structure. It is quite different from the Monteverdi usage, nor it is a rondo (as is the last movement of the E+ violin concerto). It is a word which here delineates a compositional process which may be applied in all various different ways. As such it has more in common with the term 'sonata form'---a principle rather than a pattern.

Where I might argue with Alain is in the application of either of the terms 'introduction' or .'ritornello' to the first movement of BWV 137. Both are misleading in my view and a description of what Bach actually does is more helpful than an attempt to describe it partially with one (possibly inadequate in this instance) term. It always becomes difficult or impossible to describe accurately what a composer does when he is at his most original because here the traditional accepted terminology becomes inadequate:--a case of one word not being better than several.

As well as changing their meanings, terms cause further complication because we tend to apply them retrospectively in ways that the original composer would not have recognised (the term 'cantata' is one such example). But that is an inevitable consequence of our viewing the past within a context which stretches both before and in front of any given period.

For myself I shall continue to use the terms 'ritornello' and 'ritornello form' as a useful way of alluding to a commonly used compositional process of the time. At the same time I will, when necessary, differentiate between this accepted and established use of these terms within this period and different usages within other periods. . 'Ritornello' almost always suggests a process of 'returning' (as in the four American Heritage Dictionary definitions already quoted). But the application of the returning principle varies from period to period and may well need particular clarification.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 29, 2007):
Analysis of BWV 37/1

I can only agree with Robertson that the opening chorus "is one of those complex choruses that can be better appreciated if one has the miniature full score at hand".

It will be seen that at least one of several `main' motifs is sounding at some point, from start to finish in this movement, by the following analysis.

Two of the important motifs are introduced straight away, namely motif #1, 1st oboe, on the 2nd beat of bar one (Xavier's "call" motive, Tom's "belief" motif) and #2, 2nd oboe on the 2nd beat of bar two. These two motifs finish together on the first beat in bar six, whereupon motif #3 immediately begins on the 2nd beat of bar 6 in the continuo. (#3, like #2, consists mainly of half notes except for variation in their respective last bars; Tom notes the prevalence of intervals of a fourth in #3 called "baptism motif". Motifs #2 and #3 begin on the 2nd beat of a bar, with the 2nd note being tied over onto the first note in the next bar, producing a syncopated effect).

When #3 finishes, at the beginning of bar nine, #1 begins on the second beat (as usual) of this bar, on 1st oboe.

{No need to count bars any more, since we have now identified the main motives. Other important motives, and the manner in which they fit into the structure, for example what I will identify as #4, the 4-crotchets plus quavers motive, and what we on this board might call Schweitzer's `joy' motive (#5), - two quavers and a crotchet - are easily identified, so in order to keep the description as simple as possible, I will not refer to them unless necessary. Also, Tom has identified another descending-scale motive of two notes (#6; `praise God' motif) - of a whole-note and a half-note that begins in bar three in the continuo. Phew, try to listen to all these, as the movement progresses!}.

To continue: Immediately after #1 (1st oboe) finishes, we have two successive statements of #3 in the continuo (different pitch). The remainder of the ritornello is wholly taken up with the animated #4 and #5 (`joy') motifs. (I use the term "ritornello" on this list simply to mean the orchestral/instrumental introduction and interludes (if any) between the choral sections)

At the start of the choral section, the vocal basses begin with #1, over which TAS enter at the interval of a bar, bdon't get lost looking for S's entry, it comes one bar later than might be expected. The next bar,after S's entry, oboes 1 and 2 play #1 and #2 exactly as at the beginning of the movement. Further, the sopranos then align with and adopt #2 in unison with the 2nd oboe; after which the basses and continuo have #3.

Now we have the choral entries reversed - S (with #1) ABT; and yes - T come in a bar late; and yes, in the bar after T's entry, we have #1 and #2 on the oboes (reversed) playing as before; and yes, the altos soon align themselves with #2 on the 1st oboe.

After two bars combining the start of #1 in S then A, with #4 in B and then T (and #5 in the continuo), we have the basses and continuo with #3. From here to the end of the 1st main chorale section, we have #4 and #5 more and more introduced into all the parts, until in the 3rd to last bar of this section all the staves (except continuo)
have #5, for an animated and joyful effect.

The following SA duet is accompanied by #1 and #2 on the oboes as at the start; then basses and continuo come in with #3. This arrangement is repeated in the TB duet and following choral section, with modified #3 in the basses and continuo. The movement concludes with more of more of the animated #4 and #5 motives being introduced into the score, as at the end of the first main choral section.

I suppose a score is necessary in order to identify all these motives, so that one knows where they will occur; certainly my listening pleasure has increased considerably since studying the score of this graceful, happy music.

Comments on recordings to follow later in the week.

(PS, those who feel they have to rush off to watch their copies of `Desperate Housewives' will be excused if they do not read the above post).

Neil Halliday wrote (January 29, 2007):
There is an error (apologies) in my statement regarding the motif starting in bar nine, which will be seen by those following the score.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 29, 2007):
Introduction to BWV 37 - Continuo realization

< I'm curious how the continuo part of the tenor aria, "Der Glaube ist das Pfand," is realized in various recordings. The opening of the aria has a bass line which is really not a solo line in the way "Geduld" in the SMP (BWV 244) or "Quia fecit" in the Magnificat (BWV 243) are. At bar 15, the principal vocal melody is combined with it and seems to "complete" it. The question is ... Should the keyboard anticipate the vocal melody in its realization of bar 1? The Leusink recording [7] doesn't. The piano-vocal score available here provides a realization which looks like an obligato organ part. How do other recordings handle the implied realization? >
Peter Williams in his 1969 article was of the opinion: don't "complete" things by sticking the singer's melody into there ahead of its time. (Even if it happens to work, in some cases, it steals the show by drawing attention away from both the bass line and the singer's entrance.) [Williams's argument is of course more substantial than that mini-summary. But it's basically a less-is-more situation: simple b.c. from the organist without attempting to compose Bach's music for him.]

ref:
Peter Williams, "Basso Continuo on the Organ", Music and Letters #50 [1969], pp136-54 and 230-45

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Peter Williams in his 1969 article was of the opinion: don't "complete" things by sticking the singer's melody into there ahead of its time. (Even if it happens to work, in some cases, it steals the show by drawing attention away from both the bass line and the singer's entrance.) >
I tend to agree, but in the case of this aria, the bass line really has no melodic component: it's an accompaniment and sounds odd being highlighted.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 29, 2007):
< Can anyone think of any strict ritornello moevments in the choral works? >
There's one in PDQ Bach's cantata "Blaues Gras". But that doesn't count. Anyway, it's funny. It's modelled directly on the old American TV program "Laugh-In" (approx 1968 to early 70s): the music chortles along, stops suddenly, and a couple of characters tell a joke. Then the ritornello chortles along some more, stops suddenly, and another joke. Etc. One funny thing, among many, in this "Blaues Gras" is that even one of the joke phrases is straight from Laugh-In: the way Arte Johnson in a fake German accent used to say, "Verrrrrrry interrrresting...but dumb!", one of the characters in "Blaues Gras" gives us: "Sehr interessant...aber dumm!"

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Speaking of great Bach parodies, does anyone know if Joshua Rifkin's "Baroque Beatles Book" has been re-released on CD? His mock cantata is brilliant: the chorale-fantasy on "Please Please Me" is hilarious, the more so because only a Bach scholar could have made it sound like Bach.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 1, 2007):
BWV 37: the recordings

Koopman [6] can probably take the prize for the most beautiful performance of the opening chorus. Tempo is moderate (for a graceful effect) and the performance has a finesse that is reminiscent of Herreweghe (who has not recorded this cantata). For some reason the first chord reminds me of the lovely chord that begins Rodrigo's Concerto for 4 guitars, also in A major (IIRC).

[Though the resources used for this opening chorus are modest (strings plus two oboes and SATB), the ten staves almost always have independent material, so the texture is rich and complex - and melodious. Study of the score is definitely rewarding.]

Suzuki [8], Harnoncourt [3] and Leusink [7] are all pleasing. Rilling [4] is also satisfactory, but once again the vibrato on the oboes spoils the sound of those particular instruments. The oboes are almost obbligati instruments in this chorus, since they often carry two of the most significant motifs. Gardiner is pushing the speed limit, and the oboes are not particularly well recorded.

As Xavier noted, Leusink [7] shows the dangers of presenting the tenor aria as it has come down to us, with just vocal and continuo line. Also as Doug noted, the continuo line is not melodic in itself, but rather purely accompanimental, so either a full keyboard realisation, or an attempt at an obbligato violin reconstruction is required. The piano part in the BCW score looks interesting, and would probably be a satisfactory solution for performance of the aria if an obbligato reconstruction is not practicable.

Suzuki [8], with the most original and fullest reconstruction of the postulated violin solo, not surprisingly also has the most pleasing performance of the aria, making quite attractive music out of it; I wonder if Robertson would have changed his mind about the apparent lack of inspiration on Bach's part, if he had heard this performance. (Admittedly, Robertson may have been unaware that the score is almost certainly missing one or more parts).

In contrast with the preceding aria, the continuo line in the SA duet is melodic (and lively) in itself, so clarity and forward presentation of this part is most beneficial. Keyboard can take a back seat - there is plenty of interest in the cello line in combination with the vocal duet. This type of movement is best served by treating the voices instrumentally, so that the interweaving vocal and instrumental lines can always be comprehended, especially the lovely consecutive 6th and 3rds in the vocal lines at the end.

For these reasons I rate Leusink [7] highly in the duet; he brings great clarity to the continuo (cello) and vocal lines (one could just about write down the score from this recording), and the voices are quite satisfato my ears. Harnoncourt [3] is close behind, but best of all is Suzuki [8] who brings the most polish to the music.

Gardiner [5], Koopman [6] and Rilling [4] don't pay enough attention to the cello line. Rilling's singers bring an almost continuous `trilling' (vibrato) to the vocal lines, so the real trills are not discernable.

Rilling's expressive modern strings [4] shine in the accompanied recitative. (Huttenlocher is not my first choice of singer, but he is satisfactory). The strings of the period ensembles tend to be afflicted by the `dying string' syndrome in this type of movement.

The melodious, `catchy' bass aria is attractive in all the recordings. Take your pick of the singers Mertens with Koopman [6] is probably my favourite, for his pleasantly-timbred voice that can maintain clarity of pitch throughout the range. Leusink [7] is possibly too slow in this aria, almost producing a mournful or laboured effect, in the B minor tonality. BTW, those little repetitions of three short notes are obviously best regarded as representating stirrings of wings, rather than actual flight itself.

Koopman's closing chorale [6] is flowing and very polished.

Russell Telfer wrote (February 3, 2007):
Avete atque Valete - BWV 37 - "Wer da gläubet und getauft w...

BWV Cantata BWV 37 hasn't had much of a press this week with us.

It's short, and when I read the English words again, very mild in tone - surprising for a cantata to be performed in Ascension week.

I have a passing interest in what hymns in an English hymnal (A&M New Standard) are allocated to which week of the church lectionary. On reflection, you might expect these sentiments to be tucked away in the mid-Trinity season - the warm months - when congregations are possibly paying less attention than usual to their church duties.

But there's something beautifully warm and nurturing in the opening chorus, and I shall look forward to its next appearance in my life.

Hail and Farewell BWV 37

Peter Smaill wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Russell Telfer] Likewise this cantata BWV 37 is a favourite from way back, which I first heard in 1974 courtesy of the Deutsche Bachsolisten and Westfalische Kantorei. It has been a pleasure to listen again to it and especially the new Suzuki recording from 2002 [8].

Of all the Cantatas this I would choose especially to demonstrate the often, but not always, strong Lutheran purpose in Bach's settings, the insistence on Faith as the source of salvation. Unger, following Terry, thinks that Christian Weiss senior, the pastor, who was Bach's father confessor from 1723 to 1736, composed the text.

BWV 37, for 18 May 1724, very consciously takes a swipe at the trend in Calvinism to consider good works a sign of divine favour:

(Bass recitative BWV 37/4)

"so duerft ihr nicht auf gute Werke bauen......"

("Then you should not build on good works...
...Faith alone ensures that before God we are justified and saved...")

The doctrine of BWV 37 is entirely orthodox for this Jahrgang 1 work, in contrast to what can be suggested from (some of ) (?) Andreas Stuebel's texts in Jahrgang II. Here the Calvinist suggestions of God's election of the sinner are sometimes uppermost, rather than the freely given faith-offerring as the route to salvation. However, on this key doctrine even within the first cycle there is a hint of the Calvinist position:

For example:

BWV 90 14 November 1723

Es Reisset euch ein shrecklich Ende

Tenor recitative BWV 90/4

(Unger's gloss is "Elect protected by God and Word in time of judgement!)

"Doch Gottes Auge sieht auf uns als Auserwaehlte"

("Yet God's eye looks on us as chosen ones")

As for the second cycle:

BWV 139 12 Nov 1724

Soprano aria (5)

"Ich gebe Gott, was Gottes ist
Das innereste der Seelen
Will er sie nunn erhwaehlen
So weicht der Suenden Schuld
So faellt des Satans List
"

("I give to God what is God's
The innermost part of my soul
Would he now it elect
Then retreats sin's guilt
then falls Satan's craftiness")

BWV 107 Was willst du dich betrueben

23 July 1724

Soprano aria (BWV 107/5)

"er richts zu seinen ehren....")

"He disposes things to his honour
And to your salvation;
If it is to be, no man can stay this,
Even if he might regret it.
But what God would not have no one can carry through;
It must remain undone;
What God wills , that is done."

This last example is a strange oddity in Bach, a chorale Cantata derived entirely from the unedited Chorale text by Johann Heermann. The insistence on resignation to God's will is aligned with Calvin's doctrine of Providence in his "Institutes' of 1536. As referred to by a professor of Biblical Criticism, Allan Menzies :

"Against what he tells us was the general belief in his day, viz., that things happen fortuitously.....Calvin holds that the Creator... presides over every year, each month, each day; as Scripture teaches in many a passage, he is everywhere, and does whatever he will.... nothing happens that he has not knowingly and willingly decreed."

What has this to do with Bach? Although we know of Bach's fidelity to Lutheranism via the annotations to his Calov bible, and by the fact of worshipping at the Lutheran church in Coethen, he does not IMO appear to have been militantly opposed to texts with strong Calvinist overtones (or, as we saw in BWV 116, possibly heretical doctrines concerning the ability of Christ in Heaven to suffer). Alternatively, if he objected to them and was overruled, there is no evidence of disputes on this subject of the sort we know about regarding his office in other matters.

This is (many will be glad to read) by no means an exhaustive selection of texts dealing with the sovereignty of God, free will and election; but they do suggest that even apart from Stuebel (whom Wolff considers unorthodox) the theological atmosphere at Leipzig was fluid and that Bach did not at least, as far as we can be aware, impede heterodox expressions of theological views in the Cantatas.

In short, there are several Cantatas which treat of salvation but do not mention faith. Apart from BWV 90, BWV 107 and BWV 139, there are also at least BWV 98, BWV 115, and BWV 188, all redolent of Calvinist resignation rather than Lutheran faith. However, some Bach scholars treat faith as absolutely the central concept-e.g. Lucia Haselboeck speaks of "Der Glaube, das Kernwort in Bachs Vokalwerk".("Faith as the kernel-word in Bach's vocal works.")

Since Bach colllaborated with the authors and was in charge of the preparation of the text booklets he was in a position of influence but appears not to have maintained a strict Lutheran line as might otherwise be imagined simply considering the purpose of the beautiful, but highly didactic, BWV 37.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 3, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< "Against what he tells us was the general belief in his day, viz., that things happen fortuitously.....Calvin holds that the Creator... presides over every year, each month, each day; as Scripture teaches in many a passage, he is everywhere, and does whatever he will.... nothing happens that he has not knowingly and willingly decreed."
What has this to do with Bach? >
very likely TODAY Bach would be writing cantatas to texts
denying evolution;
denying global warming;
and God knows what other deep religious beliefs.
I guess we gotta accept the confined world in which he worked.

Douglas Cowling w(February 3, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< What has this to do with Bach? >>
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< very likely TODAY Bach would be writing cantatas to texts
denying evolution;
denying global warming;
and God knows what other deep religious beliefs.
I guess we gotta accept the confined world in which he worked. >

Peter's very careful analysis of the theological background to this work tells us MUCH about Bach. It shows that he was a sophisticated intellectual thinker with a somewhat independent streak. Many musicians would have churned out their music with little of Bach's attention to the text.

Now lest we all sound too pious, check out this link to "Betty Butterfield explores the Lutherans". Pythonesque.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBJgSbAlO7k&NR

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 3, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< This is (many will be glad to read) by no means an exhaustive selection of texts >
You read my mind, Dude!

< Since Bach colllaborated with the authors and was in charge of the preparation of the text booklets he was in a position of influence but appears not to have maintained a strict Lutheran line as might otherwise be imagined simply considering the purpose of the beautiful, but highly didactic, BWV 37. >
Do we now as documented fact of Bach's collaboration, or is this very reasonable conjecture (not to say that other word)?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 3, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< What has this to do with Bach? >>
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< very likely TODAY Bach would be writing cantatas to texts
denying evolution;
denying global warming;
and God knows what other deep religious beliefs. >

Denying global warming is a deep religious belief? Which religion is that? Bushism does not count.

Russell Telfer wrote (February 3, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Of all the Cantatas this I would choose especially to demonstrate the often, but not always, strong Lutheran purpose in Bach's settings, the insistence on Faith as the source of salvation. (et al ...) >
Thank you Peter. Your comments made good sense to me, albeit I can't contribute anything more at this point.

But Yoel, your comments:
< very likely TODAY Bach would be writing cantatas to texts denying evolution; denying global warming - >
Do you really believe that? I'm tempted to take the bait and speculate on what Bach would be like if he were a creature of the late twentieth century. But I'm not going to, because I think it would generate a lot more hot air.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 3, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed raises a very interesting topic. What was the nature of the interaction betwen Bach and his librettist? We cannot exactly know and likely it varied from case to case. However, it seems unlikely for example that Bach did not discuss with Marianne von Ziegler the use (adaptation by Bach) of her texts, and certainly with Picander /Henrici , who said:

"Actuated by the requests of many good friends, and by much devotion on my part, I resolved to compose the present cantatas. I undertook the design most readily, because I flatter myself that the lack of poetic charms may be compensated for by the loveliness of the music of our incomparable Capellmeister Bach, and that these songs may be sung in the main churches of our pious Leipzig". (Wolff p.285)

So the Picander texts were specifically for Bach. As for the chorale cantatas, it is in keeping with Bach's structural approach and love of comprehensive and inclusive format -evident from the Orgelbuchlein through to the Art of Fugue - for him to have mapped out a cycle of chorales for use and then allowed Stuebel, if it was he, to paraphrase them when needed.

Did Bach receive a libretto out of the blue and then set it with no foreknowledge of the religious ideas and images he was then to set to music? Doubt it but I'd welcome other viewpoints on this.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 4, 2007):
37 Leusink [7] and Harnoncourt [3]

I rarely (almost never) listen to the weekly cantatas. I have several times recently when I have had more than one recording. The last time was a Herreweghe recording I had compared to the H-L set.

Yesterday I did find that in the 1/2 set of Leusink cantatas [7] I own, I had BWV 37 and played it back to back with Harnoncourt [3]. Goodness, Harnoncourt was 300% better on all accounts.

Far better recorded chorus and better chorus. Far better tenor (even discounting the added re-created violin). Leusink's tenor aria [7] sounded like Ustinov's set up of a Bach cantata in the film I recently gave a youtube link to here. Endless wobbling and silly whatever type of thing that is called. That's my sophisticated musical terminology. The most amazing difference to my ears is how wonderful the boy soprano and Harnoncourt's counter tenor [3] sounded together vs. the not so interesting mixture of Leusink's Ruth Holton and his counter-tenor. The Harnoncourt (I must listen to these cantatas ignoring their "amazing" texts) produced something fairly worth hearing and the Leusink to my ears did not. If the same female soprano and same counter-tenor sing in many of the other Leusink cantatas, I would really not think there to be much of interest even if some believe that the conductor "gets it" most of the time.

The singers do matter irrespective of the conductor "getting it" or not.

My 2 Groschen,

Chris Stanley wrote (February 5, 2007):
I'm tired of reading of yet another nameless Regensburger Domspatzen or Wiener Saengenknaben in the early Harnoncourt series [3]. These talents shouldn't be nameless in perpetuity. a sort of perversion of the saying "Children should be seen and not heard" to ""Great boy singers should be heard and remain nameless"

For BWV 37 can we "specularite" (mineralogical term whichj I use as a substitute for a banned word) that the soloist might be Peter Jelosits? Any other guesses?

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 5, 2007):
[To Chris Stanley] Score one for the geologists!

Did not this issue become a significant legal squabble? I would have to look it up to be sure which boy (I think Peter Jelosits), but his parents ultimately sued for recognition.

On the other hand, perhaps anonymity creates some opportunities for future scholars? I can envision a group, a hundred years or so down the road, much like BCML, squabbling over which boy sang what.

Neil Mason wrote (February 14, 2007):
Xavier Rist wrote:
< OK guys, this was my first contribution... hope it won't be the last but I wouldn't bet on it... so hard to write in english... sorry for the mistakes... thanks for your patience... looking forward to read your input... so long... >
Wow, as you can see I'm WAY behind on my reading, but I do want to take the time to say how much I appreciated this contribution.

May there be many more!

Neil Mason wrote (February 18, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Still way behind on my reading, sorry!!!

is this Baroque Beatles Book available as sheet music anywhere? Sounds like fun.

 

Contribution to BWV 37

Chris H. wrote (July 22, 2007):
I looked up this cantata on your discussion forum just for Mvt. 3. I was surprised that only Mvt. 5 was mentioned. I believe Mvt. 3 is really a gem as well as mentioned below already by somebody else .

For me the two gems of this cantata are its opening chorus (Mvt. 1) and the unique Choral duet (Mvt. 3). But the Bass Aria is beautiful too and overall it's a first rate piece. All numbers are quite short. I have listened to 3 versions: Harnoncourt [3], Rilling [4] and Leusink [7].

 

Continue on Part 3

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: żOctober 2, 2011 ż08:01:38