Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 41
Jesu, nun sei gepreiset
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of August 16, 2009 [Continue]

William Hoffman wrote (August 26, 2009):
BWV 41: Reception History, Copyist Penzel

NEW YEAR: 41, Jesu, nun gepreiset [Chorale]
1/1/25 (Cycle 2), ?1732-35; ?1/1/ 56; 1/1/62, Ölsnitz (Nache-Penzel); hymn text with paraphrases.
Sources: (1) score (SPK P.874 incl., WFB, Nacke, Penzel nephew G. Schuster); (2) parts set (Thom); (2, 3) 3 duplicate parts, 18 parts copies (Nacke) (SPK St. 394, WFB, Nacke); (3) score copy (Penzel, 12/24,26/55, STK P.1026, Hauser).
Literature: BG X (Rust 1860); NBA KB I/4 (Neumann 1964); Whittaker II:75-81, Robertson 34 f, Young 168 f., Dürr 148-51
Text: #1, 6, Herman cle. (#1, S.1; #6, S.3); #2-5, unknown paraphraser (S.2).
Forces: SATB, 4 vv, 3 tp, timp, 3 ob. (vc picc), str, bc.
Movements: chorus, 2 arias (S, T), 2 recits.(A, B), chorale.
1. Chs.(tutti): Jesus, now be praised at this year.
2. Aria(S,obs): Let us, O highest God, the year complete (pastorale)
3. Rec.(A): Lord, Thine hand, Thy blessing alone the Alpha and Omega.
4. Aria(T,vc): So far as Thou the noble peace...allotted.
5. Rec.(B): But because the empty by day and night our harm watches.
6. Cle.(tutti): Thine is alone the honor (same harmony as BWV 171/6, New Year, 1/1/29
Thank you again, Doug Cowling for your information in Multiple Settings of texts, especially the final verse of the final psalm, "Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord," your advocacy of the motets, and the ultimate New Year's chorale, "Herr Gott, dich loben wir."

Cantata BWV 41 for New Year's, copied Dec. 24 and 26, 1755; Penzel presented twice, in 1756 in Leipzig and 1762 in Oelsnitz.


Christian Friedrich Penzel: Short biography

Born: November 25, 1737 - Oelsnitz, Vogtland, Saxony, Germany
Died: March 14, 1801 - Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

Christian Friedrich Penzel was a German Kantor, teacher, and composer. He received his first musical training in his hometown Oelsnitz from Johann Georg Nacke (1718-1804). In 1749 he entered the Leipzig Thomasschule and became one of J.S. Bach's last pupils. After studying law at Leipzig University, he made an unsuccessful attempt in 1762 to obtain his father's position as sexton at Oelsnitz, and in 1765 he became Kantor at Merseburg, where he stayed until his death.

Today Christian Friedrich Penzel is remembered mainly as one of the most reliable copyists of J.S. Bach's works. His J.S. Bach copies (from exemplars at the Thomasschule and from sources in the possession of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach) are mainly of cantatas, but include also instrumental music. His manuscript collection was inherited by his nephew Johann Gottlob Schuster (1765-1839), who sold most of it to Franz Hauser in 1833; the remainder was acquired by the Leipzig publisher C.F. Peters.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Penzel-Christian-Friedrich.htm

Various Bach scholars have done extensive research on topics related to Penzel: B.F. Richter, "The Destiny of the Cantatas of JSB Belonging to the Thomas School in Leipzig," Bach Jahrbuch 1906; Gerhard Herz, "JSB in the Age of Rationalism and Early (1935 diss.), Essays on JSB (Ann Arbor: 1985); Yoshitake Kokyashi, Franz Hauser and his Bach Manuscript Collection (Ph.D. diss, 1973; and Alfred Dürr, "Penzel," MGG:1021f. Often called reception history, particularly involving provenance of materials, these writers unearthed significant information on Penzel copies of Bach cantatas and other works. Penzel initiated making copies (some the only surviving versions) just a few years after Bach's death, using sources at the Thomas School and the Bach family in Leipzig, as well as later contacts with sons W.F. (Cantatas BWV 149, BWV 125, BWV 43) and C.P.E. (BWV 25)

While studying law at Leipzig University, Penzel taught music at the Thomas School as served as chorus perfect or assistant, When Bach's successor, J.G. Harrer died on July 9, 1755, Penzel served as the temporary cantor until the post was filled later that year by J.F. Doles, who served until 1789 and during his tenure did present Bach motets and Passions.

During the hiatus, Penzel began systematically copying and probably performing Bach cantatas for the church year. His primary source were the sets of performing parts of the chorale cantata cycle given by Anna Magdalena Bach to the school to enable her to continue to live in the residence for one year until Bach's estate and children were dispersed.

Beginning two weeks after Harrer died and the search for a successor began, on July 23, 1755, Penzel in the summer interim devoted much time to producing scores for apparent performances which he led. In a few days, according to end dating on the scores, Penzel prepared Cantatas BWV 178, BWV 94, BWV 101, BWV 113, and BWV 137 for performances on the eighth through the twelfth Sundays after Trinity respectively. At that time, Penzel also found and copied the now-lost score of one of Bach's earliest extant vocal works, Cantata BWV 150, an undesignated sacred piece, and his copy is the only surviving source. In August and September, Penzel added cantatas for five more Trinity Sundays while taking up Christmas Cantata BWV 142 (spurious and not part of Bach's annual cycles), the Trinity Sunday Cantata BWV 129 and the last Trinity Cantata, BWV 140.

On November 10, 1756, Penzel left the Thomas School, matriculating with honors but remained in Leipzig to finish his legal and theology studies. Before completing his studies in 1761, Penzel copied from various sources Cantatas BWV 126, BWV 149, BWV 97, and BWV 106 and Mass BWV 236. He returned home to Oelsnitz and collaborated with his teacher, cantor J.G. Nache, who copied parts, to begin presenting a partial cycle of Bach's chorale cantatas, commencing no Advent Sunday, November 28, with chorale Cantata BWV 62, through Purification, Feb. 2, 1762. Since Bach left no chorale cantatas for the Easter season, Penzel in Merseberg presented two works in this season in 1770, Cantatas BWV 158 and BWV 112, as well as Cantatas BWV 157 for Purification and BWV 159 for Quinquageisma in 1767.

Cantata BWV 41 for New Year's, copied Dec. 24 and 26, 1755, Penzel presented twice, in 1756 in Leipzig and 1762 in Odelsnitz.

It is also documented that Penzel copied early versions of the Brandenburg Concerti from Leipzig sources, and some of Bach's Schmelli song settings: NBA III.3 2002: Nachträge/Werke zweifelhafter Echtheit: 30 Choral- und Liedsaetze aus der Sammlung von Christian Friedrich Penzel, some of which have BWV nos.:443, 445, 449, 464, 471,479, 480, 487, 488, 498, 500, 503

Also several works with no BWV or Anh numbers. David O. Berger, BCW, 2002

Peter Smaill wrote (August 26, 2009):
[To William Hoffman] For all numerology sceptics who consider that there is no notation in any Cantata source indicating that Bach could have used numbesymbolism, please consider the source manuscript by the " very reliable" Penzel, the original of the first Cantata , BWV 150. Not only do the text lines lines of the last four bars have the acrostic BACH, but the terzett movement "Zedern muessen" has in its title line (the heading of the section) the number "41" written in Penzel's hand. It is in the Staatsbibliothek in Berlin.

There are 41 bars exactly.

In the natural order number alphabet where A=1, B=2 etc., 41 computes to J S Bach.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 26, 2009):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< For all numerology sceptics who consider that there is no notation in any Cantata source indicating that Bach could have used number symbolism, please consider the source manuscript by the " very reliable" Penzel, the original of the first Cantata , BWV 150. Not only do the text lines lines of the last four bars have the acrostic BACH, but the terzett movement "Zedern muessen" has in its title line (the heading of the section) the number "41" written in Penzel's hand. >
Numerology is a good example of how historically distant Band and his music are from our modern sensibilities.

Analyses of numbers in his works have absolutely no intellectual or emotional draw for me. And yet I know that numerology was important to Bach and that if I want to understand the historical context of his music, I have to develop a method which engages me with this dimension.

I suspect that the religious and liturgical factors which are equally important require the same intellectual effort from others.

Jean Laaninen wrote (August 26, 2009):
BWV 41: Numerology Question

Just a question here. Does anyone know if the interest in numerology in Bach goes back in religious history to a pattern in scriptures of keeping track of many things numerically? Or, possibly back to some numerical symbolism in Hebrew?

Peter Smaill wrote (August 26, 2009):
[To Jean Laaninen] Indeed numerology is very ancient , and certainly goes back to cabbalistic techniques in early Judaism. The Baroque era gave it a fresh lease with the development of the device called the paragram. All of this is set out at length in Ruth Tatlow's "Bach and the Riddle of the Number Alphabet".

One biblical example which springs to mind is the explicit mention of 153 being the number of fish in the narrative of the miraculous draught of fishes in the NT. Bach's related Cantata BWV 88, "Siehe, ?Ich will viel Fischer aussenden" has in its first movement ,?I recall, 153 bars.

Julian Mincham wrote (August 26, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] Whilst it seems beyond the possibility of coincidence that Bach made deliberate use of numbers of significance in his compositions (i.e numbers of bars, sections, fugal statements, even, as you mention above, fishes) I very much doubt that they were used ONLY for reasons of mysticism and symbolic significance. I think it very likely that his brain worked in such a way that numbers often became the stimulating points for his inspiration. Difference composers have found different ways of stimulating the 'creative flow' and we know that Bach had to do it very quickly and efficiently. I think it highly plausible that he set himself a series of challenges--let's see what happens if I plan a theme containing 41 notes--or a section with a certain number of bars--or a fugue with so many entries etc etc. In such a way i suspect that he stimulated the musical processes of his brain very quickly. In other words the numbers aspect may well have been a totally integral part of his approach to the creative process of composition.

As usual we can't know for certain but it seems to be a likely hypothesis. Bach was a very ordered composer and he must have found ways of stimulating the musical flow at very short notice. I suspect that the arranging of numbers so as to make a starting point for the compositional processes was a completely integral part of his approach; and if so it makes a nonsense of the view that he was too busy composing to bother about the numbers.

Obviously it's always possible to read into the complexities of a musical score things that the composer did not consciously intend to be there. The first movement of 41 contains around 20,000 notes which offers considerable scope for the determined or midguided!! I guess you could find references to the entire atomic series there if you wanted to! But such nonsense does not disguise that fact there seem to be many number associations in the music that probably have all sorts of significances, possibly from a number of different levels.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 26, 2009):
from Thomas Braatz, BCW archives, topic Esoteric Bach:
Translation: use of gematria - the usual alphabet is A=1, B=2, C=3, H=8, I/J=9, U/V=20, Z=24. Using Operation (addition) BACH=14 J.S.Bach=41 (these two numbers constitute a 'crab'; this type of reversal or permutation is not only allowed, but encouraged.) (end quote)

I am going out on a limb here, corrections invited. I interpret gematria as the specific form of number-letter equivalence described here. It is included in the larger family of operations which can be grouped as numerology. Bachs interest in numerology, including gematria, is easily demonstrated from notations in his own hand.

Note that this use of the word numerology is much broader than one 21st C. interpretation, which is reduction of any number to a single digit by repetitive addition. Also note that Bachs demonstrated interest in numerology does not necessarily justify all conclusions therefrom. For example, see the reference and associated discussion by Brad Lehman (Esoteric Bach archiv) to the book <Why People Believe Weird Things>.

Jean Laaninen wrote (August 27, 2009):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< ... numerology is very ancient , and certainly goes back to cabbalistic techniques in early Judaism. The Baroque era gave it a fresh lease with the development of the device called the paragram. All of this is set out at length in Ruth Tatlow's "Bach and the Riddle of the Number Alphabet". >
Thanks, Peter, for your insights.

Jean Laaninen wrote (August 27, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Whilst it seems beyond the possibility of coincidence that Bach made deliberate use of numbers of significance in his compositions (i.e numbers of bars, sections, fugal statements, even, as you mention above, fishes) I very much doubt that they were used ONLY for reasons of mysticism and symbolic significance. >
Thanks, Julian, for your comments. I had not considered the possibility that Bach would have used numbers to stimulate his creative process, but that would have been a good, and perhaps meaningful tool.

Jean Laaninen wrote (August 27, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< from Thomas Braatz, BCW archives, topic Esoteric Bach:
<< Translation: use of gematria - the usual alphabet is A=1, B=2, C=3, H=8, I/J=9, U/V=20, Z=24. Using Operation (addition) BACH=14 J.S.Bach=41 (these two numbers constitute a 'crab'; this type of reversal or permutation is not only allowed, but encouraged.) (end quote) >>
I am going out on a limb here, corrections invited. I interpret gematria as the specific form of number-letter equivalence described here. It is included in the larger family of operations which can be grouped as numerology. Bachs interest in numerology, including gematria, is easily demonstrated from notations in his own hand. >
Thanks, Ed. This area is part of what I was taking into consideration when I wrote my question, but did not have the information at hand.

Peter Smaill wrote (August 27, 2009):
[To Julian Mincham] I much agree with Julian's post; indeed most of the recent work on numerology (of which cabbalah, number alphabets and gematria are subsets) has not been at the "foreground" level of alphabet values equating to bar numbers (Hirsch did all that in 1986) but at the background level of overall proportions, an area where Bach must have found a profound intellectual stimulus.

Not all the detailed ("foreground") connections identified by Hirsch are beyond the challenge that coincidence is at work. But in many cases the context of the words and their meaning , such as the fishes , place the connection beyond reasonable doubt.

Structurally at the "background " level?we have the fact of exactly (from memory) 2800 bars in the SMP. Parts II-IV of the BMM are as finalised by Bach are exaclty 1400 bars. Ther are many such evidences that Bach liked 1:1 and 2:1 proportions in long works apparently composed of many varying sections and where the listener does not hear the proportion save perhaps in a general sense of overall proportion between sections. In these studies the exacting nature of Bach' self-imposed task of creating spontaneous musical expression within a highly disciplined framework reveals the extraordinary genius at work.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 27, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I think it highly plausible that he set himself a series of challenges--let's see what happens if I plan a theme containing 41 notes--or a section with a certain number of bars--or a fugue with so many entries etc etc. In such a way i suspect that he stimulated the musical processes of his brain very quickly. In other words the numbers aspect may well have been a totally integral part of his approach to the creative process of composition. >
An important idea, concisely stated. I would go so far as to suggest that the self-imposed challenge of numerologic constraint is a creative first response to the even greater challenge of a blank sheet of paper.

I am actually responding to Peters reply to Julian, which I believe is also in general agreement with Julians thought, while emphasizing that the specific number of bars, etc., may also have specific theolgic or personal (Bach = 14, JSBach =41) implications. The ideas are not mutually exclusive, indeed perhaps mutually supportive?

Thanks to Peter for helping to clarify terminology. I am clear on that subject for the first time, although it in fact appears that the correct information has long been available in BCW archives, as is so often the case.

William Hoffman wrote (August 27, 2009):
OTY: Calendar, Numerology

Ed Myskowski wrote in part:
< In fact, an extended Epihpany season caused by late Easter requires an exactly equal shortening of the Trinity season. >
Peter Smaill wrote in part:
< most of the recent work on numerology. has.been at the background level of overall proportions, an area where Bach must have found a profound intellectual stimulus. >
While definitions are not always exact and are subject to different perspectives, I think a guiding principle for Bach was the form, the shape of a work. Two very prominent Bach practices are the movement symmetry of palindrome (Cantata BWV 4) and chiastic (chiasmatic) or cross-shaped (SJP, BWV 245).

Another good example of palindrome is the form of the Mass: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus(Benedictus-Osana), and Agnus Dei. Here the creed is the key central statement, flanked by the celebratory Gloria and Sanctus, and opening and closing with the pleas of Kyrie and Agnus Dei.

As to chiastic, I think Smend was first and foremost in emphasizing this, particularly in the SJP, where Bach (intelligently?) designed sections incorporating narrative solo recitative, dramatic turbae chorus, and lyric movements in balance and complement. This gave John's topical Passion structure effective cohesion and coherence. Bach also clustered some five turbae themes in partial parody to different biblical texts. When we get to the SMP, we have a complex blend of chiastic form overlaid with all manner of music, tonal structure/allegory and dramatic-contemplative reflection.

In Bach's instrumental music various guiding forms, schematics or templates include: key signature (Well-Tempered Clavier), structural proportion and manipualtion (Art of Fugue), Variation (Musical Offering and Goldberg) and systematic studies (ClavierÜbung)

Sources which may aid a better understand Bach's formal motive, method and opportunity are Bach's contemporary influences (<Bach's Changing World>), the experience with the Mizler Society (Wolff: <JSB: The Learned Musician>), and the recent book, <Bach's Cycle and Mozart's Arrow: Essays on the Origins of Musical Modernity>.

I would also suggest that the over-arching, guiding principle was Bach's calling, his life-long quest for a well-regulated church music, especially with the divisions of de- and omnes tempore services, the seasons, and the ordering of chorales into the grand, kaleidoscopic design.

Thank you so much Ed, Peter, Uri, Doug, Aryeh and so many others in the BCML for provoking and stimulating both our minds and our hearts. And of course, foremost, to Sebastian for making it all so possible and probable.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 27, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I would also suggest that the over-arching, guiding principle was Bach's calling, his life-long quest for a well-regulated church music, especially with the divisions of de- and omnes tempore >services, the seasons, and the ordering of chorales into the grand, kaleidoscopic design. >
I like this as concise statement that all (certainly most) BCW participants could subscribe to, regardless of personal faith (or none). It would be uncharacteristic for me not to be picky: a bit of expanation/simplification of de- and omnes tempore would improve?

Julian Mincham wrote (September 3, 2009):
BWV 41 - Satan and snake-like riffs

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Note the similarity of Satan crushed under our feet, from BWV 18/3 and BWV 41/5 (B and choro rec).
Satans snake-like origin in the Garden of Eden is relatively innocuous, more like a messenger from God (see Elaine Pagels, The Origin of Satan). I blame it all on Eve. >
Bach's settings of figures representing sin and the depravities of hell are interesting. Sometime Satan is specifically mentioned, at others it is the 'foul fiends of hell' which are at the centre of the representation. Then again the serpent may be the?focus of attention.

Three arias spring to mind, firstly BWV 107/4--Satan himself confronting us. Secondly in BWV 76/10 we have the hostile hordes and the call from the fortified Christian for them to hate us and do their worst. Thirdly an aria from the first cycle (haven't pinned it down yet but I am sure someone will) portaying the slithering of the serpent and the chopping off of his head. Always in a minor key (often E or D) these movements do tend to have a slithering, buffo-like quality and I would take from this the fact that Bach intends to portray the devil, his hordes and the serpent in as anti-heroic a fashion as possible. They may be figures of significance in the Christian story, but they lack epic or admirable qualities--there is none of Milton's heroic Satan (Paradise Lost) in bach's renditions ?They are essentially, figures to deride, at least from a position of salvation and safety under the Lord's protection.

This is how I interpret Bach's fairly consistent portrayal of such figures. Any other examples?

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 3, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< This is how I interpret Bach's fairly consistent portrayal of such figures. Any other examples? >
"Dazu ist erschienen" (BWV 40) has two contrasting depictions of Satan as a serpent.

The bass aria, "Höllishe Schlange", is an aggressive 3/8 serpentine attack.The violins have a long undulating melody with repeated sequences which may very well be "eye-music": the repeated curves actually look like a serpent on the page. The counter-melody has an angular snap to it: a snake striking its enemy?

The second movement, "Die Schlange so im Paradies", depicts the seductive serpent in Eden in a rich major-key accompanied recitative for alto. Here the eye-music is unmistakable: the strings repeated figure creates a serpentine shape on the staff: the curves of the snake hanging in the Tree of Knowledge.

Purely herpetological depictions can be found in "Hercules auf dem Scheidewege", BWV 213 where the alto aria depicts the snakes sent to strangle the infant Hercules in the writhing bass line (Bach reused the music without retaining the musical imagery in "Bereite Dich Zion" in Part One of the Christmas O(BWV 248))

Ssssssssssssssss!

Julian Mincham wrote (September 3, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< "Dazu ist erschienen" (BWV 40) has two contrasting depictions of Satan as a serpent.
The bass aria, "Höllishe Schlange", is an aggressive 3/8 serpentine attack. The violins have a long undulating melody with repeated sequences which may very well be "eye-music": the repeated curves actually look like a serpent on the page. The counter-melody has an angular snap to it: a snake striking its enemy?
The second movement, "Die Schlange so im Paradies", depicts the seductive serpent in Eden in a rich major-key accompanied recitative for alto. Here the eye-music is unmistakable: the strings repeated figure creates a serpentine shape on the staff: the curves of the snake hanging in the Tree of Knowledge. >
Yes many thanks--BWV 40/4 was the aria I had in mind but couldn't recall the cantata it came from. I hadn't thought of the possible 'eye-music' aspect which comes from the ever moving violin line. I had thought of that as a musical representaion of the serpent thrashing around in an attempt to escape. It's interesting that Bach transfers the semiquavers from 1st violins to the bass as the words 'He who crushes your head is now born'. I wonder if this is a musical suggestion of the snake writhing on the ground being crushed underfoot? Also the aggressive 5-note opening motive in the oboes may well represent physical blows reigned upon the serpent's head.

I'm not sure that the other movement Doug mentioned (actually the 5th not the second movement) is a representation of the snake but rather the seductive peace and calm that follows when the Saviour has drawn off the serpent's poison thus comforting the sinner? The serpent is certainly mentioned but more in the context of the Christian aftermath perhaps?

Interesting different interpretations --although of detail rather than of substance. The general aggression of the first and the relative calm of the second of these movements does not really suggest different interpretations, but we can't be certain about the precise things they represent. Which is why we will always continue to debate these interesting movements I guess.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 3, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It's interesting that Bach transfers the semiquavers from 1st violins to the bass as the words 'He who crushes your head is now born'. I wonder if this is a musical suggestion of the snake writhing on the ground being rushed underfoot? >
Bach does the same in the Hercules aria: the serpents are depicted in the bass line.

Paul Farseth wrote (September 3, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Isn't there a pretty good depiction of Satan, "der alte boese Feind" / "der Fürst dieser Welt" in Cantata BWV 80, particularly in the first stanza of the "Ein feste Burg" text?

Neil Halliday wrote (September 4, 2009):
Paul Farseth wrote:
>Isn't there a pretty good depiction of Satan, "der alte boese Feind" / "der Fürst dieser Welt" in Cantata BWV 80, particularly in the first stanza of the "Ein feste Burg" text?<
Yes. Looking at the score: when the basses introduce line five of the text of BWV 80/1 ("The old evil fiend"), the continuo has two consecutive bars of crotchets with a writhing chromatic figure.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 4, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Yes. Looking at the score: when the basses introduce line five of the text of BWV 80/1 ("The old evil fiend"), the continuo has two consecutive bars of crotchets with a writhing chromatic figure. >
The middle section of the final chorus of Cantata BWV 63, "Christen Ätzet" has fugue depicting Satan with a falling chromatic figure. The counter-melody has a repeated dacytlic figure which could be considered a "writhing" theme.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 4, 2009):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< This is how I interpret Bach's fairly consistent portrayal of such figures [Satan and related]. Any other examples? >
It is encouraging to see response to the question! Not to belabor the point, but Julians suggestion of fairly consistent portrayal is consistent with John Harbisons suggestion, which I have repeated a few times, that Bach finds a way to make the music serpentine whenever the devil is about.

Julian cited my humorous comment <I blame it all on Eve>. I owed him one, now considered even?

That scene in the Garden of Eden, however, is quite crucial in the evolution (if that is not a dirty word) of Christian theology. Somehow it becomes more and more sinister over time, until we find 18th C. Lutherans (and all Christians?) believing that humans begin inherently flawed, born with original sin.

The paradox of an omnipotent God creating an inherently flawed product troubles them not. It troubles me quite a bit, with respect to grasping Christian theology, but my skepticism is not relevant to what Bach believed, and reflected in his music. The data is scarce, but the best evidence for Bachs thoughts is in his notations (marginalia) to his own copy of Calovs commentary on Luthers Bible.

The simplistic interpretation is that since the document is in the possession of a Lutheran sect, it is confirmation of Bachs Lutheran orthodoxy. If you are interested, I urge you to take the trouble to view the evidence for yourself. I find Bach an independent thinker, grappling with the document which explains the world, for his era.

I think of Satan in the cast of characters, Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, Puck, etc. Will we be able to demonstrate definitively whether Bach finds Satan a bit buffo, or alternatively, as the arch-fiend who leads the world astray? Not likely, but plenty of fun in the process.

My spouse insists that I point out to you that the English word sinister is prejudiced against the left-handed minority of human beings. You can probably guess that she is not right-handed.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 4, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< My spouse insists that I point out to you that the English word sinister is prejudiced against the left-handed minority of human beings. You can probably guess that she is not right-handed. >
ED? You might point her towards the research which apparently indicates that left handed people are more likely to be artistically inclined and talented because of the link to the right (I think) hemisphere of the brain.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 4, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I think of Satan in the cast of characters, Thoth, Hermes, Mercury, Puck, etc. Will we be able to demonstrate definitively whether Bach finds Satan a bit buffo, or alternatively, as the arch-fiend who leads the world astray? Not likely, but plenty of fun in the process >
I think we discussed the buffo Satan at some length a few years ago: there's certainly that characterization in the oratorio tradition (Handel's "La Resurrezione" has a comic scene between Satan and the Angel arriving to roll away the stone). There may have been similar oratorios at the Catholic court in Dresden. Bach's interested in non-Passion oratorios may have been influenced by his visits to the city,

The tradition is certainly alive in Renaissance Germany. Durer's "Time, Death, Satan and the Knight" shows Satan as a grotesque Muppet: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/durr/ho_43.106.2.htm
It would be interesting to know if this tradition continued with Luther and whether the comic Satan was a popular image that may have influenced Bach's depiction.

There were dramatic depictions of Satan in popular dramas in Catholic Bavaria during Bach's lifetime. The most famous was the Oberammergau Play which is actually in the middle of its once-a-decade series of performances right now. I couldn't find the text online, but it would be interesting to see if the buffo Satan appears in the 17th century text.

William Hoffman wrote (September 4, 2009):
BWV 41 - Satan. BWV 80/5 - Hordes of Devils

Douglas Cowling wrote:
<There were dramatic depictions of Satan in popular dramas in Catholic Bavaria during Bach's lifetime. The most famous was the Oberammergau Play which is actually in the middle of its once-a-decade series of performances right now. I couldn't find the text online, but it would be interesting to see if the buffo Satan appears in the 17th century text. >
William Hoffman replies: When I get back to Albuquerque in two weeks, I'll read through my Oberammergau text. Meanwhile,I would note that the third stanza of Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress," chorale BWV 80/5, begins with the "hordes of devils that fill the land." Guess who they are? The Catholic clergy, I presume. We haven't learned. We're still demonizing our enemies. And we love it! God bless Republicans and KMRIA!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 4, 2009):
I couldn't resist since we're on the topic of Satan and his minions ;)

Satan and the serpent are represented in a big way in the Telemann chamber cantata "Zischet nur, stechet, ihr feurigen Zungen." TWV 1:1732 which was written for the feastday of St. Michael. The obbligato instrument can be any treble instrument, which is why you'll hear this recorded with either an oboe, or violin (I prefer the violin version). This cantata comes from the "Harmonischer Gottesdienst" cantata cycle that Telemann printed himself in Hamburg, and sold via subscription to those that wished to express their own religious convictions at home and celebrate musically every Sunday and feast day with a cantata unique to that day.

You can sample this specific cantata @: http://tiny.cc/P2Jtr

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 4, 2009):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< This cantata comes from the "Harmonischer Gottesdienst" cantata cycle that Telemann printed himself in Hamburg, and sold via subscription to those that wished to express their own religious convictions at home and celebrate musically every Sunday and feast day with a cantata unique to that day. >
Are there any Bach cantatas which could conceivably have received domestic performances? Bach certainly had the performing resources in his household, more so when the whole Bach clan met. Domestic cantatas would certainly have given is wives and daughters opportunity to perform.

Fascinating possibility.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 4, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Martin Luther's "A Mighty Fortress," chorale BWV 80/5, begins with the "hordes of devils that fill the land." Guess who they are? The Catholic clergy, I presume. >
If that is the case, then the Prince of this World, line 5, would be none other than the Pope?

The presumed reference to Joyce, Ulysses (KMRIA) noted and appreciated!

Glen Armstrong wrote (September 5, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Kim, Is your German fluent enough that you can translate Telemann texts at will? I have several cantatas by him, Stölzel and Fasch whose texts I would love to read. Any translation sites you know of?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 5, 2009):
[To Glen Armstrong] I'm afraid I'm not able to help, but if you know the specific cantatas (e.g the TWV number and the Stölzel and Fasch names or send me photocopies of the texts I could get someone to do so. Are these from the original music manuscripts or recordings? Just curious.

You can contact me off list at <>

Bruce Simonson wrote (September 22, 2009):
Been off-list for a bit (now back from vacation).

I have been thinking of performing cantata BWV 19 (Es erhub sich ein Streit), which has an extreme "satan and snake-like riff" example in the first movement. I think the opening movement of this cantata represents Bach at his highest powers ... nothing less than a battle between Satan and St Michael. Not sure when we will take this up (when do we cover St Michael's Day?), but am looking forward to it.

 

Cantata BWV 41: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: żOctober 3, 2011 ż14:00:00