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Cantata BWV 42
Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbatas
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of April 8, 2007

Julian Mincham wrote (April 6, 2007):
Intro BWV 42

CONTEXT

This cantata stands alone as being the only one in this cycle to begin with a large-scale orchestral sinfonia. (C 4 begins with an instrumental interlude but it is scarcely more than an introduction to the first chorus).

Inevitably one asks why?

Schweitzer (vol 2 pp 339-440) offers an extraordinary, and quite misguided, interpretation of this movement. Firstly he states, mistakenly, that it ends in a minor key. The opening ritornello section is in the jubilant D major key and the score terminates with a cadence in F sharp minor. Were Bach to have intended it to end thus, it would have been a unique example within his instrumental repertoire.

The answer is that he clearly intended a 'da capo' direction at the minor cadence, requiring a return to the beginning and a conclusion at the perfect cadence in the tonic key over bars 52/53. This is the obvious place to end, following a version of the original ritornello.

Further supporting evidence comes from the style of the piece. It is highly reminiscent of the opening movements of concerti which Bach had written in Cothen, in particular those for violin and keyboard in the key of E (BWV 1042 & 1053). Not only do all three first movements have a similar 'feel', they also have an identical structure. They are all combinations of ternary (also known as ABA and da capo) and ritornello forms. They all pause on a massive central cadence in a related minor key and then reprise the first section (see also the last movements of the 5th and 6th Brandenburg Concerti). The musical evidence is not definitive but it is strong. It seems highly likely that Bach resurrected this movement from a lost Cothen violin concerto.

It is not difficult to see how a solo line could have been rewritten so as to incorporate the two oboes; much of Bach's richest melodic writing is actually a conflation of two or more single lines. And, perhaps as an even more daring suggestion, might the sixth movement be a version, possibly omitting a middle section, of the last movement of the same work? Of course this is pure conjecture but it is not outside the bounds of possibility. There is precedence for Bach recycling two movements from a previously written concerto within the one cantata; possibly the first two movements of the Easter Oratorio (BWV) and certainly the reuse of two movements from the harpsichord concerto in D minor (BWV 1052) in a later cantata.

If we accept the arguments about the opening sinfonia it makes a nonsense of Schweitzer's interpretation (vol 2 pp 339/340). He must have thought of it performed at a much slower tempo than a typical concerto first movement because he claims it has a similar mood to the opening chorus of C6. The strings, he suggests, paint a picture of 'the hovering shades of evening' which 'melt into each other and become darker and darker'. The first oboe 'sings a hymn of longing, that dies away in the light'. Schweitzer was, of course, not fully aware of the extent of Bach's recycling which modern scholarship has revealed although, ironically, he is sometimes quick to condemn a movement as brought back from another (inferior?) work if he doesn't like it (e.g. C 38).

Two interesting questions remain: why did Bach not make use of the chorale in an opening movement as was his practice in the first forty works of the cycle and why limit the use of the choir to the final chorale only?

The closing Lutheran chorale has a number of features which make it ideal as the basis of a large-scale chorus. It has almost unprecedented tonal variety, set in the (unusual) tonic of F sharp minor and passing through various related keys. Even more stimulating for Bach, one would think, would have been the variety of phrase lengths. So why did he not seize the opportunity to exploit its potential?

Dürr has suggested that Bach may have deliberately given the chorus a break in this work after the intensity of the Easter period; but unfortunately this does not go very far in addressing the various imponderable questions.

THE CANTATA OF THE WEEK BWV 42 Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats

In the evening of the same Sabbath
Sinfonia--recit (tenor)--aria (alto)--duet (sop & tenor) (Mvt. 4)--recit (bass)--aria (bass)--chorale.
The forty-third cantata of the cycle for Quasimodogeneti Librettist unknown

The first movement setting text is the tenor recitative (Mvt. 2). It describes the gathering of the disciples in the evening, shutting the doors for fear of the Jews. The repeated notes in the bass suggest the coming together of the disciples with just an echo of apprehension about their enemies. (The mention of Jews and Infidels in these Eighteenth Century texts would appear to be a use of conventional images of depictions of the enemies around us, rather than expressions of a form of deep-seated racialism we might see it as today. I am aware, however that others will hold contrary views although I do not believe that they affect the substance of the music.)

The alto aria (Mvt. 3) is remarkable for both its structure and its length (in performance it will run to around ten minutes, indicating that while Bach may have thought to spare his choir, he certainly did not spare himself or his soloists!). It is richly orchestrated, using a choir of strings and continuo pitted against a woodwind group of two oboes and bassoon. It is a gigantic da capo aria in which the A section describes Jesus coming amongst the assembled disciples and, in the B section, delivering his Amen. Bach goes to considerable lengths to make this differentiation. The first section is very slow and in 4/4 time whilst the second is slightly faster and in 12/8 giving it a pastoral feel such as is to be found (and in the same key) in the Christmas Oratorio. The two oboes weave a filigree of sound around the vocal line, the strings doing little more than supplying the harmonies.

The text of the soprano and tenor duet (Mvt. 4) comes from another chorale by Jakob Fabricius (Boyd p 12) although Bach seems to have made only fleeting uses of its melody. If anything the persistently repeated note on which the words 'Es wird nicht lange wahren'---it will not last long--may have been suggested to Bach by the opening three notes of the closing chorale. It is possible this is the only movement that Bach composed with direct links to that chorale. It is principally an admonition, firstly to the disciples; do not fear or dread the enemy's attempts to destroy you, they will not last long. This is, arguably, the most searingly beautiful movement of the cantata. The two voices imitate each other in lines of great expressiveness about a persistently striding and sinewy chromatic bass line played by bassoon and 'cello. Bach himself added the phrasing to this line (Schweitzer p341) creating a most unsettling effect as it constantly suggests a tension between 3/4 and 6/8 rhythms. This is an excellent example of Bach's setting out two ideas or positions simultaneously. The voices encapsulate a soothing, almost appeasing quality while in the continuo we hear the subdued, but persistent voices of the enemy. Notable are the melismas which give emphasis to the words 'Versage'---despair and 'verstoren'---destroy.

The bass recitative (Mvt. 5) underlines the moral of the previous movements, not without some further intimations of dangers as the strings agitate around the final phrase, suggesting the fury of the enemy. The final aria, however, dismisses all doubt and the expected Bachian optimism takes over. Jesus will protect his people---and the sun shall shine upon them. The bass voice conveys the authority of Jesus from his opening phrase which, structured as it is like a brass fanfare, conveys astrong sense of power and confidence. Both swirling semi-quavers and the overall mood echo the opening sinfonia. Note also the emphasis given to the word 'Verfolgung'---persecution.

The closing chorale (Mvt. 7), is a plea for God to provide the means for peace and good government to our leaders and through them, to us. It is minor thus, and rarely for this cycle, ends the cantata in a mode different from that of its beginning (see also Cantatas BWV 108 and BWV 74). Not only that but it takes us to the remote and relatively unusual key of F sharp minor. It would seem that doubts, fear and the threats of our enemies have not been wholly dismissed. And has anything really changed subsequently over the intervening years? Do we still not look for 'good government' from our rulers? And yet be as often disapointed?

An interesting cantata which, on closer observation, reveals more than it initially promises.

The link to the cantata page is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV42.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 7, 2007):
BWV 42 - Sinfonias?

Julian Mincham wrote:
< Dürr has suggested that Bach may have deliberately given the chorus a break in this work after the intensity of the Easter period; but unfortunately this does not go very far in addressing the various imponderable questions. >
We hear this suggestion all the time, but is there any evidence that Bach gave his choir a "break" or they weren't up to an opening chorus? Bach also wrote Cantata BWV 67, "Halt in Gedächtnis" for the Sunday after Easter and it has an extremely demanding role for the choir throughout the whole work. No break there!

I've never read a convinicing rationale why Bach chose to write a sinfonia to preface certain cantatas. It's certainly a tradition which goes back to Praetorius: "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" is very much in this tradition. But I've seen any discussion of a pattern in the later cantatas.

Why a concerto movement before this cantata and not before BWV 57, "Selig ist der Mann" which also begins with a tenor solo? If the sinfonia is supposed to be a replacement for the chorus, then why preface the great chorus of #12, "Wir Danken Dir" which a showstopping orcchestral sinfonia based on the E Major Solo Violin Partita? And why not a sinfonia to preface "Ein Feste Burg" which begins without an orchestral introduction?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 7, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Dürr has suggested that Bach may have deliberately given the chorus a break in this work after the intensity of the Easter period; but unfortunately this does not go very far in addressing the various imponderable questions.<<
I have just read Dürr's discussion of this work in his book: "Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Kantaten", Bärenreiter, rev. edition 2000, in the German original and am unable to find any such suggestion by Dürr. Could you please specify the Dürr source where Dürr makes this suggestion?

Julian Mincham wrote (April 7, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] In response to your question copied below, you are correct in that Dürr does not this comments in the article on BWV 42 in his book The Cantatas of JS Bach.

The attribution actually comes from Boyd (Oxford Composer Companions- JS Bach) in his article on BWV 42 p 11 of the paperback edition (now sadly out of print)

I quote Boyd's passage in full

'Alfred Dürr has suggested (in DürrK) that Bach deliberately omitted a full-scale choral movement in order to give his choir a well earned reast after their exacting duties during the Passiontide and Easter festivals'.

Hope this helps.

Peter Smaill wrote (April 7, 2007):
The (?) Dürr theory appears to have been dropped by the time of the English translation of his book on the Cantatas so we are left as Julian Mincham points out with the secondary statement by Nicholas Anderson in Boyd, "Oxford Composer Companion -J S Bach". This is to the effect that this lovely work avoided a Chorus due to the Easter overload on the choir, as suggested from the 5th (1985) edition of Dürr's "Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach".

Duerr suggests a specific Cöthen origin for the Sinfonia, the serenata "Der himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm and Glueck", BWV 66a, for the birthday of Prince Leopold on 10 December 1718. According to Whittaker, the score is marked "Concerto da Chiesa". Whittaker also states, relevant to Doug Cowling's line of thought , "It may be questioned whether Bach ever wrote an original Sinfonia to open any Leipzig cantata. In his earlies days they were common, but after Cöthen he relied solely on adaptations".

Whittaker goes on to observe that the violins play in unison, which he belives creates balance problems for the conductor. From a listener standpoint the result is the predominance of woodwinds especially the bassoon and thus a special pastoral quality. Whittaker nevertheless agrees: "Why this Sinfonia has never been placed among the world's concert masterpieces is mystery.....it is a heavenly picture of evening".

Bach's ability to depict this mood of this point in the of day, here, in BWV 6 and the SMP (BWV 244), "Am abend da es kuehle war", is a further demonstration of his skill with "affekten" and the particular significance which concepts of Time have for the composer.

As previously suggested, apart from the unusual verbal suggestion of the Altenburg chorale "Verzage nicht" (only fragments of the associated melody are detectable) and Luther's "Verleih uns Frieden", there may be lurking in the bass line of the last chorale , an allusion to a third chorale complementary in thought, "Dies sind die heiligen Zehn gebot".

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2007):
< I've never read a convinicing rationale why Bach chose to write a sinfonia to preface certain cantatas. It's certainly a tradition which goes back to Praetorius: "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" is very much in this tradition. But I've seen any discussion of a pattern in the later cantatas.
Why a concerto movement before this cantata and not before
BWV 57, "Selig ist der Mann" which also begins with a tenor solo? If the sinfonia is supposed to be a replacement for the chorus, then why preface the great chorus of #12, "Wir Danken Dir" which a showstopping orcchestral sinfonia based on the E Major Solo Violin Partita? And why not a sinfonia to preface "Ein Feste Burg" which begins without an orchestral introduction? >
One possible answer is: it's only our modern expectation for unity that makes us think of a cantata as a stand-alone package. What about any other organ music, or other parts of the service, before and after the thing? And in some cases between sections of the cantata? And other spoken or sung parts of the service, not notated here either?

Not to neglect that Bach more typically entitled them "concerto" or simply "die Musik", instead of "cantata".... This stuff is Gebrauchsmusik, for integration into church services.

All of which is surely already known to the person asking the above questions, as the music minister of a church; but maybe not to some other readers.... If our main way to hear this music today is through packaged recordings, stand-alone and neatly edited and numbered, it's easy to overlook that important context and thereby misunderstand some of its function -- and some of its content. Go to Bach's church and the concerted music is only about 15% (maybe less) of the service. And not the main dish on the menu, either, but rather more like a salad.

Chris Kern wrote (April 7, 2007):
I want to point out a couple of things, and I'll do recording comparisons later.

First off, the this cantata provides excellent internal evidence against the common idea that "Bach's cantatas weren't intended for any entertainment value" -- if they really were the super-seriouspreaching tools that some people claim, there would be no reason for an instrumental sinfonia followed up by a 10-12 minute aria. I don't think anyone had a problem with some entertainment during the service.

Second, the parts are somewhat interesting for this cantata. In addition to the oboe, singers, and strings, there are the following parts:
Bassono
Transposed continuo (figured), just a fragment apparently
Continuo (figured)
Organo: Continuo (transposed, figured)
Violone

Aside from the unclear "violone" name, it is odd to see three continuo parts all figured by Bach. Even if we leave aside the fragment, we still have an organ part plus another figured continuo part, which would seem to be an almost explicit indication that this cantata was performed with organ + harpsichord support.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 7, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
>>...there would be no reason for an instrumental sinfonia followed up by a 10-12 minute aria.<<
One reason could be that this cantata was meant to be performed after the sermon during communion rather than the opening cantata (before the sermon) which probably would have had an introductory choral mvt. I believe there are some other examples of cantatas not having the same type of first mvt. that is demonstrated by the bulk of Bach's cantatas. By 1731 (after Bach's possible disenchantment for not receiving financial support for this musical program), for the 2nd performance of this work, the cantata text booklet indicates only BWV 42 as we know it now. Could Bach already have cut it back from its original longer form? Could he have substituted some other music (not a cantata as such) for the time slot before the sermon or did he simply drop that slot? Why? Because Bach wanted to spare the choir as Dürr had suggested in 1957 (Bach-Jahrbuch 1957, or its 2nd edition with notes and additions, Kassel, 1976)?

>>Aside from the unclear "violone" name...<<
There is nothing unclear here. This part "Violon." written out entirely by J.S. Bach with his designation of instrument at the top, comes from the later repeat performance of this cantata in 1742 (not 1731 as Dürr had assumed in 1976).

>>it is odd to see three continuo parts all figured by Bach...we still have an organ part plus another figured continuo part, which would seem to be an almost explicit indication that this cantata was performed with organ + harpsichord support.<<
This issue was covered in great detail by Arnold Schering who devotes two chapters (20 and 21) in his book, "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik", Leipzig, 1936, and comes to the conclusion, after giving 6 separate reasons, that these instruments (organ and harpsichord) were not playing together at the same time, nor was there a Handelian tradition in Leipzig in Bach's time which would have the harpsichord generally play the recitatives and arias and the organ the sinfonias and choral mvts. (Schering is certainly well aware of the existence of the harpsichords at St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches and even has printed out the detailed lists of names and payments made to harpsichord tuners. Schering also lists in detail all the cantatas which have completely or partially figured harpsichord continuo parts). Here are some of his reasons: 1) often the harpsichord part gives the appearance of not being from the original set of parts for the 1st performance; 2) the remaining, over 100, cantatas where the parts are available do not have extra harpsichord continuo parts; 3) why depend upon the unstable intonation of the harpsichord when the organ would give a much more stable support (possibly using the Rückpositiv for this purpose of accompanying recitatives, etc. 4) the difficulties of keeping the harpsichord in tune with the organ (the latter playing in a transposed key); 5) having both instruments might only make sense when the music is fully orchestrated (using many instruments), but even here the organ would always be able to stand on its own (so why use a harpsichord along with it?); 6) using both instruments would mean needing yet another player - switching back and forth or imagining Bach sitting at the harpsichord conducting a large choral mvt. with a student playing the organ seems very unlikely.

Chris Kern wrote (April 7, 2007):
>>it is odd to see three continuo parts all figured by Bach...we still have an organ part plus another figured continuo part, which would seem to be an almost explicit indication that this cantata was performed with organ + harpsichord support.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This issue was covered in great detail by Arnold Schering who devotes two chapters (20 and 21) in his book, "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik", Leipzig, 1936, and comes to the conclusion, after giving 6 separate reasons, that these instruments (organ and harpsichord) were not playing together at the same time, >
And on the other side, Laurence Dreyfus devotes most of chapter 2 (pgs. 10-71) of his 1987 book Bach's Continuo Group to an examination of the issue, coming to the conclusion that the harpsichord was a standard part of Bach's ensemble and often played with the organ.

I will summarize his main points, but beyond this I'm not going to debate this issue because I don't like second-hand debates that are nothing but quoting sources (also I don't like to eclipse the cantata discussions with these kinds of debates). People can read these books themselves and come to their own conclusion.

Anyway, his main points are:
1. Harpsichords in both Leipzig churches were maintained throughout Bach's tenure (and Bach explicitly calls for harpsichord repairs in preparation for certain performances)
2. Contemporary documents attest to the use of the harpsichord during Bach's cantata performances
3. BWV 198 is explicitly said to have involved organ + harpsichord by an observer
4. There are titled harpsichord parts ("cembalo") for the same performances as organ parts (or in other cases, such as BWV 42, there are multiple figured continuo parts)
5. Some figured organ parts have "tacet" markings
6. There are cantatas with organ solos that also have figured bass parts during the solos

This is just a summary; as I said, I urge people to read the book for themselves (and Schering's book too, which Dreyfus makes numerous references to).

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 7, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
>>And on the other side, Laurence Dreyfus devotes most of chapter 2 (pgs. 10-71) of his 1987 book Bach's Continuo Group to an examination of the issue, coming to the conclusion that the harpsichord was a standard
part of Bach's ensemble and often played with the organ....
People can read these books themselves and come to their own conclusion...I urge people to read the book for themselves (and Schering's book too, which Dreyfus makes numerous references to).<<
And the still continuing discussion that the existence of both Kammerton and Chorton continuo parts has provoked which causes strong reactions for or against the 'double accompaniment' by organ and harpsichord in Bach's sacred music.

After Schering (1936) and Dreyfus (1987, there have been the following discussions specifically on this issue by other current Bach experts:

Hans-Joachim Schulze "Bach Jahrbuch 1987" pp. 173ff.

Hans-Joachim Schulze "Bach Jahrbuch 1989" pp. 231-233

Yoshitake Kobayashi "Bach Jahrbuch 2001" pp. 98ff.

Ulrich Prinz "J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium" Kassel/Stuttgart, 2005, avoids this unresolved issue entirely by referring to the above sources and treating only those parts specifically marked "Cembalo".

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 7, 2007):
BWV 42 - Opening Sinfonias

Peter Smaill wrote:
< Bach's ability to depict this mood of this point in the of day, here, in BWV 6 and the SMP, "Am abend da es kuehle war", is a further demonstraof his skill with "affekten" and the particular significance which concepts of Time have for the composer. >
This notion of the opening sinfonia as a tone poem depicting a languid evening has certainly never occurred to most modern conductors who take a prestisimmo tempo. You would literally have to take the movement at half the speed to make it a lyrical "Ode to Evening". This Romantic approach to Bach's music runs all through Schweitzer's commentaries -- he really tries to impose a Wagnerian leitmotiv aesthetic on Bach's music.

Which brings us to the question of whether an introductory orchestral movement has a narrative dimension in Baroque sacred music. It's common to read in program notes even today that the Overture to Messiah is a prayer for the coming of the Messiah because it's in E minor and "solemn" (so much for the Allegro fugue!) It's more likely that Händel thought any vocal piece, sacred or secular, required an overture to shut up the audience and focus their attention.

That problem doesn't really exist for Bach, but do his sinfonias have "meaning"? The opening of "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" is more in the early Praetorius tradition of an "intonazione" designed to give the singers the pitch of the following chorus. Schweitzer has an elaborate program for the sinfonia to "Himmelskönig sei Willkommen" in which the music is supposed to depict the garlanding of Christ's entry into Jerusalem.

And what of this cantata? What does the sinfonia "mean"? It doesn't relate in affect to the opening dictum text from Scripture. Is it the risen Christ flying to appear to the disciples? Unlikely. Or does it preface the cantata because the Easter season require a joyous affirmation before the narrative begins? Slightly less unlikely.

The most interesting work is the Easter Oratorio which opens with a huge three movemnt concerto grosso with voices in the finale (Bach's "Ode to Joy"!) Again, I am intrigued by the similarity to Händel's "La Resurrexione" which also opens with a three movement concerto with the Angel appearing in the last movement. In Händel's oratorio, the three movements are clearly linked with a program which has the opening Allegro as the Resurrection, the Adagio as the sorrowing souls in Limbo, and the final Allegro as the Harrowing of Hell. Händel devotes several movements to the scene in "Messiah" -- "Lift Up Your Heads" refers to the gates of Hell.

The similarity to the Easter Oratorio is quite striking. The narrative of the Harrowing of Hell is only implied in scripture and may not have been in Bach's tradition. The evidence of the libretto might suggest that the "program" of the opening movements is: Allegro - the Resurrection, Adagio - the mourning women come to the empty tomb; and Allegro - the race of the apostles to the tomb.

So much is unique about this work that I could easily be persuaded that Bach encountered Italian oratorios through his Dresden contacts.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 7, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Which brings us to the question of whether an introductory orchestral movement has a narrative dimension in Baroque sacred music. It's common to read in program notes even today that the Overture to Messiah is a prayer for the coming of the Messiah because it's in E minor and "solemn" (so much for the Allegro fugue!) It's more likely that Händel thought any vocal piece, sacred or secular, required an overture to shut up the audience and focus their attention. >
Perhaps the music does have a story behind it. Philip Pickett has written extensively on the use of rhetoric in baroque music with his understanding of the "story" the music was meant "narrate" (especially in the Brandenburg Concerti for example). He cites many treatises from the period that makes for a very compelling theory.

Johann Mattheson gives many many examples of the use of musical rhythms with their equal in poetry and the moods/themes they were meant to suggest. Oddly though, Joshua Rifkin doesn't put much stock in performances that try to make the most of such readings.

< Again, I am intrigued by the similarity to Händel's "La Resurrectione" ....
The similarity to the Easter Oratorio (
BWV 249) is quite striking. The narrative of the Harrowing of Hell is only implied in scripture and may not have been in Bach's tradition. The evidence of the libretto might suggest that the "program" of the opening movements is: Allegro - the Resurrection, Adagio - the mourning women come to the empty tomb; and Allegro - the race of the apostles to the tomb.
So much is unique about this work that I could easily be persuaded that Bach encountered Italian oratorios through his
Dresden contacts. >
Interesting, I could do a search on RISM to see if this Händel piece survived in Dresden, but my hunch is that Bach didn't know it, but that doesn't rule out Bach knowing about other Italian oratorios (either the imported type via manuscript or home grown/written by Italian composers at the Dresden court).

I know Telemann*, Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel, and Christoph Graupner all wrote opening Sinfonias to their cantatas as well, but as far as I can tell at this writing, Bach's sinfonias (symphonies really- the term is interchangable) to be definitely the longest (although the timings vary in Bach's pieces to very short to quite lengthy). Bach's opening ritornellos are quite lengthy as well, for reasons I'm not sure.

Speaking of Dresden and religious music: I do remember reading that the Electress of Saxony walked out of the first performance of Zelenka's Lamentations, complaining that it was entirely too long; and the piece was never repeated again. How dreadfully embarrassing for a composer who wanted a promotion.

Happy Easter!

--------------------------------------------------------
Telemann wrote a delightful festive Sinfonia to a cantata for the Feast of the Visitation featuring three trumpets and tympani, and Stoezel wrote one for one for a cantata featuring an obbligato organ akin to Bach's BWV 29.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2007):
< And on the other side, Laurence Dreyfus devotes most of chapter 2 (pgs. 10-71) of his 1987 book Bach's Continuo Group to an examination of the issue, coming to the conclusion that the harpsichord was a standard part of Bach's ensemble and often played with the organ. >
A fine book indeed, and indispensable for those of us who actually play this stuff.

Some additional questions about that dual-keyboard hypothesis take up most of Peter Williams's published review (which see) of that Dreyfus book: such as drawing out the possibility that the harpsichord part in its Cammerton keys was used for the rehearsals, but maybe not the performance.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 7, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Some additional questions about that dual-keyboard hypothesis take up most of Peter Williams's published review (which see) of that Dreyfus book: such as drawing out the possibility that the harpsichord part in its Cammerton keys was used for the rehearsals, but maybe not the performance. >
It's quite possible that Bach never held a rehearsal in the church. The notion that the church was for actual services only and that rehearsals take place elsewhere was a strong ethos in both Lutheran and Catholic churches. To this day, many churches restrict the times that an organist can practice on the instrument. Certainly the logistics of preparing the choir loft and priming the organ makes it doubtful that many rehearsals were held there. It is more likely that reheatook place in the school. That might suggest that a harpsichord was used. Many famous colleges across Europe have organs in their halls. Do we know if the St. Thomas School had a fixed or portative organ in its principal hall?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 8, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Some additional questions about that dual-keyboard hypothesis take up most of Peter Williams's published review (which see) of that Dreyfus book: such as drawing out the possibility that the harpsichord part in its Cammerton keys was used for the rehearsals, but maybe not the performance.<<
Obviously Peter Williams has not sufficiently considered why 9 cantatas have continuo parts in Cammerton (BWV 3, BWV 18, BWV 20, BWV 24, BWV 38, BWV 44, BWV 60, BWV 124 and BWV 166) which are only partially figured and there is no rhyme or reason to which mvts. were selected for this treatment and which were not. Or why a continuo part marked "Violoncello" for BWV 172 is completely figured. The possibility suggested by Williams would make Bach appear to be ill-prepared to carry out successful rehearsals with continuo (harpsichord) players who really had no chance of 'getting everything right' because they had to guess what Bach was after in those mvts. which were not figured.

Schering had suggested that the only rehearsal for the weekly cantata was at the Saturday afternoon Vespers, an idea which Doug Cowling immediately criticized as an impossibility. Perhaps certaih Vespers (like the Good Friday Vespers) were devoted more toward presenting sacred music than adhering strictly to a specified liturgy for such a service. Who knows, perhaps the Saturday afternoon Vespers made allowances for a dress rehearsal of the cantata to be presented the next morning?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 8, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] Have you actually read Peter Williams's review of that book, or are you simply making up stuff against his review, and against his intelligence and thoroughness?

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 8, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Schering had suggested that the only rehearsal for the weekly cantata was at the Saturday afternoon Vespers, an idea which Doug Cowling immediately criticized as an impossibility. Perhaps certaih Vespers (like the Good Friday Vespers) were devoted more toward presenting sacred music than adhering strictly to a specified liturgy for such a service. Who knows, perhaps the Saturday afternoon Vespers made allowances for a dress rehearsal of the cantata to be presented the next morning? >
And Doug Cowling will immediately criticize it again.

The public liturgy in St. Thomas was minutely ordered by statute and by the liturgical books. There was no looseness. The Good Friday wasn't some sort of concert of Bach's favourites. The Passion had a particular place and function to perform. Much of the other music was tightly regulated. At another place in Good Friday service, Bach was required to perform Handl's "Ecce quomodo" every year.

The notion that a public service such as Saturday Vespers was a dress rehearsal would have offended both Bach and his employers who were dedicated to a well-regulated and devoutly executed liturgy. On Sunday morning, Matins was sung at 5 am by choirboys who received a special stipend. The fact that the church was probably nearly empty except for the clergy and boys is testament to the care that was taken that the "Opus Dei", the work of God, was executed properly. Bach probably never attended Matins but he had the responsibility to ensure that the music was in order.

I think that a good case could probably be made that rehearsals never took place in the church, that the only thing heard in the bulding was the official service. We can't underestimate the esteem and reverence in which the church building was held. The church was simply never a venue for concerts.

And what's the point of having a Saturday rehearsal anyway? I thought Bach was still writing the cantata at midnight and his musicians sight-read all the music without ever having seen it before.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 8, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< And what's the point of having a Saturday rehearsal anyway? I thought Bach was still writing the cantata at midnight and his musicians sight-read all the music without ever having seen it before. >
Details, details, details. If the parts are done and there is time for a rehearsal, we'll have one. If not, no big deal, we'll just wing it. Close enough for jazz and God, both very forgiving.

Chris Kern wrote (April 8, 2007):
This is a lovely cantata. The opening instrumental sinfonia uses a number of obbligato instruments in an excellent combination, and the alto aria, though very long, has an attractive ritornello. The alto aria reminds me of BWV 3, and the bass aria with the two violins reminds me of the duet in BWV 125, but I don't know if this is intentional or not.

Mvt. 6 is kind of unusual because rather than having solos from violin 1 and 2, it says "Violin 1 divisi"; I don't know why Bach did this. It may have had something to do with a specific performance condition that week.

Rilling [5] is definitely my favorite recording of this cantata. He takes the opening sinfonia at a brisk pace, but that seems to suit the music well -- I'm not sure I want to hear it played at an 8 or 9 minute pace. The alto aria is expansive and calls up a depth of feeling that the Harnoncourt recording lacks -- thankfully the oboes he uses are good this time. The chorale duet (Mvt. 4) is a weak point; a little too fast and the voices don't blend together well.

The Harnoncourt recording is fine, but doesn't quite reach the Rilling [5] one. I do like H's sinfonia. He observes the staccato indications and it creates a contrast to the "cantabile" middle section. The chorale is more legato and slow, and the voices blend together more easily.

Unfortunately the .ram file of Leusink's version [9] on this site is lacking the alto aria, making it difficult to compare. As usual, the duet (Mvt. 4) is a high point with the voices blending together perfectly.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 9, 2007):
BWV 42 Provenance & Copy Session

BWV 42 "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats"

Provenance:

I. The Autograph Score:

At the time when the J. S. Bach's estate was settled in 1750, the autograph score along with the doublets went to C.P.E. Bach, with whom it remained until the latter's death in 1790 at which time it was acquired by the Berliner Singakademie. In 1855, the Staatsbibliothek Berlin, where it is found today, acquired both the score and the doublets.

The cover page written by C.P.E. Bach at any time after 1750 and before 1790 gives the name of the cantata, but J. S. Bach's title at the top of the 1st page of the score reads only:

J. J. Do[min]ica Quasimodogeniti Concerto da Chiesa.

There are no conclusion markings at the end (like SDG or Fine or both)

An early copy of the score was made by Christoph Nichelmann (1717-1762), a score which was later acquired by Johann Philipp Kirnberger and upon whose death in 1783 it went to the Amalien-Bibliothek, from there to the Joachimsthal Gymnasium and then, finally, to the BB (Staatsbibliothek Berlin). Documentary evidence (watermark used) proves that it was copied between 17and 1733 and that it was copied directly from the autograph score. The cover page has the title: "Joh. Seb. Bach | Concerto da Chiesa | auf den Sonntag Quasimodogeniti | Autographen." The score itself has as its title on top of the 1st page: "Doica Qvasimodogeniti Concerta da Chiesa | di Bach."

In Breitkopf's catalog of manuscripts for sale (1770) there is an offering as follows:

"Cantate, Domin. Quasimodogeniti, Wo zwey und drey versammlet sind, a 2 Oboi, Fagot, 2 Viol. Viola, 2 Voci e Fondamento. in Stimm." (Parts available for a cantata for the Sunday Quasimodogeniti called "Wo zwey
und drey versammlet sind
" [now Aria Mvt. 3] with 2 oboes, 1 bassoon, 2 violins, 1 viola, 2 voices and continuo.) If one can assume that cantatas were generally named after the first text that appears, then this entry may mean that the cantata, at a later repeat performance, began with the aria and not with the Sinfonia and tenor recitative.

The listing in Breitkopf's catalog is the only one pointing to this specific set of parts which has been irretrievably lost.

II. The Original Set of Parts:

These parts originally belonged to Count Voß-Buch before going to the Berliner Singakademie where they were combined with the autograph score and doublets which were already there. Both were acquired by the BB in 1855. Both Voß-Buch's and Dehn's Singakademie registers show the title "Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbaths".

Johann Andreas Kuhnau's original cover page for the parts reads:

Domin: Quasimodoge= | niti | Am Abend aber deßselbigen Sabbaths | â | 4 Voc: | 2 Hautb: | Bassono | 2 Violini | Viola | è | Continuo | di Sign: | J S. Bach

[This confirms the title of the cantata for its original performance on April 8, 1725, but what may have happened to this cantata subsequently when Bach revised it? Did the Breitkopf set of parts represent an earlier or later stage of the work as presented in 1725 and 1731 - for the former we have the autograph score and original parts and for the latter the cantata text booklet from 1731 which gives the same text as found in the former.]

II. Details about the oopied parts:

Copyists involved:

Johann Sebastian Bach (JSB) 40 years old
Johann Andreas Kuhnau (JAK) 22 years old
Johann Heinrich Bach (JHB) 18 years old
Wilhelm Friedemann Bach (WFB) 14 years old
Anonymous IId (Anon IId)
Anonymous IIf (Anon IIf)

The Individual Parts (numbered according to the NBA KB):

B1. Soprano

JAK: mvts. 1-4 (actually only the music for Mvt. 4, the other mvts. are marked "tacet")
JHB: mvts. 5-7 (actually only Mvt. 7, the other mvts are marked "tacet")

B2. Alto

JAK: mvts. 1-3 (actually only Mvt. 3 - ditto)
JHB: mvts. 4-7 (actually only Mvt. 7 - ditto)

B3. Tenore

JAK: mvts. 1-4 (actually only mvts. 2 & 4 - ditto)
JHB: Mvt. 7

B4. Basso

JAK: mvts. 1-6 (actually only mvts. 5 & 6 - ditto)
JHB: Mvt. 7

B5. Hautbois 1

JAK: mvts. 1-3 (actually only mvts. 1 & 3)
JHB: Mvt. 7 (title and clefs)
Anon IId: Mvt. 7 (notation)

B6. Hautbois 2

JAK: mvts. 1-3 (actually only mvts. 1 & 3)
JHB: Mvt. 7 (incorrect version)
JSB: Mvt. 7 (correct version)

B7. Violino 1mo

JAK : mvts. 1-6 (actually only mvts. 1 & 3 & 6)
Anon IId: Mvt. 7

B8. Violino 1mo (doublet)

JHB: mvts. 1-3 (actually only mvts. 1 & 3)
JAK: mvts. 4-6 (actually only Mvt. 6)
Anon IId: Mvt. 7

B9: Violino 2

JAK: mvts. 1-3 (actually only mvts. 1 & 3)
JHB: Mvt. 7

B10: Violino 2 (doublet)

JHB: Mvt. 1 to m 4
WFB: Mvt. 1 from m 4 to end of mvt.
JSB: Mvt. 3 to m 8
JHB: mvt. 3 from m 9 to end; Mvt. 7

B11: Viola

JAK: Mvt. 1-3 (actually only Mvt. 1 & Mvt. 3)
JHB: Mvt. 7 (incorrect version)
JSB: Mvt. 7 (correct version)

B12: Bassono.

JAK: mvts. 1-3
Anon IIf: mvts. 4-6 (actually only Mvt. 4)
Anon IId: Mvt. 7

B13: Continuo (Primary - untransposed, but figured)

JAK: mvts. 1-6 (but not the figures)
Anon IId: Mvt. 7 (but not the figures)
Unknown: figures for mm 1-27 of Mvt. 1
JSB: all the remaining figures

B14: Continuo (transposed, figured)

Anon IId (all except the figures)
JSB: the figured bass throughout

B15: Organo (transposed, figured)

JSB: mvts. 1-6 (up to m 45 in Mvt. 6) all of the figures
Anon IId: Mvt. 6 from m 46 to end; Mvt. 7

B16: Violon. [This part was created for a later
performance circa 1742.]

JSB: mvts. 1-7

III. Conditions behind and leading into the copy process

Just prior to Easter beginning with the Palm Sunday (A Marian Feast Day - BWV 1), continuing through the performance of the Passion on Good Friday and concluding with the Easter Oratorio (first version) and the other Easter cantatas for Easter Monday (BWV 6) and for Easter Tuesday (BWV 4 "repeat performance"), Bach was extremely busy with musical activities thus almost preventing him, once again, from reaching his intended goal: to have the cantata for the coming Sunday, Quasimodogeniti, ready for performance in time. This lack of available time for composing meant that he was under great pressure (as usual) to finish the complete score so that the members of his copyist team could complete their tasks on time. Realizing that this week's schedule of available time was already severely truncated and perhaps also in consideration of the boys of the primary choir who had recently been singing much more than usual [an opinion once expressed by Alfred Dürr and discussed here recently], Bach began to look into a pile of instrumental concerti that he had brought with him from Cöthen. He found one that looked like it could be adapted easily for use in the opening Sinfonia and even in parts of the other mvts. as well. His composing score reflects clearly what was being reused and what was newly composed: parts of the score based upon the earlier concerto appear to be 'clean copy' while other newly composed parts are definitely typical of a composing score (cross-outs, corrections, etc.).

Nevertheless, despite all his best efforts, Bach, once again, could not finish composing the score of BWV 42. The final chorale mvt. had to be composed during the time when the copy process had already begun. This was not an unusual situation, nor was it a problematic one, since his primary copyist, JAK, could begin copying out the parts from the previous mvts. (on loose, unbound sheets) while Bach finished composing the final chorale on another sheet (only 14 measures/bar of Mvt. 6 were on the back of this sheet).

A quotation from the NBA KB I/11.1 p. 71 [reflecting an objective opinion by those directly involved with the detailed examination of the parts]:

"Die Tatsache, daß insgesamt mindestens sechs Schreiber und Bach selbst an der Herstellung des Notentextes beteiligt waren, weist auf Zeitnot hin. Dies zesich besonders deutlich beim Hauptschreiber Kuhnau, der zunächst den vollständigen Stimmensatz (ohne Satz 7) mit Ausnahme der Dubletten und der transponierten Bc.-Stimme schreibt. Bereits ab Satz 4 wird die Bassono-Stimme jedoch nicht mehr von Kuhnau, sondern von Anonymus IIf fortgeführt. Offenbar hielt die Kopie Kuhnau zu sehr auf, so daß er die Aufgabe weitergab."

"The fact that all together at least 6 copyists and even Bach himself were involved in the preparation of the parts points to [Bach] being in a rush and under the pressure of time. This is particularly apparent in the case of the main copyist, Kuhnau who at first prepares a complete set of parts (without Mvt. 7) with the exception of the doublets and the transposed continuo part. Beginning with Mvt. 4, however, Kuhnau does not complete the Bassono part which is taken over by Anonymous IIf. Evidently the copying of this part held Kuhnau up too much so that he turned this task over to someone else."

IV. The Copy Session:

1. JSB still has not finished composing Mvt. 7 (final chorale)

2. JAK first copies out all the vocal parts except Mvt. 7 which is still not yet available to him.

3. JAK then turns his attention to the instrumental parts: 1st and 2nd oboes (all except Mvt. 7); then the 1st and 2nd violin parts (all except Mvt. 7); the viola part (all except Mvt. 7); the bassoon part (except mvts. 4 & 7); the primary continuo part (all except Mvt. 7 and the figures)

4. When JSB finishes composing Mvt. 7, he turns this page of the score over to JHB so that JHB can complete the vocal parts and any of the main set of instrumental parts which JAK has already completed. However, JHB misreads the score when he copies the 2nd oboe part for Mvt. 7 from the alto part in the score. Likewise, he mistakenly entered the alto part of Mvt. 7 into the 2nd violin (doublet) part, which he then corrected himself, but the former error (2nd oboe part Mvt. 7) had to be crossed out and completely rewritten by JSB himself. A similar event occurred with the viola part!

5. As soon as JAK has finished copying the violin 1 & 2 parts, he turns his copies over to JSB for correction and further editing. JSB then gives these corrected parts to others so that they can copy from the revised 1st and 2nd violin copies in order to create the necessary doublets.

6. When JHB begins copying Mvt. 7 into the oboe parts, he runs into difficulties. He only begins entering the title and clefs of Mvt. 7 into the 1st oboe part when Anon IId arrives on the scene and completes it for him. Anon IId does the same with the 1st violin part, completing it with Mvt. 7. With Mvt. 7 of the 2nd oboe part, JHB creates a real disaster: JSB needs to cross out JHB's version and write out a new, corrected version. The very same thing occurs with JHB's version of the viola part for Mvt. 7. JSB needs to cross it out and write out an entirely new part for that mvt.

7. Once JAK finishes all but Mvt. 7 of the primary continuo part, Anon IId takes over to enter Mvt. 7. Anon IId then takes the completed primary continuo part and creates the transposed continuo part (B14)

8. JSB supplies the figures for the primary continuo part and the transposed continuo part before copying the greatest portion of the transposed organo part (all but the end of Mvt. 6 and all of Mvt. 7 which is added by Anon IId. Later JSB writes in the figures for the organo part as well.

9. WFB helps out only for a short while with the 2nd violin doublet after JHB gives up or is assigned another task after completing only 4 measures/bars of Mvt. 1. WFB copies Mvt. 1 from m 4 to the end of the mvt. Next JSB begins copying Mvt. 3 up to m 8, but then JHB returns to complete Mvt. 3 from m 9 to the end as well as completing Mvt. 7.

10. Anon IIf is called to the copy table only for a single mvt., Mvt. 4, of the bassoon part of which 3 mvts. had been completed by JAK. However Anon IId completes the final mvt., Mvt. 7.

11. Anon IId's major task is copying and transposing from the primary continuo part a second, transposed part to which JSB later adds figures.

12. Summarizing JSB's contribution to the copy session: JSB personally copies almost all of the organo continuo part (all except Mvt. 6 from m 46 to the end and Mvt. 7 which were added by Anon IId. In addition to some major corrections (recopying entire mvts. which JHB hat botched) and taking over temporarily where JHB and WFB had begun the 2nd violin doublet (JSB copies only the first 8 measures of Mvt. 3!), JSB adds figures to both of the other continuo parts (not to mention the extensive corrections and additions made to all the parts generally: dynamics, articulation, embellishments, etc.). As noted above, the violone part was created personally by Bach for a later performance circa 1742 and was not a part of the original copy session.

Conclusion:

It is quite evident from a careful examination of the parts which constitute the original set used for the first performance of this cantata on April 8, 1725, that the copy process was carried out in great haste due to the fact that Bach was running out of time before the actual performance would take place. If the target involved was a rehearsal on the day before the performance, there would probably be some form of evidence for such a rehearsal whether direct or indirect. Thus far no clear evidence for Bach's rehearsal schedule has turned up in the historical sources, whereas we do have evidence that sight-reading music during actual performances is more likely than not to have occurred. I still contend that a copy scenario as that clearly presented by the evidence above would have occurred in the evening (going into night time) before the actual performance(s) given the next morning in church and that no rehearsals as such would have taken place since Bach's hand-picked musicians were capable of sight-reading to Bach's satisfaction any music which Bach would place before them. Any rehearsals would ultimately leave various clues in the parts that were used by the performers who handled them; however, most reports on the condition of the original parts point to a remarkable feature: they do not display the usual signs of wear and tear normally encountered when parts are used for private study and/or rehearsals. Arnold Schering indicates that these performances would be very good considering the circumstances, but that we should not expect them to have been completely flawless or without some rough edges. On p. 184 of "J.S. Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik", Leipzig, 1936, Schering, for instance, comments on this matter as follows:

"seine Aufführungen können als Ganzes unmöglich auf der Höhe technischer und künstlerischer Vollendung gestanden haben. Alles, die ungleiche Beschaffenheit des Sänger= und Spielerpersonals, die Überbelastung der Kantoreien, die Art des Übens, die Zersplitterung des Musikdienstes, Bach's eigene gemischte Anteilnahme an den Funktionen des Chors, deutet darauf hin, daß es bei allem Ehrgeiz der Mitwirkenden höchstens ausnahmsweise zu reiferen, abgerundeten Leistungen gekommenist."

(".his performances [Bach's performances in Leipzig], taken as a whole, could not possibly have been at the high level of technical and artistic perfection [that we might want to expect]. Everything points to the fact that no matter how much Bach's performers in Leipzig would be driven by ambition to attain the best results possible, they would at most attain the goal of more mature, well-rounded first-rate performances as an exception and not as a rule, the reasons for this being: the unequal quality of personnel [singers and instrumentalists not all being of the same high level of proficiency], the 'overloading' [by placing too many demands/burdens upon] of the required duties in each of the churches under Bach's jurisdiction [some of Bach's best musicians at the Thomasschule might have to be assigned as prefects (choral assistant conductors) in the 3 other churches where the primary choir was not performing], the kind of practicing the musicians engaged in to prepare for performances [this could be music practice not involving the newest cantatas that were to be performed], the splintering [splitting apart] of the musical services which Bach had to provide into too many different categories, and Bach's own mixed interest and participation in the various functions of the choir [this probably refers to such things as the evidence from the complaints lodged against Bach for not teaching music classes as required and laxness in others matters concerning his obligations to oversee all his choirs and the music being performed in all the churches under his jurisdiction].")

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 42: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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