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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 42
Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbatas
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of April 8, 2007 [Continue]

Julian Mincham wrote (April 9, 2007):
[To Thomas Braatz] one question

in the existing score/parts was the 'da capo' instruction missing from the sinfonia? And if so was this replicated in early published editions?

I ask because of Schweitzer's crass error of assuming that it began in a major key but ended in the minor. (Of course he shouldn't have made this assumption anyway, but it might be partly excusable if the score available to him lacked this indication).

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 9, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< 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 Bach¹s 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 Bach¹s hand-picked musicians were capable of sight-reading to Bach¹s satisfaction any music which Bach would place before them. >
Until we see a set of parts -- or a full score for that matter -- which have the dates of copying written on them, this midnight oil scenario is total conjecture.

The copying of parts was not an onerous task. A team of four or five copyists - including teenage sons -- could easly have completed the work in a couple of hours' work. If in fact they all worked at the same time under Bach's direction, it would have been an efficient studio production. The absence of mistakes and last minute changes -- the hallmarks of haste -- just aren't present. This was not a Rossini-like race against the clock.

There is nothing to contradict the proposition that Bach completed the full score weeks or even months before the performance date. The copying of parts was an ongoing part of Bach's work week. It was steady, professional work and the results betray no signs of haste. The idea that Frau Bach cleared the dinner table and they got down to business is just silly. The copying more likely took place in Bach's study where there may have been a table permanently set up for this weekly work. I suspect that there was always copying work to be done on several projects and that it was a part of everyone's schedule. I imagine Bach working at his desk on several projects while his copying team produced the parts, the more expereinced musicians mentoring the work of the young people and Frau Cantor Bach. As a part was finished, it would be brought to Bach who would double-check it. Quiet, efficient work.

The seemingly perfect condition of the parts will always be a conundrum but is no proof for the nonsensical idea that the music was sight-read without rehearsal. There are a number of unprovable possibilities. The surviving parts might collections of exemplars from which performing parts were copied ... Or ... The parts may have been placed on music stands and never touched by the performers except to turn pages.

There's no proof for any of the solutions presented and we would serve history better if the scholarship of others was not mixed up with conclusions which are not theirs.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 9, 2007):
BWV 42

Marie noted the meditative effect (the AUM effect!) of the alto aria, in previous discussions; I hear a kind of `breathing' in the continuo, resulting from the `tenuto' low string note on the first and third beats of the bar, in combination with the repeated 1/8th notes on the bassoon an octave higher. (Simon Rattle well captured a similar effect, in his SJP opening chorus; in the continuo of that chorus we might hear the `breathing' of God's creation, while in this aria we have the intimate `breathing' of a small gathering - of two or three people - blest with Jesus' presence).

I read two meanings into the text of the recitative-like middle section: (a) God's law was not broken when the disciples, considered an heretical sect by the Jewish authorities of the day, gathered in secret in order to remember Jesus, and (b) God's law is not broken, if two or three people gather in prayer in their own house, rather than attending a properly ordained church service.

The music of the outer sections is remarkably calming, I love Rilling's [5] expansive tempo (12.10), with gossamer string harmonies behind intertwining oboes and Hamari's beautiful voice, on the foundation of the 'breathing' bass.

I find comprehension of the complex interweaving of the vocal parts of the ST duet (Mvt. 4) is made easier by first concentrating on the manner in which the tenor fits his text to his music line (easy with Equiluz), and then taking in what one can of the soprano part. As usual, sometimes the tenor leads, sometimes the soprano leads with the text; note how they come together impressively on the long melisma on "verstören", as well as other places. The attractions of the music grow with repeated listening.

I commented on the strengths of Koopman's [11] duet (Mvt. 4) in previous discussions (vis a vis Rilling [5]), with the one weakness being the apparent absence of the bass string line. Harnoncourt [4] pays careful attention to this aspect, and has a well-crafted performance of this aria. Leusink's singers [9] have the clarity that is desirable in a duet (Mvt. 4).

The brightness and clarity of the `dancing' violins in the bass aria is attractive in Rilling [5]. (Chris commented on the score's unusual deployment of two 1st violins, rather than the normal violins 1 and 2; I'm wondering if (as Chris hinted) the talents of Bach's 1st violinists exceeded those of his second violinists, so he chose to divide his 1st violinists, in order to play the equally demanding violin parts in this aria.) I find Leusink's violins [9] delicate to a fault, diminishing the strong high-spiritedness of the music. The singer, though having less vibrato than others, seems not to project enough power, unless the problem is indeed the 'dainty' violins.

The image of golden sunshine proclaiming to the world that Jesus will protect his people from persecution is one of those pleasing images we sometimes find in the cantata texts. The final two melismas on "persecution" are remarkable, with the first of them presented with 1/8th notes, immediately followed by an extraordinarily long run in 1/16th notes.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 9, 2007):
Julian Mincham asked:
>>In the existing score/parts was the 'da capo' instruction missing from the sinfonia?<<
In the autograph score, p. 4 recto has the conclusion of the Sinfonia (mm 79-85) with a da Capo instruction clearly indicated. The da Capo was also found in all the original parts.

>>And if so was this replicated in early published editions?<<
Wilhelm Rust, according to the NBA KB I/11.1 p. 85, had access to both the autograph score and the original parts. To find out if this was an uncorrected printing error on the part of the BGA or whether some other Breitkopf & Härtel edition of the score had this omission, it would be necessary to retrieve these sources.

Ed M wrote (April 10, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< 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 >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The copying of parts was not an onerous task. A team of four or five copyists - including teenage sons -- could easly have completed the work in a couple of hours' work. >
I have selected these two comments not out of context, but as a reminder of the discussion, the participants, and the general flavor. I think Doug made several important points concisely and well (including the one cited) and I want to be sure he knows that at least one person, a representative of the non-performing (musically) members, read and appreciated them.

Nice stuff, Old Dude! If not yet old, sooner or later, with luck, and/or God's Mercy. Better than the alternative, for most of us.

As the Irish (RC) say (my Irish friends, anyway): Stay on the right side of the grass. Translations to and/or from other sects and/or faiths welcome.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 11, 2007):
BWV 42 duet (Mvt. 4)

The accompaniment to the voices in the ST duet (Mvt. 4) begins with a type of ostinato bass, in which the first six bars are repeated three times (once in the ritornello and then twice with the voices).

Notice the first half of this six-bar ostinato `theme' (on the cello) has elements of a three note rising chromatic scale, while the second half has rising 2nd motifs arranged in a descending pattern, reminiscent of the unison violins in the "Et incarnatus est" of the BMM (BWV 232). (Both scores happen to be in B minor)

These elements can be heard in the accompaniment throughout the remainder of the piece, with the original six-bar ostinato recurring twice at the end. It's an effective little piece, in conjunction with the emotional `Affekt' of the free-ranging vocal parts.

Nicholas Johnson wrote (April 11, 2007):
My 1860 score marks the duet (Mvt. 4) as for "fagotto e violoncello". I was always taught as a child that if you see a dog eating a bone don't try and take it away.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 12, 2007):
Nicholas Johnson wrote:
> My 1860 score marks the duet (Mvt. 4) as for " fagotto e violoncello".>
Your 1860 score appears to have only half the instrumentation.

In the BGA, under the stave marked 'bassoon and cello' is a stave containing different material, marked 'organ and continuo'. Apparently Bach added a violone part for a later performance, which might account for the differences in the scores.

Chris Kern wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] The NBA has the first staff marked "Bassono" and "Continuo", and the second staff is "Violone" and "Organo".

Neil Halliday wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Chris Kern] Thanks for this information.

It does seem odd, in the NBA, that the stave with what appears to be the obbligato bassoon line (plus cello, in the BGA), should be considered as part of the continuo, with a separate line for violone and organ, since 'continuo' usually already implies a keyboard instrument.

In any case, I'm wondering if Koopman [11] used a score that did not show the violone part.

Richard Mix wrote (April 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< ... an objective opinion by those directly involved with the detailed examination of the parts]:
Die Tatsache, da insgesamt mindestens sechs Schreiber und Bach selbst an der Herstellung des Notentextes beteiligt waren, weist auf Zeitnot hin. 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...
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... >
The NBA must not be dismissed out of hand, but I still dont understand this alleged haste in the part copying that is supposed to be shown by the use of multiple copyists. If there was a dire deadline, I would indeed expect as many copyists as parts passing around loose leaves of the score and completing their parts in a single hand, something that seems never to happen (counterexample, anyone?). Instead we again and again see completed sets of parts for the earlier movements most often by a single scribe (in this case Kuhnau), as though required for a first rehearsal, with a concluding mvnt or two added on in another hand. I've heard no evidence yet that this wasn’t done at an entirely different later session.

Chris Kern wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Well, there are two figured continuo parts (one transposed for the organ, one not) plus a third fragment of a figured continuo part. I would assume the harpsichord played here, since Bach would hardly take the time to write out figures for an entire part if a keyboard player was not going to use it.

Chris Rowson wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Chris Kern] Probably, yes, though I always remind myself in such such cases that a Kammerton figured part might conceivably have been intended for a lute player, or even for two or three chording instruments.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2007):
< The NBA mustnt be dismissed out of hand, but I still dont understand this alleged haste in the part copying that is supposed to be shown by the use of multiple copyists. >
The "alleged haste" part of it isn't necessarily the NBA's conclusion. They simply report facts about how many copyists worked on it, without saying when it happened.

The alleged haste business is added in by a guy relaying his own interpretation to the BCML.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Chris Rowson] Agreed, it could be a lute or some other non-keyboard. Or, the "extra" parts could have been used in rehearsals (with keyboard) of one or both the singers...in their lessons or practice times, or wherever.

I'll simply point out as analogy: ballet and opera troupes don't use the rehearsal pianist's score in the performance...it's "extra" but it gets probably more use than all the other parts combined!

I've got a beat-up keyboard score of the B Minor Mass here that got three solid months of use by me, rehearsing a chorus and studying the piece in general. The organ continuo part I used in the performance is much cleaner and less tattered, as we had fewer orchestral rehearsals...even though I've performed from that part with two entirely separate choruses/orchestras in different years.

Stephen Benson wrote (April 12, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I find comprehension of the complex interweaving of the vocal parts of the ST duet (Mvt. 4) is made easier by first concentrating on the manner in which the tenor fits his text to his music line (easy with Equiluz), and then taking in what one can of the soprano part. >
I'd just like to second the usefulness of this technique in listening to Bach in general. Frequently, when one focuses on one line, and that line can even be a bass or continuo line, or an interior vocal line in a chorale, everything else falls into place. The complex may not be made simple, but it is often revealed with great clarity. Taking this one step further, listening four separate times to the same section of a piece with four distinct lines and focusing on a different line each time can be extraordinarily illuminating. In each case, the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts. This is a great way to open one's ears and become more adept at hearing at once all that is going on.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2007):
Richard Mix stated:
>>.I still don't understand this alleged haste in the part copying that is supposed to be shown by the use of multiple copyists.<<
Brad Lehman stated:
>>The "alleged haste" part of it isn't necessathe NBA's conclusion.<<
At the risk of appearing repetitious, I will once again quote from the NBA experts who have actually worked directly with the original materials. This intimate acquaintance which comes from a very close study of the parts allows them to come to a reasonable conclusion about the nature of Bach's copy sessions, in particular, this one for BWV 42 which resembles quite a few others in that it demonstrates that the copies for many cantatas were made under the rushed conditions that inevitably result from running out of time.

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 zeigt sich 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."

Here is how I presently see the various effects of time pressure on the copying out of parts:

1. The ideal situation with little or no time pressure:

Bach plans far ahead and completes the entire score and prepares a clean copy of the score before setting about copying all the parts himself. Both score and parts show little or no evidence of being in a hurry to complete the preparation of all the necessary materials. As expected, there are far less corrections and additions to the parts in this situation.

2. The somewhat less than ideal situation:

Bach only prepares a composing score which gives some evidence that it was completed rather quickly. He then turns over the entire score to his primary copyist who then completes all the parts after which Bach needs to check, revise and make additions to them as needed.

3. The situation when time is definitely running out:

Bach is unable to complete the composing score with at least one or sometimes even two of the final mvts. still needing to be composed at the point when his primary copyist begins copying as many of the already completed mvts. as possible. Since copying the violin and continuo doublets takes up a lot of time, other copyists (from the family or those close at hand) need to copy from the parts already completed by the primary copyist. More mistakes (false starts, etc.) occur here because these copyists are mainly teenagers not as experienced as the primary copyist.

4. The situation when the deadline is very close at hand:

The worst type of situation occurs (haste makes waste) when Bach has not yet finished composing all the mvts. and only partial mvts. are copied with sometimes as many as 3 to 4 copyists involved in producing a single mvt. for a single part (not necessarily a continuo part which is usually the lengthiest). There are more errors now than usual in the copies which sometimes defy correction and need to be entirely recopied, sometimes by Bach himself.

The copy scenarios that occur in Leipzig most often are those that resemble 3 and 4 above, while 1 and 2 are somewhat rare.

Brad Lehman stated:
>>The alleged haste business is added in by a guy relaying his own interpretation to the BCML.<<
To attribute "alleged haste" rather than actual, reasonably-to-be-assumed haste to Bach's copy sessions as described in detail over the past few months on this list and documented by those who work closely with the original materials appears to be an ill-conceived attempt to discredit what true scholarship has revealed.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
> „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. >
Why does the use of multiple copyists have to suggest haste? The hallmarks of haste would be sloppy writing and frequent mistakes. That does not seem to be an observation that has appeared in any of the NBA commentaries. I am much more inclined to assume that the presence of multiple copyists suggests a studio atmosphere where younger musicians were mentored by the more experienced, all under the supervision of Bach. Rather than hysterical running around the Bach dinner table at midnight on Saturday, I see an efficient business-like approach to the weekly production. It would not have been unlike the studio of an artist working with a large body of assistants.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] "Quick! All you guys have gotta have your copies done and checked ASAP, because we need them for Tuesday's rehearsal (which is the main time the oboe players can make it with us this week)! And Nicolas needs his tenor part earlier than that, Monday, because we're going to go over it at his lesson. Don't forget to make the Cammerton copy for the keyboard, too, and get that to me Monday night at the latest: because I need time to write in the figures and then hand it off to Georg to practice. He'll be accompanying Friedrich and Kurt at the Wednesday voice lessons, and there are some tricky harmonies he'll need to work out from my figures. Philipp reminded me he wants his 1st violin part by Monday, too, because he needs to work on the fingerings in his string crossings. He took a quick look at it in the score yesterday when I had him in for his lesson, and he seemed a little uneasy about it, so please work on his part first."

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] A priori I would rather trust the NBA people, at least until someone who has also worked on the original materialgives me solid arguments to reject their conclusions.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguieres] An excellent idea and excellent practice: go directly to a library and read the NBA directly. That way there aren't any interim steps where odd assumptions get added or conflated into it, in transmission.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>An excellent idea and excellent practice: go directly to a library and read the NBA directly. That way there aren't any interim steps where odd assumptions get added or conflated into it, in transmission.<<
Yes, 'odd assumptions' like haste under pressure of time which was clearly spelled out by the NBA editors. Who is having difficulty understanding this and why? What need is there now to 'go directly to a library and read the NBA directly' when the specific quotation has already been related twice on this list during the past week?

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>"Quick! All you guys have gotta have your copies done and checked ASAP, because we need them for Tuesday's rehearsal (which is the main time the oboe players can make it with us this week)!<<
Let's be a little realistic here! On Tuesday, Bach and his musicians had just completed a marathon race to perform a new cantata, BWV1, on the preceding Sunday (Palm Sunday), a version of a Passion on Good Friday lasting a few hours, the Easter Oratorio in its initial version performed for the first time on Easter Sunday, a first performance of a new cantata BWV 6 on Easter Monday, a performance of BWV 4 (the first time for this group of musicians in Leipzig) on Easter Tuesday with the final performance of this probably taking place in the early afternoon of Easter Tuesday.

On Easter Tuesday, if he did not take time to be with his family for a well-deserved rest after all these performances, Bach would have begun composing BWV 42. Rather exhausted from all the activities over the past week, he probably began looking at some concerti he had composed in Köthen to see how they might be used and also perhaps not to put too much undue strain on his musicians (vocalists, in particular) whose energies and voices had been taxed to their limit. Why would Bach want to have any rehearsals for music which still had not been composed and which would take him to the end of the week to finish so that the next set of parts could be copied in time for the performance(s)on Quasimodogeniti? To use a phrase that might easily have come from a message that Brad could have written to this list in response to another member's suggestion: "Let's get real here!"

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2007):
< 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 zeigt sich 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.” >
All fine and dandy, but it says absolutely nothing (one way or the other) about any of this happening anywhere near Saturday night.

And that's my point: "pressure of time" and "a rush" don't imply that THE MUSICIANS were given any such panic situation or sight-reading situation on Sunday mornings, from the text here. Only that the parts had to be written out rather quickly (apparently) for SOME purpose. And, most likely (in my opinion as a practicing musician and composer), that would be to give the musicians sufficient time to learn the music and do their jobs interpreting it!

I'm not disputing against the NBA or anyone else that the writing-out of parts was apparently done rapidly (aka efficiently....). Mark this well! Only that it shouldn't be mixed in with anyone's separate conjecture: that this process necessarily happened as late as 12 hours before the performance. It's ludicrous both from a musical and managerial standpoint, that Bach would have left such things regularly to the last minute...and that the musicians or the administrators would have tolerated such a situation as regular policy.

More reasonable to me, as a practicing musician, is: "Get those parts done right away; the performance is less than two weeks away and everybody's got some hard stuff to learn for it!!!!"

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 13, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< A priori I would rather trust the NBA people, at least until someone who has also worked on the original material gives me solid arguments to reject their conclusions. >>
< An excellent idea and excellent practice: >
Thank you very much for the compliment, which I accept heartily.

< go directly to a library and read the NBA directly. >
Are you telling me what I should do? :)

I would also a priori trust a list member quoting from a text, until someone reads from the same text an tells me that the first got it wrong... then I might try to find out for myself who's in the right. In this particular instance, I have noted that, like anybody,Thomas sometimes makes factual errors, but these are pretty rare. I have also noted that, when such errors are pointed out,he acknowledges them without difficulty. Therefore I see no reason not to apply my general principle of 'trust a priori'.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Only that the parts had to be written out rather quickly (apparently) for SOME purpose.<<
Not only the parts but the composing score which Bach rarely recopied to create a clean copy of the score. Also, if he detected errors in the parts, he did not bother to go back to the composing score to make the necessary corrections there.

BL: >>And, most likely (in my opinion as a practicing musician and composer), that would be to give the musicians sufficient time to learn the music and do their jobs interpreting it!<<
Bach's musicians were able to 'do their jobs' and interpret the music while sight-reading it without first having to spent 'sufficient time to learn the music.' Just contemplate how much 'practice' they had in sight-reading all of Bach's music (all of it new to them) from Palm Sunday through Easter Tuesday!

BL: >>I'm not disputing against the NBA or anyone else that the writing-out of parts was apparently done rapidly (aka efficiently....).<<
The haste-makes-waste effect prevented Bach from accomplishing his task as efficiently as possible; however, Bach did not have any other option available to him as the lack of time was pressing him onward to complete the task 'come hell or high water' so that the music could be performed the next morning. These copy sessions were no doubt a frustrating but unavoidable situation which he faced on an almost weekly basis. The parts were not copied rapidly in the most efficient way possible. There is too much evidence which speaks against an 'apparently efficient writing-out of parts.'

BL: >>It's ludicrous both from a musical and managerial standpoint, that Bach would have left such things regularly to the last minute...and that the musicians or the administrators would have tolerated such a situation as regular policy.<<
That Bach knew his musicians and their capabilities better than any music or manager alive today is a more reasonable assumption than allowing professional musicians/composers to attempt to force strictures derived from their empirical knowledge to explain how Bach must have accomplished his required tasks.

BL: >>More reasonable to me, as a practicing musician, is: "Get those parts done right away; the performance is less than two weeks away and everybody's got some hard stuff to learn for it!!!!"<<
This is the heart of the problem: your sense of what seems reasonable to you as a practicing musician was very likely not the same sense of reaonableness that Bach had when he was faced with composing weekly cantatas and performing them with very little time between the actual end of the copy sessions and the actual first performances of the same music during church services. With Bach's procedures and methods for accomplishing his goals, "hot off the press" is a notion that comes to mind and is confirmed by the lack of wear and tear on the parts (no fingerings or breath marks in the parts, no attempt to make any valid corrections, no confirmation that any of the parts were ever used for rehearsals or practice, etc.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 13, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< BL: >>More reasonable to me, as a practicing musician, is: "Get those parts done right away; the performance is less than two weeks away and everybody's got some hard stuff to learn for it!!!!"<<
Thisis the heart of the problem: your sense of what seems reasonable to you as a practicing musician was very likely not the same sense of reaonableness that Bach had when he was faced with composing weekly cantatas and performing them with very little time between the actual end of the copy sessions and the actual first performances of the same music during church services. With Bach's procedures and methods for accomplishing his goals, "hot off the press" is a notion that comes to mind and is confirmed by the lack of wear and tear on the parts (no fingerings or breath marks in the parts, no attempt to make any valid corrections, no confirmation that any of the parts were ever used for rehearsals or practice, etc.) >
Where does the idea of Bach 'faced' with composing weekly cantatas originate? All the evidence seems to suggest this was a self imposed objective, which was modified by plan and/or circumstance right at our current juncture: Easter 1725.

Is there any suggestion that he worked at such a frantic pace either before or after the first forty cantatas of Jahrgang II, 1724-25? If not, why is it so problematic to accept that these works (Part 1 of Jahrgang II) were a lifelong objective, accomplished systematically and professionally, long planned in scope if not detail, and rudely interrupted, yet again, by the fickle finger of fate?

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 13, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< On Easter Tuesday, if he did not take time to be with his family for a well-deserved rest after all these performances, Bach would have begun composing BWV 42. Rather exhausted from all the activities over the past week, he probably began looking at some concerti he had composed in Köthen to see how they might be used and also perhaps not to put too much undue strain on his musicians (vocalists, in particular) whose energies and voices had been taxed to their limit. >
All of this is pure Romantic conjecture.

Bach was hardly a physical wreck. His entire life had trained him for the schedule of a cantor. He knew that at Easter that he had major music to perform on Friday, twice on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. There is no indication that he was ill-prepared either musically or personally.

Nor did he look for a concerto movement for the next Sunday because his choir was exhausted. In other years, cantatas with demanding choral movements were written. Like Bach, his musicians were well-trained and they lived their lives around the daily demands of the St. Thomas musical machine.

The scenes of late-night scribbling and swooning choirboys is Disneyesque.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>There is no indication that he was ill-prepared either musically or personally.<<
Working under great pressure of time does not necessarily mean that Bach was ill-prepared. He knew that he and his musicians could 'wing it' without rehearsals and still come up with a reasonably good performance.

DC: >>Like Bach, his musicians were well-trained and they lived their lives around the daily demands of the St. Thomas musical machine.<<
Yes, by performing music at sight in church regularly, they gained great skill in meeting the demands which Bach placed upon them. These demands do not seem to have included rehearsals ("Proben") as such but rather 'staying in practice' ("üben") by performing and practicing various other forms of music individually and in groups (not the newly composed cantatas) so that their sight-reading skills would be maintained at a rather high level.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 13, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Working under great pressure of time does not necessarily mean that Bach was ill-prepared. He knew that he and his musicians could 'wing it' without rehearsals and still come up with a reasonably good performance. >
What German term for "wing it" appears in the documents or the commentaries of the NBA?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Working under great pressure of time does not necessarily mean that Bach was ill-prepared. He knew that he and his musicians could 'wing it' without rehearsals and still come up with a reasonably good performance. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< What German term for "wing it" appears in the documents or the commentaries of the NBA? >
And for that matter, where does the NBA tell us what Bach "knew" (getting inside his mind somehow, as opposed to reporting extant documentation), either?

Or about any rehearsal schedule -- either with or without them? Or anything about a "reasonably good performance"?

Those (among others) are the spots in the presentation where the NBA and its facts come up to a chasm, can't cross it, and then Thomas Braatz's fantasies and conjectures leap the chasm as if there weren't one.

=====

Wasting fifteen minutes of my time here by measuring the material: I took the first posting of this thread "BWV 42 Provenance & Copy Session" http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/24050 and copied it into a word processor, to do a word count.

Granting the benefit of the doubt, the first five pages (963 words) are NBA material.

Then, the section "III. Conditions behind and leading into the copy process" is 349 words of Braatz, constructing a historical context that is not printed in the NBA.

Then, lest we forget that the thing is supposed to appear at least pseudo-factual, and at least pseudo-based on the NBA, we're given another 210 words (counting Braatz's translation) of a selected quotation from NBA.

Then, from "The Copy Session" through the end, we're given 1335 more words (and five more pages) of pure Braatz conjecture. I'm including his co-opted Schering quote in that count, in the "Conclusion" section, because it's not used to build a conclusion. Rather, it's used last...again giving the whole presentation a thin veneer of credibility, by quoting authority as if it bolsters (or apologizes for) Braatz's polemical position.

So, totalling this up: we have approximately 1173 words of fairly reliable facts, cribbed (and padded with translation) from the NBA that Braatz has purchased. And 1684 words of Braatz's polemic and extraneous assemblage, pressing his own conjectures and "conclusion".

That's a split of 41% and 59%, for the whole thing. It's all melded together rather smoothly, as if it's all an objective and reliable book report. It might be good enough, by appearances, to fool some non-musicologists and some non-musicians that it makes some sense. The factual parts do make sense, but they don't lead reliably to the presented conclusions. There's the rub. The facts are being used not for their own sake, but only insofar as they give the whole thing a whiff of credibility.

To this, now add Mr Braatz's comment from yesterday, asserting that there's really no need for anybody else to go to a library or to check up on him. That is, he seals the deal that he believes his own presentation from his home collection of books to be reliable It's presented as if it's everything that a reader could ever need to know, to understand how this composition by Bach made it to paper copies for performance. We're apparently supposed to believe him, and the tidbits he has selected (leaving out part of the material at his own judgment of it), instead of bothering to go do independent research in reliable sources. He said it this way: "Who is having difficulty understanding this and why? What need is there now to 'go directly to a library and read the NBA directly' when the specific quotation has already been related twice on this list during the past week?"

There it is, he's told everything we should need to know...if we believe his presentation.

Well, it's that 59% of it that worries me. Sometimes it's more than 59%, and less often it's somewhat lower than 59%. But, it's never anywhere near 0%. The facts from NBA and other basically reliable books get overspun so heavily with conjecture, in the mix, that the credibility (at least for me as a reader) goes down to nearly nothing. There is too much blurring of reasonable objectivity (other people's published work) and non-musical conjecture (in the form of book reports).

That's why, if I really want to know such-and-such about a given piece of music, I have to go look it up myself anyway. And try it out on my own instruments and voice. And ask the opinions of other practicing musicians.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 13, 2007):
< Wasting fifteen minutes of my time here by measuring the material: >
As we say in French, "Quand on aime on ne compte pas"...

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguières] So apparently, the fluff offered does replace learning and visits to real libraries, if it's received with such uncritical open arms as to its [un]reliability. The unmusical and foregone conclusions get accepted, if the presentation just looks fine enough to readers who don't do the work either.

Well, everyone's welcome to believe whatever they want to.

Meanwhile, some of us don't have the luxury of blissful ignorance with regard to these technical and historical points...but I guess that's the price of practical understanding and serious study. Through experience doing church music and reading reliable presentations, one's mind gets limited to consider only the reasonable and practical possibilities.

Like allowing musicians, and especially teenaged musicians, to study and practice their music before playing it in public. Well, I have conducted teenaged musicians (high school music majors doing an intensive-study week) in compositions of mine, written to be deliberately easier to sing than any Bach cantata, and much shorter as well. And still, we rehearsed the music -- mine and some other suitable anthems for a 20-minute total -- 90 minutes daily for a week, to get them ready and confident with it. But I guess all that rehearsal time, i.e. learning the music, is the price of wanting it to go well and sound coherent.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (April 13, 2007):
Bradley Lehman said:
< Through experience doing church music and reading reliable presentations, one's mind gets limited to consider only the reasonable and practical possibilities. Like allowing musicians, and especially teenaged musicians, to study and > practice their music before playing it in public. Well, I have conducted teenaged musicians (high school music majors doing an intensive-study week) in compositions of mine, written to be deliberately easier to sing than any Bach cantata, and much shorter as well. And still, we rehearsed the music -- mine and some other suitable anthems for a 20-minute total -- 90 minutes daily for a week, to get them ready and confident with it. But I guess all that rehearsal time, i.e. learning the music, is the price of wanting it to go well and sound coherent. >
All right. So what would you guess the minimal required rehearsal time would have been for performing a Bach cantata,with Bach's musicians and singers?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 14, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguières] I am going to interject an OT anecdote, which may piss everyone off. It's OK, I do that frequently, I can cope.

At a recent open mike session at the local pub, a dude asked a chick singer to join him for a later number , which he knew that she knew. She said 'I don't like to perform without rehearsing'. He said 'We can rehearse here', pointing to the ten square foot (approx. 1 m x 1 m) entry way to the pub. They disappeared for a couple minutes. Later on, the performance was fine.

I presume they rehearsed, but I did not observe the details. You can never be too careful about what you report.

 

Cantata 42 and the liturgy

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 31, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Thanks to William for presenting this chronology, including SMP (BWV 244), and for being polite enough not to highlight my earlier errors. I impatiently suggested other works as the final new sacred compositions prior to SMP (BWV 244) in 1727, based on a careless reading of our discussion chronology only. Apologies for any confusion. >
I heard "Am Abend Aber' last evening as part of a Bach Vespers service and was struck by two things.

The choir also performed the Buxtehude Latin Magnificat and it was interesting to hear another substantial work performed as well as several Lutheran chorales sung by the congregation. It gave a historical context which concert performances can't capture -- Bach as part of a long musical tradition.

I'll never call Cantata BWV 42 "just a solo cantata" anymore! The combination of the sinfonia with that gigantic alto aria gives the work a monumental quality even without a big choral opening. Alas, the program notes rehearsed the Exhausted Choir Theory. What about Bach's oboe and bassoon players? They're the ones who have a virtuosic workput!

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 31, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] You make me smile, Doug. As a person who has sung in Lutheran choirs from time to time, while I do not think Bach was disorganized I also know that at the end of big festivals choir members do get exhausted and have a way of disappearing for a few weeks. With Bach's choirs they were not mobile folks like today's people, but he must have pushed them more than a bit before the big days, and with his drive I consider it likely he could have worn them out a bit. A theory is only a theory, it is true. But it seems to me a wise director would know that giving the choir a break now and then is a mark of wisdom...maybe even in early Germany.

William Hoffman wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] William Hoffman replies: In Cantata BWV 42, the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is an incredible setup for the key alto aria (Mvt. 3); it's no "prelude" to get the congregation's attention -- or the performers'. It probably comes from an older double-chorus concerto movement. Speculation involves a sonata or concerto for two violins (Whittaker, Spitta) for this Sunday after Easter. I think Bach, as he was planning the aria as the high point of the musical sermon and surrounded by an amazing text (author unknown), with some powerful references (Leipzig Church Music, John 20: 19 (Mvt. 2, recit. proclamation), Fabricius c1635 (Mvt. 4, ST duet), & Luther (Mvt. 7), dips into his great well, takes his full measure and, finally, also demands and gets so much from his performers. The alto aria may also be from the same concerto. "Es ist genug Getan!" (He's done enough). Bach had just lost his lyricist for his great chorale cantata cycle, began at Trinity 1724, and could no longer produce a great opening chorale fantasia. Meanwhile he had repeated the SJP (BWV 245) on Good Friday with major chorale-lyric insertions from his Weimar-Gotha Passion and did his first major parody for Easter Sunday, Easter Oratorio BWV 249 (text by Picander in their first collaboration). Bach surmounted seeming advertisty. No just going thru the motions for this most resourceful musician! Further, I suggest that his substitue lyricist could have been Bach's confessor and the service's preacher at St. Thomas, Christian Weiss, Sr. Another fine collaboration?

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Interesting ideas here -- thanks for adding these insights.

Peter Smaill wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] In the endless debate as to theidentity of the librettists of the unattributed Cantatas, it is I think Christian Weiss junior, not senior, who is a suspect for BWV 34, "O ewiges Feuer", and it was the younger Weiss (who incidentally knew English) who attends the dying Bach in 1750 as his confessor. The possible role of the senior Weiss is new to me and further background to this line of thought regarding BWV 42 would be of interest.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 1, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill] Thanks, Peter, for adding this generational perspective. Perhaps someone else will have more detail on this topic.

William Hoffman wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] William Hoffman replies: I didn't mean to open a Box of Pandoras. There are some interesting current information gaps re. Christian Weiss (Sr.): BachCantatas "Authors and Composers" and Boyd's Oxford Composer Companions. Here is Z. Phillip Ambrose's J.S. Bach listing under Librettists.

Weiss, Christian (1671-1737);
Pastor of the Church of St. Thomas in Leipzig (1714- 1737) and member of the Collegium Anthologicum (a learned society formed from the three higher faculties).
Wustmann and Neumann, Johann Sebastian Bach. Sämtliche Kantatentexte. Unter Mitbenutzung von Rudolf Wustmanns Ausgabe der Bachschen Kantatentexte herausgegeben von Werner Neumann (Leipzig, 1956), suggest Weiss as the author of the following: 37, 44, BWV 67, 75, 76, 81, 104, 154, 166, 179.

Again, I suggest a woeful neglect, an impoverishment, of biographical research re. Bach's librettists. Obviously, the 19th and 20th centuries had little interest in religious poetry, especially when labeled "pietist."

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks for adding the available details.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks for the info.

Following your message, I did a small research and found that according to other sources (Terry, Young) Christian Weiss, Sr. might be the librettist of another 16 Bach Cantatas. If that is correct, he seems to be one of the most prolific Bach's librettist (together with Picander).
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Weiss-Christian.htm

BTW, the BCW presents short bios of all known librettists and poets whose texts were used in Bach's vocal works. That includes the pietists (-:
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/index.htm
If I have missed anybody, please inform me.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 2, 2008):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thanks, Aryeh. Your last sentence makes me chuckle.

 

"Wo Zwei und Drei Versammlet Sind" (Alto Aria from BWV 42)

Drew wrote (April 13, 2010):
Have been listening to the cantatas liturgically, and the two for this week (for Quasimodogeniti, or Low Sunday) are BWV 67 and BWV 42.

If there is one movement that sticks out in these two cantatas, it must be the extraordinary aria for alto, BWV 67:3. Could anyone verify whether this is Bach's longest aria (in terms of bars / measures)?

I first encountered this exquisite piece on Angela Kirchschlager's alto arias disc (Sony), where she is accompanied by Marcon, and the Venice Baroque Orchestra.

Recently I have come to appreciate Suzuki's reading (at nearly 14 minutes), sung by Robin Blaze [13]. At first it felt a bit slow, but, given the mystical quality of the text, it works. Though not perfect, I also like Gardiner's interpretation, sung by Daniel Taylor (one of the finest Bachian countertenors, IMO).

Still, I think my favorite interpretation is Kirchschlager's, though it may the accompaniment of the Venice Baroque that really wins me over.

What do you all think of this aria? Favorite interpretations?

Julian Mincham wrote (April 13, 2010):
[To Drew] Do you mean BWV 67/3? According to my score this is a short (7 bar) alto recitative?? I suspect you mean BWV 42/3 (Mvt. 3). it certainly isn't the longest, being under120 bars even when one includes the da capo repeat.

However the actual number of bars is not a very good yardstick because of the difference in time signatures e.g. 200 bars in 3/8 time would only be 50 bars were it to be written in 12/8 time. Played at the same tempo would take the same time to perform.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 13, 2010):
[To Drw] Further to my last email I was musing on the fact that there are a lot of wonderful extended alto arias in the canon. One that comes to mind is the alto aria in part 2 of the Christmas Oratorio. Can take the best part of 10 minutes to perform. That's about 260 bars long I think.

Evan Cortens wrote (April 13, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] Yes, I believe Drew meant BWV 42/3 (Mvt. 3). I agree with Julian about number of bars... that being said, a quick search through my cantata recordings reveals the longest aria recording to be the Suzuki recording [13] of this movement. (Also my favorite recording; if you like Robin Blaze/Suzuki, be sure also to check out BWV 170/3. I don't think it's a stretch to say that their recording is the best made of that aria.)

The Suzuki recording [13] clocks in at a whopping 13:29, nearly three minutes longer than the second longest aria recording I have in my music database, Harnoncourt's recording [4] of BWV 42/3 (Mvt. 3) at 10:42. (The third longest is Koopman's BWV 125/2.)

Drew wrote (April 13, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] Right . . . thank you for clarifying my muddled question. So, if we were to use a time signature / total measures equation, could the case be made that BWV 42:3 (Mvt. 3) is the longest aria?

But, then (as you point out), there is the issue of tempo, which is the interpretative wildcard here. Still, given the length of various recordings, it does appear to be the longest aria in terms of track length.

Koopman's recording, with Bartosz, times just under 10 minutes. But to my ears, it feels too brisk (a subjective, relative measure, to be sure).

I have the Leusink and Harnoncourt recordings [4] at home, but would have to look at the booklets to find out the timing. I have the following versions on my iPod, however:

Bartosz / Koopman (9:52) [11]

Lesne / Herreweghe (10:12) [7]

Kirchschlager / Marcon (10:23)

Taylor / Gardiner (12:23) [10]

Blaze / Suzuki (13:29) [13]

I also agree with your point about Bach's extended arias for alto. In many ways, they represent the marrow or "soul" of his sacred vocal music. One thinks of "Erbarme Dich" in the SMP (BWV 244), or "Agnus Dei" in the B minor Mass (BWV 232).

Julian Mincham wrote (April 13, 2010):
[To Dre] Well I'm not sure--I haven't measured the tracks. What about the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) one? I do recall that the Bach edition performance takes about 10 minutes. Regarding alto arias, someone once said to me that any aria of Bach's for alto, oboe and continuo was bound to be special. I have never found any reason to argue with that conclusion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 14, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Regarding alto arias, someone once said to me that any aria of Bach's for alto, oboe and continuo was bound to be special. I have never found any reason to argue with that conclusion. >
Someone? No chance of sliding that by.

Sounds just a bit formulaic, for Bach. Are there not some pretty special alto arias, without oboe, as well? Or not? Let us look.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 14, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Some of the ones that have moved me most often have oboe as well--some of the most memactually come from quite early works. One does not forget the four solo cantatas for the alto voice as well which all contain some great music, with or without oboes.

 

Continue on Part 4

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

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