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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 45
Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 18, 2007

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 17, 2007):
Week of Nov 18, 2007 - Cantata BWV 45

Week of Nov 18, 2007 - Cantata BWV 45

Cantata BWV 45, ³Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist²

8th Sunday after Trinity
1st performance: August 11, 1726 , Leipzig

Libretto:
Micah 6: 8 (Mvt. 1)
Matthew 7: 22-23 (Mvt. 4);
Johann Heermann (Mvt. 7)
Anon (Mvts. 2, 3, 5, 6)
[Walther Blankenburg suggested Christoph Helm]

Texts & Translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm

Readings:
Epistle: Romans 8: 12-17 (We are joint heirs with Christ)
Gospel: Matthew 7: 15-23 (Beware of false prophets)
Texts of readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity8.htm

Other Cantatas written for Trinity 8
BWV 136 Erforsche mich, Gott, und erfahre mein Herz (Leipzig, 1723)
BWV 178 Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält (Leipzig, 1724)

Introduction to Lutheran Church Year: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/index.htm

Provenance: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV45-Ref.htm

Chorale Melody: O Gott, du frommer Gott - Melody 3: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/O-Gott-du-frommer-Gott.htm

Movements:

Mvt. 1: Chorus
³Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist²
Instruments: 2 Flt, 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 2: Recitative - Tenor
³³Der Höchste lässt mich seinen Willen wissen²
Instruments: Bc

Mvt. 3: Aria - Tenor
³Weiß ich Gottes Rechte²
Instruments: 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 4: Arioso - Bass
³Es werden viele zu mir sagen an jenem Tage²
Instruments: 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 5: Aria - Alto
³Wer Gott bekennt²
Instruments: Flt, Bc

Mvt. 6: Recitative - Alto
³So wird denn Herz und Mund selbst von mir Richter sein²
Intrumentents: Bc

Mvt. 7: Choral
³Gib, dass ich tu mit Fleiß²
Instruments: 2 Flt, 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm

Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm#RC

Music (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV45-Mus.htm

Commentaries:
Crouch: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/045.html
AMG: http://wm09.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=42:4210~T1

Previous Discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV45-Guide.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45-D.htm

Neil Halliday wrote (November 20, 2007):
At the start of the ritornello, the entire fugue subject first appears in what Tom has referred to as the "second chair" instruments, ie, 2nd violins, flutes and oboes in unison (this fugue subject might at first seem to be hidden by the 1st chair instruments, until one is familiar with the subject); then the 1st violins, oboes and flutes take the subject.

Bach takes the opportunity to contrast his three groups of upper instruments in the accompaniment to the three groups of statements of "Es ist dir gesagt" that open the choral section; flutes first, then oboes, then violins. Toward the end of the movement, for the quasi-repeat of the music, this is reversed - violins, oboes, flutes.

The music is joyous in tone and has a stromg rhythm; Bach is obviously revelling in the fact that God's word has been made known to Man. In the "nämlich" sections, there are rich, sometimes clashing, long-held harmonies on "halten", with the music modulating into minor keys. Rilling [5] exudes glory toward the end, capturing the increasing contrupuntal complexity of the choral and instrumental lines.

It's worth consulting the score to see how the syllables of text are set to the entire fugue subject: "Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist and was der Herr von dir fordert".

Richter [1], Rilling [5], Leonhardt [4] all have impact and drive. Koopman [9] (from the short BCW sample) sounds polished, lively and engaging. Leusink [7] is least satisfactory, with the ensemble sounding small and lacking excitement/drive, IMO.

For the arias, I'm pleased to have Richter [1], because he successfully substitutes for two problemtic arias in Rilling's version [5], namely, for tenor and bass. Baldin (with Rilling) has a hard-edged vibrato at times, while Huttenlocher gives a highly operatic performance (with too much vibrato) that is out of place in this "Vox Christi" movement, IMO.

Both tenor and bass arias have rich full-string orchestrations.

In the bass aria (Mvt. 4), the extended melismas on "weichet" and "alle" are notable.

The alto aria (Mvt. 5) is notable for its lovely flute part. Bach does not allow the dire words of the second part of the text to disturb the delightful, gentle tone of the music.

The flute in Leusink [7] and Koopman [9] is a bit understated; Leonhardt [4] has brought it to the fore in his recording. The modern flute in Richter [1] and Rilling [5] is colourful. Richter, Rilling, Leonhardt, and Koopman all have fine altos (or countertenor in Leonhardt's case). Even Töpper (with Richter) has eschewed vibrato for the melismas on "wahren" and "bekennen".

Neil Halliday wrote (November 21, 2007):
The three emphatic calls of "Herr, Herr, Herr" in BWV 45's bass aria recall those in the similarly energetic and richly scored soprano aria of BWV 10 ("Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist").

Peter Smaill wrote (November 21, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil has drawn attention to the interesting similarity between the rising triadic "Herr,Herr Herr" of the vox Christi arioso in BWV 45, and the first aria on the German Magnificat, "Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn", BWV 10/2.

This raises the question as to whether there is a consistent hermeneutic pattern in these instances, a question on which my mind is open and on which the views of others will be helpful.

The allusion in BWV 10 can be held to be to the Trinity for the following reasons, which if taken together form reasoning for the connection:

1) The action of the Magnificat, i.e, the Angel of the Lord (God) leads to the conception (of Jesus) by the Holy Ghost ; all members of the Trinity are active
2) The triad , which theorists state can represent the Trinity (I emphatically do not think a triad on its own , being so frequent a device, necessarily means an allusion of this sort)
3) Bach's symbolic allusion to the Trinity in the Latin Magnificat (better still, as demonby Robin Leaver, the build up of the "Gloria" section represents the procession of the Holy spirit from Father and Son)
4) The subsequent triple repetition, as if addressing the each member of the Trinity , of "Der du stark und Maechtig bist" (Thou who art strong and mighty") and "Gott, deinen name Heilig ist" (God, thy Name is Holy" in BWV10/2, the latter constituting a Trisagion.
5) Exposed octave drops at "Herr, Herr" which, per our previous discussions , may indicate Father/Son.

Turning to BWV 45

6) There is perhaps the same ambiguity as to which Person of the Trinity is referred to by the do-gooders rejected by Jesus
7) There is the use of a sixteenth figuration , which the late Bach scholar Anne Leahy in her work of "Nun Komm der heiden Heiland" identifies with the Holy Spirit; again, taken in isolation the figure is common in Baroque writing and can only be considered as a component of a hermeneutical purpose

Nevertheless the BWV 45 example is markedly weaker in its contextual underpinning. It is less likely to be an allusion to the Trinity but since we are in "Vox Christi" mode others may be able to come up with a different interpretation of the symbolic underpinning-if any-to this striking and unusual arioso movement.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 21, 2007):
[To Peter Smaill & Neil Halliday] It is a moot point as to what significance, if any, Bach attributed to this motive, the characteristics of which are two-fold i.e. it employs the three notes of a rising triad AND the rhythm of three equal notes (crotchets). It's important to note this, I think because the triad in itself is the primary building block of much tonal music (not all--in many C20 jazz styles the 7th is the primary building block as outlined in John Mehegan's classifications) and is consequently used all the time. explicitly or by implication e.g. in one and two part writing. But the combination of a triadic shape with a particular rhythmic inflection particularises the motive.

The most striking secular use of it is at the beginning of the first movement of the E+ violin concerto. But there are some other uses of it in the religious music and one which springs to mind is the final duet of 58. Here it comes at the beginning of the ritornello and the bass enters on the figure with the exhortation to the travelling soul to be of good cheer. It's diffficult to detect any significant connections between the use of the motive here and in the two arias mentioned by Neil and Peter below. Also, in the bass aria, in the second declamation of the three Herrs (bars 25/6) the melodic direction of the notes are reversed, descending and omitting the third of the chord??

My initial reaction is that this is more a use of a fanfare-type figuration expressing enthusiasm, exhortation etc. However all three movements have in common confident major modes and streams of ebullient string semi-quaver melodies. None are in triple time.

My feeling is that the different uses of this motive are related to the need to create similar musical moods of uplift, exultation etc etc rather than being suggestive of other additional symbolic significance. However, i'd be very interested in further examples of the use of this specific motive which list members can dredge up.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 21, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It is a moot point as to what significance, if any, Bach attributed to this motive, the characteristics of which are two-fold i.e. it employs the three notes of a rising triad AND the rhythm of three equal notes (crotchets). It's important to note this, I think because the triad in itself is the primary building block of much tonal music (not all--in many C20 jazz styles the 7th is the primary building block as outlined in John Mehegan's classifications) and is consequently used all the time. explicitly or by implication e.g. in one and two part writing. But the combination of a triadic shape with a particular rhythmic inflection particularises the motive. >
I suspect that there are many instances of themes being used for symbolic purposes but they are not restricted to those meanings. A good example is the repeated note arpeggio which opens the D major Brandenburg. This figure appears in the middle of "Es Ist Vollbracht" of the SJP (BWV 245) and in "Ja , Ja Ich Kann die Feinde Schlagen" in Cantata, "Selig ist der Mann", where in both cases it is a kind of "triumph motif". I'm suspicious of calling these figures "motifs" because it plugs into the Wagnerian system of motivic development which many Romantic critics, Schweitzer in particular, imposed on Bach's music. Bach frequently uses elaborate symbolic schemes (as Peter suggests), but I don't think we can postulate a consistent system across all his works. More frequently,the "doctrine of affections" allows for broad general connections (as Julian suggests).

Terejia wrote (November 22, 2007):
Greeting to Mr. Cowling and all replies in between :

Douglas Cowling wrote:
(snipped)
< I suspect that there are many instances of themes being used for symbolic purposes but they are not restricted to those meanings. A good example is the repeated note arpeggio which opens the D major Brandenburg. This figure appears in the middle of "Es Ist Vollbracht" of the SJP >
Here I did understand what you are talking about. It happens to be in the same D major key(a key which is also used for many glorious sounding pieces), if I remember correctly. Interesting to spot this.

Also, in Japan, I heard people often discuss why the last piece of chorus of Christmas Oratorio(Weihnachts Oratorium) uses the chorale of " O Haupt voll Blute und Wunden".

< and in "Ja , Ja Ich Kann die Feinde Schlagen" in Cantata, "Selig ist der Mann", where in both cases it is a kind of "triumph motif". I'm suspicious of calling these figures "motifs" because it plugs into the Wagnerian system of motivic development which many Romantic critics, Schweitzer in particular, imposed on Bach's music. Bach frequently uses elaborate symbolic schemes (as Peter suggests), but I don't think we can postulate a consistent system across all his works. More frequently,the "doctrine of affections" allows for broad general connections (as Julian suggests) >
I'm not a really professional musician like most of the regular posters are, however, as far as personal impression concerns, Bach just seems to have done it as his inspiration commands but his inspiration was so great it provides more than enough to discuss for later years' professionals to discuss about.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Motifs in Bach's Vocal Works [General Topics]

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 21, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Finally, on our American Thanksgiving Day I have time to listen to Cantata 45. I really like the energy in this work, so far, all the way through. Musically the sections seem to tie together very well...I'm not really sure why in this particular case. I love the Bass aria, in fact this is the first bass aria that has completely captured my attention in the time I have been in the group. The number has such a joyful and positive feeling. The alto following offers a bit of a contrasting mood, and the closing chorale lovely. I did notice with one exception the whole cantata is in 4/4 time, and perhaps that is part of what gives a feel of unity to the work. I'd be interested in the comments of others on how they think this work holds together, and for what reasons. Maybe this also has something to do with keys, and closely related keys.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 24, 2007):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>I'd be interested in the comments of others on how they think this work holds together, and for what reasons. Maybe this also has something to do with keys, and closely related keys.<
I agree that the succession of major and relative minor (sharp) keys has something to do with your impression that "the sections seem to tie together very well musically".

Chorus E major, tenor aria C# minor; bass aria A major, alto aria F# minor; chorale E major.

(The flow of chords realised in the secco r, in the piano reduction score, is also attractive, but that is another story).

Also probably significant are the similarity of the intervals employed at the start of the 'subjects' of each movement: chorus: E-G#-(F#)-E-B; tenor aria: E-C#-G#; bass aria, apart from the major triad already discussed ("Herr, Herr, Herr"), has, among others things, lively 1/116th note figuration with descending four-note figures found in the melisma on "fordert" in the first movement etc; alto aria: C#-A-C#-F#-C# etc. plus four note decending figure.

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 24, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for your insights Neil.

Terejia wrote (December 6, 2007):
Sorry for being off-timing Re: Week of Nov 18, 2007 - Cantata BWV 45

Neil Halliday wrote:
< The three emphatic calls of "Herr, Herr, Herr" in BWV 45's bass aria (Mvt. 4) recall those in the similarly energetic and richly scored soprano aria of BWV 10 ("Herr, der du stark und mächtig bist"). >
It was only recently that I came to know BWV 45 and BWV 10. I'm sorry for being wrong timing.

It triggers my interest and curiocity that in these two cantata arias mentioned above have "Herr, Herr, Herr" in an ascending order whereas in the first chorus of St. Johannes Passion (BWV 245), the same text has descending order, with the same intervals of notes, if my ear is correctly perceiving.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 6, 2007):
Terejia wrote:
>It triggers my interest and curiocity that in these two cantata arias mentioned above have "Herr, Herr, Herr" in an ascending order whereas in the first chorus of St. Johannes Passion (BWV 245), the same text has descending order, with the same intervals of notes, if my ear is correctly perceiving.<
Yes, this is another powerful example (with a crotchet rest between the "Herr"s, as in the two cantata examples mentioned) - this time in a minor key, with the notes of the soprano voice (in the three respective SATB chords) indeed showing a descending minor triad (G-Eb-C).

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 45: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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

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