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Cantata BWV 46
Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of August 28, 2005

Santu de Silva wrote (August 28, 2005):
BWV 46: Introduction (August 28, 2005)

BWV 46:"Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei wie mein Schmerz" (Behold then and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow). Leipzig, 1723 Librettist unknown.

Flutes/recorders i, ii; Ob da caccia i, ii; Tromba/Corno da Tirarsi; Vi i, ii; Vla, Continuo.

Epistle: 1 Corinthians 12: 1-11 (Spiritual gifts are diverse)
Gospel: Luke 19: 41-48 (Jesus weeps over Jerusalem).

Most of what follows is taken from Alec Robertson: The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach, Praeger, 1972

[1] Chorus. Full orchestra: "Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei, wie mein Schmerz" (Behold then and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow)

[Note: this text is set in Handel's Messiah as a tenor aria.]

Robertson:
"One could not give greater praiseto Bach's setting of the above words, from the Lamentations fo Jeremiah, i, 12, than to say it can be placed without qualification beside Victoria's 'O vos omnes qui transitis per viam' in his Office of Holy Week. "Bach's chorus is even more heart-rending here in its original form than in the better-known adaptation he made of the movement in the "Qui tollis" of the B minor mass- -in which the vocal parts are practically identical with the original- -by reason of the deeply expressive orchestral introduction of sixteen bars [omited in the Mass]. A fugue follows- -un poco allegro- -to the words 'for the Lord has made me full of lamentations on the day of his anger,' the exposition of which is- -as so often with Bach- - accompanied only by the continuo up to the soprano entry. It is a fine fugue but, in my view, rather destructive of the profound impression made by the first section. Christ wept over Jerusalem - -but not in anger."

I simply cannot express my own feelings any better, except that perhaps the choral fugue expresses not Jesus's anger, but Bach's, or our own indignation. In any case, it is misplaced, imho. *Also, the reference to Victoria's work is lost on me. Anyone who is knowlegeable,please tell us more! (It says something, most of all, about Alec Robertson's tastes in music.)

[2] Recitative. Tenor, Fl i, ii, Vi i, ii, Vla, Continuo: "So klage du, zerstörte Gottesstadt, du armer Stein- und Aschen- haufen" (So mourn thou, destroyed City of God, thou poor stone and ash heap!)

Robertson: "A little motif of mourning on the flutes is repeated in every bar of this movement, with sustained chords on the strings below. The librettist compares the destruction of the City to that of Gomorrah.

[3] Aria - Bass, all except flutes and oboes: "Dein Wetter zog sich auf von Weitem, doch dessen Strach bricht endlich ein" (Thy tempest gathered in the distance; now the storm at last breaks)

A magnificent aria, Robertson says, continuoing to describe the beautiful word-painting. He also points out that at the words ' "and must to Thee be insufferable," all parts are marked pianissimo.'

[4] Recit and [5] Aria - - alto, with continuo in the recit, and flutes and oboes only in the aria: "Doch bildet euch, o Sünder, ja nicht ein, es sei Jerusalem allein vof andern Sünden voll gewesen" (an exhortation to sinners not to imagine that Jerusalem was more full of sin than other [cities]) - - "Doch Jesus will auch bei der Strafe der Frommen Schild und Beistand sein" (Yet Jesus will even by the chastisement of the godly, shield and helper be.)

The recit is taken from Luke xiii, 5, the aria from Matthew xxiii, 37.

[I wonder whether Robertson's interpretation of the text is accurate, that there will be vengeance against sinners, or whether even the godly will be chastised. The punctuation and translation leaves something to be desired.]

The aria is tender in the first part where, as Robertson says, Jesus is "spoken of as 'gathering the faithful lovingly in, as His sheep, His chickens' (Matthew xxiii, 37)' He also remarks that the two oboes are used as 'the continuo part.' To me it simply sounded as though they played the bass *line*, but on further listening, they do indeed sound like a minimal continuo - -whatever meaning that may have in the context of a single line of music! Christoph Wolff describes this technique as 'Bassettschen', in which the bass is in a high register.

[6] Chorale Full orchestra, tr/cor with the soprano line.

The flutes provide an eerie embellishment of the line- -and between the lines of the beautiful chorale. Robertson seems to think that there are more than two flutes total here: two per part, actually; which, with the slight wave that results, contributing to the eeriness.

In the version I listened to, there were indeed4 recorders. Robertson remarks: "This is an extended setting with the lines separated by the passages for the flutes, two to each part, exceptional in Bach's practice." In addition to the two recordists who play in BWV 65, on the same disk, they have also Sigrun Lefringhausen, and one of my personal heroines, Marion Verbruggen, playing recorder.

This is a beautiful work. The fact that the opening chorus is familiar because of the later use of part of it in the Mass distracts from (our appreciation of) the emotional balance of the work. Supposedly written in Leipzig in 1723, it has a mood of youthful passion rather than mature wisdom in the choice of text, but the music turns it all to gold.

Information on BWV 46: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV46.htm (recording samples are available there also)
Previous discussions about BWV 46: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV46-D.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 28, 2005):
BWV 46: O Vos Omnes

Santu de Silva wrote:
< BWV 46:"Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei wie mein Schmerz" (Behold then and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow). Leipzig, 1723 Librettist unknown.
Robertson:
"One could not give greater praiseto Bach's setting of the above words, from the Lamentations fo Jeremiah, i, 12, than to say it can be placed without qualification beside Victoria's 'O vos omnes qui transitis per viam' in his Office of Holy Week.
*Also, the reference to Victoria's work is lost on me. Anyone who is knowlegeable,please tell us more! (It says something, most of all, about Alec Robertson's tastes in music.) >
Victoria's motet is one of a collectiion of responsaries sung at the dramatic offices of Tenebrae in Holy Week. During the service, candles were gradually extinguished until the church was left in darkness and the Miserere was sung -- Allegri's setting of the latter is the most famous.

Victoria's setting of "O vos omnes" is of the greatest choral masterpieces of the Renaissance, indeed of all Westen music. Victoria's use of poignant chromatic suspensions and symbolic descending motifs is exquisite. At the words "si est dolor sicut dolor meus" (if there is sorrow like my sorrow) the lower voices sink into their deepest register and the treble voice enters without preparation on a sustained high G.

It is a spine-chilling moment.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 28, 2005):
BWV 46: Final Chorale

Santu de Silva wrote:
< [7] Chorale Full orchestra, tr/cor with the soprano line.
The flutes provide an eerie embellishment of the line- -and between the lines of the beautiful chorale. Robertson seems to think that there are more than two flutes total here: two per part, actually; which, with the slight wave that results, contributing to the eeriness. >
This is a fascinating example of Bach's orchestral use of one tradition of accompanying chorale-singing. It was a tradition for the congregation to sing a chorale verse, pausing after each line forthe organist to extemporize a bar or two of flourishes. We see this improvisatory tradition also in the organ prelude, "In Dulci Jubilo". McCreesh recreates the practice in his "Epiphany Mass". Although this Baroque manner of accompanying chorales is rarely if ever heard today (are there any Lutheran organists out there who extemporize in this fashion?), we know the custom survived until the mid-19th century. Wagner opens Act One of Die Meistersinger with a congregation singing a chorale, the orchestra separating each line with a short interlude. The interludes are of course the motifs associated with the lovers who are making goo-goo eyes at each other. No wonder, the vergers patrolled the aisles of St. Thomas in Bach's time watching for inappropriate behaviour among the bored young people!

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 28, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
>>"Doch Jesus will auch bei der Strafe der Frommen Schild und Beistand sein" (Yet Jesus will even by the chastisement of the godly, shield and helper be.)
The recit is taken from Luke xiii, 5, the aria from Matthew xxiii, 37.
[I wonder whether Robertson's interpretation of the text is accurate, that there will be vengeance against sinners, or whether even the godly will be chastised. The punctuation and translation leaves something to be desired.]<<
Robertson, here, seems to be unaware of the way words in German poetry can be shifted about/displaced for poetic reasons. In such a case, one can not depend upon the normal rules of German word order. Disregarding the fact that there are two lines of poetry and putting them into a single statement of only one line, you will get the following:

"Doch Jesus will auch bei der Strafe der Frommen Schild und Beistand sein" [And yet Jesus also wants to be our shield and support 'bei der Strafe der Frommen' = in the case of or situation of the punishment of the pious - or 'when the pious individuals are being punished.']

Due to the displacement of "Der Frommen Schild und Beistand" for poetic reasons, this phrase must be read as follows in correct, normal word order: "<der> Schild und <der> Beistand der Frommen" = "the shield and support/assistance of pious individuals."

Correctly read then: "And yet Jesus also desires to be a shield and support for {all} pious people when they are faced with punishment {for their sins.} ['Punishment' - on the Day of Last Judgment]

Lucia Haselböck in her entry for "Zorn Gottes" ["God's Anger"] in her "Bach:Textlexikon" [Bärenreiter, 2004] quotes a famous poet, Paul Fleming, from his "Poetischer Wälder Erstes Buch" [Jena, 1660}p. 10:

"Die Straffe liegt auf ihm / Auff daß wir Frieden hätten. / Des Vaters Zorn Fluth fährt über ihn mit Grauß / Vnd will ihn aus dem Land' und Leben rotten aus."

The pronoun 'ihn,' Haselböck explains, refers to Christ who assumes and deflects from us the wrath of God. The poetic images are derived from Fleming's personal experiences during the 30-Years War.

["The punishment lies upon him {Christ has assumed the burden of this heavy punishment} so that we might have peace {be free from having to worry every minute about such a grievous punishment for our sins.} With horror the deluge of the Father's {God's} anger comes over him {Christ} and wants to wipe him out completely from the face of this globe {from life in this country as we know it.}"]

Neil Halliday wrote (August 31, 2005):
Comparing the opening choral section of the cantata with the later version in the BMM (BWV 232), in the former we have recorders in place of flutes, and a trumpet and two oboes da caccia doubling the SAT lines (in the latter part of both sections)in the cantata, but not the Mass.

Did Bach feel that the absence of the doubling instruments in the Mass, and the substitution of flutes instead of recorders, would allow for a more abstract contemplation of sin's grief ("Qui tollis"), compared with the cantata's more immediate expression of distress over Jerusalem's destruction. ("Schauet doch")?

The other difference is in the continuo; in the cantata, only the first beat of each bar pulses, but in the Mass the three crotchets in each bar pulse (in the cellos).

Bach makes good use of the instruments in the long, chromatic, and rhythmically strong cantata fugue, with recorders (separate part), oboes and trumpet or horn (doubling voice parts) gradually being introduced into the choral fabric.

Both Rilling [5] and Leonhardt [4] give satisfying readings.

The glorious bass aria vividly depicts the striking imagery of a storm approaching from afar, with the lighting flashes of God's vengeance kindled by manifold sins.

I dislike the baroque trumpet's `splattered' notes in Leonhardt's recording; Rob Roy Macgregor with Rilling gives an accurate, expressive and exciting account of the part, on a modern instrument. Both singers are fine.

Leusink [8], as was noted in the previous discussions, has a somewhat staid tempo in this aria, possibly out of concern for his trumpeter!

Jakobs with Leonhardt gets my vote in the alto aria; I'm not a fan of Watt's voice (Rilling), nevertheless the aria's distinctive scoring is enjoyable in this recording. The aria concludes with the proposition that Jesus will protect the righteous, amidst all the
destruction.

The final chorale has an unusual asymmetric rhythm, caused by the recorder passages between the vocal sections being of differing lengths - sometimes there are five beats of ritornello, sometimes three, only the last has the expected four beats.

Leonhardt takes it way too fast, introducing confusion into asymmetry. Rilling gives a most satisfying account.

Santu de Silva wrote (August 31, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Comparing the opening choral section of the cantata with the later version in the BMM, in the former we have recorders in place of flutes, and a trumpet and two oboes da caccia doubling the SAT lines (in the latter part of both sections) in the cantata, but not the Mass. >
Can anyone tell me for certain whether the B minor Mass (BWV 232)uses definitely flutes, and not recorders? (I really don't know; all I know is that I hear lots of works where one
recording uses flutes, and the other uses recorders.)

< The final chorale has an unusual asymmetric rhythm, caused by the recorder passages between the vocal sections being of differing lengths - sometimes there are five beats of ritornello, sometimes three, only the last has the expected four beats. >
This cantata is interesting in that it doesn't have a rousing ending chorale. I seem to remember that the previous cantata we looked at (BWV 105?) was similar.

Would the congregation have left the church right after this chorale, or would there have been another congregational dismissal, as we would have today? (I know this was answered before, but I did not pay attention!)

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 1, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
>>Can anyone tell me for certain whether the B minor Mass (BWV 232) uses definitely flutes, and not recorders? (I really don't know; all I know is that I hear lots of works where one recording uses flutes, and the other uses recorders.)<<
There are a number of instances in the NBA printed scores where I have observed that the editors are unable to determine without a doubt whether Bach intended (or originally intended) to have recorders or transverse flutes play the parts. The editors of the NBA will indicate in normal type what Bach had written: "Flauto", then, in italics, add "traverso" to indicate the possibility that Bach may have considered the transverse flute for this part, but then did not bother to indicate this.

With the help of Ulrich Prinz's book: "J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium" [Bärenreiter, 2005], this problem has been resolved since it is possible to see at a glance, precisely which terms Bach did use when he had a 'flute' part in mind. Here is a quick summary:

From the original sources on his autograph scores and parts where Bach's ais clear we find the following:

For Recorder/Blockflöte/Flûte à bec

Bach used the following designations (singular and plural + abbreviations):

Flauto, Flaute, Flauti, Flaut:, Fiauto, Fiaut., Fiauti, Flutti,

For Transverse Flute:

Traversa, Traverso, Traversiere, Traversier, Travers:,
Travers., Trav:, Trav., Traversieri, Traversi,
Travers, Tr., Flauto Traverso, Fl. Traverso,
Flaut:Travers:, Flauto Traversiere,
Flaute-traversiere, Flute Traversa, Flute Travers:,
Flute Travers.

Bach's earliest use of the recorder is in BWV 106 (Mühlhausen, 1707) and his latest use (composition or arrangment, not repeat performances of earlier works) can be found in BWV 1057 (c. 1738 according to one source and/or 1739 according to another.

Summary: Bach uses the recorder throughout most of his composing career from the earliest occurrence in the Mühlhausen period to his mature Leipzig period with exclusion of the final decade where the instrument may still have been used for repeat performances.

Summary: Bach's earliest use of the transverse flute can be traced back to his Cöthen period in BWV 173a (1719-1722), BWV 184a (1722/23) and BWV 194a (before 1723). At the end of his first cantata year, Bach began using the transverse flute in Leipzig as well, beginning with BWV 67 (April 16, 1724.) Among the latest instances of use are BWV 212 (August 30, 1742), the trio sonata from the Musical Offering BWV 1079 (1747) and Parts II and IV of the B-minor Mass BWV 232 (1748/49).

The NBA has just published (2005) the earliest versions of sections from the B-minor Mass (BWV 232 (I) from 1733, the early G major version of the Credo in unum Deum BWV 232 (II/I), and the Sanctus BWV 232 (III) from 1724. Wherever flutes are called for, they are not recorders but transverse flutes, even in these early versions.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 1, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< Would the congregation have left the church right after this chorale, or would there have been another congregational dismissal, as we would have today? (I know this was answered before, but I did not pay attention!) >
The cantata was placed roughly halfway through the Lutheran mass. It was followed by the sermon (minimum 1 hr) and then the rest of the eucharist: Credo, Offetory, Preface Sanctus, etc. The cantata was usally less than half an hour in a service that could last 3-4 hours.

John Pike wrote (September 1, 2005):
BWV 46

Cantata for the 10th Sunday after Trinity.

I especially enjoyed the first movement of this cantata which, as has been remarked elsewhere, Bach later used for the "Qui tollis peccata mundi" in the B minor mass, with different instrumentation.

I listened to Leonhardt [4], Leusink [8] and Rilling [5] and enjoyed them all.

Santu de Silva wrote (September 2, 2005):
Recorders vs. flutes in Bach (was: Re BWV 46 . . .)

[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks! This is a wonderful summary.

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

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 3, 2005):
CM & CT 'O großer Gott von Macht'

Two additions to the database of Chorale Melodies (CM) & Chorale Texts (CT).

CM 'O großer Gott von Macht'
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/O-Grosser-Gott.htm
Contributed by Thomas Braatz.

CT 'O großer Gott von Macht'
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale024-Eng3.htm
Contributed by Francis Browne.

Both the CM & CT are used in Mvt. 6 of of BWV 46, the cantata discussed this week.

You are invited to send corrections/additions/suggestions for improvements.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 4, 2005):
In the appreciations of BWV 46, "Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgend ein Schmerz sei" we deal with a central text to Christian theology, "Behold and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow". But these words, set so exquisitely set by Victoria (adumbrated by Robertson and anlaysed by Doug Cowling in these discussions ), and also one of the great chromatic motets of Gesualdo, are not the words of Jesus. They are from Lamentations OT, and again form the technique of "midrash", in which words of the OT are taken to be a prefiguring of the Gospels, and thus a fulfilment of prophecy.

The most penetrative discussion of the special significance of this Cantata is the essay by Eric Chafe, forming part of the chapter on "Bach's Reflection on the Past" (in Analyzing Bach Cantatas," OUP. On the 10th Sunday after Trinity in the Lutheran church there was read Josephus' account in translation of the destruction of Jerusalem. It seems to me likely that the destruction of many German towns in the Thirty Years' war would intensify the resonance of this reading.

The progress in thought is from extended tears over the destruction of Jerusalem, caused by the sinfulness of man, to the zeugma in BWV 46/5, "Doch Jesus will auch bei der strafe," / "Yet Jesus desires even in punishment, to be the shield and support of the righteous."

The magical moment of the Cantata is surely the beautiful prayer that concludes the work, in the form of an extended chorale. Again we have progressed, as in the preceding few Sunday's libretti, from the hopelessness of Man under the old law, to salvation under the new; the offering of Jesus as propitiation. This is the theology of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244), rather than the "Christus Victor" of the St John.

As Chafe says, the destruction of Jerusalem was closely linked to the Passions at Leipzig. As noted previously, one of the few non-biblical images set by Bach is the "Sodom's apple" references, also drawn from Josephus.

So this Cantata is related directly to Lutheran hermeneutics, the Reformation idea of the destruction and restoration of the old Church. And with what strange harmonies and texture does it end ; the highpitched canonic imitation of the blockfloten (or what you will), restlessly falling until they find repose in the final, ambiguous cadence leading to D major even though the previous two flats signature had generally produced in each line minor key final chords (tho "Pein" is set to C major).The intrusion of e natural at last in the blockfloeten over the pedal point is masterful, the whoile raising the question as to whether " the final chord is in the dominant or tonic to an extraordinary degree" (Chafe).

The ethereal quality of the blockfloeten ( Chafe says recorders) without continuo is one of the most striking instrumental effects in the Cantatas. Coupled with the deep theological purpose and solemnity of the service for this Sunday it is one of the works which demonstrate Bach's use of radically unusual harmonic devices and orchestral colour in reponse to a libretto.

The librettist is unknown but the structure of transition from OT to NT argues to me at least that the same hand as BWV 105 and BWV 136 is at work; however, none of these are in the four groupings of same-hand cantatas produced by Harald Streck based on writing style, covering 46 of the unattributable approx 120 cantata texts.

 

Random movement comments

Chris Kern wrote (May 31, 2006):
These are just a few comments on some specific movements of cantatas I've been enjoying lately:

1. BWV 76, movement 1, Suzuki

I just love the fugue in the secopart of this. The first time I heard the subject I thought it seemed too long but of course Bach shows he has no difficulty with it. The way he uses it is so joyful and well done that it overcame my doubt. Also hearing the combination of Midori Suzuki, Robin Blaze, Gerd Turk, and Chiyuki Urano is great. (But I actually like the Leusink and Harnoncourt versions of the fugue as well...)

2. BWV 46, movement 1, Leonhardt

Leonhardt's fugue of this movement is excellent -- somehow when the boys first enter with the initial subject of the fugue it has an almost haunting effect.

3. BWV 131, movement 4, Herreweghe

Herreweghe made the unusual decision to use a lute for this cantata, and it works especially well in the tenor aria.

4. BWV 131, movement 3, Suzuki

The fugue is done by far the best by Suzuki -- the soprano entries are powerful, and the oboe playing is exceptional.

5. BWV 75, the choral movements, Suzuki

Suzuki seems to be the best of the HiP crowd at conducting choral movements; this might be because he has actual experience with church singing.

 

BWV 46 for Trinity 10 (Aug. 16, 2009)

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 16, 2009):
Todays 8:00 AM (noon, 1200 UT) broadcast on FM radio, also available worlwide at www.wgbh.org, was the Gardiner Pilgramage recording of BWV 46. The webcast repeats at noon EDT (1600 UT), I believe. BWV 46 has much in common with our current discussion topic, BWV 190, including elaborate instrumentation and motet style in the opening chorus. Durr is very articulate in explanation of details of form and texture.

The texts will make your hair stand up in fright! Fortunately, we know that the good guys come out all right in the end.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 46: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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

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