Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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

Cantata BWV 46
Schauet doch und sehet, ob irgendein Schmerz sei
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 16, 2011

William Hoffman wrote (October 13, 2011):
Intro. to Cantata 46: Trinity 10 Chorales

See: Motets & Chorales for 10th Sunday after Trinity [LCY]

Francis Browne wrote (October 16, 2011):
BWV 46 Notes on the music

WV 46 was written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity and first performed on August 1st 1723. It is therefore is among the first cantatas Bach wrote at Leipzig.

In the gospel for the day Jesus laments the coming destruction of Jerusalem, foresees sufferings to come for the inhabitants 'because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation' and drives the traders from the temple. John Eliot Gardiner says that at the service of Vespers on this Sunday Josephus' account of the sack of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70 was read aloud and he comments on the resonance this would have in a country where the devastations of the Thirty Years War would still be a vivid memory. Whittaker mentions also siege of Vienna two years before Bach's birth and the 13 years of War of the Spanish succession which ended 11 years before this cantata was written.

Whittaker also suggests it must have been a man of knowledge and imagination to have conceived the cantata based on the prophecy and the tale of the terrible calamity which overcame Jerusalem at the hands of Titus in the days after Christ. References in the first recitative to enemies within the gates indicate the writer must have been familiar with Josephus' monumental description of the causes which led to the total destruction of the city and point to some scholar among the clergy of Leipzig. He adds "unfortunately his literary abilities are not commensurate with his learning and vision “. This is somewhat harsh since the anonymous librettist - with his remonstrances, exhortations and warnings in competent rhymed verse - provided Bach with the basis for a cantata that Whittaker himself considers as 'unique among the two hundred for its grim power and tense drama.

The text of the opening movement (Mvt. 1) is taken directly from Lamentations`, a brief but striking book of the Jewish bible , which consists of five acrostic poems occasioned by the siege and fall of Jerusalem in 587/586 BC. These laments have been used in Jewish and later in Christian worship as an expression of grief at destruction of the city and also for more generalised sorrow in Christian liturgies Good Friday, as well as an appeal for divine mercy. In the verses quoted the city of Jerusalem herself speaks of her sorrow but in the cantata this is reinterpreted to refer to Jesus' sorrow over Jerusalem (and so by implication to God's sorrow over alienated sinners).

The second movement recitative threatens (Mvt. 2) the city/sinners who take no heed of Christ's tears with the fate of Gomorra (Genesis 19:23).There is a richness- or if it is not to your taste a confusion- of biblical imagery of destroyed cities, overwhelming floods and broken staffs of office to suggest God's response to man's sinfulness.

In the third movement bass aria (Mvt. 3) God's vengeful judgement is seen as a gathering storm that will ineveitably in time burst over the unrepentant sinner . Such imagery gives Bach an opportunity which he vividly exploits. The following recitative (Mvt. 4) makes explicit the application of the general imagery to us sinners who are threatened with having to face a fearful end.

Only in the final aria (Mvt. 5) is consolation offered. Echoing the tender words of Christ's lamentation over Jerusalem in Matthew's gospel (23:27) we are told the devout will be gathered in safety by Jesus.

The concluding chorale (Mvt. 6) is the final strophe of O großer Gott von Macht. This 8 strophe chorale was written by Balthasar Schnurr in 1633 and in a curious form of sung mathematics is based on Abraham's plea with God about the just in Sodom and Gomorra (Genesis 18:23).It is obvious why Johann Matthäus Meyfart thought it necessary to add a concluding more general stanza . He does this skilfully preserving the syntactical pattern and rhyme scheme of earlier stanzas.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 16, 2011):
[To Francis Browne] Simply to say to members if you do not know this unjustly neglected cantata, take this opportunity to explore it---a magnificent opening chorus (Mvt. 1) (which puts one in mind of that from BWV 101), two excellent arias (for bass and alto) and a most imaginative setting of the closing chorale (Mvt. 6).

Don't miss it!

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 20, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< BWV 46 was written for the 10th Sunday after Trinity and first performed on August 1st 1723. It is therefore among the first cantatas Bach wrote at Leipzig. >
Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV46.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 20, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< The text of the opening movement is taken directly from Lamentations, a brief but striking book of the Jewish bible , which consists of five acrostic poems occasioned by the siege and fall of Jerusalem in 587/586 BC. These laments have been used in Jewish and later in Christian worship as an expression of grief at destruction of the city and also for more generalised sorrow in Christian liturgies Good Friday, as well as an appeal for divine mercy. >
See also, from BCW discussions, p. 2:

<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.> (end quote)

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 20, 2011):
Midrash & Typology

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< 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. >
Can someone give us a technical meaning of Midrash? I thought it was a rabbinical homiletic tradition in which the "holes" in a biblical narrative were imaginatively filled in or the narrative extended: thus, Adam and Eve's live of toil after the Expulsion might be developed as a lesson about human mortality.

The hermenuetic term of typology is usually used to refer to events in the Hebrew scriptures prefiguring events in the Christian scriptures: St. Paul compares the Passage through the Red Sea in Exodus to Christian baptism.

Michael Cox wrote (October 20, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
"Can someone give us a technical meaning of Midrash?"
From Wikipedia: "The Hebrew term Midrash (Hebrew: &#1502;&#1491;&#1512;&#1513;&#8206;; plural midrashim, "story" from "to investigate" or "study") is a homiletic method of biblical exegesis. The term also refers to the whole compilation of homiletic teachings on the Bible.

Midrash is a way of interpreting biblical stories that goes beyond simpdistillation of religious, legal or moral teachings. It fills in many gaps left in the biblical narrative regarding events and personalities that are only hinted at."

Basically Midrashim (plural) are/were Hebrew sermons interpreting biblical stories and applying the lessons to the congregation in the synagogue, using the imagination to answer questions that arise from detailed study but to which the biblical text per se doesn't provide an answer.

David Jones wrote (October 23, 2011):
I hope the group will forgive me. I am behind. I'm having a family emergency, and besides, my thunder was stolen by another group member. BWV 46 is one of my favorite cantatas. The opening chorus, with its atmospheric prelude and stern fugue, is absolutely luminous. Of course, I am partial to Gardiner, although Koopman gives a fine, if soft focussed reading. This, in fact, is my issue with most of Koopman's readings; although they are rich in detail, the musical refinement is seen, as it were, through the wrong end of a telescope...... See ya tomorrow!

Michael Cox wrote (November 2, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Ed Myskowski wrote: "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."

In that midrash is a Jewish form of biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, one would definitely not expect orthodox Jews to see the OT as prefiguring the Gospels, but certainly as prefiguring the Messiah. However, Christian biblical theologians from the church fathers onwards have used both typology and allegory to interpret the Old Testament (not an expression Jews would use) as a foreshadowing of the Messiah in the person of Jesus. There has, of course, been some cross-fertilisation from Jewish Christians and from those Christians who have made a study of Hebrew and Judaism. Luther knew Hebrew and some Jewish literature, and so did many Lutheran theologians. Bach was no mean theologian himself and was familiar with Luther's writings.

I found the following quotation from one of the midrashim:

"Woman is formed out of bone. Touch a bone and it emits sound; hence woman's voice is thinner than man's. Again, man is formed from earth, which is comparatively soft and melts when water comes over it; whilst woman, being formed from hard substance, is more stubborn and unbending." (Genesis Rabbah)

I wonder whether Bach would have thought that "a woman's voice is thinner than man's" in the sense that male voices are qualitatively superior and therefore better suited to "regulated church music". (Don't take this comment too seriously!)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 2, 2011):
Michael Cox wrote:
< Ed Myskowski wrote: "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." >
EM:
Actually, I was quoting Francis Browne. In fact the term *midrash* was new to me, although not the concept of fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. In any case, a concept of ongoing relevance to the readings for Trinity 10.

MC:
< In that midrash is a Jewish form of biblical exegesis and hermeneutics, one would definitely not expect orthodox Jews to see the OT as prefiguring the Gospels, but certainly as prefiguring the Messiah. >
EM:
I agree, but the logic becomes tricky. Christians were in fact a Jewish sect for the first several centuries. Since they accepted Jesus as the Messiah, the term midrash for New Testament events related to OT prophecy seems appropriate for use by Christians, although orthodox Jews would probably disagree.

Apologies for misreading an earlier post from Michael, where I interpreted Beethovens lack of a German language Bible as lack of a dictionary. No serious damage done, I trust.

Michael Cox wrote (November 2, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote to Michael Cox:
This message came to me personally, rather than to the BCML. I certainly appreciate the added detail, but I think other list members (including Doug Cowling) will also benefit. I did not feel comfortable sending it to the full group, but if that was your intent, I would suggest that you do so.

Michael Cox wrote to Ed Myskowski:
"Midrash: (Heb. Plural: midrashim.) Traditional form of Jewish biblical interpretation that seeks to fill in textual gaps. Narrative interpretation is called aggada, while legal interpretation is called halakhah." See http://www-english.tamu.edu/pers/fac/myers/hermeneutical_lexicon.html

Aggada or aggadah means "story-telling" see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggadah, and "halakhah" means "walking" = way of living. The Apostle Paul, trained as a Pharisee, uses the word “walk” in the sense of “way of life”. Compare different translations of Ephesians 5:15:
http://bible.cc/parallel7.gif

<http://niv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/5.htm> New International Version <http://biblica.com> (©1984)
Be very careful, then, how you live--not as unwise but as wise,

<http://esv.scripturetext.com/ephesians/5.htm> English Standard Version <http://www.crossway.org> (©2001)
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,

<http://nasb.scripturetext.com/ephesians/5.htm> New American Standard Bible <http://www.lockman.org> (©1995)
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise,

<http://kingjbible.com/ephesians/5.htm> King James Bible (Cambridge Ed.)
See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise,

You are right in that the original Christians (a Greek, not Hebrew term) were Jewish, but by the second century the majority of Christians were non-Jews, educated in Greek and/or Latin (not to mention Syriac and other non-European languages). Their methods of Bible interpretation and their theology began to be deeply influenced by Greek philosophy (what we would call "a good academic education"), especially Plato, and they rejected Hebrew rabbinic methods (partly because they couldn't read Hebrew) - a process called "hellenization". The Gentile-dominated Church changed the date of Easter so as not to coincide with Jewish Passover, forbade circumcision and keeping the Jewish Sabbath etc. etc. The sad history of so-called "Christian anti-Semitism" continued from there.

It is true that some modern liberal theologians have talked about "midrash" (see e.g. http://archive.uua.org/ga/ga00/415.html ) but midrash per se applies Hebrew Old Testament texts to Israel, the Jews and their Torah ("law") rather than to the Gospels. I suspect that most rabbis would consider it illegitimate to apply the term "midrash" to the New Testament because of its connotations and associations - even though the New Testament is a Jewish book or collection of books, written by Jews for Jews and non-Jewish believers in the Jewish Messiah.

Typology is a New Testament principle - and it's a Greek not Hebrew word. That is, a person or event is interpreted as having in some way foreshadowed a person or event in the NT, but only fulfilled perfectly in Christ. Moses as law-giver and prophet is a type of Christ, David as king and prophet is a type of Christ. Allegory is less common in the NT (the Parable of the Sower is interpreted allegorically) but it was taken to extremes in the Greek Church Fathers, being the favourite method of biblical interpretation in the early Church and in the Middle Ages, even today in some circles.

One example from one of the Latin Church Fathers, Augustine of Hippo: the Good Samaritan gave the innkeeper two coins - these represent the two sacraments of baptism and holy communion.

Today many Jewish Christians are rediscovering some elements of Judaism which werrejected by the Church but are not ultimately in conflict with faith in Jesus, such as circumcision of Jewish males, observing the Passover and the Sabbath.

I expect that you know a lot of this already and I’ve only given a very superficial explanation. There's a lot of literature on the subject, but most of it gets rather technical if you don't know the languages. Jacob Neusner is considered the greatest living expert on the subject of rabbinic literature, at least the most prolific writer. See e.g. http://www.faqs.org/faqs/judaism/FAQ/03-Torah-Halacha/section-25.html

I studied Greek and Hebrew (and Aramaic) at university, so I feel privileged in that respect.

And Bach scholars are privileged in another respect.

 

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

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



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýNovember 26, 2011 ý23:52:00