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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 51
Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

BWV 51, a musical inquiry

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 18, 2004):
Here is (IMO) an interesting angle from which to study the fourth movement of the cantata BWV 51.

Look at that fourth movement (where the soprano sings the chorale "Nun lob mein' Seel' den Herren" to the text "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren"). It is set with a three-part texture of accompaniment: two violins and basso continuo.

Compare it with Pachelbel's setting of that chorale (organ solo: one part added each above and below the cantus firmus), and the one by Walther (Bach's cousin and friend, and the dictionary guy...also organ solo: the cantus firmus lightly decorated in the top line, with three accompanimental voices). [I can provide scores of these two, if anybody's interested in actually taking a look at this; but won't go to the trouble of scanning them unless I hear response that it's worth doing.]

Pachelbel's setting works beautifully as a vocal solo, too: simply assign the words from BWV 51 (or wherever) to that part, and have somebody sing it as the organist plays the other two parts. Indeed, I've performed it this way at an Easter service several years ago: I engaged a tenor, and borrowed the words directly from BWV 51, writing them into the score; it would work equally well with soprano, and it ends up sounding very much like Bach's setting in overall effect. The running notes in the two accompanimental voices, dancing around the tune, give an effect very much like that of BWV 51/4.

And Walther's setting similarly pits the cantus firmus against those running divisions in the free parts; and it brings in some partial canons in the pedal (only the phrases that happen to work, not all of them)...rather like Bach's treatment of some other chorales in the Orgelbuechlein. This organ piece could be orchestrated very easily for an ensemble such as Bach's in BWV 51/4, giving the tune to a soprano singer, and again we'd have a very similar piece in effect.

The exercise: compare all three of these pieces, to find out compositionally how they work. How do these three composers handle the harmonization possibilities of the tune? What does their free material (counterpoint against that tune) accomplish? What do they, especially Bach (because his interludes are longer), accomplish in the interludes while the cantus firmus has rests? Is Bach's harmony more or less intense, more or less restless, more or less dramatic, whatever, than these other two? Does he use more variety of scale degrees, more adventure away from the tonic? Any suggestions why he might have done so? Is it even possible that Bach lifted any ideas directly from either this Pachelbel or Walther setting, given that they are all so similar?

And then, for an even broader picture, how does this compare with Bach's own other settings (there are at least eight) of this same chorale? How did he handle elements such as harmony and rhythm differently here, and why might he have done so?

Anybody's welcome to give this a go, with a willingness/ability to explore musical points instead of merely reproducing historical factoids cribbed from books. This is about musical content, and about thinking like a composer. [i.e., Plagiarism from reference books, a compilation of unoriginal paragraphs masquerading as research, will give no results here: required is an ability to do direct analysis of music and come to stylistic conclusions. This is the difference between superficiality and depth!] Shall I bother to scan those two other scores, or is this a waste of time?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 18, 2004):
Bradley Lehman asked many interesting questions about BWV 51/4:
>>The exercise: compare all three of these pieces, to find out compositionally how they work. How do these three composers handle the harmonization possibilities of the tune? What does their free material (counterpoint against that tune) accomplish? What do they, especially Bach (because his interludes are longer), accomplish in the interludes while the cantus firmus has rests? Is Bach's harmony more or less intense, more or less restless, more or less dramatic, whatever, than these other two? Does he use more variety of scale degrees, more adventure away from the tonic? Any suggestions why he might have done so? Is it even possible that Bach lifted any ideas directly from either this Pachelbel or Walther setting, given that they are all so similar?
And then, for an even broader picture, how does this compare with Bach's own other settings (there are at least eight) of this same chorale? How did he handle elements such as harmony and rhythm differently here, and why might he have done so?<<
This set of questions might also be easily asked about a fairly large number of similar mvts. from Bachís cantatas where a single voice part (not as in the opening mvts. of a chorale cantata) has the long note values of a chorale embedded in a musical structure with one or two other treble parts (usually instrumental) moving with motifs using faster note values. Hasnít an investigation/research into this type of chorale treatment by Bach been done before? You are most likely not the first person to consider these aspects of the chorale mvts. of this type.

BL: >>Anybody's welcome to give this a go, with a willingness/ability to explore musical points instead of merely reproducing historical factoids cribbed from books.<<
and
>>Plagiarism from reference books, a compilation of unoriginal paragraphs masquerading as research, will give no results here: required is an ability to do direct analysis of music and come to stylistic conclusions.<<
Why reinvent the wheel if this type of work has already been done? You want to make it appear as though you were the first to have had these insights into Bachís music! You had an interesting discussion underway here, but then you spoiled it by denigrating any previous research that may have been done on this subject. By doing so you have allowed your ego to be blinded by your own personal experiences rather than more objectively and modestly admitting simply that you have made some interesting discoveries on your own that you wish to share with others. Other readers of messages might have been encouraged by your sort of thinking which opens the door to discovery for anyone with some musical knowledge and love for Bachís music. This is as it should be, but not at the cost of a serious devaluation of previous research in these matters. Perhaps your encouragement should be couched in the following manner: Give it a go, be willing to investigate and explore these musical points on your own; and if you should find out later on that others before you have already discovered these things which were new to you, then feel confirmed in your convictions that you have been on the right track all along and that now there are others, from other times and places, who have pursued similar goals as they investigated for themselves just as you have the genius of Bach.

BTW, Brad, you can easily improve your impact upon your readers by skipping the proctological references which do absolutely nothing to advance the ideas which you wish to support. Werenít we readers expecting to see a new Brad emerge after the culmination of an acrimonious debate in 2003? Whatever happened to that promise that you made to these lists?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 19, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Why reinvent the wheel if this type of work has already been done? >
Because the point of the exercise (as I said) is to learn how to think like a composer, not to simply rehash other people's work. As Johann Sebastian Bach pointed out, such knowledge of the composer's craft is available to anyone who diligently applies himself and actually does the work.

If you believe there's no value in learning J S Bach's craft from the inside, the way he said it can be learned, --and no inclinations even to give it a try, for reasons of your own-- just admit it and we'll move on.

Zev Bechler wrote (January 19, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Good going, I second all of t.

Those choral settings you refer to never fail to arouse my wonder. Was Bach the first to combine the slow and calm choral part with a stormy and ominous instrumental counterpoint ? was this confrontation meant to carry yet another one of his symbolic meanings ? BTW, who was the first to discover that world of symbolism in Bach's works ?

 

Alle Menschen muessen sterbe

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 147 - Discussions Part 3

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 2, 2004):
< It is commonplace in the Anglican Communion to use one tune in particular in many different times in the Hymnal, all of which have nothing at all to do with the original Choral or its meaning. The Choral in question is "Alle Menschen muessen sterben". The Anglicans use it at Advent, at Easter, and at other times. However, they do not use it at funerals. This in stark contrast to the meaning and intent of the original. The title itself translates to "All men (or mankind) must die"."
So what? It's only a tune. It does not 'mean' anything in the way that the text does. There is no relationship between the words and music of a chorale or hymn tune other than simultaneity. >
I wouldn't say "no" relationship, but the point otherwise is a good one: the familiar tunes get used over and over again in a variety of settings, with a variety of texts and Affekts. (Some of us who compose music for hymnals do try to come up with a specific and exact match to a given text....)

Here's another example, for what it's worth: Paul Hindemith used "Alle Menschen müssen sterben" in a trumpet sonata. And he used Old Hundredth in the finale of "Trauermusik" (viola and string orchestra, a funeral piece) where one might expect something like "Alle Menschen muessen sterben" to be more appropriate by the words.

(By "Old Hundredth" I mean the same tune that Bach used in the "Sei Lob und Preis" inner movement of the "Jauchzet Gott" cantata BWV 51. It picked up the common English name "Old Hundredth" elsewhere, from early textual associations with Psalm 100, back to John Calvin's musical colleagues.)

As for "Alle Menschen", see also Bach's dramatically flashy early setting of it, BWV 1117, in the "Neumeister" chorales. Big chords, lots of very fast notes, with each melodic note broken down into divisions of eight notes. Quite a contrast with the beginning of the piece, where it sounds like it's going to be merely simple and straightforward three-voiced music with the melody in tenor.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 2, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Alle Menschen muessen sterbe

<< It is commonplace in the Anglican Communion to use one tune in particular in many different times in the Hymnal, all of which have nothing at all to do with the original Choral or its meaning. The Choral in question is "Alle Menschen muessen sterben". The Anglicans use it at Advent, at Easter, and at other times. However, they do not use it at funerals. This in stark contrast to the meaning and intent of the original. The title itself translates to "All men (or mankind) must die"."
So what? It's only a tune. It does not 'mean' anything in the way that the text does. There is no relationship between the words and music of a chorale or hymn tune other than simultaneity. >>
< I wouldn't say "no" relationship, but the point otherwise is a good one: the familiar tunes get used over and over again in a variety of settings, with a variety of texts and Affekts. (Some of us who compose music for hymnals do try to come up with a specific and exact match to a given text....)

Here's another example, for what it's worth:
Paul Hindemith used "Alle Menschen müssen sterben" in a trumpet sonata. And he used Old Hundredth in the finale of "Trauermusik" (viola and string orchestra, a funeral piece) where one might expect something like "Alle Menschen muessen sterben" to be more appropriate by the words.

(By "Old Hundredth" I mean the same tune that Bach used in the "Sei Lob und Preis" inner movement of the "Jauchzet Gott" cantata 51. It picked up the common English name "Old Hundredth" elsewhere, from early textual associations with Psalm 100, back to John Calvin's musical colleagues.)

As for "
Alle Menschen", see also Bach's dramatically flashy early setting of it, BWV 1117, in the "Neumeister" chorales. Big chords, lots of very fast notes, with each melodic note broken down into divisions of eight notes. Quite a contrast with the beginning of the piece, where it sounds like it's going to be merely simple and straightforward three-voiced music with the melody in tenor. >
Good point, Brad, but why don't you call a spade a spade, and refer to the German name of the tune, namely "Herr Gott, wir loben alle dir" instead of calling it that tune that Bach included in "Sei Lob und Preis"?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 2, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] wrote: Because the Genevan Psalter version is earlier.

Besides, aren't you thinking of "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren"? That's the main entry for that tune, at #8244 in Zahn.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 5, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] No, I am not thinking of Nun lob', mein Seel' den Herrn. That has a vastly different ending.

Also, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" is much earlier than even the Geneva Bible, no much more so than the Psalter. There are two problems here in your thinking.

First, the tune and text for "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" dates to about 1530 and is attributed to Luther's colleague and "right-hand man", Philipp Schwartzerdt (commonly known as Philipp Melancthon). The problem with your thinking comes that Geneva is central to what most people think "Protestantism" is. Evangelicalism is not the same as Calvinism (which is centered in Geneva).

The second problem is a matter of dates. Calvin did not start his reforming work until about 1536, and actually did not start even actively studying religion until about 1531. He first came to Geneva about 1545, but the bulk of his time in Geneva began about 1551. The first Geneva Bible came out about four or five years later, and the Psalter about four or five years after that (about 1559).

So, you see, the tune has Evangelical origins (that is, Lutheran origins).

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 5, 2004):
Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren...

[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] For whatever unknown reason betwixt them and you, there's a discrepancy with regard to the chorale used in BWV 51/4: the BWV's cross-listing with Zahn (a standard reference shelf for hymnologists, containing thousands of chorales cross-referenced across all the sources that were known c1890) calls it "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren".

Sean Burton wrote (October 5, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Indeed, you are correct. The full title is Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 6, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< For whatever unknown reason betwixt them and you, there's a discrepancy with regard to the chorale used in BWV 51/4: the BWV's cross-listing with Zahn (a standard reference shelf for hymnologists, containing thousands of chorales cross-referenced across all the sources that were known c1890) calls it "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren". >
The point here, though, is that "Nun lob', mein Seel', den Herrn" is totally different even from the tune "Old 100th". The ending is different even in the first verse. Instead of it going from G-D at the second stanza of the first verse (as "Old 100th" does), it goes from G-G. "Old 100th" is the same tune as "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir".

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Point finally understood. This was the rare occasion that the quibble was really about having some different notes (after the first phrase, which is identical) and not merely about nomenclature or cataloguing. My bad.

 

New article added - Bach Notes

Aryeh Oron wrote (Oc2, 2004)
Sean Burton, Artistic Director of Boston Orpheus Ensemble, was very kind to contribute an article to the Articles Section of the BCW. Essentially, it is program notes to a series of concerts she is presenting in the greater Boston area next week. After the introduction, there is a lengthy discussion of Bach's life followed by notes about Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 and Ich habe genung, BWV 82.

I hope you'll find its content to be useful.

You can find the article at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Bach-Notes[Burton].htm
There is a link to this page from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 2, 2004):
Sean Burton writes:
>>Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51 was most likely composed at some point during the early 1730ís for an occasion not known. Scholars conjecture that this cantata may even have been intended to serve as music for New Yearís. The joyful text made it suitable for other celebrations in the ecclesiastical year such as Michaelmas Day or even an election of the Council in Leipzig.<<
Whatever happened to Bach's autograph cover title which states: "Dominica 15 post Trinitatis | et | In ogni Tempo.?" The cantata, according to the NBA KB I/22 p. 85 was first performed on September 17, 1730. Nothing is known about later performances for other occasions except that such performances were very likely to have occurred.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (October 3, 2004):
The complex history of BWV 51

[To Thomas Braatz] One should not assume that "Jauchzet Gott" as we know it is entirely a "new" composition. As Joshua Rifkin argues convincinly in his carefully reasoned discussion of the cantata's genesis in the annotations for his splendid 1987 recording with Julianne Baird and the Bach Ensemble (Florilegium Oiseau-Lyre 417-616 2) [33], the evidence, both philological and stylistic, compels the conclusion that, whatever the specific impetus for the composition of BWV 51 during the summer of 1730 may have been, Bach added the concluding two movements to the previous three, which date from the Weimar years.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 3, 2004):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Rifkin is only able to argue this based upon the work of Robert Lewis Marshall, who, in his "The Compositional Process of J. S. Bach: A Study of the Autograph Scores of the Vocal Works" [Princeton Studies in Music 4, Vol. I, p. 19] published in Princeton in 1972, takes note of the fact that the autograph score shows the following:

1. Mvt. 1 is a 'clean copy' which means that it belongs to the category of 'revision copies.'

2. Mvts. 2 & 3, although also fairly 'clean' do show several corrections thus indicating modifications while composing or revising, yet possibly working from another source (a parody?)

3. Mvt. 4 is definitely a 'composing copy' that was completed very likely shortly before its first performance on Sept. 17, 1730.

Ferdinand Zander in "Die Dichter der Kantatentexte Johann Sebastian Bachs," [Cologne, 1967, p. 91,] was the first to point out that Bach had two text variants in various places in mvts. 1 and 3, the second variant being his own, but the former not. These variants are included in smaller type in the NBA score. These text variants may have come from another performance given subsequently to the original one in 1730. The NBA editor, Matthias Wendt [NBA I/22 KB p. 84 [Bärenreiter, 1988] comes to the conclusion that librettist for mvts. 1-3 is unknown and sees no text evidence that would particularly point to the Weimar period philologically.

What stylistic evidence does Rifkin give that the first 3 mvts. belong to the Weimar period? Obviously the date of composition must have been earlier than Sept. 1730, but Bach has also been known to revise/create parodies within months of the composition of the original.

Instead of singing the main, original text by an unknown author "mache deine Güte ferner alle Morgen neu," Julianne Baird uses in mvt. 3 Bach's own, very likely later replacement "mache deine Güte auch bei unsrer Herrschaft neu?" The latter, changed phrase, although still rather ambiguous, seems to refer more to a temporal power such as a regent who might have been present at a subsequent performance of this cantata. Instead of looking backward to Weimar, we are now looking at a post Sept. 1730 date when Bach made these corrections to the text.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 4, 2004):
>>One should not assume that "Jauchzet Gott" as we know it is entirely a "new" composition. As Joshua Rifkin argues convincinly in his carefully reasoned discussion of the cantata's genesis in the annotations for his splendid 1987 recording with Julianne Baird and the Bach Ensemble Florilegium Oiseau-Lyre 417-616 2) [33], the evidence, both philological and stylistic, compels the conclusion that, whatever the specific impetus for the composition of BWV 51 during the summer of 1730 may have been, Bach added the concluding two movements to the previous three, which date from the Weimar years.<<
< Rifkin is only able to argue this based upon the work of Robert Lewis Marshall, who, in his "The Compositional Process of J. S. Bach: A Study of the Autograph Scores of the Vocal Works" [Princeton Studies in Music 4, Vol. I, p. 19] published in Princeton in 1972, takes note of the fact that the autograph score shows the following: (...) >
Dr Rifkin "only" knows this by looking at a single book by Dr Marshall, and not by using the considerable collection of brain cells in his own head beyond that?

And what about Dr Marshall's later 1976 article "Bach the Progressive" in MQ, reprinted in 1989 with a new postscript by Marshall, in The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Sources, the Style, the Significance? That has some things to say about BWV 51, too; recommended.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 4, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Dr Rifkin "only" knows this by looking at a single book by Dr Marshall, and not by using the considerable collection of brain cells in his own head beyond that?<<
Which led Rifkin to speculating about the Weimar origin of this cantata. Where is the stylistic evidence to connect BWV 51 with that period?

>>And what about Dr Marshall's later 1976 article "Bach the Progressive" in MQ, reprinted in 1989 with a new postscript by Marshall, in The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Sources, the Style, the Significance? That has some things to say about BWV 51, too; recommended.<<
Some reasonable and some not so reasonable ideas are found there; for instance, "it could pass for a presentation copy" = there are simply too many errors in Bach's autograph score. The number of errors increases with each mvt. with the last mvt. being the worst in this regard. This is certainly not a presentation copy as Marshall indicates. He may have based his guess only on the facsimiles he included.

Marshall hammers away on the notion that a Leipzig performance must have taken place and would have to have had a male soprano as soloist. The castrato Bindi is mentioned but dropped by Marshall in a footnote. Why would there have to be any Leipzig church cantata performance at all? Dresden had a Lutheran church which was connected to the court there. Faustina Bordoni, Hasse's wife, is excluded because of range, but recently I listed the names of 2 or 3 other female sopranos listed by Walther as being members of the court music (both as choir and soloists) which would service the opera as well as the two denominational churches attached to the court. Wherever singers were needed, these excellent sopranos would be performing.

The possible Dresden connection is of great importance here and is based upon a number of factors that were going on in Bach's life at this time, in short, he was looking elfor employment and Dresden offered some good possibilities musically and professionally. Marshall tries to demonstrate how Bach 'became progressive' in incorporating certain elements of the 'galant style' as well as favoring the Italian style of cantata which the court in Dresden preferred.

The 'Herrschaft' variant which I mentioned on this thread also points more likely toward the presence of the ruler (or his representative) at the church performance in the Lutheran church in Dresden than it would toward a performance in Leipzig where the ruler only appeared rather infrequently and these dates would have been recorded in the Leipzig magazines and newspapers.

By choosing a text with such a vague connection to the Gospel and Epistle for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, Bach was able to allow himself some leeway in case things didn't work out with the performer or the projected performance circumstances. This is probably why he marked the score as also designated "In ogni Tempo."

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 4, 2004):
>>And what about Dr Marshall's later 1976 article "Bach the Progressive" in MQ, reprinted in 1989 with a new postscript by Marshall, in The Music of Johann Sebastian Bach: The Sources, the Style, the Significance? That has some things to say about BWV 51, too; recommended.<<
< Some reasonable and some not so reasonable ideas are found there; for instance, "it could pass for a presentation copy" = there are simply too many errors in Bach's autograph score. The number of errors increases with each mvt. with the last mvt. being the worst in this regard. This is certainly not a presentation copy as Marshall indicates. He may have based his guess only on the facsimiles he included. >
Wow, you're smarter than the Emeritus professor at Brandeis University, Dr Robert L Marshall?!?!?!? And better placed to judge Bach's source material on "errors" and the reading of facsimiles, than he is, such that it's "certainly not a presentation copy as Marshall indicates"?!?!?!?
http://www.brandeis.edu/facguide/one?unetid=109108108108113111115117

Some reasonable and some not so reasonable ideas are found here on these discussion lists. Where, for example, is the reasonable connection between "too many errors" and "certainly not a presentation copy" and the conjecture that Marshall is merely "guessing" by looking at allegedly faulty sources?

Teri Noel Towe wrote (October 5, 2004):
Sean Burton writes:
<< Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51 was most likely composed at some point during the early 1730's for an occasion not known. Scholars conjecture that this cantata may even have been intended to serve as music for New Year's. The joyful text made it suitable for other celebrations in the ecclesiastical year such as Michaelmas Day or even an election of the Council in Leipzig.<<
Thomas Bratz wrote: < Whatever happened to Bach's autograph cover title which states: "Dominica 15 post Trinitatis | et | In ogni Tempo.?" The cantata, according to the NBA KB I/22 p. 85 was first performed on September 17, 1730. Nothing is known about later performances for other occasions except that such performances were very likely to have occurred. >
One should not assume that "Jauchzet Gott" as we know it is entirely a "new" composition. As Joshua Rifkin argues convincinly in his carefully reasoned discussion of the cantata's genesis in the annotations for his splendid 1987 recording with Julianne Baird and the Bach Ensemble (Florilegium Oiseau-Lyre 417-616 2) [33], the evidence, both philological and stylistic, compels the conclusion that, whatever the specific impetus for the composition of BWV 51 during the summer of 1730 may have been, Bach added the concluding two movements to the previous three, which date from the Weimar years.

Sean Burton wrote (October 5, 2004):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Of course the "in ogni tempo" on the autograph carries a reference to the 15th Sunday after Trinity. However the text has no bearing whatsoever on the gospel for that Sunday - Matthew VI. My theory is that it was originally written for some festive occasion and subsequently allotted to a Sunday after Trinity. The truth is, we weren't there and we don't know. Everyone wants the answers. As I grow as a musician and scholar I find myself loving the questions more.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 5, 2004):
Sean Burton wrote:
< The truth is, we weren't there and we don't know. Everyone wants the answers. As I grow as a musician and scholar I find myself loving the questions more. >
I agree, Sean!

Even more dismaying: it appears that almost "everyone" wants easy cut-and-dried answers handed to them, instead of investing themselves in the process of actually doing the work and engaging the multi-faceted questions. The internet is allegedly some vast and free public library where answers are to be handed out, as a substitute for education and practice......

Sean Burton wrote (October 5, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thank you. There are too many armchair conductors eagerly waiting for the opportunity to criticize those of us engaged in the artistic process every day of our lives.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 6, 2004):
Sean Burton wrote:
>> Of course the "in ogni tempo" on the autograph carries a reference to the 15th Sunday after Trinity. However the text has no bearing whatsoever on the gospel for that Sunday - Matthew VI. My theory is that it was originally written for some festive occasion and subsequently allotted to a Sunday after Trinity. The truth is, we weren't there and we don't know. Everyone wants the answers. As I grow as a musician and scholar I find myself loving the questions more.<<
By 'loving the questions more," it is difficult to see how this otherwise careful scholarly attitude translates into striking entirely from the record Bach hand-recorded, initial reference to the 15th Sunday after Trinity. Basing this omission about the occasion for this cantata upon "the text having no bearing whatsoever on the gospel" constitutes insufficient grounds for removing this reference entirely, for other Bach scholars such as Alfred Dürr have stated their more plausible theory with better considerations than your simple 'no' versus 'yes' answer:

Dürr, in his "Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Kantaten" [Bärenreiter, 6th Edition, 1995, p. 600 ff.,] may come closer to the truth by stating, in essence, just because there is 'hardly' a connection between the libretto and the Epistle and Gospel for this particular Sunday of the liturgical year, Bach decided to add the words "In ogni Tempo." However, connections to the Gospel reading do exist between the words of Mvt. 1 "daß er uns in Kreuz und Not allezeit hat beigestanden" relates to Matthew 6:30 "sollte er das nicht viel mehr euch tun, o ihr Kleingläubigen" and in Mvt. 3 the words "mache deine Güte ferner alle Morgen neu" points to Matthew 6:34 "der morgende Tag wird für das Seine sorgen."

Dürr also comments on Bach's effort, as it would appear, to fill a gap still left in his third yearly cantata cycle dating from the year 1726 when the Feast of St. Michael fell on the 15th Sunday after Trinity for which he composed BWV 19, a cantata particularly composed for this feast day leaving, however, the regular Sunday cantata for that year remained 'uncomposed' until 1730.

With the Dresden connection as explained by Marshall, it could be quite possible that one of the excellent singers (not Bindi or Frau Hasse) would have performed this cantata in the Lutheran Church in Dresden on the 15th Sunday after Trinity, but something may have gone wrong with the arrangements as he was working on the cantata, as seen by the evidence in the score as previously discussed. Bach then added "In ogni Tempo" and even modified slthe text [the "Herrschaft" - passage] to make it suitable as a performance with the ruler present on an occasion other than the 15th Sunday after Trinity.

Your theory "that it was originally written for some festive occasion and subsequently allotted to a Sunday after Trinity" is not very plausible for a number of reasons listed above, and your comment "we weren't there and we don't know" is a lame one and may simply be an excuse to avoid the necessary work of researching and coming up with a more reasonable theory than the one you have offered.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Uh oh, now you've done it, Sean. You're being punished and ridiculed for thinking.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (October 6, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"your comment "we weren't there and we don't know" is a lame one and may simply be an excuse to avoid the necessary work of researching and coming up with a more reasonable theory than the one you have offered."
Join the club Sean! You've outed yourself as a practical and professional musician so as sure as night follows day this is the kind of unpleasantness that will be your 'reward' from now on.

Teri Noel Towe wrote (October 6, 2004):
BWV 51 The occasion for which BWV 51 was prepared.

[To Thomas Braatz] First of all, my apologies to the List.

When I looked at the Digest this morning, I realized to my dismay that my laptop evidently "belched" and inadvertently sent back to the list part of the Digest that I had block copied when I stored it.

I politely but firmly disagree with the contention that BWV 51 could not have been written first for a special occasion and then reconfigured to make suitable for an after Trinity Sunday.

My personal theory is that, when one considers the date (1730), "Jauchezet Gott in allen Landen" was the perfect thing for a Bach-Wilcken family celebratory occasion in Weissenfels and was tailored for it expressly. Bach was Capellmeister von Haus to the Ducal court from 1729 - 1736, and he had a close relationship with the Duke that went back to his Weimar years (1713 - BWV 208 was written for Christian von Sachsen-Weissenfels-und-Querfurt's birthday). Anna Magdalena was a soprano and a good one. Her father and brothers were excellent trumpeters.

BWV 51 is a perfect cantata for a family celebration of Bach's appointment, perhaps at a private service in Weissenfels that was tied to a family event, and therefore there would be no official record of its performance.

Anna Magdalena sang the solo vocal part and either her father or one of her brothers played the trumpet part.

Last winter, I heard a wonderful performance of BWV 51, at a graduation recital at the Manhattan School of Music. It was done with one instrument to each line, in a space that sat about 250. It was splendid in every way, and Emsy Tepe's scintillating performance was a cogent reminder that the Cantata need not have been conceived with a public performance in mind, and that it could even have been "Haus Musik,"that was first performed in the Bach or the Wilcken "family room," if you will, without shattering the ear drums of the listeners.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2004):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Well reasoned, TNT, and I think it goes beyond "plausible" to "likely".

And obviously there's nothing that would prevent Bach from whipping up a piece for a family gathering, like this, and then reusing it in church.

Sean Burton wrote (October 6, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"your comment "we weren't there and we don't know" is a lame one and may simply be an excuse to avoid the necessary work of researching and coming up with a more reasonable theory than the one you have offered."
It is my understanding that this is a forum for discussion. It is not, by any means, the Journal of the American Musicological Association or any other scholarly publication. I thought the whole point of this operation was to have a free exchange of ideas. That anyone would offer up their explanations/theories as the only answer is extremely irresponsible. I certainly did not profess my theory as fact. If my comments came across in that fashion, the subscribers have my sincerest apologies. Nonetheless, whether or not anyone likes it, none of us were alive and living in Germany from 1685-1750. This may be the only indisputable fact in the entire discussion and is not merely a "lame" comment. A comprehensive understanding of historical musicology
recognizes its purpose as a search for answers. In the search process, questions arise. This process is fundamental to scholarship. You may be correct about BWV 51. Indeed, Dürr's theory is plausible and I will be sure to read the entire passage you cite in its intended context.

What concerns me more is your tone of response. How arrogant and presumptuous of anyone to accuse a contributor of giving "an excuse to avoid the necessary work."

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 6, 2004):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
>>I politely but firmly disagree with the contention that BWV 51 could not have been written first for a special occasion and then reconfigured to make suitable for an after Trinity Sunday.<<
Just as easily Bach may have begun the write the 1st mvt. or so for the 29th of September 1726 (the 15th Sunday after Trinity) but then realized that the Feast of St. Michaels fell on that particular Sunday and superseded it. He then put the incomplete version of BWV 51 aside and then remembered it in 1730 or 1731 when he had begun 'putting out his feelers' for a possible position at the Dresden court where some truly spectacular vocalists were present. In a sense, Bach was trying 'to kill two birds with one stone': providing a cantata for the 15th Sunday after Trinity in the Dresden Lutheran church with the best vocalist and instrumentalists available, while, at the same time, filling the missing gap left by the intrusion of St. Michael's Feast in 1726.

Another aspect of this is that Bach indicated the description of the occasion as, first of all, the 15th Sunday after Trinity and then, second and last, the "for other occasions as well." By reversing the sequence, Bach would be saying: "This cantata is written for any festive occasion, but you might be able 'to squeeze it in,' that is, make it function just tolerably for the 15th Sunday after Trinity. The latter, however, is only an afterthought which could easily be excluded from consideration entirely." Not very plausible!

Bach did not include, after the fact, the textual connections to the Gospel readings for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, if the current version (the only one that has been found) is considered. These textual connections were there from the start, but changes became necessary as the arrangements for the possible performance in Dresden were being formulated and carried out.

>>.the Cantata need not have been conceived with a public performance in mind, and that it could even have been "Haus Musik,"that was first performed in the Bach or the Wilcken "family room," if you will, without shattering the ear drums of the listeners.<<
This I consider to be highly unlikely. Nowhere have I read that Anna Magdalena Bach was a vocalist of the high caliber needed for a good performance of BWV 51 and where is there any evidence that Bach ever performed any complete cantata with a sacred text in a "Hausmusik" setting? Being brought up in the house of a performing musician, would have given AMB the abilities to sing a normal soprano part cleanly, without mistakes, at sight without difficulty, to be able to play a keyboard instrument (also perhaps while accompanying herself on it) and to copy music parts (she did have problems copying directly from a cantata score and Bach usually allowed her only to copy the doublets because then she could copy from a part that had already been extracted from the full score by another copyist.) To be sure, in the baptismal registers in Cöthen, she is described variously as a 'court singer,' 'Musicantin' [ = 'female, chamber musician'], and only once on the court accounts as the 'Kapellmeister's wife' where she was paid in May and June of 1722 (highly irregular payments are indicated from 1721-1723 only.) Irregular payments of this type made to her were also recorded and did include one occasion where she performed together with her father (one point for Teri, but remember, this was early in her career) at the very small court of Anhalt-Zerbst, and another where she was involved in a 'sister act' in Weissenfels.

On p. 188 of "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" [Norton, 2000] by Christoph Wolff describes the humble situation (compared to Dresden and Leipzig) that existed in Köthen, including "a single Lutheran town church with a poorly maintained organ and no musical life to speak of." On p. 395, Wolff mentions the rather limited extent of AMB's opportunities to sing professionally after 1725 (this while raising all those children and conducting household matters as well!), but does include the good possibility that she accompanied her husband on trips to Weissenfels (her family members) "and perhaps also to Dresden." It is the latter possibility that would have furthered Bach's own future career possibilities, not the trips to Weissenfels, so it seems that this Dresden performance would be more plausible than simply composing this showpiece for a family gathering, or even in a small court setting.

However, the tessitura of the soprano part is extremely high (no mention of AMB's abilities in this regard has ever been recorded.) The cantata includes a virtuoso trumpet part which was expanded by WFB to include a second trumpet and timpani as well. Think of the type of voice it would take to provide a proper balance between all this instruments and a single female voice! Bach, in a letter to his friend, Georg Erdmann in Danzig, dated October 28, 1730, gives a very sober account of his wife's singing ability "she sings a soprano part quite cleanly (= 'hitting all the notes properly and in tune.) ["meine itzige Frau singet gar einen sauberen 'Soprano" {only the verb has switched its position here.}] In giving his assessment of Christoph Friedrich Meißner from Weissenfels, age 13, Bach says "he as a good soprano voice quite usable for performing music." Even Bach is unable to confirm AMB's possession of the truly professional, virtuosic capabilities that BWV 51 requires. It is also quite realistic to assume that AMB may have lost whatever spectacular voice that she might once have possessed, and that she may have been unable to sing BWV 51 properly in 1730.

The trend towards 'chamber-music' performances of complete sacred cantatas by Bach seems to pop up from time to time. Mendelssohn had 4 soloists gather around the piano in his home and they 'read through' some cantatas this way in order to get to know them.

In recent decades there has been an effort to 'demote' Bach's sacred cantatas to 'chamber-music' performances by radically reducing the vocal and instrumental forces employed based upon a number of erroneous assumptions that have been discussed at length on these mailing lists. To be sure, single arias extracted from the Bach cantatas lend themselves more easily to a chamber setting because they are already reduced to the bare minimum of performers needed for performance. It is quite likely that certain arias might have been performed in the Bach house from time to time just for the pleasure of doing so, but Bach, with his keen ear for acoustic properties, would certainly have recognized the difference between a small room in a house and a large church setting. A small, facile voice coupled with some of the 'muffled-sounding' tromba reconstructions that are currently being used and played might work out well in a chamber setting. However, the sound inherent in BWV 51 demands more than a room in a house, or even an intimate hall with 250 people soaking up the reverberations, so that the trumpet and voice can truly develop the magnificent sound in space that BWV 51 requires. Anything less than a church setting comparable to those found in Leipzig and Dresden would be doing an injustice to the intentions that Bach probably had in composing this glorious music.

In composing this cantata, Bach was able to show off his greatest talents following the model of the Italian composers (A. Scarlatti, etc.) who were much admired at the Dresden court. In tight organization and relatively short duration of this cantata, Bach demonstrated five of the most characteristic movement forms of the Baroque: mvt. 1: Concerto; mvt. 2: Monody; mvt. 3: Ostinato Variation; mvt. 4: Florid Treatment of a Chorale; and mvt. 5 (the Alleluja): Fugue. All of this display of his composing talents for a simple "Hausmusik" = a family 'get-together'? It simply does not seem very plausible that this was the case with BWV 51.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 51: Details
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The Need for Bach: A discussion of his life, Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 and Ich habe genung, BWV 82 [S. Burton]

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Last update: żMarch 12, 2012 ż19:52:07