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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 7

Continue from Part 6

Discussions in the Week of July 20, 2008 (2nd round)

Stephen Benson wrote (July 20, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 51 "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!"

...otherwise known as "Murder on the High C's".

The title of a CD featuring the "singing" of Florence Foster Jenkins, that designation seems to fit. There are three high C's in this cantata -- two in the first movement (with the repeat) and one in the third. Listening to my seventh (and last!) version this evening, the excruciating high-C shriek of the soprano, who shall remain anonymous, just about lifted me out of my chair. It was almost as if she, clearly close kin to Jenkins, knew that the only way she was going to achieve her goal was by forcing herself, in the first movement, to press on from the bottom of the run with the intention of getting to the top by sheer force of will. She did.

Unfortunately, she left me shattered in a ditch along the way. She is the perfect example of the soprano who feels that the higher she sings, the louder she has to sing. Maybe it's not a feeling. Maybe it's the only way she can physically get there.

All kidding aside, if the soprano can't cut it, it ain't gonna work! And, all the more kidding aside, it is my understanding that high C's should not pose that much of a challenge to a soprano. To my ears, they clearly did to this singer on this day.

BWV 51, the work itself, in previous years has proven to be a catalyst for discussion, much of it contentious, but all paying tribute to the magnetic effect it has on listeners. Last week, discussion included a version of a cantata (BWV 120a) for which there exists only a single complete recording. This week's boasts a list of 61. Links to the eight pages of recordings and the extensive five- part discussion can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV51.htm . Perhaps it's the sheer profusion of material related to this cantata, both in recordings and in the literature, that provokes so much controversy. Perhaps it's the multiplicity of styles and contrasting ideas they represent. Perhaps it's the focus on a single individual who, for the most part, has to carry the burden of making this all work. Everybody seems to have his own favorite.

With so much already having been written and easily available, I'll keep these opening remarks brief: identification of the primary characteristics of the movements and a sampling of outstanding unresolved issues. For the past couple weeks, there's been ample activity on the List, but precious little devoted to the music itself. Please feel free to weigh in on this cantata. With all that's been said, what remains is still inexhaustible.

Determining the exact origins of BWV 51 has been complicated by several unusual characteristics. Ostensibly first performed in Leipzig on September 17, 1730, the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity, indications are that the work may have been composed for an earlier unspecified occasion. The text and the celebratory style are unrelated to the scripture for that Sunday (which speaks of vanity and faithlessness), Bach originally indicated that the work could be adapted for general use ("et in ogni tempo"), and the designation "Dominica 15 post Trinitatis" only appeared subsequently. As Durr and others have pointed out, the writing is Italianate in its scoring.

As a vehicle for the soprano, BWV 51 in its outer movements is a rigorous test of a soprano's agility, range, and stamina, and in the middle movements of her ability to sing lyrically and with feeling.

Mvt. 1: A brilliant opening aria in C Major that takes the form of a da capo duet between trumpet and soprano. It seems to be generally accepted that the technically demanding trumpet part was written with Bach's favorite trumpeter, Gottfried Reiche, in mind,

Mvt. 2: A recitative that is more lyrical arioso than declamatory in nature. Note the word painting -- the lurching, staggering, uneven melisma -- on 'schwacher' (faltering) and 'lallen' (stammering).

Mvt. 3: A rapturous introspective dal segno aria with the soloist supported by an ostinato walking bass continuo set in triplets where the figures move constantly upward.

Mvt. 4: A chorale fantasia where the cantus firmus soprano melody -- a verse from Johann Gramann's hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" -- is accompanied by a lively and irresistible violin duet and continuo. That, in turn, leads directly into the closing fugato 'Alleluia', prompting the return of the brilliant trumpet accompaniment. It has been suggested that the writing for soprano here is quite instrumental in nature, and the character of the closing takes more the form of a trumpet duet, where the soprano voice plays more the role of a trumpet. That theory is bolstered by the presence of the almost textless closing.

Unresolved is the question of whom Bach had in mind while writing the challenging soprano part, which along with its technical difficulties in range, agility, and stamina, requires an enormous variety of affective color. Was it written for a boy soprano or for a professional female or castrato? Adherents of each position trot out their evidence, and there seems to be reasonable justification for all of them, depending on one's predisposition. There's even the suggestion, well-reasoned, and one that I find attractive, that the piece may have been written for Anna Magdalena Bach and a Bach family celebration in 1730. Anyone interested in that theory can return to the "Discussions - Part 3" on the website where it is detailed and argued.

Unresolved, as well, and linked to the previous question, is the intended site of the performance, whether hall, auditorium, or church.Also unresolved is the exact nature of the trumpet that was used in the initial performances, and the appropriate form of the trumpet and the style of playing to be employed in modern performances. Extensive argument and analysis, again, as with all these questions, is available in the earlier discussions.

Trying to compare recordings, with so many available, is a daunting task. For a long time I found myself listening almost exclusively to one version (Rilling/Auger [28]), but in expanding my listening, I began to appreciate more and more the felicities of other interpretations.

Sincere and technically secure performances are the rule, not the exception, and with so many performances available, the number that please is really surprising. I finally decided that the rating process involved too much nit-picking and that I would be better off being more indiscriminate in accepting what some might see as minor flaws. The less I criticized, the more enjoyment I gained from a larger number of recordings. Of the seven that I have, only one really disappoints me (the Florence Foster Jenkins impersonation of my first paragraph). The other six all make me happy, albeit for different reasons, perhaps. Whatever...

Listen. Enjoy. Respond.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 20, 2008):
BWV 51 "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!" FULL SCORE

[To Stephen Benson] And a reminder that the full score can be downloaded as a PDF at:
http://imslp.org/wiki/Cantatas%2C_BWV_51-60_%28Bach%2C_Johann_Sebastian%29

William Hoffman wrote (July 21, 2008):
Cantata BWV 51: Fugitive Notes (Provenance)

Thank you one and all for the prior, stiumlating discussions.

Fugitive Provenance notes:

Bach may have composed Cantata BWV 51 to fill a gap in his third annual cycle. The distribution of the Bach estate in 1750 shows that in the Third Cycle, beginning with the 13th Sunday After Trinity through the last Sunday, the 23rd after Trinity, C.P.E. received all the scores while Friedemann got all tparts, except for Cantata BWV 169, where Friedemann received both the score and parts. Cantata BWV 169, composed in 1726 for the 18th Sunday after Trinity, opens with a sinfonia adapted from the first movement of the Clavier Concerto, BWV 1053. The adaptation was one of a series probably to showcase Friedemann's keyboard-performing talent. While Duerr's Chronology places Cantata BWV 51 in the third cycle, Wolff (JSB:TLM, p.285) places it in Table 8.12, Cantatas and Related Works outside the Annual Cycles, and lists no cantata for the 15th Sunday After Trinity in Table 8.10, Third Annual Cycle.

There is a supposition in some quarters (I do not have a source) that between 1732 and 1735, Bach may have reperformed Cantata BWV 51, either for the 15th Sunday after Trinity or for the adjoining Feast of St. Michael, based upon adjustments in the text.

Finally, there is documented a Friedemann reperformance of Cantata BWV 51 in Halle, based upon trill additions in the parts for first violin and trumpet as well as two new parts for 2nd trumpet and timpani. This performance may be dated before 1750 (Peter Wollny, Bach Perspectives 2, p. 203-12), while the particular service is not identified. Friedemann was required to present cantatas in Halle every third Sunday as well as feast days. Cantata BWV 31 may have been presented on Easter Sunday between 1746 and 1750, and Cantata BWV 34 possibly was performed on Pentecost Sunday in 1746 or 1747.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 21, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Finally, there is documented a Friedemann reperformance of Cantata BWV 51 in Halle, based upon trill additions in the parts for first violin and trumpet as well as two new parts for 2nd trumpet and timpani. >
Yum, yum! I love Willi's additions to Papa's music! I prefer his edition with trumpets and timpani in Cantata BWV 80, "Ein feste Burg".

Is the music published?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 21, 2008):
<< Finally, there is documented a Friedemann reperformance of Cantata BWV 51 in Halle, based upon trill additions in the parts for first violin and trumpet as well as two new parts for 2nd trumpet and timpani. >>
Christine Schäefer's recording of that version is excellent, with Goebel/MAK [52].

Stephen Benson wrote (July 21, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] The Goebel/Schaefer/MAK recording [52] was one I didn't listen to very often, and I think a large part of that was the WAY in which I listened to it. I think I too often get into the comparative mode, where I play several versions of the same music side-by-side, and when I do that I get too critical about insignificant details. In the case of this recording, I also found the shock of Goebel's tempo somewhat disorienting. Accustomed to the slower tempos of my other six recordings of BWV 51, Goebel's sounded, not just noticeably quicker, but aggressive, as well. After reading Brad's recommendation, I went back and listened to it all by itself, completely out of the context of the "normal" performance tempos for this work. (Goebel's is a good minute-and-a-half faster than the next fastest recording and more than three-and-a-half minutes faster than my longest.) Heard by itself, what I had previously experienced as aggression now became an expression of celebratory excitement.

Certainly, the additional trumpet part and tympani, in themselves a radical departure from the original scoring, may have contributed to the overall effect, but, for the first time, I was able to experience with fresh ears the clamorous exhiliration of the opening aria and the closing Alleluia. Being able to internalize that experience made it much easier to appreciate the beautiful job Schaefer does with the inner movements.

I do have one question, however. Others have commented on how pleased they were that Goebel had slowed things down for this recording. The tempo here seems challenging enough (which Schaefer handles with aplomb)! Could it -- and in particular the opening aria -- possibly be played any faster?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 21, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Accustomed to the slower tempos of my other six recordings of BWV 51, Goebel's [52] sounded, not just noticeably quicker, but aggressive, as well. After reading Brad's recommendation, I went back and listened to it all by itself, completely out of the context of the "normal" performance tempos for this work. (Goebel's is a good minute-and-a-half faster than the next fastest recording and more than three-and-a-half minutes faster than my longest.) Heard by itself, what I had previously experienced as aggression now became an expression of celebratory excitement. Certainly, the additional trumpet part and tympani, in themselves a radical departure from the original scoring, may have contributed to the overall effect, but, for the first time, I was able to experience with fresh ears the clamorous exhiliration of the opening aria and the closing Alleluia. >
When I played it most recently for my young son, he demanded to hear the two outer movements four times each. "Again!" "Again!" Love those drums.

I like the way this performance uses both harpsichord and organ, sometimes together, sometimes separately.

Stephen Benson wrote (July 21, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< When I played it most recently for my young son, he demanded to hear the two outer movements four times each. "Again!" "Again!" >
We stubborn ole' Swedes, combined with ye stubborn ole' New England Yankees, take a little longer to come to our senses.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 21, 2008):
BWV 51 - Italian Influences

I know I'm a bit obsessed with Bach's connection with Dresden, but I'm wondering if there is specific Italian repertoire which was performed there which could have influenced Cantata BWV 51. For instance, Vivaldi's Concerto Grosso in C major ('in ogni instrumenti') has striking similarities.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< ...otherwise known as "Murder on the High C's".
The title of a CD featuring the "singing" of Florence Foster Jenkins, that designation seems to fit. There are three high C's in this cantata -- two in the first movement (with the repeat) and one in the third.
And, all the more kidding aside, it is my understanding that high C's should not pose that much of a challenge to a soprano. >
Right. Although in principle, if this cantata was performed in church, presumably the soprano would have to be male. And there are not a lot of male sopranos (juvenile or otherwise) out there who have a high C. I remember hearing a recording of such a person on an old web site which people who have been on list for a while may remember, but has been shut down. It was a boy soprano, tone quality OK but in terms of rhythm and expression... uneven. Not something I'd want to emulate.

< "Dominica 15 post Trinitatis" only appeared subsequently. As Durr and others have pointed out, the writing is Italianate in its scoring. >
Could I ask you to elaborate? The only difference that I've seen between it and other cantatas is that it uses a trumpet as the solo instrument, and the melodic aspect of the trumpet part strikes me as 'idiomatically trumpet'. So, obviously a bit different from the string or oboe solo parts that appear in the cantatas.

< As a vehicle for the soprano, BWV 51 in its outer movements is a rigorous test of a soprano's agility, range, and stamina, >
Yeah, your instrument does have to be in good shape physically to be able to do it properly.

< That, in turn, leads directly into the closing fugato 'Alleluia', prompting the return of the brilliant trumpet accompaniment. It has been suggested that the writing for soprano here is quite instrumental in nature, and the character of the closing takes more the form of a trumpet duet, where the soprano voice plays more the role of a trumpet. That theory is bolstered by the presence of the almost textleclosing. >
I've always, ever since I was a child, had the impression that all the Baroque oratorio/cantata repertoire treats the voice as an instrument. Particularly when singing fast passages, I would 'pretend I was a violin', and presto, the articulation would come out properly. I must say, however, that there is a clear difference in the articulation of the voice part in this cantata. I definitely would say the above comments apply to the first movement as well as the fifth.

I remember listening to that boy soprano I mentioned earlier, and it seems this point had escaped him. I found him articulating certain bits in a distinctly un-trumpetlike manner, and frankly it was a little annoying. In particular, what stands out is the B section of the ABA form (namely 'Was der Himmel und die Welt / an Geschoepfen in sich haelt / muessen dessen Ruhm erhoe--------------------hen' etc.) there are some quite gymnastic leaps on that long syllable which I bet it would not even cross a trumpeter's mind to do with a legato articulation. And it never crossed my mind either, until I heard that recording...

Another thing I want to say about the matter of gender. This matter has been touched upon in private correspondence with someone off-list, and yes, I agree with the sentiments expressed by my correspondent that this piece is challenging for a female soprano. It is one of those pieces that has a definite 'male' feel to it, although given the high range it is far from obvious at first go. I'd say that for a woman to do it properly, she has to place her voice a little differently from usual, and it is more difficult to place it in a 'male' way given the register issue. Male alto placement is much easier to do.

When I talk about different types of placement, I mean setting up the organs involved in producing sound, in a particular way, to get a particular tone quality result.

< Unresolved is the question of whom Bach had in mind while writing the challenging soprano part, which along with its technical difficulties in range, agility, and stamina, requires an enormous variety of affective color. Was it written for a boy soprano or for a professional female or castrato? Adherents of each position trot out their evidence, and there seems to be reasonable justification for all of them, depending on one's predisposition. >
My disposition is that of a female soprano. I've already given my thoughts on the gender of the intended performer. My only question here is whether the person was to be a juvenile or an adult. I would lean towards a juvenile, because it seems to me an adult castrato might be a bit too unwieldy to manage the pyrotechnics. Although then again, can a juvenile produce an appropriate trumpetlike sound? You know what, when I practice tomorrow, if I'm feeling up to doing 'Jauchzet...' I will try it with a consciously 'adult' tone quality similar to what one might use for Mozart's 'Exsultate, jubilate' - which is very evidently written for an adult male - and see what I come up with. All for now.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 22, 2008):
BWV 51 "Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!" - Castrati

Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< My only question here is whether the person was to be a juvenile or an adult. I would lean towards a juvenile, because it seems to me an adult castrato might be a bit too unwieldy to manage the pyrotechnics. >
Castrati such as Farinelli were legendary for both their extraordinary range and quicksilver.

Some of the modern male sopranos make an extraodinary sound. The folllowing clip is the aria, "Se in Campo Armato" from Ferrandini's "Catone in Utica" sung by Robert Crowe. The coloratura of both voice and trumpet gives us a good context for "Jauchzet Gott":
http://www.robertcrowe.com/12%20Se%20in%20campo%20armato.mp3

And if curiosity gets the better of you, here's what the singer looks like:
http://www.robertcrowe.com/

The last castrato In the Sistine Choir was recorded in 1902. He was reputedly never a great singer and is recorded at the end of his career but you can hear many of the distinctive qualities of the castrato voice:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbV6PGAWaIU&feature=related

Although it's pretty certain that neither male castrato or woman ever sang in St. Thomas'. Leipzig, during Bach's tenure, I'm curious about the protocols in Dresden. Castrati sang in the catholic Chapel Royal but did they also sing in the Lutheran chapels of the court and in the churches of the city? I suspect the Lutherans were probably not sympathetic.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 22, 2008):
BWV 51

Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
>My disposition is that of a female soprano. I've already given my thoughts on the gender of the intended performer. My only question here is whether the person was to be a juvenile or an adult. I would lean towards a juvenile, because it seems to me an adult castrato might be a bit too unwieldy to manage the pyrotechnics. Although then again, can a juvenile produce an appropriate trumpetlike sound?<
Ouch! I think we need to draw the line on specifically HIP practice at this point. Give it your 21st century best effort, boys or ladies.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (July 22, 2008):
Douglas Cowling asks, regading Italian influences]:
< I know I'm a bit obsessed with Bach's connection with Dresden, but I'm wondering if there is specific Italian repertoire which was performed there which could have influenced Cantata BWV 51. >

Big time! Alessandro Scarlatti wrote quite a few cantatas for solo voice, basso continuo and a trumpet solo. Maybe Fux and Caldara's operas were an influence too? There are quite a few arias from their operas that have extremely difficult trumpet parts. Edward Tarr has a book that deals specifically with this material.

The connection between Fux/Caldara with Dresden would have been via Zelenka (he studied with Fux). Telemann also wrote a few cantatas in this vein for his "Harmony in God's Service" which he published himself.

William Hoffman wrote (July 22, 2008):
[Italian influences] My best source is the extensive notes in the recording Baroque Duet, Kathleen Battle and Wynton Marsalis (Sony 1992). Besides some very apporpriate and pertinent music -- Scarlatti, Stradella, Handel Predieri and JSB BWV 51/1,4 -- there are extensive, exemplary notes from Ellen T. Harris, including the famous Farinelli challenge as well as the composers' recorded music.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (July 22, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding Italian influences] Actually, the Italian influence on Bach's music goes farther back than that--all the way back to his youth and young manhood. Some fruits of this influence were BWV 540, 588, 589, 590, 592-597, 592a, 574 (and 574a-b), 579, 972-987, 949-951, and 1046-1065.

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 22, 2008):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote, regarding Castrati:
< Although in principle, if this cantata was performed in church, presumably the soprano would have to be male. And there are not a lot of male sopranos (juvenile or otherwise) out there who have a high C. I remember hearing a recording of such a person on an old web site which people who have been on list for a while may remember, but has been shut down. It was a boy soprano, tone quality OK but in terms of rhythm and expression... uneven. Not something I'd want to emulate. >
Personally, in my opinion there would be no reason why the matter of this cantata being performed in church would suggest a male personage. All of the great recordings I've heard vary, and some of the women have a more operatic approach, while some have a lighter pure tone. As a singer I always come back to the basics--a voice is simply a voice, and the variety of voices is wonderful. I am completely sure a female singer could be just as inspirational as a male singer, and I do not at all sense this piece to be one of male c...especially in the final Alleluia. Neither do I find the Exulatate Jubilate, which I can also sing to be male in character. Alleluia is a great term of praise regardless of sex.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
[Jean Laaninen, regarding Castrati] Of course I agree. But the fact of the matter is, we have evidence that the 18th-century crowd didn't - there was apparently a prohibition on women singing in church. As far as I know, if someone knows better they can correct me, they were in fact expected to be completely silent during the services. This was no doubt their interpretation of certain passages in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2. To this day, in the Lutheran Church in Poland, furthermore, women are permitted to preach, they are permitted to sing non-liturgical sacred music during the service, they are even permitted to lead the service, but they are not allowed to be pastors and (with only one exception that I know of: a young lady who, in addition to being a seminary graduate, is studying to be a professional singer - but even that exception required a LONG conversation with the bishop) they are not allowed to sing their part of the liturgy if they are leading it. So there are vestiges of this attitude in Europe even today.

Jane Newble wrote (July 22, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding Castrati]
What about this boy soprano?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzstMw2ZB30&feature=related
It seems to me that he would be able to sing 'Jauchzet' without too many problems.
One of the comments stated that this is Robin Schlotz from the Tölzer Knabenchor near Munich in Germany.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 22, 2008):
[To Jane Newble, regarding Castrati] Amazing. He is good even on the high F's (a 4th higher than the high C's in 'Jauchzet").

Also, have a listen to an excellent performance of BWV 51/1 with boy soprano Clint Van Der Linde [42], which can be accessed in the 'Files' section of this list (top left of this page - 2nd item from the bottom).

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
[To Jane Newble, regarding Castrati] OH yeah. He'd do it without any problem, and with a proper trumpetlike sound too ;;) I wonder if he's done it already?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote, regarding Castrai:
< Castrati such as Farinelli were legendary for both their extraordinary range and quicksilver. >
No doubt the best of the lot had that.

< Some of the modern male sopranos make an extraodinary sound. The folllowing clip is the aria, "Se in Campo Armato" from Ferrandini's "Catone in Utica" sung by Robert Crowe. The coloratura of both voice and trumpet gives us a good context for "Jauchzet Gott":
http://www.robertcrowe.com/12%20Se%20in%20campo%20armato.mp3 >
Wasn't able to get this link to work. But I did manage to open another link, and while there wasn't any coloratura, the voice is evidently light enough to handle that sort of thing precisely.

< And if curiosity gets the better of you, here's what the singer looks like:
http://www.robertcrowe.com/ >
Yum! ;-)

< The last castrato In the Sistine Choir was recorded in 1902. He was reputedly never a great singer and is recorded at the end of his career but you can hear many of the distinctive qualities of the castrato voice:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HbV6PGAWaIU&feature=related
Although it's pretty certain that neither male castrato or woman ever sang in St. Thomas'. Leipzig, during Bach's tenure, I'm curious about the protocols in Dresden. Castrati sang in the catholic Chapel Royal but did they also sing in the Lutheran chapels of the court and in the churches of the city? I suspect the Lutherans were probably not sympathetic. >
The weird part is that the Catholics would be, given their views on procreation and such... I mean, it's one thing to be celibate and voluntarily not make use of one's procreative ability, but quite another to artificially get rid of this ability entirely. Isn't that sort of thing prohibited in the Catholic Church nowadays (except out of medical necessity)? Are there any Catholics on list who can tell us what the rules are now?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I agree that gender doesn't matter, but tone quality does. What I'm saying is that to get the right tone quality, a female soprano might have to fiddle with the placement and do things a little differently from usual. Although that having been said, I must say that as the register gets higher and higher, the difference between male and female gets less and less. So it gets easier to cross the line if need be.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote, regarding Castrati:
< Also, have a listen to an excellent performance of BWV 51/1 with boy soprano Clint Van Der Linde [42], which can be accessed in the 'Files' section of this list (top left of this page - 2nd item from the bottom). >

Umm, I would beg to differ whether it's excellent. He does keep the rhythm even, and is for the most part in tune. I've heard much worse in this regard. The high C's are, however, very evidently the very top of his range. But there are three things that really bug me:

1) There's not enough expressive and dynamic contrast between the A and B sections of the ABA form.

2) There's a breathy quality suggesting his vocal cords are not closing properly. I hope he didn't injure himself by singing such material at such a young age. At any rate this breathy tone quality seriously detracts from any trumpetlike quality to the singing. And

3) I definitely prefer a much crisper articulation. Really - he slurs bits that I bet it would never cross any trumpeter's mind to slur. And to me, the effect is a bit sloppy... Any trumpeters on list want to comment?

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 22, 2008):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:, regarding Castrati:
< Of course I agree. But the fact of the matter is, we have evidence that the 18th-century crowd didn't - there was apparently a prohibition on women singing in church. As far as I know, if someone knows better they can correct me, they were in fact expected to be completely silent during the services. This was no doubt their interpretation of certain passages in I Corinthians 14 and I Timothy 2. To this day, in the Lutheran Church in Poland, furthermore, women are permitted to preach, they are permitted to sing non-liturgical sacred music during the service, they are even permitted to lead the service, but they are not allowed to be pastors and (with only one exception that I know of: a young lady who, in addition to being a seminary graduate, is studying to be a professional singer - but even that exception required a LONG conversation with the bishop) they are not allowed to sing their part of the liturgy if they are leading it. So there are vestiges of this attitude in Europe even today. >
Change does come slowly in some circles. But in the USA for most Lutherans these old boundaries do not exist, and I have taken the role of liturgist on occasion here as have many women. The ELCA has had many women as pastors for decades, but sadly unfortunately to my taste we do not have the cantatas on a regular basis for what are probably sufficient reasons...but that is another topic. I have to say I am glad that the old taboos have been broken.

Thanks for sharing this history, and I am hopeful that one day greater freedoms will exist in Europe where they do not yet.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 22, 2008):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:, regarding Castrati:
< I mean, it's one thing to be celibate and voluntarily not make use of one's procreative ability, but quite another to artificially get rid of this ability entirely. Isn't that sort of thing prohibited in the Catholic Church nowadays (except out of medical necessity)? >
The CathoChurch has always officially condemned the practice of voluntary or coerced castration while continuing to enjoy its musical benefits from the late 16th century until 1903 when Pius X reestablished the Sistine Chapel and introduced boys. Until that time, only falstettists and castrati sang in the papal choir.

"Incomplete" men have never been able to become priests, a prohibition which goes back to the earliest centuries of the church, long before the voice became a musical vogue. The Sistine Chapel choir was supposed to be all clerics -- Palestrina was dismissed because he was a married layman -- but the rules were "overlooked" as the popularity of the castrati increased.

Interestingly, both the Anglican and Lutheran churches seem never to have permitted castrati to sing in church although both maintained a no-woman policy which is still in evidence in the principal cathedral and collegiate choirs (St. Thomas is an all-male affair). Handel managed to slip in a few women at the Chapel Royal as soloists and there was a grudging acceptance of women as soloists in Bach's time, although never in his churches. Castrati did sing in Handel's oratorios but these were performed in theatres and never in churches -- the Bishop of London prohibited performances of "Messiah" in church.

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 22, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote, regarding Castrati:
< Interestingly, both the Anglican and Lutheran churches seem never to have permitted castrati to sing in church although both maintained a no-woman policy which is still in evidence in the principal cathedral and collegiate choirs (St. Thomas is an all-male affair). Handel managed to slip in a few women at the Chapel Royal as soloists and there was a grudging acceptance of women as soloists in Bach's time, although never in his churches. Castrati did sing in Handel's oratorios but these were performed in theatres and never in churches -- the Bishop of London prohibited performances of "Messiah" in church. >
You've provided some interesting historical detail. In my era our choir was mixed, but perhaps to cater to varying tastes and history, we also broke into male and female choirs for a portion of our performance tour. I never did consider that the reason for this might also have a historical basis because by the 1960s many of the prejudices against women were beginning to disappear, and thankfully most of them are gone in this sector of the world. Jean Laaninen

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 22, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote, regarding Castrati:
< "Incomplete" men have never been able to become priests, a prohibition which goes back to the earliest centuries of the church, >
Even further than that. No doubt others on this list are more precisely familiar with the rules, but it seems to me that back in the days when there was a temple in Israel, the same applied to the priests who did (or didn't) serve there as well...

Stephen Benson wrote (July 23, 2008):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
<< "Dominica 15 post Trinitatis" only appeared subsequently. As Durr and others have pointed out, the writing is Italianate in its scoring. >>
< Could I ask you to elaborate? The only difference that I've seen between it and other cantatas is that it uses a trumpet as the solo instrument, and the melodic aspect of the trumpet part strikes me as 'idiomatically trumpet'. So, obviously a bit different from the string or oboe solo parts that appear in the cantatas. >
With respect to the scoring, Simon Heighes, in the Bach volume of the Oxford Composer Companions edited by Malcolm Boyd, states, "It is scored for a soprano, obbligato trumpet, and strings, a combination found in Italian cantatas, such as 'Su le sponde del Tebro' by Alessandro Scarlatti (1660-1725), but unique among Bach's cantatas, and with few if any direct parallels in the German cantata repertory as a whole." He goes on to point out: " 'Jauchzet Gott' is similar in structure to the Italian solo motet (da capo aria--recitative--da capo aria, leading into an 'Alleluja'), but Bach added a chorale before the final movement. The opening movement is related to the trumpet arias of contemporary Italian 'opera seria', dominated throughout by fanfare figures and virtuoso word-painting, though its heroic tone is here directed toward the praise of God...It [the chorale] leads directly into the final 'Alleluja', one in a long line of such coloratura movements typical of the Italian motet..."

With nothing other than a general impression on which to base it, I would also like to suggest that the arioso-like nature of the recitative might be more typically Italian than German. (For Ed's benefit, I would like to add that that observation is mere speculation on my part. Long live speculation!)

Stephen Benson wrote (July 24, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote [Castrati]:
< The Catholic Church has always officially condemned the practice of voluntary or coerced castration while continuing to enjoy its musical benefits from the late 16th century until 1903 when Pius X reestablished the Sistine Chapel and introduced boys. Until that time, only falstettists and castrati sang in the papal choir. >
Compare this to Charles Burney's comments in his journals from his continental trip in 1770: "[I]t is my opinion that this cruel operation is but too frequently performed without trial or at least without sufficient proofs of a dawning and improvable voice -- otherwise there could never be found such numbers of them in every great town throughout Italy without any voice at all -- or at least without one sufficient to compensate for the loss."

A footnote (presumably interpolated by H. Edmund Poole, the editor of the 1969 Folio Society edition of Burney's journals) adds:
"According to Samber 'when they used to cut children in their most tender Infancy, there were 200 Eunuchs made, which proved to be good for nothing': the children were thus made doubly miserable, they were maimed in body and their voice was good for nothing 'and it is certain, nothing in Italy is so contemptible as a Eunuch that cannot sing'."

The reference to Samber is to Robert Samber's 1718 English translation -- "Eunuchism Display'd" -- of Charles Ancillon's 1707 "Traité des Eunuchs".

Jane Newble wrote (July 24, 2008):
After non-stop listening through the only 5 recordings I have of this cantata, I am quite ready to hear a bass voice, e.g. Klaus Mertens singing "Ich habe genug" :)

Elly Ameling [20] was really the only one I felt comfortable with, and Ruth Holton [54] came second. Maria Stader was surprisingly good, although I did not like her vibrato voice in the chorale.

While I was listening, I tried to figure out why this difficult soprano voice was written to these words. Ignoring any scholarly speculations, it suddenly hit me as I was reading along with the singing.

The words in the Recitativ belie the extremely wonderful and difficult praise in the music. It is as if even the most jubilant virtuoso singing is only a "schwache Mund" and "schlechtes Lob", when it comes to praising God's majesty and works.

It is possible that Bach would never have written those words himself, and puts this praise into the highest form a human voice can manage. Something like "I'll show you what a "schwaches Mund" can do".

On the other hand, he may have felt just the opposite - that even the highest notes are only reached with difficulty, and that he would have liked to write the music even higher without the limitations of the human voice.Just some musings.

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 24, 2008):
Jane Newble wrote: ".
< On the other hand, he may have felt just the opposite - that even the highest notes are only reached with difficulty, and that he would have liked to write the music even higher without the limitations of the human voice. Just some musings.>
Generally speaking, even altos can vocalize up to a high 'C' in rehearsal. But only some voices have a vibrant ring at this peak. As a person who sings a few notes beyond and who knows other singers who do the same, climbing this moutakes preparation, but I do not believe one must necessarily stand in awe of these notes. The climb up to that point is an exciting preparation and if the 'c' fits into the context of the whole voice that is great. In a light voice the high note will not ring so much, but will be in context with the scalar pattern. In an operatic voice, or the right acoustic the higher notes will ring more definitively, but they are very short really. I doubt Bach would have been as concerned about the range as with the motive that leads to the top of the mountain, as that is what builds the excitement musically.

John Pike wrote (July 25, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Many thanks to Brad, who alerted us to the Goebel/MAK/Schaefer recording [52] of WFB's recording of this. It sounded too good to miss, so I ordered a copy and listened to it this morning. Personally, I found it absolutely thrilling at this speed and I loved the additional parts. I think I prefer the original but it's great fun to hear this version as well.

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (July 25, 2008):
I don't know about any of you; but I've NEVER heard a satisfactory rendition of this piece; especially the last number. There's something about it that makes it very difficult to interpret convincingly. Even more so, on the high C: how are you supposed to interpret a boring arpeggio that ends with the most sacred of all words (ja) on the highest note Bach ever wrote for a sacred soprano piece???

If I have to listen to one more snidely sung rendition of this piece I'll probably throw the cd against the wall. Today it seems that it is recorded more to show off virtuosity then the proper interpretive reverence. I don't like the early recordings any more than the latter. That being said; I've only listened to five recordings (two old and three new). Perhaps someone here has listened to a recording they actually enjoy. If they have, I'd like to know. :)

I'd be interested in hearing some of the tenors of today have a go at it (an octave down, of course). At least we'd get more of a perceived variation in timbre. I know this is sacrilege, but I'd still be interested in hearing it.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (July 25, 2008):
Jeremy Vosburgh wrote:
< I don't know about any of you; but I've NEVER heard a satisfactory rendition of this piece; especially the last number. There's something about it that makes it very difficult to interpret convincingly. Even more so, on the high C: how are you supposed to interpret a boring arpeggio that ends with the most sacred of all words (ja) on the highest note Bach ever wrote for a sacred soprano piece??? >
The Alleluia is definitely a movement where the singer has to imitate a trumpet. That kind of arpeggio sounds quite trumpetlike, don't you think? And especially since there is a trumpet to duo (duel?) with...

Joel Figen wrote (July 25, 2008):
Jeremy Vosburgh wrote:
< I don't know about any of you; but I've NEVER heard a satisfactory rendition of this piece; especially the last number. There's something about it that makes it very difficult to interpret convincingly. Even more so, on the high C: how are you supposed to interpret a boring arpeggio that ends with the most sacred of all words (ja) on the highest note Bach ever wrote for a sacred soprano piece??? >
Odd, I've always felt the most sacred word is "nein" for the following reasons:

1. It protects chastity
2. It aids in weight loss
3. It dispels charlatans and heretics

All in all, a most sacred word :)

I think you're being too hard on us poor singers here. I'm far from a score-fundy, but how much interpretation does it take? 4 notes, staccato on the first three. That about does it for me. This is absolute music, there's no plot. Nothing to convince. There's a text, but at this point, it's all one word over and over Just singing bach's glorious notes is enough to convince me.

Also, would Bach write a boring arpeggio? The"boring" arpeggio is answered by an inverse phrase in the orchestra, as if heaven were responding to the schlechtes Lob from a schwacher Mund with greater blessings (doubled notes). So it's a musical representation of the ideas presented in the recit. (And similar ideas are found throughout the epistles.)

I'm being a pissant here, but the word "ja" isn't really in there, it's al-le-lu-ja. The fact that it's all one word does a lot to stabilize the "interpretation"

< I'd be interested in hearing some of the tenors of today have a go at it (an octave down, of course). At least we'd get more of a perceived variation in timbre. I know this is sacrilege, but I'd still be interested in hearing it. >
Superb notion - all you ultra-authenticists take note: bach would have done the same, had his soprano come up lame that day.

Yes, yes, there's the issue of invertibility - when you change (some) fifths to fourths, you run afoul of some old harmony rules, but quite frankly, to my admittedly modern ears, a fourth is as good as a fifth except perhaps in the lowest register. The main problem therefore is that when an aria and an obligato part are inverted, sometimes the more interesting part is lower and therefore less salient. Country singers manage to make that work, so it's just a matter of rehearsal to make the lower part be more prominent.

I'd go further: transpose it for altos and basses as well. This will raise hob with the trumpet part, but some sort of horn or double reed will be able to step in.

I know it's singable, since I sing it in the bass range. This is one of those pieces that's not quite as difficult as it sounds. For some reason the notes lie in easy places for me to get to, rather like Telemann's fast recorder solos. One feature that makes it relatively easy to sing is that the fireworks of the Alleluja are interrupted by a nice little fugue for strings (probably the only place the viola part is needed) giving the singer plenty of time to rest up for those "boring" arpeggios.

Also, Bach's high c would be closer to what we'd consider a b flat.... when I was a boy I could easily manage an octave higher than a high c. How then should this be sung: effortlessly!

Stephen Benson wrote (July 25, 2008):
Joel Figen wrote:
< Country singers >
Isn't that an oxymoron? : )

< Also, Bach's high c would be closer to what we'd consider a b flat.... >
The answer to one of those questions I meant to ask -- thanks for reading my mind!

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 26, 2008):
Jeremy Vosburgh wrote:
< I don't know about any of you; but I've NEVER heard a satisfactory rendition of this piece; especially the last number. There's something about it that makes it very difficult to interpret convincingly. Even more so, on the high C: how are you supposed to interpret a boring arpeggio that ends with the most sacred of all words (ja) on the highest note Bach ever wrote for a sacred soprano piece??? >
Joel Figen responded:
< Odd, I've always felt the most sacred word is "nein" for the following reasons:
1. It protects chastity
2. It aids in weight loss
3. It dispels charlatans and heretics
All in all, a most sacred word :)
[...]
I'm being a pissant here, but the word "ja" isn't really in there, it's al-le-lu-ja. The fact that it's all one word does a lot to stabilize the "interpretation" >
Ed Myskowski (pissant extraordinaire?) adds:
The etymology of <hallelujah> (Mvt. 4/5) seems to be (OED), praise the lord, Jehovah, or Jah. The high c in Mvt. 1 is on <Jauch-zet>, praise (?). This from a quick look at score and references (and no pretense at expertise), and after listening to a few recordings. Corrections (courteous) welcome. The emphasis on <ja>, repeated from Mvt. 1 to Mvt. 4/5 is probably significant, and Bach at his most subtle and sublime, IMO.

JV:
< I'd be interested in hearing some of the tenors of today have a go at it (an octave down, of course). At least we'd get more of a perceived variation in timbre. I know this is sacrilege, but I'd still be interested in hearing it. >
JF:
< Superb notion - all you ultra-authenticists take note: bach would have done the same, had his soprano come up lame that day. >
EM:
<Bach might have done the same> is more ac, and even so quite speculative?

JF:
< One feature that makes it relatively easy to sing is that the fireworks of the Alleluja are interrupted by a nice little fugue for strings (probably the only place the viola part is needed) giving the singer plenty of time to rest up for those "boring" arpeggios. >
EM:
Thanks for pointing out the fugue. The counterpoint throughout Mvt 4/5 is outstanding, and perhaps a bit overlooked in our discussions of the trumpet/soprano pyrotechnics? Or perhaps I just need to read a bit more. Either way, comment appreciated.

JF:
< Also, Bach's high c would be closer to what we'd consider a b flat.... when I was a boy I could easily manage an octave higher than a high c. How then should this be sung: effortlessly! >
EM:
<When I was a boy, I could hit a golf ball over that tree right to the green.
[kid hits shot into tree]
Of course, that was fifty years ago, and the tree was only a meter [three feet is the exact quote, I believe] tall back then.>
Paraphrase of USA financial planning commercial.

Apologies for the OT coda. Thanks to everyone, especially vocalists, for the informative BWV 51 posts, and to Steve Benson for the fine introductions.

And to JF: ja,ja, for stimulating ideas. I will leave it to the vocalists to comment on that effortless octave above high c.

Terejia wrote (July 26, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/28729
< Mvt. 1: A brilliant opening aria in C Major that takes the form of a da capo duet between trumpet and soprano. It seems to be generally accepted that the technically demanding trumpet part was written with Bach's favorite trumpeter, Gottfried Reiche, in mind, >
I suppose many are already aware of, and someone may well have already pointed out long before my writing, that the beginning notes are the same as K 299, Concert for Flute, Harp and Orchestra by Mozart, and that both in C-dur?

< Mvt. 2: A recitative that is more lyrical arioso than declamatory in nature. Note the word painting -- the lurching, staggering, uneven melisma -- on 'schwacher' (faltering) and 'lallen' (stammering).
Mvt. 3: A rapturous introspective dal segno aria with the soloist supported by an ostinato walking bass continuo set in triplets where the figures move constantly upward.
Mvt. 4: A chorale fantasia where the cantus firmus soprano melody -- a verse from Johann Gramann's hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" -- is accompanied by a lively and irresistible violin duet and continuo. >
I like violin duet here.

< That, in turn, leads directly into the closing fugato 'Alleluia', prompting the return of the brilliant trumpet accompaniment. It has been suggested that the writing for soprano here is quite instrumental in nature, and the character of the closing takes more the form of a trumpet duet, where the soprano voice plays more the role of a trumpet. That theory is bolstered by the presence of the almost textless closing. >
To my personal ears trumpet sounds like God's victory. Ascending Allelujah sounds like ascending to Heaven, with trumpet of, maybe angel? Just my personal feeling.

J. Laurson wrote (July 26, 2008):
Jeremy Vosburgh wrote:
< That being said; I've only listened to five recordings (two old and three new). Perhaps someone here has listened to a recording they actually enjoy. If they have, I'd like to know. :)
I'd be interested in hearing some of the tenors of today have a go at it (an octave down, of course). At least we'd get more of a perceived variation in timbre. I know this is sacrilege, but I'd still be interested in hearing it. >
Why would transposing Bach (Bach, of all composers - and by on octave, of all intervals), be sacrilege?? Who hasn't heard BWV 82 "'Nuff" in all its variations and found them all pleasing, especially the non-original alto transposition? Wherever there is singing, there will be transposing.

Most composers' attitudes are, were, or should have been like Poulenc's, who responded (per post-card) to Gérard Souzay's request simply with: "transposez-moi!".

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (July 26, 2008):
Thanks for the inciteful responses, all.

I would say that Hallelu means to praise and yah, is the name of God. And perhaps the reason the high C (B and 1/3 flat) is so important to me is because God's name is the last in the arpeggio. I agree that it needn't sound forced or strained. I also remember being a boy soprano and being able to effortlessly hit a double high C. I also remember hitting high G's without the falsetto. :) I also remember dealing the envy of the choir master and the women, which positively choked my enjoyment of singing at a young age (10) (I only returned to it when I was 20). This is a shame because I was still vocalizing good regular high C's when I was 16; two years after my voice broke. :(

As for whether or not the the trumpet is supposed to be in a duet with the singer or a duel.... I would probably say it is not a duel because the trumpet doesn't sound particularly evil (I say "probably" because they could still be in a duel if they were both "good."). But then again, like I said, I've never heard a seamless performance of this piece. It always seems like either the instrument or the voice is winning. It might be nice, during a modern performance, to have both the singer and the trumpeter stand next to each; so as to appreciate each other's company and message more; and bring out the comraderie that is inherent in the score between the two lines. The piece seems to be slightly militaristic and the two lines seem like war buddies encouraging each other, or at the very least two brothers (the younger being the singer).

As usual, others have displayed a more formal knowledge of the piece in question, and so I would step to the side now. But again, I would ask; if anyone HAS heard a recording they genuinely were touched by.

 

Continue on Part 8

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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