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Cantata BWV 55
Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of February 3, 2008 (2nd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 55 - Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht

Discussion for the week of February 3, 2008

Cantata BWV 55 - Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht (I, wretched man, I, slave of sin)

Date of composition for first performance, November 17, 1726, 22nd Sunday after Trinity.

Data on recordings, and links to text, readings for the day, commentary, and score (piano reduction), can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV55.htm

A link to the previous round of discussions is also available on that page, or directly at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV55-D.htm

I had planned to find some appropriate words from Craig Smith to open the concluding introduction of my short series, and to acknowledge my debt to Craig for planting the seed of the Bach Cantatas in my heart, with weekly performances of live music. I was unable to attend the memorial concert for Craig this evening, and I hoped this could be an appropriate alternative. When I went to the Emmanuel Music commentary link, I was surprised to find not Craigs characteristic original thoughts, but rather a quote from a secondary source, which begins:

<One of the emotions which artists of the baroque period were wont to portray with intense realism is religious confession of sin. In realizing the enormous guilt of sinful man in the expiatory death of Christ, Schutz and Bach join issue in warmth of expression with the greatest accuser of the human heart – St. Augustine. [. . .] His [Bachs] tenor cantata <Ich armer Mensch>, written about 1731/32 [sic] for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity, intensifies the pathos of Schutz to a confession of sin amounting almost to spiritual self-torture. Hardly ever – not even in Wagners Parsifal – has the nullity of human nature and its need for redemption been expressed so passionately and so acutely as here, with no glimmer of hope or comfort till the end. [. . .]
-- Prof. Dr. Arnold Schering, Berlin 1930>

I pondered a bit, but decided that the most respectful thing to do would be to forge ahead with that quote from the EM notes. I had the opportunity from time to time to let Craig know that his work enriches my life, and I felt we both took comfort in those exchanges. I trust he has comfort at the end, as well, especially because he lives on in our memories.

I also wondered if there is not a bit of irony in Craigs choice of quotation, to illustrate BWV 55? I will leave it to anyone interested to visit the complete citation, and decide for themselves. That is an ambiguous conclusion, I hope it is also appropriate.
_____________

The first round of BCW discussions present the detailed reviews of recordings that are always appreciated, and which form a significant portion of the cantata discussion archives.

I find the linked BCW commentary less satisfactory here, than I have in the past few weeks. IMO, that attributed to Rifkin/Parrott misrepresents their arguments in a few words, and then proceeds at length with purported refutation which is supported only by conjecture, .

For a more balanced viewpoint, consider the commentary of Sigiswald Kuijken [19], for example:

<This is not the place to reexamine all the arguments for and against Rifkins thesis: readers interested in doing so should consult the relevant specialist literature, including the polemical pieces in Early Music. All I want to say here is that slowly but surely I have felt myself moving towards a personal understanding that is fully in accord with Rifkins conclusions (and also with those of his ever growing band of followers).
Having for many years performed Bachs vocal music - his Passions, motets, Magnificats, Masses, cantatas and so on - with the involvement of a traditional choir, I now feel that I have been rediscovering these scores in the light of this new working hypothesis. [. . .]
Having said this, I have no wish to imply that it would be wrong in future to use a choir instead of four soloists. Even if there are historical arguments that on one level are utterly compelling, we shall always be left with the question of taste (good or less good - everyone has the right to evince even the worst possible taste). In turn, this gives us the freedom, after due reflection, to do whatever seems best.>

I took that passage from the notes to an earlier recording (BWV 9 et al, c. 2001). He expresses the same ideas, in less quotable context, in the notes to his current series of recordings, including this weeks BWV 55 [19].

Kuijkens comments on the interaction of text and music are also superb. I will quote a bit to whet your appetite, as mine has been whetted, for his analysis of literary and musical meter:
<The theme here [BWV 55] is mans sin and guilt before God, continually transcended by Gods Gnad und Huld (mercy and grace) [chorale, Mvt. 5].
The first person form is used almost throughout. To begin with (in the first aria and the following secco recitative), the poet allows free rein to his tormented thoughts about his hopeless, sinful situation in a stream of iambic verse (short-long). Bach set the aria like a brisk lamento in G minor. In the recitative, the feelings of guilt develop into truly dire straits; wherever the guilty soul goes, whether heaven or hell, Gods stern judgement will be there. This paranoia leads into the relieving call to God , Erbarme dich! (have mercy), with which the aria (Mvt. 3 with obbligato transverse flute) begins. In the ensuing desperate plea to God to allow His wrath to be softened by tears (the core of this aria) the metrical unit changes suddenly and effectively to the more dynamic trochee (long-short). The way three successive lines begin with Lass (let) depicts the distress of the poet., who returns to the pleas of Erbarme dich! at the end of the aria. In this aria Bach dramatically altered the structure of the original text, interposing between the two couplets beginning with Lass, repeated cries of Erbarme dich! and passionate flute ritornellos. The cry of Erbarme dich! dominates the entire aria, sounding a total of seventeen times. Bach set the last part of the text as an accompanied recitative. Here, after a final passionate cry of Erbarme dich! the poet finds peace again. His awareness of Gods redeeming grace has been restored, his crisis of self doubt overcome. The more peaceful iambic rhythm also returns.> [end quote]

I find the above an excellent analysis of what gives this cantata a satisfying overall effect, rooted in its central movement. Bach has found a way to soften what, to me, is a very gloomy text, from a human perspective.

Note the BCW commentary link, under Dürr, which points out that the Erbarme dich! theme of Mvt. 3 and Mvt. 4, and the chorale (text by Rist), Mvt. 5, look ahead to SMP, BWV 244, Mvt. 39 aria and Mvt. 40, the same Rist chorale, with first performance the coming Spring. Curiously, Whittaker mentions the relation of the aria text, and Dürr the chorales, but as far as I can see, neither mentions the combination. I find it puzzling that these are the very movements which it is suggested were not newly composed in 1726 for BWV 55, but were adapted from an unknown, lost source. I gather that the main evidence for recycling is the neatness of the score, compared to Mvts. 1 and 2, or have I overlooked something?

BTW, I think it is clear in BWV 55 that it is the sinner, as opposed to a sympathetic God, who is tearful, especially when in relation to Peter in the SMP (BWV 244), rueful after his denial.

I will close for now, with any additional ideas, and comments on recordings, to follow as time permits. Special thanks to Aryeh for inviting me to write a few introductions, despite my lack of any prior qualifications. I have greatly enjoyed the on-the-job training, getting to see this group of (mostly) solo cantatas as innovative pieces in a larger body of connected works, with one additional solo cantata coming next week to close out the liturgical year.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 1, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I find the above an excellent analysis of what gives this cantata a satisfying overall effect, rooted in its central movement. Bach has found a way to soften what, to me, is a very gloomy text, from a human perspective. >
First, thanks Ed for your comprehensive work on this and the other cantatas in the series. Learning OTJ is a good way to learn, and not only have you covered what is a considerable amount of material, but as above you've done a good job of describing your reaction to the music. I have to agree with your quote. Bach saw through the dross and found beauty in the path of suffering. That is the sort of quality that speaks to the human heart.

For people like me who are score oriented and tend toward creating our own music from the material available, I am now developing a greater perspective on the matter of discography--something that is not one of my hobbies since I find it very hard to sit still for long periods of time. That's a fidgety nature, but I'd like to mention here that last year I helped a student with some work on Buxtehude's organ works. During that period she gathered recordings from every source possible and as she did not have a great deal of experience in writing--her work was more in grand playing--we found a method to set up charts in MS Word that allowed her to identify the distinctive points of each recording based on movement and the time period of the recording with the added direction of her advisor, and in the end she was able to write her critical discussions from the chart. For this reason I am quite impressed when sans a table people are able to work out the distinctions between works...I found the nature of her task a bit overwhelming.

I think each of those of us who contribute in one way or another bring to the forum the strengths of what we've learned so far--thus building up the resources for the future. The good of the differing gifts and temperaments is an enhanced resource. Thanks again for all your hard work.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] You hit the jackpot with your 5 cantatas this time round; they include some of the most interesting of the chamber works. (Last time I recall you drew a bit of a ragbag of cantatas dating from around the middle of the second cycle--not the best of the works and some possibly not even by Bach.)

I have read all your latest intros with great interest. BWV 55 is, perhaps my personal favourite of the solo cantatas----the only one for tenor, making one wish he had composed more. The two arias are quite stunning in my view, especially the high tessitura of the first one which conveys magnificently the fear and nervousness of the sinner awaiting judgement. A perfect little gem.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>You hit the jackpot with your 5 cantatas this time round; they include some of the most interesting of the chamber works.<
I was not sure if Julian would want to post a response, and so I did not mention him specifically. Since he has replied, I would like to thank him for agreeing to stand by in case I could not meet a deadline, for technical reasons. In the course of discussing that possibility in advance, he shared some thoughts which I found very helpful. In particular, he pointed out to me early on the unique grouping of solo cantatas over this period of a few weeks. Without his hints, I would not have recognized this from the outset.

I also like the concept of chamber works. Dürr, writing with respect to BWV 98, from last week, says <it is the most intimate in character [of the three that begin with a common text]: not only the shortest but the nearest to a chamber-music sonority.>

I had planned to cite this in discussing a few recordings of BWV 98, and raise the question as to whether the idea of chamber works might not also apply to the larger group, including the neighboring solo and duet cantatas? Although Julian has provided his answer in advance, I will try to remember to ask anyway, in discussing the recordings.

Julian, again:
> [BWV] 55 is, perhaps my personal favourite of the solo cantatas [. . .] The two arias are quite stunning in my view, especially the high tessitura of the first one which conveys magnificently the fear and nervousness of the sinner awaiting judgement. A perfect little gem.<

I agree. I especially like the architecture of the music. Bach finds a way in the second aria (Mvt. 3, as described in my quote from Kuijken [19]) to initiate the transition from the sinful nervouseness of Mvt. 1 to the divine grace and favor of the chorale, Mvt. 5. This leaves us with a pleasing arch form, or as Jean Laaninen might suggest, a journey from sin to salvation, which is not necessarily built into the text, on its own.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 1, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I agree. I especially like the architecture of the music. Bach finds a way in the second aria (Mvt. 3, as described in my quote from Kuijken [19]) to initiate the transition from the sinful nervouseness of Mvt. 1 to the divine grace and favor of the chorale, Mvt. 5. This leaves us with a pleasing arch form, or as Jean Laaninen might suggest, a journey from sin to salvation, which is not necessarily built into the text, on its own. >
The arch you described is quite nice, but I'm not sure I would have thought of saying what you mention above. However, once this is on the table the order of salvation history (a seminary/theological term) with a nice German name (I will skip the spelling here since I am unsure) is from sin to salvation, so you have by mentioning this point set the cantata in the context of the whole of Chrisitan thought. I try not to make a habit of interpreting the language of the text outside of what it is saying, other than to mention that a singer is trained to observe not only the words but the musicological features such as major/minor details and perhaps sharps on particular words that need accentuation, and directional patterns and so on. In my first introduction which will show up next week I will be making a comment based on the contrast between the text and the music in the third movement aria. This is one of those IMO kinds of things, and most likely someone will take a differing point of view, and I will not be offended.

I think it was great you got some of Julian's insights. Julian, to his credit also offered to do this for me, but I must mention that I declined because as such an independent thinker I wanted to face this challenge on my own and with the written authorities I could access here and at the ASU Music Library. My idea for me was that where I have left gaps others will fill in technical details or context and I am sure people will find some gaps. But I have to say that I find Julian's writing very challenging, always.

We are very fortunate to have both of you writing on this list.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>The arch you described is quite nice, but I'm not sure I would have thought of saying what you mention above.<
Sorry to put words in your mouth, Jean, I was referring back to your comment re BWV 56, that you often think of a cantata as a short storor sermonette. In any event, I was mostly trying to provide a bit of transition to your introductions, beginning next week.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (February 2, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski]
I don't have much time to participate constructively these days, but I read and enjoyed a lot your introductions. I appreciate your scientific approach ! Thanks a lot.

I felt like writing a long mail about BWV 49, especially the last mvt, since you said that you didn't really see what Dürr found so exceptional about that mvt.

I hadn't read Dürr on that, but actually this duetto has become dearer and dearer to me as the years go by. If I were to say which mvt is the most emblematic of what I love in Bach's cantatas I might well pick that one. I think one has to listen to it many times as, at first, one is charmed by its galant side., but then many facets are gradually revealed.

I'll try to write something about it sometime (but it's had for me to come up with adequate words as I lack the musicological expertise).

Terejia wrote (February 2, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (snipped)
Julian, again:
>> [BWV] 55 is, perhaps my personal favourite of the solo cantatas [. . .] The two arias are quite stunning in my view, especially the high tessitura of the first one which conveys magnificently the fear and nervousness of the sinner awaiting judgement. A perfect little gem.<>
I agree. I especially like the architecture of the music. Bach finds a way in the second aria (
Mvt. 3, as described in my quote from Kuijken [19]) to initiate the transition from the sinful nervouseness of Mvt. 1 to the divine grace and favor of the chorale, Mvt. 5. This leaves us with a pleasing arch form, or as Jean Laaninen might suggest, a journey from sin to salvation, which is not necessarily built into the text, on its own. >
I have to attend the mandatory legal seminar assined from The Solicitor's Association this morning but since BWV 55 was recent cantata I came acquainted myself with and got so inspired (I have Peter Schreier and Karl Richter version [3]), I cannot help comment in here my humble opinion.

My very first impression of this cantata " Oh, here's miniture St. Matthews Passion" with somewhat similar rhythms in the continuo part in its intro Movement,; as to "Erbarme Dich" aria, despite many difference including the selected voice (tenor or alto) and other respects, it immediately reminded me of the same text aria in the St. Matthews Passion-yes,yes, that aria, in h-moll, Alto voice, violin obligato.

No more than my humble personal impression writing in haste in preparation for attending the mandatory seminar

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 2, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Sorry to put words in your mouth, Jean, I was referring back to your comment re BWV 56, that you often think of a cantata as a short story or sermonette. In any event, I was mostly trying to provide a bit of transition to your introductions, beginning next week. >
Thanks, Ed. This is a great list...and we have a lot of good avenues for communication.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2008):
Terejia wrote:
>My very first impression of this cantata " Oh, here's miniture St. Matthews Passion" with somewhat similar rhythms in the continuo part in its intro Movement,; as to "Erbarme Dich" aria, despite many difference including the selected voice (tenor or alto) and other respects, it immediately reminded me of the same text aria in the St. Matthews Passion-yes,yes, that aria, in h-moll, Alto voice, violin obligato.<
Thank you very much for the kind words in this and previous posts, and especially, thank you for taking the time in a busy schedule to share your thoughts and impressions with us (BCML). It is the exchange of ideas which makes us a world-wide group.

I am happy to see that you share the impression about relations between BWV 55 and SMP (BWV 244). I do not claim much original thinking here, I am simply passing along connections in the ideas of others. If you look back a few weeks to BWV 169, the alto aria, Mvt. 5, you will hear additional connections to Erbarme dich! which resolve some of the differences you mention.

You previously wrote about a personal interest in BWV 56. You will especially enjoy the Kuijken recording which I already mentioned, it also has an excellent version of BWV 55 [19].

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 4, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 55 - supplement

Some further thoughts on Erbarme dich!, and BWV 55.

This morning, Feb 3., Brian McCreath selected BWV 23 for the weekly WGBH-FM (www.wgbh.org) Bach cantata broadcast, on its liturgically correct day, the last Sunday before Lent (Quinquagesima). BWV 23 closes with the chorale <Christe, du Lamm Gottes> (Lamb of God), including the plea: Erbarm dich unser! Dürr writes:
<Bach evidently composed the first three movements of this cantata [BWV 23] in Cothen, with a view to performing them as the trial-piece in his application for the post of cantor at St. Thomas, Leipzig, on February 7, 1723. After his arrival in Leipzig [he added the] closing chorale (presumably an older composition).>

Incidentally, Brian cited an amusing anecdote, which I trust he will not mind that I share. There is a contemporary press notice that the first performance of BWV 23 was well received in Leipzig. Reportedly, Bach wrote this notice himself. I wonder if we can confirm the source of this report? Even if apocryphal, it seems characteristic and appropriate, as well as humorous.

In the course of thinking about connections between the solo cantatas of 1726, and SMP, BWV 244, I found my way to <Hearing Bachs Passions> by Daniel Melamed. In discussing the evolution of SJP (BWV 245), he details (p. 246 and associated table):
<The closing chorale [of version I, 1724] was replaced [in version II, 1725] by a different one, <Christe, du Lamm Gottes>, in a setting not newly composed but borrowed from a cantata Bach had performed at his Leipzig audition [BWV 23] - where it was itself a late addition.>

In this compact and nearly overlooked cantata (BWV 55), we find direct links dating at least as early as Bachs very first Leipzig composition, the chorale setting for BWV 23, which itself may be even older if Dürr's presumption is correct, and direct links also to the two major passions. In discussing the cantatas chronologically, we experience a four year period of continuous creative intensity for Bach in Leipzig, beginning in 1723, encompassing two versions of SJP (BWV 245), and soon to reach a culmination with SMP (BWV 244) in 1727. BWV 55 is solidly in the mainstream of this creative outpouring, truly awesome and probably unsurpassed (unmatched?) in any of the arts.

An aside to Julian: I have tried to do well by one of your favorites. Thanks for the incentive to not let you down.

I did not seek out Melameds text with any particular expectations, but I was pleased to find that his style is concise and readable. Rifkin, in a back cover endorsement, calls it <at once learned and approachable>. Rifkins endorsement is hardly surprising, when one realizes that Melamed begins (Part I) with a consideration of Bachs <Performing Forces and Their Significance>, with conclusions which strike me as unassailable, and which are supportive of the prior work of Rifkin and Parrott.

Indeed, one has to ponder ehow groundbreaking the recent OVPP theories actually are, in light of this little surprise (to me), from the BCW archives, at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/OVPP4.htm

Galina Kolomietz wrote (April 8, 2000):
Today, I went to a performance of Bach's SMP (BWV 244) here in D.C. I expected a traditional performance, but, to my delight, it was OVPP.
[. . .]
The program contained the following insert: <J.S. Bach's SMP (BWV 244) is written for a chamber music ensemble. Its first performance in Bach's lifetime was perfectly realised by a total force of 34 musicians, including soloists and chorus. That is known. And nevertheless in our day one does not hesitate to present the work in complete disregard of the composer's wishes, with hundreds of performers, sometimes almost a thousand... Igor Stravinsky, Poetique Musicale (Cambridge, Mass. 1942)>

As I have already quoted Kuijken [19] (and as others often point out on BCML), if you want details of all the arguments for and against, there is a lot to read. If an up to date summary (60 plus years after what was known to Stravinsky) is sufficient, Melamed provides it, and much more of interest regarding all the passions, known and phantom (his word).

Terejia wrote (February 5, 2008):
Belated reply Re: Introduction to BWV 55 - Ich armer Mensch, ich Sundenknecht

Thank you very much for your coardial reply. I'm deeply touched. More below :

Ed Myskowski wrote:
(snipped)
> I am happy to see that you share the impression about relations between BWV 55 and SMP (BWV 244). I do not claim much original thinking here, I am simply passing along connections in the ideas of others. If you look back a few weeks to BWV 169, the alto aria, Mvt. 5, you will hear additional connections to Erbarme dich! which resolve some of the differences you mention.<
I only recently learned how to reach listening samples. Belatedly I reaplized that Mvt.5 of BWV 169 you mentioned is different version of Mvt. 2 of the Cembalo Concert introduced in the Mvt.1 (If I remember correctly, while the cantata is in D-major/H-moll combination, the instrumental concert is E-major/Cis-minor? I hope you excuse me for getting away with my poor memories instead of study the source). Before learning about BWV 169, I didn't have any inkling on the link of the cemballo concert and "Erbarme Dich" alto aria in St. Matthews Passion (BWV 244).

> You previously wrote about a personal interest in BWV 56. You will especially enjoy the Kuijken recording which I already mentioned, it also has an excellent version of BWV 55 [19]. <
I'd like to find a way to get Kuijken rendition [19]. Although I have several CDs of Kuijken(Bach floete sonatas, Mozart's flute quartets, Telemann instrumentals,) I have none of his cantatas-didn't know that it was released at all.

Thank you again.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 5, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 55 - performance?

In the course of tying up the loose ends in my mind (wishful thinking), I remembered a resident tenor on BCML, Russell Telfer, who we have not heard from for a while. I did not mean to overlook him in discussing BWV 55. It would be a real bonus to hear from Russell, or anyone who has sung (or contemplated performing) BWV 55.

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (February 5, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> In the course of tying up the loose ends in my mind (wishful thinking), I remembered a resident tenor on BCML, Russell Telfer, who we have not heard from for a while. I did not mean to overlook him in discussing BWV 55. It would be a real bonus to hear from Russell, or anyone who has sung (or contemplated performing) BWV 55. <
Maybe we should notify Ian Bostridge. He recently became my fifth tenor in Berlioz's Nuits d'Été.Yes, a solo tenor singing that cycle is rather unusual although Helmut Krebs did it way back in 1955 and in German (ACE, two points as for Bach relevancy).

Bostridge Bach CD is simply delicious in my taste. The Berlioz live recital, the voice is lovely. I care less for Colin Davis's handling of the pace and articulations. But then again I was never a Colinic Berliozite. Sorry for my word creations

Peter Smaill wrote (February 5, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski, un response to his introductory message'] One of the intriguing threads on this Cantata is the possibility thast it relates to the compositional process of the SMP (BWV 244), the link being the treatment of "erbarme dich" and the overall sentiment of the work. This leads to a consideration of the theology at work here.

Jaroslav Pelikan's "Bach among the Theologians" emphasises the shift from the "Christus Victor" image at the heart of the SJP to the dominance of atonement imagery in the SMP (BWV 244). It is precisely the Anselmian view, Christ alone being able to pay the price of sin to an angry God, which is set out in BWV 55. However, even here there is a shift of emphasis. In BWV 55/4 (Mvt. 4) the sinner perceives "Ich will nicht fuer Gerichte stehen" , "I shall not stand trial". The image is not of the Last Judgement - that has been cancelled - but the Throne of Grace in which the atoning work of Christ is held up ("Ich halt ihm seinen Sohn" ).

This change in emphasis predates the controversies in Anglicanism in the 1970's when the passage in the Lord's Prayer, in the Greek original , " Lead me not into temptation" was replaced with the looser expression "Bring me not to the time of trial". Although it is not Picander as librettist in BWV 55, it may be that a theologian is at work in the text presenting the atonement in a less judicial setting than was the case under medieval tradition.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 6, 2008):
BWV 55 and the SMP (BWV 244)?

Robertson says of the 2nd aria of BWV 55: "This number can be placed alongside the alto aria in the SMP (BWV 244), which begins with the same words ("Erbarme dich") and almost the same opening phrases".

The musical resemblance is there, though the different time signature (4/4) and the Eb (3rd note) on the flute tend to mask the fact; I did not notice the similarity before.

Interestingly, the OCC, while not commenting on any perceived resemblance between these arias, does notice the similarity between the opening phrases of the following recitative in BWV 55, also with the above opening words, and the recitative "Erbarme dich" that occurs immediately before the alto aria "Können Thränen" in the SMP (BWV 244).

Was the cantata's recitative phrase in Bach's mind when he wrote the SMP (BWV 244) recitative several months later? This might be one of the resemblances that Bach was conscious of; the others - BWV 169/5 and SMP (BWV 244) alto aria; BWV 55/3 (Mvt. 3:) and same SMP (BWV 244) alto aria - are likely to be accidental resemblances.

--------

Of the recordings which I have, I found Kraus (with Rilling [8]) to be least satisfying because of his hard-edged vibrato on some long notes. Richter/Haefliger [3], Leonhardt/Equiluz [7], Kuijken/Genz [19] are all excellent.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 6, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>> But my own view is that this is insufficient internal evidence upon which to predicate pre-determined connections.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I agree with this. >
I agree as well, for the moment. But I was not attempting to present evidence, let a pre-determined connection, so much as to suggest a line of thinking to look for evidence. Perhaps it is worth a little more consideration? I am reminded of Shakespeare (or wherever he borrowed it) that <does protest too much> is a form of support for the proposition.

[Neil]
>On the subject of resemblance, my memory was jolted by the semitone figure (G,F#,G,F#,G) in the continuo strings at the end of the ritornello in BWV 55's opening aria. The "connection" turned out to be the semitone figure (B,A#,B)in the violas da gamba in the rirornello of BWV 198.<
Indeed, the semitone nearly identifies the Bach motto: B(flat)ACH(B natural). Making use of my previous HB typographic error, I hope Chris Rowen is reading.

[Neil]
>There are other rhythmic and thematic similarities in these ritornellos. Interestingly, the first seven notes (of BWV 198) are the same as the SMP (BWV 244) "Erbarme dich" aria, without the dotted (siciliano) rhythm.<
I would enjoy following this thread. I am not as quick at listening as the musicians, but I will try to post some coherent (more or less) thoughts as they arise.

[Neil]
>Ed asks for the four chorale fantasias in 12/8 time that Julian mentioned. Two of them are BWV 68 and BWV 180, very different in affect.<
>68's ritornello has a dotted rhythm; the first six or so notes of the soprano line in this movement, in different rhythm, also recall the opening notes of the SMP (
BWV 244) alto aria.<
I started with BWV 93, and remembered how much I enjoy it. I hope we can follow these thoughts as we jump across the first performance of SMP (BWV 244) in the chronology, without distracting from the weekly cantata discussion. Perhaps we should just make some notes toward a future discussion theme, along the lines of influences and sources for SMP (BWV 244)?

[Neil]
>(BTW, the numbering of the SMP's (BWV 244) movements appear to vary considerably in different editions; "Erbarme dich" in no. 52 in the Dover full score).<
I took the movement numbering from the McReesh CD booklet notes, which is new to me. That will be a discussion of its own, since it is OVPP performance (also not the 1727 version, which I mistakenly expected). I do not have the score, and I did not cross check with any other texts. Sorry for any confusion.

I hope the indication of original post and my response transmits clearly.

As I prepare to post this, I see an incoming post from Neil. All to the good, in the form of additional consideration. More to follow, after additional listening.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 6, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
Neil Halliday wrote:
>The "connection" turned out to be the semitone figure (B,A#,B)in the violas da gamba in the rirornello of BWV 198.<
Specifically, the last movement of BWV 198! Sorry for the omission.

Terejia wrote (February 6, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>> But my own view is that this is insufficient internal evidence upon which to predicate pre-determined connections.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I agree with this. >
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> I agree as well, for the moment. But I was not attempting to present evidence, let alone a pre-determined connection, so much as to suggest a line of thinking to look for evidence. Perhaps it is worth a little more consideration? <
I was simply stating my primitive and presonal impression and I dare not try to prove anything of musicological value. I am no professional nor I cannot pretend myself to be.

However, being a simple minded audience and amateur performer, a linkage, impression of similarity does help me appreciating the aethetic of cantatas. What I'd like to look into is how specific type of melody, key, harmony, rhythm, selection of particular voices and/or instruments create what kind of impact to the audience, but then again, it goes absolutely beyond my humble understanding if it is no more than a matter of individual tastes or there is something universal in tastes...

(snipped)

I will place an order of Kuijken series [19] in my nearest CD shop. If they are available in amazon.com, I think I can get it even though it takes months.

Thank you very much for your kind reply, suggestions and infos.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 6, 2008):
Terejia?????? I don't for a moment suggest a closing of the topic or that it should not be given further consideration. It is a complex and endlessly fascinating subject. Like yourself I was merely expressing a view:- I agree that the similarities? certainly exist but whether they are pre-determined, causal or symbolic is very difficult, perhaps not even possible, to determine. But like discussions about an afterlife or the existence of God (topics on which different people hold radically different views) it does not mean that they should not be discussed, often with a high degree of heat!

If I may, I will copy below a para I wrote in an OL email to my old mate Ed on this topic because it?might help to clarify my view. On the other hand it might not!??

From recent OL email to Ed?? 'Re Bach's reuse of materials it is indeed a fascinating subject. I agree that he seemed to do nothing by accident. But I also think that his questing, experimental nature was such that he sought to?wring everything possible out of basic ideas--not only melodic (such as repeated notes) but also harmonic (the progression of the cirle of fifths). Thus the repititions are there to be discovered although whether they have any further symbolic significance is?the really big question.? Maybe he wanted?the challenge of?squeezing every possible potential from the most basic of ideas but by ?presenting them within a variety of contexts (rhythm, instrumentation, mode, harmony etc)? they appear different even though there are common links'.

Terejia wrote (February 7, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] For the time being, as my schedule is getting kind of busy, I wish to express many thanks to this kind reply. I'd like to come back later because this topic includes so many profound thema which interests me.

gratefully,

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 11, 2008):
BWV 55 - recordings

There are two new recordings since the first round of discussions which i was able to listen to: Koopman [17], with Christoph Pregardien, T, and Kuijken [19]. with Christoph Genz. Kuijken is worth special notice, in that he provides a still relatively rare opportunity to hear a performance using OVPP. Careful readers may recognize that sentence from last week, only the numbers have been changed.

There is also Muller-Bruhl [18] on the popular Naxos label, which I have not heard. Based on the total time listed, his tempos are probably quick, in the style of Schreier [11] at his fastest (see below). Any reviews?

I also listened to Richter (Haefliger, T) [3], Leonhardt (Equiluz) [7], Pommer (Schreier) [9], and Leusink (Schoch) [14]. My opinions are generally in agreement with the archived comments. As usual, I find some of the criticism with regard to Leusink unnecessarily negative, and more important, misleading to the general listener. That said, if you rely on the Leusink set, BWV 55 might be an opportune work to take a moment to find some of the other choices, and hear the distinctions.

Terejia mentioned both Richter [3] and Schreier. That is a nice comparison of two traditional voices, if you have the opportunity. If I were to choose one or the other, it would be Richter, based on the quality of Haefliger in both arias and recitatives, and for the Mvt. 1 tempo. See the first discussionfor more details on the earlier Schreier, recordings which might be worth the effort to find, and for comments on his most recent recording [11].

I planned to write some comparative comments on both tempo and continuo character, but I think I will take a hint from Jean, and first lay out the data in a simple table format.

Mvt. 1 timings, and general continuo character:
Richter [3] - 6:13. Harpsichord prominent in Mvt. 2 recit., and Mvt. 3 aria.
Leonhardt [7] - 5:23. Typical, abrupt organ in Mvt. 2.
Pommer [9] - 4:46. A less abrupt organ , but still in the HIP style.
Leusink [14] - 5:11. Even less abrupt, second best to Kuijken
Koopman [17] - 5:45. Typical, similar to Leonhardt. Includes lute in Mvt. 3.
Kuijken [19] - 5:44. Extended, modulated HIP style, setting the standard.

The tempo is slowest with Richter [3], and it is certainly a performance to be treasured. I question whether that is equivalent to a standard, against which later performances should be measured, and worse yet, found wanting to the extent that they are faster.

Perhaps a statistical method I learned in the BCW archives can be applied here? The traditional tenors, Schreier and Haefliger, with Richter [3] and Pommer [9], average to: 5:29.5
The modern tenors, in HIP, even OVPP, performances average to: 5:30.7, more than a full second slower!

Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose. To the surprise of everyone, especially in France, that phrase is now acceptable American English. Thanks (or a share of the blame?) to Alain for encouraging me in a scientific approach to Bach. He might be the first to point out (unless Arch gets to it first) at least two statistical flaws:
(1) The categories HIP and traditional are highly subjective, and
(2) The sample is limited to the recordings I have available.

The most recent recording, Kuijken [19], is OVPP. The date, and general style, would suggest a vocal style we could call modern. Not so fast. Genz has a voice which to my ears gets beyond the edges of categories, and into Kuijkens presentation along the accents of the poetic meter. The tempo is solidly in the middle of the road, indeed a bit on the slow side compared to the mean (average) we have just calculated.

The comparisons are even more complicated. This is not the first Genz recording. The previous one [13] is the slowest of all performances, not even included in the data sample, because I do not have the recording. No more math, but you can estimate what a slow, modern, performance does to the averages. Where does that leave us?

It leaves me curious to hear the previous version by Genz [13]. It also leaves me with no doubt that Kuijken/Genz [19] is a superior performance in every way, carefully thought out and explained with respect to current scholarship, with no need to go to extremes of tempo or continuo realization, with perfectly balanced sound including a strong vocal line, and with a few heavenly friends joining in for the chorale. A joy to hear from beginning to end.

Comments in the first discussions had a problem with the faster tempo of Leonhardt [7] exhibiting a dance spirit, presumably also the even quicker Leusink [14] and Pommer [9] are included. To my ears, speed (tempo) is not exactly equal to dance (rhythm), the effect is only noticeable with Leusink, in the middle of the tempo range. In any event, given the text, this does seem a very legitimate objection.

Koopman/Pregardien [17] is a welcome addition to the available recordings, especially for the solo vocal performance. I do not think that the modern tenors need to feel intimidated by the classic performances. Genz and Pregardien commit themselves admirably, and we still have performances coming in the Suzuki and Gardiner series.

In order not to overlap the discussion sequence, I will defer further comments on the topic of the relation of BWV 55 to SMP (BWV 244), and to the more general comparison of 12/8 choruses raised by Julian. Thanks to everyone who added thoughts along those lines, and a topic to be kept open.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 11, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I planned to write some comparative comments on both tempo and continuo character, but I think I will take a hint from Jean, and first lay out the data in a simple table format.
Mvt. 1 timings, and general continuo character:
Richter
[3] - 6:13. Harpsichord prominent in Mvt. 2 recit., and Mvt. 3 aria.
Leonhardt
[7] - 5:23. Typical, abrupt organ in Mvt. 2.
Pommer [9] - 4:46. A less abrupt organ , but still in the HIP style.
Leusink
[14] - 5:11. Even less abrupt, second best to Kuijken
Koopman
[17] - 5:45. Typical, similar to Leonhardt. Includes lute in Mvt. 3.
Kuijken [19] - 5:44. Extended, modulated HIP style, setting the standard. >
I like your chart, Ed.

 

BWV 55, Trinity 22 (Nov. 8, 2009)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2009):
The choice for broadcast and webcast this morning (www.wgbh.org) at 8:00 AM (1300 UT) was BWV 55 for tenor solo, plus closing chorale, in the 3rd version by Peter Schreier, with Max Pommer [9] from 1986-87. I believe the webcast repeats at 1700 UT, although I do not personally access that service. The contrast with BWV 80 for the Reformation Festival (last weeks broadcast) could not be more striking.

The structure of classical music radio in Boston is in transition. At the moment, it is not clear how (or even if) the long tradition of a Sunday AM cantata broadcasts will fare, a tradition which has endured for at least 36 years (perhaps 37, I will try to confirm). I do believe it will continue unchanged for the next few weeks (Brian McCreath anounced BWV 52 for next Sunday), at least allowing the completion of the liturgical year with the last Sundays after Trinity, and the first Sunday in Advent, introducing the Christmas season and opening the next liturgical year. Incidentally, Brian has not been mentioning the specific Sunday association, although he has continued to follow the calendar. I expect this is a personal decision because of the confusing complexity, rather than staion policy, since he did mention the association for BWV 80 last week.

Those who have enjoyed these broadcasts at any time over the years may wish to make it a point to tune in for the coming three weeks to appreciate the turning of the church year, and to stay apprised of the future of the broadcasts. I expect to post weekly here, as well, and perhaps provide a summary of the broadcast choices for the complete Trinity season, nearing completion. The variety is quite impressive when seen in total. On a personal note, I have found that following the cantata broadcasts weekly, in relation to the church calendar, for a complete year and more, has been the single most satisfying element in my Bach listening. Brian has brought a new level of insight to this already outstanding broadcast tradition, with his liturgical and emphasis on texts. Many thanks for a fine job, I hope you still have time to monitor these pages, and perhaps even get some ideas therefrom. We can only hope that the powers that be do the right thing (it has been known to
happen!), and that the tradition will continue.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 8, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The choice for broadcast and webcast this morning (www.wgbh.org) at 8:00 AM (1300 UT) was BWV 55 for tenor solo, plus closing chorale, in the 3rd version by Peter Schreier, with Max Pommer [9] from 1986-87. I believe the webcast repeats at 1700 UT, although I do not personally access that service. The contrast with BWV 80 for the Reformation Festival (last weeks broadcast) could not be more striking. >
BWV 55 is a charming work certainly one of my favourites of the solo cantatas. It's the only one extant for tenor--as opposed to four for alto and two or three each (i'd have to look up the exact numbers) for bass and sop.

Listening to this work makes you wish he written others for tenor.

Glen Armstrong wrote (November 8, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, I'd like to thank you for introducing me to the weekly cantata on WGBH -- although it may now be on its way out. I used to listen to CJRT in Toronto 30 years ago, when there was also a weekly cantata on a Sunday morning. I have many scruffy tapes from those days, but rarely play them, now. The main source was Harnoncourt/Leonhardt. Equiluz stole my heart. Now it's an all-jazz/blues station.Currently on P.E.I., I listen to "your" cantata at noon (on the repeat)- unless you've just turned your clocks back. Schreier is not on one of my 5 versions.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2009):
Glen Armstrong wrote
< I'd like to thank you for introducing me to the weekly cantata on WGBH -- although it may now be on its way out. >
EM:
Thanks for the feedback, Brian McCreath may see it as well. We hope the Sunday cantata broadcast is not on the way out, but it is definitely moving. WGBH is acquiring a commercial classical outlet, WCRB, and all classical programming will be transferred there. I believe Brian is doing whatever he can to retain a slot for the weekly cantata; I expect that if we can help in any way I will hear from him, and pass it along.

GA:
< Currently on P.E.I., I listen to "your" cantata at noon (on the repeat)- unless you've just turned your clocks back. >
EM:
Yes, we (Boston and WGBH) have been back on EST since last Sunday, Nov. 1. But I believe 11:00 AM EST, noon P.E.I., and 1600 UT are all equal, so the repeat has just finished less than an hour ago. I hope that is correct, I am no longer able to access the *upgraded* www.wgbh.org from home. The last time I checked a play list from a high-speed connection, I believe I noticed that the cantata repeat is now at 11:00 AM Boston time, either EDT (1500 UT, up until Nov.), or EST (1600 UT, Nov. to Mar.). In any event, those who can access the transmission should also easily be able to check the schedule at www.wgbh.org, at least for the coming three weeks.

Off Topic (and so as brief as possible): I thought to let this pass, but as long as Glen has written, I would like to thank him for saving me from further embarrassment, re the identity of Billie Jean Kings former husband Larry (not the TV personality). She is one of the truly great sports persons in the world, and I have nothing but respect for her accomplishments, her contributions to womens tennis (and womens rights in general), and her humanity. From a quick look at her biography, I believe all that is also true of her ex, Larry. My apologies for an improper laugh at their expense.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 8, 2009):
Glen Armstrong wrote:
< I used to listen to CJRT in Toronto 30 years ago, when there was also a weekly cantata on a Sunday morning. >
Don't get me started on the 30 yr slide into the abyss for classical music programming in Toronto! First, it was CHUM-FM, then CJRT-FM. Now our beloved CBC, the government-funded national radio has gone "Lite". Under the new regimen, I heard an announcer say, here's "Sonata by Mozart". I rose, turned off the radio and logged onto Bavarian State Radio.

The Philistines are at the gates, eh?

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2009):
Bach on radio [was: BWV 55]


Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Now our beloved CBC, the government-funded national radio has gone "Lite". >
WCRB, Boston, has steadily headed in that direction over the years, as well, but at least with the *justification* of commercial interests. To the credit of WGBH, they have maintained the integrity of the quality of their classical broadcasts (about seven hours per day), including a recently upgraded studio for live performances, and off-site concert recordings. With the merger of the two, and with all classical programming going to WCRB, there will be a net decrease in total hours, but we could end up with 24/7 of high quality programming, including the continuation of the Bach cantata series. Think positive (positively?).

We are also fortuante to have the Harvard Univ. station (www.whrb.org), completely independent, with about nine hours per day (typically 1:00 to 10:00 PM) of very adventurous classical programming, a program guide for planned listening, and two Orgy(r) periods per year (Jan. and May exams) of very special programs, for example, complete Bach in 1985, and again in 2000. All at no charge, including the program guide mailed in hard copy (for us dinosaurs).

With all this stuff now going out over the web, if your local guys let you down, too bad for them. Just look elsewhere.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 55: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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