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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 6
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of April 1, 2007 [Continue]

Neil Halliday wrote (April 3, 2007):
BWV 6: Impressions of the recordings

I have listened to the amazon samples of BWV 6 that are available at the BCW, plus Richter [5] and Werner [3].

Since the topic of vibrato has been discussed lately, I have noted the following in the alto aria BWV 6/2.

(Mvt. 2).
Among the available samples of the HIP recordings (let's use that term for convenience), I found that only Gardiner's singer [9] had a problematic vibrato, ie, prominent, unvarying vibrato on every note. Of the non-HIP recordings, the singers with Werner [3] and Rilling [6] have problematic vibratos (names of the artists available at the BCW recordings page).

Interestingly, alto Watkinson (with Rilling [6]) reminds me of counter-tenor Esswood (with Harnoncourt [4]), but I don't seem to mind Esswood's vibrato. Reynolds with Richter [5] shows how to vary the use of vibrato, in a tasteful manner - with some notes actually vibrato-free.

Regarding the accompaniment, Koopman [13] has his unique, miniaturised continuo sound, with dainty organ tones and rattling noises (from the lute?). Rilling's organ realisation [6] is not attractive; otherwise, all the recordings should prove satisfying, in this movement.

(Mvt. 3).
I did not find any problems with vibrato in the soprano chorale movement (some of the recordings (eg, Gardiner [9], Koopman [13], Richter [5]) use choir sopranos for the chorale line). All are satisfactory, though Leusink's continuo strings [10] are too prominent.

(Mvt. 4)
The bass recitative. Good dramatic singing from the basses with Gardiner [9], Rilling [6], Richter [5] and Werner [3]. All of them sing a 4-note descending scale on "ungestossen", but the score has the last two notes written as G. I prefer the descending scale.

None of the truncated HIP accompaniments are satisfactory. Are these examples of imaginative musicianship? The non-HIP accompaniments are problematic as well, with unvarying articulation of sempre legato continuo strings (a `dying-away' of the sound is surely desirable); and on Rilling's CD [6], a harpsichord that sounds little better than a pitch-less bunch of rattling wires, or in the case of Werner [3] and Richter [5], organ tones that are too soft to convey the chordal harmonies. Admittedly, holding organ chords that are loud enough, for the full length of the note, will have its own problems. Unfortunately, the ideal keyboard instrument, needed to achieve a dynamic realisation of recitative chords, ie, the piano, came into use after Bach's life-time.

(Mvt. 5).
The tenor aria: I find that Koopman [13] and Leusink [10] are satisfying. Rilling's energetic performance [6] sounds too driven, to me. Richter [5] is too slow, though his string orchestra has a grand sweep, and Schreier is excellent, as usual. Harnoncourt's violin accompaniment [4] has strange accents and disjointed articulation, no surprise there. Werner [3] is a little understated, but still satisfactory. Gardiner's accompaniment [9] is verging on displaying exaggerated gesture. I don't recall any problematic vibratos in any of the recordings.

(Mvt. 6).
Koopman [13] has the least substantial final chorale, with overly brisk tempo and light articulation. Richter [5] is at the other extreme, with a choir that is too forceful and energetic for a closing chorale. Rilling [6] makes this movement sound substantial, and so does Gardiner [9]; the others are satisfactory as well.

(Mvt. 1).
In the opening chorus, some the problems I identified include: Werner [3], the choir sounds bland and foggy. Richter's large choir [5] is too forceful. Harnoncourt [4]: (just the riornello in the sample), the repeated notes in the upper strings are poorly articulated, sometimes sounding like the notes are tied, other times inaudible. Koopman [13], Rilling [6], Leusink [10], are all satisfying (in the samples). Gardiner too [9], if one can ignore a tendency to exaggerated articulation (as I perceive it) in the violins.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 3, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Ed haven't time to go into this in detail but circumstantial evidence would be the quite different uses of the chorale verses for the structures of some of the cantatas of the first 40 (could be experiments by the same writer of course, but is certainly indicative of different approaches. This was touched upon in some of the discussions last year. >
I will try to take the time to review some of that. As we were going through those discussions, I saw the variety of approaches being determined by the composer, Bach, rather than the librettist.

<< So the particular scrutiny given to this current cycle is not, in my view, misplaced. >>
< I agree 100%. All the more reason to keep an open mind regarding all possibilities, including
Wolff's opinion of authorship by Stübel. Despite attempts to discredit/dismiss this, I do not see any change in evidence available (admittedly circumstantial) to force a change in this opinion.
Let's get this one clear. 1) there is virtually no evidence for the Stubel theory but for the date of his death. If you want to hang on to this theory, present some evidence otherwise its little more than an act of faith >
It is not my theory, I have only read it in Wolff. According to Thomas Braatz, it originated elsewhere, I have not checked to see whether Wolff acknowledges a source, but I will. Note that I have not suggested that we accept the Stübel theory as the only possibility, only that we not discard it. Two different things, completely. No faith involved. There is a shred of external, circumstantial evidence (beyond the music itself) for Stübel, none at all for any alternate theory.

< 2) I am not attempting to discredit it--I specifically said there is another possible theory. I am certainly not attempting to 'force 'a change of opinion. >
My comment was not directed at anyone in particular, but especially not directly to you.

< All I am doing is presenting a fair amount of indicative musical evidence which suggests a more planned approach to the second part of the cycle---and furthermore I am suggesting that people consider it with open minds. >
I look forward to it. I raised the point now, because between BWV 1 and BWV 6 in our discussions, and with the revised St. John Passion, and cantatas BWV 4 and BWV 249 intervening in actual performance chronology, there is a significant shift in music structure of thcantatas, which I anticipate will continue for the remainder of the cycle. Incidentally, what does the presence of the Easter Oratorio (249) in there do to the gemiatric speculations?

I think the question is one of chicken or egg: was the change in music structure forced by external events (e.g., death or other loss of the librettist for the first 40 cantatas of the cycle), or was it a change which was longer in the planning that required different librettos? Of course, if you can demonstrate that it is more likely that there was more than one librettist involved in the first 40, that would pretty much eliminate the death/disappearance option. Everything I have read (not a lot) agrees with Wolff, that it is likely that it was a single writer. This seems perfectly consistent with the observation that much is known about authorship of other cantata groups, but this large and unified group is 'author unknown'. Proposing multiple unknown authors unnecessarily complicates the question, to my mind, but I am always open to evidence.

Until then, I am keeping Stübel as an open option, not out of faith, but out of respect for Wolff's scholarship and opinions. And very explicitly as a credible option, subject to confirmation or displacement by new evidence. Stübel is in no way a conclusive explanation, but neither can he be dismissed (let alone 'disproved') simply because some scholar (not you!) changes his opinion.

In any case, I would find it far more interesting if you can demonstrate that multiple authors are more likely than a single author for the first 40. I am a little fuzzy as to whether the proposal of Stübel was evidence of single authorship, or vice versa. I have presumed the latter, without giving it much thought. The issue of single or multiple authors is much more relevant to Bach's creative process than the identity of any specific author. Quite frankly, all of them would have been soon forgotten if they hadn't had the good fortune to have their words set by a genius.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 3, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< As we were going through those discussions, I saw the variety of approaches being determined by the composer, Bach, rather than the librettist. >
Yup that's one of the the big ones. We know that Bach made some substantial changes to the texts of some of the late works of the cycle but we don't know what input he had into the earlier ones. Wouldn't it be great to have some concrete evidence here!

But, as so often when discussing the man, his art and his working methods one is driven back to observations and inferences drawn directly from the scores themselves; and these will always be indicative rather than conclusive.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 8, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< BWV 6
CONTEXT
This work comes immediately after Bach brought back the BWV 4 (which is not discussed here for reasons given last week). >
Not to be overlooked is the chronology, as I understand it, that BWV 6 also comes immediately after BWV 249, a newly composed work in 1725, with many intricate implications, including the relation of secular and sacred works.

< Many will wish to hang on to Wolff's theory about Stubel, but let us note how little evidence there is for this apart from his (possibly coincidental) date of demise. Is there any evidence that Stubel wrote any of the chorale cantata texts let alone forty of them? Unfortunately the theory of crisis detracts attention from the final twelve works in the cycle (6-176) tending to view them almost as a rag-bag assemblage, a knee-jerk reaction to an emergency. >
Well, somebody wrote them. Agreed, precious little evidence for Stübel, but even less evidence for anyone else. What shall we conclude?

(1) Knee-jerk response to an emergency.

(2) Inspired creative response to an emergency, especially if it is a welcome relief from the by now oppressive need to create yet another chorale fantasia (it seemed like such a great idea forty weeks ago, but i could use a break)

(3) Given that so much of Bach's life was a response to unexpected death, why is it so extraordinary to conceive of yet another event. Indeed, it is not difficult to argue that creative response to an emergency was business as usual for Bach.

These comments are in the nature of 'keep an open mind', mostly ideas I have already posted in one format or another.

The idea of Stübel as librettist is not disproved or discredited, as best I can interpret from the rhetoric. It is an idea with very little objective support, other than his availability, timely demise, and apparent consistency of the texts.

Evidence of more than one author would go a long way toward discrediting the Stübel hypothesis (never achieving theory status, despite the loose language music 'scholars' use). The texts of the first forty cantatas of Jahrgang II strike me as uniformly mediocre, other than the direct quotations from established chorales and hymns, when they reach a higher level of mediocrity. None of them (the texts) come close to the earlier Scriptural texts. The music is another matter, of course. To me , the quality of the music does not improve the quality of the poetry, no matter how much understanding the meaning of the texts adds to appreciation of the music.

The meaning of the words is one thing, the beauty of their expression quite another, and the mystery of how sublime art in one mode can be inspired by mediocre analogies in another mode, is the last thing. The third thing, rather, the last in the present sequence.

I will join you all on BWV 42 before the coming week ends, but I am still overwhelmed by the amount of music, and the transitions we have speeded by in the past two weeks: BWV 1, revised SJP (BWV 245 (a?)), BWV 4 (revised for 1725) , BWV 249 (adapted from the very recent BWV 249a), and BWV 6, for Easter Monday, coming up in a couple days on the 007 Christian calendar. A glance through the archives is convincing as to how much insight is gained by discussing these works chronologically.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 8, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Agreed, precious little evidence for Stübel, but even less evidence for anyone else. What shall we conclude? >
logically, if you have 'even less evidence' than none at all we inevitably end up with negative quanties of evidence. What shall we conclude from this?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 8, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< logically, if you have 'even less evidence' than none at all we inevitably end up with negative quanties of evidence. What shall we conclude from this? >
I don't find that 'precious little' is equal to 'none at all'. Are there any candidates other than Stübel? Is there evidence from the texts themselves of multiple authors? In any case, Stübel is not my hypothesis, I am simply
responding to the work of others.

Although it is a pretty minor point, I find that it more accurately reflects my reading in current scholarship to state authorship as 'Stübel (?)', rather than 'unknown'. If there is actual evidence which proves it impossible for Stübel to be the author, or textual clues which suggest multiple authors, I am ready to listen.
<>

Julian Mincham wrote (April 8, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I don't find that 'precious little' is equal to 'none at all'. >
Basically Ed what is the evidence? What is the 'precious little other than an assertion that it is most likely?

Alain asked on list a little while ago if there was any evidence apart from the coincidence of demise. Noone has got back on this one. I have just re-read Wolff who says 'According to the most likely among variable hypotheses the author ---was Andreas Stubel. There is no further evidence offered.

So I join with Alain in saying what evidence is there apart from the fact that Wolff says that he is a likely be? I am not saying that no evidence exists--I am saying I don't know what it is and if you have it, please share it. otherwise there seems little point in saying that we will hang onto this theory because we cannot find direct evidence to the contrary. There is, as I have stated some indicative evidence in purely musical terms, to the contrary

Alain Bruguières wrote (April 8, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] I'm no Bach scholar. However, on the basis of what has been put forward on the list in the matter of the Stuebel theory, I would not say there is any evidence in favour of Stuebel; some arguments have been stated, but in my opinion they are logically wrong. The fact that one name has been uttered on a wrong basis is no reason for retaining it, even with a question mark. That would be misleading, especially if this 'fact' were used as evidence to justify a theory on the second part of the current cycle of cantatas.

You asked the following:
<< Agreed, precious little evidence for Stübel, but even less evidence for anyone else. What shall we conclude? >>
The answer is prettey obvious to me: nothing. We cannot conclude, even tentatively!

And why should we conclude? What's the urge to put a name on this unknown poet? Perhaps someday we'll have some serious evidence (perhaps even in favour of Stuebel, who knows...). There are myriads of other unanswered questions. So far I can sleep at nights whithout knowing the answer to that one.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 8, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguières] Has ANYONE here in the current discussion ever directly read ANYTHING written by Stübel, to grapple with his work on its own terms? Or is all this just a bunch of hearsay, too?

Alain Bruguières wrote (April 8, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I for one have not, and I never claimed nor suggested I had. By the way, had I read anything by Stuebel, I would not be any more able to appreciate whether he was the librettist for the first half of the cycle. For one thing, I can't read German! So I don't really see your point. Have you read texts from every single person who lived in Leipzig in the 1720's and can you reveal to us who done it?

More interesting perhaps would be to ask whether the people who still support this theory - after its initiator dropped it - have read anything by Stuebel...

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 9, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< You asked the following:
>> Agreed, precious little evidence for Stübel, but even less evidence for anyone else. What shall we conclude? >>
The answer is prettey obvious to me: nothing. We cannot conclude, even tentatively! And why should we conclude? What's the urge to put a name on this unknown poet? >

I think the urge to put a name on the poet is just that, to determine that it is a single poet, rather than a generic unknown source of librettos. I gather from Julian's post this is the point where he disagrees with Wolff. I do not personally have a position on this issue, so you are both shooting at the messenger. I have only stated that I do not find any evidence has been presented to discredit Wolff's (and Schulze's) conjecture. In particular, I take issue with an earlier Thomas Braatz post with a subject line something like 'Stübel speculation disproved'.

Here is what Wolff (Bach: the Learned Musician, p 278) has to say:

<It is hard to imagine that this fascinating, unprecedented project of chorale cantatas was initiated by anyone but Bach himself, and it is most likely that he also had a hand in the choice of hymns if only because of the direct musical implications for the chorale melodies.

[in a footnote at this point, Wolff suggests that the composition of some large chorale choruses, BWV 138/1 and 95/1 in September 1723 and BWV 73/1 in January 1724 had a stimulating effect on Bach's emerging concept of a chorale cantata cycle.]

The way in which the project proceeded and eventually ended strongly suggests that Bach's anonymous librettist was a close collaborator who resided in Leipzig. According to the most likely among various hypotheses [unspecified], the author of the chorale cantata texts was Andreas Stübel, conrector emeritus of the St. Thomas School, a man of solid theological background (if somewhat nonconformist views) and ample poetic experience.
[in a footnote, Wolff references Schulze, 1999, as the source of this hypothesis] <end quote>

Wolff goes on to cite the now familiar circumstantial evidence of Stübel's demise, essentially coincident with the delivery of the text booklets for January 28 to March 25. The actual evidence for the delivery of the text booklets appears to me to be by analogy with the same period of 1724, as I have written previously. Wolff does not state that the text booklet for this period in 1725 is extant, as best I can tell.

I do not find that Schulze, quite correctly listing the author of the cantata texts as unknown, subsequent to his cited 1999 publication, is in any way a retraction of his hypothesis. The author of the texts remains unknown. A credible hypothesis based on currently available evidence is that Stübel is a possibility, probably the best possibility. If Schulze has specifically retracted his hypothesis, that would be useful information to share.

Note that according to Wolff, Stübel satisfies Peter Smaill's difficulty with the orthodox Lutheran theology of the text author(s). I have no opinion on this, I simply pass along the observation.

Wolff's logic begins with positing a single poet, then searching for a candidate. If there is internal evidence which strongly questions Wolff's suggestion of a single poet, we probably should hear some of it. If it is simply a difference of opinion, we probably should hear that as well. In general, I find his scholarship helpful and reliable. I certainly have no basis to form an independent opinion on the subject, and no independent evidence to add.

Although this is a seemingly trivial point , I find, along with Wolff, that it provides some insight into Bach's creative methods. I am not the one belaboring the issue. Wolff makes some clear, concise, supported conjecture, with a minimum of circumstantial evidence. The Stübel hypothesis is certainly not proven, but neither do I find that it has been disproved. It remains a viable possibility, no more, but certainly no less, as I read Wolff.

If there is difference of opinion with Wolff's direct statements, that is a different matter from saying they are disproved.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (April 9, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Your increasingly inquisitive concern about members reading habits and scholar credentials as sort of tacit pre-requisites to give green light to their expressions on the list makes me conclude that, along with reading too little, reading too much may be the other big killer for music.

This group is about the music by a guy that was severely underestimated by his contemporaries, to the point of a dissapointing lack of documentary sources for us to REALLY come to know him. Moreover, if writing has been Back then uncensored as it is in this group, you should at least imagine that even the existent sources may be, to an undeterminable point, a product of the sole will of the writer.... Just as it is the case with the posts you judge here.

For starters, Forkel seemed to me when I read him just a condescent fan club member in many aspects. Justhe fact that one of the sources to work on Bach had to be the obituary inspired by the composer's sons HAS to make you suspect that reading may not neccesarily be a clear path to follow.

Spitta is too far from the neccesary eye witnessing.

And so on with the rest...

So I think informartion is valuable, but not the core of music, and of course not a condition to post a message to THIS list.

In the end if you think that someone is writing without reading, do like me....lurk.
Or do better than me: play.

Alain Bruguières wrote (April 9, 2007):
[To Ed myskowski] Sorry if you felt shot at by me! I don't mind doing some belaboring once in a while, but in the sense of 'working to absurd length', not in the sense of 'beating soundly'... Thank you very much for taking the trouble of quoting Wolff on this issue. Like you, I have no definite opinion on the matter: I have no problem with Stuebel being the librettist.

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I think the urge to put a name on the poet is just that, to determine that it is a single poet, rather than a generic unknown source of librettos. I gather from Julian's post this is the point where he disagrees with Wolff. I do not personally have a position on this issue, so you are both shooting at the messenger. I have only stated that I do not find any evidence has been presented to discredit Wolff's (and Schulze's) conjecture. In particular, I take issue with an earlier Thomas Braatz post with a subject line something like 'Stübel speculation disproved'. >
I agree that no new evidence has been presented against (that I know of); old evidence in favour has been challenged, rather.

< Here is what Wolff (Bach: the Learned Musician, p 278) has to say:
<It is hard to imagine that this fascinating, unprecedented project of chorale cantatas was initiated by anyone but Bach himself, and it is most likely that he also had a hand in the choice of hymns if only because of the direct musical implications for the chorale melodies.
[in a footnote at this point,
Wolff suggests that the composition of some large chorale choruses, BWV 138/1 and 95/1 in September 1723 and BWV 73/1 in January 1724 had a stimulating effect on Bach's emerging concept of a chorale cantata cycle.] >
I share this point of view expressed by Wolff.

< The way in which the project proceeded and eventually ended strongly suggests that Bach's anonymous librettist was a close collaborator who resided in Leipzig. >
This sounds likely (even if we do not exclude the possibility of more that one librettist, they must have been close collaborators). By which I mean that the librettos must have been written in collaboration with Bach, not that the librettist(s) was(were) Bach's collaborator(s) beforehand. Bach experimented with a standardization of the cantata, which supposes a standardization of the librettos, and this supposes that he reached an agreement with his librettist(s) or that he exerted sufficient authority to impose this standardization; in any case this implies a certain good will and adhesion to Bach's project on behalf of the librettist.

< According to the most likely among various hypotheses [unspecified], the author of the chorale cantata texts was Andreas Stübel, conrector emeritus of the St. Thomas School, a man of solid theological background (if somewhat nonconformist views) and ample poetic experience. [in a footnote, Wolff references Schulze, 1999, as the source of this hypothesis] <end quote> >
Here comes the quantum leap. Why Stübel rather than any of the other unspecified various hypotheses? If this boils down to: several people are reasonable candidates, and my impression is that the most likely candidate is Stübel, good for Wolff and Schulze, but I'm never going to be convinced by that. Are there precise reasons to retain only Stuebel? How many other candidates are there? Are they all of insufficiently 'ample poetic experience'? Or too conformist in view of the texts? Or too alive by the end of the 1st part of the cycle? Has the style of Stübel's poetry been compared with the cantatas or is one just relying on some third-party appreciation of Stübel's poems? [Of course one would have to read what Schutze has to say about that.]

< Wolff goes on to cite the now familiar circumstantial evidence of Stübel's demise, essentially coincident with the delivery of the text booklets for January 28 to March 25. The actual evidence for the delivery of the text booklets appears to me to be by analogy with the same period of 1724, as I have written previously. Wolff does not state that the text booklet for this period in 1725 is extant, as best I can tell. >
It does appear that this is the cornerstone of Wolff's conviction, doesn't it?

< I do not find that Schulze, quite correctly listing the author of the cantata texts as unknown, subsequent to his cited 1999 publication, is in any way a retraction of his hypothesis. The author of the texts remains unknown. >
I must admit that I have somewhat lightly stated that Schultze had dropped his theory. At least, he doesn't consider it sufficiently strong as to replace 'unknown' with 'Stübel (?)'... a good point for him!

< A credible hypothesis based on currently available evidence is that Stübel is a possibility, probably the best possibility. >
I agree that on the basis of what we have so far, Stübel is a possibility, and just a possibility. I don't know about 'better' or 'worse' possibilities. Credible hypothesis that he is probably the best possibility? Allow me a week or two to explore the implications of this formulation before I can give an opinion!

< If Schulze has specifically retracted his hypothesis, that would be useful information to share. >
Agreed.

< Note that according to Wolff, Stübel satisfies Peter Smaill's difficulty with the orthodox Lutheran theology of the text author(s). I have no opinion on this, I simply pass along the observation. >
Neither have I. I must admit that I am completely lost concerning this orthodox/nonconformist/pietist issue. Were people all of one piece in that time? As far as Bach himself is concerned, he's supposed to be orthodox, but there are pietist aspects to some of the finest cantatas. Perhaps most people were a mixture of orthodoxy, nonconformism, pietism with various ratios, with only a few excited monochromatic individuals yelling at one another, the others watching with moderate interest and doing quietly what they had to do without attracting attention... lurkers, sort of...

< Wolff's logic begins with positing a single poet, then searching for a candidate. If there is internal evidence which strongly questions Wolff's suggestion of a single poet, we probably should hear some of it. If it is simply a difference of opinion, we probably should hear that as well. In general, I find his scholarship helpful and reliable. I certainly have no basis to form an independent opinion on the subject, and no independent evidence to add.
Although this is a seemingly trivial point , I find, along with
Wolff, that it provides some insight into Bach's creative methods. I am not the one belaboring the issue. Wolff makes some clear, concise, supported conjecture, with a minimum of circumstantial evidence. The Stübel hypothesis icertainly not proven, but neither do I find that it has been disproved. It remains a viable possibility, no more, but certainly no less, as I read Wolff. If there is difference of opinion with Wolff's direct statements, that is a different matter from saying they are disproved. >
More a question of assessing the value of Wolff's position; if he is simply saying that Stübel is a possibility, and that exploring further that possibility in search of actual evidence, then I'm perfectly ok with that. A covey of Ph D students could do the job. Trouble is that since 1999, the evidence doesn't seem to be coming, and the Stübel hypothesis seems to be taken as a fact by many people, as can easily be found by doing some googling or reading CD leaflets... A mere possibility has de facto acquired the status of an established truth.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 9, 2007):
<< Has ANYONE here in the current discussion ever directly read ANYTHING written by Stübel, to grapple with his work on its own terms? Or is all this just a bunch of hearsay, too ? >>
< I for one have not, and I never claimed nor suggested I had. By the way, had I read anything by Stuebel, I would not be any more able to appreciate whether he was the librettist for the first half of the cycle. For one thing, I can't read German! So I don't really see your point. Have you read texts from every single person who lived in
Leipzig in the 1720's and can you reveal to us who done it?
More interesting perhaps would be to ask whether the people who still support this theory - after its initiator dropped it - have read anything by Stuebel... >
I'm simply making the rather obvious point: that internet gossip about UNREAD research is worth about as much as the paper it's printed on.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 9, 2007):
<< More interesting perhaps would be to ask whether the people who still support this theory - after its initiator dropped it - have read anything by Stuebel... >>
We don't even have a reliable certainty that "its initiator [Schulze] dropped it."

We simply have an observation that in a new book by Schulze, he happens to say that the librettist for those pieces is still unknown...and that's true! That information is unknown. Schulze himself happens to have (or "have had") a hypothesis about that, published in a 1999 book (Die Welt der Bach-Kantaten volume 3, ed by Wolff) and cited by Wolff in his 2000 book (Bach: The Learned Musician, on page 494). Wolff on page 278 called it "the most likely among various hypotheses".

We don't know if Schulze himself has withdrawn (abandoned? or whatever) this hypothesis himself, or not! We simply know -- if we can believe hearsay about his 2006 book -- that with regard to the applicable compositions, he states the fact that the librettist is unknown. The "unknown" bit of that remains true/correct, whether his own hypothesis is still on the table or not!

Nor do we know what Christoph Wolff would say about that hypothesis, today, in 2007. We only know here what he wrote for the 2000 publication, as based on his assessment of Schulze's hypothesis around 1998-9.

To get this settled, someone should simply ask both Wolff and Schulze what they believe now about Stuebel's possible authorship. Anything short of that is just a bunch of internet speculation, feeding itself in a circular process.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>We don't know if Schulze himself has withdrawn abandoned? or whatever) this hypothesis himself, or not! We simply know -- if we can believe hearsay about his 2006 book -- that with regard to the applicable compositions, he states the fact that the librettist is unknown. The "unknown" bit of that remains true/correct, whether his own hypothesis is still on the table or not! Nor do we know what Christoph Wolff would say about that hypothesis, today, in 2007. We only know here what he wrote for the 2000 publication, as based on his assessment of Schulze's hypothesis around 1998-9.<<
"...if we can believe hearsay about his...book..."

I guess this Brad Lehman observation would apply as well to his own statement about a Peter Williams' conjecture recently referred to on this list, a conjecture for which Brad refuses to reveal further evidence?

In his 760-page-book on the Bach cantatas, "Die Bach-Kantaten", Leipzig, 2006, Hans-Joachim Schulze concentrates more on the texts than the music in the cantatas, but not to the exclusion of either. For instance, 3 pages (straight text, no musical illustrations) are devoted to the present cantata, BWV 42. I should perhaps translate this entry so that everyone can assess Schulze's content and style.

Re: the 'Stübel as librettist theory' has been dropped from this entire book for a very good reason. It had been variously received and commented upon by Bach scholars (primarily Martin Geck's criticism of it in 2000, but was still tentatively inserted in Christoph Wolff's biography which also appeared in 2000.

Schulze is definitely the originator of the theory and I have proof of this. Now in his major contribution to scholarly discussion of the Bach cantatas, Stübel's name does not even appear once on any of the 760 pages of a book where many of the cantatas (2nd year cycle) would at least warrant a reference to Stübel as a possible reason for a major shift in emphasis in Bach's cantata output. This in itself speaks volumes about the current status and acceptability of a theory which had been propounded but then silently dropped by the author of the theory when the readers of his book would normally have expected at least a reference to it or further substantiation with additional evidence.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 9, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>We don't know if Schulze himself has withdrawn abandoned? or whatever) this hypothesis himself, or not! [...] <<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< In his 760-page-book on the Bach cantatas, "Die Bach-Kantaten", Leipzig, 2006, Hans-Joachim Schulze concentrates more on the texts than the music in the cantatas, but not to the exclusion of either. For instance, 3 pages (straight text, no musical illustrations) are devoted to the present cantata, BWV 42. I should perhaps translate this entry so that everyone can assess Schulze's content and style.
Re: the 'Stübel as librettist theory' has been dropped from this entire book for a very good reason. It had been variously received and commented upon by Bach scholars (primarily Martin Geck's criticism of it in 2000, but was still tentatively inserted in
Christoph Wolff's biography which also appeared in 2000. >
There is nothing whatsoever tentative about Wolff's 'insertion'. Concise, careful statements with supporting reference, as I just posted in detail.

If Schulze does not mention Stübel once in this volume, how does the name appear in this paragraph, purportedly by Schulze? Or is this a Braatz statement or paraphrase, rather than the indicated translation?

< Now in his major contribution to scholarly discussion of the Bach cantatas, Stübel's name does not even appear once on any of the 760 pages of a book where many of the cantatas (2nd year cycle) would at least warrant a reference to Stübel as a possible reason for a major shift in emphasis in Bach's cantata output. This in itself speaks volumes about the current status and acceptability of a theory which had been propounded but then silently dropped >
Silently is the key word, although a complete contradiction to the 'retraction' previously 'quoted'. To some, silence may speak volumes, indeed we read many of those volumes right here in very these pages. To me, the silence, no additional evidence or retraction, says that Schulze has not changed his position from the earlier publication, he simply wants to avoid unnecessary controversy in getting a major publication out the door.

< by the author of the theory when the readers of his book would normally have expected at least a reference to it or further substantiation with additional evidence. >
Wouldn't those same readers normally expect an even more clear indication, if he had changed his mind from a previously published position, for whatever reason?

BTW, who was it who originally elevated the Stübel 'hypothesis' (Wolff) to a theory? Or did Wolff demote it from Schulze? Wolff refers to 'various hypotheses', with Stübel 'most likely'. On that ground I stand, until moved by evidence.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 9, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< "...if we can believe hearsay about his...book..."
I guess this Brad Lehman observation would apply as well to his own statement about a
Peter Williams' conjecture recently referred to on this list, a conjecture for which Brad refuses to reveal further evidence? >
What is there to "reveal further"? If you want to read Peter Williams's seven-page review of Laurence Dreyfus's continuo book, to see what he wrote about the harpsichord and organ parts of cantatas, go right ahead. It's readily available on Interlibrary Loan, or just going into some library that happens to have that issue of the journal. (JAMS 41/2, Summer 1988, pp349-355.) It's a review that brings up lots of fine questions about Dreyfus's book; and as I mentioned, about half of it is focused on that harpsichord/organ chapter.

And if not, it doesn't do anybody any good for you to make up stuff about his alleged lack of intelligence or thoroughness, as you did. To judge a piece of published work INSTEAD OF reading it...let's see, there are some perfectly fine English words to describe that situation. "Irresponsible" and "prejudiced" are two of the milder ones.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 9, 2007):
Just a few words more.

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Re: the 'Stübel as librettist theory' has been dropped from this entire book for a very good reason. It had been variously received and commented upon by Bach scholars (primarily Martin Geck's criticism of it in 2000, but was still tentatively inserted in Christoph Wolff's biography which also appeared in 2000. >

My previous response included
<There is nothing whatsoever tentative about Wolff's 'insertion'. Concise, careful statements with supporting reference, as I just posted in detail.>
Those interested in reading Wolff at somewhat greater length, and later date (2005), although without any additional evidence, should refer to the notes to Koopman's cantata recordings, Vol. 11, especially the concluding statements:

<The latest research [Schulze, 1999] suggests that the writer was very likely to have been Andreas Stübel [...]. In fact, the date of death [Stübel's, Jan 31, 1725] provides convincing evidence for identifying Stübel as the probable author of the chorale cantata texts, since delivery of the texts stopped abruptly at the end of January. Consequently, Bach was unable to maintain the unified concept of a chorale cantata cycle and had to fill in the rest of the cycle - from Easter to Trinity - with other texts. <end quote>

Feel free to disagree, but not with me, I am simply the messenger. I point out two details for the skeptical:
(1) Wolff has clearly rethought and confirmed his opinion, since he has made a minor correction in the death date (from Jan. 27, as indicated in 2000)), and
(2) Although he was not tentative in 2000, by 2005 'hypothesis' has been upgraded to the more assertive 'probable', and the phrase 'convincing evidence' added.

We have agreed that in general, liner notes are not a very reliable source of data, but I think this is a special case: an established scholar, Wolff, expounding more freely and more recently, in this instance based on his own more formal publication, and with the same supporting reference indicated. Far from being discredited (let alone
'disproved'), the Stübel hypothesis seems to have gained strength simply by hanging around for five years. Perhaps it has matured into a theory after all?

 

800 members, also interpretation of BWV 6

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (March 7, 2008):
802 members! Only 30 seem to participate. Hopefully we can get more involved. The music certainly warrants the discussion.

Actually I do have a question... Does anyone have an interpretation recommendation for the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) of BWV 6? I recently sang with a choir who performed this and I was very unhappy with the interpretation... somnabulistic, merry-go-round, somnabulistic (aka slow fast slow). My own thoughts are as follows, but I wonder if anyone else has any insights into this piece. It is the only Bach chorus I know that repeats itself.

I've read the well thought out interpretations by Aryeh, Ehud, and Tom (generally agree with Aryeh, but think the chorus more complex). The exact scripture is taken from from Luke 24: 29. The context is that two men were discussing what had happened to the guy they thought was going to redeem Israel (and interestingly enough, may have STILL thought)(they had been followers, although apparently not one of the 12 disciples). It had been three days since Jesus was crucified and they had just recently heard that he might be alive (the women told them about the angel)! They knew about the empty tomb and the angel, and for some reason were going to Emmaus which was 7-8 miles away from Jerusalem. We also know from other gospel accounts the skepticism the disciples had when told by others about the empty tomb and seeing Jesus alive. Jesus (who had chanced to meet them on the road and walk with them) after asking them what they were talking about and why they were sad, chastised them (called them fools) for not believing that he had to die according to what the prophets had said. Then he explained to them all what it meant. He then made a pretext of having to go further and that's when they constrained him to stay. They only discovered later who he was and their eyes were opened. At the precise moment of the scripture used in the chorus, they are still walking but near their village and they are extremely interested in what Jesus (who they don't know yet) is saying. They are filled with a burning in their hearts but as yet don't completely understand or believe (as evidenced by their reaction after recognizing who he is). They want to know more. See the scripture as following:

Luke 24: 29 But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them.

Luke 24: 30 And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.

Luke 24: 31 And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

Luke 24: 32 And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

Luke 24: 33 And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them,

Verse 32 is the closest we come to a biblical interpretation of their emotional states in verse 29. Luke says in the KJV version (I'm sorry but I don't know Greek) by their own accounts that their hearts burned within them when Jesus was talking with them. They really wanted to hear more when they constrained him. It wasn't just two weary guys being hospitable when they asked him to tarry, although we know that Jesus had encouraged hospitable behavior (entertaining angels unaware, etc.).

So as I said, hope filled exegetical interpretation (they had been reasoning and were burning to hear what else the strange man would tell them) would seem to be the best fit for the first go around; and indeed if performed not too slow, the first sections sounds almost exegetical. But why the repetition in the chorus? If we only listen to the harmony, it sounds more tension filled in the middle section. Could this be the thought of Jesus not staying to talk with them? If Bach knew the scriptures, this is probably not the case. I would think its more an implied internalization of what they (and hence we) were hearing from Jesus. It is a play on what they said, as having one immediate reason and a greater and deeper spiritual reason that went unspoken. Without the hope that he was explaining to them, they truly were lost (or goes the Lutheran/Christian theology). IMHO you lose the tension in the middle section if the harmonies aren't allowed time to develop and experience. There is no reason to think from the scripture that they implored him twice (as might be a necessity for a different take
repetition of the first section) I take the middle section to be more a pleading for his words to be true, while the first section more of the hope filled part and a genuine hope that he was stick around and tell them more of this wonderful and interesting stuff (the biblical account). Kind of like, "stay with us, this is great!" and then "stay
with us or we're lost," hence the nightmarish aspect. The resolution of the final chord after the somewhat repeat of the first section can be interpreted as nothing else than Jesus nodding and saying that he would indeed stay with them and the joy (and relief?)(again the double meaning) on the faces of the two men.

We, of course, know that he did stay with them (at least long enough to have dinner and reveal who he was). The ensuing aria is nothing more than a projection onto ourselves: as Jesus counted it good to stay with those two men, may we also be found worthy. Hope mixed with fear. Too often that aria just sounds like a happy little ditty. "Darkness doth steal in." There is a fear of the ensuing darkness. Of course, the two men had no fear of the darkness (they were almost home!), they simply thought it good to look out for the wonderful man they were talking to and also wanted to talk with him more because his news was so amazing and good if true. Hence the REPEAT of the words in a different light in the middle section. In the middle section the thought is internalized spiritually and genuine fear of spiritual darkness is felt. Inevitable, deliberate terror creeps in. This can be felt greatly when the middle section is taken slow and the harmonies can play on the listener's emotions. When the first section is repeated, it is repeated again with original innocent interpretation but has now been colored slightly as Bach changed the last parts of it to sound more heart rending. As stated earlier, the final chord spells both joy and relief. The following alto aria is refreshing in its simplicity of interpretation.... So to be put simply, the first section is an invitation, the middle section is a plead, and the reprise a colored invitation with an accept (though not meant for us) in the final chord.

***Interestingly enough, these same two guys, after inviting Jesus to abide with them, that same hour (it says) after he vanished, walked all the way back to Jerusalem! That was a walk of 7 miles, after dark! His visit had an effect on them.... So its clear that they didn't have a full understanding of what he was saying until after he had been invited into their house. Its also clear Bach understood this passage well and the context it would have in the ensuing libretta.

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 7, 2008):
[To Jeremy Vosburgh] It's good of you to contribute and raise your questions. The pattern of slow, fast, slow, or fast, slow, fast is a device IMO that was used in the Baroque period, and in other times to help keep the attention of the listener, and most likely to divide introductory material from secondary content. Some works stop after the two sections, but at other times there is a da capo form which is a return to the beginning as in the arias--and in choruses, too.

In the case of the return I tend to think that the restatement of the material must be very important to the context of the work--though there could simply be times when a certain length of a piece might be related to time to be filled in a service.

How fast a fast section should go, and how slow a slower section should go is often debated on this forum. It is probably safe to say from the writings of the discographers in the group, that literally no conductor takes pieces at the same tempo--with varying results.

When one sings in such an event as yours you'd of course like the content to be handled as expressive, and meaningful.

As to this particular work, I do not have an opinion, but there are many in the group who can share, I think, how they like to have this particular work performed. Without saying anything negative regarding conductors in particular, it may be the case that some conductors have not fully internalized the traditional Lutheran/Christian meanings in some of the works--or, may not believe in some of the ideas at all. There are those in our group who love the cantatas as music without considered meaning that is traditional, and those who are very devoted to the historical interpretation.

This might sound a little strange, too, but the natural heart rate of a conductor can also be a factor in tempo and interpretation. Those who are highly, highly energized might very much dislike really slowing some works down.

And even program time constraints sometime enter into the mix.

I hope that a number of people who know this cantata well will give some reaction.

Bruce Simonson wrote (March 7, 2008):
[To Jeremy Vosburgh] I look forward to reading your thoughts on BWV 6; this is truly one of my favorite cantatas. For me, the whole work can be thought of as an analogy, in music, of the setting of the sun as a metaphor for life in its later stages, and the associated inevitable uncertainties. When we performed it, it was in the context of a program based on "light" in Bach's cantatas -- we also performed BWV 118 and BWV 140 on the same program.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 7, 2008):
Interpretation of BWV 6

[To Jeremy Vosburgh] Agreed, a very fine chorus (Mvt. 1) which is reminicient of that which concludes SJP (BWV 245)--even the melodic shaping of the initial ideas is similar.

The mood is one of quietness and contemplation at the end of the day and the addition of three oboes to the strings creates the feeling immediately. Schweitzer called this 'a masterpiece of poetry in music' and noted how the vocal phrases descend 'as if the gloom of night were weighing upon them' (vol 2 pp 338/9). 'Tarry with us' the disciples plead; 'the evening will soon be upon us as the day is drawing to a close'. This is a large-scale tripartite structure in which the opening sarabande idea gives way to a more fugal central texture before returning, in modified form.

Bach is often at his most impressive when developing a thoughtful, contemplative mood over a period of time and this is precisely what he does here. There is no explicit story, plot or moral; whatever there is of these will come later. This is an evocation coming at the end of day, the dimming of the light and the preparation for impending darkness. The minor key and the downward direction of the opening ideas combine to express also a sense of apprehension about the shadows; and the metaphors of diminishing light (redemption and knowledge?) and impending darkness (ignorance and sin)? would surely not have been lost on the members of Bach's Leipzig congregations.

The text, mood and sarabande rhythmic structure all imply (to me) quite a sedate tempo with the middle section contrasting strongly. There are numerous precedents for Bach's use of a ternary structure, both choruses and arias, where the middle section is intended to be performed at a very different tempo from the outer sections.

Contextually this cantata is the first of only four cantatas ofthe second cycle which uses an opening chorus which is NOT a chorale fantasia i.e. based on the chorale melody. The other three are BWV 103, BWV 74 and BWV 176.

I recall that I quite liked Leusink's performance [10] of this chorus (Mvt. 1) (the Bach Edition) when I first heard it----certainly I thought it much superior to Koopman's [13].

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 7, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] Thanks, Julian, for pointing out the scoring elements and other features that help to interpret this material.

 

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