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Cantata BWV 6
Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of July 25, 2010

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 24, 2010):
Week of July 25, 2010 ³Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden² BWV 6

Week of July 25, 2010

³Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden² BWV 6

Cantata for the Second Day of Easter (Easter Monday)

Performance History:

1st performance: April 2, 1725 - Leipzig
2nd performance: 1735-1740 - Leipzig

* BCML page: (texts, translations, scores and readings): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV6.htm

* Live streaming: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV6-Mus.htm

* Commentary (Mincham): http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-43-bwv-6.htm

* Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV6-D.htm

Notes on Movements:

Mvt. 1: Chorus

The similarity to the great valedictory sarabandes of the Passions has been frequently noted by commentaries. I would add the opening of ³Jesu Der Du Meine Seele² (BWV 78) which is also in a sad G minor.

I¹m curious about the differences in ornamentation between the instrumental and vocal lines. In the opening vocal section, the soprano line is ³doubled² by the oboe, yet the voice doesn¹t have the little sixteenth-note
figure which the oboe has in bar 23. Were the voices expected to spontaneously add the extra ornament even though it is not notated? They would have heard it in the opening ritornello. The same discontinuity can be seen in bar 45. Yet the ornaments are harmonized just before the ³Andante² section.

Is there a tempo change at the ³Andante² marking, or is it a signal of a different texture? This is important at the return to the 3Z4 time signature. Many conductors engineer a huge ritard with a Grand Pause on the quarter rest. I wonder if the the ³bleib bei uns² figure in the last bar of the 4/4 section is meant to be equivalent to the ³bleib bei uns² in the closing 3Z4 section. They¹re almost identical.

Mvt. 2: Aria (alto)
Mvt. 3: Aria (soprano)

The immediate succession of two arias without any recitative is striking. The similarities in texture are also noteworthy: they are both trios with uncommon solo instruments (oboe da caccia and piccolo cello) and no tutti orchestra. By drawing attention to the two soloists, Bach may be suggesting that these are the two disciples who meet Christ (a trio) in the Gospel narrative of the road to Emmaus. The reference to the ³Word and Sacrament² echoes the historic allegorization of the story as a type of the eucharist: the exposition of the scriptures on the road and the breaking of bread at Emmaus. Why does Bach feel it necessary to mark the Alto ³choral² with ³Allegro²?

Mvt. 4: Recitative (bass)
Mvt. 5: Aria (bass)

A more familiar pattern of paired recitative and aria. Although the allegorical ³dialogue² elements are only lightly suggested in the cantata, the appearance of the bass voice might represent the ³hidden Christ² of the narrative who is only truly revealed in the reception of the sacrament later in the service. Interestingly, Bach does not write a separate concertante violin part in the tenor aria, even though the first violin part with its elaborate figuration is clearly a solo. Is this an OVPP ³chamber² movement? Bach carefully notes piano and forte markings in the strings, although they are not sufficiently comprehensive to serve as ³Solo² and ³Tutti² signals.

Mvt. 6: Chorale

I was surprised to see parts for all three oboes in the concluding chorale. Somehow I assume that the players laid aside their regular obes and picked up the more exotic oboes da caccia and d¹amore as required.

William Hoffman wrote (July 26, 2010):
EASTER MONDAY: 6, Bleib bei uns, denn es will Abend werden (Chorus, not chorale cantata)

4/2/1725 (Cycle 2), repeat 1736-39; original text with additions; reuse 6/3=649 (1748-49)

Sources: (1) score (SPK P.44, CPEB, Pölchau), (2) parts set (DS St. 7, CPEB)

Literature: BGA I (Hauptmann 1851), NBA KB I/10 (Dürr 1956); min. scores, Eulenberg (Schering 1926), rev. Hänssler (Horn 1961), Bärenreiter (Dürr 1959)

Text: ?Ch. Weiss or ?Picander (1-2. 4-5); chorales, (3) Selnecker, Ach blieb bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ (Ah, abide with us, Lord Jesus Christ; mel. Danket demm Herrn), (6) Luther "Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort" (Keep us, Lord, in Thy Word, S.2)' Gospel (1) Lk. 24:29

Forces: SATB, 4 vv, 2 ob, ob. d'c (vc picc), str, bc

Movements: chorus, 3 arias (A, S, T), recit. (B), chorale

Mvt. 1: Chorus (tutti): Abide with us, for it will evening become (sarabande; free dc [3/4, 2/2, 3/4], C minor)

Mvt. 2: Aria (A, ob d'c/va, bc): Remain our light (passepied-minuet, trio 3/8, Eb major)

Mvt. 3: Aria (S, vc picc, bc): Ah. Remain wth us (S. chorale, trio, 4/4, dal segno, Bb major)

Mvt. 4: Recitative (B, bc): Whence, however, has this come? (4/4, D-G minor)

Mvt. 5: Aria (T, str, bc): Jesus, let us on Thee look (4/4, G minor, ?trio)

Mvt. 6: Chorale (tutti): Prove Thy might, Lord Jesus Christ (4/4, G minor)

On Easter Monday, April 2, 1725, Bach's string of 40 consecutive chorale cantatas in his second Leipzig cycle, beginning with the First Sunday After Trinity 1724, comes to an end with Cantata BWV 6, <Bleib bei uns, es will Abend werden> (Abide with us, for it will evening become). He reverts to the first cycle form for that period: opening chorus (Gospel reading), aria, chorale (aria); recitative, aria, chorale. Free of the shackles of the chorale cantata form, Bach's new work has a text firmly grounded in the day's Gospel and the accompanying sermon to be preached.

Each of the six movements of Cantata BWV 6 contains integrated textual and musical elements appropriate to the long journey to Emmaus, Luke 24: 29, the biblical dictum. This cantata structure has <formal elements> with <clearly tangible characteristics relating to their content,> says Alfred Dürr, <Cantatas of JSB> (p.27). With the refrain of <bleib> (abide) in the first three movements, Bach takes the listener through a collective journey of the believers.

Following the beautiful, reflective opening free da-capo chorus, the two intimate trio arias take up the theme of abiding and being sustained by Christ's light in the world while the two chorales express more general sentiments. The two arias lead to a didactic, cautionary bass recitative where darkness intrudes and the listener is cautioned in the amended last line not to extinguish the light by overturning the lampstands (candles), a reference of Revelation 2:5, followed by an affirmative tenor aria. Cantata BWV 6 is divided into two equal sections, each closing with chorales, while the work probably was performed complete, before the sermon.

The key motivation to return to the established cantata form could have been the sermon's preacher, Bach's friend, colleague, and collaborator, Pastor Christian Weiss the Elder, the Pastor at Bach's church of St. Thomas. Dürr, citing Rudolf Wustmann, suggests that theologian Weiss wrote the texts for the biblical dictum six-movement cantatas, including BWV 6. He points out that Weiss was a learned scholar at the Leipzig University and that the Weiss and Bach were close friends.

Dürr relates that Weiss, who had lost his voice in 1718, was able to resume full-time preaching at Easter 1724, and possibly began a church- year cycle of sermons, based on the Gospels. Weiss could have added an emblematic element, or theme from the appointed service readings or he could have incorporated the appointed service chorale into the sermon for a chorale-sermon cycle, either technique "to counter the threat of monotony," says Dürr (pp. 29f).

Thus Weiss, engaged in full-time preaching again, may have delivered a cycle of sermons ending on Easter Sunday 1725. Meanwhile, simultaneously, he may have provided the Bach's cantata texts for most of an entire year. This would have entailed the Easter season ending of the first cantata cycle with its musical sermons, and the immediately succeeding second cycle of 40 chorale cantata texts with their paraphrases of the internal stanzas. Dürr cautions that a style-critical study of the linguistic and theological elements in the cantata libretti is needed in order to attempt to ascertain the identity of the librettist (pp. 26f).

As part of a well-ordered church music, Bach may have sought diversity in his cantata texts for Easter Monday, while he continued to use chorale cantata elements such as chorus fantasia and chorale aria in his church pieces during the Easter season. The first cycle Cantata BWV 66, a parody, has a dialogue or discourse form with celebratory music. Second cycle Cantata BWV 6 is a moving, reflective, collective work of the Christian community. The third Bach cantata for this Sunday, BWV Anh. 190, <Ich bin ein Pilgrim auf die Welt> (I am a pilgrim in the world), planned for April 18, 1729, was never finished and has a surviving Picander libretto of personal intensity and world-weariness. See: BCW http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/VI.html.

All that survives of this intimate solo cantata is the closing five measures of the B da capo section, in D major, ¾ time, of the fourth movement, the bass aria with basso continuo, < If I cannot have my Jesus>.

It is found in the original score of Cantata BWV 120a, "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge," a parody for a 1729 wedding, in the space at the end of the fourth movement, an orchestral sinfonia from Cantata BWV 29, opening Part 2, after the wedding. The closing chorale of Cantata BWV Anh. 190, < "Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn,> in C-E Major, probably exists as BWV 342, says Dürr (p. 281). Meanwhile, both extant Easter Monday Cantatas, BWV 66 and 6, were sufficient as Bach repeated BWV 66 at least twice and BWV 6 at least once, although changes in the instruments suggest additional reperformances.

Cantata BWV 6 shows that Bach retained a strong interest in chorales and their treatment in his cantatas.

Several remnants of chorale cantata movements exist in the 1725 Easter season. The soprano trio chorale aria, No. 3, with violoncello piccolo, <Ach blieb bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ> uses the first and second stanzas of Nikolaus Selnecker's chorale. It is probably the only surviving movement from a planned chorale cantata, based on Selnecker's nine-stanza hymn of 1611. "<There are perhaps about half a dozen minor corrections in Movement 3 but they are essentially 'formative' and thus suggest this is a composing score,"> says Robert Marshall in <Bach's Compositional Process> (I:22).

The other remnants from possible Easter Season chorale cantatas could be: BWV 85/3, soprano aria for Misericordias Domini; opening orchestral fantasia ritornelli for Quasimodogeniti, BC A-64 (7-bar sketch at end of BWV 103 score for the Third Sunday After Easter), and Exaudi, BC A-80 (6-bar sketch at end of BWV 79 for Reformation). Also surviving are the opening chorale choruses for BWV 112, Miericordias Domini; BWV 128, Ascension Day; and BWV 68, Pentecost Monday. Mysteriously, BWV 112/1 was composed in 1725, replaced by Cantata BWV 85 (?Weiss text), and completed for the Easter Season 1731 as part of a pure-hymn (per omnes versus) chorale Cantata BWV 112, Bach's only designated chorale cantata composed for the Easter Season. Cantatas BWV 128 and BWV 68 were set to texts of Mariane von Ziegler.

Bach thought so highly of this unaltered stanza setting of the chorale aria <Ach blieb bei uns>, BWV 6/3, that he included it in his published Schubler Chorale collection of 1748 of organ trios mostly arranged from chorale cantata arias with instrumental obbligato. The other adapted arias are BWV 140/4, BWV 93/4, BWV 10/5 and BWV 137/2). Previously in the 1724-25 chorale cantata cycle, Bach set pure-hymn chorale arias in six cantatas: BWV 92/4, BWV 93/4, BWV 93/3-6, BWV 113/2, BWV 114/4, and BWV 178/4.

Bach's four-part free-standing setting of <Ach blieb bei uns>, BWV 253 in A Major, may have been composed to close the projected chorale cantata for Easter Monday 1725. It is more likely, however, given its key incongruity with the BWV 6/3 chorale aria in Bb Major, that it was used to close the lost Cantata BWV Anh. 4, "Wünschet Jerusalem Glück," Picander text, for the Augsburg Confession 200th Anniversary in 1730.

It is possible that Bach had little interest in setting <Ach blieb bei uns> as a chorale cantata since its four-line nine-stanza text has little to do with the Easter season, being more appropriate for Reformation Day or as an Evening Song or for the Word of God or Christian Church. See http://www.musicanet.org/robokopp/hymn/lordjcwi.htm

The chorale <Ach blieb bei uns> is one of three used on Easter Monday in Leipzig (Stiller, 240). The other two, although not used by Bach on that date but later in the Easter season, are <Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag> and <Wenn Mein Stündlien vorhanden ist>.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 28, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Free of the shackles of the chorale cantata form, Bach?s new work has a text firmly grounded in the day?s Gospel and the accompanying sermon to be preached.
[...]
Thus Weiss, engaged in full-time preaching again, may have delivered a cycle of sermons ending on Easter Sunday
1725. Meanwhile, >simultaneously, he may have provided the Bach?s cantata texts for most of an entire year. This would have entailed the Easter season ending of the first cantata cycle with its musical sermons, and the immediately succeeding second cycle of 40 chorale cantata texts with their paraphrases of the internal stanzas. >
Simply from internal consistency, it is difficult to reconcile shackles of the chorale cantata form with the suggestion that Weiss provided texts spanning that entire output, as well as earlier and later works.

William Hoffman wrote (July 28, 2010):
Ed Myskowski writes:
< Simply from internal consistency, it is difficult to reconcile shackles of the chorale cantata form with the suggestion that Weiss provided texts spanning that entire output, as well as earlier and later works >
William Hoffman replies: I'm doing an exhaustive study of the chorales at 1725, connecting a lot of dots. I think both Bach and Weiss had met their mutual and separate commitments, a cycle of virtually original works covering a great range of chorales, fatigue, and new directions for both amid growing obstacles.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 30, 2010):
BWV 6

Tlatest recording of this cantata, from Suzuki [15], is possibly the finest overall recording of the cantata.

Suzuki [15], Gardiner [12] and Koopman [13] are all attractive in the moving opening chorus (with similarities to the closing chorus of the SJP, as various commentators have noted).

Suzuki [15] features the attractive oboe da caccia (tenor oboe) in the alto aria, graced with fine singing. Gardiner's singer has an unpleasant vibrato, while Koopman has the unsatisfactory organ continuo realisation (and what happened to the charming piziccato continuo strings?).

In the chorale with scintillating piccolo 'cello obbligato, I prefer the chorale line with tutti sopranos (Gardiner [12], Koopman [13]) rather than a soloist (Suzuki) [15], but the latter's version remains attractive.

Secco recitative - best deleted from all the recordings!

Tenor aria: I like Gardiner's steady tempo [12], Koopman [13] is also excellent with a quicker tempo. Suzuki [15] is verging on the brisk here, but remains enjoyable.

Final chorale: Suzuki brings the most pleasing 'gravitas' to the final movement, by the simple method of a slight pause on the fermatas. The shortening of this note in order to maintain strict tempo (a HIP phenomenon, I think) is a mistake, IMO.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 30, 2010):
William Hoffman wrote [to Ed Myskowski]:
< I'm doing an exhaustive study of the chorales at 1725, connecting a lot of dots. I think both Bach and Weiss had met their mutual and separate commitments, a cycle of virtually original works covering a great range of chorales, fatigue, and new directions for both amid growing obstacles. >
Ed Myskowski replies:
I have the greatest respect for Wills scholarship, and his generosity in sharing it with BCML. I guess it was the word shackles which caught my attention immediately. On reflection, it still does.

I look forward to ongoing discussion re the origin of the chorale canatata cycle of 1724-25. Bach shackled, or contented? Or both?

Bruce Simonson wrote (July 31, 2010):
It's been a while since I have contributed. I see that BWV 6 is on topic, so I thought I'd throw in a thought.

I've heard the second movement alto / oboe da caccia movement performed with alto and viola. I wondered why, until I considered the context.

This cantata is about the disciples walking on the road to Emmaus, and oncoming darkness as the sun sets. (Of course, this can be taken allegorically as "the pilgrim's path through life" and "the pilgrim's last hours and contemplation of what follows death" ... (that could be expressed a little more eloquently, I'm sure, but you get the idea)).

I think of the three opening movements of this cantata as Bach composing a sunset in music, and by extension, music for the twilight of life.

Movement 1 begins with the violins playing in unison on their lowest note (tutti with violas). Not an accident.

Movement 3 has the astonishing piccolo violoncello solo with soprano, recast as a Schübler chorale. This chorale carries the pivotal message of the cantata.

In addition to the smart writing for violins, the lovely descending oboe figures in the first movement pull my imagination into contemplating the setting sun at the end of the day. The fact that the lowest note and string of the violins are utilized reinforces this idea. And by movement three, the sun has set, and we are in those dark midnight hours, with the amazing chorale "Ach bleib bei uns Herr Jesu Christ".

So, because of the passage from violin to cello from movement 1 to 3, it can make sense to use viola in movement two, to "provide continuity" with the setting of the sun by moving downward through the string family. Just a thought.

Truly a beautiful cantata.

PS: Besides, violists read alto clef. :)

 

Article: "Bach cantatas and motets:Aus der Tieffen and beyond"

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 10, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< An interesting "Early Music" article on BWV 131 by list member, Bradley Lehmann, is available as a download online: >
I have now set up the permanent link to that review from this page, at the top: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/essays.html

The review includes seven volumes of Kuijken's series, Suzuki's volume 48, the newest in Ponseele's series, one by Gropper, and several recordings of the motets: Hiemetsberger, Wachner, and Kooij.

Enjoy!

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 11, 2012):
[To Bradley Lehman] Sorry that Dougs post slipped by without comment from me. Uncharacteristic. I have not yet taken opportunity to access Brads article, but I am confident it contains opinions to stimulate dispassionate discussion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 22, 2012):
Article: [BWV 6 review]

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< have now set up the permanent link to that review from this page, at the top: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/essays.html >
Brads review includes the most recent Kuijken release, Vol. 12, BWV 249 and 6 for Easter Sunday and Monday. In a happy coincidence, Brian McCreath chose BWV 6, for the radio and web broadcast (www.wgbh.org) Bach Hour on the Sunday after Easter. Not precisely liturgically correct, but as the broadcast cycle continues, Brian fills in non-Sunday compositions as appropriate.

More to the point, Brian chose the Christophe Coin CD release from 1995, which creates incentive for comparison and/or contrast with Kuijken’s subsequent (2011) CD. For the uninitiated, both recordings are from cycles with historically informed (HIP) intent:

(1) Christophe Coin undertook to record all the cantatas where Bach specifically indicated *violincello piccolo* using a period instrument. He also chose a recording venue with an authentic Bach era organ (Silbermann 1737), eglise de Ponitz (Thuringen-Allemagne). Although the number of choir and strings are perhaps just a bit large for an absolute HIP purist, the sound strikes me as minimally engineered, and in accord with the point Doug often makes regarding overall balance, especially the church organ. The Coin series is a rare (unique, I believe), opportunity to hear this detail on a group of recordings, Although the headline feature is use of vcp, the Coin CDs are worth seeking out for the authenticity of the Silbermann organ, as well . The soloist are world class (Barbara Schlick, Andreas Scholl, Christophe Pregardien, and Gotthold Schwarz) and the interpretations by Coin are without extremes, emphasis is on the church venue and the vcp lines.

Coins comments on the venue are interesting in their own right:

<While the organ parts in almost all the engravings of the cantatas are played on a small instrument (chest organ) we thought it would be interesting to use the great organ even for the continuo. It thus becomes the main axis around which instrumentalists and singers then gather. That is not without its problems (especially for the microphone [placement[). ... The result may seem more dense, and sometimes more blurred than usual [in recordings], but it conveys quite faithfully the sound a member of the congregation would have experienced sitting down below.> (end quote)

A couple questions for expert comment:
Is it accurate, as Coin comments, that most engravings show the use of a smaller organ for cantata performance?
Even if so, could that be as much artistic license as precise historic accuracy?

In any case, his caveat notwithstanding, I infer that Coin feels his recorded performance adds to the listeners experience of historic authenticity.

Thanks to Brian McCreath for a fine and informative broadcast selection.

(2) Kuijken’s ongoing series is specifically four voice choir (OVPP), in accordance with his performance experience and choices over a life-long career, as well as the scholarly arguments developed from the pioneering work of Joshua Rifkin and others.

If I understand the arguments and evidence correctly (as provided on a regular basis by Doug Cowling), Bach must have had two (2VPP) generally available, considering the many other works on his regular Sunday performance . This does not necessarily contradict the point, derived from surviving parts and other evidence, that the cantatas were suitable (if not specifically intended) for OVPP. Note that the two options (OVPP vs. 2VPP) are not necessarily mutually contradictory. Four voice choir (plus ripienists, when available and qualified).

Whatever the historic accuracy of OVPP, it provides a consistent brightness and clarity of texture throughout the Kuijken series, especially noticeable in BWV 6 in direct comparison with the Coin version. I find this clarity attractive, enjoyable, and helpful in grasping the musical structure, and I frequently comment to that effect. I find Brads comments fair and accurate, when he points out that the very consistency of the Kuijken series accumulates, and detracts from the emotional, interpretive impact of any specific work.

I hope some of you will be inspired to make your own comparison of the Kuijken and Coin recordings of BWV 6, and draw your own conclusions.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 22, 2012):
Article: "Authentic" portatives

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Is it accurate, as Coin comments, that most engravings show the use of a smaller organ for cantata performance?Even if so, could that be as much artistic license as precise historic accuracy? >
I would have suggested the opposite. Parrott and Leaver reproduce engravings which show performances in choir lofts with large organs, as in this famous example: http://www.kimballtrombone.com/files/2008/07/Walther-1732.jpg

Portative organs are a necessity because modern concert halls generally don't have resident organs, unlike the great 19th century concert halls. It is now "authentic" to have small portative organs with three or four ranks
and no pedal point - a far cry from the organs Bach would have used. Cantatas with organ obligato are often chronically undernourished.

An interesting sidebar: Handel had a custom-built combination organ/harpsichord which he moved from opera house to concert hall for oratorio and opera performances

I am looking forward to that full organ pedal note which opens Mahler's 8th when the Toronto Symphony performs it in June at Roy Thompson Hall.

 

Cantata BWV 6: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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

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