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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 60
O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Dirk Wursten wrote (November 28, 2001):
After the very learned discussion about the tritonus, which goes far beyond my comprehension, a very small contribution to the understanding of BWV 60.

1. The performances:
Indeed, I agree: Harnoncourts instruments (i.c. the windsection) hurt your ears; That's the advantage of Leusink: Mostly his instruments sound okay to me, and only his choir is really a pain in the ... And also: Indeed, Aryeh I agree: Buwalda - when I overcome my continous difficulty with his voice - is acceptable this time

2. mvt 5 the chorale
As I hear it the melody of 'ES IST GENUG' itself is not so stupifying. I tried to sing it, and with a proper oldfashioned harmonisation it is easily done and doesnot sound very odd. So it is Bach who makes something special of it.
I want to point out that in Bach’s musical and religious world 'the theme of death' is always ambiguous. This cantata is a fine example. The word and fact of death cause negative emotions (painted always in music, esp. around the word 'death' c.s.)... 'Der Tod bleibt doch der menschlichen Natur verhasst'... But at the same time 'in faith' this emotion has to be overcome, transformed. Grief and Fear are a temptation (Anfechtung). Hope (for eternal life, being with Christ, Blessed are the death...) has to
conquer.
The phrase: 'It is enough' also has this ambique meaning. Being fed up with, its too much AND I'm satisfied, fullfilled...

3. The contents of the cantata.
I agree with Aryeh, that the link between the gospel-reading (raising from the death of the daughter of Jairus) is not tenuous, but almost perfect. Even in a dramatic point of view. The meeting between Fear (incl. Grief and Complaint) and Hope leads to the raising of the dead girl. This story was read not so much as an historical event (though most christians believe it also historically to be true), but as a message about the power of Christ to conquer Death in the End... I write capitals, because these are words of importance, weighing through on life. So it is completely in order with the Gospel-reading that in the sermo musicalis of Bach the message is not: Look how Christ raised that girl, but: Look Blessed are the dead... who die with Christ as their 'Beistand'... because they will live for ever freed off.

4. On Bach and death I found I very good lecture on the net (in German):

Ich freue mich auf meinen Tod
Sterben und Tod in Bachs Kantaten aus theologischer Sicht*
Von Elke Axmacher

The link: http://www.tgkm.uni-bielefeld.de/theologie/dozent/axmacher/kantaten.htm

It is also published in Wagner, Günter (Hg.): Jahrbuch des Staatlichen Instituts für Musikforschung Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Stuttgart/ Weimar (Verlag J. B. Metzler) 1996, S. 24-40

Dirk Wursten wrote (November 28, 2001):
Still, the content of my contribution stands. By close-reading of the correct gospel story I find many elements in the gospel, that are retained in the text of the cantata... HOPE and FEAR meeting (around death) is exactly what happens. A vivid realistic dialogue in the gospel has its counterpart in the vivid sipiritual dialogue in the cantata.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 29, 2001):
BWV 60 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 60 - Provenance

Opinions of Some Commentators: [Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr]

See: Cantata BWV 60 – Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 29, 2001):
BWV 60 “Es ist genug” the Alban Berg connection, and Telemann too

Eric Chafe has some detailed comments regarding the connection between Bach’s “Es ist genug” and Alban Berg’s violin concerto:

“The final chorale [of BWV 60], “Es ist genug,” is one of the most famous in Bach’s work [I hope Eric Chafe is referring only to this cantata!], owing to Alban Berg’s incorporating it into his 1935 violin concerto, where it serves as a symbol for the eschatological character that Berg intended as the program for that work. In an immediate sense, Berg was drawn to that particular chorale because of the very complex, dissonant, and chromatic harmonization, especially that of its opening phrase. In Bach’s work those qualities are the outcome of a process of reflection on the inner character of the faith experience as well as on fundamental musico-allegorical properties of the tonal system. Berg’s seizing on certain of those qualities in his work, especially in the organization of its tone row, attests to his own intention of reflecting on fundamental tonal qualities, now in a basically atonal context.”

Later Chafe makes some more detailed comments on the connection as follows:

Alban Berg’s choosing this chorale setting as the principal musical symbol behind the eschatological program for his 1935 violin concerto was an action permeated by a profound understanding of what the movement represented for Bach. (Unfortunately, however, Berg must have used a faulty source for Bach’s harmonization since the version used in the Violin Concerto displaces the accented passing tone in its first measure, thereby eliminating the most biting dissonance in the setting.) From that standpoint the concerto is a milestone in the area of Bach reception. Berg, as is well known, incorporated the first phrase of the chorale into the tone row of the concerto, its four pitches, transposed up a whole tone, serving as the last four of the set. The transposition was owing, of course, to the fact that the other nine pitches of the row outline a rising-third progression that passes through a series of triads formed on the open strings of the violin (the first, third, fifth, and seventh pitches): g, b flat, d’, f#’, a’, c”, e”, g#”, b”, c#’”, d#’”, e#’”. Thus, the row outlines an alternating set of minor and major triads over its first nine pitches – g, D, a, E – after which the whole-tone sequence borrowed from “Es ist genug” suggests, if we refer to its original context (transposed, of course), the keys of B and its dominant F#. In other words, the row is an ascending circle of fifths that favors minor triads at the beginning and major toward the end; and if we transpose it down the whole tone, so that the final four pitches correspond with the first four of Bach’s chorale (an octave higher, of course) – a”, b”, c#’”, and d#’” – then the last six tones (d”, f#”, a”, b”, c#’”, and d#’”) would correspond to the beginning of the first phrase of “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort” (the D major triad) followed by the beginning of “Es ist genug.” And the sequence of triads in the row as a whole, including the keys implied by the ending of the series, would be f, C, g, D, A, and E. Taken as a series of pitches, this pattern corresponds to the natural hexachord, which would be very unlikely for Berg to have had in mind at all. Taken as a series of triads or even keys, it traverses a much wider tonal range, the one, in fact, that corresponds, in abbreviated form, to the flat/sharp limits of the movement keys of Bach’s cantatas and passions – F minor to E major. Berg has arranged his row so that it embodies an essential feature of the Western tonal system, and one that many composers after 1600 drew upon for musico-allegorical purposes, despite the great style differences among their works. The fifth- or fifth-plus-third-based principle behind pitches, triads, modes, and keys tended very much to view flatward progressions as descending motion and sharpward ones as the reverse. In the nineteenth century, when forms of “religious aesthetics” came into existence, especially in Germany, we find no dearth of works, among which Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” is, of course, the prime example, that polarize the “deep’ flat and sharp keys, even merge them via wide-ranging enharmonicism, for the purpose of creating an aura of transcendence. The beginning and ending keys of the third act of “Tristan” – F minoand B major – offer the most outstanding example, but other endings, such as the B major of the Liszt B minor sonata and Strauss’s “Also sprach Zarathustra” and the E major ending of Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, seem also to make an association between their very sharp keys and the elevated or transcendental spheres those ending keys represent. We might say that Berg is reflecting on fundamental properties of the tonal system within a new atonal context just as Bach and many Baroque composers before him reflected back on what they viewed as the “stile antico” of the sixteenth century within the context of the new tonal system.”

Telemann, as you know, was first choice to fill the position at St. Thomas in Leipzig, but it was Telemann who feared the “diabolus in musica” [the devil in music] whereas Bach did not. Here is Chafe’s comment on this point:

“On harmonizing the rising melodic tritone [of “Es ist genug”], Bach introduces one of the most striking gestures in all of his music. For others at the time, however, the melodic tritone was problematic: the Vopelius collection alters it to a perfect fourth, featuring d” instead of d#”, while Telemann’s version of the melody, for example, simply begins on the tonic and ascends by step to the third, repeating the third tone instead of continuing the line upward: Telemann harmonizes the phrase by a simple tonic—dominant—tonic progression. And Telemann, who provides variant versions for the great majority of his melodies, has none in the case of “Es ist genug,” … Bach’s version amplifies the qualities of the tritone.”

Dick Wursten wrote (November 30, 2001):
Thomas Braatz quotes Chafe, who writes that the mentioned composers make
<begin of quote>
"an association between their very sharp keys and the elevated or transcendental spheres those ending keys represent. We might say that Berg is reflecting on fundamental properties of the tonal system within a new atonal context just as Bach and many Baroque composers before him reflected back on what they viewed as the “stile antico” of the sixteenth century within the context of the new tonal system.”
<end of quote>
Do I get it right, when I see a connection between this part of Chafe’s obeservations and my question/statement in a mail a view days ago that the 16th (15th I would say) century tonality of the Lydian scale as "the most clear, floating, cheerful and angelic of all church tonalities" inspired Ahle to compose the first 4 tones above the words 'Es ist genug'...

Or am I wrong ?

Dick Wursten wrote (November 30, 2001):
Thomas Braatz quotes Chafe when he writes:
"In Bach’s work those qualities (i.e. of the choice and harmonisation of the
Ahle choral "es ist genug") are the outcome of a process of reflection on the inner character of the faith experience as well as on fundamental musico-allegorical properties of the tonal system. Berg’s seizing on certain of those qualities in his work, especially in the organization of its tone row, attests to his own intention of reflecting on fundamental tonal qualities, now in a basically atonal context.”
This phrase puzzles me.

I mean:
There obviously is awareness of the fact that with Bach the "reflection on the inner character of the faith experience" has a profound influence on his music. Yes, one even admits that this spiritual exercise is primordial to to his fundamental musico-allegorical exercises

But... then one suddenly stops. All attention goes to Bachs (and Berg’s) reflection on tonal and other musical qualities, little attention goes to Bachs prior reflection on he inner character of the faith experience which lead (led?) him to 1. the choice of this choral... and 2. the choice of this harmonization... And even prior to that: the reflection of Ahle to choose this 4 tones to express/reflect the statement "Es ist genug".

Having said this, I again will pull your attention to my humble reflections on the ambiguity of the 'statement of faith: "Es ist genug" which in all reflections above should be the FIRST thing to look at... AND EVERYBODY is from the very start convinced that this is a NEGATIVE statement, which it is only half true.

In the discussion which opened the debate (about BERG). the translators and debators all agree that ES IST GENUG should be translated like: I ve had enough of it (=this life)... which indeed is true. The most direct bible-quote is the prophet Eliah who has a 'burnt-out' (nil novo sub sole), is laying himself down under a juniper tree "and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now o Lord, take away my life" (1Kings 19,4)

But there is more to this sentence in this cantata. The whole cantata has happened, before this choral comes. And BWV 60 makes us extremely clear that death is not only negative, but a hopeful happening because it leads to eternal joy. The last word before this choral is "FREUDE".

And: The last phrase in the original choral verse 4 (before the couplet comes that Bach uses) is that JESUS finally has said to the tired and longing soul: Es ist genug ! So the second and dominant meaning of "Es ist genug" is POSITIVE.

And now hearing the chorale-harmonisation of Bach I hear nothing diabolic in the first line. I hear sheer exaltation. The only time in this verse when the sphere becomes 'down' is when Bach arrives at the words "Mein grosser Jammer", in the one but last line.

Conclusion: tonus diabolicus or not: the Bach harmonisation reflects the spiritual message of the text, which is exactly the one of the Lydian tonality, which I mentioned earlier (and will now stop to mention), as "the most clear, floating, cheerful and angelic of all church tonalities". BWV 60 ends angelic, not diabolic.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 30, 2001):
< Dick Wursten inquires: Do I get it right, when I see a connection between this part of Chafe's observations and my question/statement in a mail a view days ago that the 16th (15th I would say) century tonality of the Lydian scale as "the most clear, floating, cheerful and angelic of all church tonalities" inspired Ahle to compose the first 4 tones above the words 'Es ist genug'...
Or am I wrong ? >
Neither right, nor completely wrong.

Eric Chafe explains, the tritone (diabolus in musica) was not tolerated in the Lydian mode. In a way, Bach, by daring to face the devil (actually using the tritone) put him at odds with the church modes which had already declined drastically in Bach's time. It appears to me that Ahle as well broke with the traditional church modes that you claim inspired Ahle, yet there remains a connection which must be very carefully drawn and not overstated as you have in your opinion. Concentrate on the very first sentence, and your question will be answered:

"Although "Es ist genug" is, in fact, a tonal, not a modal, melody, its beginning with a quasi-Lydian gesture highlights tonal qualities that underlie the way that the modes were perceived for many centuries and that remained beyond the time of Bach even though modal composition itself declined drastically. "Es ist genug," that is, begins with the tetrachord that was traditionally corrected in the Lydian mode because of its introduction of the tritone or, in hexachordal terms, its confusing the placement of the "mi" and "fa" degrees. And it is not coincidental that when we arrange the spectrum of six modal finals (and four tetrachord types) as defined by a single hexachord in a circle-of-fifths pattern--F,C,G,d,a, and e in the case of the "cantus naturalis" and "cantus durus"--the Lydian mode is the flattest, followed by the Ionian/Mixolydian (major) and the Dorian/Aolian (minor), with the Phyrgian as the sharpest. The "fa" and "mi" degrees of the hexachord, that is, express a flat-sharp opposition that translates readily into tonal terms. Owing to the fact that its lower tetrachord describes a tritone, the Lydian mode tentoward the mode a fifth above; it was traditionally corrected, therefore, by the substitution of b flat for its fourth tone, b, a modification that rendered the mode into the more stable Ionian mode but at the same time shifted it into the flat hexachord or system. The Phrygian mode, however, tended tonally toward the mode a fifth below; owing to the widespread avoidance of the sharp system, however, its "correction" to the key of E minor, with the substitution of f# for f (Kircher's "other" Hypophrygian mode), came much later in time. The one mode, therefore, involved tonal expansion from the "cantus naturalis" to the "cantus mollis" and the other expansion from the "cantus naturalis" to the "cantus durus."

The chorales that begin and end Cantata 60 embody fundamental melodic qualities of the kind just described that Bach expands on in the settings as a whole, relating those qualities to the "directional" qualities in the cantata texts (heaven/earth; God/humankind, etc.)...The first phrase of "O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort" ends with the Ionian/Mixolydian tetrachord, which changes to the Lydian tetrachord via the raising of its fourth tone, d", to d#" at the beginning of "Es ist genug." The upward or sharpward tendency of the Lydian tetrachord and its final resolution into the Ionian/Mixolydian tetrachord of the mode a fifth higher at the end of Cantata 60 can be considered to mirror the fact that "Es ist genug" represents the believer's glimpse of eternity in the present life, while the downward or flatward tendency of the Phrygian tetrachord and its lack of resolution at the end of Cantata BWV 77 can be considered to represent the believer's cry to God from a state of weakness (although we cannot be sure if the chorale text that ended Cantata BWV 77, "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein," itself is an appeal for God to look down upon a world in which the believer is beset by evil and torment.) The anomalous flattened and incomplete ending of the final chorale of Cantata BWV 77 may be compared with the anomalous sharpened beginning of "Es ist genug: and it resolution into one of Bach's most satisfying endings...

The harmonies of the first phrase of "Es ist genug," daring as they are in themselves, have the larger function of immediately and decisively eradicating the tonal framework of D major, renewed at the close of the preceding recitative. They, in fact, "signal" the shift to a sharper frame of reference in a manner that is, once again, "opposite" to the passing augmented triad that sounds in the first phrase of the final chorale of Cantata 77....the series of raised pitches at the beginning of "Es ist genug" contains an excess of energy that pushes upward to the major mediant. The psychological effect ... is to suggest a quality which is the opposite of inevitability (mortalilty.) Within the musico-theological context of this cantata (BWV 60) there is a projection of a "durus quality."

The above is only a small portion (and virtually the only portion) of Chafe's discussion that comments on the relationship of the church modes on Bach's composition of the cantata. and "Es ist genug" in particular. All the rest is in terms of traditional harmonic progressions and the tonal, not modal, aspects of the melody.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 30, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] It just occurred to me that we need to be even more careful in just casually pulling in Ahle in order to support the use of church modes in the chorale, "Es ist genug" and to draw any religious inferences from the text which came later.

First came Johann Rudolf Ahle, the composer of the melody, born in 1625 in Mühlhausen (Thüringen) [doesn't this place sound familiar?] He became Cantor in Erfurt, then organist and mayor of Mühlhausen. He died in 1673. Both father, Johann Rudolf Ahle, and his son, Johann Georg Ahle, were organists at the church of Divi Blasii in Mühlhausen, the same church where Bach later also served as the organist.

Spitta refers to "Es ist genug" as being derived from one of Johann Rudolf Ahle's arias.

The MGG explains that Ahle composed arias with an introductory ritornello. These secular arias had a life of their own before they were adapted for church use when a poet created the appropriate words for them. Franz Joachim Burmeister from Lüneburg, the author of the text for "Es ist genug" was one of number of poets such as Starck, Vockerodt, and Clausnizer who adapted Ahle's music for the church. "Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier" has a text by Clausnizer.

If I'm not mistaken, didn't Suzuki record a CD devoted to the sacred music of Ahle? I don't remember which Ahle however, and I can't locate the CD.

Henny van der Groep wrote (November 30, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] May I thank you for the lot of work you're doing. I think Chafe has an interesting point of view. I don't know if Chafe mentions also Berg's "Wozzeck" in connection with religion? It might be usefull to see how Berg used "Affects" as "Leitmotif" and certain intervals or perhaps even modes in combination with faith. If I remember well "Wozzeck" was expressed somewhere in a circle of fifth's and Maria was connected with the devilish part. His way of composing in "Wozzeck" (which has also an eschatological character) is may be a interesting connection for understanding the way he composed and incorporated Bach's choral "Es ist Genug" in his "Violin Concerto", since I don't know the Opera very well and I'm not familiar enough with the interesting but difficult matter I could be totally wrong.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 3, 2001):
BWV 60 Wann ist’s genug? [“When is ‘enough’ enough already?”] and BWV 36

By now some of you must be wondering the same question which was also raised by Franz Joachim Burmeister, the poet who wrote “Es ist genug,” only now it might be applied to the seemingly endless commentary on a single Bach chorale, albeit perhaps the most famous or significant one. Eric Chafe’s research turned up the original verses by Burmeister, verses that were modified and changed by others before including them in the hymnals of Bach’s time. These changes are of the same order that also allowed hymnal editors and composers like Telemann, as we found out recently, to forsake the ‘angularity’ of Ahle’s melody in favor of the routine and commonplace, thus removing or changing notes (to avoid the tritone) or changing or modifying the text so that the appearance of uniformity and conformity could be preserved.

Burmeister, instead of ending each verse with “Es ist genug” [“It is enough”], the way it appears in most printed editions of hymnals from Bach’s time, has the 2nd verse end in “Des ist genug” [“Enough of all that already”] and the 3rd verse has the remarkable final question “Wenn [an older form of the interrogative, “Wann”] ist’s genug” [“When in the world will it ever be enough already?”] These final phrases in each verse express a Job-like dissatisfaction to the point of exasperation with the state of one’s life. All of this is lost when each verse has been ‘normalized’ implying that congregational singers have already reached the final stage of allowing Christ to relieve them of the burdensome “schwerer Gang” [“the difficult path or step”] of the “Kreuzesweg” [“the way of the cross”] so that these singers will die peacefully knowing that Christ will be their guide [“in Chrimorimur.”]

Allow me to expound on these matters of short-circuiting the process and the overcorrection which amounts to a kind of censorship whether imposed in ignorance, out of fear of breaking a harmonic rule, or imposing sectarian views upon the text author’s original intentions. Assuming that the textual changes were deliberate, this means to me a rather misguided attempt to change what were existing traditions concerning the final Sundays of the church year. Not being a theologian or an expert on church history, I can only reflect upon what I have read and experienced.

The final Sunday of the church year, if I am not mistaken about this, was once called “Totensonntag” [“Sunday of the Dead,”] relating to the Day of Last Judgment. At some point (was it a half century ago, or even earlier?) the name for this Sunday (other than the title ‘The Last Sunday of the Church Year’) was changed to “Ewigkeitssonntag” [“Eternity Sunday”], a change which pushed “Totensonntag” back to an earlier day in November. This name, "Eternity Sunday," had already ‘watered down’ the experience of trembling fear and terror [1st mvt. of BWV 60] in the face of the death experience (remember how “O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort” describes such details as your tongue sticking to your palate?!) Now, with ‘Eternity Sunday,’ the emphasis was mainly on the everlasting life, which is a more pleasant thought to entertain than the abhorrent details surrounding the process of dying.
As the church year ends and dies, so also the members of the church experience vicariously what the death experience, along with the concern for the wages of sin, really means. At least that was once the way the older Lutheran tradition had it.

I could also be wrong about this: more recently, the ecumenical movement caused a leveling and acceptance of traditions from other faiths. It was about this time that I was confronted with the notion/tradition? in the Lutheran church that this final Sunday was called “Christ, the King, Sunday.” Now, in a sense, the entire emphasis has been shifted to the final result: Christ, as the victorious leader. Who does not want to identify immediately with such a positive goal and outcome? What is missing or lacking here is the sequence of stages, the evolution which progresses on “der schwerer Gang” [“the difficult path or step”] or “Kreuzesweg” [“the way of the cross.”] The necessary stages in individual development have been preempted and short-circuited, or at least seriously deemphasized.

Bach’s cantatas generally do not preempt the suffering, fear, and terror in the face of death. He does (with the help of the texts that he chose) lead us through the valley of death in order to show us in the end how these things can be successfully resolved through Christ’s help.

Just as the final Sunday of the church year was changed from the ‘darkest’ time of the church year to a different type of emphasis, so also the observance of Advent has changed from that which it was originally: a period of quiet reflection and soul-searching at a time of the year when the northern hemisphere receives the least amount of light. The Advent wreath, with its four candles, symbolizes how one must struggle slowly toward the light [Christ and Jesus’ birth.] On the 1st Sunday of Advent only one candle burns and this continues by adding additional burning candles on each of the subsequent Sundays of Advent.

Along with the darkness of the 1st Sunday in Advent came music of a very unusual nature: Most of the melodies sung or played on the 1st and 2nd Sundays of Advent were in a minor!!! key with texts that reflected what people were still feeling at this time after just having experienced the final Sunday of the church year. Notable among these are the Luther hymn, “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” [“Come now, Savior of the Heathen,”] “Mit Ernst, o Menschenkinder” [“Seriously, o Children of Mankind”] in which the text describes how an arrogant man will be destroyed, will die from fear, “O Heiland, reiß die Himmel auf” [“Savior, tear open the Portals of Heaven”] in which one verse reads “we are suffering terribly here on earth and eternal death stands before our eyes,” and “Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen” [“A heavily-laden ship is coming”] in which it is stated that whoever wants to embrace the Christ Child, will, first of all, need to suffer great pain along with him, even to the point of martyrdom.

Other chorales such as “Gottes Sohn ist kommen” [“God’s son has come”] describe how evil people will have to go to a place where they will have to repent for their sins, and particularly “Macht hoch die Tür” [“Open the Gates”] and “Nun Jauchzet, all ihr Frommen” [“Rejoice, All Ye Pious Believers”] were reserved for the final Sundays of Advent.

Many early folksongs not incorporated into the Lutheran hymnals, and evidently inspired by Catholic traditions (on the subject of Mary) were also sung privately. “Und unsrer lieben Frauen” [“And Our Dear Lady”] and „Maria durch ein’n Dornwald ging“ [„Maria went through a Thorn Thicket.”] Both of these melodies are in a minor key.

And now to Bach:

How did he approach this time of deep soul-searching? If you examine the checkered history of Bach’s secular birthday cantata BWV 36 in all of its incarnations, then it becomes apparent that “Soar joyfully aloft” is certainly atypical for a performance in early Advent. Finally, after many changes, Bach added “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” with which the cantata concludes in the key of B minor.

Anyone who examines the Bach cantatas assigned to the different Sundays of the church year will quickly note the dearth of cantatas during Advent and Lent. This was due to the fact that, during these quiet times of the church year, all concerted music was suspended (in Leipzig, but not necessarily in other towns and cities where Bach had positions.) The two cantatas very much in the Advent tradition BWV 61, BWV 62 “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” were very likely performed on the 1st of Advent (also known as Advent Sunday) just as was BWV 36. Another Advent cantata, BWV 132, is of a pre-Leipzig period.

So we know that these cantatas were performed during the quiet period in Leipzig. How did Bach manage to perform these cantatas? By placing them at the extreme ends of the Sunday services, not during the main services. This was probably dictated by tradition in Leipzig. Here, according to Wolff, is the schedule that Bach wrote down for the performance of BWV 61 on the 1st Sunday of Advent in 1723 (Leipzig) : 1st performance at the 7:00 am service, the 2nd, and last one, at the 1:30 pm Vespers. Now comes the interesting part: Bach performed no more cantatas (concerted music) in any of the churches after that 1st Sunday until the 1st Day of Christmas!!

What I infer from this is that Bach, even at his former positions (pre-Leipzig,) did not compose any other Advent cantatas, because they were not called for, with the main exception being on the 1st Sunday of Advent and BWV 132 on the 4th Sunday of Advent, most of those cantatas composed originally for his pre-Leipzig positions. The presence of “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland” in these cantatas is significant because it is a very serious chorale in a minor key.

It would be interesting to speculate on just what Bach was trying to accomplish by taking music from a birthday cantata which he had recycled three times as a secular cantata and then creating a parody of this, literally saying and playing musically the idea “Happy Birthday, Jesus!” with all the joy that befits the situation, but then for the final revision overlaying this with the repeated use of the minor-key chorale “Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland.” But this also isthe Bach that I have come to appreciate: everything is simultaneous on various levels of understanding: the joy of birth, the “Kreuzesweg” of life, the experiences of death and resurrection. He wants all of these experiences to be present at the same time with no overemphasis or short-circuiting of any part of the whole, and yet he generally leads the listener through all of these experiences in sequence during the course of the entire cantata.

 

BWV 60 – Es ist genug

Johan Tufvesson (April 27, 2002):
let me first introduce myself as this is my first post here (I just joined). My name is Johan Tufvesson, and I am an amateur violinist who also publish a lot of music on the internet: (http://www.lysator.liu.se/~tuben/scores).

The reason for this mail is an interesting discussion on this list last year where BWV 60 and it's choral "Es ist genug" was thoroughly discussed. As my ability to read 18:century german handwriting is very low and I am currently doing a transcription of a small cantata by Friederich Gottlieb Klingenberg with this text I am very interested in getting all 5 verses in readable german. Klingenberg, who studied for Buxtehude until 1689, was active in Stettin during the years 1699-1720 where his student Lindemann copied the cantata in 1717.

On May 19, Thomas Braatz wrote:
< but the text was written by
Franz Joachim Burmeister (1662). If anyone on this mailing can find the complete text of this chorale, I would be most interested in seeing it. >
On December 3, Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Eric Chafe's research turned up the original verses by
Burmeister, verses that were modified and changed by others before including them in the hymnals of Bach's time. >
It may be my mistake, but I can not find these original verses in the archives. Were they ever presented on-list? If not, does anybody have all 5 verses in some digital format? All I can offer is a small "thank you" in the preface to my edition, but it would really help me.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 28, 2002):
[To Johan Tufvesson] They are not in the German hymnals that I have. Eric Chafe supplies only the 3rd verse in addition to the one that Bach used (vs. 5)

Eric Chafe gives only the 3rd verse without indicating his source:

Es ist genug des Kreuzes, das mir fast
Den Rücken wund gemacht.
Wie schwer, o Gott, wie hart ist diese Last!
Ich schwemme manche Nacht
Mein hartes Lager durch mit Thränen.
Wie lang', wie lange muss ich sehnen!
Wenn ist's genug?

Somehow I thought that I had read all the verses somewhere, but I can not put my finger on it at the present time.

Perhaps I confused what I was reading with the following, which seems to have been a model for Burmeister, but will not fit the rhyme scheme of the above:

Anton Ulrich von Braunschweig (1633-1714)

Sterbelied

Es ist genug! Mein matter Sinn
Sehnt sich dahin, wo meine Väter schlafen.
Ich hab es endlich guten Fug,
Es ist genug! Ich mußt mir Rast verschaffen.

Ich bin ermüdt, ich hab geführt
Die Tages Bürd: es muß einst Abend werden.
Erlös mich, Herr, spann aus den Pflug,
Es ist genug! Nimm von mir die Beschwerden.

Die große Last hat mich gedrückt,
Ja schier erstickt, so viele lange Jahre.
Ach laß mich finden, was ich such.
Es ist genug! Mit solcher Kreuzesware.

Nun gute Nacht, ihr meine Freund,

Perhaps someone else might have precisely what you are looking for?

Mark DeGermaux wrote (May 1, 2002):
[To Johan Tufvesson] I believe these are the verses you are looking for. There may be some spelling mistakes from my typing. I found the text in "Kirchen-Gesangbuch für Evangelisch-Lutherische Geminden..." Concordia Publishing House, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. 1903.

1. Es ist genug!
So nimm, Herr, meinen Geist
zu Zions Geistern hin;
lös auf das Band, das allgemählich reißt;
befreie diesen Sinn,
der sich nach seinem Gotte sehnet,
der täglich klagt und nächtlich thränet:
Es ist genug!


2. Es ist genug
des Jammers, der mich drückt!
Des Adams Apfelgier, das Sündengift,
hat kaum mich nicht erstickt;
nichts Gutes wohnt in mir.
Was kläglich mich von Gotte trennet,
was täglich mich beflecket nennet,
des ist genug.

3. Es ist genug
des Kreuzes, das mir fast
den Rücken wund gemacht;
wie schwer, o Gott, wie hart ist diese Last!
Ich schwemme manche Nacht
mein hartes Lager durch mit Thränen.
Wie lang, wie lange muß ich sehnen?
Wann ists genug?

4. Es ist genug,
wenn nur mein Jesus will.
Er kennet ja mein Herz;
Ich harre sein und halt indessen still,
bis er mir allen Schmerz,
der meine sieche Brust abnaget,
zurücke legt und zu mir saget:
Es ist genug!


5. Es ist genug,
Herr, wenn es dir gefällt,
so spanne mich doch aus. Mein Jesus kömmt!
Nun gute Nacht, o Welt!
Ich fahr ins Himmelshaus,
ich fahre sicher hin mit Frieden;
Mein feuchter Jammer bleibt darnieden.
Es ist genug!

 

BWV 60 "O Ewigkeit, Du Donnerwort"

Andreas Bughardt wrote (November 13, 2002):
On my journey from Munich to Berlin this weekend I made a stop-over in Leipzig to attend the traditional "Motette und Kantate" of the Thomanerchor in Bach's St. Thomas church in Leipzig. Saturday was a depressing grey November day and the scheduled cantata No. 60 "O Ewigkeit, Du Donnerwort" was not suited to brighten the mood. This cantata is one of the most subtle and dark cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach and it will never be one of my favourites. As already mentioned the cantata is subtle, very subtle, and it was necessary for me to hear it several times before I experienced its brilliance. The cantata was written for the 7th November 1723 and I heard on this afternoon a performance exactly 279 years later, at the very place for which Bach it has written for. The cantata is in dialogue form, a quarrel in face of death between the 'Furcht' (fear), sung by the alto voice, and the 'Hoffnung' (hope), sung the tenor voice. The quarrel can be heard in the instruments as well. In the first movement the "Donnerwort" (thunderous word) is expressed by the strings while two oboes d'amore interpose sighing angst motifs. The cantata is written for a congregation of the 18th century, were perdition and hell-fire were substantial concerns and the question whether the soul would be saved (or not) was most important in face of death. The cantata text uses extremely intense pictures and wordings to express this. For example 'fear' asks: "Ist den die Seligkeit mein Teil und Erbe? Der Leib wird ja der Würmer Speise.". "Der Würmer Speise" (food for the worms) isn't that an amazing image? Anyway, in that moment Christ, sung by the bass voice, appears and comforts: "Selig sind die Toten, die im Herrn sterben, von nun an" (blessed they who perish, who in the Lord are dying henceforth). Now, one would normally expect a friendly and relieving final choral, but Bach ends the cantata with a bold choral, which is without comparison in his entire cantata work, starting and ending with the words "Es ist genug" (It is enough). Actually it is a choral reflecting the moment of death, a chorale which Alban Berg incorporated as the prayer of death in his violin concerto.

The alto part was sung by Susanne Krumbiegel, who has a warm and beautiful voice and gave 'fear' some lightness. I would have preferred to hear a boy alto but she was much better than the wailing Paul Esswood in the Harnoncourt recording. By the way the Thomanerchor has a fine boy alto in the moment, his name is Mathias Monrad Møller who sung a huge solo in the service on Sunday. - It was also very nice to hear a famous opera singer like Martin Petzold to sing the tenor solo in the cantata on this afternoon, but unfortunately he had some short dropouts. Mathias Weichert sung the "vox Christi" with force. Thomaskantor Georg Christoph Biller directed the Thomanerchor and the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig.

Boyd Pehrson wrote (November 14, 2002):
[To Andreas Burghardt] I greatly enjoyed reading this. Your post exemplifies what this fis about.

 

"Es ist genug" chorale of BWV 60

Continue of discussion from: Cantata BWV 48 - Discussions part 2

Bradley Lehman (November 10, 2005):
<"Robertson aptly compares the chorale's anguished harmonies to those of the famous setting of "Ich hab genug" from BWV 60. >
...Except that there's nothing anguished-sounding about the harmonies of that chorale from 60. I played it as the opening piece on my concert last week, on organ, and found that it has nothing terribly startling in it anywhere. Also there's a lovely recording of it by the Swingle Singers, to similar effect: Amazon.com
Nor does it sound particularly anguished near the end of Alban Berg's violin concerto; quite the opposite, where it's the calming influence among turmoil.

Neil Halliday (November 10, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<<"Robertson aptly compares the chorale's anguished harmonies to those of the famous setting of "Ich hab genug" from BWV 60. >>
< ...Except that there's nothing anguished-sounding about the harmonies of that chorale from BWV 60.>
To be fair to Robertson, in his commentary on both BWV 60/5 (pg.326) and BWV 48/3 (pg. 296), he refers only to "amazing chromatic harmonisations"; another observer (Daw, I think) changes Robertson's "amazing, chromatic" to "anguished" harmonies.

One has to agree with Robertson; for example, accompanying the penultimate line of text in the BWV 60 chorale ("my great fear remains hereunder"), we have the bass line descending over two bars with the chromatic scale; while at the same time the tenor line ascends with three notes of the chromatic scale (then falling back a semitone) over the first of these two bars, then in the second of these two bars the alto line descends with three notes of the chromatic scale (then rising a semitone) while the sopranos carry the melody. In short, amazing. (And don't forget the harmonisation of the three whole tone steps, at the start)!

Likewise the last four bars of BWV 48/3 have striking harmonisations.

(Whether these complex harmonisations are perceived as "anguished" or "soothing", or whatever, will I suppose depend on the sensibilities of the listener, as well as the nature of a particular performance).

Bradley Lehman (November 10, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< To be fair to Robertson, in his commentary on both 60/5 (pg.326) and 48/3 (pg. 296), he refers only to "amazing chromatic harmonisations"; another observer (Daw, I think) changes Robertson's "amazing, chromatic" to "anguished" harmonies. >
Thanks for clarifying! There is quite a difference between "amazing, chromatic" and "anguished".

< One has to agree with Robertson; for example, accompanying the penultimate line of text in the BWV 60 chorale ("my great fear remains hereunder"), we have the bass line descending over two bars with the chromatic scale; while at the same time the tenor line ascends with three notes of the chromatic scale (then falling back a semitone) over the first of these two bars, then in the second of these two bars the alto line descends with three notes of the chromatic scale (then rising a semitone) while the sopranos carry the melody. In short, amazing. >
The thing I find most striking about that passage is: the three lower voices are moving together in exact parallel into a downbeat, including a parallel minor 7th between tenor and bass. And then on the next beat all four voices move in the same direction (whereas Bach almost always has some contrary motion somewhere, or at least one voice holding steady.)

I like your emphasis on the melodic motion here in the voices. That's at least as important as trying to puzzle out the "chords" or their progressions, which in Bach often result from linear motion (as here) more than from any typical harmonic sequences. That's part of the reason Bach's harmonic language sounded so advanced yet logical, to his contemporaries and the next generation of admirers. All the part-writing has such integrity, even if those melodies seem a little strange in isolation (Forkel described this well).

< (And don't forget the harmonisation of the three whole tone steps, at the start)! >
Or its different harmonization the second time that phrase comes around. Interesting spots where the odd melody itself constrained Bach to do creative things, getting around the fact that no single diatonic scale has three whole tones in succession.

< (Whether these complex harmonisations are perceived as "anguished" or "soothing", or whatever, will I suppose depend on the sensibilities of the listener, as well as the nature of a particular performance). >
The character perception also depends somewhat on the keyboard temperament(s) the piece is played in, with or without the singers. This is part of the point of trying to reproduce the setups Bach likely had on the Leipzig organs and harpsichords, for rehearsal and performance: to sense the proper intended character of the music as a guide to performing it appropriately.

Bradley Lehman (November 12, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< (And don't forget the harmonisation of the three whole tone steps, at the start)! >>
< Or its different harmonization the second time that phrase comes around. Interesting spots where the odd melody itself constrained Bach to do creative things, getting around the fact that no single diatonic scale has three whole tones in succession. >
To clarify (so nobody jumps on this and lectures me remedially on the existence of Lydian mode), I obviously meant "three whole tones in succession starting on the tonic". All the classic modes based on a diatonic scale have the sequence of three tones in a row, somewhere; just not in front.

And the tune "Es ist genug" isn't in any classic mode, wholly; right away in the first two phrases we've used two different versions of the 4th scale degree.

Carry on.

Douglas Cowling (November 12, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< To clarify (so nobody jumps on this and lectures me remedially on the existence of Lydian mode), I obviously meant "three whole tones in succession starting on the tonic". All the classic modes based on a diatonic scale have the sequence of three tones in a row, somewhere; just not in front.
And the tune "Es ist genug" isn't in any classic mode, wholly; right away in the first two phrases we've used two different versions of the 4th scale degree. >
Whole tone progressions are a favourite game with composers. Palestrina's "Stabat Mater" famously opens with rising whole tones in the soprano and falling whole tones in the bass (A major, G Major, F major). Pure magic!

Indra Hughes (November 12, 2005):
[To Douglas Cowling] Pure magic indeed....the other thing that is notable about the Palestrina Stabat Mater (in my opinion) is that it opens with a very long succession of chords in root position. This is one detail that contributes to its amazing timeless and 'churchy' feel.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 60: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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Last update: ýDecember 27, 2012 ý23:40:33