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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 61
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 4, 2009

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 3, 2009):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>Bach's aim of a well-regulated church music, often from sources many decades and centuries before his time, does not rule out that his aspirations were to communicate to generations to come; just as , in gathering together his ancestors compositions , he participated in a time scale well beyond early eighteenth century Leipzig.<
Peter did not make a specific response to my comment, <There are no 18th C. Leipzig Lutherans alive>, but close enough that I would like to elaborate. I did not intend to say that Bachs music is not relevant to our time. Nor did I mean to suggest that Bach did not see his creativity in a larger (eternal?) time scale. Indeed, do not we all? He just did it better than almost everyone, and he knew it!
.
I do mean to suggest that some aspects of the texts that Bach set are very specific to his own time and place, and they require interpretation (not to say indulgence) to be understood in the 21st C., and in relation to Christianity, going back to year 1 CE.(that would be the New Years Day of century number one, the birth of Jesus, or more precisely, his circumcision?), The First Century ended in the year 100 CE. We did not call it that yet. CE (or AD, Anno Domini, Latin style) was invented somewhat later, perhaps in the 300s (4th C. AD). I will look up the correct date (to the closest century), unless someone has a quick answer. I would bet it has something to do with those Easter negotiations, ca. 4th C. One God, one church, right? Not quite yet.

Re BWV 61, Saint (later) Ambrosius. gave it a good try, 4th C.: <Veni redemptor gentium>. Francis Browne notes in his translation (not to be missed, at BCW home page, English 3)) that the Latin is difficult. I am pondering <gentium>. After Luther's German (Heiland), it ends up as <gentiles> in most English translations.. Pamela Delall (English 6) opts for <heathens>. My suggestion is that the conciliatory Ambrosius wanted to imply <all the people>. I hope he did not mean <all but the Jews> (e.t., gentiles), but who knows? Anyway, that does not seem to me like a very Christian translation for the 21st C. No surprise that people get pissed off.

PS
>The timelessness of his musical settings is a wonder set against the transitory affect of other composers.<
EM
Hmm. I cannot speak for Telemaniacs (sp?), but I wonder. Also:

Re BWV 203, previous BCML post (quoting Handel):
>IV
La bellezza è come un fiore:
Sul matin vivace e bello,
Sul matin di primavera.
Che la sera langue e more,
Si scolora e non p.
Beauty is like a flower:
At dawn it is lively and beautiful,
In early spring.
But at evening it languishes and dies,
It grows pale and is not the same.<
This particular dawn, this old flower is beginning pale and not the same. OTOH, by January 3 the new year is looking very familiar, much like the previous ones. I am counting the days until Candlemas and Crepes - only thirty to go...

Kim Pattrick Clow wrote (January 3, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>> PS
The timelessness of his musical settings is a wonder set against the transitory affect of other composers.<<
< EM
Hmm. I cannot speak for Telemaniacs (sp?), but I wonder. Also: >
Well for one Telemaniac, I can't help but chime in and say I have to disagree on this statement, while I appreciate the desire to elevate Bach's music above all of his peers, I'm afraid it's simply untrue: some of Telemann's settings of cantatas can be just as inspired with just as much musical inventiveness as Bach. I hope my statement doesn't get me strung up from a tree ;)

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 3, 2009):
>> PSmaill
The timelessness of his musical settings is a wonder set against the transitory affect of other composers.<
> EMyskowski
Hmm. I cannot speak for Telemaniacs (sp?), but I wonder. Also: <

KClow
>Well for one Telemaniac, I can't help but chime in and say I have to disagree on this statement, while I appreciate the desire to elevate Bach's music above all of his peers, I'm afraid it's simply untrue: some of Telemann's settings of cantatas can be just as inspired with just as much musical inventiveness as Bach. I hope my statement doesn't get me strung up from a tree ;)<
Not a risk, peace and goodwill are on Earth! Not yet? Stay alert, then. Thanks for responding to the opening.

I would have added Kuhnau, but I could not recall your clever designation for a fan. Bach remains the maestro, for me, but I do enjoy your contributions to put him in context. I have found my way to some music I would otherwise have overlooked, I expect that is your intent.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (January 3, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] Blessings, Ed!

"No surprise that people get pissed off", partly by reason of human copious imperfections; but also due to a great deal of grudge intellectually spread against Christianity. Indeed, you will be able to find anti-Semitism among Christians, but those who hate the Jews, or hate anyone, do it against Christ’s and apostolic teachings. According to the apostles, he who hates is not truly in light. On the other hand, Christians have been imprisoned and put to death even today by communists and totalitarian countries without anyone claiming against Marx, Nietzsche or other writers who still attacks Christianity with great bitterness, and in vast number. Anyhow, Christianity does not mean "ALL BUT THE JEWS", but "ALSO those who are not Jews", and since, in the first century, some perhaps expected a Messiah for Jews only.

Greetings!

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (January 3, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Would you suggest a CD of Telemann's cantatas, the very best according to your taste, Kim? What about those from CPO? Are they worthy of a Telemaniac?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 4, 2009):
Evan wrote.
>I believe you meant "Heiden" (rather than "Heiland") as the word corresponding to "gentium"<
Yes, indeed! Sadly, I had looked it up earlier in the day, and still managed to get it backwards. Thanks for the polite correction, and also for the positive response to the gist of my message.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 4, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
> Would you suggest a CD of Telemann's cantatas, the very best according to your taste, Kim? What about those from CPO? Are they worthy of a Telemaniac? <
The CPO discs are great I think with a wide variety of selections. Der Messias is a great buy I think. You asked for some specific items though-- so here's a VERY short list:

"Du aber Daniel gehe hin," TWV 4:17 (A funeral cantata)
http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/5699331?

"Alles redet jetzt und singet," TWV 20:10
http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/2881038?

"Machet die Tore weit", TWVW 1:1074
http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/6278861
This cantata was copied by Bach and performed in Leipzig in 1734, and apparently C.P.E. Bach inherited the score, since it eventually ended up in the Prussian National Library (Berlin SPK Bach Autogr. P. 47). This should be very telling to us about the quality of this particular piece and what the Bach family thought about it.

Brockes Passion, TWV 5:1
http://www.jpc.de/jpcng/classic/detail/-/hnum/6058521?
There will be a new recording of this with Rene Jacob on the Harmonia Mundi label in Feburary 2009:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Telemann-Brockes-Passion.htm
(7 Sopranos, my goodness!)

I would also recommend the Telemann Kaptains-Music too, but that music has a completely different focus and purpose, but it's still quite lovely stuff and recommended.

I hope this helps.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (January 4, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Thanks for replying, Kim.

I have added those titles to my wish list, Junghänel above them all.

William Hoffman wrote (January 5, 2009):
2009 Discussion: Advent Frame

Advent-Related Chorales:

Key: 7/1 (chorale chorus); 7/7 (4-part chorale); (5)=Stanza 5; 601 (organ setting); BWV 147a/6 (treatment unknown); Hammerschmidt (motet)

Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (John): BWV 7/1(1), BWV 7/7(7)
Du Friede fürst, Herr Jesu Christ (Tr.+26): BWV 116/6(7)
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt: TVWV 1:596/6(7)
Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (Tr.26): BWV 70/7; Anh. 52
Gottes Sohn ist kommen or Gott, durch deine Güte (Adv.): 318=? Picander 1/7, Ob. 600, 703, 724, Anh. 75
Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn or Herr Gott, nun sei gepreiset (Adv., Ann.):
BWV 132/6(5)=?164/6(5), Ob. 601, 698, Anh. 55 & 77, Anh. 156/1(1); Rinck 4 or 5.
Ich dank dir, liebe Herre (Adv.): BWV 147a/6(6) (music lost)
Jesu, meiner Seelen Wonne (Visit.): BWV 147/6(6)
Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott (Adv.): Ob. 602, 704.
Machet die Tore weit (Hammerschmidt, Adv.)
Meinen Jesum, laß ich nicht (Adv.): BWV 70a/6(5)= BWV 70/11(5)
Meine Seele erhebt den Heren (Visit.): BWV 10/1(1), BWV 10/7(7)
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland(Adv.): BWV 36/2(1), BWV 36/6(6), BWV 36/8(8), BWV 61/1(1), BWV 62/1(1), BWV 62/6(8),
Ob. 599, 659-661, 699
Tröset, tröeset meine Liebe(John): BWV 30/6(3)
Vater unser im Himmelreich (Nimm von uns; Tr. 25): BWV 90/5(7)
Von Gott, will ich nicht lassen (Adv.): BWV 186a/6(8)=?73/5(8),
BWV 220/1(5), 658; TVWV 1:596/3(5)
Warum willst du (Adv.): TVWV1:1074/5(1)
Wie schön leuchtet den Morgenstern (Adv.): BWV 36/4(6), BWV 61/6(6), 1/1(1), 1/6(6), 739, 763, 764,

The following chorales cited above are identified as traditional Advent hymns in Bach's time: "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland," "Wie schön leuchtet den Morgenstern," "Herr Christ, der einge Gottessohn," "Meinen Jesum, laß ich nicht," and "Von Gott, will ich nicht lassen," in Günther Stiller, <JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig> (Eng. Ed. 1984, p.233f). It should be noted that many of these chorale serve multiple purposes, found not only on Advent-related occasions (see list below, READINGS) but also in other related usages for Epiphany and Trinity seasons as well as in Passion settings ("Meinen Jesum, laß ich nicht," BWV 244b/35).

<Orgelbüchlein> (Ob.). Bach's organ chorale hymnbook of church-year settings in the <Orgelbüchlein> begins with for settings for the Advent Season, BWV 599-602. These were among the first composed, BWV 601, 1708-12?; and the other three dated to 1709-13?, according to Peter Williams' <The Organ Music of JSB> (2nd ed., CUP, 2003), p. 232. Bach's initial and original compilation in 1714 suggests that its purpose was for the "rebuilt Weimar organ or the larger new organ of the Liebfrauenkirchke, Halle, where he was invited to succeed F.W. Zachow" (Handel's teacher) in December 1713).

The <Orgelbüchlein> was Bach's first manifestation of a well-appointed music for the church year. It was an original assembledge by Bach, who was officially the Weimar Court organist. As a direct result of Bach's successful Halle probe on December 12 during Advent, he rejected the appointment in favor of his new duties as Weimar Court "Konzertmeister." He was then responsible in part for furnishing cantatas or church-pieces every fourth Sunday (or monthly) during the church year. This was the second manifestation of Bach's well-appointed music for the church year.

READINGS: ADVENT & RELATED OCCASIONS

Date: Gospel, Epistle; Cantata BWV
1. 1st Sunday in Advent: Mat. 21: 1-9 (Jerusalem entry), Rom. 13: 11-14 (Salvation near); BWV 61, BWV 62, BWV 36.
2. 2nd Sunday in Advent: Luke 21: 25-33 (Fig tree lesson), Rom. 15: 4-13 (Gentiles Gospel); BWV 70a.
3. 3rd Sunday in Advent: Mat. 11: 2-10 (John's messengers), 1 Cor. 4: 1-5 (Christs' Apostles); BWV 186a, BWV 141.
4. 4th Sunday in Advent: John 1: 19-28 (John's message), Phil. 4: 4-7 (God be with you); BWV 132, BWV 147a.
5. Annunciation (3/25): Luke 1: 26-38 (Birth announced), Isaiah 7: 10-16 (Sign of Immanuel); BWV 182, BWV Anh. 199, 1, BWV Anh. 156
6. John the Baptist (6/26); Luke 1: 57-80 (Simeon's Canticle), Isaiah 40: 1-5 (Messiah prophesey); BWV 167, BWV 7, TVWV1:596, JLB-17, BWV 30, BWV 220.
7. Visitation (7/2): Luke 1: 39-56 (Magnificat), Isaiah 11: 1-5 (Peaceful Kingdom); BWV 147, BWV 10; BWV 189.
8. Trinity +25: Mat. 24: 15-28 (Judgement Day); 1 Thes. 4: 13-18 (Sleep in Jesus); BWV 90, BWV 116.
9. Trinity +26: Mat. 25: 31-46 (Final Judgement), 2 Ptr. 3: 3-13 (Resurrection); BWV 70.
10. Trinity +27: Mat. 25: 1-15 (Parable of 10 Virgins), 1 Thes. 5: 1-11 (Lord's Coming); BWV 140.

Season of Advent: The four Sundays in the fixed season of Advent mark the beginning of the church year. Advent also is a transitional season involving the previous final three Sundays in Trinity (Trinity +25-27), the Alpha and Omega, and is related to the fixed-date Marien Festivals of Annunciation (March 25) and Visitation (July 2) and the Festival of St. John the Baptist (June 24). In Leipzig, Bach provided seasonal music only on the First Sunday in Advent, which was "often emphasized as a special festival day over against the rest of the season, which was usually observed as a time of penitence," says Stiller, Ibid., p.58.

Historically, Advent Season is a four-part observance marking both the "coming" of the savior as well as the "Incarnation of the Son of God." Various ancient writers describe the four Sundays as Christ's coming from Heaven, coming in the spirit, coming to each one of His own, and "coming in Glory to Judgment," accto Paul Zeller Strodach's "The Church Year" (United Lutheran pub., Philadelphia PA, 1924), p. 23f. Other writers speak of these Sundays as incarnation, redemption, instruction, and glorification or, simply, as Sundays TO men, FOR men, IN men, and AGAINST men.

The Liturgy and its Propers, as the Reformers established them in a common service book, with the scriptural readings of the Gospels and Epistles, reveal already in the Advent Season the canticle element of song, joy, proclamation, expectation, and deliverance. The opening, entering Introits address the old Testament celebratory psalms and the prophecies of Isaiah and conclude with the triune "Gloria Patri.". The Collects, drawn from throughout the Christian Church's history, are a collective petition of the gathering of the faithful, containing the central meaning and teaching of the scriptural readings or lessons, and concluding with the doxology closing, "as it was in the beginning.." The sung Gradual and Hallelujah between the lessons stress the central psalmic theme of blessing, "Benedictus qui venit" (Blessed is he who comes"). Some of the Advent themes include "open wide the portals," Psalm 45.7; the coming of Immanuel ("God with us" - the central theme of the Old Testament); and the preparation of the way in Isaiah 40.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 5, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The opening, entering Introits address the old Testament celebratory psalms and the prophecies of Isaiah and conclude with the triune "Gloria Patri.". The Collects, drawn from throughout the Christian Church's history, are a collective petition of the gathering of the faithful, containing the central meaning and teaching of the scriptural readings or lessons, and concluding with the doxology closing, "as it was in the beginning.." The sung Gradual and Hallelujah between the lessons stress the central psalmic theme of blessing, "Benedictus qui venit" (Blessed is he who comes"). >
Leaver and Stiller say that the psalmodic introit was probably not sung in Leipzig by Bach's day, but replaced by a polyphonic motet on Sundays and festivals, a congregational chorale on other occasions. This in spite of the fact that Bach still called the Sundays by their introit title: e.g. Dominica Esto Mihi. The psalmodic Gradual and Alleluia were replaced by the Hymn De Tempore.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 5, 2009):
Recordings of BWV 61

Have a listen to Mallon's [19] BWV 61 soprano aria (Mvt. 5), probably one of the nicest: Amazon.com

Koopman's [13] opening chorus (BWV 61/1) avoids the emphatic, eventually tiring staccato of Herreweghe [15].

Purcell Quartet's BWV 61 version [26] missed the mark for me (tempi too fast), but listen to their BWV 12 first chorus, which certainly expresses "weeping and wailing" in a moving fashion (note the long held accompanying string chords). {Theology, war and politics: there is plenty to weep over, as Ed says].

Samples for all the above at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV61.htm

Suzuki's [16] tenor aria is pleasing, and his opening chorus, though one of the fastest, has a powerful forward drive that is aided by less emphatic staccato of the dotted quavers, c.f. Gardiner [11] at the same tempo.

I have enjoyed returning today to the BWV 61 recordings of Richter [4] and Werner [1] (with reservations concerning Richter's soprano and Werner's continuo organ). This is one of Richter's successful cantatas, though the final chorus may be perceived as overly forceful and rigid; conversely, Werner's central section of the "overture" movement drags somewhat.

I will give Rilling [5] a spin later.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 6, 2009):
BWV 61, Epiphany, and BWV 1

Paul McCain wrote:
>Today is Epiphany and the great Lutheran chorale "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" has come to be associated with this festival day.<
Is this an association shared by Bach, or is it more recent? Bach used the chorale and text in BWV 1, for the Feast of the Annunciation. I also note that the final chorale verse concludes BWV 61, for the First Sunday in Advent, and our first discussion topic for the new cycle just underway. See Dürr, re BWV 61/6: <That Neumeister was here content with only part of a hymn verse is surely a sign of incipient indifference to the chorale.> I invite comments from others re Dürr's statement, which strikes me as perhaps controversial. In fact, I am happy to emphasize that I did not say it myself.

I also note some challenging discussion material from the first verse of the chorale, from BWV 1/1, Dürr translation:
<The sweet root of Jesse! You [Jesus] son of David from Jacobs stock.>

For a lively and very readable discussion of the relation between Christian doctrines and Old Testament prophecies and genealogy, see Elaine Pagels, <Beyond Belief>, a topic also touched on in the opening chapters of Thomas Cahill, <Mysteries of the Middle Ages>, Jeans recommendation, which is what set me off in that direction. The implications for Bach are likely to thread through our discussions in the coming years, with the liturgical orientation of the schedule. The difficulty in reconciling the ideas cited in the chorale text lines cited, with the virgin birth/impregnation by the Holy Ghost, was central to the schisms amongst the earliest Christian sects. Those schisms were never comlpetely resolved, despite the best (?) political intentions of many (Constantine, for example). By Bachs time, of course, many newer schisms were layered over the enduring, older ones. That is ongoing, as far as I can tell.

At the risk of belaboring the point, I would like to note that more than one person, both on and off list, has called me an <atheist>. That judgement is both inaccurate, and inappropriate for discussion on this forum.

William Hoffman wrote (January 6, 2009):
Paul McCain wrote:
>>Today is Epiphany and the great Lutheran chorale "How Lovely Shines the Morning Star" has come to be associated with this festival day.<<
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> Is this an association shared by Bach, or is it more recent? Bach used the chorale and text in BWV 1, for the Feast of the Annunciation. I also note that the final chorale verse concludes BWV 61, for the First Sunday in Advent, and our first discussion topic for the new cycle just underway. See Dürr, re BWV 61/6: That Neumeister was here content with only part of a hymn verse is surely a sign of incipient indifference to the chorale.> I invite comments from others re Dürr's statement, which strikes me as perhaps controversial. In fact, I am happy to emphasize that I did not say it myself. <
William Hoffman replies: No controversy, not even a teapot in a tempest! Go from Dürr p. 77 to to his discussion of BWV 36 on p. 82. It all makes sense. In the initial version of Advent Cantata BWV 36(d), 1725-30, it closes, No. 5, with the entire Nicolai chorale Stanza 7 in 4-part setting, not just the Abgesang (middle, B part). Says Dürr: The verse's closing words "were clearly designed to reflect the Advent character of the newly assembled church cantata [parody of opening chorus and three arias from birthday cantata BWV 36c, 4/5/1725]. However, Bach must have regarded this superficial adaptation as a half-way measure, for the new version of1731, transmitted in a freshly written-out score with parts, is the product of radical remodeling." In this final version, Bach inserts four alternating chorales between the arias -- the only example in any Bach cantata! Bach uses Luther's "Nun komm..." stanzas 1, 6, and 8, set to original music, and Nicolai's 10-line stanza 6, "Zwingt die Saiten" in lieu of the 4-part setting of Stanza 7 (BWV 36(d)/5), now closing Part 1 of this 2-part expansion (BWV 36/4).

Now, go on and read the late Anne Leahy's exemplary article on Luther's hymn, "Bach's Setting of the Hymn Tune...," in Music and Theology: Essays in Honor of Robin A Leaver (Scarecrow, 2007), especially the section on BWV 36 (p 79-83). Refer in my recent BCW posting to the Advent-related chorales and find that the Nicolai hymn is the second most-used to Luther's and Bach uses the whole Nicolai enchilada as his great chorale cantata BWV 1 for Annunciation, March 25, 1725 -- Bach's LAST (Omega!) chorale cantata in his chorale cantata cycle of 1724-25.

Bach never repeated BWV 61 in Leipzig. Instead, he went on to compose BWV 62, the whole enchilada Luther hymn, and BWV 36, as well perform Telemann's "Machet die Tore weit," another significant Advent-related
work.

Now we see the fuller picture of the always-calculating, wholly intentional, well-regulated, well-appointed Sebastian.

Finally, casting my net wide, I'll read the Nicolai blog article.

To err is human . . . . Amen!

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 7, 2009):
BWV 61, BWV 1 & Jesus Meine Freude

William Hoffman wrote:
< In this final version, Bach inserts four alternating chorales between the arias -- the only example in any Bach cantata! >
In a slightly different literary construct, Bach alternates metrical chorales verses with scriptural prose in "Jesu Meine Freude"

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2009):
Will Hoffman replied:
>Now, go on and read the late Anne Leahy's exemplary article on Luther's hymn, "Bach's Setting of the Hymn Tune...," in Music and Theology: Essays in Honor of Robin A Leaver (Scarecrow, 2007), especially the section on BWV 36 (p 79-83). Refer in my recent BCW posting to the Advent-related chorales and find that the Nicolai hymn is the second most-used to Luther's and Bach uses the whole Nicolai enchilada as his great chorale cantata BWV 1 for Annunciation, March 25, 1725 -- Bach's LAST (Omega!) chorale cantata in his chorale cantata cycle of 1724-25.<
Thanks for the quick response. It will take me a bit of time to get to the Leahy article, so apologiies if I ask further questions which are answered there.

I infer that your opinion is that Dürrs statement: <That Neumeister was here [BWV 61/6] content with only part of a hymn verse is surely a sign of incipient indifference to the chorale.> is applicable only to Neumeister, but not to Bach? Or is it simply an ill-considered statement on the part of Dürr (he is certainly entitled to forgiveness for the rare lapse, if so). If the former, it opens the question of how much control, and when, Bach had over the texts he set. The insights to be gained from the discussion in liturgic sequence are already apparent, thanks for getting that started. I have been a bit slow to join in, partly out of consideration for leader Chris Kern, who has since given his OK to start without him.

I still do not see a connection for Bach, between the Nicolai hymn, and Epiphany, and so I still wonder how and when this connection began for Lutherans. OTOH, it is fortuitous that our discussion period for a relevant Advent cantata includes Jan. 6, Epiphany.

Re: Dürr vs. Dürr, I am not being perverse, or at least not intentionally so. Some time ago Aryeh expressed his preference for Dürr, with umlaut. When I lost my ability to transmit diacritical marks, I stated my intent to go with that spelling, omitting umlaut. No one suggested differently. If there is a preference, I am happy to conform. I expect I know the answer: Dürr with umlaut is correct and preferred, everything else is a misspelling, but beyond the ability of the moderator to enforce.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 7, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<I still do not see a connection for Bach, between the Nicolai chorale and Epiphany.>
Let's try establishing one! Summary of ideas on this to date:

Bach uses the Nicholai chorales at very significant beginnings and endings in the Church Year, of which BWV 140 , "Wachet Auf" for the 27th Sunday in Trinity is a case in point, the chorale emphasised by being placed in minims and with an octave line about the sopranos. Like "Wie schoen", the text of the chorale iif centre-justified forms the shape of a chalice. BWV 61's half-chorale as mentioned gives 14 bars, significant to Bach, just as the exceptionally short Sinfonia for BWV 4, also an early work, "Christ Lag" has ... you guessed...only 14 bars. (The chorale of BWV 62, "Nun komm has 14 sharps).

Although "Wie schoen leuchtet" is appropriate to the Annunciation , as with BWV 1, the sentiment of "How brightly shines the morning star" is surely relevant to to the star which guides the Magi.

The texts of the two Nicolai chorales set as decoration were discovered in the restoration of a baroque organ in Denmark and when I get back to my files further details will follow, to the effect that the Nicolai chorales are of especial significance in Lutheranism.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 7, 2009):
Peter Smaill wote:
>Although "Wie schoen leuchtet" is appropriate to the Annunciation , as with BWV 1, the sentiment of "How brightly shines the morning star" is surely relevant to the star which guides the Magi.<
EM
I do not question that connection for you, but I still do not see any specific evidence connecting the Nicolai hymn with Epiphany, for Bach

PS
>The texts of the two Nicolai chorales set as decoration were discovered in the restoration of a baroque organ in Denmark and when I get back to my files further details will follow, to the effect that the Nicolai chorales are of especial significance in Lutheranism.<
I do not question the importance of the hymn for Bach. I am asking specifically for the connection with Epihany. I am unable to find such a connection on my own, and no one else has cited one. Painful as it may be for some, I am coming to the conclusion in the absence of evidence, that the connection of the Nicolai hymn with Epiphany post-dates Bach, or Bach ignored it. My two fundamental questions remain:

(1) If the connection of the hymn with Epiphany was already there for Bach, cite some evidence.

(2) If not, then I suppose the next question is OT for BCML, but I am curious as to how the connection entered Lutheranism.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote (January 7, 2009):
Cantata 61 - Introductory remarks
JJ

Cantata 61: "Num komm, der Heiden Heiland"

Introductory remarks

Doubt is an esteemed suspicion that promises distinction among the distinguished ones, and philosophy to rationalists; but since it has been well observed that doubting of all things is almost, if not entirely, unattainable, thedistinguished ones found it more profitable to forget all those Cartesian rites and attain mutual honor from a more ontological doubt! After all, it is easier to pierce a conscious belief with skeptical arrows than admitting a bunch of intellectual creeds in an alleged pure reason; and, inasmuch as such an illusion is not readily undone — demanding quite a Socratic and uncommon ability to unpack it —, the idea of undiluted reason tends to be a safe creed for those illustrious who maintain not to believe in anything at all. They do, but prefer to attack the belief of others.

The most prominent example of such a praxis could be labeled academic doubt, which consists in laughing at, disdaining and distorting that belief of others in regular basis and through countless ways, and, above all, in having the right to speak against it, not giving any right whatsoever to those who would dare to undertake a more generous and favorably exposition of their own faith, those who are allegedly forbidden to do so under any excuse at hand, for example, the separation of church and State.

This is, of course, a grievous harm against the balance of dialectic, though current dialecticians are not unsatisfied with their own liberty of speaking eccentrically on plurality in an official fashion, all the more because their eccentricity is, properly speaking, not symmetric.

But why on earth their portentous reason needs to be protected against the weaker reasoning of faith, it is something unexplained yet, and perhaps even a shame against the immense power of rational persuasion. Scholarly reason has it for sure, but tends not to use of it when the power of State helps its own plurality by muzzling those who could argue contrarily.

Anyhow, does the weaker reason of faith need to complain against misunderstandings so commonly diffused by open or disguised animosity? Or is it not true that the superior reason, implementing a calumnious cultural war against faith, is, and through such a sophistic praxis, giving itself a certificate of shame, inasmuch as sophistic fallacies are well know to have promised to politicians a way to succeed even through a weaker reason?

But the power of fallacy is certainly admirable as doubt itself, and unconscious fallacies are so common as unconscious beliefs, on the verge of people intellectually engaged in them generally cannot find none of them, preferring to use both against the faith of others. And they are annoyed, sometimes even very angry, as if to mock strangely of that prophecy, according to which there would come a time when people would not endure sound doctrine anymore (2 Timothy 4.3)! And, what is even more embarrassing, they have not explained how they could maintain their pure reason uncontaminated from such annoyance, and inasmuch as they developed a non-ataractic way of being skeptical about religious beliefs.

It is one belief we are set before through the listening of "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland", the belief that has been proclaimed for centuries, that the Savior of nations, both Jews and gentiles, came as a child of a virgin, that he was made flesh, to dwell among us, giving to as many as receive him, and believe on his name, power to become the sons of God.

Even if doubt neither accepts him nor believes on his name, as it demands a proof, no proof would satisfy doubt anyway. And, what would it avail since faith is what is been sought, precisely faith, which annoyance is far from being ready to embrace? On the contrary, it takes offense, for, strange as it seems, faith still exists, even among learned individuals, and exists in present age, an age in which, intellectually speaking, doubt almost alone is honored. Furthermore, even when doubt does not search for its own glory, it certainly does not seek to glorify God.

In the past, it was said, and not without acumen, that a talkative doubt was usually a way of getting eminence among those who were also claiming to have doubted, whereas a genuine doubt was observed silent with itself, and not daring to communicate its gloom.

Even if age has changed as not to care much of what is implicit in its doubts; even if, unreflectively, it heaps to itself teachers able to push it according to its lusts, this way going on lightly from one doubt to another, a talkative doubt cannot free itself from anxiety, and never indeed has good conscience — for, why, being doubt what it is, have it not applied to itself the same measure? How on earth can it be so certain of not inflicting harm on its listeners? In fact, it cannot; but tongue is an untamed beast, and talks anyway!

A merely apparent subjective uncertainty is perhaps unconscious of its beliefs, which then feign inwardly to be doubts, whereas, outwardly, they draw the sword of defiance. But, strictly, and unless we understand doubt as a kind of unconscious belief, we may confidently assert doubt as a rare existential phenomena. He who cannot determine his beliefs enough, being serious about his life, has, of course, much to entertain his mind without needing to undermine someone’s else certainties; for an existential doubt hesitates; a feigned one defies.

It is also said that a dialectical doubt has another character, because it is an objective development of opposite sides, something that disembogues into indetermination, without being able to resolve its aporias. Faith cannot be grasped by it, since faith is not attainable after dialectic deliberations, but, in relation to thought, faith is the foundation of its own subsequent reflections. It does not follow from it that faith is merely thought; but certainly it is not staggering in the ball of hesitation.

But back to doubt, it has been proclaimed, and one century after another, that doubt is the foundation of a superior wisdom, which always has seemed to me an extraordinary poppycock. After all, it is not certain that doubt believes it will arrive in a superior certainty; for it may doubt about that! Similarly, the certainty of superiority of doubt is not a doubt, whereas a genuine doubt may doubt about that. In fact, doubt cannot free itself from itself unless giving up on itself. Nevertheless, since it is not unusual to find a doubter who loves his doubts or hates faith, to debate with him tends to be an unending useless activity that a bit of maturity can heal.

But, before following the wise counsel, and letting men with their diversions, we cannot refrain from observing that, even from an aesthetic perspective, to go out merely hunting for objective details may sound somewhat tedious, whereas, academically, such minutiae seems always fascinating; for almost every reader has conceivably noticed that academy has a crush on historical data, trying to reconstruct scenarios from its cherished ages, sometimes rewriting them unnoticeably. And doubt, yes, doubt also hunts for historical details, but, as always, they are additional occasions for doubting or promoting doubt.

In short, such scholarly agendas seem to have no deep relation with Sebastian Bach or Erdmann Neumeister, and do not show any signs of existential apprehension, not related to the sacred dance of affects. On the contrary, both scholarship and doubt hear instruments that cannot express neither the longing nor the joy of a pious lover, for, spiritually speaking, they transformed Bach’s music in a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal, and to the extent that neither the Epistle nor the Gospel associated to the cantata can do much for them, since these holy texts are again collected as elements in their database. Well, if they accepted my suggestion, they would read the same Scripture before every euphonious pleasure sought in whatever cantata subsequently played:

"Wherefore the Lord said, ... this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…" Isaiah 29.13

We know — skepticism can ignore or become mad at us, what we frankly do not aim, but as it is not possible to serve Christ seeking to please men (Galatians 1.10), and since that old ditto, "amicus Platus sed magis amica veritas", sounds so adequatnow, we cannot refrain from saying that, if doubt takes God’s glory as ingenuous superstition, and regards his omnipotence nonsensical, we declare clearly that we are not addressing our lines to doubt anymore, but to those who have been inwardly suspicious that, in relation to Bach’s cantatas, there is something deeply wrong with much of the academic research, that although tones of research seem to demonstrate a great comprehension of all things connected to a sacred cantata, they do not seek God’s glory with it, but changed the "soli Deo gloria" into a "soli Bach gloria". And if you, perplexed reader, are able to see this enormous inversion, and if, seeing it, your spirit is provoked within yourself (Acts 17.16), to you faith’s reflection will address next time, to you who, without prejudices, and favorable disposed, are open to hear what faith has to say on "Num komm, der Heiden Heiland".

SDG!

Neil Halliday wrote (January 8, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
>It is one belief we are set before through the listening of "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland", the belief that has been proclaimed for centuries, that the Savior of nations, both Jews and gentiles, came as a child of a virgin, that he was made flesh, to dwell among us, giving to as many as receive him, and believe on his name, power to become the sons of God.<
Yes, and what glorious music is the opening chorus to proclaim such belief; but there are problems: not only can one doubt a specific belief (eg, Thomas refused to believe unless he could actually see the resurrected Christ), there exist differing belief systems that oppose each other. The UN Declaration of Human Rights wants to get around the problem by proposing freedom of belief (or unbelief) for all, but the believers in Mosaic Law who consider they have a divine right to the West Bank will discover that they are in a life and death struggle with the followers of Mohamet who consider the newer revelation of Islam supercedes Mosaic Law.

The music can speak to men of all faiths, but the faiths themselves will dispute one another. Hopefully the day will come when mankind has only one "faith" which is to believe that life has infinite value in the face of an aparently lifeless/meaningless eternity of space.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 8, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
< The most prominent example of such a praxis could be labeled academic doubt, which consists in laughing at, disdaining and distorting that belief of others in regular basis and through countless ways, and, above all, in having the right to speak against it, not giving any right whatsoever to those who would dare to undertake a more generous and favorably exposition of their own faith, those who are allegedly forbidden to do so under any excuse at hand, for example, the separation of church and State. >
Given the time and the inclination one would argue against?almost everything in?this posting in so far as it is intelligible. . I am sympathetic to those who would find it offensive. Confining myself to just the paragraph above I would say just this

1 'academic doubt' (or scepticism) is a perfectly proper and laudable stance to take in the pursuit of knowledge

2 to define it simplistically a a way of 'laughing at, distaining and distorting that belief of others' is a perversion of such unsupported generalisation as to make it risable.

3 This posting has nothing of interest to say of the music of Bach or its performance. which this list purports to demonstrate interest in.?
?Therefore?it is not an appropriate list? posting for this list.

If sir, you attended such events and conferences as others do, peopled by some of the world's best scholars, you would be well aware that a measured degrees of doubt and scepticism is a civilised and driving force in the pursuit and exchange of knowledge.

Chris Kern wrote (January 8, 2009):
BWV 61 intro

Hello, I'm Chris Kern, a 2nd year PhD student (in Japanese) at Ohio State University. I'll be leading the cantata discussions for Advent.

Advent is the beginning of the liturgical year in Bach's Lutheran Church. The period is concerned with waiting expectantly for Jesus' birth, and is often compared with Lent in the way that a period of waiting and watching is followed by a period of joyous acclimation with multiple feast days. The comparison goes further because in Bach's Leipzig church, there were no cantatas performed during Lent, with the exception of the 1st Sunday. This accounts for the relatively small number of Advent cantatas in the repertoire.

The first three cantatas (BWV 61, BWV 62, and BWV 36) are from the 1st Sunday of Advent. The Biblical readings are not closely connected to the period, but the Romans reading does have the line "And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed." This can be seen to connect to the theme of Christ's imminent birth, which is also used to evoke his second coming.

I'm going to use Whittaker's cantata analyses for these intros because he provides the most thorough analysis of the cantatas in English, but his book is out of print and not easy to obtain.

BWV 61

This cantata is based on the chorale Nun Komm Der Heiden Heiland, an Advent chorale that anticipates Jesus' birth. Whittaker esteems this cantata quite highly, calling it "almost perfect". The text has a thematic unity, going from invitation to acceptance.

Mvt. 1 is in the style of a "french overture", with the slow section, fast section, and slow section again. The text and melody are from the first verse of the chorale. The fast section is in a fugal form.

Mvt. 2 and Mvt. 3 are a recitative and aria -- Whittaker engages in one of his flights of fancy by saying they were "evidently for some singer of limited upward compass, possibly a choir man growing old in the service of the church, to whom Bach was kindly...possibly the singer was not only lacking in compass but short of wind, for less than half the number is vocal." I've never liked these attempts to reconstruct Bach's performers or situation from a single aria -- you might as well say that the unison string accompaniment in the arias shows that Bach was not satisfied with the abilities of his soloists, or that his oboist was sick this week. In any case, the tenor aria takes the theme of Jesus' coming but uses it as a spiritual coming to bless the church.

Mvt. 4 is a fun little movement, which Whittaker calls "the gem of the cantata". It consists of Revelation 3:20 set to a "knocking" theme played by pizzicato chords. The text is appropriate as it once again speaks of Jesus' coming to the believers.

Mvt. 5 is a soprano aria, responding to the previous call of Jesus; here the believer exhorts her heart to open up to Jesus.

Mvt. 6 is very short; just one part of a verse from the chorale "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern". Whittaker wishes that Bach had used the entire verse as better balance for the cantata.

As I was sick this week I didn't listen to many performances (only Suzuki [16]), but I have listened to Rilling [5], Harnoncourt [6], and Gardiner [11] some time ago. I remember that Harnoncourt's boy soprano had a lisp that was distracting. Mvt. 4's bass singers varied a lot in their expressiveness and volume -- one recording (I think the Gardiner) has Jesus singing very softly.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2009):
From Wikipedia - Religion:
>The perceived conflict between science and Christianity may also be partially explained by a literal interpretation of the Bible adhered to by many Christians, both currently and historically. The Catholic Church has always held with Augustiof Hippo who explicitly opposed a literal interpretation of the Bible whenever the Bible conflicted with Science. The literal way to read the sacred texts became especially prevalent after the rise of the Protestant reformation, with its emphasis on the Bible as the only authoritative source concerning the ultimate reality.[23] This view is often shunned by both religious leaders (who regard literally believing it as petty and look for greater meaning instead) and scientists who regard it as an impossibility.<

For a detailed reconciliation of science and scripture, see <Modern Science and the Book of Genesis> by James W. Skehan. Father Jim is a Jesuit priest, my geology mentor and an expert on both science and faith, especially the works of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Jesuit paleontologist. The writings of Teilhard were suppressed by the Church while he was alive, but they are now readily available and, as I have heard informally from Father Jim, becoming acceptable Christian (or at least Roman Catholic) dogma. See especially <Christianity and Evolution>.

Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
>In the past, it was said, and not without acumen, that a talkative doubt was usually a way of getting eminence among those who were also claiming to have doubted, whereas a genuine doubt was observed silent with itself, and not daring to communicate its gloom.<
and
>But back to doubt, it has been proclaimed, and one century after another, that doubt is the foundation of a superior wisdom, which always has seemed to me an extraordinary poppycock.<
I am interested to know the sources of these statements. Also, can anyone help identify the source for: <Religion which cannot accommodate science is not faith, it is superstition.>

I infer that Henri equates <doubt> with the scientific method, although it is a little difficult to be certain, exactly.

In any event, we come back to a familiar position. The world has changed much in three hundred years. It is not possible to directly equate any 21st C. faith with Bachs 18th C. Lutheranism. This does not in any way reduce the spiritual impact of his music, but it does mean that the relevance of texts for the 21st C. is not a foregone conclusion. For the evolution of ideas within Christianity, compare Ambrosius 3rd C. and Luther's 16th C. texts, on the same subject, and directly relevant to BWV 61. For those who deny this reality, and base their denial on <Faith>, discussion is meaningless.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 8, 2009):
Good to see long-time (medium-time, I guess, to be precise) correspondent Chris Kern back among the living. From some of the previous loose ends:

Neil Halliday wrote:
>The music can speak to men of all faiths, but the faiths themselves will dispute one another. Hopefully the day will come when mankind has only one "faith" which is to believe that life has infinite value<
I hope you dont object to my editorial <snip>, Neil. Thanks, as always, for the informative posts on recordings. Contrary to rumors, I do not respond to every post, but I do read all of yours with pleasure.

In a related vein, I had the occasion to write, off-list, but perhaps worth sharing:
Seems like the future of the planet -- global consciousness with a bit of local pride. How difficult is that? Hopefully, less than another couple thousand years.

Henri had the courtesy to write, reaffirming his offer of friendwship, which he originally made and I acknowledged on-list. This is a good opportunity to express my preference for keeping communications on-list as much as possible, partly because of limitations to my time and technology, but also because I think BCW is aunique communication medium, breaking new ground.

Here comes Menuhin, conducting the Bath Festival Orchestra in the Bach Oboe Concerto, Em, a bit earlier than I oriiginally told you. I hope I did not inconvenience anyone. Harpsichord continuo <jangling> the rhythm in the style of the era, I believe I hear.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (January 8, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski, regarding BWV 61, Epiphany, and BWV 1] Like many I first came to know this chorale through Sir Ivor Atkins' arrangement of Peter Cornelius's "Die Könige" and as a result I think of it as being associated with Epiphany; and certainly the mention of the morning star brings Epiphany to mind. But I also have to say that like Ed I don't know of any evidence that Bach (or anyone before Bach) thought of the chorale in this way.

These may be of interest:
www.canticanova.com/articles/xmas/art3b2.htm
www.ohscatalog.org/showofstarte.html
www.hyperion-records.co.uk/al.asp?al=CDA67206
www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2dNKv48WJQ
www.youtube.com/watch?v=g4uHiCMtdTQ

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (January 8, 2009):
Henri N. Levinspuhl wrote:
< JJ
Cantata 61: "Num komm, der Heiden Heiland"
Introductory remarks
Doubt is an esteemed suspicion that promises distinction among the distinguished ones, and philosophy to rationalists... >
For a very different view of the relation of Bach to rationalist philosophy readers may wish to refer to the first part of the Cambridge Companion to Bach (ed. John Butt), especially Chapter 5, in which Butt discusses Wolff, Leibniz, and Spinoza.

http://tinyurl.com/7l3d9r
http://tinyurl.com/7t99us

Neil Halliday wrote (January 8, 2009):
Chris Kern wrote:
>Mvt. 5 is a soprano aria, responding to the previous call of Jesus; here the believer exhorts her heart to open up to Jesus.<
Richter [4] comes up with an amazingly "dreamy" and beautiful instrumental accompaniment for this aria, an approach which seems to me quite appropriate for the idea of letting Jesus enter into one's heart.

The aria itself may be one of the more difficult to appreciate. The continuo's angular melodic line requires sympathetic treatment; in the Richter [4], the unusual effect of the scoring for two cellos and organ without double bass/violone (the BGA has "violincelli and organ" on the single instrumental line, nothing about "continuo") can be clearly heard. The artistry of the organist is exemplary.

The rhythm of this aria is ambiguous; try "conducting" the music (outer sections) in the correct 3/4 time without looking at the score! Much of the vocal line creates the impression of duple time. Again this ambiguity may be related to the actual motion of Christ's infusion into the soul, which no doubt was the effect that Richter [4] intended, and beautifully expressed in his conception of the music.

But Richter's [4] soprano (Mvt. 5) doesn't do it for me (harsh/pronounced vibrato or particular timbre of voice, I'm not sure), so I would probably choose the Mallon example, which btw. also conveys a more "dreamy" aspect in this aria.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 61: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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