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Cantata BWV 63
Christen, ätzet diesen Tag
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of February 8, 2009

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2009):
Week of February 8: BWV 63 ³Christen Ätzet Diesen Tag²

Week of February 8: BWV 63 ­ ³Christen Ätzet Diesen Tag²

BACKGROUND LINKS:
Links to texts, translations, scores, recordings and earlier discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm

PERFORMANCE HISTORY:
1st performance: December 25, 1714 - Weimar;
2nd performance: December 25, 1723 - Leipzig;
3rd performance: December 25, 1729 ? ­ Leipzig
Possible later performances in the 1730ıs

Wolff lists the extraordinary musical program for Christmas week of 1723 which included the premiere of the Magnificat at Vespers on the afternoon of Christmas Day (Bach, p.265)

MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY:
Tower bells rung at 6 am and again at 7 am:
5200 kg bell ³Gloriosa² (1477) (pitched in A) rung only on festivals Candles lit at 7 am,
Archdeacon of Leipzig officiates as celebrant; Deacon assists
Musicians must be in loft by final bell or be fined.

Organ Prelude on ³Puer Natus² (BWV 603 ­ Orgelbüchlein?)
Settings by Bach or other composers before all chorales & choral works
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm
Introit Hymn/Motet by Choir: ³Puer Natus In Bethlehem²
Settings by Praetorius or Schein are possible

Organ Prelude before Kyrie to establish key and cover tuning
Missa Brevis: Kyrie & Gloria (Plainsong Gloria intonation sung by Celebrant)
A concerted setting in Latin was sung from Christmas Day to Epiphany.
Bachıs own missae breve are generally from his later tenure in Leipzig but may have been used with later performances of the cantata:

BWV 232 - B minor (1733)
Kyrie & Gloria of B Minor Mass [only missa brevis with brass]
BWV 233 - F major (1738)
based on Christmas cantata BWV 40 ³Dazu ist Erscheinen²
BWV 233a ­ Kyrie (1708-1712)
BWV 234 ­ A major (1738)
BWV 235 ­ G minor (1738)
BWV 236 ­ G Major (1738)

Collect/Prayer of Day sung in Latin plainsong by Celebrant
Choral Responses sung to four-part polyphony from Vopelius collection ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch²

Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared)
sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Gelobet Seist Du² (BWV 314 or 604?)
Congregational Gradual Hymn of the Day (³de temporeı,):
³Gelobet Seist Du, Jesu Christ ³
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm

Gospel choral responses sung in six-part polyphony from Vopelius collection
Gospel : Luke 2: 1-14 (Birth of Christ) sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (BWV 1098?)
Congregational Creed Chorale:
³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (Luther)

Organ Prelude before Cantata
First Cantata; BWV 63 ­ ³Christe Ätzet Diesen Tag²

Organ Prelude on ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich² (BWV 719?)
Congregational Pulpit Hymn after the Cantata (Offertory)
³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich²

Sursum Corda ("The Lord be with you") sung in Latin
Choral responses in six-part polyphony from Vopelius collection
Preface sung in Latin by Celebrant
Sanctus (without Benedictus)
A concerted setting was sung in Latin during Christmas week.
Two settings date from same year as Cantata 63:
BWV 237 ­ C major [with brass]
BWV 238 ­ D major
Hand bells rung at the altar at the end of the Sanctus

Verba (Words of Institution) sung in German plainsong by Celebrant

Second Cantata ³sub communione² during Communion?
Unknown if by Bach or other composer;
Bachıs motet ³Lobet den Herrn² has a traditional Christmas text.

Other optional congregational hymns during Communion:
introduced by organ prelude:
³Ich Freue Mich In Dir² (Ziegler)
³Wir Christenleut² (Fuger)

Final Prayer & Benediction:
choral responses sung in 4 part polyphony from Vopelius

Organ Prelude on ³³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
Final Congregational Hymn: ³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
German repeat of Introit chorale

LIBRETTO:
No author can be established although Johann Michael Heineccius in Weimar has been suggested. Dürr takes a rather dour opinion of the text saying that the shepherds and angels of the Christmas narrative are absent and this may indicate that it is a parody of a secular cantata. However, the libretto is actually an extended meditation on the Epistle, Titus 2: 11-14.

The cantata is interesting in that it does not employ chorales, the final chorus being a freely poetic text ­ the literary form is very ³modern². The text is symmetrical around the central recitative flanked by two duets and bookended by festive choruses. It is worth noting that in the Alto recitative the image of ³Israel² as a fallen and sinful people is taken as universal type of mankind, not only of the Jews.

I canıt find the source but I recall someone suggesting that the unusual allusions to bronze and marble in the opening chorus refer to the new altar of St. Thomas (the present altar is the former reredos of the Pauliner Church which the Communists destroyed in 1968)

SCORING:
The prominence of the brass suggests that the scoring was particular to Christmas. Among the other Christmas Day cantatas by Bach, trumpets appear in BWV 110, BWV 119 & the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248); BWV 91 has horns and timpani. Massed brass had not been heard since perhaps Michelmas in September and Reformation Sunday in October. This cantata is Big Band Bach with an unusual 4 trumpets rather than usual 3, and 3 oboes (as in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)) ­ perhaps Bach wanted make a big impression for his first Christmas.

If the cantata was performed at the same service as the Sanctus in C (BWV 237), it is intriguing to look for similarities between the two works. The Sanctus has the more traditional scoring of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes and strings. The final chorus of the cantata has the trumpets and timpani as a separate brass ³choir² which is very similar to the opening of the Sanctus. That ³fanfare band² layout is also prominent in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). In a later version, Bach replaced the oboe obligato in the third movement with the organ, although Dürr cautions against considering this a ³definitive² version, but rather an option.

INDIVIDUAL MOVEMENTS:

Mvt. 1. Chorus: ³Christen ätzet diesen Tag²
Although the movement has a huge orchestra, it retains a lightness and brilliance which comes from the division of the forces into four ³choirs²: trumpets & timpani, oboes & bassoon, strings, and chorus. The antiphonal interplay takes us back to the instrumental ³cori spezzati² which Praetorius described at the beginning of the 17th century. Particularly interesting is tuse of the ³a capella² choir accompanied only by the continuo ­ ³Kommt und eilt² is a good example.

Mvt. 2.Recitative (Tenor): ³O selger Tag²
This accompanied recitative places the strings in their lowest, richest register ­ no hovering ³halo² here. The rising figure in the first violins makes me think there is an allusion to a chorale -- ³Allein Gott in der Höhe²? The sudden reference to subduing Satan prompts a richly ornamented line with a turn and trill at the cadence

Mvt. 3. Duet (Sop & Alto): ³Gott du hast²
The solo oboe picks up the dactylic figure from the previous recitative and develops a line which could be used as a compendium of Baroque embellishment. Into this already complex texture, the two voices introduce new melodic material which is developed almost continuously as pseudo-canon: the voices rarely sing homophonically.

Mvt. 4. Recitative (Tenor) ³So kehret sich²
This secco recit is the central movement around which the cantata is arranged in mirror-image halves. Glissando scales in the cello present a word-painting dilemma: is the cello depicting the roaring of the Lion of Judah or the flight of arrows from Godıs bow? (Handel used an identical figure for arrows in ³Nisi Dominus).

Mvt. 5. Duet (Alto & Tenor) ²Ruft und fleht²
This lively 3/8 duet has a strong resemblance to the opening chorus both in its opening figure and in the elaborate prepared trill ³viel Heil beleget² which echoes ³Marmorstein² in Mvt. 1 (this may not be a Schweitzeresque leitmotif: the same figure appears melodically in the opening of Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) for ³Lasset das Zagen².) Bach uses a shortened da capo, unlike the other concerted movements.

Mvt. 6. Recitative (Bass) ³Verdoppelt euch²
This accompanied recitative has one of Bachıs delightful musical jokes: the voice calls out, ³Redouble then your strength² and the orchestra responds by doubling the strings with the three oboes to create an eight-voice texture.

Mvt. 7. Chorus: ³Höchster schau²
There is no concluding chorale, rather another massive da capo chorus which balances the opening. Bach once again emphasizes his four ³choirs² by having them enter one after the other: trumpets & timpani, then oboes, then strings, The choir is again ³a capella,² initially not doubled by the instruments except for continuo. The music is delightfully playful as the various choirs toss the themes back and forth. The cascading 32nd note figure in the violins is reminiscent of the opening of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). All of this rejoicing is interrupted in the B section when Satan enters once again like a bad fairy at a party and throws the choir into an anguished Adagio full of diabolic descending chromatic figures. Thank God for da capos: the Christmas spirit resumes with a repeat of the opening rejoicing,

David Jones wrote (February 6, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Christians Engrave this glad day! What a magnificent cantata! It's turned out to be a good thing that JEG's original label backed out; we are given the exquisite opportunity to see how his interpretations have gotten even more transcendant in cases where he was recorded a cantata more than once; Compare the majestic slowness of his first recording of "Behold what manner of Love" with the rapid brilliance, grandiloquence and emphatic enunciation of the latter.........In BWV 63, the runs seem to "etch" the day (Christmas) in the marble and stone. Lovely!

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 6, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Mvt. 2. Recitative (Tenor): ³O selger Tag² >
Both Dürr and Rilling [5] have an alto on this part. What source has the tenor, I am wondering?

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 6, 2009):
For Mvt. 3 I also have Soprano and Bass instead of soprano and alto.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 6, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Thank you for this especially full and highly atmospheric introduction to the first (and it is indeed chiastic) Christmas Cantata performed at Leipzig. "Christians, etch this day in marble and metal stones!"

The text, as previous discussions indicate, is devoid of the usual Christmassy references to the crib, and the animals around in the manger ( these are a medieval affectation not found in the Bible).

The marble and metal altar of the Thomaskirche had been donated by the catholic Elector only a few years before in the time of Kuhnau, the project arranged by Bach's ally the future Mayor, Gottfried Lange. He, according to Christoph Wolff, provided the text for the first Cantata purely composed at Leipzig, i.e. for BWV 76, "Die Himmel erzhaelen die Ehre Gottes" , whose final chorale, Luther's "Es danke Gott und lobe dich", is only again set in BWV 69 in 1748 shortly before Lange's death. The text is thus that of the first Chorale originally set for Leipzig, and also that of the fiinal Chorale set by Bach for choir and orchestra in that place. This is quite remarkable and so far none of the scholarship I have read has discovered this fact, perhaps a sign of the warmth, respect and loyalty held by Bach for Lange.

Lange, an enthusiast for baroque culture, was buried in front of this very altar close to where Bach's remains are now interred. BWV 63 is most appropriate to the appearance of the altar but as Robin Leaver points out was originally a Weimar Cantata from 1714, however fitting it might have been at Bach's first Christmas in Leipzig in 1723.

Stephen Benson wrote (February 6, 2009):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< Both Dürr and Rilling [5] have an alto on this part. >
As does the BGA. (Handy, having that a click away!)

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2009):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
<< Mvt. 2. Recitative (Tenor): ³O selger Tag² >>
< Both Dürr and Rilling
[5] have an alto on this part. What source has the tenor, I am wondering? >
< For
Mvt. 3 I also have Soprano and Bass instead of soprano and alto. >
Oooops ... My error: I was looking at another cantata to see if there was a connection.

Should be:

Mvt. 2 - Recit - Alto
Mvt. 3 - Duet - Soprano & Bass

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 6, 2009):
Week of February 8: BWV 63 - REVISED

Week of February 8: BWV 63 ­ ³Christen Ätzet Diesen Tag²

BACKGROUND LINKS:
Links to texts, translations, scores, recordings and earlier discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm

PERFORMANCE HISTORY:
1st performance: December 25, 1714 - Weimar;
2nd performance: December 25, 1723 - Leipzig;
3rd performance: December 25, 1729 ? ­ Leipzig
Possible later performances in the 1730ıs

MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY:
Tower bells rung at 6 am and again at 7 am:
The 5200 kg bell ³Gloriosa² (1477) (pitched in A) was rung only on festivals
Candles lit at 7 am, Archdeacon of Leipzig officiates as celebrant; Deacon assists
Musicians must be in loft by final bell or be fined.

Organ Prelude on ³Puer Natus² (BWV 603 ­ Orgelbüchlein?)
Settings by Bach or other composers before all chorales & choral works

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm)
Introit Hymn/Motet by Choir: ³Puer Natus In Bethlehem²
Settings by Praetorius or Schein are possible

Organ Prelude before Kyrie to establish key and cover tuning
Missa Brevis: Kyrie & Gloria (Plainsong Gloria intonation sung by Celebrant)
A concerted setting in Latin was sung from Christmas Day to Epiphany.
Bachıs own missae breve are generally from his later tenure in Leipzig but may have been used with later performances of the cantata:
B minor (1733) ­ used in B Minor Mass (BWV 232) [only missa brevis with brass]
BWV 233 - F major (1738) based on Christmas cantata ³Dazu ist Erscheinen²
BWV 233a ­ Kyrie (1708-1712)
BWV 234 ­ A major (1738)
BWV 235 ­ G minor (1738)
BWV 236 ­ G Major (1738)

Collect/Prayer of Day sung in Latin plainsong by Celebrant
Choral Responses sung to four-part polyphony from Vopelius collection ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch²

Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared) sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Gelobert Seist Du² (BWV 314 or 604?)
Congregational Gradual Hymn of the Day (³de temporeı,):
³Gelobet Seist Du, Jesu Christ ³
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm

Gospel choral responses sung in six-part polyphony from Vopelius collection
Gospel : Luke 2: 1-14 (Birth of Christ) sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (BWV 1098?)
Congregational Creed Chorale:
³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (Luther)

Organ Prelude before Cantata
First Cantata; BWV 63 ­ ³Christe Ätzet Diesen Tag²

Organ Prelude on ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich² (BWV 719?)
Congregational Pulpit Hymn after the Cantata (Offertory)
³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich²

Sursum Corda sung in Latin in six-part polyphony from Vopelius collection
Preface sung in Latin by Celebrant
Sanctus (without Benedictus)
A concerted setting was sung in Latin during Christmas week.
Two settings date from same year as Cantata 63:
BWV 237 ­ C major [with brass]
BWV 238 ­ D major
Hand bells rung at the altar at the end of the Sanctus
Verba (Words of Institution) sung in German plainsong by Celebrant

Second Cantata ³sub communione² during Communion?
Unknown if by Bach or other composer;
Bachıs motet ³Lobet den Herrn² has a traditional Christmas text.

Other congregational hymns during Communion:
introduced by organ prelude:
³Ich Freue Mich In Dir² (Ziegler)
³Wir Christenleut² (Fuger)

Final Prayer & Benediction:
sung with 4 part polyphony from Vopelius

Organ Prelude on ³³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
Final Congregational Hymn: ³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
German repeat of Introit chorale

LIBRETTO:
No author can be established although Johann Michael Heineccius in Weimar has been suggested. Dürr takes a rather dour opinion of the text saying that the shepherds and angels of the Christmas narrative are absent and this may indicate that it is a parody of a secular cantata. However, the libretto is actually an extended meditation on the Epistle, Titus 2: 11-14. The cantata is interesting in that it does not employ chorales, the final chorus being a freely poetic text ­ the literary form is very ³modern². The text is symmetrical around the central recitative flanked by two duets and bookended by festive choruses. It is worth noting that in the Alto recitative the image of ³Israel² as a fallen and sinful people is taken as universal type of mankind, not only of the Jews.

I canıt find the source but I recall someone suggesting that the unusual allusions to bronze and marble in the opening chorus refer to the new altar of St. Thomas (the present altar is the former reredos of the Pauliner Church which the Communists destroyed in 1968)

SCORING:
The prominence of the brass suggests that the scoring was particular to Christmas. Among the other Christmas Day cantatas by Bach, trumpets appear in BWV 110, BWV 119 & the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248); BWV 91 has horns and timpani. Massed brass had not been heard since perhaps Michelmas in September and Reformation Sunday in October. This cantata is Big Band Bach with an unusual 4 trumpets rather than usual 3, and 3 oboes (as in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)) ­ perhaps Bach wanted make a big impression for his first Christmas. If the cantata was performed at the same service as the Sanctus in C (BWV 237), it is intriguing to look for similarities between the two works. The Sanctus has the more traditional scoring of 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes and strings. The final chorus of the cantata has the trumpets and timpani as a separate brass ³choir² which is very similar to the opening of the Sanctus. That ³fanfare band² layout is also prominent in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232).

In a later version, Bach replaced the oboe obligato in the third movement with the organ, although Dürr cautions against considering this a ³definitive² version, but rather an option.

INDIVIDUAL MOVEMENTS:

Mvt. 1 Chorus: ³Christen ätzet diesen Tag²
Although the movement has a huge orchestra, it retains a lightness and brilliance which comes from the division of the forces into four ³choirs²: trumpets & timpani, oboes & bassoon, strings, and chorus. The antiphonal interplay takes us back to the instrumental ³cori spezzati² which Praetorius described at the beginning of the 17th century. Particularly interesting is the use of the ³a capella² choir accompanied only by the continuo ­ ³Kommt und eilt² is a good example.

Mvt. 2. Recitative (Alto): ³O selger Tag²
This accompanied recitative places the strings in their lowest, richest register ­ no hovering ³halo² here. The rising figure in the first violins makes me think there is an allusion to a chorale -- ³Allein Gott in der Höhe²? The sudden reference to subduing Satan prompts a richly ornamented line with a turn and trill at the cadence

Mvt. 3. Duet (Sop & Bass): ³Gott du hast²
The solo oboe picks up the dactylic figure from the previous recitative and develops a line which could be used as a compendium of Baroque embellishment. Into this already complex texture, the two voices introduce new melodic material which is developed almost continuously as pseudo-canon: the voices rarely sing homophonically.

Mvt. 4. Recitative (Tenor) ³So kehret sich²
This secco recit is the central movement around which the cantata is arranged in mirror-image halves. Glissando scales in the cello present a word-painting dilemma: is the cello depicting the roaring of the Lion of Judah or the flight of arrows from Godıs bow? (Handel used an identical figure for arrows in ³Nisi Dominus).

Mvt. 5. Duet (Alto & Tenor) ²Ruft und fleht²
This lively 3/8 duet has a strong resemblance to the opening chorus both in its opening figure and in the elaborate prepared trill ³viel Heil beleget² which echoes ³Marmorstein² in Mvt. 1 (this may not be a Schweitzeresque leitmotif: the same figure appears melodically in the opening of Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) for ³Lasset dasZagen².) Bach uses a shortened da capo, unlike the other concerted movements.

Mvt. 6. Recitative (Bass) ³Verdoppelt euch²
This accompanied recitative has one of Bachıs delightful musical jokes: the voice calls out, ³Redouble then your strength² and the orchestra responds by doubling the strings with the three oboes to create an eight-voice texture.

Mvt. 7. Chorus: ³Höchster schau²
There is no concluding chorale, rather another massive da capo chorus which balances the opening. Bach once again emphasizes his four ³choirs² by having them enter one after the other: trumpets & timpani, then oboes, then strings, The choir is again ³a capella,² initially not doubled by the instruments except for continuo. The music is delightfully playful as the various choirs toss the themes back and forth. The cascading 32nd note figure in the violins is reminiscent of the opening of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). All of this rejoicing is interrupted in the B section when Satan enters once again like a bad fairy at a party and throws the choir into an anguished Adagio full of diabolic descending chromatic figures. Thank God for da capos: the Christmas spirit resumes with a repeat of the opening rejoicing,

Neil Halliday wrote (February 8, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>This cantata is Big Band Bach with an unusual 4 trumpets rather than usual 3 <
Among the newer recordings, Suzuki's [11] is perhaps the most remarkable for conveying the splendour of this large orchestra, in the outer movements.

Suzuki [11] also has a remarkably moving and enchanting slow-tempo 'adagio' (8 mins) in the SB duet, in which the soprano voice blends beautifully with the oboe, and the clarity of all four lines (continuo, bass, soprano, oboe), is exemplary.

[The only disappointing movement, as expected, is the central recitative, but then performance practices for this type of movement are woeful, IMO].

Rilling [5] has a beautiful alto recitative, with the lovely voice of Julia Hamari and hushed string orchestra conveying the subdued harmonies in a memorable performance. The quasi-arioso on the last line of text ("O inconceivable, yet blessed happening") with the concluding instrumental harmonies, are very affecting.

Features of the AT duet are the rich string writing, with frequent instrumental trills (many in brackets in the BGA, but obviously required); in the middle section, the 'slow trill' on "danken" heard in the tenor, then alto, then together; and in the quasi da capo repeat of the first two lines of text, the extended vocal passages of largely parallel 10ths, 6ths, and 3rds on "Reihen" (order).

William Hoffman wrote (February 9, 2009):
BWV 63: Genesis

Gensis

More than a half-century ago, when the Neue Bach Ausgabe, or New Bach Edition, was undertaken, it began with the church-year sacred cantatas, recently numbered BWV 1-200. Using the latest scholarly and scientific techniques, the dating of the church pieces, especially the bulk composed in Leipzig, was still being determined.

With established dates of Bach's composition came the issue of the origin or genesis of each work, particularly its poetic text and the challenge of determining its author. Today the authors of the bulk of Bach sacred cantatas, and the full historical-biographical context have yet to be determined.

Such is the case with Bach's presumed first cantata for Christmas Day, BWV 63. Its origins were - and remain obscured -- in the early part of the second decade of the 18th century when the madrigalian, Italian-style German cantata was being developed and Bach became its most notable practitioner.

Bach scholar Alfred Dürr lead the way, establishing the cutting edge of new and comprehensive Bach scholarship concomitant with the ambitious goal of the new Bach edition grounded in rigorous research and scholarly methodology. Not stone would be left unturned and no myth would be unchallenged.

As the editor of the second volume of church music, NBA KB (Critical Commentary) I/2, 1957, Dürr, after addressing the "Sources" or surviving autograph manuscripts, took up the "General Origin History." No original printed text or publication was found, as is true with most Bach cantatas. Instead, a printed text was found for a "remarkably similar cantata," by Gottfried Kirchoff (1685-1746), organist at Halle and author of 24 fugues in all keys, in the well-tempered manner.

As part of the Jubilee Festival of the Reformation in Halle, October 31, 1717, Kirchoff's cantata was presented. Its text is found in a printed collection of festival sermons and commentaries, compiled in 1718 by Johann Michael Heineccius (1674-1722), pastor of the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. Klaus Küster in OCC: JSB, 213, says Heineccius' tasks included supervising local church music and writing cantata texts.

Dürr proceeds to compare the printed texts, side by side of Kirchoff's opening "Aria a tutti dc" with Bach's BWV 63 opening chorus. The first two and a half lines are identical in the seven-line stanza with the rhyme scheme ABCCDDB. The third line begins "Kommt und eilet" (Come and hurry) and in Bach's Christmas text continues: "mit mir zu Krippen" (with me to the manger); in Kirchoff's, "frohen weisen" (joyous manner). The final word - "Gnaden-Scheine" (light of grace) - is the same. There is similar treatment of texts with identical line-length and rhyme-scheme in the ensuing duet and closing tutti (chorus) of the two cantatas, except that Kirchoff's shorter aria and tutti both lack two middle lines.

Dürr in the original NBA edition identifies the three da-capo lyrical texts as a classic parody relationship to the already-existing music (Bach's cantata), with different interspersed recitatives to address the differing service occasions and their biblical lessons. In addition, Dürr observes an anomaly in Bach's second, 3/8 alto-tenor duet, No. 5 (not found in Kirchoff), with its textual reference to coming together to the "Reihen" (ranks, says BCW's Francis Browne), a metaphor for coming together to dance. This, Dürr observes, suggests a parody of a church-setting with the hypothesis of a possible third, original version being a secular cantata; set perhaps by another composer.

Dürr also notes that the opening reference to "the day set in metal and marble" is an idiomatic expression popular in contemporary German poetry, citing Johann Jakob Rambach sacred poems, Halle 1720, for Ascension Day, easily adapted as cantata texts. These texts also use words popular in biblical and chorale-text passages, such as "Come and hurry" and "what God has done today."

Dürr also repeats Spitta's hypothesis (I:512) that Bach may have initially composed BWV 63 as his probe (test) piece for the Halle position succeeding Zachow in December 1713 when pastor Heineccius provided Bach with the text.

In "The Origin of the Composition," Dürr says its origin time is still unclear. He noted that the watermarks occur in other early Weimar compositions, including BWV 12, BWV 18, and BWV 132. These are "most firmly dated between 1714 and 1716." "Stylistic indications speak for the composition of the work, at least in the first version about 1714 and before 1716."

In the latest edition (2005) of Dürr's <The Cantatas of JSB>, the Heineccius connection still has "no solid evidence," as does the "parody of a secular origin." As for the text itself, Wolff points out that it "follow entirely the model introduced in 1700 by Erdmann Neumeister" (The World of the Bach Cantatas: Early Sacred Cantatas, p.107). Elsewhere, and I do not have source, there ispeculation that Franck may have written the text at the same time as BWV 201, BWV 21, BWV 182, BWV 12, and BWV 172, before May of 1714. While the text obviously has some Halle pietistic literary associations, those connections also could have existed in Weimar with Franck.

There has been speculation, beginning with Spitta, about an early version of BWV 63(a) without recitatives (or BWV 21a) being performed as Bach's Halle probe-piece, Tuesday, Dec. 10, 1713. There also has been speculation that there may have been a repeat performance of BWV 21 and/or 63(a) at Christmas 1713 in Weimar as part of a farewell concert for Prince Johann Ernst. Daw <Bach: The Choral Works> (1981) discusses these possibilities with both cantatas (41ff). The established first performance date of BWV 63 is Christmas Day (Tuesday) Dec. 25, 1714 (Dürr 2005, 93; citing Kobyashi, 1990). This is the only documented performance in Weimar of a Bach church-year cantata on a day other than Sunday. It is also documented that Bach presented BWV 61 on Advent Sunday, Dec, 2, 1714; and BWV 152 on the Sunday after Christmas, Dec. 30, 1714, to fulfill his duty of presenting a cantata on every fourth Sunday for the Weimar Court.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (February 9, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Such is the case with Bach's presumed first cantata for Christmas Day, BWV 63. Its origins were - and remain obscured -- in the early part of the second decade of the 18th century when the madrigalian, Italian-style German cantata was being developed and Bach became its most notable practitioner. >
No, Bach was NOT the most notable practitioner of this style of cantata either during the 2nd decade of the 18th century or ever.

William Hoffman wrote (February 10, 2009):
BWV 63 & Xmas Chorale

Although Cantata BWV 63 has no chorales that we know of, here's my list of chorales for the Christmas Season:

Key: (5) Stanza 5; 318 (bf, harmonized chorale); 601 (italic, organ prelude); BWV 61/1 (underline, chorale chorus, elaborated)

Ach lieben Christen seid getrost (Ch.) 256 (mel. Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält)
Christum wir sollen dich loben schon (Ch.) BWV 121/1, BWV 121/6(8); 611, 696
Der Tag, der ist so Freudenreich (Ch.) 294 605, 719
Ermuntre dich, mein schwachen Geist(Ch.) BWV 248/12(9), 454
Freuet euch, ihr Christen alle (Ch.) BWV 40/8(4)
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (Ch.) BWV 64/2(7), BWV 91/1, BWV 91/6(7), BWV 248/7(6), 314, 604 ,697, 722 ,723
Ich freue mich in dir (Ch.) BWV 133/1, BWV 133/6(4), 465
Ich freue mich in dir (Ch.) BWV 197a/7(4)=398 (mel. O Gott, du frommer Gott)
In dulci jubilo (Ch.) 368, 608, 729
Jesu, meine Freude (Ch.) BWV 64/8(5), 610
Jesu meines Herzens Freud (Ch.) 361, 473 (different mel.)
Lobe den Herren, den (Ch.) BWV 57/8(6) (mel. Hast du denn, Jesu Ch.)
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich(Ch.) BWV 151/5(8), 609, 732
Nun freut euch, Gotteskinder all 387
Puer natus in Bethlehem (Ch.) BWV 65/2, 603 (or Ein Kind geboren in Bethlehem)
Schaut, schaut, was ist für Wunder dar(Ch.) BWV 248/17(8) (mel. Vom Himmel hoch (Ch.)
Schwing dich auf zu deinen Gott (Ch.) BWV 40/6(2)
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (Ch.) BWV 243a/A, BWV 248/9(13), BWV 248/23(2), 606, 700, 701, 738, A63, A64
Vom Himmel kam, der Engel Schar (Ch.) 607
Was frag ich nach der Welt (Ch.) BWV 64/4 (mel. O Gott, du frommer Gott)
Was ist ein Kindlein heut geboren (Ch.) 414 (mel. Ach, bleib, bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ)
Wie soll ich dich empfangen (Ch.) BWV 248/5(8) (mel. Herzlich tut mich verlangen)
Wir Christenleut! (Ch.) BWV 40/3(3), BWV 110/7(5), BWV 248/14(12), 612, 710, 1090
Warum sollt ich mich dend grämmen (Ch.) BWV 248/33(15) (mel. Frolich soll mein Herze springen)
Wir singen dir Immanuel BWV 248/17(8) (mel. Vom Himmel hoch)


Excellent chorale resource, thanks to Thomas Braatz , Francis Browne & Aryeh Oron:
www.bach-cantatas.com/Links/Links-Chorales.htm


FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS: FEAST OF THE NATIVITY (NBA KB I/2, Dürr 1957)
Gospel, Luke 2: 1-14 (Nativity, 1-7, Annunciation 8-14); Epistle, Heb. 1:1-12 (God's Son)

Date(Cy.) BWV Title Type/Note
c1712-15 [BWV 142] Es ist ein Kind geboren ?KUHNAU, Chorus
12/25/13 ?BWV 63(a) Christen, ätzet diesen Tag Chorus, Proto
12/25/14 BWV 63 Christen, ätzet diesen Tag Chorus, Expansion
12/25/23(1) BWV 63 Christen, ätzet diesen Tag Chorus
12/25/23 BWV 243a Magnificat in Eb Chorus
12/25/23-24 BWV 238 Sanctus in D Chorus
12/25/24(2) BWV 91 Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ Chorale
12/25/24 BWV 232III(/20) Sanctus in D Chorus, Re-Used
12/25/25(3) BWV 110 Unser Mund sei voll Lachens Chorale Chorus
?after 1723 [Anh.161] Kundlich gross ist das gottselige C.H. Graun Motet
12/25/28(P) BWV 197a(P5) Ehre sei Gottin der Hohe Chs., incl., parodied
1728-31 (BWV 110) Unser Mund sei voll Lachens repeat
c12/25/29 (BWV 63) Christen, ätzet diesen Tag repeat
1732-35 (BWV 63) Christen ätzet diesen Tag repeat
1732-35 (BWV 91) Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ repeat
12/25/34 BWV 248I Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf preiset Chorus, parody
1736-37 (BWV 197a) Ehre sei Gott in der Hohe repeat
1743-46 BWV 110 Gloria in excelsis Deo Chorus, borrowed, parody
1746-47 (BWV 91) Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ repeat

BWV 63, Dance style: #1, 5 gigue-passepied (Fincke-Hecklinger); #1 gigue-style (Little-Jeanne)

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 10, 2009):
I listed the required chorales for Christmas Day in my introduction. The choice of most texts was dictated by rubric (e.g. The gradual hymn "de tempore") or the hymn book in use at the particular choice. There wasn't the freedom of choice which modern choirmasters have.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (February 12, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote [Genesis]:
<< Such is the case with Bach's presumed first cantata for Christmas Day, BWV 63. Its origins were – and remain obscured -- in the early part of the second decade of the 18th century when the madrigalian, Italian-style German cantata was being developed and Bach became its most notable practitioner. >>
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< No, Bach was NOT the most notable practitioner of this style of cantata either during the 2nd decade of 18th century or ever. >
Who do you think was? Just curious.

 

Cantata BWV 63: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ŭSeptember 28, 2011 ŭ17:54:25