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Cantata BWV 63
Christen, ätzet diesen Tag
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of December 6, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 6, 2015):
Cantata 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag,' Intro & Christmas Liturgy, Chorales

Bach’s first Christmas Cantata BWV 63, “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag” (Christians, engrave this day) is a unique and impressive work in many respects. With its large-scale festive scoring – including four(!) trumpets and timpani, this almost half-hour one-part work is his only truly perfectly symmetrical musical sermon. Its palindrome (mirror) shape involves two large-scale da-capo tutti opening and closing choruses (there is no chorale, which also is rare in Bach), and two festive da-capo duets interspersed with three extended accompagato recitative-ariosi.1 Bach also used the palindrome structure for his first Easter Sunday Cantata 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden” (Christ lies in death’s bondage). His only other significant use of palindrome was in sections of the St. John Passion, where it is called a “chiastic” (or cross-like structure).

At the same time Cantata 63 has special characteristics that have caused scholars to debate its origins, genesis, purpose, and text sources. While quite festive in character, it’s madrigalian choruses and arias make no actual reference to Christmas while its recitatives making vague references to the Christmas Day Gospel (Nativity of Jesus), and Epistle, Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared to me), or Isaiah 9: 2-7 (Unto us a child is born). It lacks the typical holiday musical elements such as pastoral music of the shepherds (although it has two dance-style movements), a cradle song, references to the angel’s canticle, “Gloria in excelsis Deo,” and Christmas chorales.

In its known form Cantata 63 probably was first performed on Christmas Day 1714 in Weimar, as well as Bach’s first Christmas in Leipzig in 1723 at an extended Christmas Day vesper service as well as Christmas Day, with considerable original and appropriate music (see below, Christmas vesper and main service music). It was repeated at least once, in 1729, and probably other years as part of Bach extensive repertory of German and Latin Christmas music (see the list of seven cantatas at BCW, “Lutheran Church Year: Readings for Christmas Day,” as well as the Lesson texts, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm. The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611.

The Introit Psalm for Christmas Day in Bach’s time was Psalm 92, Bonum est confiteri (It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, KJV), says Richard Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2, Advent to Trinityfest.2 There are motet settings (not readily accessible) of Palestrina, di Lasso, and Schütz that Bach may have performed. The full KJV text is http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Psalms-Chapter-92. Bach may have presented some of these motets, found in his motet collection, the Bodenschatz Florilegium Portense.3

Design, Theme, Dating

To enhance the perfect design, the central, proclamatory recitative-arioso (no. 4) -- “So kehret sich nun heut / Das bange Leid, / Mit welchem Israel geängstet und beladen”(In this way now today is transformed / the anxious suffering / with which Israel was distressed and burdened) – has the key thematic Lutheran word “Gnaden” (grace) exactly in the center of the movement, reinforcing the opening chorus reference to the “Gnadenscheine” (light of grace), with is the heart of both Christmas and Reformation Day with which the madrigalian text has been linked. In addition, the closing chorus is a double prelude and fugue with the B section closing with a mini-da-capo homophonic-polyphonic chorus that is a change from the festive mood with flourishing interludes to a fervent prayer, “Daß uns der Satan möge quälen” (but never let it happen / that Satan may torment us),” before the return of the gala opening.

Bach’s compositional mastery of complex movements lead the first Bach master scholar Philipp Spitta and succeeding scholars to date Cantata 63 to Bach’s first Christmas in Leipzig in 1723. Subsequently, the dating of Bach’s surviving, key initial instrumental autograph parts (no score survives) establishes Weimar (1713-15), while the festive scoring suggests that Cantata 63 may have been composed for performance outside Weimar. With the discovery of a parodied libretto text for the four da-capo choruses and arias dating to Halle 1717, the origin, purpose, first performance date and location as well as the genesis have been subject to debate among later scholars to today.

Initially, given the Halle connection, various scholars thought Cantata 63 (or 21) was Bach’s probe for the Halle cantor on the 2nd Sunday in Advent, December 10, 1713. With additional parts dating to probable performances on Christmas Day 1723 and 1729, most later scholars accepted the initial date of the seven-movement version to be Christmas Day (a Wednesday) 1714. Cantata 63 BCW Details and revised and update Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm

Cantata 63 movements, scoring, incipits, key, meter:4

1. Chorus da-capo with B section fugue [SATB; Tromba I-IV, Timpani, Oboe I-III, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag / In Metall und Marmorsteine!” (Christians, engrave this day / in metal and marble stone! [Job 19:24); Ba. “Kommt und eilt mit mir zur Krippen” (Come and hurry with me to the manger, Luke 2:16); Bb, fugue, “Denn der Strahl, so da einbricht, / Zeigt sich euch zum Gnadenscheine” (for the ray that there breaks in / is shown to you as the light of grace); C Major; 3/8 gigue-passepied style.
2. Recitative-Arioso accompagnato [Alto; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: Recit. “O selger Tag! o ungemeines Heute / An dem das Heil der Welt, . . . / Nunmehro sich vollkommen dargestellt” (Oh blessed day! Oh extraordinary today / on which the saviour of the world, . . . now reveals himself fully); Arioso “ zu erretten . . . Du liebster Gott” (to rescue Israel / Dear God); c minor to a major; 4/4.
3. Aria da-capo in canon style (Duetto) [Soprano, Bass; Oboe solo (organ replace, ?1729), Continuo]: A. “Gott, du hast es wohl gefüget, / Was uns itzo widerfährt” (God, you have well ordained / what now happens to us); B. Drum laßt uns auf ihn stets trauen” (Therefore let us always trust in him); a minor; 4/4.
4. Recitative accompagnato with central arioso [Tenor; Continuo]: Recit. “So kehret sich nun heut / Das bange Leid, / Mit welchem Israel geängstet und beladen”(In this way now today is transformed / the anxious suffering / with which Israel was distressed and burdened); Arioso, “In lauter Heil und Gnaden” (into pure salvation and grace); Recit. “Der Löw aus Davids Stamme ist erschienen” (The lion from the stock of David has appeared); C Major to G Major; 4/4.
5. Aria free da-capo with extended B section (Duetto) [Alto, Tenor; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Ruft und fleht den Himmel an, / Kommt, ihr Christen, kommt zum Reihen” (Call and implore heaven, / come, you Christians, come into the ranks); B. “Ihr sollt euch ob dem erfreuen, / Was Gott hat anheut getan!” (you should rejoice on account of that / which God has done today!); “Da uns seine Huld verpfleget / Und mit so viel Heil beleget, / Daß man nicht g'nug danken kann” (since his graciousness maintains us / and endows us with such great salvation / that sufficient thanks cannot be given); G Major; passepied-menuett style 3/8.
6. Recitative-Arioso accompagnato [Bass; Oboe I-III, Violino I/II, Viola, Fagotto, Continuo]: “Verdoppelt euch demnach, ihr heißen Andachtsflammen” (For this reason be redoubled, you hot flames of devotion); Arioso, “Steigt fröhlich himmelan / Und danket Gott vor dies, was er getan!” (Mount joyfully to heaven / and thank God for what he has done!); e minor to C Major; 4/4.
7. Chorus da-capo doublprelude and fugue with B section mini-da-capo [SATB; Tromba I-IV, Timpani, Oboe I-III, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo]: A. “Höchster, schau in Gnaden an / Diese Glut gebückter Seelen!” (Highest, look with grace on / this ardour of souls who bow [in worship]); B. “Laß den Dank, den wir dir bringen, / Angenehme vor dir klingen” (Let the thanks, which we bring you, / resound pleasingly before you); mini-da-capo a. “Aber niemals nicht geschehn, / b. Daß uns der Satan möge quälen” (but never let it happen / that Satan may torment us); C Major, 4/4.

Libretto, Scoring, Individual Movements

The libretto, scoring and individual movements are described in Douglas Cowling’s Introduction to BCML Discussion Part 3, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63-D3.htm.

<<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 can¹t 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 obbligato 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 (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 God¹s 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 Bach¹s 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.>>

Musical Notes

In the opening chorus, the arioso phrase “in Metall und Marmorsteine!” (in metal and marble stone!) is a quote from Job 19:24); the full passage (19:23-25): “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!, 24 That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever! 25 For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.”

Bach’s 1723 Christmas Performance schedule is found in Christoph Wolff’s JSB: The Learned Musician (New York: W. W.Norton & Co.: 265). The major music performed was: Christmas Day, Cantata 63, Magnifcat, Sanctus, BWV 238; Christmas 2nd Day, Cantata 40; Christmas 3rd Day, Cantata 64; New Year’s, Cantata 190; Sunday after New Year, Cantata 153, Epiphany, Cantata 65; and Sunday after Epiphany, Cantata 154.

Cantata 63, Genesis, Text Sources

I have taken the liberty of citing by BCML Part 3 (Ibid.) article, Genesis (February 9, 2009). <<BWV 63: Genesis. 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 wbeing 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.>>

Addendum: Thomas Braatz is researching the Heineccius connection and a current bibliography of various recent article will be included during this week’s discussion.

Christmas Vesper Music

A reconstruction of the Christmas Day vespers music of John Butt and the Dunedin Consort is available. It features Bach’s Magnificat and Christmas Cantata 63. It recreates Bach’s first Christmas Vesper at Leipzig’s Nikolaikirche, 25 December 1723, The Magnificat heard for the first time within its original liturgical context on Linn SACD CKD469 (available on MP-3, digital version, http://www.linnrecords.com/recording-magnificat.aspx). The recording will be available December 23 on Amazon. Here are the contents:

Giovanni Gabrieli: Motet: Hodie Christus natus est a8
Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Prelude: Gott, durch deine Güte, BWV 600
Cantata: Christen, ätzet diesen Tag, BWV 63
Organ Prelude: Vom Himmel hoch, BWV 606
Congregational Chorale: Vom Himmel hoch
Organ Prelude: Fuga sopra il Magnificat, BWV 733
Magnificat in E flat major, BWV 243a
Organ Prelude: Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV 603
Congregational Chorale: Puer natus in Bethlehem
Christmas Main Service Musical Sequence

In the MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY, BCW contributor Douglas Cowling lists various liturgical musical settings, including motets and chorales as well as Latin settings of the Kyrie and Gloria. Following the Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared), Cowling lists the organ prelude for the Congregational Gradual Hymn of the Day (de tempore) as “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ.” Here is the complete musical sequence:

+Tower bells rung at 6 am and again at 7 am: The 5200 kg bell “Gloriosa” (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 “Puer Natus” (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: “Puer Natus In Bethlehem.” 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.

Bach¹s 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 40, “Dazu ist Erscheinen”; BWV 233a ­ Kyrie (1708-1712); BWV 234 ­ A major (1738); BWV 235 ­ G minor (1738); BWV 236 ­ G Major (1738).
+Collect/Pof Day sung in Latin plainsong by Celebrant. Choral Responses sung to four-part polyphony from Vopelius collection Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch (Ibid.).
+Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared) sung by Deacon in German to plainsong.
+Organ Prelude on “Gelobet seist du” (BWV 314 or 604?), Congregational Gradual Hymn of the Day (de tempore): “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ”: 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.
+Organ Prelude on “Wir glauben all an einen Gott” (BWV 1098?), Congregational Creed Chorale: “Wir glauben all an einen Gott” (Luther).
+Organ Prelude before Cantata: First Cantata (1723); BWV 63 ­ “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag”; chorale Cantata 91, “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (1724).
+Organ Prelude on “Ein Kindelein so löbelich” (BWV 719?), Congregational Pulpit Hymn after the Cantata (Offertory), “Ein Kindelein so löbelich.”
+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 (1723) as Cantata 63: BWV 237 C major [with brass], BWV 238 ­ D major. Sanctus BWV 232iii sung in 1724. Hand bells rung at the altar at the end of the Sanctus.
+Verba (Words of Institution) sung in German plainsong by Celebrant.
+Second Cantata “sub communione” during Communion? Unknown if by Bach or other composer; Bach¹s motet “Lobet den Herrn” has a traditional Christmas text.
+Other congregational hymns during Communion: introduced by organ prelude, “Ich freue mich in dir” (Ziegler), ”Wir Christenleut: (Fuger).
+Final Prayer & Benediction: sung with 4 part polyphony from Vopelius.
Organ Prelude on “Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem,” Final Congregational Hymn: “Ein Kind geborn zu Bethlehem.” German repeat of Introit chorale.

Christmas Chorales

CHRISTMAS CHORALES listed in the NLGB (The two chorale texts, “Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her” and “Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar”, are quite similar in content just as the melody for “Puer natus in Bethlehem” has much in common with the melody for “Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar”). The NLGB listing and Bach’s usages (BWV) are:

”Vom “Himmel hoch da kam ich her” (Luther, NLGB 12); BWV 248/9 (6), 243a/A (1), BWV 606 (Orgelbüchlein 9), 700, 701, 738(a), 769(a) (Canonic Variations), Anh. 63-64.
“Vom Himmel kam der Engle Schar” (Luther, NLGB 13), BWV 607 (Orgelbüchlein 9).
“A solis ortus” (J. H. Schein, NLB 14), not set by Bach.
“Christum wir sollen dich loben schon (Luther, NLGB 15), BWV 121/1, BWV 121/6(8); BWV 611, 696.
“Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ” (Luther, NLGB 16) BWV 64/2(7), BWV 91/1(1), BWV 91/2(2), BWV 91/6 (7), BWV 248/7(6), BWV 248/28 (7); BWV 314, 604 , 697, 722(a), 723.
“Der Tag, der ist so Freudenreich (Luther, NLGB 18), BWV 294 605, 719.
“Nun ist es Zeit zu singen hell (Helmbold, NLGB 19), not set by Bach.
“In dulci jubilo” (Anon., NLGB 20), BWV 368, 608, 729.
“Puer natus in Bethlehem (Anon., NLGB 21a) BWV 65/2, 603 (or “Ein Kind geboren in Bethlehem,” NLGB 21b).
“Un ist geboren ein Kindlein (Luther, NLGB 22), not set by Bach.
“Weil Maria schwanger ging (Michael Weiss, NLGB 25), not set by Bach.
“Heut sind die lieben Engelein” (N. Hermann, NLGB 27), not set by Bach.
“Uns ist ein Kindlein heut geboren” (Anon., NLGB 28), BWV 414 (melody “Ach, bleib, bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ”).
“Laßt uns alle fröliche sein” (J. Forster, NLGB 29), not set by Bach.
“Wir Christenleut!” (Füger, NLGB30) BWV 40/3(3), BWV 110/7(5), BWV 248/14(12), 612, 710, 1090.
“Lobt Gott, ihr Christen allzugleich” (N. Hermann, NLGB 31) BWV 151/5(8), 609, 732.
“Ermuntre dich, mein schwachen Geist” (J. Rist, NLGB 37) BWV 248/12(9), 454.
“Dancksagen wir alle” (sequence Grates nunc omnes,” Balbulus, NLGB 39a,b.
“Virga Jesse flourit” (Anon, NLGB 40), 243a/D.

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 63 BCW Details and revised and update Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm.
2 Petzoldt, Bach Kommentar: Theologisch Musikwissenschaftlicke Kommentierung der Geistlichen Vokalwerke Johann Sebastan Bachs; Vol. 2, Die Geistlichen Kantaten vom 1. Advent bis zum Trinitatisfest; Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2007: Christmas Day Commentary, 83-89; Cantata 91 text & Luther hymn text, 98-101; Cantata 91 Commentary, 100-107).
3 BACH'S MOTET COLLECTION: Otto Riemer, "Erhard Bodenschatz und sein Florilegium Portense" Schünigen: Kaminsky,1927; ML 410 B67R4.
4 Francis Browne BCW English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV63-Eng3.htm.

William Hoffman wrote (December 7, 2015):
Cantata 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag,' Three Perspectives

Three different and informative perspectives are provided in liner notes to recordings of Cantata 63, “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag” (Christians, etch this day) at BCW Details & Recordings, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm. Gilles Cantagrel, John Eliot Gardiner, and Tadashi Isoyama (Suzuki recording) all offer descriptions of the various movements, the overall form and the special libretto. Cantegrel focuses on the central recitative (no. 4) which in “the midst of these songs of thanksgiving, it evokes the plan of redemption that justifies the Nativity.” Gardiner begins with a special view of Weimar, where Cantata 63 was premiered, and suggests that because of its large orchestra, it may have been performed not in the court chapel but the Church of Saints Peter and Paul. Isoyama provides libretto source information that suggests that the work may have began as a secular cantata.

Cantagrel: Christmas Feast Cantata

BACH: CANTATAS FOR THE FEAST OF CHRISTMAS, Liner Notes to the CD J.S. Bach: In Tempore Nativitatis - Weihnachten Kantaten · Christmas Cantatas · Cantates de Noël BWV 110, 151, 63, by Ricercar Consort (Mirare, 2013).
<<Lutherans celebrate with splendour, and therefore in music, not only the morning of the feast of the Nativity on 25 December, but also the two days that follow. Along with Easter, these are the most important feasts of the Church year in both Protestant and Catholic countries, greeted by constant peals of bells at this period (whence their delightful name of ‘fêtes carillonnées’ in French). Bach’s surviving music for these three days comprises ten cantatas, in addition to the three cantatas for the same circumstances that are found in the Christmas Oratorio.

The cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (Christians, etch this day) BWV 63, was once again intended for the morning of Christmas Day. Its first version dates back to the Weimar years, and two revivals are attested at Leipzig, in 1723 and 1729, using a revised score. Exultation bursts forth here with parts for four trumpets and timpani. While the organ was merely optional, as a participant in the continuo group, in the version intended for the little ducal chapel of Weimar, Bach makes its presence obligatory in Leipzig, principally to substitute for the oboe in the first of the two duets (no.3). Greater pomp, and above all the need to fill a much larger nave, made it necessary to rely on more powerful instrumental support. The structure is perfectly balanced. Its seven movements are centred on a recitative and symmetrically arranged on either side of it: chorus, recitative, and duet before this focal point, duet, recitative, and chorus after it, without the slightest chorale. As always in such cases, it is the central number, the keystone of the edifice, that is assigned the task of expounding the work’s core message. In the midst of these songs of thanksgiving, it evokes the plan of redemption that justifies the Nativity. This brief, intense movement encapsulates Grace victorious over suffering and anguish. The whole work is an admirable achievement, right from the mosaic of highly contrasted vocal and episodes that structures the opening chorus, in which three groups are combined or set against each other: the trumpets and drums, the three oboes, and the strings, always with the support of the continuo. The first duetto sounds like a duet from a Passion, while the second, in complementary fashion, brings the comfort that will culminate in the exultation of the final chorus. This, like the work’s opening movement, in the idiom of a concerto grosso, abounds in contrasts and interplay between the three groups of brass, woodwind, and strings, just as the homophonic sections are set against others in fugal style, as humble prayer gives way to the ‘fervour of souls’ conjured up by the text. In the central section we encounter new contrasts between the thank-offerings addressed to God and the torments inflicted by Satan. A masterpiece. Gilles Cantagrel Translation: Charles Johnston

Gardiner: Weimar Perspective

Liner Notes to the CD Bach Cantatas Vol. 18: Weimar/Leipzig/Hamburg: For Christmas Day & for Epiphany (BWV 63, 191, 65, 123); For the 1st Sunday after Epiphany (BWV 154, 124, 32) (Soli Deo Gloria, 2010).
<<On Christmas Day we gathered in the [Weimar] town church to launch our pilgrimage, united in believing Bach’s music to be one of the touchstones of civilisation, to be treasured every time we hear or perform it. ‘Etch this day in metal and marble!’ is the injunction given at the start of BWV 63 Christen, ätzet diesen Tag. How could we fail to do so? Bach’s music is over - whelming testimony to the strength and resilience of the human spirit, its refusal to be silenced or crushed. Our search for meaning, for answers to these glaring contra dictions and intractable puzzles, had drawn us here together in the first place and was implicit in the very act of performing his music. The mid-twentieth century death camps were, according to George Steiner [Death of Tragedy], ‘the transference of Hell from below the earth to its surface’. This alone makes it easier for us to comprehend the grim notion that mankind, in the words of Bach’s librettist, is ‘a fallen race... imprisoned and fettered by Satan’s slavish chains’.

It felt peculiarly apt to start our pilgrimage with this stirring work, most probably first performed in Weimar which we were also performing here. The cantata contains none of the usual Nativity themes: no cradle song, no music for the shepherds or for the angels, not even the standard Christmas chorales. It is an enigmatic work, much revived by Bach in his Leipzig years, with a text thought to be by Johann Michael Heineccius, a leading pastor in Halle who took an active interest in luring Bach there in 1713. It was later to be used as part of Halle’s bicentennial celebrations of the Reformation in 1717. No autograph score survives, only a set of parts in the hand of Bach and his pupil Johann Martin Schubart. Its opulent scoring – three oboes and bassoon and no less than four trumpets plus timpani in addition to the string ensemble – shows this to have been one of a handful of large-scale works too big to be accommodated in the choir loft of the Himmelsburg, the ducal chapel where most of Bach’s Weimar cantatas were performed. From time to time the Duke, perhaps tiring of his court preacher, decided, it seems, to join the congregation in services held in the much larger town church of SS Peter and Paul. This allowed Bach to draw on the amalgamated forces of the ducal Capelle and the town musicians for grand ceremonial effects impossible within the chapel’s cramped gallery.

It is a symmetrical work: two imposing outer choruses that balance secular dance (for instruments) and motet style (for voices) within a da capo framework flank twin accompagnato recitatives, one for alto and one for bass, two duets, the first with extended oboe obbligato, the second a triple rhythm danceduet for alto and tenor, and a central recitative for tenor that tells us that ‘the lion from David’s line has appeared, His bow is drawn tight, His sword sharpened.’ The first accompagnato (No.2), a ravishing movement for alto with strings, passes imperceptibly from meditative arioso to declamation and back again in the course of its thirty-two bars. The evident care that Bach lavished on this movement is clear, firstly from the way, following a tortuous passage in which voice and continuo struggle to free themselves from ‘Satan’s slavish chains’, that Bach negotiates a heart-stopping transition from E minor to A major for the long-awaited balm of Jesus’ birth, and secondly from his use of a diminished third to effect a startling plummeting from A minor to F major illustrative of man’s fallen state (‘nach dem Verdienst zu Boden liegen’).

The final chorus is a superb mosaic of interlocking structures and moods. It begins pompously with a short fanfare for the four trumpets and drums announcing the arrival of some dignitary – the Duke himself, perhaps? – and can surprise those not expecting signs of humour in Bach’s church music. For it is followed by some irreverent tittering by the three oboes, passing from them, like Chinese whispers, to the strings. Was his wig askew? Great sweeping arcs of exuberant semiquaver scales precede the choir’s entry with the fanfare motif ‘Höchster, schau in Gnaden an’ before the first of two permutation fugues. Both fugal subjects are reminiscent of Bach’s double choir motets, Der Geist hilft (BWV 226) and Fürchte dich nicht (BWV 228), and both begin meditatively with voices alone and then expand via instrumental doubling to blazing trumpet-dominated climaxes. Just prior to the da capo comes a preposterous collective trill on the word quälen, to describe the futility of Satan’s attempt to ‘torment’ us. As Schweitzer says, ‘the devil strongly appeals to the musician Bach’. And to Cranach, he might have added. For there he is in the magnificent painting that dominates the Herderkirche altar – twice, in fact: in the background chasing man into the fires of hell, but in the foreground trodden underfoot, his tongue pierced by the staff of Christ’s victory flag. In this Lutheran interpretation of the Crucifixion Christ, too, appears twice, once on the Cross, with a jet of blood from his pierced side falling on the head of Cranach himself (representing all believers), once as the risen Christ, trampling both death and the devil. It is almost an allegorical representation of the town’s chequered history, the never-ending struggle between the forces of good and evil, and it seemed the perfect backdrop to Bach’s vivid retelling of the story of Christ’s victory over the devil and the benefit of his birth for humanity, a theme that runs through all three of the Christmas cantatas he brought together for performance in Leipzig in 1723 (BWV 63, 40 and 64). But to the TV producer, filming our performances of the Christmas Oratorio, the Cranach painting was ‘inappropriate’ for a Christmas TV show: he even suggested that it be taken down or blanked out for the filming! Weimar’s scars are not so easily eradicated.

Suzuki: Libretto Source

BWV 63: Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (Christians, Engrave This Day), BIS recording. BWV 63 is the first cantata Bach wrote for Christmas Day. The orchestration, which requires four trumpets. timpani and three oboes, makes it one of the larger works of the Weimar period. Based in C major, the cantata is a charming work, the expressive music evoking images of rejoicing in the Saviour's birth; it is a fine example of Bach's treatment of the Christmas theme.

It is all but certain that the libretto is by J.M. Heineccius, pastor of the Liebfiaukirche in Halle, the town known as the birthplace of Handel. Bach visited Halle twice during his Weimar days: the first of these visits was in the winter of 1713 when he was applying for the position of organist at the Liebfraukirche. and the second was in the spring of 1716, when he went to examine the newly repaired organ at that same church. It has been thought that on one of these trips. Bach might have performed BWV 63 in Halle, but timing and the content of the cantata raise doubts about this suggestion. Recently it has come to be thought that BWV 63 wprobably composed at Christmas of 17l4/15 for use somewhere other than in Weimar (It has also been suggested that it was converted from a secular cantata.) Regardless, Bach liked the cantata and performed it for his first Christmas in Leipzig (1723); he used it at least three times during his lifetime.

The opening chorus, lively and joyful music (C major, 3/8 time), is at a level equal to that of the introduction to the Christmas Oratorio. Brass, woodwinds, strings and voices join in a grand competition to proclaim this day. In the middle section, which speaks of 'the light of grace', the trumpets give way, and for a while the music moves into a gentler A minor.

O selger Tag! (Oh blessed day!).1) cries the alto, beginning a long declamation against a background of understated strings (No.2. Recitative). The tone is largely filled with wonder at the Incarnation. The narrative builds in mysterious ecstasy, leading into the duet which follows.

The beautiful duet for soprano and bass (A minor, 4/4 time) bears the marking Adagio. An oboe obbligato (for the 1723 performance. obbligato organ) represents the sorrows of the world of men; in canon, the soprano and bass sing in acknowledgment that such sorrows are in fact the work of God's providence. In the middle section, the bass moves with certain steps as trust in God's mercy becomes unclouded.

On Christmas Day, suffering is transformed into salvation. The tenor sings of this conversion in a recitative (No.4) in which the Lord is referred to as the Lion of David, making reference to his bow and sword. The continuo at this point reflects the flight of an arrow launched from the bow.

Movement 5 is a duet in G major (3/8 time) for alto and tenor. It calls Christians to the heavens in a shout of joy, moving with the impetus of a dance. Clear musical structure reveals a powerful unity, and the work gives an extremely modern impression.

At this point the bass. accompanied by the oboes and strings, commands the faithful to build up the flames of devotion (No.6, Recitative). The latter half of the recitative repeats gratitude to God.

The closing movement does not make use of a chorale, but is a splendid free-form chorus (No.7, C major, 4/4 time). It seems fairly traditional in form, incorporating a combination of contrasting block-sections within a da capo (ABA) structure.
© Tadashi Isoyama 1998

William Hoffman wrote (December 7, 2015):
Cantata 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag,' Note on Text

BWV 63 was probably written by Bach in Weimar in 1714 or 15. It was used again in Leipzig in 1723 and possibly 1729. It is a splendidly celebratory cantata but in some respects it is unusual and puzzling. There are no solo arias, no direct biblical quotation and instead of a concluding chorale there is a second chorus. For all its festive character there is little reference to traditional Christmas themes: no angels, shepherds cradle song. The text is markedly symmetrical (on either side of the central recitative there are a chorus, recitative and duet) skilfully and varingly rhymed throughout and rhetorical in its frequent use of apostrophes and imperatives.

In fact the text seems to be an earlier variant of a text written for the bicentenary of Luther's Reformation in 1717. The author was probably Johann Michael Heineccius, principal pastor of the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle. Bach would have had contact with him 1713/14 when he was interested in a post of organist at Halle. Some scholars speculate that the text may be a parody of a secular cantata but this is uncertain.

If the cantata was originally a commemoration of the Reformation what seems to be a rather odd opening injunction to Christians to celebrate Christmas by carving inscriptions can be understood as an activity that would be more appropriate for a bicentenary. Shiloh (Messiah) is explained by Genesis 49:10: “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be” (KJV).

Cantata 63 BCW Details and revised and update Discography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm. Score Vocal & Piano [2.30 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV063-V&P.pdf, Score BGA [4.81 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV063-BGA.pdf. References: BGAXVI (Cantatas 61-70, Wilhelm Rust, 1868), NBA KB I/2 (Christmas, Alfred Dürr, Bach Compendium BC A 8, Zwang K 9. BCW Short Biography of Johann Michael Heineccius is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Heineccius.htm. Julian Mincham monograph of Cantata 63, see http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-30-bwv-63.htm.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 7, 2015):
< rather odd opening injunction to Christians to celebrate Christmas by carving inscriptions can be understood as an activity that would be more appropriate for a bicentenary. >
Perhaps "diesen Tag" is Bach's first Christmas, a day worthy of a marble sculpture in music history (grin)

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 8, 2015):
I'll get to work on it! For comparison, see my tributes to Beethoven, as played by the Lydian String Quartet, on extended loan exhibit at Slosberg Music Center, Brandeis Univ., Waltham MA, USA.

William Hoffman wrote (December 12, 2015):
Cantata 63, Christen, ätzet diesen Tag': Weimar Incarnation

(Discussion Leader’s Note: The current BCML Part 4 Discussion of Cantata 63 can be found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63-D4.htm. Aryeh Oron’s revised and updated Discography will soon be posted at Cantata 63 Details, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm, as well as Thomas Braatz’s Cantata 63 Provenance.)

Bach’s three full cantata cycles, dealing with the church year of regular Sundays and festivals while observing the seasons, have within them both mini cycles or segments of seasons as well as liturgical beginnings and turning points. Most important are the seasons of Advent-Christmas and Lent-Easter, both involving periods of fasting and reflection leading to the festivals of the Nativity of Jesus and the Resurrection of the Christ, observes Eric Chafe in his chapter, “Perspectives on the Incarnation: Cantatas 61, 63 and 152” in Tears into Wine: J.S. Bach’s Cantata 21, “Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis in meinem Herzen” (I had much affliction in my heart) in its Musical & Theological Contexts (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015: Chapter 10, 427).

There is an “important bond among the principal seasons of Advent-Christmas, Passiontide-Easter, and Pentecost-Trinity,” he finds (Ibid.: 429). It is “God’s plan as it unfolds in the history of salvation.” The three principal feasts can be summarized as describing the Christian Trinity: Christmas observes God the Father, Easter commemorates God the Son, and Pentecost celebrates God the Holy Spirit. At the same time, the “meaning of the Passion and Easter was therefore never overlooked at Christmas” Some “Bach cantatas, such as BWV 40, Darzu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes, daß er die Werke des Teufels zerstöre” (For this reason the Son of God appeared, / so that he might destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8), for the 2nd Day of Christmas, Sunday, December 26, 1723, “articulate the Johannine message of Jesus’s Easter Victory in no uncertain terms,” he points out (Ibid.: 430) At the same time, the theme of Jesus’ coming is often represented in Bach’s Advent-Christmas cantatas and chorales as the coming of the Christ-child that ultimately leads to the death and resurrection Jesus Christ.

The theme of Jesus’ coming, also known as the incarnation or spirit made flesh, “is a central one in Lutheran Theology,” says Chafe (Ibid.: 431). During Bach’s first Weimar year (1714) of composing church year service cantatas every four weeks, his observance of AdventChristmas enabled Bach to produce two Sunday Cantatas: for Advent Sunday (December 2), BWV 61, “Nun komm der Heiden Heiland” (Now comes the heathens savior, Erdmann Neumeister text), and for the Sunday After Christmas (December 30), BWV 152 “Tritt auf die Glaubensbahn” (Step forward on the way of faith, Salomo Franck text), and special Christmas Day (Tuesday) Cantata, BWV 63, “Christen, ätzet diesen Tag” (Christians, engrave this day, possibly Heineccius text).

Serendipitiously, Bach was able to repeat two of these Advent-Christmas cantatas, BWV 61 and 63, in his first cycle of 1723, enabling him to compose new music for the other seasonal cantatas, such as Cantata 40 for the Second Day of Christmas, which fell on the Sunday after Christmas Day, preventing Bach from reusing Cantata 152 from Weimar. Nevertheless Bach in his estate division by cycles, included Cantata 152 in the first cycle, since he later composed two works for the same Sunday after Christmas: chorale Cantata BWV 122, “Das neugeborne Kindelein” (The new-born little child, 1724), and chorus Cantata 28, “Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende” (Praise God! Now the year comes to an end, 1725). In the first cycle distribution pattern of manuscripts, Emmanuel received the score and Friedemann probably the parts, which later were lost.

Turning to the three Weimar incarnation Cantatas 61, 63, and 152, Chafe observes that they share theological themes and musical devices (Ibid.: 44). Comparing Cantata 63 with 61, “is revealing in terms of Bach’s understanding of the quality of anticipation, associated with Advent, and that of fulfillment associated with Christmas Day,” Chafe says (Ibid.: 444). Cantata 63 celebrates the day of fulfillment. It “centers on the story of redemption in a manner that draws its ‘past,’ associated with Israel, into the perspective of the present, viewed as that of the church,” he shows (Ibid.: 445). The technique is similar to Luther in a sermon topic beginning with the particular law of the Old Testament and modulating to its corresponding meaning in the Gospel involving Jesus’ realization or fulfillment.

Given its symmetrical design, Chafe in summary (Ibid.: 445-474) describes the direction and purpose of each of the seven movements of Cantata 63. The opening chorus is introductory, setting forth the etched monument or incipit of this musical sermon. It encourages the believer to “come and hurry” to the manger, doing their duty and giving thanks. The alto recitative (no. 2) “narrates God’s promise of a redeemer for the human race who would rescue Israel.” The soprano-bass duet (no. 3) is an “expression of God’s design for human redemption.” The central tenor recitative (no. 4) “serves as a pivot” that “emphasizes at first the suffering that is turned around by Jesus’s victory.” The succeeding alto-tenor duet (no. 5) becomes a ritual dance and a cry to heaven that “place the eschatological (“last things”) hopes of the faithful within the framework of God’s blessings on earth, focused on the Incarnation.” The third recitative (no. 6), for bass links the believer’s “flames of devotion” with humility.” The closing chorus (no. 7) celebrates “humanity on earth under God’s blessing.”

Both Cantatas 21 and 63 prove to be masterful early Bach musical sermons. Many scholars still believe they had their beginnings in late 1713 and that either could have fulfilled Bach’s designs for an impressive work that served as his probe piece for the Halle cantor’s position. The endings of Cantatas 21 and 63, as Chafe observes, “encapsulate the final purpose” of both: “the sphere of God, from which the faithful on earth await his grace now expressed (in Cantata 63) with reference to the Incarnation.”

The movements also are summarized in W. Gillies Whittaker’s The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Oxford University Press: London, 1958: I: 705) as the following: the opening chorus, alto-tenor duet and bass recitative are expressions of the believer’s rejoicing; the soprano-bass duet and closing chorus are prayers; and the alto and tenor recitatives are expressions of the change brought to the world through the Savior’s birth.

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 12, 2015):
Cantata BWV 63 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 63 "Christen, ätzet diesen Tag" (Christians, engrave this day) for Christmas Day on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto, tenor & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of 4 trumpets, timpani, 3 oboes, bassoon, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (33): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (7): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63-2.htm
The revised discography includes many listening/watching options to recordings directly from the discography pages, just below the recording details.

I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages.

I believe this is the most comprehensive discography of this cantata. If you are aware of a recording of BWV 63 missing from these pages, or want to correct/add details of a recording already presented on the BCW, please do not hesitate to inform me.

You can also read on the BCW the recent discussion of the cantata in the BCML (4th round):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV63-D4.htm

Charles Francis wrote (December 16, 2015):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< I also put at the BCW Home Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/
2 audios and 2 videos of the cantata. A short description below the audio/video image is linked to the full details at the discography pages. >
Aryeh’s various BWV 63 audio examples include one with the New London Consort, founded and directed by Philip Pickett. Sadly, in 2015 Mr. Pickett received an 11 year prison sentence for allegations dating back some 30 years, although curiously not referred to the police at the time. His musical focus is discussed at some length in this documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f0EO63vO8ig

On a seasonal note, a CD recording of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the New London Consort can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoW_9lTmlIQ

 

Cantata BWV 63: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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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