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Cantata BWV 64
Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of May 24, 2009

Francis Browne wrote (May 23, 2009):
BWV 64 :Introduction

Like BWV 57 discussed two weeks ago BWV 64 ,this week's cantata, written for 27th December 1723, does not seem to have much to do with Christmas. Not the least advantage of the current survey of the cantatas according to the liturgical year -an approach particularly advocated by Douglas Cowling - is that in examining all the works written for a particular feast we are better able to appreciate what the occasion may have meant to Bach. In this way we can understand Dürr's comment :

" hard as it is for us to comprehend today, it is characteristic of the thinking and emotional character of the Baroque to link the most jubilant days of the church year with thoughts of the futility of the world, of death, and of longing for the afterlife ."

.. The previous discussions of this cantata have already covered much to do with this cantata. Donald Satz gave a perceptive introduction to the cantata and discussion of the available recordings when when the recording by Suzuki appeared.Aryeh provided a detailed introduction based on Murray Young's analysis of the cantata and his own stimulating account of the available recordings. John Pike introduced the cantata three years ago by using the notes from the Suzuki recording. Peter Smail, as well as valuable observations of his own, added information from the accounts by Eric Chafe and some illuminating material on attitudes to Christmas by Ruth Tatlow in the notes to John Eliot Gardiner's first recording of this cantata [6]. Thomas Braatz raised interesting points about the use of the gavotte rhythm in the soprano aria, Neil Halliday gave - as so often - an excellent account of some recordings ..... and there are other worthwhile contributions. I hope you will follow this link and read the previous discussions, since it seems superfluous to repeat what has already been said :
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64-D.htm

To add something new in this introduction I shall use two sources that have not been used so far in discussing this cantata.

Hans-Joachim Schulze in Die Bach-Kantaten (p43-46) adds more detail to the account of the text of the cantata given by Andreas Glöckner in the notes to the Bach-Collegium Japan recording.

Glöckner reported the discovery in 1981 that the text was originally by Johann Oswald Knauer and was published as early as 1720 for performances by the Gotha Hofkapelle in the chapel of Schloss Friedenstein. The libretti - originally set to music by Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel and Johann Friedrich Fasch - appear in considerably altered forms in Bach's settings - and it is unclear who undertook the revisions. It is likewise impossible to say how Knauer's poems came to be in Bach's possession.

According to Schulze Knauer's original text was in two parts .It began with the biblical verse but was then followed by two pairs of movements -recitative and aria and concluded with a strophe from a chorale. The second part had the same structure : a Biblical verse -this time from Romans - then two pairs of recitative and aria and another strophe from a different chorale in conclusion. This twelve movement structure is radically changed in Bach's cantata.

The libretto both in Knauer and in Bach's adaption has little reference to Christmas and is rather concerned with renouncing this world's deceptions, redemption from sin and the sure hope of heaven. BWV 64 starts with the same biblical verse as Knauer but then ignores Knauer's first part and makes use of only six movements from his libretto. After the setting of the biblical verse in the opening movement, the key word "Liebe" is commented on by the use of a strophe from a chorale of Luther: Gelobt seist du, Jesu Christ which is inserted by Bach or his librettist. The following recitative is altered, particularly in the conclusion :

Drum sag ich mit getrostem Mut:

and so with a spirit that has been comforted I say:

so that it leads directly into the following into the first strophe from Balthasar Kindermann's chorale "Was frag ich nach der Welt". Knauer's recitative is omitted and the chorale is followed by a soprano aria. Here the reviser -or Bach himself has changed the text which originally did not make a comparison with smoke

Was die Welt
in sich hält
muß mit ihr zugleich vergehen.

The beginning of the next recitative has also been altered. Knauer wrote:

Mein Erbteil ist gewiß,
kein Teufel kann mir solches rauben,
und ich besitz es schon im Glauben .
Bach's version is more expansive and positive :

Der Himmel bleibet mir gewiss,
Und den besitz ich schon im Glauben.
Der Tod, die Welt und Sünde,
Ja selbst das ganze Höllenheer
Kann mir, als einem Gotteskinde,
Denselben nun und nimmermehr
Aus meiner Seele rauben.

Schulze is careful not to assert that Bach himself is responsible for the changes. But it seems to me at least plausible that he was in some way involved- so that we may have here a rare opportunity to glimpse Bach at work on the text.The alterations generally make the cantata more of a unified work of art with a clear and effective emotional structure.

I find Gardiner's notes a very valuable part of his cycle. The understanding he has gained from performing all the cantatas enables him to make many valuable points. .I have no hesitation in reproducing them here in conclusion. since they are generously available on the internet (in three languages) at : http://www.solideogloria.co.uk/shop/shop_item15.asp

"Like the previous day's Dazu ist erschienen (BWV 40), with which it is thematically closely connected, and even with the much earlier Christmas Day cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (BWV 63), there is a strong emphasis throughout this cantata on St John's depiction of Jesus as Christus victor. Profiting from the fact that December 27 is also the Feast of St John, his favourite evangelist, Bach permits himself to develop the characteristic Johannine view of the Incarnation further than the set readings would normally have allowed. This is at the root of his presentation of a vertical division between a world 'above' (full of truth and light) and 'below' (full of darkness, sin and incomprehension). God thus descends in human form to save man from sin and from his constant problem with the Devil, while man's aspiration is to ascend to where he can be included as one of God's children.

Bach implements this basic antithesis most obviously in terms of overall style, adopting an old-sounding idiom with archaic trombone colouring to establish the immutable foundations of God's love in the listener's mind in the opening chorus and its sequel, a tender setting of Luther's hymn 'Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ', then switching to more modern and worldly dance-inflected patterns in all the subsequent movements.

It is quite unusual for the first recitative of a Bach cantata to be the most dramatic movement thus far, but that is certainly the case here (Mvt. 3). It features vigorous scales both up and down in the continuo to represent the alto soloist's snub to the world - he will have no truck with Christmas trinkets.

Without a break, the choir then launch into 'Was frag ich nach der Welt?' (the first verse of Pfefferkorn's hymn of 1667) in full endorsement, over a now regular but purposeful bass-line, concluding 'Jesus... Thou art my delight' ('Jesus... Du bist meine Lust').

The soprano steps forward and the strings strike up a rather stylised courtly gavotte (with its characteristic double upbeat). But from its third bar the solo violin loosens its starchy formality by means of a wind-borne
figuration reminiscent of the scale passages in the alto recitative and soon, with the soprano's entry, to be explained as worldly thindispersing like smoke. The solid alternative - Jesus' gift to the believer - is winningly conveyed in the 'B' section, musically the 'pearl beyond price'. The continuo initially falls silent. This technique, known as bassetchen, is one that we have come across several times in the course of the year and Bach uses it, always with purpose, as a symbol of Jesus' innocence of sin and love of humankind (most famously in 'Aus Liebe', the seraphic soprano aria from the St Matthew Passion). The longer the soprano sustains the key words 'bleibet fest und ewig stehen' ('remains firm for ever'), the more contrasting opportunities present themselves - for unstable exploratory modulations and for the worldly gavotte theme to fragment, along with the solo violin's plume of smoke.

The bass recitative conveys the world- and travel-weariness of the pilgrim (No.6) - very aptly for us, seeing that this was our penultimate concert of the Pilgrimage.

In final renunciation of earthly things, and with his sights now firmly on the gift of Heaven, the alto launches into an aria of intrinsic melodic beauty (Mvt. 7). There is felicity of word-setting and a catchy play on the ambiguity of its swinging rhythms: successively, units of 3/4 time against the basic 6/8 pulse, then 6/8 with 3/4 syncopations, then unequivocal 3/4 bars in both top and bottom lines with the odd 3/8 bar sometimes left to take care of itself. Curiously, the overall impression is not of disjointedness but of pleasure in the exchanges between oboe d'amore, alto and continuo and, from time to time, of an ecstatic lyricism, the voice rising to a held top D in its longing for Heaven. Another composer might so easily have made heavy weather of this pious text, but not Bach. There is humour and delight in the solutions he finds for conveying the baubles of materialism being tossed aside and the final goodnight said to the 'Lasterleben' ('sinful way of life') in the closing chorale."

Gardiner's second recording [9] is also excellent, as is that by Suzuki [7].

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 24, 2009):
Francis Browne wrote:
< After the setting of the biblical verse in the opening movement, the key word "Liebe" is commented on by the use of a strophe from a chorale of Luther: Gelobt seist du, Jesu Christ which is inserted by Bach or his librettist. >
This chorale doesn't have much resonance for us in the 21st century but it was clearly the equivalent of "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Joy to the World" for Bach's listeners. Bach includes it in nearly all of his Christmas cantatas and wrote a half-dozen chorale preludes on the tune which had been sung at Christmas in German and Latin for at least a century before Luther wrote his translation. Like "Puer Natus," "Gelobet" was one of the most
popular Christmas hymns.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 24, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] I notice that this chorale figures in certain works by 20th c. German composers:
www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm

Do you happen to know whether it has ever been important in the English-speaking world? Does it appear in any English-language hymnbooks?

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 24, 2009):
Francis Browne wrote (citing Dürr)
< hard as it is for us to comprehend today, it is characteristic of the thinking and emotional character of the Baroque to link the most jubilant days of the church year with thoughts of the >futility of the world, of death, and of longing for the afterlife. >
A thought which has not been lost (with good reason?), through the 20th (and surviving into the 21st) Centuries. Compare, for example, the Grateful Dead lyric (from Uncle Johns [!] Band, I believe):
<When life looks like Easy Street, there is danger at the door>.

OTOH, some of lifes most satisfying moments, right here on Earth, seem to result from lookng adversity square in the eye, and staring it down. A few words from the late Bill Holm, the conclusion of a longish poem (at least in the particular volume, Playing the Black Piano), <Playing Haydn for the Angel of Death>:

<As music drifts out the open windows
Death is dancing around his straight-back chair
under the lilac bush in the garden,
trying to make the left foot move in time.
Soon he will be tired out but happy,
he will nap a while and stay away.

That*s the idea. I got it from Haydn.>
I have attempted to be faithful to Bill*s capitals and punctuation, other than substituting [*] for [apostrophe], whih appears to me to be the most garbled keystroke in cyber-space. Its always something.

To me, the Holm text is very reminiscent of Bach, especially in his marginalia to the Calov Bible: <How the Glory of the Lord Appeared After Beautiful Music> (2 Chronicles 5:13). More complete and precise reference available on request (EM).

Thanks to Paul F. for the introduction to Bill Holm, and to Francis for his ongoing faith in the human spirit. Nap on, angel of death!

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 24, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This chorale doesn't have much resonance for us in the 21st century but it >was clearly the equivalent of "O Come All Ye Faithful" or "Joy to the World" for Bach's listeners. <
Random (to avoid infinging on the fugitive) thoughts:

The lack of resonance for the 18th C. (or 16th?) chorales in the 21st C., their replacement by other tunes in the vernacular (the shoppers) ear, is pertinent. Or impertinent?

This is such a crucial point for us, to relate to the apprehension (as distinct from comprehension) of the music by the intended audience, that a bit of amplification on the word clearly would be welcome. What were the the rankings of the Chorales, in the ears of the populace? Were the churchgoers an elite group, or more general (i.e., like 21st. C shoppers)? Needless to say, the exposure to music was not as constant before the era of speakers everywhere, which we now enjoy (or endure). Live music continues to be a special (and frequent) event for me, I can only wonder about when it was the only event.

I would enjoy a 21st C. cantata based on <Joy to the World>, <God rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen>, and <Good King Wencelas>. I would be happy (joyous, merry, and good, as well) to collaborate on a libretto.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 24, 2009):
Gelobet Seist Du

James Atkins Pritchard wrote:
< Do you happen to know whether it has ever been important in the English-speaking world? Does it appear in any English-language hymnbooks? >
A quick look across Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic hymn books shows it is not sung in those traditions. Modern Lutheran books have it. It's not even included in the "New Oxford Book of Carols" which has a good selection of medieval and Renaissance German Christmas song/hymns/chorales. The scholarly background articles in that volume are exemplary.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 24, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I would enjoy a 21st C. cantata based on <Joy to the World>, <God rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen>, and <Good King Wencelas>. I would be happy (joyous, merry, and good, as well) to collaborate on a libretto. >
Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote a "Fantasia on Christmas Carols". Kinda high-class, mall-muzak.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 24, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote;
< Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote a "Fantasia on Christmas Carols". Kinda high-class, mall-muzak. >
EM:
I can imagine a Leipzig councilor saying something analogous, re Bach! Imagine? I am sure I can look it up. Maybe those RVW tunes will acquire a bit of nostalgia (or better) over the years?

I am already at work on my libretto. I sense the anticipation.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (May 28, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< A quick look across Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist and Catholic hymn books shows it is not sung in those traditions. Modern Lutheran books have it. It's not even included in the "New Oxford Book of Carols" which has a good selection of medieval and Renaissance German Christmas song/hymns/chorales. The scholarly background articles in that volume are exemplary. >
Thanks, Doug, for checking this.It's a shame that the tune is not better-known in the English-speaking world, both because the tune itself is beautiful but also because knowing it brings one that much closer to being the listener Bach assumed he would have.

William Hoffman wrote (May 28, 2009):
BWV 64, etc: Fugitive Notes

SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS: ST. STEPHEN*, ANNUNCIATION (NBA KB I/3, NA)
Gospel, *Mat. 23:34-39 (Killing Prophets), or Luke 2:8-14 (Manger); Epistle, *Acts 6:8-15, 7:55-60 (Stephen's arrest, death); Titus 3:3-7 (Christian conduct)
Date(Cy.) BWV Title Type/Note
12/26/23(1) 40 Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes* Chorus
12/26/24(2) 121 Christum wir sollen loben schon Chorale
12/26/25(3) 57 Selig ist der Mann* SB Solo
12/26/28 deest (P6) Kehret wieder, kommt zurücke Picander text only
12/26/34 248II Und es waren Hirten Chorus, parody
1746-50 (40) Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes repeat

THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS: *DISCIPLE JOHN, ADORATION (NBA KB I/3, NA)
Gospel, *John 21:15-24 (Jesus Appears to His Disciples) or John 1:1-14 (Word of Life) ; Epistle, *Heb. 1:1-14 (Christ Preferred) or Ecclec. 15:1-8 (Wisdom); John 21:15-24 (Feed sheep/lambs), **Luke 2:15-20 (Shepherds)
Date(Cy.) BWV Title Type/Note
12/27/23(1) 64 Sehet, welche eine Liebe Chorus
12/27/24(2) 133 Ich freue mich in dir Chorale
12/27/25(3) 151 Süsser Trost, mein Jesum kömmt Solo SATB
1728-31 (151) Süsser Trost, mein Jesum kömmt repeat
12/27/28 deest (P7) Ich bin in dich entzündt Picander text only
12/27/34 248III Herrscher des Himmels** Chorus, parody
after 1731 (133) Ich freue mich in dir repeat
12/25/42 (64) Sehet, welche eine Liebe repeat

After the gala festivities of Christmas Day in Leipzig with extended music and instrumental forces, Bach provided the next two consecutive days of the Christmas Festival with concise and more intimate realizations of his calling for a well-ordered church music. He produced three distinct and memorable cantatas each for the second and third days. These six works display the two key ingredients in his Leipzig production: strong emphasis on biblical texts for the appointed services and appropriate, meaningful chorales.

A particular challenge was the dual nature of these last two days of Christmas. One celebrates the birth of Jesus with the annunciation followed by and the adoration of the Shepherds. The other observes the church-year Calendar of the Common Service Book, dealing with the death of the first Christian martyr, St. Stephen, and the writer of the non-synoptic Gospel of Christus Victor, John, the disciple who loved Jesus.

Both sets of cantatas emphasize common characteristics of musical treatment and text. For the first two consecutive cycles of 1723 and 1724 Bach still used some festive wind instruments: two stately horns in BWV 40 and a coronet and three trombones in BWV 121 and 64 for the second day and third days respectively, and a cantus firmus trumpet in BWV 133. For his incomplete third cycle, in 1725 Bach turned to the biblically-based texts of Christian Lehms (1711) to create two intmate solo cantatas, the Soul-Jesus dialogue Cantata BWV 57, for the death of Stephen, and the quartet-voiced Cantata BWV 151 for a nominal observance of the Evangelist John.

Besides the two Lehms texts, the other four, as Alfred Duerr observes in his revealing study, <The Cantatas of J.S. Bach> are textual hybrids, making scant reference to the alternate appropriate readings, yet creating allusion to both sets of readings from the Gospels and Epistles. These treatments could betray in the case of the first cycle of 1723 the possible influence of the sermon's preacher and possible librettist, Christian Weiss Sr. at St. Thomas church, and the still-anonymous chorale-text paraphraser in the second cycle of 1724.

In the first cantata for the Second Day of Christmas, BWV 40, the text skilfully blends numerous biblical illusions to both the Annunciation and human weakness and sacrifice. The first cantata for the Third Day of Christmas, BWV 64 (same author?), Duerr says (p. 123), makes hardly any referece to the details of the days readings," and likewise in Cantata BWV 151 (p. 130).

Chorales are prominent in the celebratory first-cycle Cantatas BWV 40 and 64, with three each of both Christmas and non-Christmas usage. The chorale cantatas the next year in their paraphrases remain faithful to the intent of their authors, Luther and Ziegler. Cantata BWV 121 celebrates the Second Day of Christmas while BWV 133 for the Third Day is "not directly linked to the readings," but the ideas "remain close to the chorale text," says Dürr (p. 126).

There is no evidence that Bach set Picander's text to the fourth cantata cycle for the last two days of Christmas 1728, other than the extant Christmas chorale, BWV 256, "Ach lieben Christen seid getrost."

Bach, however, made more than basic amends to both Picander and the spirit of the Christmas Festival, with the production of his Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248, in 1734, joyously celebrating not only the setting of the Nativity but also the entire six services of the 12 days of the Christmas Season. The second and third parts of the oratorio, with Picander's parodied texts to celebratory drammi per musica, are among Bach's finest service works.

Thus, instead of a fourth cantata cycle celebrating Christmas, Bach left us the first installment of his Christological cycle of New Testament oratorios and Mass sections, created in the 1730s While there is no record of a repeat performance of the Christmas Oratorio, the scant evidence in the parts sets of the cantatas reveals that Bach repeated all four Christmas Day Cantatas, BWV 40 for the Second Day of Christmas, and all three extant cantatas for the Third Day of Christmas.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 31, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS: ST. STEPHEN*, ANNUNCIATION (NBA KB I/3, NA)
12/26/23(1) 40 Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes* Chorus
12/26/24(2) 121 Christum wir sollen loben schon Chorale
12/26/25(3) 57 Selig ist der Mann* SB Solo
12/26/28 deest (P6) Kehret wieder, kommt zurücke Picander text only
12/26/34 248II Und es waren Hirten Chorus, parody
1746-50 (40) Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes repeat >
What is the connection between these cantatas and Annunciation (March 25)?

William Hoffman wrote (June 1, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< What is the connection between these cantatas and Annunciation (March 25)? >
William Hoffman replies:

"Annunciation" means "announcement." The term in the readings refers specifically to the so-called Marian Feast of the Annunciation, March 25, in the Catholic tradition, the announcement of the Incarnation of the Virgin Mary. The term annunciation, or announcement, also is applied to various announcements or activities and related canticles of praise in the first two chapters of the Gospel of Luke. Specifically, my Catholic Bible, Catholic Church Extension, refers to the Announcement of the Birth of John the Baptist, 1:5-25; the Announcement of the Birth of Jesus, 1:26-38, Mary's Canticle, 1:46-56; Zechariah's Canticle, 67-79; The Angel's Announcement of the Birth of Jesus (to the Shepherds), 2:8-12, the Angels' Song of Praise, 2:13-14, "Glory to God in the highest"; and 2:22-32, Jesus Presented - or announced -- in the Temple and Simeon's Canticle.

In Bach's Christmas Oratorio and cantatas, there is only a generic reference to the Christmas Festival. In the incipit to the cantatas for the Feast of Christmas, Bach simply inscribes: "J. J. Feria (1-3) Nativi," or "Jesu Juva, Feast (1-3) of the Nativity." The printed libretto for the Christmas Oratorio, the Second Day of Christmas, bears the incipit "Am 2. Teil Weyhnachts-Feyertage," or "Part 2, Christmas Festival Day."

In the recording notes to Helmut Rilling's Haenssler Christmas Oratorio, Dr. Andeas Bomba points out (p. 67): "Bach appears to have been more concerned with keeping the (BWV 248) cycle a dramatic whole than with references to the scripture readings of the individual feast days. Thus his subject matter deviates from the order of readings. . . He divides up the Gospel for the first feastday (Luke 2,1-14) among the first two days of Christmas (1:3-7 and 8-14) and shifts the Gospel for the second day (Luke 2, 15-20) onto the third." Thus, I have taken the liberty, based on Bach's BWV 248 practice, to designate the Second and Third Days of Christmas as the Annunciation and Adoration, respectively, while retaining the designations of the saints' feast days for St. Stephen's Day, also known as Boxing Day, and the Feast of St. John the Evangelist.

While the second and third days of Christmas, Easter, and Pentecost, sometimes referred to as festival Monday and Tuesday, are no longer observed as feast days in the Christian church, the Twelve Days (or Nights) of Christmas and their five services bear designations: Nativity, Annunciation and Adoration of the Shepherds, Feast of Circumcision or the Naming of Jesus (January 1) and the Feast of the Epiphany.

Incidentally, with respect to the Marian Feast of the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-38), March 25, it, like the other two so-called Marian festivals to the B.V.M. (Blessed Virgin Mary) -- Purification (Candlemas; Luke 2:22-32,) February 2, and, Visitation (Luke 1:39-56), July 2 -- "since the Reformation were celebrated as festivals of Christ" (not Mary), Guenther Stiller points out (p. 56) in <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig>." Technically, Lutherans accept only one actual Marian festival, the Feast of the Assumption, August 15.

I have ordered Robin Leaver's <Luther Liturgical Music>, since the chapter on Canticles and tones is not available on line. I think there's a strong connection here with Bach's well-regulated church music, the link of biblical symbolism: announcement, or annunciation, with canticle -- perhaps not entirely unlike the link in opera seria, in the connection between a singer's arioso (announcement) and succeeding aria of affect (rage, revenge, jealousy, etc.).

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 1, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Thus, I have taken the liberty, based on Bach's BWV 248 practice, to designate the Second and Third Days of Christmas as the Annunciation and Adoration, respectively, while retaining the designations of the saints' feast days for St. Stephen's Day, also known as Boxing Day, and the Feast of St. John the Evangelist. >
I think we have to be careful in imposing thematic schemas on the often idiosyncratic calendar which Bach used.

If the Advent-Christmas cycle reflected the narrative sequence of Matthew and Luke (the only two Gospels which record the Infancy stories), then we would find the Annunciation to Mary, the Visitation to Elizabeth and the Birth of John the Baptist commemorated during the four weeks before December 25. We don't.

Instead the themes are of preparation for the "comings" of Christ -- Advent begins with the Entry into Jerusalem! We see this non-narrative, theological pattern in the very few Advent cantatas which Bach wrote before Leipzig. If Bach had written cantatas for all the Sundays, it would have been fascinating to see his take on the theological rather than narrative sequence leading to Christmas. In the 21st century when Christmas begins after Thanksgiving and ends on Boxing Day, it is hard to resonate with Bach's "avoidance" of Christmas until Dec. 25.

It is significant that Bach does not try to follow the original scriptural narrative in the Christmas Oratorio and include the three "Christmas" stories of Annunciation, Visitation and Birth of John the Baptist. Like medieval midwives counting on their fingers, Lutherans and Catholics celebrated an obstetrical narrative:

* Annunciation (conception of Christ) on March 25, nine months before Christmas
* Birth of John the Baptist to Elizabeth on June 24, six months before Christmas
* Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth on July 2, a week after the Baptist's birth
* Purification of Mary after childbirth on Feb 2, 40 days after Christmas

Add to this domestic calendar:

* Circumcision of Jesus as a Jewish baby on Jan 1, eight days after birth
* Visit of the Magi on Jan 6, twelve days after birth

and we see that Bach follows his inherited calendar strictly except in the Three Days of Christmas when he spreads the narrative of the Shepherds across three days instead of two. Schütz actually conflates everything from Christmas to Epiphany, but then his "Historia" was sung at afternoon Vespers which didn't have the same focus on the appointed Gospel as the morning mass.

Bach's musical hermeneutic seems always directed to the theological drama rather than the purely narrative.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (June 1, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< I have taken the liberty, based on Bach's BWV 248 practice, to designate the Second and Third Days of Christmas as the Annunciation and Adoration, respectively >
With respect, I really do think that these idiosyncratic designations are likely to cause a significant degree of confusion.

The association of the word "Annunciation" with Gabriel's announcement to Mary is very strong.

 

Introducing myself & BWV 64 question

Luke Dahn wrote (May 18, 2013):
I'm emailing for two reasons. As a new subscriber, I thought I'd first introduce myself. Second, I'm hoping someone here can help with a question regarding BWV 64.

My name is Luke Dahn, and I teach music theory and composition at Northwestern College <http://www.nwciowa.edu/> in the northwest corner of Iowa. I have been a Bach lover as long as I can remember, and I even have a page devoted to him on my personal website. My blog site also includes numerous posts on Bach's music (including the most recent one entitled, "Goldberg Variation 5, Measure 17 and Dead Kittens<http://lukedahn.wordpress.com/2013/04/21/goldberg-variation-5-measure-17-and-dead-kittens/>
").
Website: www.lukedahn.net
Bach page: www.lukedahn.net/BachPage.htm
Blog site: http://lukedahn.wordpress.com/

I have a question regarding BWV 64, *Sehet, welch eine Liebe, *composed in 1723*. *I'm specifically interested in information regarding the alternate chorale harmonizations provided for this cantata in the BGA. BWV 64 contains three chorales in total (64.2 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ," 64.4 "Was frag ich nach der Welt," and 64.8 "Jesu meine Freude") the first two of which are provided alternates. These alternate chorales are simply reharmonizations of their corresponding chorales tunes/texts and can be found here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV064-BGA-Anh.pdf
and here: http://imslp.org/wiki/Sehet,_welch_eine_Liebe,_BWV_64_%28Bach,_Johann_Sebastian%29

The "Was frag" alternate appears to be identical to the ending chorale of BWV 94 (composed a year later in 1724). But what about the alternate to "Gelobet seist du"? I cannot find any information on it in the www.bach-cantatas.com discussions related to BWV64; I do not see this 64.2 alternate listed on the www.jsbchorales.net listing (http://www.jsbchorales.net/bwv.shtml); and I cannot seem to locate it among the other cantatas as a duplicate. Perhaps I've overlooked something.

I would be curious to hear any information on these alternate BWV 64 chorale settings. What's the story behind them, and why are they included in the BGA? I would also like to verify that these are indeed attributed to Bach.

Thanks,

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 18, 2013):
Luke Dahn wrote:
< I'm emailing for two reasons. As a new subscriber, I thought I'd first introduce myself. >
Welcome to the list. Hope you'll most often.

William Hoffman wrote (May 21, 2013):
[To Luke Dahn] For extensive information on the melody and text of Luther's Christmas chorale, "Gelobet seist du," see BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm. In this case, Bach composed the plain chorale to follow the opening chorus of Cantata 64, "Sehet, welch ein Liebe has uns der Vater erzeiget", for the third day of the Christmas Festival, Monday, December 27, 1723 (Shepherds Adoration). It is the seventh and final stanza, "Das hat er alles uns getan" (He has done all this for us) in mixolyidan. Bach liked it so much he set the same verse three more times as plain chorales:

1. Apparently to close the lost Annunciation Cantata BWV Anh. 199/6 (probably BWV 314 in D Major), March 25, 1724;

2. The Christmas Chorale Cantata BWV 91/6 (BWV 64/2 variant) in G Major with obbligato horns and drums, Christmas 3, Wednesday, December 27, 1724; and

3. internal chorale, BWV 248/28(III/5) in A Major mixolydian, Christmas 3, Monday, December 27, 1734.

The four plain chorales are listed in B.F. Richter as Nos. 108, 107, 109, and 110 respectively. In addition, Bach set the sixth Stanza (Es ist auf Erden) as a soprano chorale in the bass recitative, BWV 248/8. Luther's melody also is found in three early organ chorale preludes of Bach: BWV 604, Orgelbuechlein (Christmas), Weimar c.1714; BWV 697, Kirnberger collection, 1700-1717, and Miscellaneous collection, BWV 722(a), 1700-1717, and BWV 723 (doubtful).

Cantata 64 has a text (c.1720) of Johann Oswald Knauer of Schleiz that enabled Bach to set the three different chorale texts as four-part chorales -- the most in any cantata. "Was Frag ich nach der Welt" also was preserved to close chorale Cantata BWV 94, same title, in a variant four-part setting of stanzas 7 and 8 instead of S.1, quite appropriate for the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, August 6, 1724. Thus, these two chorales in Cantata 64 at Christmastime 1723 probably became the impetus for appropriate chorale cantatas in 1724. There are many other instances of Bach recycling chorale settings, sometimes using different stanzas, since all the stanzas are "parodies," i.e. different text substitution.

I assume the BGA XVI editor Wilhelm Rust when preparing the Cantata 64 for initial publication in 1868 examined and compared the chorale settings found in C.P. E. Bach's 1684-87 publication of the 387 plain chorales without text, often taken from sacred cantatas, and noted the variants accordingly, thus verifying that the chorales are by Bach.

Now, if you really want to have fun, look up the appropriate melody of "Was Frag ich nach," called "O Gott, du frommer Gott." You will find that it has three different melodies, including No. 3, that has seven different texts, with five used by Bach (see BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/O-Gott-du-frommer-Gott.htm.

 

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Last update: żOctober 11, 2013 ż18:38:37