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Cantata BWV 64
Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of December 20, 2015 (4th round)

William Hoffman wrote (December 20, 2015):
'Sehet, welch eine Liebe' (Christmas 3): Intro.

Bach’s Cantata BWV 64 for the Third Day of Christmas, “Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget” (See, what sort of love the Father has shown to us, 1 John 3:1), is a sister work of similar shape and scale to its predecessor, Cantata 40, for the Second Day of Christmas, “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). Both have eight movements in slightly different internal order: three plain chorale (the most in any Bach cantata), rich opening chorus with similar biblical dictum from John's First Letter, Chapter 1, "The Word of Life"; two arias in dance style, and two secco recitatives. It appears in both cases that Bach chose both seasonal and omnes tempore thematic hymns to emphasize the dual nature of observing the alternative feast day of John the evangelist.1

The major differences, besides the libretto with more biblical illusions and quotations, are the scoring, here in Cantata 64 the archaic use of trumpet and three trombones instead of the pair of more-modern horns, the opening with an archaic motet to emphasize the text instead of a prelude and fugue, two extended da-capo arias that increase the total time to about 24 minutes from 20 in Cantata 40, and a dramatic recitative chorale-trope (nos. 2-3) with the theme the worthlessness of worldly possessions instead of a serpent scena of aria-recitative-chorale. Bach’s librettist, who also may have done the original work for Cantata 40, drastically revamped an existing libretto by Gotha court poet Johann Knauer (see “Cantata 64 Text Source, Summary” and Francis Browne’s “Note on the Text” below). Stylistically, Bach composed an opening motet, a dance-like aria that may have originated on Köthen, and another in the form of a concerto with stunning oboe d’amore solo.

Besides altering the text to emphasize the duality of the Third Day of Christmas festival as well as the celebration of John the Baptist, Bach set three varied chorales: He retained Knauer’s closing chorale (no. 8), Johann Franck’s “Jesu Meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), and added (no. 2) Martin Luther’s 1524 Christmas chorale, "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (Praised be you, Jesus Christ), and (no. 5) Georg Michael Pfefferkorn’s penitential “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (Why should I ask after the world) (for details, see below, “Three Plain Chorales).

Cantata 64 was premiered on Monday, December 27, 1723 at the Nikolaikirche before the sermon, John 1:1-14 (prologue: “In the beginning was the Word” [KJV]), by deacon Friedrich Werner (1659-1741), says Martin Petzoldt in Bach Commentary, Vol. 2 Advent to Trinityfest.2 The 3rd Day of Christmas on December 27 is the Feast of St. John the Evangelist [St John Day], frequently referred to as “the Beloved Disciple” in the Gospels. He was one of the first disciples called by Christ and is considered the author of the Gospel of John, at least the first of the Epistles of John and the Book of Revelation. He was also the only apostle not to die a martyr’s death even though the emperor Dometian tried very hard to make it twelve for twelve (see Bach’s Performance Calendar below).

Lutheran Church Year: Readings for Third Day of Christmas and the Feast of Saint John the Apostle: Third Day of Christmas: Epistle, Hebrews 1:1-14 (Christ is higher than the angels), Gospel: John 1:1-14 (Prologue: “In the beginning was the Word”); Feast of John and Apostle: Ecclesiastical Letters, 15:1-8 (Wisdom embraces those that fear God); Epistle: 1 John 1:1-10 (God is light). The German text is that of Luther’s translation published in 1545, the English is the Authorised (King James) Version 1611. Full texts and translations are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas3.htm.

The Introit Psalm for the 3rd Day in Bach’s of Christmas in Bach’s time was Psalm 100, Jubilate Deo omnie terra (Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands, KJV), says Petzoldt (Ibid.: 199). The full KJV text is http://www.biblecloud.com/kjv/psalms/100. Polyphonic motets based on the Gregorian chant in recordings/music are by: Hans Leo Hassler (1601, 8 voices), http://www3.cpdl.org/wiki/index.php/Jubilate_Deo_omnis_terra,_psalmum_dicite_a_8_(Hans_Leo_Hassler);

Johann Stadlmayr, Heinrch Schütz, Giovanni Gabrielii, http://www.ebay.com/itm/Jubilate-Deo-Stadlmayr-Schuetz-Gabrieli-2012-CD-New-/121288465050?pt=Music_CDs; and Palestrina (8 voices), http://www.classicalarchives.com/work/237055.html. It is possible that Bach may have performed one or more of these motets, given their joyous nature reflected in the opening line, “Ich freue mich in dir” (I rejoice in you, Isaiah 61:10), which Petzoldt describes as “A note of thanks for God’s relief.”
The opening chorus motet is a biblical dictum or Spruch from the Epistle for the Feast of John the Apostle, 1 John 1:3:1, “Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, dass wir Gottes Kinder heißen” (See, what sort of love the Father has shown to us, that we are called the children of God). The Joannine themes of love and Christus Victor is pervasive in Cantata 64 (see John Elliot Gardiner’s essay below).

Three Plain Chorales

The chorale text authors are Martin Luther (Mvt. 2); Georg Michael Pfefferkorn (Mvt. 3); and Johann Franck (Mvt. 8), BCW Short Biographies: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Luther.htm, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Pfefferkorn.htm; and http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Franck-Johann.htm.

The plain chorale (no. 2) is Martin Luther’s 1524 Christmas chorale, "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ" (Praised be you, Jesus Christ), the closing (7th) stanza, “Das hat er alles uns getan” (He has done all this for us) in four lines with closing Kyrieleis (Kyrie eleison, Lord have mercy), seven stanzas, non BAR form. Bach’s use of this chorale, Das neu Leipziger Gesangbuch 1682 (NLGB), No. 16, and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale003-Eng3.htm. Information on the melody and text are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm. Detailed information on the hymn can be found at BCW “Musical Context of Bach Cantatas: Motets & Chorales for Christmas, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Christmas.htm

The plain chorale setting (no. 5), the first stanza, “Was frag ich nach der Welt” (Why should I ask after the world) author is pietist Georg Michael Pfefferkorn (1667) eight-line, eight-stanza Catechism Penance with each stanza closing with the same question hymn. It is not in the NLGB). Similar alternate harmonizations exist with BWV 398 and BWV 94/8 (Tr. 16, 1723). Bach’s uses and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale059-Eng3.htm. For a discussion of the variant harmonizations, see Cantata 64 BCML Part 3, the final segment, beginning “Introducing myself & BWV 64 question, Luke Dahn wrote (May 18, 2013) (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64-D3.htm). The two chorale variants were published by the BGA as Appendices, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV064-BGA-Anh.pdf.

[This could be another piece of evidence that Bach’s free-standing (unattached) chorales were not composed for lost cantatas but were simply new settings. An examination of the entire group, BWV 253-438, could show that many were not harmonized previously, thus Bach was setting them to fill out a well-ordered church music to the glory of God. Those particular chorales already harmonized probably were variant settings, like Cantata 64, that also could be substituted at the same appropriate service in succeeding years.]

The hymn is set to the Chorale Melody is O Gott, du frommer Gott - Melody 3, Composer Ahasverus Fritsch (1679), and Darmstadt Gesangbuch 1679. The melody with numerous variant texts and melodies in found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/O-Gott-du-frommer-Gott.htm. The Fritsch BCW Short Biography is found at http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Fritsch.htm.

The closing plain chorale setting (no. 8), found in the original Knauer text is the fifth verse, “Gute Nacht, o Wesen” (Good night, o existence), of Johann Franck’s (1650) six-verse hymn, “Jesu Meine Freude” (Jesus, my joy), NLGB 301, Jesus hymn, Cross & Persecution). Bach’s uses of the hymn and Francis Browne’s English translation are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale062-Eng3.htm. The associated melody is Johann Crüger (1653) BCW Short Biography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Cruger-Johann.htm), melody and text information at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Jesu-meine-Freude.htm

Cantata 64 Text Source, Summary

The text source and changes/additions as well as a summary of Cantata 64 are provided in scholar Andreas Glöckner’s 2000 liner notes to the Masaaki Suzuki BIS recording of the complete cantatas.3 <<For the composition of the first year of cantatas in Leipzig in 1723, Bach had no librettist at his disposal, and the texts are of very diverse origins. The textual basis for BWV 64 has only recently been established. These texts are partly by Johann Oswald Knauer [1690-?, BCW Short Biography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Knauer.htm], and were 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 Stoelzel 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 recent research (Andreas Glöckner, 19944), J. S. Bach spent some time in Gotha in 1717. He was asked to present a musical Passion [BWV deest, BC D-1] at the Palace Church of Gotha, where the kapellmeister to the Duke of Saxe-Gotha lay dying. On Good Friday, March 26, J.S. Bach substituted for the fatally ill Christian Friedrich Witt. It is also possible that J.S. Bach was a candidate for the kapellmeistership at the ducal court of Gotha. Gottfried Heinrich Stölzel was appointed to the position in 1720 (see BCW Short Biography, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Stolzel-Gottfried-Heinrich.htm). Bach performed two cycles of Stölzel’s cantatas in the mid 1730s to texts of Banjamin Schmolck (1672-1737) : “The String Music of the Heart of the Day of the Lord” (1735-36) and a year or so later the cycle “The Names of Christ; see Bach’s Performance Calendar below).

In Bach's setting, Knauer's text appears in radically shortened and at times considerably modified form. A further difference is that it contains two additional chorale strophes (no. 2 "Das hat er alles uns getan" and (no. 4) "Was frag ich nach der Welt"). Knauer's libretto does not refer directly to the texts of the reading (epistle and gospel) for the third day of Christmas, which is also the commemoration day of St John the apostle. In order to incorporate a reference to this commemoration day, however, he places a textual quotation from the First Letter of John (3:1) at the beginning of the poem. Bach gives this dictum a four-part motet-like choral setting, with the vocal parts doubled by instruments (cornet, three trombones and strings). In Bach's cantata movements without separate instrumental parts, this practice can be observed relatively often. It is evidently to be ascribed to the lack of choral singers, especially noticeable on major feast days when two choirs performed at the same time in the main Leipzig churches (St. Nicholas and St. Thomas).

Whereas the first two movements of the cantata ("Sehet welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeigt" and "Das hat er alles uns getan") refer directly to the Christmas story, the cantata text undergoes a surprising change of direction before the third movement, a recitative ("Geh, Welt! Behalte nur das Deine") by renouncing everything worldly and turning to Jesus, "the world" is clearly rejected. This concern with the next world becomes evident not only in the chamber-music-like intimacy of the two arias, but also in the choral movements that are not connected with the Christmas story - "Was frag ich nach der Welt" and "Gute Nacht, o Wesen" (these were added later).

BWV 64 was performed again, with no recognisable changes, in the years around 1742. It is among the works by Bach that were performed not only in Leipzig's two principal churches but apparently also outside his area of authority (perhaps in the Neue Kirche ? for feast days). As late as Michaelmas 1761, the publisher Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf still offered a copy of this cantata in his catalogue of manuscripts.>>

Cantata 64 Movements, Scoring, Incipits, Key, Meter 5

1. Chorus motet, B.c. in fugal form [SATB]; Cornetto e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo: “Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget, dass wir Gottes Kinder heißen” (See, what sort of love the Father has shown to us, that we are called the children of God, 1 John 3:1); e minor; 4/4.
2. Chorale plain [SATB; Cornetto e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo]: “Das hat er alles uns getan” (He has done all this for us

Sein groß Lieb zu zeigen an); G Major mixolydian; 4/4.
3. Recitative secco with cello scale introducing each phrase [Alto, Continuo]: “Geh, Welt! behalte nur das Deine” (Go away, world! Keep only what is yours); close, “Drum sag ich mit getrostem Mut:” (and so with a spirit that has been comforted I say:); C Major to D Major; 4/4.
4. Chorale plain with moving B.c. [S, A, T, B; Cornetto e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo]: “Was frag ich nach der Welt" (Why should I ask after the world)

5. Aria da-capo [Soprano; Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo] A. “Was die Welt / In sich hält, / Muß als wie ein Rauch vergehen” (What the world / holds within itself /.must all pass away like smoke); B. “Aber was mir Jesus gibt / Und was meine Seele liebt, / Bleibet fest und ewig stehen” (But what Jesus gives me / and what my soul loves / stays firm and stands forever); b minor; 4/4 gavotte dance style.
6. Recitative secco [Bass, Continuo]: “Der Himmel bleibet mir gewiss” (Heaven remains certain for me); G Major; 4/4.
7. Aria da-capo [Alto; Oboe d'amore, Continuo]: A. “Von der Welt verlang ich nichts” (From the world I demand nothing); B. “Alles, alles geb ich hin” (Everything, everything I give away); G Major; 6/8 pastorale-giga style.
8. Chor[SATB;. Cornetto e Violino I col Soprano, Trombone I e Violino II coll'Alto, Trombone II e Viola col Tenore, Trombone III col Basso, Continuo]: “Gute Nacht, o Wesen, / Das die Welt erlesen! / Mir gefällst du nicht” (Good night, o nature / chosen by the world! / You do not please me); e minor; 4/.4.

Johannine Themes

Bach uses the opportunity to exploit themes of his favorite evangelist, John, in John Eliot Gardner’s 2000 liner notes to the Bach Cantata Pilgrimage.6 <<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 thin dispersing 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.>>

Text Origin, Theology, Allusions

Interpretive commentary on the Cantata 64 text origin, theological exegis, allusions, opening motet and brass use is found in Peter Smaill commentary (January 7, 2006), in the BCML Discussion Part 2 http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64-D2.htm.<< BWV 64, “Sehet, Welche eine Liebe hat uns der Vater Erzeiget”, continues the breathtaking run BWV 63-BWV 40-BWV 64 with which Bach celebrates his first Christmas at Leipzig.

John Pike sets out the recent scholarship by which we know the author of part of the text, which originates with Johan Knauer, “unmistakably” in Dǖrr’s view. Through Knauer we are led to Johann Friederich Fasch, 1688-1759, for whom Knauer wrote several texts which found their way into the former’s cycle of Cantatas. Fasch was Kappelmeister in Zerbst and was admired by Bach, who appears to have arranged the organ Trio BWV 585. One reason to be interested in Fasch is his correspondence with the leader of the quasi-pietist revival in Saxony led by the Moravian Brotherhood set up at Herrnhut in Saxony by Count Zinzendorf and which, as mentioned recently, was suppressed in the mid 1730’s by Augustus III. However, precisely how this libretto came to be formed remains a mystery.

My contention is that it is, however, not wholly independent of the sentiment of the preceding work BWV 40, which expresses the coming down of Christ from majesty and, in its ascending final bars in the Schlusschoral hints at the raising up of mankind. In BWV 64 this sentiment is made manifest: BWV 64/1 – emphasised by a hiatus: “dass wir Gottes Kinder heissen!” (that we God’s children are called!); and BWV 64/3 “Denn Jesus will den Himmel mit mir teilen, / Und dazu hat er mich erkoren” (For Jesus would heaven with me share / And for that he has me chosen).

It is striking that none of these Christmas cantatas has much reliance on the usual Christmas fare and that a theological exegesis runs through them. Eric Chafe’s take on this period in the church year is that “while “Christen ätzet diesen tag” utilizes its symmetrical design to emphasise the meaning of Christmas Day as the turning of the ages, [chorale] cantata BWV 121 “Christum wir sollen loben schon”, for the second day of Christmas (1725) draws an implied analogy between the unfathomable mystery of the incarnation and the turning of the sun at the winter solstice, and the Cantata BWV 64 emphasizes instead something closer to the division of the worlds “above” and “below” rather than past and future, a theme that is more in keeping with its Johannine Gospel reading.”

The Christmas cantatas we are reviewing are certainly replete with allusions to the impact of new light of Christ as befits the Christmas message; we have the elaboration of “strahl” (“ray”) in BWV 63, “erschienen” (“shining forth”) in BWV 40, and the emphasis on “Sehet!” (“See!”). The tension with the light of this world, which in BWV 64/6 only reveals sin, is apparent too. Since these three Cantatas so tentatively relate to the season and feast days it is tempting to wonder if it is the sermons fixed for this period which drove the content.

What of the opening motet-like BWV 64/1? It is one of seven settings of biblical texts in the surviving Cantatas in which Bach deploys this form, a technique beginning with “Deine Alter sei wie deine Jugend” in BWV 71 at Mühlhausen in 1707 and continuing right up to the 1730’s in the adaptation of “Siehe zu, Gottesfurcht nicht heuchelei sei” to the Kyrie of the Mass in G (BWV 236). In general his technique is to use such an emphatic, disciplined choral structure where there is a “Spruch” or dictum to be driven home. For example, the surviving libretti of the Christiane Mariane von Ziegler texts of BWV 68 and BWV 108 actually call suchlike movements “Dictum”. So the decision here is deliberate and not just patching together a Cantata under pressure from some old contrapuntal essay from the Weimar days.

Other commentators have found the robust, brass-reinforced subject of BWV 64/1 ungainly in the context of the tender love of the baby Jesus; and yet the emphatic break before “Wir Gottes Kinder heissen” is so bespoke to the words that it seems unlikely that Bach simply adapted this movement from an earlier work, even though his enormous workload would arguably have inclined him to such a path. One ultimately agrees with Whittaker [I: 574] that it is “extremely beautiful, sheer musical joy from start to finish.” The attaca running of the recitative BWV 64/3 into the chorale BWV 64/4 is a dramatic detail indicative of a skilful adaptation [and a technique of interpolation in the chorale cantata cycle].

Finally we have the chorale ,”Jesu, meine Freude”, which was harmonised, according to Daniel Melamed, ten times by Bach in the Cantatas or independently, as well as set five times in the Motet BWV 227, and in two melody variants. Here it is the more antiquated , pre-Leipzig version of the tune which is deployed , and the use of a motet introduction in this work and the following year’s BWV 121 may be a piece of deliberate archaism by Bach to emphasize the handing down of faith from the past in the re-enactment of the Christmas mysteries and the theology of the Incarnation.>>

Note on the Text

A detailed comparison of the original Knauer text and Bach’s actual text in Cantata 64 is found in Francis Browne (May 23, 2009) Introduction to Cantata 64 BCML Discussions Part 3, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64-D3.htm. <<Hans-Joachim Schulze in Die Bach-Kantaten (p 43-46) 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 Mutand” (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 (Fefferkorn’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: Ferr / Was die Welt / in sich halt /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.>>

Christmas Festival Cantatas

A comparison and contrast of cantatas for the Christmas Festival is also found in BCML Part 4 discussion (Ibid.), William Hoffman wrote (May 28, << BWV 64, etc., Fugitive Notes: 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 intimate 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 skillfully 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 reference 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 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.>>

Bach’s Performance Calendar, Christmas 3

1723-12-27 Mo - Cantata BWV 64 Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget (1st performance, Leipzig)
1724-12-27 Mi - Cantata BWV 133 Ich freue mich in dir (1st performance, Leipzig)
1725-12-27 Do - Cantata BWV 151 Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (1st performance, Leipzig)
1726-12-27 Fr - no record extant
1728-12-27 Mo – Picander cycle text only: P-7, Ich bin in dich entzündt (no chorale)
1734-12-27 Mo - Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248/3 Herrscher des Himmels, erhöre das Lallen (1st performance, Leipzig)
1735-12-27 Di - G.H. Stölzel: Ich habe dich je und je geliebet, Mus. A 15:50 + Lasset uns ihn lieben, denn er hat uns erst geliebet,
Vocal works with no definitive date
(1728-1731) - Cantata BWV 151 Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(1736 or later) - - G.H. Stölzel: Lasset uns ihn lieben, denn er hat uns erst geliebet, Mus. A 15:51
(After 1740) - Cantata BWV 133 Ich freue mich in dir (2nd performance, Leipzig)
(c1742) - Cantata BWV 64 Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget (2nd performance, Leipzig)

FOOTNOTES

1 Cantata 64 Details and revised and updated Discography, BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64.htm.
Score Vocal & Piano [1.64 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV064-V&P.pdf,
Score BGA [1.74 MB], http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV064-BGA.pdf. References BGA: XVI | NBA: I/3.1 | BC: A15 | Zwang: K 54.
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: 212).
3 Cantata 46 Andreas Glöckner liner notes, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Suzuki-C13c[BIS-CD1041].pdf; BCW Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki.htm#C13. Recording, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W817U1ALn8.
4 Glöckner, “Neuen Spuren zu Bach’s ‘Weimarer Passion’” (Leipziger Beiträge zur Bach-Forschung 1: 1994: 33-46). A recent study of Bach’s connections to Gotha is found in Christian Ahrens’ Neue Quellen zu J. S. Bach's Beziehung bach Gotha” (Bach Jahrbuch 2008: 45-60).
5 Francis Browne’s English translation, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV64-Eng3.htm.
6 BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Rec-BIG/Gardiner-P15c[sdg127_gb].pdf , Recording details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Gardiner-Rec3.htm#P15.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 20, 2015):
< Besides altering the text to emphasize the duality of the Third Day of Christmas festival as well as the celebration of John the Baptist, >
December 27 was the feast of St. John the Evangelist, the traditional author of the Fourth Gospel. The Gospel of the day is the great Johannine hymn "In the beginning was the Word"

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (December 20, 2015):
Here is the Johann Oswald Knauer text from the printed edition (attached).

(Knauer was Stoelzel's father-in-law)

Aryeh Oron wrote (December 21, 2015):
Cantata BWV 64 - Revised & updated Discography

The discography pages of Cantata BWV 64 "Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget" (See, what sort of love the Father has shown to us) for the 3rd Day of Christmas on the BCW have been revised and updated.
The cantata is scored for soprano, alto & bass soloists; 4-part chorus; and orchestra of cornett, 3 trombones, oboe d'amore, 2 violins, viola & continuo. See:
Complete Recordings (18): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64.htm
Recordings of Individual Movements (16): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV64-2.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 64 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/BWV64-D4.htm

Julian Mincham wrote (December 21, 2015):
[To William Hoffman] I have always considered the soprano aria of this cantata to be one of the most useful when introducing students to Bach's compositional approach and its direct links to the text. The first two bars are derived rhythmically from the opening words 'All that the world contains'--in German, of course. The flowing string figurations clearly represent the idea of smoke rising and dispersing (the following lines of text). The quaver bass has a somewhat ominous and serpentine feel reminicient of Bach's representations of Satan and his influences elsewhere---implied but not explicitly stated in this particular text.

The B section is quite different in mood, representing the love of Jesus and its abiding nature (note the long notes suggestive of that which is enduring). Within this section there are reminders of Satan's presence and the worlds ephemera but these are less boldly asserted than in the A section.

A masterpiece of musical structure, encapsulating and representing clear ideas and images so boldly that, when describing them one is hardly running the risk of 'reading into the music things that are not there'.

I imaging that quite a few members of the university educated congregation, with the texts in booklets on their laps, would have noticed much of this---assuming that they were giving the music their full attention, of course.

Ed Myskowski wrote (December 21, 2015):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I imagine that quite a few members of the university educated congregation, with the texts in booklets on their laps, would have noticed much of this---assuming that they were giving music their full attention, of course. >
I asked a pub pal who had attended the midnight premiere of the latest Star Wars sequel what he thought of the music.

Reoly: "Music? I didn't notice any music. I was watching the film,"

 

Cantata BWV 64: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4


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