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Cantata BWV 66
Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen
Cantata BWV 66a
Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 10, 2002 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 9, 2002):

The subject of next week's discussion (March 10, 2002), is the Cantata for the 2nd day of Easter (Easter Monday) ‘Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen' (Rejoice, all ye hearts). The cantata is based on the lost Secular Cantata ‘Der Himmel dacht auf Anhalts Ruhm und Glück’ (Heaven thinks of Anhalt’s Fame and Fortune) BWV 66a, composed by Bach in 1718 to celebrate the birthday of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen. This is the second one in Riccardo Nughes' proposed list of cantatas for discussion.

In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 66 - Recordings

In the same page you can also find links to translations of the German text - to English (English-3), made by Francis Browne, and to Hebrew, by Irit Schoenhorn. I hope that the English and Hebrew readers of the BCML will find the translations useful. I also wish to see other members of the BCML contributing translations to their languages (Dutch, Italian, Spanish, etc.). They will be benefited from the translating process, by getting better understanding of the meaning of the text, which has strong connection with the music in most of Bach Cantatas. They will also make the cantata texts more accessible to other members, who are not fluent in German or English (or Hebrew).

BWV 66 is a festive cantata with brilliant opening chorus, rejoicing in the glorious event of Resurrection. No wonder that Bach found it easy to adapt the birthday cantata to this event. The cantata includes also two movements that are set in dialogue form between Fear (Alto) and Hope (Tenor), and a fine aria for Bass.

There are many recordings of this cantata to choose from. Besides the regular contributions from the three complete Bach Cantata cycles (Rilling, Leonhardt, and Leusink), there are three recordings from conductors who have recorded many cantatas so far, but (due to various reasons) do not have yet a full recorded cycle to their credit – Herreweghe, Koopman, and Gardiner. The seventh and the earliest recording of this cantata is conducted by the Thomaskantor Rotzsch.

The TV sitcom ‘Sex and the City’ includes in every chapter a key question. Based on this idea, I would like to suggest a question for this week:
“Can we expect in advance what conductor will excel in this cantata?”

Enjoy, and because this cantata is easily available, I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Marie Jensen wrote (March 13, 2002):
It is not very often that I have four versions of a cantata as I have this time. In 1985 I taped Rilling [1] from the radio. In 1999 I bought the Rotzsch version [2] and later Koopman and Leusink’s versions came as a part of collections

This is a waltzing cantata: The opening chorus and the big arias. I wonder why. A long cantata too. All that waltzing could easily be boring but it isn't.

Aryeh asked,
"Can we expect in advance what conductor will excel in this cantata?"

I thought Rilling [1] perhaps...

The opening chorus is of course joyful and with triumphing trumpets. Most of the groups let OVPP change with full choir in various ways, which I am not going to describe here. I notice that the structure of the Rotzsch and Rilling [1] interpretations are clear and easy to hear. The versions of the b-part of the chorus are more different:

Ihr könnet verjagen
Das Trauren, das Fürchten, das ängstliche Zagen,
Der Heiland erquicket sein geistliches Reich.

For a Word painter as JSB there are certainly more contrasts here to be considered and it is interesting to see how the four versions deal with this part. Koopman finds "verjagen" the most important. I love the way Mertens sings it. Rotzsch underlines "verjagen" too but not a much as Koopman. Leusink concentrates on the second line. Buwalda's vulnerable voice fits "Trauern, Fürchten, Zagen" well. Rilling slows the b-part down, and with the fastest a-part there certainly is a contrast to be heard. At the same time he does not go down deep into the miseries of line two but keeps an optimistic tone. It must be difficult to make line three sounds as the relief it is, especially if line two has been considered most important, so Leusink has a little problem here.

But except the b-part of the chorus mentioned above, the versions were not very different and no favourite really showed up. I don't think the arias invite to very different interpretations. I am not able to find an over all winner or looser. I can praise every group for something I would not be without, and then I have to accept their weaknesses too

(Every group also has its own well-known sound (Rotzsch [2] modern instruments/ non falsetto boys choir, Rilling [1] modern instruments/ choir of grown ups of both sexes, Koopman HIP-instruments/ choir of grown ups of both sexes, Leusink HIP- instruments/ boys choir with falsettists) For example: When I listen to Leusink I know the yodelers are coming, and sometimes they suit the cantata and sometimes they don't. I know Koopman often hurries, that the older ensembles sometimes have soloists with too much vibrato. (Generally spoken)

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 15, 2002):

The background below is taken completely from Alec Robertson’s book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’. The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

See: Cantata BWV 66 - Commentary

Review of the Recordings

[2] Rotzsch (1976)
The opening ritornello of the opening chorus starts in mid-tempo but with enthusiasm, which continues with the entry of the altos and the tenors. The separation between the voices is clear and easy to follow. But along the long chorus the choir seems to lose momentum and focus. It seems that they have forgotten what is this movement all about. The light baritone of Siegfried Lorenz seems to suit well the demands of the recitative and aria for bass, and in the aria he conveys convincingly the message of gratitude. The voices of the alto Heidi Rieß and the tenor Eberhard Büchner blends nicely in the ensuing recitative and aria (duet). They take similar approach as indeed they should, but there is no tension in the air. In short, this is a middle of the road and reliable rendition, which does not leave everlasting impression.

[3] Leonhardt (1977)
The brass playing in the opening chorus sounds so out of tune that it seems that are playing different notes from the other performers of this movement. The choir’s singing is also far from being satisfactory and lacks warmth. There is a kind of forced energy here which does not reflects a joy that comes from the heart. In the second half of the opening chorus even this factor is fading away and everything becomes static. Egmond sounds too restrained in the two movements for bass to bring out their full potential. At least the playing of the woodwinds (oboe and fagot) in the aria is charming and keeps the movement ahead. The best parts of this recording are the two duet movements for alto and tenor. The two vocal soloists, Esswood and Equiluz, are in top form, and sounds as two voices of the same persona. This approach suits so splendidly the demand of these movements, because the Hope and the Fear are very close indeed.

[1] Rilling (1981)
When it comes to expressing sheer joy, Rilling has few peers, if any. The opening chorus gets its full due. All the voices are well separated and easy to follow. The momentum and drive are kept along the whole long movement. Everything is bubbling with exuberant joy. This is the kind of rendition that grabs you to sing along with it. Huttenlocher and Schreckenbach are given solo parts to sing in the opening chorus. They fit in well and the movement gains in variety. Schöne is the singer in the recitative and aria for bass and he has more depth and authority than his two predecessors had. There is more life in the two duet movements than we have heard with Rotzsch and Leonhardt, but the voices of Schreckenbach and Kraus do not blend well. Something is not working. Maybe it is a kind of too much show-off in the approach of the two singers, or the voice of Schreckenbach with certain hollowness in the voice producing, or simply lacking of chemistry between the singers. Esswood and Equiluz brought the inner feelings to a much higher level with more subdued approach.

[4] Herreweghe (1994)
The sound Herreweghe produces with his choir and orchestra in the opening chorus is more transparent, clean, homogenous, delicate and smooth than every other rendition we have hard so far. Apparently it is less extrovert than Rilling’s and therefore less suited to the demands of the movement. But after several listenings, one can hear that the joy is definitely there under the surface and it is expressed in a very captivating way. Like Rilling he allows the alto and the bass soloists participating in the chorus, and their voices are interwoven splendidly in the overall texture. I have not expected that I shall prefer Herreweghe to Rilling in this chorus. Well, I was wrong. Kooy has different timbre of voice than Schöne has, bolder if a little bit dryer. Nevertheless, their interpretations are very close, and both are convincing in the recitative and aria for bass. The delicacy and sensitivity of Wessel’s and Taylor singing in the two duet movements are irresistible. They manage to put deep emotions into their singing and bring these movements to an even higher level than Esswood and Equiluz did.

[5] Koopman (1998)
Koopman’s rendition of the opening chorus is very similar to that of Herreweghe. Same transparency and delicacy, with a little bit more sparks, vigour and internal pulse and more extrovert emotions. I like both of them. Mertens is on the same par with Kooy. Landauer and Prégardien coupling was made in heaven. Each voice is charming in itself and the combination is simply irresistible. Their heartfelt singing is beautifully supported by the accompaniment they get from Koopman’s players.

[6] Gardiner (1999)
Gardiner combines the polish and clarity of Herreweghe and Koopman with the boldness and sheer extrovert joy of Rilling, and achieves the best of both worlds. To this he adds the rhythmic and jumpy approach, which characterises his Bach’s performances, and the result is the best rendition of the opening chorus. With his internal drive and momentum, you cannot set resting on your chair for a second. Dietrich Henschel has a nice voice but he is not capable of achieving the level of expression of the three senior bass singers of the recitative and aria for bass (at least, not at this stage of his career). Chance and Padmore keeps the high standard set by Herreweghe and Koopman’s couples.

[8] Leusink (2000)
Poor Leusink. Have I heard his rendition alone, I believe that I would have enjoyed it. Hearing him back to back with three excellent modern performances (Herreweghe, Koopman, & Gardiner) and all his deficiencies become very evident. The choir’s singing is less coherent; the individual players have beautiful sound, but lacks some rehearsal time; the balance between the various compomnents is problematic. Each one of the singers is inferior to his competitor in the other three modern recordings, both technically and emotionally. In short, nothing to write home about. The best thing I could say about his recording of this cantata is that in the opening choir it is livelier and much more enjoyable than Leonhardt.


Personal priorities:

Opening chorus & concluding Chorale: Gardiner [6], Herreweghe [4] = Koopman [5], Rilling [1], Rotzsch [2], Leusink [8], Leonhardt [3]

Recitative & Aria for Bass: Schöne/Rilling [1] = Kooy/Herreweghe [4] = Mertens/Koopman [5], Henschel/Gradiner [6], Lorenz/Rotzsch [2], Egmond/Leonhardt [3], Ramselaar/Leusink [8]

Recitative & Aria for Alto & Tenor: Landauer & Prégardien/Koopman [5], Wessel & Taylor/Herreweghe [4] = Chance & Padmore/Gardiner [6], Esswood & Equiluz/Leonhardt [3], Rieß & Büchner/Rotzsch [2], Schreckenbach & Kraus/Rilling [1], Buwalda & Meel/Leusink [8]

Overall performance: Gardiner [6], Herreweghe [4] = Koopman [5], Rilling [1], Rotzsch [2], Leonhardt [3], Leusink [8]

In my pre-review of this cantata I suggested a question: “Can we expect in advance what conductor will excel in this cantata?”. I have to admit that when I wrote this question I was thinking about Gardiner. Gardiner really excels in the opening chorus, and his is indeed my preferred rendition of this movement. Rilling [1] was of course a good candidate too. What I have not expected is that I shall enjoy so much both Herreweghe and Koopman’s renditions.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 18, 2002):
< Aryeh Oron wrote: BWV 66 - Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen
BWV 66 is a festive cantata with brilliant opening chorus, rejoicing in the glorious event of Resurrection. No wonder that Bach found it easy to adapt the birthday cantata to this event. The cantata includes also two movements that are set in dialogue form between Fear (Alto) and Hope (Tenor), and a fine aria for Bass.

Overall performance: Gardiner
[6], Herreweghe [4] = Koopman [5] >
Lucky me! I have [only?] these three recordings, and, to quote Oscar Wilde, "I have a very simple taste - I am always satisfied with the best!". A cheerful cantata, not too wrenching emotionally, a great listening treat during my drive to work, and all three versions are really very good.

Thanks, Aryeh, for your review.

P.S. Please keep us advised about your progress with the "Koopman petition" - the more I think about it the more I realize that we must try to do our utmost to keep this great project going, even if we think that the chances of success are slim.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 66: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 66a: Details & Complete Recordings
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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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