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Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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

Cantata BWV 68
Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 30, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 1, 2003):
BWV 68 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (March 30, 2003) is the Cantata [Dialogue] for Whit Monday [2nd Day of Pentecost] ‘Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt’ (God so loved the world).).

Background

The excellent and extensive commentary below, quoted from the liner notes to the American issue by Nonesuch of the original Cantate recording (conducted by Klaus Martin Ziegler) [4], was written by no less than Joshua Rifkin (1971).

See: Cantata BWV 68 - Commentary

Recordings

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 68 - Recordings

Among the 10 complete recordings of this cantata, 7 are non-HIP and three are HIP, and only two of them are recent. Apart from the three usual participants from complete cantata cycles (Rilling [8], Harnoncourt [7] and Leusink [13]), we have also Kurt Thomas, who recorded this cantata twice (1952 [1], 1960 [2]), Fritz Werner (1963) [3], Klaus Martin Ziegler (mid 1960’s, from the excellent series of the German Cantate label) [4], Karl Richter (1974-1975) [6], Hans-Joachim Rotzsch [9], and Christoph Coin (1995, from his mini-series of cantatas with violoncello piccolo) [11].

The roster of soprano female singers is indeed impressive: Ingeborg Reichelt, Elisabeth Grümmer, Agnes Giebel, Ursula Buckel and Arleen Augér (twice) and others. If that was not enough, we can find here the excellent boy soprano Peter Jelosits in his last recording for Harnoncourt [7]. The line of bass singers is not less attractive: Erich Wenk, Theo Adam (twice), Jakob Stämpfli (twice), DFD and others.

A fascinating listening experience is awaiting us!

And is that was not enough, the aria for soprano from this cantata (Mvt. 2), being adopted from the ‘Jagd’ Cantata BWV 208, have been quite popular among soprano singers (see: Cantata BWV 68 - Recordings of Individual Movements), having its first recording back in 1913 by Ernestine Schumann-Heink, and about 20 others using it as a show-piece along the years. For some of them, like Germaine Lubin, Isobelle Baillie and Victoria de Los Angeles, this was their only try at a Bach’s piece.

If I have missed any recording of this cantata, either in complete form or of individual movement from it, please inform me, either through the BCML or to my e-mail address.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to the original German text and various translations, four of which have been contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), Hebrew (Irit Schoenhorn) and Portuguese (Rodrigo Maffei Libonati).
There are also links to the Score (Vocal & Piano version) and to commentary: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide), John Keillor (AMG), and Craig Smith (Emmanuel Music); in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

So you have a fine cantata with many recordings, great vocal soloists, poetic libretto and good commentary to read, and score. You are well-equipped, and I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 2, 2003):
BWV 68 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 68 - Provenance

Neil Halliday wrote (April 2, 2003):
I'm listening to Harnoncourt's version [7] now; although I dislike some aspects of his instrumental ensemble's timbre and articulation, I can readily appreciate the beauty and charm of this opening chorus as he presents it here. The tempo is right for capturing the easy grace of the 12/8 metre. The choir is very pleasing, with good presentation of all four vocal lines.

Mvt. 2 (soprano aria) is light and cheerful (if un-exceptional); the boy soprano (listed as Jelosits) has a steady and clear voice here, and it concludes with an interesting instrumental section (no voice) in which an oboe and violin join the violincello piccolo featured in the previous vocal section.

Mvt. 3 (Bass recitative) is short, setting the stage for

Mvt. 4 (Bass aria) - engaging, foot tapping music (triplets in 4/4 time), with interestimg writing for the oboes. The bass (Meer) perhaps overdoes the vibrato at times, but his voice does have a pleasing timbre here.

Finale (Mvt. 5: Chorus) is unusual in that it has the proportions and grandeur of an opening chorus, well presented here by Harnoncourt, although I can envisage grander realisations than this one.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 3, 2003):
BWV 68 - Commentaries: [Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Little & Jenne, Chafe]

See: Cantata BWV 68 - Commentary

Robin Crag wrote (April 5, 2003):
Mvt. 1: chorus
The structure of this movement feels so "self contained" that it is hard to believe it is built around a chorale. Bach conveys powerfully God's love for the world, and his sacrifice. This chorus seems to me very beautiful in a painful way. Also, later on, it becomes more joyful... but then it finishes with the instruments, like it began. And as that's how the whole thing is "framed", that is somehow what I remember.

Mvt. 2: aria
That cello line is so beautiful! It somehow expresses that rare and wonderful feeling, when your heart sings (Like if you are in love). It still sounds good after listening again a good few times... and it repeats so much in itself as well! The words are telling the heart to rejoice and sing, but it is singing already. I think the "sinfonia" part fits in well, because when a heart sings, it doesn't use words (it is surely above words).

But the words of the first version! Oh dear.

Mvt. 4: aria
Bach conveys wonderfully here a feeling of gratitude... especially around the words "Weil du fur mich genug getan". The bass singer with all those oboes makes an interesting sound somehow. There is something quietly joyful here.

But, again, those words! I actually find it hard to accept that this was originally written for some stupid little earthly king, who was probably living off the sweat of oppressed peasants... The words seem to go further than just praising the prince, it seems like some sort of perverse leader-worship was going on. [Rant over]

Mvt. 5: chorus
This seems to me very scary and intense. I don't think that I can fully appreciate a big fugue like this; it is like some massive cathedral, I can only walk in and look up and say "wow!".

The performance I have listened to (Kurt Thomas with Kantorei der Dreikoenigskirche Frankfurt etc) [1]:

On the whole I like this performance for its intensity. But I think most of it is to slow... except for the big fugue, which seems fast enough to keep moving, but slow enough to be "dignified". Ingeborg Reichelt, in her aria, seems to me a bit unstable + uninspired, but its ok really, if u c? The choir seems to have plenty of guts, so does Erich Wenk (he's convincing, I think)... Unfortunately all the clarity has gone from the record, because its so old, but it has somehow gained something too.

Somehow cantata as a whole has a pleasing structure... the 2 arias and 2 chorubalance each other... and where would the whole thing be without a little recitative in the middle?

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (April 5, 2003):
Robin Crag wrote:
< 2nd movement: aria
That cello line is so beautiful! It somehow expresses that rare and wonderful feeling, when your heart sings (Like if you are in love). It still sounds good after listening again a good few times... and it repeats so much in itself as well! >
Unfortunately, on the Archiv recording [6], it's hard to hear over the organ stops and Edith Mathis!

< I actually find it hard to accept that this was originally written for some stupid little earthly king, who was probably living off the sweat of oppressed peasants... The words seem to go further than just praising the prince, it seems like some sort of perverse leader-worship was going on. [Rant over] >
Would an atheist find the sacred texts less concerned with perverse leader-worship (rather, god-worship) than the congratulatory texts?

< Mvt. 5: chorus
This seems to me very scary and intense. I don't think that I can fully appreciate a big fugue like this; it is like some massive cathedral, I can only walk in and look up and say "wow!". >
I find this the more thrilling of the two choruses in this cantata, rivalling the crowd choruses in the Passions. On Richter's recording [6], the chorus is drowned out by the orchestral 'colla parte' accompaniment; I suspect Rilling [8] might turn out better here.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 6, 2003):
BWV 68 - Recordings:

This week I listened to the following recordings:

K. Thomas (1960) [2]; Richter (1974-5) [6]; Harnoncourt (1977) [7]; Rilling (1980-1) [8]; Rotzsch (1981) [9]; Coin (1995) [11]; Leusink (2000) [13]

Timings (from slowest to fastest):

Total Timings:
K. Thomas (18:58); Richter (17:52); Rilling (17:17); Leusink (16:53); Harnoncourt (16:49); Coin (16:14); Rotzsch (16:09)

Mvt. 1:
K. Thomas (6:06); Harnoncourt (5:34); Richter (5:32); Leusink (5:12); Coin (5:11); Rilling (4:39); Rotzsch (4:35)

Mvt. 2:
K. Thomas (4:42); Richter (4:10); Harnoncourt (4:02); Rotzsch (4:01); Coin (3:51); Leusink (3:47); Rilling (3:35)

Mvt. 3:
Richter (0:58); K. Thomas (0:52); Coin (0:51); Rilling (0:50); Leusink (0:47); Rotzsch (0:45); Harnoncourt (0:38)

Mvt. 4:
Rilling (4:33); Richter (4:29); Thomas (4:23); Leusink (4:09); Rotzsch (3:54); Coin (3:20); Harnoncourt (3:15)

Mvt. 5:
Rilling (3:32); Harnoncourt (3:20); Leusink (2:58); K. Thomas (2:57); Rotzsch (2:51); Richter (2:43); Coin (2:41)

Comments on Timings:

The only surprise here is Rotzsch with his fastest total time. Rotzsch [9], however, is known for his mixed adaptation of the HIP (use of shorter phrases, stronger accents etc.) and the non-HIP approach (standard pitch, modern instruments, etc.) Otherwise, these recordings generally fall into the general categories of non-HIP being slower than HIP. There may be several reasons for this disparity: Non-HIP renditions with generally larger ensembles vocally and instrumentally find it easier to sustain melodies in a generally more legato style of playing and singing, whereas HIP groups with their smaller numbers, sometimes reduced to a single voice or instrument per part find it easier to sing and play at faster tempi. Many factors which I have mentioned here earlier may be behind these choices. Overriding these major differences is one consideration: what is appropriate for sacred music. Is a ‘lite-’entertainment, ‘this-is-mainly-dance-music’ type of approach suitable for these works when most frequently the text points into the opposite direction? Is an overly dramatic, ‘music-is-simply-spoken-language’ rendering of the text sufficient in order to reconfirm the strong religious beliefs that Bach’s congregation must have felt when they heard this music?

Mvt. 1:

I personally believe that members of Bach’s congregation in Leipzig would have felt more affinity with Kurt Thomas’ [2] presentation of this chorale mvt. as performed by the Thomanerchor and the Leipzig Gewandhausorchester than with the others. Judging solely by the tempo (the slowest of the recordings that I listened to), it might be possible to assume that this is a typical late-romantic treatment with a heavy, ‘syrupy’ orchestral tone with a symphonic choir consisting of operatic voices to match, but nothing could be farther from the truth. Within the sustained sound are also rhythmic accents that emanate naturally from the musical score. There is a vigorous confession of faith that can not fail to move the listener. What Thomas ‘brings to the table’ in this opening mvt. is an element of intensity that permeates every bar of this mvt. Here the long musical lines of the chorale melody in the soprano with its frequently polyphonic underpinning in the lower voices coupled with the independent musical material in the instrumental accompaniment are delivered with fervent conviction as expressed in the phrase “Wer sich im Glauben ihm ergibt” [“Whoever completely relinquishes himself to him in an act of faith.”] All of this is accomplished with great clarity and balance between the separate vocal parts and between the choir and the orchestra.

The Richter [6] and Rilling [8] versions, both decidedly faster, emphasize a very different ‘take’ on the same text. This time the choirs are generally more gentle and reticent in their delivery, as if this were a lullaby (the siciliana/o effect: the music of shepherds on Christmas Eve) or a soft, dreamlike expression of the gentle love that is an outpouring of God, more in the sense “if you wish to accept my love which I happen to send to you in the form of my Son, and if, in your dreams, you decide that you might like to believe in Him, it could conceivably occur that you might live eternally without any suffering. Simply allow yourself to be lulled into this state of belief as if you had gently fallen asleep.” Thus the siciliana/o rhythm serves as a type of pastorale that is suited to lull the listener into a gentle, eternal slumber from which he will not need to awaken for a long time. These versions, as pleasant as they sound with their rather legato rhythms, might serve as good bed-time listening, but they do very little to instill or uphold a strong faith in the midst of turmoil and difficulties. The clarity between the vocal parts in each choir leaves something to be desired. With the Richter choir, the inner parts are not always as clear as they should be, and with Rilling, his professional-trained singers tend to use too much vibrato, a technique that undermines a solid, even sound. For both choirs (with Coin’s Accentus Chamber Choir included [11]), the following statement by Schweitzer is quite appropriate although directed at chorale-singing specifically: “It is a pity that the two upper parts of the chorales are everywhere sung by women’s voices that have not the right timbre and ingenuousness for chorale singing.” The sound of an all-male choir with boy sopranos and altos is truly superior to that of a mixed choir. Unfortunately, however, such an ideal choir sound is, nevertheless, difficult to achieve in reality.

Harnoncourt [7], once again, is the pioneer par excellence of the HIP tradition which continues until the present time. What is striking here is the lack of any firm support anywhere. The strong accents in the instruments and in the voices as well are followed by unaccenotes and pauses that completely destroy any sense of continuity. Even the chorale melody suffers from this deconstructive method which attempts to disassemble this music into myriad sub-phrases and individual notes that are disconnected from any concept which might embrace the entire mvt. The general effect of this version is not one of great conviction, nor does it establish a dream-like like atmosphere, but rather it reveals a watch-maker who is unable to put the individual parts together so that they function harmoniously. The Bach sermon which the listener hears is a puzzle made of individual words and concepts that do not relate to each other, nor do the ideas flow naturally from one idea to another. The listener comes away with a sad feeling of disjointedness, a halting progress with one step forward and two back, and a hopelessness arising from the lack of genuine involvement with the text which is treated clinically and microscopically so that all life has been driven from it. There is a heavy plodding to the eventual goal and great relief on the part of the listener once this mvt. is over. The entire mvt. smacks not of a living performance but of cerebral artificiality or of a conductor desperately trying to keep his forces together.

Rotzsch [9], although still using many non-HIP techniques, has partially adopted some of the detached playing techniques (very short, jagged phrases) of the HIP camp, albeit at a much faster tempo (the fastest of all.) This really begins to sound like a dance-mvt. with the listeners (believers) joining hands and dancing in a carefree (no stress, no suffering) manner toward God’s son in order to join him in eternity where the dance will continue. The choir (again the Thomanerchor) sings in a rather lackadaisical manner, in great contrast to the Kurt Thomas version discussed above. The attitude expressed here is “We’ve got a hopping rhythm going here, we’re really not too excited about it, but if you want to come and join us, we might be able to make it slightly more convincing than it is right now. We really need your help.”

Coin’s version [11] also has less of Harnoncourt’s extreme rhythmic gestures with many pauses that constantly cause the mvt. to break apart, but the accents are nevertheless present. What is striking here is the complete lack of conviction on the part of the choir. Is this simply another lullaby? No, Coin evidently wishes to do more with the movement than just that. His decidedly more rhythmic treatment of the orchestral material precludes the soft, dreamy approach. The Accentus Chamber Choir, according to the notes consisting of 30 professional singers, is unable to rise to the occasion which the instrumental ensemble has prepared for it. It is truly amazing that this choir can give such an apathetic performance, one that does not even fit the orchestral accompaniment. It is as though these two groups, instrumental and choral, are on two entirely different tracks. The only expression that seems to emanate from the choir is one of sadness. Somehow this choir is unable to relate to text of this Bach cantata. Perhaps this choir simply lacks sufficient experience in performing Bach and would be better at singing French language works from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Leusink’s approach [13] to the instrumental accompaniment is again one of the gentle, lullaby variety without the overly strong accents exhibited by Harnoncourt. However, when the choir enters, the spell is broken by the motley group of individualistic voices which demonstrate a great variety of vocal problems that occur when voices are not properly trained. These problems amount to insurmountable difficulties that deprive the listener of having a truly meaningful connection with this great choral mvt. by Bach.

Some additional points regarding Mvt. 1:

The chorale used here is in a typical bar-form with the Stollen (the repeated A-section) creating the usual problem for Bach unless he decides to use a ‘durchkomponierte’ [‘through-composed’] form where the repetition receives a different treatment in the supporting vocal parts than the opening line of the chorale. This process of ‘through-composing’ does not occur here, hence the word-painting will ‘work’ or ‘be effective’ only once; that is, the close association between the words and the movement of the independent parts may be significant in one instance, but not necessarily in the other. The opening line of the chorale, “Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt” illustrates musically, even in the chorale melody, a ‘stepping downward’ as God extends his love from heaven down to earth. This ‘stepping downward’ is even more apparent in the next line of the chorale: “daß er uns seinen Sohn gegeben” where the descent of His Son moves down stepwise for an interval greater than an octave, a movement that is imitated by the falling motifs in the fugal entries of the lower voices. When the lowest note is reached in the cantus firmus (soprano) and held for 14 beats, the lower voices, particularly the altos and basses repeat the entire line with a caressing motion with notes moving back and forth in a very restricted range. The repeat of the Stollen (“Wer sich im Glauben ihm ergibt, der soll dort ewig bei ihm leben“) shows little or no correspondence between text and music, but the line that immediately follows (we are now in the Abgesang of the bar-form) once again demonstrates meaningful movement, this time ascending on the words “Wer glaubt, daß Jesus ihm geboren” as this appeal to believe in Jesus is a looking upward to Jesus, who would then be born for us. On the words “der bleibet ewig unverloren” Bach ‘pulls out all the stops’ and is finally able to treat with word painting the word “ewig” which he had left untreated earlier. Now Bach relishes the treatment of both words “bleibet” and “ewig” which he translates into long, held notes in the fugal entries, which, for the first time begin in the bass and move upwards gradually to introduce finally the cantus firmus in the soprano. On the words “und ist kein Leid das den betrübt,” both „Leid“ [“suffering”] and „betrübt” [“sad”] receive special treatment despite the fact that the negative „kein“ [“no”] would logically remove them from consideration. This does not bother Bach, since he nevertheless finds these words very interesting and provides some unusual harmonies to underscore their meanings. [Another example of which there are quite a few: BWV 63, the final chorus, “Aber niemals laß geschehen, daß uns Satan möge quälen” {“But never let it happen that Satan might torment/torture us.} Despite the negation with “NEVER,” Bach nevertheless proceeds to illustrate with word painting the picture which ‘torment/torture’ evokes through chromatic progressions, just as if he can not resist the opportunity that presented itself.

This brings me to Bach’s treatment of “der bleibet ewig unverloren” [“{whoever believes that Jesus was born for him} he will remain forever ‘unlost’”] in ms. 37. Here Bach has the upper voices (S & A) continue singing long notes, while the tenors and basses have their equivalent dotted quarter notes reduced to simply quarter notes with 8th –note rests between them. This is the only time Bach does this in this mvt. and the significance of this becomes clear when you consider the word painting involved: While the upper parts are extending the notes on the words “ewig {unver}” [“eternally un-“ with the long notes being held ‘eternally,’] the tenors and basses (along with the bc) are directly involved singing the stem syllable of “unverloren” : “lo-“ which here means ‘lost’ because the negative prefix is not being considered by Bach. Possible interpretations: the tenors and basses (+ bc) are becoming lost as they tentatively step their way through the parts assigned to them. Or, to look at this another way: in order for the upper parts to remain ‘on course,’ it is necessary for them to receive strong support from the foundation supplied by the parts them. What is happening here is the equivalent to the prevailing upper parts lacking the necessary and customary support that is normally given in the bc (here amplified to include the tenors and basses.) It is as though the solo part in a secco recitative is being deprived of the usual support (long sustained notes in the figured bass) that it needs from below. It could then become temporarily ‘lost’ because its dependency upon the solid foundation from below has been disrupted. Here Bach temporarily gives his listeners the musical feeling of what it is like to feel lost when a shortened accompaniment (which is not the norm) is written into the score for this special effect. The normal expectation would be for solid support which, in this instance, is temporarily missing here.

Mvt. 2:

Here is my list of preferred vocalists with the best renditions at the top:

[Jelosits is certainly worth hearing in order to get some idea of what a proficient boy soprano can sound like. There are some aspects that would remove him from this top category: some unnecessary, strong accents forced upon his interpretation by Harnoncourt’s misguided conception of what Bach should sound like and some weakness which Jelosits has in the low range, but otherwise all the other aspects of his voice are truly refreshing and remarkable after hearing the same aria performed by numerous other female sopranos.] [7]

Giebel (K. Thomas) [2] Jelosits (Harnoncourt)

Augér (Rilling) [8]
Augér (Rotzsch) [This version is not quite as good as the other] [9]

Mathis (Richter) [6]
Schwartzkopf (Jones) [M-5]

Strijk (Leusink) [13]

Schlick (Coin) [11]

Mvt. 3 & Mvt. 4 (Bass)

Fischer-Dieskau (Richter) [not so good in the aria] [6]
Adam (K. Thomas) [better in the aria than in the recitative] [2]
Huttenlocher (Rilling) [better in the aria than in the recitative] [8]
Adam (Rotzsch) [Time has taken its toll on the voice] [9]

van der Meer (Harnoncourt) [7]
Schwarz (Coin) [11]

Ramselaar (Leusink) [sotto voce] [13]

Mvt. 5:

K. Thomas [2]
Rotzsch [9]
Rilling [8]
Richter [too staccato + ‘carnival organ playing all vocal parts’] [6]

Coin [‘Lite’-treatment] [11]
Leusink [Caricature] [13]
Harnoncourt [Atrocious] [7]

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 6, 2003):
Robin Crag wrote:
< Mvt. 2: aria
That cello line is so beautiful! It somehow expresses that rare and wonderful feeling, when your heart sings (Like if you are in love). It still sounds good after listening again a good few times... and it repeats so much in itself as well! The words are telling the heart to rejoice and sing, but it is singing already. I think the "sinfonia" part fits in well, because when a heart sings, it doesn't use words (it is surely above words). >
For better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness or in health: a person who has attended a lot of English-language weddings, or played music in them, hears this soprano aria (Mvt. 2) with the familiar words: "My heart, ever faithful." It seems that everybody who gets married has a friend who can shriek her way through some of this aria, and that's the way it's most familiar: from the standard books of 'wedding music.'

Also, it's in my current hymnal (Mennonite and Brethren) in a four-part arrangement, with a text beginning "With happy voices singing...."

Yes, it's a joyful piece when performed well. :)

I listened to two recordings of this cantata yesterday; might write about them later.

Stevan Vasiljevic [Serbia] wrote (April 6, 2003):
Thomas Braatz says:
< I personally believe that members of Bach’s congregation in Leipzig would have felt more affinity with Kurt Thomas’ [2] presentation of this chorale mvt. <
I have heard many non-HIP and several HIP performances of cantatas (and recently a Matthäus-passion (BWV 244) performance by Otto Klemperer and Philharmonia Orchestra & Choir) with tempos of certain movements so agonizingly slow that they become unbearably boring. Yes, I hear Bach's music, but it serves more to lull me asleep than to "reconfirm the strong religious beliefs".

< ‘lite-’entertainment, ‘this-is-mainly-dance-music’ type of approach <
can also aggravate quality of a performance.

The performers must find a suitable balance between these two extreme approaches.

Donald Satz wrote (April 6, 2003):
[To Stevan Vasiljevic] I don't find anything boring about Klemperer's slow tempos. Yes, he is heavy, but the inevitability of his rhythmic pace is often mesmorizing.

Philippe Bareille wrote (April 6, 2003):
I have several versions of this work: Harnoncourt [7], Coin [11] and Richter [6].

The pick of the bunch: Peter Jelosits marvellously accompanied by Harnoncourt [7] in the jaunty soprano aria (Mvt. 2).

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 6, 2003):
[To Philippe Bareille] Please tell us why do you prefer it [7].

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 6, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] I think the same.I like fast tempi but also slow.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 6, 2003):
BWV 68 - Background

Sorry, but my review this time will be really short. I have been dedicated most of my free time during last week to transferring the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW) to its new host. The new BCW is now live and kicking, with much more space and better performance. The extra space opens new possibilities, about which I intend to inform you when time comes.

Although last week’s cantata BWV 68 is not exactly a new composition (only the choral movements and the short bass recitative are not parodies of earlier works), it is still one of the most rewarding in the whole oeuvre, regarding both the text and the music. The writing of the poetess Christiane Mariane von Ziegler always inspired Bach, although he altered her original text to his musical needs. There is no need for background to my short review of the recordings of the two arias, because this area is already well-covered by Joshua Rifkin’s comprehensive and excellent commentary, quoted in the Introduction message I sent to the BCML last week, by more commentaries quoted by Thomas Braatz in he review, and by three commentaries available on the Web.

The Recordings - Short review of the two arias

Last week I have been listening to 9 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 68.

[2] Kurt Thomas (1960, 2nd recording)
[3] Fritz Werner (1963)
[4] Klaus Martin Ziegler (mid 1960’s)
[6] Karl Richter (1974-1975)
[7] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1977)
[8] Helmuth Rilling (1980-1981)
[9] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1981)
[11] Christophe Coin (1995)
[13] Pieter Jan Leusink (2000)

The cheerful aria for soprano: Among the female singers I prefer Ursula Buckel (with Ziegler) [4]. Her lvoice and clear delivery soar your spirit highly as no other singer does. She was born to sing Bach, especially this kind of arias. Next to her even renowned and respected singers in the field of Bach’s vocal works, as Elisabeth Grümmer (with K. Thomas) [2], Agnes Giebel (with Fritz Werner) [3], and Arleen Augér (with both Rilling [8] and Rotzsch [9]), all in their prime at the time they recorded this cantata, sound convincing but slightly heavy. Others, as Mathis (Richter) [6], Schlick (with Coin) [11] and Strijk (with Leusink) [13] are definitely not in their class. The boy soprano Peter Jelosits (with Harnoncourt) [7] deserves special recognition. His praises have been sung in the BCML many times, including the discussion of previous week’s cantata BWV 58. The easiness with which he sings this aria causes some of the other singers to sound as if they are struggling unsuccessfully to make something out of this demanding aria, showing off their technical (Mathis) or expressive (Strijk) limitations.

The singer of the aria for bass has to convey sureness in his faith and confidence in his Lord, and he should do it with the outmost simplicity. No one does it better than Jakob Stämpfli, who recorded this cantata twice, with Werner [3] and with Ziegler [4]. I prefer the latter because the accompaniment is more polished and colourful and it is also more sensitive to the singer. Theo Adam, who also recorded this cantata twice, is not far behind. I prefer his recording with Rotzsch’s flexible accompaniment [9] to the cumbersome and stiff Thomas [2]. Surprisingly, Adam’s voice and approach have not changed much in the course of 21 years between these two recordings. Next to Stämpfli and Adam, even DFD [6] sounds over expressive. The other bass singers of this cantata are very far behind these three great Bach singers.

Conclusion

A recording of the complete cantata to take away: Ziegler with Buckel and Stämpfli.
The tenderness and charm with which the choral movements are played and sung in this rendition are pure magic.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2003):
This weekend I listened to both the recordings I have: both LPs from the 1970s, of German ensembles. I'm not fond of the overall style in either one of them; but, one is MUCH better than the other one in a crucial area: bringing out the spirit of the text and music.

In the good one, there is an excellent flow all the way through the cantata, across all the movements. The singers and players convey joy, and seem excited by the music. The tempos move easily, the instruments are well-blended, the winds are especially fine, and the music seems natural and unproblematic. "Alert" is a word that comes to mind. The soprano's tone in her aria was a little too bright for me, but the balance was good and the performance exciting. And the bass solo was well-done in character, too (see below).

In the bad one, the movements seem tacked together next to one another, arbitrarily. The orchestral playing is deadly: laborious, too loud, and undifferentiated (especially in the bass line)...just chugging along. In the first and fourth movements, the placement of the graceful figures is anything but graceful: merely stiff and cautious. The bass aria (Mvt. 4) is (IMO) especially a disaster here: the singer and conductor try to preserve the pedantic differences between the notations of the vocal rhythms (various patterns of duplets) and instruments (triplets and dotted figures)...it sounds terribly forced and stiff...an overly literalistic nightmare. [In the better recording, by comparison, everything flows easily and they don't worry so much about what it looks like on the page...they just play and sing it with a spirit of rejoicing, as the text says! The bass singer does seem to be well at-ease and comforted by his salvation, in the character he projects.]

In both of these recordings, the choruses are pretty much mush: it's difficult to pick out any of the words. And both these vocal ensembles have plenty of people who can't control their vibratos. But in the better recording, all the musicians are clearer with dynamics, backing off so that other parts can be heard. In the one I didn't like, everybody just pretty much blasts along loudly: it's graceless and tiring.

Both these recordings have identical total timings, within a few seconds overall (17'45"): but the "bad" one seems to take much longer, due to its lack of grace. When I got to the end of the good one, I wanted to hear it again, and did so. When I got to the end of the bad one (which I listened to first), I was glad it was over, and it had seemed like a dutiful process to get through it once.

So, what are these two recordings? The one I liked is Nonesuch 71256, the Kassel Vocal Ensemble and Deutsche Bachsolisten conducted by Klaus Martin Ziegler [4]. The soloists are Ursula Buckel and Jakob Stämpfli. It has good program notes by young Joshua Rifkin, too.

The one I thought was deadly is Archiv 2533306: Karl Richter with his Munich ensembles and Edith Mathis and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau [6]. In addition to the issues mentioned above (lack of flow, etc.), I agree with Alex: there are serious balance problems in the choruses (instruments overwhelming the choral parts they're doubling) and soprano aria (Mvt. 2) (wiping out the cello).

Someday I'll probably find another recording I like better (stylistically), but until then, this Ziegler performance [4] is a real "find" for me. And I want to go listen to it again now.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< (...) [4] Klaus Martin Ziegler (mid 1960's) >
Fwiw, Aryeh, my LP copy of this says "(c) 1971 by NONESUCH RECORDS" -- and gives credit as "a CANTATE recording, West Germany." That 1971 date might just be the American issue date.

Whatever the date, I agree with you about its musical excellence. As I wrote in my review just a few minutes ago, this one has such an appropriate spirit to it, from beginning to end!

Neil Halliday wrote (April 7, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
"A recording of the complete cantata to take away: Ziegler with Buckel and Stämpfli." [4]
I notice on your Bach Cantatas list of recordings that this is an LP set from the 60's. Several people have spoken highly of it.

How do the rest of us get to hear it?

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 7, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I have the same Nonesuch issue of the Ziegler recording [4].

What a pity that this is the only recording of Bach Cantatas by Klaus Martin Ziegler. The other cantata on this LP, BWV 172 is also one of my favourite. See the discussion of this cantata at the page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV172-D.htm
I know nothing about this conductor. Is he descendant of the poetess Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, who wrote the libretto of this cantata? I wonder if more recordings of Bach's vocal works conducted by him could be found in the vaults of Cantate label or of Swiss/German radio stations. Is there any member of the BCML who knows how to contact these sources?

Actually, I am very fond of most of the recordings of Bach Cantatas done by the German Cantate label during the 1960's. This series, which included some dozens of cantatas, conducted by variety of German conductors, was loosely connected with the editorial work of the NBA. I have some of the original LP's and the liner notes in all of them were written Alfred Dürr, which can be seen as a certificate for high quality. Many of the original Cantate LP's were issued in the USA during the early 1970's by various American labels, such as MHS, Oryx and Nonesuch. Some of the them were transferred to CD by Baroque Music Club/Oryx last year. Unfortunately most of the others have never been issued in CD form. I wrote to Cantate label about three years ago, asking about these recordings. Their answer was that during year 2000 there will be enough cantata recordings on the market and that do not see any point in reissuing these recordings. The started to transfer to CD some of Rilling's recordings of secular cantatas, which were done for this label during this 1960's. But even this effort was cut in the middle without any explanation.

Continue this part of the discssion, see: PDQ Bach [General Topics]

Christian Panse wrote (April 7, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< [Klaus Martin Ziegler]
[4]
I know nothing about this conductor. Is he descendant of the poetess
Christiane Mariane von Ziegler, who wrote the libretto of this cantata? >
A nice thought, but not very likely, as "Ziegler" should be a one of the many names stemming from job titles: "brick maker", I suppose.

He is portrayed here (in German): http://www.bautz.de/bbkl/z/ziegler_k_m.shtml

According to this, he was above all a mentor of modern church music. One Cantate CD under his direction can be found here (1997, currently out of print):
http://www.amazon.de/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000027G57/heinzpeterkat-21

Philippe Bareille wrote (April 8, 2003):
[7] [To Hugo Saldias] Despite all the castigation of Harnoncourt (the last piece is that he cannot even read music! half the notes are missing..etc) I still believe that he often reveals hidden treasures and captures perfectly the spirit of this music. He knows that a cantata is to put across a message and not just to entertain an audience. He has revisited Bach old music infusing the work with so many different colours, and has reclaimed some of its original spirit. In the soprano aria (Mvt. 2), not only does he play the violoncello piccolo very well, but he simply revitalises this music. The boy Jelosits is outstanding: strong voice, no problem with intonation and good diction. Listening a good boy soprano who is naturally endowed with inner musical abilities is often very moving especially in this repertoire. Even Tom seems to recognise the talent of Peter Jelosits.

 

Keys

Julian Mincham wrote (August 14, 2006):
A bit of a technical question.

I have been looking closely at the last dozen cantatas of the second cycle. One, BWV 68 is unusual in a lot of ways--for one thing the only one of these not to end with a four part setting of the chorale. Instead it ends with a choral fugue doubled, motet style, by instruments.

But the strange thing is that it begins in one key (A minor) and ends in another (D minor).

My questions are

1 Does anyone know of any other substantial last movement of any movement by Bach which begins and ends in different keys?

(some slow middle movements sometimes end not in their tonic but on the dominant of the key of the final movement e.g. keyboard concerto in F minor---but that's a different matter).

2 Does anyone have any thoughts as to why Bach chose to do this most unusual (for the period) thing in this particular case (Chafe has something to say on it but it's not really a full explanation).

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 14, 2006):
< But the strange thing is that it begins in one key (A minor) and ends in another (D minor).
1 Does anyone know of any other substantial last movement of any movement by Bach which begins and ends in different keys? >

It's rather hard to guess from the sound of the piece that the organ piece "Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist" BWV 671 is in Phrygian (and not E-flat major), until the G finalis shows up.

Granted, that's not the last movement of the service but only an internal stop.

And obviously your question excludes minor-key pieces that simply end with a Picardy third, not really being a different key?

=====

If you're looking at larger pieces as a whole, and not only the last movement:

- B minor mass

- Both of the big passions

- WTC, both books if played as a whole

- Various chorales that end on the dominant

Julian Mincham wrote (August 14, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And obviously your question excludes minor-key pieces that simply end with a Picardy third, not really being a different key? >
Yes of course--that's a change of mode not key

=====

< If you're looking at larger pieces as a whole, and not only the last movement: >
No Graham Goerge dealt with these sorts of relationships well in his book Tonality and musical structure.
-
< Various chorales that end on the dominant >
Chorales and recits I am excluding. I am looking at large scale movements, ecclesiatical or secular which begin and end in different keys. There aint a lot of them--hence my question to see if anyone has noticed any I might have missed.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 14, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>I have been looking closely at the last dozen cantatas of the second cycle. One, BWV 68 is unusual in a lot of ways--for one thing the only one of these not to end with a four part setting of the chorale. Instead it ends with a choral fugue doubled, motet style, by instruments. But the strange thing is that it begins in one key (A minor) and ends in another (D minor).<<
Konrad Küster ("Bach Handbuch",Bärenreiter/Metzler, 1999), who strangely classifies this cantata as belonging to the 3rd cantata cycle, says the following about this last mvt. [summary-translation]:

There is here a broadly conceived theme/fugal subject (treated with large orchestration) that is used as the basis for this mvt: it consists of the main fugal subject on "Wer an ihn gläubet" and a "Fortspinnungs" subsection that serves as a cadence. This expansiveness determines the dimensions of the following, second section: after presenting all the entrances of the fugal subject the original counterpoint of "wer aber nicht gläubet" is used as its own theme and combined with a new counterpoint. After all the voices have entered in this portion of the fugue, Bach returns to the original combination again in order to present this as a quasi da-capo "Rückmodulation" ("a section modulating back to the beginning"). This is very similar in some of the details to what Bach does in BWV 103/1 "Ihr werdet weinen und heulen". In that mvt. and well as this one, Bach uses the second fugal section in a different harmonic environment, thus the second section, while related to the first and presenting similar or related material, can be presented in a different harmonic environment and lends itself to an independent treatment of the material which both sections share with each other."

It would appear from this statement that the structure of the movement, is in its musical structure based on the biblical text "whoever believes" vs. "whoever does not believe". The text in the second half is almost the same as that in the first half, the negative putting the second section into a completely different harmonic (independent, yet unresolved) environment. Perhaps listeners are asked to complete the cycle by returning to the original key in their own minds through their own imagination so as not to be judged by Christ or God (Bach even sets up the composition of this mvt. so that the music wants to go back to the original key established at the beginning of the mvt.)

Julian Mincham wrote (August 15, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Many thanks Thomas for the Kuster reference which is of considerable interest; although for me it still doesn't quite explain things. The reference to BWV 103/1 is interesting but the movements are quite different. In 103 there are actuallthree fugal expositions two before and one after the inserted recitative phrases. The first takes us from Bm to Em, the second Em to F sharpm and the third Am back to the tonic Bm. The only somewhat strange thing about this is the unusual modulation from F sharp to A--not related keys, and the structural use of Am which is not a member of the family of keys related to Bm. Most importantly, BWV 103 being and ends in the same key which BWV 68 does not.

What is also interesting in your posting Thomas (and new to me) is the suggestion that BWV 68 might not be a part of the second but the third Leipzig cycle. In its favour is the fact that it is the only one that doesn't end with a simple 4 part chorale setting. On the other hand it does begin with a chorale fantasia--and there is no reason, is there to suppose that BWV 175 and BWV 176, composed after it were also part of the third cycle??

The fact is that after BWV 4 was brought back for the 1725 Easter celebrations, the last 12 cantatas of the second cycle are a structurally a bit of a ragbag, as we shall see when we come to them on list next year.. Only two begin with a chorale fantasia, two begin with a recitative, one with an extended sinfonia (the omly one in the cycle) and three with a bass aria (Mvt. 4). The remaining four begin with large scale choruses, either fugal or in the form of a great tone poem.

As for BWV 68, loathe as I am ever to claim that something is completely unique in Bach's output, it would seem that in starting and finishing in different established keys, this may well be.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 68: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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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