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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 71
Gott ist mein König
Discussions - Part 1

Suzuki - Vol. 2

Ryan Michero wrote (December 20, 1999):
[10] If Vol. 1 was a bit tentative, Vol. 2 is where Suzuki and the BCJ really hit their stride. It includes great performances of two "favorite" cantatas (BWV 106 and BWV 131, the latter a particular favorite of Suzuki) and one lesser-known piece (BWV 71). This is an essential volume!

BWV 71 - "Gott is mein König"
Suzuki and company turn in a rousing rendition of this celebratory early Weimar cantata. While the choral singing is fine, the soloists (Suzuki, Mera, Türk, and Kooy) steal the show in their "soli" sections, blending their voices beautifully. Two aria performances deserve special mention: the lovely bass aria with great singing by Kooy and chill-inducing wind playing, and the extrovert alto aria which features fine period trumpeting. Suzuki conducts with brilliance and pomp in the big outer movements and with sensitivity in the arias and the quiet, strange "turtle dove" chorus.

 

Discussions in the Week of April 2, 2000

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 2, 2000):
Background

This is the week of cantata BWV 71, according to Jane Newble's suggestion. Like the other early cantatas, discussed in this group in the last couple of weeks (BWV 131, BWV 106 & BWV 54), I see this cantata as a complete unity of music, whose individual movements cannot be separated or cut out and performed individually.

For some background on BWV 71, I would like to quote from the linear notes to the Teldec recording, written by Ludwig Finscher:
"BWV 71 is Bach’s oldest council election cantata, altogether one of his earliest cantatas, and from the point of view of style an almost completely antiquated piece. The text consists of quotations also applicable to the inauguration of the council and free city’s secular lord, Emperor Joseph I (last movement), while the composition is a sequence of motet-like or concertante miniatures, emphasizing with the greatest care and simple conciseness every rhetorical detail. The treatment of the orchestra too, with its four-choir element, and the division of the chorus into ripienist ensemble vocalists and soloists are in the Middle German tradition. Nevertheless the work is rich in small, often insignificant individual traits: for instance the gentle endings of the outer movements, the intensive text interpretation of the choral embellishments in the second movement, the veritably coloratura through bass figuration and the psalmody-like conclusion of the penultimate movement. And no less worthy of note – as the ‘most modern’ part of the work – the magnificent fugue for the vocal soloists in the last chorus."

Personal Viewpoint

And something personal:
Usually, I read the English translation of the German text of the cantata under discussion, for the purpose of understanding it better. But this time I made something more. I translated BWV 71 text to Hebrew, based on some of its English translations. Consequently I found out that according to the text, there is a place for an interpretation which will emphasis the solemn and melancholy mood hidden in this cantata (at least in the second movement). However, most of the recordings tend to ignore this side of the cantata. Sorry that I cannot transfer to you the Hebrew translation, because my e-mail do not support Hebrew, and I believe that yours too.

Review of the Recordings

During last week I have listened to 6 recordings of this cantata. Hereinafter are my impressions.

[3] Kurt Thomas (1959)
Based on previous reviews of Kurt Thomas Bach recordings, some of them have been discussed in this group, I had low expectations from this one. But he surprised me in his recording of BWV 71. Firstly, the singers. All of them are born Bach singers, on a very high level, if not suitable to contemporary taste. Secondly, the conducting. Maybe the festive nature of this cantata awakened Thomas to life. Usually his conducting tend to be stiff, slow and heavy, but not here. Yes, it is slow, but it is also very vivid. I enjoyed this recording very much.

[4] Helmuth Rilling (1975 + 1982)
This is a very strange recording. It was recorded in 3 separate occasions (Jan. 1975, June 1975 and Feb. 1982). That it the reason it has so many solo singers in the list. It is legitimate of course, but I feel that the music should be treated with more respect. I believe that a cantata should be recorded at one occasion, like it was performed originally. In that way all the participants keep the flow of ideas from one movement to the other and the spirit of the work is preserved. I do not have any complaint about the singers. All of them do a competent job. But they should avoid participating in such an arbitrary rendering of this wonderful work of art. Regarding Rilling’s approach, it is very similar to that of Thomas, with brighter playing of the orchestra.

[5] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1977)
This is one of the cases when Harnoncourt succeeds in cutting the flow of the music and breaking it into small pieces. All the enthusiasm in this cantata is getting lost. It is not a festive occasion. It is also not a solemn occasion (as could be interpreted based on the words). It is uninteresting. The good singing of some of the singers does not compensate, because they also avoid expressing their feelings. This recording is faster then that of Thomas but sounds slower!

[6] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1981)
Rotzsch was the Tenor in Thomas recording of the same cantata and succeeded him as the St. Thomas Kantor (between them served Mauersberger). His conducting shows that he has learnt something from his predecessors. Everything works well in this middle of the road rendering – the balance between the various parts, the tempi, the festive atmosphere, the enthusiastic singing of the boys-men choir, the vocal soloists, etc. But above all shines the beautiful voice and the tasteful singing of the exciting and wonderful Arleen Augér.

[8] Ton Koopman (1995)
I like this performance, because it is gentler than the others are and you can hear many details (as Finscher wrote) ignored by others. It has a chamber quality, and you can hear clearly every voice and every instrument. Every line of the concluding fugue can be heard. The festive side is getting somehow lost, but I do not mind, because I can hear it in other recordings. The voices are not only beautiful individually, but they bland very successfully together to create a supreme and very human performance, which touches the heart.

[10] Masaaki Suzuki (1995)
This performance is very similar to the one by Koopman and everything I wrote about Koopman is valid also for Suzuki. This one is more transparent and penetrating, where Koopman has more warmth and sweetness. However, these are minor differences and I have difficulties in choosing between them. It may depend on the singers you prefer to hear. One interesting factor that I have to note is that Suzuki here prefers slower tempi than he usually uses, but I have not heard it during listening to his performance. I took notice to it only when I looked at the TT.

Conclusion

Among the 6 above performances, there is only one that is clearly inferior in comparison to the others. This is the one by Harnoncourt [5]. All the others are more than satisfying, each one with its own virtues.

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

Jane Newble wrote (April 3, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you Aryeh, for your review. I have trouble in writing anything about it, as I only have Koopman [8] and Suzuki [10], and they seem very similar. I do remember when I first had b, that I preferred Suzuki, especially when played loud! But now I am not so sure. I am very intrigued with your translation into Hebrew, and wondered if it was possible to send it separately. It certainly has made me want to look again at the translation, which I hope to do tomorrow.

Marie Jensen wrote (April 3, 2000):
[10] I agree with you. Everything is heard so clearly here. Just a tiny remark: "Ich bin nun 80 Jahr" has to call for a rather slow tempo! A man 80 years old is moving slow.

Ryan Michero wrote (April 4, 2000):
I'll just say about BWV 71 that my preferred version is by Suzuki on the wonderful Vol. 2 of his cantata series [10].

 

BWV 71, reality vs. assumption

Boyd Pehrson wrote (February 5, 2002):
On this day in 1708, BWV 71, the cantata by J.S. Bach titled "Gott ist mein König" (God is my King), was first performed. The occasion was the annual change of the Mühlhausen city council.

One voice per part advocates make much out of this Cantata, because although Bach didn't do it that often, BWV 71 is an example where "4 Ripines" is written on the title page of the autograph score from 1708. OVPP advocates say this proves that Bach wanted to use no more than one singer per part for his Cantatas (a mere quartet), if not, he would have written it so in the score as he did with this Cantata. This Cantata though was written long before Bach lived in Leipzig, where he wrote huge amounts of sacred music, and where his method was most settled and consistent.

The idea that one voice per part also is shown by Bach's own report to the Leipzig Town Council, on "a well appointed church music" is less convincing an argument than any others. Bach's comment that 3 sopranos, 3 altos, 3 tenors and three basses are in each of his main choirs is seen as support for a quartet by the one voice per part advocates because, they argue, Bach here means there was one singer, an instrumentalist and a back up for each part in each choir. Now, I think that would be the ultimate luxury for Bach. (!) The reality is, another separate letter confirms what Bach was writing in his Town Council letter, that 44 boys (register the word boys here) were needed to perform singing in Leipzig church services.

Here is an excerpt from a letter from the Chairman of the St Thomas School Board, Dr. Christian Ludwig Stieglitz. Here Dr. Stieglitz is proposing the admission of applicants for the nine vacant spaces left by past departures. Some applicants applied in writing, and others were suggested by the Cantor J.S. Bach. Dr. Stieglitz makes the argument on Bach's behalf that 44 boys minimum are needed for singing:

"... As for the orally observed opinion of Mr. Bach, grade sub. B. and C., those named are competent in singing; for the others no such dispositio has been found. In enclosure sub D., however, the same takes occasion to point out that, with respect to singing in services of all five churches, there is a need for 44 boys. Since many of those used so far have left the school and the churches can in no way be served by current alumni, the same begs that the Mr. Rector consider, to the extent possible, the unavoidable need for reflecting upon such subjects as are competent in music and singing, to fill the vacant places. ..."
Signed: Dr. Christian Ludwig Stieglitz (Stigliz)
Dated: Leipzig, May 18, 1729

(The critical portion of the text in German reads:
"...daß er zu Bestellung des GottesDienstes was das Singen anbelanget in allen 5. Kirchen 44. Knaben nöthig habe, ..."

Douglas Neslund wrote (February 6, 2002):
And there you have it! Until someone else needs to find a reason to earn a PhD!
:-)

 

“Das neue Regiment”

Andreas Burghardt wrote (September 24, 2002):
On occasion of the election of a (new) parliament in Germany yesterday, I have uploaded the final choral of "Rathswahlkantate" BWV 71 to the file section.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Bach_Cantatas/files/DasNeueRegiment.mp3

Das neue Regiment
Auf jeglichen Wegen
Bekröne mit Segen!
Friede, Ruh und Wohlergehen,
Müsse stets zur Seite stehen
Dem neuen Regiment.
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg
Muss täglich von neuen
Dich, Joseph, erfreuen,
Daß an allen Ort und Landen
Ganz beständig sei vorhanden
Glück, Heil und großer Sieg!

It is a private live recording of a performance of the Tölzer Knabenchor together with an unknown orchestra directed by Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden. If I remember well the recording was made in Paris and dates from the 80s.

Katia Tiara wrote (September 27, 2002):
[To Andreas Burghardt] Beautiful singing! Thanks

Boyd Pehrson wrote (September 28, 2002):
[To Andreas Burghardt] I finally took some moments to download your music file. Great stuff there! These boys certainly make a most difficult Bach composition sound easy. Thank you for sharing your most rare recording. I encourage members to save the downloads for review while they are available. Andreas your contributions are superb, and always a treat; in this case a most appropriate treat.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 71: 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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Last update: ýApril 25, 2013 ý12:06:45