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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 72
Alles nur nach Gottes Willen
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions on the Week of April 6, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 7, 2003):
BWV 72 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (April 6, 2003) is the Cantata BWV 72.

The commentary below, quoted from the book ‘Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach’ (1999), was written by Alberto Basso.

See: Cantata BWV 72 - Commentary

Recordings

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 72 - Recordings

Three of the six complete recordings of this cantata are from the usual participants from complete cantata cycles (Harnoncourt [4], Rilling [2], and Leusink [5]). The first of the other three is conducted by Günther Ramin [1]. The second is another veteran conductor, Fritz Werner [3]. Alas, his recording of Cantata BWV 72 has never been issued in CD form. The last, by John Eliot Gardiner [6], was recorded live in Milan during his famous Bach Cantata Pilgrimage. All the concerts from this gargantuan tour were recorded and might see the light of the day some time in the near or far future.

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to the original German text and various translations, three of which have been contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron).
There are also links to the Score (Vocal & Piano version, now located at the BCW) and to commentary: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide), and Craig Smith (Emmanuel Music); in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Nick Ford wrote (April 9, 2003):
[To Aryeh Oron] First thanks for the pointer on Kurt Thomas which I have followed up.

Fortunate enough to have the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series [4], I listened to cantata BWV 72 in peace and quiet today, and as always in such circumstances was inspired and thankful. I don't doubt for one moment that JSB's understanding of the correlation between words and music was as with everything supreme. Far from a musical performance issue that I dare not comment on.. one issue that does irritate me with the H/L recordings is the English text. I am no German scholar, but I know that "Mein Jesus will es tun, er wil dein Kreuz versussen" does not translate as "My Jesus cares for me, he stills my lamentation", and it gets worse. I appreciate that translation is perhaps an art, and must try to reflect the poetry of the original (well must it ?) but I find this an increasing frustration in my attempted appreciation of the true meaning of it all.

Probably too boring for anybody to comment on, but I for one would prefer a literal translation.

Robert Sherman wrote (April 9, 2003):
[To Nick Ford] IMO any serious listener would prefer a literal translation in the liner notes. But what happens is that translations are done for musical scores in order to sing the piece in English, and it's cheaper for the record companies to just paste in those singing translations than to hire a translator to do a separate literal translation. The results are frequently atrocious. Nick cites only one of thousands of examples.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 9, 2003):
BWV 72 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 72 - Provenance

Robert Killingsworth wrote (April 9, 2003):
Nick Ford wrote:
< I am no German scholar, but I know that "Mein Jesus will es tun, er wil dein Kreuz versussen" does not translate as "My Jesus cares for me, he stills my lamentation", and it gets worse. I appreciate that translation is perhaps an art, and must try to reflect the poetry of the original (well must it ?) but I find this an increasing frustration in my attempted appreciation of the true meaning of it all. >
Any number of English translations of the cantata texts have been made, and Aryeh has posted links to a lot of them on the website. Try Philip Ambrose's version for Cantata BWV 72.

< Probably too boring for anybody to comment on, but I for one would prefer a literal translation >
You need to give some thought to what constitutes a 'literal translation'.

Consider BWV 243, Magnificat, which is in Latin. For the English, you can take your pick of Bible versions: the relevant verses are Luke 1:46-55. Have a look at the three different translations hyperlinked at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/IndexTexts6.htm.

Ambrose has basically taken the text from the familiar King James version--but he has made a few purposeful changes. For example, verse 48 in the AV reads:

"For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed."

For whatever reason, Ambrose has substituted 'lowliness' for 'low estate'; and for a glaringly obvious reason, he has reversed the natural English word order to put 'all generations' at the end. Is this what you mean by 'literal'? It's not acceptable as a semantic translation, because the English syntax is wrong, but if what you want is to understand the meaning of the words associated with particular passages of the music (e.g. the chorus on 'Omnes generationes', after the aria on 'Quia respexit'), you appreciate what Ambrose has done.

Christian Panse wrote (April 9, 2003):
Nick Ford wrote:
< I am no German scholar, but I know that "Mein Jesus will es tun, er wil dein Kreuz versussen" does not translate as "My Jesus cares for me, he stills my lamentation", [...] >
"My Jesus wants to do it, he wants to sweeten your cross"

# Obgleich dein Herze liegt in viel Bekümmernissen,
# Soll es doch sanft und still in seinen Armen ruhn,
# Wenn ihn der Glaube faßt; mein Jesus will es tun!

"Even if your heart lies in manifold dolefulnesses,
shall it rest tenderly and quietly in his arms
when Faith seizes him; my Jesus wants to do it."

Only one recitative... hope this helps at least a bit.

< Probably too boring for anybody to comment on, but I for one would prefer a literal translation >
I don't know if anyone has put online a literal translation of all Bach Cantatas into English. Not only that it would mean a lot of work; sometimes it is difficult even for native speakers to catch the sense of some text, because the language has changed a lot. And baroque poetry in general... :-|

Nick Ford wrote (April 9, 2003):
Robert Killingsworth wrote:
< Any number of English translations of the cantata texts have been made, and Aryeh has posted links to a lot of them on the website. Try Philip Ambrose's version for Cantata BWV 72. >
Bob and Aryeh, many thanks - brilliant - wish I looked more carefully before commenting

< IMO any serious listener would prefer a literal translation in the liner notes. >
Bob, who but a "serious" listener would spend $00's on the complete (or even some of the) cantatas. My complaint I guess is with the record companies. Is there somebody out there who has some clout with them ?

and

< You need to give some thought to what constitutes a 'literal translation'. >
Again I suppose I'm trying to short circuit the need to learn 18C German which is the only real solution. But thanks again for the pointers. The texts on Aryeh's site (for which many thanks) are what I shall use from now on.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 10, 2003):
In the piano-vocal score available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV72.htm is anybody else amused by that hilarious piano reduction in the first movement? EXTREME acrobatics there, with all those leaps plus hand-crossings.... How many choral societies and churches really have Liszt and Rachmaninoff on staff as their rehearsal accompanists?!

Neil Halliday wro(April 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Hilarious? I know the point you are making Brad, but this score is an attempt to reproduce on piano all the notes in the original orchestral score, and I presume you noticed how brilliant it is. (I have attempted bits of it on my Casio keyboard). Reminds me of the brilliant writing in the organ prelude of BWV 548 (Eminor), similar harmomies in parts (BWV 548 is more contemplative, of course). I reckon this score could make a virtuoso stand alone piece, if you were Rachmaninov or Busoni (as you say), with hands capable of octave and a half stretches.

Needless to say, many of these notes cannot be heard from the orchestra in Harnoncourt's [4], or for that matter, probably most recordings, when the choir is singing, bur I sure hope recording technology allows an improvement on what I am hearing now from Harnoncourt's recording. (Pity your ISDN connection does not allow reception; broadband supplies a CD quality 192 K/bits per second, giving reasonably accurate presentation of the recording). I hope the period instruments you love sound better then the scratchy, squeaky violin sound one is presented with in this recording.

(The above relates to the 1st movement)

I am still looking for a 21st century reading of the accompaniment to the secco recitatives - I have in mind a string quartet reading of the score as presented here, or maybe a decent organ stop (but not both) something that might challenge the vocalist - this tiny, discreet, timid chamber organ stop sounds just like what it is, ie 18th century technology. Lets face it, whole families of instruments were disappearing in Bach's time, while others were being invented and continually improved upon. Bach must have been grappling with the right timbres to express his ideas; I don't believe he would have a problem with the ideas presented above.

Naturally, I understand such considerations are anathema to some people, but I'm convinced it would be within the bounds of artistic licence (as opposed to playing the music on a synthesizer, for example - I think we do need living, breathing musicians to realize this very special music.)

Hugo Saldias wrote (April 11, 2003):
[To Neil Halliday] What you said makes a lot of sense.

Bach was always looking for new things and how to improove them.He went walking to the North to check out organists.If he was here today he will take the TGV trains or a plane to save time... And most of all he would love todays organs.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 11, 2003):
[To Hufo Saldias] Thanks, Hugo.

On the subject of organs, I have just received Herreweghe's recording of BWV 29, BWV 119, and BWV 120.

I like the quality of sound on this CD a lot, but the one weak track is the Sinfonia (here it is the 1st movement of BWV 29) which is an arrangement of the 1st movement for solo violin BWV 1006 in E major.

One would think it difficult to make this arrangement for organ, brass, timpani, woodwinds and strings sound SMALLER than the original setting for solo violin, but both HIP versions I have heard (this one and Harnoncourt's [4]) manage to achieve this feat.

The cause (apart from tempi that are too fast) is the employment of the same puny chamber organ stop(s) used in the recitatives, for a part which should at least be able to recreate the brilliance of the original violin line (here alloted to the right hand organ part.) Herreweghe is forced to restrain the brass and timpani to very quiet volumes so that the organ can be heard, and even so, he fails in this endevour. I know how much he is restraining the brass and timpani because in the following movement (which turns out to be identical to one of two settings in the B minor mass, the last being the Dona nobis pacem) he gives these instruments full rein, so much so I thought I was listening to Richter's version!

Brad mentioned the problems involved in balancing modern instruments; in this case the problem was in balancing period instruments. The only solution I can see, if you insist on the conventional recitative accompaniment, is to have a different organ available for the Sinfonia.

Continue this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 29 - Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 12, 2003):
BWV 72 review

The recording I have of cantata BWV 72 is Leusink's [5]. I've listened to it at least seven or eight times this week, in various circumstances; and went through this cantata with the vocal score and various translations (with and without the recording, to get to know the piece in various ways). What a treat! It's a cantata I did not know, and I'm glad to have made its acquaintance. And I listened to it over and over for enjoyment.

I have only a minor complaint about this Leusink performance, and that is that I wished for more passionate drive, stronger accentuation, more range of "oomph"...especially in the recitatives. That is, I thought it needed a willingness to let it be a little bit more declamatory and maybe even "ugly" at moments, to be more intense overall: not so much a variation of volume, as a variation of forceful thrust to contrast with the relaxed poise. They were doing some of that, but not quite enough, IMO. In short, it could have been more dramatic, less polite.

But, in the performance as it stands, it is so graceful and stylish and lovely, and as warmly inviting as the text is. So, really, what's not to like in this Leusink recording, in the big picture? It's marvelous. Graceful moderation is a lot more appealing, overall, than plenty of other possibilities are! And, since one can get this series at an average of 75 cents (USD) per cantata, it's hard to imagine why anyone would NOT want to have this.

And why is this terrific piece not recorded more often? It's hard to believe there have been only six recordings!

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 12, 2003):
BWV 72 - Commentaries: [Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Little & Jenne (“Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach), Chafe]

See: Cantata BWV 72 - Commentary

Kirk McElhearn wrote (April 12, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< And why is this terrific piece not recorded more often? It's hard to believe there have been only six recordings! >
Six is a lot for some of them - there are cantatas that have only been recorded three times, in each of the complete sets (with other complete sets that will fill in those gaps when finished).

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2003):
BWV 72 - The Recordings:

This week I listened to the following:

Ramin (1956) [1]; Harnoncourt (1977) [4]; Rilling (1983) [2]; Leusink (1999) [5]; Gardiner (2000) [6]

Timings from slowest to fastest:

TT: Werner (24:20) [3]; Ramin (19:35); Rilling (18:10) [2]; Harnoncourt (17:29); Leusink (17:12); Gardiner (15:00)

Although I do not have the Werner recording [3], it is interesting to make the comparison between the non-HIP and HIP extremes: there is an almost 10-minute difference between the fastest and the slowest versions. The division between the two major performance types is entirely as one might expect with the HIP (Harnoncourt [4], Leusink [5], and Gardiner [6]) group having the fastest tempi. This means that the HIP conductors are forced to resort to fast tempi in order to accommodate weaknesses in both the vocal and instrumental categories: vocally the singers used are, with only a few exceptions, of the mezzavoce type (this Italian musical term aptly designates a category of limited range and volume singers) and instrumentally the use of period reconstructions often not fully mastered or played acquestionable theories (for example, Harnoncourt’s notion that Bach’s string players could only play very short 2- or 3-note phrases due to their very short bows) leads toward faster tempi to overcome deficiencies.

Here is a comparison of the separate mvts:

Mvt. 1: Harnoncourt (4:23); Leusink (3:55); Rilling (3:52); Ramin (3:51); Gardiner (3:25)

Mvt. 2: Ramin (2:45); Rilling (2:22); Leusink (2:09); Harnoncourt (2:02); Gardiner (1:55)

Mvt. 3: Ramin (5:01); Rilling (4:42); Harnoncourt (4:18); Leusink (4:18); Gardiner (3:52)

Mvt. 4: Ramin (1:35); Rilling (1:14); Leusink (1:00); Gardiner (0:56); Harnoncourt (0:49)

Mvt. 5: Ramin (4:53); Rilling (4:42); Leusink (4:41); Harnoncourt (4:37); Gardiner (3:42)

Mvt. 6: Ramin (1:30); Harnoncourt (1:20) [4]; Rilling (1:15); Gardiner (1:10); Leusink (1:09)

Mvt. 1

[1] Ramin:
This is very much an historic recording with imperfections caused by the circumstances (very little opportunity, if any, to rehearse with the instruments) and the antiquated recording techniques (at times it sounds as if this was recorded at home on a wire or very primitive tape recorder – a warbling sound here is not necessarily emanating from the singers and instrumentalists.) There are times when the strings are not always perfectly together or a moment when the parts of the choir do not quite seem to be together (“bei Gewölk” and the closing bars), but all of these negative factors are outweighed by the lively presentation and spontaneity exhibited by all the performers. There is a noticeably different overall choir sound which is remarkable because this choir consists only of boys and young men. They sing with an unmatched intensity and conviction so that all the words can be understood easily (this despite the inferior recording techniques employed!) The voice parts are well balanced.

[2] Rilling:
This is the only other non-HIP recording that I listened to. With audio technology much improved over the previous recording and with obviously more rehearsal time than Ramin had at his disposal with his orchestra, there is at least one distinctive difference that becomes immediately apparent: the choir sound, as accurately as they sing the notes and with all the expression that they are able to muster, nevertheless lacks clarity even though all the parts can be properly heard. This caused by the slight instability caused by the many wavering vibratos. The notes the choir sings do not stand as firmly as those of the Thomanerchor. This is particularly noticeable in the women’s voices where an unclear warbling effect can be heard. This is still a rather moving performance, but some of the engaging enthusiasm evident in the Thomanerchor has here been tempered by an intelligent, well-prepared approach to this music, which makes this an above average recording definitely worth listening to repeatedly.

[4] Harnoncourt:
The thin, wiry sound of the strings and the uncontrolled vocal antics of the Tölzer Knabenchor (boys) are exacerbated by the unwise demands that Harnoncourt makes upon this choir. By exaggerating the extremely strong accents, the boys (particularly the sopranos and altos,) who already/still have wavering uncertainties regarding the notes that they should be singing (some rather wide vibratos and intonational insecurities are evident here,) push and shout the accented notes (the “Al-” of “Alles”) and create a horrid, unmusical sound that resembles the ‘overblowing’ of a wind instrument which forces the pitch to go higher than it should. The coloraturas sound extremely forced and unpleasant. Wherever he can, Harnoncourt creates hiatuses after the unaccented notes which have their notated values unnecessarily shortened. This creates innumerable, lifeless ‘dead spots’ throughout the mvt. so that the continuity of the piece is constantly undermined. There is a preponderance of staccato (more than Bach had indicated in the score) and the staccato, also applied to the voices, is extremely short. All of these factors combine to create a ‘chop, chop’ and ‘hack, hack’ effect that makes this version difficult to listen to. It is as though everything here is contrived and pedantically pursued to its bitter unfulfilling end: even the final note gives the impression of ‘dying off’ rather than emphasizing with confidence what is indicated in the text. It appears that Harnoncourt does not even want to understand the affirmation contained in the words “dies soll meine Losung sein.”

[5] Leusink:
Leusink’s orchestral sound is, for the most part, cleaner and slightly less scratchy than Harnoncourt’s, but he does retain much of the staccato (not marked in the score) from his mentor’s version. With the 1st entrance of the choir, it becomes clear that these falsetto voices in the upper parts exhibit a different type of shakiness compared to the Tölz Boys’ Choir: here the problem is one where the voices are constantly on the verge of ‘breaking’ into the normal voice as they attempt artificially not to allow this to happen. This makes for a very uncomfortable listening experience which is somewhat like an inexperienced skater taking to the ice for the 1st time. There is an insecure warbling on each note rather than a clear, forthright, steady sound that one might want to expect. There are section leaders in the tenor and bass voice that stand out too much with their dry, raspy voices. Sometimes the diction leaves something to be desired, but at least this group sings with greater energy and persistence (Harnoncourt is definitely louder in his strongly shouted, accented notes) that sustains a feeling of conviction that continues even until the final note. This version is certainly a step above Harnoncourt’s misguided attempt at this mvt.

[6] Gardiner:
Now, at this fastest tempo of all, the orchestra and choir are forced into a sotto voce treatment of practically every aspect of this mvt. (there are occasional moments where Gardiner allows the singers and players to truly apply full energy to the music.) This choir is technically superior to all the others, but one wonders what they might sound like when allowed to sing in full voice from the bottom of their hearts. As it is the fast coloraturas treated lightly sound very ‘dry’ and have little substance. As a result, they are unconvincing as Gardiner rushes through the music and gives us an extremely light version of this music. How ‘lite?’ In order to obtain some semblance of contrast, Gardiner has choir practically whisper the parts in the middle section “Gottes Wille soll mich stillen.” While Gardiner does end this mvt. on a positive, affirmative note, he really has deprived the listener from having the uplifting experience of strong faith which Bach had intended.

Summary:
Ramin [1] (mainly for the sound of the choir)
Rilling [2] (for a general, reasonable, middle-of-the-road interpretation)
Gardiner [6] (a lite-entertainment version for those who want their Bach sans religion and more as background music.)
Leusink [5] (for those who can tolerate a choir with vocal problems and just to hear the music)
Harnoncourt [4] (another failed experiment, avoid this one if you can)

Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 3:

The battle of the two countertenors:

Both Esswood [4] and Buwalda [5] are problematical as far as I am concerned. Both have produced recordings decidedly worse than what you can hear in this cantata. I suppose we should be thankful that they could manage this material as welas they did.

Of the two female altos, Laurich (Rilling) [2] and Mingardo (Gardiner [6],) I would choose Laurich over Mingardo, but even Laurich’s performance does not satisfy me completely, although I would choose her over either Esswood or Buwalda anytime.

Ramin’s experiment [1] with his unnamed boy altos I find to be quite successful. I was quite surprised to hear 2 or 3 altos singing the alto aria (Mvt. 3) in unison, but the more I listened to this version, the more I felt that this approach was not only viable, but necessary in order to express the strong affirmation implied in the text.

Mvt. 5:

The battle of the boy sopranos:

Both Ramin [1] and Harnoncourt [4] use a boy soprano for this aria. Both boys exhibit some intonational insecurities caused by mainly by their vibratos. The Ramin boy soprano has a better overall range with greater strength than Harnoncourt’s Wiedl in the low part of his range, but I find his (not Wiedl’s) slow vibrato rather distracting. Wilhelm Wiedl, on the other hand, engages in some ‘messa di voce’ (quick crescendo followed by a diminuendo) which sounds utterly contrived and the bottom literally falls out when he gets into the low range. I would pick the Ramin boy soprano over Wiedl, because Wiedl simply exhibits too many vocal weaknesses.

Among the female sopranos there are 2 mezzavocis (the correct term for hemi-, demi-, semi-, mini- half voices) of which Holton [5] has a cleaner delivery of the notes (her voice sounds more like an instrument, she lacks a lower range, and she has difficulty enunciating German words properly, but at least she hits the notes squarely when the diminished volume of her voice allows it) than Gardiner’s Lunn [6] who is more difficult to listen to even though she attempts to be slightly more expressive in the rendering of the text.

This leaves only Arleen Augér [2] who is able to give this music an expressive rendition with a full voice, although she does hit some of the high notes a little too hard at times. Nevertheless, this is the version to listen to in order to experience the full impact of this music.

Mvt. 6:

[1] Ramin:
Ramin gives just the right amount of ‘pause’ on each of the fermati. This means that here none of the note value (even without the fermata being considered!) is shortened. At the very end there is a noticeable ritardando. The chorale is sung with great conviction by the Thomanerchor, thus demonstrating a tradition of how chorales should be sung properly. The message conveyed here is “I believe strongly in every word that I am singing. It fills me with strength which I want to express here musically.”

[2] Rilling:
Rilling treats the fermati as if they were not present. He extends the quarter note under the fermata for as long as he can before allowing the choir to enunciate the final consonant. This means that there is an ever-so-slight shortening of the quarter note, but somehow he has the choir maintain the necessary tension that makes one feel as if almost no break has occurred when the choir moves right into the next line of the verse. There is less strength and conviction here, however. This is a peaceful, gentle rendition which seems to say “Ok, let it happen, if it must. I really can’t do much about it anyhow.” This is the attitude of complete resignation with the individual simply allowing the inevitable to happen.

[4] Harnoncourt:
The typical features of a Harnoncourt chorale rendition are: 1) treat each quarter note as a separate entity with tiny hiatuses between the notes and do not be concerned about breaking words into syllables (‘fromme’ is treated, for example, as ‘from-‘ space/stop/hiatus and then ‘-me’;) 2) there is only a slight shortening of the quarter-note under the fermata; 3) the words/notes under the fermati are treated as unaccented, even when words such as “Gott” and “baut” occur in these positions. The end effect of Harnoncourt’s treatment of a chorale is one that might be expressed as follows: “I have to plod through this chorale with great effort and at the end of each line I am so exhausted that I feel that all my energy is gone. But then Harnoncourt cracks his whip once again as I stomp haltingly through another line of verse. When will he stop torturing me this way?”

[5] Leusink:
Leusink follows in his mentor’s footsteps by also separating generally each quarter note from the one that follows. Leusink then shortens the value of the quarter note under the fermata even more than Harnoncourt and allows the volume of this note to drop off considerably, thus undermining any sense of conviction and strength of belief that such a chorale should exhibit. With German diction already being more of a problem than with Harnoncourt’s group, the message in the text is severely undermined by treating a chorale in this fashion. The message here is “I have a lackadaisical, non-committal attitude toward the music and text of this chorale. It is something that is required at the end of most Bach cantatas. That is why we have to sing it. We think we are singing it correctly because we have heard the Harnoncourt recording and have tried to emulate this great pioneer.”

[6] Gardiner:
While the choir is a definite improvement over Leusink’s, Gardiner nevertheless repeats the characteristics already delineated above in the Harnoncourt and Leusink versions. The message Gardiner relates here is still one which tears apart the formidable strength that Bach had intended for this chorale. The lack of a flowing, singing quality that is supported by a strong belief in what one is singing is quite apparent here and in all of the HIP versions that have missed the mark in their pursuit of authenticity or in that which they believed was ‘doing this music justice’ by attempting to provide a ‘live’ quality which eluded them.

Summary:
Ramin [1] (This is the way a chorale should be sung)
Rilling [2] (A somewhat subdued version of the chorale, but otherwise reasonably good)
Gardiner [6] (Among the HIP versions, this is the best)
Leusink [5] (Slightly less extreme than Harnoncourt, but not much better)
Harnoncourt [4] (This is an anti-chorale version)

Feedback to this message, see also: Articulation

Philippe Bareille wrote (April 13, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< It appears that Harnoncourt [4] does not even want to understand the affirmation contained in the words “dies soll meine Losung sein.” >
If there is someone who is aware of the importance of words (and the message they convey) it is N. Harnoncourt [4] (and Gerhard Schmidt-Gaden). In my opinion, the choir diction, their eloquence and commitment to the text are first rate in this recording. Their approach may not suit everybody' ears, but it is very effective in bringing out the essence of this music.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Although I do not have the Werner recording [3], it is interesting to make the comparison between the non-HIP and HIP extremes: there is an almost 10-minute difference between the fastest and the slowest versions. The division between the two major performance types is entirely as one might expect with the HIP (Harnoncourt [4], Leusink [5], and Gardiner [6]) group having the fastest tempi. This means that the HIP are forced to resort to fast tempi in order to accommodate weaknesses in both the vocal and instrumental categories: vocally the singers used are, with only a few exceptions, of the mezzavoce type (this Italian musical term aptly designates a category of limited range and volume singers) and instrumentally the use of period reconstructions often not fully mastered or played according questionable theories (for example, Harnoncourt’s [4] notion that Bach’s string players could only play very short 2- or 3-note phrases due to their very short bows) leads toward faster tempi to overcome deficiencies. >
Codswallop. A fast tempo could be adopted for many reasons. Your assessment here would make logical sense if (and only if) an attempt to overcome alleged "deficiencies" or "weaknesses" is the ONLY possible reason to go faster.

As for "mezzavoce type," please give us some evidence that the word "mezzavoce" was/is considered as a voice type (a singer's entire way of being), as opposed to simply an expressive technique available to anyone. It seems to me you're just categorizing anyone who has a quiet voice as a loser, and coming up with a prejudicial term (a long series of prejudicial terms) to justify it.

< Ramin [1] gives just the right amount of ‘pause’ on each of the fermati. This means that here none of the note value (even without the fermata being considered!) is shortened. >
In your opinion.

< The typical features of a Harnoncourt chorale rendition [4] are: 1) treat each quarter note as a separate entity with tiny hiatuses between the notes and do not be concerned about breaking words into syllables (‘fromme’ is treated, for example, as ‘from-‘ space/stop/hiatus and then ‘me’;) >
As for breaking words into syllables, when was the last time you listened to the "Gloria" and the "Cum sancto spiritu" in Karl Richter's 1961 recording of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232)? The choir and orchestra there perform all the notes as half-value or less, as their default articulation. Why don't you do one of your research projects about that practice?

< Leusink [5] follows in his mentor’s footsteps by also separating generally each quarter note from the one that follows. (...) The message here is ‘I have a lackadaisical, non-committal attitude toward the music and text of this chorale. It is something that is required at the end of most Bach cantatas. That is why we have to sing it. We think we are singing it correctly because we have heard the Harnoncourt recording [4] and have tried to emulate this great pioneer.’
Clearly, this assessment is just plain bigotry, coupled with an assumption that Mr Leusink [5] is incapable of independent thought.

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (April 13, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< As for "mezzavoce type," please give us some evidence that the word "mezzavoce" was/is considered as a voice type (a singer's entire way of being), as opposed to simply an expressive technique available to anyone. >
Irrelevant is whether or not there was a "mezzavoce type" in Bach's time. Evidently it doesn't sound very expressive.

< In your opinion. >
So what?

Johan van Veen wrote (April 13, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< BWV 72 Alles nur nach Gottes Willen
The Recordings:
This week I listened to the following:
Ramin (1956)
[1]; Harnoncourt (1977) [4]; Rilling (1983) [2]; Leusink (1999) [5]; Gardiner (2000) [6]
Timings from slowest to fastest:
TT: Werner (24:20)
[3]; Ramin (19:35); Rilling (18:10); Harnoncourt (17:29); Leusink (17:12); Gardiner (15:00)
Although I do not have the Werner recording
[3], it is interesting to make the comparison between the non-HIP and HIP extremes: there is an almost 10-minute difference between the fastest and the slowest versions. The division between the two major performance types is entirely as one might expect with the HIP (Harnoncourt [4], Leusink [5], and Gardiner [6]) group having the fastest tempi. This means that the HIP conductors are forced to resort to fast tempi in order to accommodate weaknesses in both the vocal and instrumental categories: vocally the singers used are, with only a few exceptions, of the mezzavoce type (this Italian musical term aptly designates a category of limited range and volume singers) and instrumentally the use of period reconstructions often not fully mastered or played according questionable theories (for example, Harnoncourt’s [4] notion that Bach’s string players could only play very short 2- or 3-note phrases due to their very short bows) leads toward faster tempi to overcome deficiencies. >
Your comments become more ridiculous by the day. Your disdain for other interpretations than the kind you like becomes more and more obvious, which is demonstrated by the fact that you don't consider it necessary to argue why some conductors are wrong in your view. Just suggest - without any evidence - that a fast tempo is a matter of technical shortcomings is a very cheap way to escape the necessity of seriously discussing the ideas behind an interpretation.

One could easily hold the opposite view: playing and singing in a slow tempo is a sign of limited technical capabilities. But that would be just as cheap as what you write. Could you just consider the possibility that conductors have chosen tempi on the basis of a careful consideration of all relevant aspects of the music?

By the way, I find it very strange how strong your fascination with tempi is. I can't see tempo as one of the main aspects of a performance. It is one of the aspects of it, and it can only be assessed in relation to other aspects of the performance.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 13, 2003):
BWV 72 - Alles nur nach Gottes Willen

Due to pressure of time and other obligations, I shall skip the background section of my review, assuming that this area is already covered by the commentary quoted in the Introduction message I sent to the BCML last week, by more commentaries quoted by Thomas Braatz in his review, and by two commentaries available on the Web. I have not read yet the messages of other members regarding this cantata sent to the BCML prior to mine. I intend to do that after sending this message, comparing them to mine and learning from the differences.

The Recordings – Short review of 4 movements

Last week I have been listening to 5 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 72.

[1] Günther Ramin (1956)
[4] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1977)
[2] Helmuth Rilling (1983)
[5] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
[6] John Eliot Gardiner (2000)

Mvt. 1 Chorus

Ramin’s [1] enthusiasm and spirited performance is so captivating that you easily ignore its technical limitations and unpolished playing. The interpretations of some contemporary conductors could only gain, have they listened more closely to Ramin’s recordings, learning that accurate singing and playing, right pitch and instrumentation are not everything. Authencity in performance of Bach’s vocal works is much more than these factors, important as they might be. Harnoncourt’s rendition [4] is simply painful to hear. He fragments the opening chorus as he usually does, but to this approach he is adding here over-slow tempo, which breaks the wonderful chorus into individual pieces, almost unrelated to each other. It seems that he does not care much for the words. For example, in the phrase ‘Bei Gewölk und Sonnenschein’ (in cloand sunshine), to which a new melody is presented, no vividness can be heard.

Lights and shades are present abundantly in Rilling’s rendition [2]. This is the most colourful of them all. But I have the impression that Rilling puts things here too strong in your face, instead letting them grow on you. Some Herreweghian tenderness would improve this rendition.

Leusink [5] and Gardiner’s renditions of the opening chorus are major improvement after Harnoncourt. The playing of instruments in the first is good with certain roughness that gives vividness to the whole movement. The singing of the choir, although not well balanced, also reflects enthusiasm. Certainly this rendition has more flow and momentum than Harnoncourt’s. With more fleshiness it might be a high-rated rendition. Gardiner’s [6] is the most impressive rendition technically, including both HIP and non-HIP recordings. The singing and the playing are polished and vigour. But this rendition has two shortcomings. Firstly, it is too fast. Although the details are very clear, they are also hard to follow. Secondly, I got the impression that it is only one-dimensional. I mean, that after hearing other recordings, I know that this chorus has more possibilities for expression, more details to look at, and Gardiner somewhat superficial approach is hardly convincing as Ramin’s for example, is.

Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 3 Recitative, Arioso & Aria for Alto

The recitative in Ramin’s recording [1] is sung by a boy alto with beautiful voice (including slight vibrato). The accompanying organ is played delicately and sensitively by Hannes Kästner. In the ensuing aria he is joined by few other boy altos from the choir. The effect is mesmerising. I wonder why have not other conductors try to use this approach. It goes along well with the text. The only problem is that they do not sing in unison, and their individual voices can be clearly heard. On the other hand, what is wrong with it?

Esswood (with Harnoncourt) [4] gives a solid if not extraordinary performance of both the recitative and the aria for alto. This is the best part of Harnoncourt’s relatively disappointing recording. Buwalda (with Leusink) [5] is not my cup of tea regarding counter-tenors singing Bach’s vocal works. His voice is not very pleasant, his delivery sounds insecure, and his expression leaves much to be desired. I prefer singers like Daniel Taylor, Bernhard Landauer, Matthew White and others, not to speak of Andreas Scholl. Alas, none of them has recorded this cantata so far. But Yoshikazu Mera did it with Suzuki. His rendition of the two alto movements from Cantata BWV 72 is included in the CD ‘Mera Sings Bach’. I have not heard this album, and curious to hear what other members think of it.

Hildegard Laurich (with Rilling) [2] has a dark contralto voice, uncommon nowadays dominating by counter-tenors on one hand and mezzo-sopranos on the other. She has also the flexibility to express the message of both movements with authority and internal conviction. I find this rendition irresistible. Sara Mingardo’s (with Gardiner) [6] lighter voice does not have enough weight to convey the recitative convincingly. She approaches the aria from a point of view totally different from Laurich’s. She expresses happiness rather than faith and confidence. As if she is saying to us, ’I know what my way is, and I am happy with it’. This is definitely a viable option, but I still find myself preferring Laurich.

Mvt. 5 Aria for Soprano

The anonymous boy soprano, who sings this aria with Ramin [1], has a strong voice and expressive delivery. Sometimes I got the impression that he does not exactly know what to do with the material, because his rendition is somewhat lacking in the emotional aspect. Nevertheless, he is much better than Wilhem Wiedl, who sings this aria with Harnoncourt [4]. This boy is technically inferior to Peter Jelosits, the memories of whom from Cantatas BWV 58 & BWV 68 are still well engraved in my memory.

The emotional intensity of Arleen Augér (with Rilling) [2] is not matched by either Holton (with Leusink) [5] or Lunn (with Gardiner) [6]. She manages to convey the love and trust exuding from this aria. Sometimes she seems to lose control by her enthusiasm, but IMO that makes her performance even more truthful. The other two female sopranos are too pale and restrained to my taste. Although Holton’s singing is apparently cleaner than Augér’s, it is lacking in depth. Lunn is even more ‘neutral’ than Holton and her voice less pleasant.

Conclusion

A movement to take away: the Aria for Alto with Hildegard Laurich and Rilling [2].

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 14, 2003):
Holton, a fully trained voice (and BWV 72)

Thomas Braatz wrote:
[5] < (...) I will repeat what I have said many times before: any listener who wants to listen to Holton in this aria with the Leusink group will have a pleasant listening experience, one that can be used as background music while doing other things, driving to work, jogging, walking, doing other work in the house, but there is another (IMO) higher level of experiencing the same music in such a way that it becomes completely engaging. Both the text and Bach's music are combined in such a way that they speak more directly, more convincingly to the listener. This is accomplished best of all by a singer with a fully trained voice. >

Bio: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Bio/Holton-Ruth.htm

In a Steve Reich piece: http://www.slis.keio.ac.jp/~ohba/Reich/Disc2/srcdem18.html

As for "completely engaging," I listened to the cantata BWV 72 at least six times last week, and found the soprano aria (especially) to be completely engaging in Holton's performance. Indeed, the first few times, I thought I was listening to an extraordinarily good boy treble, not a female soprano, as I hadn't looked at the singer's name on the CD box...there is such wonderful purity and control in her voice, and an innocent sound that seems wholly appropriate for the text (sweetening one's cross, and resting in Jesus' arms, comfort in a childlike faith [like in Matthew 18], and all that). Beautiful. And Holton has an exquisite way of shaping tones, and using a light vibrato as an ornament--to intensify phrases expressively, rather than employing it all the way through everything. And her way of delivering that last phrase of the aria melts me, every time I hear it...I've run the laser back several times to hear that phrase by itself, again and again, as a treat. That seems pretty direct and convincing to me, and I've found it to be much more than "a pleasant listening experience."

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 16, 2003):
BWV 72 Mvt. 5 Epanalepsis

(with apologies to J. S. Bach, who, I hope, will not be offended by my attempt to categorize or label an aspect of his music)

In this beautiful soprano aria, as Brad kindly pointed out, there is a very moving moment at the very end of the aria. The soprano makes a somewhat unexpected entrance with a repetition of a short phrase at the very end of this mvt. The soprano sings twice in quick succession “mein Jesus will es tun.” These are the exact words with which this aria began. Although not a common occurrence in Bach’s arias which usually end with a final instrumental ritornello, there are a few other notable instances where Bach also applthe same technique as in BWV 72/5 (Mvt. 5).

This technique is based upon a figure of speech which defines exactly what Bach is doing when he has the vocalist, at the conclusion of the aria, sing once again the opening words of the aria. This figure is called ‘epanalepsis’ and is defined as follows:

Epanalepsis
“(Lat. ‘geminatio, resumption’) which Puttenham (“The Arte of English Poesie, 1589, p. 200) calls “Eccho sound,” is the repetition of the beginning at the end, a figure ‘per adiectionem.’ “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). A generic term, ‘epanalepsis’ encompasses the repetition of single words (‘iteratio’) and of whole phrases (‘repetitio’). When it comes at the beginning and end of a longer passage, it is termed ‘inclusio’ (Arthur Quinn, “Figures of Speech,”Davis, Calif., 1993, p. 88). Although the sentence or paragraph structure would be potentially complete without it, epanalepsis is introduced to rouse strong affections like love and hate and to add emphasis to a statement.” (quoted from “Encyclopedia of Rhetoric” [Sloane, ed.] Oxford, 2001, pp. 250-1).

OED: “a figure by which the same word or clause is repeated after intervening matter.”

Here are some additional examples from Bach’s arias which I have found:

SJP BWV 245/30 - Alto aria “Es ist vollbracht

BWV 94/3 - Tenor aria „Was frag ich nach der Welt

BWV 22/4 - Tenor aria „Mein alles in allem, mein ewiges Gut

BWV 159/4 - Bass aria „Es ist vollbracht

BWV 85/5 - Tenor aria „Seht was die Liebe tut

BWV 66/4 - Bass aria – the words before the coda „Täglich wird seine Barmherzigkeit neu

It would be stretching the meaning of epanalepsis to apply it to the numerous instances where Bach simple uses an echo effect, where the echo follows immediately upon the 1st statement. Here are a few examples of this type:

BWV 78/2 – Soprano, Alto duet – this really qualifies only as an echo effect on the words „zu dir“ [This is the famous „Wir eilen“ aria.]

This type of quick (almost immediate) ‘echoing’ also occurs sometimes in choral mvts.: BWV 127/1, BWV 129/1, etc.

Continue of tis part of the discussion, see: Epanalepsis

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 72: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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