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Cantata BWV 72
Alles nur nach Gottes Willen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions on the Week of January 24, 2010

Jens F. Laurson wrote (January 24, 2010):
BWV 72

Alles nur nach Gottes Willen, BWV 72

Written for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany
First performance January 27th, 1726
(Bach's third time around to write a cantata for that day in Leipzig.)

1. Chorus: "Alles nur nach Gottes Willen"
2. Recitative, Arioso (alto): "O selger Christ"
3. Aria (alto): "Mit allem was ich hab und bin"
3. Recitative (tenor): "So glaube nun!"
4. Aria (soprano): "Mein Jesus will es tun"
5. Chorale: "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit"

Liturgy: Romans 12: 17-21; Gospel: Matthew 8: 1-13

Movements:

It has been suggested that these post-Epiphany cantatas are as short as they are (about 15 minutes) to take it easy on Leipzigers shivering at the Thomaskirche. Discussing the Gardiner recording [6], Donald Satz calls BWV 72 "one of Bach's best cantatas". Bach-loving cynics might point out that that applies to 90% of Bach's cantatas, so to be "one of the best" isn't as distinctive a quality as it may sound. It's certainly a very fine cantata. But it is short and it isn't really studded with memorable (as opposed to plain beautiful) moments.

(Perhaps those who are interested and familiar with the cantata could help flesh out the comments about individual movements as part of this week's discussion?)

Mvt. 1: Chorus: "Alles nur nach Gottes Willen" ("Everything only according to God's will")

The busy-bee introduction with the violins whirring over the repetitive two-note bass line is a joyous, catchy moment. It is what immediately impressed me about this work, and perhaps it is what led Don to embrace
this cantata so immediately and so wholly.

Mvt. 2: Recitative & Arioso (alto): "O selger Christ" ("Oh, blessed Christian")

Mvt. 3: Aria (alto): "Mit allem was ich hab und bin" ("With everything I have and am")

Mvt. 4: Recitative (tenor): "So glaube nun!" ("Believe now!")

Mvt. 5: Aria (soprano): "Mein Jesus will es tun" ("My Jesus will do it")

The most beautiful among the many beautiful moments in this cantata is arguably the soprano aria, especially for the oboes that precede and accompany the singer. The calm and content exuded here really does sound like written to help in assuming one's burden and sorrows and have the worries be swept away by our faith in Jesus' sacrifice. The complete effect here is much dependent on the ease and beauty of the soprano.

Mvt. 6: Chorale: "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit" ("What my God wants shall happen evermore")

This is the same basic chorale that opens BWV 111. which why it was so incredibly familiar to me when I listened to it. (And incredibly frustrating because it took me forever why that was so.)

A selection of recordings:

BWV 72 is even more rarely featured outside comprehensive cantata surveys than the previous cantatas under discussion (BWV 73 & BWV 111). Which is to say: not at all. Currently available on single discs are only Suzuki's [9], Rilling's [2], and-pending availability-Gardiner's recordings [6]. (Since Suzuki has recorded this cantata relatively recently, BWV 72 is not included in the four 10-disc anniversary boxes released in 2009.)

Suzuki, BIS, vol.42 [9]: Amazon.com > ,

Koopman [7], Challenge, vol.19: Amazon.com

Rilling, Hänsler, vol.23 [2]: Amazon.com (BWV 71-74)

Gardiner, Archiv, 463582 [6]: Amazon.com

Complete discography at www.bach-cantatas.com:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV72.htm

Comments on recordings:

Robin Blaze (Suzuki [9]) is not a gain, in my ears-but solid enough not to be an outright liability. Rachel Nicholls, especially considering that in my book she has to contend with the imaginary alternative of Suzuki's other regular soprano, Carolyn Sampson, nicely acquits herself of the challenge. Among single discs, it is the clear first choice-challenge comes only from Koopman [7]. Sandrine Piau is the most outstanding soprano in this case, and I have always found alto Bogna Bartosz plenty pleasant. I complain about Gardiner [6] rushing below, and I don't about Koopman-even though his BWV 72 is, movement for movement, the speediest of them all. It goes to show, I suppose, that not seconds or even beats per minute are the most important element in determining how fast a piece of music feels, but qualities of interpretation that go beyond plain numbers.

Rilling [2] has solid soloists (Arleen Auger and Helen Donath, for example), but they sound like his Gächinger Kantorei: historically uninformed and lurching; a compromise between Richter and what was to come. But achieving the benefits of neither. Not a highlight among Rilling's discs. Gardiner [6], on what I consider to be one of his weakest cantata discs to date, rushes the closing chorale (Mvt. 6). The opening chorus is vigorously shaped, but could well be too aggressive for some tastes. especially since Gardiner [6] (at least in these Epiphany Cantatas) tends to get choppy. Sara Mingardo is the one big asset of these recordings; her rich voice-never shying away from tasteful vibrato-contrasts all too starkly with Stephen Varcoe who has just a few truly pleasing moments among those four cantatas.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 24, 2010):
[To Jens F. Laurson] This Cantata is indeed a rarity but in part that observation can be made as a compliment, for the text sees Bach setting, very unusually, a litany: this is the Bass recitative BWV 72/2, "O selger Christ". As Dürr points out , the falling phrase on "Herr, so du willt" is renedered so as to create an arioso.

Of the scholars' comments who have looked into this text, the most intesting is a neglected observation by James Day in 1961 ("The Literary background to Bach's Cantatas"). While it is indeed the case that the origin of the text is proximately Salomo Franck's, in fact it appears that the text ultimately bears a close resemblance to a sonnet by the famous Silesian school poet Hoffman von Hofmanswaldau.

Renate Steiger devotes 30 pages of analysis to this work in her " Doctrina et Pietas" volume, "Gnadengegenwart; Lutherische Orthodoxies und Froemmigkeit", and focusses on the theme of Christian resignation, which reaches an almost Quietistic intensity in this cantata; she quotes the Pietist Arndt in tcontext, and refers to the Muller sermon collection which decidedly influenced other Bach works.

So, ignored or not, BWV 72 emerges as a work of especial poetic and theological significance. It is also perhaps numerologically significant; Hirsch detects 163 notes in the arioso itself, equal to the number alphabet count of "Herr, so du willt."

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 24, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< It has been suggested that these post-Epiphany cantatas are as short as they are (about 15 minutes) to take it easy on Leipzigers shivering at the Thomaskirche. >
I love these 20th century projections back to the 18th century: now in addition to the Exhausted Choir and Underperforming Orchestra hypotheses we have the Wimpish Congregation thesis. As if trimming 5 minutes from a three hour service is going to help!

Reminds me of an anecdote about courtiers at the court of Henry VIII. No one sat in public at court and an official day was filled with endless hours of standing. On one occasion, two secretaries had already stood waiting for the king in his ante-chamber. The king stormed in past them to his privy chamber and they had no option but to stand and wait for them. They did not dare sit on official business. Henry reappeared after three hours.

In the 18th century, you were either tough or you died. All of Bach's singers and instrumentalists performed standing (cellists excepted). None of the dead air we have in modern performances of Bach's cantatas as chairs are shuffled and singers sit and stand. In fact, one of my chief complaints about performances is that conductors rarely "conduct" the time between movements (as they would in a Passion) with the result that we have a series of individual movements with dead air between them.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 24, 2010):
How cold was it in 18th century Europe? [was originally: BWV 72]

Douglas Cowling wrote:
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
<< It has been suggested that these post-Epiphany cantatas are as short as they are (about 15 minutes) to take it easy on Leipzigers shivering at the Thomaskirche. >>
Maybe a bit off topic, but it REALLY was freezing cold in 18th century Europe, and here are some numbers to give you an idea:
1740 was one of the coldest years of that century: the average was 44 degrees F (or 6.8 C.), the yearly average currently for the United Kingdom is about 21 degrees warmer. The coldest Summer was in 1725, where the mean was 50 degrees (13.10 C.)

You can view the monthly averages @ http://www.rmets.org/pdf/qj74manley.pdf

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 25, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< As if trimming 5 minutes from a three hour service is going to help! >
I had a little side bet with myself, after reading Jens introduction, as to whether I could beat Doug with this observation.

DC:
< In the 18th century, you were either tough or you died. >
Tough, and lucky, were probably best of all! Not so different now, come to think of it. Everything just lasts a bit longer.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 25, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< BWV 72 is even more rarely featured outside comprehensive cantata surveys than the previous cantatas under discussion (BWV 73 & BWV 111). Which is to say: not at all. Currently available on single discs are only Suzuki's [9], Rilling's [2], and?pending availability?Gardiner's recordings [6].
Gardiner, Archiv, 463582
[6]: Amazon.com >
I recently indicated that the Gardiner pilgrimage for Epiphany 3 on Archiv [6] was out of print. That is incorrect. As Jens points out, it is listed on amazon.com at reasonable price, both new and used

JL:
< Comments on recordings:
Among single discs, it is the clear first choice?challenge comes only from Koopman
[7]. Sandrine Piau is the most outstanding soprano in this case, and I have always found alto Bogna Bartosz plenty pleasant. I complain about Gardiner [6] rushing below, and I don't about Koopman?even though his BWV 72 is, movement for movement, the speediest of them all. It goes to show, I suppose, that not seconds or even beats per minute are the most important element in determining how fast a piece of music feels, but qualities of interpretation that go beyond plain numbers. >
EM:
It is nice to see comments on recordings in the introductions. I will try to give the Gardiner [6] a complete listen this week, including checking timings, and respond to Jens comments. I do recall a general impression, on first hearing, that there was something lacking in the Archiv pilgrimage releases, compared to those by Gardiner himself on SDG, but this may have come from a misunderstanding as the result of the misleading labeling by Archiv that I noted previously.

A few years ago, several of us expressed enthusiasm for Bogna Bartosz in the Koopmnan set. Her presence was a strong motivating factor for many of the ones that I bought, a decision I do not regret.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 26, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< Mvt. 6: Chorale: "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit" ("What my God wants shall happen evermore")
This is the same basic chorale that opens
BWV 111. which why it was so incredibly familiar to me when I listened to it. (And incredibly frustrating because it took me forever (to find) why that was so.) >
I'm pleased you finally made the connection -:)

[Discussing the cantatas composed for a given church event (here, Epiphany 3), as we are at present, does aid in this type of discovery. Another thing we observe is a type of recitative leading without a break into an aria in a very similar fashion, in the bass aria in BWV 73, and the alto aria in BWV 72 (Mvt. 3). Also the frequent use of the phrase "Lord, as you willt" - from the day's gospel - in BWV 73 and BWV 72].

It's interesting to compare the final 4-part chorale harmonisations (with the same CM) of BWV 111 and BWV 72. They are quite different; and there is a structural difference as well: the first phrase of the Abgesang in BWV 111 is a bar longer than that in BWV 72.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/PDFCH/011106.pdf
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/PDFCH/007206.pdf

The CM's extension in BWV 111 (like a slow inverted mordent) perhaps is meant to emphasize the word "wehr" (defend); in 72 the corressponding word "Noth" (need) is set to a lovely G major-7th chord, without the CM's extension.

The other noteable difference is in the lead up to the final chord; in BWV 111 finishing on the A minor chord, but in 72 we have more complex and expressive harmonies (dim. and dom. 7ths) resolving into the A major concluding chord (the "Tierce de Picardie").

-----

Briefly, I find the the latest recordings - Gardiner [6], Koopman [7] and Suzuki [9] - to be pushing the spedd limit of this cantata. While the opening chorus can be exciting at such vigorous tempos, the soprano aria, for me, loses the "passionate sweetness" of more moderate tempo versions such as Leusink and older; and fast-paced final chorales (Mvt. 6) can become trivial.

(Obviously, list members disagree; some apparently like the new, brisk, "dance"-likpresentation of movements such as this lovely soprano aria).

But all of the sopranos in the older versions leave something to be desired; Auger (with Rilling) [2], perhaps the best of them , is too forceful on higher notes; Werner's soprano [3], though attractive, has too much vibrato, the boy sopranos in other recordings aren't satisfying.

For once, both Rilling [2] and Werner [3] have fine, richly expressive female altos whose vibratos remain attractive, complemented by strong violin sound in the charming "double concerto"-like string instrumentation of the alto aria (Mvt. 3).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 26, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
<< Mvt. 6: Chorale: "Was mein Gott will, das g'scheh allzeit" ("What my God wants shall happen evermore")
This is the same basic chorale that opens
BWV 111. which why it was so incredibly familiar to me when I listened to it. (And incredibly frustrating because it took me forever (to find) why that was so.) >>
Neil Halliday wrote>
< I'm pleased you finally made the connection -:)
[Discussing the cantatas composed for a given church event (here,
Epiphany 3), as we are at >present, does aid in this type of discovery. >
That was the intent of the present discussion format, after a fair amount of disagreement as to preferences, and I expect, a fair amount of work by Aryeh and Doug to organize the sequence. Nice to see it paying off. I am quite impressed that we are discussing a cantata for Epiphany 3 on the actual date in 2010. Skill or luck, hardly matters.

NH:
< Another thing we observe is a type of recitative leading without a break into an aria in a very similar fashion, in the bass aria in BWV 73, and the alto aria in BWV 72 (Mvt. 3). Also the frequent use of the phrase "Lord, as you willt" - from the day's gospel - in BWV 73 and BWV 72]. >
EM:
For related thoughts, see Julian Minchams article in the 2009 BNUK journal, for which I cannot easily provide the link while writing. Sooncome (Island talk).

NH:
< The CM's extension in 111 >
EM:
Point of order. I know it is tedious, but it really is a bit easier to read (and to search) if BWV is inserted in front of the number, as first noted by Thomas Braatz many years ago, when the BCW search function was a novelty.

NH
< Briefly, I find the the latest recordings - Gardiner [6], Koopman [7] and Suzuki [9] - to be pushing the spedd limit of this cantata. >
EM:
Pushing the spedd limit? Well just slow down a bit, Mate.

NH:
< While the opening chorus can be exciting at such vigorous tempos, the soprano aria, for me, loses the "passionate sweetness" of more moderate tempo versions such as Leusink and older; and fast-paced final chorales (Mvt. 6) can become trivial. >
EM:
I think Jens made some interesting points in his intro, distinguishing between actual tempo, and the perception of speed. I agree. Gardiner [6] strikes me as excessively quick in this instance, but I listened after reading that opinion. I would like to clear my mind and ears, and listen to the comparisons with an open mind.

NH:
< (Obviously, list members disagree; some apparently like the new, brisk, "dance"-like presentation of movements such as this lovely soprano aria). >
EM:
One thing that is very obvious is that the list memebers who enjoy writing also enjoy their opinions, not all of which are the same. In fact, not even necessarily consistent. The same list member may change their opinion from time to time. I think I absorbed that point from Neil H.

I have no problem enjoying apparently contradictory interpretations, but I cut my teeth listening to folks like Dizzy, Miles, Mingus, Monk, and Trane live. I know it is deep trouble when Dizzy is the example of a responsible guy in the group.

NH:
< For once, both Rilling [2] and Werner [3] have fine, richly expressive female altos whose vibratos remain attractive, complemented by strong violin sound in the charming "double concerto"-like string instrumentation of the alto aria (Mvt. 3). >
EM:
For once? Now I feel challenged to find another instance, of which I expect there are several. Not to mention some of the superb Richter traditional recordings, usually assembled as pastiches, sometimes across years. I just do not see it as an either/or choice. Why not enjoy a Gardiner pilgrimage concert performance [6], recorded in real time with rehearsal available for back-up, coming up to ten years in the process of release; as well as a Richter studio production, sometimes nearing ten years in the making? I will check that time calculation, perhaps a bit of hyperbole, re Richter.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2010):
If you get lemons, make lemonade. What a blessing that DG Archiv abandoned the CD releases of the Gardiner pilgrimage recordings, leaving it to Gardiner to create the superb SDG set. From the notes to the DG CD for Epiphany 3 [6] (what might have been):

<On intensely cold mornings, the choir was allowed to leave during the sermon; as a further concession Bach, whenever possible, made his winter cantatas fairly short.>

Special thanks to Doug Cowling for patiently (and persistently!) pointing out the absurdity of this concept (especially the whenever possible?!): that Bach wrote short stuff for the winter!

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 27, 2010):
Wimpish choirs

Ed Myskowski wrote:
<On intensely cold mornings, the choir was allowed to leave during the sermon; as a further concession Bach, whenever possible, made his winter cantatas fairly short.>
I'd like to see the evidence for this. Either Stiller or Wolff points out that the boys were allowed to leave the choir loft after the communion music. Presumably they (and the men?) lined up, descended the loft stairs and went to the altar to receive communion. The source I read wasn't clear if they left the church after receiving or remained in the choir stalls at the east end of the nave or returned to the loft. They were still required to sing the polyphonic responses to the Post-Communion Prayer and Blessing. The scholarship boys left the church after the communion as they were required to serve at table at the noon-day meal.

Life was tough for choirboys. The poorer boys had to solicit donations by singing chorales in the streets especially at Christmas. "Quem Pastores Laudavere" was such a popular song at Christmas that "laudavere" became a German verb meaning to go out caroling. We do know that there was concern that all the outdoor singing was having an adverse effect on the boys' voices. However, the concern was not solicitude for their comfort and health, but rather concern that the music wouldn't be good enough.

There's a lot of truth in that Gorey-esque engraving of the choirboys crossing the square from the school to church.

Jens F. Laurson wrote (January 28, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< On intensely cold mornings, the choir was allowed to leave during the sermon; as a further concession Bach, whenever possible, made his winter cantatas fairly short.>>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'd like to see the evidence for this... >
I can provide no evidence... but as a cushy choirboy in the 80s of the last century, I know that we often had shorter masses picked on cold days--so as not to freeze unnecessarily in the icy cold Regensburg Cathedral. (Except for Christmas eve, one year, which I remember as painfully cold despite two sweaters, two pairs of long underwear, tunic, pants, and whatnot. The Countess, across from us, looked more co, in her fur. :-) ) In any case, there is no reason to assume that five minutes less of suffering would not have been meaningful at any time in history, no matter how cruel the circumstances.

Leaving during the sermon (which we were not allowed to--but we were allowed to sit. And I, in any case, often pretended to be sick from the incense [I wasn't at all--I loved incense] and was sometimes let go to get fresh air in the sacristy's courtyard. I assume my choir director full well knew I was pretending to be pale around the nose... but he was an absolutely wonderful man, full of quiet understanding and calm authority.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 28, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< In any case, there is no reason to assume that five minutes less of suffering would not have been meaningful at any time in history, no matter how cruel the circumstances. >
I nearly wrote this point, but could not think of a concise way to state it. Thnaks for doing so.

I find it reminiscent of the American (?) joke: <It is like hittng yourself over the head with hammer, because it feels so good when you stop.>

As to evidence for Bachs intent, that is presumably non-existent, but even the basic facts of the premise do not hold up. Consider the relative timings (minutes) for various dates, all in self-consistent (if longish, by 21st C. performance standards) estimates by Durr:

January dates:
Epiphany 1: 17, 17, 24
Epiphany 2: 13, 27, 21
Epiphany 3: 17, 22, 20, 17
Epiphany 4: 19, 18

June(ish) dates:
Trinity: 15, 13, 24
Trinity 1: 40 (opening day in Leipzig), 31, 24
Trinity 2: 35, 20
Trinity 3: 44, 17

As concisely as possible:
(1) It is difficult to extract a pattern of brevity for the coldest season, the Sundays after Epiphany. The shortest of the group was in fact written before Leipzig, although I suppose it could be argued that brevity was a factor in its selection for re-performance.

(2) The longest works for the Trinity season all have the special consideration that they were Bachs introduction to Leipzig.

(3) The shortest work of this group which was written in Leipzig, and the shortest average performance time, both fall on Trinity Sunday. I do not see any possible climate considerations, not to mention that Trinity seems to deserve some special consideration as the concluding Sunday for the first half of the liturgic year.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 27, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< (Except for Christmas eve, one year, which I remember as painfully cold despite two sweaters, two pairs of long underwear, tunic, pants, and whatnot. he Countess, across from us, looked more comfortable, in her fur. :-) ) In any case, there is no reason to assume that five minutes less of suffering would not have been meaningful at any time in history, no matter how cruel the circumstances >
Catholic Clergy in Central European countries had their furred almuces to keep them warm: Photo

Speaking of Christmas Eve, is there any evidence that "Christnacht" was celebrated on Christmas Eve in Leipzig? There was no Midnight Mass as in Catholic churches. The service was popular among German Lutherans and consisted of the mass up to the sermon. The church was illuminated by candles, and Christmas chorales such as "Quem Pastores" and "Joseph Lieber Joseph" were sung "in Wechsel", that is each line sung successively by various antiphonal choirs of "angelic" boys spread around the church. The antiphonal layout of the second movement of "Singet den Herrn" echoes the old Wechselgesänge arrangement. We know from the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) that boys sang antiphonally from the "Swallow's Nest" gallery over the chancel arch in St. Thomas.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2010):
Jens F. Laurson wrote:
< challenge comes only from Koopman [7]. Sandrine Piau is the most outstanding soprano in this case, and I have always found alto Bogna Bartosz plenty pleasant. I complain about Gardiner [6] rushing below, and I don't about Koopman, even though his BWV 72 is, movement for movement, the speediest of them all. It goes to show, I suppose, that not seconds or even beats per minute are the most important element in determining how fast a piece of music feels, but qualities of interpretation that go beyond plain numbers. >
I only got around to listening to this specific comparison (Koopman [7], Gardiner [6]) last evening. I have nothing new to add, but I thought it worth posting an agreement with Jens point: the Gardiner does indeed feel the quicker of the two despite the fact that Koopman is the speedier in absolute time. Incidentally, the published timings for both are spot on. The Gardiner articulation sounds crisper (if not quite staccato) to me, but I wonder to what extent this diffference may be influenced by recording venue and/or engineering? Of course, nothing is crisper than a Koopman continuo organ ping beneath a recit!

Re the BRML posts on the Koopman set, I have about half of them, accumulated a while back with careful price shopping over the course of a year or so. Total investment something under $300, so $400 for a complete set does not look bad to me. Of course, I never intended to spend even the $300, it just added up, $25-30 at a time, seems like there is always the need for just one more. I am certainly happy to have BWV 72 available to enjoy Jens comparison for myself, as well as the absolute value of a fine performance. BTW, I noticed and agree with Julians comment re Klaus Mertens satisfying bass singing, throughout the Koopman set. For myself, I cannot say enough good about Bogna Bartosz alto; that fine Polish name does no harm, either.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2010):
I neglected to provide the promised link:
(Just go to http://www.bachnetwork.co.uk and select 'Journal')

for Julian Mincham's fine article re the analysis of Bach recits, relevant to BWV 72/2 although that is not one of Julians specific examples. BCML correspondent Peter Smaill also has an article (which I have not yet read) in the same journal.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Just to add to Ed's note that if you wish to read the articles published in the BNUK pubclication on line I think you have to join and provide a password. I don't think there's a fee for that. When you consider that C Wolff, R Tatlow, J Butt and others are active contributors (JEG was the key speaker at the last event) you may find it worth pursuing. Also there are usually interesting contributions from academics from Russia and Israel etc at the cutting egde of Bach research.

I did put a note on line about this event a year or so ago but as noone responded I didn't follow it up.

By the way a thanks to Teri Towe who alerted me to this group a few years ago--via this list as it happens!

The next of the annual conferences will be held in Belfast later this year for those who are interested. There are usually delegates from all round the world.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
Erratum--just checked it out. If you go to the journals drop down on the link befow that will take you throuth to the contributor's names and you just click on 'full text' to find the articles. You don't nee d to join.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Just to add to Ed's note that if you wish to read the articles published in the BNUK publication on line I think you have to join and provide a password. I don't think there's a >fee for that. >
I accessed the BNUK Journal from a public high-speed connection; I do not recall if I needed to create a password account, but there was definitely no fee. Very user friendly, and I found Julians music examples espnicely presented.

The topic is indeed worthy of ongoing discussion.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thyanks Ed

You'll see that I have corrected my first misleading post on the website.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 1, 2010):
Bach and Imprimaturs

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The topic is indeed worthy of ongoing discussion >
[To Peter Smaill] In your article,"Bach among the Heretics", you write that the Superintendent Deyling had no part in prohibition of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) in 1739, but that he habitually selected from three cantata texts the work to be composed (the source is the 18th century Friedrich Röchlitz quoted in Stiller.)

Without igniting the flame-war about censorship from a couple of years ago, would you comment on the selection process between Bach and his superior, the Lutheran equivalent of the bishop of Leipzig? It strikes me as implausible that Bach had to present three fully-written poetic librettos from which one would be chosen to be composed. That's an extraordinary waste of time and talent on both Bach and the poet's part. Consider the effort required to present the libretti of the six cantatas of the Christmas Oratorio in three versions.

Taking the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) for example, is it not more reasonable to assume that Bach first approached Deyling a couple of years before and informally discussed his new idea of a sequence of cantatas using the complete Christmas narrative. Deyling may well have had suggestions about the choice of texts as well as theological themes and chorales -- we don't know if sermons and cantatas were composed in tandem.

Bach then would have discussed the libretto with the poet and a draft produced. Bach may have asked for revisions at this time. It is at this point that that Deyling might have been asked for his imprimatur for the text. Even with an orthodox stalwart like Bach on staff, I can't believe that the Superintendent didn't at least have a pro forma sign off before the cantata booklets were printed and the cantata parts were copied and rehearsed and thus seen by other people. I'm sure Bach's compositional process both mental and physical began long before.

BY the way, the Shabalina article in the same issue has some nice facsimiles of the cantata textbooks. The Pentecost text is surmounted by an engraving with putti holding the motto, "Soli Deo Gloria".

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 1, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Deyling may well have had suggestions about the choice of texts as well as theological themes and chorales -- we don't know if sermons and cantatas were composed in tandem. >
Was it not, in fact, part of Bachs job description that the cantatas should provide exposition of the seermon theme?

< Even with an orthodox stalwart like Bach on staff, I can't believe that the Superintendent didn't at least have a pro forma sign off before the cantata booklets were printed and the cantata parts were copied and rehearsed and thus seen by other people. I'm sure Bach's compositional process both mental and physical began long before. >
A lot of key information in that little paragraph, worth repeating to make sure no one misses it! I wish to emphasize that I have absoloutely no prior experise on this subject. I do enjoy following, and occasionally commenting on the BCML discussion. Note that the very existence of the cantata booklets, even if there were no other evidence, proves that the texts were prepared and available long (up to a minimum of a couple months) in advance of cantata first performance.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 1, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] I rather agree with Douglas' observation - Bach had quite a free hand with the Cantata texts-, for which the practicalities of Bach's schedule is a further persuasive argument!

In my essay on "Bach among the Heretics" I noted that Rochlitz, normally considered a dependable source , had stated (set out in Stiller's "Liturgical Life in Leipzig" ) that Bach presented in advance of a given Sunday three texts for Deyling to choose from. However, the several examples of the influence of non-Lutheran ideas suggests that (while not actually heretical) the texts show an assimilation of Calvinist and Quietist emphases, with the 1726 texts from Meiningen strangely allusive to semi-pelagianism (justification through one's efforts) and even pantheism. The definition of the Trinity is shaky in one of the few trio settings by Bach; and maybe even he is himself interested in millenarianism, for Bach notes in the margins of his Calov Bible two possible computed dates for the end of the world (One was from memory 1942 ).

The discernible shifting to and fro in emphases across the cycles suggests to me that Deyling, who outlived Bach, did not exercise much control. It is the secular Council which bans the 1739 (probable) St. John Passion (BWV 245), Bach saying "if it is on account of the words, it had been performed many times before". Hence my hunt for some terrible heresy in Bach- but what it was, is still an open question. The St Mark Passion (BWV 247) may have been considered Universalist- all get to Heaven in two of the arias-, whether you believe or not. Whether for sure this is the upset; or a pretext for the Pietists on the Council to ban the St John by mistake- is a subject for others to conclude!

Hunting for the "heresy" was an interesting exercise in tackling and analysing the texts. If others can access the essay at the BNUK website (UB4, Conference in Oxford January 2009), I will be more than happy in this esoteric area to have comments, suggestions, and feedback.For technical reasons my (necessarily subjective) spreadsheet analysing every Cantata by doctrinal emphasis could not be published but I will be happy to let anyone specially interested have a copy.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< A lot of key information in that little paragraph, worth repeating to make sure no one misses it! I wish to emphasize that I have absoloutely no prior experise on this subject. I do enjoy following, and occasionally commenting on the BCML discussion. Note that the very existence of the cantata booklets, even if there were no other evidence, proves that the texts were prepared and available long (up to a minimum of a couple months) in advance of cantata first performance. >
Absolutely. And one of the BNUK papers last year was on the finding of some of these booklets which had been lost for years in Russian archives.

The fact that the congregation had the opportunity to read the texts in advance of the performances of the cantatas may mean that some of them got more out of Bach.s intricate picture painting, symbolism and text references than might otherwise have been supposed.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Hunting for the "heresy" was an interesting exercise in tackling and analysing the texts. If others can access the essay at the BNUK website (UB4, Conference in Oxford January 2009), I will be more than happy in this esoteric area to have comments, suggestions, and feedback.For technical reasons my (necessarily subjective) spreadsheet analysing every Cantata by doctrinal emphasis could not be published but I will be happy to let anyone specially interested have a copy. >
I for one one love to have a copy if it's not too much trouble.

On another matter, I came across a reference to jesus stremgthening the 'militant church' recently (BWV 134/4). This seemed to me to be a rather odd comment within a festive Easter cantata (albeit the reuse of Cöthen secular cantata--but I guess that's not really relevant as the text was completely rewritten)

I wondered if you had any view on this particular line? Do you find it rather odd?

(It was presented for the Easter celebrations of 1724, the first cycle if the timing might mean anything).

Peter Smaill wrote (February 1, 2010):
[To Julian Mincham] BWV 134 is for the thiday of Easter, Easter Tuesday; and what struck me about it is the bias towards the theme of "Christus Victor", which is explicitly and extravagantly expressed. It was Jaroslav Pelikan who first suggested that this is also the doctrine of the SJP (BWV 245), notably the central chorlae, Durch dein Gefaegnis;, whereas the emphasis in the SMP is Anselmian, the image of the sacrificial lamb atoning for sinful man.As mentioned, these two images collide in some Cantatas, such as BWV 78; and two representations of Christ in the two contrasting role are painted simultaneously on the altarpiece of the (now styled) Herderkirche in Weimar where Bach had children baptised.

From my studies it is therefore not likely that this long-standing tension in Christian interpretations of Calvary was the problem in 1739. It is just conceivable that both BWV 134 and the SJP (BWV 245) were diliked because the Anselmian doctrine is not emphasised, but it's not an easy argument to push because of the persistence of the competing imagery.

William Hoffman wrote (February 1, 2010):
Stimulating discussion which we should pursue. I am teaching a class on Bach's so-called "Christological Cycle" of major works (Chafe, Tonal Allegory) this spring while also pursuing various themes for this year's BCW discussion of the St. John Passion (BWV 245). Meanwhile, I have just finished reading an interesting book, "My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance and Discipleship in the Music of Bach" by Calvin R. Stapert (Eerdman's Pub., Grand Rapids MI & Cambridge UK, 2000). His basic theme is that Bach's Christological interests show a strong connection with the Calvinist Heidelberg Catechism. Stapert covers a lot of ground -- theological, historical, musical. There of course are still important questions about the SJP (BWV 245), such as the Hamburg influences, the 1717 proto Gotha Passion, and the reasons for taking up John's non-synoptic Christus Victor Passion first in 1724. Anyways, it's fun finding and connecting all kinds of dots.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 1, 2010):
[To Peter Smaill] Hmmm not sure that that answers my question about the seeming oddness of referring to dissention within the church within a work composed as a part of the Lutheran observance?

But perhaps there isn't an answer.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 1, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< For technical reasons my (necessarily subjective) spreadsheet analysing every Cantata by doctrinal emphasis could not be published but I will be happy to let anyone specially interested have a copy. >
Me please!

Neil Halliday wrote (February 2, 2010):
BWV 72

Ed Myskowski wrote:
>I thought it worth posting an agreement with Jens point: the Gardiner [6] does indeed feel the quicker of the two despite the fact that Koopman [7] is the speedier in absolute time.<
Regarding the first movement, this impression that Gardiner [6], 3.26, feels quicker than Koopman [7], 3.12, is likely to result from the sharper staccato articulation in Gardiner. (The emphatic "Al-les" chords are marked staccato in the BGA, but Koopman, and other conductors, express this "staccato" less sharply than Gardiner).

However, back to back listening confirms that Koopman [7] is quicker.

The vigour of these performances is certainly impressive.
-------
In the soprano aria, Koopman [7], 3.16, is and sounds quicker than Gardiner [6], 3.41,

But I prefer listening to Leusink's more tender (slower, c. 4.30) rendention of this soprano aria, compared to either of the above, where their brisk tempi destroy much of the tenderness, IMO. (Suzuki is in this camp as well, 3.29).

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>I thought it worth posting an agreement with Jens point: the Gardiner [6] does indeed feel the quicker of the two despite the fact that Koopman [7] is the speedier in absolute time.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Regarding the first movement, this impression that Gardiner [6], 3.26, feels quicker than Koopman [7], 3.12, is likely to result from the sharper staccato articulation in Gardiner. (The emphatic "Al-les" chords are marked staccato in the BGA, but Koopman, and other conductors, express this "staccato" less sharply than Gardiner). >
Yes, I agree, and I meant to say so, re the Gardiner [6] staccato. I believe this is the point Jens was making, as well. As to markings in the score:

(1) Is there any support for staccato in the BGA, from original sources.

(2) Gardiner [6] reportdly had new scores (post NBA, let alone BGA) prepared for the entire pilgrimage. I suppose we will be a few more years sorting out the justification for his staccato.

I prefer listening to Koopman [7], but perhaps only because I know that Bogna Bartosz is up next. However, for convenience of access, I prefer Gardiner [6]. It is a small research project to find any particular work in either the Koopman or Leusink sets.

NH:
< But I prefer listening to Leusink's more tender (slower, c. 4.30) rendention of this soprano aria, compared to either of the above, where their brisk tempi destroy much of the tenderness, IMO. >
EM:
Plenty of entertaining reading, pro and con Ruth Holton, in the BCW archives, including this aria. I am on the pro side, with Neil, in this instance. Leusink is always a bargain, in many details he is often the clearly superior choice, as well.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 2, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Ed small correction, it is 72/3 not 2.---and Dürr attributes this text to Salomo Franck >
Thanks for that, as well as for the interesting analysis (Neil H., as well). I realized that something had gone a bit wrong, but not until after I had hit Send. It was late, so I set it aside until morning.

On reflection, the fragment I chose is far from the weakest poetry Bach had to work with. As Julian so neatly demonstrates, Bachs musical genius is driven by the text. But I still wonder if that text would be memorable, without the support of the music?

Julian Mincham wrote (February 2, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< On reflection, the fragment I chose is far from the weakest poetry Bach had to work with. As Julian so neatly demonstrates, Bachs musical genius is driven by the text. But I still wonder if that text would be memorable, without the support of the music? >
In Bach's case I think that most if not all of the texts would now be forgotten. I'd go further and suggest that it is partly because of the turgent C18 texts that the music of the cantatas have never received, until perhaps recently, the audience they deserved. It was Bach's genius to see beyond the surface platitudes in order to illuminates aspects of the human condition which may be felt but not easily articulated through language.

Bach is by no means exceptional in this regard of course. There are plenty of Schubert songs where the lyrics seem to me to have little lasting value apart from the music. And Schumann's lovely cycle a Woman's Love and Life? Taken on their own the poems seem banal and overly sentimental. The music elevates them to a point where they move us deeply.

I seem to recall, without looking it up that this topic has cropped up before on the list? It's not a simplistic matter of poor poetry making good music or vice versa. But it may be that when well set, the form, poetry and language of the verse assumes less significance. The music takes on the ideas and transforms them.

 

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