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Cantata BWV 74
Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 3, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 5, 2001):
Background

This is the week of Cantata BWV 74 according to Thomas Braatz’ suggestion, the second one in his proposed list of cantatas for discussion.

The Recordings

I am aware of 5 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 74, and during last week I have been listening to them all. I do not know of any other recording of this cantata, but there are at least 3 recordings of individual movements from it. Actually in all of them this is Mvt. 2 - the aria for Soprano. See: Cantata BWV 74 – Recordings.

Mvt. 2 - Aria for Soprano

With 3 recordings of the aria for Soprano it was very tempting for me to compare them to the recordings of the same movement from the complete recordings. This aria does not have one of those catchy tunes, like the aria for tenor from Cantata BWV 37, which was discussed in the BCML last week. Actually this aria is not even original, since it was adopted from the aria for bass from cantata BWV 59, which bears the same name as BWV 74 and was composed earlier. But I like to investigate those unfamiliar corners in the enormous and rich world of Bach Cantatas. I know that when we finish the four-year traversal of all the Bach Cantatas, there will be still many corners to explore. But we are still two and half years from this point.

Original German text:
Komm, komm, mein Herze steht dir offen,
Ach, laß es deine Wohnung sein!
Ich liebe dich, so muß ich hoffen:
Dein Wort trat itzo bei mir ein;
Denn wer dich sucht, fürcht', liebt und ehret,
Dem ist der Vater zugetan.
Ich zweifle nicht, ich bin erhöret,
Daß ich mich dein getrösten kann.


English translation (by Z. Philip Ambrose, 1972):
Come, come, my heart to thee is open,
Ah, let it now thy dwelling be!
I do love thee and must be hopeful:
Thy word is now in me fulfilled;
For who thee seeks, fears, loves and honours,
With him the Father is content.
I do not doubt that I am favoured
And shall in thee my comfort find.

Albert Schweitzer (1908, rough translation from Hebrew into English):
“The music of the aria (for soprano) was also adapted from Cantata BWV 59. The fact that the text of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler was suitable only for that music, is proved in the declamation of the opening words, which is not too sophisticated”.

W. Gillies Whittaker (1959):
“The only other borrowed number is the none-too-interesting bass aria which concluded BWCV 59, now placed second in the scheme. It is transposed from C to G, the voice changed to soprano, the obbligato altered from violin solo to oboe da caccia, and a new text is fitted with little consideration for congruity. The two versions are compared in the discussion on the earlier work.” [Not included here]

Alec Robertson (1972):
“This is an adaptation of the bass aria in C in Cantata BWV 59, but now transposed to F major and with oboe da caccia obbligato, not violin. Bach pays no regard to the completely different sentiments of the words in the two librettos.”

Ludwig Finscher (1977, liner notes to the Teldec recording)
“The soprano aria (F major), which follows without recitative, fits into the new text without difficulty. Transposition, soprano instead of bass timbre, and the tone colour of the oboe da caccia (in BWV 59 a violin) augment the latent dance character of the piece, which is at one with the gently ecstatic mood of the text.”

Murray W. Young (1989):
“Bach adapted this second number also from the earlier version’s last number, changing it from as bass to a soprano aria, and adding an oboe da caccia obbligato. Bach did not heed the self-borrowing, it seems, because the emotions expressed by the two texts are different: praise of God’s glory which we hope to attain, in the earlier work, and an appeal to Him to enter our hearts, in this one.”

Simon Crouch (1996, 1998):
“If you, like me, were rather disappointed and puzzled at the lack of development of the material of BWV 59, come and take a listen to this cantata where Bach makes so much more of those same ideas. The opening chorus is transformed into a magnificent piece and the first soprano aria sounds so much better with an oboe da caccia obbligato than with the violin.”

Nicholas Anderson (Oxford Companion, 1999):
“The first of the four arias in the cantata is for soprano with oboe da caccia obbligato and continuo. In the earlier cantata Bach had written this number in C major for bass, with an obbligato violin; Here it is transposed to F major, and the lyrical oboe da caccia writing contributes towards greater intimacy and expressive warmth.”

Helmuth Schmitz (1983, linear notes to the EMI CD of arias for soprano and oboe)
The liner notes to this CD do not say anything about this aria, but has something to say about the various kinds of oboes by is using in the arias for the combination of soprano and oboe:
“The oboe da caccia, considered to be the predecessor of the Cor anglais, is an oboe instrument in the tenor scale; that is, a fifth lower than the ‘normal oboe’. By combining this with the solo soprano, Bach achieves a special sound effect, where the obligatory accompanying instrument is clearly heard under the voice part.”

Only Finscher and Anderson give us a little bit more than the simple factual data..

Review of the Recordings

(1) Helmuth Winschermann (also oboe da caccia) with Ileana Contrubas (3:48)
Ileana Contrubas has marvellous voice, warm and rich and pleasure to hear. I enjoyed her fresh singing very much, although her approach might sound too operatic to modern ears. I mean that she tends to be too expressive with some accentuation’s taken from alien idiom, instead of letting the music speaks for itself. She is not what we see today a native Bach singer, but who say that such singing is not legitimate for Bach? Winschermann himself is playing the oboe da caccia and his warm and flexible playing match splendidly with the singing. I was not disturbed at all by the relatively slow tempo.

[2] Helmuth Rilling with Helen Donath & Hanspeter Weber (oboe da caccia) (3:08)
This rendition sounds to me to the most balanced. Unlike Contrubas, Helen Donath is a born Bach singer with radiant voice and honey-like quality. She sounds so natural and relaxed. Hanspeter Weber playing is polished and clean. All the details can be clearly heard and we can pay attention to minor details, unrevealed by most of the other renditions. If I have any reservation regarding this recording, it is the vibrato in Donath’s singing. To my taste she could use it more sparingly, as she indeed did in other recordings of Bach Cantata, which have already been discussed in the BCML.

[3] Gustav Leonhardt with Jörg Erler (boy soprano) & Ku Ebbinge (oboe) (2:42)
The surprise of this rendition is the singing of the boy soprano. His technical control is much better than many of the other boys in this series and his expression is also satisfying. Maybe the demands of this aria are not so difficult. Anyhow, the blending between the singing and the playing is not working very well. They seem to be in different worlds.

[5] John Eliot Gardiner with Magdalena Kožená & unknown oboe da caccia player (2:33)
From the first notes this rendition sounded to me somewhat pressed. And this rendition has been intensified, as the performance was moving ahead. Comparing Kožená with her earlier and she sounds more ordinary. Her voice her is lighter, but she is a little bit less expressive.

[6] Pieter Jan Leusink with Ruth Holton & Peter Frankenberg (oboe) (2:51)
Ruth Holton’s voice is so pure and angelic, almost a competition to Leonhardt’s boy, and it is matched by the charming and fresh oboeplaying of Frankenberg. There is a fine interaction between the player and the singer. They continue each other’s line naturally, as if they are breathing together.

[M-1] Elly Ameling with Hans de Vries (oboe da caccia) (2:23)
This is a sad recording. Elly Ameling, who was once considered to be the angelic voice of the late 1960’s and the 1970’s is far behind her prime. Her voice in this recording sounds old, inflexible, with too much tremolo, sometimes even unpleasant, a shadow of a glorious past. We are not compensated by the good playing of Hans de Vries. This rendition is also done too fast, and the music is not given enough room to develop.

[M-2] Magdalena Kožená with unknown oboe da caccia player (2:53)
Magdalena Kožená in her introductory CD is a joy. Her voice here is more in the mezzo range, but it has warmth and unique charm that I found very attractive. The playing of the anonymous oboe da caccia player almost matches Kožená’s voice in its beauty.

[M-3] Nienke Oostenrijk with Pauline Oostenrijk (English Horn) (2:29)
I had been looking for this CD for a long time before getting a surprising message from the singer, who was very kind to send it directly to me. At last I have the opportunity to write something about it. I heard this recording immediately after the previous one and the difference is very big. Nienke Oostenrijk’s is in higher range than that of Kožená. She has purity of tone, clean production and kind of elegance, which are very much to my liking. Her expression here is also more varied than that of Kožená. It sounds as if more preparation work had been done before making this CD. AFAIK, she has not recorded more Bach yet. I hope that she will be given the opportunity, because she deserves it. The playing of her sister is on the same high level and one can feel that enjoy making music together.

Before Conclusion

Earlier today I went to see a friend from my company, who had been suddenly hospitalised. Together with me was another employee, who was curious about my Bach’s hobby. On our way to the hospital I explained to her some of the basic terms (aria, recitative, etc.), and suggested to her listening to this aria. We started to listen to the aria on the way to the hospital and we have managed to complete listening to all of its recording until we got back to our working place. I was driving the car, while she was exchanging the CD’s in the CD player. She liked very much Kožená’s [M-2] unique, low and warm voice. She liked less Oostenrijk [M-3], whose singing we heard immediately after Kožená. Then we heard Contrubas (1), whose voice she also liked. But when we heard Donath (2) she said that this is the right thing, a kind of basic interpretation according which the others should be compared. Then we heard the Kožená’s recording with Gardiner (4), and she said that she did not recognize that this was actually the same singer. Ameling’s voice [M-1] sounded ugly to her. I said that I have now a surprise for her, and although the singer in Leonhardt’s recording (3) sounded very young to her she was surprised to hear that this was a boy. In the last recording, that of Holton with Leusink [6], she found that the accompaniment covered the singing. Her choice was, of course, the ‘green’ record, which means Donath with Rilling (2). I asked what did she think about the aria in general and she found it very attractive. It was the first experience of this kind for her and she found it illuminating.

Conclusion

Except Ameling’s recording [M-1], I found good points in all the other recordings.

And regarding the aria itself, I have to admit that this is not one of the most attractive in the oeuvre of Bach’s arias. But nevertheless, after so many listenings to it, I found that, like almost every other movement in Bach Cantatas, when it is given enough attention (and comparative listening is one way to give attention to a piece of music), it could also be a source for deep satisfaction.

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

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 6, 2001):
Lest anyone think that I chose this cantata because of the connection with gematria that it contains, I wish to state that none of my sources contained this information. Having recently acquired one of the new Gardiner cantata series, I happened to look at the notes that were included, where a commentator, Ruth Tatlow, revealed significant connections that can be attributed to Bach's use of gematria. I have double-checked all the information and connections with the NBA score to determine the validity of this assertion. In doing so, I discovered yet another connection not quite as significant as the others, but nevertheless interesting.

BWV 74 is an expanded version of BWV 59, a cantata with the same name. Whereas BWV 59 is based on a text by Neumeister, BWV 74 is another one of the cantatas based on a text by von Ziegler, which means that Bach again untertook more modifications of the text than he usually does with other librettists. Here is a comparison of the two cantatas, mvt. by mvt.:

BWV 59 BWV 74
Mvt. 1 Duetto (Sopr.&Bass)>>>> Mvt. 1 (Chorus & Expanded Orchestra)
Mvt. 2 Recitative (Dropped)
Mvt. 3 Chorale (Dropped)
Mvt. 4 Aria (Bass)>>>>>>>>>>> Mvt. 2 Aria (Soprano)
[Chorale or Conclusion Missing] Mvt. 3 Recitative (Alto)
Mvt. 4 Aria (Bass)
Mvt. 5 Aria (Tenor)
Mvt. 6 Recitative (Bass)
Mvt. 7 Aria (Alto)
Mvt. 8 Chorale

The creative number alphabet that Bach used looks like this:

A = 1 G = 7 N = 13 T = 19
B = 2 H = 8 O = 14 U/V = 20
C = 3 I/J=9 P = 15 W = 21
D = 4 K = 10 Q = 16 X = 22
E = 5 L = 11 R = 17 Y = 23
F = 6 M = 12 S = 18 Z = 24

Now here is the name of the cantata for both BWV 59 (from the Weimar Period) and BWV 74 (from the 2nd Leipzig Yearly Cycle):

WER = 21+5+17 = 43 (Whoever)
MICH = 12+9+3+8 = 32 (me)
LIEBET = 11+9+5+2+5+19 = 51 (loves)
DER = 4+5+17 = 26 (he)
WIRD = 21+9+17+4 = 51 (will)
MEIN = 12+5+9+13 = 39 (my)
WORT = 21+14+17+19 = 71 (word)
HALTEN = 8+1+11+19+5+13 = 57 (keep)

The title of the cantata as written on top of some of the autograph parts (the original score is missing) is sometimes shortened simply for convenience or for some other reason to "Wer mich liebet."

Here are the totals for separate phrases:

WER MICH LIEBET = 126
MEIN WORT = 110
DER WIRD MEIN WORT HALTEN = 244

A listing of the number of measures in each mvt. of each cantata:
(Chorales will not be counted because Bach had no control over the number of measures in an existing hymn.)

BWV 59 Number of Measures

Mvt. 1 Duetto 61
Mvt. 2 Recitatative 23
(Mvt. 3 Chorale 28)
Mvt. 4 Aria 42

Total # of Measures: 126 = WER MICH LIEBET

BWV 74 Number of Measures

Mvt. 1 (Chorus+Orch) 61
Mvt. 2 Aria (Soprano) 42
Mvt. 3 Recit (Alto) 7 = 110 = MEIN WORT (Total of 1st three mvts.)
Mvt. 4 Aria (Bass) 77
Mvt. 5 Aria (Tenor) 110
Mvt. 6 Recit (Bass) 5
Mvt. 7 Aria (Alto) 110+24+110 = 244 (da capo included)
(Mvt. 8 Chorale 13)

Mvt.1 + 2 + 3 = 110 = MEIN WORT
Mvt. 5 = 110 = MEIN WORT
Mvt. 2 + 3 + 4 = 126 = WER MICH LIEBET
Mvt. 7 = 244 = DER WIRD MEIN WORT HALTEN
Mvt. 7 (the 1st Main Section) = 110 = MEIN WORT

Except for the 110 twice embedded in Mvt. 7 (the 1st main section has a total of 110, the short 2nd section only 24, after which the 1st section is repeated), all the other indications were by Ruth Tatlow.

Text and Musical Transformations

As Bach transformed Cantata BWV 59 into BWV 74, he undertook major changes in the music but also the texts. The only two mvts. that come into question as seen above are Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 4 as the recitative and chorale were dropped from BWV 59. As Alfred Dürr (1971) points out, Bach was very clever and inventive as he took the existing mvt. 1 from BWV 59 and expanded it to include one more trumpet part added to the two that already existed. He added a new 'choir' of oboes (3 in all - 2 oboes and 1 oboe da caccia) and took parts from the original string parts and divided them up so that the oboes and strings would separated into groups that would now engage in a dialog with each other. What originally was a soprano and bass duet was changed as follows:

1. Parts that were originally entirely instrumental were given to vocal ensemble
2. The original bass vocal part was given to the alto voice
3. The original basso continuo was also used as the new bass vocal part
4. Additional indepent new vocal parts were added
5. The soprano part sometimes stays in the soprano, at other times goes to the tenor voice

The bible quotation from John 14:23 is, of course, retained unchanged.

The transformation of mvt. 4 of BWV 59 into Mvt. 2 of BWV 74 involved the following changes:

1. The transposition of the composition from C major to F major
2. The solo violin part is replaced by an oboe da caccia part
3. The solo bass part is changed to a solo soprano part
4. The text is entirely new which forces Bach to undertake a major modification in the soprano part to make it fit the words

Here is the original text by Erdmann Neumeister (1714) used in Cantata BWV 59:

"Die Welt mit allen Königreichen,
Die Welt mit aller Herrlichkeit
Kan [sic] dieser Herrlichkeit nicht gleichen,
Womit uns unser Gott erfreut:
Daß Er in unsern Hertzen thronet,
Und wie in einem Himmel wohnet.
Ach Gott! wie seelig sind wir doch!
Wie seelig werden wir erst noch,
Wenn wir nach dieser Zeit der Erden
Bey dir im Himmel wohnen werden?"

Bach really had to 'hack up' the line beginning with, "Ach Gott!" so that the exclamation would be properly emphasized, but this line is completely transformed in the subsequent version. I will include this section in my examples from the score, so that you can 'take a peek into Bach's workshop' and see how he does this.

(For an English translation look up mvt. 4 of BWV 59.)

Now the new text for the same music from Christiane Mariane von Ziegler's
(1728) "Versuch in Gebundener Schreib-Art":
The brackets indicate Bach's substitution of words to replace existing ones.

"Komm, komm, mein Hertze [Herze] steht dir of= | fen,
Ach [ach] laß es Deine [deine] Wohnung seyn. [sein!]
Ich liebe dich, drum [so] muß ich hoffen, [:]
Dein [dein] Wort trifft würklich [itzo] bey [bei] mir | ein.
Denn wer dich sucht, fürcht, liebt und | ehret,
Dem ist der Vater zugethan. [zugetan]
Ich zweifle nicht, ich bin erhöret,
Wes ich mich süß [daß ich mich dein] getrösten kan. [kann]"

It is interesting to observe how Bach chooses German spellings far ahead of his time. Not until the major spelling reform at the end of the 19th century were the superfluous forms of "th" and in "zugethan" removed. His only flaw here as seen from a modern standpoint is the use of 'itzo' instead of 'jetzt.' Notice that Bach removes the somewhat antiquated use of "Wes" and the sentimental, rather saccharine adverb "süß" to replace them with a very modern sounding, "daß ich mich dein (getrösten) kann." ("so that I can be comforted by you"). For a modern translation of this mvt. simply look up the translation for Mvt. 2 of Cantata BWV 74 or on Aryeh's report.

Jane Newble wrote (June 6, 2001):
[To Thomas Braatz] I don't usually reply to your wonderful postings, and recently I have had very little time to check them out, but I just want to say how much I enjoy the research you put into it.

I always like all the comments from everyone's writing about the cantatas (and feel somewhat guilty for not having had time to contribute!), but what struck me in particular about what you wrote was the replacement by Bach of certain 'sentimental' or old-fashioned words, with much more modern sentences/words.(Makes me wonder if I should replace 'seyn' with 'sein' in my signature.... :o) )

This agrees totally with what I personally have come to love in Bach, and that is his 'timelessness' and his unsentimentality. He soars above localised and time-bound feelings, and provides a very wide perspective, - the mark of all great artists.

Charles Francis wrote (June 6, 2001):
(To Jane Newble) I must echo your sentiments, as every week I look forward to these postings with great relish. The analysis is so in-depth that anything I might add is most often redundant.

Having just spent two weeks in Greece without Bach, may I add how wonderful it was to return to hear the opening chorus of BWV 37 conducted by Helmuth Rilling - certainly a work of genius and so typically Bach (synonymous descriptions, of course). And now I very much look forward to reading the postings about BWV 74.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2001):
BWV 74 Some commentary on Mvt. 1, then impressions of the recordings

Thanks for the kind words expressed by Jane and Charles. Sometimes I wonder if all this detail is really of any benefit to anyone, even whether anyone is bothering to read what I have written. The feedback is good for my flagging enthusiasm.

While listening to the various recordings and reading the score, I began perceiving the structure of Mvt. 1 more and more. I think it may even be possible to hear this mvt. without a score and still discover where one section ends and another begins (sometimes they end and begin in one and the same measure!) The numbers in brackets simply indicate the measure number from begin to end of a section. I will also indicate whether the section is entirely or predominantly in a major or minor tonality.

Mvt. 1 Structure

Section 1 [1-8] (Major) The introductory ritornello (this word simply means a passage for the full instrumental ensemble when the voice[s] or chorus are not singing for a number of measures) begins with the main motif later sung by the chorus with the words, "Wer mich liebet." This motif is announced in dialog fashion beginning with the string ensemble and followed immediately by the oboes. Remarkably the trumpets have only two entrances (as short phrases) throughout this entire segment. Compare this with the final ritornello at the end of the piece. The idea of dialog between the various groups (trumpets + tympani, string ensemble, oboe choir, various groupings of voices in the choral section) are only hinted at or contained in nuce in the first 2 measures.

Section 2 [8-15] (Major) This section begins with the first full chorus entrance with the main motif which is then quickly answered by the strings and then the oboes, with the trumpets 'trailing off' with a somewhat different response. After this the soprano and alto voices 'play canonic tag' with a motif that seems to be an inversion of the main motif, but not exactly the same notes or in the same rhythm. This continues until near the end of this section wthey join together for a passage consisting of parallel thirds.

Section 3 [16-23] (Major to minor) In quick succession the main motif is announced 5 times: first in the trumpets, then the combined strings and oboes, then the bass voice, then the tenor voice, and once more in the strings alone. A similar canonic duet, this time with tenors and basses, ensues that resembles or repeats what the soprano and alto voices sang in section 2. Near the end of this duet, the oboes and then the strings once again announce the main motif. As this is going on, the transformation from Major to minor key is accomplished.

Section 4 [23-35] (minor) No more dialog between instrumental groups here. Only the oboes restate the theme while making slight adjustments to the intervals. All of this in preparation for the entrance of the full chorus with the main motif in a-minor. They immediately receive a response of the main motif from the combined string and oboe choirs. Now each voice in quick succession gets to present the secondary motiv in this order: tenor, alto, soprano, bass. The fugal development ends with a wonderful, florid passage of sixteenth notes on the word, "kommen." ("come").

Section 5 [35-45] (minor to Major) This section begins with the oboes stating the main motif, then the strings, then the oboes once again with the sopranos and tenors following very quickly, also the altos and basses as a group follow. At the moment that the last two voices finish, a single trumpet (1st trumpet) announces, "Victory," by stating the original main motif in the same key and tonality that it had at the very beginning. This is picked up by a single oboe (1st oboe), then passed on to just the alto voice, then the tenor, after which only the 1st violin once more answers with this motif. The alto, tenor duet continues until joined by the basses for the final 1 1/2 measures in this section.

Section 6 [46-51] (Major) The full choir answers the motif first given by the strings, after which the combined strings and oboes once again answer with the same motif. But once again the choir splits momentarily into pairs while stating the secondary motif very quickly in the following order, first the soprano and alto voices, then the tenors and basses. The concluding emphasis of the full chorus seems to be on the word, "Wohnung" ("dwelling, home").

Section 7 [51-61] (Major) The Ritornello. After stating the main motif once, the trumpets have 8 separate entrances or phrases. Compare this with the introductory ritornello. The basso continuo is, for the most part, completely different when compared with section 1. There is an increase in the number of running sixteenth-note passages. Is this a continued reference to the word, "kommen," or simply a final flourish as often seen as a climax to a show of fireworks?

I have the following recordings of BWV 74: Rilling (1972) (2), Leonhardt (1977) (3), Gardiner (1999) (4), Leusink (2000) [6].

Mvt. 1

In listening to Mvt. 1, I was struck by the difference that the treatment of the basso continuo coupled with the choice of tempo has upon the feeling that is projected by the recording. Initially I was troubled by Leonhardt's (3) treatment of this mvt. Of course, some of this treatment must have been dictated by Harnoncourt, but we know that, if anything is true about Harnoncourt, it is that he is unpredictable despite his general tendencies that have been quite clearly described in the other cantata discussions on Aryeh's site. Perhaps it should not amaze me, if I consider some of the world leaders of the past and present (the notoriously bad ones - I don't want to mention names, just let your imagination range far and wide) leaders who are always surrounded by "yes-men", who without being told what to do specifically become 200% replicas of the man who dictates policy. It would have been far better in Harnoncourt's case, if he had explicitly stated to Leonhardt, "Gustav, I can't possibly do all of these cantatas, I have a life of my own. I know that you, with your expertise in keyboard instruments of Bach's time, have a marvellous opportunity to discover Bach's vocal music performance on your own, just as I had, coming from simply playing a cello in an orchestra." That would have been a magnanimous gesture, the type that we all love to see, but know rarely happens in real life. By slavishly copying someone else's performance style, as Leonhardt is obviously trying to do here, he gives up the freedom for deciding what will contribute to a good recording, given the circumstances dictated by a HIP recording such as original instruments and limited vocal forces. "Good" here means not over-emphasizing, fracturing the musical line by shortening note values from the original, emphasizing the first note of an appoggiatura so much that nothing is left for the main note in either volume or sound, etc., etc. Where to begin with Leonhardt's imitation of Harnoncourt? The first entrance of the chorus should suffice. "Wer mich liebet" where "liebet" falls on the final two eighth notes in the phrase. What does Leonhardt do with this first phrase? Instead of allowing Bach to speak for himself (there are 34 separate entrances of the main motif in this mvt - does Bach in any one of these numerous entrances have an additional notation that might reveal that he intended for the last two notes to be played any differently than two eighth notes? No! And by having the penultimate note higher than the final note, Bach has already accounted for whatever amount of emphasis this word should have in music as it imitates the spoken word.) With Leonhardt (as often is the case with Harnoncourt as well) the overly strong emphasis on "lie-" almost precludes the audibility of the "-bet" that concludes the musical phrase. You either do not hear the last note, or it is covered up by the instruments that are louder, or the note is barely audible. At the end of another phrase you will find the word "machen" on the final two quarter notes of the phrase, the first one is one whole tone higher than the last. What does Leonhardt do with this? He breaks it in the middle! He deliberately destroys the continuity and unity of the phrase. This can only be a deliberate action on his part, because the natural flow of this passage, as Bach wrote it, dictates this. With Leonhardt you have a full stop, as if a breath mark had been indicated: "mach ' en." All of these things IMHO mean that there is something wrong with this conception, with this attempt at interpretation. What are some of the other disturbing, distracting factors, factors that keep me from truly enjoying the music as conducted by Leonhardt? The instrumentalists are still in the process of mastering their instruments. There is that feeling: "Oh, are they going to make it all the way through without a major mistake?" The altos are generally weaker than the sopranos and the tenor part sometimes disappears entirely when the entire ensemble is singing and playing. If you don't have the score, you might not notice this as easily. But as I see the musical lines on the page, it happens that I will be looking at a specific line such as the tenor line, and there is nothing to be heard. If this were a different, later musical period with different performance practices, it would not matter that much, since it is the entire effect that is important, not necessarily each separate musical line. But we know that Bach composed these parts to be heard distinctly, allbeit without over-emphasizing them. A good recording is one in which all the parts can be heard all the time! Sometimes there is a muffled sound in the chorus, possibly caused by insecurity about the notes that are being sung. I also wondered, why this piece in this version sounded as if it were almost falling apart. To be sure, Bach has many short phrases such as the main motif. What should hold all of this together? The basso cont! What does Leonhardt do with this? He plays (or is he only conducting?) the continuo with short, detached, staccato notes almost entirely thoughout the movement. The very foundation that Leonhardt is building upon is shaky from start to finish. All of this, I think, has an effect upon the listener, even if that listener is not fully conscious of what is causing a general uneasiness when hearing this recording of this mvt.

(2) Rilling's performance is perhaps the best of the group of four that I listened to. The reasons are mainly the same as in my past commentaries: The voices of the choir are well-balanced, the diction is clear so that every word can be understood, the balance between the instrumentalists and voices allows each to be heard without one group overshadowing the other, the musical phrases make up a continuous whole without resorting to obvious crescendi and diminuendi, the expression, particularly in the voices, is dignified and shows conviction as would generally be suitable for a sacred cantata. So how does Rilling achieve all of this? Well, one place to look is at the treatment of the basso continuo. Whereas Leonhardt has a sharp staccato effect that predominates throughout, Rilling has a slightly slower tempo and each note in the BC is given an even treatment, not completely legato (Bach does not indicate anything at all for the BC), but very slightly detached. It is as though each note is given almost its entire note value before moving to the next, somewhat like having a horizontal line marked above each note. This combined with the slightly slower tempo seems to make all the difference. There is solid movement that supports everything that is going on above in the other parts.

[6] Leusink (whose recording is later than Gardiner's) takes this mvt. faster and lighter, and so that the BC is not severely punctuated by staccato notes throughout (which show up even more at this faster tempo), Leusink has the BC add some special phrasing, thereby breaking up the monotony of a long series of staccato notes. This is an interesting solution, although the faster tempo removes the aspect of dignity and replaces it with a more pleasant listening experience, if that is what you are looking for. Unfortunately Leusink has decided to follow the example of Leonhardt-Harnoncout, which he seems to do rather frequently. Leusink even imitates Leonhardt's treatment of the word "machen" as "mach ' en. " This also means many instances of non-legato treatment of phrases. There are weak entrances by the sopranos and altos at the beginning and the inner voices almost disappear from the musical scene at times, often because they are at the low point of their range. We know what happens when the sopranos and altos go for their high range! That is the time when I have to grit my teeth and learn how to bear it. So what is good about Leusink's version here? In addition to the interesting treatment of the BC, he has a very clear orchestral sound (if you do not consider that the bass is too loud.)

(4) Gardiner's treatment of this mvt. is, as you might almost suspect that it would be before even hearing this mvt. for the first time, very light and fast indeed. He also introduces phrasing variations into the BC part, which help to create a more dance-like atmosphere for this piece. The sound of the instruments is even clearer and more precise than Leusink's, whose instrumental ensemble already was a 100% improvement over Leonhardt's group. The choral group is excellent to say the least. They have precision, good diction, and they can even be heard distinctly in the soft parts. There is, however, a price to pay here. The speed and lightness and variation in dynamics (I wonder if Gardiner knows about 'tiered' dynamics in Bach's works?) require that the voices sing sotto voce, very much the way opera singers do when they are rehearsing an opera and do not want to use their full voice in an effort to save it for the 'real' performance. Sometimes I get the impression that this is what happens with the chorus and many of the vocalists as well in the more recent recordings of the Bach cantatas. The listener gains an easy-to-listen-to version at the expense of a serious, monumental effect that was designed by Bach to enhance the religious experience that members of the congregation were having, notwithstanding the small number of players and singers involved in presenting the cantata.

Mvt. 8 Chorale

(3) Leonhardt's version: Even Harnoncourt occasionally does better than this by creating more continuity and flow which a chorale should have. It sounds as if Leonhardt's choir is insecure when they distinctly separate (fracture) a single word such as "Menschenkind" to produce a musical line with a stop or short breath between each element: "Men | schen | kind."

[6] Leusink's choir is more legato than Leonhardt, and we know that Leusink can do well in the chorales except for his penchant for shortening the note value of the fermati. This simply does not fit musically and logically into the flow that should be maintained throughout the chorale. Because there was no high range for the sopranos and altos here, the falsettists were unable to damage this rendition of the chorale.

(4) Gardiner's version flows all the way through. This is an excellent version.

(2) Rilling's version is the slowest. This adds gravity and significance to the chorale. Everything is well-balanced, as usual. This is perhaps the most sacred version of all four.

Mvt. 2 Soprano Aria

All the versions except Rilling's are a semi-tone lower.

[6] Leusink's version is perhaps the slowest. The bass line in the accompaniment is too heavy for the beautiful interplay of voice (Holton) and instrument. If you have an equalizer, use it to cancel out the bass (I still do not have one.) Otherwise this is the recording I would choose over the others in my group.

(3) Leonhardt takes a slightly faster tempo and the bass is not too loud. At least the conductor recognized that the boy singer, Erler, ought to be given a chance to be heard. Erler does quite well here.

(2) Rilling's Donath caused some problems for my listening pleasure. This happens mainly when she attempts to sing in her higher range (G and above) where she simultaneously constricts her larynx and uses more vibrato. This is a typical characteristic of operetta singers who have sung operetta roles frequently (I have no knowledge whether this is true of Donath.) Listen to how she sings, "dem ist der Vater zugetan," and also the word, "dein" near the end, where the note she sings is only an 'F' !

(4) Gardiner again takes this mvt. at a fast pace and treats it more lightly than the others do. Magdalena Kozená, whose voice I had eagerly been waiting to hear in a Bach aria, disappointed me somewhat. Perhaps I might choose her over Donath and even the boy soprano, but there were definite problems that perplexed me at first. Was it Gardiner's fault that she sang so softly in spots and even in the high parts she definitely held back her voice somewhat, or was there something more fundamental going on here? Last year I had purchased an entire CD (Deutsche Grammophon 463-472-2) featuring this young, beautiful, up-and-coming soprano in a program of 42 art songs by Dvorák, Janácek, and Martinu. I was very much impressed by her performance. When I recently decided to purchase one of the new Gardiner Bach Cantata Series, I was glad to read that someone recommended this recording (the one under discussion) over the others that had not received such a good mark for performance quality. Now I would get to hear her in this new capacity as a Bach aria singer. I had not realized until Aryeh's recent posting that she been on another Archiv recording in 1996 doing this Bach aria. My recital of Czech music was recorded in October of 1998. Now we have her here once again a year later in an aria that she had performed under a different conductor three years earlier. Conductors can really make a difference here. After I listened to Mvt. 2 under Gardiner, I also noticed that she was doing something rather strange vocally. Something that I could not place or figure out immediately, as it did not seem to follow any rule. When she raises the volume of her voice to full capacity on a vowel (this is not simply the case of a final vowel without a consonant following), there is a sudden final push of air, a constriction and thrusting simultaneously, before the vowel finishes and she moves on to the next syllable. I could not remember having heard this in her Liederabend program, so I listened again to a few tracks from the 1998 CD, and there it was! It was an element in many of the songs that can be attributed to her pronunciation of the Czech language, and if there is any soprano alive in the world today, who can sing this language as beautifully and genuinely as she does, I would like to know who. It generally happens on the highest note of the musical phrase (this note is not really that high for a soprano, it is simply higher than that which follows) when she is singing with her full voice. There is this thrusting that occurs before she moves to the next word. It sounds as though there is a considerable amount of elision in the Czech language, unlike German. It happens with her on the first syllable of "Boha" ("God, Lord") or "Pánboh", often between words, "Dobrú noc, má milá" where it happens between "má" and "milá." In the aria, she does it in the middle of the word, "liebet" and "jeder" and even at the end of "wozu" and the single word, "Ach." There must also be another factor characteristic of slavic languages when they are sung by females in a choir (she sang in a children's choir). If you have heard a group of female folk-choruses sung by Russians, you will encounter unique vocalizations that sound strange to an ear trained mainly in the vocal cultures of Western Europe. Also to be considered is the unique environment of the sound studio, where the voice is allowed to sing on a somewhat lower level of sound production as microphones are present to pick up even the softest vocal sounds. This was brought home to me, when I heard a live Liederabend in a very large hall sung by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. (Of course this is all done without the help of visible or hidden microphones!) He had to sing almost continually at a higher level of sound production, otherwise the members of the audience would not hear the soft passages. What I had remembered from his recordings were subtleties that could only be produced under recording studio conditions. We have no idea with Kozená whether she was held back by Gardiner who wanted a lighter, faster treatment (all the other vocalists in these modern series - Gardiner - Koopman - Suzuki - Leusink essentially do the same thing – not sing with their full voice, because their voices are small by nature and have not been trained to project into a large space such as a church with sufficient volume to carry the message to the audience) or whether she decided that in such an acoustical environment (St. John's, Smith Square, London - I am assuming that this is a reasonably large church) she would be forcing her voice to overproduce, which would cause more unpleasant sounds to emanate from her mouth. I sincerely hope that someone will teach her to overcome a bad vocal habit (a beautiful flower where it belongs - in singing her native language - in another place (a large church) and situation (the German language) becomes a weed and must be uprooted.) Singing a Bach aria properly without reducing volume or singing into a microphone, makes very definite demands upon the vocalist. Many vocalists fall short in this regard. Looking to the future, we can only hope that some of the great voices that we have on some of the Bach cantata recordings will be replaced by new voices of equal caliber, Thus far I have not been encouraged by what I have heard thus far of Kozená, Görne, Quasthoff and others when they attempt to sing Bach. I have other recordings by these artists that I enjoy very much.

Discussions of the other mvts. will follow. I promise that they will be short.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 7, 2001):
BWV 74 Discussion of remaining mvts.

Mvts. 3 & 7 for Alto

(2) Let me begin with Rilling's Laurich whose voice is very powerful and easily capable of standing up to a full Bach orchestra (the non-HIP variety). Laurich is able to make a strong statement, but her approach is too operatic for my taste. Also the recitative suffers from a wide vibrato. Last Sunday I turned on the radio in the middle of a recital by Ann Murray, who also sings occasionally for Rilling in this series. When I heard her rendition of Schubert songs in a BBC recital recorded during the Aldebourough {spelling?) Festival from 1991 (at first I thought this recital was much more current than this date), I simply could not believe it was the same voice that I had heard singing Bach on the Bach cantata recordings. My next thought was, "she is definitely over the hill, past her prime and should not be singing any more." After a break, there was a group of songs by a 20th century composer whose name I have forgotten. I could hardly believe my ears! This was a marvellous voice! Was this a different singer? No. Murray was singing again, this time with a pure, beautiful voice, but sotto voce, probably because the music called for this effect. So it is possible for some good singers to actually turn off a horrible vibrato at will!. There are others, who definitely should not be singing in public or for recordings anymore, because they simply can not control the vibrato anymore. Murray's problem is one that I encounter frequently on the Bach cantatas of the older vintage: the moment these singers are asked to put more feeling or emotion into the text that they are singing, they attempt to increase the volume of their voice whereupon an unpleasant wide vibrato or a fast automatic-weapon-type vibrato results. Laurich is in this category.

(3) Leonhardt does something unusual at the beginning of the aria. As the orchestra goes through a crescendo, the tempo also increases slightly. Esswood leans heavily on the first note of the written-out appoggiatura. In the mid section he begins to force his high notes and almost loses control of the voice. His recitative is quite good.

[6] Leusink's Buwalda is not bad on the recitative either. The tempo is slower. Unfortunately the bass is very loud, and the orchestra in general is also too loud for this small voice which is easily pushed to its limits. Buwalda sings "höllisch" with a long o-umlaut which it is not. I hope this is not a relapse back to the time when choral directors massively modified and distorted vowels (Fred Waring school), because they imagined that this enhanced vocal production in some way. Buwalda's recitative was not bad at all.

(4) Gardiner's aria is treated in a light manner with staccato notes not unduly emphasized. This is the fastest tempo of all the renditions. Blaze's voice takes some getting used to. This voice has a thin, nasal, unnatural quality. Although everything is clear without much vibrato, it sounds like he is singing a parody or spoof of a Bach aria. PDQ Bach might like to have him in his ensemble. Blaze's recitative is similar in quality to Buwalda's: not bad.

Mvt. 4 Bass Aria

(2) Rilling's Huttenlocher, of whom I generally do not have a high opinion, surprized me somewhat here. I found his expression acceptable in this aria. Rilling has a very agitated basso continuo treatment here, that almost distracts from what is being presented by the voice.

[6] Leusink treats this aria very differently. The BC is, in contrast to Rilling, very legato and the tempo is also slower. Ramselaar's voice has a brighter quality and seems the fit the mood of this interpretation which I would define as being quite endearing.

(3) Leonhardt's van Egmond must have been happy to able to sing this aria legato without having it cut-up and fractured by Leonhardt. The instrumental accompaniment is reasonable as support for the voice.

(4) Gardiner's Harvey suffers too much from the 'automatic-weapon-type vibrato. Perhaps he is singing beyond his capacity to produce the necessary volume. The accompaniment is pleasant to listen to.

Mvt. 5 Tenor Aria

The syncopations in this mvt. are wonderful and attract my attention every time I hear this aria. I usually listen carefully and wait for the syncopated falling scale motif that occurs just before the voice enters.

(4) Gardiner's Genz sings almost everything at half-voice. His voice simply may not be able to produce any more volume. There is also very little expression on the part of the singer. This may be due to Gardiner's fast and light treatment of the orchestral accompaniment. I have the feeling as if this entire mvt. is 'tossed off' very quickly, and as a result will not leave much of a lasting impression.

[6] Leusink takes this mvt. a little slower at a nice, suitable tempo. As usual, the bass is too heavy. van der Meel's expression is quite good. I love to hear his clear voice (little or no vibrato) on the word "kommt."

(3) Leonhardt's version is filled with strong accents, I would almost call this a perky rendition. Equiluz has much expression and becomes very serious where it is appropriate. Because of the somewhat uncontrolled orchestral accompaniment, Equiluz is pushed to the limit of his vocal production. I consider this aria not to be the type that suits his voice well.

(2) Rilling's Kraus has a full voice that is very forceful, convincing and infectious because it has expressive power as well as a dazzling technique in the melismas. But when he attacks a single high note with force, or when he tries to sing a recitative, watch out! Then I would prefer Leusink's van der Meel's treatment of a single word on a high note as I mentioned above.

Summary

In general, I would stay away from Leonhardt for this cantata. For the main first mvt. I choose Rilling [2] over all the others. For the arias I would pick and choose from the others, with the exception perhaps of Rilling's Kraus.

Jane Newble wrote (June 9, 2001):
WOW!

(1) This morning first thing I put on Winschermann's BWV 74. What a start to the day! Must be a good remedy for depression. I felt like putting the first chorus on repeat for the rest of the day. Anyway, I am glad I didn't, as I would have missed the rest.. :o) What a wonderful cantata!

Aryeh is right, that the soprano aria is perhaps the least interesting. Now I have to see if I have any other recordings..... ...Later... I did have Leusink [6] too, but although I like Leusink, hearing it after Winschermann was almost a disappointment. I missed the warmth and passion. That may be because of using different instruments, I don't know. I noticed Aryeh uses the word 'warm' too when discussing Winschermann's performance.

Tony Collingwood wrote (June 9, 2001):
(To Thomas Braatz) As a newcomer to this list, I too would like to say how much I enjoy postings made by yourself and others on this list. I've been listening to the cantatas since I discovered them about 25 years ago. It's so refreshing to listen to them with "new ears", i.e. with the benefit of comments and analysis from such knowledgeable enthusiasts.

Andrew Oliver wrote (June 10, 2001):
In addition to my usual two recordings (Leusink [6] and, in this instance, Leonhardt (3)) I also have Winschermann's version (1) of this interesting and joyful cantata. I have to admit that I am tempted to acquire Gardiner's recording (4) as well, mainly because Robin Blaze has one of the few counter-tenor voices which I really like. (Do you remember his duet with Miah Persson in Suzuki's recording of BWV 186?) Anyway, I am very happy with the recordings I do have. All movements of this cantata contain noteworthy features, but the one I like the best is the alto aria, with its depiction of the rattling 'hellish chains', and, although I find the renditions of both Esswood (Leonhardt) and Buwalda (Leusink) satisfying, my favourite is the Winschermann's recording, sung by Julia Hamari. The authority and confidence of her voice match the sense of assurance which the libretto conveys ("Ich lache der Wut"), and what a marvellous voice it is. Having said that, Bach's composition here is so intriguing that I would find it difficult not to be enthralled, even with much less accomplished singers.

I note that both Winschermann (1972) (1) and Leonhardt (1977) (3) used Kurt Equiluz as tenor soloist. Aside from the different orchestral styles employed, I do not find any major differences between his two performances of the tenor aria (Mvt. 5).

Thomas, rest assured that your detailed analyses and technical explanations are read, and are much appreciated. The question is, how do you find the time to do it all? Thankyou anyway.

It is very pleasing to see names of new contributors appearing on this list. May there be many more!

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 74: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: ýSeptember 29, 2011 ý13:19:59