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Cantata BWV 78
Jesu, der du meine Seele
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of August 20, 2006

Peter Smaill wrote (August 19, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 78, "Jesu,du der meine Seele"

Week of August 20, 2006
Cantata BWV 78, “Jesu, der du meine Seele””

1st performance: 10 September, 1724- Leipzig
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)

Previous Discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78-D.htm
Main Cantata Page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78.htm

In the course of the Chorale cantata cycle of 1724, Bach and his librettist twice lean towards creating Passion music comparable to the quality and style of the SMP (BWV 244) and SJP (BWV 245). In BWV 101, the Gospel inclines the choice of Chorale. In relation to BWV 78, it is the Chorale text itself, little related to the readings for the day, which almost exclusively dictates the purpose of the Cantata; a meditation on identification with, redemption through, and protection by Jesus.

BWV 101, “Nimm von uns” was written for Trinity 10; then, on the 14th Sunday in Trinity, Bach creates in the most complex and multi-layered fashion, one of the greatest of all Baroque choruses. It is as if he is using this Sunday (numerologically of course appropriate to BACH) as an opportunity to state with all his art the personal meaning of Jesus to the Cantor.

The key IMO to what Bach achieves in Mvt. 1 is the dictum of Mvt. 5, to which central thesis the Cantata libretto builds:

Die wunden, Nägel, Kron, und Grab,
Die Schläge, so man dort dem heiland gab,
Sind ihm nunmehro Siegeszeichen


(“The wounds, nails, crown, and grave
The blows they gave the saviour there
Are now signs of his Victory”)

Bach achieves the musical exposition of this transformation in Mvt. 1 in a most ingenious way. The wistful sighing motif of the opening ritornello is soon overtaken by the chromatic passacaglia.Overlaid like a veil, this occurs 27 times according to Duerr; add to Trinity 14 (gematric “Bach”), and we reach 41 (“J S Bach”.)(? !) It was noted before that Bach, as it were, "signs" BWV 150 with his own name due to the acrostic of the last four lines, the initial letters spelling out "BACH", a point noticed by Johan de Wael. BWV 78 and BWV 150 have several points of similarity.

The passacaglia, which in Bach is associated with the Passion, is challenged by the frequent repetitions of the upward rising anapaestic joy motif, increasingly insistent that the Passion motif is transformed into a sign of
victory, the escape of the soul from death and the devil. The whole, as in BWV 150’s highly related opening chorus, (for this comparison see the discussions at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV150-D4.htm set against a marching bass line, symbolising faith but which nevertheless ploughs the depths in a downward swoop shortly after the script give out “des Teufels finstern Höhle“, the “devil’s hole.“

The chromatic pattern also appears in BWV 63 (at "Aber niemals lass geschehn, das uns Satan mogen quälen") ("But never let Satan molest us") and in BWV 91 (at "Jammertal") ("Valley of distress"). So images of descent and the devil below are closely associated as well as more general suffering and the Passion. No more explicit can be the Bach inscription accompanying the appearance of the motif in the canon discovered by Wolff in 1974 (BWV 1087), "Christus Coronabit Crucigeros", - "Christ will crown the crossbearers"- sentiments shared with Mvt. 5.

Note that the passacaglia in Mvt. 1 IMO subtly mutates to a more embellished, less sombre ground with seemingly brighter orchestral colour as a support to the later entries of the choral layers and orchestral ritornello. The motif of mourning and penitence becomes ameliorated in the progress to victory. Quite unusually, since chaconne type forms usually conclude Baroque works, Bach opens with this form – set against a Chorale in imitation, then relative diminution/augmentation. The parts are flung about from instruments through voices; major chords beginning to break through. Even though the rigid structure dictated by passacaglia and chorale is adhered to, variation is everywhere evident.

And then – there is more; a strident, insistent signal (Whittaker: "a new theme consisting of a sevenfold hammered repetition") ; perhaps the accenting of the five notes allude to the Five Wounds of the nails referred to in Mvt. 5, just as the scourging of Christ for man is hinted at in the abrasion of the strings, the “Schwere sträf “ of BWV 101. “Forcibly torn out” (“Kräftlich Herausgerissen”) is also highlighted with rising imitative themes, marked rhythm and a modulation to F major.

The mood finally changes at the sustained bass pedal point preceding “Sei doch itzt”- “Be even now, O God, my refuge”; the prayer is implicitly answered after the final rendering of the penitential chromatic passacaglia theme, the “cursus duriusculus”, with the tierce de Picardy with which Bach always concludes the harmonisation of this Chorale, giving the accent of victory. Suzuki (Hofmann) points out that both the Italian and French models of the passacaglia are combined in the ostinato bass theme, exchanging it between parts (à la francaise), but Italianate in the strict form and repetitiveness of the theme.

So there we have it – in just over five minutes: chorale in augmentation/diminution, imitation, stretto, inversion, passacaglia of dual type, modulation, word-painting, tierce, pedal point and (arguably) numerology. The
passacaglia theme is the most significant deployment, for it already marks a late point in Bach’s career for original statements in the form. His early experiments with the form (BWV 4, “Christ lag in Todesbanden”, but also BWV 12Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen”, and especially BWV 150, “Nach dich Herr” ) are influenced by Buxtehude, but no-one other than Bach could have combined the form with a chorale in this way.

The final expression of the form is I think the “Crucifixus” of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232); but that is a rework of BWV 12. The chiastic C Minor Passacaglia BWV 582 (see: http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/tomparsanalysis.html) is early; c.1708; as is the Capriccio on the Departure of his Beloved Brother, evidently a very personal composition.There is, however, one other, very relevant example.

In the Partita BWV 1004 we have in the final movement the closely related form, a Chaconne; and, written just four years earlier, it too combines chorale(s) and a repetitive bass figure. However, in the case of the Chaconne, it is several chorales that are implicit within the solo violin line, as analysed by Helga Thoene. If Thoene is correct, then it unlikely that the formula of combining chorale with Passacaglia chosen by Bach for the Passion themes of BWV 78 would not have resonated in his mind with the combination of chaconne and passion chorales implicit in BWV 1004. Thus this Cantata must be very personal to Bach since his other experimentation with the combination is intimately connected with the death of his first wife, Maria Barbara, on 7 July 172.

Thus also it is Bach’s prayer as much as anyone’s in the concluding Chorale:

“Lord, I believe; help me in my weakness:
Let me indeed not lose heart;
You, you can make me stronger
When death and sin attack me.”

What a contrast between the opening Chorus and the Duet Mvt. 2! “ Exceptionally charming and therefore well known” says Dürr, who gives it but one paragraph. If the repetitive dominant F (et seq.) of the continuo, part of the stepping imagery, is belted out then it can sound trite especially after the intensity of Mvt. 1. Despite being a distillation of part of the long and very graphic blood-and-sweat depiction of the Passion in the full chorale text, the rhetorical form is significant- for those keen on such an exegesis, http://www.musicapoetica.net/bachbwv78.htm by George Dadisman sets out the textual richness of the piece. The final abrupt end in two thirds recalls the turtledoves which close BWV 71 and the depiction is of "erfreuen/erfreulich" ( delight/delighting)in the respective works.

Mvt. 4, the Tenor aria, manages to combine both the theories of the Passion, the classic Christus Victor- Jesus as a battle aid to the Christian; but also the Blood that cancels out guilt- the Satisfaction theory. However, the basic position, as in BWV 150, is depicting Christ as the all-powerful ally of the Christian against the Devil.

Mvt. 5, a very beautiful bass recitative is an unusual structure recalling the treatment of Spruchen in the Passions. There is a remarkable dramatic drop of an eleventh between “Kron” and “Grab.”

The Cantata overall is almost symmetrical in even numbers of lines:

Chorus SATB 8
Aria (duet) SA 8
Recitative T 16
Aria T 8
Recitative B 16
Aria B 7
Chorale SATB 8

The final chorale is indeed simply harmonised with a walking bass “of faith” and the tenor emphasising the final “Ewigkeit”. It achieves its full majesty in the hands of Richter [6] (in every other respect Suzuki [26] is preferable). This Chorale was a rightly popular hymn tune at the time. In part the attraction is the verbal felicity of the internal rhymes and alliteration of the first two lines, “Jesu, du der meine Seele/hast durch deinen bittern Tod”. Rist's "Sabbahtische Seelenlust" of 1651 is illustrated by a magnificent woodcut as if of "the music of the spheres", and as Yearsley notes ("Bach and the Meaning of Counterpoint), Bach would have very likely owned the work as it was in CPE Bach's library, and originated in Luneberg. Aryeh has kindly created the following link to the illustration: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV78-Frontpiece.htm

Note too that the inscription, "Die Himmel erzhalen die ehre Gottes", is the incipit of BWV 76 which is itself of 14 movements.

This book by Rist and the contemporary work by Kircher which inspired the illustration,"Musurgia Universalis", may also have been a factor in Bach's desire to create such a structurally definitive work, with many hermeneutic aspects, as is evident in the opening chorus of BWV 78.

Rist's poetry and likely Chorale melody thus inspired Bach to artistry that is instantly appealing and yet of amazing inner complexity.

Quotations from selected Commentators

Robertson:
(Mvt. 1) An hour or so spent learning how to follow with a score will be rewarding…it will show the listener the full majesty of the architecture and expression of this unforgettably poignant movement.

Whittaker:
(Mvt. 1) The fantasia is one of the most superb specimens of Bach’s art… It is like no other chorus, yet no idea is new; we are a familiar with its motives as we are with those of Der Ring der Nibelungen when we reach the close of Die Götterdämmerung. Whereas, however, Wagner’s themes are confined to his Trilogy, Bach’s are those which he utilised from his earliest days…

Boyd (Nicholas Anderson):
(Mvt. 2) The piece is among Bach’s most skilfully and affectionately cast duets; the florid Italianate vocal writing recalls that of Agostini Steffani (1654-1728), an Italian composer who worked in Düsseldorf and Hanover in the early 18th century, and whose music would have been well known in active centres of German cultural life.
(Mvt. 3) A simple recitative for Tenor, which broadens into arioso, contains a prayer for forgiveness of unusual expressive intensity. The marking “piano” at the opening is one of only two instances in the cantatas where this is found in a continuo recitative; the other is in BWV 99.

Dürr:
(Mvt. 5) The pathos-laden recitation of the Bass part and the string accompagnato recall similar movements in the Bach Passions. Sudden changes of tempo and the performance indication “con ardore” heighten the dramatic effect. The hymn quotation at the end is, on this occasion, set to the Abgesang of the chorale melody which, however, is so elaborately paraphrased that several hearings are required to recognise it. This must surely be one of the most subjective and eloquent elaborations of a cantus firmus ever written for the human voice.

Suzuki (Klaus Hofmann) [26]:
(Mvt. 1) Bach combines all eight lines of the chorale with the chromatic bass according to an ingenious plan. It is impossible to find sufficient words of praise for this constructional idea and the manner in which it is
executed. …Bach’s fundamental concept is anchored more deeply in the totality of the text, which speaks of the “bitter death” of Jesus and the “heavy grief of the soul” of mankind. It was this, rather than a simple formal experiment, that Bach was concerned to convey in his music.

Outstanding Questions

In BWV 78 Bach creates at the highest level of artistic integrity a synthesis of Chorale and Passacaglia. This Cantata is performed again in the 1730’s; many times more will he produce exquisite chorale fantasias; and the
passacaglia form and the chromatic sequence recur in the Masses. But he never again, as far as I know, achieves this wonderful combination in an original composition.

Is this therefore a unique synthesis of the two forms, chorale and passacaglia?

===============================================================

The cloud of witnesses assembled by Thomas Braatz in 2001 are of one mind regarding BWV78:

Accolades:

This is one of Felix Mendelssohn's favourite cantatas, the group of
favourites consisting of BWV 7, BWV 8, BWV 68, BWV 78.

Spitta praises "the calm control of all the artistic means and methods of composition, that have a deep masculine earnestness imprinted upon them. All this can only come from such an artistic life such as Bach's."

Schweitzer: "One of the most expressive cantatas ever written by Bach."

Simon Crouch quotes from a Marshall essay, "I can think of no more spectacular demonstration of Bach's powers of synthesis, his unparalleled combinatorial genius."

The opening movement which sets the tone of most cantatas, particularly those of the chorale cantata cycle, is singled out for special commendation:

Smend: "One of the most powerful chorale movements."

Simon Crouch: "One of the most glorious choruses in all music."

Contributions on the subject of this truly exceptional composition will be especially welcome in the light of its importance and, IMO, personal meaning for Bach himself.

===============================================================

Additional Resources

Libretto: (?) Andreas Stübel (per Wolff, “Johann Sebastian Bach: ThLearned Musician”, p.278)

Chorale:
Jesu, der du meine seele
Text: Johann Rist, 1641
Melody: (?) Johann Rist, 1641
Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale022-Eng3.htm
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Jesu-der-du-meine-Seele.htm

Translations:
English Translation: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV78.html
Other translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78.htm

Scoring:
Choir: SATB
Instruments: Fl Trav, 2 Ob, 2 Vn, Va, Cor with S., Org, Cont

Liturgical Comments:
For the 14th Sunday in Trinity
Other Cantatas written for this Sunday:
BWV 25, "Es ist nichts Gesundes an meinem Leibe", Leipzig, 1723
BWV 17, "Wer Dank opfert, der preiset mich", Leipzig, 1726
Texts of Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity14.htm

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78.htm

Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78.htm

Music (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV78-Mus.htm

Commentaries:
http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/078.html
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV78-Guide.htm

Performances of Bach Cantatas: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Concerts/Concert-2006.htm

Order of Discussion (2006): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2006.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 19, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The passacaglia, which in Bach is associated with the Passion, is challenged by the frequent repetitions of the upward rising anapaestic joy motif, increasingly insistent that the Passion motif is transformed into a sign of victory, the escape of the soul from death and the devil. >
I'm not sure if I understand your meaning. Are you saying that the passacaglia as a form is associated with the Passion, or that this particular descending chromatic theme is connected with the Passion?

Peter Smaill wrote (August 20, 2006):
[To Doug Cowling] You have spotted a somewhat deliberate ambiguity in the introduction to BWV 78 according to this dialogue:

<< The passacaglia, which in Bach is associated with the Passion, is challenged by the frequent repetitions of the upward rising anapaestic joy motif, increasingly insistent that the Passion motif is transformed into a sign
of victory, the escape of the soul from death and the devil. >>
< I'm not sure if I understand your meaning. Are you saying that the passacaglia as a form is associated with the Passion, or that this particular descending chromatic theme is connected with the Passion? >
The answer is that the 27 -fold motif repeated in "Jesu, der du meine Seele" is both a chromatic descending figure; and a passacaglia. So it is more precisely, this particular passacaglia, which by virtue of its chromaticism,
that is associated with the Passion.

The associations of either feature are as follows:

Passacaglia/Chaconne

BWV 150 The Passacaglia is a rising motif in BWV 150/7. It treats of human suffering:
"meine Tage in dem Leide, endet Gott dennoch zur Freude"

BWV 992 Lament in F major,12 variations over a chromatic chaconne bass; for the departing brother.

BWV 582 Passacaglia in C minor. Arguably chiastic structure, but not otherwise alluding to the Passion/suffering

BWV 1004 Chaconne (Chorale references ) on death of Maria Barbara. Departure and human suffering, the chorales being associated with the Passion.

Chromatic motif ( many more examples possible)

BWV 150/1,2 Both the Sinfonia and Chorus display a four note descending figure .However, the text is from the Psalms .It is the Passacaglia BWV 150/7 which alludes to Christians and the thorny path, i.e. alludes to Calvary.

BWV 4/2 The bass line at , "Fur unser Suend gegeben", i.e. the gift of the Passion against sin.

One of the short Masses (? G Minor) also displays the chromatic theme

BWV 1113 The Chorale Prelude on "Ich hab mein Sach ' Gott heimgestellt", (the Chorale being centrepiece of the St Luke Passion (BWV 246) (in a different setting)), has the four-note sequence.

Both Passacaglia and Chromatic

BWV 12/1 The A section of the chorus is a passacaglia built on twelve statements of a descending chromatic bass line, later adapted as the "Crucifixus" of MBM (BWV 232). In this transposition the link between the meditation on human suffering and the Passion is made.

Mvt. 1 As presented, both elements are linked , and the Cantata also connects the Passion with the afflictions of the human soul.

Canon and chromatic motif

BWV 1087 the "Crucigeros" canon explicitly links to the Passion and the suffering of the crossbearers i.e. Christians.

Thus it appears that both the chromatic motif and the passacaglia/chaconne forms link ( with varying power) to suffering and the Passion, when used by Bach. The point is that his use of these leitmotives does form a pattern, an inner meaning, and it is not purely or at all for reasons of displaying technique on an ad hoc basis that these musical devices are deployed.

It will be interesting if further examples are known to BCW contributors where an allusion can be drawn , even though chromaticism is so widespread in Bach that there is often no clear link to Passion/suffering themes.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 20, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The answer is that the 27 -fold motif repeated in "Jesu, der du meine Seele" is both a chromatic descending figure; and a passacaglia. So it is more precisely, this particular passacaglia, which by virtue of its chromaticism, that is associated with the Passion. >
The descending chromatic theme has been traced in similar forms back to the 16th century and was widely-used across Europe as a generalized motif of lament: Couperin used it in the "Christe" of one his organ masses, and of
course it is the basis of Dido's great lament at the end of Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas".

Even in Bach it is not so narrowly symbolic of the Passion: it is used in "Et misericordia" in the "Magnificat" (BWV 243), but I can't think of an example of its use in either the SMP (BWV 244) or the SJP (BWV 245). It makes an obvious motif to use as a lament in a movement overtly connected to the Passion by its text, but I don't think you can postulate that an abstract piece of music like the "Passacaglia in C Minor" refers to the Passion merely because it is a chromatic chaconne.

Perhaps I'm stubborn, but I just don't buy the implied chorale quotations in the D Minor Chaconne.

Peter Smaill wrote (August 20, 2006):
[To Doug Cowling] We are I think substantially in the same mode of thinking on the coincidence of passacaglia , the passus duriusculus, and the passion:

- there is not always much of a link between the chromatic four note motif and the Passion, it may be human suffering that is intended; but frequently one or other ,sometimes both types of suffering are being alluded to;
- chroper se is too widespread to generalise about;
- passacaglia/chaconne does often, but not always, allude to the Passion (agree that the link is tenuous at best with the C minor Pasacaglia, issue is the structure);
- Where both passacaglia/chaconne/canon and the passus duriusculus combine
....seems to me the correlation is high as in the examples given.

Only thought further is that indeed the passus is present in the SJP (BWV 245), however,inverted as a sign of rising from suffering; and just where it should be, right at the heart of the chiastic structure, if there is a pronounced tendency for the passus to hold this meaning. It is the penultimate bar of the chorale SJP BWV 245/40(22), "Durch dein Gefaegnis", where the bass line rise C -Csharp-D- D sharp.

The inversion has also been suggeste as a sign of inverted lament in relation to the Crucigeros canon, the source being Timothy Smith at: http://www2.nau.edu/~tas3/crownofthorns.html

Whether all those Passion chorales are actually present in BWV 1004/5 is also a good question. If they are, then BWV 78 and BWV 1004 relate by virtue of combining passacaglia/chaconne with Chorale.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 21, 2006):
BWV 78 Some details from the NBA KB

Some points from the NBA KB I/21 on BWV 78

Primary Sources:

1. Only the set of original parts has survived. It is marked A in the NBA listing of primary sources.

2. A copy of the score that may have been prepared by Johann Friedrich Doles (1715-1797), a Thomaskantor who took a special interest in copying a number of scores of Bach’s cantatas. This copy is marked B.

3. Copy C (circa 1800) is derived from B; Copy D (by Anton Werner, dated May 13, 1839) is a direct copy of C. Another copy of the score, E, is based on A, the original set of parts.

The Original Set of Parts:

All of these copied by two main copyists except where noted below

1. Soprano:

2. Alto:

3. Tenore: (some corrections and additions by Bach for mvts. 1, 3, 4)

4. Baßo: (some corrections and additions by Bach for
mvts. 1, 5, 6)

5. Corno: (only one copyist)

6. Traversiere: (the first page (mvts. 1&7) were copied by Bach; mvt. 4 by copyist 1, in the latter Bach made additions, and added articulation) [Mvt. 4 was originally the only mvt. on this page, later Bach used the back side to add mvts. 1 & 7]

7. Hautbois Primo: (Bach added numerous expression marks in mvts. 1 & 6 + ‘tacet’ markings)

8. Hautbois Secondo: (Bach added numerous expression marks in mvts. 1 & 6 + ‘tacet’ markings)

9. Violino Primo: (numerous expressions marks, corrections and other additions are all autograph)

10. Violino 2do: (numerous expression marks, corrections and other additions are all autograph)

11. Viola: (all mvts. show autograph addition of expression marks, corrections and other additions)

12: Violone: (entirely in Bach’s handwriting)

13: Continuo: (not transposed, for the most part without figures; autograph expression marks,
corrections and other additions in all mvts.)

14. Continuo: (transposed one step down with figured bass; Bach added the figures for the figured bass, expression marks and corrections) This is the only part where Copyists 3 and 4 were used and copied from A-13, the untransposed continuo parts.

1. The main copyist (Copyist 1) extracted all the parts for mvt. 1-6 from the score directly. The autograph score apparently did not yet contain the final chorale. A second copyist (Copyist 2) later added mvt. 7 to the existing parts. Copyist 2 acted as a mentor to Copyists 3 and 4 as they copied the transposed continuo part from the untransposed continuo part. Copyists 3 and 4 were inexperienced and probably still young as they made many errors and had to have Copyist 2 begin their copy work by putting in the correct key signatures and copying out, for instance the first 7 bars of mvt. 1, after which Copyist 3 had to take over. Copyist 3 completed mvts. 1 – 4 (almost to the end) at which point Copyist 4 took over and completed the rest.

2. After all the copy work had been completed, Bach decided to (at which point this occurred is not clear – it might still have been before the 1st performance or it may also have been a subsequent improvement undertaken for a later repeat performance of the cantata):

a) expand the use of the Traversiere which originally played only the obbligato part in mvt. 4. Bach turned the page of the flute part (A-6) over and added a flute part to mvts. 1 & 7. These additional parts did not introduce any original material, but relied entirely upon already existing material found in the Oboe 1 and Violin 1 parts as well as playing the soprano part an octave higher along with the Corno.

b) add a new Violone part with pizzicato quarter notes (crotchets) that provide special accents to go along with the Continuo part which has mainly 8th-notes (quavers). For this new Violone part containing only mvt. 2, Bach used the back of the page containing the Corno part (which only played in mvts. 1 & 7).

3. Bach corrected all the parts and made many additions (568 measures contain one or more corrections in all the parts not written out by him personally). Among the changes are:

a) tempo designations: “a tempo”, “lento”
b) expressive markings: “col ardore”, “col’arco”, “pizzicato”
c) dynamic markings: “p”; “f”
d) embellishments/ornaments: “tr”, appoggiaturas
e) articulation: (adding dots and slurs/phrasings)
f) changing or adding sharps and flats before individual notes

[Bach’s meticulous concern with correcting his parts and indicating carefully to his singers and players how he wanted to have them performed should be sufficient evidence that he was not interested in granting freedom of interpretation to his performers, allowing them to choose their own tempi, expressive and dynamic marks, embellishments, or articulation when performing his cantatas in church. Everything was under his tight control and not left to chance with as much performance information as possible spelled out by him in the performing parts.]

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 21, 2006):
BWV 78/2 Fermati

Doug Cowling wrote (January 10, 2005)[note the date!]:
[To Jeff]>>This lovely duet from Cantata BWV 78, "Jesu Der Du Meine Seele", is such a staple of children's choirs now that it's rare to hear it with solo voices. It's scored for soprano and alto with obbligato cello as well as continuo bass. Much enjoyment can be had realizing the keyboard with thematic material from the vocal part. There is a hideous "tradition" that the "zu dir" ("to you") should be isolated an sung at half speed.<<
I wonder if this has anything to do with the following:

Measure/bar 42, according to the original sources has both Soprano and Alto singing: "dir, zu dir." This is marked in both original vocal parts with fermati above and below the final "dir." The NBA does not include these fermati in m 42 of the score because the fermati are intended to mark the conclusion of the da capo section only in the two vocal parts where the final measures of rests are not written out, but which in the continuo parts still playing occurs later on the 3rd quarter note of m 50 where an extra hold might be in order. The mvt. does not end in m 42, hence there is not any reason to interpret the vocalists' fermati as a long hold on the final note or even as an obvious ritardando leading to it as if this were the end of the mvt. at that point (m. 42). I wonder if the BGA or some other edition did leave the fermati in the vocal parts with the continuo = violone players, not seeing this type of marking in their own parts, wondering why the vocalists have decided on drawing out their conclusion in this manner (the last two notes being held out much longer than usual).

Peter Smaill wrote (August 20, 2006):
BWV 78/Passus duriusculus

Doug Cowling raised the question as to whether this widely-used chromatic sequence can have a specific meaning, such as being linked to the Passion, since it is used in many other scenarios- famously, Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas", to name but one. Here isan article by Dietrich Bartel from the Musical Times in 2003 which says what may be common ground - it depends on the text and the context:

"BEFORE we leave Bernhard, I would like to say a few words regarding specific and explicit musical meaning of musical rhetorical figures, focusing on one of the figures which Bernhard defines, namely the passus duriusculus, a figure out of which a good deal more has at times been made than is warranted. This term only appears in the musical context, and is only encountered in the writings of Bernhard, and even then only in his Tractatus. Literally the term means a hard or harsh (duras) step or passage (passus). Bernhard defines it as occurring 'when a voice rises or falls a minor semitone', referring thereby to a chromatically altered note, a B[natural] to a B[musical flat], a C[natural] to a C#, etc. he then gives examples of chromatically ascending and descending fourths. he continues: 1It can also occur when the step to a second is augmented, to a third is diminished, or to a fourth or fifth is augmented or diminished.'17 Put simply, the passus duriusculus is a chromatically altered ascending or descending musical phrase. It should be noted, however, that a number of other authors have referred to chromatic alteration as a figure, naming it parrhesia or pathopoeia, but without linking it specifically to a chromatically moving fourth. While definitions of the pathopoeia clearly link it with expressing an affection - Burmeister states that through its use 'no one appears to remain unmoved by the created affection', and Thuringus maintains that it occurs 'when the passage is enhanced with affections of sorrow, joy, fear, laughter, mourning, mercy, exultation, !right, terror, and similar affections' - it is understood simply as an unusually affective bit of music.18 Specific figures are never linked with or limited to specific meaning. The passus duriusculus was treated in considerable detail by Hans Heinrich Eggebrecht in his article 'Zum Figur-Begriff der Musica poetica', 19 where he documented in particular Schutz's use of the descending chromatic fourth, and showed how Schutz lent this specific device a pathos-laden significance, and used it symbolically as an exegetical device. However, it must be pointed out that it was not the passus duriusculus as such that took on this symbolic meaning, but rather Schutz's use of that figure. The figure itself remains as neutral as Bernhard's definition. It is never the figure which gives specific meaning to the music, but rather the manner in which the figure is used and the text with which it is associated. It might do well to remember, however, that specific intervals, particularly in view of their numeric proportions, were considered to have inherent meaning and power, but that is another story. In more recent times Peter Williams has provided interesting examples of the use of the descending chromatic fourth throughout the seventeenth to nineteenth centuries.20 However, first of all to equate the concept of Figurenlehre with a single and obscure figure, and then to link this concept, so unique to the German musica poetica context, with the music of Beethoven, Verdi, and Wagner is a misunderstanding of the concept. That is not to say that the use and expression of such a musical device throughout recent music history is unrelated. However, a clear distinction must be made between the Baroque musica poetica concept of musical rhetoric and its Figurenlehren, and the musical devices which these figures describe or embody."

Julian Mincham wrote (August 21, 2006):
The chromatic progression

Peter Smaill wrote::
< the question as to whether this widely-used chromatic sequence can have a specific meaning, such as being linked to the Passion, since it is used in many other scenarios- famously, Purcell's "Dido and Aeneas", to name but one. >
My view is that Bartel does not help the argument by bringing together quite different sequences e.g. chromatic (i.e. semitone), chromatic 4ths etc.

It may be helpful to look at just one at a time, in the first instance the descending chromatic scale which is the one used used by Purcell in the lament, Bach in the Crucifixus and by many other composers (see Brahms, Capriccio in B minor op76--I don't think anyone has ever linked that with specific ideas such as of crucifixion!)

And of course Bach used the progression in all sorts of secular works because it is a part of the common harmonic parlance of the time--Musical Offering and the keyboard fantasis in C minor being but two of many.

But it may still be that Bach used it for particular imagic purposes in particular movements. In the Bass aria from BWV 4 there are just two statements of the descending chromatic scale--interestingly in the key of E minor (see BM mass (BWV 232)) It is unusual for Bach to announce such a striking firgure and then NOT to make further use of it in the musical and motivic development of the movements; ergo, the motive is almost certainly here used for purposes of underlining a point or image and not for structural reasons. That doesn't mean that Bach always used it for this purpose.

The discussion becomes even more interesting when we find it inverted i.e. a falling chromatic scale becomes a rising one. Here we might look at the sop/alto duet from BWV 91---also in E minor. The strings suggest Christ's power and majesty (French Overture rhythms) but the voices suggest the other part of the cantata's theme--Christ's pain and the humble nature of his birth. The chromatic allusion is abstruse but it may well be that Bach had in mind Christ's final agonies, combined with the aspiration to rise above it to his rightful position as Saviour and Redeemer of mankind. We don't know of course, but we can be pretty sure that Bach's mind often worked in this complex, convoluted way.

With regard to this particular chromatic pattern my conclusions are:

1 that it has been universally used as a symbol of lament, death and pain (see D Cooke's The Language of Music)

2 that Bach did sometimes use it as a symbol of the cross, Christ's agony and the crucifixion in particular circumstances which he might have expected listeners to recognise.

3 he also used it elsewhere as a part of the process of generating and developing motives, harmonies and melodic lines with no imagic implication.

4 he may well have used it, and variants of it, as symbols but in ways
that no listener could be expected to take in, especially on only one hearing. Whether this was a way of stimulating his imagination or whether he was writing such music principally for God alone, we have to conjecture.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 21, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
(A bunch of excellent details reproduced from the NBA KB I/21 on BWV 78, first.)
< (...) [Bach’s meticulous concern with correcting his parts and indicating carefully to his singers and players how he wanted to have them performed should be sufficient evidence that he was not interested in granting freedom of interpretation to his performers, allowing them to choose their own tempi, expressive and dynamic marks, embellishments, or articulation when performing his cantatas in church. Everything was under his tight control and not left to chance with as much performance information as possible spelled out by him in the performing parts.] >
Thanks for the first half of the posting, very interesting stuff. This pedantic paragraph at the end was gratuitous, though, trying to press the notion that all of Bach's ensemble was some batch of sheep needing to be guided with a literalistic fervour; and as if the piece could be performable with only such an approach, to be non-deviant from the score.

Obviously, Bach corrected his parts so there would be some chance of a reasonably musical and clear performance, and not just a bunch of stupid and easily-avoidable mistakes arising from copyist errors. The same process obtains for any composition by anybody, if they have to work from handwritten parts. Give each musician enough of an accurate pa, and sufficient instruction, that the thing will work, when all played together. The better the preparation of the written materials, the easier the conductor's and everybody else's job is, in turning this into sound. Duh. This is basic practical church-musicianship in action. It's not some further stricture that everybody has to play exactly and only those particular notes.

If it surfaces that there ever exist any original T.B. compositions for church, we'll know how they ought to be performed: with absolutely iron control and allowing nothing outside the carefully-rationed parts, lest the musicians be publically belittled for doing it wrong, or for thinking independently as musicians. As for Bach scores and parts for church, there's obviously more leeway allowing musicians to be musicians: because Bach really was a music teacher and conductor aware of how much (and how little!) really needs to be written down, to get the job done well. For example, providing merely a figured-bass part for the organist's suitable improvisation, and not writing out every little note (or any of them!) to be played by the right hand. That's something to be worked out in rehearsals and by listening during the performance, i.e. knowing how to do one's job as a musician.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 21, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I wonder if the BGA or some other edition did leave the fermati in the vocal parts with the continuo = violone players, not seeing this type of marking in their own parts, wondering why the vocalists have decided on drawing out their conclusion in this manner (the last two notes being held out much longer than usual). >
Ummm....dude, the BGA (Bach-Gesellschaft) never furnished any set of performing parts under its own auspices. It's only a full-score edition.

By the way, I've looked at the BGA score of this movement, Mvt. 2: it has no fermatas anywhere, for any of the parts, other than the obvious one indicating where the A section ends coming back from the da capo the second time through. That is, the fermata for everybody saying this is the end of the piece in the A-B-A form.

And if you're so much wondering what continuo players might be "wondering" during performances, maybe it would behoove you to try playing in an orchestra sometime, under a decent conductor and with decent colleagues, to learn how things work in practice. Just a suggestion.

The first movement, Mvt. 1, in the BGA also indicates the bunch of places where the organ part needed to take the bass line up an octave, instead of falling off the bottom end of the keyboard: since the organist at Leipzig was playing from a part written-out in a different key, to handle the transposing situation. That's basically all the phrases that happen to have a low C in them, being brought upward by an octave. That would not need to be done if playing the piece on a modern organ when reading from a part that has been transposed back to G minor instead of F minor. Or, is somebody pedantic enough to insist that the organist today should transpose those passages up an octave anyway, because the part says so and because a literalistic approach is the only way to make music?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 21, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
(A bunch of excellent details reproduced from the NBA KB I/21 on BWV 78, first.)
<< (...) [Bach¹s meticulous concern with correcting his parts and indicating carefully to his singers and players how he wanted to have them performed should be sufficient evidence that he was not interested in granting freedom of interpretation to his performers, allowing them to choose their own tempi, expressive and dynamic marks, embellishments, or articulation when performing his cantatas in church. Everything was under his tight control and not left to chance with as much performance information as possible spelled out by him in the performing parts.] >>
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Thanks for the first half of the posting, very interesting stuff. This pedantic paragraph at the end was gratuitous, though, trying to press the notion that all of Bach's ensemble was some batch of sheep needing to be guided with a literalistic fervour; and as if the piece could be performable with only such an approach, to be non-deviant from the score. >
I think it's worth pointing out that Cantata BWV 78 is atypical because of the wealth of detail which Bach adds. Dynamic markings are quite rare in the cantatas and there are many which do not have the embellisments and articulations so carefully marked. And the wealth of tempo and interpretative markings is amazing. It is quite unusual to see a marking such as "con ardore". I can imagine Bach saying it to the singer during a rehearsal but seeing it on a score is quite a novelty. For some reason, Bach provided more information than normal for this score. Was it conducted by someone else? Was there originally a presentation score for someone else? Performers can only wish for so much direction from Bach in other cantatas.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 21, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I think it's worth pointing out that Cantata BWV 78 is atypical because of the wealth of detail which Bach adds. (...) For some reason, Bach provided more information than normal for this score. Was it conducted by someone else? Was there originally a presentation score for someone else? Performers can only wish for so much direction from Bach in other cantatas. >
The only thing extant (originally from Bach, anyway) is a set of parts; no score.

As for scores being especially marked-up to be conducted by somebody else, we don't know one way or the other on such an implication. How about Gustav Mahler and the extreme details he wrote out for himself as conductor only in the scores, not for any parts?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 22, 2006):
Cantata 78 - Ornaments

Intrigued by the possibility that Bach might have marked every ornament in this wonderful cantata, I took a closer look at a couple of movements. In fact, there are numerous places where Bach does not mark what is a conventional alteration.

In the tenor Recit, "Ach! Ich bin ein Kind", there are obvious places for appogiaturas in bars 6, 12, 18 & 19. Interestingly, Bach very carefully indicates the little slide and apog in the bar 20.

In the bass Recit,"Die Wunde" there are implied appogiaturas in bars 4 & 7.

These are all standard cadential forumlae which ornamented in the period and indeed in Bach's own works. I find it hard to believe that the composer did not expect his singers to ornament these utterly conventional cadences. A quick listen to Leusink [20] reveals that, with only once exception, the singers in that recording all add the ornaments.

In the second movement, "Wir eilen", there are three cadential figures which would seem to suggest unmarked trills. Leusink's singers [20] do not add them. It would be instructive to compare other recordings to see what decisions the other conductors make.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 22, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Obviously, Bach corrected his parts so there would be some chance of a reasonably musical and clear performance, and not just a bunch of stupid and easily-avoidable mistakes arising from copyist errors.<<
If you had read carefully, you would have noticed that Bach did more than simply correct some wrong notes. Actually, the greater emphasis was upon adding articulation, dynamics, and embellishments.

BL: >>The better the preparation of the written materials, the easier the conductor's and everybody else's job is, in turning this into sound. Duh.<<
The more time Bach spent in revising his parts and making them more intricate, the better his chances were that his performers would not insist on wider latitude of freedom and flexibility in interpreting his music. Duh.

BL: >>This is basic practical church-musicianship in action. It's not some further stricture that everybody has to play exactly and only those particular notes.<<
Perhaps this notion of basic practical musicianship in action where the Bach's scores are treated as only a general outline or guideline is the reason why such practical church musicians do not rank very high among world-class recordings of Bach's cantatas. Greater respect for Bach's scores might help to cure this problem.

BL: >>For example, providing merely a figured-bass part for the organist's suitable improvisation, and not
writing out every little note (or any of them!) to be played by the right hand.<<
Ending on a positive note! Yes, this is probably the one area (keyboardists, and perhaps also lute, theorbo, but not cello or violone) in the continuo group where such flexibility does exist, but look at what many HiP continuo players have done with this by reducing the held notes or chords drastically without firm support for the theory on which this is based.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 22, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Ummm....dude, the BGA (Bach-Gesellschaft) never furnished any set of performing parts under its own auspices. It's only a full-score edition.<<
Dude??!! You are right, I was really thinking of the Neue Bach Gesellschaft which published a number of cantatas as performing editions at the beginning of the 20th century. Thanks for the correction.

BL: >>By the way, I've looked at the BGA score of this movement, Mvt. 2: it has no fermatas anywhere, for any of the parts, other than the obvious one indicating where the A section ends coming back from the da capo the second time through. That is, the fermata for everybody saying this is the end of the piece in the A-B-A form.<<
The NBA has the fermati in the same place. The point is that the Soprano and Alto original parts have the fermati where the voices stop singing. I suspect that some pratical performing edition (Breitkopf & Härtel)
may have included these fermati.

BL: >>Or, is somebody pedantic enough to insist that the organist today should transpose those passages up an octave anyway, because the part says so and because a literalistic approach is the only way to make music?<<
All of this is covered in detail and has been corrected in the NBA KB. Remember that two new 'beginners' were given the task of copying one of the continuo parts. Some major blunders occurred and were corrected.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 78: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Article:
Program Notes to Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 78 [S. Burton]

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