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Cantata BWV 78
Jesu, der du meine Seele
Discussions - Part 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of January 29, 2012

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 29, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 78 -- Jesu, der du meine Seele

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 78, the second of three works for the 14th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV78.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening, music examples included.

The BWV 78 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner and Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 78 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages.

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< BWV 78 -- Jesu, der du meine Seele >
A question about continuo realization.

The duet is built over a double bass line: a figured cello line and a simplified pizzicato violone line. Other than the figures, there is nothing in the cello line that would suggest a melodic shape for the organ realization. Yet when the voices enter, we see the bass line of the opening ritornello repeated almost identically. In most recorded performance, the organ part is realized to pre-echo the vocal parts. How did Bach's organist know what the vocal parts were going to sing when when all he had in front of him was the figured bass line?

I'm curious if any contemporary continuo methods discuss the situation.

There really can be only three solutions:

1) The organist realized the ritornellos without any melodic reference to the vocal parts.

2) The organist was such an accomplished improviser that, like a good jazz player, he would hear the vocal parts in the rehearsal and incorporate elements like the little turn figure into his realization.

3) The organist (Bach?) played from the full score and so could anticipate and echo the vocal lines.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 29, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< A question about continuo realization.
[...]
In most recorded performance, the organ part is realized to pre-echo the vocal parts. How did Bach's organist know what the vocal parts were going to sing when when all he had in front of him was the figured bass line?
I'm curious if any contemporary continuo methods discuss the situation.
There really can be only three solutions:
[...]
2) The organist was such an accomplished improviser that, like a good jazz player, he would hear the vocal parts in the rehearsal and incorporate elements like the little turn figure into his realization. >
Thanks for steering us to listen for this detail. I hope someone can answer the general question.

With regard to option (2), if it is possible that Bach was the organist, no problem at all, in fact no need even to infer rehearsal, from this particular detail!

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (January 29, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The duet ... There really can be only three solutions:
1) The organist realized the ritornellos without any melodic reference to the vocal parts. >
This is the most likely answer. Written-out cadenzas in 18th c. concertos, up to and including Haydn and Mozart, as a rule did not use any material from the main work. AFAIK, the Romantic trend to use themes from the main work starts with Beethoven (in cadenzas to his own and to Mozart concertos). Therefore, I am not surprised to find that, back in the Baroque era, the few "continuo realisations" we have from Bach (including the Adagio in D major from the Sonata in b minor for flute and harpsichord), are also devoid of any use of main subjects.

< 2) The organist was such an accomplished improviser that, like a good jazz player, he would hear the vocal parts in the rehearsal and incorporate elements like the little turn figure into his realization.
3) The organist (Bach?) played from the full score and so could anticipate and echo the vocal lines. >
. . . which is what, as Douglas noted, most modern recordings do. AFAIK, this was not historical Baroque continuo practice.

I guess a few exceptions existed, and would be interesting to know about them.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2012):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
<< The organist (Bach?) played from the full score and so could anticipate and echo the vocal lines. >>
<. . . which is what, as Douglas noted, most modern recordings do. AFAIK, this was not historical Baroque continuo practice. >
I was surprised that Dreyfus ("Bach's Continuo Group') proposed that Bach must have played from the full score as the only logical solution in several cantatas with complicated continup provisions.

The question of continuo pre-echoing of the vocal part goes right back to the beginning in Monteverdi's scores which have the same structure of an introductory bass ritornello which is then repeated with counter-melodies in the voice. I recently edited a performing edition of a 17th century Campra motet for solo voice and continuo which has the same layout. I couldn't resist sketching out a pre-echo in the realization for the organist. I was amused that in the performance he ignored all of my clever antiphonal effects.

I'm curious if there is any contemporary discussion of the issue which predates Bach by 125 years. It's an important aesthetic question which can produce very different performances.

I'm looking at the Novello piano-vocal score of the St. Matthew Passion which was edited by Edward Elgar and Ivor Atkins. In an aria such as "Geduld, geduld" (No.41), Elgar has provided a dazzling three voice realization for the harpsichord. Yet in true Romantic style, he is happy to leave portions of the bass line unrealized.

Charles Francis wrote (January 29, 2012):
BWV 78 videos

The following commercial and amateur performances may be of interest.

Opening Chorus:
J. S. Bach-Stiftung: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIWJOKmsgLs
Il Fondamento: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7XVGlLS51c

Duet:
Freya and Aishah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_nwWS1FX7MM
Orquestra Sinfonica de la Escuela Nacional de Musica de la UNAM (SERGIO CÁRDENAS): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGSckoaRHn4
Karl Richter (1950): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KopaSetMhAQ

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 29, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Opening Chorus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cIWJOKmsgLs >
Nice double-dotting in the ritornello. The singing is lovely but rather understated.

Interesting that the orchestras stands to play in 18th century fashion.

Francis Browne wrote (January 30, 2012):
BWV 78 Notes on the text

BWV 78 was written for the 14th Sunday after Trinity and first performed enough on 10th September 1724. It is therefore part of the cycle of chorale cantatas which Bach composed in his second year at Leipzig. The texts of these cantatas are based on hymns of which the first and last stanzas are used unchanged while the intervening verses are adapted to recitatives and arias.

The unknown author has adapted a 12 stanza hymn by Johannnes Rist which dates from 1641. Rist wrote some 650 religious poems and seems unable to express himself in less than 10 stanzas The connection between the gospel reading -Jesus heals 10 lepers -and the hymn is tenuous: both involve appeals to Jesus and the 'leprosy of sin' is mentioned in a recitative. However, Rist's main concern is a meditation on Christ's Passion which heals the faithful and brings peace to the troubled conscience. In general, Bach's librettist revises and adapts the earlier text to express a more confident faith

Rist's verbal dexterity is at once shown in the opening movement which is an appeal to Jesus expressed in one complex sentence whose words are fitted into a rhyme scheme ababccdd. Adjectives are frequent and conventional -bitter death, dark hell etc -but it is skilfully done and reads fluently.

Bach's setting of this opening stanza is magnificent and monumental - so much so that as JulianMincham comments: doubtless Bach recognised the need for a little light relief after such intensity. The duet for soprano and alto which follows is sheer delight. The text is based on the second stanza of Rist .But either Bach or his librettist has radically altered the hymn to accommodate the joyful music. Rist's emphasis is on Jesus' care in rescuing the verlorn Schäflein (lost sheep) who are verfluchtet (cursed), fall into Hell etc. In the cantata the emphasis is instead placed on the joyous response to Jesus' call.

Mincham speculates: Bach must often have composed movements of this kind in a single evening. One wonders if he may have put his pipe down on his composing desk after creating a jewel of this kind and allowed himself to think, 'Well, that was a good evening's work'.

I wonder also about Bach's composition of this movement. The text has been purposefully altered. Was Bach inspired to write such music by the revised text or did his compositional process begin with a musical idea to which the text was then accommodated? Of course such a question is unanswerable but it would be fascinating to know how Bach created such joyful beauty

The third movement tenor recitative is based on stanzas 3-5 of the hymn. Two lines are quoted from each stanza. What Rist says about human sinfulness and the contradictory nature of our will is stated more succinctly and Bach's librettist anticipates the aria to follow by adding the idea of handing over the burden of our sins to Jesus.

The tenor aria adapts stanza 6 and 7 of the hymn. From stanza 6 comes the redemptive power of Christ's blood and from stanza 7 his assistance against the hosts of hell. But what in Rist are prayers become factual statements in Bach's text.

The same more positive rewriting is seen in the second recitative for bass which uses stanzas 8-10. Rist says that the details of Christ's passion bring consolation : in the cantata text they are Siegeszeichen, signs of vicory. Rist says that only Jesus can prevent him from hearing words of condemnation at the last judgement. In the cantata curse turns to blessing, sorrow and pain have no more effect and Jesus' heart burns with love for those who follow him. The last four lines of stanza 10 are then used verbatim.

The sixth movement bass aria is an adaptation of stanza 11. There is little difference in content but whoever rewrote Rists stanza has tried to intensify the language : where Rist's conscience torments him (plagt) his successor finds that his conscience cries out against him for vengeance. Rist is confident that no one who believes will be lost, Bach's librettist is sure that no enemy will ever steal them from Christ's hands.

As is usual in the chorale cantatas the last stanza is set unchanged.As is usual in chorales the concluding strophe brings the hymn to a close by repeating earlier themes and prayers and ending with the hope of heaven for the future.

Rist and Bach's Leipzig collabarator have between them provided the basis for a cantata which, as John Eliot Gardner says, is the pick of the cantatas for this Sunday and one in which an exceptional level of inspiration is maintained through all its movements.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 30, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< The duet ... There really can be only three solutions:
2) The organist was such an accomplished improviser that, like a good jazz player, he would hear the vocal parts in the rehearsal and incorporate elements like the little turn figure into his realization. >>
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< . . . which is what, as Douglas noted, most modern recordings do. AFAIK, this was not historical Baroque continuo practice. >
I think it worth emphasizing this distinction between modern recordings (however HIP), and historical Baroque continuo practice.

If Bach was both continuo organist and composer, however, no such conflict?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 30, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I couldn't resist sketching out a pre-echo in the realization for the organist. I was amused that in the performance he ignored all of my clever antiphonal effects. >
Did you make them too difficult? Amusement is a charitable response, in any case.

Any chance the organist might be reading BCML?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 31, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Did you make them too difficult? >
Not at all. In fact he read the figures in the fuzzy facsimile of the original edition correctly and was able to correct my guesses –his solutions had much more Gallic sex appeal.

 

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]

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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Last update: ýMarch 12, 2012 ý11:25:58