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

Cantata BWV 80
Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott
Cantata BWV 80a
Alles, was von Gott geboren
Cantata BWV 80b
Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Cantata BWV 80 amplifications

Paul Farseth wrote (July 24, 2002):
Let me second the comment of "Handelnext" that he prefers the W.F. Bach additions of trumpet(s) and tympani to cantata BWV 80 ("Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott") over the more spare "original." I have three recordings of this, two with trumpets and tympani, and those earlier versions (Richter is the best) carry the day. The full-toned robust women's voices help, also.

It seems to me that since the original performances of BWV 80 or its predecessor seem to have been done during Lent, the omission of festive instruments would have been dictated by church policy, not by esthetic considerations. If old Bach trusted his oldest son to sketch out the extra parts for the use of the cantata at a Reformation Festival near All Saints Day, it would be an expression of trust in the student into whose musical education he had put the most effort. If W.F. Bach added the parts after his father's death, it would still seem to this listener that he had been faithful to the sense of the text, which Heinrich Heine called "the Marseilleise of the Reformation." Luther's hymn, even with the pietistic interpolations in the cantata text, is full of energy, a sort of grim "raspberry" made in the face of Death, the Devil, and all the balefull forces of the civil powers. (Indeed, Luther's lines "Der Fuerst dieser Welt, / wie saur er sich stellt" may have a double-meaning, comparing this World's prince to a Hans Wurst, the stock character ("Jack Wiener" if we translate it) of German low humor. Compare Luther's irreverence in the text for earthly authorities to the c. 1943 Spike Jones pop hit "Der Fuehrer's Face," one of the great songs sung in America during the darker days of that war.

Robert Sherman wrote (July 24, 2002):
[To Paul Farseth} I like Richter [8] a lot, also Leppard [12] (Ely Ameling is great in the soprano solo; class tells here). But try the old Gönnenwein recording [6] also. In the first movement, where WFB uses the organ pedal in canon with the first trumpet, Gönnenwein uses a modern bass trombone. Totally non-authentic, but it really works!

 

BWV 80 "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott"

Boyd Pehrson wrote (November 1, 2002):
The (BWV 80) cantata "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" was used for Reformation Sunday Celebration and first performed on this day 278 years ago Oct. 31st, 1724 in Leipzig by the Thomanerchor under Thomas Cantor Johann Sebastian Bach.

The Cantata is firmly grounded in Martin Luther's Hymn of the same name- a hymn which would have been well known and liked... as today it is still well known and liked. Bach's rather transparent treatment of the Hymn's chorale melody shows deep respect for the congregational hymn, and is composed in a way, a decidedly German and un-Italian baroque way, that expresses the essence of the hymn and its meaning. That meaning is a great Battle, battle against the forces arrayed against good, battle against the forces of darkness- with Christ as Captain of the armies of good.

Luther's conception of battle against the established and corrupt church structure of human leadership was focused against those who usurped the doctrine of love by, for, and of Christ, through greasy and distasteful sales of indulgences. But this is a battle in the larger sense that is already won- Christ as victor, and God as foundation. Bach's use of bass is an interesting exploration of bass as foundation in musical architecture. His bass creates a foundation- solid and unmoveable, the tracing of the foundational architecture is distinct in every turn. This picture of an unmoveable and good God of peace and love and light permeates the chorales in aggressively joyful and triumphant musical expression.

The cantata includes a tenor and alto duet with oboe da caccia which explores the essence of the spirituality of the hymn, and the text is particularly delicious to the ears (of this english speaker) when sung in the German language:

"Wie selig sind doch die, die Gott im Munde tragen, Doch selger ist das Herz, das ihn im Glauben trägt! Es bleibet unbesiegt und kann die Feinde schlagen Und wird zuletzt gekrönt, wenn es den Tod erlegt."

The fact that this hymn has been widely published and sung in English broadens the universal appeal of the Cantata BWV 80. This is the best argument perhaps for translating other German hymns that are clearly reflected in Bach's music. Catherine Winkworth made such a fine effort of doing just this in the 19th century. Shall we continue?

C.F. Abdy Willams in 1899 tells us this was the first Bach Cantata to be published in the 19th century. I think this speaks of the Cantata's popularity. The cantata itself speaks of a most solid connection Bach had with his church and faith. To this day the hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" ("A Mighty Fortress is Our God") is relished by congregations of Christians around the world.One can imagine the excitement that Bach's Cantata brought to his congregation that Sunday morning 278 years ago- how eagerly they must have joined in the singing, as was expected. This is the singable Cantata, and one that transcends philosophical bounds. Today congregations leap into singing when this hymn starts. It demonstrates the connectivity of faith and music in text and transcendant meaning.

 

Bach Cantata No 80 (A mighty fortress)

Bernie Abacus wrote (April 19, 2003):
I am looking for an musical analysis of this piece, I have searched the net but can only find very brief writeups anyone out there have something more substancial??

Claude Bonfils wrote (April 20, 2003):
[To Bernie Abacus] As this song was originally written by Martin Luther, you may look for the origins of the music on this song in Luther's books, but I think that the book from Philippe Charru and Christoph Theobald called " the chorals from lutheran cathechism in Bachs' work" should be very helpful. Otherwise the best book ever written on the subject in the Bach Handbuch written by Konrad Kuster.

John [Jsb1441] wrote (April 20, 2003):
[To Bernie Abacus] Christoph Wolff devotes a chapter to this cantata (BWV 80) in his book Bach: Essays on His Life and Music. The book is still in print and is well worth owning and the chapter on Ein feste Burg is excellent.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 20, 2003):
[To Bernie Abacus] Please look at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV80-D.htm

Judging by your message I understand that you are not yet a member of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List (BCML)? If so and if you like the Bach Cantatas, I warmly recommend to you joining the BCML.You will be able to ask the knowledgeable members of the BCML questions, and also to learn something or two from them. The instructions how to join the BCML appear in the following page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/How.htm

Pete Blue wrote (April 20, 2003):
[To Bernie Abacus] Do you know Aryeh Oron's Bach Cantatas Website? Go to www.bach-cantatas.com and search for BWV 80, then click on Discussions. They talked about this famous cantata the week of October 22, 2000.

Bernie Abacus wrote (April 21, 2003):
Thanks for everyones help :-)

 

BWV 80 - Latin texts

Alex Riedlmayer wrote (June 7, 2003):
Does anyone know the alternate texts used in the choruses of BWV 80 ("Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott") as arranged with and drums by WFB? All I have seen of these verses are their first lines, "Gaudete omnes populi..." and "Manebit verbum Domini..."

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 8, 2003):
[To Alex Riedlmayer] The NBA KB I/31 includes the 3 trumpet parts + timpani that was added later by WFB. The Latin texts are given as follows:

Gaudete omnes populi,
habemus Deum fortem,
Est Sabaoth, qui nullibi
vult peccatoris mortem.
Ecclesiam suam
servat securam
et firmissimum
ejus est fulcrum,
a malo hoste
tuetur optime,
vim Satanae ligavit.

Manebit verbum Domini,
quid tela hostis dira,
nam Spitius Paracleti
adest tutela mira.
Sumat corpora
sumat spolium,
cara omnia:
nil nobis perditum,
nam manet regnum Dei.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (June 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Just wondering, why did these verses get translated? WFB was still Lutheran, right, so then why would a piece need to be translated from the denomination's primary language to its secondary?

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 8, 2003):
Matthew Neugebauer wondered:
>>just wondering, why did these verses get translated? WFB was still Lutheran, right, so then why would a piece need to be translated from the denomination's primary language to its secondary?<<
A good question! Consider the following:

1) Why did J.S. Bach parody numerous mvts. from his cantatas with German texts to create the B minor Mass? For whom did Bach really write this mass?

2) The influence of politics surrounding August der Starke ['the strong one'] and his son in the 1st half of the 18th century in Dresden: He (Catholic, converted in 1697) with a wife who was German Protestant caused a theater (opera house where ballet performances could take place) to be converted into the Court Chapel. He wanted Catholic (Latin) music in church, his wife insisted that at least at certain services (then called the 'old services') German chorales were to be performed or sung by the congregation. Although August der Starke died in 1733 and difficult times followed his death, many of the changes which he brought about lingered on.

3) From August 1, 1733 until April 16, 1746, W. F. Bach was the organist at the Dresden Sophienkirche (it had a Silbermann organ) and was required only to play the organ for the divine services (the old-style German services) and to compose 'figural' music only for feast days. WFB spent much time associating with the outstanding musicians of the Royal Chapel who were called upon to perform the 'figural' music.

4) At his new position in Halle beginning on April 16, 1746, WFB, no longer had the connection with the court. He now had a position in Halle, a typical town located centrally in Germany without any strong court association, that was somewhat similar to that of his father's in Leipzig: he was 'director musices' and his duties included playing the organ as well as performing figural music on a regular basis, that is on all feast days, but only on every third ordinary Sunday. In his own compositions, WFB therefore concentrated on cantatas for special occasions, since these works could be re-used annually. He held this position until May 1764.

It would appear more likely that WFB's Latinized version of BWV 80 belongs to the Dresden period. Neither the MGG nor the NBA KB can place a date on the portions of the manuscript version which are in WFB's handwriting (this includes his own handwriting of the Latin text.) Could the musicians in Halle have played the trumpet parts? Certainly the ones in Dresden would have had that capability.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (June 8, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks Tom! I'm assuming that #2 is the most important reason here!

As with #1, didn't JSB do the MBM for the guy in charge of Koeln and Poland, who happened to be Catholic?

Another question that people may be able to answer is: what was the dad's reaction to his son's additions? WF was JS' favourite, so if I were to answer my own question then I'd guess that JS liked it and encouraged such activity. Are there any accounts of letters or conversations that JS had about WF's additions?

p.s. I love the additions and think they emphasize the theme of the text-God being a mighty fortress to give us sanctuary against the enemy-much more effectively than the original (sorry JSB, unless you didn't mind the additions in the first place!)

Robert Sherman wrote (June 8, 2003):
[To Matthew Neugebauer] As I hear it, Gönnenwein's recording takes the additions one step further and uses a large-bore bass trombone to replace (or supplement) the organ pedals that are in canon one measure behind the trumpet chorale statements in the first section. It's a great idea, perfectly logical in terms of evolution of instruments, and works well. Unfortunately, in other aspects Gonnenwein's first section is only mid-quality -- chorus too large, tempo a bit slow.

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (June 9, 2003):
Matthew Neugebauer wrote:
< as with #1, didn't JSB do the MBM for the guy in charge of Köln and Poland, who happened to be Catholic? >
In the spring of 1733, Bach was music director in Leipzig. In that year, Elector riedrich August I of Saxony, which is a region of Germany that included Leipzig, died. Playing music was prohibited for 5 months when public morning was imposed. The new elector, Friedrich August II was to take his place in Dresden. Taking this opportunity to obtain the favor of the new court and hoping to be granted the title of court composer, Bach used this time to write a new composition and presented the new elector, who was a Roman Catholic, with a setting of the Missa, containing a Kyrie and Gloria, to music. This Missa was performed in 1733 in Dresden; however, it is doubtful whether it was ever performed in Leipzig at that time. In 1736, Bach was finally granted the title of "Hofkoponist" at the Dresden court. Bach would later use this Missa as the first major section of his B-minor Mass (BWV 232).

 

Bach's Cantata 80 trumpet/timpani

Casey wrote (September 30, 2003):
< According to the All Classical Guide, the trumpets and timpani were added to Bach's Magnificat by his eldest son. Do either Koopman or Herreweghe include these spurious instruments? How noticeable are they? What other CDs do not include these instruments? >
Geez, I'm such an idiot. I was looking online at Herreweghe's CD of the Magnificat and BWV 80, and I meant to ask this question about the latter. Duh!

Rick Cavalla wrote (September 30, 2003):
[To Casey] Herreweghe uses the trumpet version. I believe the trumpets were only added to 2 of the movements, so I would not let that be a deciding factor. If you like Herreweghe's Bach, go ahead and buy this disc.

 

Bach Cantata #80 instruments and A-440 [Choral Talk]

Jim Edgar wrote (November 7, 2004):
The Kalmus large score for Bach #80 calls for myriad oboe family members including oboe, oboe d'amore, oboe da caccia (english horn equivalent), and english horn as such. The clear indication to me is that Bach had access to 3 oboists, each with a quiver of oboes at their disposal. These days your average church choral director does not have that access. Also, I have purchased one other Bach cantata instrument set with an actual oboe d'amore score and no modern instrument equivalent. ( I ended up transposing that music and working around the lowest notes beyond the reach of the oboe.) When I quizzed our favorite oboe player about english horn she told me that her circle of oboe friends had one tattered english horn that made the rounds and could play most notes most of the time. Oboes d'amore were unheard of. The score also calls for three trumpeters. They are pretty expensive in their own right, especially for the small amount of playing they do in a cantata.

I do plan next week to call my favorite music purveyor to the best set of scores available. Before doing that I would like to access the wisdom of the choraltalk community. What do you think of some of these performance options?

General:
1. Transpose the lower oboe parts for B-flat instrument and use clarinets.
2. Use two trumpeters and fill in some of trumpet 3 with the oboe (sort of like Vivaldi with the oboe & trumpet in "Gloria").
3. Use 4 strings, one trumpet, one oboe and make do.

Movement 7:
1. Transpose the oboe da caccia part to alto clef and give it to the viola to cover.
2. Transpose the oboe da caccia part for the regular oboe and write the lower parts up...tastefully, of course.

A-440:
With all that, what is your experience with lower tuning? What are the logistics of that? Some of the tenor and soprano parts are pretty high and it would be great to put those notes more within the reach of once-a-week singers.

As in most programs, our budget is not infinite and we are always faced with a balance between authenticity and practicality. Many of you MUST have performed this cantata with limited resources and it would be great to hear from you on this.

Getting the songs sung in Milwaukee,

John Howell [Virginia Tech Department of Music - Blacksburg, Virginia, USA] wrote (November 7, 2004):
[To Jim Edgar] There's another option you don't seem to have considered, or rather at least two other options. (1) Don't do the work because you can't afford the orchestra it requires. (2) Do the work with organ accompaniment.

Yes, there are modern oboes d'amore. No, there are not a lot of them. You don't say where you are, but around here (S.W. Virginia) the oboe professor at Ohio State and his wife are first call players both with the symphony and for pickup orchestras. They have and play (beautifully) the full range of modern oboes. Of course you won't see one if you live in an area where even English horns--a staple of the symphonic repertoire--don't exist. On the Bach Christmas Oratorio (full of oboe d'amore parts) we used one oboe, adjusting the low notes, and one English horn. They don't blend like two identical instruments would.

As to the trumpets, it sounds like you expect to pay them by the note! You're paying for expertise that takes years to develop, and for the piccolo trumpets that the best players use as a matter of course. It's called "skilled labor," and you won't get it on the cheap.

< The Kalmus large score for Bach #80 calls for myriad oboe family members including oboe, oboe d'amore, oboe da caccia (english horn equivalent), and english horn as such. The clear indication to me is that Bach had access to 3 oboists, each with a quiver of oboes at their disposal. >
Got it in one! They were town bandsmen, who had to be able to play a variety of instruments. And while identifying some of Bach's more obscure instruments is still unsettled, chances are that there was NO "english horn as such" in existence.

< These days your average church choral director does not have that access. >
Yup. That's an automatic problem when you program Bach, and an awfully good reason to do it at modern pitch with organ only.

< Also, I have purchased one other Bach cantata instrument set with an actual oboe d'amore score and no modern instrument equivalent. ( I ended up transposing that music and working around the lowest notes beyond the reach of the oboe.) When I quizzed our favorite oboe player about english horn she told me that her circle of oboe friends had one tattered english horn that made the rounds and could play most notes most of the time. Oboes d'amore were unheard of. The score also calls for three trumpeters. They are pretty expensive in their own right, especially for the small amount of playing they do in a cantata.
I do plan next week to call my favorite music purveyor to get the best set of scores available. Before doing that I would like to access the wisdom of the choraltalk community. What do you think of some of these performance options?
General:
1. Transpose the lower oboe parts for B-flat instrument and use clarinets. >
Terrible choice. Even saxophones would sound better!

< 2. Use two trumpeters and fill in some of trumpet 3 with the oboe (sort of like Vivaldi with the oboe & trumpet in "Gloria"). >
I'd have to look at the score (I don't really know Cantata 80 at all). Might work, might not.

< 3. Use 4 strings, one trumpet, one oboe and make do. >
With organ? Might not be that bad a decision.

< Movement 7:
1. Transpose the oboe da caccia part to alto clef and give it to the viola to cover. >
I'd have to look at the score.

< 2. Transpose the oboe da caccia part for the regular oboe and write the lower parts up...tastefully, of course. >
Probably the best choice. (We've been doing a Broadway musical every summer for the past 13 years. Some shows have alternate oboe parts for the English horn doubles, some don't. In "King & I" it's a poor choice, because the "exotic" sound of the English horn is part of the overall ambience.)

< A-440:
With all that, what is your experience with lower tuning? What are the logistics of that? Some of the tenor and soprano parts are pretty high and it would be great to put those notes more within the reach of once-a-week singers. >
Unless you have experienced baroque players used to playing at 415, DON'T!!!! You have to have woodwinds at 415, which means historical copies, which you probably have no chance at getting. Your keyboard player would shoot you (with cause!). Your string players would laugh if you asked them to tune down.

< As in most programs, our budget is not infinite and we are always faced with a balance between authenticity and practicality. >
In your situation, by all means go for practicality, but that doesn't necessarily mean dumping Bach's orchestral sound and balance in favor of the Glenn Miller orchestra!!

Kevin Sutton wrote (November 7, 2004):
Jim Edgar wrote:
< What do you think of some of these performance options?
General:
1. Transpose the lower oboe parts for B-flat instrument and use clarinets. >
Definitely not. The clarinet was not invented yet in Bach's time, and it doesn't sound like any instrument that he knew. It would be the wrong color and too loud.

< 2. Use two trumpeters and fill in some of trumpet 3 with the oboe (sort of like Vivaldi with the oboe & trumpet in "Gloria"). >
I have actually see that sort of thing work well.

< 3. Use 4 strings, one trumpet, one oboe and make do. >
Possibly.

< Movement 7:
1. Transpose the oboe da caccia part to alto clef and give it to the viola to cover. >
Again, wrong color, but such things were known to happen in the composer's time when he didn't have what he needed. He and Händel often rearranged their own music for such emergencies.

< 2. Transpose the oboe da caccia part for the regular oboe and write the lower parts up...tastefully, of course. >
Certainly a possibility, but lots of work.

< A-440:
With all that, what is your experience with lower tuning? What are the logistics of that? Some of the tenor and soprano parts are pretty high and it would be great to put those notes more within the reach of once-a-week singers. >
Lower tuning is wonderful, but I would not ask modern players to transpose down. If you are using low pitch, then use period instruments. The stings could tune down of course, but the winds would all have to play in transposed keys, which many times do not work as well on their instruments, and add wacky accidentals.

< As in most programs, our budget is not infinite and we are always faced with a balance between authenticity and practicality. Many of you MUST have performed this cantata with limited resources and it would be great to hear from you on this. >
With over 200 cantatas of Bach, and since this is a concert and not a service for which specific texts might be called for, why not do one that is orchestrated to suit your resources? This seems like lots of trouble on your part, and potentially detrimental to the music too.

Best of luck to you.

Linda Fox wrote (November 8, 2004):
<< General:
1. Transpose the lower oboe parts for B-flat instrument and use clarinets. >>
< Definitely not. The clarinet was not invented yet in Bac's time, and it doesn't sound like any instrument that he knew. It would be the wrong color and too loud. >
Early clarinets sound different from modern ones, though, and not infrequently has a clarinet - probably in C or higher - been used to substitute for the trumpet in works like cantata BWV 51 (Jauchzet Gott). I've certainly sung that with an early instrument from (I think) the Bate Collection in Oxford. I also have it on authority from one leading British clarinet soloist that this is not uncommon, indeed, he'd done it himself very satisfactorily. So although this was not substituting for an oboe, it is used. And there were chalumeaux in Bach's time, even if there is no record of his having used them. Vivaldi certainly did.

John Howell wrote (November 8, 2004):
[To Linda Fox] The question about chalumeaux is whether or not they had the right key to overblow the second register. Classical clarionettes certainly did, but I'm not sure about Baroque ones. In any case, however, clarinets have always sounded just like clarinets, including the early 19th century C clarinet I have. There is not and was not the kind of difference that one hears between the modern oboe and the baroque oboe.

You COULD use clarinets on the low oboe parts, all right, if you have to, but you can't pretend that they sound like double reed instruments. And you could use clarinets on the trumpet parts, but they don't sound like trumpets either. They sound like what they are: clarinets.

Robert M. Copeland [Professor of Music, Director of Choral Activities, Geneva College - Beaver Falls, PA, USA] wrote (November 8, 2004):
The question boils down to this: Is it better to let the students and audience experience the music, even with some substitutions, or to deny them this experience because it can't be done with perfect authenticity? It seems to me that one does one's best under the circumstances one faces, and doesn't worry too much about what one cannot control. Those who are located in major urban areas with a surfeit of oboes d'amore, basset horns, and such should use them if they can afford it. Those who work in areas where you're lucky to find a good clarinet should use it. "Original instruments" is good policy, for obvious reasons, but it's worth dying for only if you're performing for an AMS convention or for New York newspaper critics.

Teddy Roosevelt is credited with a comment which is germane here: "Do what you can, where you are, with what you've got."

My 2 cents.

Charles Q. Sullivan wrote (November 9, 2004):
Robert Copeland wrote:
"The question boils down to this: Is it better to let the students and audience experience the music, even with some substitutions, or to deny them this experience because it can't be done with perfect authenticity? It seems to me that one does one's best under the circumstances one faces, and doesn't worry too much about what one cannot control. . . . Teddy Roosevelt is credited with a comment which is germane here: 'Do what you can, where you are, with what you've got.'"
The other side of that is: when choosing what to do, keep in mind what you've got, where you are, and what is realistic given your resources. What ever the answer, there is worthwhile repertoire out there.

Gerald Place wrote (November 10, 2004):
[To Robert Copeland] There's certainly a thesis to be written about the ways people have adopted down the years to perform historically unperformable pieces.

I seem to recall thay Richard Strauss no less commissioned a sopranino heckelphone to allow a woodwind player to play the trumpet part in Brandenburg 2, and some eary recordings of Gabrieli accepted that clarinets were closer in sonority to cornetti than modern trumpets.

Thurston Dart of blessed memory used to write out continuo parts for orchestral harpists if there was no possiblity of a harpsichord. I also remember a performance of Bach's E flat version of the Magnificat with the trumpet parts given to soft-toned brass band cornets.

Of course Mozart hit the same problem when revivng Händel's music, giving us the "trombone shall sound"... Incidentally, adventurous choral directors could do worse that programme Mozart's Messiah, Acis, & Alexander's Feast.

 

BWV 80

Continue of discussion from: John Eliot Gardiner - General Discussions Part 8 [Performers]

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (October 6, 2005):
Gardiner new CDs; BWV 140

The other day I was listening to BWV 80 in this new Gardiner series [21] (there is a sample on the Monteverdi production site). Whereas I very much like BWV 140 and BWV 62 of Gardiner in the old series (the best there are to buy), BWV 80 did not appeal to me. Maybe it is the fact that it is a live recording. Normally, Gardiner is accentuating the continuo group; I like that very much, being the essence of Bach's music (contrapunkt). The choir is superb: potent, fluent, non-vibrato, flexible. Gardiner always brings out some details which I did not hear elsewhere. But not so much on BWV 80, as compared to BWV 140.

Btw, does anybody have a suggestion on a good Ein feste Burg (BWV 80) performance?

Dougglas Cowling wrote (October 6, 2005):
Arjen van Gijssel wrote:
< Btw, does anybody have a suggestion on a good Ein feste Burg (BWV 80) performance? >

I know this is heresy but I always prefer the version in which his son,
Wilhelm Friedemann (or was it CPE?) added three trumpets and timpani.

Das schmeckt!

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (October 6, 2005):
[To Douglas Cowling] I agree. It was not a bad idea of WF.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 6, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
< I know this is heresy but I always prefer the version in which his son, Wilhelm Friedemann (or was it CPE?) added three trumpets and timpani.
Das schmeckt! >
I like that version, too. WFB. Without doing a lot of comparative listening, I've been quite happy with the Herreweghe performance [17] that comes with the Magnificat (BWV 243). harmonia mundi 901326.

Eric Bergerud wrote (October 6, 2005):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] Herrewege's BWV 80 [17] which is paired with the Magnificat (BWV 243) is good if you like the modern HIP, no boys, full choir approach. Must say that to my ears Rifkin scores [16] points with his OVPP version. The Rotzsch/Thomanerchor version is sweet if you like the "big battalion" style. I do like boys in Bach cantatas so I find both Leusink's [20] and Harnoncourt's recordings very nice. If you want a different approach altogether of Feste Burg, look at Martin Luther und die Musik, Wiener Mottenchor, Bernhard Klebel.

Paul Farseth wrote (October 6, 2005):
Re: Cantata BWV 80, "Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott", I'll vote for the version with brass and tympani also. Richter's performance [8] with Dietrich Fischer Dieskau and Edith Matthis has real electricity and excitement to it, in spite of Matthis's vibrato and Dieskau's less than powerful low notes. The bass singing on Gönnenwein's performance is stronger, but the energy is less, though nonetheless worth hearing. Harnoncourt's no-brass, no tympani performance with a boy soprano may be fit for use during Lent (original time of perfomance???), but it is pretty tame.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 6, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] Richter [8] and Leppard [12] are each fine, but on balance I recommend Gönnenwein [6] if you're only getting one. My specific section preferences are:

#1 Gönnenwein, uses bass trombone instead of organ pedal in canon with the trumpet, great effect.
#2 Ameling, Sotin with Gönnenwein. Sotin is the only bass I've ever to make sense out of this difficult part. Even the great DFD (with Richter) seems unable to figure out what to do with it.
#3 Sotin with Gönnenwein
#4. Ameling with Leppard [12] is meltingly beautiful
#5 Leppard [12]
#6 Aldo Baldin with Leppard [12] is awesome, the high point of any of the recorded sections of this cantata
#7 Close call between Richter and Leppard
#8 Leppard [12], although Richter's added trumpets may float your boat better, depending on your taste.

Personal note of marginal interest: The WFB-added trumpet parts are exceedingly difficult, particularly in #1 where the trumpet has to pick off high notes after long rests, something JSB and GFH didn't require.

In 1960 the Cleveland Orch did it with the Oberlin College Choir and the first trumpeter took the hardest parts down an octave! I then, an Oberlin junior at age 20, did about a dozen performances with the Oberlin Choir in which I lacked the nerve to take the part down. I had to use a D trumpet because good piccs didn't yet exist, so it was a bit like spinning a roulette wheel when I went for the high pickoff notes -- and when the wrong number came up, everybody in the audience knew it. If humility is good for your character, I should be in great shape because this experience gave me a huge dose of humility.

Lex Schelvis wrote (October 6, 2005):
For me the best opening movement of BWV 80 is Rifkin [16], OVPP really adds something here, especially clarity and details. It's the first version of this movement I liked. Too much noise with a full choir. That's why I even don't like Suzuki [23] in this movement. And that's rare. Of course I return to Suzuki for the rest of the cantata.

I especially like OVPP when used for big choir movements, so I'm waiting for a OVPP version of BWV 119. Maybe I'll start to understand then why everybody is so enthousiastic about the opening choir.

Charles Francis wrote (October 6, 2005):
Lex Schelvis wrote:
< For me the best opening movement of BWV 80 is Rifkin [16], OVPP really adds something here, especially clarity and details. >
I certainly second the Rifkin recommendation for BWV 80 [16]. Such modern performance practice is not everyone's cup of tea, however.

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (October 7, 2005):
Lex Schelvis wrote:
< Too much noise with a full choir. That's why I even don't like Suzuki [23] in this movement. And that's rare. Of course I return to Suzuki for the rest of the cantata. >
I was surprised as well that I didn't like Suzuki [23] (i.e. the opening choir). Your solution is OVPP. I am not sure. I like a choir to be sung by a choir. Because the Monteverdi choir is great, I was expecting a lot from [21]. To me, in this particular example Leusink [20] has a better opening choir. It is enthousiastic. The approach is more festive. That is, you shouldn't listen too much, because especially the tenors with their almost screaming attack start to irritate.

Thanks for all the other suggestions. It helps in my search. I will certainly try Gönnenwein. And Herreweghe [17], but that goes without saying.

Robert Sherman wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Arjen van Gijsse] Glad if my suggestion of Gönnenwein has helped. I just make one more comment, reinforcing my earlier post: Listen to tenor Aldo Baldin (with Leppard [12]) do #6 and you will find yourself unable to live without that performance. I guarantee it.

John Pike wrote (October 7, 2005):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] I have to disagree, I'm afraid. I thought BWV 80 was just stunning in every way in the Gardiner recording [21], especially the opening chorus.

 

BWV 80 question, and some more general questions

Tom Hens wrote (January 20, 2006):
Let me first explain why I'm asking these questions as my first message to this list:

A few months ago, I embarked on what was meant to be a little hobby project, involving nothing more than taking some of the summaries of the BWV available on the net and doing some cutting and pasting, and some reformatting, to make a list I could print out and use to keep track of my CD collection. I was tired of having to look in two or three places to find just which recordings of a particular cantata I had, or of a particular organ work (the two main problem areas for such questions).

Well, the project got seriously out of hand. I soon realized that once one gets into the finer detail of the BWV, the online resources I could find and the books I had in my small collection often didn't solve problems -- often obscure problems, but still, one has to make a judgement about what to put on paper. So I bought a copy of BWV 2a (the "Kleine Ausgabe"), and that solved most but not all of them. What's more, since Walter C. Bischof had already done such a great job of providing a text index to the first lines of all the cantata movements, I figured that would be a useful addition, for those occasions when I can remember an aria, usually with the beginning of the words, but can't remember where it came from. But to be complete I needed to add the first lines of all movements from vocal works other than cantatas, the four-part chorales, etc. And once I'd decided to do that, it seemed logical to also include the titles of organ works that use chorale melodies. Then I also had to work on the alphabetic order by hand, since Bischof's computer-generated index doesn't follow standard German conventions for such things. Well, that job is now largely finished, the index has a bit over 2000 entries (god, adding that very last entry felt good!). It still needs some finishing touches, and above all a final very thorough line-by-line check for errors before it's ready for release though.

I also began to realize that what I am putting together will probably interest other people as well, and it would be a shame to never let it travel outside my own home. So I've decided that, once finished, I will make it available to the rest of the world as a PDF file, so anyone can print it out for themselves. (And since it will be free, nobody can complain if they decide I've done a lousy job, that's a nice thing.)

For the main works list, I'm currently about half-way, and adding and correcting the very last bits about the vocal music before embarking on the second half with the instrumental works (although some of the sections for that are already done). To give you an idea what it looks like: I'm currently working on a first version on A4 size paper. Once the whole thing is finished, I might consider making variants in smaller formats, but first I need to get the basic text finished. The concept is that the right-hand pages have the works list in BWV order, with some additional information (vocal and instrumental strength, day in the church year for cantatas and the like, place and time of composition, and depending on the work things like re-use of parts in other works, parody relationships, doubts about authenticity, etc.) The left-hand pages only have the corresponding numbers and are otherwise blank, so one can write down which recordings one has. If someone doesn't want to do that but is only interested in what one might informally call a poor man's version of the BWV, they can of course only print out the right-hand pages. To give an idea of the size of the resulting booklet: all the vocal works will come in at just over 40 pages, or 80 if you count the largely blank note-taking pages on the reverse side. I'm projecting a slightly lower number for the second half with the instrumental mu. Then there is the index with 18 pages. Of course there will also be an introduction explaining some of the typographical conventions used and editorial decisions involved. (Maximum typographical clarity and consistency has been my main objective.) There will probably also be an appendix. A brief summary of the structure of the Lutheran church year might be nice, and I'm also considering adding a brief timeline of Bach's life, for which I've already made some notes.

Anyway, after all that:

I have a question about BWV 80 I can't answer. Taking a look at a partition would solve it (I don't trust my ears enough to try and figure it out by listening to recordings), but that would mean a trek to a library, and I was hoping there are people on this list who could easily answer it for me without going to too much trouble. The BWV lists the complement of oboes as "Ob I-III, Ob d'am I-II, Taille (Ob da cac)". Now in many works the oboeists switch between various instruments for different movements, which the BWV indicates with the word "auch", and for which I've decided to use a tilde. But in this case, no such indication is given. Are there really six oboes, three regular, two d'amore and one da caccia, playing all at once at some point? I can't figure it out unequivocally from the incipits. The only place where it could happen is the opening chorus, where confusingly they give "Oboe I-III in unisono", but also "(Cantus firmus in Ob und BC)", and that BC is also "(geteilt)". So if there is an Oboe playing along with half of the BC, is that those same "Oboe I-III", or perhaps one or more of the other three? For the final chorale, as usual they just give "(+ Instr)" without further details, so there you could have different parts for both groups of oboes. For all the movements in between it's clear that the regular oboes and the oboe d'amore and da caccia never play together. So is my guess correct that there really are just three oboe players switching instruments, and that the BWV forgot to indicate this the way they do elsewhere? I've caught them in a few more of such tiny inconsistencies elsewhere, as is inevitable in a work of such size.

I also have two more general questions.

First, for every work, I give the place and time of composition, and I've used the label "Composed:" for that. But I'm not really happy with it, because in many cases it doesn't refer to a new composition, but to a re-use of (parts of) earlier works. What I really want is the concept expressed by the German word "Entstanden", but for the life of me I can't think of an English equivalent that carries the same meaning, so I've stuck with "Composed" so far. Does anybody has any better idea?

Secondly, does anybody have a bright idea for a snappy title? When I started out, I was thinking of using A5 landscape format, about the same size of paper Bach used for the Orgelbüchlein, and call it the "Bach-Büchlein", but I discovered someone had already used that title for a book. What's more I decided to drop the small size for now, and at a projected size of at least 120 A4 pages, I don't think the diminutive is appropriate anymore. As a working title, I'm using the pedestrian "Johann Sebastian Bach. A Works List". But maybe somebody has some creative idea for a nicer one.

I've set March 21 as an arbitrary deadline for myself to have the whole thing finished (I hope the instrumental part will take less time than the vocal music did, so it might be earlier), but of course it depends on how much time I can spend on it, and whether or not I run into unforeseen problems. Or of course, if I run into resounding indifference among anyone except myself about ever seeing the finished product.

Leonardo Been wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] Marvelous.

'Entstanded' -> Created

Personally, I would be most interested in a computer-readable version of your work, which means, adding to the beauty of a PDF print-out, the convenience of having an arrangement (format) of it in a database or spreadsheet, as the data-part, forming a computer-readable and computer-searchable index.

Again, thank you for a marvelous job.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 20, 2006):
Tom Hens wrote:
< "The BWV lists the complement of oboes as "Ob I-III, Ob d'am I-II, Taille (Ob da cac)".>
The BGA has two oboes in the 1st movement, one oboe in the 2nd movement, 2 oboes d'amore plus 1 taille in the 5th movement, 1 oboe da caccia (in F) in the 7th movement (AT duet); instrumentation in the 8th (final) movement is not specified. Six oboes of all kinds, including taille (a tenor oboe, according to Robertson, not an oboe da accia) required in total.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] Having performed the trumpet part in this magnificent but very difficult, I am convinced that the 8th movement should be a capella. Instruments serve only to obscure Bach's superb four lines. Doubling the sopranos with a trumpet is particularly odious. But I've never heard it done a capella. Is anyone aware of a recording that does this?

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] Reminds me of the Proms concert I attended at which the Fireworks Music was played with the same number of instruments as the first peformance. I shall never forget the sound of 14 period oboes tuning in preparation to play the first oboe part. Quite frightening.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Robert Sherman] I don't think there is a single chorale work of Bach's which was ever strictly performed unaccompanied in the modern meaning of "a capella". For instance, in the middle section of the chorus "Herz und Mund und Tat", the choir has an "a capella" section in which the strings and winds fall silent. However, it is clear that the continuo continues to double the choir. Many chamber choirs perform the six motets unaccompanied but there is no justification for the practice. Even in the Renaissance, the only choir which regularly performed unaccompanied was the Sistine choir, and this was noted as an eccentricity as was their refusal to use boy choristers. The other papal choir in the Julian Chapel used organs and instruments.

Santu de Silva wrote (January 20, 2006):
Tom.Hens askes:
"Secondly, does anybody have a bright idea for a snappy title? ... As a working title, I'm using the pedestrian "Johann Sebastian Bach. A Works List". But maybe somebody has some creative idea for a nicer one."
Call it an index. A list of works is always useful, but if there are indexes (or even if the works were listed in alphabetical order, or as you suggest, every first line of every movement is listed in alphabetical order) then it is much more useful. So I suggest saying something on the lines that it is a indexed list, or an index into, vocal or sacred music of JSBach.

Obviously others have done similar things; our Bach Cantatas website has something very similar. Most scholars will suggest that you should compare with that resource, as well as Schmeider and other standard sources (which you have done, I believe) and provide references to them, as appropriate.

Have you considered inserting hyperlinks? This is possible in pdf, and even if you don't do it right away, you could do it when you get a second wave of energy!

Arch, full of admiration

Robert Sherman wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, my desire to hear the final chorale a capella is musical rather than historic. I grant you that it would probably be non-authentic, but that isn't of any concern to me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 20, 2006):
[To Robert Sherman] Smile. Over the years, I've arranged Bach for just about every imaginable ensemble including saxophone duet. Bach is always the last man standing. What a guy!

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 21, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] Sounds like a good project, Tom!

In BWV 80: yes, three oboe players...switching instruments as needed from movement to movement. Not six players.

The 1998 kleine BWV also forgets to mention, in this entry, that there are any string players/parts in the orchestra. :) As you pointed out, there are various little lacunae like this in this otherwise excellent catal.

You might want to notate, for cantata BWV 80: the later reorchestration by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach has added the trumpets and drums. That version gets performed probably more often than the original does. Of course, that starts down the slippery slope of listing versions of various pieces that have been arranged by anybody other than JSB.......

For BWV 80 and BWV 147 there is a pretty good little book by Alan Rich analyzing both pieces, and it comes with Rifkin's recording of both. Publisher: HarperCollinsSanFrancisco, 1995. Mine here says it retailed for $25.00 USD, but I got it for $7 at an overstock place a few years ago. This book: Amazon.com

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 21, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< You might want to notate, for cantata BWV 80: the later reorchestration by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach has added the trumpets and drums. >
I love Willi's brass! It really is like hearing Handel rework an earlier chorus and make it a new work.

Eric Bergerud wrote (January 21, 2006):
[To Robert Sherman] As long as I was lingering on Archiv's site anyway (they have a few Suzuki CDs on sale - a relative term) I thought I'd be a good gopher and look for "a cappella" Bach. Did find one motet (the lovely BWV 225) done by the Cambridge Singers under John Rutter. The London Sinfonia usually accompanies Rutter but it is not listed nor are any instrumentalists so I'd guess this CS are on their own.

Got me to think a little though. The human voice to my ears is the most beautiful instrument. Yet except for some monks, it's pretty rare to hear people sing for other people without some kind of instrument, grand or humble, to accompany. There have been a few million (give or take) solo works composed for violin, piano, organ, guitar etc, but a "sonata for voice" is pretty rare. Can't really figure why that is.

PS: I know I'm only 30 years late or so on this one, but I just picked up Charles Rosen's Art of the Fugue (BWV 1080) on piano. I'm partial to harpsichord but this is sweet.

Tom Hens wrote (January 21, 2006):
I want to thank everyone who replied to my question (Brad's reply is the most recent one I got, so I'm using this one to say thank you to everyone else too).

In specific reply to what Brad wrote:
< In BWV 80: yes, three oboe players...switching instruments as needed from movement to movement. Not six players. >
That is what I'm going with. It will probably read "Oboe I-III ~ Oboe d'amore I-II & Oboe da caccia". (The tilde is what I use where the BWV uses "auch"). Or perhaps "Taille" instead of "Oboe da caccia", but I'll sleep on that one.

< The 1998 kleine BWV also forgets to mention, in this entry, that there are any string players/parts in the orchestra. :) As you pointed out, there are various little lacunae like this in this otherwise excellent catalog. >
That is very funny. You're quite correct, and I hadn't even noticed it. My list had the string section in place all along, so I managed to correct a mistake in the BWV without even noticing it. My usually shaky self-confidence just got a major boost.

< You might want to notate, for cantata BWV 80: the later reorchestration by Wilhelm Friedemann Bach has added the trumpets and drums. That version gets performed probably more often than the original does. Of course, that starts down the slippery slope of listing versions of various pieces that have been arranged by anybody other than JSB....... >
Such editorial decisions are inevitably somewhat arbitrary. Especially since I'm not intent on creating a musicological work of reference or a duplicate of the BWV (for which I lack any qualifications), just a practically useful aide for Bach lovers with a lot of CD's. My first instinct would be to include no mention of the WFB revised version of BWV 80, but I'll sleep on that one too.

Tom Hens wrote (January 21, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< Call it an index. A list of works is always useful, but if there are indexes (or even if the works were listed in alphabetical order, or as you suggest, every first line of every movement is listed in alphabetical order) then it is much more useful. So I suggest saying something on the lines that it is a indexed list, or an index into, vocal or sacred music of JSBach. >
The provisional title page (it's pretty pointless having a title page for something that so far nobody except myself has seen and is only half finished, I know, but it's nice to see one when I open my working copy of what I've finished so far) says: "JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH / A Works List / With a First-Line Index to the Vocal & Organ Works". I've tried to make it look somewhat like a pastiche of an eighteenth century title page, without descending into kitsch. But that isn't really a title, is it? Making the index was an afterthought to the works list, and they will also be in separate PDF files, because there are no doubt people who are interested in the index, but have no need for yet another rehashing of a works list following the BWV. (The finished product will require some self-assembly anyway, on purpose, and allow for personal choices in how it is put together by each individual user. Some people might like to put it in a loose-leaf ring binder for instance, and insert tab sheets between sections, others might like to have the whole thing bound together. This will all be catered
for.)

< Obviously others have done similar things; our Bach Cantatas website has something very similar. >
I think I've probably seen all on-line versions of BWV summaries that are around, in PDF or HTML format, have had them stored on my own computer and used printouts of them (with hand-written additions) for years. That's how this all started: I thought it wouldn't be too much work to assemble those into something that suited my purposes (I was wrong). I would never have embarked on this project if there wasn't already such a wealth of information out there available to be cut and pasted. In fact, I'm using a printout of the list that is on the Bach Cantatas website daily. It's very useful to have a reliable list of things to do where you can cross out things you've finished. If what I'm putting together was similar to those, I wouldn't be wasting any time on it.

< Most scholars will suggest that you should compare with that resource, as well as Schmeider and other standard sources (which you have done, I believe) and provide references to them, as appropriate. >
Whenever I have the slightest doubt about anything, I check with as many authorative sources as I can. When any differences of opinion among authorities remain, I use BWV 2a as the ultimate arbiter. Except of course when they're caught in a mistake, such as not listing the strings in BWV 80. Or of course when I unilaterally decide they're just plain wrong, such as in eliminating question marks at the end of first lines of cantatas that are quite clearly questions. Or when something isn't yet in any printed edition of the BWV, such as BWV 1187.

< Have you considered inserting hyperlinks? This is possible in pdf, and even if you don't do it right away, you could do it when you get a second wave of energy! >
The whole purpose of the project was to produce something on paper. I'm a great fan of paper. The problem with hyperlinks is their ephemeral nature. I don't want to create a PDF version of a webpage that calls itself, say, "Links to the 100 Best Sites About J.S. Bach!", where 85 of those links don't point to a live webpage anymore. I think everybody with some internet experience has seen pages like that.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 21, 2006):
[To Tom Hens] It would seem to me that a practical uguide for Bach music lovers with a lot of CDs would be seriously incomplete if it excludes recordings of BWV 80 with the WFB additions. Then let the listeners decide if they like it or not.

Note also that in section 1, the organ pedal is in canon with the first trumpet on the chorale themes. Gonnenwein moves one step further away from authenticity by substituting a bass trombone (the large modern kind that didn't exist in Bach's day) for the organ there, and the result to my ear is a solid musical improvement.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 21, 2006):
Use of Pedal in Bach

Robert Sherman wrote:
< Note also that in section 1, the organ pedal is in canon with the first trumpet on the chorale themes. >
Does Bach mark the continuo part "Ped"?. I can't think of a cantata where the organist is specifically asked to use pedal.

Robert Sherman wrote (January 21, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] No, that's just the way I've always heard it.

Iman de Zwarte wrote (January 21, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Yes! This cantata-part (first part of BWV 80) has! The BGA-score has two bass-lines. The 'upper' one for "Violoncello ed Organo" is marked with "(Manual)". This is the 'normal' basso continuo. The 'lower' one for "Violone ed Organo" is marked with "Pedal (mit) Posaune 16 Fuss". This is the choralmelody in canon (one measure later) with the first trumpet.

Tom Hens wrote (January 24, 2006):
Robert Sherman wrote:
< It would seem to me that a practical useful guide for Bach music lovers with a lot of CDs would be seriously incomplete if it excludes recordings of BWV 80 with the WFB additions. Then let the listeners decide if they like it or not. >
I'm not excluding (or including) recordings, anybody who owns BWV 80 recordings with the WFB additions can identify them as such in the note-taking space provided (I don't, and I'm frankly surprised that this version is apparently still popular in some parts of the globe. I don't think I've ever heard it, actually.)

The problem with including the WFB additions is the slippery slope, as has already been pointed out. If they get a mention (and I still haven't decided), it would be as one sentence added to the very succinct "background" information I'm providing, nothing more. Otherwise I might as well start adding the Robert Schumann versions of the solo violin and cello sonatas with piano accompaniment, or any of the myriad of orchestral arrangements of organ pieces, or even that appalling Ave Maria by Charles Gounod. There must actually be hundreds of similar atrocities -- composing a new melody line into the C major prelude from WTC I was a standard examination requirement for a degree in composition at the Paris Conservatoire for decades. There are no doubt Bach lovers who have recordings of some of those. Now WFB is in a somewhat special position as regards his dad's works, but still, it's a later addition.

But I have already considered the notion of people wanting to add things that I don't consider important. I will be providing a separate PDF with mostly blank pages that only have the section headers at the top of the page ("Cantatas", "Secular Cantatas", "Motets", etc.), so anyone can print out sheets for their personal notes to add to my effort while still retaining some typographical consistency. This will also include an affront to logic, the page just saying: "This page intentionally left blank" (this will actually serve a very useful purpose for people who want to put the thing in a loose-leaf binder with separators between sections).

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantatas BWV 80, BWV 80a & BWV 80b : Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 80 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 80 | Details of BWV 80a | Details of BWV 80b | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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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