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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 5

Continue from Part 4

Discussions in the Week of November 2, 2008

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 2, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 80 «Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott»

Cantata BWV 80: «Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott»

Cantata for the Feast of the Reformation

Readings: Epistle: 2 Thessalonians 2: 3-8; Gospel: Revelations 14: 6-8

Choral: « Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott », text of Luther (1528-29), melody of Joseph Klug (1535)

For once, we discuss a cantata precisely at the time of the year it belongs to. The Feast of the Reformation is indeed celebrated on October 31st, just two days before the starting date of the present discussion.

Unlike the two previous ones, this cantata is going to make us travel across a large part of Bach's career. We have indeed several successive versions of this cantata, and there is general agreement about the date of the first version (80A): 1715, in Weimar, for the third Sunday of Lent (Oculi) (although Aryeh just indicated me that according to Dürr, it could also have been in 1716, for the same Oculi Sunday). We will see that there is much less agreement on the dates of creation of the succeeding versions, but according to the BCW home page, the last version of the cantata could have been performed as late as 1740. And there is evidence that Bach's eldest son Wilhelm Friedemann made changes to his father's work after his death. Maybe is it symbolic that this choral of Luther, generally considered as the "hymn of Reformation", has accompanied Bach and his family for such a long time.

The original Weimar cantata bore as title «Alles, was von Gott geboren». Although the music is lost, we still have the libretto written by Salomo Franck. For the same occasion - the Sunday of Oculi - we have only one other cantata, i.e. BWV 54. This can easily be explained by the fact that in Leipzig no figured music was played during Lent, and the only cantatas for this day must thus be earlier than 1723. The gospel of the Oculi Sunday relates to Jesus driving out the devil(s), and this in indeed reflected in the text of Salomo Franck, with several references to Satan. The only part of text from the Luther chorale «Ein Feste Burg...» used here is verse 2, used for the last movement (6).

Now we come to the (much discussed) point of the first performance of BWV 80(x) as a cantata for the Feast of Reformation. First of all, I have to admit that before starting to work on this introduction, I knew nothing of
this feast. Belgium is a country of Roman Catholic tradition, and the only festive event we have on October 31st - and which has nothing to do with religion - is Halloween, which was quite recently imported here from the
United States. Maybe members of the list can help in giving an idea of what the Feast of Reformation concretely means in its religious context... We have at least two Bach's cantatas for this feast, the other one being BWV 79Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild»). According to the BCW, BWV 129 and BWV 192 are also potential candidates.

The problem with fixed feasts is that there are possible interferences with the moving dates of the Church Year, thus a same day maybe the Feast of Reformation and a Trinity Sunday (for example, in 1723, October 31st was also the 23rd Trinity Sunday). Hence the hypothesis of Henry Boyer («Les cantates sacrées de Jean-Sébastien Bach») that BWV 80 could have been first performed, along with BWV 163 (also coming from Weimar), on that day. But in the French and Belgian literature I have read (Boyer, Fayard Guide, Hekkers), the "preferred" year for the first performance of BWV 80 seems to be 1724. And this is markedly different from what seems to come out from other sources (for example, on the BCW home page of cantata BWV 80: 1735-1740). In addition, there is the issue of BWV 80b (http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV80b.htm), almost wholly lost, and which, according to the BCW, was first performed in 1728-1731.

I am absolutely unable to give a grounded opinion on this question of dates, so I will rather focus on BWV 80 as we know it. It can give us an idea of how Bach "recycled" and adapted sacred cantatas. Because in Leipzig, no figured music could be performed during Lent, Bach could not re-use BWV 80a in its original context. We can imagine that he took BWV 80a as a starting point for a Reformation cantata because of the last movement, whose text came from the Luther hymn («Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott») traditionally associated with the Feast of Reformation. Note that BWV 80 (including its previous forms) is the only cantata in Bach's works to rely on this choral (BWV 79 also written for the Feast of Reformation is not using it). Used only once, but fully used! Four movements are based on Luther's text, among which the monumental opening chorus based on the first verse of the hymn. Of these four movements, three (Mvt. 1, Mvt. 5 and Mvt. 8) are new in BWV 80. The last one (Mvt. 2) combines the text of the final chorus of BWV 80a (based on the second verse of the hymn) with that of its first movement (bass aria).

The four other movements reproduce almost word pour word the text written by Salomo Franck for BWV 80a, with its references to the devil(s) and the struggle against them. This works well with the idea of fortress ("Burg") of the hymn. But Boyer (in «Les mélodies de chorals dans les cantates de Jean-Sébastien Bach») regrets that the libretto does not make more use of the gospel of the day (taken from the Revelations, and referring to the angels announcing the last Judgement and the fall of Babylon). Indeed, this could have inspired spectacular music!

This has suggested me two questions:
1. The mention of Babylon reminds the idea we discussed at the occasion of BWV 11 - Jerusalem / Zion and its various meanings. Is Babylon not the antithesis of Jerusalem? Do we have other references to Babylon (possibly in relation with Jerusalem) in other works?
2. Wilhelm Friedemann Bach is assumed to have added trumpets and drums to Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 5 of the cantata after his father's death. Could it be to emphasise the solemn context of the gospel? I seem to remember that in old paintings representing the Apocalypse, the angels are represented with trumpets...

Also this brings one possible answer to the question of two weeks ago: what in Bach's works has to do with war? Julian Mincham had mentioned BWV 116, and BWV 101 (indeed very impressive picture of war's desolation). Here, we have many textual references that also evocate war: fortress, weapons, battle,...). This evocation of war (and victory) is also quite perceptible in some parts of the music, as we will see.

Before discussing the music in more detail (but of coursnot exhaustively), I reproduce here an interesting contribution by Julian Mincham to the discussion about BWV 14: "It can be usefully compared with its approximate contemporary BWV 80 because they are, in many ways, complementary works even though one is relentlessly minor, the other insistently major. Both begin with huge fantasias constructed on the principle of the motet, displaying awesome contrapuntal virtuosity. Both relegate the chorale cantus firmus to instruments. Taken together they seem to sum up everything Bach had to say in his sequence of just over 50 chorale fantasias---a unique canon in church music."

I have listened to two recordings of BWV 80: Leusink (Brilliant set) and Herreweghe. While Herreweghe's recording relies on the instrumentation with trumpets and drums, Leusink does not make use of these instruments. This makes the comparison particularly interesting.

The long first movement is quite impressive. I tend to agree with William Hekkers that the rich polyphony is better heard without the trumpets. But the trumpets in Herreweghe's version generate an additional festive flavour, so it is hard to decide which is best - maybe it depends on the mood of the listener?

Note that William Hekkers, in its concert notes for the performance by the Chapelle des Minimes in November 95 translated by Julius Stenzel, indicates that "this re-worked version [by Wilhelm Friedemann], alas, would serve as 'theme music' in Hitler's 'special messages' each time its troops were victorious!". Well, another (clearly unintended) reference to war...

Mvt. 2 is quite special with its duet of two independent parts: soprano and bass. In the sleeve notes of Herreweghe's recording, Nicholas Anderson writes that "The first [duet] is noteworthy for the ingenuity with which soprano voice and oboe pursue independently elaborated versions of Luther's chorale melody whilst the bass voice follows its own florid line". The text sung by the bass is the original text of Mvt 1 (bass aria) in BWV 80a, while the soprano sings the text of Mvt 6 (final choral) of the same cantata. The combination of the two movements of the original cantata gives indeed an interesting result.

I really love the soprano aria with its simple accompaniment of continuo (Mvt. 4). I like better Ruth Holton (Leusink) in this movement, even though sometimes the intonation seems (IMHO) a bit uncertain, but the "ingenuous" quality of her voice provides a beautiful contrast with the other movements.

William Hekkers notes about Mvt. 5 "On this outburst of warlike accents, the chorus of '4 voci in unisono' declaims in lapidary fashion the third strophe of Luther's chorale. All this deployment o forces depicts marvelously 'this world full of devils' which the Wittemberg Reformer evokes here" (concert notes of November 1995). William Hekkers completely disapproves the addition of trumpets and timpani to this movement, qualifying it as catastrophic («Bach - Les cantates», page 464). Your opinion is welcome!

The second duet (alto and tenor - Mvt. 7) may be singled out by the contrast with the previous movement, and also by its "soft" instrumentation (oboe da caccia, violin, continuo). The tender melodies interweave into beautiful harmonies, which gradually move toward something stranger and more dissonant, maybe evocating the enemy and/or death which are found in the end of the text.

The final choral (Mvt. 8) on the fourth verse of Luther's hymn is considerably simpler than the opening chorus. No indication is given as to the doubling instruments.

I have not commented the two recitatives but please do not hesitate to give your opinion and comments.

And as usual, you will find a lot of interesting information, including links to the previous discussions and to the BGA score, on the BCW home page of BWV 80: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV80.htm.

John Pike wrote (November 2, 2008):
Ein bißchen off topic (was: Introduction to BWV 80 «Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott»)

[To Thérèse Hanquet] Many thanks, Thérèse, for your excellent introductions.

I am currently in Germany on holiday and today (just a day after Reformation Day) visited the extraordinary city of Worms, which has a good claim to be the home of the Reformation. Last night in the city was a performance (which sadly I missed) of Mendelssohn's wonderful Reformation Symphony (number 5), the last movement of which takes "Ein Feste Burg" as its' theme. It was in Worms in 1521, at the "Diet of Worms" that Martin Luther met the Emperor Charles V, to defend his beliefs. He concluded with the lines "Here I stand. I cannot do otherwise. Help me God. Amen".

Mary wrote (November 2, 2008):
[To John Pike] I was in Wittenberg with a group of fellow organists on October 13 and we ended our time in the Castle Church with a rousing chorus of Ein' feste Burg in the original Martin Luther version. Luther and Melancthon definitely approved!

Julian Mincham wrote (November 2, 2008):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thanks Thérèse for another comprehensive intro. I think it's the first time I have been quoted in an introduction!

Following this I am emboldened to make the case again for more comparative discussions of the cantatas composed for the same day. There has been very little interest shown in this approach on the list in the past (with the exception of Doug Cowling), at least judged by the lack of discussion following the few comparative comments one or two contributors, including myself, have made over the years.

This is a pity because so much can be learnt from comparing the extant cantatas in this way, those four for St Michael's day being a very good starting point (I include here the fragment BWV 50). I am firmly of the view that when starting composition of a new cantata Bach looked over scores for previous ones written for that day--there are dozens of pieces of evidence which point to this conclusion. Furthermore who would have thought that the two opening choruses of BWV 80 and BWV 14, apparently so different in charcter, could have so many points in common?

I do hope that with the groupings arranged for the new round of discussions from 2009 contributors to the intros and ensuing discussions will bear this in mind and describe/examine/analyse the cantatas more within their comparative contexts.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 2, 2008):
[To John Pike] Thanks John.

The simple words of Luther are quite moving.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 2, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< The long first movement is quite impressive. I tend to agree with William Hekkers that the rich polyphony is better heard without the trumpets. >
I am still intrigued by cantatas which begin "ex abrupto" without orchestral introduction. Other notable examples are ³Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit² and ³Nun Ist Das Heil². We know that the organist ³preludized² before the cantata < McCreesh suggests that the organ prelude covered the tuning of the orchestra. It would be interesting to try and match existing chorale preludes with these cantatas < Bach does have a short prelude on ³Ein Feste² in D major. Did it serve as the ³overture² to the cantata? Of course, Bach was more than capable of improvising an ³intonation² to give the singers their opening pitch.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 80

Therese Hanquet wrote (citing Julian):
>I reproduce here an interesting contribution by Julian Mincham to the discussion about BWV 14: "It can be usefully compared with its approximate contemporary BWV 80 because they are, in many ways, complemeworks even though one is relentlessly minor, the other insistently major. Both begin with huge fantasias constructed on the principle of the motet, displaying awesome contrapuntal virtuosity. Both relegate the chorale cantus firmus to instruments. Taken together they seem to sum up everything Bach had to say in his sequence of just over 50 chorale fantasias---a unique canon in church music."<
Apologies for the repetition, but I find this a nice example of the insights we may have gained from the chronologic discussions, before we move on to the long-anticipated liturgically structured discussions.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 7, 2008):
BWV 80

Not enjoying the vibratos of the soloists (in the aria and duets) with Werner [2], Richter [8] and Rilling [14], I have listened to the BCW samples and found an excellent roster of soloists with Gönnenwein [6], namely, Ameling (her aria is swoon material, despite the cello's insistent vibrato), Baker, Altmeyer and Sotin. But the choir sounds too large in the choral movements.

Rifkin [16] also has an excellent group of soloists, and nice tempos. Moreover, Rifkin's OVPP approach works surprisingly well in the first movement; counter-intuitively, OVPP seems to work better in his 80/1 than it does, for example, in his 140/1 (next disc), where the soprano chorale line seems decidely bare.

I still enjoy the larger choirs in Werner [2], Richter [8] and Rilling [14], in the choral movements.

Jean Laaninen wrote (November 8, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] I found the recitatives in the Rilling [14] quite good.

William Hoffman wrote (November 8, 2008):
Cantata 80: Assembledge Recording

This may have been discussed elsewhere. There is a 1979 recording of Cantata BWV 80 at Trinity Lutheran Church, New York City, from Fortress Publications. It is a vesper service for the Reformation Festival. It includes Prelude and Postlude BWV 720 (Ein' feste Burg) and 657 (Nun danket alle Gott) with accompanying processional and recessional hymns as well as versicles, Psalm 46 and Nunc dimittis recitation tones, Collects and Benediction, and the Lesson Reading John 8:31-36.

I also will send Saturday a short study I did of the original chorale biblical sources for Cantata BWV 80a, "Alles was von Gott geboren," for Oculi Sunday in Lent in Weimar, unless it has been discussed in one of the five parts of the existing discussion.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 8, 2008):
BWV 80 - Comments by Benoit Jacquemin

Hereafter some interesting comments provided by Benoit Jacquemin (organist, composer and musicologist) in answer to my introduction. I translate myself (as well as I can) from French:

"There exists a work for organ from Bach (but there is no autograph score available) on the choral « Ein' feste Burg ist unser Gott », BWV 720. Even though this issue is debated (cf. Peter Williams « The Organ Music of Johann Sebastian Bach, vol. II : BWV 599-771, Cambridge Studies in Music, Cambridge University Press 1980, ISBN 0 521 31700 2), a frequent hypothesis about this piece is that it would have been composed in 1709 for the inauguration of the re-built organ of the Divi-Blasii-Kirche of Mühlhausen, whose plan and works had benefited from Bach's advice.

On the topic of Babylon, I would also cite the organ choral BWV 653 (and its two variants, BWV 653a et 653b), taken from the so-called «Leipzig» Chorals on the theme « An Wasserflüssen Babylon ». This concerns the psalm about the deportation of the Jewish people : Babylon is here less the personification of the « anti-Jerusalem » than the place of lamentations. This very beautiful page refers, according to the tradition, to the
improvisation that Bach made on the organ in presence of the « old organist » Jan Adam Reinken, during a visist to Hamburg in 1720.

About the angels and trumpets in the Revelations visions, I think of Revelations, 8 & 9, which mention the seven angels with trumpets."

William Hoffman wrote (November 8, 2008):
BWV 80a - Oculi Sunday Sources

Bach's librettist, court poet Salomo Franck, wrote the text for Cantata BWV 80a, "Alles was von Gott geboren" (All that is born of God) in 1715. It was performed at Weimar for Oculi Sunday, the third in Lent, on March 24, 1715. It was part of Bach's court responsibility to furnish a new cantata every four weeks for service performance. The collaborative series began on March 24, 1714, on Pentecost Sunday with Cantata BWV 182, the libretto probably by Franck. With a few exceptions (texts by Lehms and Neumeister, and a three-month hiatus in late 1714), Franck produced as many as 23 librettos for Bach Weimar cantatas through 1716.

Cantata BWV 80a begins with a bass aria with oboe obbligato providing the ornamented melody of Martin Luther's chorale, "Ein' feste Burg is unser Gott" (A Mighty Fortress is our God). The melody was played by oboe alone but in subsequent versions is sung by soprano to the text of the second stanza of Luther's chorale. The bass introduces Franck's verse, "Alles, was von Gott geboren, All that is born of God Ist zum Siegen auserkoren. Is destined for victory." (Francis Browne translation cited throughout). The soprano in the later versions sings the second verse, beginning "Mit unsrer Macht ist nichts getan, By our own power nothing is accomplished." The original version, BWV 80a/6, with the second verse, probably survives as plain four-part chorale BWV 303.

Bach's initial vocal treatment of Luther's famous Reformation hymn in 1715 reflects its origins in 1526-28 as a Lenten Psalm hymn, its first line and title equated with Psalm 46:1, "God is our refuge and strength." Later the sentiments in the hymn's four verses became a Reformation battle cry in which the enemy (the devils) was identified with the anti-Reformationists. The Lenten or Passiontide Season emphasizes repentance and preparation for Easter.

Luther's hymn is listed under Passion hymns in the Leipziger Kirchen-Andachten (Leipzig Church Devotion of 1694). The source is Friedrich's Smend's study, "Bachs Markus-Passion," Bach Jahrbuch, 1940-48, pp. 1-35, cited p.6). Smend explains Bach's use of the fourth verse of Luther's popular hymn just after the beginning of the crucifixion in the SMkP (BWV 247), BWV 248/112(38) in 1731. Beyond the Passiontide connections in Verse 4, "Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn" (They shall pay no heed to God's word), Bach's use of the second stanza to close BWV 80a in 1715 emphasizes Christ's identity as humanity's defender, leading the forces in battle against Satan.

The Oculi Sunday readings shows Bach's close attention to Luther's sentiments. My source is the Common Service Book with Hymnal (United Lutheran Church in America, Philadelphia 1917, pp. 73-74). "Oculi" means "look." It is alluded to in the initial Introit, "Mine eyes are ever toward the Lord. The succeeding Collect asks God to "look upon the hearty desires of the humble servants, and. . .be our defence against our enemies." The Epistle, "Living in the Light," Ephesians 5:1-9, warns in verse 6: "Let no man deceive you with vain words." The Gradual affirms that "When mine enemies are turned back: they shall fall and perish at Thy presence." The Gospel, "Jesus and Beelzebub," Like 11:14-28, is Christ's explanation of casting out devils. The most salient Gospel are 20-22: "But if I with the finger (Word) of God cast out devils, no doubt the Kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his good are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils."

Bach was most fortunate in Weimar to be able to compose cantatas for all Sundays of the church year, including those in Lent and Advent. He managed to compose some 30 church year pieces in less than three years. Bach was able to compose possibly another Oculi Sunday cantata, BWV 54, in 1714; and began a full cycle in Advent, December 1716, with the original versions of Cantatas BWV 70a, 186a, and 147a for the Second through the Fourth Sundays in Advent, respectively. A well-appointed church year indeed!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 9, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote [BWV 80a Oculi]:
< Bach was most fortunate in Weimar to be able to compose cantatas for all Sundays of the church year, including those in Lent and Advent. He managed to compose some 30 church year pieces in less than three years. >
Do we know why Leipzig took such a rigorous, "Catholic" attitude against concerted music during the "closed" seasons of Advent and Lent?

William Hoffman wrote (November 9, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote [BWV 80a Oculi]:
< Do we know why Leipzig took such a rigorous, "Catholic" attitude against concerted music during the "closed" seasons of Advent and Lent? >
Without trying to deal with historical Lutheran theological practice, I have scanned Guenther Stiller's JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig as well as Carol Baron's Bach's Changing World. It seems that Leipzig was the the seat of Lutheran Orthodoxy, which embraced Catholic practices and some of the Pietism of Halle, as well as Rationalism and some mysticism. About the closed seasons (Advent & Lent) "Catholic" practice in Leipzig, Stiller says that these were observed to focus on the traditional observances of these closed seasons, which included the ban on contrapuntal music. It was a small "concession" for Bach in Leipzig where during Lent the Feast of Annunciation was celebrated as was the figural music of the Oratorio Passion on Good Friday. The Mass Ordinary sections were still performed in Latin and some vesper practices retained, which was Luther's orthodox concept. Bach also observed the Latin setting of the Magnificat. Bach's grand scheme of a well-regulated church music embraced Latin texts and chant intonations. Also, the acceptance of these "Catholic" practices not only had been endorsed by Luther but in Bach's time was Leipzig's concession to the Catholic Saxon Court in exchange for the acceptance of the Evangelicial (Lutheran) Church after years of religious wars.

As to your previous question in the recent Cantata BWV 11 discussion about Catholic Oratorio influences from Dresden, I'm still working on that. There doesn't seem to be much in Catholic liturgy for church year services, except for Good Friday. Bach follows the tradition of practices of Protestant Germans from Schuetz and Bach's contemporaries Stoezel and Telemann, focusing on the Feasts of Christmas and Easter.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2008):
Therese Hanquet wrote:
>For once, we discuss a cantata precisely at the time of the year it belongs to. The Feast of the Reformation is indeed celebrated on October 31st, just two days before the starting date of the present discussion.<
Which may give some (or at least this one) of us a moment for pause to appreciate Luthers theatrical, as well as musical, sensibility.

TH:
> Now we come to the (much discussed) point of the first performance of BWV 80(x) as a cantata for the Feast of Reformation. First of all, I have to admit that before starting to work on this introduction, I knew nothing of this feast. Belgium is a country of Roman Catholic tradition, and the only festive event we have on October 31st - and which has nothing to do with religion - is Halloween, which was quite recently imported here from the United States.<
EM:
All Hallows Eve (Halloween) may not have been a festive event until my hometown (Salem MA, USA) decided to exploit and export it, but it does have a Christian connection. Some Salem folks may take satisfaction to learn that the festivity has reached Belgium. On the other side of the exchange, we had no idea until quite recently of such a fine beer as Chimay Bleu. Send more!

The day after the Eve (Halloween), All Saints Day (November 1) was a Holy Day of Obligation in the Roman Catholic tradition, as I recall. Perhaps I misremember the obligation (to attend Mass) of the day, but its special nature is certainly consistent with Luther's sense of the theatrical, in choosing Oct. 31 for his debut. My democratic preference has always been for the more mundane All Souls (pretty much everyone?) Day (Nov. 2), closely followed by USA Election Day.

In the previous discussions of the composition/performance history of BWV 80(x), it was suggested that I might have unique opportunities to pose questions to Christoph Wolff. Alas, as I have previously communicated, that is not so. A personal communication updating and confirming (or not) Wolffs published opinions remains an open issue.

TH:
> Note that BWV 80 (including its previous forms) is the only cantata in Bach's works to rely on this choral (BWV 79 also written for the Feast of Reformation is not using it). Used only once, but fully used!<
EM:
Indeed, used throughout his career, regardless of the details of the revisions. I think Therese has emphasized a most important point of the special nature of the Chorale related to the event. Perhaps more to come in the next round of discussions?

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 9, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] You are right that All Hallows is an important liturgical feast in the Roman Catholic tradition, and that Catholics are supposed to attend Mass as for a Sunday. Here in Belgium it is an official holiday for everyone (offices and shops closed and so on). There is generally also a holiday week for the pupils at this period. But the day before has by contrast a rather "pagan" flavor!

When I was a kid, the most important feast for children was Saint-Nicolas. He brought sweets and toys during the night of 5th to 6th December, coming through the chimney. Strangely, since Halloween has emerged here, Saint-Nicolas has recessed, notably because commercial firms understood that it was more important for them to focus on a feast further away from Christmas, in an "empty slot". Moreover, the kids really love clothing as monsters or sorceresses...

Off topic: Chimay Bleue is excellent, but there are thousands of Belgian beers, and a large number of them are also excellent! Have a look at: http://www.belgian-beer.net/, which is not complete but can give an idea.

Chimay is one of the six Trappist breweries in Belgium: http://www.trappistbeer.net/trappist_portalEN.htm
To deserve their name, Trappist beers must be brewed by Trappist monks.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (November 9, 2008):
[To William Hoffman, regarding BWV 80a Oculi] Thank you William for these interesting information.

The German territory in the 17th and 18th centuries seemed to be a mosaic of religious cultures. This can generate in the worst case wars, and in the best case a context for creativity...

Paul T. McCain wrote (November 9, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding BWV 80a Oculi]
Leipzig in Bach's day was a last bastion of Lutheran Orthodoxy, in an era where increasingly Pietism was taking firm hold throughout much of German Lutheranism.

The penitential seasons of Advent and Lent were well known to Lutheranism and were not "Catholic."

The lack of musical ornamentation was a characteristic of these two penitential seasons.

Paul T. McCain wrote (November 9, 2008):
Reformation Observances

The observance of Luther's posting of the 95 Theses by way of formal church calendar observance became a practice throughout German Lutheranism in the early decades of the 17th century. In traditional Lutheran liturgical observance, the Festival of Reformation is celebrated on the Sunday in the week upon which Oct. 31 falls.

If All Saints Day falls on a day in the same week as Oct. 31, then generally All Saints is observed on the Sunday following. That's been my experience on how this is handled.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 9, 2008):
Paul T. McCain wrote [Reformation Observances]:
< If All Saints Day falls on a day in the same week as Oct. 31, then generally All Saints is observed on the Sunday following. That's been my experience on how this is handled. >
According to Stiller, All Saints (Nov 1) and All Souls (Nov 2) were not celebrated by Bach's churches, primarily because of the former's connections with pre-Reformation displays of relics and intercessory prayer and the latter's emphasis on propitiary prayer for the dead. The only saints' days marked with a cantata were the "scriptural" feasts of St. Michael, St. John and the three Marian holydays: Annunciation, Visitation and Purification.

William Hoffman wrote (November 10, 2008):
Reformation Observances: All-Souls Day Cantata

Kalmus Vocal Score 6940, Cantata BWV 198, "Lass, Hoechster; new text by Wilhelm Rust, for All Souls Day, based on Gottsched's original text, English translation A. Kalisch; arrangement of Philipp Wolfrum, piano reduction Otto Taubmann; with Wolfrum's footnotes and Rust's footnotes and chorale interpolations: No. 3a, B&H No. 361 (BWV 248/59), "Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit"; No. 4a, BWV 179/6, "Ich armer Mensch; No. 7a, "Ich hab in Gottes Herz," BWV 92/6; No. 8a, "O wie selig," BWV 406; No. 10a, "Auf, mein Herz," BWV 145a. I beieve there is a recent editon from either B&H or Baerenreiter, using the same printer's plates but without the footnotes.

 

BWV 80, Reformation Day, Oct. 31, 2009 (?)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2009):
Coincident with (perhaps inspired by?) our discussion of liturgical correctness, Brian McCreath changed his planned programming (WGBH-FM, www.wgbh.org) for Sunday, Trinity 21, Nov. 1, 2009 and substituted BWV 80 in the concert recording from the Gardiner Pilgrimage series [21]. In fact, this very festive work is liturgically sited in the late Trinity season and approaching end of the church year. It provides a nice contrast with the more somber themes of the Sunday cantatas of the season, one of which (BWV 188) was originally scheduled for today. The liturgically correct Sunday programming will continue next week with BWV 55 for Trinity 22.

Note that the Gardiner performances are often the choice for broadcast (among the broad variety presented, overall). This series is simply not to be missed by anyone on the cantata discussion list.

Brian preceded the cantata broadcast with an arrangement of the BWV 80 chorale, <Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott>, performed by the Empire Brass Quintet and organist Douglas Major, recorded at the National Cathedral, Washington DC, USA. The National Cathedral was in fact Dougs home base for many years, before he relocated to St. Michaels, Marblehead, MA, next town over (actually, originally a rebellious 17th C. fishing village) from his present residence here in Salem. From there he also keeps us informed of his organ performance activities at Methuen Memorial Music Hall and C. B. Fisk, Inc, which I have shared with the other list (BRML). Very appropriate programming for this ongoing Halloween weekend, thanks Brian.

I look forward to hearing from Mary, re the New York City performance today of BWV 106.

 

Bach on Radio / BWV 80

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2010):
The Bach Hour, hosted by Brian McCreath on 99.5 FM radio in Boston USA every Sunday at 8:00 PM local time, but available throughout the following week at www.995allclassical.org, tonight features BWV 80,ultimately for Reformation Day, Oct. 31 (better known on my blcok as Halloween), but which began as a Lenten cantata from Bachs Weimar days, more or less contemporary with Brandenburg Concerto No. 6 (the first, actually), which Brian chose as one of the related works to featue.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The Bach Hour, hosted by Brian McCreath on 99.5 FM radio in Boston USA every Sunday at 8:00 PM >local time, but available throughout the following week at www.995allclassical.org, tonight >features BWV 80 >
The recording chosen by Brian is from the Gardiner pilgrimage series, Vol. 10 [21], from which he also read a cute remembrance, by violinist Anne Schumann, of the performance at Wittenberg. I especially enjoy the costumed Luther, coming and going, rather like Halloween right here in Salem.

First Gardiner [21]: <...there in huge capitals on the collar of the tower is the inscription *Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott* for all to read -- the true battle-song of the German Reformation. You have arrived in the otherwise inconspicuous little town from which this seismic movement erupted in 1517.>

Anne Schumann: <Our concert was woven into the activities of a three-day medieval fair. The Reformation hymn *Ein feste Burg* could be heard all around us, and in the most varied styles. All kinds of things [?!] were on offer until late into the night. Everyone sat peacefully around a large fire and ate and drank. Now and then someone appeared dressed as Luther, then disappeared again. And above all this, ineradicable and solemn in large letters on this mighty castle tower, hung the inscription *Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott*.>

Back to Gardiner [21], for a last word: <Competing strains of the same iconic hymn wafted in from the outside all through our rehearsal, sung and played on any available instrument and in several keys at once by the crowd of pilgrims, street-hawkers, and medieval minstrels thronging the narrow streets. Eventually the noise abated as our concert began in the packed church, but it reminded me of reading somewhere how the Jesuits used to complain that Luthers hymns killed more souls than his works and sermons.> (end quotes)

Perhaps someone can authenticate (or contradict) that opinion which Gardiner [21] attributes to the Jesuits?

This all got me to thinking about other recorded versions of BWV 80, which does not come up in our systematic weekly discussion until sometime in March of 2013. I will just record a few thoughts right here, rather than waiting that long. It is included on Vol. 6 (last, so far) of the small group by Jeffrey Thomas and American Bach Soloists [19], a fine series which does not often receive the attention it deserves for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the recordings have not always been readily available. That has been corrected in recent years, and they are now available as reissues of the original Koch CDs. I do not happen to have Vol. 6 as yet, so I listened to something else (including BWV 106) to confirm my recollection of just how fine ABS sounds. More details of that to come at appropriate points in the weekly discussions, or as the spirit moves us.

I also note, previously overlooked by me (at least), how good are the concise liner notes with this series, written by John Butt, who is also organist on two (Vols. 3 and 5) of the three CDs which I have. Proviso: the reissue CDs by ABS do not include the traditional hard-copy booklets which were the format for the original issues on Koch. The notes are instead readily available in PDF format at the ABS website, http://www.americanbach.org/recordings, worth reading in their own right for the works covered, even if you do not have the ABS recording. Finally, from Julian Mincham’s communications tab, I see some very kind words which indicate that John Butt is very much in overall agreement with Julian’s more musically detailed commentary, which I have been suggesting as the introduction for our weekly discussions.

 

BWV 80 for Reformation Day (Oct. 31)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 2, 2011):
It happens that Oct. 31 is also a big deal in my hometown of Salem MA, USA, which prides itself as the Halloween capital of the world, as well as the Witch City. I will leave it to your imaginations as to what Luther thinks of that! I chose the Rifkin version of BWV 80 [16] to provide background for greeting *trick or treaters*, always a fun time for this Old Dude.

As it happens, the 2 CD set [16] is a fine representation of Rifkins pioneering OVPP work, recorded from 1985 to 1988, and still available, I believe. Although there is no complete USA cantata set, this is an example of American performers contributing to artistic advancement. Of particular note are tenor arias and recitatives sung by either Jeffrey Thomas or Frank Kelley. The former has continued to lead many fine recordings with the American Bach Soloists of San Francisco, while the latter is an ongoing participant with Emmanuel Music of Boston, including their only (2 CD set) recording of cantatas.

Highly recommended if you would like to compare these two performers, and to enjoy an early example of OVPP with an American flavor.

Charles Bowers wrote (November 2, 2011):
A similar 2cd set from Rifkin's Bach Ensemble includes BWV 106, and might also still be available. Kelley is on one of those 6 cantatas.

(I like 'em too!)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2011):
Charles Bowers wrote:
< A similar 2cd set from Rifkin's Bach Ensemble includes BWV 106, and might also still be available. Kelley is on one of those 6 cantatas. >
A pleasure to have a bit of discussion re specific recordings! Both of the Rifkin 2cd sets appear to remain easily available, probably linked via BCW discography, although I did not check that detail.

They stand the test of time to my ears, as well. Kelley is a personal favorite, I have had the opportunity to hear him in performance on many occasions. In fact, I wrote mainly to provide a bit of balance to some of the negative commentary which has accumulated over the years re Rifkins OVPP approach in general, and Kelleys voice in particular. I am happy that someone noticed.

Eric Basta wrote (November 4, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] I believe I wore out my vinyl record of Rifkin's BWV 106 & BWV 131 from hours and hours of playing it. I had a great time seeing him do BWV 106 live in Chicago many years ago. I love all of the Rifkin recordings of Bach. I would like to hear his version of BWV 210 - I never found a cassette copy - as well as his unreleased recording of the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

 

Continue on Part 6

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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