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Cantata BWV 84
Ich bin vergnügt mit meinem Glücke
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 30, 2008 (2nd round)

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 29, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 84 - Ich bin vergügt mit meinen Glücke

BWV 84 Ich bin vergügt mit meinen Glücke (I am content with my fortune)

BWV 84 page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV84.htm

BWV Discussion page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV84-D.htm

Schweitzer dates the year of this cantata as 1731. (See Vol. II, page 235 for more details.)

Based on the Biblical parable of the laborers in the vineyard the theme of this cantata is to know contentment rather than envy. The reward of heaven is enough, and nothing further is needed. While the librettist is unknown, there is a style correspondence with the Picander cycle. Robertson mentions that a previous cantata dealt with the servant murmuring over his lot in life, and that this cantata provides a contrasting element, thereby.

A solo voice cantata for soprano, with four parts in the chorale, the work consists of five sections. Bach labeled this work as a cantata, although Dürr states that Bach seldom used the term we apply today. The work aligns with the lessons for the day, and to assist the message in coming through, Bach used sparing instrumentation in the inner parts. Full textures are found in the outer sections. (Score description.)

The opening movement is tripartite with a varied da capo ending. The subdivision in the middle section offers a wide ranging effect (Dürr p. 230). Recitative II is simple and plain, while aria III is quite spirited. Part IV, another recitative is formal. A plain four part chorale completes the selection.

Mvt. 1. Ich bin vergnügt mit meinmem Glücke (I am content with my fortune - Dürr)
Aria - Soprano, oboe, strings, basso continuo
Theme: Unger - Contentment with what I have, though it be little. This verse reveals the condition of a contented heart, with gratitude toward God.

Mvt. 2. Gott ist mir ja nichts schuldig (God indeed owes me nothing)
Recitative - Soprano, Basso continuo
When God provides he shows me love, and his provisions through time prove his care. God intends to lift me into glory.

Mvt. 3. Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot - (Unger - I eat with joy my bit of bread)
Aria - Soprano, oboe, violin I, solo bc
Theme - contentment with my lot though others have more. Goodwill is maintained toward the belongings and advantages of one's neighbor because a peaceful conscience, happy spirit and a thankful heart multiplies blessings and sweetens life.

Mvt. 4. Im Schweisse meines Angesichts - Amidst the sweat of my brow
Recitative - Soprano, strings, basso continuo
Theme - (Unger) Contentment looking to eternal compensation. In the face of the gift of grace and the opportunity to work, the heavenly reward is all that is really needed.

Mvt. 5. Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget - (I live meanwhile contented in you - Dürr)
SATB, instruments and basso continuo
Theme: Contentment now since eternal well-being is assured.
The believer (the worker) is satisfied with the manner in which God ordains life.

Looking at the score in some detail: (BGA Full Score)

Mvt. 1. Aria. Beginning with the first measure dotted eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes in slurred pairs provide the phrasing that will dominate the first section of the movement in all parts. When the voice enters, the same rhythmic feature is selected, and continues in various parts for some time, while a note sustained in one measure plus a dotted eighth note sets an alternative pattern. Here again, an interested reader might want to refer to Schweitzer's chapter on phrasing, or some other reference dealing with similar issues. Occasionally, as Bach is wont to do, he shortens this phrasing, but still maintains the pattern interspersed with the rhythm set in the opening measure. Some individual variation in the voice leading to a shortened motif of the same type can also be seen vocally. Before the ending the oboe begins some longer scalar passages, complete with ornamentation. This is followed by additional interesting phrasing of the type seen earlier, and in the final measures falling and rising and falling patterns in the oboe lead to the conclusion.

Mvt. 2. Recitative - Soprano and Continuo
The recitative follows expected procedures with eighth and sixteenth notes in the voice, slowing rhythmically slightly in the final three measures.

Mvt. 3. Aria - Soprano, oboe, violin and continuo
In contrast to the syncopated rhythms of the first number, here, also in 3/8 time we see the violin with six sixteenth note patterns, dominating the accompaniment. The oboe has some interesting detached notes, adding a lively element to this selection. The textual element in this aria at the outset is a fairly steady rhythm dominated by eighth notes that eventually picks up on rising scalar motives on Herzen das Seine. Again the vocal part returns to a smooth presentation, and then engages with more rhythmic detail on frohlicher Geist. When Bach chooses to initiate playfulness in the oboe part by bringing emphasis to a third beat in a measure, I can almost feel a sense of auto-panning as is sometimes done with Bach recordings in dance movements. This is a matter of mixing and mastering the elements of sound that I mention here. But prior to our modern era, Bach had already figured out how to make the effect in my view. Added to this, an artful octave and more split occurs in sixteenth note patterns in the violins following. I am not too sure of the difficulty in playing such intervals, but judging from the time it took me to learn to play similar kinds of splits on the flute I see this element as fairly ornamental. String players could comment on this issue. Here I am referring to the motifs in about measure 198 and beyond. The aria returns to repeat the opening instrumental section.

Mvt. 4. Recitative - Soprano, Strings, Continuo
Long sustained notes allow the message to come through clearly. Vocally the soprano has a nice ornamentation on Le-bens in the third measure. Figured bass elements are available for the possibility of an arrangement.

Mvt. 5. Chorale. This simple chorale is doubled in the soprano by the oboe and violins, in the alto by violin II, in the tenor by viola, and the bass is doubled by the continuo. In regard to the vocal range here, it is interesting that the soprano part goes up to a high A. So far in most of the chorales I have seen the range is lower.

Please add your comments and insights to this week's study.

William Hoffman wrote (March 30, 2008):
BWV 84 -- Fugitive Notes

William Hoffman offers the following fleeting thoughts, initially inspired by W. Gilles Whittaker:

At this point in Bach's career in Leipzig, he heads off in many directions. I wonder just why he wrote this "Cantata," not piece ("Stücke") or concerto. Although not a lawyer, I'm driven by interests in Bach's motive, method, & opportunity. I look for patterns and what I call collateral evidence.

I'm also indebted to another Englishman, Malcolm Boyd, Oxford Composer Companions (p.226f) for his concise and illuminating thoughts on BWV 84, "I am content with my good fortune." It's a personal expression of "joy-in-moderation," also shown in BWV 204 composed around the same time, which I call "being in the moment," a time of reflection and intimacy.

Exhibit 1: Opportunity. It is Septuagesima Sunday, post-Epiphany season, and usually after Purification (February 2), winding down for Lent. We have only two other pieces for this Sunday, BWV 144, and BWV 92 (Cycles 1 and 2, 1724, 1725). Also, there's a Johann Ludwig Bach cantata (JLB 3) that JSB presents in 1726. This is not a significant church date, despite JSB's commitment to a "well-regulated Church music."

Exhibit 2: Motive. Besides the reference to contentment above, Bach is finishing writing cantata cycles. He's free to go wherever he wants. This intimate, deep work with charming recitatives and attractive arias (WGW) comes at the end of this amorphous, patchwork Cycle 3. This is Bach's last shot at this Sunday, it replaces JLB 3
in the 3rd cycle, and he apparently never repeats any of his three.

Exhibit 3: Transmission. In the fall of 1750, when Bach's two oldest sons, WF and CPE, divide up the third cycle manuscripts, WF apparently gets the parts (all are lost), and CPE gets the scores (all survive), beginning with Advent 1, except that CPE choses both score and parts for BWV 82. WF has no use for this "cantata" in pietistic Halle, neither does CPE later in Hamburg but, obviously, he treasures it. The ms. is in the hand of JSB and Anna Magdalena and the cover title is in CPE's hand.

Interestingly, two Sundays after BWV 84 is premiered (2/23/27), Bach presents the final version of BWV 23 for Quinquageisma Estomihi Sunday, the last before Lent. It now closes with the great chorale chorus "Christe du Lamm Gottes," possible written in 1717 for the Gotha/Weimar Passion and the penultimate number inserted into the 1725 version of the St. John Passion (BWV 245). The next work Bach presents, on Good Friday, April 11, 1727, is probably the first version of the SMP (BWV 244). A content composer on the way to a well-regulated church music?

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 30, 2008):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks, William, for expanding the discussion here. Maybe some of our long time scholars can address some of these details for more discussion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 31, 2008):
Willliam Hoffman wrote:
>Interestingly, two Sundays after BWV 84 is premiered (2/23/1727), Bach presents the final version of BWV 23 for Quinquageisma Estomihi Sunday, the last before Lent. It now closes with the great chorale chorus "Christe du Lamm Gottes," possible written in 1717 for the Gotha/Weimar Passion and the penultimate number inserted into the 1725 version of the St. John Passion (BWV 245). The next work Bach presents, on Good Friday, April 11, 1727, is probably the first version of the SMP (BWV 244). A content composer on the way to a well-regulated church music?<
Thanks to William for presenting this chronology, including SMP (BWV 244), and for being polite enough not to highlight my earlier errors. I impatiently suggested other works as the final new sacred compositions prior to SMP (BWV 244) in 1727, based on a careless reading of our discussion chronology only. Apologies for any confusion.

Julian Mincham first suggested to me the importance of the solo cantatas of 1726-27 as an important sub-group within Jahrgang III. This was new to me, but perhaps familiar territory for many other readers. In any case, it is a welcome contribution to BCML to propose ideas for serious research on the larger scale relations among Bachs works, and to share research results when appropriate with less specialized readers (like me).

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 31, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thankfully, Ed, you are very willing to share your thoughts. I take my own risks in presenting material and ideas because I know that the basics will generate much food for thought. And, we can all be glad that we have some great scholarly minds in this group to direct us to further knowledge. I'm glad you shared.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 3, 2008):
I suspect Monica Huggett/Nancy Argenta [10] would win a clear majority of votes for title of "Best recording of BWV 84". HIP, but without exaggerated mannerisms, Argenta seems more successful as a Bach singer than say Auger, despite the latter's brilliance; and the instrumental accompaniment flows nicely with some strong violin playing. (The oboe part is very attractive). Rilling's [8] (the version I have) seems to plod a bit, in the first aria, despite similar tempos.

Samples for Harnoncourt [6], Rilling [8], Huggett [10], Leusink [12] and Koopman [15] are available at the BCW. I would be surprised if listeners can't pick a clear favourite.

With the two arias we have more delightful music from Bach.

Philip Peters wrote (April 3, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I suspect Monica Huggett/Nancy Argenta [10] would win a clear majority of votes for title of "Best recording of BWV 84". >
Good as this one is my absolute favourite remains Wilhelm Ehmann/Agnes Giebel [2] from the fifties which never made it to CD. Of course this is not HIP but the way Giebel sings it moves me to tears every time I hear it which is not a very frequent experience.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 3, 2008):
[To Philip Peters] Thanks for adding your comments, Philip.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 3, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks, Neil, for the notes on the recordings.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 3, 2008):
< Good as this one is my absolute favourite remains Wilhelm Ehmann/Agnes Giebel [2] from the fifties which never made it to CD. Of course this is not HIP but the way Giebel sings it moves me to tears every time I hear it which is not a very frequent experience. >
Thanks for mentioning the existence of that one (Nonesuch H-71273) [2] whose US release had sleeve notes by the young Joshua Rifkin. I'd forgotten about it, but when you mentioned it I searched my basement shelf of LPs and there it was; I've usually listened only to side 2, which has Giebel and Stämpfli in cantata BWV 49. I'll give BWV 84 a listen, probably tonight.

Aryeh's page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV84.htm lists it as a November 1961 recording, which apparently came from the original Cantate release. The Nonesuch issue of it is undated but obviously from the very early 1970s, by the jacket style and numbering. Mine came from a radio station whose sticker says they acquired it in 1972.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 4, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for the additional details, Brad.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 7, 2008):
I have enjoyed Jeans comments on the full scores, as part of her weekly introductions, especially this week for BWV 84. The dotted eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes that she mentions in Mvt. 1 are also selected by Whittaker as a key example. I do not have a complete score, but relying on Whittaker and the snippets he presents, the ties and implied articulation are different for the oboe and vocal : tied on the beat for oboe, syncopated tie across the beat for vocal. Hope that jargon is understandable, it is easy enough to see.

It is not necessarily so easy to hear the subtle difference involved, at least for me, and I will defer detailed comments for another time. My present impression is that Ehmann [2] gets it exactly right, with an unhurried tempo and unforced phrasing and articulation. Leusink [12] is less clear, with the tempo just a bit quicker and the articulation obscured by <double-dotting> (interpretation as double-dotted eighth notes followed by thirty-second notes). I am way out of my element here, so corrections are welcome.

I found Neils comments on the Huggett [10] samples very helpful. In particular, the chorale, Mvt. 5, is attractive, sounding like OVPP. Enough to tempt me to seek out the CD for a more careful comparison.

Until then, I agree with the conclusions from the first round of discussions, and earlier comments: Leusink [12] is the preferred HIP version. Koopman [15] is new since the first round, certainly a welcome addition as part of a complete set. The quick tempos are unique, this is not a preference for me, but may be according to individual taste.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thank you, Ed. I have enjoyed looking at the scores that have become available to me, and making observations. In my BMT class some folks were so fast--future conductors, and expert orchestra players. I also need some time to absorb what is in front of me, and since I don't have Whittaker, glad to know that she uses what caught my eye.

And I really appreciate the extra commentary that you add. This so enriches the discussion.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I have enjoyed Jeans comments on the full scores, as part of her weekly introductions, especially this week for BWV 84. The dotted eighth notes followed by sixteenth notes that she mentions in Mvt. 1 are also selected by Whittaker as a key example. I do not have a complete score, but relying on Whittaker and the snippets he presents, the ties and implied articulation are different for the oboe and vocal lines: tied on the beat for oboe, syncopated tie across the beat for vocal. Hope that jargon is understandable, it is easy enough to see.
It is not necessarily so easy to hear the subtle difference involved, at least for me, and I will defer detailed comments for another time. My present impression is that Ehmann
[2] gets it exactly right, with an unhurried tempo and unforced phrasing and articulation. Leusink [12] is less clear, with the tempo just a bit quicker and the articulation obscured by <double-dotting> (interpretation as double-dotted eighth notes followed by thirty-second notes). I am way out of my element here, so corrections are welcome. >
I haven't seen Whittaker's commentary, but I did listen to the Giebel/Ehmann recording [2] three times over the weekend, and the Holton/Leusink [12] once. Those are the only two recordings of the piece that I have. I have to say: the Holton/Leusink performance gives me everything I currently need from the piece, and I frankly didn't like the Giebel/Ehmann interpretation very much.

I do like Giebel's basic sound, and the tempos and instrumental balances seem decent enough. But...in the first two movements, especially thatrecitative, Giebel lays out too many phrases or long notes that are consistently sharp (reminding me unfortunately of "Darlene Edwards", Jo Stafford doing it on purpose). In the first movement's coloratura, I don't take away a sense that Giebel was doing much more than placing a bunch of notes carefully onto their notated spots, let alone giving it much rhetorical sweep or expression of the text. Too much "reverence" or whatever for reading the printed notes exactly as they appear, and not enough getting into the style or the delivery of the words...and their meaning?

And on that cross-beat dotted thing, the beginning of the vocal part for the first movement, I thought Giebel made it sound much too laborious and wrongly accented. It sticks out and draws attention to itself by not sounding graceful. I felt that it made the piece itself sound badly composed, making the singer limp heavily across so many beats! Holton [12], by stark contrast, recognizes it in her interpretation as a garden variety French ornament: the gentle placement of the anticipatory note within a falling third slightly before the beat, without giving it undue accent (as Giebel did). If Bach had notated the short note as a grace note, at least at those falling-third places, perhaps Giebel/Ehmann [2] would have got it "right" as well? It's a cute feature of the music that so many of the syllables in this movement are to be pronounced ahead of the beat...but that's the key to it. Lay them in ahead of the next beat, with some flexibility, instead of counting out the exact spot forward from the previous beat.

In the later movements I liked Giebel [2] better than in her first eight minutes, but I never got to any point where I found it personally moving, or heard much clear interpretation of the text; just a consistently pretty sound. The second aria was mostly ruined for meby something other than Giebel: the way the violinist and cellist both sawed through their parts giving too many of the notes equal emphasis. It all just got quickly boring, and made the aria seem too long...again making it seem that Bach's composition itself was faulty in being too laborious and ungraceful. The final chorale went very well, while I can't buy the implausible premise of having 40-50 singers waiting around to do less than 90 seconds of music.

I wish I could enjoy this Giebel/Ehmann performance [2] more than I actually do. I like most of the instrumental work in it, and the pacing, despite the disagreement with overall style. A high point is Winschermann's fine oboe playing...but it's not enough. Graceful and in-tune delivery by the singer mean too much to me. I'm glad that the mileage varies for those who do resonate more with this performance than I do.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for adding more detail here, Brad. I appreciate it when others take time to share their experience and insights.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 7, 2008):
Bradley lehamn wrote:
>And on that cross-beat dotted thing, the beginning of the vocal part for the first movement, I thought Giebel made it sound much too laborious and wrongly accented. It sticks out and draws attention to itself by not sounding graceful. I felt that it made the piece itself sound badly composed, making the singer limp heavily across so many beats! Holton [12], by stark contrast, recognizes it in her interpretation as a garden variety French ornament: the gentle placement of the anticipatory note within a falling third slightly before the beat, without giving it undue accent (as Giebel did). If Bach had notated the short note as a grace note, at least at those falling-third places, perhaps Giebel/Ehmann [2] would have got it "right" as well? It's a cute feature of the music that so many of the syllables in this movement are to be pronounced ahead of the beat...but that's the key to it. Lay them in ahead of the next beat, with some flexibility, instead of counting out the exact spot forward from the previous beat.<
Thanks for the additional thoughts on this detail. I did not emphasize it, but I share your preference for Holton/Leusink [12]. I think we agree that Giebel/Ehmann [2] get the notes as written (at least from the Whittaker snippet), but your point is well taken: current performance practice and scholarship allow for interpretation of exactly what Bach intended, and with how much latitude. No need to reopen that controversy. It is good to have the alternatives available for comparison.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 7, 2008):
On the phrasing of the dotted notes in the 1st movement's ritornello, it's interesting that Rilling [8] (in the continuo) abandons the phrasing shown in the BGA whereas the HIP group of Leusink [12], Harnoncourt [6] and Huggett [10] follow it more closely; usually with dotted rhythms it's the other way around; HIP musicians tend to articulate the dotted note via a staccato but in BWV 84 the phrasing in the score expressly forbids it - a dotted quaver in the instrumental parts is nearly always connected to its following 1/16th note with a slur. Rilling (perhaps trying to be HIP in one of the last recordings - in 1983 - of his complete sacred cantata cycle) notably, in the continuo, strongly detaches the dotted note from its following 1/16th note, producing what I perceive as a 'plodding' effect.

As far as the vocal part's phrasing is concerned (no actual phrasing shown in the BGA; come to think of it, dotted rhythms in vocal parts are rare, are they not?), I think Auger [8], Holton [12], Argenta [10] and Harnoncourt's boy [6] all have more or less the same 'flowing' manner in the opening phrase (but their voices are quite different, ofcourse) Koopman's singer [15] varies the dynamics excessively in the opening phrases, IMO (in the sample). Holton tends to disappear on some syllables and phrases as usual, eg, with the first appearance of "Gott" after "liebe".

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Interesting observations...thank you Neil.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 7, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
<As far as the vocal part's phrasing is concerned (no actual phrasing shown in the BGA)>
My apologies; this is not entirely accurate; please see the score at the BCW in which the vocal part is written and phrased as in the BGA.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Thanks for the added information, Neil.

There's a lot of detail in a Bach score.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 7, 2008):
<As far as the vocal part's phrasing is concerned (no actual phrasing shown in the BGA)>
< My apologies; this is not entirely accurate; please see the score at the BCW in which the vocal part is written and phrased as in the BGA. >

When two (or more) notes in a vocal part share the same syllable, they don't have to have a slur in the score; it's automatic. That is: they're going to be delivered as a slurred group whether or not somebody (composer/copyist/arranger) has gone through and pedantically written a slur onto every single one of them or not.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks for the clarification.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 7, 2008):
[To Bradley Lehman] I originally stated that Whittaker provides a snippet of the vocal line, including slurs, and contrasts it with the slurs in the oboe line.

In fact, the vocal example is not a score snippet, but simply a grouping of notes, with slurs, to indicate phrasing. Apparently Whittaker provided these slurs himself, in accordance with the text, as suggested above. Slurs in the vocal line do not appear at that point in the score. The contrasting oboe phrasing Whittaker suggests appears correct, with slurs in agreement with the score.

I have enjoyed following this detail, but now I am really way out of my element, and I will drop it there.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 84: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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