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Cantata BWV 86
Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 31, 2010

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 86 -- Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch

This week’s discussion continues the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity, with BWV 86 for the Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogate) from the first Leipzig cycle. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV86.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham} is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. Five selected recordings for the current weeks discussion are highlighted on the BCW main (home) page. The comment in BCW archives from Doug Cowling, regarding the name of this Sunday, is helpful for those who enjoy such details.

The recordings by Koopman and Leusink were both well-received previously, with a slight edge for Koopman. We need comments on the more recent releases by Gardiner [5], Suzuki [6], and Kuijken [7].

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This week’s discussion continues the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity, with BWV 86 for the Fifth Sunday after Easter (Rogate) from the first Leipzig cycle. >
I'm surprised that Julian doesn't seem to like the first movement very much and implies that it must be a rush job. Certainly the lack of an opening chorus is no longer evidence for haste or PED (Post-Easter Depression). Nor can the notation of the violin solo in the next aria be considered minimal: chords were standard notational shorthand for arpeggiated figures in string and keyboard music - Handel wrote an entire keyboard prelude in this short notation.

I'm glad Julian finds the opening movement serene because it is a wondrously sonorous piece of music. Its form is highly unusual and I would place it among the many post-Easter cantatas which begin with the bass soloist as the Vox Christi. Bach seems to be experimenting with various genres. This movement is almost a motet without words. Much enjoyment can be had in trying to fit the text to the other voices -- it almost always works. This
style of contrapuntal texture with solo voice is frequently found in 17th century composers such as Praetorius and Bach may using the antique style to give the voice of Christ a halo of antiquity.

The effect reminds me of the string halo for Christ in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244).

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'm glad Julian finds the opening movement serene because it is a wondrously sonorous piece of music. Its form is highly unusual and I would place it among the many post-Easter cantatas which begin with the bass soloist as the Vox Christi. Bach seems to be experimenting with various genres. This movement is almost a motet without words. Much enjoyment can be had in trying to fit the text to the other voices -- it almost always works. >
Compare Durr, for example:
<The first movement -- one of those typical arioso style bass solos in which we are addressed by the vox Christi -- is nonetheless exceptional in its compositional make-up. All parts, not only the bass but also the strings (which are probably to be reinforced with oboes), are decidedly vocal in conception. In fact, if the instruments adhered to the vocal range of the human voice [a rather significant if?], it would be easy to sing the entire movement as a four-part motet with continuo accompaniment.> (end quote)

This also gives me a convenient opportunity to slip in an observation I was reminded of with the Cantate label LP of BWV 166: the notes included by Dürr with recordings on that label are in fact the first (?) draft of what ultimately became his text. Although we often comment that liner notes must be taken with caution, in fact there is often a lot of good and novel thought in them as well.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 1, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'm surprised that Julian doesn't seem to like the first movement very much and implies that it must be a rush job. Certainly the lack of an opening chorus is no longer evidence for haste or PED (Post-Easter Depression). Nor can the notation of the violin solo in the next aria be considered minimal: chords were standard notational shorthand for arpeggiated figures in string and keyboard music - Handel wrote an entire keyboard prelude in this
short notation. >
I am sorry if I give the impression of not enjoying this unusual aria. It's true I used the phrases 'rhythmically bland. And 'ostensibly unisteresting'. Taking the individual lines I think this is a fair description, though taken as an entity a different and more profound dimension emerges.

I also suggest reasons for this (which, as always lie in Bach's reaction to the specific text.) Whilst the apparent lack of complexity (for Bach) might imply a rushed job this is misleading and another of those apparent contradictions that keep cropping up when we examine his music closely.

Similarly with the violin notation which, as you say is not unusual in baroque music generally but is in Bach. I think I have come across one or two other examples of such short cuts in string writing but can't bring them presently to mind (continuo writing is another matter of course).

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2010):
Doug Cowling wrote:
<< I'm surprised that Julian doesn't seem to like the first movement very much and implies that it must be a rush job. >>
Julian Mincham replied
< I am sorry if I give the impression of not enjoying this unusual aria. It's true I used the phrases 'rhythmically bland. And 'ostensibly unisteresting'. Taking the individual lines I think this is a fair description, though taken as an entity a different and more profound dimension emerges. >
Thanks for the clarification, I also took those words (bland and uninteresting) to create a bit of a second-rate impression. It is interesting to note that Kuijken chose BWV 86 while Richter chose BWV 87 (from the following year, 1725) to represent Rogate (Easter 5) in their partial (one work only for each date) cycles for the complete liturgical year. Gardiners more complete cycle omits a few liturgical dates, but includes all works for the dates chosen, in this case, both BWV 86 and BWV 87 (which will ne our work for discussion next week). Indeed, Gardiner suggests some forward planning, or at least backward looking, on Bachs part:

<Whether Bachs congregation was up to noticing the presence of features shared with its predecessor from the year before in the structure of the opening movement of BWV 87 -- the opening Gospel quotation of Jesus words set for bass voice and four part strings doubled by oboes, the way its fugally-conceived polyphonic interplay of themes is taken up by the singer -- we shall never know. But there, no doubt [sic], propped up on his desk as a reminder and point of reference was last years cantata [BWV 86].> (end quote)

A quite charming scene, in keeping with Dougs speculative (in a positive sense!) thoughts on a grand plan. I would question the no doubt, seemingly applied to the details, but certainly figuratively accurate with respect to the relation between the two works opening movements. To be continued through next week.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Indeed, Gardiner suggests some forward planning, or at least backward looking, on Bachs part:
[...]
<But there, no doubt [sic], propped up on his desk as a reminder and point of reference was >last years cantata [BWV 86].> (end quote) (c. 2008) >
In looback to the previous Gardiner volume (No. 24) to confirm his reference to buffonerie in the alto aria (BWV 166/5), I also notice this:

<I am willing to bet that when he [Bach] sat down to compose BWV 108 in April 1725, there, propped up on his desk, was last years [BWV 166], the similarities between the two cantatas are just to close to be accidental.> (end quote) (c. 2005)

Note that volume 24 appeared and is copyright three years before volume 25, so 24 should take precedence for the <propped up on his desk> image. More seriously, note the consistent reference to relations (long-planned or otherwise) between the first and second Leipzig cycles (Jahrang I and II).

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 86 - Recordings

The concurrent chat re BWV 106 reminds me of a general point -- whether or not (mostly not, these days) the work selected for weekly discussion results in any posts, other Bach vocal works are always on-topic on BCML. In fact, vocal works are more popular than instrumental works, even on the list (BRML) specifically devoted to instrumental works. I can explain, but only off-list.

I was a bit critical of the characterization of a counter-tenor as wobbly, cited from a BCW archive. I note that a review (amazon.com) of an alternate version of BWV 106 (Purcell Quartet) uses the same term, with comparison to the American Bach Society recording: the alto aria is wobbly, but not so much as ABS. I hope they were not both written by the same person.

All the OVPP versions of BWV 106 discussed use male (counter-tenor) as opposed to female (alto) soloists, so there is no opportunity for direct comparison. Apparently the use of adult males was considered authentic Bach, for a brief window of time. For an up-to-date OVPP alternative, do not miss the Kuijken OVPP series ...

Dinner call, to be continued.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Dinner call, to be continued. >
Had I yet mentioned Kuijken Vol. 10 [7], including this weeks work for discussion?

The alto arias by Petra Noskaiova, in BWV 86/2 and other works on this CD , are not to be missed. If those wobbly counter-tenors on other OVPP performances (BWV 106, for example) are not to your taste, the Kuijken series is your refuge. Not to overlook Bogna Bartosz, in the second half of the Koopman series, as well (HIP but not OVPP).

Correct me please, if necessary: with all the OVPP recordings of BWV 106, there is not yet a version with female alto?

Glen Armstrong wrote (November 4, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] Konrad Junghanel uses Elizabeth Popien in his version of BWV 106 -- and the Israeli Bach soloists has Avital Dery listed. The latter has not been discussed, but the Cantus Coln has.

This seems awfully picky of me in the face of your (Ed's) many intriguing and enlightening posts.

Regarding wobbly altos, I believe there was a criticism of a "frequently flat tenor" fairly recently. The man in question isn't "flat" to my ears, and without more specifics I humbly protest. I've read similar criticism of Paul Esswood in the past, but regard this as equally unfair. If I claimed to have perfect pitch, I guess I could be judgemental. Incidentally, when Mera starts very flat on a note, then gradually works up to what I hear as "correct", I love it. I believe that is in BWV 54.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2010):
Glen Armstrong wrote:
< Konrad Junghanel uses Elizabeth Popien in his version of BWV 106 -- and the Israeli Bach soloists has Avital Dery listed. The latter has not been discussed, but the Cantus Coln has.
This seems awfully picky of me in the face of your (Ed's) many intriguing and enlightening posts. >
Not picky at all. Thanks for the additional information.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 6, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>I'm glad Julian finds the opening movement serene because it is a wondrously sonorous piece of music.<
Charles Francis, in the the very first message to the BCW re BWV 86, rated this movement highly.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV86-D.htm

Robertson sees "the same spiritual and melodic beauty" as in the E major WTK Book 2 fugue.

I also like the hint of yearning on "Namen", with brief sojourns into the minor key (plenty of that in the fugue also); notice the appearance of the double sharps signifying G# minor near the centre of the movement.

All the recent recordings adopt a somewhat 'breezy' tempo; I have a soft spot for the more serene tempo heard in Rilling [2], for example.

William Hoffman wrote (November 21, 2010):
Cantata 86: Rogate and Chorales

For the last Sunday before Christ's Ascension on Thursday, called "Rogate," meaning "Pray" or "Ask," only two Bach cantatas survive, BWV 86 from 1724 and BWV 87 from 1725. Two cantata texts were readily accessible to Bach, in the Rudolstadt Libretto Book of 1726 for that year in the third cycle, with no Johann Ludwig Bach setting extant, and a Picander Cycle text for 1729. In addition there is a slight possibility that Bach between 1728 and 1731 may have presented his unspecified <per omnes versus> Chorale Cantata, BWV 117 on Rogate Sunday, particularly in 1731 when he presented previous works for the Easter Season.

Found in both Cantatas BWV 86 and BWV 87 are quotations from the Rogate Gospel for the Fifth Sunday After Easter, John 16: 23-30, known as a "Prayer in the name of Jesus" in "Christ's Promise to the Disciples." It is the third of five Sunday Christ Farewell Discourses used as the Gospel readings from the 12 discourses in John's Gospel, Chapters 14 to 16, for the consecutive Sundays of Jubilate, Cantate, Rogate, Exaudi, and Trinity. The Rogate Epistle reading is James 1:22-27, emphasizing "Hearing and doing" but is not quoted directly in either Cantata BWV 86 or BWV 87.

The title, "Sonntag Rogate", does not come from the introit (Isaiah 48:20b,c; "With the voice of singing). It is a reference to the traditional pre-Reformation Rogation processions (with chanted litanies) that blessed the newly-seeded fields but were suppressed by Luther. The theme of "asking" appears in the Gospel reading, John 16:23b, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you."

The Musical Context for Rogate Sunday (BCW, Douglas Cowling) is

Introit: "Vocem Jucunditatis" (LU 830)
Motet: "Vocem Jucunditatis"
"Exivi a Patre"
"Pater Noster"
"Oremus Praeceptis
Hymn de Tempore: "Christ Lag in Todesbanden"
Pulpit Hymn: "Christ ist Erstanden"
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing:
"Vater Unser"

On the Bach's first Rogate Sunday in Leipzig, May 14, 1724, he presented Cantata 86, "Wahrlich, wahrlich, ich sage euch" (the dictum), to a text possibly by Christian Weiss Sr. The five-movement cantata form of double chorales in the middle and end are part of Dürr's Cantata Group 3 Form often used during Easter Season.

As the two-month Easter Season came to a close with the great parabola of Christ's ascension, Bach increasingly turned to comforting, joyous omnes tempore chorale melodies and texts with devotional themes for the half-year Trinity Season. In keeping with spirit of Rogate Sunday, the music and texts emphasize devotion, affirmation, request, and allegiance and two chorales are set much earlier in the Orgelbüchlein chorale preludes, "Es ist das Heil ukommen her" and "Jesu, meine Freude." The two chorales Bach used in Cantata 86 are for the Easter Season.

No. 3, Grunwald 1530 text and melody, "Komm her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn" (Come here to me, said God's Son (from Matthew 11:28). This chorale has 16 stanzas and the last used, "Und was der ewig Gütig Gott" (And what the goodly everlasting God . . . has promised), is set as a unison chorale aria quartet for soprano, 2 oboes d'amore, and basso continuo). The hymn's final three stanzas close Johann Ludwig Bach's Cantata JLB 8, "Die mit Tränen säen" (That with tears seen): "Ist euch die Kreuz bitter und schwer" (If this cross is full of woe, S. 14), "Ihr aber werdt nach dieser Zeit" (You, after this short time; S.15). Cousin Sebastian presented this cantata on Jubilate Sunday (the Third After Easter) in 1726. The chorale melody only is used to close Cantata 108, set to Gerhardt's "Gott Vater, senden deine Geist," S.10, "Dein Geist, den Gott vom Himmel gibt" (The Spirit God from heaven sends) for Cantate Sunday (4th after Easter)1725 and also closes Cantata 74 on Pentecost Sunday 1725, with chorale stanza 2, "Kein Menschenkind hier auf der Erd" (No mortal child here upon the earth).

No. 6. Speratus 1524 text (14 verses) and anonymous melody, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" (Salvation has come to us), Stanza 9, "Die Hoffnung wart' der rechten Zeit" (Hope waits for the right time for, Francis Browne BCW); also as Chorale Cantata BWV 9, 1731-35, c.1740-47 (repeat), 6th Sunday after Trinity (S. 1-12); also BWV 155/5 (S. 12), 2nd Sunday after Trinity, 1716, 1724; BWV 186/6 (S.10), BWV 186/11 (S.9), 7th Sunday after Trinity, 1723; and Orgelbüchlein chorale prelude No. 77 (Confession, Penitence, Justification), BWV 638(a). It is a song of belief and faith, based on Roman's 3:28, Luther's doctrine, Justification by faith alone, originally an Easter song, "Freu' dich du werthe Christenheit," which was in use in 1478.

On May 6, 1725 Bach closes Cantata BWV 87, "Bisher habt ihr nichts gebeten in meinen Namen" (Hitherto have ye asked for nothing in my name), with No. 7 melody Crüger "Jesu meine Freude" 1653; text, H. Müller "Selig ist die Selle" 1659; S.9 "Muß ich sein betrübt" (Must I be downcast) cf. BWV 146/2 text Ambrose: BCW: "The theme of metamorphosis from bad to good is found in each of Bach's three cantatas for Jubilate Sunday (BWV 12, BWV 103, and BWV 146), a theme appropriate to Acts 14:22: "Through many tribulations we must. BCW http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV146.html Z. Philip Ambrose.

"With the sole exception of BWV 87/7, where Bach used instead the 9th verse of Heinrich Müller's (1659) chorale text Selig ist die Seele, all Bach's settings of this melody use or make reference to Johann Franck's chorale text "Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesu, my joy) from 1650," says Z. Philip Ambrtose (BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Jesu-meine-Freude.htm). Other uses of the Franck Jesus Song with the six-stanza text are BWV 64/8 (S. 5), 1723 Christmas 3; 81/7 (S. 2), 1724 4th Sunday After Epiphany; motet 227/1, 3, 5, 7, 9 , 11 (all 6 stanzas) in 1723; and plain chorale BWV 328. The melody alone is used in Cantata BWV 12/6, tenor aria, Jubilate Sunday, 1714, 1724; organ chorale prelude BWV 610 (Orgelbüchlein No. 13, Christmas), 713, 753, and 1105.

Chorale Cantata BWV 117, "Sei Lob und Ehr dem Höchsten Gut" (All praise and glory to the highest good), per omnes versus, unspecified, J.J. Schütz hymn of Thanksgiving text 1673 (9 stanzas), 251 wedding associated with vows, c.1729; associated melody "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her" is found with its own text in chorale cantata BWV 9 Trin.+6 (1724); also found as wedding chorale BWV 251.

Bach's original score of Chorale Cantata BWV 117 is not divided into two parts, the practice for sacred wedding cantatas. Thus Bach may have been able to perform it on Rogate Sunday, given its original Easter Song melody that he used with its associated text in Cantata BWV 86/6 for Rogate 1724.

Francis Browne in his Discussion Introduction to Cantata BWV 117 (May 18, 2008): says:

Gardiner performed the cantata with others for the Fourth Sunday after Easter at St Mary's Warwick on May 21st 2000 [7]. He writes :

"The most impressive of all to me in this concert was the final cantata, BWV 117 Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut, written some time between 1728 and 1731. One of a group of works in which the hymn text is retained unaltered per omnes versus, it has no specific liturgical designation but was surely composed for an especially important celebration or a service of thanksgiving. Yet with its assertion that 'The Lord is not and never was severed from His people' it seems to answer that feeling of insecurity experienced by the Christian community during the limbo period between the Resurrection and Whitsun, and as such it provided the perfect riposte to the earlier pair written for Easter 4. Each verse ends like a litany with the words 'Gebt unserm Gott die Ehre'."

BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV117-D2.htm

 

Cantata BWV 86: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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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