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Cantata BWV 89
Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of July 29, 2012

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 28, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 89 -- Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?

Weekly reminder: This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 89, the first of three works for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV89.htm

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

The BWV 89 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 89 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages

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

William Hoffman wrote (July 30, 2012):
Cantata 89: Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity

See: Motets & Chorales for 22nd Sunday after Trinity

Charles Francis wrote (July 30, 2012):
Cantata 89 -- Basso continuo issues

With regard to this week's cantata, we are in the fortunate position that the surviving originals can be viewed online at the Bach Digital site: http://tinyurl.com/bocacpj

There are a total of twelve parts - 4 vocal (the tenor sings only the chorale), 6 instrumental (2 oboes, 1 Corne du Chasse in Bach's handwriting, 2 violins, 1 viola) and two parts marked Basso continuo.

As can be seen, the Basso continuo parts have been written at different pitches: the Cornet-Ton version, which was used for the organ, contains figured bass in Bach's handwriting. The nature of the other instrument(s) is open to speculation. Was there more than one instrument, as commonly assumed? Looking closely at this part, we can see that whatever it was, it must be able to support Bach's 'piano' and 'forte' designations and must allow two independent contrapuntal lines. A relevant remark on medieval.org caught my attention "The 1960s vintage notion that continuo consists of harpsichord and cello is derived from C.P.E. Bach's expressed preference for that combination in chamber music in about 1762, which may be of dubious value for music earlier than that": http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/misc/continuo.html

Comments by Sigiswald Kuijken in an interview, which touch on the suggested absence of a 16' instrument in all the cantatas, can be viewed here: http://www.earlymusicworld.com/id19.html

Indeed, sharing one hand written part between a harpsichord and cello does appear somewhat tricky, while a common sheet between two stringed instruments would presumably be less of an issue. If, however, there was only one instrument, then, contingent on analysing which notes Bach used and whether they can be mapped to the various lower strings, a Theorbo might come into question: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmhmKUXxRlE

Some bass instruments, predating Bach, from a 1640 painting in a Leipzig museum can be viewed here: http://scriabin.com/etude/1906/03/music-in-the-17th-century.html

Turning now to the Cornet-Ton part, while the instrument isn't in doubt, the practical realisation is. Consider the final bar of the chorale and observe that the Bb falls below the range of the organ pedal; conversely, if the part is played one octave higher than notated to accommodate the low Bb, then many notes would be too high for the pedal. Why is this part not written in the same manner as the vocal bass part, where this note and its predecessors are rendered one octave higher to accommodate the limitations of the human voice? How did Bach deal with this "unplayable" note? Did he simply transpose it up one octave at sight, which would have given him the freedom to realise a 16' bass in the pedal if he so wished, or did he just share the bass part between an 8' keyboard and a 16' pedal, thereby realising an 8'figured bass with the problematic Bb and a few aesthetically chosen predecessors, rendered on the pedal? I had a go at working out both scenarios and the results are
captured in two Youtube videos - the first illustrates the case of modifying the part to allow a 16' realisation: http://youtu.be/3tzqZp9w8BQ and the alternative of a purely 8' realisation shared between an 8' keyboard and 16' pedal is considered here: http://youtu.be/Tx-Dgnkkbog

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 30, 2012):
[To Charles Francis] Very interesting Charles! Just a few comments:

1) "the Cornet-Ton version, which was used for the organ, contains figured bass in Bach's handwriting. The nature of the other instrument(s) is open to speculation. Was there more than one instrument ... ?...one hand written part between a harpsichord and cello does appear somewhat tricky".

Surely not to most Baroque players: I can recall quite a few Baroque paintings of ensembles where a cello/viol/violone is clearly reading from the harpsichord part.

2) "organ pedal; conversely, if the part is played one octave higher than notated to accommodate the low Bb"

IMHO there are two satisfactory explanations to the apparent conundrum:

- low Bb meant for a the "other instrument", a melodic bass instrument that had that note, e.g. a bassoon or a 7-stringed bass viol (which Bach's musicians had as he scored for it elsewhere): just one well-known example is near the end of the trio for two flutes in G major, where a low A is scored.

- a non-extant organ with a low Bb in the pedal. This I find most likely, for otherwise we cannot understand why would he score it in solo organ works where transposition is obviously not meant, e.g. the Pièce d'orgue BWV 574 (Fantasia in G), in the middle Grave movement: written after a middle-Bb, a low Bb means that Bach had it available in the pedal in at least one organ. I seem to recall that there is at least another low Bb for the pedal in
Bach.

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (July 30, 2012):
I just wrote.
< " non-extant organ with a low Bb in the pedal. This I find most likely, for otherwise we cannot understand why would he score it in solo organ works where transposition is obviously not meant, e.g. the Pièce d'orgue BWV 574 (Fantasia in G), in the middle Grave movement: written after a middle-Bb, a low Bb means that Bach had it available in the pedal in at least one organ. I seem to recall that there is at least another low Bb for the pedal in Bach." >
A clarification is in place for non-organists: there is evidence of early keyboards with apparent extension chromatic from C (therefore not meant for any of the usual types of "bass short octave"), where the low C# note, rarely used in the scores, would instead be tuned to low B or low Bb.

Indeed, Bach did use the low C#, though not frequently, e.g. in the great Prelude and Fuga in f minor BWV534, where we find a low Db in bars 19-20. But he did not score a low Bb in this work, so he meant an organ with fully chromatic pedals.

Conversely, in the Piece d'Orgue BWV574 there is no low C#, not even when it would be preferable, like in the last movement Lentement, bar 7, 2nd half. Yet another evidence that the piece was meant for a low C# pedal fitted with low Bb .

Today we find no trace of this use because all types of non-chromatic bass arrangements in keyboards were abandoned after mid-18th century. In all the organs those low Bb pipes would have been changed to a C#. After more than two centuries, only a very thorough analysis for this particular situation - and a lot of good luck - would allow spotting a Baroque Saxon organ where the bass pedal pipes are original except for slightly later low C# pipes.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 30, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Veroli, in response to his 2nd message above] Thanks for this interesting explanation Claudio--not one that I had been aware of.

Charles Francis wrote (August 2, 2012):
[To Claudio Di Verroli, in response to his 1st message above] Such problematic low notes appear endemic in the Leipzig cantatas. For example, checking out a couple more or less at random, i.e. based on our order of discussion earlier this year and availability on the Bach Digital site, we have:

BWV 17 Quelle: D B Mus. ms. Bach St 101 Basso continuo (Schreiber: Anon IIIb) (low B natural)
BWV 51 Quelle: D B Mus. ms. Bach St 49, Faszikel 1 Basso continuo (low Bb)

Of interest the BWV 51 Cornet-Ton transpose has piano / forte markings.

The trio you mentioned (Traversflöte 1, Traversflöte 2, Cembalo) is I guess BWV 1039, which is on the Bach Digital site: http://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00002625

The organ work you referred to, Fantasia in G, is I think BWV 572 (BWV 574 is the one on a theme of Legrenzi) and the low note is, I believe, a natural. As you imply, this seems to provide the needed existence proof for very low pipes. If this is indeed the correct explanation for the low notes in the Leipzig cantatas, then the relevant data in the Wolff & Zepf book "The organs of J.S. Bach" would be erroneous, as it explicitly gives pedal ranges for all the Leipzig organs linked to Bach, down to C only.

Charles Francis wrote (August 2, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< The organ work you referred to, Fantasia in G, is I think BWV 572 (BWV 574 is the one on a theme of Legrenzi) and the low note is, I believe, a natural. As you imply, this seems to provide the needed existence proof for very low pipes. If this is indeed the correct explanation for the low notes in the Leipzig cantatas, then the relevant data in the Wolff & Zepf book "The organs of J.S. Bach" would be erroneous, as it explicitly gives pedal ranges for all the Leipzig organs linked to Bach, down to C only. >
An addition to my previous email is in order here. The Wolff & Zepf book mentions a "small" organ in the Leipzig St. Thomas church: built in 1489, rebuilt by H. Compenius, 1630-1665 and enlarged by C. Donat, which has unknown range.

Claudi Di Veroli wrote (August 2, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
>> The trio you mentioned (Traversflöte 1, Traversflöte 2, Cembalo) is I guess BWV 1039, which is on the Bach Digital site: http://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00002625 <<
Thanks for the clarification. The low A can be clearly seen in the last page, penultimate stave.

>> The organ work you referred to, Fantasia in G, is I think BWV 572
... and the low note is, I believe, a natural. <<
Well spotted. B natural of course.

>> As you imply, this seems to provide the needed existence proof for very low pipes. If this is indeed the correct explanation for the low notes in the Leipzig cantatas, then the relevant data in the Wolff & Zepf book "The organs of J.S. Bach" would be erroneous, as it explicitly gives pedal ranges for all the Leipzig organs linked to Bach, down to C only. <<
Wolff & Zepf reflect extant evidence on Bach organs. However, most of the evidence in original instruments and documents is now lost. What we certainly know is that retuning of low accidentals (to provide for additional bass notes) was an established 17th c. practice all over Europe: this is reinforced by music scoring those notes and thus proving that there were instruments available to play them.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 3, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< There are a total of twelve parts - 4 vocal (the tenor sings only the chorale), 6 instrumental (2 oboes, 1 Corne du Chasse in Bach's handwriting, 2 violins, 1 viola) and two parts marked Basso continuo. >
In "Bach's Continuo Group" (p.55), Dreyfus comments on this cantata in his discussion of dual continuo:

"... In Cantata 89. The organ part is figured in all movements except the two secco recitatives. As if compensating for the lack of figures, however, these movements include a textless copy of the vocal line as a "cue "stave" placed abve the bass part. This means that the keyboardist supplied the harmony from the two given parts. Given a familiarity with the common convention of voice-leading in recitatives (even Bach's!) [sic. emotion from Dreyfus!] players must have been able to handle such a ask. That cue staves can conceptually substitute for figures is shown in the harpsichord part for Cantata 195, Movement 2."

I assume that Dreyfus' analysis is correct, but the addition of a cue staff seems to me to a lot more work than figuring a bass line.

Am I missing something here?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 3, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I assume that Dreyfus' analysis is correct, but the addition of a cue staff seems to me to a lot more work than figuring a bass line.
Am I missing something here? >
I created a screen grab from the source: http://i.imgur.com/leGrD.jpg

Not really any extra work to speak of, It's maybe five or six bars of vocal line and there are a lot of copyists at work on the parts. There could be several explanations. Maybe Bach had not worked out the figured bass and gave directions to include a few bars of the vocalist line as a "cue." Or maybe whoever was doing the copy wanted to utilize every bit of expensive paper and fill every stave (because the next system is a single stave and they didn't bother to include the vocal line).

Hope this helps.

Charles Francis wrote (August 4, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I assume that Dreyfus' analysis is correct, but the addition of a cue staff seems to me to a lot more work than figuring a bass line.
Am I missing something here? >
Perhaps chords were only intended at the opening and cadence: http://youtu.be/fiVFJuFc1so73

How I wish the Emperor's clothes were less expensive.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 4, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Perhaps chords were only intended at the opening and cadence: http://youtu.be/fiVFJuFc1so73 >
But Bach always seems so careful in "tasto solo" markings.

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 4, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<> I assume that Dreyfus' analysis is correct, but the addition of a cue staff seems to me to a lot more work than figuring a bass line.
Am I missing something here? >>
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Not really any extra work to speak of, It's maybe five or six bars of vocal line and there are a lot of copyists at work on the parts. >
Perhaps who does the extra work (Bach or copyists) is also a consideration?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 4, 2012):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
<< Not really any extra work to speak of, It's maybe five or six bars of vocal line and there are a lot of copyists at work on the parts. >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Perhaps who does the extra work (Bach or copyists) is also a consideration? >
Maybe, but I don't think it's any "extra work" to speak of. Scores and parts from the baroque are full of examples (like this) that we wouthink now are so counter-intuitive to "productivity."

 

Cantata BWV 89: 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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Last update: żAugust 23, 2012 ż14:55:08