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Cantata BWV 90
Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of December 11, 2005

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 11, 2005):
BWV 90 - Introduction BWV 90 Intro to Weekly Discussion

BWV 90 "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende"

Identification:

The cantata which has been selected, based upon the chronological sequence of Bach's performances, for this week's discussion is BWV 90 "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" for the 25th Sunday after Trinity which was first performed in Leipzig on November 14, 1723 as part of the 1st yearly cycle of cantatas.

Provenance:

See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV90-Ref.htm

The autograph title on the autograph score reads:

J.J. Concerto Dominica 25 post Trinit.
(Bach does not even indicate which instruments are to be playing!)

Original Sources Missing:
All the original parts

Texts:

Libretto:
The author is unknown.

Liturgical Readings:

It is advisable for the reader/listener to check out, in advance of the following discussion, the prescribed readings (the liturgical connection) for the 25th Sunday after Trinity:

The Epistle and Gospel readings are given in the original German with an English translation at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity25.htm

Here it is possible to see a list of all the cantatas that are related to these liturgical readings. Usually this includes only the other cantatas which were composed for the same Sunday or holiday/feast day. Here they can be viewed at a glance and a link will take you directly to one of these cantatas, if you so desire.

The text consists of free poetic verse in mvt. 1-4. There is a general connection to the Gospel for this Sunday: Matt 24:15-28 and various allusions to specific passages in the Bible. The most apparent ones include:

Mvt. 2:
"Des Höchsten Güte wird von Tag zu Tage neu" from Lamentations 3:22-23. Luther 1545 unrevised: "Die Gute des HErrn ist, daß wir nicht gar aus sind; seine Barmherzigkeit hat noch kein Ende, sondern sie ist alle Morgen neu, und deine Treue ist groß." NLT: "The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By his mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each day."

"Der Undank aber sündigt stets auf Gnade."
Romans 6:1 Luther 1545 unrevised: "Was wollen wir hiezu sagen? Sollen wir denn in der Sünde beharren, auf daß die Gnade desto mächtiger werde?" NLT: "Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more kindness and forgiveness?"

"Ach! wird dein Herze nicht gerührt?"
Daß Gottes Güte dich Zur wahren Buße leitet?
"
Romans 2:4 Luther unrevised: "Oder verachtest du den Reichtum seiner Güte, Geduld und Langmütigkeit? Weißt du nicht, daß dich Gottes Güte zur Buße leitet?" NLT: "Don't you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don't you care? Can't you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin?"

Mvt. 3:
"So löschet im Eifer der rächende Richter
Den Leuchter des Wortes zu Strafe doch aus.
."
Revelation 2:5 Luther 1545 unrevised: "Gedenke, wovon du gefallen bist, und tu Buße und tu die ersten Werke! Wo aber nicht, werde ich dir kommen bald und deinen Leuchter wegstoßen von seiner Stätte, wo du nicht Buße tust." NLT: "Look how far you have fallen from your first love! Turn back to me again and work as you did at first. If you don't, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches."

"Ihr machet aus Tempeln ein mörderisch Haus."
Matthew 21:13 Luther 1545 unrevised: "Und sprach zu ihnen: Es stehet geschrieben: Mein Haus soll ein Bethaus heißen. Ihr aber habt eine Mördergrube daraus gemacht." NLT: "He said, 'The Scriptures declare, "My Temple will be called a place of prayer," but you have turned it into a den of thieves!'"

Mvt. 4:
"Doch Gottes Auge sieht auf uns als Auserwählte"
Matthew 24:22 Luther 1545 unrevised: "Und wo diese Tage nicht würden verkürzt, so würde kein Mensch selig; aber um der Auserwählten willen werden die Tage verkürzt." NLT: "In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, the entire human race will be destroyed. But it will be shortened for the sake of God's chosen ones."

Mvt. 5: (The missing text for the final chorale)
Bach gave only a two-word hint as to which chorale he wanted here: "Leit uns etc." This was sufficient for Carl Friedrich Zelter (1758-1832) to track down the 7th verse of Martin Moller's (1584) chorale which begins verse 1 with "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott." Later editors even found and used Bach's own text version used in BWV 101 which was performed on August 13, 1724 only three-quarters of a year later.

For those who have no original German text and translation available, these can be found as follows:

Original German Text available at Walter F. Bischof's site at: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/90.html

English Translation available at Z. Philip Ambrose's site at: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV90.html

English Interlinear Translation by Francis Browne at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Eng3.htm

English Side-by-Side Translation by Pamela Dellal at: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_trans/transl_cantata/bwv090.htm

French Note-for-Note Translation by Jean-Pierre Grivois at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Fre4.htm

Hebrew Side-by-Side Translation by Aryeh Oron at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Heb1.htm

Indonesian Word-for-Word Translation by Rianto Pardede at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Ind.htm

Italian Side-by-Side Translation by Emanuele Antonacci at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Ita2.htm

Spanish Translation by Carlos Casabona at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV90-Spa5.htm

The Chorale Text:

For the full original chorale text of Martin Moller's "Nimm von uns, Herr, du treuer Gott" with Side-by-Side English translation by Francis Browne see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale050-Eng3.htm

For more on the author of the chorale text, Martin Moller, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Moller.htm

In the above links to the chorale texts, you can see at a glance all the other verses of a single chorale text which Bach has set to music elsewhere. The links there will take you to these other cantatas.

The Chorale Melody:

The detailed information on the melody for the final chorale "Vater unser im Himmelreich" can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Vater-unser-im-Himmelreich.htm

Scoring:

Under 'Scoring' on Aryeh's main Recordings page for this cantata, you will find the scoring for each mvt. The mvts. containing chorale melodies even have a small musical illustration of the melody as it appears in the cantata. Click on any mvt. to find out the details.

See particularly the last chorale mvt. http://www.bach-cantatas.com/INS/BWV090-05.htm

Here you not only get the original text with the instrumentation of this mvt., but also links to the complete text and translation of the chorale text, a link to the poet/author of the chorale text, the composer of the chorale melody, and a link to the Chorale Melody Page where details are given about the chorale melody and its use elsewhere in Bach's compositions, but also as used by other composers.


Available Score:

A vocal & piano score of the entire cantata is available for download in PDF format at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV090-V&P.pdf

Commentaries (Short and Long):

Read Simon Crouch's short commentary at: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/090.html

James Leonard also has a short commentary on this cantata: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=42:4295~T1

Craig Smith has a short commentary as well at: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_trans/notes_cantata/bwv090.htm

Julio Sánchez Reyes has a Spanish commentary at: http://www.cantatasdebach.com/90.html

Additional commentaries by Mahling, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Finscher, Chafe, Hofmann, and Anderson can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV90-Guide.htm

The Recordings:

Downloads of the complete cantata recordings of BWV 90 by Leonhardt [4] (temporarily unavailable at Zale site) and Leusink [6] in RAM format as well as MIDI files of the individual mvts. are available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV90-Mus.htm

A list of all recordings of this cantata can be found at:

All complete recordings at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV90.htm

and recordings of individual mvts. thereof at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV90-2.htm

This is a chronological list which includes complete recordings by Werner (1963) [1], Schröder (1969) [2], Rilling (1977, 1978) [3], Leonhardt (1979) [4], Koopman (1998) [5], Leusink (1999) [6], and Suzuki (2000) [7], Gardiner (2000) [8], with separate recordings of the final chorale only by Matt (1999) [M-1] and Bourbon (2000) [M-2].

Previous discussions on the merits of available recordings and sundry related topics can be found at the bottom of the same page (BCML Discussions): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV90-D.htm

but before reading them, I would suggest first listening to whichever recording(s) you may have access to. With this approach you will not be unduly influenced to form a preconception regarding the quality of the various recordings. You are cordially invited to share your views and comments on the recordings and the music itself.

Here's a question worth considering:

What is the correct German title for this cantata and what did the librettist want to say in the first statement?

Here are some quotations of the cantata title and some translations given by various sources listed or linked to on the BCW:

Simon Crouch:
Es reifet euch ein schrecklich Ende
(There ripens a dreadful ending for you)

James Leonard (AMD)
"Es reisset euch ein schrecklich Ende" (It ripens you for a shrieking end) [his translation]

Z. Philip Ambrose
To ruin you an end of terror brings.

Carlos Casabona
Un final terrible os espera

Julio Sánchez Reyes
Os espera un fin terrible (A dreadful end awaits you) [My guess at the meaning of the words]

Jean-Pierre Grivois
Voux courrez tous vers l'horible fin (You are running toward a terrible ending; to be in great danger of coming to a terrible end ) [My guess at the translation]

Emanuele Antonacci
Una orribile fine vi spazzerà via,

Pamela Dellal
A horrible end will carry you off

Francis Browne
Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende.hin (A dreadful end carries you away)

What has caused this rather wide variation in the translation of this cantata title?

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 11, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< BWV 90 "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende"
The autograph title on the autograph score reads:
J.J. Concerto Dominica 25 post Trinit.
(Bach does not even indicate which instruments are to be playing!)
Original Sources Missing:
All the original parts
Mvt. 5: (The missing text for the final chorale) >
Question: Do I understand correctly that the autograph score has the music for the chorale but only an incipit of the opening words?

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (December 11, 2005):
BWV 90 Chorale: one more "other composer"

The Chorale of this week's BWV 90 is "Vater unser im Himmelreich", for which Braatz directs us to: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Vater-unser-im-Himmelreich.htm , which provides a wealth of further detailed information, including a stunningly long list of other composers who also have used the same Chorale melody in their work [see below]. This must make "Vater unser im Himmelreich" one of the most-used and most-known Chorale melodies ever (in Western Europe)?

Anyway, I can apparently delight the World of Music & Their Scholars United with bringing in one more composer, who also deserves a place on this list:

Jacob van Eyck [sometimes spelt "Eyk"] (1589/1590--1657):
"Onse Vader in Hemelryck", for solo recorder (Blockflöte, flute a bec); Melody (slow, drawn out, long notes) + Modi 2,3,4,5 (variations of increasing complexity and speed, i.e. more notes & more finger movements per second). This appears close to the start of the "Der Fluyten Lust-Hof" from 1648.

The music is notated in d minor, and is I presume meant to be played "as being in d minor if or pretending that your recorder has c as its lowest tone". I have a couple of lovely renaissance recorders whose lowest tone is "a", for example, with respect to a modern Kammerton, so when I [once in a rare while] play van Eyck his "Onse Vader in Hemelryck" comes out in b natural. You can play it on your alto recorder playing your way into Hemelryck sounding like g natural.

PS: The above information is from my Amadeus Verlag 1984 copy of Der Fluyten Lust-hof, but since this is 2005 I can google and find e.g. http://www.jacobvaneyck.info/ with more details. There's even free sheet music to download somewhere.

<< Use of the Chorale Melody by other composers: >>
Johann Weinmann (1477-1542)
Benedictus Ducis (c1492-1544)
Johann Stahl (2nd quarter of the 16th century)
Jörgen Presten (died 1553)
Richard Edwards (1525-1566)
Ivo de Vento (died 1575)
Orlando di Lasso (1532-1594)
Philipp Avenarius [German 'Habermann'] (born c 1553, no dof death)
Christoph Praetorius (died 1609)
Hans Leo Hassler (1564-1612)
Michael Praetorius (c 1571-1621)
Martin Zeuner (1554-1619)
Johann Hermann Schein (1586-1630)
Jakob Praetorius (1586-1651)
Samuel Scheidt (1587-1654)
*** here I want to see My Guy (158/1590-1657) please ***
Johann Ulrich Steigleder (1593-1635)
Johann Heinrich Scheidemann (1596-1663)
Johann Lorentz (1610-1689)
Wilhelm Karges (1613/1614- 1699)
Dietrich Buxtehude (c 1637-1707)
Johann Krieger, jr. (1652-1735)
Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Georg Böhm (1661-1733)
Friedrich Wilhelm Zachow (1663-1712)
Andreas Nicolaus Vetter (1666-1734)
Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)
Georg Friedrich Kauffmann (1679-1735)
Johann Balthasar König (1691-1758)
Johann Schneider (1702-1788)
Johann Ludwig Krebs (1713-1780)
Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Max Reger (1873-1916)
Wilhelm Middelschulte (1863-1943)
Hans Friedrich Micheelsen (1902-1973)
Adolf Brunner (1901-1992)
Josef-Friedrich Doppelbauer (1918---)
Manfred Kluge (1928-1971)
Kurt Hessenberg (1908-1994)
Henning Somerro (1946---)

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 11, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>> Mvt. 5: (The missing text for the final chorale)<<<
>>Question: Do I understand correctly that the autograph score has the music for the chorale but only an incipit of the opening words?<<
Yes. I believe that this is not an isolated instance of this where only the autograph score has survived. The copyists (probably Johann Andreas Kuhnau) would have had no difficulty in supplying, probably from an already existing cantata text contained in the printed text booklets of the cantata libretti, the rest of the text after the incipit which Bach indicated. The final chorale, in a new harmonization, was always the very last stage of composition with pressure on Bach to meet the deadline for the first (and only/final) rehearsal on Saturday afternoon before the Sunday performances. Often Bach was still composing the final chorale with the other parts for all the other mvts. already having been copied and he then personally copied out, i.e., he added the final chorale mvt. at the end of each part along with the complete, intended text. [You can distinctly get the image of Bach literally 'burning the midnight oil' to finish this necessary task which needed to be completed for the next day.] Because the original parts were lost early on, we can assume that those viewing the score (like Zelter), felt it necessary to supply the complete text. Later editors BGA/NBA decided that they could improve on Zelter by using the exact text that Bach used less than a year later for another cantata. They then compared this text with a number of hymnals that Bach might have used and even found a few discrepancies (mainly orthographic), but at least we know that the present text is reliably one that Bach did use on another occasion.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 11, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
>>Anyway, I can apparently delight the World of Music & Their Scholars United with bringing in one more composer, who also deserves a place on this list: Jacob van Eyck [sometimes spelt "Eyk"](1589/1590--1657): "Onse Vader in Hemelryck", for solo recorder (Blockflöte, flute a bec);
...since this is 2005 I can google and find e.g.
http://www.jacobvaneyck.info/ with more details.<<
Thanks for sharing this information along with the link which gives the detailed contents of the collections in which this melody is taken. This composer certainly deserves to be on the list for this chorale melody. It would appear from a cursory glance at the remaining content of the collections listed, that other chorale melodies are not to be found there unless, of course, there is a chorale melody hidden somewhere in the Psalm pieces listed there.

Aryeh and I certainly encourage anyone who has or comes upon information of this type to send it directly to Aryeh Oron rather than posting to the BCML directly. This is not meant to dampen anyone's enthusiasm, but rather to find a proper channel for funneling this type of information. [As a personal aside: I do not send some of my most interesting discoveries relating to the chorale melodies to the BCML, instead they are quietly incorporated into the information that goes directly into these lists of additional composers, which, by the way, are a cooperative effort on the part of both Aryeh and myself, an effort that is always open to suggestions offered by others.]

Peter Smaill wrote (December 11, 2005):
Thomas Braatz has set an interesting challenge - why are the translations of the incipit of BWV 90, the forbidding and penitential "Es Reisset euch, ein schrecklich Ende", so varied?

To his selection can be added;

Robertson
"Es reifet euch ein schreckleich Ende"
(There ripens a dreadful ending for you...)

Ungar
"Es reisset euch ein schrecklich Ende"
(Now) (comes-upon) you a frightful end
(A frightful end is coming upon you)

Stokes
"Es reisset euch ein schrecklich Ende"
(A terrible end shall sweep you away"

The key is the opinion of Dürr, who states that the version "reifet" (ripen) is a misreading found in older editions. "Reisset" is the correct version. However, this does not entirely solve the problem, since the verb "reissen" appears to be capable of several nuances of translation according to context, but generally implies action, urgency, movement, dragging and breaking. Hence, in the 1725 version of the SJP (BWV 245), we have the interpolated bass aria, "Himmel reisse, Welt erbebe", translated by Steinitz as, "Heavens tear asunder, earth tremble". I suspect therefore that the "coming on" sense is too weak, we may be in step with Bach's music more by saying even, "A horrible ending will tear you apart"; is there a German scholar in the house to help on this?

Strangely, Dürr (and Robertson) do not attach any significance to the harmonisation of the final chorale BWV 90/5, the former saying "the concluding Chorale is a plain four-part setting to the melody "Vater unser im Himmelreich". Plain? Whittaker sees the gem in the raw here:

"A touching harmonisation of the solemn chorale, "Vater unser"...., is especially notable for a lovely penultimate line, in which, in contrast with a rolling bass in the grim previous line, a feeling of peaceful awe is produced by a cadence resting on the surprising chord of the flattened tonic."

In many Cantatas Bach lightens the sinner-condemnation by an entire movement representing the hope of the Gospel. Here, the zeugma is achieved by a single chord on the word "Stundelein" , (little hour). What is meant by this odd expression? Presumably the hour of our death; but Bach's librettist, with his complicity, yet again create a romanticised view of the passing from this life, just as in other contexts Bach illustrates his Sterbenlied with lullaby-rhythms and gentle rocking pizzicato. Instead of the horror of death as experienced by unbelievers or unrepentants, we have in Robertson's phrase, "his sublime approach to death as the key to eternal life".

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (December 12, 2005):
BWV 90 and Chorale Surprises

I wrote the message below two weeks ago, when we were still busy with BWV 60, but I take the liberty of re-posting it now since that contribution mostly concerns this week's BWV 90. This m(also) serve as opening a little chorale discussion on the side, so to speak:

If we agree that both BWV 60 and BWV 90 have unusual "strong surprises" in the chorale harmonisations [respectively the "a b c-sharp d-sharp" in BWV 60's "Es ist genung" and BWV 90's modulation from d minor to d flat major on "Stündelein"], then which other cantata chorales provide "strong surprises", either in twists in melody or in harmonisation? Examples, anyone?

--- clip clip clip from two weeks ago: ----

We're discussing BWV 60 this week, and of course one of the standard aspects to note in this highly remarkable cantata is the irregular progression a b c-sharp d-sharp (along with irregular progression of harmonies) in the final "Es ist genung" choral. Perhaps also because of the famous connection to Alban Berg 1935 we are accustomed to hailing this as being "the most unusual Bach chorale moment ever"
-- and perhaps this is true!

But surely there are also other "surprises" in Bach chorales, in harmonic progressions, or by unexpected steps in the melody, or by sudden twists in one or more of the voices and that might be related to "contextual tone imagery". Perhaps each BCML fan has his or her favourite "top five" list of such moments -- if so I'd like to learn about them.

One that stunned me recently, by listening to the Suzuki CD with BWV 40, BWV 60, BWV 70, BWV 90, is the final choral of Cantata 90, "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende". Various unusual things take place here, e.g. on the dramatic word "Mord" (murder) in "Behüt für's Teufels List und Mord" (protect us from the devil's sly tricks and murders). But for me the most utterly splendid unusual place is in the following line, "Verleih ein selges Stündelein" (please grant us yet another blessed short moment), with a real fermata to make the prayed-for brief moment last as long as possible (if the conductor wishes to) ... and with a totally unexpected modulation from the underlying d minor to a d flat major chord. Cleverly, this modulation is not effected by the soprano melody line at all, they simply go on with their well-known choral melody, the action and desperation take place in the three lower voices. One really senses the desperate prayer for some peace and protection that really cannot last long -- there's no way the choir can go on singing in d flat major, we must back to the somber and basic and full-of-warnings d minor. "A dreadful end is being prepared for you, you contemptuous sinners... " Strong stuff.

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (December 12, 2005):
"es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende"

Braatz and Smaill point out and discuss the surprising variety of nuances found in different translations into English of BWV's strong opening statement:
"Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende!"
All more or less agree on what "ein schrecklich Ende" means (even if ten listeners may conjure up ten different horrible precise versions of such schrecklich scenarios); the linguistic problem of hitting the right contextual interpretation or nuances lies with the dramatic word "reißet".

I suppose one can approach the problem of describing what this means, to people who speak English but not German, in about two ways:

(1) By going to the dictionaries and babelfishes out there. Various (related) nuances are then given to our attention, curiosity and further scrutiny. We could also lend an ear to Bach where he has used the same word:

* BWV 244, Matthäuspassion, movement #62, Choral:

Wenn mir am allerbängsten
Wird um das Herze sein,
So reiß mich aus den Ängsten
Kraft deiner Angst und Pein!

* BWV 372, Lass, o Herr, dein Ohr sich neigen:

Hüte meine Seel' und Leben,
Die ich heilig dir ergeben:
Reiss' mich, deinen Knecht, aus Noth,
Der auf dich nur hofft, o Gott!

* BWV 60, O Ewigkeit du Donnerwort, movement 4:

Der Tod bleibt doch
der menschlichen Natur verhasst
Und reißet fast
Die Hoffnung ganz zu Boden.

* BWV 444, Brich entzwei, mein armes Herze, movement 5:

itzund muss mein Jesus leiden,
mein Jesus wird itzt umgebracht,
der Scharlach schweißet,
der Fürhang reißet.

* BWV 26, Ach wie flüchtig, ach wie nichtig, movement 4:

Wie leichtlich entstehen verzehrende Gluten,
Wie rauschen und reißen die wallenden Fluten,
Bis alles zerschmettert in Trümmern zerfällt.

* BWV 460, Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille:

Es ist ein Ruhetag verhanden,
da uns unser Gott wird lösen,
er wird uns reißen aus den Banden
dieses Leibs und allem Bösen.

etc. etc. (there are about ten more cases, I believe).

So, given a captive audience in a locked room of English speaking persons and five minutes I suppose I could manage to express various context-dependent nuances, and then conclude with a reasonable English sentence written on the blackboard.

(2) I could also give up Exercise (1), and point directly to The Score, or even better engage an ensemble to perform BWV 90 movement 1 for us, with a sufficiently convincing tenor. That's what it means (in this particular context)!

(This is what is typically termed "a descriptive definition" in logic & communication & translation. You define "table" by showing what a table is, perhaps no more words or discussion required.)

It's a strong and stern message, made musically clear by the very first tenor phrase (bars 24 to 32), along with the relentless violins and strict basso continuo. I find the very short 16th note pauses put into the single word "schrecklich", as in "schre - ee - cklich", particularly schrecklich and hair-rising (if well done).

The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of a good translation of "es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" is in the perception of the music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 12, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
>>...the linguistic problem of hitting the right contextual interpretation or nuances lies with the dramatic word "reißet".
...
It's a strong and stern message, made musically clear by the very first tenor phrase (bars 24 to 32), along with the relentless violins and strict basso continuo. I find the very short 16th note pauses put into the single word "schrecklich", as in "schre - ee - cklich", particularly schrecklich and hair-rising (if well done)
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of a good translation of "es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" is in the perception of the music.<<
Actually, a good translation and understanding of the text should be possible without the music since the texts which Bach used were independent creations still without any music attached although many of them were intended by the author for use in a musical setting.

Realizing this, the imagination of the reader/potential translator into English (without the assistance of Bach's music) should be able to interpret this text without reference to music.

When Bach translates the text into music, the potential expression of the text is, for the most part, 'already there' for reasonable and sensible musicians, singers and conductors to bring out without launching into extreme expressive mannerisms and disingenuous 'role-playing' which belong on the stage of an opera and not in a church setting. The performance does not have to sound 'schrecklich' (terrible) in order to express the power words "reißen' and 'schrecklich'. There are subtle ways vocal performers (and instrumentalists as well) can add personal expression to their parts and if this is done honestly and with conviction along with absolute musical control over instruments and voices, it is certain to affect the potential listener profoundly It will then be an effective, forthright performance without affectation.

Donald White wrote (December 12, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz & Peter Smaill] Here is a "German scholar" (American-born, but bilingual and for 40+ years a college teacher of German language, literature, cultural history, music, etc.) of the type that Peter Smaill is presumably looking for. My opinion---oin deep humility in light of the fierce polemics that have been a feature of so many recent BCML contribuitons---is that the text option for BWV 90:1 must be "Es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende, / Ihr sündlichen Verächter, hin."

The key to this is the little prefix "hin" which comes at the end of verse 2, as part and parcel of the separable verb hinreißen ("to tear away, sweep away"). In the early 18th century (as far as I know--I don't have immediate access to the Grimm Brothers German Dictionary) there was no such verb as hinreifen, which some modern readers of the score/vocal parts of BWV 90 may have misread for hinreißen. It's rather common to mistake the script "ß" ("Eszet") for an "f."

Does that answer your query, Peter Smaill?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 12, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
>>If we agree that both BWV 60 and BWV 90 have unusual "strong surprises" in the chorale harmonisations [respectively the "a b c-sharp d-sharp" in BWV 60's "Es ist genung" and BWV 90's modulation from d minor to d flat major on "Stündelein"], then which other cantata chorales provide "strong surprises", either in twists in melody or in harmonisation? Examples, anyone?<<
From Albert Schweitzer's "J. S. Bach" (Dover, 1966 - English translation by Ernest Newman) vol. 2, p. 30ff.:

"Bach converts into tone not only the body but the soul of the verbal passage. This is clearly seen in his harmonizations of the chorales. The greatest masters of the chorale-piece, Eccard, Praetorius and others, harmonized the melody; Bach harmonized the words. For him the chorale-melody by itself is indefinite in character; it only acquires a personality when allied with a definite text, the nature of which he will express in his harmonies....Bach's son Philipp Emmanuel had published them without the corresponding texts. He had no perception of his father's poetic intentions. His idea was simply to give the world a collection of examples of the chorale-movement at its best....From the standpoint of pure music Bach's harmonizations are wholly enigmatic, for he does not work upon a tonal succession that in itself forms an aesthetic whole, but follows the lead of the poetry and the verbal expression....How far he lets these take him from the natural principles of pure composition may be seen from his harmonization of "Solls ja so sein, daß Straf und Pein" (Chorale Melody: "Ach Gott und Herr") in the cantata "Ich elender Mensch, wer wird mich erlösen (BWV 48), which as pure music is indeed intolerable, Bach's purpose being to express all the wild grief for sin that is suggested in the words. The fault lay with Philipp Emmanuel, who published the chorale-movements without their texts, thereby showing that he did not understand the nature of his father's art."

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 12, 2005):
Donald White wrote:
>>The key to this is the little prefix "hin" which comes at the end of verse 2, as part and parcel of the separable verb hinreißen ("to tear away, sweep away"). In the early 18th century (as far as I know--I don't have immediate access to the Grimm Brothers German Dictionary) there was no such verb as hinreifen, which some modern readers of the score/vocal parts of BWV 90 may have misread for hinreißen. It's rather common to mistake the script "ß" ("Eszet") for an "f."<<
You are absolutely correct in pointing out the separable prefix "hin-" which stands at some distance from the verb, making the complete verb "hinreißen". You have also assumed correctly that the Grimm Brothers German Dictionary (DWB) does not have a verb "hinreifen".

The DWB also explains (among its various definitions of this verb) "hinreißen" as a rather forceful, if not violent separation of the soul from one's body: "...häufig auch namentlich in bezug auf das entreiszen der seele, des lebens...." ["frequently used specifically as related to the soul being forcefully snatched or being violently pulled away from life...."]. This is in utter contrast to "ein selges Stündelein" ["a blessed, (sweet, endearing - the diminutive suffix '-lein'] little hour of death" expressed at the conclusion of the final chorale with such a remarkable effect in Bach's harmonization.

For the even more involved problem with the 'f' vs. 'ss/ß' interchange, check out my explanation at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV90-Ref.htm

Peter Smaill wrote (December 12, 2005):
[To Nils Lid Hjort] Chorale surprises are certainly not confined to the striking examples of BWV 60 and BWV 90. No doubt there has been much superior academic investigation here, but, to kick things off, a cursory galnce at Reimenschneider gives the following results based mainly on seeking the appearance of three semitones out of four sounding simultaneously.

Elsewhere Bach also uses consecutive fourths and fifths and exposed octaves, which I was brought up to think unorthodox. The musicians in our Group may well differ as to some of these examples being unusual in the context of Baroque harmony, so I emphasise that this is a personal choice of what sounds, pardon the expression, scrummy to me.

(Numbering from "371")

10 Aus tiefer Not- Phyrigian mode,opening chord
61 Jesu, leiden Pein und Tod - A flat, G ,F suspension bar 9; modulation bar 11
79 Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn -Exposed fifth, Bar 17
124 werde Munter, mein Gemuethe -Gsharp, A, B suspension leading to open fifth
243 Jesu, du mein liebstes Leben - exposed fifth, bar 11
252 Jesu,nu sei gepreiset - exposed octaves in upper parts, bars 8 and 15
256 Jesu deine tiefen Wunden-suspension bar 9, E flat, D,C
305 Wie schoen leuchtet- modulatuion to F sharp major, bar 13; followed by G maj
310 Mach's mit mir ,Gott /Durch dein Gefaengniss (SJP) - suspensions bar 7,8; chromatic key progression, bar 9
311 Dank sei gott in der hoehe - C, D , E flat , bar 2
320 Gott sei gnaedig - bar 2 ,horrible discord, third beat. A mistprint?
Should the alto not read F sharp rather than E?

Hope (and expect!) that there are many other unusual harmonisations known to the BCML and that we can share these since they are such a special part of Bach's music.

Henny van der Groep wrote (December 12, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
< [snip]The proof of the pudding is in the eating, and the proof of a good translation of "es reißet euch ein schrecklich Ende" is in the perception of the music. >
I'll agree music reaches people emotionally faster then language. And it depends very much on the performance, a bad or dull performance of words like "schreklich" etc could spoil the message. Although a performance in church in Bach's time is different from a performance in concert building. With a different kind of public/performers/conductors religious and not religious may be the text doesn't matter anymore.

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Actually, a good translation and understanding of the text should be possible without the music since the texts which Bach used were independent creations still without any music attached although many of them were intended by the author for use in a musical setting.
Realizing this, the imagination of the reader/potential translator into English (without the assistance of Bach's music) should be able to interpret this text without reference to music. >
I'm not sure about this, Bach prefered to use text from Luther's time who lived in 1485 right behind the Dark Ages. And so the texts was often about good & evil. But I wonder if those texts were commonly used in church in Bach's days. Besides, who tells me everybody indeed was able to read and write. The church used to be a sort of picture book in the Dark Ages for illiteracy. After all the beautiful stained glass windows, pictures on the walls, and sculptures had a purpose for those who had trouble (even with understanding the spoken word) with the Latin speech or speech in general.

< When Bach translates the text into music, thpotential expression of the text is, for the most part, 'already there' for reasonable and sensible musicians, singers and conductors to bring out without launching into extreme expressive mannerisms and disingenuous 'role-playing' which belong on the stage of an opera and not in a church setting. >
Bach's mannerism by rhetorical figures was a common way to express, from Schütz on, in an expressive way, to evoke emotions so people got involved. The book Musica Poetica which handles musical-rhetorical figures in German baroque music is explicit about its use! Bach got orders to educate the congregation and so he did and sought to find a way to reach the emotions of the people. I think Nils means this exactly, if the performers understand Bach's music they sing and play the content in combination with the music properly and with emotions. Of course it depends on the performance if the message from such cantata achieved its purpose. People don't live without emotions not even in the Baroque. And the text of the sermon and cantata needed to reach the congregation. If we want it or not Bach's music has narrow connection with Opera [think of Wagner] I dare say the Cantatas could be a sort of "tiny"Opera.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 12, 2005):
Henny van der Groep wrote:
>>If we want it or not Bach's music has narrow connection with Opera [think of Wagner] I dare say the Cantatas could be a sort of "tiny" Opera.<<
From Schweitzer's Bach biography (Dover, 1966) Vol. II, pp. 40ff.:

"He [Bach] thus makes no effort to represent all the episodes and evolutions of the text. He expresses the essential elements in the idea, not its vicissitudes. He underlines, indeed, any characteristic detail, brings out contrasts, employs the most powerful nuances; but the vicissitudes of the idea, its struggles, its combats, its despair, its entry into peace, all that Beethoven's music and that of the post-Beethoven epoch try to express -- of this there is nothing in Bach. Nevertheless his emotional expression is not less perfect than Beethoven's. It is simply another kind of perfection. His emotional utterance has a power and an impressiveness such as we rarely meet with in other music. His capacity for characterizing the various nuances of an emotion is quite unique

Thus Bach's music is also emotional music in the truest and deepest sense, though he pursues a path far remote from that of Wagner....So far those are right who meet all modernizations of Bach, good and bad, with the objection that his art is "pure music". In this way they express, even if obscurely, the truth that, unlike Beethoven and Wagner, he does not represent an emotion as a series of dramatic incidents. The perception of this distinction is of the first importance for the performance of Bach's music. It makes us realize the error of imposing upon Bach the Beethovenian and Wagnerian dynamics, the purpose of which is to heighten the harmonic expression of the various poetic incidents. Bach's music is of a different order.

Beethoven and Wagner poetize in music; Bach paints. And Bach is a dramatist, but just in the sense that the painter is. He does not paint successive events, but seizes upon the pregnant moment that contains the whole event for him, and depicts this in music. That is why the opera had so little attraction for him. He knew the Hamburg stage from his youth; he was intimate with the leading people at the Dresden theater. If nevertheless he never wrote an opera, it was not because the external circumstances were unfavorable, but becuase, unlike Wagner, he did not conceive action and music in one. The musical drama is for him a succession of dramatic pictures; he realizes it in his Passions and cantatas....

The first thing he looks for in a text is the image or idea that gives an opportunity for a definitely plastic musical expression. This image may lie at the very toot of the thought, or it may be a mere incident in the text: in either case it is for Bach the essential element in the words, and he works it out without troubling whether, by so doing, he is really expressing or not the emotional content of the poem."

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 13, 2005):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>320 Gott sei gnaedig - bar 2, horrible discord, third beat. A mistprint? Should the alto not read F sharp rather than E?<<
It should read F sharp as it was given in the early Breitkopf editions from the late 18th century.

Perhaps you should check: http://www.jsbchorales.net/index.html and suggest to have this corrected, if this has not already been done.

>>Hope (and expect!) that there are many other unusual harmonisations known to the BCML and that we can share these since they are such a special part of Bach's music.<<
What we need is some further research regarding the chorales not taken from the extant sacred music, i.e., BWV 253-438. Each of these settings, probably from lost cantatas where words were once attached [Thanks CPE for helping us out here!] should relate to a specific verse from a specific chorale text (not necessarily the incipit which is given). It is more likely that the verse cited will not be the first verse of the chorale text, making this task become even more difficult. Add to this the fact that there are quite frequently a number of alternate chorale texts for any specific chorale melody. The fleeting 'scrummy' harmonizations will need to fit the text precisely (a specific word or phrase will have caused the unusual harmonization).

Henny van der Groep wrote (December 13, 2005):
>>If we want it or not Bach's music has narrow connection with Opera [think of Wagner] I dare say the Cantatas could be a sort of "tiny" Opera.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< From Schweitzer's Bach biography (Dover, 1966) Vol. II, pp. 40ff.: >
Yes, but Schweitzer doesn't understand how I meant this :-). Bach's descriptive painting of words in music brings him very close to Wagner (of course I mean this vice versa). A good sermon is one brought by priest who knows how to move his people. He is like an author or singer on stage. Bach had an order to educate and entertain the congregation.To underline de text of the day! This has definitely only to do with emotion. In which a performer has a task. A dull performance (and I have heard many of them) without let's say a touch of musically drama to underline the words and intervals does not inspire to listen to. Of course it should go hand in hand with the content of the text. A text without music doesn't say much to me, but Bach's music brought with inspiration becomes clear. Many composers after Bach owe something from Bach's way of using rhetorical figures. Beethoven in his symphonies with the beautiful amazing introduction in the Seventh with zum Himmelhoch steigen as in Aufförderung zum Tanz. He used exactly those figures as Bach did. And Wagner even surpassed it by his Leitmotif and the combination of movement on stage (Gesammtkunst). Well of course they lived in different times, used different instruments and dynamics and Wagner surely had different ideas how to impress and move his audience. Anyhow, not my way, by the way.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (December 13, 2005):
Henny van der Groep wrote
< Yes, but Schweitzer doesn't understand how I meant this :-). >
Schweitzer is sometimes a bit slow in the uptake! :-)

I'm not too enthusiastic about Schweitzer's text (perhaps I don't understand what he means). For one thing, Bach sometimes takes up a detail in the text and gives it a stunning pictorial illustration. In the 'Leipzig' choral 'O Lamm Gottes Unschuldig', third and last verse, on the 'dona nobis pacem' (my latin is more fluent than my german, sorry!) we have a vivid picture of a little army going proudly, merrily, and somewhat ridiculously to war, then horror, discomfiture, disaster, and finally the genuine exaltation of peace in the form of jubilant pyrotechnics. If this is not depicting the vissicitudes of the ideas in the text (not without humour in this case), I wonder what else qualifies.

Perhaps the difference with Beethoven is that, in much of Beethoven's music, there is a sense of intestruggle against the dark side, with, at times, a ray of light coming through and for a brief instant, the landscape is illuminated and we are allowed a glimpse at marvels which are removed from our unbelieving sight a second later. With Bach, we have marvels galore in front of our unbelieving eyes for hours on end. This is a very personal point of view: I much prefer the latter.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 14, 2005):
BWV 90: the arias

1st movement:

The striking, extended melisma on "rei(sset)" certainly suggests the irresistible dragging of sinners to their doom, while the breaking up of the word "schrecklich" by means of 1/16th rests, mentioned by Nils, is indeed a brilliant touch, symbolising the disintegration of the lives of the sinful scorners.

Both Rilling [3] and Leonhardt [4] capture this drama well; Kraus' voice has the edginess required, with accuracy on the melismas, and Equiluz has the emotional impact needed. Krebs with Werner has a pleasant voice, which sounds too gentlemanly for this aria, and he does sing "reifet", resulting in a softer sound than "reisset", which also reduces the impact of the music. (Interestingly, the BGA has this mistake as well). Leusink [6] also caught my attention for dramatic impact.

The continuo gets a workout in the middle section of the aria when it adopts the initial violins' figure. Continuo strings having to play with the same agility as the violins always amaze me.

3rd movement:

The bass aria is another glorious creation, with trumpet, strings and continuo. While I like van Egmond's gentle voice, the performance is spoilt by the obvious deficiencies of the trumpet playing. Rilling [3] and Werner have excellent recordings, with authoritative basses and brilliant trumpets. Werner probably has the finest performance of all the recordings, with the distinctive brilliance of trumpeter Maurice André, powerful bass Wenk, and well-recorded strings, especially those conveying the deep, thudding 1/16th notes in the continuo.

Is Gardiner too fast in this aria [8]? I sense nervousness rather than power, at this speed. (Werner is virtually the same speed as Suzuki [7] - 3.39). Koopman's trumpeter seems to `slide' through his notes (not surprising, perhaps, considering these demisemiquaver phrases), in contrast with Leusink [6], who again, with bass Ramselar, gives an effective performance.

BTW, speaking of bass arias, the Rilling CD [3] has four great ones: the opening movements of BWV 87, BWV 88, BWV 89, , plus this one, BWV 90/3. They display great variety of form and affect, with instrumentations, in order: oboes, strings, continuo; 2 horns, oboes, strings, continuo; 1 horn, oboes, strings, continuo, and this one for trumpet, strings and continuo, this last being the most `martial' of them.

Jeremy Vosburgh wrote (December 15, 2005):
BWV 90 Suzuki [7]

I regret to say I only have one recording of this cantata: the Suzuki [7].

I have listened to it a few times and have decided that I am not impressed with any of the numbers except the chorale. I usually like Suzuki, but here I don't. Turk, though singing technically good, speaks almost nothing to me in the first aria. Blaze sings in his normal "always half excited half frightened" style which he seems to think is appropriate for all Bach recitatives. Kooy has absolutely no projection on any note lower than a C and the trumpeter, while very good on many held notes, is out of tune on the coloratura (yes I know its a natural trumpet, but it sounds bad!) and strangely subdued. Why? IMHO the aria better works as a duet of bass with trumpet instead of solo bass with trumpet accompaniment. Turk in the recitative is technically good and slightly expressive, but the recitative is a little too light and is also over before you know it. The chorale seems to have been done pretty well over all. For some reason the last notes in every line seem rushed. The choir makes a pretty good sound although I can barely hear the basses. I didn't remember this chorale until they hit that truly bizarre and unexpected Stündelein. Wow. Three cheers to Bach for waking his audience up with that beautiful chord change. Apparently Suzuki even thought it was cool and had his choir actually hold the note out for a while instead of racing through it like every other end of phrase note. It was a beautiful sound and almost made up for the rest of the performance.

It is obvious that this cantata is very high quality and creativity, despite the listless solo performances. I would love to hear it performed with a full voiced tenor, a more male sounding counter tenor (Scholl, White, Kenworthy-Brown, Tachikawa) or a boy alto (What category does Mera fall under? :), a much stronger bass and either a modern trumpet (so they can actually hit the colaratura) or a really good natural trumpet player. The chorale could have benefitted from better sustained final phrase notes, a stronger bass section, and more clear resolving eighth notes.

All in all, I'll only remember the chorale in this recording, and also the trumpet and how I wish it could've been better. As a result, I wasn't able to concentrate on the message and the theme (which is of course the most important part!) and will thus only remember to ask God to:

Give us always thy holy word,
Protect from Satan's craft and death;
And send a blessed hour of peace,
That we forever be with thee!

I guess because those words were the only ones sung well and with conviction.

John Pike wrote (December 15, 2005):
BWV 60 and BWV 90

I am just back from holiday and trying to catch up on some cantatas. I see that BWV 60 was discussed while I was away and I have to say I think this is a wonderful cantata. The opening is very reminiscent of the other Bach cantata with the same name, BWV 20.

I have listened to Suzuki, Harnoncourt, Rilling and Leusink.

The first three of these all give splendid accounts of the opening movement. Harnoncourt is particularly good. It is sung with such "Kraft" that one really gets a sense of "Donnerwort", but it also has great charm and conveys a sense of truth and grace. It is all beautifully phrased and shaped. I am prepared to agree that, on this occasion, it is the faster recording, by Leusink that I found disappointing in this extraordinary opening movement, not so much because of the speed per se (although the problem for me could well be a by-product of the speed) but because I felt it lacked the tension and sense of anticipation of the other recordings. Of the other movements, I would say that Rilling gives a particularly fine account of the closing Chorale, which is beautifully shaped and has a very attractive and well chosen dynamic range.

BWV 90 is another very pleasant cantata. I particularly enjoyed movements 1 and 3. I listened to Suzuki [7], Gardiner [8], Rilling [3], Leonhardt [4] and Leusink [6] in the background and enjoyed them all.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 90: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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