Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 91
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 26, 2006

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 26, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 91 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"

Week of November 26, 2006
---------------------------
Cantata BWV 91, Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
Second Annual Cantata Cycle (Jahrgang II)
Christmas Day
1st performance: December 25, 1724 - Leipzig
---------------------------
Bach Cantatas resources
Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV91-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV91.htm

Text:
German http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/91.html
English http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV91.html
French http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV91-Fre4.htm
Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV091-V&P.pdf
Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV91.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording [4] (free streaming download):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV91-Leusink.ram
---------------------------
Librettist : unknown
Reading:
EPISTLE Titus 2: 11-14: 'The healing Grace of God has appeared';
or Isaiah 9: 2-7: 'A Child is born onto us'.
GOSPEL Luke 2: 1-14: the Birth of Christ; the announcement to the shepherds; the angels' song of praise.

This is a chorale cantata, based upon the chorale of the same name Seven-verse hymn by Martin Luther.
For more details on this chorale melody see:
http://bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm
--------------------------------------------------------
Structure
1. Choral SATB hn I,II timp ob I-III str bc
2. Recit. + chorale S bc
3. Aria T ob I-III bc
4. Recit. B str bc
5. Duetto SA vln I+II bc
6. Choral SATB hn I,II timp bc [+ww str]

--------------------------------------------------------

Comment (mostly based on Dürr).

In this Chorale cantata the unknown librettist uses the seven verses
of the hymn in the following way:
Mvt. 1 (Choral) = verse 1
Mvt. 2 (Recit. + chorale S) = verse 2 + free paraphrase
Mvt. 3 (Aria T) = free paraphrase of verses 3, 4
Mvt. 4 (Recit. B) = free paraphrase of verse 5
Mvt. 5 (Duetto SA) = free paraphrase of verse 6
Mvt. 6 (Choral) = verse 7.

The libretto, as the hymn, is based on the dual nature of Christ. It praises the Son of God for assuming the condition of man (Mvt. 1), in its most humble form, that of a baby (Mvt. 2). Since God accepts to be contained in a narrow crib, he cannot hate us, the children of his light (Mvt. 3). Christians must now open their hearts to His love, since He comes to lead them to His throne through this vale of tears (Mvt. 4): the humility of God's condition opens for us the gates of heaven (Mvt. 5). For all this we thank God and beg His mercy (Mvt. 6).

The first movement is a chorale fantasia in style concertante, similar to BWV 62/1. Two horns, drums and an extra oboe are added to the usual set of instruments by reason of the festive character of the occasion, resulting in an unusually large ensemble which allows Bach to form three separate groups of instruments of equivalent weight: horns, oboes and strings.

The instrumental ritornello uses many thematic elements, independent from the chorale melody, which are combined in various ways. They include a scale figure (a), a descending sequence of broken triads (b), a horn 'circulatio' (c).

Except for line 3, the chorale melody is present only in the Soprano cantus firmus; the three lower vocal parts use thematic material borrowed from the instrumental ritornello. The lines of the cantus firmus are accompanied by a texture which varies from line to line:
Line 1, by motive (a) in imitative style;
Line 2, by motive (b) in chordal style and motive (c) in free polyphonic style;
Line 3, by the choral line in imitative style, then chordal style on 'das ist wahr'.
Line 4, by motive (a) in imitative style;
Line 5, by a free polyphonic texture using motive (c).

Thus the central position of line 3 'Von einer Jungfrau, das ist warh' is highlighted by a special contrapuntal texture.

The overall effect is grandiose and joyful.

With the second movement, we suddenly shift to an intimate mood, as the soprano, only accompanied by the continuo, alternates recitative passages and simple chorale quotations, with an expressive ornamentation on the words 'is now found in a crib'. Each of the chorale lines is accompanied by quotations of the 1st line of the chorale melody in half-values.

The Tenor aria is accompanied by a delightful trio of oboes with strong rhythmic.

The subsequent Basso recitative develops into an arioso, which on the word 'Jammertal' (vale of tears) engages in a staggeringly chromatic passage suddenly resolved by the instrumental parts in a luminous C major cadence.

This somewhat unsettling recitative leads to the Soprano-Alto duetto. The majestuous opening ritornello in dotted rhythm, features a characteristic descending motion which may allude to Jesus' incarnation (Eric Chafe). Bach contrasts sharply the two aspects of the text (poverty, human nature vs salvation, heavenly tresures). In the main section of the Duetto, the opposition 'Armut' (poverty) - 'ewig Heil' (eternal salvation) is represented by an opposition: imitative suspensions/homophonic parallel voice leading; in the middle section, the opposition 'Sein Menschlich Wesen' (His human nature) / 'Den Engelsherrlichkeiten gleich' (Like the angels' splendours) is represented by an opposition: rising chromaticism / triadic melody and coloraturas.

The concluding chorale is not exactly the usual 4 part harmonized choral, since the horns have a relatively independent part. A final cadence on the words 'Kyrie eleis' recalls the circulatio motif (c) from the ritornello of the opening choral fantasia.

Eric Chafe notes that the tonal structure of this cantata is of the type descent/ascent, the turning point being the Duetto which 'explains the redemptive meaning of the incarnation'.

-------------------------------------------------------
A more personal comment.

The opening chorale is both impressive and joyful, without the contrasting characters some percieved in BWV 62 (no poignancy, no wilfulness - nor even Hitchcockian malignancy!). Yet, although I enjoy greatly 91/1, I must confess BWV 62/1 moves me more deeply. However the subsequent movements are highly successful, in particular the most unusual, almost unbelievable Basso recitative, and the beautiful duetto, with its rich structure and its remarkable ritornello, whose straighforwardness is rather untypical of Bach but very effective.

--------------------------------------------------------
A last word.

Well, I've been writing introductions for 10 weeks now. Time for me to leave the task of introducing the weekly discussions to Roar Myrheim.I wish I could have devoted more time to preparing those introduct, but in any case it has been a very positive experience for me. I wish to thank Johann Sebastian Bach for writing especially wonderful cantatas between October 8th and December 25th, 1724 (as usual). Thank you all for the wealth of information and insight you never fail to bring into the discussions. During these 10 weeks, my attachement to the Bach Cantatas Mailing List has deepened considerably. A thousand thanks to Aryeh for allowing this place to exist.

Chris O'Loughlin wrote (November 26, 2006):
I don't mean to be too obsessional but I can't help noticing that things are getting a little out of sync with the liturgical year. We've just had BWV 62 which is for the first Sunday of Advent (next week) and now BWV 91 which is for the 1st day of Christmas (still a month away).

I appreciate that
(1) liturgical years are rarely going to coincide exactly because of Easter and
(2) Bach wasn't only writing for Sundays

but does this mean the Bach Cantata website cycles are going to get increasingly out of sync with the actual current liturgical year ?

I only ask because it is rather pleasant to have cantatas that are approximately similar to the sentiment in the current year (hopeful in Advent, penitent up to Easter, joyful in Eastertide etc.).

Many thanks

Peter Smaill wrote (November 26, 2006):
[To Alain Bruguieres] Chafe is perceptive on the ascent/descent nature of the writing in the Christmas Day Cantata for 1724, BWV 91, including a rising passus duriusculus in the second part of the duet, BWV 91/5, a figure previously associated with redemption.

The final "Kyrie eleis" displays the horns storming upwards at just about the same time as the vocal score of the original setting of the Chorale BWV 91/6 has an incredible descent by the basses to a low C. Is this the lowest note Bach ever wrote for his choristers? Yet again he is marking out a significant date with an unorthodox vocal/structural effect.

So the contrasts we have embedded in text and music :

God v man
Universal God (Jesus) v tiny cradle
love v hate
poverty v abundance
mortal man v eternal
appointed time v eternity

BWV 91 illustrates the contrast by a Corelli- style step bass, versus the dotted unison violins, to which the admixture of the sinuous AT duet creates the backdrop for lovely word-painting on "Engel Chor". Likewise , the Tenor aria BWV 91/3 contrasts a triple oboe royal flourish with a tenor line which is, in Whittaker's words, "a dignified cradle song" (though not always interpreted thus).

Further contrast is achieved in the chromaticism and key shifts of the bass recitative, BWV 91/4,": Jammerthal", the vale of tears , being illustrated in consecutive fifths.

Thus Bach continues to push out his deployment of unusual musical devices, and yet the burghers of Leipzig on Christmas Day 1724 likely returned home contented to feast away with the surface effect of a glorious fantasia (on Luther's hymn )as the opening and closing effect, just as they desired.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 26, 2006):
Bach on radio [was Re:Introduction to BWV 91 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"]

Chris O'Loughlin wrote:
< I don't mean to be too obsessional but I can't help noticing that things are getting a little out of sync with the liturgical year. We've just had BWV 62 which is for the first Sunday of Advent (next week) and now BWV 91 which is for the 1st day of Christmas (still a month away). >
We are discussing the cantatas chronologically. The current approximate coincidence with the liturgical is just an extra bit of good fortune. Unless there was some really deep planning not readily apparent in the archives.

< I only ask because it is rather pleasant to have cantatas that are approximately similar to the sentiment in the current year (hopeful in Advent, penitent up to Easter, joyful in Eastertide etc.). >
For a cantata performance in sync with the liturgical year go to WGBH-FM, 89.7, Boston MA, USA . or streaming around the world for those who can do it at: www.wgbh.org. Every Sunday morning at 8:00 local time (1:00 PM GMT, 1300 UT).

This is a good place to record and share a note to myself, so I don't forget. The tradition of a Sunday morning cantata on WGBH started over thirty years ago with the host then, Robert J. Lurtsema. When the first of the H&L brown boxes was a new release, he played them one at a time over four weeks, and then never looked back. Until this year, the cycles went in BWV order. Earlier this year, 2006, present host Brian McCreath began the new policy of playing a liturgically correct cantata, and using silent weeks to fill in other works which are not for a Sunday.

Today was BWV 26 in the Gardiner performance, which we discussed a few weeks ago. In 2006, this is the last of the Sundays after Trinity. Next week will be Advent 1, BWV 62, I am not sure which performance.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 26, 2006):
Advent

[To Chris O'Loughlin] Yes I was puzzled too by the jump from Advent 1 to Christmas Day, for the approximation in timing we have enjoyed, between the Jahrgang II sequence to the current Church Year, does help the appreciation of the cycle.

The main reason for the gap is that the Leipzig churches treated Advent as a penitential season, which it is/was, although few Christians if any now treat it as such today. So there were no cantatas in the churches after the first Sunday. In the Roman rite, by contrast, the third Sunday in Advent is the joyful break, known I recall as "Gaudete".

Even on the Lutheran first Sunday in Advent there is always have some reference to the weakness/sinfulness of man in the texts!

However,...there is a Cantata for the 4th Sunday , BWV 132 of 1715 (i.e., when Bach was at Weimar). Usage varied in the Lutheran church , due to "Luther's dislike of an invariable observance" (Robertson).

Nevertheless, for the BCW, it has to be the case that Christmas comes early!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 26, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Chafe is perceptive on the ascent/descent nature of the writing in the Christmas Day Cantata for 1724, BWV 91, including a rising passus duriusculus in the second part of the duet, BWV 91/5, a figure previously associated with redemption. [...]
So the contrasts we have embedded in text and music :
God v man
Universal God (Jesus) v tiny cradle
love v hate
poverty v abundance
mortal man v eternal
appointed time v eternity >
First of all, let me say I find the entire post informative and enjoyable. I would consider most of the points speculation, or conjecture, supported by examples from the score. I do not consider those derogatory terms, I fear I have been badly misinterpreted on their use. For those who object, suggest some alternatives.

In some cases, where a musical figure coincides with words (for example, rising or falling) that is about as close to documentary evidence as we can get in the analysis of music.

Not to belabor the point, but I do not think an X inscribed in a parallelogram reaches that level of certainty, unless it is supported by some additional evidence that it had such a specific meaning for Bach. Repeated or exclusive use of the figure would be such additional evidence. Get to work, Grad Student!

Thank you all for the civilized discussion. And as to the uncivilized discussions? Well, not exactly thanks, but I can cope.

Raymond Joly wrote (November 26, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
"The main reason for the gap [between the first Sunday in Advent and Christmas in Bach's Leipzig cantatas] is that the Leipzig churches treated Advent as a penitential season, which it is/was, although few Chrisif any now treat it as such today. So there were no cantatas in the churches after the first Sunday. In the Roman rite, by contrast, the third Sunday in Advent is the joyful break, known I recall as GAUDETE".
Indeed. In my childhood, the cathedral church in Rimouski was affluent enough to have the special vestments allowed, but not prescribed, for the "dimanches roses", the pink Sundays. They replaced the penitential violet of Advent and Lent on two Sundays: GAUDETE (3rd Advent) and LAETARE (4th Lent).

"However,...there is a Cantata for the 4th Sunday , BWV 132 of 1715 (i.e., when Bach was at Weimar). Usage varied in the Lutheran church , due to "Luther's dislike of an invariable observance" (Robertson)".
Indeed. In Darmstadt, they had a cantata in the morning and one in the afternoon all through Advent.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 27, 2006):
Use of 'speculation' [was Introduction to BWV 91 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"]

Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>I would consider most of the points speculation, or conjecture, supported by examples from the score. I do not consider those derogatory terms, I fear I have been badly misinterpreted on their use. For those who object, suggest some alternatives.<<
As I have recently suggested, it would be best to drop the repeated emphasis on the word 'speculation' because it often connotes a negative, possibly even derogatory quality: OED - 'speculative' (related to speculate and speculation) "of the nature of, based upon, characterized by speculation or theory in contrast to practical or positive knowledge". So what we have here with 'speculation' is then something which is not positive knowledge.

As I pointed out previously, 'not positive knowledge' already begins at the moment when someone looks at an original, autograph score by Bach. From this point there is a sliding scale of speculation that leads to the wildest speculation of all: artistic freedom which views Bach's score only as a general outline upon which to speculate musically until the original Bach becomes almost unrecognizable or is so changed in character that it no longer comes close to what Bach may have had in mind. This is one good reason why this term should be very sparingly applied with due consideration by everyone in these Bach lists. To force Bach's music or facts about his life and performance practices into only two categories: 1) hard factual evidence and 2) everything else which is speculative overlooks the point that I have been making. It only serves to create hard feelings as much as our desire is always to have the best evidence before us. Unfortunately the original, positive meanings of 'speculate' or 'speculation' are now archaic and we must now live the semantic and emotional import more recently tied to these words. Certainly there will always be instances in these discussions where the judicious use of these words may be necessary, but also as certainly the overemphasis on them will not lead to better understanding and good will among the contributing members. Without a doubt, anyone has the right to ask for more specific evidence or documentation, most of which will be speculative to a lesser or greater degree. It should be left to the individual or the readers to decide whether this evidence, which most likely is already in a form of speculation (theories about word-painting, kernel ideas, musical figures, etc.) is valid, worthwhile and able to enhance one's understanding.

'Speculate', 'speculation', and 'speculative' can be used in discussions, but not repetitively. Certainly it should not become part of a 'logical' trap which attempts to place the results of such speculative thinking on a 'non-positive', lower level as opposed to the fiction of 'hard evidence'.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 27, 2006):
<>

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 27, 2006):
<>

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 27, 2006):
BWV 91/1 Score samples

Aryeh Oron has kindly placed on the BCW for your inspection a larger score sample consisting of four full-sized pages from the NBA score for BWV 91/1. Taken together as a unit, they represent the opening instrumental ritornello which until now Bach commentators have noted as containing material entirely independent of the chorale melody which follows it directly.

Ideally, these pages should be viewed side by side so that the continuity of the chorale melody incipit can be grasped immediately as a single unit.

This extended score sample is located at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm
(to examine any one of the 4 pages more closely, click again on that specific page)

I have not seen anywhere a photocopy of the opening page of the autograph score, but I can imagine that there is an overwhelming visual impression that one receives from viewing it directly (mostly having compressed almost all of the present 4 pages of the printed score into a complete view at a glance of the instrumental ritornello.) The arrangement of the various parts on the page remains the same as Bach's in this NBA reproduction.

Page 1

Here again Bach creates his musical structures from antithetical elements. There is nothing humdrum or pedestrian in his visual and aural approach used to prepare the listener for the meaning of the chorale text which follows the ritornello directly. The most obvious movement (mostly visually "Augenmusik" {"Eye music"} but also somewhat aurally) is found in the two choirs: oboes vs. upper strings. In each group there is a staggered entrance of the ascending scale motif (in two stages). With six entries repeating the same motif, the upward movement is strongly emphasized. The descending broken-chord figures follow in each instance directly.

If one sees the first 3 16ths of each entry as a pickup to the G which falls on the beat (assuming 4 instead of 2 beats to a measure/bar), then all 6 G's in the same position in both choirs of instruments seem to be pointing to the same 3 distinctly separated G's in the continuo and timpani parts. The latter can easily be seen as the opening 3 notes of the chorale incipit and form a unit (a single word of 3 syllables): "Ge-lo-bet", thus the 3 G's in each choir may be doing the same, but stretched out over only 2 measures/bars instead of 3.

Page 2

(In my hurry, I have incorrectly indicated the text which should read in the same places: "seist du" instead of "du, Herr". I will correct this as soon as possible.) This is, of course, the continuation of the chorale melody incipit as incorporated into the ritornello. Measure/bar 5, with its strong emphasis on the G major chord (not the continuo! which abruptly ends an ascending scalar passage (the final (7th) statement of the opening motif), brings the first section [the comma is indicative of a break] of the chorale incipit to an intermediate close.

Page 3

In measure/bar 8, at the very top of the score, Bach has the corno 1 play a repeated 'C' which is the continuation of the incipit (visually still up in heaven) on "Je-" of "Jesu", but the next syllable '-su' is emphasized by a whole note in the high range of the violin 1 part (visually lower on the page). Meanwhile, beginning in m 9, the corno parts share in a fast repetition of the entire CM incipit which still has not run its course completely in the grand scheme of the ritornello until the high C is reached by the oboe 1 part in m 12 (on p. 4).

Page 4

The placement and emphasis on the two whole notes for '-su' and 'Christ' is quite obvious and their strong positions coming as they do at the very end of the ritornello, indicate that they were planned this way to complete the expanded intonation of the chorale incipit which covers the entire ritornello. Just how the circulatio figures in the horn parts along with the reference to "Christ" fit into this scheme, when they also occur elsewhere earlier in the same parts is a matter which still needs further investigation. There is still too much that remains unclear regarding the 'circulatio' despite Tim Smith's laudable efforts in advancing this subject/observation.

Neil Halliday wrote (Nove28, 2006):
(I wrote this before Thomas sent his post; however most of it is complementary rather than repetitive).

At the start of the opening chorus Bach rather daringly repeats the same initial phrase at the same pitch on six different orchestral instruments in succession (at a distance of two beats), in the order oboe 1, 2, 3, violin 1, 2, and viola - continuing with the same phrase in the continuo two octaves below. This pattern occurs three times in the opening movement: the second time beginning immediately after the last note of the 1st phase of the cantus firmus (this time in the minor key, with the strings leading the way, without the phrase's appearance in the continuo) and thirdly immediately after the fifth (last) note of the last phrase of the cantus firmus, where the oboes lead the strings as at the beginning.

(These entries require careful listening to be heard; I was not aware of the latter entries until seeing them in the score. BTW, the BGA has 4/4, not cut C as the time signature).

Speculation: Bach uses this impressive arrangement of six identical entries to represent the incarnation, or to emphasize the arrival of Christ. (BTW, thanks to Thomas for his suggestion that the (rhythmic) diminution of the CM at the end of the ritornello in 62/1 represents the hastening of the event of Christ's arrival into the world. It seems so obvious I don't know why I didn't think of it myself!).

In the last section (with the five repeated G's in the c.f.) we have the choir ("Kyrie eleis") superimposed on the first five bars of the repeat of the opening ritornello, with the sopranos holding the last note over these entire five bars, and the ATB voices combining in the last three of these bars with the sopranos in a resplendent G major chord. This must be one of the few joyful settings of "Kyrie eleis" in music, obviously having the same meaning as "Hallelujah!" or similar, in this context.

Personal impression: This movement is happy, exuberant, and grandiose, without any of the elements of sombre majesty or wistfulness that may be perceived as diluting (or colouring) the joy in 62/1 (consequent in part on the strong minor key tonality in that work).

The drums play an important part in this movement (BWV 91/1). Rilling's drums [1] lack expression - more contrast between loud and soft (perhaps with appropriate crescendos, etc) is desirable, IMO. Something of this can be heard in the Wolfgang Kelber sample [5]. OTOH, Leusink's drums [4] are too reverberant and out of balance with the rest of the ensemble. Rilling's choral lines have commendable clarity. The 18th century horns (copies) sound coarse/inaccurate in most if not all the period ensembles, IMO.

The second movement has more character and interest if the soprano section of the choir sings the chorale line, contrasting with the more dramatic recitative interludes sung by the soloist. Rilling [1] and Koopman [5] take this approach (but there are problems with the continuo realisation in both cases).

Bach adopts a dotted rhythm for the following tenor aria, and the penultimate SA duet, which lends a dance-like, jaunty mood to both of them, enlivening the seriousness of the minor key tonalities; and both are attractive movements.

The duet, in the beginning, features minor 2nd and major 7th discords between the incipits of the SA lines, though in this context such `discords' are sweet indeed.

In the middle section, a "passus duriusculus" (section of ascending chromatic scale, set to the words "mortal nature"; thanks to Peter for the technical term) is heard four times in succession (and later repeated), passing from the alto to the soprano to the unison violins to the continuo, culminating in the section set to the text "(a place in) the angel's choir", with the violins consolingly/joyfully tripping their way through the lovely `circle of fifth's' harmony. After a short section similar in design to the beginning of the duet, the chromatic phrases reappear as before, this time in the order S,A, violins, continuo.

I would be surprised if many people think that Suzuki's tempo [8] in this movement - virtually `presto' - is appropriate. Leonhardt [2] and Rilling [1], with relaxed tempi, allow the music's loveliness to shine through.

The lovely harmony of the preceding accompanied bass recitative is concluded with the astonishing chromatism on "Jammertal" ("vale of sorrow"), which begins with a `shocking' modulation from A minor to A flat major, on the way to c minor and eventually to a luminous C major. Rilling's [1] strong, rich, strings are especially effective here.

------------

I'm not entirely happy with any of the recordings of the opening chorus; perhaps Kelber's [3] might be my first choice (from the samples). [I think part of the problem, perhaps, is those descending triads, especially on the strings, which can sound inflexible, to me at least. I have the same problem with recordings of the opening of another cantata with horns and drums, namely BWV 100. Even Beringer sounds rigid].

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 28, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] Thank you for the post, always musically illuminating! Special thanks for your skill in finding soothing words in an occasionally (not always ?) disputatious crowd. I don't know if disputatious is an actual word in any version of English, but I like it, I'm keeping it!

Neil Halliday wrote:
< Speculation: Bach uses this impressive arrangement of six identical entries to represent the incarnation, or to emphasize the arrival of Christ. >
I noticed and appreciaterd the careful and accurate use of speculation. After that, you can hear whatever you want. All I have been suggesting.

< I would be surprised if many people think that Suzuki's tempo [8] in this movement ? virtually `presto' ? is appropriate. Leonhardt [2] and Rilling [1], with relaxed tempi, allow the music's loveliness to shine through. >
I could not agree more! (That somewhat awkward double negative construction, very familiar in USA, means I agree a lot). In fact, Leonhardt [2] in this particular movement, is my benchmark Bach cantata introduction. More to come.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 28, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Aryeh Oron has kindly placed on the BCW for your inspection a larger score sample consisting of four full-sized pages from the NBA score for BWV 91/1. >
I have read carefully through the subsequent text, without noticing a single word regarding the circulatio figures indicated on Example 4:

(1) Why do you interpret these as circulatio figures?
(2) What is the speculative (or demonstrated from hard evidence) significance?

Out of respect for Neil Halliday's thoughtful post, I am giving a slide to the big colored arrows. In truth, I regret ever defending your right to post them, because they are starting to obscure the underlying notes. Nevertheless, for those of us without a score in hand, any score example is better than none at all. Thank you as always for posting them, try not to clutter them up too much.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 28, 2006):
I previously wrote, a few minutes agO:

<I could not agree more! (That somewhat awkward double negative construction, very familiar in USA, means I agree a lot).>
There you go, that's what I get for trying to be clever while listening to Schwarzkopf. What I was thinking of was <I could care less.>

Which is also not a double negative. But if you put them together: <I could care less, I could not agree more.> Hmm, I was about to say two negatives make a positive, but there is still only one negative. Unless you count less.

Whatever it is, I am pretty sure it is not a circulatio.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 28, ):
Some quick thoughts, to get an early start on BWV 91

Alain Bruguières wrote:
< Yet, although I enjoy greatly BWV 91/1, I must confess BWV 62/1 moves me more deeply. >
Same here. I will try to find some more elegant ( or extensive) words for back-up.

Craig Smith, Emmanuel Music:
<In Bach's day Christmas was not as oppressively cheery as it is today.>

Some thoughts are precisely correct, and best presented with a frame, as it were.

Thanks for the sentiment Craig. Thanks for the introductions, Alain.

Merry X-mas to the X-motif thread. What? It's still Thanksgiving? I'm going out for some <frog soup>.

I first met Alain in my early weeks on the list, when he sent me a comment about <frog stoup>. Which I assumed was a minor typographic error for <frog soup>, so I started making jokes about my frog recipes. Naturally, Francophiles took offense.

We eventually figured out that <stoup> is a fine, if obscure, English word for <holy water basin> and <frog stoup> is a decent translation for the French phrase grenouille de benitier, an idiomatic expression for one who hangs around near the entrance to the church to curry favor with the authorities. A frog who lives in the holy water basin at the front of the church.

Most of that was done off list, but I think it is worth sharing, so that anyone who followed our recent tortuous path to X-motif can appreciate why we persisted, and why we were both shocked at the initial misunderstanding.

Many lessons there, most important for me: think twice before dipping your fingers in holy water basins, who knows what the frogs have been doing in it. The day is getting less oppressively cheery by the second. More
Hitchcockian.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 28, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday] The discussion on BWV 91 contains anumber of threads which are by no means novel speculations, but evidence of emerging patterns in the Cantatas where we are able to test the theses in prior scholarship. Let me try to explain:

BWV 91 as a Cantata of antithesis: this is Duerr's stance, to which one can add certain musical contrasts, such as the skipping figuration in the duet, set against two other stylistically removed lines, the walking bass and the intertwining vocal parts. Whether the musical antithises and verbal ones always connnect at the same time is not being suggested.

BWV's opening chorus/chorale and ritornello are related : this is Thomas' special insight for Jahrgang II and will indeed be a development of traditional scholarship, which states that only sometimes are ritornelli related to chorales, whereas if I understand aright Thomas Braatz is giving evidence that they nearly always are, albeit the motifs are more easily connected in some cases than others.

Circulatio: This thesis by Timothy A Smith has surfaced several times before in the BCW. Personally IMO some of his examples are doubtful and the similarity with the stock emphatic device of a turn is an open question. Where the text refers to Christ or the Cross, the coincidence is very likely significant.

Anfang und Ende: This is Eric Chafe's contribution: Bach particularly emphasis beginnings and endings. In BWV 91, the end of the chorale has the amazing bass low C followed by an ascent in the horns to the top of the register, emphasising Christ lowering himself and therby exalting man. Likewise the Christmas Cantata for 1723, BWV 40, uses one of the few chorales, "Erfreuet Euch", which ascend to the end. This is an example of Bach's consistency in word-painting devices.

Interestingly , the "Estomihi" cantata BWV 159 which precedes Lent, another juncture in the Church Year , has the oboe descend in three phrases right from the top of its register to the bottom , at "Welt, gute Nacht".

As we proceed through the sequence of cantatas the recurrence of word-painting devices, circulatio,dissonance, passus durisusculus, vocal and instrumental drops in register, connected ritornelli, not to mention statistically unusual gematric patterns, all are fit subjects for observation surely - but whether each of us is convinced by the evidence remains to be seen ! And even if we are : is it vital to the enjoyment of the music? Often not so, but the hermeneutics increase understanding of the "Learned Musician" aspect of J S Bach and of the extent to which his forms are premeditated as to allusions and appearance as well as aural effect.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 28, 2006):
BWV 91/1 Time Signature [was: Introduction to BWV 91 "Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ"]

BWV 91/1 Time signature

The BGA has 4/4 indicated with a 'C' but the NBA has 2/4 indicated with a 'C' with a vertical line through it (cut-time - alla breve).

Who is right and why?

The BGA, with Wilhelm Rust as editor in 1875, being unable to view the autograph score, but having all the original parts available for examination, was faced with a real dilemma: about half of the parts, copied by the same copyist, had 'C' 4/4 and the other half 'cut-time or alla breve'. Here is the breakdown of the original parts regarding this time signature:

'C' 4/4 is marked in the Alto, Tenor, Bass, Corno 2, Oboe 1, Violin 1, Violin 2

'Cut-time, 2/4, alla breve' is marked in the Soprano, Corno 1, Timpani, Oboe 2, Oboe 3, Viola, Continuo

Since most of the parts were copied by the same copyist (the same copyist, for instance, copied the Corno 1 part with a 'cut-time' signature, but Corno 2 with the traditional 'C' (4/4)), there appears to be no reason why the time signatures should vacillate between between both forms. Also Bach, as part of his normal procedure, made additions/corrections in practically all of the parts, but never attempted to change the time signatures.

I remember reading in one of the NBA KBs (I do not remember which one, otherwise I could quote it directly) that there is sufficient evidence for asserting that during Bach's time (particularly the Leipzig years) these time signatures (as far as Bach was concerned) were in a state of flux. They were being used interchangeably, thus there really was not much difference between them, if any at all. This may come as a surprise to those who rigidly associate what usually amounts to a doubly fast tempo with one compared to the other. Perhaps upon reflection directed at evidence of this kind, those concerned with performance practices that Bach may have had will need to revise their theories regarding this particular feature of Bach's music.

Why did the NBA choose the 'alla breve' 'cut-time' signature over the regular 'C' 4/4?

It appears that based upon more recent research since 1875, the autograph score was completed after the parts had been copied. The parts still have the older versions of BWV 91/5,6 (these mvts. are printed out as an Anhang in the NBA), while the autograph score is a clean copy (not a working/composing score) including some of the changes not reflected in the parts. The NBA decided, according to their editorial policy (aus letzter Hand - the last, most recent version is best) to go with the 'cut-time' 2/4 alla breve' time signature.

Chris Rowson wrote (November 28, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"Re: BWV 91/1 Time signature
The BGA has 4/4 indicated with a 'C' but the NBA has 2/4 indicated with a 'C' with a vertical line through it (cut-time - alla breve).
Who is right and why?
..."

Ummm, itīs not 2/4, itīs 2/2 ;-)

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 28, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>itīs not 2/4, itīs 2/2<<
Thanks for pointing out this necessary correction.

Cut-time/alla breve, the 'C' with a vertical line is indeed 2/2 time.

Walther, in his 1732 music dictionary, still maintains the distinction between 'the simple C' and the 'cut-through C', indicating that the former usually means 'adagio' unless a marking like 'allegro' appears along with it. The 'cut-through C' indicates a fast and even beat.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 29, 2006):
BWV 91 Additional Score Samples

Aryeh Oron has kindly placed two more examples (5 & 6) at the bottom of the already existing page at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV91-Sco.htm
(click on image again to enlarge)

These are mainly motifs as mentioned by other commentators or examples of possible 'passus duriusculus'

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 29, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Just how the circulatio figures in the horn parts along with the reference to "Christ" fit into this scheme, when they also occur elsewhere earlier in the same parts is a matter which still needs further investigation. There is still too much that remains unclear regarding the 'circulatio' despite Tim Smith's laudable efforts in advancing this subject/observation. >
I see there are more score samples forthcoming. I am going to look at them and consider the explanations. But I am still trying to get by Example 4, my questions, and the missing answers. The questions, in case they were overlooked the first time are:

(1) What, exactly are the circulatio figures in the phrases indicated?
(2) What is their significance.

I apologize for previously writing, in my haste <I do not see a single word>. What I meant to say was <I do not see a single of word of explanation.>

We have spent a great deal of grueling time and discussion in the past week, trying to decide how to use a vague word, circulatio, more precisely, so as not to add to misunderstandings. My friendship with Alain nearly went into the stoup with the frogs, over this detail.

I can see a turn in the middle of each phrase, as the ascending seconds shift to descending seconds, and again as they shift back. Is that the circulatio, or is it the entire phrase, as your highlight would suggest. Or are we not sure yet?

I believe not sure yet is what your language suggests, but not what your markings on the score indicate.

Out of my ongoing and deep respect for Neil, I am continuing to ignore discussion of the arrows, small and brown, big and blue (just so you will be sure I looked). But if you would like to ask me what I think, please do so. It is an open, public forum, as I continue to insist.

Like many others, I am starting to give some thought as to whom I associate with in public.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 29, 2006):
<>

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 29, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Aryeh Oron has kindly placed two more examples (5 & 6) at the bottom of the already existing page at: >
Example 6 (or perhaps 5, don't nit-pick me on that) has introduced yet another unclear term: passus durisculus. It looks to me like it means chromatic scale, but I am unable to find it in my music dictionary.

I am guessing that out of 700+ BCML correspondents, perhaps 10% have a music dictionary of any vintage at hand? Correct me if I am wrong, guys and girls. Everyone with a music dictionary, jump up! Jump Up! That is a legitimate music term for carnival music, not exactly Advent, but coming before Lent. If we are going to do Penitence for Advent, should we not do Jump Up to prepare for Advent as well?

This could be a new, and correct tradition, starting on these very pages!

Back to BWV 91. If the point is to post pages on a public forum which will help the maximum number of people understand the music, does it not make sense to use the most widely understood terms possible? And when you need to digress, define the language?

Jump Up! I can feel you, mes amis!

Chris Rowson wrote (November 30, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Aryeh Oron has kindly placed two more examples (5 & 6) at the bottom of the already existing page at: >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Example 6 (or perhaps 5, don't nit-pick me on that) has introduced yet another unclear term: passus durisculus. It looks to me like it means chromatic scale, but I am unable to find it in my music dictionary. >
I thought the passus duriusculus was usually a falling chromatic passage, as you might expect from the association with sorrow indicated by the name. Like the bass line of Didoīs Lament, for example.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Aryeh Oron has kindly placed two more examples (5 & 6) at the bottom of the already existing page at: >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Example 6 (or perhaps 5, don't nit-pick me on that) has introduced yet another unclear term: passus durisculus. It looks to me like it means chromatic scale, but I am unable to find it in my music dictionary. >
It is in fact in Example 6, where it is spelled correctly: passus duriusculus. Apologies for any confusion my misspelling may have caused to dedicated Bach scholars, experts, and other pedants (thanks, Harry).

No matter how spelled, it is still not in my Harvard Dictionary of Music. The principles are discussed under the entry for chromaticism. I am from Boston (MA, USA, most definitely not Lincs., UK). What is good enough for Harvard is good enough for me. Eschew obfuscation, I always say. Those who find passus duriusculus useful for communication may enjoy this site, among many which can be retrieved from a Google (or other?) search: http://lexikon.freenet.de/Passus_duriusculus

And now, my friends, Jump Up! Only a few days left before penitential Advent. Mighty Sparrow, or just about any Calypso, will do fine.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< I thought the passus duriusculus was usually a falling chromatic passage, as you might expect from the association with sorrow indicated by the name. Like the bass line of Didoīs Lament, for example. >
Chris has raised the important point, easily overlooked by fools such as me struggling with the words, that a passus duriusculus should be a falling chromatic passage, not the rising chromatic passages (2) indicated in Example 6.

The hometown school (Harvard Dictionary of Music) has not let me down: <Chromaticism appeared first in the chromatic tetra chord of Greek music, in which the (descending) fourth into a minor third and two semitones [...] I will leave it to the bean counters (or Graduate Student!) to add up the notes. The key word is descending. The key image in Example 6 is ascending. Twice. No descending.

Up or down, up or down, I will lead them up or down [sigh]. EM paraphrasing Puck, and imitating Ellington clarinets (for the folks really paying attention).

How quick we learn, Harry, even at out age. What am I saying, spring chicken next to you, amigo!

Back to the Examples, 4 for example. What about the circulatios?

And what about American English for both circulatio and passus duriusculus. Where are the translation police when we really need them? Harvard Dictionary will do fine as a standard of translation. Plain language would be even better.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 30, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< I thought the passus duriusculus was usually a falling chromatic passage, as you might expect from the association with sorrow indicated by the name. Like the bass line of Didoīs Lament, for example. >
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, the first 'google' page to come up with a search on 'passus duriusculus' has this (and BTW, notice most of these pages are in German, suggesting that the term has limited usage in English?):

<"Der passus duriusculus tritt bei Bach als Motiv auch außerhalb von Chaconne-Themen auf:

1. In Schluss-Chor der Kantate Christen, ätzet diesen Tag BWV 63 ist der Text "dass uns der Satan möge quälen" als chromatisch absteigende Tonleiter im Tritonus-Raum vertont.

2. Im Rezitativ O Christenheit der Kantate Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ BWV 91 komponierte Bach auf die Worte "durch dieses Jammertal" für den Bass eine aufsteigende chromatische Tonleiter im Umfang einer Dezime.>"

Notice the reference to the bass recitative in the cantata we are currently dicussing, ie, BWV 91/4. In this case, the vocal chromatic scale (and the continuo in the second half of the bar) is ascending ("aufsteigende").

In the passage referred to in the closing chorus (Schluss-Chor) of BWV 63 the notes are indeed descending ("absteigende").

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Naeil Halliday wrote:
< This must be one of the few joyful settings of "Kyrie eleis" in music, obviously having the same meaning as "Hallelujah!" or similar, in this context. >
I am striving to be generous. I truly am. That's why I havyet to post a single analytical comment on the colored arrows in Examples 1 to 3. I wanted to give Neil's post a more careful read.

The type of logic expressed in this sentence is easy to miss in a quick scan, but there it is.

When the text says Hallelujah (BTW, could we agree on an English spelling just for search sake?) and the music is glorious it is word painting, or some such.

When the text says <Kyrie eleis> it is ... Well, what exactly is it? I believe the sentence I have cited is saying that in this particular instance <Kyrie eleis> means <Halleuiea>, but only this one time, because of the musical context?

That is the best I can extract. If I am wrong, provide the correct interpretation. Then we can move to the arrows, before it is time to move on to next week, and the are in the archives..

My advice, just an informal opinion. Skip the arrows. Provide the music examples, point to a note if necessary. Discuss it. Those of us who are interested can cope, even welcome, an example from the score. Those of us who are not interested are not even looking at the music examples, let alone being influenced by the arrows. Big and blue, big and green, medium and blue. Did I get it right this time? No matter, I am still doing OK at the other.

Leisen (derived from [Kyrie] eleis, in earlier discussions) to all Graduate Students. You know who you are!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< BWV 91 as a Cantata of antithesis: this is Duerr's stance, to which one can add certain musical contrasts, such as the skipping figuration in the duet, set against two other stylistically removed lines, the walking bass and the intertwining vocal parts. Whether the musical antithises and verbal ones always connnect at the same time is not being suggested. >
Bradley Lehman wrote (April 29, 2003):
<[...] The soprano/alto duet is way too long: during the da capo I went to get a piece of chocolate cake, ate it, and when I came back they were still going. Then the final chorale is formulaic again. Oh well. The cantatas can't all be gems; in the Christmas rush he apparently just wrapped up a handful of painted rocks for this one. Bah, humbug.
(Apologies to anyone who especially likes this cantata.)
Brad "Scrooge" Lehman <end quote>
Hey, maybe you just ate the cake too fast? Anyone who especially likes this cantata [or at least the duet] includes me. Apologies accepted!

I am getting a few words out tonight on BWV 91 itself, the music, no matter what. Just so I don't lose that luscious chocolate cake reference. And the painted rocks, my favorite gift to get or give.

Back around 1985 when CDs were on the horizon, threatening to drive out LPs, Bach would have been 300 if that were possible, and Rilling had just completed his recording series. So a radio station could play all the bach cantatas. Would anyone do anything so silly? Yes, indeed. WHRB (if you are following along, you may recognize the letters: Harvard Radio Broadcasting). The very same Harvard we have recently seen in the Harvard Dictionary of Music. The very same Harvard where Christoph Wolff hangs out (actually he is the Adams Professor, or something like that, quite prestigious). Right in my home town. Full disclosure: I did not go to school at Harvard. I went to an engineering school down the road a km or two.

So in the winter of 1985, WHRB played them all in BWV order, non stop, around the clock. It is called an orgy(r). The little r in a circle that I have approximated by (r) indicates that the concept of orgy is a registered trademark. Not to worry, they have never busted any orgy I have attended. I think it is a bit of a joke, irony if you will. But what would I know about irony, I'm American (are you there, Hens?)

So I was shopping in the Harvard Coöperative Store (the Coop) for the after X-mas sales. That is the store which used to be the best place to buy records, when there were records. And there was a gray box, distinct from a brown box, five H&L LPs for under ten bucks. I am thinking it was eight bucks, but it may have been as much as $9.99.

A compilation of X-mas cantatas (no scores! special packaging and price), including BWV 91. OK, that's where we were trying to get to. I played them all. The duet from BWV 91 caught my ear. i played all of them again once or twice over the years, except for BWV 91, which has been my X-mas music ever since. I might have missed an occasional year, but other years I played it more than once.

A reasonable estimate, I have played the LP 50 times, maybe a bit more, maybe less. It still sounds just as good as the ones I have only played once or twice. The LP is not dead. Let me rethink that. The LP is dead. Send me yours and I will give them a proper burial.

So for twenty years, I had one version of BWV 91, with Leonhardt [2] spending 8:10 on the duet. I loved it the first time I heard it! It was the music which committed me, sooner or later, to spending time with the bach cantatas. I didn't know much more than that, other than having heard them all once from start to finish. (It is a tradition major orgies, that you don't bother to sleep during important music).

I have it (H&L BWV 91) out a month early this year. I still love it, like a pet bird or wife (sorry ladies) you have had for a long time. For the first time, I have lots of other records to compare: Herreweghe [7], Rilling [1], Leusink [4], Koopman [5]. And a BGA score (without arrows) courtesy of a list member who sent a scan.

I have yet to use the score, so you can count on additional reports. Especially if we get any explanations of:
(1) Arrows
(2) Circulatio
(3) Ascending passus (oxymoron? But I'm just a plain moron).

The bass line has never sounded like a walking bass, to me. More like what you should call an ostinato. My trusty HMD does not provide an American English equivalent to ostinato. By implication, it is an acceptable English term. But it is the bass line, ostinato or what you like, which is the hook. And Bach knew it (I speculate). How long can I make this go on, and get away with it.

Long enough for Brad to get a piece of cake and say <is that still going on?> Gotta love you both, Bach and Brad!

Walking bass is more like a passus with jazz inflection, no dotted rhythms. Or actually, like a chromaticism, because walking bass can be either rising or falling. Which gets us back to the beginning. Anyone who cares to discuss walking bass, nothing I would enjoy more, other than this weeks or next weeks cantata!

BTW, Mingus never played walking bass. If anyone had the audacity to ask him to, he would have said <I don't have time for that kinda shit>.

And the rest of the analysis? Piece of cake.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 30, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Notice the reference to the bass recitative in the cantata we are currently dicussing, ie, BWV 91/4. In this case, the vocal chromatic scale (and the continuo in the second half of the bar) is ascending ("aufsteigende"). >
This is exactly the problem of using a conventional figure and definition. It has meant one thing for a hundred years. Then Bach does something related, but different. Revolutionary, if you will. And now , another couple hundred years later, we try to say <Bach added this new thing, to the old definition, but it means the same>.

Much more discussion and analysis than that required. All I am ever asking for. I love your respect for the music! You have a friend, whether we agree or not.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 30, 2006):
[To Ed myskowski] I have come across various definitions of passus duriusculus via google. Some define it as a descending chromatic scale. Others define it as a chromatic scale, ascending or descending.

One should be careful when coming across a definiton of such a word, not to consider it as the ultimate definition.

My experience is that in the baroque era people interested in music were not so intent on having non-ambiguous definitions as we are today.

This is precisely the reason whyI suggested to no longer use the term circulatio when referring to 'X-motifs'. Using vague terms leads to misunderstanding, or drowning in the stoup.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 91: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýSeptember 30, 2011 ý08:49:00