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Cantata BWV 93
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 23, 2000

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 25, 2000):
Background

This is the week of cantata BWV 93 according to Ryan Michero's suggestion. As a background I shall use this time the simple and clear linear notes of the Vanguard LP (see details below) by anonymous writer:

"The two cantatas here (the other is BWV 117) are typical of the 'chorale cantatas' that Bach composed in Leipzig, in which the foundation of the entire cantata structure is a traditional hymn or chorale, the musical presence of which is felt in each movement. These two are otherwise, however, strikingly different in form."

"Cantata BWV 93, Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, composed in the late 1720's, is shaped more like a usual 'chorale cantata', opening with a splendid chorale fantasia, in which the chorale appears both in straight harmonized form and in polyphonic elaboration, and closing with a simple four-part setting of the chorale. The opening movement, with its ritornello for oboes and strings, and the interplay of solo vocal lines with the full chorus, has a splendid concerto-like character. In the second movement' lines of the chorale are answered by bas recitative phrases, and then, in the tenor aria, comes a blithe variant of the chorale melody, turned into major and dance-like in rhythm. The 'centrepiece' is the soprano-alto duet, weaving gracefully over the chorale melody on unison strings. (Bach arranged this movement for organ, as one of the six 'Schübler chorale-preludes). In the next movement, tenor recitatives phrases comment on successive lines of the chorale, and the last two phrases of the chorale appear impressively in the following soprano aria".

Personal Viewpoint

The most important event of year 2000 is going to happen later this week. The date is July 28, 2000, and the event is - 250 years to the death of Johann Sebastian Bach.

Review of complete Recordings

The couple Koopman/Suzuki have not reached yet BWV 93. But we have 6 other recordings to enjoy and discuss, from different periods and schools, starting in probably mid 1950's and finishing in late 1990's. Three of them are HIP and three are non-HIP. The structure of this chorale cantata, the music, and also the text, are so strong, that every performance can please. Especially, where most if not all of them are on very high level. There are some small drawbacks here and there, but they are minor regarding the overall satisfaction this cantata is giving with every hearing. This cantata reminds me the popular BWV 4. The melody (and the relevant verse) of the original choral is set in its original form in 4 movements (Mvts. 1, 4, 5, and 7) and appears in modified form in the three other movements. Every lover of BWV 4 must give BWV 93 also a try. I shall keep my notes very short this time and let the cantata speaks for itself.

[2] Ludwig Doormann (1967)
General atmosphere: Honest, vigorous, dramatic, and flowing.
Good points: The opening chorus (No.1) can stand endless hearings. The pain and heaviness of Hudemann in the 2nd movement; the anxiety expressed in the singing of Feyerabend in the aria for tenor (No.3); the delight and mysterious magic of the duet for soprano and alto (Mvt. 4); the evangelist quality of the tenor in the 5th movement; the lovely oboe playing against the eager singing of Reichelt in the aria for soprano (No.6); the warmth and conciliation of the concluding chorale.
Drawbacks: This is non-HIP, but I do not find it as a real drawback.

[4] Karl Richter (1974-1975)
General atmosphere: Powerful, dignified, slow, and large-scale.
Good points: The dulcet voices and tasteful singing of Fischer-Dieskau (Mvt. 2) and Schreier (Mvts. 3+5).
Drawbacks: The choir singing lacks inspiration. Unclean playing of the instruments in some parts. The instrumental playing in some of the movements is somewhat heavy and dull. The separation between the parts in the opening chorus is not clear. The duet of Mathis and Reynolds (No.4) lacks tension, although their voices match nicely.

[5] Helmuth Rilling (Mid 1970’s?)
General atmosphere: Soft, round, sensitive, and lively.
Good points: Augér happiness in the aria for soprano (Mvt. 6) and Kraus sadness and worry in the aria for tenor (Mvt. 3) and the recitative and chorale (Mvt. 5). He has nothing to be ashamed of in comparison to Schreier (with Richter). Murray contributes her part the guaranteed share of Augér in the successful rendering of the duet for soprano and alto (Mvt. 4).
Drawbacks: The opening choral fantasia is performed in somewhat hurried way, although the separation between the various parts is clear. The singing of Heldwein (No.2) lacks variety and emotion. The accompaniments in some parts are played beautifully, but lack something in sensitivity to the vocal parts.

[6] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1979)
General atmosphere: Fragmented, quick, dancing, and jumping.
Good points: The tranquillity and sorrow expressed by Meer in the recitative and chorale for bass (Mvt. 2); The delightful singing of Equiluz in the aria for tenor (Mvt. 3), although he is not helped by the fragmented accompaniment; the colourful and exciting singing of Equiluz in the recitative and chorale for tenor (Mvt. 5), where he is supported only by organ continuo, which does not disturb him.
Drawbacks: The opening chorus is unbalanced and unorganized and sounds like a chaos; The mismatch in terms of timbre of voice and ability to express between the boy soprano and the alto (Esswood) in the duet (Mvt. 4); The aria for soprano (Mvt. 6), emphasis the fact that the boy is not capable of giving this aria the right emotional depth; the lack of flow, warmth and expression in the concluding chorale.

[7] Philippe Herreweghe (1991)
General atmosphere: Tender, clear, sensitive, and honest.
Good points: The delightful and transparent rendering of the opening chorus, where every voice can be clearly heard; Kooy authority in the 2nd movement, where he succeeds in transferring the feeling that he has to carry with him all the sorrow in the world; The crisp accompaniment to the grief and patience expressed by the singing of Crook in the aria for tenor (No.3); The concluding chorale, which is beautifully sung; The playing of the instruments along the whole cantata.
Drawbacks: The voices of Mellon and Brett in the duet for soprano and alto (No.4) are pleasant, but their singing is simply not interesting enough; the same applies also to the aria for soprano (No.6). The whole performance would have been improved with some more dramatic approach.

[8] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
General impression: Light, happy, fresh, and spontaneous.
Good points: The clarity of all the voices and the delightful singing and playing in the opening chorus (No.1); the impressive voice and the slow singing Ramselaar (No.2), who has a very heavy weight to carry; the rendering of the 3rd movement by Schoch, which is very similar to that of Crook (with Herreweghe [7]); the astonishingly beautiful combination of the voices of Holton and Buwalda in the duet (No.4); the duet fascinating dialogue between the oboe and Holton in the aria for soprano (No.6); the enthusiastic singing of the choir in the concluding chorale (No.7). So many good points with so little rehearsal and preparation time. I wonder if the other groups have not worked too hard and lost some spontaneity in the way.
Drawbacks: Some more deepness and weight would probably have helped to perfect this performance, although it sounds very convincing and justified in its way.

Recordings of individual Movements

(M-1) Helmuth Rilling (1965; concluding choral (Mvt. 7) only).
Big choir, but clean and warm singing.

(M-4) Elly Amrling (soprano) with Hans de Vries (oboe) (1983; aria for soprano (M. 6) only)
This is a problematic record. I wrote something about it in the review of BWV 75.

(M-7) Nienke Oostenrijk;(soprano) with Pauline Oostenrijk (oboe) (1998; aria for soprano (Mvt. 6) only)
I do not have this recording.

Conclusion

Regarding my overall satisfaction from the above reviewed recordings, I would rate them as follows:

1. Doormann [2]
2. Leusink [8]
3. Herreweghe [7]
4. Rilling [5]
5. Richter [4]
6. Harnoncourt [6]

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Andrew Oliver wrote (July 24, 2000):
This is one of my favourite cantatas, though that may have more to do with the text than the music. The text is basically a message of comfort and encouragement, not only for the suicidal and despairing but also for every person in any form of distress or need. Its meaning may be summed up by one phrase from the fifth movement, "nach Regen gibt er Sonnenschein", and this movement, for me, contains the soul of the whole work in its text, though not in its music. The text of the cantata either quotes directly from Neumark's hymn or else enlarges on it. We met two stanzas of the hymn two weeks ago (in BWV 21) and the closing chorale also occurs in BWV 88. Musically, Bach has made use of the melody of the chorale throughout the cantata, and this melody was also composed by Neumark for his hymn. The cantata is, in effect, a set of variations on the melody, and I suspect that Bach has written it so deliberately in order to illustrate the variety of persons included in the title. (Wer nur = whoever).

In the opening chorus, Bach introduces each phrase of the chorale melody with a freely composed fugal exposition for two or four voices of the phrase, which is about to follow, and, again, he illustrates the inclusiveness of the variety by the voices he uses. For the six phrases, the voices are:
1 Soprano followed by Alto
2 Alto then Soprano
3 Tenor then Bass
4 Bass then Tenor
5 Alto then Tenor then Bass then Soprano
6 Tenor then Alto then Soprano then Bass

It is interesting that, although Bach used a key signature of 3 flats for the tenor aria in E flat major, he only uses a signature of 2 flats for numbers 1,4 and 7 which are set in C minor, preferring to write all the A flats as accidentals. (Incidentally, the tenor aria being set in triple time reminds me that Neumark originally wrote the melody in a similar way.)

Continuing the theme of inclusive variety, the fifth movement, Recitativo e Chorale, is quite remarkable in its modulation from one key to another. The six phrases of the chorale melody are all there, adorned in different ways, and separated from each other by phrases of narrative. Bach uses these sections of recitative as a means of modulating from one key to another, because each of the six phrases of chorale melody is in a different key. He needs to arrive at G minor, to introduce the following Soprano aria in that key, but the first five phrases are all above G minor by different intervals, as if the chorale had been written in:
Phrase 1 E flat minor
2 F minor
3 B flat minor
4 C minor
5 A minor
6 G minor

In the Cantus Firmus sections of the opening chorus, Bach treats the final note of each phrase of the chorale melody as if it were a sustained pedal note on the organ, building and developing the harmonic progression of the other parts below it. This is very similar to the way he treats the chorale in the chorus 'O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross' in the SMP (BWV 244), and as that is perhaps my favorite of all Bach's choruses, this is probably another reason why I like this particular cantata.

The theme of this work is to do with compassion, as referred to in the Epistle for the day, 1 Peter 3, and potential compensation for all misfortunes, as illustrated by the fishing story in the Gospel for the day, Luke 1.

 

BWV 93 Textual Problem

Francis Browne wrote (March 10, 2002):
(This is philological pedantry. Please ignore if it is of no interest to you - but I would appreciate advice from the many members of the list who know both German and Bach far better than I do)

The text of BWV 93 Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten is based on a hymn by Georg Neumark. Some verses are quoted entire, others are quoted line by line and expanded with paraphrases. In the fitfh movement, the tenor recitative and chorale, paraphrase is used . The German texts available to me on the internet, the text printed with the Leusink version [8] and the singers on the Leusink and Herreweghe [7] performances all have the following:

Du darfst nicht meinen,
Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze,
Der täglich wie der reiche Mann,
In Lust und Freuden leben kann.

The text underlined is the problem. When I translated this very recently for the Bach Cantata website I took it to mean:

Du darfst nicht meinen,
You should not think
Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze,
that this God just sits back
Der täglich wie der reiche Mann,
like a rich man who every day
In Lust und Freuden leben kann.
can live in pleasure and joy.

This assumed that the phrase im Schoße sitzen is like die Hände in den ~ legen, to put one's hands in one's lap, to sit back (and take it easy); das ist ihm nicht in den ~ gefallen, it wasn't handed (to) him on a plate, it didn't just fall into his lap;

The sense is a little surprising but seems to fit in with the general argument of what precedes, although not so well with what follows. In Whittaker's The Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach (Vol 1, p495) he clearly interprets dieser Gott etc in this way. (Whittaker also has a general comment on such recitatives that I cannot resist quoting:

In spite of Bach's boundless ingenuity and illimitable invention, such recitatives with chorale are rarely satisfactory. The poetaster has to force his muse, the sermonettes are often farfetched and the language involved frequently chaotic. From the musical point of view they are too patchy; the alternations of strict tempo with free, of sustained phrases with recitative style, do not cohere. One can imagine the master dealing with them in despair, throwing into their composition all his wealth of idea and resource, but groaning under the burden of an uncongenial task.)

When however I checked Philip Ambrose's translation, (always worthwhile) he had:

Thou may'st not think then
That this man is in God's lap sitting
Who daily, like the wealthy man,
In joy and rapture life can lead.

This did make better sense but I could not see how this translated the German text. A quick search on the internet found that the text generally sung in the hymn is:

5. Denk nicht in deiner Drangsalshitze,
daß du von Gott verlassen seist
und daß ihm der im Schoße sitze,
der sich in stetem Glücke preist.

This is clearly what Philip Ambrose translated and it does make better sense. But what is in the score, what words did Bach set ? What is sung in the other recordings ? More generally how reliable are the libretti of the cantatas, how much do different texts vary .? My intention is to translate the texts suplpied with the Leusink cycle [8]- but is there a better ,easily accessible text of which I should be aware. Any assistance would be very welcome.

Klaus Langrock wrote (March 10, 2002):
Francis Browne wrote:
< When however I checked Philip Ambrose's tra, (always worthwhile) he had :

Thou may'st not think then
That this man is in God's lap sitting
Who daily, like the wealthy man,
In joy and rapture life can lead. >

This did make better sense but I could not see how this translated the German text. A quick search on the internet found that the text generally sung in the hymn is: >

5. Denk nicht in deiner Drangsalshitze,
wenn Blitz und Donner kracht
und dir ein schwüles Wetter macht
daß du von Gott verlassen seist.
Gott bleibt auch in der größten Not,
ja gar bis in den Tod.
Du darfst nicht meinen
und daß ihm der im Schoße sitze, (Choral), in the score: daß dieser Gott im
Schoße sitze
der täglich, wie der reiche Mann,
in Lust und Freuden leben kann
der sich in stetem Glücke preist. ...

So far the score, it`s Recitativo and Choral. As far as I can see (due to my poor English) Philip Ambrose's translation is quite correct, for "dieser" is to be seen not in connection to "Gott" but to "reicher Mann"

Hope this is helpful.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 10, 2002):
Francis Browne inquired about the text of Mvt 5 (Recit) in BWV 93:

Du darfst nicht meinen,
Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze,
Der täglich wie der reiche Mann,
In Lust und Freuden leben kann.

The text given is the one printed in the NBA I/17.2

A shift from a free recitativo to adagio (arioso style) occurs with the words, "Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze" after which Bach changes back to the recitativo. Bach puts very special emphasis on this line by not only changing the tempo and style, but also allowing the bc to continue stepwise in a downward direction as these words are sung.

The editors and scholars, after consulting all other variations contained in the hymnals of the period, have decided to stay with Bach's version as included in the original set of parts.

Here are the other variations that they note:
Line 1: Wagner 1697: Trübsalshitze
Line 2: Wagner 1697: von ihm
Line 3: St. Georg 1721: Und daß dem; St. Georg 1730, Wagner 1697, Vopelische Gesangbücher 1729, 1730, 1737, Dresden 1725, 1728, 1738 and Schemelli 1736: Und daß der; Weimar 1713: Und daß Gott der; Vopelisches Gesangbuch: 1682: Und daß Gott dem.

Lines 5 and 6 show variations of folgende Zeit; and jeglichen and setzt einm.

The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16, 19)

Luther uses Schoß to mean a state of blessedness, happiness: ach müssen diese leute nicht gott mitten im schosze sitzen and was vor ein glückseliger mensch daher tritt, wie tief er gott im schosze sitzen musz.

Hope this helps!

Thomas Gebhardt [Collegium Cantorum Köln] wrote (March 10, 2002):
< Du darfst nicht meinen,
Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze,
Der täglich wie der reiche Mann,
In Lust und Freuden leben kann.
...
When however I checked Philip Ambrose's translation, (always worthwhile) he had :

Thou may'st not think then
That this man is in God's lap sitting
Who daily, like the wealthy man,
In joy and rapture life can lead.
...
So far the score, it`s Recitativo and Choral. As far as I can see (due to my poor English) Philip Ambrose's translation is quite correct, for "dieser" is to be seen not in connection to "Gott" but to "reicher Mann"

Hope this is helpful >
Essentially this is right... Ambros's translation gives it the right way - but "dieser" is neither referring to "Gott" nor to the rich man ("reicher Mann") but to a third person, who is compared to the rich man from the story of poor Lazarus (Luke 16,19-31) - in fact addressing the listener/reader - so exactly what Ambros gives in his translation.

Or - not respecting the order of lines:

You may not think that this one who can live in joy and pleasure every day might be sitting in God's lap. (Or "in God's bosom" as "in the bosom of Abraham"?)

Dick Wursten wrote (March 11, 2002):
Thomas Braatz says:
<
Luther uses 'Schoß' to mean a state of blessedness, happiness >
It 's not Luther who invented this image of blessedness, but - as Thomas already pointed out - the 'key' to open the door of understanding this image lies in the text of Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and the poor Lazarus... When Lazarus dies, the angels come and he is 'carried into Abrahams bossom' (Abrahams Schoß, 16:22). In those days this was a general image for 'heaven', a common way of referring to eternal bliss.

Cultural exursion: Go to France, visit the church of St Foi in Conques, look at the tympan and notice the two boys in Abrahams bossom on the right side of the Judge: Christ (for viewers: left)

Andrew Oliver wrote (March 11, 2002):
The closing chorus of the first part of the Matthäus Passion (BWV 244) begins:

O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß,
Darum Christus sein's Vater's Schoß äussert, und kam auf Erden.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 11, 2002):
Francis Browne asked regarding:

Du darfst nicht meinen,
Daß dieser Gott im Schoße sitze,
Der täglich wie der reiche Mann,
In Lust und Freuden leben kann.

< This is clearly what Philip Ambrose translated and it does make better sense. But what is in the score, what words did Bach set ? What is sung in the other recordings ? More generally how reliable are the libretti of the cantatas, how much do different texts vary .? My intention is to translate the texts supplied with the Leusink cycle [8] - but is there a better ,easily accessible text of which I should be aware. Any assistance would be very welcome >

Klaus correctly stated:
< As far as I can see (due to my poor English) Philip Ambrose's translation is quite correct, for "dieser" is to be seen not in connection to "Gott" but to "reicher Mann" >

Thomas Gebhardt also stated:
< Essentially this is right... Ambrose's translation gives it the right way - but "dieser" is neither referring to "Gott" nor to the rich man ("reicher Mann") but to a third person, who is compared to the rich man from the story of poor Lazarus (Luke 16,19-31) - in fact addressing the listener/reader - so exactly what Ambros gives in his translation.

Or - not respecting the order of lines:

You may not think that this one who can live in joy and pleasure every day might be sitting in God's lap. (Or "in God's bosom" as "in the bosom of Abraham"?) >

What Thomas Gebhardt indicated is essentially correct, but I would render the modal auxiliary differently (more like the English 'must' or 'should' rather than 'may') and read the line freely as follows:

The opening line could be: "You must not think, or You should not think"

Don't think that this person (the one referred to previously) is sitting in God's lap (experiencing happiness and a blessed state of existence) if he (this person) is able to live like the rich man in the parable, experiencing pleasure and joy every day.

< But what is in the score, what words did Bach set? >
I already answered this question.

< What is sung in the other recordings? >
Does it matter at all, what the other recordings sing? Discrepancies abound in the Bach cantata recordings. Sometimes the choir will sing different words than those printed in the accompanying booklet. There is also a tradition of long standing that goes back over a century that allowed singers and conductors to change the text if it appeared that other words might be understood better, or provided better vowel sounds, or even avoided words that someone might find objectionable because of other associations that might lead the congregation to think impure thoughts. As a result certain portions of cantata texts have been tampered with more than others for the reasons given. I have found variant texts with the Richter cantatas (the printed version in the booklet not the same as the words being sung), but also with the so-called authentic cantata recordings by Harnoncourt which exhibit an occasional glitch of this sort. I suspect that there is no truly reliable cantata series where everything will be correct. The only reliable source here is the NBA.

< but is there a better, easily accessible text of which I should be aware. >
Check out Aryeh's site. Additional Information on the right. Links to other sites. Links other sites about Bach cantatas. Sites about Bach Cantatas. Texts of the cantatas. The Bach Cantatas - original text - Walter F. Bischof.

I have not checked out the accuracy of the German text that Bischof gives, but this might be a good place to start.

Francis Browne wrote (March 11, 2002):
Many thanks to Klaus, Thomas Gebhardt, Dick Wursten, Andrew and Tom Braatz for their various responses. I almost regard my ignorance as an asset when it elicits such generous and informative help !

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 93: 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

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