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Bach Books

Analyzing Bach Cantatas
by Eric Chafe

 

 

The Book

1

Analysing Bach Cantatas

-

Eric Chafe

Oxford University Press

2000

286 pp

Confessing M. Luther & J.S. Bach

Peter Pertzling wrote (March 21, 2001):
Maybe it is time to offer a small contribution to this list. So here are a few things for your consideration on 21 March 2001 AD:

Eric Chafe , who occupies a distinguished chair of Musicology at Brandeis Univ., has published a marvelously astute work entitled , "Analyzing Bach Cantatas " ( Oxford Univ. Press ; Date of publication: 2000 ; pp. 280; Price : $ 55.00 ) Prof. Chafe looks only at a few cantatas from the Leipzig cycles of 1723-24 and 1724-25 and dwells especially on Cantata BWV 77. But he proceeds to opens his monograph by carefully reviewing fundamental liturgical and theological matters ( including Martin Luther's vital delineation of 'Law & Gospel' ).

Chapter ONE deals with Lutheran "hermeneutics" - matters that J.S.Bach had studied thoroughly both at Ohrdruf and at Lüneburg, and remembered by means of Luther's work of genius known as the Small and Large Catechism. [The title of this chapter; THE HERMENEUTIC MATRIX pp. 3-22 ]

Chapter TWO is even bolder and bears the significant title "The Lutheran 'Metaphysical' Tradition in Music and Music Theory" pp 23-31.

The entire work is a feast and worth saving up for if you find the price tag a bit steep.

Let me also point you to a little gem that is taken from Martin Luther's well known 'Heidelberg Disputation' of 1518, namely Thesis # 20 -- as it may help to highlight J.S.Bach - "the theologian" :

: "That person deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross."

Which brings me to an additional paradox from Martin Luther's pen, which will illuminate the "confessional" labors of J.S. Bach, both in his passions as well as his cantatas.

It is taken from Martin Luther's letter to George Spenlein, an Augustinian friar, and deserves to be given in Latin as well as English and also in German.

I. "DISCE CHRISTUM ET HUNC CRUCIFIXUM, DISCE EI CANTARE ET DE TE IPSO DESPERANS DICERE EI: TU DOMINE IHESU, ES JUSTITIA MEA. EGO AUTEM SUM PECCATUM TUUM: TU ASSUMPSISTI MEUM,
ET EDISTI MIHI TUUM; ASSUMPSISTI QUOD NON ERAS, ET DEDISTI MIHI QUOD NON ERAM."

In English:
"Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not.'"

In German:
" Lerne Christus, und zwar als Gekreuzigten; lerne ihm zu singen und an dir selbst verzweifelned ihm zu sagen ; du, Herr Jesu, bist meine Gerechtigkeit, ich aber bin deine Suende; du hast angenommen was du nicht warst, und mir gegeben was ich nicht war."

On this day at least these quotations are meant to acknowledge Johann Sebastian Bach, the confessional Lutheran.

Santu De Silva wrote (March 21, 2001):
I read Peter Petsling's writing below with considerable interest.

< Let me ... point you to a little gem that is taken from Martin Luther's well known 'Heidelberg Disputation' of 1518, namely Thesis # 20 --as it may help to highlight
J.S.Bach - "the theologian" :
"That person deserves to be called a theologian, however, who comprehends the visible and manifest things of God through suffering and the cross."
Which brings me to an additional paradox from Martin Luther's pen, which will illuminate the "confessional" labors of J.S. Bach, both in his passions as well as his cantatas.
"Learn Christ and him crucified. Learn to sing to him and, despairing of yourself, say, 'Lord Jesus, you are my righteousness, just as I am your sin. You have taken upon yourself what is mine and have given me what is yours. You have taken upon yourself what you were not and have given to me what I was not." >
This is fascinating in its style. In the US - -though I'm not a church-going type- - you really don't see this kind of thinking and reasoning in church circles, at least not in the few churches I've been in. However, this language sounds surprisingly similar to modern European theology and even more, Asian theology, which I had assumed came from Hundu and Buddhist philosophical traditions, now in the service of Christianity. In my ears, Bach's poetry has the same ring as the ecstatic prayers of the east - -and I hope that doesn't upset anyone; religion is universal- -and the mystical reasoning of Luther is similar to the reasoning of modern Asian theologians, who must be strongly influenced by Luther.

Jane Newble wrote (March 22, 2001):
< Peter Pertzling wrote: The entire work is a feast and worth saving up for if you find the price tag a bit steep. >
Thank you for writing about that book. I shall have to start saving up!! The other information was very interesting, too.


Chafe's 'Analyzing Bach Cantatas'

Jason Marmaras wrote (September 19, 2004):
I saw, some days ago, Chafe's 'Analyzing Bach Cantatas' for sale at 100 Eur.

I'm still thinking about buying it, but I would like to know a bit more, so would anyone recommend buying[or avoiding :)] it?

Kirk McElhearn wrote (September 19, 2004):
[To Jason Marmaras] It's an interesting book, from a musical perspective. Not for the casual listener, but it is more for those with performance experience.

I'd be willing to sell my copy... If you're interested, contact me off-list.


Eric Chafe: Analyzing Bach Cantatas | Tonal Allegory in the Music of J.S. Bach

Bach Books: Main Page / Reviews & Discussions | Index by Title | Index by Author | Index by Number
General: Biographies | Essay Collections | Performance Practice | Children
Vocal: Cantatas BWV 1-224 | Motets BWV 225-231 | Latin Church BWV 232-243 | Passions & Oratorios BWV 244-249 | Chorales BWV 250-438 | Lieder BWV 439-524
Instrumental: Organ BWV 525-771 | Keyboard BWV 772-994 | Solo Instrumental BWV 995-1013 | Chamber & Orchestral BWV 1014-1080

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Last update: żOctober 1, 2004 ż17:34:51