Thomas Braatz wrote (August 31, 2001):
BWV 179 - What to listen for:
There are distinct sections to this mvt. that all run together much too quickly when the tempo is taken too fast. It is interesting to note the increase in speed as the recordings progress from Ramin's to the present day! One thing that really stands out on first hearing is the chromatic progression on the word, "falschem." This might make more sense if the chromatic progression were only downward, but Bach also uses it in the upward direction as well. What is going on here? Dürr explains that each fugal entrance at the beginning is an inversion of the one before it. When you hear the upward chromatic progression, you are in essence listening to the inversion of the main fugal subject. In the second half of the mvt. Bach chooses a somewhat looser form of fugue (canon at the interval of a fifth) on the words, "und diene Gott." This section concludes with two pedal points on the word, "Herzen," first in the bass voice, while the bc is playing something else, and at the very end it appears in the bc.
This is loaded with word contrasts that Bach must have enjoyed setting to music, but even more so I imagine his delight in pointing out the "Heuchler" (hypocrites) among which he would consider members of the city council who were penny-pinchers when it came to the question of glorifying God with the great music that Bach could provide. Yes, Bach did use this method of speaking to others in a roundabout way ("durch die Blume sagen") through the words used in his compositions. It would be a rather apparent hint, that would not stand up under court scrutiny because it could be understood in at least two ways (double entendre). Read about this in Wolff's biography when the paperback version is available, which should be very soon.
Dürr, with much imagination, hears the "Sodomsäpfel" in the rich syncopation in the ritornello. What I do hear (only in a very few versions, when the tenor really understands the text and is not fighting the music or simply reading notes) is the "herrlich gleißen" ("splendidly shining [blazing]") of the "Sodomsäpfel." Also noteworthy are the long, held notes on the word, "bestehen" ("to continuue to exist.")
Almost no soprano will have any problems interpreting the words, "ich versink in tiefen Schlamm" ("I sink into the mud,") because the voice is led slowly down to its lowest range where it disappears. Listen to all the sopranos that sing the same way, with the same expression, the words derived from Habakuk 3:16 "ein Eiter in Gebeinen" ("a rottenness/decay in my bones") and "Hilf mir, Jesu, Gottes Lamm" (Help me, Jesus, Lamb of God.")
"Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" in one of its numerous incarnations. This one, with its wonderful, syncopated passing notes, needs nevertheless to be sung legato or 'cantabile.' Can you imagine what music students must have thought about (and are still thinking about) when they are given the infamous 4-part chorale harmonizations without words and are told to study and learn from these how this sort of thing should be done. They have absolutely no idea, how the words were the source of inspiration for Bach. These specific words are integral to understanding the 4-part harmonizations. I was personally acquainted with an excellent choir director, who indicated to me, upon my asking him about the chorales, that it was a required exercise that the professor teaching the course included because 'it is a long-standing tradition that these harmonizations be studied.' However, without being able to explain why Bach did things the way he did, the study of these chorales became simply a requirement, but nothing more. It was apparent to me that the non-committal attitude of the professor is passed on to his students. This excellent choir director did marvellous things from the Renaissance and Baroque periods (later periods as well) but the Baroque period was represented primarily by Händel and Vivaldi. The only Bach that he attempted was the Magnificat (no chorale involved). As far as I know, he would not even use the chorales during 'reading' sessions for warm-up or examination for potential use.