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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

Non-Bach cantatas
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Apocryphal Bach CDs

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 7, 2007):
I recently reviewed a manuscript for which I received an "honorarium." (In the real world that means a fee, payment, money. But not in academics: we do things for honor. It's nuts really.) Such funds are mine and immediately blown on music. This time I filled out my collection of Wolfgang Helbich/I Febiarmonici Apocryphal Bach. This included The Apocryphal Cantatas Volume I (I already had Vol II and the St. Luke Passion); Apocryphal Motets and the Apocryphal Masses. As the notes point out many of these works were thought by at least some knowledgeable people to be real Bach. Not so, but many were copied in Bach's hand implying he at least studied the works and very likely performed them. And, they might be typical of the kind of work that inspired the master. Well, if Bach liked them, they must be nice. And they are.

Each CD is well worth a listen, but the Apocryphal Masses are a real treat. If I read the notes correctly Missa BWV Anh 25 in C major was copied by Bach around 1740 but not believed to be by him. (At least there is no mention of who decided it was not real Bach.) The work was likely Italian and composed around 1720. I'm not sure how to describe it. It's not Vivaldi, it's not Pergolesi but it is Italian in style and it's lovely. Even I can tell it's not Bach. Not so the "Little" Magnificat BWV Anh 21. Here the authorship was up in the air for some time. Like so many other contested works those who believed it to be Bach thought it was early. Modern scholars now
attribute it to Melchior Hoffmann who served at Leipzig until 1715. The Missa BWV Anh 26 was not only copied by Bach and his nephew and even "improved" by Bach here and there most probably in 1727. Bach's copy does not mention authorship but it came from Francesco Durante of Naples.

These are small scale works compared to the Mass in B but filled with lovely music, highlighted by several soprano arias beautifully sung by Dorothee Mields. All CDs in this series are worthy but this one is a real gem.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 7, 2007):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Each CD is well worth a listen, but the Apocryphal Masses are a real treat. If I read the notes correctly Missa BWV Anh 25 in C major was copied by Bach around 1740 but not believed to be by him. (At least there is no mention of who decided it was not real Bach.) The work was likely Italian and composed around 1720. I'm not sure how to describe it. It's not Vivaldi, it's not Pergolesi but it is Italian in style and it's lovely. Even I can tell it's not Bach. Not so the "Little" Magnificat BWV Anh 21. Here the authorship was up in the air for some time. Like so many other contested works those who believed it to be Bach thought it was early. Modern scholars now attribute it to Melchior Hoffmann who served at Leipzig until 1715. The Missa BWV Anh 26 was not only copied by Bach and his nephew and even "improved" by Bach here and there most probably in 1727. Bach's copy does not mention authorship but it came from Francesco Durante of Naples. >
Stauffer has a very good discussion of Bach's copying and arranging mass movement in his book, "The Mass in B Minor: The Great Catholic Mass"

Russell Telfer wrote (February 8, 2007):
Apocryphal Bach CDs - BWV 142

Douglas Cowling quoted Eric Bergerud:
>> Each CD is well worth a listen, but the Apocryphal Masses are a real treat. <<
and continued:
< Stauffer has a very good discussion of Bach's copying and arranging mass movement in his book, "The Mass in B Minor: The Great Catholic Mass" >
We might well expect that any work that had the accolade of BWV attached to it would have to be good.

This coming weekend I shall be working in a choir group studying BWV 142 - a rare work by Kuhnau dignified with a BWV number. Christopher Brown, the conductor, has a penchant for works composed by members and associates of J S Bach's family. If anyone has any questions or issues they would like me to follow up, please let me know soonish.

I haven't, up to now, heard this work other than by way of a realisation using Myriad Gold Base (which was impressive).

I'd ask other BCML members: is there any apocryphal work that you consider that could be matched against JSB's regular opus? My current inclination: BWV 142 = BWV 143.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 8, 2007):

Russell Telfer wrote:
< I'd ask other BCML members: is there any apocryphal work that you consider that could be matched against JSB's regular opus? >
My favourite non-Bach is Hoffmann's "Schlage Doch Gewünscgte Stunde", BWV 53

Xavier Rist wrote (February 8, 2007):
Russell Telfer wrote:
< I'd ask other BCML members: is there any apocryphal work that you consider that could be matched against JSB's regular opus? My current inclination: BWV 142 = BWV 143. >
Those apocryphal cantatas are really a fun and fascinating subject. It forces you to situate yourself in front of Bach's music and makes you reflect on the relativity of judgement and evaluation.

I recently discovered a few of them (so far BWV 141, BWV 142, and BWV 15). Eventhough there is apealing music in them, I feel strongly that, would I stand five miles away, I couldn't be fooled by them for more than a few bars. In every department (harmony, counterpoint, form, melodic invention, rhythmic language) there is just a level of complexity, refinement, boldness in JS's music (even in his early work, I'd say specially in his early work) that can't compare. A list of differences or impossibilities, in general traits as well as in details, would be easy to pull. But this is me talking today. Who knows what I would have thought twenty years ago?

Are you familiar with the van Meegeren case?

He was a dutch painter that spent several years in the 1930's forging fake Vermeer. When the paintings started appearing on the market, the whole artistic community was in turmoil, and specialists all over the world quickly authentified them. The funny thing is that, when you see the pictures today, even if you are a simple art lover, you can't help jumping and wondering how all those scholars could be tricked by such abominable daubs! That seems totally incredible. Here is a link: http://essentialvermeer.20m.com/misc/van_meegeren.htm

Back to the apocryphal cantats. I don't know about you but I really like this Helbich guy. He conducts with imagination, taste, elegance and a sort of juvenile enthusiasm that is really refreshing. I wish he would have been the "designated driver" of the Brilliant Classics cycle instead of boring bland schoolmaster Leusink...

Peter Smaill wrote (February 8, 2007):
[To Xavier Rist & Russell Telfer] The Helbich CD's are fascinating in, as has been said, revealing the qualitative difference between the apocryphal works and the real thing, and in most cases it is surprising that the works were ever considered to be by Bach, even the lovely, quirky BWV 53.

My favourite on grounds of its exquisite melancholic/pietistic temper is BWV 222, "Mein odem ist Schwach", actually by Johann Ernst. Its heartfelt spirituality comes through the use of a very low bass register and an almost operatic interaction of soloist and chorale. This piece, and the motet variant , IMO justify the acquisition of these CDs alone.

Russell Telfer wrote(February 8, 2007):
Thanks to Douglas, Xavier and Peter for your thoughts on apocryphal cantatas, and CDs.

It's not so long ago that I'd finally heard all of the genuine cantatas. It seems a pity to miss some out because of their provenance.

 

Georg Melchior Hoffmann

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 9, 2007):
Yesterday or the day before Eric adduced, amidst his announcement of his acquisition of Bach so-called Apocrypha, Georg Melchior Hoffmann. I have a copy only of the 2 missae breves with the Deutsches Magnificat CD. It is one of many CDs which I rarely re-listen to. I did however re-listen upon reading Eric's note to the Deutsches Magnificat (I still have the LP of Rifkin's recording; don't listen to any LPs). It is a nice work that is certainly not stunning. The singer, as Eric noted, is very fine indeed. The whole performance is engaging.

I then wondered about the attribution of this as well as of Schlage doch (BWV 53) and BWV 189 (which I don't have) to Georg Melchior Hoffmann.

I read the page that Aryeh has on GMH which he and Thomas Braatz supplied from an Oxford book, as I recall.

My real question is the following:
Is all we have recorded of GMH works that are attributed to him and no works that are certainly by him?
I see the listing of surviving works in the above noted page but I assume these are mss. and not recorded. While I have not heard BWV 189, I would say that the Deutsches Magnificat, as Rifkin calls it, is a nice work when sung so well but that Schlage doch (BWV 53) is simply one great work which might be evidenced by the sheer number or recording of it. There really are a lot.

I am not really sure that Schlage doch (BWV 53) and the Deutsches Magnificat are by the same composer and we should always simply say "current attribution" as these change every few decades. When one searches google, many thousands of hits come up for an Anabaptist preacher with the name Melchior Hoffmann and just about the only thing that comes up for our guy is the Bach Cantatas website.

 

BWV 142

Russell Telfer wrote (February 15, 2007):
I have just spent a weekend studying and rehearsing Uns ist ein Kind Geboren, the cantata dignified with the title of BWV 142 (as well as BWV 248'2 and the Lauds from BWV 243). The German choral score shouts ANONYMUS at you on the front.

What a pity we don't know who it's by. You don't have to be too skilled to tell it's unlikely to be by Bach, but it's not far off, with some exciting touches. It has a labour-saving device which I'm not aware of Bach himself using, namely no 7 for Alto takes the music from the Tenor aria of no 5 and transposes it a fourth.

I've noted with interest recent comment on the "Problem" with the list and am doing my bit by sitting on my hands every time I feel tempted to be embroiled.

Incidentally I am occupying myself creating a midi version of this cantata - it fills a gap, it's good practice and it has a satisfying payoff. Later I intend to enhance it using Myriad - which I regard as the best choice of music notation software at its price. I hope to make it available to members but it'll take a week or two.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 15, 2007):
[To Russel Telfer] BWV 142 is most probably by Johann Kuhnau, J.S. Bach's predecessor as Thomaskantor:
This is a charming work that should be better known.
Francis Browne provided an English translation, which you might find useful:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV142-Eng3.htm
When the MIDI file is ready, I shall be happy to present it at the BCW.

 

Bach Cantata BWV 15 and Haydn some astounding similarities

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 1, 2007):
As most of you; J. Hadyn was the father of the Symphony as we know it today. Haydn was also acquainted with Bach's works. As a composer of such works; I took of the study of Hadyn's developement of the Symphony from his earliest works which feature elements of the concerto to the Symphony 102 which at time one thinks one is listening to an early work of Beethoven.

In the Symphony#93 or is it 94?; Haydn copys the whimering of the repeated Flute passages of the BWV 15.

Now as most of us now know---this Kantata is of disputed authorship. Many scholars now seem to think that the work is not by the Great J.S. Bach but by his ancestor and perhaps grandfather J.S. Bach Senior.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 1, 2007):
< In the Symphony#93 or is it 94?; Haydn copys the whimering of the repeated Flute passages of the BWV 15.
Now as most of us now know---this Kantata is of disputed authorship. Many scholars now seem to think that the work is not by the Great J.S. Bach but by his ancestor and perhaps grandfather J.S. Bach Senior. >

Huh? The BWV gives that piece (BWV 15, "Denn du wirst meine Seele") a pretty secure attribution to Johann Ludwig Bach; and that's referred back to an article by Scheide in Bach-Jahrbuch 1959.

And who's this elder JS Bach? JSB's two grandfathers were Christoph Bach and Valentin Lemmerhirt (some spellings may vary). He did have a grandson "Johann Sebastian Bach" himself, and there was also a nephew, but he too was younger than the main JSB here.

The way JSB himself reckoned The Bach Family Tree, only through the males -- see pages 200-211 of the old Bach Reader 1966 -- among the 59 males shown there, there's only one "Johann Sebastian" and it goes only
to one generation past himself. There are ten of "Johann Christoph" (including one of JSB's sons), plus his other son "Johann Christoph Friedrich", plus his own grandpa "Christoph", and uncle "Georg Christoph". 13 Christophs printed there, and only the one Sebastian. But it doesn't account for any of the other males, as father or grandfather or whatever, of any of the wives or sisters or mothers or aunts or grandmothers....

And further updates to that table are at page 285 in the New Bach Reader...still not accounting for any of the other Bachs through female connections. At least his own wives and daughters show up, this time. Pages 293-4.

 

Bach/Kuhnau - BWV 142 Uns ist ein Kind geboren [Beginners Bach]

Peter wrote (July 5, 2007):
Whilst Steve and Jack are treating us all to their thoughts on the real Bach cantatas, back over here in the junior section, our local community orchestra has just started to rehearse BWV 142 "Uns ist ein Kind geboren" which we are planning to put on over the Christmas period. It appears this is not by Bach but by one Johann Kuhnau. Does anyone have any views, comments on this work? Has anyone ever played it before as an amateur (or indeed professional)? Any advice on how it should be played? I would be most interested to hear anyone's comments.

Steven Foss wrote (July 8, 2007):
[To Peter] This is my second attempt to reply to your email. My first attempt was lengthy and was lost when 1000 other homes in the Riverside, California were suddenly without electric power and I temporarily lost my religion. I will attempt a brief summation.

I have not sung or performed instruments for BWV 142. The consensus is that this piece is not by Bach. As to Johann Kuhnau's authorship, it is only an "attributed to" work, with no final answer on the subject that I could find. (Spurious, Possibly by Kuhnau, Attributed to Kuhnau, etc seem to be the only references to infer that J S Bach not being the Author without proof to the contrary). At least Bach did nburn his predecessor's works as J J Rheinberger would later do in another Church in the 19th century.

Kuhnau is not the only composer who's work was misindentified as belonging to Bach by an overly enthusiastic Bach Geshellschaft. Witt (a Passaglia in d minor) and H. Purcell (another Keyboard Piece, hard to believe considering the completely different system of ornaments used by HP) as well as an alumni of Bach's stundents, especially the younger Krebs, and other anon individuals.

Johann Kuhnau of course was JSB predecessor as Kantor at St. Thomas Kirk. Kuhnau published a variety of Keyboard works under the title Klavier Uebung, and publication was during the 18th century generally only undertaken by someone with a reputation. (Publication was for something special as the expense of printing and the high price of the finished product, as expensive as a musical instrument, meant the distribution was for the wealthy and not the Masses.) Kuhnau's publication antedates that of Domenico Scarlatti's publication of Harpsichord Sonatas, and is noteworthy that Kuhnau's work contains pieces with the crossing over hands on the keyboard.

J S Bach was a shrewd business man in using the same title for his printed opus of Harpsichord Pieces and Organ Pieces, as J S Bach used a "Branding" or High name recognition with his publication (4 parts in all) under essential the same name, Clavier Übung.

(And all those that would argue that Clavier equals a Clavichord, I might point out that a 2 manual Harpsichord was specified for Parts 2 and 4, and an Organ for Part 3. Likewise in the manuscript copies for the Harpsichord Suites, the titles is in variably Suite pour la Clavecin, i e Harpsichord).

However, I digress. Your question is about performance.

Christmas pieces have a way of being played and consequently becoming popular. (It wasn't until the 1920's that the tradition of performing the Nutcracker at Christmas time became established, the performance was not expected to be at the Yuletide). Uns ist ein Kind geboren could be easily translated to Unto Us A Child is Born (with all do respect to Handel's Messiah, which was originally performed 13th of April, 1742-for Easter-has also become a fixture of Christmas time.)

If you have any influence over the conductor, here are some observations on performing 18th century music.

As this is a Christmas piece, the underlying feeling is one of great happiness and Joy and ones singing should reflect this.

What I have seen of the vocal score without the text is all in a minor, ie http://www.mutopiaproject.org/ftp/KuhnauJ/BWV142/part2/part2-a4.pdf , not the most cheery key. However, the Xmas Carols We Three Kings, and What Child is This are also in minor keys among others.

If a reference is to the future suffering of Christ, one should sing in a contemplative mood rather than a funereal, ie, the We Three Kings verse starting Myhrr is mine its bitter perfume."

During Advent (or Lent for that matter), 18th century organists restricted their use of stops or used the stops sparingly. During festive times such as Christmas, the Organists pulled out the stops, using more colorful stops and combination of stops (and a bell like contraption called a Cymbalstern). The basic idea was more austere performances during Advent to be superceded by more colorful perfornances during Christmas.

As this work is scored for 2 first Violins, 2 Second Violins, 1 Viola, 1 Cello, 1 Bass, and Harpsichord (could be continou), the issue of how many string players and singers per part.
As from Jack's many posts, The Leipzig council wasn't the most supportive of public servants when the subject of Church music was concerned. So in all possibilites the orchestra was probably not much more than a String quartet with a Bass and a couple of Violins to beef the ensemble. I would rather see 3 Violins per part, 2 Violas, 2 Cellos, and 1 Bass. 3 fiddles seem to stay in tune better than two, Violas are a little bit louder and harder to come by, ditto the Cellos, and this arrangement is both Period Instrument Correct and it isn't the end of the world if one instrumentalist gets sick, with the exception of the Bass player; just pray he doesn't get the flu.

I would similarly recommend the same rule of 3 for the choir. 3 vocies tend to stay on pitch (intonation) more easily than two.

Now for reality.

Not knowing anything about the size or resources of your Choir, I will make some observations for choirs I have sung in during my checkered past:

It is more than likely that the choir has a number of individuals that will be singing than the above I mentioned.

If it is a church choir, the majority of these singers can barely read music and will be singing by rote. If it is the typica church choir or choral society, it will have an over abundance of Sopranos, most Sopranos that cannot sing above the c above middle c. This group will overpower the rest of the choir by their sheer numbers or blunt force trauma.

There will be one Alto. She will be able to sing even into the lower Tenor range and have difficulty in the higher notes of the Alto range. A few Mezzo-Sopranos will be press ganged into singing Alto by coercion.

There will be one Tenor. The rest of the so-called Tenors are actually Baritones that are falsettoing any note above the E above middle C. They will be few in number.

There will be one Bass. Again, the rest of the Basses are actually Baritones that are stretching to reach the lower notes. There will be about twice as many Basses as Tenors.

Maybe only several individuals can sight read and sing from a score without the benefit of any rehearsal.

There will be no String orchestra. In its place will be either an Organ or Piano playing an arrangement of the score while simultaneously doubling all of the Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Bass parts.

In sections were there is only the basses singing, the tenors (1 tenor and baritones) will have to double the Bass line. If only the Altos are singing, the Tenors and Baritones will more than likely will be doubling in a falsetto voice. The above is especially true if either group has to sing against the Sopranos.

I think the best recommendations on how to perform BWV 142 Uns ist ein Kind geboren come from J S Bach himself, which he wrote to the Leipzig council as to the minimum requirements needed for church music performance. It is reproduced in the Bach Reader.

Good Luck on the Performance.

Peter wrote (July 9, 2007):
[To Steve Foss] Thank you very much for your most interesting reply which I will certainly pass on to our conductor. I will reply in more detail when we return from a short trip to Venice - we leave in 20 minutes! Hope to do a bit of "following in Vivaldi's footsteps" there whilst the others do the usual St. Mark's, Doge's palace, etc...

Steven Foss wrote (July 10, 2007):
[To Peter] Bon Voyage!

Enjoy Venice,

 

Recordings of Non-Bach Cantatas: BWV 15 | BWV 53 | BWV 141 | BWV 142 | BWV 160 | BWV 189 | BWV 217 | BWV 218 | BWV 219 | BWV 220 | BWV 221 | BWV 222 | 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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