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What is a Cantata?

What is a Cantata?

Dick Wursten wrote (September 17, 2002):
In a footnote in <Paul Seiffert, Einfuhrung in die Hermeneutik> I read a very illuminating story about the shift in meaning of the words 'cantata' and 'composition' during the centuries [I copied the entire text in German. (= p.249,250 of the abovementioned book). You can find it below]. Here the main thoughts (headlines) in English:

In Vienna 1788 Mozart conducted a cantata of C.Ph.E. Bach based on a text of K.W. Ramler. The report on this concert in a local newspaper goes as follows: 'Es wurde Ramlers Cantata nach der Composition des Hamburger Bachs aufgeführt'. [engl: Ramlers cantata was performed according to the composition of the Hamburg Bach]

1. cantata = first a literary form, genre (just like ballads, madrigals).The added music became so prominent that the first meaning of the word was transferred to the musical form. The cantata-poets wrote 'auf Vorrat' (to create a stock) at service of any future composer (they of course tried to write singable'). The texts were there, ready-made and suited (fit, apt) for a musical composition. Edrmann Neumeister published his first book in 1700... Bach wrote music on it decades later.

2. composition. The phrase <according to the composition of X> is clear in the light of what is written sub1. The literary text is a separate entity, which 1. exists also without the music and 2. can be object (subject?) of several compostions. (cf. The 'Brockes-Passion' by Handel, Telemann, Mattheson). Kind of 'public domain'. When it is written that 'the cantata of X is performed according to the composition of Y' this phrase is as clear as....

GERMAN QUOTE from Seiffert...

Ein ganz erstaunliches Beispiel für das Mißverständnis eines historischen Textes bot der Musikjournalist Heinz Josef HERBORT (Die Zeit Nr. 16, 13. April 1990, S. 66). Herbort zitiert hier einen Bericht aus Wien im Jahre 1788 über die Aufführung einer Kantate Philipp Emanuel Bachs nach einem Text von [Karl Wilhelm] Ramler (Dirigent war Mozart, was für das hier zu Erörternde aber keine Rolle spielt).

Der für uns wichtige Textauszug lautet: Es "wurde Ramlers Cantate nach der [ ... 1 Composition des [ ... ] Hamburger Bachs [ ... ] aufgeführt!" HERBORT sieht in diesem Bericht "eine Reihe heute verwunderlich erscheinender Umstände". Die ersten beiden dieser Umstände formuliert er so (man glaubt es fast nicht, aber es steht schwarz auf weiß da): j. wird die eigentliche Kan tate für eine Arbeit des Textdichters gehalten [ ... 1; 2. wird das Stück nach' einer Komposition aufgeführt, das heißt: die
Frage nach Original oder Bearbeitung ist sekundär; [ ... ]"

Dabei ist dieser Bericht für jeden, der sich auch nur ein wenig in der Sprache und der Geistesgeschichte des 18. Jahrhunderts auskennt, vollkommen klar.

Zu 1. Viele Gattungsbezeichnungen, die wir heute der Musik zuordnen, waren auch oder sogar ursprünglich literarische Bezeichnungen. Ganz deutlich wird das etwa, wenn wir von "Loewe-Balladen" sprechen. Hier weiß jedermann, daß damit zunächst die - auch unabhängig von Loewes Vertonungen bekannten - Textvorlagen gemeint sind: "Balladen" kennen wir etwa von Herder, Bürger, Goethe, Schiller, Uhland, Fontane und anderen. Entsprechendes gilt für das "Madrigal", das ursprünglich die Bezeichnung für eine bestimmte Gattung von Gedichten war, die erst sekundär auf die Vertonungen überging. So sagte Michael Prätorius (1571-1621), "Madrigal" sei ein "Nomen Poernatis und nicht Cantionis" (Alfred DÜRR: Die Kantaten von Johann Sebastian Bach. Band 1. 5., neubearb. Aufl. Kassel: Bärenreiter-Verlag; München: Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag (1971) 1985. (dtv Wiss. Reihe 4431) S. 19 f.). Insbesondere für das 18. Jahrhundert gilt: Die Dichter schrieben nicht für einen bestimmten Komponisten, sondern gleichsam "auf Vorrat", zur Bedienung für künftige Vertonung durch interessierte Komponisten, Texte, die so angelegt waren, daß sie im Sinne einer bestimmten musikalischen Gattung oder Form vertont werden konnten und daher schon vom Dichter entsprechend bezeichnet wurden. So vertonte
Händel neun"Deutsche Arien" aus dem"lrdischen Vergnügen in Gott" von Barthold Hinrich Brockes - und wer einen Blick in dieses Dichtwerk wirft, wird zu seiner Überraschung feststellen, daß die von Händel vertonten Textstücke schon bei Brockes die Überschrift "Aria" tragen, also von vornherein so angelegt waren, wie es dem damals (auch etwa von j. S. Bach) gepflegten Arientypus entsprach.

Genau das gleiche gilt nun auch für die Kantate. Der Theologe
Erdmann Neumeister (1671-1756) veröffentlichte schon 1700 unter dem Titel "Geistliche Cantaten" den ersten Jahrgang seiner Kantatentexte (DÜRR S. 21), die unter anderem dann auch j. S. Bach benutzte. Hieraus wird völlig klar, daß ein Dichter eine "Cantate" zunächst als ein selbständiges Dichtwerk drucken konnte, dessen sich die Komponisten nachträglich bedienten.

Zu 2. "nach der Composition von" bedeutet ganz einfach soviel wie,in der Vertonung von' - eben weil das ursprüngliche Dichtwerk ja unabhängig von der späteren Vertonung durch einen bestimmten Komponisten bereits existierte. Mit Bearbeitungsproblemen hat das nichts zu tun. Die sogenannte "Brockes-Passion" beispielsweise wurde außer von
Händel auch von Keiser, Mattheson und Telemann vertont. Wenn sie also "nach der Komposition von Keiser" aufgeführt wird, dann versteht das jedermann zutreffend so, daß eben die Vertonung von Keiser und nicht die von Händel, Mattheson oder Telemann zu hören sein wird.

F. Oreja wrote (September 17, 2002):
Dick Wursten wrote:
< In a footnote in <Paul Seiffert, Einfuhrung in die Hermeneutik I read a very illuminating story about the shift in meaning of the words 'cantata' and 'composition' during the centuries >

I see a little contradiction between the sentence:
< 1. cantata = first a literary form, genre (just like ballads, madrigals).The added music became so prominent that the first meaning of the word was transferred to the musical form. >

... and the sentence (quoted by you):
< Hieraus wird völlig klar, daß ein Dichter eine "Cantate" zunächst als ein selbständiges Dichtwerk drucken konnte, dessen sich die Komponisten nachträglich bedienten. >

The word 'konnte' is very important. It has been said there that it was possible to call 'cantata' to a text composed for being put in music ('auf Vorrat' for future composers). But that is not the same as to say that the very origin of the cantatas was in a literary genre. More accurate would be to say that the cantata was, properly said, a musical genre, and that later some writers could take the name of the musical form for composing texts whose destination was nothing but to be put in music precisely in form of a cantata.

Historically, a 'cantata' (something to sing) is a italian word paralell to 'sonata' (something to sound, on instruments). As far as I know, the fist time the word was used was by Grandi in 1620, and it was the title of musical compositions, not the title of textual works.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 17, 2002):
[To F. Orega] As far as the word goes, it would makes sense that "cantata" has to do with singing ("cantare" I think).

This of course implies that there is music (or is intended to be music), but it also implies (since the Swingle singers did not exist yet) that there are words as well.

However, it is more likely that it has to do more with music than with literature.

I agree with Fernando.

Santu de Silva wrote (September 17, 2002):
[ToMatthew Neugebauer] But the point is, if someone walked up to you back in those days with a "cantata" clutched in his eager little hands, what did he or she have? the words or the music?

I remember the old days when all my classmates and I ever did was collect Beatles "songs". You may rest assured that it was just the words. Occasionally, the "chords" would be circulated, too, but they were mainly the words; sometimes only the words.

Perhaps the meaning of the word began to evolve as the "technology" of music notation became more accessible to folks who ultimately determined the use of words. (I'm using the word "technology" in the very broad sense of an idea for notating music --on paper, clay tablets, or whatever. :-)

Dick Wursten wrote (September 18, 2002):
[To Santu de Silva] Right, this is the point I wanted to make... ! Your formulation is better than I ever could. ! Thanks.

Which of course does not mean that Fernando was wrong in pointing out that the form of the cantata already existed before the first religious cantatas (i.e. texts) were published in german. ...and also of course they were meant to be sung.... one day, one way or/and the other.

...and that Neumeister was a visionary man to try to introduce a new form of church music, by providing the text, hoping (or already having talked it over with...?) that it would inspire a cantor/musician to 'compose music which accords with the written words'.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 19, 2002):
Dick Wursten quoted an article by Paul Seiffert which seems to indicate that the term, "Cantata" or "Kantate" was used first by theologians or religious verse poets in referring to cantata texts that were later used by composers such as Bach and Telemann. From my research in consulting the New Grove's, MGG, and the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd], this contentions seems to be quite true.

It is important to isolate the term "Cantata" into various national streams: Italian (the earliest), French, German, and English.

When examining the term "Cantata" when applied to Bach, a very specific stream is being referred, one which is influenced at times by the innovations that Italian music provides, but also is quite unique in its application within the Lutheran Church in the general area where Bach lived.

As far as I can determine, Bach, in anything that we have in his handwriting, whether titles of cantatas or letters in which he writes about his cantatas, NEVER [well, almost never] used the term "Cantata" in referring to any of the works that we now call by that name. If there is anyone out there reading this who has information to the contrary, I would like to know about it.

The Coffee Cantata (BWV 211) is subtitled "Kaffee-Kantate" in the BGA and NBA. But did Bach write this title for the music? We'll never know, because C.P.E. Bach wrote the title himself. In Picander's original book [Ernst-Schertzhaffte und Satyrische Gedichte] this text first appears in printed form, but Bach did not compose the cantata until 1734-35. Picander's specific title for the Coffee Cantata is "Uber den Caffe. | Cantata" The latter designation, "Cantata," was quite frequently used by the writers/poets who published their texts for cantatas. It is extremely rare that Bach himself would use this title. For the Wedding Cantata, "O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit" (BWV 210), there is a rare instance where C.P.E. Bach once again writes the title, "Hochzeits Cantate" on the outside of the folder containing the original parts (the score is no longer extant), but on the inner folder appears the title in Bach's own handwriting: "Cantata | a |Voce sola | 1 Traversa | 1 Oboe d'Amore | due Violini } 1 Viola } Violone in Ripieno | e | Continuo," after which some unknown hand wrote "di | J. S. Bach." It may be that Bach thought differently about his secular cantatas than he did about his sacred cantatas.

In those cases where we have autograph copies of the score, Bach begins the title with the designation of the specific Sunday or holiday of the church year. The subtitle may contain further information such as "Concerto," "Trauer Music," "Drama," and "Actus tragicus." However, wherever Bach has to refer to the generic term "cantata" as a composition to be performed in church, usually as a part of the church service, these are the terms that he always uses:

"Kirchen-Music" or "Kirchen-Musique" often simply "Music" or Musique" "Kirchen-Compositiones" or "Concert Musique"

Georg Feder, who wrote the article for the MGG on the German Protestant Church Cantata, claims that the term "Cantata" was rarely, if at all, used by composers/musicians. Supposedly (Feder states) Rosenmüller used the term once in 1679 and Crato Buthner did as well, but these facts can not be confirmed. The German church cantata came into being around 1660, reached its culmination in the 18th century and essentially died out around the time of Mendelssohn in the 19th century.

So why does everybody call these compositions by Bach, "Cantatas," if the composers in the 17th and 18th centuries did not use this term? Blame it on the BGA!

When the BGA began printing Bach's cantatas, they used the term, "Kirchenkantaten." This term has stuck with us ever since. Musicologists, Bach biographers, and theologians have spawned a long list of separate categories by analogy to C.P.E. Bach's "Hochzeitskantate": "Choral-, Psalm-, Spruch-, Dictum-, Evangelium-, Erbauungs-, Predigt-, Kommunions-, {and the church year designations} Advents-, Oster, Neujahrs- (etc.) kantate."

It appears that Paul Seiffert has stated correctly the situation about the word "Cantata/Kantate" in regard to the specific situation that prevailed in Germany from the mid 17th to the beginning of the 19th century. The use of the term as a designation for a specific type of church composition that existed in Germany in that time frame is a later development (after Bach's death and after this type of composition had reached its zenith and was in decline.) The primary impetus for the use of this term was established by the BGA editors who used this term to include all of Bach's church compositions of this type.

F. Oreja wrote (September 19, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote
< Dick Wursten quoted an article by Paul Seiffert which seems to indicate that the term, "Cantata" or "Kantate" was used first by theologians or religious verse poets in referring to cantata texts that were later used by composers such as Bach and Telemann. From my research in consulting the New Grove's, MGG, and the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd], this contentions seems to be quite true. >
M
any thanks for your interesting explanations regarding the notion or term 'Cantata'. You have stated mostly correct facts, but in my opinion a) you have left without consideration also very important historical facts, and b) you are going very far whith your conclusions, specially regarding to the responsability of the BGA assignating to some works a denomination witch, in your opinion, is nothing but a misunderstanding.

< So why does everybody call these compositions by Bach, "Cantatas," if the composers in the 17th and 18th centuries did not use this term? Blame it on the BGA! >
Take for example K. Kittels Arien und Cantaten from the year 1638. These are secular songs after the italian stil: But you have still the word in german. It is true that the german evangelic cantata developed from other forms like Motetes or Arias, and that the very important point there was to be an interpretation of the Bibel word, something like a musical sermon. I don't know if we have domuments by Bachs own hand where appears the denomination 'Cantata'. That Bach's Cantatas were called cantatas seems to be evident for the next reason. Look at the for the history of the german Cntatas very important work of Neumeister from the year 1700: Geistliche ->Cantaten<- statt einer Kirchen-Musik [english somethinlike: religious cantatas in the place of church music]. In this work Neumeister wrote cantata-texts for all sundays and festivities of the year. And very important: the finality of the texts was to be put in music for religious celebrations, as the title already suggest! As soon as in 1713 or 1715 Bach used one text from Neumeister's work for the Canatata BWV 18, one of the earliest cantatas, composed in Weimar. And that was not the last time Bach used 'cantata'-texts for 'cantata'-compositions. It seems evident to call cantatas what Bach was composing.

< It appears that Paul Seiffert has stated correctly the situation about the word "Cantata/Kantate" in regard to the specific situation that prevailed in Germany from the mid 17th to the beginning of the 19th century. >
Yes, the situation was stated correctly for the reason I explained in my previous message: these were works to be put in music by leaning against the already very famous italian cantatas - and in opposition to its secular character. The text was so important because for evangelic understanding it was an interpretation of the God's words: a sermon in a musical dimension, a work for theologians and not merely aesthetical (in modern meaning) writers. Calling 'canatata' only the text is nothing but a 'pars pro toto'-denomination, a naming the part instead of the whole.

< The use of the term as a designation for a specific type of church composition that existed in Germany in that time frame is a later development. >
I hope, now is clear that such a statement is an exageration.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 19, 2002):
F. Oreja stated that he hoped that my statement which follows is an exaggeration:
“The use of the term as a designation for a specific type of church composition that existed in Germany in that time frame is a later development.”

Fernando then cites K. Kittel as proof:
>>example K. Kittels Arien und Cantaten from the year 1638<<

This single work that has come down to us can not be considered the real beginning of the German cantata form, however it may played a small role along with many other developments that were taking place in Germany, particularly at the Court in Dresden in the 1st half of the 17th century. Some interesting details:

1.) Konrad Kittel, as a talented instrumentalist (primary instrument was the theorbo), was given an all expenses paid trip and extended time (5 years!) to study in Venice where he was exposed to the innovations in music (the Italians were pioneering new musical forms that were spread throughout Europe not only by visits from musicians from other countries but also because their own musicians took up key musical positions in the major courts in Europe.) He returned from this trip together with Heinrich Schütz.

2.) At most, Kittel might be credited with attempting to establish some elements of the Italian “Aria” form using German texts by poets of the time. It would be an outright exaggeration, if not a misunderstanding, to see in his “Cantaten” much, if anything at all, of the greater glory of the Bach cantata form. As Kittel himself points out in his introduction to this single work of his (Op. 1, if you will,)

3) Kittel selects the term, “Cantaten,” simply to designate a composition consisting of two or more voices (those for single voice are “Arien”) and having numerous verses to be sung. For all practical purposes, these compositions could be called “Madrigale,” “Concerte,” or “Motteten.”

4) Kittel’s main intention for publishing this book was to teach young boys how to sing high and properly. It is, in essence, a vocal method book based on Caccini with German texts sometimes imperfectly set to music. The compositions move progressively from 1 voice to 4. As Kittel himself states on the title page:

“Arien und Cantaten
In die Musica übersetzt durch Caspar Kitteln“ [„Arias and Cantatas translated into Music by Kaspar Kittel“]

A much greater influence in the melding of the Italian musical forms and the German Lied in a sacred setting is Heinrich Schütz.

Hier is a quote from the MGG only regarding the "Aria":

„Der dramatisierende affekthafte Sologesang in der Form des stile rappresentativo oder des Solomadrigals hatte es schwer, in Deutschland einzudringen, weil er im deutschen (weltlichen und geistlichen) Kunstlied auf einen sehr zähen Gegner stieß. Erst auf dem Wege über ein Kompromiß mit dem Liede konnte die ital. Monodie Eingang finden, wie es bei Nauwach (1627), bei Selle (ab 1627), bei Staden (ab 1630), bei Kittel (1638) usf. zu beobachten ist. Die Gesänge in Schützens verlorener Dafne dürften kaum anders beschaffen gewesen sein. In H. Alberts Arien (1638-1650) ist die Auseinandersetzung noch in vollem Gang, und erst unter der Meisterhand A. Kriegers hat das deutsche Sololied eine Prägung erhalten, die beide Teile zu einer höheren Einheit verband. Auf geistlichem Gebiete kam ein Kompromiß zwischen der ital. affekthaften Monodie und dem kleinbesetzten Konzert zustande, so bei Klingenstein (1609), bei Staden (seit 1616), bei Schein (seit 1618), bei Selle (seit 1630) und bei Scheidt (seit 1631). Schütz hat zwar schon in seinen Psalmen von 1619 gelegentlich von der Monodie Gebrauch gemacht und wohl seit dieser Zeit laufend solistische, affektgesteigerte Kompos. im »stylus oratorius« geschrieben, größere Reihen davon aber erst seit 1629, bzw. 1636 (erste Teile der Symphoniae sacrae, bzw. der Kleinen geistlichen Konzerte) drucken lassen. Er ist, mindestens für Mittel- und Norddeutschland, der Anreger und das Vorbild aller nicht liedhaft gebundenen solistischen Vokalkompos. gewesen. In ihrer ursprünglichen, frei deklamierenden Gestalt war diese ital. Monodie in Deutschland nur private Andachtsmusik, bzw. KaM. Allmählich hat sie sich allenthalben (bei Schütz selbst seit den Symphoniae sacrae II, gedr. 1647, aber früher komp.) mit dem bel canto-Stil L. Rossis und Carissimis verschmolzen und ist in dieser Gestalt, die aber noch sehr oft das Lied streift, ebenso in die kirchliche wie in die theatralische Kompos. (»Aria« der Kantate, der Oper, des Oratoriums) eingedrungen. Sie hat wie die ital. »Aria« das Rezitativ von sich abgespalten. Aber wie dieses in seiner deutschen Form noch bis zu Bach, Mattheson und dem frühen Händel hin vom ital. Opernrezitativ grundverschieden blieb, so hat sich auch die deutsche »Aria« noch bei Buxtehude, bei Kusser, bei dem jungen Bach u.v.a. gegenüber der ital. Schwester die nationale Sonderart bewahrt. Erst um 1720/30 ist auch in Deutschland die ältere »Aria« in jenem weltbeherrschenden Typus der ital. Da capo- Arie aufgegangen, der in einer mg. einzigartigen Weise geradezu der Formtypus des Spätbarock geworden ist. – „“
This quote speaks of the necessary compromises (a long process) between the Italian and German musical forms that eventually lead to the greatness that „Aria“ form assumes in the late Baroque, as for instance with Bach.]

Fernando also cites Neumeister:
>> Look at the for the history of the german Cantatas very important work of Neumeister from the year 1700: Geistliche ->Cantaten<- statt einer Kirchen-Musik [english something like: religious cantatas in the place of church music].<<

and then he states:
>>. And very important: the finality of the texts was to be put in music for religious celebrations, as the title already suggest!<<

Somehow I do not understand the point that you are considering ‘very important.’ and what does "the finality of the texts" mean? The ultimate purpose? Then read the following:

According to Konrad Küster in his article on “Neumeister, Erdmann” in the Oxford Composer Companions: J.S.Bach {Boyd] these ‘Sacred Cantatas” were never intended to be used as part of a church service as they were ‘operatic’ texts with recitatives and ariaso designated by Neumeister who was a professor/lecturer on the subject of poetry at Leipzig University and a pastor who was more interested in having people use these texts for contemplative reading on the given Sunday of the liturgical church year. Küster goes on to state: “Neumeister was not the inventor of the type of cantata text so important for the further development of Protestant church music, although he was clearly influential in its adoption.” He had, after all, written cantata text cycles in 1711 and 1714 almost specifically for Telemann to set to music. “Bach set five of Neumeister’s texts, two (BWV18 and BWV 61 at Weimar, probably about 1714 and three (BWV 24, BWV 28, and BWV 59) during his Leipzig years.”

Fernando, I see nothing in that which you have presented that would change my mind regarding Bach’s almost non-existent use of the term “Cantata” or “Kantate” in referring to the specific musical form of the ‘cantata’ as applied to the substantial portion of Bach’s oeuvre. The BGA was the first to apply this term, "Kantate" in the form "Kirchenkantate" to Bach's works in this category. Let me know if you find any information about this to the contrary!

Dick Wursten wrote (September 19, 2002):
As I read the discussion on this subject I think there is a agreement about the main issues.

1. The TERM cantata in ecclesiastical Germany designates a literary production, which is 'written' in a singable way and is probably meant to be sung (either private or in church). The term itself (cantare) and the wordly (mostly italian) examples corroborate this view. The habit of calling the musical composition after a cantata 'a cantata' is not absent though, but clearly a secondary (derived) practice.

2. OUR usage of the term cantata in this sense is not false or wrong, but just a normal development of living language ('lexical shift' it is called I think). The church-music of Bach (and Telemann and others) based on these cantatas is now referred to not as 'music after a cantata' but much shorter: a 'cantata' and we almost forgot that originally this word had a different (i.e. a much wider) connotation.

3. This is a very usefull shift and shortening since the mailing-list you and I are subscribed to is called BachCantatas, which is much easier to type than the mailing list Cantatas-of-many-different-authors-for-which-Bach-supplied-the-music.

By the way: BWV 56 (Kreuzstab): 1726: autograph of Bach: Cantata à Voce Sola e Stromenti.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 19, 2002):
Dick Wursten wrote:
>>By the way: BWV 56 (Kreuzstab): 1726: autograph of Bach: Cantata à Voce Sola e Stromenti<<
Yes, and this is at the top of the first page of music (perhaps only for solo cantatas?) because these are the most like their Italian counterparts (A. Scarlatti, etc.)

I just checked BWV 51 where both the cover page and the 1st page of the autograph score are extant (with BWV 56 only the 1st page is autograph)

For the cover page with all the detailed information, "cantata" does not appear. Only on the 1st page does Bach write "J. J. Cantata, Jauchzet Go allen Landen a Soprano Solo. 1 Tromba 2 Violini Viola e Cont. di Bach"

Klaus Langrock wrote (September 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] In course of my occupation with the works of Roemhildt, I found, that the word "cantata" is used whenever there is only one solo voice, accompanied by two violins and bc. In all other cases we find the generic term "concerto", in one case it is "Kirchen-Andacht" (by the way, this is based on words by Erdmann Neumeister). Roemhildt, too, set to music the words by Neumeister, which Bach used in BWV 28. Roemhildt named his composition "Concerto".

I hope this information from "foreign territory" is helpful

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 20, 2002):
[To Klaus Langrock] Yes, thanks to Dick Wursten, Fernando Oreja, and you, I am finding more interesting information as I ponder your responses and investigate further. [Sorry about the lack of a subject line in my last response - I needed to exit my computer and internet very quickly due to a thunderstorm.]

Looking at the NBA KBs with these questions in mind, this is what I have found thus far:

From about 25 cantatas, barely half of the compositions that we normally call a 'cantata' with 4 voice parts of which the solo arias and recitatives require more than one vocal soloist and usually have at least one major mvt. for full choir are designated as "Concerto" in Bach's own handwriting (BWV 16, BWV 28, BWV 36, BWV 40, BWV 65, BWV 132, BWV 151, BWV 152, BWV 155.) BWV 154 had "Concerto" but only in the hand of a copyist under Bach's direction. BWV 124 simply had "Conc." an abbreviation, but I hit 'pay dirt' with BWV 13 because here Bach finally wrote out the entire phrase: "Concerto da Chiesa." This is exactly what Bach was trying to express in German with all the other words that he used in his correspondence (I listed these earlier.) This is the name of the type of composition that we have come to know as "Cantata." Some other interesting variations in this small sample are: BWV 32 "Dialogus"; BWV 57 "Concerto in Dialogo"

In BWV 16 Bach opens the title with "J. N. J. A." This seems to be the full form of "J. J." Does anyone know precisely what stands behind thes 4 abbreviated capital letters?

In 1787, a copyist of a number of scores renamed a group of some of the above compositions as "Cantaten."

The NBA KB for BWV 63 explains that the text for this cantata is a parody of a selection from a collection of sermons and sundry orations, etc. for the 200th anniversary of the Reformation in 1717 in Halle by Joh. Michael Heineccius, a pastor who was present. The arrangement and titles of the sections are as follows:

CANTATA - Vormittag

Aria a Tutti

Da Capo

Duetto

Da Capo

Arioso - Ach nimm doch| großer GOtt! das Opfer gütig an |
22. voc. - So unsre Schwachheit dir vor solche Liebe bringen kan.

Duetto

Da Capo

Aria a Tutti

Da Capo

I have excluded the text for all but the Arioso (probably sung by soloist or pastor)

Any ideas as to what "22. voc." signifies? My guess is that it reveals the size of the choir which answers the Arioso response. No OVPP here!

Picander's book is entitled: "Cantaten | Auf die Sonn- | und Fest-Tage | durch | das gantze Jahr, | verfertiget | durch | Picandern." Leipzig 1728.

Ludwig wrote (September 20, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] In BWV 16 Bach opens the title with "J. N. J. A."

Thomas--I can only hazard a guess but unless you can supply me with more info that would indicate to the contrary---it seems that these could be the initils of librettists involved but not necessarily in this cantata but as a note to himself to consult. More cryptically these could refer to Jesus.

ps wish we had your thunderstorm here as we have been under a 5 year drought while you are getting too much rain.

Klaus Langrock wrote (September 20, 2002):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< In BWV 16 Bach opens the title with "J. N. J. A." This seems to be the full form of "J. J." Does anyone know precisely what stands behind thes 4 abbreviated capital letters? >
"J.N.J." for "In Nomine Jesu"

Dick Wursten wrote (September 20, 2002):
[To Klaus Langrock]
J.N.J.A.
In Nomine Jesu...
Adiuva ??

Dick Wursten wrote (September 20, 2002):
Some more evidence:

DIRECT:
- necrology of Bach (by C.P.E. in Mizler 1754):
Die ungedruckten Werke des seligen Bachs sind ungefehr folgende:1. fünf Jahrgänge von KirchenSTÜCKEN, auf alle Sonn- und Festtage (Church-pieces)

INDIRECT:
- Carissimi's 'cantatas' were also called: concerto ecclesiastico or concerto da chiesa
- Neumeisters summarizes in his introduction, that 'a cantata doesnot look different from parts of the opera, because a cantata is composed of 'arias' and 'recitativos' (just like Carissimi's)
- Already in 1657 (Knupfer became cantor in Leipzig) the instruction for the cantor is: to perform a poly-phonic (mehrstimmig) PIECE or a CONCERTO after the lectio of the Gospel
- When Kuhnau took over (1712) the inventory shows that there was a complete series of 'STUCKE' (pieces) for son- and other festivaldays in the church-year, and for weddings, funerals and special occasions.

EXTRA: Bachs cantatas are a special kind of cantatas because he uses the CHORAL in his 'Hauptmusic', thus combining a cantata-text with a more objective liturgical element. This becomes esp. apparent in his cycle of his cantatas which is based on chorals.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (September 20, 2002):
< The primary impetus for the use of this term was established by the BGA editors who used this term to include all of Bach's church compositions of this type. >
This is probably (from what I can observe)the main reason why the term "cantata" stuck: convenience. Despite the many terms that JSB used, all the works that we today call a cantata have basically the same format: choruses, recits, arias, perhaps a duet, and usually concluded by a chorale (solo cantatas obviously cannot have choruses or duets, but can have recits, arias and a type of chorale fantasia), all within an average of 20 minutes or so.

I do not doubt that Tom's information is false in any way, but then why would writers use a term to title their short, sacred writings with a word so grounded in music?

 

'Motetto' / 'Cantata'

Continue of discussion from: Bach’s Library [Bach & Other Composers]

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 4, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated:
>> The caution I'd offer for David is: in terminology, don't forget that Bach himself sometimes called his "cantatas" by the name "motetto" when they were for more than one voice. Bach therefore didn't write "only 9" motets; please be careful to keep such generic terms clear in your mind... The words "motet" and "cantata" can both refer generically to any music that is sung as opposed to played; hence their names, etymologically. It doesn't work to try to segregate them from one another, as neatly as you appear to do. "Motet" sometimes picks up the added connotation of sacred vs secular text, but that distinction is also not completely reliable. [Music history doesn't have the neat little pigeonholes you evidently assume it does. 20th century cataloguing forces some unfortunate, and untrue, assumptions back into music that was not so clearly distinguished!]<<
Johann Gottfried Walther in his Musicalisches Lexicon…[Leipzig, 1732] defines ‘motet’ as follows:
“‘Motetto,’ plural ‘Motetti’ (Italian) [etc., etc. different spellings from different languages including Latin are given.] This is a musical composition richly decorated with fugal and imitative passages and based upon a biblical quotation. It is intended for singing only without instruments (with the exception of the bc); however instruments may play ‘colla parte’ with the voice parts in order to strengthen them. ‘These’ foreigners [this implies that the Germans around Leipzig do not agree with this] have even extended this term to include Latin texts and even include arias and recitatives with independent parts for instruments; take, for example, the first composition by Giovanni Battista Allegri….”

Walther's definition of ‘cantata’ is as follows:
“’Cantata,’ plural ‘Cantate’ (Italian) …is actually a long composition [“Musik-Stück”] with an Italian text and consisting of arias with recitatives mixed in. This composition consists of pieces with different time signatures and usually calls for a single voice and a continuo part. There may also be two or more obbligato instruments….”

Walther's definition of ‘concerto’ is as follows:
“’Concerto’ (Italian) means [2nd meaning given here]….a chamber music which is vocal as well as instrumental in nature….”

And:
“’Chiesa’ (Italian) a church. …’Concerti/Musiche da Chiesa’ = Concertos/Concerti which are suitable for the church.”

BL stated: >>don't forget that Bach himself sometimes called his "cantatas" by the name "motetto" when they were for more than one voice.<<
Put your cards on the table, Brad!

This is not ‘a microscopic point!’ Check the following link for information on what Bach ‘called’ his cantatas when he referred back to them.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/What-Cantata.htm

Now comes the most interesting revelation:

There is only the following, solid evidence from Bach’s own handwriting on a title page or 1st page of an autograph score:

BWV BWV 118, BWV 225, and BWV 226 are the only works that were really ‘called’ ‘motets’ by Bach.

Check the following link for Aryeh Oron’s commentary on BWV 118:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV118-Guide.htm

So we are not really talking about any ‘real,’ 'normal' church cantatas ever being called a ‘motet’ by Bach. Of course, there are some cantata mvts. that fall into the description of ‘motet’ as given by Walther above.

My research also interestingly indicates that Bach used the term ‘cantata’ only 6% of the time in the church compositions that are extant in Bach’s autographs. The compositions in this group are BWV 30a, BWV 36c, BWV 51, BWV 56, BWV 82, BWV 84, BWV 199, and [BWV 215.]

42% of the time [again based upon the compositions that exist as an autograph] Bach used the term ‘Concerto.’ This is a long list which I do not want to type in here at this point. I think it would be rather obvious that none of these [included in the latter list] would fall into the category of the ‘motet’-style cantata where all the instruments (with the bc excluded) play ‘colla parte.’

There are about 15 mvts. (mvts., not cantatas!) from Bach's sacred oeuvre which would fall into the category of 'stile antico' motet style. This is discussed by Alberto Basso in his article on 'stile antico' in the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd], Oxford University Press, 1999. Much of the detailed research in this category was completed by C. Wolff with Basso adding his particular (rather broad) slant to this topic. Bach had specific reasons for employing this style for isolated mvts. (this had much to do with the text which he was setting to music.) In any case, this is a very limited number of mvts. within cantatas.

BL stated: >>[Music history doesn't have the neat little pigeonholes you evidently assume it does. 20th century cataloguing forces some unfortunate, and untrue, assumptions back into music that was not so clearly distinguished!]<<
There are a few experts in this field that have been attempting to ‘stretch’ some of ‘the neat little pigeonholes’ by, wittingly or unwittingly, using methods that have also led to some unfortunate and untrue assumptions. Not every change is necessarily ‘a step in the right direction’ evolving upwards. This is simply a ron my part after the many ‘discussions’ on these lists and my personal investigation of some of the facts which I have attempted to verify.

I think that we need to be very careful when attempting to apply the terms, 'motet and cantata' when referring specifically to Bach's sacred music The 'pigeonholes' of 'motet' and 'cantata' were created subsequent to Bach's death [similar to the manner that 'secco' recitative was not in Bach's vocabulary as far as anyone can prove.] The question remains whether we or the experts should correct the common understanding of these terms as applied to Bach and not allow 'music history' to dictate an overly broad connotation for these terms, a connotation which wishes to include a number of different musical traditions existing in various cultures outside of Bach's tradition. If we decide in favor of such a broad interpretation, we should not then refer to Bach as actually using these terms in this fashion.

As I am committed to determine which of my statements and opinions can reasonably remain standing, I welcome comments and/or corrections, particularly with evidence to the contrary.

Donald Satz wrote (December 4, 2003):
[To Thomas Braatz] I must have taken a wrong turn to get to this site. I thought it was the Bach Recordings site, but I'm apparently way off the mark.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 4, 2003):
In response to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11869
Braatz wrote: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11879

"A microscopic point"? The only "microscopic point" I referred to was the typo in the spelling of Sebastian Knüpfer's name (on page 58 in Wolff's book), lacking the N, such that it said "Küpfer".

I agree, the naming of a vocal work as "motet" or "cantata" or "concerto" (etc) is not a "microscopic" point but a rather large one. Certainly a bigger one than Mr Lebut has realized, in his assertions that Bach wrote "only 9" motets. That is what I was saying. One can't pick up a recording of 'The Complete Motets' or a boxed set of Bach's 'Concertos' or whatever, and thereby get everything that Bach gave such a name; the modern names of the works are due to 20th century cataloguing. This is not a "microscopic" point at all.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (December 5, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I here erred on the side of caution. I included those works that the Edition Bachakademie series recorded as Motteten. I am aware that there might be more, but even here there is some room for doubt. The Mottet BWV 231 and Anhang 59 and 60 are considered by many experts to be doubious or even flase attributions to Bach, yet they are included in almost any Complete recording. Also, there are some without BWV numbers that were included in the Edition Bachakademie recording.

Also, your argument also coils in on itself, because Bach only used the term "Kantate" for a few Solokantaten. Therefore, there is no such thing as a "Complete Edition" of his Kantaten. Would you then demand all record companies rename all their Complete Kantaten recordings?

 

Concerto vs. Cantata

Continue of discussion from: Joshua Rifkin - General Discussions [Performers of Vocal Works]

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 20, 2013):
David Jones wrote:
< I'm now listening to BWV 56 ... This is a solo cantata however, so arguments for or against OVPP are rather moot here. >
It's worth noting that our terminology of "solo" and "choral" cantatas is not Bach's. Even "cantata" is a misnomer. Bach's normal term seems to have been "concerto." Julian can tell us how often Bach used the term
"cantata."

Evan Cortens wrote (April 20, 2013):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's worth noting that our terminology of "solo" and "choral" cantatas is not Bach's. Even "cantata" is a misnomer. Bach's normal term seems to have been "concerto." Julian can tell us how often Bach used the term "cantata." >
It is indeed true that Bach rarely calls his cantatas "cantatas". To give one example, on the title page for BWV 61, in which Bach lists the whole order of the service, the cantata is called the "Haupt-Music", or principal music.

However, his son C.P.E. Bach, in the catalog of his estate published in 1790, if he gives them a generic title at all, it's always "cantata" (or rather "Cantate"). Like we do today, Emanuel uses the generic term indiscriminately it applies both to sacred and secular works, and both solo and choral cantatas. (A typeset version of the Nachlass Verzeichnis is available at: http://cpebach.org/resources.html )

For a more contemporary example, Christoph Graupner, if he calls his cantatas anything, it only ever calls them "cantatas". There are 1,413 cantatas by Graupner. Most often, he writes nothing other than the textual incipit on the title page, but 38 times he writes "Cantata" and 20 times he writes "Cantate".

All this to say, I think the term "cantata" to refer to this music is rather more common in the eighteenth century than is often stated.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 20, 2013):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< However, his son C.P.E. Bach, in the catalog of his estate published in 1790, if he gives them a generic title at all, it's always "cantata" (or rather "Cantate"). >
By 1790, had "cantata" become an old-fashioned term for an earlier generation's music? Bach called his cantatas "concertos" as Schütz did a century earlier. But surely by the end of Bach's career, "concerto" would have primarily been used for orchestral works with the modern meaning of the term.

Were Lutheran composers still writing "cantatas" in the form known to Bach in the 1790's? Or were they a new "stile antico"? (pardon the contradiction)

Evan Cortens wrote (April 20, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, C.P.E. Bach didn't write a whole lot of what we'd call cantatas today. Even though his job description in Hamburg was rather similar to his father's (namely, cantor at a Latin school and director of music at the town churches), he seemed rather more interested in instrumental composition.

That said, the NV does list several of CPEB's own works identified as "Cantate", e.g. the "Paßions-Cantate". Much of what we might call cantatas today, however, are simply called "Musik", e.g. the several "Einführungsmusiken" (which the CPEB:CW calls "installation cantatas" in English) or the "Oster-Musik" (easter music).

All this to say, to answer your question, it does not seem that C.P.E. Bach consistently uses the term "Cantate" to refer to older music, but nor does he consistently use it to refer to his own music.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 20, 2013):
Doug Cowling wrote:
< Julian can tell us how often Bach used the term "cantata." >
I think it was only twice--I have the info somewhere

Julian Mincham wrote (April 20, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Funnily enough BWV 56 presently under discussion was labelled 'cantata' by Bach. Another one was BWV 84. Both are solo cantatas one for bass and one for soprano.Both end with a four part chorale. The question is that if Bach associated the term with the solo cantata why not use it also for all the solo cantatas? Four for alto, one for tenor and various others for soprano and bass.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 21, 2013):
[To Julian Mincham] With no disrespect intended ---what is the MS source of your statement and where does it currently reside? As most of us know this Cantata (BWV 56) waswritten for the Nineteenth Sunday after Trinity. Nearly all the MS, I have personally seen, of the Cantatas clearly state 'Kantate' on the title page or the surviving first page of the work. Bach, as far as can be determined, used Vivaldi as his 'concerto' model and probably learned to write this style from the publisher's works of Vivaldi in Amsterdam which he acquired probably from visiting musicians or through the mails. The proof of this lies in his arrangements for Organ of certain Vivaldi Concerti.

I would not call this (BWV 56) exactly a Concerto because it lacks most of the charecteristics of a Baroque Concerto but something in Concerto style.incorporated as part of a chief form. It, along with the others, is a rather challenging work. IF I recall correctly---one of the works in this style for Soprano got Bach fired because his wife was the soloist. At that time --women little if any rights to be a part of a church service. IF we look at BWV 29---here is a work that at first glance has most of the charecteristics of a Baroque Concerto for Organ but is not.. This brings up a performance issue----perhaps someone could enlighten us about this. The Score for BWV 29 has a strange score for Organ and below it Continuo. The Organ here instead of the voice is the 'solo' instrument. Now as most of know --the Harpsichord was never used except when the Organ was down. Countering that the Harpsichord was also used for Continuo in this score (thus accounting for separation of the Organ part from the Continuo part) is that St. John's had or did have at one time two Organs. If these parts were played on 2 separate organs by two organists (as we see this in Garibaldi) then that presented a very formidable performance task of keeping evertything together. There is a similar perfomance situation in the Magnificat. We must remember that the Conductor at this time only existed, if at all, in the most primitive format---that is he gave the beat from the Organ or Harpsichord and it was up to everyone after that to keep together and keep the beat going and this situation existed until Haydn came along.

 

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