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Systematic Discussions of Bach’s Other Vocal Works
Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 - Cantata 6

Discussions in the Week of November 14, 2004

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 16, 2004):
XO part 6, 1st mvt

In the piece officially scheduled for this week's discussion, namely the 6th part of Christmas Oratorio: I especially like the harmonic motto stuck Bach has in there to organize the first movement. Each time it gets to a big cadence, the basso continuo switches from its prevailing motion (eighths) and becomes quickly repeated notes (sixteenths).

For example, the last five bars of that movement: the harmony holds steady through three bars, G# diminished seventh chord (G#-B-D-F) while the bass line walks down through B, A, G# in its repeated notes. Over that A it's therefore a really strong dissonance, the accented passing clash against that G#-B-D-F happening in the rest of the orchestra. A nice illustration of the movement's text, which is about withstanding the attacking talons of proud enemies. Bach saves this crunchiest bit, at each big cadence, to be right before that resolution...intensifying the drama and the triumph of that steadfast faith, keeping clear which key we're going to in each place.

So, at these spots, he hits the deceptive 6th degree of the scale, walks the bass line back down with its different and unexpected change of figuration (i.e. being bowed twice as fast), then getting to I-6-4, V, and I right down to the very last moment. Brilliant stuff, the way he delays the expected dominant harmony for so long! Victory snatched from the jaws of impending defeat. Such a contrast with the main themes of the movement, which are so firmly the simple dominant and tonic, so unproblematic.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 16, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] Another striking feature is the canon-like treatment of the opening material; two subjects are first simultaneously presented by the 1st trumpet and upper strings, then the 2nd and 3rd trumpets, fortified with continuo and timpani, imitate that material, thus setting the music off on its powerful and stirring progress.

Also notice how the opening 16th note subject (strings bar 2), when it appears in the 1st trumpet (bar five), stays "on the same spot" for three bars, whereas when this subject appears in other instrumental and (especially) vocal parts throughout the movement, it moves down a bar at a time.

Doug Cowling wrote (November 16, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I've always felt that there was link between this chorus and and final chorale-fantasy which opens with a similar trumpet figure. And there are number of features which remind us that the work is both a set of six cantatas and a single oratorio. The "farewell" of the four soloists in the last recitative parallels the penultimate movement of the St. Matthew Passion. >
More arresting is the repetition of the "Passion Chorale" which is the first chorale in Part One and which closes the work transfigured in D major. As far as I've been able to discover, the chorale did not have the Passion sighnficance that it has for us but rather was a common communion chorale for the Lutherans. Has any ever tracked this chorale through the cantatas to see if it has a particular symbolize for Bach? I know it appears at the end of an alto funeral cantata whose title escapes me at the moment. Lovely scrunchy harmonies with a flute solo above.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 16, 2004):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>More arresting is the repetition of the "Passion Chorale" which is the first chorale in Part One and which closes the work transfigured in D major. As far as I've been able to discover, the chorale did not have the Passion significance that it has for us but rather was a common communion chorale for the Lutherans. Has any ever tracked this chorale through the cantatas to see if it has a particular symbolize for Bach? I know it appears at the end of an alto funeral cantata whose title escapes me at the moment.<<
The final use of the 'Passion Chorale' as the last mvt. of the WO BWV 248/64 is based upon the 4th verse of the hymn text for "Ihr Christen auserkoren" by Georg Werner (1648.) Just how this hymn became associated with the melody of the 'Passion Chorale' I do not know, but this type of thing does happen rather frequently with other chorale melodies and texts as well. Alfred Dürr describes as 'unusual' the inclusion of a Phrygian-mode melody "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" in a mvt. that beams forth in the purest D major key. The melody, under the latter name, is also found in BWV 153/5. It is of interest that CPE Bach, in his collections of 4-pt chorales gives the melody as "Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder" specifically for the setting of BWV 248/64. Dürr refers to BWV 248/5 as having the same melody ("Herzlich tut mich verlangen"), but interestingly CPE Bach gives the caption of chorale from this same mvt. as "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" (the Passion Chorale.) Perhaps there is some esoteric connection with this passion hymn melody after all, even though Dürr does not think so. Dürr, in his book on the cantatas [Bärenreiter, 1971, p. 134] says essentially the following: Bach probably intended the 'bracketing' ["Verklammerung"] of the entire oratorio by using the same melody twice, at the beginning and at the end. Dürr thinks that it is less likely that Bach intended to point toward the passion of Jesus by using this melody, because the Leipzig congregation at that time had not yet established in their minds such a tight connection between the melody and Paul Gerhardt's passion-tide hymn "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden. The same melody was used just as frequently with the text for "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" so that it would be difficult for the congregation to quickly make or even suspect the association that Bach might have been wanting to establish with the Gerhardt's passion-tide hymn text. [The problem with this is that Bach never set this melody with this text, "Wie soll ich dich empfangen" anywhere else and none of the collections of Bach's 4-pt. chorales reference this text associated with this melody. Strange, isn't it?]

What we find are a number of different 4-pt. harmonizations of the chorale melody listed under "Befiehl du deine Wege" BWV 161/6 and BWV 270, 271, and 272. The other instances of this chorale melody occur in the SMP as BWV 244/15(/17)44, 54, 62.

The untexted use of this melody in BWV 127/1, as reported first by Friedrich Smend, shows that Bach definitely had the 'Passion Chorale' in mind and could expect members of the congregation to recognize it even though the words "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden" were not being sung.

The question remains whether there was a stronger association with the 'Passion Chorale' than with the other possible text associations. Did Bach enjoy or make use of the 'double entendre' in the instance of BWV 248? Was it simply a matter of knowing which part of the liturgical year was being experienced at the time or which event or festival was being celebrated at the time?

I, personally, like to think that Bach, in BWV 248, was accomplishing a number of goals at the same time, one of which might have allowed for a hint/indication of the events still to come at the end of Jesus' life.

John Pike wrote (November 16, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < I, personally, like to think that Bach, in BWV 248, was accomplishing a number of goals at the same time, one of which might have allowed for a hint/indication of the events still to come at the end of Jesus' life.

I agree. The link between the Christmas story and the crucifixion is central. Jesus' main purposes in coming to earth were to teach and to die for our sins. Regardless of how much the Leipzig congregation understood the linkage, I suspect it was a definite decision by Bach to make a very strong linkage between the Christmas and crucifixion stories, much as writers of many carols have done.

Contiof this discussion, see: Passion Chorale [Other Vocal Works]

 

Discussions in the Week of November 1, 2009

William Hoffman wrote (November 1, 2009):
BWV 248VI: Intro

BWV 248VI

Main cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248.htm
Text, English, interlinear: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV248-6-Eng3.htm
Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Epiphany.htm
Commentary (Crouch): http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/248-VI.php
Score (BGA): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BGA/BWV248-6-BGA.pdf


Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 - Revised & Updated Discography
Aryeh Oron wrote (July 28, 2009): Following the revised discographies of SMP, SJP, MBM & SRP I am glad to inform you of the revised & updated discography of the Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 (XO).
For the already existing recordings I have added exact recording date (not only month/year) and link/s to source of info/possible purchase sources. I have done the deepest possible search over the web and discovered many dozens of unfamiliar recordings. For each new recording I have built performer page (or updated existing performer page) and bio page for each artist (conduct, vocal & instrumental ensembles, vocal soloists) who took part in the recording. I have added hundreds bios and updated many others.
The number of musicians' (& poets') bios on the BCW in now over 6,300. The 7 pages (a page for a decade) of the XO discography are linked from:http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV248.htm144 complete recordings (all 6 Cantatas) of XO and/or complete Cantatas from XO are now presented in the discography pages (in the previous version there were 99).Despite my efforts, the info presented for some of the recordings is only partial. Therefore, I would appreciate any help in making this discography (as well as other discographies on the BCW) even more comprehensive, updated and accurate by adding recordings, correcting errors and completing missing details.

EPIPHANY: 248VI, Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben (chorus, parody)
1/6/1735 (Christmas Oratorio Nos. 54-64; borrowed material (Nos. 1, 3, 4, 8-11 from lost church cantata, BWV 248a)
Text: Nos. 1-5, 7-10, probably Picander
Chorales: 6. Gerhardt "Ich steh' an deiner Krippen hier (S.1, mel. "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein"); 11 Werner "Ihr Christen auserkoren" (S.1, mel. Herzlich tut, mich verlangen)
Gospel: Mat. 2: 7-12, Magi
Literature: BG V2 (Rust 1856), NBA KB II/6 (Blankenburg, Dürr 1966); Eulenberg (Schering 1922), Baerenreiter (Dürr 1961), Dürr Cantatas:172-82 (2005)
Forces: SATB, 4 vv, 3 tp, timp, 2 ob d'a, str, bc
Movements: chorus (1), recs. (2, 5, 7), ariosi (3, 8, 10), arias (4, 9), chorale (6), chorale chorus (11)
1(54). Chs. (tutti): Lord, when the stiff-necked foes do rage (3/8, free d.c., passepied-menuett [Finke-Hecklinger])
2(55). Rec. (T): Then Herod, when he had . . . called the Wise Men (7-8)
3(56). Aso. (S, str): You traitor, try then to lay the Lord low
4(57). Aria (S, ob d'a, str): A mere wave of his hand makes men powerless (2 pt., 3/4 dance (Neumann HbKJSB)
5(58). Rec. (T): When they had heard the king (9-11)
6(59). Cle. (4vv, obs, str): I stand here by the manger
7(60). Rec. (T): And being warned of God (12)
8(61). Aso. (T, obs d'a): Go hence . . . my treasure, goeth
9(62). Aria (T, obs d'a): You stiff-necked foes cannot make me fearful (2/4, bouree-like [Little-Jenne] free d.c., concerto)
10(63). Aso.(SATB): What can the torments of hell do now?
11(64). Cle. Chs. (tutti): Now are you well-avenged (4/4, bouree-like [Little-Jenne])

The overall structure is symmetrical -- almost palindrome or mirror -- as in sections of Bach's Passion Oratorio settings of John and Matthew. It has a large opening and closing choruses, central plain congregational chorale, and first and second parts with narrative and lyric commentary of two arioso-aria pairs. The lyric verse of madrigalian chorus, ariosi and arias "re-interprets the Christian triumph over the failure of Herod's plotting as an all-inclusive recognition: now that God has become man, hell can no longer do us any harm" (Dürr Cantatas). The central chorale (No. 6[59]) establishes the context of the Dürr says.

Dürr assumes that the madrigalian movements "must have been remodeled in various ways." In his Preface to the Baerenreiter edition (1961) from the NBA, Dürr says: "The alterations which this revision necessitated perhaps made Picander unwilling to publish the (XO) text under his own name."

1(54). Dictum: "Herr, wenn die stolzen Feinde schnauben" (Lord, when our insolent enemies snort").* The opening festive chorus (3/8 passepied-menuett; trumpets, drums, minus flutes found in Parts 1 and 3), is an elaborate "multi-sectional structure of imposing grandeur" - closely related to a great fugue" (Dürr Cantatas). The first trumpet takes a prominent role, as in the closing, elaborate chorale.

*The dictum reference to "stolzen Feinde" (insolent enemies) is repeated in both arias, having rich Old Testament allusions, says Michael Marrisen in his insightful study, <Bach's Oratorios: The Parallel German-English Texts with Annotation> (OUP, 2008). The "insolent enemies" comes from Psalm 86:14, "the insolent rise up against me," and derives from the Hebrew word `zed," meaning both "presumptuous" and "insolent." The word "schnauben" (snort), says Marissen, relates to Jeremiah 8:16, "concerning the enemy approach, `One heard their horses snorting'."

2(55). Narrative Recitative (tenor). "Then Herod, when he had . . . called the Wise Men" (Mat. 2:7-8), tells them to seek out the Christ child and "when you find it, report this to me, so that I, too, may worship it" (Marissen), with a cadential ornamentation on the final word "anbete" (worship).

3(56). First Arioso (soprano & strings). "You traitor, try then to lay the Lord low." The soprano's unabashed, direct condemnation of Herod features unsettling, unrelenting, chromatic extensions. In an extensive biblical-historical footnote, Marissen concludes: "there is a great deal of depravity among the Herodians, and the Christmas Oratorio librettist may have used the language of Mark 6 because of this: just like Herodias has it in later for John (the Baptist, Mark 6:19), so does Herod now for Jesus."

4(57). First aria, (soprano, oboe d'amore and strings). "A mere wave of his hand makes men powerless." The soprano's mood shifts dramatically to one of comfort and joy as "the Most High has to utter just one word to put a stop to the insolence of his enemies." The music has a "pronounced dance character with a clear, periodic phrase structure. Indeed the ritornellos (A, B, C) can easily be united to absorbed Bach's form an instrumental movement for strings and oboe d'amore. . . would take the form A-BC-ABC" (Dürr Cantatas). With its ¾ tempo, it could have the influence of a gavotte, although neither Finkee-Hecklinger nor Little-Jenne comment on the aria. The rhythmic uplifts and pauses on the weak beats suggest Lombard rhythm which invested Bach's vocal music throughout the 1730s, according to Gerhardt Herz (<Essays on JSB>: 252f).

Marissen points out again the textual reference to "the insolence of his enemies" so that "the plan of mortals" will be "cut short," a reference to Psalm 33:10, where "The Lord brings the counsel of the heathen to nought, and cuts short the plans of the peoples."

5(58). Narrative Recitative (tenor). "When they had heard the king" (Mat. 2:9-11, the Adoration of the Magi). In contrast to the text of the narrative in the first recitative, with Herod's treachery and vengeance portrayed by the bass soloist, the Evangelist hesings a straightforward, compelling lullaby.

6(59). Chorale. "Ich steh' an deiner Krippen hier" (Stanza 1) is found in the Schemelli Gesangbuch (1736), No. 14, "For the Birth of Jesus Christ." The six-stanza text is by Paul Gerhardt (1653). It can be found in the CPO recording (57 songs, 1995). In NBA KB III/2.1 (1991), the Songbook, BWV 439-507 (69 melodies), the song is BWV 469. Thomas Braatz, BCW discussion, June 1, 2006, points out that, according to the NBA, pp. 103-148, Bach's involvement in the melody was "For revisions only (corrections, additions of only a few notes, key signatures, fermatas, rests)." Braatz also observes: "Of the 69 melodies, 21 of them appear for the first time in the Schemelli hymnal. These theoretically could be by Bach."

The melody of this chorale is "Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein"), found in organ chorale prelude BWV 734. "The melody is said to be derived by Luther from a song `Wach auf, wach auf du schoene' (Terry 1921 p. 270), associated with both hymns. In the Christmas Oratorio it is set to an Epiphany text [Paul Gerhardt]. Listed in the Orgelbuechlein [for the Lord's Supper], set in BWV 755 [chorale prelude], and used without text in Cantata BWV 70 (Sunday before Advent 1723)" [No. 8, trumpet solo "Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit," alternate title, cf BWV 307 [Ringwalt text] (ref. Williams, <Organ Music of JSB>, p. 476f)

7(60). Recitative (tenor). "And being warned of God" (12). The narrator's simple, direct biblical account leads directly to:

8(61). Second Arioso (tenor, oboes d'amore): "Go hence . . . my treasure, goeth." The tenor's proclamatory arioso punctuated with instrumental interjections reveals a panoply of emotions involving relief, conviction, tenderness, love, and assurance. Marissen shows how certain biblical words support these. "I will also not let him [free] from me./ His arm will embrace me out of love" relates to Song of Songs 3:4, "I hold him and will not let him go," and Luke 1:51,"He exercised dominion with his arm." The conclusion -- "and if I anxiously beseech you:/ `Lord, save [me]!,' then let me see salvation!" - refers to Psalm 55:2,5, "God . . . do not hide yourself from my beseeching" and Psalm 118.25, "O Lord, save [us] . . . ."

This four-movement sequence, parodied directly from the final four movements of its sacred predecessor, has the musical ingredients of an Italian opera dramatic concluding scena: solo arioso and aria, quartet commentary, and extended conclusion.

9(62). Second Aria (tenor, oboes d'amore & bassoon): "Now you insolent enemies might horrify." (2/4, bouree-like [Little-Jenne] free da capo., concerto). The swaying, pulsating music, with an occasional hold, is similar to the tenor aria with the same wind trio accompaniment, "Ach windet euch," in the 1725 version of the St. John Passion Oratorio. Textually, the aria begins with the third reference to the dictum, the "insolent enemies."

10(63). Arioso (SATB): "What can the torments of hell do now?" This brief imitative vocal quartet summarizes the triumph against the opening theme's enemies, leading to a joyous, celebratory conclusion.

11(64). "Ihr Christen auserkoren" (Stanza 1), the "closing chorale, as the conclusion of the entire oratorio, surpasses all the preceding chorale movements in splendor and dimensions," says Dürr. The melody is the "Passion Chorale," "Herzlich tut mich verlangen." The substitute text is by Georg Werner (1648).

The previous BCW discussion focused on the Passion Chorale: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/VD/BWV248-Part6.htm and continued as: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/Passion-Chorale.htm (Nov. 14-18, 2004).

Textually, the closing movement, citing the "Feinde" (enemies) again, "identifies the four eschatological enemies of humankind in the fifth line, "death, devil, sin, hell," points out Marissen in <Bach's Oratorios>. Bach's harmonization of the chorale melody, as in the previous setting (No. 6[59]), shows Bach's seasoned mastery, notably the rhythmic strength and seeming polyphonic, imitative complexity in the lower three voices

My commentary on the original version (source) of Part 6, BWV 248a, BC D8:

With the Christmas season fast approaching and wanting to produce a sixth part for his Christmas Oratorio, ending with the Feast of Epiphany, Bach turned to a recent festive sacred cantata of unknown origin, BWV 248a, and adapted it wholesale through parody: opening chorus, three accompanied recitatives, two arias, and the closing chorale chorus. He composed three interspersed narrative movements and a central four-part chorale, providing a basic structure similar to the other five-parts of the oratorio.

The original cantata is explored in depth in Klaus Häfner's article, "Zum Problem der Entstehungsgeschichte von BWV 248a" (The Problem of the Origin History of BWV 248a), Die Musikforschung 30 (1977), pp. 304-8. The evidence survives in four doublet parts -- found in the Christmas Oratorio performing parts set -- for two violins, continuo (organ), and basso continuo transposed elaboration in Bach's hand. The copyist of the three other duplicate parts was Rudolph Straube, one of the nine copyists for BWV 215 (early October 1734). Since the organ part has a closing chorale movement, it is a sacred work. The scoring of the XO Part 6 includes three trumpets, as do three other XO Parts, 1, 3 and 5, suggesting a festive occasion for the original sacred cantata. The opening chorus is a parody of the opening chorus of a lost Congratulatory Cantata for the Birthday of Saxon Court Minister in Leipzig, Joachim Friedrich Graft von Flemming., BWV Anh. 10, performed on August 31, 1731.

Häfner suggests a possible origin of BWV 248a in a Thanksgiving Service for the War of Polish Succession, July 6, 1734, at the Nikolas Church. There is no record of any music being presented at service, although the occasion and the music of BWV 248a is reminiscent of Handel's "Dettingen Te Deum" of 1743. Häfner considers less likely as the occasion a wedding service or the Town Council Service in late August 1743. He also suggests the possibility of another Dresden-related event, the Festive Service of Allegiance to August III, April 21, 1733, also at the Thomas Church. This event also was considered as the possible site for the first performance of the B-Minor Missa (Kyrie-Gloria), BWV 232I. There also is no record of the music at this service. This occasion was rejected by George Stauffer in his 2003 study of that Mass (p. 36f), in favor of the performance on July 27, 1733, before the Dresden Royal hCourt. Ulrich Siegele's 1995 article on the parody process in the XO, for the Ludwig Finscher Festschrift, suggests a special 1734 Michaelmas Fair church performance of BWV 248a at the same time as BWV 215 in honor of the visiting Saxon Court.

(N.B. Luther's German Te Deum is most appropriate for New Year's Day. I also suggest that the lost Cantata BWV 248a could have been performed for the annual Town Council inauguration, August 25, 1734. No other Bach cantata is documented for that date.)

Like BWV 215/8 (arioso for tenor, bass and soprano) "Lass doch, o teurer Landesvater"), the penultimate movement in BWV 248VI, No. 10 is an elaborate, accompanied recitative for multiple voices, reminiscent of the same movement type and placement in the SMP, BWV 244/77(67). Although these ensembles have overtones of an opera seria scena-finale, Bach's purpose seems more an intimate, concise summation preparatory to the closing chorus.

Source (9/28/08): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV215-D2.htm

In retrospect, it seems that the ever-calculating Bach deliberately created the earlier work, probably designed for a service of allegiance or thanksgiving for the Dresden Court, enraptured of Italian Opera. Bach then easily converted the music in totality through parody to the closing of his Christmas Oratorio, adding the biblical narrative to confirm its status as an oratorio, and the central chorale to bolster its structure and further engage the congregation. We could assume that Picander was the poet of the initial cantata but, like the XO, did not have the two texts published under his name because of the extensive changes Bach made. In the end, Bach had his cake and consumed it, too. It was a truly serendipitous situation as only Bach could realize it!

Neil Halliday wrote (November 3, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
> 4(57). First aria, (soprano, oboe d'amore and strings). "A mere wave of his hand makes men powerless." .....The music has a "pronounced dance character with a clear, periodic phrase structure.....With its ¾ tempo, it could have the influence of a gavotte, although neither Finkee-Hecklinger nor Little-Jenne comment on the aria. The rhythmic uplifts and pauses on the weak beats suggest Lombard rhythm which invested Bach's vocal music throughout the 1730s, according to Gerhardt Herz (<Essays on JSB>: 252f).<
This aria does have a remarkable rhythmic ambiguity (despite the "clear, periodic phrase structure"). It can be conducted right through in 4/4 time with the music beginning on the first beat, rather than in 3/4 time beginning on the third beat as written.

[For example, the opening ritornello is 12 (13) bars long, consisting of 3 sections of four bars length in 3/4 time, or the same 3 sections can be considered as three bars in length, in 4/4 time (with displaced bar lines).]

Deliberate design on Bach's part, to suggest the powerlessness of men's conceits vis a vis the power of God who vanquishes evil with a mere wave of His arm? (But this theory might stumble given that the movement is a parody, original text unknown).

------------

Münchinger has better tempos than Richter in the opening and closing choruses, livlier in the first and more measured in the grand closing chorale.

Also, Richter has mistakenly (IMO) given the charming little penultimate SATB recitative to the full choir.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 3, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
>Marissen points out again the textual reference to "the insolence of his enemies" so that "the >plan of mortals" will be "cut short," a reference to Psalm 33:10, where "The Lord brings the >counsel of the heathen to nought, and cuts short the plans of the peoples." <
A lot of other things happen in Psalm 33, not least of which (33:2-3):
<Praise the Lord with the lyre, make melody to him with the harp of ten strings
Sing to him a new song, play skilfully on the strings, with loud shouts> (end quote)

From a literary perspective, Psalm 33 reads like a pastiche of unrelated ideas. I hae made my choice.

Neil Halliday replied to Will:
>Deliberate design on Bach's part, to suggest the powerlessness of men's conceits vis a vis the power of God who vanquishes evil with a mere wave of His arm? (But this theory might stumble given that the movement is a parody, original text unknown). <
I agree that the term parody has a definite musical meaning with respect to the parody mass, as well as a long tradition with respect to Bachs reuse of his own materials. That does not make it correct. More like a bad habit, tough to break.

<the power of God who vanquishes evil with a mere wave of His arm?>

Could He not do it a bit more often, then? Theory stumbles , indeed, from my perspective, reworking (parody) or not.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 3, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>Could He not do it a bit more often, then? Theory stumbles , indeed, from my perspective, reworking (parody) or not.<
I always view the texts from Bach's perspective, on this list. That we moderns might have our doubts is immaterial (IMO) when discussing Bach's setting of the texts.

Is the traditional meaning of the term 'parody' (in classical music) "wrong"? It's a bit like the argument over the term 'recorder'. We might as well go along with these traditional English idiocies - there are more important changes to make in the world.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 3, 2009):
I agree with both of the points Neil made in response to my post, with a few additional comments:

NH:
>I always view the texts from Bach's perspective, on this list. <
I do, as well. I did not write very carefully. The point I meant to emphasize is that it is something of a stretch to connect melody to text, when the melody has been re-used and new text fitted to it. However, it is not out of the question that Bach may have envisioned this entire process in advance, in some instances. I believe this is what Neil meant by the theory may stumble, and I was attempting to agree with that point (while hurrying to add some humor re Larry Kings ex-wives, including the pre-coming out Billy-Jean).

NH:
>Is the traditional meaning of the term 'parody' (in classical music) "wrong"? It's a bit like >the argument over the term 'recorder'. <
These two issues are in the category of a tempest in a teapot, but also leading to spirited and sometimes interesting and/or amusing discussion. From the perspective of derivation, they are precisely opposite in nature.

(1) The use of recorder to refer to a type of flute has no etymologic support. It is simply a habit in English, but of early (16th C. documented) origin and now well established. Therefore, not confusing when one needs to refer to a dictionary. The OED first called the usage obsolete, but removed this designation with the supplement, and provided 20th C. examples of usage. If you look up recorder in any conventional dictionary you will get a clear definition, and often a picture of a flute-like musical instrument.

(2) The use of parody for re-using melodic material with new text derives from the Renaissance term parody mass, an etymolically correct usage. Unfortunately, the implications of the word parody have changed greatly in the intervening years, now implying some form of burlesque and/or humor in the copy. I believe that is the only meaning you will get by looking it up in conventional dictionaries, at least those I have at hand, including the virtually comprehensive OED.

Also handy on my shelves, the Harvard Dictionary of Music has a separate entry for parody, but mainly with reference to parody mass or related techniques prior to 1600. The initial definition:
<(1) In present-day usage, a satirical imitation, such as may be created in music either by replacing the original text with a comic one or by changing the music itself in a comic manner.> (end quote)
Specifically, no mention of parody to describe Bachs reworking or re-use of his own (or others) music, with added or altered text, for which they cross-reference contrafactum (as I previously reported), after this inital comment:
<(2) In early practice, replacement of the text, with (or more often) without the implication of caricature.> (end quote)
Note the especially vague early!

Only when we refer to the entry for contrafactum do we find:
<In 17th- and 18-century French usage the transfer of texts was called parodie [...] These parodies were instrumental pieces (dances) to which a poetic text was added. The songs of Lullys operas especially were often provided with new texts, occasionally parodistic, i.e. caricaturing, a procedure frequently termed parody rather than contrafactum by modern writers. Quite a few contrafacta are in the works of Bach (e.g. B-minor Mass (BWV 232)) and Handel.> (end quote)

The Norton Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music includes the following, under parody, after discussing the derivation of parody mass:
<The term is also used for such works as the short masses of Bach, which re-use earlier material, but are better described as reworkings or arrangements.> (end qu)

Bottom line: if you need to look up recorder, you will get a straight answer. If you need to look up parody, you will either undertake a small research project, or get it wrong (perhaps both). I would put it in the category of professional jargon for music big-wigs, where plain folk would use rework, as suggested by Grove (and supported by Julian Mincham, as I recall).

William Hoffman wrote (November 4, 2009):
BWV 248VI: Fugitive Note

A Glimpse into Bach's Workshop

Beyond Michael Mairssen's intensive study of the biblical sources in BWV 248VI, is the following information from BCW sources showing some interesting connections to the chorale Bach used for the Second Day of Christmas, with its connection to Epiphany.

BWV 696 (1700/1717), Christum wir sollen loben schon/Was fürchst du Feind, Herodes, sehr (alternate title) [1]
[1] This is Martin Luther's adaptation into German of another part of the same Latin hymn referred to above:

Was fürchtst du, Feind Herodes, sehr,
daß uns geborn kommt Christ der Herr?
Er sucht kein sterblich Königreich,
der zu uns bringt sein Himmelreich.
Chorale Melodies, Prepared by Thomas Braatz & Aryeh Oron (May 2006) http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Christum-wir.htm

...`A solis ortus cardine,' which recounts the life of Christ from the Incarnation to the Ascension and is found in liturgical manuscripts from the 10th century onwards
The latter text was often divided into sections for different liturgical occasions: the first seven strophes were used for Christmas, the next four (beginning `Hostis Herodes impie') for Epiphany, and the following four (beginning `Katerva matrum personat') for the Feast of the Holy Innocents. From: "Johann Sebastian Bach: Christum wir sollen loben schon - BWV 121," By Kim Patrick Clow - May 9, 2009.
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV121-Kim.pdf

Organ chorale prelude BWV 696 comes from the Kirnberger Collection, compiled by Bach's student and son-in-law. Obviously, the compiler in putting in the alternate title had some knowledge of Luther's adaptation (1524) of the original Latin hymn, or at least Bach's sources. From collateral evidence, we may infer that Bach knew the chorale to 1700/17, and specifically to 1713/15 (latter date ref. setting BWV 611, Orgelbüchlein setting). At Christmas 1724, Bach presented chorale Cantata BWV 121, using the Luther melody and Christmas text. Ten years later, while Bach was searching out chorales for the Christmas Oratorio, he may have conveyed the Luther Epiphany verse translation and possibly the entire original Latin hymn to his poet. Thus, we not only have the biblical influences in the BWV 248VI text but the chorale ones as well. Bach cast a wide net to achieve a well-order church music.

Thank you, Thomas, Aryeh, and Kim!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 7, 2009):
If I have read correctly, this is both the last week of Will (hawaiivannared) Hoffmans current series of introductions (with a return for SJP in 2010), and of our structured discussions of the Christmas Oratorio (XO), which have spanned nine months of the current liturgical format. Even allowing for interruptions for two major choral works, that gives a rough impression of how much of Bachs total output was related to the Christmas season. Coincidentally (or not), Aryeh has recently completed updating the discography of the XO, with a surprising number of releases since 2000. Intros to the XO began with Francis Brownes enthusiastic endorsement of Gardiners DVD release, documenting the effective beginning of the year 2000 Pilgrimage concerts, with ongoing CD releases nearing completion. Thanks to all three for advancing the BCW commentary and database.

Somehow, it does not feel like we have done justice to the XO in discussion; I know I certainly have not. OTOH, for comparison, in the first round there was zero commentary re BWV 248IV. As I write that, I realize that the XO has bridged the gap between the second and third discussion rounds; this is only the second time it has been formally scheduled. It is on topic, in any case, but I would suggest that we keep it as an open topic of weekly discussion through the approaching Xmas season. I hope to do so, especially for comparison of some of the recorded sets.

I anticipate writing a related post shortly, re Gardiner Vol. 13 in relation to the liturgic discussion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 7, 2009):
I wrote last night:
< Thanks to all three for advancing the BCW commentary and database. >
I overlooked that the 2009 discussion of BWV 248I was introduced by Doug Cowling, and that the Francis Browne recommendation of the Gardiner DVD came a bit later. So make that thanks to all four, including Doug. Apologies if there are any other oversights who deserve equal mention.

Russel Telfer wrote (November 7, 2009):
I'd like to thank Neil Halliday and many others for their posts which I have read with interest.

I thought I ought to write on the subject of BWV 248 before it becomes last week's news (tho 'tis already Sunday in Australia). Our Dorset group has rehearsed all six cantatas during the last two years. The most recent was, not surprisingly, 248VI, as you have billed it.

The Christmas Oratorio continues to amaze me. Music is an enduring pleasure, but none more enduring than these high voltage "high day" cantatas - something that I sensed early in life. This was because my mother was a competent amateur pianist, Bach lover and choral society "fixer". Quite a good combination. So I didn't happen upon this music, as some have done, I didn't have to go out and find it, it was there on the doorstep, or as it happens, pretty well in the bedroom. A bit of good luck, methinks.

There is also the fact that there are moments when the XO merges emotionally - as it seems to me - with the Passions and even the MBM. One minute you can be listening to BWV 248 and the next minute you're reminded
of the roughest pre-Crucifixion passages in the Passions. In my view Bach covers the entire palette of emotion: dejection, grief, to exultation and ecstasy.

Neil Halliday also quoted Ed:
Ed:
< I agree that the term parody has a definite musical meaning with respect to the parody mass, as well as a long tradition with respect to Bach's reuse of his own materials. That does not make it correct. More like a bad
habit, tough to break.>
and Neil (?):
< Is the traditional meaning of the term 'parody' (in classical music) "wrong"? It's a bit like the argument over the term 'recorder'. We might as well go along with these traditional English idiocies - there are more important changes to make in the world. >
Unfortunately "parody" does have two strands of meaning, and the mickey-taking one is the stronger. The weaker, but more serious meaning, does not have any good synonyms that we could go to instead.

In the Bachian sense we are talking about adapting a given piece and giving it a different dress: sacred in place of secular or vice versa. There are other words: adaptation, arrangement, even recomposition.

You can be sure that over time the English language (in all anglophone countries) will change. It always has. Some words have become more respectable, and others seriously less. It is up to us, as users of the language, to find a word that meets our purpose for what we want to say. I would not use "parody" even though it is now technically correct. The word "adaptation" strikes me as perfectly safe, and if you are engaged in this issue, find a better one!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2009):
Parody [was: BWV 248VI]

Russell Telfer vwrote:
< Unfortunately "parody" does have two strands of meaning, and the mickey-taking one is the stronger. The weaker, but more serious meaning, does not have any good synonyms that we could go to instead. >
(1) Mickey-taking? New jargon to me. From what culture does it originate? I dcatch your drift, however.

(2) Weaker? Stronger? As the financiers say, bad money drives out good. To some of us, any money is better than none.

We do have a good and precise synonym: contrafactum. I left the marketing to Doug, a couple weeks back. Any progress?

As Cole Porter wrote:
In olden days, a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
Anything goes.

If only Bach had texts like that to set, eh!?

I invite any and all to Salem MA USA to hear the contrafactum, in the format of cabaret-porn, which routinely goes on to that tune, among others. Anything goes, indeed.

Russell Telfer wrote (November 8, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< (1) Mickey-taking? New jargon to me. From what culture does it originate? I do catch your drift, however. >
Oops. I may have strayed into political incorrectness. English usage. I shan't explain it, but you caught my drift.

Then ...
< (2) Weaker? Stronger? As the financiers say, bad money drives out good. To some of us, any money is >better than none. >
You're right. I think Gresham's Law does apply quite strongly in language. But surprisingly, generations later, a few sullied words manage to become respectable again.

And ...
< We do have a good and precise synonym: contrafactum. I left the marketing to Doug, a couple weeks back. Any progress? >
I don't feel comfortable with "contrafactum" right now, but if it becomes generally acceptable, I'll buy it. Someone else suggested "derivation". I prefer "adaptation" because it leaves open the magnitude of the change: it could be just changing the words or the part writing; it could be adding a new and original section.

Evan Cortens wrote (November 8, 2009):
Russell Telfer wrote:
< Someone else suggested "derivation". I prefer "adaptation" because it leaves open the magnitude of the change: it could be just changing the words or the part writing; it could be adding a new and original section. >
Unfortunately, I think this is precisely the problem with "adaptation." How do we distinguish in terminology Bach's reworking of an oboe concerto for the harpsichord (e.g., BWV 1053), which I would call an adaptation, from a wholesale reuse of a vocal work, with only the words changed, which I call a parody?

Like I said before, the use of the word parody doesn't bother me in the slightest; there's never been a negative connotation for me. Perhaps an undergraduate history class might giggle when this word is used, but I doubt anyone else familiar with it would.

Glen Armstrong wrote (November 9, 2009):
[To Russell Telfer] In all fairness to Russell with his use of, "mickey-taking", and his subsequent apology for a social indiscretion, I must say, it was very common in my younger days (in England) to hear,"Taking the mickey (out of someone)." I never dreamt it could have a nasty connotation: to me, it simply meant, teasing -- maybe a little diparagingly. The origin was unconsidered. With the current mystification, I checked, and it is based on a slight against the Irish ("Micks", who were all put in the same basket of prejudice as pugnacious and know-it-alls) who needed taking down a peg or three. -- Maybe a slur against Roman Catholics?) Anyway, I had no idea of this ugliness, nor, I have no doubt, had Russell.
I hate loose ends.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 9, 2009):
Glen Armstrong wrote:
< I hate loose ends. >
I hate loose anything. Well, perhaps the occasional ...

Never mind. Dare I say, Thanks Mate? There, I have said it.

Russell Telfer wrote (November 10, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
(re my comment: 'Someone else suggested "derivation". I prefer "adaptation." ' )
< Like I said before, the use of the word parody doesn't bother me in the slightest; there's never been a negative connotation for me. >
I think we can politely agree to differ here. You don't have a problem with "parody." Neither do I except semantically. Up to now I've never associated the word "parody" with serious re-uses, only humorous and possibly derogatory ones.

Between persons or between cultures, there can be colossal gaps in the perception of words and what they imply. It's one good reason for talking!

Evan Cortens wrote (November 10, 2009):
Russell Telfer wrote:
< Between persons or between cultures, there can be colossal gaps in the perception of words and what they imply. It's one good reason for talking! >
Very true!

 

Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248: Details
Recordings: Until 1950 | 1951-1960 | 1961-1970 | 1971-1980 | 1981-1990 | 1991-2000 | From 2001 | Individual Movements
General Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7
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Cantata 1 | Cantata 2 | Cantata 3 | Cantata 4 | Cantata 5 | Cantata 6 | Part 7: Summary
Individual Recordings:
BWV 248 - Collegium Aureum | BWV 248 - H. Christophers | BWV 248 - J.E. Gardiner | BWV 248 - N. Harnoncourt | BWV 248 - R. Jacobs | BWV 248 - N. McGegan | BWV 248 - R. Otto | BWV 248 - K. Richter | BWV 248 - H. Rilling | BWV 248 - P. Schreier | BWV 248 - M. Suzuki | BWV 248 - K. Thomas | BWV 248 - J.v. Veldhoven
Articles:
A Bottomless Bucket of Bach - Christmas Oratorio [D. Satz]

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Last update: żNovember 10, 2009 ż08:55:28