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Cantata BWV 10
Meine Seel erhebt den Herren
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

BWV 10 - Luther / Luther and Mary

Dick Wursten wrote (July 9, 2002):
Since every cantata builds a bridge between Scripture and sermon... allow me to quote the last lines from Luther's translation and commentary on Mary's Magnificat [Das Magnificat, verdeutscht und ausgelegt] Luther's was working on this book since november 1520. In the meantime he had to appear at the Reichtstag of Augsburg (1521) to defend his writings. ("Here I stand.."). He finished the work during summer 1521 on the Wartburg (where he had lived some time incognito, hidden from persecution). It appeared august/september 1521. He concludes his comment on Mary's Magnificat with a prayer for proper understanding.. Because of his lively idiom and language-mastership I quote in German:

"Hier lassen wir's diesmal bleiben und bitten Gott um rechtes Verstehen dieses Magnificat, das nicht allein leuchte und rede, sondern brenne und lebe in Leib und Seele. Das verleihe uns Christus durch Fürbitte und Willen seiner lieben Mutter Maria. Amen."

I paraphrase (tentatively) (translation into English I leave to the more able): God, give us the true understanding of this Magnificat, that is that we not leave it in its shining beauty alone (in admiration for the words) but that the words of this song may burn in our hearts as a fire and come to life (become reality) both in our material and spiritual life. Final prayer: This grant us Christ through intercession and for the sake of his dear mother Mary. Amen.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 9, 2002):
Dick Wursten included Luther's final comment on the Magnificat, containing Luther's 'lively idiom and language-mastership.'

"Hier lassen wir's diesmal bleiben und bitten Gott um rechtes Verstehen dieses Magnificat, das nicht allein leuchte und rede, sondern brenne und lebe in Leib und Seele. Das verleihe uns Christus durch Fürbitte und Willen seiner lieben Mutter Maria. Amen."

Dick paraphrased (tentatively) (translation into English): "God, give us the true understanding of this Magnificat, that is that we not leave it in its shining beauty alone (in admiration for the words) but that the words of this song may burn in our hearts as a fire and come to life (become reality) both in our material and spiritual life. Final prayer: This grant us Christ through intercession and for the sake of his dear mother Mary. Amen."

Here is my free translation and interpretation of the same words:

“We’ll stop here and not go beyond this point (we have gone far enough with this explanation), and we will now ask God to give us a correct understanding of this Magnificat which should not only shine within us and speak to us, but also burn itself into, and continue to live on, in both body and soul. May Christ grant this to us through the intercession and the willpower of his dear mother, Mary. Amen.”

The last line seems to have it both ways: Mary is still the intercessor and her ‘willpower’ in this matter is important, but the prayer is being directed to Christ, who is the only one who can make this intercession possible. Is this Luther’s first, very careful, shift away from the importance given to the role of Mary in the Catholic Church?

Dick, your translation of the last line, "Final prayer: This grant us Christ through intercession and for the sake of his dear mother Mary. Amen." as I understand this in English seems to imply that that Christ is the one interceding for us here so that we can make a proper contact with Mary in her role as the mother of Christ, rather than Mary, whose intercession for us is only possible if we ask Christ first for her intercession. In the first instance (Dick's reading of this) it is Christ, who is the only intercessor, who makes possible and allows the proper contact with Mary, but in the second instance (my reading) Mary is still the intercessor, but now the intercession is only made possible if this request has been made directly of Christ before proceeding.

I am not a theologian, nor do I want to stir up a can of worms by quibbling about small distinctions in the use of words. I am interested, however, to find out whether my translation is correct in pointing to a gradual shift that may be taking place in Luther's mind, a shift that he could not as yet fully implement, because he did not want too many revolutionary changes within the church at one time.

Charles Francis wrote (July 9, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Here's a few relevant quotes from Luther:

"May Christ grant us [a right understanding of Mary's song] through the intercession and for the sake of His dear Mother Mary" (Luther, Closing letter to the Commentary on the Magnificat)

"May the tender Mother of God herself procure for me the spirit of wisdom profitably and thoroughly to expound this song of hers." (Luther, Introductory letter to the Commentary on the Magnificat)

"Men have crowded all her glory into a single phrase: The Mother of God. No one can say anything greater of her, though he had as many tongues as there are leaves on the trees" (Luther, Commentary on the Magnificat)

"... she is rightly called not only the mother of the man, but also the Mother of God. ... it is certain that Mary is the Mother of the real and true God" ("Sermon on John 14:16": Luther's Works [St. Louis], ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia. Vol. 24. p. 107)

"... she is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin . ... God's grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil." (Luther's Works, American edition, Vol. 43, p. 40, ed. H. Lehmann, Fortress, 1968)

"Christ our Saviour was the real and natural fruit of Mary's virginal womb. ... This was without the cooperation of a man, and she remained a virgin after that " ("On the Gospel of St. John": Luther's Works, Vol. 22. p. 23, ed. Jaroslav Pelican, Concordia, 1957)

Whether there was an evolution of Luther's thinking over time on these points, I don't know. Certainly, his mind seemed to change in other respects.

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (July 10, 2002):
I am not certain if Thomas' translation is correct, but perhaps Luther was trying to appeal to both sides? If Luther is a forebearer of the modern charismatic Church, then this seems unlikely, as it is common knowledge today that compromise is unacceptable. However, this is what it sounds like to me.

Dick Wursten wrote (July 10, 2002):
Both Charles en Thomas pointed towards a certain double-meaning in Luther’s prayer to Christ (and implicit, or explicit to Mary) at the end of his explanation of the Magnificat. Before going into this matter any further, I want to refer to my first mailing on this subject (july 2nd). The general outline I gave there still is applicable.

- If not interested in theological aspects: stop here and push the delete button –

The question is not whether Luther venerated Mary. He did. (He was an Augustine monk, brought up with a devout cult around Mary. Every vesper (evensong) he recited or sang the Magnificat, which traditionally concluded it. He is very fond of this hymn of Mary and praises the tradition to read/sing it every day (because of the contents of course!). The question is: Did Luther allow Mary to act as an intercessor or are 'appearances deceptive'. (and is there any change in Luther's thinking on this point. This second question I am not able to answer, the first I will try below).

I think it necessary to sketch the background first, because Luther’s position cannot be understood when we don't have an idea of the tradition he stands in. I'm not a Maria-expert, but recently I had to speak about exactly this subject at a concert/conference with 15th/16th century music for Mary. In preparation I read a wonderful instructive book about the subject by Jaroslav Pelican who also was responsible for the lemma in the Encyclopedia Brittanica sub 'Mary' (readable I suppose on the EB internetwebsite). It was precisely the quotation of the final line from Luther's explanation of the Magnificat there, which made me read Luther's book myself.

Dogmatically Mary was first brought before the footlight to guarantee Christ's true humanity. (He was not a 'ghost' or a 'half-god', a 'hero' (as the greeks would easily accept, but a man of flesh and blood, who had really lived: That is probably why Mary is named in the creed together with Pilate: These two names make him a real man participating in human nature and human history).

After Christ's human nature was thus safeguarded his 'godly nature' became point of discussion and was also established (Creed of Nicea-Chalcedon 381/451). This moment is crucial for the Mariology. Mary participated (benefited?) of Jesus 'deification' (forgive me the improper and imprecise terms). She also was ‘exalted’. Since Jesus was not only supposed to be 100% human but also 100% godly Mary became - so to speak - the 'Mother of 'GOD' (in Greek: theo-tokos, in German: Gottesgebärerin: council of Ephesus 431). This sounds blasphemous nowadays. 'Mother of our Lord' for me personally is the maximum.

In this perspective the virginity (and purity and chastity and holiness) of Mary became a theological (though highly speculative, because no biblical evidence at all) subject of its own. It was prolonged backwards and forwards: Maria semper virgo (always virgin). According to many theologians in Luther's days (including Luther himself!) she must have been begotten in an 'immaculate conception' (to keep away original sin - which was considered to reside somehwere in the human genom, it was hereditary - of which her son, Jesus had to be 'free'). By the way: Thomas of Aquino and Bernardus of Clairvaux didnot agree on this point. In Luther’s days Mary had become an object of enormous devotion (f.i. beautiful motets testify the love and feeling that went into that devotion.)

Reading Luther's expositions in the Magnificat I was struck by Luther’s loyalty to tradition at this point, bBut I also found that when the principle matter was concerned appearances really are deceptive: All praise and warm words and high titles for Mary did not make any difference in Luther confessing that eternal salvation and assistance in this life were only and fully dependent on Christ. Luther succeeds in combining a firm belief in the uniqueness of Christ as a Mediator and a devotion for Mary. He often refers to her as the ‘graceful virgin’ and grants her the title ‘mother of God’. He even defends the good right of giving her other high titles. Considering the fact that in this one title ‘mother of God’ all others are contained it is – according to Luther - NOT inappropriate to call her Queen of Heaven (regina coelorum) and to praise her worthiness.

All generations, Mary says in her Magnificat, will ‘bless her’, call her blessed (beatify?). Luther ends his explanation of this statement by saying that the true 'seligpreisen' (blessing of Mary) is not done by words, lifting hats or kneeling in reverence, nor in carving statues of her or building beautiful churches for her.., but by discovering God’s 'Hinsehen auf ihre Nichtigkeit' (God looking mercifully on her nothing-ness; Luther’s translation of Luke 1:48) so that one really starts to wonder about Gods grace towards her and suddenly finds oneself saying with whole-heartedly: 'O blessed virgin Mary !'

Everything she has she herself - Luther emphasizes this – ascribes freely to Gods mercy and not to her own merits. (Sie schreibt es auch frei der Gnade Gottes zu, nicht ihrem Verdienst.). In my understanding of Luther the word ‘everything’ includes: all honour, every title, every devotion AND every intercessory power she has.

Quote: But that doesnot make her an idol, that she can give or help, as some people think, who call more upon her and rely more on her help than on God. She doesn’t give anything, only God gives. [Doch sie ist dadurch keine Abgöttin, daß sie geben oder helfen könne, wie etliche meinen, die mehr zu ihr als zu Gott rufen und Zuflucht haben. Sie gibt nichts, sondern allein Gott.]

Another Quote: That’s why I said: Mary doesnot want to be an idol. She doesnot do anything. God does everything. One shall call on her, that God through her will gives and does what we ask... just in the same way we call on all the other saints in that manner, that the work (the actual doing) always remains with God. [Darum habe ich gesagt: Maria will nicht eine Abgöttin sein. Sie tut nichts. Gott tut alle Dinge. Anrufen soll man sie, daß Gott durch ihren Willen gebe und tue, was wir bitten; wie auch alle anderen Heiligen so anzurufen sind, daß das Werk immer ganz allein Gottes bleibe.]

In that sense Thomas Braatz's translation/interpretation of the last lines of Luther’s book is fully appropriate: Christ grants it and uses (gracefully) Mary’s intercession.

In his explanation of the Magnificat Luther still accepts and uses this ‘function’ of Mary. But he already states explicitly that ‘if this devotion for Mary becomes competitive to the devotion to God/Christ, he thinks it is better to cut the Marian devotion short, because it is worse to give God less than he deserves than to give Mary less than she deserves.

[„Es ist besser, ihr zuviel abgebrochen, als der Gnade Gottes. ja man kann ihr nicht zuviel abbrechen, da sie doch aus nichts geschaffen ist, wie alle Kreaturen. Aber Gottes Gnade hat man leicht zuviel abgebrochen. Das ist gefährlich. Und geschieht ihr keine Liebe damit. Es bedarf auch wohl eines Maßes, daß man den Namen, daß man sie eine Königin der Himmel nennt, nicht zu weit treibe, obwohl es wahr ist. Doch sie ist dadurch keine Abgöttin, daß sie geben oder helfen könne, wie etliche meinen, die mehr zu ihr als zu Gott rufen und Zuflucht haben. Sie gibt nichts, sondern allein Gott, wie folgt. »Der da mächtig ist«: Damit nimmt sie doch alle Macht und Kraft allen Kreaturen und gibt's allein Gott.“]

P.S. if wanted I can provide the German text in extenso in which these passages appear. But I don't think it appropriate for this mailing list.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 11, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Thanks for sharing all this information. It is very helpful and much appreciated (particularly the Luther texts in the original German.)

 

Bass aria from BWV 10 (One amateur's opinion)

Neil Halliday wrote (October 4, 2004):
Rilling's otherwise excellent recording of BWV 10 [7] is marred by what is for me an unlistenable version of the bass aria "Gewaltige stoesst Gott vom Stuhl".

It's a hard driven allegro, with Schöne attempting to sound like "Figaro" in places (lots of vibrato on the low bass notes resulting in indeterminate pitch, albeit his voice has a magnificent timbre - Rilling's tempo [7] is the main problem), and an extremely busy continuo, with continuous 'buzzing' semiquavers on the harpsichord cluttering up the already overwrought cello semiquaver part.

In looking around for alternatives, I found that Richter [5] has a better version; while equally hard-driven as Rilling [7], the imaginative organ realisation is much better sounding than the harpsichord in Rilling; and bass vocalist, Kurt Moll, is superb with one of the most pleasing bass voices I have heard.

Suzuki's version [14] is similar to Rilling [7] and is unsatisfying for the same reasons - too hard driven, with the intrusive, unmusical 'buzz' from the harpsichord. (Rilling shows that the place for the harpsichord is in the recitatives, where a steady progression of chords over a sustained cello note, is quite attractive).

The most satisfying version I have found comes from Leonhardt [4], with Van Egmont: Amazon.co.uk
(Scroll down to disc 4, for a sound sample).

Here the tempo is broader (slower), the cello has time to articulate and 'shape' the continuous semiquaver passages, Egmont is excellent, and there is no 'cluttering' harpsichord part, which all adds up to a performance that better expresses "the Lord pushing the mighty from their seats"; Rilling [7] and Suzuki [14], in comparison, sound nervous and hence lacking in 'force'. (Richter [5] gets away with the fast tempo for the reasons noted above).

Personal preference:

1.Leonhardt [4]. 2.Richter [5]. (big gap) 3.Rilling [7] and Suzuki [14].

[The cantata overall: Rilling [7], but I will leave that for another discussion].

 

BWV 10

John Reese wrote (January 21, 2005):
I have recently completed a Finale transcription of BWV 10 (Meine Seel' Erhebt den Herren) in full score. You can find it on the Bach-Cantatas website under scores.

It's a pretty eye-opening exercise, copying the music note by note. You can read all the books you want, but there's no substitute for going directly to the source to learn about Bach.

I'm working on doing the same for BWV 106.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 21, 2005):
Copying as Pedagogy

John Reese wrote:
< It's a pretty eye-opening exercise, copying the music note by note. You can read all the books you want, but there's no substitute for going directly to the source to learn about Bach. >
The copying of scores is a pedagogical exercise which has all but disappeared. Over the years, I have manually copied and then later FINALEed doezens of scores, and I never fail to be impressed at how much I learn about a particular work through what most people regard as the worst grunt work.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 21, 2005):
BWV 10 & Liturgical Reconstructions

John Reese wrote:
< I have recently completed a Finale transcription of BWV 10 (Meine Seel' Erhebt den Herren) in full score. You can find it on the Bach-Cantatas website under scores. >
I've always had my eye on this cantata as a possibility for a McrCreesh-esque reconstruction of the complete Lutheran Mass for the Feast of the Visitation. The scoring (oboes and strings) is the same as the Missae Breve in G major and G minor. With the Sanctus in D and several chorale-preludes on "Meine Seele", you have quite a nice little liturgical schema for a concert.

Personal question: do you like the cantata? I'm lukewarm.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 21, 2005):
Dale Gedcke wrote:
< The copying of scores is a pedagogical exercise which has all but disappeared. Over the years, I have manually copied and then later FINALEed doezens of scores, and I never fail to be impressed at how much I learn about a particular work through what most people regard as the worst grunt work. >
Yup. One of my classmates grew up in a country without many photocopying machines or library services, so (as he told me) he wrote out Beethoven symphony scores by hand to learn them, and to have them. He was certainly the fastest and neatest copyist with ink that I've ever met! This guy: http://www.meetthecomposer.org/spotlightphan.html

Dale Gedcke wrote (January 21, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
"Yup. One of my classmates grew up in a country without many photocopying machines or library services, so (as he told me) he wrote out Beethoven symphony scores by hand to learn them, and to have them. He was certainly the fastest and neatest copyist with ink that I've ever met!"
MY COMMENTS

It looks like soon there will be little need to copy the scores of the great composers if you have a personal computer with a CD reader and a hard-copy printer. There is a relatively new service that provides printable PDFs for compositions of a number of the great composers for your specific instrument. Go to: http://www.orchmusiclibrary.com/ for further information.

Here is a brief quote from that web site to give you some idea of what is available:

"It's not too good to be true because it is true! The first volume, Beethoven Schubert and more, contains the most important works of Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Weber and Rossini, and delivers individual parts for 90 orchestral works. You receive a printed table of contents plus a CD-ROM that contains the printable and viewable parts for your instrument for 90 orchestral works for only $19.95. And you don't need special software. These CDs utilize Adobe Acrobat Reader Technology, which is included on the CD."

I checked the content of all their 4 volumes. They have a lot of the classical composers, but they haven't included Bach yet.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 21, 2005):
< hard-copy printer. There is a relatively new service that provides printable PDFs for compositions of a number of the great composers for your specific instrument. Go to http://www.orchmusiclibrary.com/ for further information. >
http://www.cdsheetmusic.com/ has had a bunch out there for a couple of years. I got the disc of the Haydn string quartets more than a year ago but I hardly ever get round to looking at it!

It did come in handy when I was making a keyboard arrangement of one of those rondo movements. Somebody who came to the concert contacted me 8 months later and said they'd been searching all the Haydn keyboard repertoire to find the piece I played, having not realized it was a new arrangement..... But Haydn's own keyboard music has plenty of examples of arrangements down from his symphonies and chamber music, so why not do any others also that strike the fancy? I feel that the making of an arrangement is also a good way to get to know a piece, figuring out which parts of it are more essential to the texture than others are, or changing some of the passagework to fit the techniques of different instruments.

Dale Gedcke wrote (January 21, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
"
http://www.cdsheetmusic.com/ has had a bunch out there for a couple of years. I got the disc of the Haydn string quartets more than a year ago but I hardly ever get round to looking at it!"
MY COMMENTS:

I visited the cdsheetmusic website, and discovered they have a rather complete set of Bach Cantatas and Chorals. But, it looks to me, from the one sample offered, that the accompaniment is scored for keyboard only.

I was particularly interested in getting the vocal AND orchestral score for Jesu bleibt meine Freude. The voice arrangement appears to be on the website for SSATB, but I see no evidence of the orchestral accompaniment offered.

Brad, do you (or anyone else) know if any of the Cantatas and Chorals come with orchestral accompaniment scores at www.cdsheetmusic.com?

Thomas Shepherd wrote (January 21, 2005):
[To John Reese] A real labour of love!! Having tried some ago to master Finale, I've found Sibelius http://www.sibelius.com/ as a music DTP program easier to use and produces comparable results. Sibelius also offer a plug in program known as Photoscore http://www.sibelius.com/products/photoscore/professional.html (music optical recognition program) Has anyone used this?

Finale or Sibelius - either way its its a long a slow process - especially making it all look right on the page.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 21, 2005):
Dale Gedcke wrote:
< I was particularly interested in getting the vocal AND orchestral score for Jesu bleibt meine Freude. The voice arrangement appears to be on the website for SSATB, but I see no evidence of the orchestral accompaniment offered. >
Are we talking about "Jesu Bleibet Meine Freude" from Cantats "Herz und Mund"? It's scored for SATB choir.

Dale Gedcke wrote (January 21, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] The http://www.cdsheetmusic.com/bachchoraltoc.html simply lists the choral as "J.S. Bach Major Chorals: Jesu, meine Freud; SSATB". I presumed that was a short form for Jesu bleibt meine Freude. But, I think I see the source of my confusion. That item is listed as a motet, not a cantata. Based on a quick scan, I can't find the "Herz and Mund" cantata on that web site.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 22, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] The motet, "Jesu Meine Freude" is SSATB

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (January 22, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] uhh... wouldn't "Jesu Meine Freude" be the full name of the SSATB motet, "Jesu Meine Freude"? It's BWV 227.

Neil Mason wrote (January 22, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] I have these from CD Sheet Music. They are voice and keyboard reduction only, and apart from some pages being in the wrong order (easily fixed) are excellent.

They also have excellent anthologies of Opera Arias which as a singing teacher I use frequently.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 10: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Article:
Using Composition Theory to Analyze a Work by J.S. Bach [J. Reese]

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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