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Cantata BWV 106
Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit (Actus Tragicus)
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussion in the Week of January 16, 2005

Francis Browne wrote (January 11, 2005):
Readings;translation;Durr: chorale Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt

<snip>
Dürr's book is the most useful work I have come across on the cantatas. The translation by Richard Jones will I am sure be excellent, but the price is brigandage. If I remember correctly, the German paperback costs less than one tenth of the new English translation.- it seems cheaper to learn German and with the money saved you could buy the complete Bach edition recently discussed and still have some change.

But since Dürr has been mentioned could I make a request. In his discussion of next week's cantata Dürr comments on how the text of BWV 106 corresponds strikingly to the text of the 18 strophe chorale Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt, the melody of which Bach quotes in movement 2d. I have not been able to find this text and would be very grateful if anyone can send me the text or tell me where I might find it.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 11, 2005):
< In his discussion of next week's cantata Dürr comments on how the text of BWV 106 corresponds strikingly to the text of the 18 strophe chorale Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt, the melody of which Bach quotes in movement 2d. I have not been able to find this text and would be very grateful if anyone can send me the text or tell me where I might find it. >
The first stanza is on p445 (the discussion of BWV 707) in Peter Williams's The Organ Music of Bach, 2003 edition. Williams regularly gives at least the first stanza, sometimes more, for the organ pieces that are based on chorales. A terrific resource for organists and worship-planners.....

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 11, 2005):
Francis Browne wrote:
>>But since Dürr has been mentioned could I make a request. In his discussion of next week's cantata Dürr comments on how the text of BWV 106 corresponds strikingly to the text of the 18 strophe chorale Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt, the melody of which Bach quotes in movement 2d. I have not been able to find this text and would be very grateful if anyone can send me the text or tell me where I might find it.<<
It would appear that Dürr's reference to the entire text (18 verses) is represented as follows in the somewhat shortened version below:

Long version vs shortened version
Verse 2 = 2
8 = 7
10 = 9
16 = 12

1. Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt,
er machs mit mir, wie's ihm gefällt.
Soll ich allhier noch länger leben,
ohn Widerstrebn
seim Willen tu ich mich ergebn


2. Mein Zeit und Stund ist, wann Gott will;
ich schreib ihm nicht vor Maß noch Ziel.
Es sind gezählt all Härlein mein,
beid groß und klein;
fällt keines ihn den Willen sein.


3. Es ist allhier ein Jammertal,
Angst, Not und Trübsal überall;
des Bleibens ist ein kleine Zeit
voll Müh und Leid,
und wers bedenkt, ist stets im Streit.


4. Es hilft kein Reichtum, Geld noch Gut,
kein Kunst noch Gunst noch stolzer Mut;
fürn Tod kein Kraut gewachsen ist;
mein frommer Christ,
alles, was lebet, sterblich ist.


5. Heut sind wir frisch, gesund und stark
und liegen morgen tot im Sarg;
heut blühen wir wie Rosen rot,
bald krank und tot;
ist allenthalben Müh und Not.


6. Man trägt eins nach dem andern hin,
wohl aus den Augen, aus dem Sinn;
die Welt vergisset unser bald,
ob jung, ob alt
auch unsrer Ehren mannigfalt.

7. Ach Herr, lehr uns bedenken wohl,
daß wir sind sterblich allzumal,
auch wir allhier kein Bleibens han,
müssn all davon,
gelehrt, reich, jung, alt oder schön.


8. Das macht die Sünd, du treuer Gott,
dadurch ist komm'n der bittre Tod,
der nimmt und frißt all Menschenkind,
wie er sie findt,
fragt nicht, wes Stands und Ehrn sie sind.

9. Ich hab hier wenig guter Tag,
mein täglich Brot ist Müh und Klag.
Wann mein Gott will, so will ich mit
hinfahrn in Fried;
Tod ist Gewinn und schadt mir nit.

10. Und ob mich schon mein Sünd anficht,
dennoch will ich verzagen nicht;
ich weiß, daß mein getreuer Gott
für mich in' Tod
sein' liebsten Sohn gegeben hat.


11. Das ist mein Trost zu aller Zeit
in allem Kreuz und Traurigkeit.
Ich weiß, daß ich am Jüngsten Tag
ohn alle Klag
Wird auferstehn aus meinem Grab.

12. Mein' lieben Gott von Angesicht
werde ich anschaun, dran zweifl ich nicht,
in ewger Freud und Seligkeit,
die mir bereit';
ihm sei Lob, Preis in Ewigkeit.


Text by Johann Leon c. 1530-1597 who was born and died in Ohrdruf.

This author was a Thuringian and served as a pastor in Ohrdruf

The melody was originally a secular folksong documented 1500 with the original title:
"Es ist auf Erd kein schwerer Leidn"; then as a contrafact religious song/chorale "Ich weiß mir ein Röslein hübsch und fein" (which is an allegorical reference to the Gospel - not a pretty young girl as one might otherwise expect) as such it was contained in a hymnal by Johann Rau, Frankfurt am Main, 1589. Precisely when the melody became associated with Leon's text is not known, but probably this occurred at the very end of the 16th century.

Quick translation:

heimstellen = anheimstellen = to leave (it, something) up to

1. I have left all my things (earthly concerns) up to God
Let him do whatever he wants to with me.
If I should continue to live on here still longer
I will surrender myself to his will without putting up a fight.

2. My time and hour will be when God wants them to be
I do not dictate to him how it will be measure nor
what the ultimate goal will be.
Each and every hair on my body is counted out
Not a single one, whether big or small will fall out
without His willing it to be so.

3. All around here is nothing but a valley of tears
there is fear, want and misery everywhere
Our stay here is only for a short time
And is full of trouble and suffering
Whoever begins to think about it, is continually in
conflict with himself and others.

4. Wealth, money and property
as well as artistry, the goodwill of others or pride
in one's courage will be of no use whatsoever
There is no magic potion or cure for death, dear pious Christian,
Everything that lives is mortal.

5. Today we are bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, healthy and strong
and tomorrow we may be lying dead in a coffin.
Today we blossom like red roses,
Only soon to be sick and dead,
All this is everywhere trouble and great difficulties.

6. One after another people are being taken to their graves
away from our eyes and soon no more in our memories;
The world will soon forget us
whether we are young or old
they will even forget our manifold glorious deeds.

7. O Lord, teach us to consider well
that we are always mortal,
All of us here have no steady place to stay around here,
We all have to leave,
Whether well-educated, rich, young, old, or beautiful.

8. O faithful God, all of this has come about through sin
And bitter death resulted from that,
Death takes and devours all type of human beings
Wherever he finds them,
And he does not ask what social class they belong to
nor which honors they have received.

9. Here on earth I have had only few really good days,
earning my daily bread is a lot of effort and
accompanied by many complaints.
If my God so wills it, I will promise to go in peace;
Death will be my gain and will not harm me.

10. And even if my sins already begin to worry me,
I will nevertheless not despair;
I know that my faithful God
Has given his dearest Son to accompany me on my
passage into death.

11. This is my {greatest} comfort at all times
in bearing my personal cross and sadness.
I know that, at the time of the Last Judgment
I will rise from the dead from my grave without any complaints.

12. I will then see my dear Lord face to face, that I do not doubt,
in eternal joy and blessedness that have been prepared for me;
Praise be to Him in eternity.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 15, 2005):
Introducing BWV 106 "Actus Tragicus"

The cantata for discussion this week (Jan. 16-22) is BWV 106: "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit".

Event in the Lutheran Church Year:
Funeral. Alfred Dürr suggests the work was written for the funeral of Bach's uncle, Tobias Laemmer, on August 10, 1707.

1. Link to texts, scores, commentary, music examples, and the list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV106.htm

2. Link to contributions by list members during the first round of cantata discussions (1999-2003): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV106-D.htm

As always, there is a wealth of information, and personal impressions, at these pages.

----------
Some of my own observations on this cantata (apart from the unique scoring):

In the opening Sonatina, we have a figure that alternates between the two recorders (please excuse the English term) in the same manner that occurs at certain places, with the violins, in BWV 150 (another clue to the authorship of BWV 150?).

The subject of the fugal writing on 'Es ist the alte Bund' is similar to the 'writhing' subject of the WTC1 G minor fugue. (Bach also used this subject in one of the motets, IIRC).

There is a very expressive trill (on the recorders) that occurs at the end of "Mensch, du musst sterben!", preceeded by a 1/16th note 'slow' trill (on the same two notes). And these same notes - F, G flat - appear as a slow trill (sixteenth notes) in the continuo of the immediately following movement "In deine Hände" (in bar 2, etc.).

In the following movement, the pause in the music that occurs on the words "stille' and 'Schlaf' is remarkable.

The work closes with a brilliant fugal, extended 'Amen'.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussions.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 15, 2005):
BWV 106 - Lutheran Funerals

Neil Halliday wrote:
< The cantata for discussion this week (Jan. 16-22) is BWV 106: "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit".
Event in the Lutheran Church Year:
Funeral. Alfred Duerr suggests the work was written for the funeral of Bach's uncle, Tobias Laemmerhirt, on August 10, 1707. >
At the time of the Bach 250th anniversary season. I did the research for a "reconstruction" of the funeral of Bach for a concert of the Tallis Choir of Toronto -- we sang the J.C. Bach "Lieber Herr Gott" which Wolff suggests was chosen and recopied by Sebastian for his own obsequies.

Since Cantata BWV 106 is a "funeral" cantata, it might be worth describing what a Lutheran funeral was like in Bach's time. Unlike the Catholic requiem, the coffin of the deceased was never brought to the church: it remained in the home where there were scriptural readings and chorale-singing. On the day of the funeral, the church choir came to the house and accompanied the casket to the grave singing chorales. There was no service in the church, probably because of Lutheran sensibiliities about prayer for the dead.

However, for civic and royal worthies -- and perhaps for those who could pay for it -- the cantata at the following Sunday vespers was replaced by a memorial cantata or motet. This would have been the liturgical place for motets such as "Jesu Meine Freude" and "Komm, Jesu, Komm" and cantatas such as "Gottes Zeit".

Thomas Shepherd wrote (January 15, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Fascinating! Any more information available either in publications or on the internet?

Thomas Shepherd wrote (January 15, 2005):
I always enjoy re-reading Marie Jensen's posts. She always looks for good and positive things to say about the music and performers. In March 2000, she wrote about Richter's version [11].

"Richter's recorders sound divine. When I listened to them and the vibrating deep cellos just after I bought the CD last summer spine was shivering. What a Sonatina! It is so intense. After that Richter enters with his enormous Bach Choir singing with intense emotion. It is in fact a wonder that such a change succeeds. Though the Richter style not is "a la mode" it is great art. But he is lucky too, that the recorders very often alternate with the choir, so that they don't drown. But if you listen carefully they can be heard when the choir is on too. The recording is intensity and expressively all the way. Bach singers have to, if not believe the words, then at least act like they do. And with Richter it is that way. "Bestelle dein Haus" sung by Theo Adam strikes deeply. "

I would add that the moments before Adam begins the third part of that movement the instrumental ensemble and recorder players produce, in me, one of the most rarely felt moment on any recording of any music - of complete hushed stillness and stasis. It is a "kenotic" moment - totally empty of all turbulence, anxiety and motion, (if that has any meaning to anyone) And there are other truly wonderful moments on this recording.

Its one of the first Bach Cantata vinyl records I bought in my teens - 1970's and I loved it then as I still do today with all its scratches and over-worn grooves. Like Marie, I also have the Suzuki [26], and it is a fabulously unblemished and polished rendition. And I exactly concur with her when she stated that:

"If I should look upon the cantata as a whole I prefer Richter [11]. Suzuki [26] will do a day where I don't want the extreme, but he will never shake me like Richter."

Incidentally I've just been round a busy supermarket on Saturday afternoon with my wife. I never fail to annoy her in the shops for I usually whistle hymns! Today, though, I've been "recreating" the recorders of the Sonatina and the quite and slow bits that precedes the Tenor - Ach, Herr, lehre uns bedenken as the second section of the second movement!

Peter Smaill wrote (January 15, 2005):
In our secular age it is a pleasure to find this Cantata remaining so popular, despite dealing with the theme of death.

It may be, as Ruth Tatlow suggested in the programme notes to JEG's Iona Abbey performance on 28 July 2000, not the funeral music for an old man, but for the sister of Pastor Georg Christian Eilmar, Dorothea Sussana Tilesius. This inference is driven by the especial prominence of the soprano voice in "Ja, komm herr Jesu" with the exposed final ululation at the heart of the direct plea. It is the female voices (SA) that speak personally, while the TB and Chorus quote scriptureand supply the doxology.

Of relatively unexplored interest is the insertion of the chorale "Ich hab mein Sach Gott Heimgestellt", scarcelu audible in some recordings. Whittaker says "It is not heard elsewhere in the work, nor in all Bach ".

Not so. There are two Organ settings BWV 706 and 707. In the Arnstadt/Neumeister Chorale Preludes it is BWV 1113, a beautiful meditation with echo effects, to my ear harsh on the organ and, being for two manuals, a pleasure to play on the pianoforte.

The greatest interest in this Chorale, howevr, is its central setting in the St Luke Passion, BWV 246/Anh 11.30, where it occurs at the literally crucial point of tension, after the words " Und Jesu laut und sprach, Vater ich befehl meinen geist in deine Haende". It thus plays the same central theological role as "Durch dein Gefaegnis" in the SJP (BWV 245), which has exceptional harmonies evident in the last phrase.

The text is from the twelfth stanza, "Derselbig mein Herr..("My very Lord, Jesu Christ, is put to death for my sins and and yet rises for my good. He extinguishes the flames of hell with his precious blood ". the preceding Sinfonia introduces the chorale and at the point in the last phrase where "teuren blut " occurs in the text, an amazing discord is heard as the second oboe must perform A -flat against A.

Dorffel thought this so improper that he transposed the melody at that point ! The reconstruction of the Carl Orff treatment of this Passion (Jirasek) ignores the dissonance, but Helbich (CPO) lets it sing out, rather cry out, as written.

Was a mistaken transposition permitted by J S Bach in preparing the St Luke Passion (BWV 246)? I do not in any way think that JS Bach wrote the St Luke, but it can not be ruled outhat he may have intervened in it.

First, one of the organ settings has precisely the same harmonies in the first four notes of the Chorale in the Passion, and points of similarity therafter (the simple setting of the Chorale published in 1936 by Edwin Ashdown, not giving the BWV number). Second, the Arnstadt/Neumeister prelude also has an exquisite clash, F to F sharp, equally prominent. Thirdly, by mingling major and minor, perhaps implying the "cantus mollis" and "Cantus durus" discussed by Eric Chafe, is the composer (whoever that might be), not signalling at the point of the Crucifixion, the dual nature of Jesus, "wahr Mensch und Wahrer Gott?"

These are I know speculations but, from this minor sub-plot to BWV 106, there can be detected a chorale of general significance to Lutherans and I would much like to know of its importance and deployment by other contemporaries.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 15, 2005):
BWV 106 - Funeral of J.S. Bach

Thomas Shepherd wrote:
< Fascinating! Any more information available either in publications or on the internet? >
I was astonished at how little there has been written about lesser rites such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. Even that major monograph on the liturgical life in Leipzig (the title escapes me) had very little outside of the morning mass. I was particularly interested in the rite as we wanted to do a recreation of Bach's funeral. We decided not to do a whole Vespers as the concert was all Bach, so we recreated the commemorative portion up to and including the sermon chorale. The rest of the concert was organ and choral music.

Here's how we recreated the "funeral" of J.S. Bach at the end of the concert:

Art of the Fugue (organ) unfinished fugue - left hanging (very theatrical!)
"The Funeral"
Schein: Chorale: Vor deinem Thron
J.S. Bach : Chorale-Prelude on Vor deinem Thron
J.C. Bach: Lieber Herr Gott
M. Praetorius: Fauxbourdons for plainsong prayer
Sermon Chorale: Ach Herr, final chorale from St.John Passion (BWV 245)

A rather fanciful recreation but it was very interesting to hear the motet in a liturgical setting. Of course, there wasn't a dry seat in the house after the final chorale.

Paul T. McCain wrote (January 15, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Do you have any source you could point to document your comment that Lutherans never brought the bodies of the deceased into church for funerals? I've never heard that before I would like to read more about this.

Thank you,

Doug Cowling wrote (January 16, 2005):
[To Paul T. McCain] There was no one source which put it all together but the best general study was 'Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig' By Gunther Stiller (Concordia Pub House / June 1984). Wolff discusses the role of the choir in outdoor chorale-singing and the place of the cantata at Vespers in "Bach: The Learned Musician."

I think there's an article to be written on the liturgical context of this important body of elegaic music which includes some of Bach's greatest achievements.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2005):
BWV 106 and "Ich hab mein Sach"

[To Peter Smaill] In those three organ settings, your crunchy spots are presumably the following roster:

BWV 707, the downbeats of bars 42, 75, 100, and perhaps also the end of 129?

BWV 708, middle of bar 7 where there are the parallel 7ths in the lowest two voices?

BWV 1113, last beat of bar 28 where the bass has an E# (not an F) crunching as a cross-relation against the rising E-F#-# in the alto?

Other spots?

I played through all three of those pieces here this afternoon. All those spots are spicy but not terribly outlandish in Bach's standard organ tuning (and for his rehearsals on harpsichord or clavichord); those spots all create linear tension that resolves smoothly. Quite a nice effect, IMO.

I'm glad you have brought up these pieces and this "relatively unexplored" chorale; I've been drawing up a list of suitable repertoire for an organ recording in the next few months (hopefully!) and these would be good candidates to add to the list. I've been looking for good examples in Bach that stretch tonality to the limits, as the linear business in these does. That BWV 1113 works well as a clavichord piece, too.

There's also that G-Dorian setting of this same chorale at #19 in the Riemenschneider. Again with the crunchy linear passing tones in accented positions! That appears to be a consistent feature in all four of these settings: something about the tune or text or both that got JSB to be especially adventurous with the passing lines in the harmonizations, making accented dissonances with short preparations (if any).

=====

My own favorite thing about BWV 106, at the moment, is that magical orchestration in the first movement of two recorders in unison, playing slow and sustained music. It always has that eerie quality, and makes me think of the sommeil effects that also got used in French opera. (I forget which ones, but at least some Rameau, Lully, and maybe also some of Charpentier's church music.) Anybody have a handy list of spots in Bach -- or in the French rep -- where that particular orchestration of 2 unison recorders makes this particular effect?

The vocal/piano score available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV106.htm
is misleading as to key and pitch. It shows E-flat major but that would be only the Chorton instruments, not the rest of the orchestra which is playing in F.

The pitch of some recordings: Gardiner and Harnoncourt in E-flat major at A=440 (or F at 392, less likely). Rifkin [20] and Leusink [31] in F major at A=415.

In character, BWV 106 also reminds me of another favorite piece: the Requiem by Jean Gilles (1668-1705), first played at Gilles' own funeral and continued to be a "hit" (as much as a Requiem mass can be!) through c1770.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 16, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< My own favorite thing about BWV 106, at the moment, is that magical orchestration in the first movement of two recorders in unison, playing slow and sustained music. It always has that eerie quality, and makes me think of the sommeil effects that also got used in French opera. (I forget which ones, but at least some Rameau, Lully, and maybe also some of Charpentier's church music.) Anybody have a handy list of spots in Bach -- or in the French rep -- where that particular orchestration of 2 unison recorders makes this particular effect? >
Not exactly the same effect, but the opening of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) with the flutes in unison in their lowest register has a haunting funereal quality.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2005):
< There was no one source which put it all together but the best general study was 'Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig' By Gunther Stiller (Concordia Pub House / June 1984). Wolff discusses the role of the choir in outdoor chorale-singing and the place of the cantata at Vespers in "Bach: The Learned Musician." >
And as for requiems and funeral music in general, there still isn't much yet in the musicological literature except Alec Robertson's book. I did a project on this topic that was supposed to be a "state of research" literature review, and there was hardly anything to go on but that book and looking up the plainchants, and compiling a discography.

Some half of those 17th-18th C requiems, if they've been published, still hadn't been recorded as of 1992; and many exist only in manuscript yet. Outside of the ubiquitous Mozart, the Gilles and the Campra have got the most recordings, IIRC. I was really glad to see a second recording of the Michael Haydn last year: excellent performance of a marvelous piece. Likewise the Dombrecht recording of the Hasse C major Requiem. The slightly older Grimbert one was relatively dreary, while Dombrecht's sparkles.

Thomas Shepherd wrote (January 16, 2):
What a hard and serious choral and chorale-prelude "Ich hab mein Sach" is!! I have just listened to BWV 706 for the first time ever, and taken Brad's advise and got faithful Riemenschneider (no. 19) off the shelf and played it through on the piano. Neither are particularly easy on the ear. There is a strong whiff of Lutheran melancholy and modified plainsong present in the melody. Another way of putting it is that the melody is dull. Could this be one of the chorales sung as part of the home-singing service in the presence of the coffin before the church service, to which Doug alludes in his recent remarks about funereal practices? It is a really loving and poignant thing the Bach does to it in BWV 106 where the stern chorale melody is gently caressed by all the vocal and instrumental activity about it. It is transformed from painful and hard hitting piety to a most gentle meditation upon the joy and peace of death, death turned to slumber.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 16, 2005):
Paul T. McCain asked:
>>Do you have any source you could point to document your comment that Lutherans never brought the bodies of the deceased into church for funerals? I've never heard that before I would like to read more about this.<<
It would certainly be incorrect to state that Lutherans in Leipzig in Bach's day never brought the bodies of the deceased into church for funerals. According to Arnold Schering in "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936, pp. 11-12], not every person would have such a funeral (with the deceased in a coffin in one of the city churches), but if you were important enough [I assume that AMB as a poor widow at her death would not have had such a funeral service in the church] and your estate could afford to spend money on such a church funeral service, you would receive a special treatment with Bach playing organ at the service and performing sacred choral music (his own as well as compositions by other composers.) According to the school regulations of 1723, the Thomaner had to wear special black clothes which they were to keep as clean as possible at all times. According to the seating positions in their class, they were to leave the school and walk behind the coffin, not making mischief, talking or breaking rank (or, worst of all, decide to leave the procession altogether.) They were to sing from the hymnals that they carried with them, creating a 'true consonance.' They were to be quiet in church for the funeral service, but also then later when accompanying the coffin to the burial site (cemetery) after which they were to maintain strict order as they walked back through the city back to their school.

Bach's duties for a church funeral involved presenting (sometimes composing) motets and playing the organ. According to regulations, Bach would be paid 1 Reichstaler 'in front of the house before the coffin was led away.' However, this payment was separate from whatever he received for all the musical presentations he gave in church. For this Bach could name the amount of remuneration which he required. Motets were performed before and after the funeral sermon. He may also have accompanied the Thomaner to the gravesite (or sometimes delegated this responsibility to a prefect.)

Doug Cowling wrote (January 16, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< It would certainly be incorrect to state that Lutherans in Leipzig in Bach's day never brought the bodies of the deceased into church for funerals. According to Arnold Schering in "Johann Sebastian Bachs Leipziger Kirchenmusik" [Leipzig, 1936, pp. 11-12], not every person would have such a funeral (with the deceased in a coffin in one of the city churches), but if you were important enough [I assume that AMB as a poor widow at her death would not have had such a funeral service in the church] and your estate could afford to spend money on such a church funeral service, >
I wish I could remember the sources, but the evidence suggests that the funeral and the interment were two separate functions. The casket went straight to the grave with chorales; the service in the church depended on the abilities of the deceased's estate to pay for memorial music.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 16, 2005):
Brad has set out in detail the harmonic pecularities of "Ich hab mein sach" - as regards BWV 708, the juxtaposition of E-C-D in bar 7is exactly right; BWV 707 - can't confirm as have not the score, thanks for pointing this out; BWV 1113 - -it is indeed E sharp on F sharp, strictly speaking, in bar 28.

I should also have mentioned the chorale in Reimenschneider which you have spotted, no.19, where the syncopated bass and chromaticism feature. Rightly you point out that the line of the chorale is, on its own, quite dull - a very narrow compass, from e to b flat only. This I think is because it was originally the tenor line in a secular song, "Ich weiss mir ein Roslein hubsch und fein ". Whether the "little rose" romantically identified in the original text implied anything at all for the person related to the funeral cantata I'd better leave to others.

It may thus simply be that the uneventful but elegaic melody required Bach to use more than normal powers in the matter of harmony, syncopation and echo effects in this affecting chorale. And yet, the placement at the centre of the St Luke Passion (BWV 246), which manuscript Bach signed with his customary "J>J>" = "Jesu Juva"; and the performances likely in the early 1730's, hint that there may be yet more to discern about this mysterious chorale, first deployed in BWV 106.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 16, 2005):
BWV 106 : 'hidden' chorale

Peter Smaill wrote:
<"Of relatively unexplored interest is the insertion of the chorale "Ich hab mein Sach Gott Heimgestellt", scarcely audible in some recordings">.
Thanks for pointing ot the existence of this 'hidden' chorale in this movement.

It turns out this chorale melody, played by the recorders, ends with the marvellous moment I referred to in my introductory comments, with a deeply moving trill (on the recorders); I was not aware of the existence of this chorale tune to which the final trill belongs!

The chorale ends with a descent to the tonic - from B flat to F, in F minor (BGA score) - and then the G natural (of F minor) is immediately flattened to G flat, for the slow, then actual trill. This change in interval from a major to a minor second, ie, the {G natural, F} of the chorale to the {G flat, F} of the trill, is electrifying in its effect.

I made these comments with Richter's recording [11] in mind. It is true that some other recordings, as has been pointed out, almost miss this chorale and its final 'haunting' trill, completely.

Whereas Richter [11] has the full choir (or rather, ATB section of the choir) sing loudly "It is the old bond: Man, you must die", he cleverly has the choir sopranos sing more quietly during their refrain "Yes, come, Lord Jesus", which is when the recorders quote the lines of the chorale; hence the chorale tune on the recorders is quite audible in this recording (I just did not realise the recorders are in fact playing a chorale tune).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (January 16, 2005):
[To Thomas Shepherd] Thomas, are you sure you don't mean either BWv 707 or 708? These two are settings of "Ich hab' mein' Sach' Gott heimgestellt" (the former in Choralfuge format, the latter in plainsong).

Neil Halliday wrote (January 16, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<"My own favorite thing about BWV 106, at the moment, is that magical orchestration in the first movement of two recorders in unison, playing slow and sustained music">.
I am sure you are aware that the recorders are not always in unison; starting in bar 7, etc, we have that interesting effect I commented on, with one recorder playing a 2-note figure, which is immediately copied by the other recorder at the same pitch, while the first holds the 2nd note of the fig. This results each time in a momentary clash of harmony (a minor second discord) between the two recorders.

I agree, it's magical orchestration.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 16, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote:
>>I wish I could remember the sources, but the evidence suggests that the funeral and the interment were two separate functions. The casket went straight to the grave with chorales; the service in the church depended on the abilities of the deceased's estate to pay for memorial music.<<
Without giving the sources, your claim of evidence becomes questionable, but one thing is quite certain: the coffin with the corpse inside was indeed present in the church for the funeral service in the church. Schering indicates on p. 12 that this was a very old custom that was being continued even during Bach's tenure in Leipzig.

Someone may have misconstrued the reference from the Leipzig church accounts which indicates that 1 Reichstaler was paid to Bach "für 1 Motette vorm Hause, ehe die Leiche abgeführt wird." ["for the performance of one motet in front of the house before the corpse was removed/'led away.'"]

Depending upon the wealth and status of the deceased, the coffin (with the corpse) was taken from the house to the church or directly to the cemetery.

Schering explains that there were since the time when Kuhnau had initiated them in 1719, "Gedächtnisgottesdienste" ["Church services for the remembrance of a deceased individual."] For this purpose members of the family of the deceased would give money to the church so that a 'special funeral remembrance service' (obviously without a corpse in a casket being present) would take place on a Sunday (only on a Sunday to replace the usual Sunday Vespers.) For such an occasion Bach may have composed and performed some of his motets, whereas for the true funeral service which could take place during the week, not only motets, but also 'concertized' church music using orchestral instruments in a solo capacity together with a choir and soloists were also allowed ["Trauermusik" - "Music for Mourning" or "Funeral Cantata."]

Paul T. McCain wrote (January 16, 2005):
I appreciate these remarks. I am inclinded to believe that it is an error to suggest that the body of the deceased was not, in many cases, in the church during a funeral. The Lutheran difference with Rome on funerals is not in the fact that the body is in the church, but the offering of the Eucharist as a sacrifice for the deceased.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 16, 2005):
Rifkin's BWV 131 and 106 [20]

< I listened to the Herreweghe, Rifkin and Leusink recordings. Though I've had them all for some years I'd never compared them. >
Anybody here happen to have the first CD issue of the Rifkin recording of BWV 131 and BWV 106, and willingness to post a list of the orchestral players?

I have the Florilegium reissue from 1995 where these two are coupled with the later cantatas 99 and 8. It's convenient to have all four on a single disc, but the booklet omits performer information other than the different set of singers in each pair of cantatas. There would have been plenty of room in the booklet's 30 pages (which have lots of white space) to include orchestral personnel rosters. I'd like to print out such a roster and slip it into my copy of the booklet.

Thanks,

Bart O'Brien wrote (January 16, 2005):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Anybody here happen to have the first CD issue of the Rifkin recording of BWV 131 and BWV 106 [20], and willingness to post a list of the orchestral players? >
Sorry, I've got the Decca Eclipse version, which after deletion was available only from Vroom and Dreesman department stores in the Netherlands for almost nothing. Virtually undocumented.

Francis Browne wrote (January 17, 2005):
BWV 106 Ricercar Cosort [22]

Ignorance is sometimes wonderful.

Uri Golomb's praise of the performance of BWV 131 by the Ricercar Consort reminded me that I never got around to listening to a CD of German funeral cantatas by this group that I had bought very cheaply on ebay. Such a title seems to suggest this is music for a particularly sombre mood, but since it included a performance of this week's cantata I listened to it a few days ago -and have found it difficult to stop listening.

Included on the disc are Bach Cantata No. 106, 'Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste BWV 106. Boxberg Bestelle dein haus. Riedel Harmonische freude frommer seelen. Telemann Du aber Daniel, gehe hin

I must confess that Boxberg and Riedel are not composers with whom I was familiar, but each of these works is a delight and the cantata by Telemann is a most striking piece of work. They provide an illuminating context for BWV 106. The performances by the Ricercar Consort are no antiquarian reconstructions of music that has deservedly been forgotten but committed, persuasive musicmaking. There is so much to enjoy that it seems invidious to pick out one movement but the final chorale of Telemann's cantata -Schlaft wohl, ihr seligen Gebeine - is a wonderfully inventive and haunting piece of music in its use of pizzicato strings and interweaving recorder and oboe - superbly played by, Frederic de Roos and Hugo Reyne . The singers I find uniformly excellent - - -Greta de Reyghere soprano, James Bowman alto, Guy de Mey tenor and Max van Egmond baritone.

Simply by themselves these cantatas would be worth discovering. But BWV 106 is also given a performance that made me listen with new insight to music with which I thought I was familiar. So convincing was the intimate detailed approach of this group that when I happened to listen to the massed choirs of Richter afterwards the contrast seemed brutal. When what seemed like fifty German ladies ordered 'ja, ja, ja, komm Herr Jesu komm' it was difficult to recognise what Whittaker refers to as'exquisitely tender passages from the floating voices of the sopranos.' Others will differ in their views and people have already spoken admiringly of Richter's performance. But when the Oxford Composer Companion states with unusal firmness that ' performance with more than a single voice or instrument to each part throws off the exquisitely planned scoring of the work; every indication is that it was conceived for an ensemble of four singers balancing the four melody instruments and suppported by continuo (possibly organ alone)' this performance by the Ricercar Consort (and Rifkin's [20] finely judged version) make me inclined to agree.

This CD was issued in 1991 and I gather it is part of a series of German cantatas. Are they all this good ?

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 17, 2005):
< This CD was issued in 1991 and I gather it is part of a series of German cantatas. Are they all this good ? >
[22] Yes. ("Deutsche Barock Kantaten" on Ricercar) The Ricercar recording of the J.K. Kerll and Biber requiems is superb, too.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 106: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7

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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