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Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 108
Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of April 29, 2007

Julian Mincham wrote (April 29, 2007):
Cantata BWV 108 - Introduction to Discussion - Week of April 29, 2007

CONTEXT

The second of three cantatas that begin with an aria.
(See the comments under this section for BWV 85)

THE CANTATA OF THE WEEK BWV 108 Es ist euch gut, dab ich hingehe

Now I depart for you.

Aria (bass)--aria (tenor)--recit (tenor)--chorus--aria (alto)--chorale.

The forty-sixth cantata of the cycle for Cantate. Librettist: Christiane Mariane von Ziegler.

This fine cantata, the second of three to begin with a bass aria, is the only one of these to contain an extended chorus. It is based upon Christ's words of farewell.

A hundred years ago Schweitzer noticed what he labelled the frequently used "step" motives, usually to be found in a heavy, regular tread in the bass. It was, of course, very much a part of the late Baroque style, certainly not restricted to Bach's compositions, to make use of a solid, marching, step-like bass line. It therefore comes as no surprise to find Bach employing it to depict explicit imagery whenever the text suggests it. However, although Schweitzer (vol 2 p333) particularly notes this in the first movement, he does not explore the fact that much of the rest of the cantata makes use of, or is based upon the imagery of walking, moving, and the treading of feet. It is a leit-motive, a unifying structural device as well as the obvious portrayal of an image which the congregation, surely, would be expected to recognise.

The opening aria (Mvt. 1) has Christ singing of his departure---' I am leaving but I shall send your Comforter to you'. The physical activity thus implied is represented by the "stepping" quavers in the bass line. In fact so persistent is this image that every single bar of the aria until the end is made up of quavers in the bass line, sometimes broken (as if the one departing were to pause a moment, perhaps in thought) otherwise continuous.

But this aria's text has a second image of movement. Christ's words refer not only to his departing but also to his sending the comforter (or Holy Spirit) in his place. There is, therefore, a dual concept:- one departing and one approaching. Bach (I suggest) represents these movements not only through the aforementioned bass but also by a re-iterated figure in the upper strings. This is similar to the bass line and is also rhythmically bare and constructed from four quavers. It is notable that this motive, heard as the upper strings enter in bar two, is identical to that used in the opening aria of Cantata BWV 85 a fortnight before---I am a shepherd true! An accidental self-borrowing? Or a conscious musical reinforcement of conjoined ideas across the weeks?

Schweitzer (ibid) interprets the "vaporous arabesques" of the oboe line as the "passing away of the transfigured Saviour". However the contemporary listener might perceive this aria as a duet of two complimentary sets of images: firstly the bass line and upper strings representing the stepwise movements, away and returning----secondly the flowing melodies of the voice and oboe interweaving in spiritual contrast to the earthly movements. In these two more fluid lines there is, if not the feeling of the "transfigured saviour", then possibly the calm, peace and complete trust the good Christian might seek to find through Christ's ultimate sacrifice.

The following tenor aria (Mvt. 2) maintains the bare quaver bass line. It accentuates the step-like quality by using a continuously re-occuring figure of three repeated notes in the bass. Again there is a clear contrast drawn between the pedestrian quality of the bass and the much more fluid tenor and obligato violin melodies above it. As in the first aria, their mellifluous interweaving conveys a feeling of the spiritual realm:- indescribable but not unattainable. Schweitzer describes the violin obligato (p333) as "wandering aimlessly" and expressing doubt (although the text is, perhaps, more about the banishment of doubt and its replacement by comfort and certainty----'no doubts will deter me').

It is worth noting how Bach sets the words Ich Glaube---I believe--in the middle section of this aria; also the musical portrayal of a question at the end of the following recitative.

The central chorus (Mvt. 4) and opening aria (Mvt. 1) are the only movements to be set in a major key, in this case the key of traditional exultation. There are, however, no trumpets or drums to reinforce any mood of jubilation; the motet-like chorus employs virtually no independence of instruments. The movement is in three sections, each commencing with a series of fugal entries. The basses lead in section 1, the tenors in section 2 and the altos in section 3. All three fugal themes make use of the repeated note 'treading' idea.

The text describes the coming of the Holy Spirit to proclaim to the world what the future holds. The textural concept of the fugal exposition is ideally suited to conveying the idea of 'the one' ---first subject--- transmuting into 'the many'----the combination of all available voices. The Spirit comes alone, but then involves all humankind. The musical metaphor is strengthened by the fact that Bach gives us not one but three expositions, possibly suggesting the Holy Trinity.

If this central chorus (Mvt. 4) is the extrovert expression of faith and trust in the truth of the lord, the following alto aria communicates a more introverted and individual conviction. 'What I seek from you, shall be bestowed upon me through the pouring of your rich blessings'.

Immediately the aria (Mvt. 5) declares itself to be an indisputable part of the overall conception of the cantata because it brings together and remoulds a whole series of motives and imagic ideas from previous movements. I leave those who wish to do so, to trace them in detail.

The final chorale (Mvt. 6) is in the minor and offers us a rare example of Bach's beginning a cantata in one mode and ending it in another (see also Cantatas BWV 42 and BWV 74). It is summative, both tonally and in the concepts it expresses. The text refers to our steps being lead and directed by God upon the pathway to salvation. The bass is again almost entirely constructed of marching quavers, now continuous to each cadence point; the symbols of steadfast certainty and the dispelling of doubt.

This chorale is the culmination of a cantata notable for its extreme subtlety of construction and organic development. But the final image of the marching bass line is clear, simple and unequivocal. This is part of the genius of Bach; that he could be simultaneously so obvious yet so subtle.

Link to the cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV108.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 29, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< The opening aria has Christ singing of his departure---' I am leaving but I shall send your Comforter to you'. The physical activity thus implied is represented by the "stepping" quavers in the bass line. In fact so persistent s this image that every single bar of the aria until the end is made up of quavers in the bass line, sometimes broken (as if the one departing were to pause a moment, perhaps in thought) otherwise continuous.
But this aria's text has a second image of movement. Christ's words refer not only to his departing but also to his sending the comforter (or Holy Spirit) in his place. There is, therefore, a dual concept:- one departing and one approaching. >
We again see Bach using the bass as the Voice of Chirst on these Easter season Sundays when the gospel readings are all from John and characterized by monologues. The myth tBach was giving a break to his "exhausted" singers after Good Friday and Easter Day by openng with an aria is debunked by the presence of a difficult motet-style central movement.

The anticipation of the coming of Holy Spirit looks ahead to the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter and the third of the principal festivals in the Lutheran calendar. This is the mid-point of the Easter season.

Peter Smaill wrote (April 29, 2007):
As has been observed, this second Cantata after a text by Mariane von Ziegler is of unusual construction, the motet-like central chorus being preceded by two arias and a recitative .

It treats of the matter of St John's Gospel ch.14-16, which is the source of the insistence by the Eastern (Orthodox) Church that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father only. This is because Jesus states : (Jn14:16)

"If ye love me, keep my Commandments; and I will pray the Father; and he will give you another Comforter , to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth..."

The Western tradition, expressed in the filioque ("and from the Son") disputed this Eastern interpretation, that of the "single procession". What does Bach make of this point?

He is not a closet Orthodox, for the setting of the filoque in the BMM is fully developed. But here, a tiny detail suggests a related theological issue. Is it Jesus' Spirit that is sent; or the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost?

Hans-Joachim Schulze notes that the text of the final Chorale (by Gerhardt) has been changed from the original (IMO so as to vary the theological meaning), by switching from "The Spirit" to "Thy Spirit":

"Um der besseren Anknuepfung willen ist in Bachs Kantate-entgegen den Gesanbuechern der Zeit sowie auch der Textfassung bei Mariane von Ziegler- das erste Textwort aus "Der" in "Dein" veraendert......"

Thus it is not just the original von Ziegler text that is altered, but also an established Chorale verse.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
"Spirit of Jesus" and "Holy Spirit"

[To Peter Smaill] Peter, in Orthodox Lutheranism there is no such distinction intended when texts speak of the "Spirit of Jesus" and the "Holy Spirit."

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The myth that Bach was giving a break to his "exhausted" singers after Good Friday and Easter Day by openng with an aria is debunked by the presence of a difficult motet-style central movement. >
Or, 'The Rise and Fall of the Exhausted Singers Theory'? Seriously, from the posts on BCML, I interpret that it was first proposed by Dürr (perhaps following someone else?), but was dropped from translations and later revisions of his text. I have not checked the chronology of publications, but it seems like more or less parallel thinking, by Dürr, with the evolution of the chronology of cantata composition, as we presently understand it. Which is a summary of Dürr's efforts!

The fact that Dürr dropped the exhausted singers opinion (I do not think it rises to the level of hypothesis, or myth) may or may not suggest that he changed his mind. It is unfortunate that Boyd (ed.) picked up the idea in the OCC, but it appears that it was an extant opinion at the time. Opinion, emphasized. No more or less.

I think your opinion is better reasoned, but I don't know if we should call an opinion 'debunked'? I would suggest discredited.

Here is what I have learned:

(1) Dürr expressed an opinion, that Bach's vocal orchestration was related to considerations of the work load on his boys. When stated in that language, I will leave it to the reader to form an opinion of how reasonable Dürr's
opinion is. I know what I think.

(2) Dürr's opinion was picked up by Boyd, and passed along, entering much more widely dispersed literature. In fairness to the very useful OCC, the exact language in the entry for BWV 42 is: 'Dürr has suggested'. Not the least hint of endorsement, let alone initiating a myth. Given the repute of Dürr, one might consider it irresponsible not to report his 'suggestion', in a more popular publication.

(3) Dürr omitted his suggestion from subsequent editions of his major publication. Is that a retraction? Not exactly, but much more so than would be failure to mention it in some other publication (see recent discussion re Schultze and Stübel).

(4) The musical evidence is far and away the most important, but also the least objective. Thus, external evidence (including Lutheran theology) is only of interest to the extent that it helps us understand and appreciate the music. When some conjectural idea about the external evidence requires a revision of musical interpretation, well, it is not exactly impossible, but it should be handled with care.

< The anticipation of the coming of Holy Spirit looks ahead to the Feast of Pentecost, fifty days after Easter and the third of the principal festivals in the Lutheran calendar. This is the mid-point of the Easter season. >
Indeed, the entire Christian calendar, not only Lutheran. The one (or three in one) thing all Christians agree to: Birth, Death/Resurrection, Ascension. Xmas, Easter, Pentecost. Son, Father, Spirit. I will leave it to others to ponder the apparent disagreement among the various sects on just about everything else. It is a stated objective of this list is to make Bach accessible to the entire home planet (Earth, for most of us). We should emphasize the common themes. On the other hand, I do recognize that the Lutheran calendar is not the only (or even the major) Christian calendar. All the more reason to focus on the agreement, in this particular instance.

Lending support to Julian Mincham's idea that the entire structure of Jahrgang II was planned, if I understand correctly, and Peter Smaill's endorsement that the idea is theologically justified: a structural focus on the Easter season, the mystery of Resurrection and Ascension.

I do not disagree, I only emphasize the need to leave open the time scale of the planning. If there were no forcing external circumstances (for example, the death of Stübel), why the unknown librettist for the first part of Jahrgang II, a bit of structural juggling for a couple weeks, and then a settling on Ziegler for the remainder? Given our current knowledge of the facts, is this not equally well interpreted as a creative response to circumstances, whatever the original plan might have been? For those of us (a minority of BCML?) who agree that the appearance of a plan is not easy to ignore.

Recordings: the recent Gardiner releases, Vols. 22 and 23 (as well as the previously released 24, confusing, no?) contain the cantatas we have discussed over the recent Easter weeks. They deserve some detailed commentary to add to the archives, if not already in process. I have already expressed my enthusiasm for the overall production and performance quality, and especially for the energy generated by the live performances, and the pilgrimage concept. Is that all in my mind? Frankly, I don't give a ... On a negative note, the Sinfonia to BWV 42 is incredibly quick. I am happy to have alternatives , but I just don't have a problem listening to Gardiner and enjoying how he decided to play it, especially in the context of the set Not the same as a recording studio.

BTW, we should be grateful to everyone assisting the continuing (and completed ) cantata cycles. It is doubtful if direct commercial profit is the motivation in any of them. SDG (the Gardiner motif). Not to be overlooked, insightful enough to reference bach-cantatas.com as a source for text translations into additional languages.

My comments on recordings are obviously (I hope) personal opinions, even if not labeled as such in every instance. Not to be confused with speculation, hypothesis, theory, conjecture, myth, conclusion (tentative or preliminary); I probably overlooked a couple words. Comments are especially not a suggestion to buy any particular edition, just occasional thoughts on what I have found enjoyable (not often not).

For therecord (pun, yes), I have bought a lot of Bach cantata recordings since joining BCML. I do not regret a single one, but it is a lot of stuff to organize. Isn't that why God made librarians?

I anticipate big trouble from all directions. Full disclosure: the first person I clearly recall, beyond family, is the first librarian I met, professionally. I remember her fondly. At the time (age 4 or 5) I did not understand the distinction between professional and family. I guess God made family too. Not always easy to be sure.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The Western tradition, expressed in the filioque ("and from the Son") disputed this Eastern interpretation, that of the "single procession". What does Bach make of this point?
He is not a closet Orthodox, for the setting of the filoque in the BMM is fully developed. But here, a tiny detail suggests a related theological issue. Is it Jesus' Spirit that is sent; or the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Ghost? >
A number of questions, meant in the spirit of open discussion:

(1) I am unclear on the meaning of 'filioque'

(2) Why would Bach be a closet anything, let alone Orthodox? Orthodox what, Lutheran? Some of us (one, anyway) who were introduced to Christianity via one of the original traditions (Roman, in my case) are stunned to realize that in a mere two centuries (1524 to 1724, roughly) the Lutheran splinter group managed to redefine itself into sub-sects of Orthodox and. And what? Unorthodox, Pietist?

(3) Thank you for using the name I always knew him (?) by: Holy Ghost, always my favorite. I thought that was one of the three points of agreement among all Christians, as I wrote only a few moments ago. Now I find there is not even agreement on this most basic point? Who can translate this obscurity for the world?

< Hans-Joachim Schulze notes that the text of the final Chorale (by Gerhardt) has been changed from the original (IMO so as to vary the theological meaning), by switching from "The Spirit" to "Thy Spirit": >
I think you are saying that someone (Bach?) has tried to de-emphasize the Holy Ghost, and make the coming Pentecost a further celebration (after Xmas) of Jesus' spirit descending to Earth (home planet for most of us, repeat emphasis). This seems to be a contradiction of what I understand from your previous comments, that it was the Eastern church which denied the Holy Ghost.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 30, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>(1) I am unclear on the meaning of 'filioque' <
The Western (Latin) church believes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son (hence 'et filioque'). The Eastern "Orthodox" (Greek) church objects to the addition of this 'et filioque' clause to the liturgy (read all about it on google. This dispute was one of the leading causes of the schism of 1054, and also probably one of the events of history that eventually resulted in the loss of Christian Constantinople, to Ottoman Muslims).

I don't know whether Gerhardt was aware of an Orthodox 'slant' to his text, and whether Bach or someone else made the "necessary" change, to obviously agree with the Western - and Lutheran (AFAIK) - traditions.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 30, 2007):
Cantata BWV 108 - Bach's Theology

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I think you are saying that someone (Bach?) has tried to de-emphasize the Holy Ghost, and make the coming Pentecost a further celebration (after Xmas) of Jesus' spirit descending to Earth (home planet for most of us, repeat emphasis). This seems to be a contradiction of what I understand from your previous comments, that it was the Eastern church which denied the Holy Ghost. >
I really can't see Bach presenting some pneumatological novelty. In fact, I doubt that the East-West controversies about the procession of the Holy Spirit were not the subject of much theologizing in Bach's day. If I'm not mistaken, Luther affirmed the Catholic position that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (the "filioque" proposition in the Nicene Creed) and not the Eastern Orthodox position that procession is from the Father alone. Again, I would say that Bach operates in a very concrete, imagistic theological world and that he self-censors his work so that there is no speculative theology of this kind.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 30, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< In fact, I doubt that the East-West controversies about the procession of the Holy Spirit were not the subject of much theologizing in Bach's day. >

I meant to say:

In fact, I doubt that the East-West controversies about the procession of the Holy Spirit were the subject of much theologizing in Bach's day.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>(1) I am unclear on the meaning of 'filioque' ><
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The Western (Latin) church believes that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son (hence 'et filioque'). >
Thanks for that explanation. Perhaps I should have figured it out from the 'fil' root? I would never make it as a theologian.

I will sneak an opportunity to repeat how much I enjoy your comments on the music, always enjoyed, and the essence of this list. Despite the entertaining distractions.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The Eastern "Orthodox" (Greek) church objects to the addition of this 'et filioque' clause to the liturgy (read all about it on google. This dispute was one of the leading causes of the schism of 1054, and also probably one of the events of history that eventually resulted in the loss of Christian Constantinople, to Ottoman Muslims). >
I thought to separate this from my previous response. The misunderstanding is perfectly clear to me, of course, but can you explain it to a Hindu, just for an example? What? They understand? Fighting the same battles for longer than we have been?

I am 100% in favor of the cantata text translation objective. As long as, while we are doing it, we acknowledge that we are still discussing what are the original German hymns, not to mention the German translations of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures. And Constantine's original objectives, when he authorized the assembling of texts that are the foundation of the Roman church. This is where I came in.

< I don't know whether Gerhardt was aware of an Orthodox 'slant' to his text, and whether Bach or someone else made the "necessary" change, to obviously agree with the Western - and Lutheran (AFAIK) - traditions. >
To me, Orthodox with a capital O means Eastern. I guess, in discussing Bach, we are expected to interpret Orthodox to mean Orthodox Lutheran? As opposed to Pietist? And then we will translate the texts for the world to understand?

I think you are being a pessimist about the loss of Constantinople. Now we call it Istanbul, and they are almost European. Baghdad is right around the corner. Just a few more battles to pave the way for the Prince of Peace.

I know, I know. He didn't really promise Peace on Earth, only Peace in Heaven. Or, correct me if I misunderstand. Peace anywhere would be welcome, right about now.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I really can't see Bach presenting some pneumatological novelty. In fact, I doubt that the East-West controversies about the procession of the Holy Spirit were the subject of much theologizing in Bach's day. If I'm not mistaken, Luther affirmed the Catholic position that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son (the "filioque" proposition in the Nicene Creed) >
Thanks for the subsequent correction in grammar, which I believe I inserted above. You guys are all missing the point. The Holy Ghost does not proceed from one, the other, or both. The Holy ghost is one and the other. That is the mystery of the Trinity, soon to come right after Pentecost. If you want to translate for the world, better get it straight at home.

BTW, I agree 100% that Bach was not likely interested in theologic novelties of any sort, especially pneumatological (sounds suspiciously like a trailballoon?)

Alain Bruguières wrote (April 30, 2007):
Paul T. McCain a wrote:
< Peter, in Orthodox Lutheranism there is no such distinction intended when texts speak of the "Spirit of Jesus" and the "Holy Spirit." >
I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying

Holy Spirit = Spirit of Jesus

in OL?

Does this mean that the 3rd person is the spirit of the 2nd person? A strange notion, but all this is very mysterious to me in any case ;-)

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
The historic Christian faith is that there is One God in Three Persons. I do not believe this forum is the place to get into an extended conversation about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. If you wish to discuss it off-list, I'd be happy to talk to you about it, via ____.

My post was simply point out a misunderstanding in Peter's post: namely; there is in Bach's Cantata, that we are now talking about, an intentional deviation from Orthodox Lutheran doctrine in regard to the doctrine of the Holy Spirit.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Doug, absolutely correct re. the topic of the progression of the H.S. and this as a subject of discussion in orthodox Lutheranism in Bach's day, other than teaching what historic Lutheranism teaches in the Book of Concord.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Ed, you are making fundamental errors in understanding historic Christianity's doctrine of the Holy Trinity. You can read what that doctrine is simply by reviewing the ancient ecumenical creeds at: www.bookofconcord.org

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 30, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Thanks for the subsequent correction in grammar, which I believe I inserted above. You guys are all missing the point. The Holy Ghost does not proceed from one, the other, or both. The Holy ghost is one and the other. That is the mystery of the Trinity, soon to come right after Pentecost. If you want to translate for the world, better get it straight at home. >
Actually, the procession of the Holy Spirit is an intrinsic part of ancient Trinitarian doctrine. This isn't the place to discuss it, but there is a working definition at: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07409a.htm

Peter Smaill wrote (April 30, 2007):
[To Alain Bruguieres] Thanks to all contributing to this puzzle- why was the text of the Chorale concluding BWV 108 changed from "Der Geist" to "Dein Geist"?

It is possible to hold that the Spirit of Jesus is the Holy Ghost, indeed an orthodox (i.e. Lutheran orthodox position), but as suggested this emphasises the procession via Jesus. So if anything the change agrees to the Western position, but also makes better textual sense given the Christocentric focus of the Cantata.

The point is that it is generally contended that Bach altered the von Ziegler text of BWV 108, for example shortening the recitative such that the rhyme pattern is destroyed. This presumably for musical reasons.

However , there is no musical cause to change "Der" to "Dein". The reason is capable of being theological. Bach himself rarely changes the chorale text -the only example I can recall is the juxtaposition in BWV 26 , "Ach wie fluchtig, ach wie nichtig" of "fluchtig" and "nichtig" compared to the usual placing, which appears unique to Bach.

The alternate theory is that it was just a mistake. This is IMO unlikely given the scrutiny that librettist and composer would have given to the printed texts. Perhaps others can cite Bach making an error like this elsewhere?

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 30, 2007):
< Ed, you are making fundamental errors in understanding historic Christianity's doctrine of the Holy Trinity. You can read what that doctrine is simply by reviewing the ancient ecumenical creeds at: www.bookofconcord.org >
Can we please preserve a distinction of speaking (and perhaps also of thinking?) between phrases such as "historic Christianity's doctrine" and "historic Lutheran doctrine"? That link to the Book of Concord goes to specifically "Lutheran Confessions", without saying one way or the other about other Christian branches that aren't Lutheran.

Especially on such an issue as the "Trinity" (which isn't in the Bible, but a later theological accretion!): I feel it's important to respect the existence of many other "historic Christian doctrines", and other Christian groups, that happen not to make a big deal of all this symbolic threeness.

At least as far as not dismissing us as unchristian (or whatever) because we happened to follow a different branch the Lutherans don't.... The phrase "historic Christianity's doctrine" chops right out of there anybody who favors a different historic branch of Christianity, with different doctrines.

That Book of Concord site does something that I find at least mildly off-putting: it asserts at: http://www.bookofconcord.org/whatisaLCY/index.html that there are "three ecumenical creeds" that are "accepted by Christians worldwide as correct expressions of what God's Word teaches." So, all modern Christians are forced to adhere to all three of those? All of which are not biblical, but made up later? I'm a member of a Christian church that happens not to do anything with the third one there, the Athanasian Creed: the one that's most heavy-handed about all this Trinity business. Does that mean (according to this web site, or according to wider Lutheranism) that I and my fellow parishioners are simply not Christian at all, or at least not "correct", because we don't adhere to all three of these particular creeds? Frankly, we don't do much with the Apostles' Creed or the Nicene Creed either, liturgically or otherwise; we focus more on biblical texts than on this later stuff.....

I'm not trying to start a dispute. Only pointing out that I found the phrase "historic Christianity's doctrine" offensive in its exclusivity.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 30, 2007):
Pietist? Orthodox? Unothodox? re: to Ed's comment below...

In the Pietist Lutheran tradition I knew growing up, most preaching reflected the Holy Ghost (later called Holy Spirit to modernize the hymnal and liturgy) as the third person of the Trinity, without heavy reference to the Spirit of Jesus. Orthodox Lutheran teaching emphasized the procession from the Father and the Son, while a common practice in preaching was to emphasize (in midwestern Pietism of the 1940s and 1950s) that the Holy Ghost or Holy Spirit came as a Comforter so that we were not left alone in this dark world. I believe Bach would have liked that approach. When we were children Pentecost was not celebrated in Lutheran churches with quite the emphasis we have today with the congregation dressing up in red and white, but served quietly as a reminder that God was with us and as we were children, for goodness sake we'd better behave. Good, serious behavior was the Pietist thrust. So I am happy to respond with a smile in this little note to Ed's comments. I imagine given the cultural leanings of that period that Unothodox Lutherans (so called) were what Pietists called the Orthodox who went by the book following Luther, and did not place quite as much of an emphasis on good behavior and moralism in their faith as giving emphasis to the concept of Grace. Having said this, I thought Julian's exposition of the cantata was an excellent introduction to both the musical and theological content. I very much appreciation the walking or marching beat commentary. Thanks, Julian.

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< of us (one, anyway) who were introduced to Christianity via one of the original traditions (Roman, in my case) are stunned to realize that in a mere two centuries (1524 to 1724, roughly) the Lutheran splinter group managed to redefine itself into sub-sects of Orthodox and. And what? Unorthodox, Pietist? >

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] Brad, I'm not going to enter into a debate with you on this discussion board over the nature form of historic Christianity.

I'm simply trying to state what the Christian faith was that J.S. Bach was operating with when he did his work on the Cantatas. That was the "historic Christian faith" as known via the ecumenical creeds. I was merely giving Ed a quick link to where he could find those texts.

If a person does not agree with the historic Christian faith, that is, of course, their business, and none of mine, for the purposes of this discussion list. But that there is in fact a "historic Christian faith" and an "orthodox Lutheranism" as Bach new it is not a matter of debate or speculation. It is simply a reality.

That historic Christian faith is most succinctly summarized in the words of the Apostles' and Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. They were put into the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord, a book to which all who served in the Lutheran Church of Saxony, of which Leipzig was part, were pledged, subscribed and expected to conform all their public church service to, along with the Saxon Church Order.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 30, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>However , there is no musical cause to change "Der" to "Dein". The reason is capable of being theological. Bach himself rarely changes the chorale text -the only example I can recall is the juxtaposition in BWV 26, "Ach wie fluchtig, ach wie nichtig" of "fluchtig" and "nichtig" compared to the usual placing, which appears unique to Bach. The alternate theory is that it was just a mistake.This is IMO unlikely given the scrutiny that librettist and composer would have given to the printed texts. Perhaps others can cite Bach making an error like this elsewhere?<<
This is a very complicated issue regarding which I will risk expressing a few generalizations without truly having studied this matter thoroughly and without, at this time, being able cite examples from all of the Bach cantatas. I am not aware of a detailed study of this type covering all the texts that Bach set to music.

The NBA KB volumes treat in the greatest possible detail the original documentation of each work in Bach's oeuvre. Each discussion of the cantatas has, among other things, a special section devoted to textual criticism. This involves noting text variants, tracking down, if possible, an independently printed source, but also noting variations and/or changes even within the original documents. The stanzas of the chorale texts are compared with a number of different hymnals with which Bach might have been acquainted. For biblical references (the dicta = quotations from the Bible), similar comparisons are made with various versions of the Luther Bible translation; for instance, the 'dicta' in BWV 108 are compared with a printing from 1716 having the imprimatur of the royal court in Dresden (the Elector of Saxony).

Martin Petzoldt, a theologian who has discussed "The theological Aspects of Bach's Leipzig Cantatas" (chapter 7, pp. 127ff. in volume 3 of "Die Welt der Bach Kantaten" Wolff/Koopman, Metzler/Bärenreiter, 1999) refers to Bach's remarkable "Skrupulosität" ("scrupulousness") which prevented him from using the entire cantata cycle texts by contemporary poets, texts that were readily available to him, but from which Bach would only select portions for setting to music(p. 129): ".bei Bach ist eine bemerkenswerte Skrupulosität zu spüren, die eher das Risiko des Wechsels bestimmter Sorten von Kantatentexten auf sich nimmt als die Bindung an einen geschlossenen Jahrgang, der sich theologisch womöglich als fragwürdig erweist." (".in Bach's case a remarkable scrupulousness can be detected, a scrupulousness which would rather risk a change in a certain type of cantata texts than tie itself down to a complete cantata cycle, one which might prove itself possibly to be theologically questionable.") Petzoldt notes that among the cantatas from the 1st yearly cycle (not the repeated Weimar cantatas) with texts by Johann Oswald Knauer, Christian Friedrich Henrici, Johann Jacob Rambach (and possibly also Johann Michael Heineccius), the texts were changed and transformed for theological and poetic reasons. Despite all the pressure caused by a lack of time, Bach must have spent an inordinate amount of time in selecting and changing the cantata texts to make them suit his needs. From the above we can see that there is some merit to the notion that Bach would have preferred to work collaboratively with a poet rather than methodically plan to complete an entire printed cycle without interrupting or dropping it suddenly at some point.

My own observations about the NBA KB notations and comparisons of text variants:

Bach did occasionally make mistakes with the text as he generally worked under great pressure of time when composing. A word repeated a second or third time in the same mvt. might be changed (usually to a similar or synonymous word). There could be discrepancies between the text (usually only a single word or two) in the autograph score and the text used in the parts. For the final chorale in the score (remember that this is often composed very hurriedly while the copyists are already working on the other mvts.), Bach might enter (probably from memory) a chorale text (again only a word or two are usually involved) which is not exactly the same as that found in most contemporary hymnals. More often than not, Bach will only write down the text incipit in the score and the copyists then have to supply the remaining text (probably from memory as well). Bach would then check and possibly correct a word or two in the original parts if necessary.

Since it would be very time-consuming to go back to the NBA KBs and search for specific instances of the above, I think it would be more instructive simply to share the information about text sources and variants regarding BWV 108:

From NBA KB I/12, pp. 44-46

The Sources for the Cantata Text Used:

The printed version of the text is contained in Christiane Mariane von Ziegler's "Versuch | In | Gebundener | Schreib-Art. | Leipzig, | Bey Joh. Friedrich Brauns sel. Erben, 1728" pp. 249-250:

The Original Text:

Dom. Cantate.

Dictum.

ES ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe, denn so ich nicht hingehe, kommt der Tröster nicht zu euch; So ich aber hingehe, will ich ihn zu euch senden.

ARIA.
Mich kann kein Zweifel stöhren,
Auf dein Wort, Herr, zu hören,
Ich glaube, gehst du fort,
So kann ich mich getrösten,
Daß ich zu den Erlößten
Komm an gewünschten Port.

Dein Geist wird mich indessen schon regieren,
Daß ich, so lang ich hier die Wallfahrth muß verführen,
Nicht von der rechten Bahne gleite;
Durch deinen Hingang kommt er ja zu mir,
Drum frag ich ängstiglich: Ach ist er nicht schon hier?


Dictum.

Wann aber jener, der Geist der Wahrheit, kommen
wird, der wird euch in alle Wahrheit leiten; Denn er
wird nicht von ihm selber reden, sondern was er hören
wird, das wird er reden / und das zukünfftig ist /
wird er verkündigen.

ARIA.

Was mein Hertz von mir begehrt,
Ach! das wird mir wohl gewährt.
Uberschütte mich mit Seegen,
Leite mich auf deinen Wegen,
Daß ich einst in Ewigkeit
Schaue deine Herrlichkeit.

Choral.

Der Geist, den Gott vom Himmel gibt, der leitet
alles, was ihn liebt, auf wohlgebähnten Wegen, er
setzt und richtet unsern Fuß, daß er nicht anders
treten muß, als wo man find den Seegen.

Changes in the text:

Mvt. 1: m25:.so kömmt der Tröster. (m18:.kömmt der Tröster)

Mvt. 2: line 6 where the original has "gewünschten", Bach's autograph score has "gewünschten" in mm59, 72, 75 but "erwünschten" in m 57 and throughout all of the original vocal part (copy)

Mvt. 3: The first 3 lines of the original text: "Dein Geist wird.rechten Bahn gleite" are summarized by Bach to result in only 2 lines:

"Dein Geist wird mich also regiren,
Daß ich auf rechter Bahne geh
;"

Bach also changes the original "ängstiglich" to
"sorgen"

Mvt. 4: the original "Wann" is changed to "Wenn"

Mvt. 5:

Line 1: the original "Was mein Hertz von mir begehrt" has "mir" instead of "dir". This may have been due to a printing/typesetting error.

Line 4: Ziegler: "Leite"; Bach: "Führe"

Line 5: Ziegler: ".einst in Ewigkeit"; Bach: .in der Ewigkeit"

Mvt. 6:

Line 1: Ziegler: "Der Geist"; Bach: "Dein Geist"

Line 3: Ziegler: "Auf wohlgebähnten Wegen"; Bach: "Auf wohl gebähnten Wege"

Line 4: Ziegler: "unsern"; Bach: "unsren"

Both Bible citations (mvts. 1&4) are taken from the Gospel reading for the Sunday Cantate: John 16: 5-15, specifically here John 16: 7 in Mvt. 1 and John 16: 13 in Mvt. 4.

Compared to the contemporary (1716) Luther Bible printed version referred to above, there are several minor changes in Bach's text:

John 16: 7:".so ich nicht hingehe, so [!] kommt.."

John 16: 13:".was zukünftig ist, wird er euch [!] verkündigen."

Regarding "so", see above note to Mvt. 1.

The "euch" in John 16: 13 is also found in other editions of the Luther Bible from 1700, 1720, 1725, 1733, 1736 and also as printed by N. Haas, Leipzig, 1707, 1710 and others as well. Bach's source, in this instance, was, without a doubt, based upon Mariane von Ziegler's text.

Chorale text:

Mvt. 6 is the 10th verse of Paul Gerhardt's (1653) hymn "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist". A comparison with various hymnals printed in Leipzig to which Bach may have had access gives the following results:

The chorale is missing entirely in the Vopelius 1682 hymnal, the specific verse quoted here is missing in the Wagner 1697 hymnal as well as the St. Georg's hymnal of 1721 and 1730. It is found, however, in the Vopelius hymnals of 1730 and 1737 as well as in the hymnals used in Dresden (1725, 1728, and 1738 editions).

All of these hymnals that have this hymn (and verse) show:

Line 1: "Der Geist" (as Ziegler has it) for Mvt. 6.

Line 3: "auf wohlgebahnten (also 'wohl gebahnten') Wegen"

Line 6: "findet Segen."

In several editions of the Dresden Hymnal (1725, 1728, but not 1738) have:

Line 4: "er sitzt und richtet."

Final comment (all of this text critical commentary given above was prepared by Alfred Dürr) by Dürr:

Bach's chooses "Dein Geist" over the original "Der Geist", documented as the usual form in various hymnals and Bach obviously prefers having this beginning to help connect it with the previous aria which uses the "Du"-form of address with the person spoken to being Jesus.

It is not clear whether Bach's choice of the singular "Wege" in line 3 is intentional or simply due to carelessness. However, this form appears both in the chorale text of the autograph score as well as in the four vocal part copies.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 30, 2007):
< Brad, I'm not going to enter into a debate with you on this discussion board over the nature and form of historic Christianity.
I'm simply trying to state what the Christian faith was that J.S. Bach was operating with when he did his work on the Cantatas. That was the "historic Christian faith" as known via the ecumenical creeds. I was merely giving Ed a quick link to where he could find those texts.
If a person does not agree with the historic Christian faith, that is, of course, their business, and none of mine, for the purposes of this discussion list. But that there is in fact a "historic Christian faith" and an "orthodox Lutheranism" as Bach new it is not a matter of debate or speculation. It is simply a reality.
That historic Christian faith is most succinctly summarized in the words of the Apostles' and Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. They were put into the Lutheran Confessions as contained in the Book of Concord, a book to which all who served in the Lutheran Church of Saxony, of which
Leipzig was part, were pledged, subscribed and expected to conform all their public church service to, along with the Saxon Church Order. >
Sorry, but the above response has ignored my point...or has made things worse.

My point was simply: that there is MORE THAN ONE "historic Christian faith" (as of the 18th century, and as of the 11th century, and as of the 19th century, and as of now...). It is not simply "A REALITY" (your emphasis); but rather MANY realities. Those ecumenical creeds are not universal doctrine, among ALL Christians!

It's your language that reduces everything to one particular box of "historic Christianity" -- as if there aren't or weren't any other valid ones at the time -- that I'm reacting to.

I'm sure that my great-great-etc-grandparents would have been shocked to learn that (since they weren't Lutheran, and didn't subscribe to all three of those particular creeds) they apparently didn't have a part in "historic Christian faith". My grandfather was an ordained minister, and indeed started many new congregations; but in a non-Lutheran denomination that happens not to do creeds, and especially not the Athanasian one. All of our family history books, on both sides of my family, make a big deal that my forebears for some dozen generations back were indeed devout and faithful Christians. And we're having my son dedicated next Sunday, into that same faith and tradition...which doesn't happen to be Lutheran. The Nicene and Apostles' creeds are printed in the back of our hymnal, incidentally, but we hardly ever use them as our denomination isn't heavy-handed about these creeds.

As for Bach and his congregations subscribing to those three particular non-biblical creeds as a litmus test of faith, or not, well -- that's their business. Fine. I'm just pointing out that it's offensive (IMO) today to refer to that as the Christian faith of their day...as if there weren't any other competing Christian faiths. It distorts the historical picture, for one thing. For starters, what about JSB's own son who went off and converted to Roman Catholicism?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (April 30, 2007):
Utroque-ism

http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-religion/1503200/posts
If this is your reality in our time and our world, enjoy it. Enough blood has been shed over such inspired concepts.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 30, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] In the cantata's forum as I understand it we try to stick to the topic at hand. However, Bach's theology can be classified historically as a later theology in some sense. During my years at Fuller Seminary I took a course on the subject of the Apostle Paul and the house church of the earliest times. There were no creeds at the time of the development of Christianity, but these came as a later by-product of organizing the faith and in the context of patterns of authority. Initially the spread of the Gospel came as disciples became teachers and traveled throughout the ancient world meeting in homes. The simplicity of that kind of Christianity even exists in the home church movement of today/a road less traveled. So if we want to be historically accurate we have to acknowledge that the periods of creedal development are not fully representative oChristianity which was pluralistic almost from its inception. I had to go to seminary, of course, to learn how deep and broad the real development of Christianity has been since the Eastern and Western church concepts had predominated what I had been taught in church and at home. And Bach had a job in which he was undoubtedly expected to reflect the creeds at times, but Scripture even moreso as Scripture is the foundation of the faith.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 30, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Ed, you are making fundamental errors in understanding historic Christianity's doctrine of the Holy Trinity. You can read what that doctrine is simply by reviewing the ancient ecumenical creeds at: www.bookofconcord.org >
Thanks for this reference, as well as those provided by others. I do not think I was previously making any fundamental errors. I did read these references in enough detail to recognize that there is a lot of discussion spent, not to mention the blood spilled, on a point which ultimately cannot be demonstrated one way or another, not even in Scripture, let alone fact.

I did recognize that there are internal incosistencies within the Lutheran Creeds, as well as with the RCC Creed. Just for starters, it is difficult to comprehend language which suggests that the Holy Ghost proceeds from Father, Son, or both, while at the same time proposing that Jesus, on Earth, was conceived by the Holy Ghost.

My original point was not to start a discussion of theoretical or historic Christian theology, but only to understand the sources and beliefs implicit in Bach's texts, as an aid to understanding the music, and as a prelude to additional and/or improved translations of the texts.

With specific reference to BWV 108, I believe Thomas Braatz' post makes it clear that Bach intentionally changed 'Holy Ghost' to a less definite form which can be read as 'Spirit of Jesus'. It is my understanding that in other places Bach's texts make clear reference to the Holy Ghost, so that the change is specific to this one instance, in any event. The reasons are not obvious to me, but do not represent a general discrediting of the Holy Ghost.

That means that in translating the cantata texts, a clear concept of the Holy Ghost is needed. That is difficult to achieve in any language, as evidenced by the various Lutheran creeds. My basic point remains: if this concept, Holy Ghost as one member of the Trinity, is to be translated into languages and cultures which lack any Christian basis, it should first be defined clearly enough in Orthodox Lutheran theology (Bach's theology?) so that it can be explained in simple English to someone who has a foundation in Chistianity.

Personally, I think that words like 'consubstantial' and 'eternal' work fine, although based entirely on faith rather than logic. It is not clear to me whether they apply or not in Orthodoz Lutheran theology. Hair splitting over how and from where the Holy Ghost proceeds is simply confusing.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
Interesting material on the text of the Cantata.

Lest the issue get lost in all the words. There is no evidence whatsoever that J.S. Bach was, in his cantata works, attempting to change the doctrine of the Lutheran Church on the question of the procession of the Spirit.

In Lutheran Orthodoxy, to refer to "the Spirit" or "The Holy Spirit" or "Jesus' Spirit" were all references, and are references, to God the Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
Brad, I understood what your point was. I responded to it by indicating I will not engage you in a debate, or a discussion, or your "offense" over the use of the term "the historic Christian faith." I'm not interested in your personal beliefs, or reaction, to the historic Christian creeds, nor what you or your ancestors believed, or did not believe. That is all irrelevant.

J.S. Bach was working in a context where the historic Christian faith was well understood both by himself and his employers and in his community. It was the faith confessed according to the Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, which book includes the historic Christian creeds, which have their origin in both the Christian Scriptures and the actual wording of the creeds is already seen in documents already from the late 1st century of the Christian Church.

I will continue to refer to the "historic Christian faith" and whether you choose to take offense, or not, is entirely up to you. I have explained my meaning and will not further respond to your comments on this point since they are off-top and ultimately entirely irrelevant to the Bach Cantata discussion list.

Paul T. McCain wrote (April 30, 2007):
To Eds Myskowski] Ed, the point simply is that your speculations and private opinions about the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity are irrelevant and off-topic.

J.S. Bach was an orthodox Lutheran Christian, pledged to conform his work and service to the historic Christian faith as articulated in the ancient creeds, that were part and parcel of the Book of Concord to which he and all other church workers in Leipzig were pledged, along with the Saxon Church Order.

To suggest that there is some sort of theological importance to his wording of about "Jesus spirit" is unfounded in reality. You are misunderstanding the doctrine of the Trinity as confessed and understood by J.S. Bach and imposing your misunderstandings on Bach and the Cantata text.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 30, 2007):
< J.S. Bach was working in a context where the historic Christian faith was well understood both by himself and his employers and in his community. It was the faith confessed according to the Lutheran Confessions, as contained in the Book of Concord of 1580, which book includes the historic Christian creeds, which have their origin in both the Christian Scriptures and the actual wording of the creeds is already seen in documents already from the late 1st century of the Christian Church. >
Well then, I guess the question boils down to: would Bach have taken such a rigid stance (even to do his job as teacher within an orthodox Lutheran institution), believing that Catholics and Pietists and Anabaptists and Calvinists and various others were all not part of "The Historic Christian Faith", just because they happened not to be Lutherans?

I prefer to believe that Bach was more open-minded and tolerant than that: acknowledging that other Christians (and not only Lutherans) can be just as sincere about their faith, without compelling them to adhere to the Book of Concord or any other post-biblical book.

Did Bach believe that the only way to be Christian was to be Lutheran? How would we know that, for sure? What would he say to any friends, business associates, etc if such topics ever came up? Is there any record of Bach trying to "witness to" anybody, as for trying to convert them to Lutheranism, other than doing his own church-music jobs very well?

And yes, I've read Bach's annotations, and Leaver's further commentaries, on top of the Calov volume. I'm not disputing that Bach was a down-the-line Lutheran, at least in behavior. I'm just wondering how tolerant he was in thoughts, words, and deeds toward other professing Christians who happened not to be of that same persuasion.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 1, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I prefer to believe that Bach was more open-minded and tolerant than that: acknowledging that other Christians (and not only Lutherans) can be just as sincere about their faith, without compelling them to adhere to the Book of Concord or any other post-biblical book. >
This is the stumbling block we all bump against. We love Bach's music and we dearly want to love Bach the man. And so we cherry-pick from his biography. I would love to believe that Bach was a a tolerant, open-minded man, a kind of crypto-proto-American democrat. The fact remains that he chose to set music to a horrible text about murderous Catholics and Turks. No one forced him to choose that text: he chose it because hewas a man who apparently conformed to the attitudes and prejudices of his age. We do him no service by trying to remove him from his historical matrix. I don't say it's easy: horrible texts to sublime music ain't easy to justify.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 1, 2007):
Paul T. McCain wrote:
< Ed, the point simply is that your speculations and private opinions about the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity are irrelevant and off-topic. >
I have not expressed any private opinions. I have been following the posts of others, particularly one suggesting that Bach may have changed the chorale text to reference the 'Spirit of Jesus' rather than 'Holy Ghost'. Perhaps I misunderstood. My comments regarding the Trinity were based on a reading of the creeds suggested by you, as well as other referenced articles. As I stated, I find these not internally consistent. That is a matter of language and logic, not opinion. However, if there is one understanding which you can attribute to Bach, that is fine with me.

As is the idea that whenever Bach refers to 'Jesus Spirit' he means 'Holy Ghost'. If everyone agrees, discussion closed. I do continue to suggest that both the Holy Ghost and Trinity are matters of Christian faith, a mystery, rather than logic. Anyone translating Bach's texts needs to treat these terms consistently, if we agree that Bach has used them consistently, and be prepared to provide concise explanations for non-Christians.

I emphasize the translation issue because BCW is the recommended reference resource, and Aryeh has stated his hope to expand the available languages.

Paul T. McCain wrote (May 1, 2007):
[No, Brad, the question does not "boil down" to what you are saying. What you are posting at this point is irrelevant to a discussion of Bach's cantatas. Please feel free to contact me off list at: _____ if you wish to pursue the questions you are raising.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 1, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< I prefer to believe that Bach was more open-minded and tolerant than that: acknowledging that other Christians (and not only Lutherans) can be just as sincere about their faith, without compelling them to adhere to the Book of Concord or any other post-biblical book. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This is the stumbling block we all bump against. We love Bach's music and we dearly want to love Bach the man. And so we cherry-pick from his biography. I would love to believe that Bach was a a tolerant, open-minded man, a kind of crypto-proto-American democrat. The fact remains that he chose to set music to a horrible text about murderous Catholics and Turks. No one forced him to choose that text: he chose it because he was a man who apparently conformed to the attitudes and prejudices of his age. >
Carefully stated, and important. The texts and prejudices of his day do not become more relevant, hundreds of years later, because of the quality of the music.

IMO (opinion, now), the music has a spiritual communication which transcends both historic and theologic analysis. Not exactly Brad's point, but going in that direction. Bach the man (and orthodox Lutheran) is gone. Bach the artist endures, and we are free to relate to that art, whatever its source. Including the performers who interpret it for us. Knowing the orthodox 18th C. Lutheran texts helps us relate to the source of the art, but that is not its only dimension. Or even its most important dimension.

Are the pyramids less impressive, because the underlying theology is obsolete? It is, no?

Joel Figen wrote (May 1, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Are the pyramids less impressive, because the underlying theology is obsolete? It is, no? >
You're kidding of course.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 1, 2007):
BWV 108: the music

The `vox Christi' opening movement has the appealing calm that often characterises this type of aria. The extraordinarily long melisma on "(hin)-ge-(he)" is especially attractive because it is built on a cycle of fifths. Huttenlocher (with Rilling [3]), who is sometimes too `operatic' in Bach's cantatas, is like a gentle giant in this performance - with clarity of pitch and calm expression that suits this music. In Rilling's recording, the music has a steady, forward moving staccato motion, with staccato that is not too sharp. The oboe and strings nicely complement the voice.

In the continuo of the tenor aria, we have the unusual situation of the fifth beat (the fifth of 6 quavers, in 3/4 time) being silent, endowing the music with a lovely dance-like, quasi-syncopated rhythm. In the ritornello, the obbligato violin has a lovely `rocking' melody partly based on a cycle of fifths. The tenor's long held notes on `glau(-be)', with the second long held note sounding an interval of a third lower than the first, reminded me of similar long held notes in the `Erwäge' aria in the SJP (BWV 245). Later, the violin holds this corresponding note for four bars. The solo violin and Schreier's singing are superb, in Rilling's recording .

Young (in previous discussions) apparently considers the fugal chorus to be one of Bach's greatest fugues. It certainly has drive and contrapuntal brilliance, and is worthy of some study. Noteworthy is the particularly dense writing, mostly in continuous 1/8th and 1/16th notes, in all parts. (I suppose Bach, like those Arabian artists who
designed the outrageously complex, breathtakingly beautiful abstract geometric motifs in the Alhambra, and such, (Bach)had his tricks by which he can manage the complex interweaving of lines in movements such as this). The first and third fugues have leaps of major 6ths and major 7ths after the initial three repeated notes. For example, of the first four (in order) BTAS entries, the BTS entries haves leaps of a major 6th, but the A entry has a leap of a major 7th. (Be aware that, because of this leap, the initial 3 notes, of each successive statement of the subject, sits at a lower pitch than the preceding voice, eg, at the start, after the basses have leapt up to notes around middle C, the tenors enter on the A below, and so on. This means one has to be alert to hear some of the later entries).

There are 8 entries of the fugue subject in the first fugue, 6 entries of the (different) subject in the second fugue, and 12 entries of the subject (a variation of the first subject) in the third fugue.

The entries in the second fugue, in the order TASBSB, are easiest to hear, because they always follow one another at the same distance, namely, of the subject's length.

The first and third fugues require some study of the score (if one wants to hear all the entries), because successive entries occur at differing intervals (of time). For example, in the third fugue, after the relatively easy to follow ATBS entries, there are six entries of the subject arranged in a type of stretti, in the order BTASTB, but study of the score will be required to `isolate' these entries from the surrounding, rich contrapuntal fabric. The sopranos have the last two of the fugue subject entries, immediately before and after the attractive musical phrases that descend a step at a time, near the end. I found I could hear all 26 entries of the fugues' subjects in the entire movement without following the score, in Rilling's recording [3] (which has commendable clarity of the lines), after checking the score and listening half a dozen times, just with the order of entries written out on a piece of paper. Others may achieve this more quickly, provided their recordings in fact make all of the entries audible.

Like the tenor aria, the alto aria has a silent beat as a significant part of its structure, this time occurring simultaneously in all the parts. Once again the violin part is quite beautiful. Rilling [3] apparently has a solo violin that is separate, in places, from the violin 1 part, though this is not indicated in the BGA. The voice part concludes with an attractive, slow-moving melisma involving rhythmic tension (three against four), on "schau(-e)".

Watkinson remains attractive in thmovement, despite her somewhat unusual, quick vibrato, or rather, Rilling's orchestration is most attractive, overcoming any problems with the voice.

At first hearing, I found Richter's chorus and chorale [2] to be overly vigorous (among other problems), and the arias too lushly `romantic'; Rilling seems to have achieved a better balance in this regard. I haven't heard other recordings, as yet.

Paul T. McCain wrote (May 1, 2007):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil, thanks for your post. These are the posts the keep me reading this list. much appreciated.

Peter Smaill wrote (May 3, 2007):
Cantata BWV 108 - Robin Leaver on Filioque

Quite apart from the emphasis placed by Bach on the source of the Holy Spirit being Jesus (by substituting "Dein Geist" for "Der Geist" in the final Chorale of Cantata BWV 108 , there is according to Robin Leaver a further example of the composer emphasising the procession of the Holy Spirit through Jesus. It is in the Magnificat :

"[discussion of Trinitarian theology symbolized in BMM (BWV 232)] Bach does something similar at the end of the Magnificat (BWV 243) in the nineteen measures at the beginning of the Gloria, before the music of the opening "Magnificat" returns for the remainder of the text of the Gloria Patri. Trinitarian theology is expressed in three sections, one for each Person, in which the voice entries are in triplets and parallel thirds. Further, the voice entries for "Gloria patri" progress from lowest to highest, with a pedal-point in the middle of the three measures of the bass part. "Gloria filio" has staggered voice entries, beginning with soprano 1, which is now assigned the vocal pedal-point in the middle of these three measures, that is, the inversion of what appears in the bass part of the "Gloria Patri". Then for the "Gloria et Spiritui Sancto" the voices enter in a simple descending order, in five steps from soprano 1 to bass. Here again Bach gives musical form to Trinitarian theology: the Son is the image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son"

("Luther's Liturgical Music , Principles and Implications," p290.)

As Leaver concludes :

"Johann Sebastian Bach was as much a musical theologian as a theological musician. Although there has been some resistance in musicological circles to the suggestion that there are distinctive theological dimensions to Bach's music.....the connection between theology and music has a long history in Lutheran tradition"

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2007):
Cantata BWV 108 - Trinitarian Counterpoint

Peter Smaill wrote:
< Then for the "Gloria et Spiritui Sancto" the voices enter in a simple descending order, in five steps from soprano 1 to bass. Here again Bach gives musical form to Trinitarian theology: the Son is the image of the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son" >
And symbolizes the descent of the Spirit from heaven with the descending inversion. Trinitarian counterpoint is everywhere in Bach. In the "Et in unum Dominum" in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232), the unity yet uniqueness of the Father and the Son is symbolized by a close canon at the unison.

And, as a bonus, it sounds beautiful when singers perform it!

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 108: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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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Last update: ýSeptember 26, 2011 ý21:52:03