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Cantata BWV 108
Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 24, 2010

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 24, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 108 -- Es ist guch, dass ich hingehe

This weeks discussion continues the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity, with BWV 108 for the Fourth Sunday after Easter (Cantate) from the second Leipzig cycle, one (liturgical) year after last weeks work, BWV 166. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV108.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham} is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. Five selected recordings for the current weeks discussion are highlighted on the BCW main (home) page.

Because Julians commentary is so useful and accessible, it does not add much for me to cite Durr every week (astute readers may detect my use of a template). I will repeat this from Gardiner’s notes to his pilgrimage CD release. This weeks work and last weeks (BWV 166) are linked by this thought:

<more you immerse yourself in these works, the more you experience yet again the exceptional potency of Bachs post-Resurrection cantatas, which cover such a wide gamut of styles and moods. Bach is constantly challenging his listeners to consider what it is to be alive, using his music to tease new meanings out of the Gospel texts. In BWV 166 Wo gehist du hin? he reminds us how ephemeral human life is, and what a potential mess we make of it and its opportunities, but how there are signposts to be read, props to lean on and compass bearings to bring us back on course, even at the times when we sense that we are most alone -- when God appears to have abandoned us to our own murky devices.> (end quote) [end template]

I recalled during the intervening week, the adage <Wherever you go, there you are>, attributed to Baba Ram Dass (Richard Alpert) when I first heard it in the 1960s. With a few additional years of perspective, I now realize that he most likely adapted it from some (much?) earlier source. There you are. It has a nice ring to it, nevertheless, parallel to Wo gehist du hin?

A few details to ponder:

Independent commentaries often refer to the unusual lack of an opening chorus in Bach cantatas, sometimes justified by the need to rest the exhausted choir. More likely an opening aria is significant, rather than unusual, given that there are the only two works for this day (Easter 4, Cantate) in the important time between Resurrection and Ascension. Julian Mincham also notes the relation within Jahrgang II of BWV 85 and BWV 87, also opening with bass aria (Mvt. 1), with text expressing the words of Christ. See also adjacent works in Jahrgang I.

Translations of the opening line include:

It is expedient for you that I go away [OCC]

It is good for you that I should go away [Francis Browne, English 3]

It is good for you that I leave [Pamela Dellal, English 6]

I enjoy the clarity and simplicity of a lady who has sung these works (if not the specific line), with all due respect to the value of Francis Brownes interlinear translations.

Full disclosure: in order to be timely, I have not yet reviewed the archives of previous discussions. Apologies for any redundancies or oversights, or, sorry for mistakes.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 24, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Full disclosure: in order to be timely, I have not yet reviewed the archives of previous discussions. Apologies for any redundancies or oversights, or, sorry for mistakes. >
Well, I should have known better. For example:

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.

Not exactly, then, or now.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 24, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Independent commentaries often refer to the unusual lack of an opening chorus in Bach cantatas, sometimes justified by the need to rest the exhausted choir. More likely an opening aria is significant, rather than unusual, given that there are the only two works for this day (Easter 4, Cantate) in the important time between Resurrection and Ascension. >
As a choral singer myself, I have an informal ranking system which I apply to the technical and artistic demands of each Bach chorus that I encounter in our discussion. Here's my rough schema:

1) Extremely difficult:
B Minor Mass: "Pleni Sunt Coeli", "Cum Sancto Spiritu"
Motet "Singet dem Herrn'

2) Demanding:
St. John Passion: "Herr Unser Herrscher"
St.Matthew Passion: "Sind Blitzen und Donner"
Cantata "Herz und Mund"

3) Moderately Easy:
Cantata 4: "Christ Lag inTodesbanden"
Cantata 140: "Wachet Auf"
St. Matthew Passion: "Kommt Ihr Töchter"

4) Easy:
Magnificat: "Sicut Locutus Est"
Mass in B Minor: "Dona Nobis Pacem", "Kyrie II"

I would definitely place the central chorus of this cantata in Category 2. The music is complex, the pace is unrelenting, and there are some horrifically difficult intervals for the singers to negotiate. This is not a day off for any choir -- Leusink's choir has a lot of trouble keeping up.

The question that keeps poking up for me is why Bach wrote for such widely-varying degrees of difficulty. If I didn't know that he wrote most of his cantatas for one choir, I would guess that the cantatas were written for different choirs of varying abilities.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 24, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Independent commentaries often refer to the unusual lack of an opening chorus in Bach cantatas, sometimes justified by the need to rest the exhausted choir. More likely an opening aria is significant, rather than unusual,

Both I think in this cycle. Unusual because there are only 3 of the 53 cantatas which begin with an aria and it is instructive to compare them (BWV 85, BWV 87 and BWV 108) For this reason I grouped them together in my essays on this cycle. Significant because of the depth, contrast and power of these three movements, all settings of divine utterances.

Is there not the possibility that if Bach wrote the cantatas for OVPP that he did in fact write for choirs of differing abilities, choosing from his pool of singers the four that would do most justice to any particular work?

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 24, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Is there not the possibility that if Bach wrote the cantatas for OVPP that he did in fact write for choirs of differing abilities, choosing from his pool of singers the four that would do most justice to any particular work? >
This assumes a much grander architecture to Bach's compositional calendar than the Rossini Rush of weekly production. If the technical difficulty of choral music indicates different ensembles, it would suggest multi-tasking in composition and rehearsal. It makes logical sense but there isn't a shred of evidence to indicate how Bach deployed his resources beyond the division into four choirs.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 29, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 108 - Recordings

If you have a hundred bucks or so to spend on recordings, a couple good options:

(1) BWV 108:
Richter, 1959 (with Peter Pears, tenor) [1]
Kuijken, 2009 [9]
Gardiner, 2000 Pilgrimage, Vol. 24 [6]
Suzuki, Vol. 4 box set (CDs 31-40) [8]

(2) If you do not yet have the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition [5], just buy that first, and start saving up that next Benjamin [Franklin] (ACE for US$100) for the above recommendations.

I expect these are all available as downloads, for those who find that option more convenior cost-effective. Personally, I find the prospect of downloading the Bach Edition to an iPod puzzling and/or intimidating.

It is quite a joy to compare the first Richter with Kuijken (HIP, OVPP), exactly fifty years apart. I will post a few details, perhaps others will, as well?

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 29, 2010):
I recently wrote (with respect to BWV 166, equally applicable here) a couple words which may be confusing, even to American English speakers and writers:

(1) ambience. My Apple spell-checker insisted on ambiance. I went with my instinct, and ignored Apple. After the fact, I note that my trusty old Websters New World Dictionary of the American [!] Language: College Edition (1960) indicates that ambience is derived from the French ambiance. Is there ambiance in England?

(2) reverbant. The spell-checker suggested reverent, but not reverberant, which is what I had in mind. Neither of us thought of resonant.

I think resonant ambience is a precise definition of the Suzuki recording acoustic, as a general characteristic. It grows on you (or me, at least). It came up with respect to the very tight soprano choir (sounds almost solo, with resonant ambience) in BWV 166, Mvt. 3.

William Hoffman wrote (November 17, 2010):
Cantata 108: Ziegler Text

Bach's second Cantata to a Mariane von Ziegler text, BWV 108, "Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe" (It is good for you that I go away), was presented on Cantate Sunday, April 9, 1725. Like three other Ziegler texts - 87 183, and 175 - it contains no opening chorus but places the chorus near the middle as No. 4, Wenn aber jenes, der Geist der Wahrheit, kommen wird" (But when he, the spirit of truth, will come). It's is a paraphrase of John 16:13, from the appointed Gospel, "The work of the Paraclete," John 16:5-15. The placement of the chorus in the middle of Cantata BWV 108 is typical of Bach's second cantata group, according to Dürr(<Cantatas of JSB>: 27).

4. Chorus [Dictum] (S, A, T, B)

When he, however, truth's very Spirit, will have come, will he into every truth then lead you. For he will not of himself be speaking, rather all that he hath heard will he be speaking; and what the future holds will he proclaim abroad.

© Copyright Z. Philip Ambrose BCW: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV108.html

The other three cantatas contain central recitatives, alternating arias with recitatives with a closing chorale in the basic structure of Bach's first cantata group, according to Dürr, primarily found in Sundays After Trinity and the Second Sunday After Easter (Misericordias Domini) in the 1723-24 first cantata cycle. The opening Vox Dei (Christi) aria No. 1 for bass has the dictum, John 16:7, "Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe," ("It is good for you that I depart" so that the Comforter [Holy Spirit] will come).

Mvt. 1: Aria [Dictum] (B)

It is for you that I depart now, for were I not departing, would your Comforter not come. But since I am leaving, I will send him unto you.

Multiple Bible verses are a characteristic of Ziegler cantata texts as well as the used of the Vox Christi, found in 11 movements -- five choruses [one with bass recitative], four bass arias, and bass and tenor recitatives -- of eight of the nine Ziegler Cantatas, excepting BWV 128 for Ascension Day, lists Mark A. Peters in <A Woman's Voice, in Baroque Music: Mariane von Ziegler and J. S. Bach>, Ashgate 2008:87.

Other Ziegler characteristics found in Cantata 108, says Peters, include:

A. The predominant theme of "Speech" compared to the lesser theme of "Silence" in No. 4, with the Vox Dei "text describing Holy Spirit speaking," p. 77.

B. The opening innovative Vox Christi bass aria similar to the previous substantial and virtuosic movements in previous Cantatas BWV 89 (Trinity +22, 1723), 166 (Cantate, 1724), 86 (Rogate 1724) and 85 (Misericordias Domini 1725), p. 89f - all possibly by Christian Weiss Sr; pp. 87, 89f and 101.

C. The Vox Dei chorus, No. 4, in the old German motet tradition, and with 68/5 are related to the five similar, more conventional, concise Vox Christi choruses in the first Leipzig Cantata Cycle, 1723-24: BWV 24/3 (4th Sunday After Trinity, Neumeister text), 77/1 (13th Sunday After Trinity, ?C. Weiss), 65/1 (Epiphany, ?C. Weiss), 144/1 (Septuageisma, ?Picander), and 37/1 (Ascension 1724, ?C Weiss), pp. 93-95 and 101.

D. The overall cantata "singular structure" with the two Vox Dei (Christi and Spiritus) dictum movements, p. 109;

E. The cohesion, flow, and continuity of Ziegler's solo texts, especially the No. 2 tenor trio binary aria, "Ich kann kein Zweifel stören" (No doubt can deter me), and the tenor recitative, No. 3, "Dein Geist wird mich also regieren (Your Spirit will so rule me). The tenor aria is the believer's response to the Vox Christi bass dictum and the following tenor recitative tells how the believer will find the aria's desired port of redemption through the path of the Holy Spirit. "More so than the chorale cantatas," says Peters (p.112), "Ziegler's aria texts exhibit close textual and theological connections with their surrounding movements."

Mvt. 2: Aria (T)

There shall no doubt deter me,
To thy word, Lord, I'll hearken.
I trust that if thou go'st,
I can in this find comfort,
That I'll amongst the rescued
Come, at the welcome port.

Mvt. 3: Recitative (T)

Thy Spirit will in such wise rule me
That I the proper road shall walk;
Through thy departure he shall come to me.
I ask, though, anxiously: Ah, is he not now here?

F. While the instrumental scoring for Cantata 108 is traditional Leipzig - two oboes d'amore, strings, and basso continuo -- Bach employs different scoring in each movement, unlike the chorale cantatas (Peters: 124) and is similar to Bach's scoring in the 1727 Funeral Ode, BWV198, with more instruments and movements.

Following the Vox Dei (Spiritus) chorus, Bach concludes Cantata 108 following with an alto aria with strings in bipartite form with ritornello, "Was mein Herz von dir begehrt" (What my heart desires from you), and the closing plain chorale, No. 6, "Dein Geist, den vom Himmel gibt" (Your Spirit, whom God gives from Heaven). The chorale is Stanza 10 of Gerhardt's 16-verse Pentecost chorale, "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist," to the melody "Kommt her zu mir," ; Stiller, Ascension, Dresden; Leipzig, Pentecost Sunday; "Various Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing"; also in BWV 74/8, Pentecost, S.2

Mvt. 5: Aria (A)

What my heart of thee doth seek,
Ah, shall on me be bestowed.
Pour upon me thy rich blessing,
Lead me now upon thy pathways,
That I in eternity
Look upon thy majesty!

Mvt. 6: Chorale (S, A, T, B)

Thy Spirit God from heaven sends,
He leadeth all that him do love
Upon a well-laid pathway.
He sets and ruleth all our steps,
That they not elsewhere ever tread
But where we find salvation.

 

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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