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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 113
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 20, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 20, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 113 -- Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 113, the conclusion of three works for the 11th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV113.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 113 page also has convenient access to notes from the Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issue [4], via link beneath the cover photo.

The Gardiner CD [5] needs special mention. The works for Trinity 11 are one of four actual pilgrimage recordings which were released by DG Archiv, rather than on Gardiners own SDG label. The others are for Trinity 9, Epiphany 3, and the Purification. Notes by Gardiner are not included, so there is no BCW link this week.

The three works for Trinity 11 are also available as a DVD [6] documentation of the Gardiner pilgrimage, the Trinity 11 concert, plus snips and interviews of the entire pilgrimage.

The chorale text and melody are also accessible via links at the BWV 113 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English-3]. We can only hope for more.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 20, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 113 -- Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut >
Thanks again to Julian for his thoughtful yet detailed commentary. One question: Is the opening movement a minuet or a sarabande? I would have thought the latter with that "dragging" second beat.

I'm intrigued by the fact that Bach writes an "easy" chorus. The orchestra does all the heavy lifting while the choir cruises by in a very simple setting of the chorale, simpler in fact than the closing chorale.

Why this multi-layered complexity in the orchestra and such transparent homophony in the choir?

If there ever was a cantata that demonstrated the Exhausted Choir Hypothesis, this would be it. Even Bach's third or fourth choirs could have sung such a simple chorus.

Or is it an aesthetic decision to contrast the concerto-like orchestra with the simple chorale? The movement could almost be played without the voices. There is no doubling of the voices, and 1st violins engage on a "principale" kind of solo episode when they do sing. Is this dichotomy symbolic? Are the angular instrumental lines the pains of mortal life and the euphonious chorale the imago Christi?

Bach was certainly fascinated by the juxtaposition of seemingly disjunct musical styles. The concerto movement which opens BWV 99, "Was Gott Thut" also has the orchestra and choir performing in parallel styles. In both cases, Bach decides to give his accomplished singers music that is self-consciously simple and transparent. I wonder what the singers thought when they saw their parts.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 21, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] I get a bit of the feeling of deja vu here. I seem to recall that we had a discussion some years ago on whether a chorus sounded more like a minuet or a sarabande? It's an interesting point though and one that has intrigued me i.e. to what extent was Bach deliberately thinking of particular suite movements for particular texts or situations in the cantatas? We know that he liked to use the courtly dances of the gavotte and minuet for movements which described the civilised journey of the immortal souls towards heaven and to take their place near the throne of God. Might he have associated certain events/ideas/situations with other of the well establised suite movements? I am in two minds about how to describe the opening chorus in BWV 113--I chose the 'ponderous minuet' designation partly because of the upbeat which seems to indicate that rather than the sarabande--but its a half dozen of one etc etc.

Re the simple choral parts I am not sure that those to be found in BWV 113 and BWV 99 support the 'exhausted choir' theory because of their placement right in the middle of the Trinity block. This would seem to have been a time of year when things coasted along pretty smoothly--although Bach was almost certainly thinking ahead to the next huge set of demands to come up. Other cantatas for the 11th and 15th Sundays after Trinity have complex choruses (BWV 179 and BWV 138) and there are some stunning choruses in other cantatas written for the 11-15th days after Trinity--including the massive BWV 78. Works without choir of with simple parts in the Christmas and Easter seasons seem to me to be more convincing evidence. I suspect Bach' s reason were mostly practical and aesthetic. BWV 99 for example shows every evidence of being a lost concerto movement (look at the unique, for the cantata, structure of the opening ritornello) with the chorale phrases latter inserted.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 21, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I am in two minds about how to describe the opening chorus in BWV 113--I chose the 'ponderous minuet' designation partly because of the upbeat which seems to indicate that rather than the sarabande--but its a half
dozen of one etc etc. >
I have sarabandes on the brain lately because I led a session on "Music for the Sun King" at the University of Toronto on the weekend. After lunch, I got them up on their feet to teach the steps of a sarabande before listening to Charpentier. We all agreed that dancing it in Louis XIV's high heels was a special challenge. I like the sunburst garters ...
http://www.friendsofart.net/en/art/henri-gissey/louis-xiv-as-apollo

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (November 21, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] The movie "Le Roi Danse" (a must see with Musica Antiqua Koln performing the soundtrack of mostly Lully's music) has a recreation of that scene: http://youtu.be/IZb4GlVH9ms

Shoes had higher heels back then because streets were filled with filth and corruption- they had a practicality, but Louis wasn't exactly wearing stilettos either ;)

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 22, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I have sarabandes on the brain lately because I led a session on "Music for the Sun King" at the University of Toronto on the weekend. After lunch, I got them up on their feet to teach the steps of a sarabande before listening >to Charpentier.

From the Julian Mincham essay, re BWV 113/7, S/A duet:
<The writing for the two singers strongly emphasises this point. Bach returns to the rhythm of the opening movement, that of an oddly bizarre minuet.
[...]
Not, then a conventional minuet, but an expression of passionate intensity, a warning, perhaps, to the unwary against unthinking complacency.> (end quote0

I am reminded of the Grateful Dead lyric (Uncle Johns Band): <When life looks like easy street, there is danger at the door.> (end quote)

I especially like Dougs suggestion to figute out these dance rhythms by dancing to them!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 22, 2011):
BWV 113 -- Bach's Dances

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I especially like Dougs suggestion to figute out these dance rhythms by dancing to them! >
A few years ago at the Toronto BachFest under Helmut Rilling, the master class conductors were booked for a morning's workshop with the choreographer of Opera Atelier, the Baroque opera company. She had them dance all the principal dance forms which informed B's music. One of the participants said that it was a revealing exercise, especially for the sarabande which has an elaborate "dragging" figure on the second beat. It wasn't that
Bach's dance forms had be danced, but the physicality of the genre informed the phrasing and articulation.

Stephen Benson wrote (November 22, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< A few years ago at the Toronto BachFest under Helmut Rilling, the master class conductors were booked for a morning's workshop with the choreographer of Opera Atelier, the Baroque opera company. >
Actually, Doug, I'd like to quote your own whimsical observation from 2008 with respect to this same event:

"Dance sidebar: At last year's Toronto International Bach Festival under Helmut Rilling, the intern conductors were treated to a morning of practical dance instruction in gavottes, minuets and the like by the period choreographer of Opera Atelier. I hope they conduct better than they dance."

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 22, 2011):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Actually, Doug, I'd like to quote your own whimsical observation from 2008 with respect to this same event:
"Dance sidebar: At last year's Toronto International Bach Festival under Helmut Rilling, the intern conductors were treated to a morning of practical dance instruction in gavottes, minuets and the like by the period choreographer of Opera Atelier. I hope they conduct better than they dance." >
(Grin), you didn't see me on Saturday trying to execute the steps of a sarabande, demonstrate period hand gestures, and call out the figures. It was like some surreal baroque exercise DVD gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 22, 2011):
BWV 113

Thomas Braatz sent me the message blow, re: discussion of BWV 113 as possible evidence supporting the 'exhausted choir' theory:

8/29/1723 BWV 25 14th Sunday after Trinity 1st performance
8/30/1723 BWV 119 Ratswahl 1st performance
9/5/1723 BWV 138 15th Sunday after Trinity 1st performance

8/20/1724 BWV 113 11th Sunday after Trinity 1st performance
8/28/1724 Ratswahl, Musik und Text der Festkantate verschollen
8/27/1724 no cantata for the 12th Sunday after Trinity has been documented
9/3/1724 BWV 33 13th Sunday after Trinity 1st performance

8/25/1726 BWV 249b Birthday Cantata for Count Flemming 1st performance
8/25/1726 BWV 102 10th Sunday after Trinity 1st performance
8/26/1726 BWV Anh. I 4 Ratswahl 1st performance (music lost)
9/1/1726 Johann Ludwig Bach "Durch sein Erkenntnis" 11th Sunday after Trinity

The Primary Thomaner Choir would also be involved in Currende singing from Christmas until well into January (Sundays after Epiphany); also on St. Gregory and St. Martin Days.

Old calendar dates prior to 1700 where Bach lived were as follows:Gregorius on March 12 (the final day before the vernal equinox)Martini on November 11

Whether these Saint's Days remained the same or were shifted to a later date to accommodate the new calendar during Bach's tenure in Leipzig, I have no information.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 23, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I'm intrigued by the fact that Bach writes an "easy" chorus. The orchestra does all the heavy lifting while the choir cruises by in a very simple setting of the chorale, simpler in fact than the closing chorale.
Why this multi-layered complexity in the orchestra and such transparent homophony in the choir?
If there ever was a cantata that demonstrated the Exhausted Choir Hypothesis, this would be it. Even Bach's third or fourth choirs could have sung such a simple chorus. >
Doug has been foremost in pointing out the singing obligations of the choirs, in addition to cantata performance. Perhaps a more plausible hypothesis would be *exhausted teacher*? Or if not exactly exhausted, simply Bach pacing himself and his students in the preparation (and likely rehearsal) of challenging new music.

 

Cantata BWV 113: 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: żNovember 27, 2011 ż09:12:21