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Cantata BWV 114
Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost
Discussions -Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of September 17, 2006 (2nd round)

Peter Smaill wrote (September 16, 2006):
Week of September 17, 2006

Cantata BWV 114, "Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost"

1st performance: 1 October, 1724 - Leipzig
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)
Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV114-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV114.htm

"The journey through the vale of lamentation" (Whittaker) is the image at the centre of BWV 114, for the Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity. He is not quite right to say there is no connection to the Gospel for the day- the healing of the man with dropsy on the Sabbath, for this image is mentioned briefly in the Bass recitative Mvt. 3.

This incident is later in the Gospels one of the central charges brought by the Pharisees against Jesus at His trial, because it broke the injunction not to perform works on the Sabbath other than worshipping God. However, it is not a single man that is recalled in the Cantata, but universal Man; the text of the Cantata moves from the despairing sinfulness of all mankind to the resurrection with Jesus, the spirit of the faithful detaching from the body in peace and confidence. Dropsy, the collection of foul ("serous") material in the body, nowadays called oedema, is of course an image for sin. Historically, the fluids would be released by lancing the swelling. But this is to figuratively be Jesus' fate at the hands of the centurions, in substitution for Man.

The libretto touches on Genesis:

(Mvt. 3) "Der Hochmut ass vordern von der verboten Frucht
Gott gleich zu werden
"
(Pride ate in former times of the forbidden fruit
To become equal with God)

The purpose of the theology of the Cantata is to demonstrate that the new covenant, in which love is the spur to imitation of Christ and thus forbearance of suffering and acceptance of death - is the true way to God and thus the fulfilment of creation. It is in seven sections.To emphasise this number, associated with Creation, IMO the librettist deploys seven stanza sections three times in numbers 1, 4, and 6 ; in the last the body is returned to God and the soul to Jesus. We are in ontological territory yet again in this Cantata.

For a discussion of the numerological significance of seven, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Numbers.htm

The work is rich in word-painting. The upward movement of the oboes and violins denote the call to comfort - "cheer up" in the first moments of the Cantata; likewise the joy-motif; the mention of despair brings in trills and repeated quavers. A lovely modulation from G minor to E flat and thence to a cadence in B flat reinforces the call to confidence. The punishment deserved by sinners is accompanied by a downward tumult in the lower voices and then the joy motif reappears at "bekennen", when all are to know that they cannot exclude themselves from the need to achieve comfort by confessing their sinfulness.

Bach's virtuoso flautist provides another aria of high quality, Mvt. 2, leading to the "Spruch", the bass recitative Mvt. 3 setting out the thesis of the work : through a blessed (i.e. contrite) death, mankind attains innocence and glory. At the injunction against "Pompous bearing", ( i.e "schwülstigen Gebärden") Bach has the bass descending in scales to illustrate the word "humbled".

The soprano Chorale Mvt. 4 has the depiction is of the sowing motion in the continuo; the alto aria Mvt. 5 has a powerful modulation to the subdominant emphasising the solemnity of "Tod". At "es muss ja so einmal gestorben sein" (One must indeed one day die) voice and oboe wail together in slurred sixths and descend to the "dark regions of E flat minor".(Boyd)

Selected Commentaries

Robertson:
(Mvt. 1) The orchestral prelude is an excellent example of Bach's superb musical architecture.
(Mvt. 2) It is the beautiful obbligato for the flute which carries the deep emotion of this aria, the tenor's part being declamatory.He asks the question seven times and his patience is rewarded in the vivacious and lyrical music of the middle section of the aria, with the flute contributing wide-flung phrases of delight.

Whittaker:
(Mvt. 2) A marvellously beautiful flauto traverso solo depicts the pilgrim wandering disconsolately in the valley, [with] poignant leaning tones, arabesques , and weary curving melodies. Towards the close the flute provides the answer - which is identical with figures used in Bach's great organ chorale prelude on "Vater unser" in Part III of the Clavierubung. was it a deliberate quotation?

Boyd (Anderson):
(Mvt. 1, Mvt. 4, Mvt. 7) It is worth remarking how Bach in this Cantata, as in others, minimises the demands placed on his least experienced singers, the trebles of the Thomasschule. The chorale cantus firmus in the opening movement is reinforced (for safety?) by a horn, as is the soprano line of the final chorale. there is no recitative for soprano, and in the only aria for that voice the soprano soloist only sings the chorale melody, only lightly decorated and in the second line. the trebles therefore needed only to learn (and probably already knew) one simple hymn tune.

Dürr:
(Mvt. 5) The alto aria ,"Du machst, O Tod,mir nun nicht ferner bange" (You do not make me anxious, O Death, any longer)brings a joyful confident tone into the Cantata. It is the only movement in a major key, though it is repeatedly over-clouded by the minor, with particularly impressive effects at the words, "Then I must indeed die one day".

Rilling:
(Mvt. 6) An expressive recitative leads into the final chorale. Bach uses all his composition skills to darken the word "Satan" with corresponding chromatics and to set the text "To us through Adam cometh death" to a bass-line that spans the huge interval of an eleventh.

=======================================================================

Outstanding Question

Dürr says Bach marked the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) "Vivace". If he means the score and not the parts, it seems odd that the Cantor to have to remind himself of the fact that the mood is upbeat, despite elements of the text being anything but. Is there any pattern to such tempo indications?

=======================================================================

BWV 114 is unusually rich in word painting and, IMO, of numerological significance. In the space of seven days (US notation, 9/24/1724, 9/29/1724 and 10/1/1724) the highly contrasting BWV 130, BWV 8 and BWV 114 have been performed. The integration of texts to original and ingenious musical ideas, execution of parts and score, setting, checking and printing of libretto booklets, selection of choristers and instrumentalists, rehearsal, and performance are an astounding feat in an age of scratchy quill pens and guttering unbleached candles.

In all this Bach provides consciously for a congregation ranging from his newly recruited trebles through pious chorale-loving widows to crusty old theologians amongst the congregation. Perhaps unwittingly, he also marks the score for a possible re-performance, and thus even for the benefit of fortunate generations to come who are enabled by the handing down of his works, as it were, to approach the mind of God.

In BWV is a perfect exemplar of the unity of Bach's musical idiom with just such a theological objective. I hope others will find in it yet more evidence of the intensity of creative purpose which is his hallmark in the great cycle of Chorale cantatas.

======================================================================
Additional Resources

Libretto:

Andreas Stübel (per Wolff, "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician", p.278)

Chorale: "Ach, lieben Christen, seid getröst"
Text: David Spaiser (v1) (1521); Johannes Gigas (1561)
Melody: Justus Jonas, "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält" (1543)
Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale087-Eng3.htm
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Wo-Gott-der-Herr.htm

Text: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/114.html
English Translations:
http://www..uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV114.html
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV114-Eng3.htm
http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_trans/transl_cantata/bwv114.htm
Other translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV114.htm

Structure and scoring:

G Minor

Chorus SATB
Aria T
Recitative B
Chorale S
recitative T
Aria A
Chorale SATB

Instruments: Cor, (+S) Ob i, ii, Vln i,ii,Vla, Cont

Liturgical Comments:

For the Seventeenth Sunday in Trinity

Other Cantatas written for this Sunday:
BWV 148 "Bringet dem Herrn Ehre seines Namens"
BWV 47 "Wer sich selbst erhöhet, der soll erniedriget werden"

Texts of Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity17.htm

Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV114.htm

Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV114.htm

Music (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV114-Mus.htm

Commentaries: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/114.html

Performances of Bach Cantatas: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Concerts/Concert-2006.htm

Order of Discussion (2006): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2006.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 16, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Outstanding Question
Dürr says Bach marked the opening chorus (
Mvt. 1) "Vivace". If he means the score and not the parts, it seems odd that the Cantor to have to remind himself of the fact that the mood is upbeat, despite elements of the text being anything but. Is there any pattern to such tempo indications? >
I've never heard this superb cantata -- another great benefit of being a member of this list! -- and I was surprised to see the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) written in a minor key in 6/4 time. I can't think of another Bach chorus that adopts this layout.

6/4 time with running sixteenth notes makes for a very LONG bar that is quite difficult for a performer to read. Looking at the score for the first time I wondered why Bach didn't write it in 3/4 time - the phrases all fall nicely into 3/4. Bar 6 with its repeated oboe notes looks very odd: If I was playing this piece I would go through with a pencil and divide the bars into 3/4 just as a visual aid.

Can anyone recall another chorus in 6/4 time with 16th notes? Cantata BWV 140 "Wachet Auf" and BWV 78, "Jesu Der Du Meine Seele" which share a similar structure and even some similar figuration are both in 3/4.

In this case, the "Vivace" may have been a reminder even to the composer himself that this was driving minor key movement not a lyrical lament. I've never really understood why Bach's tempo and dynamic markings are so erratic. Some cantatas have no markings; others like Cantata BWV 78 are full of tempo and interpretative markings.

A frustrating reminder that we are still so far away from visualizing and reconstructing Bach's performance practice.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 16, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>and I was surprised to see the opening chorus (Mvt. 1) written in a minor key in 6/4 time. I can't think of another Bach chorus that adopts this layout.<<
and
>>Can anyone recall another chorus in 6/4 time with 16th notes? Cantata BWV 140 "Wachet Auf" and BWV 78, "Jesu Der Du Meine Seele" which share a similar structure and even some similar figuration are both in 3/4.<<
There is BWV 62/1 6/4 in B minor. "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland"

DC: >>I've never really understood why Bach's tempo and dynamic markings are so erratic. Some cantatas have no markings; others like Cantata BWV 78 are full of tempo and interpretative markings.<<
This is due to the erratic transmission of the cantatas. When the original sets of parts, often those which ended up in the Thomasschule library, are available to us, then all this information (much more in addition to what the autograph score has) is present for us to view and study. If only the score has survived, then the information about these markings is very sparse or almost non-existent. Would that all the sets of parts of all his cantatas had been designated to go to the Thomasschule! But then what would have happened if they had all been destroyed in a fire soon after 1750? Perhaps we should be thankful that they were dispersed as they were after Bach's death. This way the possibility that at least some of them would survive was increased. Also, from these sets of parts it becomes clear just what Scheibe and Birnbaum are talking about.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 17, 2006):
114, 6/4 and 115

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I've never heard this superb cantata -- another great benefit of being a member of this list! -- and I was surprised to see the opening chorus written in a minor key in 6/4 time. I can't think of another Bach chorus that adopts this layout.
Can anyone recall another chorus in 6/4 time with 16th notes? >
Yes look ahead 5 weeks to the chorale fantasia of Cantata BWV 115 (the consecutive numbering is of course accidental) . Not only do they share the features you point out (aside from mode) but also Schweitzer's quaver/semi-q/semi-q three note figure of joy.And the main ritornello opening themes have almost identical shapes.

I think it was Schweitzer, in fact who first pointed out how incredibly similar these two themes are, even though one is major the other minor.

Similar textual themes as well--trials and punishments put upon us to test us.

I can't belive myself that these similarities would have been coincidental the 2 works having been composed so close together.

Incidentally the use of the lower three voices in the fantasia of BWV 114 really does repay close scrutiny. They are used quite differently in every one of the seven chorale phrases (sung by the sopranos as usual)----even the first two repeated phrases. What's more, these marked differences in choral textures and layouts can be seen to be linked to, derived from and illustrate the meanings of each line of text.

A great cantata for teaching students about the immense range, techniques and inventiveness of Bach's choral writing.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>> Can anyone recall another chorus in 6/4 time with 16th notes? Cantata BWV 140 "Wachet Auf" and BWV 78, "Jesu Der Du Meine Seele" which share a similar structure and even some similar figuration are both in 3/4.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< There is BWV 62/1 6/4 in B minor. "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" >
Interesting how this equally urgent chorus has the same insistent dactylic rhythm and repeated notes as BWV 114.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 17, 2006):
The 6/4 time signature

from Johann Mattheson’s “Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre“, Hamburg, 1713, chapter 3, paragraph 8, pp. 79-80:

6/4. Zeiget sechs viertel / als so viel ‘Membra’ des ‘Tacts’ an / welche ‘per thesin & arsin’ in zwey gleiche Theile gehen / so daß der Niederschlag 3. Und der Aufschlag eben so viel bekommt. Es wird diese ‚Mensur’ zu‚ serieu’sen Sachen / ‚in specie’ aber zu den ‚gravi’tätischen ‚Giquen’, die man ‚Louren’ nennet / gebrauchet.“

(„The 6/4 time signature indicates that the ‚members’ [constituent parts] consist of six quarter notes/crotchets which are divided into two equal parts of downbeats and upbeats so that there are three downbeats and an equal number of upbeats. This time signature is used for serious pieces, specifically for solemn/grave Gigues, called Loures.”)

Meredith Little and Natalie Jennie, in the book “Dance and the Music of J. S. Bach”, Indiana University Press, 1991, 2001, indicate the following named/titled Loures in 6/4 time in Bach’s oeuvre:

BWV 1006 Partita III in E for violin solo (also BWV 1006a for lute) (Köthen, 1720)
BWV 816 French Suite V in G for clavier (1722-1725)

As untitled Loures for keyboard/organ:

BWV 849 WTC I, Prelude IV, in c# (1722)
BWV 906 Fantasia in c (after 1723)

As example of Loures by other composers:

François Couperin’s Loure, «Les Goûts-réunis ou nouveaux concerts» (1724), has the tempo designation «Pesamment» which means a heavy slowness.

Georg Philipp Telemann’s «Musique de Table» (1733) has an Ouverture in E minor that is a Loure.

Sacred vocal compositions considered “Loure-like” are:

BWV 19/5 (1726) Tenor aria, “Bleibt ihr” 6/8 adagio
BWV 101/6 (1724) Soprano/Alto duet, „Gedenk an“ 12/8
BWV 152/6 (1714) Soprano/Bass duet “Wie soll ich” 6/4
BWV 185/1 (1715) Soprano/Tenor duet „Barmherziges“ 6/4

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 17, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I can't belive myself that these similarities would have been coincidental the 2 works having been composed so close together. >
One more bit of evidence that the creative miracle, the body of work, from 1724-25, is very much more than a hustle from Sunday to Sunday. You are on track, and I am following.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The 6/4 time signature
from
Johann Mattheson’s “Das Neu-Eröffnete Orchestre“, Hamburg, 1713, chapter 3, paragraph 8, pp. 79-80:
This time signature is used for serious pieces, specifically for solemn/grave Gigues, called Loures.”)
Sacred vocal compositions considered “Loure-like” are:
BWV 19/5 (1726) Tenor aria, “Bleibt ihr” 6/8 adagio
BWV 101/6 (1724) Soprano/Alto duet, „Gedenk an“ 12/8
BWV 152/6 (1714) Soprano/Bass duet “Wie soll ich” 6/4
BWV 185/1 (1715) Soprano/Tenor duet „Barmherziges“ 6/4 >
I don't see any resemblance between these Loure genre pieces and the opening choruses of BWV 114, BWV 115 or BWV 62. As Matheson points out, the Loure is a rather solemn, elegant dance in a slow 6/4 tempo (or 6/8). The choruses are
urgent, driving pieces with no feeling of dance in them. I don't see the characteristic loure dotted figure in the choruses, and that dactylic motif in the choruses doesn't appear in the loure.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>> I don't see any resemblance between these Loure genre pieces and the opening choruses of BWV 114, BWV 115 or BWV 62. As Matheson points out, the Loure is a rather solemn, elegant dance in a slow 6/4 tempo (or 6/8). The choruses are urgent, driving pieces with no feeling of dance in them. I don't see the characteristic loure dotted figure in the choruses, and that dactylic motif in the choruses doesn't appear in the loure.<<
Little & Jenne did not make any association with the opening choruses of BWV 114, BWV 115 and BWV 62 either.

This leaves us with Bach's own tempo marking for BWV 114 which is Vivace. The only reason I shared this Mattheson quotation was to temper the notion of what Vivace seems to mean to some modern Bach conductors. I can hear simply by looking at the score and without having pulled out any of my recordings of BWV 62 "Nun komm der Heiden Heiland", (a late composition performed on a Sunday when Bach was not even present - he was in Dresden) an extemely fast tempo which allows the long notes - dotted half notes - of the cantus firmus in the bass to move at the same tempo that it would have in a normal 4-pt. chorale. As you have pointed out there are certain characteristic note patterns that these mvts. have in common. Perhaps by comparing these few mvts. we might be able to find a common tempo connection in addition to the time signature which is the same.

Mattheson gave as a prime example the Loure, but I think he was referring to this time signature in a general sense as well. For Mattheson it appears that a measure/bar does not have simply two main down beats on the first and fourth crotchet/quarter notes (or on the two dotted half notes [minims], but on each second crotchet/quarter note. A cursory examination of the score of BWV 62/1 and BWV 114/1 seems to indicate to me that Bach juggles and makes use of both types of emphasis: on the 1st and 4th as well as the 1st, 3rd, and 5th. Heed particularly how Bach allows the latter to become quite important in the non-cantus-firmus parts: the emphasis on certain key words, the placement of commas meaning that, for instance, in "Ach, lieben..." the syllable 'lie-' receives this emphasis as per Mattheson's description. In BWV 62/1 the fughetta-like accompanying parts to the cantus firmus seem to prevent any kind of consistency one way or the other with the balance being tipped more towards two main down beats per measure. But does this mean that the conductor should treat this chorale in B minor like cut-time?

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This leaves us with Bach's own tempo marking for BWV 114 which is Vivace. The only reason I shared this Mattheson quotation was to temper the notion of what Vivace seems to mean to some modern Bach conductors. >
But the dance form has nothing to do with the music in those three cantatas. If anything, the "Vivace" in BWV 114 has been added specifically to warn someone that they shouldn;t mistake the movement for a gentle loure just because it's in 6/4. The "Vivace" is an admonition to put the pedal to the floor.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< If anything, the "Vivace" in 114 has been added specifically to warn someone that they shouldn;t mistake the movement for a gentle loure just because it's in 6/4. The "Vivace" is an admonition to put the pedal to the floor. >
"Vivace" is a character/mood word, more than a tempo word. Doesn't it mean that the music should sound especially energized/lively, and not necessarily fast? (But I agree, faster than a loure anyway.) Vivace, to me anyway, is an indication that the piece should sound more "notey" and bouncy, with special attention to the smaller note values, instead of subsuming them under a more smoothly-flowing big beat...and not necessarily faster, to do so.

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>> If anything, the "Vivace" in 114 has been added specifically to warn someone that they shouldn't mistake the movement for a gentle loure just because it's in 6/4. The "Vivace" is an admonition to put the pedal to the floor.<<
This would certainly be overdoing it! I have just checked on the "Vivace" tempo marking in the NBA KB I/23, pp. 142 and 155 - this is important because this is the only one of the three 6/4 introductory chorale mvts. which has any tempo designation - this "Vivace" marking is spurious, yet the editors have decided to include it.

It appears only once on the untransposed, partially figured "Continuo" part in what the editors call "wohl Kuhnaus Hand" (probably in the copyist Johann Andreas Kuhnau's handwriting). What makes this "Vivace" designation spurious is:

1. It is not in Bach's handwriting. Bach usually adds tempo designations personally to one or more of the parts. He generally does not leave this up to the copyist, who, in any case, would see no tempo designation at the top of the autograph score.

2. It appears only on this single part and not, for instance on the transposed, completely figured by Bach 2nd continuo part.

3. Kuhnau copied all the parts in the original set of parts. The NBA editors know his handwriting well, however, the penmanship in writing "Vivace" is in doubt. Since Kuhnau copied just about everything else, it might be easy to surmise that this designation might be Kuhnau's as well. However, there is a complication: in addition to a few figures added by Bach personally to this continuo part, there is an unidentifiable hand that added all the remaining figures for mvts. 1 and 5. The personal involvement of such an unidentifiable individual (by now many, if not most, of the additional copyists who worked for Bach are known by name) who devoted time and energy to working out the details of mvt. 1 might easily lead that same individual to attach "Vivace" to the top of this 1st mvt. Was it perhaps a later Thomaskantor since these parts were given to the Thomasschule soon after Bach's death? In any case, there are some legitimate reasons to treat this "Vivace" time marking with some suspicion that it may have derived from a later performance 30 to 40 or more years after its 1st performance.

Raymond Joly wrote (September 17, 2006):
The 6/4 time signature.
Thomas Braatz, quoting Mattheson:
"zu den, gravitätischen ,Giquen', die man ,Louren' nennet ---- for solemn/grave Gigues, called Loures".
Other examples: Christoph Graupner's harpsichord partitas, played by Geneviève Soly (Analekta): all 5 volumes except 2.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 18, 2006):
On the matter of the 6/4 time signature for the opening chorus, one thing to observe is that the full score (eg the BGA) appears less cluttered than it would in 3/4 time - there are dotted whole notes (semibreves) in the cantus firmus that would otherwise need to be written as two dotted half notes (minims) tied over the bar line; and in the ritornellos, the vocal staves need only a single whole rests instead of doubling up with bar lines and half rests (dotted).

But I suspect there are also metrical/tempi issues, as in BWV 62 and BWV 115, that Bach had in mind when writing the score.

-----

The long D minor tenor aria, better if over 9 minutes in length, is one that stands out in the cantatas for its emotional impact. The slow, steady breathing of the continuo strings, with the third beat of each bar silent (almost like a skipped heartbeat), is the backdrop for the anguished `melody' from the singer, accompanied by embellished arabesques on the flute. The words "where will my spirit find refuge in this vale of sorrow" are repeated over and over again, set to music of exquisitely pungent harmony, while the third ritornello briefly establishes the relative major (F major), allowing a ray of light to shine through the gloom. Note the continuo passage (concluding various `sections') that consists of the same upward scale in 1/8th notes, from C# to Bb in the scale of D minor, (later in F major) repeated three times (except for the last Bb) with the resulting unusual rhythmic structural implications, after which the continuo continues as before with the two `breathing' crotchet beats (1/4 notes) followed by the silent beat.

The middle `vivace' section, beginning with "Allein zu Jesu Vaterhänden (like others, I can't resist using the umlaut for the first time - thanks to those who showed us how it's done) offers a delightful change of mood well described by Robertson (see previous BCW discussions), before the return to the highly-wrought emotional state of the `largo' section.

A distinguishing factor of Rilling's recording of this aria is the use of a harpsichord in the continuo, resulting in what is for me my favourite version. The pungent timbre of the broken chords on the harpsichord seems just the right colour to add to the already complete trio with three distinct `voices'. Am I correct in blaming a certain coarseness, or `gruffness', in the sound of the continuo of some recordings, on the doubling of continuo strings by a sustained left hand organ note? Maybe.

The other outstanding feature of Rilling's recording [1] is the beautiful alto voice of Julia Hamari in the smoothly flowing alto aria.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 18, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< On the matter of the 6/4 time signature for the opening chorus, one thing to observe is that the full score (eg the BGA) appears less cluttered than it would in 3/4 time - there are dotted whole notes (semibreves) in the cantus firmus that would otherwise need to be written as two dotted half notes (minims) tied over the bar line; and in the ritornellos, the vocal staves need only a single whole rests instead of doubling up with bar lines and half rests (dotted). >
Agreed. And, one thing that's obvious is that this movement has nothing to do with either loure or gigue character. (One can't simply run to the tables at the back of the Little/Jenne book, find the isolated 6/4 entry among the dance types, and extrapolate the assumption that this is some bizarre loure or gigue!) The rhythmic profile, accentuation, pickups etc are entirely different from those dances. So are the patterns of subdivisions within the beats. Bach knew how to write loures when he wanted loure character, he left some fine examples, and this ain't it.

Little, Jenne, Dance and the Music of JS Bach: Amazon.com
Excellent book, even though it doesn't help on this particular piece, directly. Well, it does help: in showing that the patterns of "taps" etc in this BWV 114 movement don't align with loure/gigue manner!

It seems to me that this opening movement is rather like a 6/2 piece than a 6/4, but simply written out with all the note-values halved (implying both a faster tempo, and a bit more evenness of execution within the smallest note values?).

See also this fine book for matters of tempo, accentuation, and stress: Amazon.com
George Houle, Meter in Music, 1600-1800: Performance, Perception, and Notation going into thvarious remarks by Mattheson, Kirnberger, et al...and the 17th century origins of the conventions....

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 19, 2006):
BWV 114 [was: Translation]

Julian Mincham wrote:
< An example--the first movement of Cantata BWV 176, the last of the second cycle, has just one line of text 'Es ist ein trotzig und versagt Ding' which Dürr (p 374) translates as ----There is something perverse and desperate about all human hearts. James Chater's translation for Ton Koopman's recording [4] (box 15) is-----There is a daring and shy thing about the human spirit. Boyd (p 163) suggests ---the heart is deceitful above all things ----and he further isolates the key words 'trotzig' and 'versagt' as implying 'spiteful' and 'despairing' >
From BCW, English translations for BWV 114

1. Chor (interlinear translation)
Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost,
Ah, dear Christians, be consoled,
Wie tut ihr so verzagen!
how you continue to be so disheartened !
Weil uns der Herr heimsuchen tut,
Since the Lord afflicts us,
Laßt uns von Herzen sagen:
let us say from our hearts:
(contributed by Francis Browne)

Ah, dear Christians, be comforted,
how despairing you are!
Since the Lord brings affliction upon us,
let us say from our hearts:
(c) Pamela Dellal (Emmanuel Music)

Ah, fellow Christians, be consoled,
Why are ye so despondent!
Since now the Lord doth punish us,
Let us sincerely say it:
(c) Z. Philip Ambrose

Even in this brief example, there is plenty to ponder and argue. What struck me in Julian's original post was versagt, from BWV 176, very similar to verzagen in BWV 114. I am not a German speaker, so the grammatical distinction is unclear, but the apparent relation is not.

Sweeter yet is the rhyme in BWV 114, <so verzagen> with <herzen sagen>, which to my ear favors the translation disheartened, per Francis Browne.

Despondent, despairing, desperate, disheartened, all synonymous I suppose. But if there is a clear connection with herzen, doesn't that suggest disheartened as the preferred option?

To be complete, verzagen becomes despair in the Richard D. P. Jones translation, BWV 114, in Dürr. Has the apparent virtue of consistency with BWV 176, as cited by Julian, versagen translated as desperate.

Consistency is indeed a virtue, but so is poetry, and the Jones translation totally overlooks the poetic opportunity of disheartened for BWV 114. One might call this disheartening, if there were not so many bigger problems on the planet.

Francis Browne gets my vote, in this instance. We could do with more of this sort of chat, which seems to have faded a bit. Don't die in August? It's already mid-September. Speaking of dying in August, did I remember to thank the folks who recommended the late Elizabeth Schwarzkopf, and BWV 51? The EMI compilation (with BWV 199, BWV 202, plus a bit) is worth the price and wait.

I wrote the previous before reading Peter's intro to BWV 114. I don't see any conflicts. Thanks as always for the evident effort! I note the reference to <ontological grounds>. I want to state in clear simple language, that I consider Bach to be an optimist, and I share that faith. If the discussion (as above) is often focused on negative aspects, let us never forget that in this music, the good guys always snatch victory from the jaws of defeat!

Eric Bergerud wrote (September 19, 2005):
When I was doing Peter's job (no doubt at the same wage scale) I remarked that the chorale cantatas of the 2nd Cycle were not those I'd recommend to beginners. I also argued that they, perhaps more than any other, reward repeated listening.

Maybe the recording companies agree with me. There are only five versions of BWV 114 in print. Fortunately I have three and will keep them all.

It's rare for a cantata to be dominated by a single movement but the long tenor aria in BWV 114 is a little hard to miss, especially as it is accompanied by some of Bach's loveliest instrumentals. I've been collecting Koopman lately and his version of BWV 114 [4] reminds me why. The musicianship of his ensemble is simply splendid. The flute amplifies the wonderful singing of Christoph Prégardien. The other singers are all in good form. I am beginning to prefer mezzos to countertenors and Ms. Markert's aria does nothing to change my mind. Koopman takes at least two minutes off the length of the work compared to the competition but nothing seems rushed in the least. (When Gardiner's in a hurry I seem to notice it more. Of course, Gardiner does have a way of getting one's attention.) What does strike me, as is always the case when Koopman's players are firing on all cylinders is the overall elegance and polish of the effort. I'm not sure if it's progress in the period instrument movement. I am not at all sure it's quite what Bach had in mind. But the overall I find the music a treat to the ear: no small thing. I will let wiser heads decide whether the master considered his scores Prussian marching orders or a general plan of operations (come to think of it, the Saxon Army wasn't famous for winning wars). Personally I'm very glad that interpretations vary all over the map. If nothing else I'd feel like a dope owning three copies of one cantata if they all sounded more or less the same.

Leusink's group [3] gives BWV 114 a very nice treatment to my ears. Leusink doesn't have the horses in the ensemble to match Koopman's playing [4] but the woman playing the traverso keeps her end of the bargain with Knut Schoch who likewise does a fine job. Ruth Holton sounds like Ruth Holton which is fine by me. Buwalda does a respectable job, but I can't shake the feeling that Leusink's cycle would have been better served by employing a mezzo. I don't know if it's the engineering or Leusink's interpretation but it strikes me that the boys choir is far less notable than in the Harnoncourt series. The adult soloists tend to dominate the choruses. But overall this is a straight forward and perfectly respectable account of a splendid cantata.

Leonhardt's rendition [2] reminds me why I continue to hold the Teldec Series in the highest esteem. I don't know which cycle I'd rate as second, but there's no doubt in my mind who is first. (I realize not many on the list hold the same view, I came to cantatas first through Harnoncourt. Old dogs and new tricks you know.) For some reason Leonhardt [2] seems to get better singing than Harnoncourt out of his boy soloists and his does a terrific job in the soprano aria. (Who knows, maybe the Hannover boys choir employed here should have appeared more often. Hereweghe was also involved.) However, although I do like boys in cantatas, perhaps it's unfortunate that the boys have become a kind of signature for the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cycle. Personally I find the instrumentalists utterly convincing and you certainly know you're not listening to the New York Philharmonic. More to the point, the adult soloists are, in general, really good. Equiliz is my favorite Bach tenor day in day out and he sings very well in BWV 114. Rene Jacobs has the alto part and likewise shines. (He does not match Mera, but no one does. Despite my above comment concerning countertenors and mezzos, Mera's talent is extraordinary. It is a great pity that his interests have drifted from Bach.)

It doesn't hurt that all of these ensembles are playing yet another Bach masterpiece. The genius displayed always astounds.

BTW: I am in the process of getting together a surround sound audio system based on very good technology from last year. I've ordered some SACDs to judge for myself how much, if any, progress is made in audio quality. I have ordered one of the new Montreal Baroque recordings, so I'll report in on it.

Julian Mincham wrote (Sept19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< It's rare for a cantata to be dominated by a single movement but the long tenor aria in 114 is a little hard to miss, especially as it is accompanied by some of Bach's loveliest instrumentals. I've been collecting Koopman lately and his version of BWV 114 [4] reminds me why. >
I agree Eric's comments on Koopman--I have heard his complete set and, apart from some 'soprano' reservations, I think there is a great deal of excellent stuff in there.I have never quite understood why he seems to be so under rated by a number of contributors on list.

I do differ with Eric's comment upon the rareness of a single dominating aria however--it happens mote frequently than you might think. a few examples

BWV 13 bass aria, BWV 87 alto, BWV 183 tenor, BWV 26 tenor, BWV 125 alto, BWV 42 alto, BWV 133 sop, BWV 33 alto, BWV 96 tenor.---there are wuite a few more!

In BWV 183 the tenor aria typically lasts longer than the rest of the movements combined--which is also true of the alto aria from BWV 87.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 19, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< It's rare for a cantata to be dominated by a single movement but the long tenor aria in BWV 114 is a little hard to miss, especially as it is accompanied by some of Bach's loveliest instrumentals. >
I was reminded of the tenor aria, "Bleibt Ihr Engel" in BWV 19, "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit" which is gloriously expansive.

Chris Rowson wrote (September 22, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< It seems to me that this opening movement is rather like a 6/2 piece than a 6/4, but simply written out with all the note-values halved (implying both a faster tempo, and a bit more evenness of execution within the smallest note values?). >
I agree, with the 6/2 concept and the evenness, though not (of course!) with the faster tempo. I think Bach used the 6/4 notation to require an awareness of a vast expanse of time which he required the performers to be aware of here. At my horse-drawn tempo (around heartbeat = 72) these bars last five seconds each, and I think both performers and listeners are intended to perceive the pulse of the barlines occurring every 5 seconds.

I find playing such a long bar a very big stretch for the mind, although also very rewarding. It´s maybe a bit like going for a run using an enormously long stride.

My tempo makes the notes of the chorale melody last about two and a half seconds each, and the first line 20 seconds. Now there´s a breathing exercise! Even if you find my tempo too slow and take it at a more conventional 90 per minute, making the lengths three-quarters of those I´ve given, it´s still a big challenge.

So why? I think Bach is expressing a sense of deep relaxation which meditation on the text should induce.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 22, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
< I agree, with the 6/2 concept and the evenness, though not (of course!) with the faster tempo. I think Bach used the 6/4 notation to require an awareness of a vast expanse of time which he required the performers to be aware of here. At my horse-drawn tempo (around heartbeat = 72) these bars last five seconds each, and I think both performers and listeners are intended to perceive the pulse of the barlines occurring every 5 seconds.
I find playing such a long bar a very big stretch for the mind, although also very rewarding. It´s maybe a bit like going for a run using an enormously long stride. >
I concur that that tempo could work. I've played through that movement to try it out. A difficulty with ensemble might be to keep it from bogging down, that slowly...but it could work. Good luck though, keeping the singers from rushing!

Typically, a 6/4 meter indicates that a piece is "really" in 2, not 6, as to its tactus.... If the thing is played/sung in 6, another difficulty is to get the cadential hemiolas not to sound ponderous.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 22, 2006):
Chris Rowson wrote:
<< I agree, with the 6/2 concept and the evenness, though not (of course!) with the faster tempo. I think Bach used the 6/4 notation to require an awareness of a vast expanse of time which he required the performers to be aware of here. >>
p.s. Interesting spot there in the middle of bar 36. The alto singer has a suspended B-flat over the F in the bass, and this concurs with the continuo figure of 4, reinforcing the suspension. But at the same time, the top three instrumental parts are all playing a unison line that lands squarely on A on the same beat. Nice crunchy bit, with the suspension and its resolution being played simultaneously.

Chris Rowson wrote (September 22, 2006):
Brad Lehman wrote:
"I concur that that tempo could work. I've played through that movement to try it out. A difficulty with ensemble might be to keep it from bogging down, that slowly...but it could work. Good luck though, keeping the singers from rushing!"
I guess they would have to be used to that sort of tempo. Part of my approach is to articulate all the sixteenth notes, so there is really a lot going in within those enormous spans.

The singers, well, we should be able to whip the boys into shape, and persuade the adults!

Brad again "Typically, a 6/4 meter indicates that a piece is "really" in 2, not 6, as to its tactus.... If the thing is played/sung in 6, another difficulty is to get the cadential hemiolas not to sound ponderous."
With the hemiolas, It´s necessary to switch into that 3/2 time while keeping the same basic heartbeat pulse. I want the dotted rhythms played really sharp, and for me the secret is to keep feeling that quarter-note sub-pulse that keeps going the whole time, even, or particularly, on those points where there´s no note on it. Grandiose, I´d call it, hopefully not ponderous - the sharp dotting should make it spring like a dancer.

Again, I reckon a group that was used to Bach´s music and his leadership could manage this in fine style even at my tempo, and make a marvellous effect.

By the way, when I play hps continuo and a long note like this comes up, if I feel the band is going to rush, I put a chord in there to try to keep them in line. Shouldn´t have to do this, but it´s effective in an emergency :-)

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 25, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The purpose of the theology of the Cantata is to demonstrate that the new covenant, in which love is the spur to imitation of Christ and thus forbearance of suffering and acceptance of death - is the true way to God and thus the fulfilment of creation. >
Reply:

The music of BWV 114 grew on me over the past week. Thanks to Peter for all of his detailed introductions, and for this especially eloquent statement. I must confess I barely noticed it in my first reading, but it seems especially appropriate after listening to BWV 114 several times, and then coming back to his introduction.

There are already many detailed comments posted on BCW regarding both the music and recordings. The Koopman enthusiasts have won me over to the idea that 3 CDs for $36 is better value than 1 CD for $16, and I am waiting for delivery of BWV 114. That is not the only issue. This cantata seems to deserve the definitive version, perhaps it is Koopman [4]?

Once again, Suzuki [6] is too quick for my taste in the opening chorus.Has the virtue of contrast with the subsequent T aria, which excels.Leusink [3] has the most enjoyable chorus, unhurried, unforced. That leads into what I consider the best overall performance, even if lacking in highlights. Listeners who find Buwalda intolerable will not agree. Not a major problem for me. No alto compares to Hilde Rössl-Majdan anyway. Just enjoy what you get.

Rilling [1] has many superior points, eJulia Hamari in the A aria, as mentioned by Neil. The chorus sounds forced and aggressive, side by side with Leusink [3].

None of these performances is seriously disappointing, but each has different strengths: Leusink [3] for chorus (subtle texture, unhurried tempo), Suzuki [6] for T aria, and Rilling [1] for A aria.

A few more thoughts to come when Koopman arrives [4].

Thanks again, Peter, for the introductions.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 25, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< None of these performances is seriously disappointing, but each has different strengths: Leusink [3] for chorus (subtle texture, unhurried tempo), Suzuki [6] for T aria, and Rilling [1] for A aria. >
I agree with Leusink's opening chorus tempo [3]. Harnoncourt's tempo brought to mind Doug's "pedal to the metal" proposition ("vivace") - I found myself visualising the violent winds seen in the film "Twister". Rilling [1] is indeed perhaps a tad slow alongside Leusink, but there are some great moments conveying the rich choral polyphony in the lower voices, cleary heard at the slower speed.

Of the three cantatas mentioned with similar structure (lively tempo with 6/4 time signature) in the opening chorus, viz. BWV 62, BWV 114, and BWV 115, I think the first two can stand a more driven tempo than BWV 115, possibly because BWV 115 has long phrases of continuous 1/16th notes for the oboe (and flute) in contrast to the mostly dactyl rhythms of BWV 62 and BWV 114; Harnoncourt's, and to a lesser extent, Leusink's easy-going tempi in BWV 115 (in comparison to Rilling's BWV 115, for example) allows these beautiful, long oboe sentences to be phrased and to 'breathe'.

(I wonder if Rilling would agree with these remarks about tempi, after listening to the recordings!).

 

Of possible interest to the Cantata group

Paul T. McCain wrote (September 17, 2008):
There is now an ongoing conversation on the Internet devoted to the historic lectionary of the Lutheran Church and with some regularity one of the authors of this particular blog site will post their observations about the Cantata Bach prepared for the upcoming Sunday in the Church year, in this case, the 17th Sunday after Trinity
Sunday. It is refreshing to see Bach's Cantatas being used in the setting for which Bach intended them and analyzed from a musical point of view, from the standpoint of the theology conveyed in the Cantata text.

Here is a link to the site, and the text of the post follows: http://historiclectionary.com/?p=375

Ach, lieben Christen, seid getrost BWV 114 "Ah, dear Christian, be comforted"

An excellent cantata in itself that preaches on suffering in the world, our repentance over sin, and confidence in Christ's salvation. It is especially appropriate to consider this year, since it is tailored around both the Gospel appointed for Trinity 17 (healing of the dropsical man) as well as the Gospel appointed for Holy Cross Day (fruitful grain of wheat).

The opening chorale (Mvt. 1) calls to suffering Christians in comfort, and to urge them to repent- not because they are worse sinners than any other, but precisely as Jesus teaches in Luke 13 concerning those killed by Pilate and by the falling tower of Siloam. It confesses the truth that God sends suffering and affliction upon us, just as he sends days of gladness also. As always, our trust is not in the world or our own selves to keep us through affliction, but it is in Christ who himself sends this cross. The tenor aria (Mvt. 2) echoes the language of Luther's "In the very midst of life". Who can we trust and seek refuge in times of suffering? "Thou Only, [Jesus], Thou Only." It sets up the idea that we come to Christ in weakness.

The Bass sings a recitative (Mvt. 3) paralleling the text of the Sunday Gospel-fitting since the Bass voice sings the part of Christ in the Passions, as the lowest notes are used for Christ's Words in chanting the Words of Institution. This then is Christ speaking to the Christian, first speaking a harsh Word of Law. He rightly accuses us of suffering at our own hands, the suffering of our own making. The sin of Adam in the garden is primarily against the first commandment, exalting himself above God. The Law humbles sinners, bringing them to repentance. It is death that ultimately humbles sinners, but it is death that is life and deliverance for the Christian.

The third stanza of the chorale (Mvt. 4) brings in the Feast Day text, and connects our death to the way of Christ to the Father (Gang zum Vater), that is, the cross. The grain going into the ground in order to spring into glorious fruit is our death that yields eternal life precisely because we are connected to Christ's death yielding His glorious resurrection.

The Alto sings (Mvt. 5) a comforting aria in defiance of Death. Now is Death but the gate to life immortal, and the Christian can live without fear of Death. The Savior will keep the body safe in the tomb and recall it on the last day.

And so the Tenor gives a final recitative of exhortation (Mvt. 6) to humble ourselves and suffer God's work on us, entrusting ourselves to the One who made our body and soul, eyes ears and all our members. and still takes care of them. His Love is apparent in both death and life. He preserves us in life, whether He gives suffering or gladness, and He brings us through death into His bosom.

The final chorale (Mvt. 7) gives the connection between life and death that has been hinted at earlier: Baptism. Baptism is where we have been connected with Christ's death, where we have died. Death comes through Adam, and we have continued in his image. Christ is life, and He brings us into Him through Baptism, keeping us safely from Satan's grip. In Confession as in Baptism, we are humbled by the Law's accusing work and brought down from our self-exalting. Thus humbled, it is Christ who exalts us.

 

BWV 114, Trinity 17 (Oct. 4, 2009)

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 4, 2009):
Brian McCreath chose for broadcast and webcast this morning (WGBH-FM, www.wgbh.org) BWV 114 in the Leonhardt performance [2], including male alto Rene Jacobs, souding quite boyish, especially in light of some of our recent discussion of throaty female altos in BWV 169. Perhaps not by coincidence, that will be the cantata for broadcast next week, Oct. 11. Brians comments on BWV 114 were enlightening, I will perhaps reproduce some of them in a supplementary post later today.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 9, 2009):
BWV 114, Trinity 17 (more)

For the past several months, Brian McCreath has taken the opportunity to preface his Sunday cantata broadcasts with brief introductions and musical examples, rather a pocket version of a BCML intro. I found this past Sundays especially insightful, and worth sharing, not exactly duplicated in the BCW archives, as best I can tell.

The text of the opening chorus is core Lutheran theology: both human afflictions and salvation proceed from God, with little participation by the individual on either side of the equation, other than to maintain his faith, and to acknowledge that <punishment we [the human race] have well deserved>.

In the T aria (Mvt. 2), the lost, wandering, inis nicely painted by the music: the tonic is stated by the continuo organ, but the curving vocal line wanders about without ever quite attaining it, remaining *lost*.

Only with the A aria (Mvt. 5) is transfiguration, salvation, achieved. Through death. A very characteristic placement and role for the alto, in Bach. Brian chose a few more (and more delicate) words to make this particular point.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 114: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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