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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 115
Mache dich, mein Geist, bereit
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 22, 2006 [Continue]

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 27, 2006):
Aryeh Oron has kindly added more examples to the scoresamples for BWV 115 at the bottom of the page at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV115-Sco.htm
[click again on an image to enlarge it, if necessary]

Examples 7-12 trace the evolution of the kernel motif through all of the mvts. of BWV 115.

This type of analysis is based upon Albert Schweitzer's theory of the kernel motif, a motif often antithetical in nature and thus representing opposing ideas combined into a single musical figure.

Example 7:
The opening 3-note motif of the entire cantata presents itself immediately at the very beginning of BWV 115/1.

In the context of the cantata libretto which inspired Bach to compose this music, this motif is a musical symbol/allegory which Bach chose to represent a number of ideas that are reflected in the text: the interval drop (an octave represents perfection) can indicate the falling to one's knees, humbling oneself to assume a posture for meaningful prayer, but it can also imply the falling asleep of the individual's soul in a deep but dangerous slumber leading to eternal death; the interval jump upwards signifies the necessary awakening of the soul from slumber and the need for the soul to remain watchful and request patience before being judged and forgiveness for one's sins.

It is very interesting how Bach has this falling-down/jumping-up motif change gradually from the octave (perfection) to an interval of a 7th and then finally a 6th. It is this latter interval which is repeated 3 times in every verse as the chorale melody is sung. Note how, in BWV 115/6, the cantus firmus/soprano part falls down a 6th but soon completes the drop of an octave on the final note (this encompasses within four notes the two extremes of the range for the entire chorale melody). It would appear that this feature of the chorale melody was very significant for Bach in his invention of the key motif.

The continuo incorporates the octave drop in a number of different places. In m 11 it becomes obvious that the continuo focuses on the key motif. Fragments of the motif (the octave drop) are even apparent in the continuo part of the final chorale where the drop is repeated 3 times.

In m 12, the bass begins its entry with a doubly-fast version of the motif which begins to resemble a shake (a shaking as if to awaken someone from sleep). Notice also the scalar passage in m 14 going from a lower B to a high B which then immediately droping down an octave again.

Example 8:
Note the vacillation here between the octave jumps and the interval drops by a 6th, the latter inspired by the key interval drop in the chorale melody. Is this an attempt at combining the perfection of the octave (God's ideal universe) with the imperfection of the 6th (possibly man's sinful condition)?

Example 9:
Notice just how the signature motif appears in the choral parts (the order of entries as well as the interval differences between these entries). In mm 12 & 31 ff, the motion upward emulates the awakening motif (the intervals between entries are different, however). What is Bach trying to say in mm 51 ff with the altos entering on a G, but the basses following with an A, a drop of a 7th?

Example 10:
Both recitatives provide good examples of the evolution of the ascending and dropping octaves inherent in the kernel motif. In each the text is amplified by the use of octaves with rather specific word-painting involved, and yet each instance hearkens back to the original motif. BWV 115/3 m3 - the quick movement up through a series of notes culminates at the highest point where the light of mercy originates and where man must look for it. In mm 11-12 there is a figure frequently used by Bach in an allegorical sense, or as Eric Chafe puts it on p. 67-68 of his "Analyzing Bach Cantatas" Oxford University Press, 2000, where he speaks of the "emblematic character of the thematic material", "the symmetrical ascent-descent figure.has associations with God in majesty." This is what we see here: the entire 'world'/universe is encompassed with this simple figure (up and down the octave with its major or minor triads included. [This is an inversion of the original kernel motif.] The text gives rise to the musical figure that Bach employs. There are many examples of this type in other cantatas and elsewhere in Bach's music, and while the interpretation of the symbolic meaning will not always be the same (this is the nature of a 'symbol' when properly understood), there exist themes/ideas which demonstrate some similarity with each other.

BWV 115/5 has the opening notes quickly encompass an octave moving downward depicting God, from on high, being drawn longingly to his creation and looking down upon us whom he wishes to aid as we cry out for help.

Example 11:
The alto aria, BWV 115/2, begins in its complete form, not considering the motto which precedes it, with a descending, octave figure representing the soul falling asleep. This idea is present in both mm 36ff
and also mm 46ff ('still resting/slumbering'), but the contrasting movement is encountered in m 72ff on the rapid octave ascent on "ermuntre" ('wake up and get going again!'). The 'allegro' section of the aria has a 'drooping' octave jump downwards on the "wachest" ("you remain awake and on guard") as part of "wo du nicht wachest" ("wherever/whenever you do not stay awake"). The octave drop signifies the rapid loss of wakefulness and falling asleep again.

Very moving is the slow, sighing ascent (m 147ff), a last gasp of life, as it were, only to be covered ("bedecken") by the final slumber of an eternal death (the descent down to the low B). The musical imagery of the kernel motif is presented in extended form by the oboe d'amore which now plays a figure that moves rather quickly up and down the span of two octaves. Are the insistent dropping-octave figures in the instrumental accompaniment meant as a repeated warning about what can happen when the soul fails to awaken and remain on guard and is then overtaken by "sleep of an eternal death"?

Example 12:
Here the text emphasizes more than any other mvt. the maintenance of a prayerful state. This leads to the scarcity of octave figures. However, in m 35ff, where the singer expresses the idea that soul must request that the eternal judge should be patient and free the soul of its sins, we seem to have a picture of the sins falling down/away and bringing about a state of purity. It is this downward release of sins which seems to be depicted here with the final upward octave leap symbolizes the attained state of purity. From the special emphasis on the word "frei" ("free") at the beginning of m 36 until the final syllable of "gereinigt" ("purified") m. 38, there is an octave-drop span from one E# to the other with a rapid ascent from a low D to a higher D at the end of m 37. It is as if Bach were trying to incorporate both opposing directions/concepts: a) sins being released and falling down/away, and b) the higher state of purification to which the soul is then elevated.

Conclusion:

It appears that Bach found ways to musically connect the mvts. of this cantata, despite the fact that they are rather diverse in character. The use of a chorale melody incipit as a link was not feasible or desirable with this chorale melody for reasons already stated elsewhere. The governing or controlling idea (kernel) appears to have been distilled from a fragment of the chorale melody. In its most concise form, it appears at the very beginning of the cantata. Without losing all of its characteristic features, it undergoes transformations and modifications throughout all the mvts. of the cantata, adjusting itself and being modified by the text of each mvt.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 28, 2006):
< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV115-Sco.htm
(...)
This type of analysis is based upon Albert Schweitzer’s theory of the kernel motif, a motif often antithetical in nature and thus representing opposing ideas combined into a single musical figure. >
Ah, "based upon" Schweitzer's real work, but without actually being it. I see.

< Example 7:
The opening 3-note motif of the entire cantata presents itself immediately at the very beginning of BWV 115/1.
In the context of the cantata libretto which inspired Bach to compose this music, this motif is a musical symbol/allegory which Bach chose >
...er, Bach's One True Self-Appointed Disciple chose...

< to represent a number of ideas that are reflected in the text: the interval drop (an octave represents perfection) can indicate the falling to one’s knees, humbling oneself to assume a posture for meaningful prayer, but it can also imply the falling asleep of the individual’s soul in a deep but dangerous slumber leading to eternal death; the interval jump upwards signifies the necessary awakening of the soul from slumber and the need for the soul to remain watchful and request patience before being judged and forgiveness for one’s sins. >
Or, octave leaps in either direction could simply be a way to write music using easily singable and playable phrases. Lots of Bach's music does that.

< It is very interesting how Bach has this falling-down/jumping-up motif change gradually from the octave (perfection) to an interval of a 7th and then finally a 6th. It is this latter interval which is repeated 3 times in every verse as the chorale melody is sung. >
Very interesting in such a way that it's not actually in the music, unless the rules are bent to take 6ths as if they're imperfect octaves. Interesting.

< Note how, in BWV 115/6, the cantus firmus/soprano part falls down a 6th but soon completes the drop of an octave on the final note (this encompasses within four notes the two extremes of the range for the entire chorale melody). It would appear that this feature of the chorale melody was very significant for Bach in his invention of the key motif. >
"Very significant" for Bach's One True Self-Appointed Disciple, anyway, we'll grant that. But you've still gotta admit that the chorale itself (see Example 3) doesn't have ANY direct ctave leaps, itself, in either direction. That's sort of inconvenient, isn't it?

< The continuo incorporates the octave drop in a number of different places. >
As continuo lines do very often in Bach's music. That's a neat thing to do in music. How is it special, here?

< In m 11 it becomes obvious that the continuo focuses on the key motif. Fragments of the motif (the octave drop) are even apparent in the continuo part of the final chorale where the drop is repeated 3 times. >
Two dropping notes forming an octave are counted as "fragments of" a three-note motif? Wow. That might actually occur a lot!!!!

< In m 12, the bass begins its entry with a doubly-fast version of the motif which begins to resemble a shake (a shaking as if to awaken someone from sleep). >
What about all the notes on either side of the three you've picked out of the hat?

< Notice also the scalar passage in m 14 going from a lower B to a high B which then immediately droping down an octave again. >
Too bad that the effect of the upward-leaping octave is spoiled by having all the scale tones performed in between, there. So well hidden as to be, well, not really there.

< Example 8:
Note the vacillation here between the octave jumps and the interval drops by a 6th, the latter inspired by the key interval drop in the chorale melody. >
Ah, the direct window into Bach's inspiration. And it couldn't possibly have come from any other place? Or been freshly-composed for any other reason, except to quote two isolated notes in succession as plucked out of the chorale?

< Is this an attempt at combining the perfection of the octave (God’s ideal universe) with the imperfection of the 6th (possibly man’s sinful condition)? >
To quote a line from Bernstein's Mass: "Possibly yes, probably no."

< Example 9:
Notice just how the signature motif appears in the choral parts (the order of entries as well as the interval differences between these entries). In mm 12 & 31 ff, the motion upward emulates the awakening motif (the intervals between entries are different, however). >
Maybe that should tell you something.

< What is Bach trying to say in mm 51 ff with the altos entering on a G, but the basses following with an A, a drop of a 7th? >
That he wanted his voices to enter on different scale degrees, perhaps?

< Example 10:
Both recitatives provide good examples of the evolution of the ascending and dropping octaves inherent in the kernel motif. In each the text is > amplified by the use of octaves with rather specific word-painting involved, and yet each instance hearkens back to the original motif. BWV 115/3 m3 – the quick movement up through a series of notes culminates at the highest point where the light of mercy originates >

"Light of mercy" is in the text somewhere? Where? This particular movement doesn't say anything about it.

< and where man must look for it. In mm 11-12 there is a figure frequently used by Bach in an allegorical sense, or as Eric Chafe puts it on p. 67-68 of his “Analyzing Bach Cantatas” Oxford University Press, 2000, >
Ah, the "appeal to authority" tactic of blaming ideas on others, obliquely.

< where he speaks of the “emblematic character of the thematic material”, “the symmetrical ascent-descent figure…has associations with God in majesty.” This is what we >
Who's "we"?

< see here: the entire ‘world’/universe is encompassed with this simple figure (up and down the octave with its major or minor triads included. [This is an inversion of the original kernel motif.] >
No, it's an arpeggiated D minor triad going up and then down: so well disguising any "octave leaps" that their presence is hardly credible.

< The text gives rise to the musical figure that Bach employs. >
Oh. How, specifically? Or is this just something to assert in passing, as proof?

< There are many examples of this type in other cantatas and elsewhere in Bach’s music, and while the interpretation of the symbolic meaning will not always be the same (this is the nature of a ‘symbol’ when properly understood), there exist themes/ideas which demonstrate some similarity with each other. >
And lots of Bach's music has octaves leaping up and/or down. Let's not forget that. Lots of Handel's does, too. And Vivaldi's even more, perhaps. Take that start of Vivaldi's "Gloria" where octaves are whacking all over the place!!!!

< BWV 115/5 has the opening notes quickly encompass an octave moving downward depicting God, from on high, being drawn longingly to his creation and looking down upon us whom he wishes to aid as we cry out for help. >
Maybe so, but that's an awfully specific interpretation of alleged symbolism, by your own lights as explained a few lines above.

< Example 11:
The alto aria, BWV 115/2, begins in its complete form, not considering the motto which precedes it, with a descending, octave figure representing the soul falling asleep. >
Oh, it means that, this time?

< This idea is present in both mm 36ff and also mm 46ff (‘still resting/slumbering’), but the contrasting movement is encountered in m 72ff on the rapid octave ascent on “ermuntre” (‘wake up and get going again!’). The ‘allegro’ section of the aria has a ‘drooping’ octave jump downwards on the “wachest” (“you remain awake and on guard”) as part of “wo du nicht wachest” (“wherever/whenever you do not stay awake”). The octave drop signifies the rapid loss of wakefulness and falling asleep again. >
Y'know, I experience that every time I wake up in the middle of the night and fall asleep again: octave leaps. WOWWW!

< Very moving is the slow, sighing ascent (m 147ff), a last gasp of life, as it were, only to be covered (“bedecken”) by the final slumber of an eternal death (the descent down to the low B). The musical imagery of the kernel motif is presented in extended form by the oboe d’amore which now plays a figure that moves rather quickly up and down the span of two octaves. >
As musical lines tend todo, when written for fine instrumentalists.

< Are the insistent dropping-octave figures in the instrumental accompaniment meant as a repeated warning about what can happen when the soul fails to awaken and remain on guard and is then overtaken by “sleep of an eternal death”? >
If you say so.

< Example 12:
Here the text emphasizes more than any other mvt. the maintenance of a prayerful state. >
Thank you for this refreshing statement of an actual observation that can be verified! One can actually look at the words to see such a thing.

< This leads to the scarcity of octave figures. >
Oh. Well, never mind then.

< However, in m 35ff, where the singer expresses the idea that soul must request that the eternal judge should be patient and free the soul of its sins, we seem to have a picture of the sins falling down/away and bringing about a state of purity. It is this downward release of sins which seems >
Sure is a lot of "seems" in here. Seemly!

< to be depicted here with the final upward octave leap symbolizes the attained state of purity. From the special emphasis on the word “frei” (“free”) at the beginning of m 36 until the final syllable of “gereinigt” (“purified”) m. 38, there is an octave-drop span from one E# to the other with a rapid ascent from a low D to a higher D at the end of m 37. >
Oh, come now. An E# octave-drop span with another motivically significant octave leap INSIDE IT and on different pitches? And you've ignored a whole fistful of notes between the two you chose to color green, here.

< It is as if Bach >
...or more accurately, Bach's One True Self-Appointed Disciple...

< were trying to incorporate both opposing directions/concepts: a) sins being released and falling down/away, and b) the higher state of purification to which the soul is then elevated.
Conclusion:
It appears that Bach found ways to musically connect the mvts. of this cantata, despite the fact that they are rather diverse in character. >
Ways, like having them performed during the same church service?

< The use of a chorale melody incipit as a link was not feasible or desirable with this chorale melody for reasons already stated elsewhere. The governing or controlling idea (kernel) appears to have been distilled from a fragment of the chorale melody. >
Again, this octave leap IS NOT in the chorale. But that doesn't seem to stop you from saying it is.

< In its most concise form, it appears at the very beginning of the cantata. >
Since that's YOUR axiom for this whole page of commentary, yes!

< Without losing all of its characteristic features, it undergoes transformations and modifications throughout all the mvts. of the cantata, adjusting itself and being modified by the text of each mvt. >
Other interpretations are of course possible.

In my humble opinion, the truly important thing is that you had a good time "finding" all that stuff.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Rilling [2] and Leusink [6]: more `andante' than `molto adagio', ie, too fast, among other problems.
Koopman
[5]: has the strange rattling and scraping noises coming from his continuo.
[1] Richter, [3] Harnoncourt, [4] Coin, and [8] Suzuki all have lovely instrumentation in `molto adagio' versions, but [3] Mathis' vibrato is distracting; [3] Huber displays some unsteadiness; [4] I have not heard Schlick with Coin (the sample is not long enough); [8] Ryden is, for me, distracting with her technique of beginning each note quietly, then increasing the volume. See if you agree.
This leaves Coin
[4] as potentially the most satisfying, depending on Schlick's performance! >
Neil, thanks for initiating this topic. I always find impressive the amount of information you are able to extract from the internet samples.

I have reverted to using the the BCW chronologic numbering to reference recordings. I hope this does not create any confusion. I was preparing to make some comments more or less in agreement with the first round of discussions: Coin [4] is the preferred overall performance, with Richter [1] an enjoyable alternative for those of us who want (and often prefer) a traditional comparison. Without specific intent, I have accumulated a lot of overlap for BWV 115: Koopman [5], Leusink [6], and Suzuki [8]. I have a slight preference for Koopman, but these are all fine performances. None are perfect, and many of the imperfections are accurately documented in the BCW discussions. I have not heard either Rilling [2] or Harnoncourt [3].

Schlick [4], Rubens [5], and Strijk [6], have been commented on by Aryeh in the first round and/or Brad Lehman on this thread. I am in agreement with what I believe they said, all are creditable performances, clean and delicate. If that equates to a shortage of expression, perhaps that is the intent? In any case, it seems more the balance and tempo which discriminate amongst them, and which give Coin [4] the edge. Indeed, that is likely the point of his performance: to present the music Bach wrote, vc piccolo in balance with traverso and S aria. A terzetto with new instruments to contrast with the vocal terzetto of BWV 38, from the previous week. Coin and ensemble succeed admirably.

Koopman [5] is nearly as good. The strange continuo sounds are there, more noticeable to me in the rec, Mvt. 5 than in the S aria, Mvt .4. I find them more puzzling than disturbing: some intentional effect, organ mechanics, or other problem everyone decided to just live with?

The tempo difference with Leusink [6] is also notable, but I would call it less slow rather than too fast. I agree with the description Brad chose: easy flow. Since Leusink also took the trouble to use vc piccolo, perhaps he was specifically doing something a bit different from Coin [4], for the sake of variety?

Which brings us to Suzuki [8], and Ryden's technique. I only had a quick listen before your post, and had noticed something vaguely disconcerting. Your description sounds exactly right to me, and is reminiscent of Herreweghe swelling tone which you have previously pointed out. With Suzuki, it is not my first choice for sound, but I will give it a chance to settle in. I have to admire Suzuki's stated intent (in another place) to provide a performance which presents unique alternatives when justified. Perhaps this is such an instance? Or
perhaps your first thought is correct, this is Ryden's technique. As usual, with rare exceptions in tempo, I find Suzuki's performance balanced, thoughtful, and exceptionally well-engineered. Very enjoyable, despite the marginally preferable alternatives.

I hope to provide a few more general thoughts on BWV 115, but in case I don't get to it, I would like to recommend Dick Wursten's opening comments to the first round of discussions, expressing his gratitude for any decent recording (with reference to Leusink [6]) of BWV 115, which Nicholas Anderson (OCC: Bach) calls <this towering masterpiece>.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 29, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote
< Schlick [4], Rubens [5], and Strijk [6], have been commenteon by Aryeh in the first round and/or Brad Lehman on this thread. I am in agreement with what I believe they said, all are creditable performances, clean and delicate. If that equates to a shortage of expression, perhaps that is the intent? In any case, it seems more the balance and tempo which discriminate amongst them, and which give Coin [4] the edge. Indeed, that is likely the point of his performance: to present the music Bach wrote, vc piccolo in balance with traverso and S aria. A terzetto with new instruments to contrast with the vocal terzetto of BWV 38, from the previous week. Coin and ensemble succeed admirably. >
Just to be clear: I didn't say anything about "shortage of expression" being any alleged "intent" in these performances. I said that I pretty much liked what I heard in the three that I listened to, but that (as a listener) I'd still prefer to hear more tempo rubato from any/all of them, in this particular aria. More risk-taking within the performance style, in that regard, putting it across with more of what I want to hear in "adagio" and "molto adagio". Bass-line players staying basically steady with the beat, while the several melody musicians all
bend their parts differently across it, variously getting ahead or behind, and not worrying too much about lining up with each other or anything else.

Also, I haven't heard that Rubens [5] performance. My comments were about the [4] and [6] there, plus Harnoncourt's [3]...which of these three did what I felt did the best job at starting down that road of rubato, in this particular movement. But not the singer there, unfortunately, just the flute and cello piccolo....

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 29, 2006):
Brad Lehman wrote:
< Just to be clear: I didn't say anything about "shortage of expression" being any alleged "intent" in these performances. I said that I pretty much liked what I heard in the three that I listened to, but that (as a listener) I'd still prefer to hear more tempo rubato from any/all of them, in this particular aria. >
Reply, to Brad and BCML:
Lack of clarity is the result of my attempt to be concise, and combine commentary from two sources: the current soprano aria thread, and the BCW archives (which is the source of the expression <shortage of expression>). I did not intend to attribute the phrase to you, or to equate it with the desire for more tempo rubato. However, I do find them analogous, if not exactly equal.

In particular, I did not intend to suggest that one approach (clean and delicate) is superior to another (expressive), only that the lighter vocal approach is equally valid, and especially well suited to HIP interpretations. I certainly do not think you said otherwise: there is no contradiction in a clean and delicate vocal line with tempo rubato. Indeed, I agree with everything you wrote, and always enjoy hearing your opinions on recordings and performances, part of the reason I added to the discussion.

To paraphrase Suzuki [8], again: Whenever there are valid performance options, he leans toward adding variety to the recorded repertoire. This could apply to tempo rubato, as well.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2006):
A few additional thoughts before moving on and trying to get on schedule. I first considered BWV 38 and BWV 115 as a pair, on consecutive Sundays, showing maximum contrast in scoring, style (old versus new), and corresponding chorale source: a 1524 Luther versus a recent 1695 hymn. Before I got to say a word (fortunately), I realized that these two Sundays span the Reformation Festival, Oct. 31, for which we have no cantata in the chronology. But there must have been some music performed? Which would make BWV 38 and BWV 115 not a contrasting pair, but wings of a triptych.

I did not find any definite statement as to what that music was. A tempting hint from Suzuki, who includes BWV 80 with BWV 115 in his V. 27 (sorry for all the numbers, but it does seem like the most certain way to keep track). I do not see anything conclusive in Dürr or Wolff (corrections invited), or in Suzuki's notes. Uncharacteristically, I did not read the booklet notes to Coin [4] until yesterday. I say uncharacteristically because I do like to get as much of a clean impression of the music as possible first, but then gobble up whatever references are around. I was so struck with the sound, the BCML discussion, and the listening options, that I forgot.

Lo and behold, the notes by Gilles Cantagrel (Eng. trans., Mary Pardoe) state as fact, in the midst of a lengthy paragraph detailing the scoring variety beginning with BWV 96 on Oct 8, 1724, that BWV 80 was performed on Oct. 31, 1724, but without a source for that statement. The notes are too long to quote in entirety. They appear to be new in 2003 for reissue of the original 1994 recording. They are exceptionally good, despite lack of references (can't have everything).

I am going to close with that fact (or conjecture), that a version of BWV 80 was performed in 1724. I do like the idea that there is a triptych of innovative music, centered on the Reformation Festival of 1724, commemorating the bicentennial of Lutheran hymns, and winding down the first half of Bach's year (but the second half, the end, of the Liturgical Year) of Chorale Cantatas in honor of the anniversary.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (October 31, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< A few additional thoughts before moving on and trying to get on schedule. I first considered BWV 38 and BWV 115 as a pair, on consecutive Sundays, showing maximum contrast in scoring, style (old versus new), and corresponding chorale source: a 1524 Luther versus a recent 1695 hymn. Before I got to say a word (fortunately), I realized that these two Sundays span the Reformation Festival, Oct. 31, for which we have no cantata in the chronology. But there must have been some music performed? Which would make BWV 38 and BWV 115 not a contrasting pair, but wings of a triptych. >
To the best of my knowledge, BWV 80 is indeed for the Reformation Holiday (or whatever it's called in English - because where I am, it's called 'Swieto Reformacji' - anyway Festival sounds unlikely somehow, maybe 'Feast of the Reformation'?). We always sing 'Ein feste Burg' (i.e. the chorale from BWV 80) as a congregation for probably both 'Reformation Sunday' (which is the Sunday before) and the holiday itself. I'm singing an aria from BWV 80 ('Komm in mein Herzenshaus') tonight at the service, however with a modern cello because our gambist is otherwise occupied...

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 31, 2006):
[To Cara Emily Thornton] Reformation Festival is the English translation used by both Dürr and Robertson. That does not necessarily mean it is any good, just more or less standard.

BWV 80 is for the Reformation Festival, the question is when and how it achieved this identity. Dürr states:

This work is based on the Weimar cantata Alles, was von Gott geboren, BWV 80a, which was written for the Third Sunday in Lent 1715. <snip> the various stages in the origin of Ein feste Burg [BWV 80] can only be imperfectly reconstructed. Between 1728 and 1731 it seems Bach first designed a simpler version for the Reformation Festival, with a plain opening chorale but with the second movement presumably in the form in which we know it today. is no longer possible to say anything more about this version. <end quote>

This is presumably the version that Cantagrel states was performed in 1724 (booklet notes to Coin, BWV 115 [4]), several years earlier than Dürr indicates. I was wondering if there is more recent scholarship in support of this statement, or if he is in conflict with Dürr? And if not this early version of BWV 80, then what was the Reformation Festival music in 1724, between BWV 38 and BWV 115? One of the advantages of the chronologic discussion is that details such as this come to the fore.

Best wishes for your singing this evening, it is especially nice to have performers participate on BCML! Reformation Festival, in its earlier (?) guise as All Hallows Even (Hallowe'en), is a big event here in Salem MA.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 31, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Lo and behold, the notes by Gilles Cantagrel (Eng. trans., Mary Pardoe) state as fact, in the midst of a lengthy paragraph detailing the scoring variety beginning with BWV 96 on Oct 8, 1724, that BWV 80 was performed on Oct. 31, 1724, but without a source for that statement. The notes are too long to quote in entirety. They appear to be new in 2003 for reissue of the original 1994 recording. They are exceptionally good, despite lack of references (can't have everything). I am going to close with that fact (or conjecture), that a version of BWV 80 was performed in 1724.<<
It is a conjecture which has no basis in any real Bach scholarship that has been conducted in regard to BWV 80 in its various forms. My original 1994 notes to the recording you speak of state the same thing in 3 different languages. Nothing has been changed or modified to include new scholarship that might shed more light on this matter. There is a clear reference to a version of BWV 80 with 3 trumpets and timpani, 2 oboes d'amore and tenor oboe as having been performed in Leipzig on Oct. 31, 1724. What we have here, in part, are the 3 trumpets and timpani parts composed by W.F. Bach for mvt. 1 & 5. These have been dated as having originated from the mid to end of the 1730s (see below). As for the J. S. Bach version of BWV 80, it also could not have been performed on that date according to reliable Bach research. There are many interesting things to be learned from recording notes, but your instinct told you correctly that it is highly suspicious that no references for this information were given. When other sources not mentioned in the notes cannot confirm such information it must remain highly suspect. One possibility is that Gilles Cantagrel was using an outdated, unreliable source and did not bother to check with the NBA KB (published in 1988) regarding the correct dating of this cantata.

Here is the most reliable data concerning this cantata:

Two critical sources on which the NBA KB editors have based their information are:

Alfred Dürr "Zur Chronologie der Leipziger Vokalwerke J. S. Bachs" 2nd edition, Kassel, 1976

Alfred Dürr "Studien über die frühen Kantaten Johann Sebastian Bachs" revised and expanded edition, Wiesbaden, 1977

NBA KB I/31 (1988) pp.78-80:
The probable original source of BWV 80 is the cantata for the Sunday Oculi, "Alles, was von Gott geboren" known as BWV 80a. According to Dürr's research (pp. 64, 171ff of "Studien" Wiesbaden, 1977), it was composed in Weimar and probably first performed on March 24, 1715. Only the text of this cantata has survived. Based upon this and also indications from a Breitkopf catalog from 1761, it is possible to conclude that the cantata had 6 mvts. with the following parts: 1 oboe, 2 violins, viola, 4 vocal parts and continuo. Since many mvts. from this cantata were parodied in BWV 80, BWV 80a can be reconstructed as follows:

BWV 80a/1 = BWV 80/2: Aria "Alles, was von Gott geboren"
probable orchestration: bass voice, oboe, 2 violins, viola and bc with the instrumental cantus firmus given to the oboe.

BWV 80a/2 = BWV 80/3: Recitative "Erwäge doch, Kind Gottes"
probably bass and bc only.

BWV 80a/3 = BWV 80/4: Aria "Komm in mein Herzenshaus"
probably soprano and bc only.

BWV 80a/4 = BWV 80/6 Recitative "So stehe dann" probably tenor and bc.

BWV 80a/5 = BWV 80/7 Duet "Wie selig ist der Leib"
probably alto, tenor, oboe(?) or viola(?) (the oboe da caccia was not available in Weimar), violin and bc.

BWV 80a/6 = chorale "Mit unsrer Macht" (verse 2 of "Ein feste Burg")
probably tutti; this may be identical with the chorale BWV 303 (see Dürr p. 45).

In Leipzig Bach was unable to use BWV 80a during the fast period preceding Easter (a 'quiet' time when no figural music could be performed in the Leipzig churches) so he reused/recycled it to make it usable for the Reformation Feast Day. Just when this occurred can not be indicated with precision, but based upon additional fragments found in St. Petersburg, it appears most likely that it would have to be either 1727,1728 or 1731. However there was a period of mourning (no figural music allowed) from September 7, 1727 until Epiphany 1728, so we are left with only 1728 and 1731. Now we have the following situation:

BWV 80b/1: Chorale mvt. "Ein feste Burg" , a new composition

BWV 80b/2: based on BWV 80a/1 but expanded to a duet

BWV 80b/3: same as BWV 80a/2 with few or no changes

BWV 80b/4: same as BWV 80a/3 with few or no changes

BWV 80b/5: Chorale "Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär", a new composition, possibly a simple 4-pt chorale setting, but it might also have been a mvt. similar to BWV 80b/1

BWV 80b/6: same as BWV 80a/4, possibly expanded somewhat

BWV 80b/7: same as BWV 80a/5, possible different orchestration because of change of key (oboe da caccia in place of a previous instrument), also possible major compositional changes as well. First two lines of text had been changed.

BWV 80b/8: Chorale "Das Wort sie sollen lassen stahn" probably a new composition or a revision of BWV 80a/6.

The second and final revision of the cantata involves mainly the composition of an expansive first mvt. to replace the simple introductory chorale from BWV 80b. In this expanded version, the orchestration now includes vocal parts, strings, continuo plut 3 oboes. Further changes (adding instruments to the original ones) were probably made to mvt. 5 as well. It is also possible that mvt. 5 was a new composition which received an additional wind part later on. Since the original sources of BWV 80 are missing, it is not possible to assign a definite date, but it certainly would have to be after 1729 and/or 1731.

The parts for trumpets and timpani by W. F. Bach are included in the NBA KB, but were not considered for inclusion in the final printed version ofthe cantata BWV 80.

Another rather recent important reference examines the orchestration of the instruments used in every mvt. of every cantata. It includes information about the dating of the W. F. Bach additional parts to which Cantagrel refers:

Ulrich Prinz "J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium" Stuttgart/Kassel, 2005

BWV 80a
March 24, 1715

BWV 80b
circa 1728/1731

BWV 80
Additional instrumental changes made to BWV 80b by J.S. Bach mid to end of 1730s
Trumpets & timpani added by W.F. Bach mid to end of 1730s

Julian Mincham wrote (October 31, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< This is presumably the version that Cantagrel states was performed in 1724 (booklet notes to Coin, BWV 115 [4]), several years earlier than Dürr indicates. I was wondering if there is more recent scholarship in support of this statement, or if he is in conflict with Dürr? And if not this early version of BWV 80, then what was the Reformation Festival music in 1724, between BWV 38 and BWV 115? One of the advantages of the chronologic discussion is that details such as this come to the fore. >
Boyd gives the original version of this work as a Weimar cantata for Lent which used the hymn Eine feste Burg and therefore could easily be adapted to become a reformation cantata. He gives 2 Leipzig versions, the earlier from 1723 although it is not listed by Wolff as a part of the first cycle. He does not date the later work which presumably could have been in 1724 and again not listed as a part of the second cycle.. Wolff gives two later versions one from around 1730 and another from 1740.

There is an essay on this cantata by Wolff in 'Bach: essays on his life and music (Cambridge) which I do not have immediate access to but will try to get hold of. It probably has the most complex and tantalising history of any of the cantatas.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Cantata BWV 80 - Discussions Part 3

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 7, 2006):
< Lo and behold, the notes by Gilles Cantagrel (Eng. trans., Mary Pardoe) state as fact, in the midst of a lengthy paragraph detailing the scoring variety beginning with BWV 96 on Oct 8, 1724, that BWV 80 was performed on Oct. 31, 1724, but without a source for that statement. The notes are too long to quote in entirety. They appear to be new in 2003 for reissue of the original 1994 recording. They are exceptionally good, despite lack of references (can't have everything). >
As for "lack of references," Gilles Cantagrel's own book is the French equivalent of The Bach Reader. More than 600 pages of good stuff and references in there, in very small type.... http://www.amazon.fr/Bach-son-temps-Gilles-Cantagrel/dp/2213600074

As I recall from spending some weeks with it last year, it also includes some Bach-related documents that weren't in the older Bach-Dokumente (by the NBA).

This isn't offered as any proof that those Cantagrel booklet notes are correct on that particular date for BWV 80; only a remark that he has read and grappled with just about all the Bach documents that were available anywhere, by the mid-1990s...and that he continues to do musicological work since then.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 7, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>This isn't offered as any proof that those Cantagrel booklet notes are correct on that particular date for BWV 80; only a remark that he has read and grappled with just about all the Bach documents that were available anywhere, by the mid-1990s...and that he continues to do musicological work since then.<<
Good for him! This continual, on-going 'grappling' with original sources sets a good example for all to follow. No resting on one's laurels, but rather honestly seeking answers and being grateful for any new evidence or insights that are presented on the BCML for all to ponder so that we may gain a better understanding of Bach and his music.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 115: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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: ýNovember 11, 2014 ý10:36:08