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Cantata BWV 116
Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 12, 2006

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 12, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 116 "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ"

Week of November 12, 2006
---------------------------
Cantata BWV 116, Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
Second Annual Cantata Cycle (Jahrgang II)
25th Sunday after Trinity
1st performance: November 26, 1724 - Leipzig
---------------------------
Bach Cantatas resources
Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV116-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV116.htm
Text:
German http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/116.html
English http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV116.html
French http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV116-Fre4.htm
Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV116-V&P.pdf
Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV116.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording [4] (free streaming download):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV116-Leusink.ram
---------------------------
Librettist : unknown
Reading:
EPISTLE 1 Thessalonians 4: 13-18: The Second Coming of Christ.
GOSPEL Matthew 24: 15-28: Temptations at the end of the world.

This is a chorale cantata, based upon the chorale of the same name.
Seven-verse hymn by Jakob Ebert.
For more details on this chorale melody see:
http://bach-cantatas.com/CM/Du-Friedefurst.htm
--------------------------------------------------------
Structure
1. Choral S + hn ATB ob d'am I,II str bc
2. Aria A ob d'am I solo bc
3. Recit. T bc
4. Terzetto STB bc
5. Recit. A str bc
6. Choral SATB bc (+ instrs)

--------------------------------------------------------

Comment (mostly based on Dürr).

In this Chorale cantata the unknown librettist uses the seven verses
of the hymn in the following way:
Mvt. 1 (Choral) = verse 1
Mvt. 2 (Aria A) = free paraphrase of verse 2
Mvt. 3 (Recit. T) = free paraphrase of verse 3
Mvt. 4 (Terzetto STB) = free paraphrase of verse 4
Mvt. 5 (Recit. A) = free paraphrase of verses 5-6
Mvt. 6 (Choral) = verse 7.

The libretto is in the form of a prayer to Jesus Christ: Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace, you are a strong helper in time of need, in life and death; only in your name can we cry to the Father (Mvt. 1). However we can hardly do so, so deep is our anguish (Mvt. 2). But how could you turn away from us? (Mvt. 3). We acknowledge our debt and pray for your patience and love, which you showed by experiencing pain for our sake (Mvt. 4). Protect us from the cruelty of war and bring us lasting peace (Mvt. 5). Illuminate us so that we may not lose our souls through frivolity, as only you can do this (Mvt. 6).

The first movement (Mvt. 1) is a chorale fantasia in style concertante, with cantus firmus sung by the soprano in long notes, reinforced by horn. The instrumental parts form a lively texture, without obvious thematic connection with the chorale, where the violin plays an outstanding solo part, as in a concerto.

In the first Stollen (line 1 and 2), the three accompanying voices A, T, B support the cantus firmus in a chordal structure while the instruments are independent.

In the second Stollen (line 3 and 4), A, T, B form an imitative counterpoint to the cantus firmus, on the ritornello theme, with instruments less independent (partly doubling the vocal parts, but not entirely).

The Abgesang (lines 5, 6, 7) is treated much like the first Stollen, except that in lines 5 and 7, the accompanying voices have short note-values, in contrast to the cantus firmus.

The special treatment of the second Stollen strongly emphasizes the words "Ein starker Nothelfer du bist, Im Leben und im Tod" which are of particular significance in this cantata.

In contrast to the liveliness and impetus of the first movement, the Alto aria (Mvt. 2) is a melancholy, delicately expressive song (belying the 'unaussprechlich' of the text), the oboe part being treated cantabile rather than in a figurative style.

In the tenor recitative (Mvt. 3), the words 'Prince of Peace' are highlighted by two quotations of the chorale melody in the basso continuo, quotation marks, as it were.

As in BWV 38/5, the fourth movement (Mvt. 4) is a terzetto rather than the expected aria. This piece is written in highly imitative style, the theme of the ritornello being taken up by the three vocal parts. The instrumental parts are reduced to the basso continuo.

The alto recitative (Mvt. 5), accompanied by strings, ends in an arioso on the words 'and bring us lasting peace'.

The last movement (Mvt. 6) is 4-part harmonized chorale.

--------------------------------------------------------
A more personal comment.

This is one of my ealiest cantatas; one of the first I ever came across - in Richter's recording [1]. I am very fond of Richter's recording, especially Mvt. 1. In fact, I discovered simultaneously BWV 116 and Sid Meyer's game Civilization. In one of the first games I played, I was Friedrich the Great. Of course I built the 'Bach Cathedral' (sic) as soon as I could, and while I played the game I listened to Richter's "Du Friedefürst...". It really felt as if my happy subjects were singing my praise, as I was indeed their Friedefürst (having all but wiped out the other civilizations in less than no time).I quite agree that this was completely silly - for sure you'll never find that kind of confession in Dürr or Basso, let alone Schweitzer.

I am now more sensitive to the charm of the subsequent movements than I was then. In particular the concluding chorale is deeply moving, and the terzetto is a fine piece of counterpoint.

In any case I still find the first movement most elating... a long way from the 'abomination of the desolation' of the reading. Probably here we have an example of what Julian Mincham called recently 'the practice of Bach to redress the argument and present the optimistic side'. (However in BWV 90 'Es reisset euch ein schrecklch Ende', the cantata for the same Sunday as BVW 116 in the previous cycle, the optimistic side was less obviously present.)

By the way, I remember that in Civilization I, all 'wonders of the world' had a limited effect in time, except the 'Bach Cathedral' - whose virtue was to make some citizens happy - because, quoth Sid, 'the power of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach is eternal'...

Sorry for those of you who never heard about Sid Meyer's Civilization!

Julian Mincham wrote (November 12, 2006):
Th alto aria is one of my all time favourites---as mentioned before on list when Bach writes an aria for alto and oboe obligato it is usually something speci.

This strangely twisting opening ritornello melody is a very good one for non music reading music lovers to study aurally in order to get a better insight into Bach's techniques of melodic structuring. It begins with a simple two bar phrase using the rhythm (ten notes used) da---de-de-da--da--da--da--da--da--dah. This idea is repeated in a higher pitch. Immediately a variant of this theme is stated and this is then repeated at a lower pitch. The ritornello ends with a third and final yearning and striving upwards before settling on the cadence preparatory to the vocal entry. Worth listening to a few times for those who wish to penetrate Bach's structural thinking a little more and a good exercise in concentration upon melodic line.

What is noteworthy and surprising for some is that such a tight and conventional structure produces a melody quite unique in character.

The alto enters on an idea (from the first theme) of just four notes--stops and starts again. This is the musical expression of 'speechlessness'--or, more accurately, attempting to speak but not being able to get th words out:--the most perfect combination of thought, action and musical expression. Note also the little buzzing in the bass at the mention of the 'angry judges' (it comes twice).

Bach only wrote three trios in this cycle--considering listening to and comparing all three. This is for S T B, that from BWV 38 is is for S A B and that from BWV 122 is for S A T---all different combinations. It is my experience that when a great composer does something only occasionally it is usually worth looking at in some detail.

Another great cantata, redressing, as Alain suggests, the balance of pessimism and optimism. And another work, amazingly, written at the rate of one a week (even if it was not fully composed within that period)

Peter Smaill wrote (November 12, 2006):
Thanks to Alain for setting out the thesis of this Cantata, and indeed to Thomas Braatz and Brad Lehman who collaborated in the previous discussions in setting out the quite extraordinary use of accidentals, including double sharps, in this Cantata with its progression to four sharps (cf. "Durch dein Gefaegnis" in the SJP (BWV 245)). A glimpse at the score is particularly rewarding in considering the especial purpose of the work.

The Leipzigers would be aware that Trinity is coming to a close (no more Sundays in 1724)and Advent is at hand, which makes the choice of Chorale - acclaiming the Prince of Peace"- an apposite one, very different to the sermon-hugging BWV 90, "Es reisset euch ein schrecklich ende" of 1723, which had a further (26th) Sunday in Trinity.

As Eric Chafe has extensively illustrated, Bach and his librettists were very sensitive to the ideas of beginning and ending. BWV 116 concludes this portion of the church year with a Terzetto BWV 116/4, perhaps itself a reference to the Trinity in the three voices. Theologically it is quite remarkable, and supports Wolff's staeemnt that Andreas Stuebel , the likely librettist, was not very orthodox.

For in this text it is stated that Jesus out of a broken and compassion heart in contemplation of the fallen ones (=sinners), was driven into the world. This is not the usual formulation at all, namely "God so loved the world that he gave his only son...God sent his only Son into the world".

In making this depiction of an autonomous, broken hearted Jesus, the librettist is crossing the classical theological view that the trinitarian God does not suffer ("impassibility"), even though He is infinitely compassionate. One variant barely orthodox,called theopastichism, states that Jesus did indeed suffer, but had to become Man temporarily to this end. The idea that Jesus, created from the beginning, was suffering a broken heart in heaven prior to being born, is heterodox if not heretical!

The sparse texture of the STB combination have a haunting effect and in the original seven-verse setting, this is the central passage. However, it is not according to my sources to hand anything like the original central verse of Jakob Ebert's hymn. Composer and librettist are co-operating in making a theological statement.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 12, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>The alto [in BWV 116/2] enters on an idea (from the first theme) of just four notes--stops and starts again. This is the musical expression of 'speechlessness'--or, more accurately, attempting to speak but not being able to get th words out:--the most perfect combination of thought, action and musical expression.<<
Technically this separation of a portion of the opening theme (usually a repetition based upon the opening instrumental theme) is called a 'motto' in English and "Devise" in German. This term invented by the musicologist, Hugo Riemann, around the turn of the 20th century is used to describe a fairly common characteristic observed in arias from the 17th and 18th centuries: after the instrumental introduction/ritornello, a portion/fragment of the first line of text is detached and presented vocally after which a short instrumental interlude intervenes before the vocalist begins again from the beginning and then continues presenting the entire text. There are a few instances in Bach's oeuvre where this happens at the very end of an aria ("Schlußdevise" = "a motto at the end") as in the SJP {BWV 245/30] "Es ist vollbracht". In the aria from the SMP [BWV 244/35], the vocalist (after the instrumental introduction) opens with a motto, "Geduld, Geduld". Bach usually uses the motto very effectively so that it becomes emotionally very realistic. It is as though the singer is attempting to get up enough courage to speak the profound thoughts that are about to follow; or perhaps the vocalist is so overcome at first by emotion that only a stammering, prematurely broken-off utterance is at first possible before sufficient control is obtained to express the entire idea/phrase/sentence.

I agree with Julian that in BWV 116/2 Bach has found a perfect realization of the text in a musical form. As Bach uses it here (two repetitions of "Ach" - a 'double' or repeated motto!), it is anything but a simple musical device that a composer might mechanically adhere to because it was part of a musical tradition. This, however, does not detract from the fact that as a techical term "motto" = "Devise" is useful in describing this specific feature often found in arias of Bach's time. It answers the question "What did Bach do here?" "He followed a convention often used by Baroque composers who composed arias". Another question which follows is: "How did Bach do this?" "He incorporated this 'device' in such a way that the ordinary listener is not aware of its presence unless it is pointed out specifically.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 12, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>In making this depiction of an autonomous, broken hearted Jesus, the librettist is crossing the classical theological view that the trinitarian God does not suffer ("impassibility"), even though He is infinitely compassionate. One variant barely orthodox,called theopastichism, states that Jesus did indeed suffer, but had to become Man temporarily to this end. The idea that Jesus, created from the beginning, was suffering a broken heart in heaven prior to being born, is heterodox if not heretical!<<
Just as in Bach's time when there was not a word like "motto" as a technical term to describe what he was doing at the beginning and end of many of his arias, this new term "theopastichism" seems to describe a religious idea not only present in this Bach cantata text but also elsewhere and up to the present time. Unfortunately I am unable to locate this term in the full version of the OED. Can you document it more specifically? Who 'coined' this term and when? What is the Greek etymology of 'pasti'?

Raymond Joly wrote (November 12, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
<< [...] One variant barely orthodox,called theopastichism, states that Jesus did indeed suffer, but had to become Man temporarily to this end. The idea that Jesus, created from the beginning, was suffering a broken heart in heaven prior to being born, is heterodox if not heretical! >>
Thomas Braatz inquired:
< this new term "theopastichism" seems to describe a religious idea not only present in this Bach cantata text but also elsewhere and up to the present time. Unfortunately I am unable to locate this term in the full version of the OED. Can you document it more specifically? Who 'coined' this term and when? What is he Greek etymology of 'pasti'? >
PASCHITISM (with ch=chi), derived form PASCHO "suffer", is likelier than "pastichism". A case of typing metathesis, like "conservation" meaning "conversation"? Not to be found in the two dictionaries I have. Might be German or Dutch early Baroque Greek!

Peter Smaill wrote (November 12, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] This Cantata is touching on a long-standing debate in Christian thought, especially in our own time, as to whether God suffers, generally known as patripassionism. which goes back to c. 375 under the preacher Sabellius, by which title the "heresy" is also known.

The chief modern proponent are the theologians Juergen Moltmann and Charles Hartshorne; pro the orthodox view, Richard Creel.

As regards the more restricted claim that Jesus suffers, Professor Alister McGrath of Oxford University wrote:

" Theopastichism arose during the sixth century, and was linked with writers such as John Maxentius. The basic slogan associated with the movement was "one of the Trinity was crucified". The formula can be interpreted in a a perfectly orthodox sense it reappears as Martin Luther's celebrated formula, "the crucified God", and was defended as such by Leontius of Byzantium. However,it was regarded as potentially misleading and confusing by more cautious writers, including Pope Hormisdas (d. 523), and the formula gradually fell into disuse."

Spelling apart, the point that BWV 116 is unorthodox stands even if theopastichism is accepted, in that the broken heart of Jesus is located by tradition in Christ when came to earth "sent by the Father ", not before; the experience of human pain and brokenheartedness happens during the incarnation, and Jesus does not send himself.

Otherwise, if Christ is eternally different in his senses to the unchanging and therefore impassible Father and Holy Ghost, then the unity of the Trinity is broken. Here is the quotation:

BWV 116/4

"Es brach ja dein erbarmend Herz
Als der Gefallnen Schmerz
Dich zu uns in die Welt getrieben
"

("For broke indeed Thy compassionate heart,
When the fallen-ones' pain
Thee to us into the world drove. ") (tr. Unger)

Thus it appears that on the last Sunday in Trinity and at the onset of Advent, something quite unusual is being expressed theologically in this Cantata about the nature of the awaited Jesus.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 12, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< The first movement is a chorale fantasia in style concertante, with cantus firmus sung by the soprano in long notes, reinforced by horn. The instrumental parts form a lively texture, without obvious thematic connection with the chorale, where the violin plays an outstanding solo part, as in a concerto. >
The interesting feature of the opening chorus is that Bach seems to start with the chorale presented homoponically in block chords. It is only in the third line that the lower voices break free for increasinging complex and dramatic lines. The closing line returns to the opening homphony. Are there other cantatas which use this technique? I can think of one which sets the lines in the middle section in homophony (The title escapes me at the moment < the big trumpets and drum chorus based on "Lobe den Herrn".

The trio in this cantata is wonderful. One wonders why Bach didnšt write such ensembles more often.

Raymond Joly wrote (November 12, 2006):
[To Peter Smaill]Thanks, Mr. Smaill, for the precious information you provide. I have stored it in my computer already.

God's suffering is a most fascinating question. I personally do not believe there is a Trine God and Jesus was one of Him/It/Them, though I sincerely respect those who feel otherwise. But I am very interested in trying to understand what went on in the heads of people like Bach, for example, who were passionately involved in such speculations. What does that reveal about how they tried to make sense out of man's greatness and misery?

What made them feel that such constructions were useful in directing their life? What joy, or at least solace, or maybe pleasure, did they derive from dwelling on ideas like: who suffers most when humans are inadequate, Father or Son?

On a more mundane level, allow me to remind that spelling has to do with writing. You cannot misspell when you talk. So, whether "theopa... something" has to do with suffering or with what later came to be known as spaghettti is not a matter of spelling. (I am sure you understand this is meant as joking, not bickering.)

Julian Mincham wrote (November 12, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote
< The interesting feature of the opening chorus is that Bach seems to start with the chorale presented homoponically in block chords. It is only in the third line that the lower voices break free for increasinging complex and dramatic lines. The closing line returns to the opening homphony >
It's slightly more complicated than Doug Cowling suggests. Nevertheless he touches upon an interesting point which has preoccupied me for some time i.e.the extent to which the greatly varied writing for the three vocal parts NOT carrying the cantus firmus in these choruses vary as a direct response to the lines of text. The variety of vocal textures over many of the fantasias of this cycle is simply staggering.

Here there are 6 phrases of this chorale melody. Three (1st, 2nd and 6th) are stately, homophonic and dignified and invoke the names of God and Christ and the solid walls of harmony invoke the potency and dignity they entail.

Two (3rd and 4th) use the lower voices fugally to enmesh the soprano melody in a complex tapestry of tribute--you are are our true friend in life and death. The 5th phrase has marked interjections emulating the action of calling out His name.

6 phrases----one movement---- and three quite different techniques of vocal writing all clearly derived from ideas embedded within the lines of text.

There are other examples of block homophonic writing in these fantasias usually with a direct relationship to the text. Without looking them up, BWV 93 and BWV 99 come to mind (although I would have to consult the scores to see whether they return to the homophonic writing at the end, as in BWV 116).

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 13, 2006):
BWV 116 Score Samples

Aryeh Oron has kindly provided a place for the score samples for BWV 116 at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV116-Sco.htm
(remember to click again on the image to enlarge it if necessary)

I have again included at the top of the page the chorale melody with its 1st verse of text as a convenient reference while examining the examples I have selected for presentation below. These examples extend all the way from the rather obvious, untexted incipits that Bach includes in the continuo of the tenor recitative (BWV 116/3) to the extremely difficult reference of BWV 116/4 (Terzetto) in Example 2. For the latter I have even taken the liberty of transposing the chorale melody to match the key and octave location to the opening continuo part of the Terzetto. I would not have chosen to present this as a viable example if it were not for the fact that the key notes which stood out (there are two possibilities marked with different color notes) relate very directly and specifically to the two downward descending passages in the first statement of the Stollen: "Lord Jesus Christ" and "true human being and true God".

The link between BWV 116/1 and BWV116/2, the alto aria, is established by means of the quickly upward moving figure, which in the chorale is found in Bach's use of passing notes at the same point in the chorale (see BWV 116/6 - this also establishes a link to BWV 116/1 and BWV 116/2) where in the first verse of text the word "Vater" ("Father") appears. I believe this to be significant, particularly in light of Julian Mincham's observations regarding the significance of the vocal accompaniment to the cantus firmus in BWV 116/1.

The opening theme/subject of the orchestral ritornello does seem to either a) attempt a reference to the incipit of the chorale, or b) is inspired by the melodic incipit of the chorale melody. The missing first note of the chorale on "Du" is posited here based upon later subject/theme statements in this mvt. where this note does occur. On the word "Jesu", Bach 'raises' the cross [the sharp sign in German is called "Kreuz" - these markings can be considered "Augenmusik" - "eye-music" as it is only apparent to the musician looking at the score or part]; however, by raising this note a semi-tone, Bach is even calling upon the listener (who is well acquainted with the chorale melody beforehand) to notice the slight strangeness or departure from the melody. After making this point, Bach does not attempt to include the final word on "Christ", but moves on after a slight, but decided pause so as to draw attention to the passing notes on "Vater" which become now an important motif, a crying out to the Father, a sequence of notes which Bach now completes on "Vater schreien" which form the conclusion of the chorale melody (verse 1).

Finally, there is the interesting 'bariolage' technique used by the first violin in a passage (beginning in m 6) in which the entire Abgesang of the chorale melody is presented. Along the way there is a single instance of "Oktavbrechung" (the 'breaking down or up an octave' from wherever you happen to be), a technique which Bach rather commonly uses when a musical line exceeds the normal range of an instrument or voice (in this instance he wants to take the violin to a higher register to emulate the crying out of the word "Vater". Of particular interest is the retard that Bach builds into the final three notes of conclusion to the Abgesang, perfectly matching what happens to the chorale melody at this point.

Raymond Joly wrote (November 13, 2006):
I would hate it if Bach should be suspected of setting heretical verse! Let me try hand at sparing him the stake:

Peter Smaill wrote:
< BWV 116/4
"Es brach ja dein erbarmend Herz,
Als der Gefallnen Schmerz
Dich zu uns in die Welt getrieben
."
"For broke indeed Thy compassionate heart,
When the fallen-ones' pain
Thee to us into the world drove. ") (tr. Unger) >


Question: When did Jesus begin to feel pain?
Answer: When he was driven to us into the world. That is when his heart broke.

Q.: Was the humans' pain a motive for him to come to earth?
A.: Indeed, very much so. Some might say it was THE motive.

Q.: Did anyone in the Trinity feel that pain?
A.: What a ridiculous supposition! But they KNEW about it.

Q.: Had that knowledge any consequence?
A.: Yes, they felt driven to drive one of them into the world.

Q.: Which of the three was responsible for that decision?
A.: Jesus always said his father sent him.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 19, 2006):
[To Raymond Joly] Raymond, thank you for a very orthodox catechism, which sums up IMO exactly what a non-trendy theologian would and should say. (Locally an RC spokesman here in Scotland stated that God suffered with us during the tsunami of 2005, in response to the ultra protestants saying it was divine wrath on sunbathing)!

Is the text of BWV 116/4, let's say, unorthodox?

The snag is there, that the chronology there set out, of Jesus being driven into the world because of brokenheartedness at our pain, (while an attractive image in that it captures the infinite knowledge of the divine), falls into the odd position of locating the human sense of despair/pain in Jesus prior to arrival in the world.

The theological problem could be expressed thus in an adaptation of standard Christian formulations;

Q What is the Christian's end?
A To be at one with Jesus in the fullness of the Godhead

Q Where does this occur
A In Heaven

Q Is there in Heaven, any pain or brokenheartedness
A No, in Heaven there is only love, bliss, and rest from all the pain of the transitory life on earth

Q Has it been so in Heaven from the beginning?
A Yes, and unto eternity; from Alpha to Omega

Q Is our Lord's heart broken in Heaven?
A No, never in Heaven; only on Earth

Professional theologians please excuse, but we still have a problem with the timing of Jesus' brokenheartedness in the face of the normal interpretation of the economy of salvation. Not to mention the absence in the text of the
Father sending the Son.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 13, 2006):
Chorale writing in BWV 116 at alia

Following the recent postings on BWV 116 about Bach's beginning and ending with homophonic (chordal) setting of the choral phrases in the fantasia separated by contrapuntal settings, I have just come across an example of the reverse process. In BWV 137 the first, second and fifth phrases are set fugally and the two inner phrases homophonically.

This is an interesting work in a number of ways one being that it seems to have been the first complete chorale cantata which Bach wrote after his plan was (apparently) interrupted after BWV 1.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 13, 2006):
BWV 116 Double Sharps

As many already know from reading previous postings and articles on the BCW, Bach uses the '#' sharp sign in a two-fold manner: a) to elevate/raise a note by a semitone - a standard musical convention and b) to point symbolically to the 'raising' of the 'cross' [the German word for "sharp" is "Kreuz" which also means "cross"] with a reference to Christ's crucifixion. In the NBA KB I/27, p. 95, there is an interesting statement describing a feature of Bach's autograph score of BWV 116: Nowhere does Bach use the standard form of a double sharp "Doppelkreuz"(which normally appears as a rather tiny 'x' with another slightly larger one superimposed). Instead Bach writes a super-sized/huge ("überdimensionales") sharp sign. Perhaps Bach is trying to emphasize visually the almost unbearable 'weight' of such a "Doppelkreuz"/"double cross"/"double sharp"? Any ideas?

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 13, 2006):
>>BWV 116/4
"Es brach ja dein erbarmend Herz,
Als der Gefallnen Schmerz
Dich zu uns in die Welt getrieben
."

"For broke indeed Thy compassionate heart,
When the fallen-ones' pain
Thee to us into the world drove." (tr. Unger)

"For broke, yea, thy forgiving heart,
As then the fallen's pain
To us into the world did drive thee." (tr. Ambrose)

"Indeed, Your merciful heart has yielded,
since the anguish of the fallen
drove You to us in the world." (tr. Dellal)

"Your compassionate heart was broken
when the sorrow of those who had fallen
drove you to us in this world." (tr. Browne)

"der Schmerz der Gefallenen" (modern Germannon-poetic)
"the pain of the fallen ones/of those who have fallen"
"der Gefallenen" is genitive case, plural number; if it were "des Gefallenen" it would refer grammatically to a single male-gender individual (possibly Jesus Christ: "Als des Gefallnen Schmerz" "as the pain of the Fallen One") - note the significant change caused by changing an 'r' to an 's'!

In German, even German as spoken/written in Bach's time or a century or two before, "die Gefallenen" (plural) could refer figuratively to 'all human beings who had fallen into a state of sinfulness', 'fallen angels' and 'fallen females', and any animal (or human being?) that had 'fallen' and lies dead on the ground. It becomes difficult, however, to trace back historically the now current, euphemistic usage of "die Gefallenen" = "those (soldiers) who fell (or died) or were killed in action during wartime". This latter meaning influenced Bach scholars (Spitta and Schering) to date this cantata BWV 116 to the year 1747 when Leipzig lay under siege by the Parmy. Their reasoning at the time, without using the more recent techniques of watermarks, handwriting analysis, or even cantata booklets which were not available, was based directly upon the original text (7 verses) of the chorale "Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ" which is available near the top of the BCW discussion page for this cantata. The text by Jakob Ebert (1601) is definitely influenced by wartime conditions which affected everyone directly: the plague causes enough suffering but war is even much worse as it creates poverty, hunger, illness and danger all around with no prospect that it will ever end. The enemy soldiers show no respect for civilians and their property. With the word "Krieg" ("war") occurring in 3 separate verses and being used literally, not figuratively as in a Christian's battle against evil or describing Lucifer's/Satan's fall "Es war ein sonderbarer Krieg", it is easy to see how "Gefallenen" could mean all those who died in defense of their lives and property as wars swept across Germany. The siege of Leipzig lay close at hand and helped to define "Gefallenen" quickly and specifically. While there is still a slight possibility that BWV 116 may have received a repeat performance in 1747, it is nevertheless an established fact, based upon Alfred Dürr's research that the cantata was composed for its first performance on November 26, 1724. It may also be of interest that the Dresden Gesangbuch (1741) does not put this chorale (7 verses) into any special category like "Chorales to be sung during times of war/poverty", but specifically links it to the 25th Sunday after Trinity. This leaves open the possibility that, during Bach's time at least, "die Gefallenen" in the Terzetto may be interpreted on a theological level. Instead of having:

"Es brach ja dein erbarmend Herz,
Als der Gefallnen Schmerz
Dich zu uns in die Welt getrieben
."

mean something like:

"Your [Jesus Christ's] merciful heart was broken when the pain felt/suffered by all those who died in wartime drove You into the world to come us (to aid us in our suffering as a result of all the pain already felt by those who had died as a result of war)."

Or

"For it was your merciful, broken heart that drove You to us into this world when/as You became aware of the pain [felt/suffered] by all those who had died during wartime."

it can now be interpreted more like this:

"Your [Jesus Christ's] merciful heart was broken when the pain suffered by all of fallen humanity drove You into the world to [come to] us [in order to bring us peace = "der Friedefürst" = "the Peace-Bringer" because where Christ rules, there will be peace]."

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 14, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Spelling apart, the point that BWV 116 is unorthodox stands even if theopastichism is accepted >
Sorry to belabor this detail, but did you ever resolve the point raised by M. Joly: that theopaschitism appears to be the correct term?

With this spelling, one can find it as standard (if obscure) theologic terminology, with a Google search.

As to the underlying point, the Trinity itself (themselves?) is a mystery, not responsive to logical analysis in any way. This has never seemed to deter theologians in the least. Do not misunderstand, this in no way causes me any problem. Didn't interfere with Bach writing great music, either.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 14, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The interesting feature of the opening chorus is that Bach seems to start with the chorale presented homoponically in block chords. It is only in the third line that the lower voices break free for increasinging complex and dramatic lines. The closing line returns to the opening homphony. Are there other cantatas which use this technique? >
I don't think anyone has yet pointed out BWV 33, which we discussed at length earlier this year, Trinity 13. At that time, no one mentioned the chorale entries in Mvt. 1, which Dürr describes thus: <The chorale melody is assigned to the soprano and supported by the other voices, which accompany in a plain chordal or imitative texture and are at times rhythmically accentuated. This feature was mentioned in the first round of discussions, in a citation from liner notes, so it is adequately referenced on BCW.

I remember thinking about it at the time, but never got around to saying anything in the midst of all the other lengthy discussion. In BWV 33, polyphonic (imitative) entries alternate with homophonic (chordal) entries for the first six lines, the final three are all chordal. Different, but comparable to BWV 116.

I also remember thinking that BWV 33 was at the apex of a big arch form stretching from Trinity 1 (BWV 20) to Trinity 25. I decided to let the second half (of the arch) unfold before saying anything. Now that we have reached that point with BWV 116, I think I was right. For that to be true, Bach must have been thinking about the architecture of these works on a very large scale, whatever his methods for working out the details of each weeks performance. Thanks to Julian Mincham for sharing his book plans with BCML, which stimulated thinking about the larger scale relations in this series of works (Jahrgang II).

Peter Smaill wrote (November 14, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thanks to those who have persisted in exploring the theology not to mention spelling of this theological byway into which Bach's librettist seems to have strayed in the key movement of the Cantata for the final Sunday in Trinity 1724, BWV 116/4. It is properly "theopaschitism" , the "pasch... " element as in "paschal". Apologies therefore to those misled by my faulty recollection of the expression.

The extraordinary double sharps mentioned by Thomas Braatz are a puzzle since the Crucifixion is not mentioned, which would be a connected image.

All the translations of the unusual Terzetto text seem to have an allusion to the broken heart and the transitive sense of Christ being driven into the world rather than being sent by God as is orthodox. The exception is the (as often) exceedingly loose translation in the Harnoncourt set [3] which is so changed that the unorthodoxy is avoided by putting words in that do not exist in the German, and missing out others:

"Es brach ja dein erbarmend herz
Als der Gefallnen Schmerz
Dich zu uns in die Welt getrieben
"

"It was the love of thy dear Son
For every fallen one
That brought him here on earth to save us."

It is as if the translator had the former Cardinal Ratzinger peering over his shoulder! Since God is Love there is a "nihil obstat" and "imprimatur" available for this formula. But not I think for the others.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 14, 2006):
Doug Cowling and others have observed the homophonic treatment of the choral passages of BWV 116, which IMO are indicative of the desire by Bach to illustrate the concepts of "peace" and "strength" in the text with unfractured block chords.

The example par excellence of this word painting is the extreme contrast of the ultra plain, but very beautiful, rendering of this Chorale in the final movement of BWV 130 which we examined recently, in contrast to the agitated battle scene at the beginning of the Michaelmas Cantata, "Herr Gott dich loben alle wir".

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 14, 2006):
[To Peter Smaill] Indeed the contrast between the 2nd Stollen, which is treated in imitative style, and the 1st Stollen and the Abgesang, treated in more homophonic style, is a striking feature of BWV 116's chorale fantasia.

My interpretation of it - which I gave in the introductory mail - was different from what others have subsequently suggested, but perhaps I should explain my point of view. It seems to me that here we have (near)-homophonic passages surrounding a fully polyphonic passages, the effect being rather do give emphasis to the polyphonic passage rather than to homophonic environment.

When I examine the text, I note that the polyphonically treated words
'* You are a strong helper in need/in life and in death.'*
* summarize the central idea of the cantata, so to speak the 'axiom' from which all else derive logically.

Christ is the helper par excellence; hence he's the Prince of Peace (because through his help we may attain Peace); hence, too, we maycry to god in his name and hope to be heard.

Again this central idea is central to the terzetto's text which has been interpreted by Peter as verging on heresy.
*
Ah, we acknowledge all our guilt
And pray for nought but to forbear
And for thy love surpassing measure.
For broke, yea, thy forgiving heart,
As then the fallen's pain
To us into the world did drive thee.

The idea being here that indeed we may hope to benefit from Christ's patience and love, because Christ has already proved his ability and willingness to help us by allowing himself to be incarnated because his heard was receptive to fallen mankind's plight. I'm not sure we should focus so much on the 'broken heart' stuff to infer that the librettist adhered to a heretic creed. Probably this should be ascribed to poetic licence. It is true that fact that it is the father who sends the son is not expressed. But that idea isn't to the point in this piece of reasoning, since the emphasis here is on Christ's willingness to assume his role of saviour. Besides, if I may indulge in high speculation, may we not interpret Bach's use of the terzetto form as a reminder that Christ is not alone, but just one person of the Trinity?

I'm very ignorant in theological matters, but I'm not sure that the official doctrine is that God in heaven experiences eternal bliss; indeed in the old testament (i. e. before Christ's incarnation) God loses his temper once in a while; for instance he exterminates the whole of mankind - except one family, then he regrets and says he'll never do it again. Apparently the son has very much to do with the love or empathic aspect of the divine, so the idea that Christ came to suffer for the sake of mankind out of empathy (suffering with) seems to me quite inocuous. But maybe I'm going too far, I should leave this kind of stuff to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I am quite willing to retract even before they start heating the pincers!

Back to the 2nd Stollen, it seems to me that, apart from their special significance with respect to the libretto's logical structure, the words used '* You are a strong helper in need/in life and in death' form a compact motto and* carry very strong emotional weight, especially 'in need, in life and in death'. This alone would justify a special treatment.

Let me summarize: in my perception of this chorale fantasia, the culminating point (both rethorically and musically) is in the 2nd Stollen, rather than in the conclusion. This would perhaps account for a special treatment.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 14, 2006):
BWV 116: alto aria

Two contrasting sides of God's nature are referred to in the text of this cantata; in the alto aria we are reminded (warned) that "unspeakable... is the angry judge's (ie, God the father's) menace", whereas the text of the terzetto (see previous discussions) refers to the compassionate Christ (God the son) whose heart is broken by the pain/fallen state of mankind (whether before or after Jesus' arrival in the world}.

Bach seems unconcerned to express the threatening aspect of God in the music of the alto aria; indeed the mention of God's menace (Dräuen") always brings forth music that has the least `diminished' harmonies in the whole aria. Rather these particular phrases are wonderfully strong and attractive with dominant 7th harmonies (even if, as Julian has noticed, continuous 1/16th notes appear in the continuo or the vocal line of these phrases, suggesting agitation). [I suppose Bach in any case always feels the righteousness of God's anger].

It is the diminished harmonies that stand out in this aria. The three possible diminished 7th chords have already been traversed in the oboe part with the arrival of the fifth bar.

The other outstanding harmonic feature is the effect of the modulation from F# minor to G# minor in the middle section, starting with the trill on "Angst", where in the second bar of this trill we have the A sharps of G# minor but yet not the D sharps. A magic moment now occurs. In this bar the last note on the oboe is still written as G natural, but in the bar after the next, this same oboe note (set to "Jesu, selbst ver-") now has to be written as F double sharp, because we are indeed finally completing the modulation, with the sudden appearance of the D sharps in the continuo, set to "selbst" (but importantly, the appearance of the F double sharp leading note precedes the D sharps, so we are kept guessing until the final moment of the completion of the modulation). Now we have a wistful passage on desirest ("verlangst"), only to be swept away by the chromaticism and anguish of the next two bars, with no less than two different double sharps (on F and C) appearing in the score, on "schreien".

Anyone who can play the (moderately easy) piano reduction score (on piano or organ) shown at the BCW should certainly do so, as this score brings out all these harmonic features with marvellous effect, and you can always sing or hum the vocal line yourself to get an idea of the complete picture. Any budding alto, together with a competent pianist, could make a wonderful concert piece of this outstanding aria.

BTW, the BGA score doesn't have any figured bass figures at all after bar three, so some serious composing is certainly required by any keyboardist attempting to "improvise" a continuo part. I have commented on my opinion of the recorded attempts in previous discussions.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 14, 2006):
I wrote:
"importantly, the appearance of the F double sharp (leading note) precedes the D sharps, so we are kept guessing until the final moment".
To show that we are still not certain where we are going even with the appearance of that F double sharp (presumably the leading note in the G# harmonic minor scale), simply change the second note of the vocal part in this bar from B natural to C natural (as well as the simultaneously played piano note), hit C naturals in the continuo line instead of the D sharps there, and - voila - we can modulate to F minor (!!!) without much difficulty at all.

Raymond Joly wrote (November 14, 2006):
[To Peter Smaill] Let it be clear that PASCHITISM may begin with P-A-S-C-H like PASCHAL, but has nothing to do with it. It is from the Greek PASCHO "suffer" and is not related to Passover.

Thanks to Ed Myskowski for directing me to Google for Theopaschitism. Those who love mysteries have one more to enjoy.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 14, 2006):
Alain Bruigieres wrote
< It seems to me that here we have (near)-homophonic passages surrounding a fully polyphonic passages, the effect being rather do give emphasis to the polyphonic passage rather than to the homophonic environment. >
Just a couple of additional points. As to the above it is my experience that when Bach changes from contrapuntal to homophonic setting of the cantus firmus phrases within the same movement there is always a textual reason for it. It is almost as if he is using the technique to underline particular ideas. He often also employs a broken chordal and strongly rhythmic declamatory setting when the text suggests it.

Let me summarize: in my perception of this chorale fantasia, the culminating point (both rethorically and musically) is in the 2nd Stollen, rather than in the conclusion. This would perhaps account for a special treatment.

This may well be. I have often found also that in the final aria/duet/trio before the closing chorale we find the central or key point of the cantata being expressed. Always worth looking out for.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 14, 2006):
Raymond Joly wrote:
< Let it be clear that PASCHITISM may begin with P-A-S-C-H like PASCHAL, but has nothing to do with it. It is from the Greek PASCHO "suffer" and is not related to Passover. >
conthis, from the Internet Encyclopedia of Religion (entries for Easter):

The Greek term for Easter, pascha, has nothing in common with the verb paschein, "to suffer," although by the later symbolic writers it was connected with it; it is the Aramaic form of the Hebrew word pesach (transitus, passover).

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (November 14, 2006):
Don Pasquale

Raymond Joly wrote:
< Let it be clear that PASCHITISM may begin with P-A-S-C-H like PASCHAL, but has nothing to do with it. It is from the Greek PASCHO "suffer" and is not related to Passover.
Thanks to Ed Myskowski for directing me to Google for Theopaschitism. Those who love mysteries have one more to enjoy. >
Of course Don Pasquale is the name of a Donizetti comic opera. And of course the Italian name Pasquale and French equivalent Pascal and so forth are from the adj. built to Paskha, the Hellenized form of the Hebrew-Aramaic noun Paskha "Passover" and then "Easter", to simplify matters. We all know the Romance tongues make a slight difference between Passover and Easter.

While this Paskha represents the Semitic word which is properly Pesach/Pascha with a fricative (rough type of /h/), the Greek verb paskho: "suffer" only appears similar in the present stem and consists of the root *path- + the presential/imperfective formant -sko:, seen in many other Greek (and other Indo-European tongues) verbs. The Greek verb has an aspirated /k/, thus /kh/.

So while there is no etymological relationship between Semitic-borrowing Greek Paskha "Passover" and the Greek verb *path+sko: > paskHo where the sko: has its k aspirated from the absorbed /th/ of path- and thus this path+sko > paskho,

nevertheless it has always seemed self-evident to me as a reader of the Greek N.T., that the authors of these Greek scriptures played with this homography.

OK, I am and none of us is a native speaker of a dead language but it is impossible to read the Semitic noun Paskha in the Greek N.T. and not think of the verb "suffer" and vice versa.

That is something that cannot be brought out in translation.If I have written this half-way clearly and without multiple typos, good for me. Otherwise self-correct.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 15, 2006):
Now , this etymological debate is most interesting if esoteric- how the root "pascha" became conflated between "pachal" (Greek "suffering"); and "pesach" (Jewish=passover).

The observation that God in the Old Testament does express suffering-type emotions such as anger is very perceptive, for in the wider debate regarding whether God can suffer, i.e. patripassianism, it is indeed one of the arguments on that side. God is, by contrast, not depicted as suffering by the New Testament; that is the fate of Jesus only once when in human form, and is necessary to the paradoxical dictum set by Bach, "Wahr Mensch und Wahrer Gott, "True Man and True God".In classical theology,there is no suffering in heaven, therefore none in God; it is a mark of the Otherness of God.

The point is not to applaud or condemn those who incline to the Patripassionist/theopaschitist/ Sabellianist/Monarchianist view, (various names for this group of related "heresies", which have been debated for hundreds of years, but simply to point out that the text of BWV 116/4 is not orthodox no matter how it is (properly) translated.

That is exactly what Christoph Wolff implies of the putative librettist Andreas Stuebel; and we have previously noted a swerve towards Calvinism in the theology of the second cycle, followed by a recantation of the Calvinist doctrine of predestination.

So, if asked what Wolff means by saying that Stuebel was " a man of solid theological background ( if somewhat nonconformist views " (p.278 of Johann Sebastian Bach: the Learned Musician"), these are some of the examples that could be chosen to support Wolff's statement.There are more to come......!

Raymond Joly wrote (November 15, 2006):
Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote:
< [...] So while there is no etymological relationship between Semitic-borrowing Greek Paskha "Passover" and the Greek verb *path+sko: > paskHo [...], nevertheless it has always seemed self-evident to me as a reader of the Greek N.T., that the authors of these Greek scriptures played with this homography. OK, I am and none of us is a native speaker of a dead language but it is impossible to read the Semitic noun Paskha in the Greek N.T. and
not think of the verb "suffer" and vice versa. >
Sounds very sensible to me.
Words can be related or unrelated in a lot of different ways.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 15, 2006):
[To Yoäl L. Arbeitman] Many thanks for this fine contribution! This clarifies matters perfectly. A case when a pun can help turn a minor sect into a major religion. But a pun is not sufficient!

This reminds me of another etymological issue : whether religio derives from re+legere (Cicero's and Emile Benveniste's point of view) or from re+ligare (the 'religious' point of view). This would be a different debate, and completely OT!

Peter Smaill wrote (November 17, 2006):
BWV 116/4 and Lutheranism

Since there was a flurry of debate and interest in the unorthodox theological proposition of BWV 116/4, namely that a broken-hearted Jesus was driven by compassion for the sufferings of the fallen to come into the world , I spent a litttle more time researching the background.

Is it the librettist , with Bach's especial creation of the terzetto, promoting an unorthodox message? Or is it a facet of Lutheranism generally? Certainly there has always been a tendency to see Luther as attracted to this species of the group of heresies by virtue of his expression , "the crucified God" - accepting that Jesus, true God and true man , while incarnate , did suffer .

as we see , this aspect of theopaschitism can be read in an orthodox way but passed out of the teaching of the Western Church . It still does not sanction the view that Christ experienced pain- brokenheartedness- pre incarnation nor that any force could "drive" Him into the world ; cf. "God so loved the world that he sent His only Son..."

However , the Lutheran expert Dr . Klass Zwanepol of the University of Utrecht does provide a further insight into Luther's Christology which gets us a step nearer as to why Stuebel (if it was him) felt able to posit a pre-incarnation suffering in Jesus, as if he had the feeling attributes of man from the beginning - all Christianity accepts that he was already in existence before birth, "eternally begotten of the Father".

Here is the revealing passage (italic emphases from the original) :

"Luther emphasised that our salvation is fully dependent on Jesus Christ being flesh. "There is no more effective consolation than that Jesus is completely human" he said.

Luther.... always insisted on the inseparable union of God and Man in Jesus Christ. Luther emphasised this union to the utmost even when it seems hardly bearable for "decent" theology. Here one could refer to Luther's allusions to a preexistent union of God with humanity as He was already present in the womb of Mary, and even to a crucifixion from eternity."

Thus it is a short step for a librettist following Luther to suppose that Jesus has always been aware of pain and sin through consciousness of the Crucifixion, and thus comes to the world of his own as from God's volition. But it remains an unorthodox formula!

Neil Halliday wrote (November 18, 2006):
BWV 116: the recordings

From the web samples:

In the opening chorus, Harnoncourt [3], Koopman [5] and Suzuki [7] are rather fast in the opening chorus (around 4.10). Harnnoncourt has his `sharp-edged' instrumental and vocal timbre, with a tendency to some exaggerated gesture; Koopman his `small-scale', intimate instrumental sound, with polished choral singing, and Suzuki sounds fine, but in listening to the longer Suzuki sample, I begin to feel the tempo is uncomfortably rushed. Leusink has a more amiable tempo (4.39) [4], giving the music the space to project some of the grandeur one would expect of music conceitself with the power of the "Prince of Peace", but Leusink's sound quality also has a hard-edged brittleness (authentic?) that I don't find attractive.

Richter (5.07) [1] starts well but the constantly detached notes in the continuo play uncomfortably into his tendency to display a certain rigidity of articulation. Rilling (5.50) [2] has the opposite problem to some of the period performances - with his unrelieved legato lacking sufficient gesture to shape the music, or (perhaps this is the problem) the tempo is too slow, but I generally like the large-scale nature of this performance.

In the alto aria, Suzuki [7] has adopted (at last) a slower tempo (4.23; second slowest after BAG, see the BCW music sample page), for a moving performance, but I probably prefer the fuller female alto voice of other recordings (provided vibrato is well-managed).

In the terzetto, the typical 60's vibrato (Richter [1], Rilling [2]) is definitely a problem with these three finely interwoven vocal lines, each one of which needs to be clearly presented, with pitch clearly audible and volume of each line in balance with the other two. Koopman's singers [5], with cleanest line and finest balance, give the most moving account of the shifting tonalities in this music. Suzuki [7] is a close second, but the soprano does fall victim to excessive use of the HIP contrasting `strong note-weak note' doctrine, with some (low) notes being inaudible, while others `dart out' of the ensemble.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 18, 2006):
For an example of exaggerated gesture, listen to the Taylor/Haines example of the alto aria:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV116-Mus.htm

compared with Suzuki's more natural approach [7]:
http://www.bis.se/naxos.php?aID=BIS-SACD-1451

The former is as distracting as the worst vibrato of the 60's, IMO.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 20, 2006):
Some closing (or intermediate) thoughts on BWV 116:

Neil Halliday wrote:
< In the opening chorus, Harnoncourt [3], Koopman [5] and Suzuki [7] are rather fast in the opening chorus (around 4.10). [...] Suzuki [7] sounds fine, but in listening to the longer Suzuki sample, I begin to feel the tempo is uncomfortably rushed. Leusink [4] has a more amiable tempo (4.39), giving the music the space to project some of the grandeur one would expect of music concerning itself with the power of the "Prince of Peace" >
I have just found a bargain on Suzuki Vol. 28 [7], and reversed my earlier decision to do without it. My immediate impression matches Neil's: the opening chorus is too quick, especially in comparison with Leusink's tempo [4] that sounds just about perfect.

< In the alto aria, Suzuki [7] has adopted (at last) a slower tempo (4.23; second slowest after BAG, see the BCW music sample page), for a moving performance, but I probably prefer the fuller female alto voice of other recordings (provided vibrato is well-managed). >
The alto aria at Suzuki's tempo [7] sounds even more profound with repeated listening. A couple days ago, I was preparing some thoughts which would agree with Neil regarding the female altos (Schmidt with Richter [1] and Markert with Koopman [5]): they are superb. But counter-tenor Robin Blaze sets new standards. More below.

< In the terzetto, the typical 60's vibrato (Richter [1], Rilling [2]) is definitely a problem with these three finely interwoven vocal lines, each one of which needs to be clearly presented, with pitch clearly audible and volume of each line in balance with the other two. Koopman's singers [5], with cleanest line and finest balance, give the most moving account of the shifting tonalities in this music. Suzuki [7] is a close second >
I would add that Leusink's [4] performance of the terzetto is well-balanced also. In the detail of continuous basso in the recits., Leusink outdoes the other HIP performances, but all of them use some degree of basso interruptus, especially in comparison to Richter's true continuo [1]. There are endless pages of discussion already archived. Be alert to the issue and suit your own preferences in selecting recordings.

Including the chorus tempo noted above, there are several other details in which I find that Leusink [4] excels. Perhaps not a first choice overall, if money is no object. If you are sensitive to the price (like me), get the Leusink set, learn to enjoy (or at least tolerate) Buwalda, and nibble away at acquiring some of the alternatives for comparison

On a related topic:

Marie Jensen wrote (July 11, 2000):
< Ich, Ich, Ich it begins. A music critic contemporary with Bach ridiculed him saying, BWV 21 was a talentless mess, one couldn't start an entire work with repeating the same three words. >

I was thinking to say a few words about BWV 116/2, which begins <Ach, Ach, Ach>. Taking a break from Bach, I listened to a local radio program, and almost the first thing that came up was BWV 21, the Kuijken
recording. Which drove me to the BCW archives, and Marie's comment.

Coincidence is the mother of something:

(1) Can we document the contemporary critic who ridiculed Bach? Related to the thread on 18th C. reports on performance practice.

(2) Can we say anything on the High German thread about the pronunciation and meaning of all those Achs in BWV 116? I did not count them, but two additional movements begin with <Ach>, and there are plenty (plenty!) of internal repetitions.

One of the outstanding features of Robin Blaze with Suzuki [7] (BWV 116/2) is that he gives each of the three initial Achs unique expression (by slight variants in pronunciation). Which drove me to the translations, most of which indicate the English as Ah. But if you check the English-6 link on BCW, you will find your way to Pamela Dellal at Emmanuel Music, who recognizes that in Mvt. 2, Ach is better translated Alas (Alas, the agony is unspeakable) repeated three times! It is probably not a coincidence that she also sings this music,
indeed, this specific alto aria. Pardon the hometown plug.

(3) The threefold repetition is not without potential symbolic significance for the final Sunday after Trinity in 1724, leading into the opening of the Advent Season with BWV 62.

Incidentally, the Suzuki CD [7] has a very convenient coupling, our current chronology: the final three Sundays after Trinity plus BWV 62. One trivial complaint: BWV 62 is first, out of sequence.

The final coincidence. A radio broadcast of Beethoven's String Quartet Op. 130, reminded me of how Bachian that piece is, including the Big Fugue. But also the quick alternations of mood, tempo, and duration, amongst the preceding movements.

Which made me wonder if BWV 116 is not Beethovian, with the remote harmonies, changes in mood, and long slow movement? Which is making me give some additional thought to the Suzuki tempo [7] extremes between the quick opening chorus and the slow alto aria. Obviously, Bach was not Beethovian (unless his mysticism was even deeper than the gemiatrics suggest), but perhaps Suis. Just a random thought.

In any case , Suzuki [7] has plenty of other things going for it as well. The Hybrid SACD is fine with me, whatever SACD really means. My first experience with the format. At the moment, I am playing a Sony Walkman CD pickup through my home system. No tracking problems. Incredible detail, and very bright sound, but not edgy to my ears. Perhaps the brightness is an artifact of frequency manipulation? In any case, this is the first CD I have heard which sounds like an improvement on the best of LP sound. Time will tell, but I am favorably impressed.

I did not understand some of the comments in BCW archives regarding the <typical round package> for SACD? Suzuki Vol. 28 [7] comes in the same poorly engineered <jewel case> which has been industry standard for over twenty years. Except that they removed the little wells which are intended make it easy (?) to grasp and remove the CD. Perhaps this is recognition that the wells don't really help if the clips which hold the CD in are overly stiff. But removing the wells doesn't help that issue in the least. Full disclosure: I don't have much trouble getting the CD out in this case, even without the wells, because the clips are not too tight . Clear as mud, non?

I would like to believe in progress in design, but I am typing (!) this on a QWERTY keyboard, a 19th C. standard.

A few final thoughts:

The music for the last Sundays after Trinity in 1724 must have had some special significance for Richter [1]. He recorded an uncharacteristically long sequence of them in his selective series to represent the liturgical year.

The long slow alto aria BWV 116/2 is structurally (and musically?) comparable to the bluesy alto aria, BWV 33/3, from Trinity 13 back at the center of the first half of Jahrgang II, in the larger scheme of things.

The previous two weeks, BWV 139 and BWV 26 are the only time we have seen an exact repetition in consecutive weeks of the structure of movements (CARARC) and voices. Along with BWV 116, they make a nice listening package, very convenient with Suzuki [7].

Julian Mincham wrote (November 20, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The long slow alto aria BWV 116/2 is structurally (and musically?) comparable to the bluesy alto aria, BWV 33/3, from Trinity 13 back at the center of the first half of Jahrgang II, in the larger scheme of things. >
Thanks to Ed for his reviews of different recordings. For myself I am still working my way through the cantata recordings from the Bach edition.

Just wanted to comment, perhaps a tad technically, on Ed's comment above. We all hear things in our own way of course but actually I don't find BWV 116/2 'Bluesy' at all. It is very much a minor key movement which, essentially, most blues are not. It is the use of flattened notes within a major scale which tend to produce the blues effect.

This does not happen in BWV 116/2 which, to my ear, is more wistfully yearning than 'bluesy'. However in BWV 33/3 (which is set in the major mode) one finds constant uses of the three notes which differentiate minor from major in a major key context--in the case of C major these notes are Bb, Ab and Eb. They all occur within the melody and harmony within the first four bars of the ritornello and determine to a large degree the particular character of this movement. You'll find many other examples of Bach using this technique (i.e. notes from the minor scale with which to colour and soften the major context)--the fantasia from BWV 8 ('when shall I die?') is another good example.

But if it's a real sense of the modern blues you are looking for listen to BWV 30/5 where near the end of the (repeated) second part of the instrumental ritornello Bach really hits the flattened third to great effect, strengthened by the jaunty syncopated rhythmic context. And for sheer cheeky sycopated jazzy rhythms over a 'walking bass' have a listen to (or better play through, the courante from the keyboard partita in E minor---it's a beauty.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 20, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< The long slow alto aria BWV 116/2 is structurally (and musically?) comparable to the bluesy alto aria, BWV 33/3 >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Just wanted to comment, perhaps a tad technically, on Ed's comment above. We all hear things in our own way of course but actually I don't find 116/2 'Bluesy' at all. It is very much a minor key movement which, essentially, most blues are not. It is the use of flattened notes within a major scale which tend to produce the blues effect.
This does not happen in 116/2 which, to my ear, is more wistfully yearning than 'bluesy'. >
Thanks for the technical explanation, just what I was hoping for with the (?) after musically. Wistfully yearning is a nice description of what I hear, as well.

I should have credited the blues description of BWV 33/3 to Craig Smith, in his notes at the Emmanuel Music website, linked from BCW. I also intended to mention the first round of discussions on BWV 116, which include some extended comments on temperaments, and which function as a very useful primer for novices like myself.

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 116: 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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Last update: ýDecember 29, 2012 ý00:44:21