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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 118
O Jesu Christ, mein’s Lebens Licht
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of May 26, 2013

William Hoffman wrote (May 27, 2013):
Cantata 118: Versions, Fugitive Notes, Chorale

The two versions of "O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht," were composed 10 years apart, about 1736 for brass outdoors, and c.1746 for strings with winds indoors at church services (BCW Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118.htm). The seven-minute work setting the opening stanza includes opening and closing instrumental ritornelli of 17 measures repeated, two chorale motives in fugal imitation with cantus firmus in the soprano and partial obbligato instruments.

"The unusual scoring of the original version suggests an occasion involving the Stadtpfeifer [town pipers]: most likely, in view of the funeral nature of the text, at the graveside or in the procession," says Charles Francis (BCW Discussion 1; April 1, 2001; http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118-D.htm). "The wind parts are of extreme difficulty, indicative of the skill of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer, an institution that was nearing its end."

The earlier version, possibly for the funeral of Christian Weiss Sr., Bach's beloved champion and personal pastor at St. Thomas Church, is scored exclusively for outdoors: 2 litui (alto horns in B-Flat), cornetto (zink), and 3 trombones (sackbuts). The second version substitutes strings with the horns, with optional 3 oboes and bassoons doubling the four voice parts. A Dal Segno repeat sign at the end of the first stanza allows a repeat of the remaining 14 stanzas following the one-bar introduction.

Background on Leipzig Funerals

"The ([Thomas] choir's role at funerals was especially time-consuming and often dangerous to the health, for funerals began at the house of mourning, and already there, and then along the whole way to the cemetery, and at the grave, the choir had to sing funeral hymns" [Günther Stiller, <JSB and Liturgical Life in Leipzig {St. Louis MO: Concordia Pub., 1984: 94]. "If the obsequies for prominent persons took place in the church, the organ music would be supplemented by the singing of special funeral motets and burial music that the bereaved would request and suitably remunerate. Not infrequently since the beginning of the 18th century special `memorial sermons,' dedicated to the memory of deserving men and women, were held in churches, and this was often done in the place of Sunday Vesper service." "We know that Bach composed his motets largely for such services of mourning and that in such services and celebrations of mourning also the use of instruments and even of complete cantatas was not unusual."

Services Subjects

Peter Smaill wrote (Nov. 16, 2008, BCW Discussion 2, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118-D2.htm):

[As regards the possible individual(s) for whom the work was created, as often the best source is Hans-Joachim Schulze. He focuses on notables, since such a display would not have been otherwise normal or permitted.

For the first performance likely in 1736/7 the local suspects are:

Johann Friedrich Steinbach, senior Deacon of the Neukirche d. October 1736
Christian Weiss, Pastor of St Thomas, d. December 1736
Johann Ernst Kregel, Ratsherr, d. February 1737. Funeral procession

Second performance ? 1746

Duke Johann Adolph II of Weißenfels. Died at Leipzig 16 May 1746. Litui and horns ordered from Weißenfels.

In view of Bach's Weißenfels title the indication is that there is a strong possibility that BWV 118 was also used on this occasion, and maybe Bach even performed the work ten years earlier, after the death on 28 June 1736 at Sangerhausen of Duke Christian of Weißenfels, making it an "ex officio" work]


BWV 118: Fugitive Thoughts [my notes, BCW Discussion 2; Nov. 18, 2008]

Fugitive Notes:

The best source article on Cantata BWV 118 is Hans-Joachim Schulze's "'O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht': On the Transmission of a Bach Source and the Riddle of its Origin," trans. Paul Brainard, in the festschrift, <A Bach Tribute: Essays in Honor of William H. Scheide>, Eds. Paul Brainard & Ray Robinson (Bärenreiter/Hinshaw, 1993; pp. 209-220).

Regarding the "nature" of this work, Schulze simply concludes, "we are not dealing with a motet but a `special' <Trauermusik> (funeral music)." Most of Bach's "motets" (BWV 226-230) were for funeral or memorial services, some with accompaniment. Beginning in the early 1730s with Bach's adaptation of Johann Kuhnau's "Der Gerechte kommt um," BC C 8, until the late 1740s, Bach was involved with memorial or penitential "motets" by other composers, including arrangements and members of the Bach Family. See http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Other/Work-Perform.htm. They include an arrangement of Pergolesi's "Stabat Mater," BWV 1083; Sebastian Knüpfer's "Erforsche Mich, Gott," BWV Anh. 165, three movements from Johann Ernst Bach's funeral cantata, "Mein Odem ist schwacht," BWV 222; and three "motets" of Johann Christoph Bach. In addition, Daniel Melamed in his <J.S. Bach and the German Motet> (Cambridge Univ. Press, 1995, p. 37), also identifies four works of Johann Michael Bach, including "Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe" (which uses the BWV 118 chorale), in Table 3-2, "Motets from J.S. Bach's library and their texts."

As the Schulze article's title suggests, the transmission of this non-service chorale-based Cantata BWV 118 could be rooted in Leipzig sources of the publisher Breitkopf, possibly the Thomas School, and other unknown sources. Schulze reviews the literature regarding particular decedents for whom the music in two versions was performed: Schering's suggestion (BJ 1933) of Count von Flemming in 1740, Martin's Geck's (Bach-Studien 5, 1975) for Count Sporck (Vivaldi patron and Missa 232 copy recipient) in 1738; and other possibilities from the Nikolas and Thomas Churches' account books and the contemporary Personenregister. Schulze discusses the possibility of the funeral of Bach's pastor, Christian Weiß Sr., 13 December 1736, in an "elaborate funeral service" with illuminated St. Thomas church service lasting until 6 p.m. Schulze speculates that the BWV 118 second version of 1746-47 may have involved Duke of Weißenfels, Johann Adolph II, 16 May 1746, successor to Bach's beloved Duke Christian who died on 28 June 1736.

I would dare to speculate that the original outdoor version of BWV 118, involving wind instruments, would have been performed by members of the Leipzig Collegium musicum and the local Stadtfeiffer. The music also could have been performed for Gottfried Zimmerman, the operator of the famous coffeehouse, who owned large instruments played by members of the Collegium musicum and who died on 30 May 1741, and whose passing may have contributed to Bach relinquishing the reigns of the ensemble.

Coming late in Bach's creative career, "Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht," is a unique work among Bach's compositions. As with its "mixed feeling of grief and serenity" (Thérèse Hanquet's compelling BCW Discussion No 2 introduction), the music uses both the stile antico of the motet form with the style galant involving the chorale elements of a singable melody, homophonic texture, and symmetrical phrasing. This blend of two styles is called "stile misto," or mixed stile, best exemplified in Bach's time by the Jan Dismas Zelenka "Miserere," ZWV 57, using Neopolitan-style aria ("Gloria patri") with Renaissance motet and ostinato ("Miserere mei"). This Zelenka work cited by speaker George Stauffer introduced the evening concert of the "Ascension Oratorio, BWV 11" and Pentecost Cantata BWV 74, preceded by the afternoon concert of the Easter Oratorio, BWV 249, opening with Cantata BWV 118 in the indoor (church) version, followed by Cantata BWV 198 - all at this year's [2008] Bethlehem Bach Festival, "Bach and the Oratorio Tradition," with the American Bach Society biennial meeting inMay.

Finally, Schulze in his study of Cantata BWV 118 wonders: "We are unfortunately bereft of a similar record (Juhnau's widow's burial in 1743) showing a dispensation of fees for Johann Sebastian Bach's burial, but we can assume that in July 1750, as in other cases, the St. Thomas singers performed a funeral motet. How dearly one would like to know what work was chosen for the occasion! - but that would be another topic."

Chorale Information

Bach's setting of Stanza 1 of Martin Behm's 1610 14-stanza text set to Seth Calvisius' 1594 adaptation of the melody <Rex Christe factor omnium> is found in his funeral motet, BWV 118, as well as various cantata settings of two alternate texts and two melodies (see BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Herr-Jesu-Christ-meins-Lebens-Licht.htm). The full German text and Francis Browne's English translation is found at BCW,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale067-Eng3.htm. Bach also harmonized Behm's melody in his chorale, BWV 399 in B Major, also known as "O Jesu, du, mein Bräutigam" (O Jesu, thou, my bridegroom), associated with Johann Heermann's 1630 hymn of 12 four-line stanzas by C.P.E. Bach in his 1786 publication of his father's 371 plain chorales. Chorale, BWV 399. Picander's cantata cycle published text (1728) for the 13th Sunday after Trinity, August 22, 1728, Cantata P-56; "Können meine nassen Wangen," closes with chorale, <Herr/O Jesu Christ, meines Lebens Leben> (Lord/O Jesus Christ, my Life's Life), using Stanza 11, "Auf deinen Abschied, Herr, ich trau'" (In your farewell, Lord, I place my trust). The Behm-Calvisius hymn setting is found the <NLGB> Hymn Book as No. 374 in the final, Miscellaneous section as a sacred journey of Christian death to eternal life. It carries the double title of <Herr/O Jesu Christ, meines Lebens Leben> and O Jesu, du, mein Bräutigam" and is found in Volume 84, "Jesus Hymns" (<per omnes versus>) of the Hanssler Complete Bach Edition of CDs.

To come: Bach's other funeral motets

David D. Jones wrote (May 27, 2013):
[To William Hoffman] Thanks for saving my bacon Will. I apologize to the group. I was suppsed to lead the discussions on this motet, but I have been busy doing researches on my favorite BWV 131 that time got away from me.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 27, 2013):
Stadtpfeifer

William Hoffman wrote:
< "The unusual scoring of the original version suggests an occasion involving the Stadtpfeifer [town pipers]: most likely, in view of the funeral nature of the text, at the graveside or in the procession," says Charles Francis (BCW Discussion 1; April 1, 2001; http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118-D.htm). "The wind parts are of
>extreme difficulty, indicative of the skill of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer, >an institution that was nearing its end." >

There is a recording out there of the repertoire of the Leipzig Stadtpfeifer. Does anyone remember the CD?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 27, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Is this what you were thinking of? CD Universe

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 28, 2013):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Is this what you were thinking of? CD Universe>
Nice CD but it was a recording of repertoire probably played during the Kuhnau and Bach tenures, including Bach's arrangement of the Palestrina mass.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 28, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] from BCW archives *Bachs Performance of Works by Other Composers*:

The notes below are from the 1992 Concerto Palatino CD EMI: 567-754 455-2 and were written by Bruce Dickey (with support from Clifford Bartlett). Also on the CD is music for cornetts and trombones by Pezel and Reiche, and Kuhnau's motet Tristis est anima mea, and Bach's motet O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht, BWV 118):

The CD includes the Palestrina Mass setting.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 28, 2013):
[To Ed Myskowski] Thank you. I think there is potential that the Stadtpfeifer were more active in Bach's Sunday service than we imagine. It is perfectly in harmony with Lutheran tradition that they played instrumental sinfonias and doubled in the hymns. Frankly, I think it's perfectly feasible that all the instruments in the choir loft for the cantata doubled the hymns in various combinations.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 28, 2013):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Frankly, I think it's perfectly feasible that all the instruments in the choir loft for the cantata doubled the hymns in various combinations. >
So do I. But it raises interesting balance questions. If there were only four singers they might well have been overpowered---some of the bands, especially those for festive occasions were quite large..

However if the congregation did join in it would be a different matter. I know that that is not a view held by quite a few for numerous reasons (including Doug) which include the choice of keys and some of the complex arrangements. If they did, though, it would surely be in the unison singing of the chorale melody only, not using the harmony. But that would require the accompaniment of reasonably large forces.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 28, 2013):
[To Julian Mincham] I don't include the chorales in concerted works as congregational. The final chorales in the St.John Passion or "Wachet Auf" are clearly choir music because of their stratospheric registers. However, there are cantata chorales which are set in the key of the hymn books and which use familiar words rather than new poetry. I think there's some evidence from Telemann that congregations, hearing a familiar tune and text in a singable key, would gradually join in.

I thinking however of the Stadtpfeifer and the loft musicians doubling the other congregational chorales and the choir canticles such as the polyphonic Sanctus settings which were regularly sung. If so, then the cantata is not an instrumental island in a 3 hour service, but was surrounded by quite a sumptuous orchestral sound that is in perfect continuity with the Lutheran tradition going back to Praetorius.

And if we're into speculation ...

The cantata with Choir I alternated morning and afternoon between St. Thomas and St. Nicholas. I've always wondered it might have made some sense to have the Stadtpfeifer accompany Choir 2 in their motets and canticles. In fact, there is plenty of evidence from the 17th century of the tradition of doubling voices to provide a larger tutti sound and even replacing missing voices. An eight part motet could easily have been performed by two treble voices accompanied by an instrumental octet.

That arrangement would certainly have minimized the difference between the two choirs: an eight-part Gabrieli motet with brass is the equal of a Bach cantata.

William Hoffman wrote (May 28, 2013):
Cantata 118: Weimar & Leipzig Funeral Motets, Cantatas

Bach's memorial motets are closely linked to his Passion music. As special, non liturgical works not part of the church year, they developed concurrently, beginning tentatively in Muhlhausen as proto cantatas, preceding cautiously in Weimar, and achieving fruition in Leipzig. Passion and motet blend biblical texts with chorales, sorrow with joy, pessimism with optimism. The motets use biblical texts, primarily Penitential Psalms, and chorales, often unaccompanied or with instrumental doublings. They became the primary form of music of mourning and consolation.

As Bach completed his cycles of church-service cantatas and Passion oratorios for Good Friday vespers, he complained of little opportunity to compose funeral music to supplement his income in support of a growing family with sons reaching majority, c.1730. While he explored every various facets of chorales, his motet interests increasingly turned to works of his orthodox Lutheran family and his contempand students. These interests were both compositional and personal.

Bach's multi-voice polyphonic settings represented the perfection of the old 16th and 17th century Palestrina and polychoral style. Bach used the collection, <Florilegium Portense> of Erhard Bodenschatz of 150 mostly Latin liturgical 8-10 voice settings with organ, notably the 1621 edition of 150 works, for the introit and communion of the Lutheran Mass and the vespers.

An accounting of his known and associated memorial motets shows that they varied from his first awkward, three-movement work in Weimar, "I leave thee not," BWV Anh. 159, to the extended affirmation hymn, "Jesus, my joy," BWV 227, of 1723, to the final, four-voice 15-stanza pure chorale motet setting with instruments, "O Jesus Christ, my life's light," BWV 118, in two versions, for funeral procession with burial and for memorial service, c.1736/46.


Funeral Motet BWV Anh. 159

Bach's earliest surviving motet from Weimar time could be "Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich, Mein Jesu" (I will not leave you before you bless me [Genesis 32:26b], my Jesus), BWV Anh. 159 (BCW Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWVAnh159.htm). It is believed to have been for the Funeral or later Remembrance of the Deceased Service, possibly for the Mayor of Arnstadt's wife, Margarethe Feldhaus, née Wedemann on July 3, 1713.

It is a three-section work: 1. opening two four-voice (SATB) choruses in polyphonic dialogue with the biblical dictum; 2. four-voices in Thuringa style, lower three voices singing dictum in imitation with syllabic declamation of first phrase and melodic melisma on the second, against soprano cantus firmus of the anonymous c.1565 chorale "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" (Why are you afflicted, my heart), S. 3, "Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist,/ Dein Kind wirst du verlassen nicht" (Because you are my God and father/ you will not abandon your child); and 3. four-part chorale, S 13, "Ich dank dir, Christe, Gottes Sohn" (I thank you, Christ, Son of God), and S. 14, "Lob, Ehr und Preis sei dir gesagt" (Laud, honor and praise be voiced to you). The full text and English translation of Anh. 159 is found at http://bachvespersnyc.org/texts.asp?id=14&t=117#text.

The Neuen Bach Ausgabe score is found at http://partifi.org/YHY5P/segment/. The original source of the first two sections is the "Alt Baschischen Arkiv," transcribed by Bach (first 14 and last 8 bars) and student copyist David Kräuter, found in the 1790 estate of Emmanuel Bach. It was published in Bach Gesellschaft Ausgabe, Vol. 39, editor Franz Wüllner, Leipzig, Breitkof & Härtel, 1892. The appendix of the score has the four-voice chorale, "Warum betrübst du dich," BWV 421, text variant, "Dir Jesu, Gottes Sohn, sei Preis" (Dear Jesus, God's son, be praised)


Chorale `Warum betrübst du dich'

"Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" partial text and Francis Browne English translation10 stanzas (S.1-9, 11) are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale037-Eng3.htm, with the melody information at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Warum-betrubst.htm.

Introduced on Sept. 5, 1723 as part of Cantata Cycle 1, Cantata BWV 138, "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" has a hymn text with free-verse additions. It dates from Nuremberg in 1561 and was originally attributed to Hans Sachs. It has 14 stanzas of five lines each (AABCC). Bach uses the first three stanzas in two interpolated, elaborated chorales (Movements Nos. 1 & 2/3), and the closing four-part chorale (No. 6/7)1. Chorale chorus (S.1) with SATB recitative; 2/3. Chorale chorus (S.2) with SATB recitative, "Er kann und will dich lassen nicht" (He can and will not leave thee); and 6/7. Plain chorale (S.3) "Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist" (Because Thou my God and Father art).

Cantata BWV 138 is Bach's most extensive use of the popular chorale, "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" No. 275, <omnes tempore> theme "Of the Cross: Persecution and Tribulation," found in the NLGB (<Das Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch des Gottfried Vopelius> 1682. It is a designated hymn in the NLGB for Trinity 15 and also for Trinity 7 as a pulpit hymn and Trinity 9 as a communion hymn. For details, see BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/LCY/M&C-Trinity7.htm. The use of the melody in BCW is listed in hymn books in the `Category of Text: Wider aller Welt Sorge ["Against All the Cares of the World"] and Vom christlichen Leben und Wandel ["About the Christian Way of Life and Its Changes"]'.

Bach also used this hymn in two other cantatas, BWV 47 and Anh. 192. Stanza 11 closes Cantata 47, "Wer sich selbst erhohet" (Who exhalts himself) for the 17th Sunday After Trinity in 1726 in the Johann Friedrich Helbig 1720 text published in 1720 in Eisenach in a plain chorale (Movement No. 5). Bach's collected four-part chorales include two settings found in Bach works: BWV 420 in A Minor-Major, and simple setting BWV 421 in A Major-Minor with variant setting is found in BWV Anh. 159.

The authenticity of Motet BWV Anh. 159 was proposed in Daniel R. Melamed's article, "The Authorship of the Motet,<Ich lasse dicht nicht>," <Journal of the American Musicological Society, 1988: 491-526. It is part of Melamed's book, <JSB and the German Motet> (Cambridge MA Univ. Press, 1995) and is considered, along with non-funeral Motets, BWV Anh. 160, "Jauchzet den Herrn , alle Welt," and Anh. 161, "Kündlich groß ist das gottselige Geheimnis," in the NBA KB III/3, "Motets, Chorale Movements and Songs of Doubtful Authenticity," of Frieder Rempp (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 2002: 15-81).

Motet BWV 228, `Fürchte dich nicht,' & Chorale

Melamed's original article also placed the funeral Motet, "Fürchte dich nicht, ich bin bei dir" (Do not fear, I am with you), BWV 228 earlier in Weimar time. He cites its same structural plan of the polyphonic, eight-part opening chorus (Isaiah 41:10 and 43/1 and chorale setting of two stanzas of Paul Gerhardt's 1653, "Warum sollt ich mich den grämen?" (Why should I grieve?). It "may not be quite as old as" BWV 159 (Ibid: 521), that closes with a plain chorale, BWV 421, amended to BWV Anh. 159/1. It may have been presented in Leipzig for Stadthaputmann Parkbusch's nwife on February 4, 1726. Motet BWV 228 text and Francis Browne's English translation are found at BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV228-Eng3.htm.

Bach used two stanzas of the chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich den grämen?," in his Motet BWV 228, "Furchte dich nicht" (Do not fear),: Movement No. 2, Chorus SATB (Do not fear) with soprano chorale, V. 11 and 12, "Herr, mein Hirt, Brunn aller Freuden!" (Lord, my Shepherd, source of all joys!), and "Du bist mein, weil ich dich fasse" (You are mine, since I seize you).

The chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is not found in the <Neu Leipziger Gesangbuch> of 1682, since it was too recent, but was popular in Bach's time as an <omnes tempore> hymn under the heading, "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation." Bach's harmonization, BWV 422, four-part chorale in C/G Major, ?c.1730, is found in the Hänssler complete Bach edition (No. 85), A Book of Chorale settings: "Trust in God, Cross, and Consolation," No. 16, CD 92.085 (1999).

The chorale also is designated in the Picander cycle for the First Sunday after Trinity, June 19, in Cantata text P42, "Welt, der Purpur stinkt mich an" (World, thy purple robe stinks on me); No. 5, closing chorale, Stanza 10, "Was sind dieses Lebens Güter?" (What are these life's goods?);

The best source for Gerhardt and this chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is <Paul Gerhardt, The Singer of Comfort, Hope, and Peace in Christ: His Life and Summaries of Seventeen of His Hymns>, The article, http://www.evangelischeandacht.org/Gerhardt-Book.pdf, observers that: "Paul Gerhardt based this hymn of joy on Psalm 73 [Truly, God is good to Israel], especially verses 23-26. `Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.'"

Bach set the associated Ebeling/Vetterer melody of "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," to another Gerhardt text, "Frölich soll mein Herze springen diese Zeit" (Joyfully shall my heart soaring up this time, 1656), as four-part chorale in the <Christmas Oratorio? (Part 3, Adoration of the Shepherds), "Ich will dich mit Fleiß bewahren" (I will firmly cherish three), BWV 248/33 (248III/10), "Und die Hirten kehrten wieder um" (And the shepherds went back again), December 27, 1734.

The chorale, "Warum sollt ich mich denn grämen?," is found in two recent American Lutheran hymnbooks: the 1941 Missouri Synod <Lutheran Hymnal> (St. Louis: Concordia), No. 523, "Why Should Cross and Trial Grieve Me" (S. 1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 10-12, John Kelly translation 1867) under the heading "Cross and Comfort," and restored in the current <Evangelical Lutheran Worship> hymnbook (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2006), No. 273, "All My Heart Again Rejoices" (Catherine Winkworth 19th century alternate translation), in the Christmas section.

"It is also possible that Bach used another type of orchestral accompaniment with strings only, as a set of parts for the motet `Fürchte dich nicht' reveals. These parts were prepared by someone in the circle of C. P. E. Bach's acquaintances in Berlin around 1760." (Information about Bach's Motets with a Specific Examination of BWV 226 / Extracted from Klaus Hofmann's Book on This Subject / Summaries and Translations by Thomas Braatz © 2010; BCW http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/MotetsHofmann.pdf

Leipzig Funeral Motets

Of the three other motets Bach composed in Leipzig and identified with funeral or memorial services, only one has been dated (BWV 226), two are presumed to be identified with funerals (BWV 227 and 229):
BWV 226, Der Geist hilt unsrer Schwachheit auf (Funeral, Oct. 24, 1729)
BWV 227, Jesu, meine, Freude (?Funeral 1723)
BWV 229, Komm, Jesu, komm (unknown occasion, 1723-30)
Details, including chorales and Browne's English translations are found at BCW, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Vocal/BWV225-231.htm.

Leipzig Era Funeral/Memorial Cantatas

The following funeral or memorial cantatas were presented during Bach's Leipzig Period (1723-50):
+BWV 157, Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn, Memorial, 2/6/1727 [BCW Discussion Nov. 18, 2012];
BCW Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV157.htm.
+BWV Anh. 209, "Liebster Gott, vergißt du mich (Memorial, text only), 2/6/1727, Part 2; BCW Details,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh209.htm.
+BWV 198, Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl, Memorial, 10/17/27 [Nov. 3, 2013]; BCW Details,
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV198.htm.
+BC B-21, [First Köthener Funeral Music], lost, no text or music; Memorial 3/23/1729.
+BWV 244a, "Klagt, Kinder, klagt es aller Welt, funeral lost; Memorial 3/24/1729; BCW Details, Reconstruction Recording http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV244a.htm.
+BWV Anh. 17, Mein Gott, nimm die gerechte Seele; 6/5/1732; BCW Details http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh17.htm.
+BWV Anh. 16, Schließt die Gruft! Ohr Trauerglockensecular, doubtful, 11/9/1735, BCW Details http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWVAnh16.htm.

A double cantata was performed on February 6, 1727, for the funeral of Johann Christoph von Ponickau, noted Leipzig chamberlain, court counselor and appeal judge. Cantata BWV 157, "Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn" was presented before the sermon, and lost Cantata BWV Anh. 209, "Liebster Gott, vergißt du mich was presented after the sermon. The latter music is lost, only the text survives. It is found in the Georg Christian Lehms text published in Darmstadt in 1711 (designated for the Seventh Sunday after Trinity, and may have been performed in Weimar on that Sunday, July 15, 1714. It uses the first stanza of the chorale, "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" (See Chorale `Warum betrübst du dich' above), No. 5.

The movements and dicta are:

1. [Recitative]: Loving God, forget me not . . . in my woe;
2. [Aria]: Loving God, forget me not . . . heart and soul will part themselves;
3. Recitative]: By these words must a sword through my soul go
4. [Aria]: It is enough, Lord Jesus, let me die;
5. Chorale: Why grieve thee, my heart (?BWV 420);
6. [Recitative]: My spirit recovers itself again;
7. [Aria, d.c.]: Listen, whimper, and bewail.

The work has been authenticated in Klaus Hofmann's <Bach Jahrbuch articles: "Bachs Kantate 'Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn' BWV 157. Überlegungen zu Entstehung, Bestimmung und originaler Werkgestalt." BachJb 68 (1982), 51-80; and "Neue Überlegungen zu Bachs Weimarer Kantaten-Kalender. BachJb 79 (1993), 9-29.

------

Next Week, BCW Discussion, Cantata 53, and motets of the Bach Family and students.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 29, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< As Bach completed his cycles of church-service cantatas and Passion oratorios for Good Friday vespers, he complained of little opportunity to compose funeral music to supplement his income in support of a growing family >
I share his complaint, except that in 2013 everyone wants to be buried from the funeral home not the church, so we organists lose our fee to the funeral home's in-house organist.

Anne (Nessie) Russell wrote (May 29, 2013):
Adding to Bach and Doug's complaint:
< As Bach completed his cycles of church-service cantatas and Passion oratorios for Good Friday vespers, he complained of little opportunity to compose funeral music to supplement his income in support of a growing family >
I share his complaint, except that in 2013 everyone wants to be buried from the funeral home not the church, so we organists lose our fee to the funeral home's in-house organist.

You are singing my song Doug. Where I live the undertakers (I mean funeral home directors) will make up a DVD with a slide show of family pictures accompanied by favourite music of the deceased. Many families are going this route, even in the church. Funeral homes here do not even have a house organist. All the music is recorded.

Anthony Kozar wrote (May 29, 2013):
William Hoffman wrote:
< The two versions of "O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht," were composed 10 years apart, about 1736 for brass outdoors, and c.1746 for strings with winds indoors at church services (BCW Details, http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV118.htm). The seven-minute work setting the opening stanza includes opening and closing instrumental ritornelli of 17 measures repeated, two chorale motives in fugal imitation with cantus firmus in the soprano and partial obbligato instruments. >
Thanks again, Will, for shedding some light on another somewhat mysterious piece that I have been very curious about!

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 29, 2013):
Cemetery architecture

Anthony Kozar wrote:
< Thanks again, Will, for shedding some light on another somewhat mysterious piece that I have been very curious about! >
Will, is there any architectural evidence for the Leipzig graveyard? I'm thinking of some Austrian graveyards (Salzburg in particular) in which there are covered porches and cloisters which would protect instrumentalists and create a kind of bandshell for outdoor performance. I know those are Catholic cemeteries, but I'm curious about the Leipzig arrangement.

 

Cantata 118: , Fugitive Notes, Chorale

Arthur Robinson wrote (June 30, 2013):
I recently saw the autograph score for the 'brass and winds' version on a visit to the Scheide Library, where it now resides. Does anyone offer an explanation for the continuo figures that can be seen at one spot in the autograph?

William Hoffman wrote (July 3, 2013):
[To Arthur Robinson] I reviewed the BCW Discussions 1 and 2 and found references to the two versions and the use of continuo in the outdoor performance. The two best sources are the NBA KB of BWV 118, and Laurence Dreyfus. Bach's Continuo Group: Players and Practices in His Vocal Works. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987. Studies in the History of Music, No. 3. xii, 264 p. I think BCW contributor Thomas Braatz has access to the relevant NBA KB as he has provided numerous translations of relevant passages.

Also, I'm almost sure that the Festschrift, "A Bach Tribute - Essays in Honor of William H. Scheide," has an article about BWV 118.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 3, 2013):
To Arthur Robinson & William Hoffman] Here is Thomas Braatz' response to your query:
http://bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV118Figures.pdf
Linked from: http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV118.htm
[Reference row]

 

Baroque brass/BWV 118

From the discussion: Brass Instruments in Bach's Vocal Works [General Topics]

Peter Smaill wrote (July 23, 2013):
Like Julian I was delighted to meet the trumpeter and Baroque brass expert Mike Diprose, whose lively demonstrations are matched by an extensive knowledge of, and interest in, the Bach Cantatas. We discussed in particular the theory that the second performance of BWV 118 was occasioned by the death of the Duke of Weissenfels, Johann Adolph II, on 16 March 1742 in Leipzig, and the possibility that this gave rise to the need for the mysterious "litui".

Two factors create a haze relating to the Hans-Joachim Schulze theory led above. One is the general tendency for funerals of the nobility to use muted trumpets. The expression "lituus" is thus rather vague.

On a practical level, the assumption that BWV 118 was written for a funeral procession is somewhat compromised by the extreme effort the sustained brass lines require, even if the players are stationary. So the puzzle of the instruments involved and the setting of the work itself continues......

 

Cantata BWV 118: Details & Complete Recordings | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: żOctober 12, 2013 ż13:34:30