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Cantata BWV 12
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of September 19, 2010 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 19, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 12: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen

At the invitation of moderator Aryeh Oren, I will be writing brief introductions for the weekly cantata discussion. I expect to follow the same format I have used in the past: extracts from Durrs comprehensive text, followed by some personal thoughts and questions, and reference to some specific recordings, especially any not covered by previous discussions.

Previous discussions for this week, as well as details of text, provenance, and discography, are all available via the main BWV 12 page:

This weeks cantata, as well as the following two weeks, was written for the Third Sunday after Easter (Jubilate).

From Durr:
<This cantata [...] was first heard on 22 April 1714 {Weimar] and revived in Leipzig ten years later on 30 April 1724. The text is probably by Salomo Franck, who follows the the ideas of the Sunday Gospel in detail, developing his basic plan from the contrast set forth there between joy and sorrow. The opening movement recalls Christs words <You shall weep and lament> (John 16: 20) and the following biblical quotation <Through much tribulation must we enter into the Kingdom of God> (Acts 14:22), reminds us that Christs words relating to the sorrow that shall be turned into joy, once addressed to the disciples, also apply to every Christian today. In the three arias that follow, the suffering Christian is first brought face to face with the Passion of Christ as a form of comfort (Mvt. 4), and this leads to the resolution to take suffering upon oneself in imitation of Christ (Mvt. 5) and finally to the consolation (again in accordance with a passage from the Gospel) that it <will be but a little while before all sorrow passes away> (Mvt. 6). [...] The cantata concludes with the final verse of the hymn Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan by Samuel Rodigast (1675).
The principal section of the chorus Weinen, Klagen (Mvt. 2), which is designed in pure da capo form, consists of a chaconne over a chromatic instrumental bass, played twelve times: a lapidary adaptation of those seventeenth-century lamento themes that descend through the interval of a fourth; [brief music example]. [...] The last statement, no. 12, is purely instrumental. In the last decade of his life Bach adapted the music of this main section to form the Crucifixus of the B minor Mass.
The three arias, which succeed one another without intervening recitative, differ in form, scoring, and character. The first, a slow piece of immense gravity in pure da capo form, is characterized by the expressive, wide-ranging figures of the obbligato oboe. In the second aria (Mvt. 5) it is the text--which is concerned with the imitation of Christ-- that provides the stimulus for its compositional style: the canonically treat head-motive is first stated by the two obbligato violins and continuo, then taken up by the bass in the first vocal section, and closes the movement suggestively--with a brief hint of da capo--in the form of a rising vocal scale of a ninth: the imitation of Christ also signifies entry into the Kingdom of God (cf. the rising scale in Mvt. 3).
In the concluding chorale, the usual plain four-part vocal texture is joined by an instrumental obbligato part [...] which lends the setting a special lustre. The chorale melody has a particular significance in the context of this cantata: as now becomes clear, it was anticipated by the imitative theme of Mvt. 5, which is itself thematically related to Mvt. 3. Thus the thematic contrast between chromatic descent (Mvt. 2) and diatonic ascent (Mvt. 3, Mvt. 5, and Mvt. 7, and also by allusion in the continuo steps of Mvt. 1) pervades the entire cantata.> (end quote)

Since the earlier discussion in 2000 and 2005, there are many newer recordings, including the following from major series: Gardiner [13], Herreweghe [18], Kuijken [22]. I do not have Suzuki [11] for comparison, but his performance was highly praised by many. Note the fine oboe lines by Marcel Ponseele with both Gardiner and Herreweghe; he is also outstanding on the earlier Koopman [9] version, perhaps establishing some sort of record for continuity and dominance. You will not go wrong with any of these performances, although I have yet to find the Kuijken in USA, and it is likely to be very expensive in any event. His OVPP approach is probably still not for everyone, but to my ears (from other recordings) his performances come across as just that: performance, rather than engineered product, although the engineering is superb as well.

Gardiner has a special place in the hearts of many (but certainly not all) of us, for the nature of his pilgrimage performance recording series, the quality of the performances, and his entertaining and informative notes. In the case of BWV 12, he offers some comments parallel to Dürr, which I will paraphrase, rather than trying to quote directly. The chromatic descent of Mvt. 2 reaches a seemingly bottomless pit, but Bach lowers an escape ladder. Its individual rungs are created <movement by movement, which ascend by intervals of a third, alternating a minor key with its relative major: f, A flat, C, E flat, g, B flat.>.

William Hoffman wrote (September 27, 2010):
The theme of sorrow turned to joy or the sorrow-joy-antithesis is found in all four cantatas Bach presented in Leipzig on "Jubilate" or the Third Sunday after Easter.

The opening Introit antiphon, "Make a joyful noise," and Psalm are the beginning of Psalm 66(1-2): "Jubilate Deo" (Be joyful in God) all ye lands; sing the glory of his name and praise; how awesome are your deeds, through your great power your enemies submit.

Each cantata opens with texts of tribulation and lamentation, based on the Bible:

1. BWV 12, "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" (Weeping, crying, mourning, sighing) John 16: 20] (Salamo Franck text, Weimar, 4/22/1714); repeated 4/30/1724

2. BWV 103, "Ihr werdet weinen und heulen" (Ye shall weep and howl) [John 16: 20] (Mariane von Ziegler text, Leipzig, 4/22/1725); repeated 4/15/1731.

3. BWV 146, "Wir müsen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen" (We must through much tribulation into the Kingdom of God enter) [Acts 14:22] (?Picander text; Leipzig, 5/12/1726 or /18/1728)

4. JLB 8, "Die mit Tränen säen" (That with tears seen) [Psalm 126:4-6] (Leipzig 5/12/1726 [uncertain] c.1743-46) (Prince Ernst of Meiningen/Rudolstadt text)

Bach considered but did not complete two works for Jubilate Sunday, BWV 224, and Picander Cycle Cantata P-33. The initial texts of both are quite similar, in a troubling mood.

BWV 224, "Reißt euch los, bekränkte Sinnen" (Break away, O troubled spirits); opening soprano aria fragment (librettist unknown); uncertainty whether music is by Bach [1724] or C.P.E. Bach [1732]. The text continues: "Break away, /Let the long accustomed pain / This day gain no place within you; /Break away, O troubled heart." BCW: (Z. Philipp Ambrose)

Between this text and the tenor aria with trumpet solo (Mvt. 5) in Cantata BWV 103 also are "unmistakable text parallels," says Andreas Glöckner, "New Knowledge of J.S. Bach's Performance Calendar, 1729-35" (<Bach Jahrbuch 1991>, 43-75; here pp. 52f.:

Recover now, O troubled feelings,
Ye cause yourselves excess of woe.
Leave off your sorrowful beginning,
Ere I in tears collapse and fall,
My Jesus is again appearing,
O gladness which nought else can match!
What good to me thereby is given,
Take, take my heart, my gift to thee!

BCW: (Z. Philipp Ambrose)

Picander Cycle, P-33 "Fasse dich, betrübter Sinn" (Control yourself, troubled mind) (Picander text only, ?5/18/1729); Opening chorus or aria text continues: "Thy tears/ are only a little lasting,/ Ah, a little is soon spent,/ Control yourself, troubled mind." [two lines missing, no da capo indicted in printed text).

chorale Mvt. 6, "Ah, I have already perceived this great glory (cf. BWV 162/6, Trinity +20, 1715).

All four extant cantatas move to and conclude with joy in non-Easter season chorale texts and melodies:

"Jesu, meine Freude" (Jesus, my joy),
"Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan . . . dabei will ich verblieben" (What God does, that is well-done . . . Thereon shall I rest),
"Barmherzger Vater, höchster Gott" (Merciful Father, highest God),
"Was mein Gott will" (What my God wills),
"Lasset ab von eurer Tränen" (Leave off your tears),
Werde munter, mein Gemüte" (Become cheerful, my spirit), and
"Komm her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn" (Come here to me, speaks God's Son),

Bach's Easter Season musical sermons portray the initial sorrow of Christ's disciples and his followers at his death leading at the resurrection to an initial, brief inward joy which grows in Christ's final 40 days on earth to Ascension Day at which, "They worshiped him and went back to Jerusalem, filled with great joy, and spent all their time in the Temple giving thanks to God" (Luke 24:52-53, the conclusion of Luke's Gospel).

The juxtaposition of sorrow and joy is a central theme in Bach's works, especially in the great closing choruses of all three extant Passions for Good Friday, and is based upon Ecclesiates 3:4: "There is a time for sorrow and a time for joy, for mourning and dancing." Each of the rest-in-the grave choruses of Bach's original Passion settings of John, Matthew, and Mark uses sorrowful texts set to dance music, respectively: "Rest well, ye holy limbs," a 3/4 minuet; "We sit our selves down in tears," a 3/4 sarabande; and "By thy rock grave and great tombstone," a 12/8 gigue.

The theme reflecting sorrow at Christ's death and joy at his resurrection is based on the service Gospel reading, John 16: 16-23, "Jesus' Farewell," in Jesus' Farewell Discourses to his disciples in John's Gospel, Chapters 14-17. It is the first of four Discourses used as the Gospel readings for the final four Sundays After Easter:

Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter, "Make a joyful noise"], John 16: 16-23 Christ's Farewell;
Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter, "Sing"], John 16: 5-15, Work of the Spirit;
Rogate [5th Sunday after Easter, "Pray"], John 16: 23-30, Christ's Promise to the Disciples;
Exaudi [6th Sunday after Easter, "Hear"], John 15: 26 - 16: 4, Spirit will come.

Easter Season Cantata Chorales (Jubilate)

1. BWV 12/6. Trumpet melody Crüger "Jesu, meine Freude" in tenor aria; most appropriate verse (J. Franck), S. 6, "Weicht, ihr Trauergeister" (Retreat, you specters of sorrow), ref. Dürr Cantatas JSB: 308.

2. BWV 12/7. Rodigast "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" (6 stanzas, "Cross and Trial") . . . dabei will ich verblieben" (S.6); music & text found in 69a/6. Also used in: BWV 144/3 (S.1), Epiphany 6; BWV 69a/6 (S. 6), Trinity12; BWV 75/6 (S.1), Trinity 1; BWV 99 (chorale cantata), Trinity 15; BWV 98/1 (S.1), Trinity 21; BWV 100 (pure-hymn cantata), no specified service; 250 (S.1), wedding; 1116, Neumeister organ prelude; Orgelbüchlein organ preludes Nos. 111, 112 (Christian Life & Conduct: Persecution," not set).

3. BWV 103/6, "Ich hab ein Augenblock" (I have Thee a moment), S9, Gerhardt "Barmherzger Vater, höchster Gott" (18 verses) (melody "Was mein Gott will").

4. BWV 146/8, Richter "Lasset ab von eurer Tränen" (Leave off your tears), transmitted without text; Wustmann supplies Gregorius Richter, verse 9 of "Lasset ab von euren Tränen" (Then where therein blessed), 1658 (Fischer-Tümpel, I, #309) [Z. Philipp Ambrose BCW); melody J. Schop "Werde munter, mein Gemüte"), (S.9) E3

5. JLB 8/8, Grünwald "Komm her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn" (Mat. 11:28; 16 stanzas); E3, "Es euch das Kreuz, Ihr aber werdt, Und was der ewig Gütig Gott" (S.14-16); BWV 86/3 "Und was der ewig Gütig Gott" (S. 16) E5; melody only in BWV 108/6, Gerhardt "Gott Vater, senden deine Geist" (S.10 of 16) E4; melody only also in BWV 74/8, "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist" (S.2) P.

6. 1729: P-33/6=?BWV 162/6, Albinius (Tr.+20, 1715) "Alle Menschen müßen sterben (S.7)

P33/6 E3=?BWV 162/6(Tr20), 262=?P-70 (Tr26); 643 (OB131 Death/Dying), 1117

Thus Bach for Jubilate Sunday presented cantatas with a chorale emphasis on joy, beginning with Cantata BWV 12 in Weimar in 1714 and repeated in Leipzig in 1724, using the melody "Jesus, my joy" and the Rodigast chorale "What God does, that is well done."

For his next Jubilate cantata, BWV 103, Bach closes with Paul Gerhardt's 18 verse sorrow-joy antithesis chorale text, "Barmherzger Vater, höchster Gott" (Merciful Father, highest God), set to the affirmative melody "What my God wills."

In Cantata BWV 146, Bach harmonized the melody "Werde munter, mein Gemüte" (Become cheerful, my spirit)," without text, the preferred text (Dürr 313) being the ninth verse of Gregorius Richter's "Lasset ab von euren Tränen" (Leave off your tears).

The J.L. Bach Cantata JLB-8 that Sebastian presented in Leipzig uses the last three verses of Grünwald's chorale, "Kommt her zu mir, spricht Gottes Sohn" (Come here to me, speaks God's Son), an affirmation of joy through faith.

As to the possibility of Bach composing a chorale cantata in 1725 or later for Jubilate Sunday, the best possibility, when all factors are considered, could be undesignated pure-hymn Cantata BWV 100, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan." It is dated between 1732 and 1735, with six verses by Samuel Rodigast. It was repeated c.1737 and again c. 1742. It is often considered a wedding cantata but the manuscript shows no division into two parts, before and after the wedding. Further, its provenance is obscured as it became the property of Carl Philipp Emmanual Bach, though still undesignated.

Various Bach scholars have assigned Cantata BWV 100 to either the 15th or the 21st Sunday after Trinity. For the 15th Sunday After Trinity, September 17, 1724, Bach had composed Chorale Cantata BWV 98, "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan," with paraphrases of verses 2-5. For the 21st Sunday after Trinity, October 29, 1724, Bach composed Cantata BWV 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir." Günther Stiller (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>) thinks that BWV 100 very likely belongs to this Sunday (p.146) although in examining Bach's use of "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" to close Cantata BWV 12, added in Leipzig along with the trumpet tune "Jesu, meine Freude" to the tenor aria, Stiller observes that the hymn is classified as "Concerning Cross and Trial" and these are recommended for the Sundays in Easter (p.240f).

In his study of Cantata BWV 12, "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen," Dürr (p. 308) concludes: "The chorale melody ("Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan") has a particular significance in the context of this cantata: as now becomes clear, it was anticipated by the imitative theme of Mvt. 5 [bass aria with violin], which is itself thematically related to Mvt. 3 [alto recitative, "Wir müsen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen"]. Thus the thematic contrast between chromatic descent (Mvt. 2 [opening chorus]) and diatonic ascent (nos. 3, 5, and 7 and also by allusion in the continuo steps of Mvt. 1 [sinfonia] pervades the entire cantata.

Quoting my discussion of the St. John Passion:


Dürr's observation that the (St. John) Passion text is an arch - actually an inverted arch -- from "majesty to lowliness and back to majesty" is called the great parabolic movement of descent and ascent described in Paul's Letter to the Philippians 2:6-11). Originally a hymn sung by the Christians, it is the second reading, or Epistle, on Palm (Passion) Sunday. This text is used in 16 movements of Bach sacred cantatas (<Biblical Quotation and Allusion in the Cantata Libretti of JSB>, Ulrich Meyer; London: Scarecrow Press, 1997: 210).

The Pauline hymn describes the "secret hour" when God in Christ reversed the parabola, the upward movement humans prefer, for the downward movement. Jesus "poured out and emptied himself, becoming a servant and, being born in the image of a human being, appeared in human form" (NRSV). "It begins with the great self-emptying or kenosis, that we call the incarnation in Bethlehem, and ends with the Crucifixion in Jerusalem" (Richard Rohr, Daily Meditation, Center for Action and Contemplation, 3/28/10, It is the "curve of divine self-humbling from heaven to earth, reaching its lowest point in death, the death of the cross, and then sweeping heavenwards again in Christ's exaltation to divine Lordship over all" (J. Dunn, <Christology in the Making> (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980), 114.


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 12: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Recordings of F. Liszt: Prelude / Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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