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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 120
Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille
Cantata BWV 120a
Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge
Cantata BWV 120b
Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 13, 2008

Stephen Benson wrote (July 13, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 120 and BWV 120a

Probably based on pre-Leipzig material (including the Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in G Major, BWV 1019a, which might have appeared as late as 1725), the parodic performance history of "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (BWV 120) is convoluted and confusing. Sources are contradictory. A definitive chronology, if one exists, would be most appreciated. Unfortunately, I believe, too many unresolved questions prevent that from happening.

Three distinct and separate uses of three of the movements (1, 2, and 4) have resulted in separate designations of BWV 120a, BWV 120b, and BWV 120, with probable first performances in that order. BWV 120a was a wedding cantata probably first performed in 1729; BWV 120b was performed in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Augsberg Confession on June 26th 1730; BWV 120 followed a few months later, probably on the Monday following St. Bartholomew's Day (August 24) as part of the annual installation ceremonies of the Leipzig municipal administration. (Would that we lived in a world where governments merited, let alone understood or appreciated, such tributes!) 1742 is also cited in connection with BWV 120, but in all likelihood this was a repeat performance: a limited number of "Ratswahl" cantatas were used and recycled during Bach’s 28 years in Leipzig. (I suggest this despite a definitive statement in the Bach volume of the Oxford Composer Companions which states that this cantata was "performed no earlier than 27 August 1742." Of course, the same entry points out: "The complex parody relationships of this work remain incompletely understood." Dürr, too, points to the 1742 date: "The autograph score, however, dates from around 1742, and more recently this date has been considered an accurate reflection of the cantata's status as the latest in this series of parody-related works.") A fourth significant appearance of the brilliant chorus occurs in variation as the "Et expecto" of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). More extensive analysis of BWV 120's parody development and performance history from Round One discussions can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV120-D.htm. A clear and concise description of the organization of the Leipzig city government and the procedures surrounding its annual installation can be found in the liner notes to the Herreweghe recording [4], which were reproduced and supplied to the BCW by Johan van Veen at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Herreweghe-C13.htm . Relevant samples from the scores of BWV 120 and its kin can be accessed at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV120-Sco.htm . I would particularly like to thank Francis Browne, whose interlinear translations prove to be of such inestimable utility in following the texts of the cantatas. It would appear that, from the June 2008 entry dates listed on the translations for BWV 120 and BWV 120a, he has provided them expressly for these Round Two discussions. (See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV120-Eng3.htm and http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV120a-Eng3.htm .)

Setting aside the labyrinthine chaos of the compositional chronology, the music itself is absolutely wonderful. This, to me, is one of Bach's most enchanting creations.

The quietude of the opening alto aria -- "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" -- is unusual for such a celebratory piece. Rhythmic patterns, mostly in the continuo and pulsating along beneath the melisma, provide a gentle, but secure foundation to a melodic line varying in intensity between the magical hush of the phrase "in der Stille" and the florid melisma of the remainder of the alto line. The "in der Stille" phrases provide oases amidst the turmoil of the churning melisma, and the contrast between those sections is amplified by the contrast between this movement and the following chorus, "Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen", a contrast heightened by the absence of an intervening recitative.

In that chorus, moreover, with the brilliance of its brass and its full-throated choral climaxes, we experience joy personified. The interweaving of two primary figures -- arpeggios of the rejoice (jauchzet) motif and spiraling sixteenths climbing (steiget) to heaven -- create a sense of excitement and exhilaration. In this da capo chorus, polyphonic outer sections framing a homophonic center treat those two primary figures to fugal development that screws up the excitement one notch at a time and results in thrilling and inspiring climaxes. That Bach himself loved this movement can be seen in the simple fact that he incorporated it in at least four works -- here in BWV 120, in BWV 120a, in BWV 120b, and in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232).

The next three movements focus on the advantages to Leipzig, the "city of lindens", of securing the blessings of both the Father and the Son. The first is a bass recitative, "Auf! du geliebte Lindenstadt", an exhortation to the citizens of Leipzig to open themselves through homage and prayer to the blessings of God's fatherly love. The third is a tenor recitative, "Nun, Herr, so weihe selbst", petitioning for the Son's protection. Between those two recitatives lies a soprano aria, "Heil und Segen", which Dürr describes as "an exceptionally lovely jewel among Bach’s arias." That aria, based on the third movement of the Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1019a, exhibits a florid violin accompaniment that beautifully recalls and complements the singing of the alto in the cantata’s opening aria.

Bringing the cantata to a contemplative close is the chorale "Nun hilf uns, Herr, den Diernern dein", the fourth stanza of Martin Luther’s 1529 "Te Deum", yet another request for Christ's assistance. Bach had used this same stanza to close BWV 119, but, whereas in BWV 119 he utilized only four of the eight verses, here he cites it in its entirety.)

In reading through the discussions in Round One, I was struck by the amount of space devoted to comparisons of the available recordings of BWV 120. This cantata being one of my personal favorites, I would love to hear what people think today, seven years later. In particular I would be VERY curious to know whether people retain their preferences. I know mine change as I learn more about the music and become better acquainted with the performance styles of different Bach interpreters. Karl Richter was my introduction, and for several years my benchmark, for many of these cantatas. Despite the profound impression he made on me, I only rarely play his performances today. Strong opinions were expressed about BWV 120 during the first round. I wonder how many of them hold up today.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 13, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 120 and BWV 120a FULL SCORES
A reminder that the full scores of 120 and 120a can be quickly downloaded as PDFs at:
http://imslp.org/wiki/Cantatas%2C_BWV_111-120_%28Bach%2C_Johann_Sebastian%29

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 13, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Probably based on pre-Leipzig material (including Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in G Major, BWV 1019a, which might have appeared as late as 1725), the parodic performance history of "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" (BWV 120) is convoluted and confusing. Sources are contradictory. A definitive chronology, if one exists, would be most appreciated. Unfortunately, I believe, too many unresolved questions prevent that from happening. >
Dürr supports this idea, from what I read this morning before your introduction became available.

< Between those two recitatives lies a soprano aria, "Heil und Segen", which Dürr describes as "an exceptionally lovely jewel among Bach's arias." That aria, based on the third movement of the Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1019a, exhibits a florid violin accompaniment that beautifully recalls and complements the singing of the alto in the cantata's opening aria. >
This piece is simply gorgeous and as I listen to Rilling [2] most of the time now this was the piece that stood out most in this work for me in my first round of listening. This is also my first time to listen to the cantata, and I will give it more study during the coming week.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 13, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote:
< The quietude of the opening alto aria -- "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille" -- is unusual for such a celebratory piece. ... the contrast between those sections is amplified by the contrast between this movement and the following chorus, "Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen", a contrast heightened by the absence of an intervening recitative. >
Is this really the original sequence of movements? The second movement with its festive scoring and extended introduction feels like the opening of the cantata. I know the opening aria introduces the scriptural dictum, but it just doesn't seem to be an organic part of the cantata.

This is the first time I've looked at the full score of the chorus and compared it to the "Et expecto" of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). Absolutely fascinating to see what Bach included and omitted. I was struck that the cantata chorus has a full orchestral coda whereas the Credo movement ends spectacularly abruptly (critics howled when Karl Richter performed it without a huge ritardando at the end)

No wonder Bach reused it four times - a recycle worthy of Handel!

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 14, 2008):
Cantata 120 - Tonal schema

There is something very peculiar about this cantata. Not only does the second movement "feel" like an opening chorus but the first aria is orphaned in A major when the cantata is clearly centred in D major:

1. Aria - A Major

2. Chorus - D Major
3. Recitative - B minor
4. Aria - G Major
5. Recitative - F# minor
6. Chorale - D major

It appears superficially that the opening aria has become attached to the cantata without any logic. Just looking at the tonal relatinships, I would reposition Mvt 1 after Mvt 4 and introduce it with a recitative which doesn't exist. That would give us a fairly standard 7-movement cantata.

The other odd thing is that the oboes do not have independent parts in that bif festive chorus but play colla parte with the violins. I noticed this when looking at the "Et expecto" which has independent parts for oboes and flutes as well. The oboes never appear again although presumably they double in the final chorale which the BGA edition doesn't have markings for orchestral doubling.

Anyone made theor way through the scholarship and have a solution?

William Hoffman wrote (July 14, 2008):
BWV 120a

The sacred wedding Cantata BWV 120a survives with a partial score of its last half, the last of No. 4 (Sinfonia) and Nos. 5-8. The first half of the score could have been salvaged to use in sister Cantatas BWV 120 or BWV 120b. Eight essential parts generic to this cantata survive: SATB voices (with parodied text), 2 trumpets, viola, and basso continuo. The remaining parts also were probably salvaged for performances of the other two cantatas. The full, festive instrumental scoring is 3 trumpets in D, 2 oboes, 2 oboes d'amore, concertato organ, strings and bc.

My main source for information is Dürr's Bach Cantatas, pp. 745-49. The dating is from 1729 and the text is "relatively generalized and offers no clues as to the bridal couple." However, Bach's treatment of the new recitatives and the overall structure adheres to the liturgical wedding model. The grand opening chorus is a congregational praise to God. The new bass recitative continues the praise, with a choral motet interlude quoting from Esslesiasticus 50:24, "Now thank the God of all, who does great things in all quarters." The succeeding soprano aria addresses the "newly betrothed pair." Following the sermon, Part 2 opens with the Sinfonia (Preludio, BWV 1006) for strings, oboes, obbligato organ and continuo. The tenor secco recitative is an intercessory prayer of supplication to "Grant Your blessing and prosperity Upon this new marriage." It flows into Luther's Litany (Psalm 65:6) "in liturgical style in a plain four-part texture." The sixth movement is the other extant aria, for alto, with tenor added in duet, with a new middle section, summoning God's Blessing. The bass returns in recitative with the Blessing, which includes three biblical paraphrases: I Kings 8.57 f, Genesis 48:20-1 and I Chronicles 28.20. The concluding chorale, the fourth and fifth verses of "Lobe den Herren, de Maechtigen König," has the music borrowed from Cantata BWV 137.

So, who might the wedding be for and who wrote the text? The list of 34 full-bridal Masses with cantatas during Bachs's Leipzig tenure, 1723-50, has one possible entry in early 1729: Monday, February 14; Catharina Regina, daughter of Dr. Christian Weiss, Sr., St. Thomas Pastor; marries Johann Jacob Straube, businessman and banker; the preacher is deacon M. Justus Gotthard Rabener (NBA KB I/33, p.14). Whittaker (II:73) thinks the author is Bach. I would suggest the father of the bride and Bach's confessor.

In addition, during 1729, Bach presented several occasional cantatas: January 12, BWV 210a tribute; February 23, ?BWV 208 birthday; March 23-24, BC B-21 and BWV 244a at Köthen funeral; no specific date, possibly BWV 201; and as many as three weddings, July 5, 21, and 26, all BWV deest.

There is only one recording of the entire Cantata BWV 120a with the appropriate text: Koopman, Vol. 20 [2], with him credited for reconstruction of the first four movements from the existing music and parts. Enjoy!

Stephen Benson wrote (July 14, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote [BWV 120a]:
< So, who might the wedding be for and who wrote the text? The list of 34 full-bridal Masses with cantatas during Bachs's Leipzig tenure, 1723-50, has one possible entry in early 1729: Monday, February 14; Catharina Regina, daughter of Dr. Christian Weiss Sr., St. Thomas Pastor; marries Johann Jacob Straube, businessman and banker >
Is there too much over-the-top schmaltz in the observation that this wedding took place on Valentine's Day? ( A strictly rhetorical question. I already know the answer!)

Peter Smaill wrote (July 14, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling , regarding onal Schema] To add to Doug's tonal analysis of BWV 120 I would like to add some thoughts about the relationship of this Ratswechsel Cantata to the B Minor Mass (BWV 232).

BWV 120 does indeed sound strange tonally, especially the final Chorale which (I defer to others here) sound to my ear modal rather than in D major, and is predominantly related to individual salvation rather than the wordly/divine order celebrated in the rest of the work. But it is the relationship of this Chorale to the "Et expecto" of the B Minor mass (BWV 232) which is most interesting.

Nearly all commentators on the BMM (BWV 232) look at the parody of the second movement as a splendid adaptation musically; this is the Christoph Wolff position - that Bach late in his career was able freely to choose from all the Cantatas the most apt and attractive music to reset to the Latin of the Mass.

By contrast, in looking more loosely at the teaching purpose of the source Cantatas a pattern emeges relating to texts used in the Cantatas and the related BMM (BWV 232) word settings.

Nearly all if not all source Cantatas?refer either to Leipzig as the new Jerusalem, as implicitly is the case in BWV 120 which looks to the "Stille Zion". Otherwise the original texts also reflect the focus identified by Eric Chafe, namely A and O , beginning and end. Thus the tropological effect is to have as it were a linkage of the past (Jerusalem ) present (Leipzig) and hereafter (Heaven)? through the hermeneutical significance of the Cantata sources.

It could be considered that the Jerusalem /Leipzig connection which recurs indicates that Bach is framing the BMM (BWV 232) as a thanksgiving for liberation from the Prussians as a gift to the Catholic Elector. This possibility which is raised in John Butt's book on the BMM (BWV 232), that it functioned as a sort of "Paukenmesse", is rejected by Wolff who rightly observes that it is known that a Te Deum was performed on the occasion of the departure of the invading troops. I am not sure that this observation closes the issue, as with so many open questions regarding the BMM (BWV 232).

The wider theorem is that the texts of the related cantata Chorale link to the text portions of the Mass, even though the music has to come from choruses (it would have been overtly Protestant to use chorale tunes in a Mass setting, and there are of course no chorales in the BMM (BWV 232)).

The theory is borne out well in BWV 120:

B Minor Mass (BWV 232)

Et expecto resurrectionem mortuorum
Et vita venturi saeculi

I expect the resurrection of the dead
and the life of the world to come

Cantata BWV 120 Chorale ("Nun hif uns.. " tr. Z Philip Ambrose)

Let us in heaven have a share
With the saints forever saved!
Thy people help, Lord Jesu Christ
And bless them, thine inheritance
Guard and tend them at every hour
And raise them high for evermore!

This process (extracing the dictum of the chorale and setting it against the related Mass words) appears to me to work in other examples and indicates that Bach chose the source Cantatas for the BMM (BWV 232) as much on theological as musical grounds. Thus the Chorale words, perhaps only known by inference to Bach himself, act as a secret Germanic prayer underlying the Latin of the Mass. The potential implication is that Bach thinks of the Cantatas as an integrated icon rather than a series of disconnected movements.

John Pike wrote (July 14, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote [Tonal Schema]:
< To add to Doug's tonal analysis of BWV 120 I would like to add some thoughts about the relationship of this Ratswechsel Cantata to the B Minor Mass (BWV 232).
BWV 120 does indeed sound strange tonally, especially the final Chorale which (I defer to others here) sound to my ear modal rather than in D major, and is predominantly related to individual salvation rather than the wordly/divine?order celebrated in the rest of the work. >
Most interesting. I am reminded of the third movement of Beethoven's late quartet, Op. 132, which is marked "Hymn of thanksgiving from a convalescent to the divinity in the Lydian mode" ...I think!

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 14, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote [Tonal Schema]:
< This process (extracing the dictum of the chorale and setting it against the related Mass words) appears to me to work in other examples and indicates that Bach chose the source Cantatas for the BMM (BWV 232) as much on theological as musical grounds. Thus the Chorale words, perhaps only known by inference to Bach himself, act as a secret Germanic prayer underlying the Latin of the Mass. The potential implication is that Bach thinks of the Cantatas as an integrated icon rather than a series of disconnected movements. >
I'm not sure there is that level of cryptic meaning in the parody technique, but Bach is very careful when he adapts German sacred cantatas to Latin mass texts -- much more careful than when he adapts German secular cantatas to German sacred works. "Jauchezet Frohlocket" which opens the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) has only the most superficial relationship to the elaborate program of "Tönet Ihr Pauken" - Bach simply ignores all the delighful musical references to instruments for a generalized affect of "praise."

It's quite a different situation in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the Missae Breve (is that the plural of 'missa brevis'?) In the B Minor Mass (BWV 232), Bach uses the cantata "Wir Danken" for the music of "Gratias Agimus" -- there's a direct equivalent theme of "thanksgiving". In the A Major Mass, Bach works really hard in the Gloria to use the "Frieden" quote from the cantata as a recurring refrain of "Et in terra pax".

Sidebar: In the next round of discussions could we include the Lutheran masses, motets, Sanctus settings and Magnificat? They are of a piece with the cantatas.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (July 14, 2008):
BWV 120 - First chorus

Stephen Benson wrote:
< [...] In that chorus, moreover, with the brilliance of its brass and its full-throated choral climaxes, we experience joy personified. The interweaving of two primary figures -- arpeggios of the rejoice (jauchzet) motif and spiraling sixteenths climbing (steiget) to heaven -- create a sense of excitement and exhilaration. In this da capo chorus, polyphonic outer sections framing a homophonic center treat those two primary figures to fugal development that screws up the excitement one notch at a time and results in thrilling and inspiring climaxes. That Bach himself loved this movement can be seen in the simple fact that he incorporated it in at least four works -- here in BWV 120, in BWV 120a, in BWV 120b, and in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232). >
A few weeks ago, I took part in a performance of this chorus at the occasion of a wedding Mass, in a small church in the countryside.

The bride was a professional singer who regularly sings with the Chapelle des Minimes. She wanted an "all Bach" wedding - well it was almost that, except Haendel's "Hallelujah" (Messiah) and orchestral music by Vivaldi.

I had no idea at that moment that there was a direct connection between BWV 120 and a wedding, but it sure fitted very well with the joyous mood of the day.

I found this chorus quite difficult to perform, and so did several other singers (even professional ones), all the more as the tempo was quite fast. But it was a great pleasure to sing it with enthusiasm at the end of the ceremony! Someone who was in the audience told us afterwards that it sounded as if there were 60 or 80 singers (we were maybe 30). Of course the special acoustics of the church helped!

The orchestra was excellent - not sure, but I heard that it was the Muffatti, and it fit with what I see on their site:
http://www.lesmuffatti.be. Benoit Jacquemin, who is a regular conductor of the Chapelle des Minimes, conducted the performance.

An enjoyable moment for us, and I hope for the audience...

Stephen Benson wrote (July 14, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote [First Chorus]:
< I had no idea at that moment that there was a direct connection between BWV 120 and a wedding, but it sure fitted very well with the joyous mood of the day. >
Whictext did you use, the text for BWV 120 or for BWV 120a?

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 14, 2008):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote [First Chorus]:
< A few weeks ago, I took part in a performance of this chorus at the occasion of a wedding Mass, in a small church in the countryside. >
Thanks for sharing this unique experience.

Therese Hanquet wrote (July 14, 2008):
Stephen Benson wrote [First Chorus]:
< I had no idea at that moment that there was a direct connection between BWV 120 and a wedding, but it sure fitted very well with the joyous mood of the day. >
The text of BWV 120: "Jauchzet, ihr erfreuten Stimmen".
I think the bride choose it for the joyous and brilliant music, without knowing of BWV 120a.
We also sang the opeining chorus of BWV 193 ("Ihr Tohre zu Zion") at the beginning, for the same reason I assume.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 14, 2008):
[Ro Douglas Cowling, regarding First Chorus] Thanks Doug for challenging somewhat my thesis: that in the BMM (BWV 232) Bach is choosing source Cantatas not just on musical grounds but because of their theological connection to the Mass.

I don't extend this thesis to the little Masses and agree that it does not work, on the basis of a few tests, for them. But it does for the BMM (BWV 232).

It is true that the adaptation of BWV 29, "Wir danken dir.." ("We thank Thee God and marvel at thy wonders" ), does provide a good connection between chorus and Mass text, initially "Gratias agimus tibi". But, of course, this music is used twice; and the Chorale of BWV 29, an "Amen" to the promise of Grace ("Gnaden") through faith in the Trinity, echoes more closely the sentiments of "Da nobis Pacem" at the closure of Mass.

Let me try another example, BWV 46, the source of "Qui tollis peccata mundum, misere nobis". ("Who taketh away the sins of the world/have mercy upon us")

At first pass the words of the initial chorus of BWV 46 are not wholly appropriate:

"Behold and see if there be any sorrow, like unto my sorrow..Wherewith God hath afflicted my soul". By contrast, the words of the Chorale are an expansion of the Mass idea:

("O Grosser Gott von Treu")

O great God of Faith
Before whom none are worthy
Save Thy Son Jesus Christ
Who has stilled God's anger
Look Thou upon his Wounds
His Martyr's Cross,agony and bitter pain,
And his beauteous Love
And therefore reward us not for our sins.

Is not the Latin a gloss on exactly these sentiments of the Chorale, not the Chorus, which opening movement leaves the believer in a Job-like depression? The Chorale of BWV 46 and the Mass equally express the concluding Anselmian idea of the atonement, and thus the Cantata itself has the same teaching purpose as the words of the Mass.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 14, 2008):
BWV 120 correspondences

Thomas Braatz contributed info that detail the Parody Connections to and from the BWV 120 complex of cantatas. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV120-Ref.htm

The dating is not definitively fixed (except for BWV 120b where the music is missing) as you can see from the information given there. Provenance might entail explaining where the music for certain mvts. comes from. Thomas hopes to add something later about the real provenance: actual scores and portions of scores and original parts.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 15, 2008):
Aryeh Oron wrote [Correspondences]:
< Thomas Braatz contributed info that detail the Parody Connections to and from the BWV 120 complex of cantatas. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV120-Ref.htm
BWV 120/1 = BWV 120a/6 = BWV 120b/1
BWV 120/2 = BWV 120a/1 = BWV 120b/2
BWV 120/4 = BWV 120a/3 = BWV 120b/4 >
It's interesting that the opening aria which I felt was out of place in 120 is Mvt 6 in 120a.

And Mvt 2 in 120 becomes the opening chorus in 120a.

Cantata BWV 120a has the greatest internal logic from a tonal and scoring point of view.

James Atkins Pritchard wrote (July 15, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote [Tonal Schema]:
< "It's quite a different situation in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) and the Missae Breve (is that the plural of 'missa brevis'?)"
The plural form is "missae breves".

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 15, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote [Tonal Schema]:
< I don't extend this thesis to the little Masses and agree that it does not work, on the basis of a few tests, for them. But it does for the BMM (BWV 232). >
Actually, I was suggesting that Bach looked for theological correspondences when adapting German sacred music to Latin mass texts. I'm sure you'd find extensive connections if you compared texts.

A couple come to mind:

"Dazu ist erscheinen der Sohn Gottes" becomes "Cum Sancto Spiritu in gloria Dei Patris" in the F major Mass -- the Trinitarian relationship between Father and Son is implied.

"Gott der Herr ist Sonn und Schild" becomes the Gloria of the G major Mass - the majesty of God the Father.

These are much closer thematic parallels than many of the secular to sacred cantata retrofits.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 15, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling, regarding Tonal Schema] Thanks Doug for returning to the fray to correct a misapprehension and I will look again at the little Masses to see the Cantata text concurrences there, for when I last tested this thesis (that the source Cantata theology, not just music, influences the choice for parody) it seemed to work less well if at all for the so-called Lutheran Masses.From your examples , there is some concurrence of texts and that is a welcome devlopment in expanding the perception of Bach's parody methods. Even for the BMM (BWV 232) I'd hold that it is not an absolute that he always choosesa theological parallel,, given that BWV 215 is of secular origin. But the correlation to the thesis of the Choralesto the Mass texts occurs frequently nonetheless.

When I started this comparison of BMM (BWV 232) text to source Cantata Chorales I had felt the weak spot to be BWV 12, the "Crucifixus" of the Mass using the music of BWV 12, "Weinen Klagen Sorgen Zagen". The allusion to the crucifixion come most strogly in the recitatives and aria that follow. The final Chorale, "Was Gott tut das ist Wohlgetan", appears to be simply a prayer of resignation to the divine will by the Christian. However, when one recalls that it is precisely this Chorale that occurs almosty exactly in the middle of the in the SMP (BWV 244) (33/67) immediately after Jesus has prayed and stated that he is to drink the cup (i.e accept the death on the Cross) for God's sake, does it become clear that this Chorale is in fact intimately connected by Bach to the Crucifixion.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 15, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote [Tonal Schema]:
< when I last tested this thesis (that the source Cantata theology, not just music, influences the choice for parody) it seemed to work less well if at all for the so-called Lutheran Masses.From your examples , there is some concurrence of texts and that is a welcome devlopment in expanding the perception of Bach's parody methods. >
The interesting part of these broader contextual links is that Bach is content with a rather generic affect when borrowing from secular cantatas but is much more careful when reusing German sacred cantatas for the Latin
masses.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 15, 2008):
BWV 120, BWV 120a, BWV 120b - Provenance
Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for the discussion of Cantatas BWV 120, BWV 120a, BWV 120b.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV120-Ref.htm

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 16, 2008):
[Provenance] < See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV120-Ref.htm >
"The score was probably composed in great haste: “Wahrscheinlich ist diese Trauungskantate in großer Eile entstanden” Likewise the copy process was also affected by the pressure of time with many errors due to carelessness caused by haste: “Die besondere Eile bei der Anfertigung der Hs. A läßt sich aus den Fehlern entnehmen.” (p. 59)"
So, the BWV 120a version was for an emergency or "shotgun" type of wedding, perhaps? Did they only decide to ask Bach for music at the last moment? Whose fault was the alleged "great haste", or any of the "carelessness"?

=====

"BWV 120 correspondences...
"Parody Connections to and from the BWV 120 complex of cantatas...
"cf. motivic similarity with
BWV 35/2 Aria Alto “Geist und Seele wird verwirret” (1726)"
Sorry, I don't get this one. Neither does the BWV, although it lists the other connections. What does the BWV 35/2 movement (which is in A minor, and chromatic) have in common with BWV 120/1 (which is in A major, and doggedly diatonic), in "motivic similarity" or any other way, except the rhythm of the first five notes?

Neil Halliday wrote (July 16, 2008):
Bradley Lehman wrote [Provenance]:
>What does the BWV 35/2 movement (which is in A minor, and chromatic) have in common with BWV 120/1 (which is in A major, and doggedly diatonic), in "motivic similarity" or any other way, except the rhythm of the first five notes?<
The motivic similarity is not something I would have noticed, but if you play the 'melody' of the first two bars of each movement, then this 'motive' in 35/2 does roughly seem like a minor key inversion of the same motive in BWV 102/1, though you have to wait for the second bar to get that interval leap between the 4th and 5th notes, in BWV 120/1.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 16, 2008):
BWV 120

Brad Lehman responded:
>"The score was probably composed in great haste: “Wahrscheinlich ist diese Trauungskantate in großer Eile entstanden” Likewise the copy process was also affected by the pressure of time with many errors due to carelessness caused by haste: “Die besondere Eile bei der Anfertigung der Hs. A läßt sich aus den Fehlern entnehmen.” (p. 59)"
So, the 120a version was for an emergency or "shotgun" type of wedding, perhaps? Did they only decide to ask Bach for music at the last moment? Whose fault was the alleged "great haste", or any of the "carelessness"?<
Ed Myskowski adds:
This is an ongoing issue, the over-interpretation of evidence of hasty composition. Recently, we also had the example of a single part, dated the day before first performance. A more reasonable interpretation of that evidence is that the single part, copied at the last minute, is anomalous, and that is why it was dated!

William Hoffman wrote (July 16, 2008):
BWV 120(a,b) - Provenance: Context and Date

Provenance and Brad Lehman response:
"The score was probably composed in great haste: “Wahrscheinlich ist diese Trauungskantate in großer Eile entstanden” Likewise the copy process was also affected by the pressure of time with many errors due to carelessness caused by haste: “Die besondere Eile bei der Anfertigung der Hs. A läßt sich aus den Fehlern entnehmen.” (p. 59)"
< So, the BWV 120a version was for an emergency or "shotgun" type of wedding, perhaps? Did they only decide to ask Bach for music at the last moment? Whose fault was the alleged "great haste", or any of the "carelessness"? =====
"BWV 120 correspondences...
"Parody Connections to and from the BWV 120 complex of cantatas...
"cf. motivic similarity with
BWV 35/2 Aria Alto “Geist und Seele wird verwirret” (1726)"
< Sorry, I don't get this one. Neither does the BWV, although it lists the other connections. What does the
BWV 35/2 movement (which is in A minor, and chromatic) have in common with BWV 120/1 (which is in A major, and doggedly diatonic), in "motivic similarity" or any other way, except the rhythm of the first five notes? >
William Hoffman observes: Context and dating of the sources quoted has a lot to do, I think, with our perspectives today.

The NBA KB for Cantata BWV 120a was published by Frederick Hudson in 1958. He previously did the reconstruction in 1955 (Neumann Cantata Handbook 1984 ed.). It is to the credit of NBA in its first years to have undertaken to bring this marvelous work to the public. At that time, Bach authorities did not have the full benefit of Robert Marshall's almost microscopic understanding of Bach's manuscript compositional process or the Dürr/Dadelsen fundings on crucial dating and subsequent understanding through watermarks and handwriting of the parts and their copyists, including initial haste, multiplicity of copyists, errors and later changes.

Dürr in the 2005 English edition of the Bach Cantatas, gives the most up-to-date and authoritative information (pp.745-49) on Cantata BWV 120a, and using biblical insight, only corrects Hudson in one instance: The choral insertion, "Nun danket alle Gott," in Mvt. 3, is a text based on a motet, not the chorale (p.749). I personally don't think Alfred Dürr is particularly interested in what I call our American contemporary culture of complaint, blame, and accompanying cycnicism. And please excuse me for putting my words into his mind. Mea maxima culpa!

As to Cantata BWV 120, I assume that Hudson's source for Cantata BWV 35/2 is Smend's Bach in Köthen (1951), p. 84f in the English edition (1985): The instruments' "main theme is very closely related to that previously quoted" in BWV 120/1. "As we see immediately, the A major movement is a close relation of the A minor passasge in the clavier concerto [BWV 1059/2=BWV 35/2]. We must place both in the Köthen period, the great period of Bach's concertos." Sadly, Smend's reach was further than his grasp. Still, he cast his net wide and accomodated a very large tent, I think, with a great generosity of inquiry and spirit.

Without entering into the continuing debate over the Köthen origin of Cantatas (or movements) from BWV 32, 120, 145, 190 and 193, I would only point out the footnote (p.736)in Dürr's writing on the dating of the composition of Cantata BWV 120: The older view of the initial date of c.1730 is from Dürr, A. Gloeckner, and K. Haefner. The recent view is of 1742 from Froede in the authoritative KB I/32 (1994), Kobayashi (Chronology), and J. Rifkin. Some real heavyweights on both sides!

In my forthcoming Fugitive Notes on BWV 120(a,b) I hope to have fun tracing an odyssey re. the soprano aria, transformed from a simple song, to a violin sonata movement to possibly the climatic aria in a Bach Passion, BWV 247 (1731).

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 16, 2008):
BWV 120 (not exactly)

William Hoffman wrote:
>I personally don't think Alfred Dürr is particularly interested in what I call our American contemporary culture of complaint, blame, and accompanying cycnicism.<
Ed Myskowski replies:
Alas (or fortunately), those are not specifically American qualities. Nor are they specifically scholarly qualities. The carefully labelled personal opinion is noted, accepted, and appreciated. Leison to all Grad Students!

I enjoyed Steve Bensons humorous response to my enduring optimism.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 16, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote [Tonal Schema]:
>BWV 120 does indeed sound strange tonally, especially the final Chorale which (I defer to others here) sound to my ear modal rather than in D major<
Yes, the final chorale harmonisation, starting in B minor but soon gravitating to major keys, does sound odd at first hearing.

However, playing from the BCW score, I notice the main tonal oddity occurs in the area of the 1st and 2nd beats of the second full bar, with the change from A major to E minor via the D#; the rest of the harmonisation is relatively straightforward with some modal aspects. Notice the melody of the 4th, 6th and 8th phrases is the same, and the 5th and 7th phrases are tonally similar.

Speakingof striking modulations, the music that is set to the poetic metaphor in the middle section of the soprano aria ("Justice and Truth must joyfully kiss one-another") modulates beautifully as it launches the into the long, sweet and tender melisma on "freudlich" ("joyfully"). Rilling [2] nicely captures the contrast between the solo and tutti violins, with engaging singing from his vocalist.

Of the Rilling [2] and Herreweghe [4] recordings (which I have), I prefer the tempo of Herreweghe's exhilarating chorus - despite Rilling's excellent playing/singing and better brass, the 'joyful dactyls' nowadays sound a bit laboured (in Rilling's 1973 performance). For the rest of the cantata I turn to Rilling's recording [2]. In the brilliant chorus, I'm wondering if the long-held note on the 1st trumpet in the ritornellos might be trilled.

Herreweghe [4] does have a lovely example of continuo accompaniment (organ and cello) in the secco recitative, at least for the first half of it, with clear, audible, full-length organ tones realising the implied harmonies.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 16, 2008):
[Provenance] http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV120-Ref.htm
"B. A fragmentary autograph score [of the BWV 120a wedding piece]"
"Title page is missing, the score begins with the end of mvt. 4 (mm 128-138)."
"For the remaining mvts. indicates the usual instrumentation, Da Capo, Volti, Aria, Recit., and Choral. For the final chorale indicates: (...)"
I do hope readers of that page understand: the designation "Volti" in a score means nothing more than "Turn the page; there's more music to perform here."

Stephen Benson wrote (July 17, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I was struck that the cantata chorus has a full orchestral coda whereas the Credo movement ends spectacularly abruptly (critics howled when Karl Richter performed it without a huge ritardando at the end) >
It is still possible to end the cantata movement quite abruptly. As a result of Doug's comment, I listened to several recorded versions of both the "Et expecto" in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) and the second movement of BWV 120. I was struck by the variability of the endings. Koopman's [6] was by far the most abrupt of the ones I sampled for BWV 120. Did Richter's experience with the "Et expecto" ending come into play when Koopman planned his recording? Did Koopman say to himself, "Hmmmm. I like the abrupt ending, but I don't like the prominence of his brass, so I'll back off on that a little bit"? Especially when a piece has been recorded a number of times, how much of an impact does performance history have on aesthetic decisions in a new recording? How many of the thousands of aesthetic choices that go into a recording can be made completely independently of the influence of the recorded history that precedes the new recording? Are some recordings simply a pastiche of reactions to previous recordings? Might a conductor reject a touch that he likes simply so he won't be identified with someone else? Might he decide to do something else simply because no one has done it like that before? Do some performers mine earlier performances for ideas while others avoid listening to anything that might interfere with their own immediate and personal reading of the printed score? There's probably a wide continuum of answers to each of these questions, all of which I'm sure have been asked many times before. What is clear is that putting together a new recording of an oft-recorded piece presents an imposing array of interpretative and aesthetic challenges. These issues will certainly come into play with next week's BWV 51, 61 recordings of which are listed on the website.I'm also sure that having heard a number of versions of a piece has an effect on our own reactions with respect to the listening experience. I know Julian lamented a few months ago of the lost pleasure of hearing a Bach cantata for the first time. As a relative newcomer to Bach, I try to keep that in mind when I hear something new, which is fairly frequently. The experience of reacting to something for the first time is an experience one obviously can never have again, so I try to make the most of it that I can.

William Hoffman wrote (July 19, 2008):
BWV 120 Fugitive Essay

Bach's aria for soprano and violin obbligato is documented in three vocal versions and as an instrumental sonata.

Its first apparent appearance is in the sacred wedding Cantata BWV 120a, "Herr Gott, Beherrscher aller Dinge, dated probably 1729. It is documented in Cantata BWV 120b, "Gott, man lobet dich in der Stille, for the second day of the three-day celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession at St. Thomas Church, Monday, June 26, 1730. It is best known in the Town Council Cantata BWV 120, Gott, man lobet dich is der Stille, dated August 27, 1742, according to the NBA KB I/32, previously dated to the same observance in 1728 or 1729.

The aria in its instrumental form, also in G Major, designated "Cantabile, ma un poco adagio," is found in the Sonata No. 6 in G Major for Violin and Harpsichord, BWV 1019a. Its compositional dating also is in dispute. Either the piece, in the five-movement sonata, which has four versions, began as the middle movement in the original version in Köthen after 1720, or that around 1728/29 it occupied the same central place as the third movement in the second version. Subsequently, it was replaced in the third version by the E minor Allegro harpsichord solo, an early version of the Corrente now known as the third movement of Bach's sixth harpsichord Partita, BWV 830. Finally, it was replaced by the substantial Allegro for harpsichord, violin obligatto, and basso continuo (cello or viola da gamba) in the version now performed, BWV 1019.

The music is first documented in 1774 when C.P.E. Bach sent Forkel a parcel of his father's music, including six clavier trios (harpsichord and violin sonatas), "written more than 50 years ago." Forkel's Bach biography of 1802 says they were composed at Köthen.The consensus view is that the music began as a lost soprano aria with concertante violin obbligato from a Köthen wedding cantata (1717-1723) or from a lost movement of a violin concerto in the same period. Friedrich Smend (Bach in Köthen, p. 83, 1985 ed.) believes that it is a parody of an aria which soon after was transformed into a movement in a lost violin concerto, and then, temporarily, into the middle movement in the Sonata No. 6 for Violin and Harpsichord.

About this aria, Spitta (cited in Smend, p.81) writes: "This is a fully developed and extended piece in 6/8 time and in three sections (free da capo), remarkable for its singular bridal feeling: It is marked by a sweet fragrance and a breath of lovely yearning such as are seldom found in Bach." The two upper parts form a duet between soprano and violin. In the Neumann Cantata Handbook (1984 ed.) there are 17 works with soprano & violin arias. Best known in a similar mood are arias in church Cantata BWV 247(a), "Bereite dir, Jesu, noch heute (jetzo) die Bahn," originally composed in 1716, and in secular wedding Cantata BWV 202, "Wenn die Frühlingslüfte streichen," now dated to 1730.

So how did this music evolve? Serendipitous situations and the subjective connecting of some selective dots suggest an amazing transformation perhaps only the calculating Bach could have achieved. Possible motive, method and opportunity could avail themselves.

There were two weddings during Bach's Köthen tenure for which no music is extant: his wedding to Anna Magdalena, Decembe3, 1721, and the wedding of Prince Leopold to the Princess of Anhalt-Bernburg, December 11, 1721. Initially, Bach had composed secular serenatas (drama per musica) to honor his Prince and in 1720 composed his first surviving violin and harpsichord sonata, BWV 1023. The virtuoso violin performer could have been someone Prince Leopold, Bach and their orchestra encountered in Carlsbad in the early summer of 1720 or the young court violinist Emanuel Freytag, according to Stephen Daw (Mackintosh Chaconne CD of the Violin and Harpsichord sonatas). Is it also possible that the aria originally was written for Anna Magdalena, the highly paid new court vocalist? And could the librettist have been Weimar poet Salomo Franck, the possible librettist of wedding Cantata BWV 202?

When did the violin-harpsichord transformation of the aria come into being? As early as mid-1725, Bach had his first break from composing weekly church cantatas. During the next six months he composed virtually no church cantatas, turning instead to the violin-harpsichord sonatas and the ClavierÜbung. That year, Friedemann began commuting to study violin with Johann Gottlieb Graun and in December, Bach and Anna Magdalena made a visit to Köthen, perhaps to retrieve old music and revive old connections.

While the aria did not find its way into Anna Magdalena's Clavier-Büchlein of 1725, it may have been parodied again in 1731 in the St. Mark Passion, BWV 247. Picander's text has an aria just after the earthquake at Christ's death, "Welt und Himmel, nehmt zu Ohren, Jesu schreiet uberlaut!" ("Earth and Heaven, listen: Jesus cries aloud."). It must be acknowledged that none of the Bach's authorities accepts this adaptation by Diethard Hellmann in the first edition (1964). Hellmann himself says he makes no claim "that this in anyway is final." The consensus possibility is Cantata BWV 7/2, acknowledged by C.S. Terry, Smend (who found the alto aria "Falsche Welt"), Durr (NBA) and the Bach Compendium BC D-6. Still, all three most recent published BWV 247 editions contain the Hellmann torso with this lovely aria: Bärenreiter (Gomme) and two Carus editions (Glöckner and Koch).

Have fun!

Stephen Benson wrote (July 19, 2008):
William Hoffman wrote [BWV 120a]:
< There is only one recording of the entire Cantata BWV 120a with the appropriate text: Koopman, Vol. 20, with him credited for reconstruction of the first four movements from the existing music and parts. Enjoy! >
William, thank you!

Thank you for pointing out the felicities of BWV 120a. Rilling [1] has extracted several movements from 120a, but Koopman's [2] is, in fact, the only complete reconstruction, and it is a joy. I listened to it again tonight and was taken by its sheer exuberance. Interestingly enough, the tempo of Koopman's opening chorus here, the same second chorus which I find a little too facile for BWV 120, I find totally appropriate for the more charivari-like atmosphere of a wedding ceremony.

I also found listening to the sole recorded version of a cantata [2] quite instructive. Once a second version becomes part of the experience, it is only natural to start comparing and making decisions with respect to preferences. "I like that because..." "I DON'T like that because..." When there's only one recording, a listener is NOT making choices, but only appreciating what is given. And when it's as good as this recording by Koopman, it's a gift.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 20, 2008):
BWV 120a recording

William Hoffman wrote:
< There is only one recording of the entire Cantata BWV 120a with the appropriate text: Koopman, Vol. 20 [2], with him credited for reconstruction of the first four movements from the existing music and parts. Enjoy! >

Steve Benson responded:
< William, thank you!
Thank you for pointing out the felicities of BWV 120a.
[...]
When there's only one recording, a listener is NOT making choices, but only appreciating what is given. And when it's as good as this recording by Koopman, it's a gift. >
Ed Myskowski adds:
I second Steves comments. I have just today received Koopman, Vol. 20 [2], ordered in response to Williams original post. A great joy in the BCML discussions, for me, is discovering what unique details are available in the recordings.

Vivat 205 wrote (July 21, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski, regarding BWV 120a Recording] And I agree--Koopman's [2] is fantastic!

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantatas BWV 120, BWV 120a & BWV 120b: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 120 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 120 | Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 120a | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 120a | Details of BWV 120b | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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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