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Cantata BWV 122
Das neugeborene Kindelein
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of December 17, 2006

Roar Myrheim wrote (December 16, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 122 - "Das neugeborene Kindelein"

Week of December 17, 2006

Cantata BWV 122, "Das neugeborene Kindelein", for 1st Sunday after Christmas Day

Second Annual Cantata Cycle, Leipzig
Composed for 1st performance December 31, 1724 in Leipzig.

Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV122.htm
Previous Discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV122-D.htm

Provenance: (Origin & Owner history): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV122-Ref.htm
Comentaries: (Robertson, Young, Finscher): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV122-Guide.htm

Text:

German: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/122.html
English: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV122.html
English, interlinear: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV122-Eng3.htm
Other translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV122.htm

Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV122-V&P.pdf

Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV122.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording [5] (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV122-Leusink.ram

Libretto: Unknown (Young assumes it could be Bach himself)
Based on the hymn of Cyriakus Schneegaß: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Schneegass.htm with the same name as the cantata (1597).
Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale123-Eng3.htm
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Das-neugeborne.htm

Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas1.htm
Epistle: Galatians 4: 1-7 "Christ is sent to redeem those under the law"
Gospel: Luke 2: 33-40 "Christ is born for the redemption of Israel"

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Structure:

1. Chorus SATB (1st verse of chorale)
Oboe I/II, Taille, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

2. Aria B (2nd verse of chorale paraphrased)
Continuo

3. Recitative (and instrumental Chorale) S (2nd verse of chorale paraphrased in 1st part of recitative)
Flauto I-III, Continuo

4. Chorale A e Aria (Duetto) S, T (3rd verse of chorale quoted by alto, while soprano and tenor sing Tropus style interwoven commentaries)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

5. Recitative B (thematically related to 4th verse of chorale)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

6. Chorale SATB (4th verse of chorale)
Oboe I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe II e Violino II coll'Alto, Taille e Viola col Tenore, Continuo

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Themes of the cantata:

The 1st verse of the hymn is quoted in Mvt. 1. Here the coming of Jesus is connected to a new year for the Christians. I think we can see a parallel here to the epistle text: Gal 4,3-5 ". we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." These two conditions - before and after Christ - can perfectly well be called an "old" and a "new year/age".

In Mvt. 2, a paraphrase of the 2nd verse, we are told that even if we are sinners, we are the joy of the angels, because God is reconciled with us.

In the beginning of the recitative in Mvt. 3, the same is repeated, and in the second part, there is a reference to the old and new covenant. Again this compares well to the quotation above from the epistle reading.

In Mvt. 4, the alto quotes verse 3 of the hymn, explaining how the Devil has lost his power, because Jesus is our stronghold. Between each line of the hymn text, the soprano and tenor comments on the content of what the alto sings. This way of elucidating a fixed text, like a hymn text or liturgical text, is called Tropus, and came into use around the end of the Middle ages.

Mvt. 5 hints to Psalms 118,24 "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." Dürr also finds parallels to verse 4 of the hymn.

Mvt. 6 quotes verse 4.

==================================================

Short introduction taken from the sleeve notes to Rilling's recording [2]:

"The cantus firmus of the hymn, which was very popular in Bach's day and used both for Christmas and New Year's Day, appears four times in the six movements. In the opening chorus, of course, and in the final chorale, with the soprano voices singing the melody. Then in recitative Mvt. 3, in a purely instrumental three-part recorder setting of the melody. In the following trio Mvt. 4, soprano and tenor are interspersed with the strings and alto voices performing the text and melody of the chorale. What strikes us about this composition is Bach's careful treatment of the instruments and internal design of the larger movements. In the opening chorus Bach gives the strings three oboes for support. The instruments first have a separate setting, interpolated line by line with the chorale. And with every line the music in the lower voi­ces gradually departs from the cantus firmus. The same goes for the texture of the instruments that abandon the opening theme and finally merge with the vocals.

The following bass aria is accompanied by the continuo only; rather fervent in mood, it sounds like the vox Christi admonishing the sinner to mend his ways. Interestingly, Bach interprets the words "each day trans­gressing" and "gladness" or "joyful shout" with colorat­uras, but separates them by major and minor keys, as be­fits the situation.

In sound and register, the recorders are the highest in­struments of the orchestra. So the music of the following recitative, with the cantus firmus in the recorders, may be derived from the image in the lyrics, which speaks of the angels "swelling the air in that higher choir". The following piece adverts intricately to this and the previous movement. Bass aria Mvt. 2, which tells us of man's every­day sins, and soprano recitative Mvt. 3 with its talk of angels also constitute two different levels, which need some connection. Trio Mvt. 4 - a dialogue piece - takes up this structure. The dialogue takes place between different singers and different textual and musical levels. But it is brought to a dialectic head and resolved, with harmonies telling us of conciliation with God. So the last recitative (Mvt. 5) lets the string-accompanied bass, again evoking the vox Christi, tell us of fulfilment and joy."

New recordings since the last time this cantata was discussed are:

Suzuki [8]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Suzuki-Rec2.htm#C26
Koopman [6]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman-Rec2.htm#C13

Peter Smaill wrote (December 17, 2006):
This Cantata was not much liked by Whittaker, who was disappointed by the Terzett and rates it as a minor work.

However, Dürr points out the special relationship between men and angels, indeed equivalence, suggested by the near-identical octave drop figure which vocally commences BWV 122/2 (Mvt. 2) and BWV 122/3 (Mvt. 3) , to the word "O menschen" and "Die Engel" respectively.

Pitch again is a device employed to emphasise the heavenly height, the high timbre of the three recorders as noted being particularly effective in BWV 122/2 (cf. BWV 46, for four recorders). However, as these parts are notated an octave lower Dürr suggests that violins may have been the original intention.

Finally, the archaic Chorale (if Reimenschneider is correct) requires the sopranos to hit a high G before the descent to the closing tierce where the major key in its affekt indicates that the reconciliation of man and angels has been accomplished and suffering cast out. Only once as far as I know does Bach ask the choristers to go higher, the momentary A flat in "Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich, O Herr" at the end of the first version of the SJP (BWV 245).

Far from being an afterthought to Christmas 1724, this Cantata has an especial orchestral register, distinctive word painting and pitch experimentation to commend it .

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 17, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Finally, the archaic Chorale (if Reimenschneider is correct) requires the sopranos to hit a high G before the descent to the closing tierce where the major key in its affekt indicates that the reconciliation of man and angels has been accomplished and suffering cast out. Only once as far as I know does Bach ask the choristers to go higher, the momentary A flat in "Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich, O Herr" at the end of the first version of the SJP (BWV 245). >
Has anyone compared the key of the chorale in this cantata with its source in contemporary hymnbooks?. The extreme range of the soprano line in the cantatas (e.g. The high A flat in the closing chorale in "Wachet Auf") is an important argument against any congregational participation in Bach cantatas -- unless we are prepared to accept the musical nightmare that the congregants dropped the octave as they did in unison chorales. There is some evidence that congregations tried to sing along in earlier composers' settings, but the whole conception of the Bach Chorale (I consider it a genre to itself) with its complex harmonies and part-writing mitigates against congregational singing.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling asked:
>>Has anyone compared the key of the chorale in this cantata with its source in contemporary hymnbooks?.
Check out: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Das-neugeborne.htm

The Vulpius setting and BWV 122/4 lower on the page seem to be a very good indication of the original range for this CM (chorale melody).

The NBA KB I/3.2 has compared the Bach's chorale text with the Volpelius, 1682, Wagner, 1697, and the St. Georg, 1721 hymnals and has found no differences. Only the Volpelius has actual CMs and some settings, but nothing is reported about the key of the CM.

The CM (and Text) are no longer in the current German hymnal.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 17, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The Vulpius setting and BWV 122/4 lower on the page seem to be a very good indication of the original range for this CM (chorale melody). >
Interestingly, the Vulpius congregational setting places the modal melody on D which, even taking into consideration a semitone or tone's difference depending on organ tuning, pitches the melody well for congregational singing. Bach's setting however is a fourth higher which carries it well above what is possible with untrained voices. Congregations regularly chose the most comfortable octave. It was not unusual to hear a chorale melody sung at three different octaves: that would have obliterated the harmonies. (McCreesh's "Epiphany Mass" admirably demonstrates the three methods of singing chorales in Bach's time) Does anyone know the source of the myth that Bach's chorales were singalong affairs?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 17, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Does anyone know the source of the myth that Bach's chorales were singalong affairs?<<
As far as I know now (I do not have the reference before me, but a good music dictionary with longer articles {Grove Music, MGG} on "Passions" would probably contain the specific answer), certain types of Passions as part of the liturgy were sung with the congregation singing the interspersed chorales. Of course, such Passions, compared to Bach's were on a much simpler scale with the Evangelist singing the basic Gospel text and the congregation responding at times with a chorale (no large choruses or arias on the scale of Bach's). This tradition was strong in certain areas and churches and persisted throughout the 17th century into the early 18th.

Peter Smaill wrote (December 17, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] My first suspicion was that Spitta might have held the view that congregations join in the Chorale; but not so:

"[Chorales] were conceived of as the keystone of the cantata, giving to it its full significance, and demanding, as such, the brilliancy and support given by the association of instruments. They are altogether too bold in the treatment of the parts for a capella singing, and sound forced and heavy.........." Life of Bach, p.500).

I think Thomas Braatz' association of the singalong practice with the Passions is likely correct when considering the very basic chorale harmonisations of the St Luke Passion of 1730. The desire of the Leipzig Council for congregational singing may also help explain the rejection of the SJP (BWV 245) by them in 1739, whose complex chorales are not suitable for this (though St Paul's Cathedral in London used to encourage just this practice every Holy Week for many years).

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 17, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< This tradition was strong in certain areas and churches and persisted throughout the 17th century into the early 18th. >
The metrical Passions were certainly singalong affairs with the evangelist singing the narrative to a recitation tone such as was used every Sunday. The transitional phase was probably the addition of concerted poetic arias. But at some point, the congregational chorales would have been abandoned and the new elaborately-harmonized settings would have clearly been for choir alone (whatever "choir" meant).

I suspect that they were never sung by the congregation in the cantatas as that was a choir zone. During the liturgy, worshippers were alerted to the beginning of a congregational chorale by either a chorale-prelude or the choir "lining" the first line to signal both tune and text. By pitching his settings so high and using new poetry, Bach probably prevented any singalong attempt. Then again, the Thomas and Nicholas congregations were pretty sophisticated and it's unlikely that they would attempt such a gaucherie.

Yet we still see in the popular press and even in concert notes this notion that Bach's congregation sang along in the chorales of the cantatas and passions.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 19, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>Does anyone know the source of the myth that Bach's chorales were singalong affairs?<
I notice Robertson, in the introduction to his book "The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach, says: "Terry (C.S. Terry) considers there is conclusive evidence that the congregation took part in the chorales that were within their competence. They had hymnbooks and they wereprovided with sheets which included from four to eight of the librettos".

[BTW, perhaps Gardiner considers the that last Sundays after Trinity (26th and 27th), which immediately precede Advent, might loosely be termed as such?]

Neil Halliday wrote (December 19, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>BTW, perhaps Gardiner considers the that last Sundays after Trinity (26th and 27th), which immediately precede Advent, might loosely be termed as such?<
This applies to BWV 70 and BWV 140.

But the Visitation (BWV 147), between the 6th and 7th Sunday after Trinity, is way before Advent, so Doug has a point.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 19, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I notice Robertson, in the introduction to his book "The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach, says: "Terry (C.S. Terry) considers there is conclusive evidence that the congregation took part in the chorales that were within their competence. They had hymnbooks and they were provided with sheets which included from four to eight of the librettos". >
I think that sounds like wishful thinking. "Within their competence" indicates that Terry sees the pitch of the cantatas as a real barrier. Is there any other "conclusive evidence"? And more importantly why do people think it necessary to believe that there was populra participation when the congregational chorales were so specifically positioned in the service order?

Is this an unconscious attempt to de-elitize Bach and make him a democratic composer of the masses?

Neil Halliday wrote (December 19, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>"Within their competence" indicates that Terry sees the pitch of the cantatas as a real barrier. Is there any other "conclusive evidence"?
I agree the evidence as quoted is slim. In a sense, Terry even argues against himself, in a way, since it implies congregations will decide beforehand which chorales are "within their competence".

I don't have Terry's books. For my part, I want to hear the 4-part harmonisations performed by professionals.

Neil Halliday wrote (December 19, 2006):
The ritornellos of Mvt. 1 are melodious and graceful. The choral writing, with c.f. in the sopranos, is rich, and once again knowledge of the CM is required for intelligent listening, not only because the c.f. is sometimes lower than the altos, but because certain syllables of text are set to varying numbers of notes of varying rhythmic shape.

(An interesting fact is the texts of the first, fourth and last movements have exactly eight syllables in each of the four lines of the chorale; but as noted some syllables have more than one note, and the actual setting of syllables is not always easily heard in the recordings).

This CM is relatively easy to learn (from the score); an interesting aspect is that three of the four lines (not the first line) end in a slow turn (of 4 notes), on the notes of the G minor triad (in the order D, Bflat, G).

Except for the fourth line, the incipits of the lower voices are not entirely independent of the c.f. - they are loose diminutions of the associated c.f. phrase - but since one of the lower voices always begins straightaway with the c.f., followed by the others in quick succession a bar later, the texture is very rich, which I suppose explains the lack of clarity of the lower vocal lines in most recordings.

In any case, this is an attractive movement.

Mvt. 2 is probably an example of the "strange" themes that CPE said (I think) sometimes characterised his father's writing.

Suzuki [8] comes closest to `making music' out of it, with clarity of continuo and vocal line, and a successful organ realisation (effective, yet not intrusive). Rilling [2] would be better without the jangling, shapeless (near pitch-less), continuous 1/16th notes on the harpsichord.

The soprano recitative with recorders appears to suffer from the highest recorder line (with the CM) being masked by the lower recorder lines; I was not entirely happy with any of the recordings.

Rilling [2] transforms the Terzetto into quite a substantial piece of music. His version, except for the last line of text, it is more reasonably termed an ST duet with A chorale (which the piece actually is) with the alto line performed by choir altos doubled by upper strings. As a matter of fact, the single alto vocalist (carrying the CM) in the period performances is often inaudible behind the unison upper strings (including viola) that double the alto line. Rilling has great clarity of the solo S and T parts, with the contrasting timbre of a clear, flowing presentation of the CM from the choir altos reinforced (but not rendered inaudible) by the unison strings. This version (like the others) concludes with a true terzett, where the CM (and doubling upper strings) are silent, and the SAT soloists sing the last line of text in three part polyphony.

Rilling's bass recitative [2], accompanied by expressive modern strings, is an enraptured expression of thanks and joy in God's blessings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 16, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>I think that sounds like wishful thinking. "Within their competence" indicates that Terry sees the pitch of the cantatas as a real barrier. Is there any other "conclusive evidence"? And more importantly why do people think it necessary to believe that there was popular participation when the congregational chorales were so specifically positioned in the service order?
Is this an unconscious attempt to de-elitize Bach and make him a democratic composer of the masses?<<
I think that I have found part of the answer to this question: the main 'culprit' behind this deliberate attempt to integrate cantatas, passions, etc. fully into the church service was Rudolf Wustman (1872-1916). He was mainly a historian specialized in the history of Leipzig and Dresden. His main claim to fame in the area of musicology is his book on the history of music in Leipzig (or Leipzig with a special emphasis on the history of music which took place there) and a book containing all the texts for the Bach cantatas. In his comments on performance practices of Bach's music, Wustmann was very much against the attempt to 'concertize' Bach's sacred music making it become simply an 'aesthetic luxury'. He stated: "Der Genuß ist vielleicht da, aber die Demut fehlt«" ("Perhaps the pleasure/delight/enjoyment [of/in hearing Bach's music] is there [in a concert setting], but the [proper] humility is missing") Wustmann's goal was to integrate fully Bach's sacred music into the church service and to have the congregation participate in the singing of the chorales [that are part of Bach's music].

Go to my translation of the MGG article on congregational singing (almost near the bottom of this long page): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Congregational-Singing.htm
and find the paragraph beginning with Wustmann.

Also from the MGG1 [Bärenreiter, 1986) Walter Blankenburg article on 'Passionen':

"Eine besondere, bisher jedoch keineswegs hinreichend geklärte Frage bezieht sich auf die Einführung von Gemeindeliedstrophen in die Historienkompositionen, insonderheit in Passionen sowie in Kantaten gegen Ende dieses Zeitabschnittes. Sie ist im ersten Jahrzehnt des 20. Jahrhunderts Gegenstand einer lebhaften wissenschaftlichen Auseinandersetzung, freilich ohne abschließende Klärung des Problems, gewesen (vgl. Wustmann). Daß bei Passionsaufführungen die Gemeinde manchenorts beteiligt wurde, ist verschiedentlich bezeugt; jedoch wird man daraus nicht schließen dürfen, daß das allgemein üblich war."

("A specific question which, however, has not yet until now been sufficiently clarified is related to the introduction into the Historien [these could be the stoof Christ's birth as well as the Passions] compositions of chorales sung by the congregation, in particular during the Passions and cantatas at the end of this period [late 17th and early 18th century]. It became the subject of a very lively musicological dispute at the beginning of the 20th century without, however, bringing about a clear resolution of this problem (cf. Wustmann). There is evidence from various locations [in Germany] that congregations did participate in this fashion; however, from this one cannot conclude that this was generally the case everywhere else.")

The evidence which Wustmann presented refers to the inclusion in the Vopelius hymnal of 1782 (Leipzig) of what Wustmann interpreted as special markings that indicated that the congregation would be singing at that point in the Passion. In this hymnal, one of the few available during Bach's time where melodies and even settings of hymns were included, there was also a Passion with words and music (single line chant) and some division of roles. But this is a part of an almost ancient tradtion from the Middle Ages which under Luther was converted into German text and was performed mainly before the altar. Wustmann thought that he had found a marking in one original copy that indicated that at a certain point the congregation would sing. A century later, Bach experts look back at Wustmann's explanation and find that it has little or no merit. The little proof he had offered has not been substantiated/corroborated through any independent source since the time he had advanced this theory.

In retrospect, we can be thankful that Wustmann pointed to the possibility that Bach's sacred works should also be performed as part of the church service for which they were composed. It appears that Wustmann stretched his point too far beyond the available evidence to achieve an even greater integration of congregational singing and Bach's music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 19, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The evidence which Wustmann presented refers to the inclusion in the Vopelius hymnal of 1782 (Leipzig) of what Wustmann interpreted as special markings that indicated that the congregation would be singing at that point in the Passion. >
This is interesting. Do we know how the Passion was sung in the other Leipzig churches which didn't have the concerted setting on Good Friday?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 19, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] My guess would be that it would be the type of Passion found in the Vopelius hymnal (Leipzig, 1682). The Passion reprinted there is the one by Johann Walther (the Walther/Walter associated with Luther almost a century and a half earlier!). There is a photocopy of one section (the hymnal open and displaying two pages from this Passion (music and all). I will ask Aryeh to post this example on the BCW. Bach, most certainly would have had a copy of this hymnal in his library in Leipzig since it is one of the few hymnals printed in Leipzig that show chorale melodies and even occasionally 4-pt. settings. Does this mean that the congregation sang 4-pt. settings wherever they were available/given in the hymnal? Most likely not. The hymnal contained circa 1000 pages. This was certainly not the type of hymnal that you would bring with you to church for each service, nor would hymnals of this size be available in the pews for every parishoner to use. This hymnal must have been quite expensive because of its size and the additional printing/engraving costs for the music.

The Passion by Walther (this was one of the last hymnals to include this Passion) shows the individual parts taken by the Evangelist, and a few other key figures in the drama, but at one point all four voices of a 'chorus' sing together, a very, very simple setting, much more like a harmonized chant with little movement in the lines. The question would be whether the soloists were standing together near the altar or to one side of the altar where they could read/sing their parts from one or two hymnals at most. My guess is that Wustmann interpreted the 'chorus' parts to be sung by the congregation without considering just how this would be accomplished when the books were very expensive and rather scarce. Did the prefect turn to the congregation and attempt to lead them as was often done when the congregation would sing a hymn (remember, most of the parishoners, if they had a hymnal, saw only words (not even the melody was printed out for them)? If this was the case, what would happen to the other three voices that were singing the harmonizing parts? Could they even be heard by the congregation? If not, why would the music for these parts be printed in the hymnal in the first place? There are so many unanswered questions here!

One additional point to remember here: the Enlightenment which was certainly represented quite strongly in Leipzig with its university population had a negative effect upon congregational singing. The interest in learning/memorizing the texts and music for chorales was waning. This meant that the usual energetic participation of the members of the congregation could no longer be relied upon. More and more individuals, particularly those connected to the university, would simply sit and stare forward without really singing along when the congregation should have been singing the chorales. The galante style favored by the Enlightenment essentially simplified chorales (simple melody line with bc accompaniment) so that the inner voices became unimportant. Assuming that some individuals (not those who participated as musicians under Bach's direction) connected with the university might also attend services in the two main churches of Leipzig, how would they contend with singing even a simple Bach chorale setting at the end of a cantata? They (and probably most of the rest of the congregation) were probably barely able to keep up with chorale melody itself, much less attempt to sing one of the non-cantus-firmus parts. If a large congregation did sing only the chorale melody lines in octaves (of the chorales included in Passions and cantatas), would this not drown out completely the other voice parts (even supported by a few instruments and more so if we ascribe to the OVPP theory). This does not even bring in the observation about the high range settings of a chorale melody such as the one in the presently discussed cantata.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 20, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< One additional point to remember here: the Enlightenment which was certainly represented quite strongly in Leipzig with its university population had a negative effect upon congregational singing. >
I think this is an important point to make. Probably the golden age of congregational singing had passed in sophisticated city churches like St. Thomas and St. Nicholas in Leipzig where the liturgy was dominated by professional musicians and had an extremely high level of music and followed Luther's Latin "Missae Formulae".

Contemporary acconts suggest that direct participation by the congregation was strongest in small village churches which used Luther's "German Mass" and which for the most part had no professional musicians.

Certainly within twenty years of Bach's death, there is a precipitous decline both in endowed musical establishments and in the level of congregational singing.

It is unsettling to think of Bach as both the crown and the last great moment of the classic Lutheran musical tradition. Was he looking to the Catholics of Dresden at the end of his life because he already saw imminent decline ahead?

Just speculation.

Thomas Br wrote (December 21, 2006):
From a responsorial SMP (Vopelius, Leipzig, 1682)

Aryeh Oron has kindly placed an excerpt from a simple SMP on the BCW at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/SMP-Walter-Sco.htm
[remember to click again to enlarge the image if necessary]

Although there is no hard evidence to confirm this, this type of SMP may well have been performed in other Leipzig churches where Bach's figural Passions were not performed at Good Friday Vespers (possibly even at St. Thomas Church in those years when Bach's Passion music was performed at St. Nicholas Church). This is what Wustmann used as evidence for the participation of the congregation in this liturgical form of a Passion drama which most likely was performed near the altar (probably on both sides) by the prefect and a few other singers.

Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I think that his arguments may have centered on one or both of the following points:

1. the turbae, such as the one shown in the example, could have been sung by the congregation because of their relative simplicity.

2. a special mark, possibly like the one (a round dot) found on the second page (p. 19&) over the beginning of the 3rd staff (above: "Evang."). It was Wustmann's conjecture that something like this indicated where the congregation would sing a chorale.

re: #1: How could Wustmann expect most church-goers to own a copy of this compendious hymnal or the church to supply these as hymnals available to almost everyone when these books (as large as this one is with almost 1000 pages) were very expensive indeed? Another very dubious assumption: everyone attending church could read music. What about the butcher's wife who never did or the rejects from Bach's choirs (some of them were practically tone-deaf)?

re: #2: A suspicious mark (like the dot which does not appear to be an ink spot left by the printer) could mean a number of things. Unfortunately the meaning of such a mark was not given in the Vopelius hymnal. This allowed Wustmann to speculate that here was an indication of the point where the congregation would participate in this type of 'sing-along' Passion. Wustmann came up with this theory almost a century ago and until now no other expert has been able to confirm the meaning of these dots or other markings that Wustmann used as ammunition to support the idea that the congregation would sing along with the chorales Bach had embedded in his Passions (and, as he hoped to prove thereby, also during or at the end of the cantatas where the 4-pt. chorale settings appear).

Reasonably we can assume that Bach would have owned a copy of this important hymnal, important because it was one of the very few printed with the actual melodies and settings of the chorales that were sung in the churches where Bach held positions. The bulk of the hymnals printed in Leipzig during Bach's tenure did not contain even the simple chorale melodies.

Evidence gleaned from other sources (those that cannot be related to Bach or congregational singing in Bach's churches in Leipzig) do show sporadically, and stretched over a wide area of German-speaking lands at that time, the performances of Passion music where the congregation did participate in singing at certain points during the Passion some chorales. But this type of singing almost as an antiphonal response to whatever was being presented at the altar (not the place where Bach performed his Passions) is restricted to Passions and did not mean that the same congregation that participated in this fashion would also enter into the performance of figural music which emanated from an entirely different area of the church. Perhaps this explains why Wustmann pinned all of his hopes on trying to prove the participation of some Leipzig congregation in the Passion presentation during Bach's tenure there. Based on this evidence, he would then be able to generalize to include the usual cantata performances as well. He could, however, find no evidence that the Leipzig congregations would also participate directly in the presentation of figural music such as the cantatas and oratorios which were more frequent as they appeared throughout the year on almost all Sundays (except the quiet times during Advent and Lent) and all holidays.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 21, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Although there is no hard evidence to confirm this, this type of SMP may well have been performed in other Leipzig churches where Bach's figural Passions were not performed at Good Friday Vespers (possibly even at St. Thomas Church in those years when Bach's Passion music was performed at St. Nicholas Church). This is what Wustmann used as evidence for the participation of the congregation in this liturgical form of a Passion drama which most likely was performed near the altar (probably on both sides) by the prefect and a few other singers.
Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I think that his arguments may have centered on one or both of the following points:
1. the turbae, such as the one shown in the example, could have been sung by the congregation because of their relative simplicity. >
The Walther Passion choruses are almost identical to the 16th century Latin Passions of Lassus and Victoria. Even the recitation tone is the old Roman melody. This type of music was always sung by choirs not congregations before the Reformation. Its apparent simplicity is deceptive: the rhythms are quite complex even if the harmonies make it look like a hymn. This would certainly be the kind of music which was in the "motet" repertoire of Bach's junior choirs. This form of the Passion was probably intended for those urban churches which had choir schools or endowed choirs attached and followed Luther's "Formula Missae"

If I recall, there is another type of passion which is either totally versified or which is intended to interrupt the recitation with chorale commentaries. This is the type of Passion which would have been used in small churches which used Luther's "German Mass" and didn't have professional musicians.

The interesting thing about Bach is that he seems to incorporate elements of both traditions without congregational participation.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 21, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Although there is no hard evidence to confirm this, this type of SMP may well have been performed in other Leipzig churches where Bach's figural Passions were not performed at Good Friday Vespers (possibly even at St. Thomas Church in those years when Bach's Passion music was performed at St. Nicholas Church). This is what Wustmann used as evidence for the participation of the congregation in this liturgical form of a Passion drama which most likely was performed near the altar (probably on both sides) by the prefect and a few other singers.
Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I think that his arguments may have centered on one or both of the following points:
1. the turbae, such as the one shown in the example, could have been sung by the congregation because of their relative simplicity. >
Seeing this in isolation, I'm curious (and disturbed) about the demonstrated reasoning process. Without being able to look at X, how is there anything but nearly-random (i.e. not particularly useful or credible) speculation as to what X actually says, or the construction of X's argument on whatever evidence? It's hearsay, compounded by guesswork and served up with chips.

Worse, the assertion here was apparently that "no" hard evidence is available, statedfrom a perspective that presumes to be somehow more comprehensive than sources available to Wustmann. Given that Wustmann's work itself has not been consulted but merely guessed against, where does this assertion come from that "no" evidence exists...as distinct from a more straightforward statement such as: "I personally don't know of any evidence, having not researched this topic seriously..."?

This isn't about Wustmann being allegedly right or wrong about anything; it's about taking a foregone conclusion (improperly) that Wustmann was wrong, and recycling it to assert that he made it all up on no evidence, alleging that he didn't do his scholarship properly or draw reasonable conclusions himself. Wustmann's work and methodology get chucked into the rubbish bin without even being allowed to speak for themselves.

Hypothetically: what if Wustmann in fact had plenty of evidence for his claims, and presented it clearly, but now the rumor-mill against him (hearsay plus wishful thinking) is ready to take the place of actually looking at his work? How could we possibly know, short of looking at it? No matter what follows "I think that his arguments may have centered on...", that right there is the setup of a straw man: misrepresenting Wustmann's work (whatever it may have entailed) by guessing at it, on the way to knocking it down as faulty.

Why not just say something straightforward non-fallacious, like the following? "Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I have no further comment at this point." And then go look it up, and report what he really said, instead of guessing prematurely at the points of his reasoning or his alleged non-evidence?

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 21, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Why not just say something straightforward and non-fallacious, like the following? "Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I have no further comment at this point." And then go look it up, and report what he really said, instead of guessing prematurely at the points of his reasoning or his alleged non-evidence?<<
It is reasonable to look at the historical record and make certain judgments such as the following:

1. At the beginning of the 20th century, a non-musicologist historian, Wustmann, whose only other credit in the field of Bach studies was that he got printed a book that contained all of the texts for the Bach cantatas (which already appeared in the BGA), made an assertion based upon his prejudicial view that Bach's sacred works should be performed only in churches as part of a church service and demanded that congregations were meant to sing along in the 4-pt. chorale settings that were found in figural music, all of this based upon his 'proof' relating to special, unexplained markings found in the Vopelius Hymanl of 1682, Leipzig.

2. The historical record shows that this issue, at that time, met with firm resistance on the part of musicologists specialized in the study of Bach's music.

3. Since Wustmann's presentation of his highly speculative theory which amounts to attributing specific actions/directions to markings which have not been defined; no one, neither Wustmann nor his opponents then and even up until now, have been able to uncover even an inkling of further supporting evidence to confirm Wustmann's notion which would change radically how Bach's sacred vocal music would be performed.

4. An incorrect, unreasonable judgment would be: Beginning from the time when this theory was first presented and continuing until the present time, little interest in this subject has ever been presented; hence now would be the time to go back and resurrect all the specific details (which amount to a random interpretation/opinion/speculation since no firm definition of the markings in Vopelius or other similar hymnals has ever been found in the interim).

5. It is reasonable to assume that, if 'hard evidence' to support Wustmann's claim were available, opposition to his ideas would not have been as strong as it was back then. In the meantime, since no corroborating evidence has been found to support Wustmann's wild speculation, the matter no longer receives much attention in Bach musicology nor do we find many examples of performances presented in the manner proposed by Wustmann with congregational sing-alongs in the midst or at the end of any Bach cantata performances.

6. The experiential argument: ask anyone like Doug Cowling, how well Wustmann's theory works in a present-day application and the answer will be that evidence from Bach's cantatas, oratorios, and Passions makes the performance of the 'simple' 4-pt. settings of chorales with a congregational sing-along unfeasible. This week's cantata is a case in point which has already been discussed.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 21, 2006):
< 6. The experiential argument: ask anyone like Doug Cowling, how well Wustmann's theory works in a present-day application and the answer will be that evidence from Bach's cantatas, oratorios, and Passions makes the performance of the 'simple' 4-pt. settings of chorales with a congregational sing-along unfeasible. This week's cantata is a case in point which has already been discussed. >
I suspect that congregational participation (as in "singing along") in Bach's cantatas/oratorios/passions was rather unlikely.

Still, such an "experiential argument" in my case would be considerably more equivocal than that. I'm a regular attender and performer in a Bach festival here in Virginia, where they usually do have the congregation sing along with all the chorales...not only in cantatas, but we did a whole St Matthew Passion that way. They printed up all the chorales in the program booklet, in four-part harmony, and the congregation sang it that way, in parts. Not just for concerts, but for the Sunday morning "Leipzig service" where they put a cantata into a reasonable liturgical setting. I also attend (and lead singing in) a church where almost all the congregational singing is done unaccompanied and in four parts.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 21, 2006):
>>Why not just say something straightforward and non-fallacious, like the following? "Without being able to recover the books or documents in which Wustmann makes this claim, I have no further comment at this point." And then go look it up, and report what he really said, instead of guessing prematurely at the points of his reasoning or his alleged non-evidence?<<
< It is reasonable to look at the historical record and make certain judgments such as the following: >
[Six rationalizations then follow, numbered point by point, all to self-excuse not bothering to go look at Wustmann...]

And therefore, the main point has been missed or whiffed off entirely. The point was about not making such rationalizations in the first place, as a string of conjectures and excuses, but rather studying sources before guess-pseudo-reporting about them in public.

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 21, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And therefore, the main point has been missed or whiffed off entirely. The point was about not making such rationalizations in the first place, as a string of conjectures and excuses, but rather studying sources before guess-pseudo-reporting about them in public.<<
Isn't it strange that Christoph Wolff, Alfred Dürr and the like have not bothered even mentioning Wustmann by name let alone making a reference to Wustmann's crack-pot theory?

Here is a statement about this matter from the Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach:

"Even though a good many of the four-part chorales are to be found in modern hymnals, they were not composed for congregational use. Most were originally included in cantatas and Passions, to be sung by the choir, and can be identified with specific works. Presumably a significant proportion of the remainder were written for the 100 or so cantatas no longer extant."

Robin A Leaver, article on "Chorale" in the OCC, Oxford University Press, 1999.

When C.P.E. Batook over the editing and printing of his father's 4-pt. chorales, he changed the keys and even modified certain musical lines of the original without even documenting the changes he made to make them more singable for most voices. In this way he had wanted to make his father's chorales more accessible. [This serves as indirect proof that his father never intended them to be sung by the congregation. Following in C.P.E. Bach's footsteps, as it were, Wustmann probably would have advised the performers to transpose many of the original 4-pt. chorales to lower keys so that the congregation could sing along more easily.]

How does the Thomanerchor present the Bach cantatas? Do they allow the congregation to join in on the 4-pt. chorales? The situation in a small church in America is irrelevant to what musicologists have or have not uncovered and agreed upon, since such a church with the practice of singing along with these chorales from the cantatas, oratorios, Passions, is not truly representative of what is a well-founded consensus among most respected Bach specialists and musicians who have been performing cantatas following a well-established and documented tradition.

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 21, 2006):
>>And therefore, the main point has been missed or whiffed off entirely. The point was about not making such rationalizations in the first place, as a string of conjectures and excuses, but rather studying sources before guess-pseudo-reporting about them in public.<<
< Isn't it strange that
Christoph Wolff, Alfred Dürr and the like have not bothered even mentioning Wustmann by name let alone making a reference to Wustmann's crack-pot theory? (...) >
<> yet again making excuses to offer speculative judgment of work INSTEAD OF reading it; and taking yet more gratuitous potshots at poor Rudolf Wustmann! The point is still not being grasped and/or heeded.

As was said explicitly in my first comment on this thread: this is not about Wustmann being allegedly either right or wrong.

It is about the responsible process of actually studying material before offering a public assessment of its worth. Speculation from what other people said about it (or conclusions guessed at when they didn't mention it at all, as offered this time!), doesn't count as research. Neither does hearsay made up fresh, like the self-serving step of calling it a "crack-pot theory" here.

Nor should we neglect the fact that Wustmann actually wrote published books and articles concerned with Bach's music. Go to: http://www.npj.com/bach/bb-simple.html and put "wustmann" into the author box; 10 items come up for him, and it's not merely an isolated book about cantata texts either (as was also alleged). Ten published musicological pieces about Bach. Wustmann evidently had enough evidence and background in Leipzig church music practices pre-Bach to fashion a 507-page book out of his material! There's also listed there a 22-page article that's explicitly about Bach's congregations possibly singing along!

That's more than can be said (total of 0 items) for the person whiffing his work off--UNREAD!--as "crack-pot theory".

Besides, one can't know if it's "crack-pot theory" at all, or not, without at least:
- (1) actually engaging the material; and
- (2) having the skills and related content knowledge to make well-reasoned value judgments, having engaged the material.

Pretenses at (2) along with a truckload of bluster can go a decent distance, as is demonstrated here daily, but without (1) there's just no reasonable credibility to any such "conclusions".

Some 15-year-old students are able to grasp this abstract concept. So are some 12-year-olds. My 4-year-old doesn't get it yet, as she still declares food yucky instead of tasting it or even looking at it, but we'll get there.

Douglas Cowling wrote (December 21, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Still, such an "experiential argument" in my case would be considerably more equivocal than that. I'm a regular attender and performer in a Bach festival here in Virginia, where they usually do have the congregation sing along with all the chorales...not only in cantatas, but we did a whole St Matthew Passion that way. They printed up all the chorales in the program booklet, in four-part harmony, and the congregation sang it that way, in parts. Not just for concerts, but for the Sunday morning "Leipzig service" where they put a cantata into a reasonable liturgical setting. I also attend (and lead singing in) a church where almost all the congregational singing is done unaccompanied and in four parts. >
I would still argue that this singalong notion is a myth which is an attempt to democratize Bach and make his music the music of the "Volk" (I'll bet there is a dark side to this myth from the 1920s and 30s in Germany.) There's very little evidence to suggest that congregations in the 16th - 18th centuries sang in harmony at any time -- unaccompanied chorale singing was still pretty much the norm. The organ was a solo instrument not a support for congregational singing even with Bach in the choir loft.

I also have to say that I don't want to hear modern audiences singing the chorales even if they have the music. I think the chorales in the Passions are a tough sing -- choirs really have to be on their mettle to pull them off. They're not hymns, they're mini chorale-fantasies. I

That's not to say I don't think that congregations can't sing in harmony: the Welsh Methodists and American Moravians sang spectacularly well and unaccompanied as well! I suspect that in Bach's time, small villages with their amateur choirs probably sang plain harmonies quite spontaneously and rather roughly. But the closing chorale of the SJP is the work of sophisticated professional musicians.

On a somewhat related note ...

The Lutheran Church in Norway is in the process of disetablishing itself as the state church of the country. As in many other North European countries, people have long been able to direct their "church tax" to support the church of their choice or to philanthropic organizations. With greater freedom and a general seculariziation society, Lutheran churches are now anticipating that state income will not be sufficient to meet operating costs. At the moment, every parish or district is served by a professional organist/choirmaster who is essentially a civil servant -- just as Bach served the city of Leipzig. Musicians foresee a calamitous decline in local music-making.

Many echoes of Bach's financial constraints ...

Thomas Braatz wrote (December 22, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Some 15-year-old students are able to grasp this abstract concept. So are some 12-year-olds. My 4-year-old doesn't get it yet, as she still declares food yucky instead of tasting it or even looking at it, but we'll get there.<<
>>It is about the responsible process of actually studying material before offering a public assessment of its worth.<<
<>
The fact that key Bach scholars have taken a stand against congregational participation in Bach's figural compositions where 'simple' 4-pt chorales are involved is a clear indication that Wustmann's theory, at the time it was advanced as well as now, is no longer regarded as viable. Today it no longer deserves being mentioned in scholarly articles because it has not successfully withstood strong criticism in the past when it became public. If this theoretical speculation had any support at all by today's Bach scholars, it certainly would have prompted recognition of Wustmann's intuition and foresight in making a great discovery that affects how Bach would be performed in churches today. As it is, Wustmann's role in spearheading a movement toward changing performance practices is best left unmentioned. Note Robin A Leaver's comment on this matter in 1999!

The question now remains: what fate awaits the theory on 'Bach's temperament', a theory presented in similar fashion and one lacking sufficient historical veracity in tit claimed much more than it could deliver?

 

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