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Cantata BWV 126
Erhalt uns Herr, bei deinem Wort
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of March 28, 2010

Peter Smaill wrote (March 28, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 126, "Erhaelt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort"

Cantata BWV 126, Erhalt Uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort

First Performed: February 4, 1725, Leipzig, for Sexagesima (Second Sunday before Lent)
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1724-25 (Jahrgang II)

Bach Cantata Website Link : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV126-D.htm

Movements & Scoring

Mvt. 1: Chorus: “Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort
Choir: SATB, Instruments: Tr Ob I II, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Mvt. 2 :Aria: “Sende deine macht von Oben
Soloist: Tenor, Instruments: Ob I II, Bc

Mvt. 3: Recitative [+Chorale] : “Der Menschen Gunst und Macht wird wenig nützen
Soloists: Alt Tenor SATB, Instruments: Bc

Mvt. 4: Aria: “Stürze zu Boden schwülstige Stolze!
Soloist: Bass, Instruments: Bc

Mvt. 5: Recitative: “So wird dein Wort und Wahrheit offenbar
Soloist: Tenor, Instruments: Bc

Mvt. 6: Chorale: “Verleih uns Frieden Gnädiglich
Choir: SATB, Instruments: Tr Ob I II, 2 Vn, Va, Bc

Background

“Even among the jewels of Bach’s second cycle, the opening chorus of No.126 shines brightly”. Thus Malcolm Boyd rates the vigorous and monumental BWV 126/1, with its insistent demands on the trumpeter to illustrate the warlike text. The opening and closing texts derive directly from Luther; in 1541/2, when the text “Erhalt uns, Herr” was composed (the closing “Verleih und Frieden” was published 1545), the Ottoman army had occupied Buda and Pest. Pope Paul III instituted the Roman Inquisition on 21 July 1542. In Bach’s own time the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 was not so distant; and the echoes of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had scarcely died down.

The two Luther chorales had thus become well established at Leipzig and it is correspondingly dangerous to attribute any political stance by Bach himself contra the “Pope and Turks”. It may be the case, however, that the sentiments of the text and vigour of the music shone out to the Leipzigers; for, according to H-J Schulze, this work was reperformed on 29 September 1755 for the 200th anniversary of the peace of Augsburg under which the German states reached a concordat between Protestant and Catholic by assigning to each state the religion of the Prince. The work was apparently reperformed in the vacancy after the death in July 1755 of Bach’s successor Gottlob Harrer.

If so, then BWV 126 can be added to the select list of Cantatas known to have continued to be performed after Bach’s death (these are predominantly Jahrgang II works, since Anna Magdalena gave 44 sets of parts from he inheritance to the Thomaskirche). The others (Wolff pps. 463,509) are BWV 8, BWV 41, BWV 94, BWV 112, BWV 125, and BWV 133.

Theology

The Word is the central emphasis in BWV 126, whose Lutheran texts (plus dramatic madrigalian arias and other chorale insertions) travel from a plea to be upheld in battle, to the realisation of peace in the final Chorale.

At the end a keyword of Lutheranism, “Obrigkeit”, is to be found; “servility to order” is perhaps an appropriate translation. It indicates the tendency to insist on unquestioning obedience to superiors, an authoritarian interpretation of St Paul and with particular significance given the fusion of State and Church; for example, Prince John of Saxony assumed the title “summus episcopus” (over Bishop or Superintendent).

So BWV 126 has two concepts: dependence on the Word, and obedience to superiors. On this basis the enemies of the Church will be seen off and peace and good government will reign.

Emblemata

Not surprisingly the emblemata books of Protestant Germany do not give a flattering account of the Papacy. The dominant mode of reproduction, however, is in books dealing with the moral of universal mortality, rather than dealing with conflict. A good example is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Emb/BWV126-1-Emb.htm

So far the Turks as an allegorical figure has yet to appear but as many of the extant 5500 emblem books have yet to be catalogued there may yet be an image of them of coupling the pair of targets. However, in all scenarios it is Luther that is the identifiable source for the imagery of BWV 126.

Numerology

Hirsch has an interesting observation; the first movement BWV 126/1 (Mvt. 1) extends to 62 bars. Bach notes in autograph against the organ part (apparently here specified), “Fine S. D. G. “. This is very odd in that the Cantata has five further movements. However that ending inscription (“Schlussvermerk”) has a numerological score of 62:it may be a deliberate reference.

Music

Dürr notes the especial challenge of the trumpet part, in taking a leading part in a movement in a minor due to the range of notes being restricted in the natural overtone series. That observation leads back to a feature noted before, the ability of Bach to cast a work in a minor key yet creating the affekt of a major.

Tonality issues return with the Chorale. Dürr says the sliced Luther/Walter text is “in a plain four-part setting”. He says this too of the Chorale BWV 159/5, “Jesu, deine Passion”, with its wonderfully chromatic key changes. Whittaker, neglected because of the erroneous dates, is much more sensitive in this area. In the case of BWV 126/6 (Mvt. 6) he observes the throbbing pedal point at the words “Ein geruhig und stilles Leben” (“A restful and quiet life”). At the end “the basses in the antepenultimate line have a lovely progression, ending surprisingly on the chord of F; the next chord, D is not expected; and then the rolling Amen settles in A major”.

It is another illustration of the Werckmeister doctrine, “in fine videbitur cuius toni”, “Only in the end can you determine the key”. However, this doctrine appears to have been gleaned from Luther himself. Tom Braatz (following the lead of Eric Chafe) has translated a passage from the Tischreden (“table-talk”) which uses this expression as a general principle. Robin Leaver identifies a passage in which Luther talks in explicit musical terms of the b flat and b natural as allegorical of the Laws and the Gospel. Leaver explains that in Luther’s time no accidentals were marked, and the singers has to use judgement as to whether to lighten a cadence by modulating to the major.

That Bach does just exactly that at the end of his predominantly Luther chorale is a notable feature of BWV 126. It is an exceptionally beautiful setting because of the extended Amen which brings the key to the unexpected A major.

Conclusion

I have so far rather mirrored Dürr’s unusual neglect by skipping over the two excellent arias, the first with its extravagant word-painting is as he says “an aria of genuinely baroque dramatic force”. Then there is the unusual AT setting of the recitative with chorale. Taken overall, interest and contrast never flags and the virtuosos trumpet and tenor parts convey an impression of physical vigour, resolving at the end into a Chorale of extended length, powerfully conveying the assurance that the strife results in peace, and that theprayer which Luther translated, Da nobis pacem, is answered.

This is a work which must surely have made a great impact for these reasons and, once we consider the circumstances of the text, is along with BWV 80, "Ein Feste Burg" one of the richest in historic reference to the conflict-world of the early Reformation.

David Jones wrote (March 28, 2010):
[To Peter Smaill] This particular cantata is one of my favorites, although its text provokes great unease among the non religious (ironically, any discussion of the religious/spiritual contexts of these cantatas provokes unease, but that's another post) There is nothing like the battle-ready opening chorus music and the stern, solemn words, especially in the hands of an interpreter like Gardiner [5]. Uphold us Lord!

Julian Mincham wrote (March 28, 2010):
[To David Jones] I agree it's a stunning work. But then which of the unbroken stream of 40 chorale/fantasia cantatas of the second cycle is not?

I'm a bit bemused on the comment about the 'non religious' (above). It's my experience that that the religious are more likely to take offence than the non religious. However I don't see it all that different from people who take offence at Shakespeare's alleged xenophobias----different ages, different values and different sensibilitities.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The two Luther chorales had thus become well established at Leipzig and it is correspondingly dangerous to attribute any political stance by Bach himself contra the ³Pope and Turks². >
It is interesting to speculate whether this reference to "Pope and Turks" had become purely conventional by Bach's time -- the way in which my grandmother would refer to a fatty part of the Christmas turkey as the "Pope's Nose".

Given that the king was a Catholic and that Bach was always looking for preferment at the Dresden court, it seems unlikely that a real swipe at the pope was intended.

This reminds me again that there was a Jesuit Chapel Royal for the use of the Royal Family in Leipzig when they visited the city (Wolff mentions it without comment in a footnote in the biography). A Google search turns up nothing. It would be interesting to know the history of the church and whether it was a satellite of the Dresden court chapel and had music.

Protestants visited the Dresden chapel to hear its music. Was there anything worth hearing in the Leipzig church?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 29, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< This reminds me again that there was a Jesuit Chapel Royal for the use of the Royal Family in Leipzig when they visited the city (Wolff mentions it without comment in a footnote in the biography). A Google search turns up nothing. It would be interesting to know the history of the church and whether it was a satellite of the Dresden court chapel and had music.
Protestants visited the
Dresden chapel to hear its music. Was there anything worth hearing in the Leipzig church? >
Franciscans were celebrating Mass as early as 1710 in Leipzig (maybe some of Telemann's earliest Catholic music could date from this period?) at the Pleissenburg chapel. Ironic, since that was one of the first places Martin Luther gave sermons after he broke with Rome. There was also a Catholic school attached to this "chapel." The Elector gave funds for a larger building to replace the smaller chapel, when things were got too crampt. When the Jesuit order was suppressed, the priests in Leipzig became secular priests (i.e. not belonging to any monastic order). The building was eventually demolished in the mid 19th century.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote to Douglas Cowling
< Franciscans were celebrating Mass as early as 1710 in Leipzig (maybe some of Telemann's earliest Catholic music could date from this period?) at the Pleissenburg chapel. >
The Pleissenburg chapel was evidently chosen because it was not an open affront to Lutheran sensitivities. It was inaugurated in1708 in the presence of the king. The Jesuit priests were court chaplains and a school was built.

Can you tell us more about Telemann's Catholic music?

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It is interesting to speculate whether this reference to "Pope and Turks" had become purely conventional by Bach's time >
Some parallel thoughts by John Harbison, in notes to the Emmanuel Music performance of SJP:

<What is Bach’s stance? He is certainly of his time and place. He sets an inflammatory Reformation Sunday Luther text with vehemence in Cantata BWV 126, “Deliver us, Lord, by your Word from the Pope’s control and the Turk’s murders.” In the texts from John, he goes where they take him, more with the instincts of a dramatist than an ideologue.>

It seems to me that there must be some significance to the timing, that both references to des Turken und des Papsts (Turks and Papists?) occur in cantatas for Sexagesima (BWV 18 and BWV 126), but I have no original ideas. From a quick look, I do not see anything in the literature; indeed Durr avoids the topic, almost studiously. Full disclosure: I have not yet scanned the BCW archives for previous commentary, but noticing this detail seems to be a unique value to our ongoing discussion organized by liturgical event.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 29, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< It seems to me that there must be some significance to the timing, that both references to des Turken und des Papsts (Turks and Papists?) occur in cantatas for Sexagesima (BWV 18 and BWV 126), but I have no original ideas. >
Was the chorale proscribed for that Sunday?

William Hoffman wrote (March 29, 2010):
Re. Luther's chorale, here are two points:

The Catechism and Reformation chorale is best described in <Luther's Liturgical Music>, by Robin A. Leaver (2007: Chapter 4, pp. 107-115).
"Over the following generations there were numerous hymns that either quoted or alluded to the opening first line of Luther's original" (p. 114). Catholics parodied the last word in the line, changing "wort" to "wurst." The "influences of Luther's hymn can be detected in the inner stanzas of other later hymns...."

As for the Papists, there is the third stanza of Luther's "Ein feste Burg" (now sung in the Catholic Church) in Cantata 80, referring to "Und wenn die Welt voll Teufel wär" (And when the hordes of devils fill the land). Luther also called the Pope the "Anti-Christ." The DVD of John Osborne's "Luther" is available at Netflicks.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 29, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote
<< It seems to me that there must be some significance to the timing, that both references to des Turken und des Papsts (Turks and Papists?) occur in cantatas for Sexagesima (BWV 18 and BWV 126), but I have no original ideas. >>
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Was the chorale proscribed for that Sunday? >
The refere3nce to Turks and Papists actually has a different source, both Luther, in each cantata. From Gardiners notes:

BWV 18: <...the full choir quoting supplicatory refrains from Luther's litany known as the the German P.>

BWV 126: <Luther wrote his hymn for children [!] to sing against the two arch-enemies of Christ and His Holy Church -- the Pope and the Turks.> Gardiner does not identify the source of the internal quote, presumably Luther.

Gardiner provides detail (also available in BCW archives) regarding this historical enmity, then continues, specific to BWV 126: <Why Bach should have felt the need, or why he was compelled, to write such a bellicose cantata in 1725, when hostilities with the Turks had abated, and indeed at this point in the church year, and not, say, on St. Michaels Day or the Reformation Day, is not entirely clear.>

Leaving us free to speculate. I like John Harbisons thought, Bach the dramatist (showman, even), rather than ideologue. If the 1724 revival in Leipzig of the Weimar original (BWV 18) was well received, including the Turks and Papists reference:

Gardiner again: <Typical of litanies, these passages are unvaried musically ... except for the continuo part which goes ballistic at mention of the Turks and Papists blaspheming and raging.>

why not give it another go the following year (1725, BWV 126) with the Turks and Papists right up front, in a spectacular setting in the context of the chorale expansions of Jahrgang II?

Note that both Julian Mincham and John Harbison have suggested independently that Bachs music goes snake-like at mentions of Satan, and John has suggested that this apples to mentions of the Pope as well.

VDMA 1580 wrote (March 30, 2010):
"dangerous to attribute any political stance by Bach himself contra the Pope and the Turk"
Oh, please.....it is ridiculous to make such assertions. It matters not what your particular religious viewpoint is, but let's not indulgent in such sloppy twaddle like this. J.S. Bach was a man of his time and place, and that time and place, was, by his own choosing, a town which was one of the last bastions of Orthodox Lutheranism. Every bit of evidence that we have demonstrates Bach was nothing more, nor less, than a committed, orthodox Lutheran.

So, folks...indulge your secularist phobias and hang-ups elsewhere. Let's have none of it here trying to create J.S. Bach in your own "enlightened" and "post-modern" images.

T. Brandt wrote (March 30, 2010):
Amen

Jean Laaninen wrote (March 30, 2010):
David Jones wrote:
< There is nothing like the battle-ready opening chorus music and the stern, solemn words, especially in the hands of an interpreter like Gardiner. Uphold us Lord! >
Via Naxos Music Library I am now having the opportunity to encounter a bit more of Gardiner...he truly is a great interpreter. And his soloist choices are impressive, I think. Powerful!

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
VDMA1580 wrote:
"dangerous to attribute any political stance by Bach himself contra the Pope and the Turk"
[...]
< So, folks...indulge your secularist phobias and hang-ups elsewhere. Let's have none of it here trying to create J.S. Bach in your own "enlightened" and "post-modern" images. >

The question is perhaps more accurately interpreted as to whether there was any political stance by Lutherans in general, contra the Pope and Turk, by the 18th C. in Leipzig.

So, 21st C. Lutherans, indulge your phobias and hangups ... Oh, never mind.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 30, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> Julian Mincham and John Harbison have suggested independently that Bachs music goes snake-like at mentions of Satan, and John has suggested that this apples to mentions of the Pope as well.<
It's interesting to compare the traatments of the "offending" passages in BWV 18/3 and BWV 126/1.

In BWV 18/3, the continuo does indeed "go ballistic" (Gardiner) at the mention of the "Papists and Turks cruel blasphemy and raging".

In BWV 126/1, the BTA parts have extended, snake-like (writhing) continuous 1/16th note melismas on "murder" (in the context of "the Papists and Turks murder"); the tenors and basses cross over each other several times, and both end above the altos, Bach thereby effectively highlighting the unnaturalness and violence of the situation.

The only other comparable (writhing) vocal writing in this opening chorus occurs with the basses' melisma on "hurl" (in the last line of text - "would hurl Jesus Christ from his throne").

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 30, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The question is perhaps more accurately interpreted as to whether there was any political stance by Lutherans in general, contra the Pope and Turk, by the 18th C. in Leipzig.
So, 21st C. Lutherans, indulge your phobias and hangups ... Oh, never mind. >

Of course there were, why would the Elector have gone to such pains to have a modest chapel built in Leipzig or hide his own Catholic processions within the confines of his palaces in Dresden? 18th century Germany was quite a bit in its own league of social stratification compared to say Great Britian; and of course, we know the lot of Roman Catholics suffereed at the hands of the English in Ireland during this same period. Why would Saxony have been any different?

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
Jean Laaninen wrote to David Jones:
< Via Naxos Music Library I am now having the opportunity to encounter a bit more of Gardiner...he truly is a great interpreter. And his soloist choices are impressive, I think. Powerful! >
I certainly agree that the Gardiner pilgrimage recordings make almost uniformly fine listening in their individual performances, and the concept of the project is unique, monumental. I do find it a bit of a stretch to imply that Gardiner (let alone Bach!) interprets the texts literally, personally. Indeed, Gardiners booklet notes often state exactly the opposite for himself, and in the case of BWV 126 he provides concise and accurate discussion of the evolution of Lutheran attitudes to Turks and Papists, between the 16th and 18th centuries. His conclusion (as I read it) is that by Bach's time (18th C.), the text of the opening chorus of BWV 126, quoting Luther from 200 years previous, was already politically out-of-date.

As to the battle-ready nature of the opening chorus, that does not strike me as a either a Christian attitude in any century (turn the other cheek?), nor a virtuous, intelligent posture in an over-armed, under-thought 21st century world. I expect there will be plenty of disagreement with my position. The only time I turn the other cheek is when I intend to talk out of both sides of my mouth.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Julian Mincham and John Harbison have suggested independently that Bachs music goes snake-like at mentions of Satan, and John has suggested that this apples to mentions of the Pope as well.<<
Neil Halliday wrote:
< It's interesting to compare the treatments of the "offending" passages in BWV 18/3 and BWV 126/1.
In
BWV 18/3, the continuo does indeed "go ballistic" (Gardiner) at the mention of the "Papists and Turks cruel blasphemy and raging".
In BWV 126/1, the BTA parts have extended, snake-like (writhing) continuous 1/16th note melismas on "murder" (in the context of "the Papists and Turks murder"); the tenors and basses cross over each other several times, and both end above the altos, Bach thereby effectively highlighting the unnaturalness and violence of the situation.
The only other comparable (writhing) vocal writing in this opening chorus occurs with the basses' melisma on "hurl" (in the last line of text - "would hurl Jesus Christ from his throne"). >

EM:
I wrote concisely, without getting into the comparison of BWV 18/3 and BWV 126/1, but I find it interesting as well. Thanks for the opportunity to expand a bit. I find the comment that I cited from Gardiners notes (<Typical of litanies, these passages are unvaried musically [...] except fthe continuo part which goes ballistic at mention of Turks and Papists>) in fact ignores the treatment of the previous mention of Satan. There is plenty of writhing at the mention of devils guiles in the B recit, and Satan in the litany, to prepare the way for the treatment of Turks and Papists in the litany after the next (third of four total) recit. Hope that is clear, the structure of this movement is complex, and thus difficult to reference concisely.

By contrast, when Bach returns to the Turks and Papists in 1725 (BWV 126), Satan is conspicuous by his absence -- only a hint in BWV 126/3 with bitterest foe (argsten Feind) and final enemy (letzte Feind). Both those mentions in recit get appropriate musical contrast, especially in comparison to the sweetness of the alternating chorale fragments. However the main musical villainy is reserved for humna frailty, the Turks and Papists of Mvt. 1 and the swollen pride of Mvt. 4.

I will refrain from stating any implications regarding Bachs theologic or political thinking, and how it may have evolved in the intervening ten years or so between BWV 18 and BWV 126, but I have opinions, which I will be happy to share on request.

To conclude with a musical thought, note the parallel architecture between BWV 18/3 (alternating recit with litany fragments) and BWV 126/3 (alternating recit with chorale fragments). I certainly would not have noticed this without our current discussion format, which places these works in proximity, and I do not see that anyone has pointed it out previously.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>> The question is perhaps more accurately interpreted as to whether there was any political stance by Lutherans in general, contra the Pope and Turk, by the 18th C. in Leipzig. <<
Kim Patrick Clow wrote
< Of course there were, why would the Elector have gone to such pains to have a modest chapel built in Leipzig or hide his own Catholic processions within the confines of his palaces in Dresden? 18th century Germany was quite a bit in its own league of social stratification compared to say Great Britian; and of course, we know the lot of Roman Catholics suffereed at the hands of the English in Ireland during this same period. Why would Saxony have been any different? >
EM:
I see your point, and I agree as I far as I am knowledgeable. I was thinking more of the linkage, Turks and Papists, as a throwback to the language of Luther from a couple hundred years earlier, rather than a particular contemporary (18th C.) Leipzig position, specifically an Orthodox Lutheran tenet at that time.

David Jones wrote (March 30, 2010):
Jean Laaninen wrote to David Jones:
< Via Naxos Music Library I am now having the opportunity to encounter a bit more of Gardiner [5]...he truly is a great interpreter. And his soloist choices are impressive, I think. Powerful! >
I agree with VDMA COMPLETELY............I really wish people would stop trying to take Bach out of context.

David Jones wrote (March 30, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote to Kim Patrick Clow:
< I see your point, and I agree as I far as I am knowledgeable. I was thinking more of the linkage, Turks and Papists, as a throwback to the language of Luther from a couple hundred years earlier, rather than a particular contemporary (18th C.) Leipzig position, specifically an Orthodox Lutheran tenet at that time. >
I'd like to point out that during Bach's time, although the 30 years war was over and German hostility with the Turks had abated, the remained a threat to much of Europe.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 30, 2010):
David Jones wrote:
< I'd like to point out that during Bach's time, although the 30 years war was over and German hostility with the Turks had abated, the remained a threat to much of Europe. >
Excellent point, the Turks had nearly captured Vienna in 1683, only 55 years earlier.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
David Jones wrote:
< I agree with VDMA COMPLETELY............I really wish people would stop trying to take Bach out of context. >
I miss the point. I fail to see anything in the cited post which takes Bach out of context

Julian Mincham wrote (March 30, 2010):
< I miss the point. I fail to see anything in the cited post which takes Bach out of context >
Quite The point of my original email was that we need to see artists like Bach and Shakespeare WITHIN the context of their own times rather than judging them by sensibilities which have altered greatly.

I only wish that this list would attract as much passion about the nature of the music itself as it always does when matters of faith are touched upon.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Quite The point of my original email was that we need to see artists like Bach and Shakespeare WITHIN the context of their own times rather than judging them by sensibilities which have altered greatly. >
In the case of Bach, setting words of Luther from a couple hundred years earlier, the problem is compounded. My question remains: to what extent do we think that Bachs setting of the derogatory reference to Turks and Papists represents genuine beliefs of his time, or simply an historic carryover. Perhaps a modern analogy would be Benjamin Britten setting Shakespeare.

I doubt (with waning certainty) that anyone on this list would argue that because Britten set the texts, they necessarily represent his social beliefs. To the extent that Shakespeares genius transcended history and penetrated the human soul, however, they may in fact do so.

Did Luther's battle-cry against Turks and Papists continue as essential Lutheran doctrine through Bachs time? Through the 21st century? Those are genuine questions.

In any case, as I tried to point out along with Neil H., some exciting, writhing, (ballistic?) music resulted from Bach, which remains enjoyable and artistically relevant to this day. The artistic relevance would be impossible for me to grasp without the historic context. Perhaps it is more spontaneously apprehended by folks who see Turks and Papists, along with Satan, as ongoing threats.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 30, 2010):
As I sit and ponder, with the rain falling from heaven (see BWV 18/1), I have ample time to listen and write, as I monitor my basement pump. Way too late to start an ark.

Peter Smaill wrote:
< “Even among the jewels of Bach’s second cycle, the opening chorus of No.126 shines brightly”. Thus Malcolm Boyd rates the vigorous and monumental BWV 126/1, with its insistent demands on >the trumpeter to illustrate the warlike text. The opening and closing texts derive directly from Luther; in 1541/2, when the text “Erhalt uns, Herr” was composed (the closing “Verleih und Frieden” was published 1545), the Ottoman army had occupied Buda and Pest. Pope Paul III instituted the Roman Inquisition on 21 July 1542. In Bach’s own time the Turkish siege of Vienna in 1683 was not so distant; and the echoes of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) had scarcely died down. >
EM:
Have the echoes of WW II died down, fifty years later? WW I eighty years later? The USA Civil War (still the greatest death toll for any nation in a single war, I believe, depending on the odefinition for a war or a nation) seven score and ten years later?

The echoes of war do not die down in human history, they lead to the next war. It is wrong-thinking about that reality to tie the position of any musician to any particular war. In my personal experience, every single musician I have known (quite a few) would rather make love than war. Full disclosure: I have listened to (and enjoyed) Chet Baker on record only; perhaps he is the exception who proves the rule.

Does anyone really think that Bach, with babies, wife, musicians, perhaps even the Jahrgang II librettist, inflicting untimely deaths more or less annually, cared a fig for the Thirty Years War from fifty years back?

PS:
< The two Luther chorales had thus become well established at Leipzig and it is correspondingly dangerous to attribute any political stance by Bach himself contra the “Pope and Turks”. It may be the case, however, that the sentiments of the text and vigour of the music shone out to the Leipzigers; for, according to H-J Schulze, this work was reperformed on 29 September 1755 for the 200th anniversary of the peace of Augsburg under which the German states reached a >concordat between Protestant and Catholic by assigning to each state the religion of the Prince. >
EM:
That concordat plays havoc with the concept of spiritual certainty. Sorry to point that out to those of certain belief.

PS:
< So BWV 126 has two concepts: dependence on the Word, and obedience to superiors. On this basis the enemies of the Church will be seen off and peace and good government will reign. >
EM
The Papists are enemies of the Church? Which Church? Peace and good government will reign? Bit of a stretch here?

PS::
< Not surprisingly the emblemata books of Protestant Germany do not give a flattering account of the Papacy. [...]
So far the Turks as an allegorical figure has yet to appear but as many of the extant 5500 emblem books have yet to be catalogued there may yet be an image of them of coupling the pair of targets. However, in all scenarios it is
Luther that is the identifiable source for the >imagery of BWV 126. >
EM:
My ongoing point: with even a bit of investigation, the linkage of Turks and Papists originates with Luther's texts, a couple centuries prior to Bach. By the time that Bach was setting these ideas, via Neumeister libretto in BWV 18 (the first setting), the Turks and Papists may have been as buffo as buffo Satan. As I first noticed via hint from John Harbison, they (Satan and Pope) certainly get the same treatment, especially in BWV 18, but also BWV 126.

Thanks (or blame) to Julian Mincham for the buffo Satan concept. I was instantaneously enamored way back when. Or perhaps as Chet Baker sang: I Fall in Love Too Easily?

Neil Halliday wrote (March 31, 2010):
Listening to samples of the opening chorus from Rilling [3], Koopman [7] and Gardiner [5], I find Koopman's tempo (2.35) best captures the martial mood of the piece; by comparison Rilling (2.55) sounds too relaxed, while Gardiner's fast tempo (timing?) begins to create the feel of a lively dance, IMO.

Do any of the trumpeters trill the astounding long held note that precedes the last line of text? A trill on, say, the second half of this note might be very impressive indeed.

Also a thought on the recitative/chorale-duet movement; perhaps Whittaker (and myself) would prefer to hear the duet chorale variation sections sung by the alto and tenor sections of the choir, to create a vocal contrast with the recitative sections and heighten the dramatic impact of the movement.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 31, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Listening to samples of the opening chorus from Rilling [3], Koopman [7] and Gardiner [5], I find Koopman's tempo (2.35) best captures the martial mood of the piece; by comparison Rilling (2.55) sounds too relaxed, while Gardiner's fast tempo (timing?) begins to create the feel of a lively dance, IMO. >
Leave it to some musician to turn a martial mood into a dance!?

NH:
< Also a thought on the recitative/chorale-duet movement; perhaps Whittaker (and myself) would prefer to hear the duet chorale variation sections sung by the alto and tenor sections of the choir, to create a vocal contrast with the recitative sections and heighten the dramatic impact of the movement. >
EM:
The more I think about it, the more it seems important to hear this movement in relation to BWV 18/3. Alas, Kuijken has not done both, only BWV 18, but his OVPP orchestration and unsurpassed continuo presentation for that work provides an unmatched clarity to the writhing, satanic lines -- not limited to the ballistic continuo. Kuijkens commentary is not to be missed, explaining and elaborating on his performance decisions.

The vocal contrasts within solo/choir sections of BWV 18/3, with OVPP are convincing. Is there a comparable peerformance for BWV 126?

David Jones wrote (March 31, 2010):
[To Neil Halliday] ...In Gardiner's tempo [5] I hear more the sounds of war than a dance, the battle cries, clashing swords, the crackle of houses burning.........Gardiner's trumpeter does a rather messy trill-turn on the reprise that I assumed was improvised ornamentation (I wasn't looking at the score) For an ensemple famed for clarity and neatness, Gardiner's first trumpet didn't do too well with this little piece of ornamentation.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 31, 2010):
David Jones wrote:
> In Gardiner's tempo [5] I hear more the sounds of war than a dance, the battle cries, clashing swords, the crackle of houses burning..<
Wow! Well then, this shows the worth of different versions, to satisfy different tastes. From the sample, Gardiner's [5] is certainly a fine ensemble.

There is no trill or other ornamentation marked on that trumpet note in the BGA.

Apparentlu Gardiner's trumpeter [5] made an attempt at ornamentation (but not a trill of any length) which you found not particularly successful. (Thanks for replying to my query). One problem period trumpeters have to face is the extreme difficult of playing the instrument. No doubt a player of the modern trumpet would more reliably and accurately produce any particular sort of ornamentation.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 31, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>his (Kuijken's) OVPP orchestration and unsurpassed continuo presentation for that work provides an unmatched clarity to the writhing, satanic lines -- not limited to the ballistic continuo. Kuijken's commentary is not to be missed, explaining and elaborating on his performance decisions<
I've no doubt that Kuijken has an excellent OVPP version of BWV 18/3; however, BWV 18/3 is already a far more elaborate movement (on 12 staves!) than the continuo only 126/3. I think we all agree OVPP 'plain' SATB chorales, with full orchestra as in BWV 18/3, can be very satisfying , but I certainly agree with commentators like Whittaker and Robertson that single line (or in this case A.T) chorales are more satisfactory if performed by the relevent choir section.

Hopefully Kuijken would at least bring a more satifying continuo line to 126/3 than we hear with the usual period offerings, but I have noticed he can not always be relied on, in this regard.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 31, 2010):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I've no doubt that Kuijken has an excellent OVPP version of BWV 18/3; however, BWV 18/3 is already a far more elaborate movement (on 12 staves!) >
EM:
I suppose that will drive me to consult the score.

NH:
< than the continuo only 126/3. I think we all agree OVPP 'plain' SATB chorales, with full orchestra as in BWV 18/3, can be very satisfying, >
EM:
all agree is perhaps a bit optimistic, but you may count me in!

NH:
< but I certainly agree with commentators like Whittaker and Robertson that single line (or in >this case A.T) chorales are more satisfactory if performed by the relevent choir section. >
EM:
Agreed, with the understanding that choir section for Bach may well have been a single (or two)voice per part. I wonder if Whittaker or Robertson had any inkling of that as a possibility?

NH:
< Hopefully Kuijken would at least bring a more satifying continuo line to 126/3 than we hear with the usual period offerings, but I have noticed he can not always be relied on, in this regard. >
EM:
If I understand Kuijkens objectives for recordings, it is one cantata per liturgical date. If so, we are not likely to hear his rendition of BWV 126.

He certainly devotes attention to the textual subtleties of BWV 18/3, both in written comments and performance. IMO, Kuijkens attention to continuo detail is a strength of his performances, independent of the OVPP philosophy.

I might go so far as to say that he can almost always be relied on in this regard.

I always enjoy interaction with your (NH) posts, and I trust Julian will consider this passion, relevant to the music?

Julian Mincham wrote (March 31, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I always enjoy interaction with your (NH) posts, and I trust Julian will consider this passion, relevant to the music? >
Ed, well to a degree. There are always a lot of interesting posts about the performance and interpretations of the music--Neil keeps us up to the mark on this. There is less perhaps on the actual music--e.g. it's shape, inate natute of the melodies and how one responds to them, the range of writing for choir, how it reflects the words, specific imagery Bach has emphasised, the particular affects on the listener of Bach's major/minor key choices, the peculiar combinations of recit, chorale, arioso, ritornello and its relationship to the words, comparative comments about similar or dissimilar works etc etc etc. Not all technical stuff at all, and not all requiring musical knowlegdg or access to scores (although there are a number on list with both). It does crop up but sometimes (to my thinking) tends to get swamped by peripheral comment which has something of a revolving life cycle.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Ed, well to a degree. There are always a lot of interesting posts about the performance and interpretations of the music--Neil keeps us up to the mark on this. There is less perhaps on the actual music [...] >
Truly spoken like an old professor. I love it, of course! I will interpret the response as a B-plus.

I agree with Julian that there is a lot of chat that is not very relevant to the music, which is often distracting, but also often entertaining, sometimes both. The irrelevant material is edited out, and the BCW archives are remarkably informative, especially given the open (no peer review) nature of the forum. I never fail to learn something new by reading the archives, and even more so, by trying to write a few appropriate words. Highly recommended for everyone.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>I always enjoy interaction with your (NH) posts, <<
I have just noticed that Neil H. pointed out the repetition of reference to *Turks and Papists* from BWV 18 to BWV 126, in discussions a couple weeks ago. Sorry that I overlooked that priority in some of my recent comments.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 1, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Truly spoken like an old professor. I love it, of course! I will interpret the response as a B-plus. >
HEY--not so much of the 'old'!!!

 

Cantata BWV 126: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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