Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Cantata BWV 130
Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of September 10, 2006

Peter Smaill wrote (September 9, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 130, "Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir"

Week of September 10, 2006
Cantata BWV 130, “ Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir"

1st performance: September 29, 1724 - Leipzig
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)

Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV130-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV130.htm

From the Sunday following St Michael's Day in Leipzig, the city was en fête with the annual St Michael's Fair; and thus the celebration of the Saint's Day, one of the few venerated in Lutheranism, would have had added festal meaning. For 1724, Bach drew on the chorale associated with the great protestant reformer, Phillip Melanchthon, (the words paraphrased by Paul Eber), set to the tune by the French Protestant Louis Bourgeois. It is a melody beloved of the English-speaking world and is known as the "Old Hundredth "; indeed, the same tune was specially set for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 by Vaughan Williams.

This instantly accessible Cantata is perhaps surprisingly rarely performed given these associations. In the main I suspect the problem is the usual one of securing three fine trumpeters to undertake the demanding parts set by Bach. The trumpet has scarcely sounded in Jahrgang II to date and the requirement for three suggests to that Bach may have had funds from the Council or the Thomaskirche to import an extra player(s) of the right standard rather than depend on the "Stadtpfeifer", the usual choice at this time being the virtuoso Gottfried Reiche and Johann Cornelius Gentzmer.

The introductory Chorus (Mvt. 1) is powerfully constructed. The punctuation of a triple beat figure in the continuo, timpani-enforced, interjects and emphasise rising and extending orchestral lines, the trumpets intensifying in the interchange of rising and falling themes the battle between St Michael and the Devil. The power of this ritornello arises from the interplay of the triple pulse of the continuo and timpani with the trumpet lines. IMO there is a structural parallel with the Overture to "Meistersingers." In that most Bachian of fellow Leipziger Richard Wagner's opera, though the rythmns of the overture differs from BWV 130/1 (Mvt. 1), the structure is similar- a repeated introductory phrase in continuo/timpani with an ever rising and lengthening trumpet chorus, reverting again and again to the base rhythm. Wagner, who based his melody on Wagenseil's 'master tones", first published in 1697, is setting the scene for St John's Day celebrations; Bach, for St Michael's Day.

That is not to say that Wagner neccesarily knew BWV 130 and indeed this seems unlikely since, as Teri Noel Towe has pointed out, the parts for this work were dispersed unlike most of Jahrgang II. What is more likely is that this interplay creates the impression of pomp and grandeur associated with contest and triumph, and is a more general baroque device, brilliantly adapted by Bach.

The purpose of Bach and his librettist, IMO, is only in part to celebrate the legendary saint using the stirring texts derived from the Book of Revelations. Much more likely, the overtone is of a Protestant festival, indicated by the choice of words associated with Melanchthon and especially the lines of the final Chorale, with its exhilarating trumpet run to high C and stress in the words on fidelity to Scripture:

"Und bitten dich, wollst allezeit
Dieselben heissen sein bereit,
Zu Schützen deine kleine Herd,
So hält dein Göttlichs Wort in Wert
"
("and we pray that You would at all times
Call then to be ready
To protect your little flock
That holds Your divine Word as worthy.")

Bach creates separate instrumental groupings to highlight the antiphonal nature of the conflict described in BWV 130/1 (Mvt. 1), just as he had for the civic Cantata BWV 71 sixteen years previously. In both works (cf. BWV 130/2) he uses the effect of frequent intervals of a second, i.e. adjacent tones, in trumpets. He must, too, have had for St Michael's Day an exceptional Bass able to hold out against the three archangelic trumpets in BWV 130/3 (Mvt. 3). If the idea was to showcase the high levels of instrumental attainment to visitors to Leipzig at Michaelmas, then the flute obbligato in the highly-contrasting Tenor aria, BWV 130/5 (Mvt. 5), would have left no doubt as to the range of skills at Bach's disposal.

Selected Commentaries

Robertson:
(Mvt. 1) Four motifs appear simultaneously in the opening ritornello, all arpeggios: trumpets ascend, oboes descend, strings alternate high and low groups of semiquavers and the continuo booms out detached octaves. These motifs become interchangeable and, as there are two others to come, the texture is very rich.

Whittaker:
The four cantatas we possess for the Feast of St Michael and all Angels show powerfully Bach was stirred by the associations of this Sunday.
(Mvt. 3) In one other Cantata does he use this combinations, BWV 172, and there the accompaniment is made more formidable by the addition of a bassoon to the figured bass.

Boyd (Anderson):
(Mvt. 4) The following accompanied recitative is a duet for soprano and tenor whose light textures in vocal writing of alluring warmth and transparency provide a striking contrast with the warrior like gestures of the preceding section, and prepare the ground for the ensuing da capo aria.

Dürr:
(Mvt. 1) Significantly, the theology of Bach's day was not accustomed to see in the angels any of the feminine weakness that later periods have imputed to them. Thus the opening movement is full of warlike aggression: here the angels appear as the conqueror of Satan and as the protectors of God's elect.
(Mvt. 2) The high demands made of the trumpet seem to have been Bach's motive for re-scoring the aria for strings at a subsequent revival, surely much to the detriment of this splendid battle-scene.

Outstanding Questions

It would be interesting to know what exact civic formalities were associated with this feast - was there attendance of guilds and senior burghers? A procession? The sense is that Bach was out to impress the City and perhaps far beyond.

The resetting of BWV 8 (oboes d’amore) and BWV 130 (trumpets) for violins hints that there was a decline in the number and quality of instrumentalists at Bach's disposal in the latter years at Leipzig; to high demands on trumpeters in particular. Is there any known evidence of causes for this, such as increasing parsimony by the Town Council concurrent with declining relations with the Cantor?

================================================================
BWV 130 is pure enjoyment, and been a favourite of mine ever since picking up the Ernest Ansermet recording [2] in 1973. If a newcomer to Bach wanted to hear their first Cantata, then "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" can, from experience, be thoroughly recommended.

I hope that for those who find some Cantatas too introspective, this extrovert work will by contrast bring them the sense of glory and power with which Bach invests the angels.

================================================================
Additional Resources

Libretto:

Andreas Stübel (per Wolff, “Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician”, p.278)

Chorale: “Herr gott, dich loben alle wir
Text: Paul Eber (1554), after Phillip Melanchthon ("Dicimus grates tibi" (1539))
Melody: Louis Bourgeois ("Or sus, serviteurs du Seigneur") (1551)
Chorale Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale113-Eng3.htm
Chorale Melody: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Herr-Gott-loben-alle.htm

Text: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/130.html
English Translation: http://www..uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV130.html
Other translations: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV130.htm

Structure and scoring:

C major

Chorus SATB
Recitative A
Aria B
Recitative S T
Aria T
Chorale SATB

Instruments: Tr i,ii,iii, timp, Ob i, ii, iii,Vln i,ii,Vla, Cont

Liturgical Comments:

For the Feast of St Michael

Other Cantatas written for this Sunday:
BWV 19, “Es erhub sich ein Streit"
BWV 149, “Man singet mit freuden vom sieg
BWV 50 (?), “Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft

Texts of Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Michael.htm
Piano Vocal Score: (free PDF download): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV130.htm
Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV130.htm
Music (free streaming download): http://www.bach-cantatas..com/Mus/BWV130-Mus.htm
Commentaries: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/130.html
Performances of Bach Cantatas: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Concerts/Concert-2006.htm
Order of Discussion (2006): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Order-2006.htm

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 9, 2006):
BWV 130, "Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir" - Buffo Satan?

Peter Smaill wrote:
< Week of September 10, 2006
Cantata BWV 130, ³ Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir"
1st performance: 29 September,
1724 ­ Leipzig
Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II) >
St. Michael's Day always drew the most spectacular music from Bach, and Peter may well be correct in speculating that this was a popular or civic occasion. I half-remember that someone noted that Sept 29 was connected with a Leipzig Fair? Or was it the beginning of the academic year? Or the fall session of the Council?

Ever a poor loser, I would resuggest that the cantatas which Bach wrote for Michelmas share many musical, theological and literary themes and conventions. This list might consider discussing the occasional group of cantatas linked by the day in the church year for which they were composed.

Interesting sidebar about the chorale tune. Although Lutheran chorales were forbidden in the Anglican church until the end of the 19th century, this melody crept in the back door as a French metrical psalm and went on to become one of the most popular of Anglican hymns as "All People that on Earth Do Dwell". Vaughan Williams wrote a pseudo-Bach setting for the Coronation of Elizabeth II -- I think he may well have had this cantata in mind. The coronation is a rite which historically had no congregational hymns. The distinguised congregation in 1953, after listening passively to superb music for two hours, grabbed their opportunity to sing this liturgical novelty and sang all the verses, to the great annoyance of the composer who had marked certain voices for choir alone.

I also wonder if the bass aria, "Der alte Drache" is another example of the comic Satan inherited as a literary form from the German middle ages and musically perhaps through Italian oratorio. Did Bach use a lumbering 12/8 semi-gigue in a major key with brass and timpani to satirize the dragon and thereby reduce his ultimate menace? Leusink's bass [9] sings it with great solemnity. I wonder if it was intended to be a bit more over-the-top as a buffo type aria. Did the Bach's listeners find this aria funny? A dancing dragon?

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 9, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Ever a poor loser, I would resuggest that the cantatas which Bach wrote for Michelmas share many musical, theological and literary themes and conventions. This list might consider discussing the occasional group of cantatas linked by the day in the church year for which they were composed. >
Loser? Not in the least, an excellent and well-received suggestion, both now and previously. The questions are how and when. By coincidence, I had just had a glance at some of the archived chat about the difficulties of agreeing on the second round of discussions. So probably never premature to consider future plans, and getting some agreement in advance.

Peter Smaill wrote (September 10, 2006):
BWV 130, "Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir" - OT Coronation

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Although Lutheran chorales were forbidden in the Anglican church until the end of the 19th century, this melody crept in the back door as a French metrical psalm and went on to become one of the most popular of Anglican hymns as "All People that on Earth Do Dwell". Vaughan Williams wrote a pseudo-Bach setting for the Coronation of Elizabeth II -- I think he may well have had this cantata in mind. The coronation is a rite which historically had no congregational hymns. The distinguised congregation in 1953, after listening passively to superb music for two hours, grabbed their opportunity to sing this liturgical novelty and sang all the verses, to the great annoyance of the composer who had marked certain voices for choir alone. >
A fascinating detail which Doug Cowling supplies. The opening flourish of the piece was adapted from RVW's Cantata "The Hundredth Psalm" and incorporates at v4 a faux bourdon by John Dowland (1621). v5 has the delicious direction in the first stave , "All available Trumpets."

Over 53 years on it is interesting to see what of the music persists in the repertoire . The full line up is:

Anthem "I was glad" Parry
Introit "Behold O God our defender" Howells
Gradual "Let my prayer come up" W H Harris
Creed (from Communion Service in G minor) RVW
Hymn "Come Holy Ghost" arr. Bullock
Anthem "Zadok the Priest" Handel
Anthems:
"Rejoice in the Lord" attr
Redford
"O Clap your hands together" Gibbons
"I will not leave you comfortless" Byrd
"O Lord our Governour" Willan
"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace' S S Wesley
Hymn "All people that on earth do dwell" arr. RVW
Sanctus (from the Communion Service in G) RVW
Communion "O taste and see" RVW
Gloria Stanford
Te Deum Walton

As Doug Cowling points out, it's not surprising that the congregation wanted to sing after such an amount of listening!

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 12, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Week of September 10, 2006
Cantata BWV 130, ,Äú Herr Gott,dich loben alle wir"
Whittaker
The four cantatas we possess for the Feast of St Michael and all Angels show powerfully Bach was stirred by the associations of this Sunday.
Dürr
(
Mvt. 1) Significantly, the theology of Bach's day was not accustomed to see in the angels any of the feminine weakness that later periods have imputed to them.
Outstanding Questions
It would be interesting to know what exact civic formalities were associated with this feast - was there attendance of guilds and senior b? A procession? >
Perhaps a procession of outraged women? No, not yet.

I am so nose to the grindstone (Eng. trans: focused on the task at hand) that I did not notice in Doug's most recent suggestion, that Michaelmas was the next upcoming discussion.

Is there any difficulty in mentioning cross references to all four works for the day? I am working hard (and enjoying it) to relate to this music note by note, week by week. But if someone else takes the lead, you can count on an opinion from me.

Neil Halliday wrote (September 13, 2006):
BWV 130

Doug Cowling wondered if the bass aria has a comic aspect to it. Not in Werner's recording [1], where the overwhelming impression is of military triumphalism. The brilliant brass and timpani, with strong, attractive singing by Stämpfli, ensure this impression, also conveyed in Ansermet [2] and Rilling [4], except that Rilling has a harpsichord tinkling away in the continuo, which detracts from the powerful effect somewhat.

Whereas the period performances of BWV 8, discussed last week, are in general to be preferred to the likes of Werner, Rilling, and Richter, at least in the opening chorus, the situation might be reversed in the big, brassy, pompous, magnificent opening chorus (Mvt. 1) of BWV 130. Werner [1] and Ansermet [2] have very successful 60's recording. The closing chorale of Ansermet, complete with large church organ, is amazing for the spacious magnificence brought to this short final movement.

However, Richter [5], like Koopman [8], seems to be aiming for excitement via a fast performance of the opening chorus, but I prefer the more solid, pompous approach to this music. The choirs of both these latter conductors have some muddying of the rapid vocal passagework in the lower voices, at the faster tempi. Leusink [9] deserves a mention for his rousing performance of the opening chorus.


One might characterize the mood changes in BWV 130 thus: from the pompous magnificence of Mvt. 1, to the triumphalism of Mvt. 3, through tender compassion of the accompanied recitative for soprano and bass (Mvt. 4), to complete light-hearted happiness in the tenor aria with obbligato flute (Mvt. 5), ending with a return to spacious magnificence (Mvt. 6).

(BTW, last week I wondered about Suzuki's performance of BWV 8; the internet sample reveals that Suzuki's opening chorus in BWV 8, like Herreweghe's, is probably as close to perfection as possible. Regarding tempo, it's the bass aria in BWV 8 that Suzuki hurries along a bit; Rilling's performance [4] remains a favourite of mine).

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 17, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 130

Peter Smaill wrote:
< The introductory Chorus is powerfully constructed. The punctuation of a triple beat figure in the continuo, timpani-enforced, interjects and emphasise rising and extending orchestral lines, the trumpets intensifying in the interchange of rising and falling themes the battle between St Michael and the Devil. The power of this ritornello arises from the interplay of the triple pulse of the continuo and timpani with the trumpet lines. >
Precious little commentary in response to Peter's extensive and excellent introduction. I would like to point out that Michael the Archangel does not actually conquer either Satan, Dragon, or Devil in the text of the opening chorus. I suppose it is OK to infer that all Lutherans knew the story, but shouldn't we stick a bit closer to the actual libretto?: Angels surrounding God. Plenty of room for trumpets, drums, and triple beat there.

Next year (BWV 19) we will get to deal with the dragon in his death. I was counting on this sort of commentary from the suggested thematic discussion topic, so I looked ahead. Alas, I was alone.

On the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum website, you can find wonderful paintings of Michael slaying the dragon (Pere Garcia), and also Saint George slaying the dragon (Carlo Crivelli). Easiest to find with the collection by artist function. How do we account for that devilishly recovering dragon, theologically? Is it enough that the myths inspire great art and music, but defy logic?

I share Peter's enthusiasm for the Ansermet LP [2], with Ellie Ameling and Helen Watts. Indeed, the recording set both in my mind as paragons of Bach singing. This time around, Richter [5] sets a new standard for me. This sounds like the music his approach and players were tailored for.

Seems like Bach was using the opportunity, however created, to indulge in a respite from the weekly <heavy clouds, with a hint of sun breaking through>, to enjoy the choir of angels. Bunch of trumpet players and drummers hit town for the fair? Stranger things have happened. But everything about Jahrgang II seems more structured, more planned, than that. More likely, IMO, Bach was a bit more focussed on the sunshine than the preachers, and relished every opportunity to break out a bit. Sheer speculation on my part. Is that allowed on BCML?

Leusink [9] does not catch the festive change of pace. Not a recording you would seek out, but as part of the Leusink set, provides interesting contrast to Richter.

Comments on the OVPP issue (Montreal Baroque) [11] would be welcome.

Those engrossed in speculating on personnel (human resource) issues in Bach's day, would do well to revisit the documentation re flautist Wild:

(1) Around Leipzig in 1724, in some capacity, if not dedicatee of the flute lines.
(2) Recommended by Bach for sinecure, 1727, declined.
(3) Hanging around as the ultimate grad student, until real job in 1734.

Was he unique? Always possible, I suppose, but not a good starting assumption. More likely, plenty of other grad students available to help out with the chores, and performances. Sound familiar? Leisen (Eng. trans: mercy, from the Fr. merci).

Julian Mincham wrote (September 17, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Precious little commentary in response to Peter's extensive and excellent introduction. >
Ed I agree--BWV 130 didn't attract much attention on list. I must say it's not one of my favourites--I think I was always a bit put off by the conventional chords 1, 1V, V opening bars! Things get better from there on--but it's rare for Bach to begin a big chorus with such an obvious cliche.

Of interest to me is the point that this is the third of a group of three major key fantasias after an almost uninterrupted run of minor key movements from the beginning of the cycle (the one exception being BWV 94). From here on to the end of the cycle there is a much more even distribution of major and minor keys.

The modes of the chosen chorales dictated whether the opening choruses would be major or minor of course -- except towards the end where the final chorale was not the one on which the fantasia was based or when the opening choruses were not based on the chorales anyway (four examples).

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 20, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Ed I agree--130 didn't attract much attention on list. I must say it's not one of my favourites--I think I was always a bit put off by the conventional chords 1, 1V, V opening bars! Things get better from there on--but it's rare for Bach to begin a big chorus with such an obvious cliche.
Of interest to me is the point that this is the third of a group of three major keyfantasias after an almost uninterrupted run of minor key movements from the beginning of the cycle >
Perhaps the cliche is just for contrast, in the larger scheme? BWV 114 certainly comes back with maximum ingenuity. I cannot comment on the harmonic details, but the structural innovations (and intuitive harmonies) are another advance, all the more so coming right after BWV 130.

Is there any connection of Michaelmas with the feast which ultimately became Oktoberfest? I did not check beyond raising the question, but the dates seem quite close and coincident.

I enjoy the harmonic tutorials whenever you care to add them, I expect a few others do as well. In the midst of everything else, Jahrgang II could probably provide practical examples for a course in harmony, perhaps the ultimate examples. No use to those who already know it, but of interest to the rest of us.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 20, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Is there any connection of Michaelmas with the feast which ultimately became Oktoberfest? I did not check beyond raising the question, but the dates seem quite close and coincident. >
Michelmas (St. Michael's Day on Sept 29) retained its popularlity after the Reformation because of its association with the harvest celebration. Oktoberfest in many German cities still begins on the first Sunday of October which in popular devotion was the Sunday after Michelmas. Some one would have to dig around to find out if an urban centre like Leipzig celebrated the Harvest, although the only artifact to survive from the Bach household is a beer glass!

Thomas Braatz wrote (September 20, 2006):
Rd Myskowski wrote:
>>Is there any connection of Michaelmas with the feast which ultimately became Oktoberfest?<<
There is no connection between the two. The latter originated at the beginning of the 19th century as a horse-race festival. However, the connection between Michaelmas and the Leipzig Fairs goes back to the Middle Ages and was always associated with Easter and Michaelmas and later on New Years was added. Musical performances in the churches but also in outdoor venues were very important during these Leipzig Fairs during Bach's tenure due to the great number of visitors who came to Leipzig to attend the fairs.

Thomas Jaenicke wrote (September 21, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Don`t forget that St. Michael is the patron saint of the Germans (der deutsche Michel)! indeed no surprise that this feastday was (and is) celebrated all over in the German speaking world.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 130: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: ýApril 24, 2013 ý16:46:09