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Cantata BWV 133
Ich freue mich in dir
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 1, 2003 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 3, 2003):
BWV 133 - Introduction

The chosen work for this week (June 1, 2003) is the Chorale Cantata BWV 133 ‘Ich freue mich in dir’ (I rejoice in you) the 3rd Day of Christmas [Christmas Tuesday, St John's Day].

The extensive commentary below is quoted from the liner notes to Emmanuel Music’s recording of this cantata on Koch International. It was written by Craig Smith, musical director of Emmanuel Music (1999) [5]:

See: Cantata BWV 133 - Commentary

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 133 - Recordings

This cantata has 7 complete recordings: Michael Gielen (1952, has never been issued in CD form), Helmuth Rilling (1980) [2], Gustav Leonhardt (1983) [3], John Eliot Gardiner (1988) [4], Craig Smith & Emmanuel Music (1999) [5], Pieter Jan Leusink (1999) [6], and Ton Koopman (2000, included in his newly released ‘Complete Cantatas – Vol. 13’ [7]). All last 5 are HIP. Through the page of the Music Examples from this cantata:
Cantata BWV 133 – Music Examples
you can listen to two complete recording: Leonhardt [3] (at David Zale Website) and Leusink [6] (contributed by Leo Ditvoorst, and temporarily located at the BCW):

Additional Information
In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to the original German text and various translations, four of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne), French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron), and Spanish (Francisco López Hernández). Francis Browne also contributed the Text & English translation of the chorale by Kaspar Ziegler, upon which the cantata is based. There are also links to the Score (Vocal & Piano version) and to commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch, and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 4, 2003):
BWV 133 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 133 - Provenance

Dürr’s Commentary:

See: Cantata BWV 133 - Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 5, 2003):
BWV 133 - Commentaries:

See: Cantata BWV 133 - Commentary

Neil Halliday wrote (June 6, 2003):
BWV 43 - A "Modern" view? (+133)

[snip] See: Cantata BWV 43 - Discussions

A quick view of BWV 133: I found Harnoncourt's scratchy strings and endless staccato unlistenable: Leusink [6] was an improvement in the first movement, where his light approach to this non-serious, happy music works well, with the 'chirpy' oboes sounding quite charming behind the relatively sweet sounding upper strings. But the
light, 'brittle' sound of the violins in the 4th movement (soprano aria), had me longing for a rich 'cantabile' of a kind available only on modern strings, the better to express what Robertson described as "... one of the finest pieces of sustained and exquisite lyrical writing in the whole range of the cantatas."

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 9, 2003):
BWV 133 - The Recordings:

This week I listened to the following recordings:

Rilling (1980) [2]; Leonhardt (1983) [3]; Gardiner (1998) [4]; Leusink (1999) [6]


TT (from slowest to fastest):

Leonhardt (20:47); Rilling (20:25); Leusink (19:30); Gardiner (18:45)
Mvt. 1: Rilling (4:37); Leusink (4:29); Leonhardt (4:16); Gardiner (4:11)
Mvt. 2: Leonhardt (5:28); Rilling (5:12); Leusink (4:16); Gardiner (4:07)
Mvt. 3: Rilling (1:01); Gardiner (0:59); Leonhardt (0:56); Leusink (0:56)
Mvt. 4: Leonhardt (8:15); Leusink (7:42); Gardiner (7:25); Rilling (7:15)
Mvt. 5: Rilling (1:08); Leusink (1:00); Gardiner (0:58); Leonhardt (0:56)
Mvt. 6: Rilling (1:12); Leusink (1:07); Gardiner (1:05); Leonhardt (0:56)

[2] Rilling:
The outer mvts. are performed with a substantial feeling of joy that is perceptible in both the playing of the instruments and the singing of the choir. The playful figures in the violins are played vivaciously, but with a solid, non-staccato, non-scratchy sound from which a feeling of strong faith and feeling emanates. There are interesting variations in dynamics throughout, but, if there is one flaw to call attention to, it is the lack of a solid choral sound in the chordal sections where the vibratos of these trained choir members tend to undermine the strong affirmation of faith that is expressed in the words of the chorale text. Nevertheless both 1st and last mvts. are portrayed more convincingly than in most of the other recordings.

Huttenlocher’s overdone attempt at expressiveness in his bass recitative lacks any sense of true sincerity. Hardin has some interesting expressive moments in his recitatives, but tends to overdo just a bit his interpretation of Adam facing God in the Garden of Paradise. His voice need not become ugly in order to convey this idea.

Soffel’s rendition of the alto aria is excellent with wonderfully flowing coloraturas on ‘getrost’ and ‘unbegreiflichs.’ At times, she has a slight, fast tremble in her voice when she tries push her voice to the limit, but other softer moments are very moving indeed. Augér’s soprano aria begins with such vocal perfection with a very sensitive accompaniment by Rilling, that it is hard to believe the stark contrast of the middle, ‘Largo’ section which Rilling takes much too fast and Augér sings with an angry voice about those ‘who have hearts as hard as a rock.’ This is, on the one hand very surprising because some commentators suggested that this should be treated very tenderly (the Bassettchen is involved here), but on the other hand, this would seem to be a very viable interpretation of the text that is being sung. I am still rather puzzled by Bach’s setting of this text and his use of “Bassetchen” here.

[3] Leonhardt:
There is a night-and-day contrast between the Rilling and the Leonhardt recordings. On the positive side, the listener will be able to hear a difference in the quality of voices with the Hannover Boys’ Choir taking the top 2 parts and Herreweghe’s Collegium Vocale Gent supplying the lower parts. In this Leonhardt recording the balance between both groups is very good (which is not often the case – usually the lower parts are too weak.) In any case, the overall vocal sound produced is closer to what Bach may have heard when he performed this cantatas. Here, however, the similarities cease, because Leonhardt’s performance practices involve accenting and separating notes even when this is not called for in the score (it is one thing to separate subsequent notes when punctuation marks occur in the text, but to insist on doing this elsewhere creates a non-legato, non-cantabile effect which is contrary to singing generally and is not documented in either Mattheson’s or Agricola’s books which inform us about performance practices during Bach’s lifetime.) Leonhardt uses excessive staccato which causes the light, scratchy sound of the strings. He ‘pokes’ at the 3-note (quarter notes) motif with extreme which then, in turn, is picked up the choir which also ‘pokes’ at its successive quarter notes. Another problem Leonhardt creates with his performance practice is that the beautiful ‘passing’ notes (these are the moving 8th-notes in contrast to the mainly steady stream of quarter notes in the c.f.) are lost to the listener. Because the 1st of each pair of 8th notes receives a heavy accent, the second becomes unaccented to such an extreme degree that it is no longer audible. This is doing a great disservice to Bach’s music because the listener only gets to hear half of the notes that Bach wrote into the score. In such an instance, a theory about performance practice has led to outright distortion and modification of Bach’s music. For this reason, a performance such as this should be noted as Bach-Leonhardt since it has deviated considerably from the original score.

Both the tenor and bass recitatives suffer from the usual distortion of shortened accompaniment of the secco portions of these recitatives. This practice, based upon a supposed unwritten tradition that some claim to have existed, claims that Bach wrote into his scores long note values which he really meant to have performed with very short ones. This is very much contrary to almost anything else that Bach ever notated as a composer as he was quite meticulous, much more meticulous than other contemporary composers in putting down on paper precisely what he wanted to hear.

Jacobs’ alto aria is executed extremely well. There is a wonderful blend between the oboi d’amore and Jacobs’ special voice quality which is quite clear and very listenable. Leonhardt takes great care to observe Bach’s dynamic markings carefully with many echo-like passages and to provide an appropriately delicate bc accompaniment. The boy soprano, Hennig, although he does not have the expressive range of a very good soprano such as Augér, nevertheless delivers the German text so that it is understandable to the listener. There is hardly any contrast between the two sections that make up this mvt., but somehow, this does not seem to affect the believability of this rendition very much. This is a truly remarkable performance (Holton’s and Fuge’s imitation of this pale considerably in comparison for reasons given below.)

[4] Gardiner:
Although not much faster than Leonhardt’s rendition, Gardiner’s treatment lacks the substance of Leonhardt’s because he (Gardiner) insists upon taking the orchestral accompaniment very lightly. The members of his choir sing with a bit more conviction than Leonhardt and certainly much more than Leusink, and, although Gardiner ‘puts them through their paces’ by pushing them almost to the extreme when they have to maneuver their way through the florid 16th-note passage (ms. 93-96 of Mvt. 1), they maintain a balanced, sustained, non-wavering sound that surpasses Rilling’s choir sound [2]. There are reasonable attempts at expressive interpretation whereby Gardiner never forgets the important cantabile, legato singing that expresses strong faith.

Ragin is quite difficult to listen to in the alto aria. This vocalist should not sing Bach arias. Gardiner’s extremely fast tempo and light accompaniment are probably a deliberate attempt to get through this mvt. as quickly as possible. (Why prolong the misery, if you don’t have to?) Both Podger’s tenor recitative and Schwarz’ bass recitative are quite acceptable although suffer slightly from some of the weaknesses of demi voix. The soprano aria sung by Fuge, another demi voix slightly more penetrating than Holton’s voice, is another example where Gardiner hurries the tempo in order to distract the listener from the obvious deficiencies of this voice. The expressive qualities of this voice are practically nil.

[6] Leusink:
In both the outer mvts. for choir and full instrumental ensemble, Leusink fails to deliver a convincing performance. The attitude of the choir toward the music is much too relaxed in order to be convincing. The singing would be best characterized as being insipid. This may be partly due to the fact that the enunciation of the words tends to be quite indistinct. This in itself conveys the attitude of not caring or taking the text seriously. We are simply given an acceptable sight-reading of the music without very much effort being applied to other important aspects of the music.

Buwalda’s singing is out of character with the meaning of the text in his aria. The characteristic mannerisms of his voice are generally not conducive toward creating a believable rendition of the text. Ramselaar’s recitative suffers from his usual affectations that undermine any sense of sincerity which he attempts to convey by exaggerating his feelings so much that they become unreal. Schoch’s rendition of his recitative suffers from too much sameness of expression. Holton even more so seems not to understand the words she is singing nor is there much of an attempt to pronounce the words understandably. Her naïve, child-like simplicity soon becomes boring since her voice lacks much in the way of any kind of variation of expressiveness. Holton is a prime example of a demi voix with all the deficiencies that characterize such a voice. She can ‘hit’ all the notes with a trembling voice and maneuver her way through some difficulties just because most of her vocal production is sotto voce throughout.

Personal Preferences:

The choral sections: Rilling [2] and Gardiner [4] (but not Gardiner’s orchestral accompaniment which is too light.)

The alto aria: Soffel (Rilling [2]) and Jacobs (Leonhardt [3]) equally excellent renditions in both the non-HIP and HIP styles

The soprano aria: Augér (Rilling [2]) and Hennig (Leonhardt [3]) equally excellent renditions in both non-HIP and HIP styles.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 9, 2003):
vii o7...

< Thomas Braatz wrote: This is doing a great disservice to Bach’s music because the listener only gets to hear half of the notes that Bach wrote into the score. >
...iii - vi. ii o7...

< In such an instance, a theory about performance practice has led to outright distortion and modification of Bach’s music. >
...V - iii6 - vii o6 - VI - ii - V...

< For this reason, a performance such as this should be noted as Bach-Leonhardt since it has deviated considerably from the original score. >
... V7 - i.

< (Why prolong the misery, if you don’t have to?) >
III+ ...

Lalis Ivan wrote (June 9, 2003):
This is my first try to evaluate cantata recordings, so please, don't laugh. I have Leonhardt recording [3] and I downloaded Leusink [6], using the link on Bach Cantatas website.

I did not find any faults with Leonhardt [3]. I think I would need an example of what Tom calls a scratchy sound of violins which evokes something unpleasant and which I fail to find in this recording. Choirs convey very well atmosphere of joy and happiness that Jesus was born. Both arias are sung exquisitely, especially the alto one.

The Leusink recording [6] well may have a subtitle - "Yeah, great" as it fails to convey any joy whatsoever. It's well sung, no doubt, but it is emotion-less, IMO. The problem with soprano is not that she chose to sing with white voice to avoid difficulties, but that she sang with white voice to sound like boy soprano. She does this pretty well, actually and does not sound that strained as many other sopranos do, but the result is what I call a sweet & dull style. Here I agree with Tom that it gets boring after a while and that from an adult person one expects more than being able to sound like a child.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 9, 2003):
BWV 133 - Recordings

Last week I have been listening to 6 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 13:

[2] Helmuth Rilling (1980)
[3] Gustav Leonhardt (1983)
[4] John Eliot Gardiner (1998)
[5] Craig Smith & Emmanuel Music (1999)
[6] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
[7] Ton Koopman (2000)

The Opening Chorus & the two Arias – Background and personal preferences

Bach derived from the poetic libretto six splendid movements, most of them are really memorable. Due to limitations of time, I chose to concentrate in my short review on only three, but my unhesitant recommendation is listening to this cantata in its entirety. As in last week review, the short background preceding the list of my personal preferences for the recordings of these three movements, is quoted from Alec Robertson’s book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972).

Mvt. 1 Chorus
The melody of the chorale, in the top part, is simply harmonised up to the sixth of the eight lines, ‘Ach, wie ein süsser Ton’ (Ah, how sweet a sound), when the sopranos sustain ‘Ton’ for three and a half bars, while the other voices move independently below. The attraction of the movement is provided by the orchestral part in which the chief motif characterises the ‘sweet sound’. Each line of the chorale is followed by a ritornello and indeed, the orchestral part could stand, without the chorale, as a Sinfonia. It is most exhilarating, a dance of joy.

Preferences: Smith/Emmanuel [5], Rilling [2], Gardiner [4], Leonhardt [3], Koopman [7], Leusink [6]

The big surprise here is the spirited singing of Emmanuel Music. Smith’s tempi [5] along the whole cantata are usually somewhat slower than the other modern recordings of this cantata, and as a result his rendition gains in depth and inner conviction. Rilling [2] is not far behind, but sounds a little bit heavy for the demands of chorus. Koopman [7] changed recording label, but has not got rid of his bad habit of performing the choruses far too fast. The singing of the choir and the playing of the orchestra are first rate, but who can follow the details and be convinced by the message when it is performed in such velocity?.

Mvt. 2 Aria for Alto
These words refer to the Gospel, St. John 1: 1-14, ‘The word became flesh’.

Contraltos/Mezzo-sopranos: Soffel/Rilling [2], [gap] Gottwald/Koopman [7], Westbrook-Geha/Smith [5]
Counter-tenors: Jacobs/Leonhardt [3], Ragin/Gardiner [4], [gap] Buwalda/Leusink [6]

Doris Soffel was a capable oratorio singer before she started her successful operatic career. Her rendition of the aria for alto gives the outmost satisfaction and her identification with the message she has to convey is very convincing.

Mvt. 4 Aria for Soprano
The ‘sweet sound’ of the first verse of the chorale is now discovered to be ‘My Jesus is born’, to which Bach gives a phrase that might well have come from the chorale. The soprano has her own melody and it takes 24 bars for her to reveal what is ‘Sweetly ringing in her ear’! The ringing of bells is realistically depicted by alternate open and stopped strings without continuo but with repeated notes on the viola, possibly to suggest a larger bell. The time changes from 4/4 to 12/8 in the middle section of the aria. ‘Who does not understand Jesus’ name and in whom it does not penetrate the heart, must have a heart rock.’ This very ordinary sentence drawn from Bach one of the finest pieces of sustained and exquisite lyrical writing in the whole range of the cantatas.

Preferences: Hennig/Leonhardt [3], Augér/Rilling [2], [gap], Holton/Leusink [6], York/Koopman [7], Fuge/Gardiner [4], Colton/Smith [5]

Last week I sang the praises of Peter Jelosits, the excellent boy who sings the aria for soprano from Cantata BWV 43 in Harnoncourt’s rendition, and here we have another fine boy, although somewhat different. His voice is appealing and his attacks are precise, but he seems to have short breath. Nevertheless, his singing is delightful, much better both vocally and expressively than most female sopranos in this aria. The exception is, of course, Arleen Augér with rich expression, which gives individual meaning to every word. Individuality would not be the right word to describe the singing of the other four sopranos. None of them is bad, but there is not much to choose between them, as they sound very similar to each other.


Movements to take away: the opening chorus with Smith/Emmanuel Music [5], the aria for Alto with Soffel/Riling and the aria for Soprano with Hennig/Leonhardt [3].

Neil Halliday wrote (June 11, 2003):
Ivan Lalis wrote:
"I think I would need an example of what Tom calls a scratchy sound of violins which evokes something unpleasant and which I fail to find in this (Leonhardt's) recording [3]."
You can go to, and listen to the 1st movement of BWV 56 (Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen) performed by Richter, and contrast this with the Leonhardt version [3] at the David Zale site; you will notice the striking difference in the timbres of the upper strings. Without discussing the relative superiority of one over the other, I note that more than one commentator has had problems with period string sound - I can recall Itzhac Perlman stating in an article, a number of years go, that he turned off period violin performances when they appeared on the radio. From my perspective, the "scratchy" sound ( I do not say this is a feature of all period string recordings) has a similar effect to the breaking of chalk on a blackboard...

In a later post (#5352), Johan van Veen wrote:
"You are absolutely right. Playing music of the late 19th century on 18th century instruments is just as ridiculous as playing music of the 18th century on late 19th century instruments. What puzzles me is why almost everyone agrees with the first statement and many people disagree with the second."
The answer to that puzzle lies in matters of practicality and experience.

During the revival of interest in the baroque, from Mendelsohhn on, people were not concerned about identifying the exact sound of the original instruments, so it made sense to perform these works with the contemporary instruments that were available, ie, the same instruments that you would use, closer to our own time, to perform a Sibelius symphony, for example. The results were often very pleasing, as evidenced by the fame that performers such as Karl Richter and Glenn Gould were able to create for themselves.

One point to consider about the human voice as an instrument, is that its structure has not changed over the last 200 (or 20,000?) years, so that a performance of a Monteverdi madrigal, for example, can also be very effective with modern instruments. Listen to Raymond Leppard and the Glyndebourne chorus on (baroque section).

As far as lovers of Bach are concerned, I find it surprising that they should not also love the symphonies of Tchaikovsky, Sibelius, and Ralph V. Williams, as well as a host of glorious later 20th century music, including good exampin other genres (jazz, pop, etc).

Roland Wörner wrote (June 11, 2003):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< One point to consider about the human voice as an instrument, is that its structure has not changed over the last 200 (or 20,000?) years, ... >
The boy sopranos / altos of the 20th / 21st century are not equal to those Bach had. Harnoncourt (analogous) in an interview on SFB broadcast, 1985: boys in our time mutate 5 years earlier than in the 18th / 19th century. Bach's sopranos and altos were 18 or 19 years old. Even Haydn and Schubert were singing as boy sopranos in the age of 18. So a boy soprano / alto at Bach's time actually was a young man who had a full developed thorax and lung, also a five years longer full trained voice (and also mind). They must have been totally different from that what we know as a boy soprano / alto in our time.

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (June 11, 2003):
Bach composed the cantata for the 3rd Day of Christmas 1724. Just like the preceding one for the 2nd day of Christmas, BWV 121 - "Christum wir sollen loben schon", which we discussed recently, this chorale cantata is based on a hymn in four stanzas. In fact it is a combination of a Christmas carol and a theological interpretation of the birth of Jesus. The first stanza is a pure carol, written in the first person singular, very intimately expressing the joy over the birth of Jesus, my little brother. Also the last stanza shows this very personal character, but here it is a declaration of eternal devotion to Jesus. This effusion of love is the result of the preceding stanzas. Both in the original hymn and the cantata, the intimate reflections and moments of adoration alternate with more theological ideas meant to build up the listeners' faith.

We know this inclusion of theological principles from most of Bach's church cantatas. However, it was a relatively new phenomenon at the time. In "Bach, The Learned Musician", Christoph Wolff explains that before 1700, the Gospel motet was the principle musical piece in the liturgy of the mass. It generally highlighted one or more central Biblical verses from the Gospel reading for the day. "In the later seventeenth century, the Gospel motet was replaced by a concertato motet with aria and chorale supplements and after 1700 by the cantata, at which time the multisectional cantata poetry moved from merely highlighting a passage from the biblical lesson to interpreting as well. The theologian-poet Erdmann Neumeister initiated the development that resulted in the cantata's function as a musical sermon. Therefore, all of Bach's Leipzig cantata texts follow a standard pattern firmly grounded in the bifocal homiletic structure of a Lutheran sermon: explicatio and applicatio, biblical exegesis and theological indtruction succeeded by practical and moral advice."

It is a miracle that Bach not only succeeded in producing so many cantatas in such a short period of time [see my review on BWV 121], but what's more . they are all so wonderful. Dürr mentions that at the bottom of the first page of the score for the "Sanctus" - BWV 232 (also for that same Christmas), Bach had scribbled the words and the melody of the song "Ich freue mich in dir", then unknown in Leipzig. While working on the Sanctus, the song crossed his mind and Bach jotted it down for his cantata for the 2nd day of Christmas. After all, he knew there was a lot of work to be done yet before the end of the season. These few bottom lines do not prove that he was composing several works simultaneously, though it would not surprise me if he did, but at any rate they show that while working on a piece, his mind was not restricted to the one composition at hand. Probably Bach himself ordered the unknown cantata librettist to reshape the four stanzas of the original Ziegler poem into the regular six for a chorale cantata. So he knew what the text for the first movement was going to be. Bach could have invented the melody himself, but I would say he used the existing melody. It might well have been in one of the hymnals he possessed and he may have heard it sung in church before coming to Leipzig.

The first movement has three contrasting elements, a lively orchestra with the violins and the oboes d'amore in playful concert, the basso continuo laying a highly rhythmical foundation, and over it the uncomplicated, largely homophonic chorale. The restlessness in the basso continuo suggests that there is more at stake here than just the peace and quiet of a nursery with two happy parents and a baby sleeping in a cradle. There is a dark undertone, an echo, reflecting the resistance Jesus was to face and would have to overcome during his short life on earth. They were troublesome times that forced Mary and Joseph to make their out-of-the-way journey (some 70 miles) through mountainous area, unwarranted for a heavily pregnant maiden. The uncomfortable conditions of Jesus' birth and the family's narrow escape from Herod's massacre, in spite of the adoration of the angels, the shepherds and the magi, indicate that He was not exactly welcome in the world at the time. Nor is he now, I am afraid. And then, we know, as Bach did, how Jesus had to suffer at the end his human life. The combination of these elements creates an atmosphere of rejoycing at a small-scale level. Here no exultations of "Joy to the World, the King has come!" but an intimate lullaby for a babe, both human and divine.

The alto aria links up musically to the opening chorale with the warm oboi d'amore in a leading role. They immediately set the theme and the atmosphere that is taken over by the alto, starting with the central word "getrost". Long coloraturas on "getrost" and "unbegreiflichs" show a composer wondering at the incomprehensible nature of God.

The simple tenor recitative secco with a beautiful arioso character leads to the soprano aria, in which the strings play an important part. Opening with the strings, the soprano line "Wie lieblich klingt es in den Ohren" and the echo by the solo violin, Bach immediately gives us a taste of sweetness and loveliness. The aria shows again this division of personal intimacy and its consequence, the fact that one can not but love the name of Jesus or have a heart of stone. Yet, in spite of some dissonants on "harter Felsen", Bach maintains the intimacy and tenderness throughout, as if preferring at this moment not to think of the hardships that would rock Jesus later in life.

The fifth movement, a secco recitative for bass, has a serious character of theological explication and application. Both musically and textually, it points forward to the concluding chorale. When the bass has put forward the statement that every one who acknowledges Jesus as Lord, will not die when he dies, the choir applies this creed in a personal resolution: "Then I want to hold on to Jesus alone, in life and death".

Philippe Bareille wrote (June 14, 2003):
[To Roland Wörner] This is not true. There is no reasons to believe that human voice has changed over the past 300 years. Boy's voices start breaking in mid-to-late puberty. In the 17th century puberty was delayed by a few years compared to today, in part because of poor nutrition. A 12-year old boy of today is as developed as a 15 year old of Bach's time. In other words, puberty used to kick in later but at the same stage of development. Yet as people were shorter by at least 10-15 centimetres, we can postulate that an adolescent of today has probably a larger thorax than his counterpart of the 18th century. The only advantage of the 18th century is that boys had more time to get trained and experienced but their voice per se was not different and perhaps even less strong. It is interesting to note that both Sebastian Henning and Peter Jelosits (two outstanding boy sopranos of the H&L series) sung with their soprano voice until the age of 15. (Bach's voice broke at this age). I cannot believe that good boy sopranos in Bach' time were different. Furthermore a boy is talented or not irrespective of his experience.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 133: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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