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Cantata BWV 138
Warum betrübst du dich, mein Hertz?
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 9, 2005

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 9, 2005):
BWV 138 Introduction to the weekly discussion

The cantata which has been selected, based upon the chronological sequence of Bach's performances, for this week's discussion is BWV 138 "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz" which had its first performance in Leipzig on September 5, 1723. The latter date was determined mainly on the basis of the watermark of the paper used for Bach's autograph score which is the only original evidence available and by the manner of transposition of the oboi d'amore in the French-style G-clef.

In regard to the set of missing original parts, the NBA KB I/22 states on p. 27 "Über seinen Verbleib ist nichts bekannt" ["Nothing is known about where this set of parts went after Bach's death."]

On top of the score Bach wrote: "J. J. Concerto Do{min}ica 15 post Trinit{atis}" and no instrumentation is indicated, not even the voices, with the exception of the comment "deux Hautb. d'Amour."

One interesting aspect of the autograph score which allows us to look into the composer's workshop, as it were, is the preliminary sketch of mm 18-21 [go to: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV138-M4.htm] he made at the bottom of the page on which he composed directly the music for the famous bass aria "Auf Gott steht meine Zuversicht." Assuming, as would be natural and reasonable, that this sketch in tablature only for the 1st violin preceded the actual process of writing out the introductory ritornello, Bach seems to be searching for a way to bring to a conclusion the ever-ascending sequence that begins in m 13 and to provide, at the same time, a cadence and a bridge to the opening phrase sung by the bass.

Very apparent also is the repetition of the first phrase sung by the bass with only a short re-echoing by the 1st violin of the subject stated by the bass (which is, of course, the main subject throughout this aria.) There is a name for this musical device or perhaps rhetorical mannerism. Does anyone know what this is called and who was the first to give it a name as a musical term? Does anyone know which model (based upon the works of a famous German composer) Bach may have used? (More obviously, this tradition originates with Italian operas and Bach may also have encountered it there as well.)

Another aspect of Bach's style of composition is, as Albert Schweitzer has pointed out, the unity which Bach achieves by distilling musical shapes and forms based either upon ideas and images provided by the text or making use of a single chorale melody or portions thereof to provide the thread that goes through all movements. In the case of a chorale cantata treated in the 'omnes versus' ["all the verses are set to music with individual contrasting mvts"] treatment, it is usually quite easy to see and hear the variations of the melody, but in some cantatas this unifying chorale-melody core or kernel is more difficult to find. I propose to illustrate how Bach, consciously or unconsciously fashioned the wonderful melodic phrase that dominates the bass aria from elements of the chorale melody used in the key movements of this cantata. see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV138-M4.htm

At this point, you may wish to know more about the chorale melody used in various mvts. of this cantata.

A link to Aryeh's site is provided here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Warum-betrubst.htm

The information about the text of the chorale is found at: http://wwwbach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale037-Eng3.htm

This information is still incomplete. Hopefully Francis Browne will soon be able to provide the complete text and a translation into English.

In order to obtain an overview of all recordings of this cantata, you are directed to look at the list of recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV138.htm

This cantata has been recorded by Ramin [1], Rilling [3], Harnoncourt [4], Herreweghe [6], Suzuki [7], Koopman [8], Leusink [9], and Gardiner [10].

This page for BWV 138 will lead you to the Epistle and Gospel readings for this given Sunday 15. Sunday after Trinity: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity15.htm

Translations of the libretto into various languages are also available: English, French, Hebrew, Indonesian, Spanish.

For viewing and listening there are the vocal/piano scores and the Harnoncourt [4] and Leusink [9] recordings of the cantata.

In preparation for listening and understanding the music better, you would be well-advised to examine the various commentaries already available on the BCW. Some commentaries like those of Simon Crouch and James Leonard (AMG) are very succinct and can only capture a few highlights that might spur your interest, whet your appetite or focus your attention on certain aspects of the cantata.

Also, Spanish and Japanese commentaries are available

The previous discussions are found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV138-D.htm and are well worth reading.

Here is a single, slightly more thorough commentary on this cantata as found in the "Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach," Boyd, ed., Oxford University Press, 1999:

>>"Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" ('Why troublest thou thyself, my heart?'). Cantata for the 15th Sunday after Trinity, BWV 138, first performed on 5 September 1723. It departs from the usual pattern for cantatas composed during Bach's first year in Leipzig. In the spirit of the second cycle (the so-called 'Chorale Cantata Jahrgang' of 1724-5), its structural scaffolding includes the first three stanzas of "Warum betrübst du dich, mein Herz?" a chorale that originated in Nuremberg in the 16th century.

The overall theme of the work concerns moving beyond temporal, earthly worries to trust in God. In this respect it is closely related to the appointed Gospel reading (Matthew 6: 24-34), a passage from the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus instructs his disciples not to fret about food and clothing. Fundamental to the first three movements is the tension between faith and fear. The perspective of faith, expressed in the words of the chorale, affirms that earthly things are merely temporary. Since God has created everything on earth and in heaven, he knows what we need, he will stand by us and not leave us, and we should trust him. The perspective of doubt, verging on despair, is articulated in the recitatives.

The experimental mode of this work is evident already in movement 1, which juxtaposes the two perspectives. Each of the first three lines of the chorale (expressing faith) is set according to the following pattern: the strings and continuo begin the ritornello, and subsequently are joined by the oboes d'amore; the first oboe d'amore begins with a phrase of the chorale tune (similar to 'Vorimitation' in organ chorales), while the second plays a doleful, descending chromatic line; next, the tenor presents a line of the chorale with an independent melody that incorporates the head-motif of the ritornello; finally, the voices sing a four-part setting the chorale phrase (the melody is doubled by the oboes d'amore, the bass line by the continuo). The next section of the movement is an alto recitative that expresses the darkest despair (bars 31-42); here the strings and continuo accompany in sustained notes, while the oboes d'amore punctuate the passage with semiquaver figures in parallel 6ths and 3rds. Thereafter, the last two lines of the chorale (representing a return to the perspective of faith) are set straightforwardly, with instrumental doubling.

The bass recitative (movement 2) is an unremittingly bitter tirade, which continues in the same vein as the alto recitative of the previous movement. Both passages include many diminished intervals and much chromaticism, in keeping with their subject-matter. Especially striking examples in the bass recitative are found in bar 7, at 'bittern Kelch der Tränen' ('bitter chalice of tears'), and in bar l0 (parallel tritones).

Movement 3, another chorus, follows the bass recitative without a break and involves a similar kind of juxtaposition to that in movement 1. The voice of faith speaks first: the first three lines of the chorale are set rather simply, with the four vocal parts doubled by the strings and continuo and the oboes d'amore providing brief semiquaver punctuation between phrases. The chorale is again interrupted by a recitative with a tone of desperation, sung this time by the soprano and accompanied by the strings and continuo. This passage ends with a question: 'Wo ist jemand, der sich zu meiner Rettung findt?' ('Where is there someone who will strive for my deliverance?'). The answer is provided by the last two lines of the chorale, which are set in an elaborate, motet-like polyphonic style, with the melody doubled by the oboes d'amore: 'Dein Vater und dein Herre Gott, Der dir beisteht in aller Not' ('Your father and the Lord your God, Who stands by you in every need'). A second recitative passage, sung by the alto and accompanied by the continuo only, ends with a similar question: 'Wer steht mir denn in meinem Kummer bei?' ('Who will stand by me then in my sorrow?'). It is answered identically, with a reprise of the last two lines of the chorale.

After the intensity of all the previous recitatives, the tone of movement 4--a tenor recitative expressed in predominantly major and diatonic rather than minor and chromatic sonorities comes as a breath of fresh air. Its musical qualities reflect the gradual infiltration of faith, the dawning realization that God will soon come to our aid: 'Hilft er heute nicht, so hilft er mir doch morgen' ('If he does not help today, he will surely help me tomorrow). This movement again flows without a break into the bass aria (movement 5), accompanied by strings and continuo, an outspoken declaration of trust and faith in God's providential care. In most respects it follows the usual pattern for modified da capo arias. After the opening ritornello, the first sentence (lines 1-2) is set in the A section, which modulates from the tonic to the dominant and is followed by a shortened version of the ritornello in the new key. The other two sentences (lines 3-4 and 5-7) are set in two sections (B and B′) which modulate to the submediant and mediant respectively. Between them, however, is not only the expected ritornello in the submediant (bars 74-81) but also a reprise of the opening bars of the A section in the tonic (bars 82-90 = 21-9). The return of the beginning of A in the tonic, both here and immediately upon the conclusion of B′ (the ritornello that usually occurs here is omitted), along with its confident, dance-like triple metre, lends the movement something of the flavour of a rondeau. In the late 1730s Bach adapted it for use in his Missa in G major BWV 236.

After a brief and unremarkable alto recitative (movement 6), the cantata closes with an uncharacteristically elaborate setting of the third stanza of the same chorale that was heard earlier, in movements 2 and 3. While the voices present the chorale one phrase at a time in slightly more intricate four-part harmony than usual, the instrumental ensemble plays an ornate ritornello featuring brilliant demisemiquaver passages in the violins and parallel motion in the oboes d'amore. The joyous tone of this movement is far removed from the distress of the beginning, and a fitting conclusion for the journey from despair to trust. SAC<<

SAC is Stephen A. Crist, associate professor of music at Emory University. His articles have appeared in Early Music, Bach Studies, Bach Perspectives, The Cambridge Companion to Bach, and elsewhere. He has also published a facsimile edition of a Low German hymnal dating from Luther's time and is working on a book on the Bach arias. He is secretary and treasurer of the American Bach Society.

**It should be noted that the mvts. of this cantata are numbered differently depending on which edition is used. For the most correct numbering of the mvts., the Bach Werke Verzeichnis and the NBA have the bass aria as movement 4, not, for instance, as mvt. 5 as the above commentator in 1999 still has it.

Armed with only some of the material offered above (and/or the notes included with recordings) and only one or a few of these recordings, you, as a listener, are welcome to offer your opinions on this cantata. It does not matter whether this pertains to the music as such or to the performances/recordings that you have listened to.

Here are some questions to ponder while listening (these are not in any particular order):

1. How did Bach illustrate musically the text which he set to music? How well did the performers succeed in bringing out what Bach may have intended?

2. What aspects of performance were you able to distinguish (too fast/slow; intelligible/unintelligible text; good intonation/out-of-tune (too flat/sharp); clear/unclear musical lines; too legato/staccato; too heavy or sharp accents/too monotonous (lack of inflection); unity/disparity of sound; balance/imbalance between the musicians or groups of performers; vocal qualities, whether as a solo or as a group/choir; well-prepared/not so well-prepared performances; emotionally convincing/not so emotionally convincing; technical accuracy/lack of technical accuracy, etc. All of these things can be determined by careful listening even without the score in hand and simply with a rudimentary understanding of music, if (and this is a crucial 'if') you devote sufficient time to this type of activity. The experience of doing so will be very rewarding.

Within the stated guidelines established for the BCML, you are invited to offer/share your opinions, ask questions about the music and/or the recordings of Bach's music and his background. Thus you can become part of this effort to see and hear different viewpoints, while expressing your own feelings and thoughts, and 'to sort things out' for yourself as well as this is reasonably possible, regarding such an expansive subject as Bach and his music, which has moved and continues to move most of the participants of the BCML very profoundly.

Peter Smaill wrote (October 9, 2005):
The poignancy of the dialogue between the troubled soul in "Warum Betrubst du dich, mein Herz?" BWV 138/1 and 138/3, with the consolations of the lovely chorale, marks for me a species of writing in which Bach always excels - the superimposition of a solo voice with the affekt of a background or interspersed chorale. Contemplating the relatively rare use of this technique outside the Passions, it was not long before the citizens of Leipzig were to hear an even more moving dialogue, that between tenor and chorus in BWV 95/1, "Christus, der ist mein leben." This is the cantata for the following week.

As often happens, successive Cantatas fall to be analysed together. Stylistically, apart from the wonderful devices of tension between soloist and choir, both Cantatas deal with the rejection of the false world in favour of life in Christ, the latter being a meditation on the Nunc Dimittis. It is as if BWV 138 is a preparation for the sof the following week; the longing for death made complete.

And yet, the texts for both Sundays do not compel such a meditation; indeed the subsequent settings of BWV 99, BWV 100 ("Was Gott tut" and certainly the joyous "Jauchet Gott," BWV 51), all set for this Sunday (Trinity 15), are quite different in outlook. The sixteenth Sunday receives four Cantatas which are indeed all meditations on death, but as Robertson points out, the Gospel is the raising of the widow's son, which event prefigures resurrection rather than death.

The nearest explanation, though speculative, is that stated by John Eliot Gardiner in his Pilgrimage notes [10]; Bach's daughter born in 1723 was poorly and the exceptional poignancy especially of BWV 95/5 ("Schlage doch") reflects the composer's desire to set even a lullaby as a sterbenlied. BWV 138 prefigures this by twice referring to the troubled christian as a child ("Kind"), latterly (BWV 138/7)

"Weil du mein Gott und Vater bist,
Dein Kind wirst du verlassen nicht...
"

("Since Thou art my God and Father
Thou wilt not forsake thy child....")

Scripture does not directly support the "child" image in this expression.

The alto recit precedes the final chorale with an unusual image,

"Euch, Sorgen, sei der Scheidebrief gegeben!"

("To you, sorrows be given the divorce brief") (Unger tr.)
("Sorrows, receive your farewell letter") (Stokes tr.)

"Scheidebrief" appears to support both definitions per my dictionary. Either way it is an attractive sentiment and created by the poet (?), again without any obvious biblical support.

My tentative conclusion is that these two Cantatas, both remarkable for having a single aria and much use of Chorale, were written by the same individual (though they are not grouped by Harald Streck as such in the 1980 Reimenschneider research). Bach's response to the texts on both dates are of superlative quality and the tension of texts and music, soloists and chorales, doubting the world to faith in heaven, are handled with exceptional sensitivity.

Chris Kern wrote (October 9, 2005):
I am no longer able to download any of the mp3's for the Harnoncourt versions of the cantatas [4] -- is this a problem that is expected to be eventually rectified or should I just listen to Leusink [9] instead?

Ludwig wrote (October 9, 2005):
[To Chris Kern] Could you please tell me where to download these. I have them all except about three and can not find them anywhere to purchase (I prefer to purchase commerically because I do not have to put up with the ugly aesthetics of paper labels etc)?

Yang Jingfeng wrote (October 10, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thank you so much for such a detailed introduction, Mr Braatz

Lew George wrote (October 10, 2005):
BWV 138

Many thanks and a big cheer to Thomas for his helpful introduction and links to other information, and to Peter Smaill for his (as ever) illuminating and thoughtful addition.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 10, 2005):
BWV 138: the recordings

Opening chorus.

The key signature is an emotional B minor; the music features chromatic instrumental and choral writing, within the marvellous chorale-based structure with recitative, as outlined by Thomas Braatz .

Rilling [3] has the fastest tempo, thereby subtracting from the opening pathos, and this is the main drawback of his recording of this movement. Another blemish is the choir's vibrato (but fortunately this seems to disappear as the movement progresses); otherwise his recording of this movement shows exemplary instrumental clarity, and a highly effective alto recitative, with expressive string accompaniment. Noteworthy is the appearance of a very fine alto, Ria Bollen (not often heard in the Rilling cycle) to sing this recitative.

Rilling allots the quasi-recitative tenor line in the first section to the soloist (Baldin), and this makes a fine contrast with the chorale-like choral sections. (Koopman [8] and Gardiner [10] also allot this tenor line to a soloist; I think the other recordings have the choir tenors; listen to all the samples at the BCW's recordings page.)

The other complete recording I have is Herreweghe's [6] (still referring to the 1st movement). I need to turn the amp up with this recording, but nevertheless this choir is one of the most beautiful I have heard, and the harmonisations on "Schmerz" (pain, grief) for example, are breath-taking. And since the instrumental parts flow nicely, are clear, and are not overly `mannered' or gestural, and the tempo feels right (slower then Rilling), I might rank this as the finest recording of this movement I have listened to. Herreweghe does use the choir tenors at the start, thereby losing some impact, as noted above.

Another beautiful choir (judging from the samples) is Gardiner's Monteverdi [10], but I find the instruments at the start, violins especially, to be mannered, with some notes bordering on inaudibility. Koopman [8] also has this characteristic, IMO. Harnoncourt [4] overemphasizes the continuo with his marked detachment of the notes; otherwise this movement has the necessary pathos. This group, including Herreweghe [6], all have about the same, moderate tempo. Leusink [9] is a bit slower. I haven't heard Suzuki [7].

An interesting early example of OVPP in this movement can be heard in the Bach Aria Group's 1960's recording (sample also available at the BCW's recordings page). This is arranged for limited instrumental forces (sounds like 1 flute, 1 violin, 1 viola, a cello and organ only) but is well performed.
-------
For the remainder of the cantata, Rilling [3] is without doubt my pick (to judge from the samples. BTW, Rilling examples can be heard at amazon, though the link at the BCW brings up the wrong cantatas. Also, apparently, the complete Harnoncourt recordings [4] at the Zale site have lapsed, so amazon samples will have to suffice. I cannot find examples of Suzuki for BWV 138 [7]).

Rilling [3] presents the secco recitatives as a kind of free-form trio for voice, harpsichord, and cello, with the harpsichord part showing particularly subtle development having quasi-melodic elements in the treble clef part, while avoiding overuse of flowery arpeggio chords. (Recalling a previous discussion, I would be surprised if Douglas Cowling considers these examples to be `overcooked'). Here, with the expressive cello, we have effective musical support for the nevertheless free form vocal part; the other recordings have short, often unattractive, widely separated chords that seem to have no recognisable connection with one another, lose all sense of the movement's harmonic structure, and offer no effective support for the singer. All the vocalists with Rilling - Auger, Bollen, and Baldin - are pleasing. Auger shows that she can sing a high note without screaming (listen to her caressing the last note of her recitative (on "findt").
--------
The bass aria is of course hit-parade material (I'm sure it would `score a hit' as a stand alone piece in any concert hall anywhere). Rilling's bright, flowing strings [3] have clarity and verve, with a prominent singing viola part. (Bach apparently loved playing the viola line most of all, according to one of his sons). Huttenlocher avoids excessive theatricality, is restrained and expressive, and is well matched with Rilling's bright, modern string orchestra, but there is some vibrato in the lengthy melismas on "walten" and "erhalten" that vthe clarity of the pitch of some of the notes. From the BCW samples, I suspect Mertens with Koopman [8] is more pleasing in this regard.

The final chorale is sheer joy. Rilling [3], with perhaps the least effective tempo in the opening movement (too brisk, lacking pathos), now proves to have the most effective tempo in this final movement, with his slower speed paradoxically eliciting, when the choir enters, the exhilaration of high-speed flight. His is the only recording in which the scintillating violins soar above the almost vibrato-free choir. Koopman [8], with the next most moderate tempo, also has a fine performance of this marvellous chorale.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 10, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Rilling [3] allots the quasi-recitative tenor line in the first section to the soloist (Baldin), and this makes a fine contrast with the chorale-like choral sections. (Koopman [8] and Gardiner [10] also allot this tenor line to a soloist; I think the other recordings have the choir tenors; listen to all the samples at the BCW's recordings page.) >
One of the things I'm doing as we move through the cantatas is to ask myself, Is this a cantata I think would work well with OVPP? It's purely a question of personal taste and often aribitrary (In the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) I love "Et Resurrexit" with solo voices but find a solo "Sanctus" laughable)

I hadn't heard this cantata before and ,looking at the score before listening, I thought it might be interesting if there was interplay between soloists and choir in the choral movements. After listening to Leusink [9], however, I came to the conclusion (again based on personal taste) that this canata would sound marvellous with only four singers, the individual voices emerging for solo passages and then returning to the tutti texture. I was reminded of the closing recitative in the "Christmas Oratorio" (BWV 248).

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 11, 2005):
BWV 138/4 Parody Comparison

As mentioned by previous commentators, BWV 138/4 (the famous bass aria) is found as a parody (from sacred cantata to German mass) in BWV 236/3 ("Gratias") where Bach revisited and reused this material, perhaps as much as twenty years later, but in the process had to make the music fit a Latin text, a daunting task in which it might appear that he did not always succeed (BWV 235/1, for example, is a parody of BWV 102/1 - in particular, the fugue subject "Du schlägest sie, aber sie fühlens nicht" ) simply does not translate well musically as a suitable expression of "Christe eleison" and there was little that could be done to change the original, very edgy, cantata-mvt. theme into something that would sound appropriate in a German mass with Latin and Greek as text. In any case, there is no firm evidence that Bach had ever prepared BWV 235 or even performed it. It may simply have been an exercise executed by Altnickol, Bach's son-in-law, in creating a German mass from existing Bach cantata mvts. This is the reason why it is considered to be by Bach: most of the notes are the same or similar to Bach's original source and Bach's creative genius shines through the Latin text without doing justice to the text of the German mass.

The situation with BWV 236 and, in particular, BWV 236/3 (the bass aria that is a parody of BWV 138/4) is that we at least have an autograph score and we can see the great effort that Bach expended in transforming the music which was ideally well-suited to the text of BWV 138/4 and provided the inspiration for the music which Bach composed. Clearly something is lost, but the loss is not as significant as that in the case of BWV 235/1 because here, in BWV 236/3, Bach searches for ways to get closer to the Latin text, modifying in various ways the expression of the music to suit the import of the text, but also accommodating the peculiar characteristics of the Latin language.

In order to view the comparison between both versions, I have created, based on the NBA edition in both instances, a measure-by-measure close comparison between the bass solo parts for the 1723 original concept and version and the later BWV 236/3 German mass version which may have been undertaken almost twenty years later: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV138-M4-BWV236-M3.htm

(At the moment the notes and words are very small. I will work with Aryeh to see if we can increase the size and make it more easily readable.)

The changes are considerable. At first I thought I would need to color-code changes, but there are so many of them, that it is best viewed without such distraction. In addition to the entire vocal part, I also selected a few samples from the instrumental parts to illustrate the type of changes Bach undertook in these as well.

It is important to understand that with both versions, the articulation of the vocal and instrumental parts would be much more clearly delineated if the original parts of either version had survived, but by combining evidence from both autograph scores, a clearer picture of this aspect of the performance that Bach might have had in mind emerges.

Enjoy finding the differences between the versions and commenting, if you wish, on your observations.

(Has anyone found the name of the technical term used for the very obvious repetition of the first phrase --first 4 mm.-- in the vocal part of this bass aria? Also, there is musical figure in m 62 which is used almost incessently in the instrumental parts. Do you know what this is called?)

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 11, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< In order to view the comparison between both versions, I have created, based on the NBA edition in both instances, a measure-by-measure close comparison between the bass solo parts for the 1723 original concept and version and the later BWV 236/3 German mass version which may have been undertaken almost twenty years later: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV138-M4-BWV236-M3.htm >
Wow! This is a terrific resource. Thanks for all your work, Thomas.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 11, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"there is musical figure in m 62 which is used almost incessently in the instrumental parts. Do you know what this is called?)">
I don't know what it's called, but would the similar figure, namely the counter-subject in the fugue of BWV 903, have the same name?

This figure in both pieces obviously serves to bring a strong rhythmic element to the music, among other things.

In passing, regarding the parody of 138/4, I notice that the identical notes in bars 68 to 74, which in the bass aria comprise a melisma on "plagen", are no longer a melisma in the mass (BWV 236/3) because several words are set to the same notes in the latter - something I had not considered before.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 11, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>> http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV138-M4-BWV236-M3.htm
Wow! This is a terrific resource. Thanks for all your work, Thomas.<<
Thanks should also be directed to Aryeh Oron who has quickly implemented and now much improved the readability of the score sample on this comparison page: now, if you want to inspect a portion of this somewhat lengthy example, you need only con a portion of it and wait for a much enlarged picture of the music to appear. Use the scroll bar to access any part of the comparison which you have selected.

At the very bottom of this page I have now included a short sample (a key fugal subject) of the BWV 102/1 to BWV 235/1 parody, a conversion again from German cantata text to Latin section of the German mass, the 'Kyrie.' However, as I have already referred to this in my previous message, this is an example which I consider not to be a very successful conversion. It should be remembered that with this particular parody, in contrast to the conversion from BWV 138/4 to BWV 236/3 where the autograph score of each exists, only BWV 102 can be based directly upon Bach's original score (and 2 original parts) from 1726, while the Altnickol copy (the first trace of its existence is 1754) does not have a shred of creditable evidence that Bach may have left behind (there is no autograph score and there are no markings or corrections by Bach on the Altnickol copy; also there is no evidence of the existence of original performance nor of any possible performance of this music which Bach may have undertaken.) There is always the possibility that Altnickol, having made copies of some of the other German masses (for which some autograph scores do exist) may have attempted to create another parody based on a few things that he learned from studying the other scores.

The question I have to ask myself in looking at the "Du schlägest sie" ["You keep beating them"] and the Latin "Christe, eleison" ["Christ, have pity for me/be merciful"] is just how, in the original source, the striking/beating musical images of the staccato notes and abbreviated instrumental notes with many rests are suitable for this Latin/Greek text. Perhaps it is no small wonder that there is no record whatsoever of this Mass being performed during Bach's lifetime. These excerpts are from the soprano part of this choral fugue. Imagine in the snippet beginning with m 57 the sopranos jumping around on the high staccato notes wondering just where to place the 'i' of 'eleison.' It appears that there is a conflict with the placement of the syllables of 'eleison' and the broken bar line of the last two notes which seem to want the 'i' to come on the penultimate note and not earlier as the text placement has it.

Does this final parody comparison demonstrate the same finesse in transforming the German cantata original into a German Mass (in Latin and even Greek) as is evident in the conversion Bach made with BWV 138/4?

There is much to ponder here and your comments are welcome.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 11, 2005):
Neil Haliday wrote:
>>I don't know what it's called, but would the similar figure, namely the counter-subject in the fugue of BWV 903, have the same name?<<
Depending upon how fast this fugal theme is executed, it might be considered to fall theoretically under the definition of the figure. Here is how Johann Gottfried Walther ("Musicalisches Lexicon..." Leipzig, 1732) give the definition:

This figure "bestehet aus drey geschwinden Noten, deren eine allein so lang ist, als die übrigen beyde" ["consists of 3 fast notes, of which one is twice as long as the other two."] I think the key word to consider in regard to your question is 'geschwind' ['fast.'] The example Walther gives shows an eighth note and two sixteenths with the sixteenth notes at times both preceding or following the eighth note. The first note can return as the last note and intervals up to a 4th are possible (without necessarily returning to the initial note (I hope this description is clear.) I should really ask Aryeh to include this sample by Walther. Perhaps we can put this in the section under terms and definitions relating to Bach's music.

>>This figure in both pieces obviously serves to bring a strong rhythmic element to the music, among other things.<<
What I did not know about this figure is that this is one way that Bach prescribed his embellishments: he wrote them out precisely as he wanted them and did not leave things to the performer who would apply 'the method' which in Bach's case often resulted in his music being performed in what he considered was bad taste.

>>In passing, regarding the parody of 138/4, I notice that the identical notes in bars 68 to 74, which in the bass aria comprise a melisma on "plagen", are no longer a melisma in the mass (BWV 236/3) because several words are set to the same notes in the latter -something I had not considered before.<<
Yes, and the word "plagen" {"torment" - in "and now poverty can no longer torment me") is transformed into "Pater omnipotens" ("All-powerful/almighty Father.") That's quite a jump from musically painting the "tormenting" caused by something and the more static, unfluctuating view of the awe-inspiring power of God. There are also a lot of syllables with consonants to be very quickly executed in what still remains essentially a fast-moving melisma that is much easier to sing as simply 'a'.

Teddy Kaufman wrote (October 12, 2005):
Cantata BWV 138

I appreciate the comprehensive and detailed introduction by Thomas Braatz.

Thanks and regards,

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 12, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>I dont know what it's called, but would the similar figure, namely the counter-subject in the fugue of BWV 903, have the same name?<<
Aryeh Oron has kindly and very quickly provided a place on the BCW to view Walther's musical example. This is what this musical figure looks like: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Term/Terms-7.htm

BWV 138/4 is certainly replete with examples to show how frequently Bach employs this figure.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 12, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
"..how, in the original source, the striking/beating musical images of the staccato notes and abbreviated instrumental notes with many rests are suitable for this Latin/Greek text"
One thing to notice is that there are no articulation (staccato) dots in the second example (the mass setting); perhaps a more flowing articulation of the notes for the Kyrie text (with the 1/16th rests now only points to `take breath') might alleviate your concerns to some extent? The melody itself does have a wistful element, with its descent through a circle of fifths.

Regarding m.57, I recall a discussion about the number of syllables in `eleison'. If it is legitimate, in a music setting, to reduce the number of syllables to 3 (e-lei-son, cf e-le-i-son) the problem of where to sing the `i' disappears.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 11, 2005):
"Eleison" pronunciation

Neil Halliday wrote:
< Regarding m.57, I recall a discussion about the number of syllables in `eleison'. If it is legitimate, in a music setting, to reduce the number of syllables to 3 (e-lei-son, cf e-le-i-son) the problem of where to sing the `i' disappears. >
Italian composers have always used elision in the Kyrie text. Palestrina uses:

Ky-ri-e-lei-son
Ky-ri-e-le-i-son
Ky-ri-e e-le-i-son
Ky-ri-e e-lei-son
All in the same movement!

In the first three movements of the Mass in B Minor, Bach uses two forms, often sequentially in the same voice:

Ky-ri-e e-lei-son
Ky-ri-e e-le-i-son

Ludwig wrote (October 11, 2005):
[To Douglas Cowling] As a composer myself; I understand quiet well what you are saying. Most composers, unless there is some imperative reason not too, divide and stretch out words to comply with the meter and value of the notes the word is to be sung to. While song writing is not my major focus; my partner who writes lyrics for me tells me the same thing. If I am reading your post correctly ---this is the reason for any confusion of many people on this issue.

Good diction, as you know, is just one of the signs of good singing. I have a two recordings: one of the Mozart Requiem done by Bruno Walter--one of the great conductors of the twentieth century. Unfortunately, the diction of the cand soloists is so bad that it is unintelligible with some passages sounding like they are singing "yo misty lay". The other is a 45rpm excerpt from 1957 of Beethoven's Fidelio in which the singers of the Vienna State Opera sound as if they are singing "Susannah Pomeroy"-- for many years,not speaking German at that time, I honestly thought that was what was being sung until I saw the libretto (I was a child when I acquired the Beethoven).

Alain Bruguieres wrote (October 11, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] If you're referring to the rhythms long-short-short and short-short-long, in prosody the former is a dactyle and the latter, an anapaest.

I don't know if there's musical terminology available for these...

Alain Bruguieres wrote (October 11, 2005):
In fact, 'dactyl' in English... dactylos in Greek and dactyle in French hence my mistake!
--------------------------
I said it in Hebrew, I said it in Duch, I said it in German and Greek, but I wholly forgot - and it vexes me much, that English is what you speak.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 11, 2005):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< If you're referring to the rhythms long-short-short and short-short-long >
That certainly is what Thomas is referring to; interestingly, while listening to the Rilling CD which contains BWV 138 [3], I noticed that this figure has a significant role in the joyous opening chorus of BWV 137. (The form of the figure in this chorus is short-short-long, same as in the bass aria of BWV 138).

Neil Halliday wrote (October 12, 2005):
Oops, sorry. The figure in 137/1 is long-short-short, meaning that it's an alternative example of the form of this figure which also appears in 138/4 (short-short-long).

John Pike wrote (October 12, 2005):
[To Alain Bruguieres] Yes, the dactyle rhythm is used a lot by Schubert, eg Andante from A minor string quartet. It is often associated with funeral music as well.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 12, 2005):
Dactylic Funerals

John Pike wrote:
< Yes, the dactyle rhythm is used a lot by Schubert, eg Andante from A minor string quartet. It is often associated with funeral music as well. >
The classic dactylic funeral rhythm is the slow movement of Beethoven's Seventh.

Roar Myrheim wrote (October 12, 2005):
My first thought when I see the figure in m. 62, is what Albert Schweitzer calles the "Motive of joy". It usually consists of two semiquavers and one quaver, or one quaver and two semiquavers. In movement 4 you find it almost all the time in the accompaniment.

In this cantata 1st movement, you also find the "Motive of grief" - a descending chromatic figure, which you here find especially in the lowest voice.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 12, 2005):
<< Yes, the dactyle rhythm is used a lot by Schubert, eg Andante from A minor string quartet. It is often associated with funeral music as well. >>
< The classic dactylic funeral rhythm is the slow movement of Beethoven's Seventh. >
Speaking of that, check out the Jacques Loussier album that is ten piano-trio improvisations on its theme. Beautiful CD.

Another good dactylic piece, but not funereal, is the Credo of Mozart's C minor mass 427.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 138: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Last update: ýMarch 12, 2012 ý23:42:11