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Cantata BWV 139
Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 29, 2006 (2nd round)

Alain Bruguières wrote (October 29, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 139, "Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott"

Week of October 29, 2006
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Cantata BWV 139, Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott

Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)
23rd Sunday after Trinity
1st performance: November 12, 1724 - Leipzig
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Bach Cantatas resources
Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV139-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV139.htm
Text:
German http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/139.html
English http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV139.html
French http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV139-Fre4.htm
Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV139-V&P.pdf
Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV139.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording [6] (free streaming download):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV139-Leusink.ram
---------------------------
Librettist : unknown
Reading:
EPISTLE Philippians 3: 17-21: Our citizenship is in heaven.
GOSPEL Matthew 22: 15-22: The Pharizees' trick question to Jesus: is it right to pay tribute to Caesar?

This is a chorale cantata, based upon the chorale of the same name.
Five-verse hymn by Johann Christoph Rube.
For more details on this chorale melody see:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Machs-mit-mir.htm
--------------------------------------------------------
Structure
1. Choral SATB ob d'am I,II str bc
2. Aria T vln conc I,II bc
3. Recit. A bc
4. Aria B ob d'am I+II vln bc
5. Recit. S str bc
6. Choral SATB bc (+ instrs)

(Same structure C-A-R-A-R-C as the previous cantata)
--------------------------------------------------------

Comment (mostly based on Dürr):

In this Chorale cantata the unknown librettist uses the five verses of the hymn in the following way:
Mvt. 1 (Choral) = verse 1
Mvt. 2 (Aria T) = free paraphrase of verse 2
Mvt. 3 (Recit. A) = free insertion related to the sunday Gospel
Mvt. 4 (Aria B) = free paraphrase of verse 3
Mvt. 5 (Recit. S) = free paraphrase of verse 4
Mvt. 6 (Choral) = verse 5.

If we trust in God, we may obtain God's friendship which protects against all evils (Mvt. 1); against envy, hatred and mockery (Mvt. 2). The Saviour protects us from the world through his wise pronouncement in answer to the cunning of the wicked (Mvt. 3, in reference to the Gospel). God, our best friend, protects us from all misfortune (Mvt. 4), from the heavy burden of our iniquities (Mvt. 5) and from the fear of death (Mvt. 6).

The first movement is a chorale fantasia with cantus firmus in the soprano, written in style concertante. The chorale melody is all-pervading in this piece: the theme of instrumental ritornello is based on the incipit of the chorale melody; each line of the chorale is sung by the soprano in minims , accompanied by the other voices, the oboes d'amore and the bc in an imitative texture based on the same melody diminished to quavers, the strings joining in towards the end of the chorale line.

The second movement, a tenor aria, was transmitted in incomplete form, lacking the second obbligato part (presumably for a second solo violin). The vocal part and the instrument use the same thematic material, based on a contrast between tumultuous sections evocative of the 'raging enemies' and quieter passages referring to 'confidence'.

A brief secco recitative leads to the basso aria, which, according to Dürr, probably featured a second obbligato instrument other than a violin, probably a violoncello piccolo. This aria is characterized by a complex structure and striking changes in rythm and character reflecting the various ideas presented by the text.
Dürr analyses the structure as a form abccab'a'b", with

a: 'Das Unglück schlägt...' ('Misfortune throws...'), poco allegro, dotted rythm.

b: 'Doch plötzlich erscheinet...' ('Yet suddenly appears'), vivace, triadic melody, compound duple time.

c: 'Mir scheint des Trostes Licht...' ('Comfort's Light shines for me...') andante, flowing cantabile, continuo texture (without the obbligato instruments).

Even where the libretto borrows two lines from the hymn, no reference is made to the chorale melody.

The soprano recitative, accompanied by the strings, leads to the usual concluding 4-part harmonized choral.

N. B. A very interesting discussion took place on the list about the missing parts and attempted reconstructions, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV139-D.htm
--------------------------------------------------------
A more personal comment:

The most strikink movement in this cantata is - to me - the basso aria, with its strong rhythmic contrasts and unusual structure. The beginning of the aria sounds a bit like a french ouverture, with a prelude in pointed rhythm (a) followed by a flowing 'fugato' section (b). The words 'helfende Hand', 'Trostes Licht', being central in the message of this cantata, apparently called for a special treatment. In any case here's a piece I can easily listen to many times over!

I would gladly read more on this aria during this week's discussions.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 29, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< N. B. A very interesting discussion took place on the list about the missing parts and attempted reconstructions. >
The Rilling booklet [2] answers the question, raised by Mr. Braatz and Mr.Towe in their communication on this matter, in the affirmative, ie, the violin II part (in Rilling's recording) is the reconstruction by William H. Scheide, founder of the Bach Aria Group. This is very likely the most successful of the reconstructions of the missing part.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 29, 2006):
Thanks to Alain for another stimulating introduction to a cantata which displays many interesting features, one of which is the choice of keys. No movement is in less than three sharps--a unique feature I think. Secondly the use of E major for the chorale and fantasia. This is only the second time Bach has used this key for an opening fantasia in this cycle---he first being in no 8--the musings upon when I might die. Bach did not use this key often but he used it for a wide range of expressive effect:- as well as these two examples one might note a keyboard and and violin concerto, a violin partita and a French suite.

For the missing obligato part for the second movement Koopman has realised a violin part most successfully in box 11 of his recordings. Following discussions of Bach's 'poor' declamation in no 38 it is interesting to note the care of word setting in this aria--the plain and direct opening phrase for 'God is my friend' contrasting with more complex articulation representing the raging foes. The contrast between these twodifferent settings is marked and very effective.

The bass aria shows Bach at his structurally most innovative.There are three ideas encapsulated here, disasters and trials that enslave us, God's rescuing hand and (the main theme of the work) God as my true friend. There is a musical section for each but what is interesting is the way bach inter-relates the ideas; the initial misfortunes return not once, but twice but then, so does the hand of God. The final statement of the trials is very short and suggestive of the fact that they may have been overcome (although they di not disappear entirely) and it is significant that the movement ends with suggestion of both God's helping hand and the earlier flickering light of hope (see Schweitzer). This is the barest of descriptions of this fascinating movement about which much more could be said--but its better if interested individuals do the discovery work for themselves following a few basic clues.

For those interested in discovering more about Bach's immense sensitivity to complex (and often contradictory) ideas embedded within the text and his willingness to stretch structural conventions of the time to their limits in order to express them, this aria will repay much close scrutiny.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 29, 2006):
BWV 139 and E major

Eric Chafe, in his "Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach" University of California Press, 1991, footnote at the bottom of pp. 152-153, observes:

>>Bach associates E major in the cantatas with positive qualities - completely contradicting the interpretation for E major given by Mattheson ("Das neu-eröffnete Orchestre" p. 250) - among which blessedness (BWV 8, BWV 60, BWV 124,) salvation (BWV 9, BWV 17, BWV 49, BWV 86, BWV 116, BWV 139,) resurrection (BWV 66, BWV 67, BWV 80, BWV 94, BWV 145,) and trust (BWV 3, BWV 29, BWV 34a, BWV 107, BWV 139, BWV 171, BWV 200) are the most characteristic.<<
[This quote has been modified to include the 'BWV' to support future searches on the BCW.]

Why is there this complete contradiction between Mattheson's 1713 assertion regarding the main qualities of the key of E major and the reality concerning the connections that Bach had with the same key as outlined and described by Eric Chafe?

Let's examine the evidence:

1. Mattheson

Johann Mattheson's "Das Neu=Eröffnete Orchestre" Hamburg, 1713, Part III, Chapter II, § 21, p. 250.

>>'E. dur. (14.) drucket eine *Verzweiflungs=volle oder gantz tödliche Traurigkeit* unvergleichlich wol aus ; ist vor ,extrem'-verliebten Hülff= und Hoffnungslosen Sachen am bequemsten / und hat bey gewissen Umständen so was *schneidendes / scheidendes / leidendes* und *durchdringendes* / daß es mit nichts als einer ,fatal'en Trennung Leibes und der Seelen vergleichen werden mag.<<

("E major expresses well, in an incomparable manner, a sadness full of despair and one which can be completely fatal; it is best suited for compositions that describe situations of extremely helpless or hopeless love and under certain circumstances it has a quality which is so shrill/piercing, divisive (causing separation), and penetrating that it can only be compared with the fatal separation of body and soul.")

Even earlier Marc-Antoine Charpentier, in his "Règles de composition" circa 1692, referred to E major as being "quarrelsome and clamorous" while Jean-Philippe Rameau, in his "Traité de l'harmonie", 1722, already described it as having "grandeur and magnificence" and being suitable for "tender and gay songs".

What is possibly going on here? Why is there such a divergence of opinion in such a relatively short period of time regarding the quality of a specific tonality? It is the advent of equal temperament which was beginning to take hold, particularly among certain musicians and composers who could see and hear how their musical palette was being improved through a temperament that no longer caused listeners to cringe when a composition was set in E major or modulated into other remote keys. The terrible onus caused by mean-tone and even 'well-tempered' but not equal temperaments had been removed, thus allowing a great composer like Bach, who could easily have made his acquaintance with equal temperament anytime after 1703, to relish using this key without the burdensome associations that it carried in the past. Certainly by June, 1722, when Mattheson published the specifications for equal temperament in his rather widely circulated music magazine, "Critica musica", Bach might already have been experimenting with this temperament while composing substantial parts of the "Well-Tempered Clavier" Part 1. In Leipzig, using this 'new' tuning, Bach was able to employ E-major effectively in his sacred compositions without all the dire associations which it had previously carried (and Mattheson, after 1713, never again brought up this description of E major although he had ample opportunity to do so ("Der vollkommene Capellmeister", 1739 - by 1720 Mattheson began ascribing any tonal differences to pitch, but not to temperament.)

Neil Halliday wrote (October 31, 2006):
BWV 139: tenor aria

The recordings of the lively and interesting tenor aria can be arranged into three groups:

(a) those with two obbligato violins, as in Rilling [2], Suzuki [8], and Gardiner [4]; these all apparently follow the W.H.Scheide reconstruction, more or less.
(b) those with obbligato organ and violin, as in Richter [1], Harnoncourt [3] and Leusink [6];
(c) on its own, Koopman [5], who has arranged the obbligato parts for violin, oboe and flute.

Group (a) have the most satisfactory, Bachian, reconstruction of the aria, IMO; and of these I would rank Rilling [2] in first place, for its vigour and rhythmic vitality. Suzuki [8] is most like Rilling, but is a tad leisurely by comparison. Gardiner [4] is frankly too fast.

The problem of employing an organ as both continuo and obligato instrument (or as one of two obbligato instruments)is manifest in group (b). Richter, with the subtle tonal palette available from the large hall organ, is most successful in this regard. Leusink's organist [6] playing a tiny instrument seems to miniaturise the music. Harnoncourt's performance [3], with a prominent, developed part for organ, sounds better than Leusink, but the combination of obbligato organ and obbligato violin does sound somewhat artificial in the context of this aria.

Koopman [5] brings an over-variegated obbligato instrumentation to the aria, thereby detracting, or distracting, from the strength and purpose of the vocal line, IMO.

The Rilling sample [2] does not appear at the BCW: this might work (click on the fifth quaver-pair from the end of the lower line of orange quavers): CD-Universe

Suzuki [8]: BIS-Naxos

The other samples (except Richter [1]; anyone find Richter samples on the net?) are available at the BCW.

An attractive feature of this aria is the parallel 12ths and 6ths between the voice and instruments in the coloraturas on the words "Toben" and "Spötter", and we have Bach's rhythmically driven continuo line, as usual in this type of aria.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 31, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< An attractive feature of this aria is the parallel 12ths and 6ths between the voice and instruments in the coloraturas on the words "Toben" and "Spötter", and we have Bach's rhythmically drivcontinuo line, as usual in this type of aria. >
Small point here: it's parallel 10ths and 6ths, not 12ths. Nice observation about it being an attractive feature of the piece....

Parallel 12ths (not here) make an exotic sound, operating the same way as a Quint stop on an organ. A couple of familiar examples in later repertoire: some of the iterations of the melody in Ravel's "Bolero" (two instruments moving in long parallel at the 12th/Quint to make a blend sounding like some newly invented instrument)...or the piano part in the second movement of Saint-Saens's fifth piano concerto, evoking the exoticism of Egypt.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 1, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The recordings of the lively and interesting tenor aria can be arranged into three groups: >
Neil, I think this is a cool idea, to introduce a detail for discussion, and especially providing links so that anyone who wants can listen and participate. I have overlapped the space by running late with BWV 115 and BWV 80b, but I will be on with some thoughts, including Koopman, within a couple days.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 4, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The recordings of the lively and interesting tenor aria can be arranged into three groups:
(a) those with two obbligato violins, as in Rilling
[2], Suzuki [8], and Gardiner [4]; these all apparently follow the W.H.Scheide reconstruction, more or less.
(b) those with obbligato organ and violin, as in Richter
[1], Harnoncourt [3] and Leusink [6];
(c) on its own, Koopman
[5], who has arranged the obbligato parts for violin, oboe and flute. >
No matter what, I am going to post a few words tonight re this week's cantata, BWV 139. A few days ago, I first listened to Koopman [5] and Gardiner [4]. I have not had the opportunity before to make comparisons between these two sets, and I have been looking forward to it. My strongest impression was the flute line with Koopman, but not there with Gardiner. I listened to Richter [1], and by that time thought I had simply misjudged the Koopman recording, and hadn't listened carefully at all to Gardiner. Mind you, I was not focussing on the tenor aria, just trying to get an impression of the entire performance. Time to read.

About the time of Neil's post, I had independently realized that the flute line with Koopman [5] was not Bach extending the new traverso writing for another week, but I had not gotten much further than that. After listening to these recordings plus Leusink [6] while pursuing other discussions for a few days, I am now spending some peaceful moments focussed on the cantata of the week, and writing to get on schedule.

My first impression of Koopman [5] in general, and especially in the Mvt. 2 tenor aria, was very positive. I am very reluctant to let go of that impression just because there is a reconstruction which is not by Bach, and with questionable instrumentation. If I read Julian Mincham's comment correctly, he also enjoys Koopman's reconstruction using flute and oboe for the missing line.

My first impression of Gardiner [4] was that it is clean, balanced, consistent. I did not notice quickness in the T aria, but I was distracted by looking for the flute. On a comparative listening side by side with Koopman [5], Gardiner is fast. Too fast? Or did Robert Levin try to provide a violin obbligato reconstruction to support the tempo? Gardiner is quick overall: I gather from other comments that is typical of his performances. Perhaps he is seeking that edge of almost too fast, to get us to discuss it.

I am a fan of Richter's soloists [1], no other way to put it. In Mvt. 2, the organ obbligato comes in over continuo, followed by violin, and it just sounds weird. Pretty soon, Peter Schreier begins to sing, and all else is forgotten. The transition to Mvt. 3 is perfection, with alto Trudeliese Schmidt over sustained continuo. The B aria with DFDieskau follows. Julian Mincham has suggested that we figure this one out for ourselves. I did, with satisfaction.

Not to shortchange Leusink [6]. With instrumentation similar to Richter [1], Mvt. 2 is a more delicate, but well balanced alternative. The recit, Mvt. 3, is problematic for me, especially in comparison to Richter. Buwalda is not the issue, it is the intermittent continuo. This is a good place to pause and listen. Forget the theory and previous discussion. If you have the opportunity, listen to Richter Mvts 2 and 3 in comparison to Leusink, and decide for yourself which sounds better. For that matter, listen to Ruth Holton in Leusink, Mvt. 5, and compare the continuo with Mvt. 3. Nevertheless, a decent recording overall, and I continue (or at least the occasional plunk) to emphasize that Leusink has accomplished his stated objective: solid, professional, performances at prices anyone can afford. Power to the people!

Neil Halliday wrote (November 4, 2006):
BWV 139 bass aria: some comments

The bass aria is in F# minor; for those interested in key tonalities, we have notable modulations in the `andante' continuo only sections, on "weiten" ("afar") - first time from F# minor to B minor, second time from B minor to C# minor. (The short ritornello preceding all this is in the relative major, A major - the only appearance of the major key in the aria, although the lovely, dancing 6/8 time sections ("helping hand") also sound as if in the major tonality). BTW, I find the continuo's notes at the start of the first "weiten", namely F# F#, BB, EE, to be intriguing; notice F#,B,E represent intervals of a 5th when viewed in descending order, but the octave swings in the score disguise this somewhat.

Once again (as you can see), the author of the BCW piano reduction score has, at the words "to me appears comfort's light from afar", rather cleverly woven the first phrase of the chorale melody into his realisation - an intellectual curiosity, more than a practical performance consideration; for once I find the recordings adequately convey these two continuo only sections in a more or less satisfying manner, without the harmonisation shown in the piano reduction score, probably because the rich, full timbre of a good bass voice (such as DFD's) is most attractive in this section, regardless of the continuo realisation.

In the opening dotted rhythm section, I would like a more uniformly audible violin part - not only the high notes - from the period ensembles, where the oboe definitely steals the limelight in some of them (except Harnoncourt [3], who does give a distinctive emphasis to this violin part).

BTW, Ed, I agree with your comments on Richter's recitative [1], Mvt. 3. In this recording, can you hear a note beating on "tut" - a slightly out of tune organ pipe, perhaps?

Peter Smaill wrote (November 4, 2006):
Those interested in the Chorales will know the significance of "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt", verse 5 of which concludes this Cantata. It is also the central chorale of the SJP, BWV 245/22, there exquisitely harmonised in four sharps and with, as we recently discussed, an inverted passus duriusculus in the closing line. The origin and affekt of the Chorale and thus Schein'smelody, as pointed out by Thomas Braatz, are poignant :

"The title translated is "A little song of comfort set for 5 voices. On the occasion of the ‘blessed stepping onward out of life into death’ of Mrs. Margarita Werner, the lawfully wedded housewife of Mr. Caspar Werner.” "

Thus it was the death of an otherwise anoymous Christian woman which led to the central meditiation of the chiastic St John Passion.

The setting in BWV 139 is plainer, as for the stray Chorale BWV 377. Schein's melody occurs in the organ prelude BWV 957 and also integrated into the aria of BWV 156/2. As Thomas points out, it occurs twice in the New English Hymnal, in two metres, likely a favourite also therefore of the editor Ralph Vaughan Williams . But there is, for me at any rate, the mystery. The fine setting in the NEH , with its lovely suspensions - where is its source? It is none of the above, nor is it in Reimenschneider.

The penultimate bar of the NEH setting has an unusual modulation , resolving E/D over A in the lower octave, via (IMO) the subdominant of Fsharp minor, then to the subdominant of G major. Bach's ability to slide into proximate keys, not I understand a normal harmonic progression, is one of the remarkable features of the Chorale harmonisations. Perhaps the best example is in BWV 56, "Ich will das Kreuzstab gerne tragen", where in the Chorale BWV 56/5, "Komm, O Tod, du Schlafes Bruder", between the first and second lines, the move is from G major to A flat major, as if illustrating the brotherhood of death and sleep by adjacent keys.

If anyone knows -it may be quite obvious- the origin of the New English Hymnal setting of "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt", I would be grateful to know.

Peter Smaill wrote (November 4, 2006):
Chorale in BWV 139, "Mach's mir mit Gott"

With some prompting from Thomas Braatz on the compilation of this chorale setting for the New English Hymnal, there is now a thesis as to why the setting (also known as "Eisenach" ) cannot be traced back to a known Bach origin.

This is because the musical editor of the NEH, Ralph Vaughan Williams, while prepared to have one elaborate setting of the "Passion Chorale" from the SMP, could not envision the complex harmony of BWV 245/222, the verse in the St John Passion "Durch dein Gefaegnis", being brought off successfully by amateur choirs.

So, with very minor alterations to Bach' s actual harmonies, he bridled together setting 44 and 310 in Reimenschneider, the latter being the beginning of the hymn setting (i.e.taken from the SJP), the latter being an end taken from a lost cantata.

There's a clue supporting this suggestion- the NEH describes the settings as not "by" Bach, but "from".On scrutiny,the most interesting harmonic moments remain by Bach.

In the Preface to the NEH RVW says:

"It has been thought advisable occassionally to introduce harmonisations (especially those of J.S. Bach) rather more elaborate than usual. These will no doubt add greatly to the beauty and popularity of the tunes....Choirs would be much better occupied in learning these beautiful settings of Bach (which are not hard if practised a little) than in rehearsing vulgar anthems by indifferent composers".

In conclusion, it would appear that nevertheless RVW found the the intricacy of SJP BWV 245/22 too complex, and the other settings too simple; and therefore contrived a hybrid which I suspect over the years not unreasonably was assumed to be pure Bach. But, strictly speaking, it ain't so!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 5, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< "It has been thought advisable occassionally to introduce harmonisations (especially those of J.S. Bach) rather more elaborate than usual. These will no doubt add greatly to the beauty and popularity of the tunes....Choirs would be much better occupied in learning these beautiful settings of Bach (which are not hard if practised a little) than in rehearsing vulgar anthems by indifferent composers". >
The Bach Revival in the 19th century brought about an increased desire to include Lutheran chorales in non-Lutheran hymnbooks. For many churches, this was a novelty.

The Anglican/Episcopal church expressly forbade Lutheran hymns, an aversion which goes back to Henry VIII's pre-Reformation attack on Luther. It was only in the late 19th century that the prohibition was lifted. I can remember older Anglican organists and clergy who would not allow "A Mighty Fortress" (Ein feste Burg) because of it was the Lutheran theme song (the Lutheran abolition of the episcopate is the heart of the historic conflict).

A huge musical mistake was made at the time of the compilation of the new hymn books in that the editors wrongly assumed that Bach's congregations sang the harmonizatons in the cantatas and the Passions (try the final chorale of the SJP as a congregational hymn!). You still encounter this misreading of history in amateur performances of the SMP (BWV 244) where the audience is asked to "sing along" in the "Passion Chorale".

The result is that Bach's exquisite harmonizations and complex part-writing is obliterated. At least Vaughan Williams instinctly knew that these settings were too difficult for most choirs and all but iimpossible for congregations. And yet organists persist in using Bach settings for congregational singing. Perhaps the single greatest affront to Bach is perpetrated every December by thousands of churches who sing the final chorale of Cantata BWV 140, "Wachet Auf", transposed down a THIRD from E flat to C Major! Bach's vision of heaven comes crashing down to earth.

The Episcopal Hymn Book of 1982 made a valiant attempt to introduce the 16th and 17th century versions of the chorales which WERE sung by Bach's congregations, but most modern musicians were very sniffy, especially about the older isometric versions, and refused to use them. I would rather listen to a banjo playing the "Air on the G String" than 500 people belting out a Bach chorale with full organ not once, but over and over for four or five verses.

Desecration!

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 5, 2006):
BWV 139 Score Samples

Aryeh Oron has kindly placed some score samples pertaining to BWV 139 at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV139-Sco.htm
[to enlarge image click on the image again]

At the top is a slightly simplified version of the main chorale for this cantata, "Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt" but with the 1st verse of the text for this cantata, "Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott".

1. an often repeated figure in the continuo is derived from the first 5 notes (the incipit) of the chorale melody.

2. the first 4 measures/bars of the violino 1 part (a rather extensive passage) demonstrate how far Bach manages to continue his reference to the chorale melody as he goes beyond the Stollen even into an additional 5 notes of the Abgesang.

3. the oboe d'amore 1 part picks up this incomplete beginning of the Abgesang at measure/bar 8 and brings it to its conclusion (the end of that particular line of verse). Bach even indulges in some word-painting with the word "bleibt" which in the regular chorale melody simply moves with similar note values as the surrounding notes. Here, however, "bleibt" is extended for almost a measure before an interesting cascade of notes begins moving the melody forward relentlessly at regular time intervals (on the beat) until the slight ritardando on the penultimate note. The indication of staccato here is remarkable. It is as if Bach wants to ensure that at least some of his listeners will be able to recall the same sequence of notes that are heard in the chorale melody and make the proper association with his 'hidden' chorale melody reference which might otherwise be too easily overheard (or overlooked even if you happen to have the score in hand).

Ed Myskowski wrote(November 6, 2006):
A few additional comments on BWV 139. Following Neil's suggestion, I accessed the Rilling [2] sample of Mvt. 2 on line. The two obbligato violins sound preferable instrumentally to any of the recordings I have, but that is not sufficient for me to make it a better choice than Peter Schreier with Richter [1]. Add the consideration that DFDieskau in Mvt. 4 was Aryeh's choice of a movement to take away (I agree), and the strength of Edith Mathis and Trudeliese Schmidt in the recits, and Richter is my performance of choice.

I read the first round of discussions again, and realized that it is not the flute or oboe which is questionable in Mvt. 2, but only the use of both in combination. To me, the two make a fine sound with Koopman [5], and contribute to my preference for his performance among the HIP choices I have.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2006):
< http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV139-Sco.htm >
It's mildly believable, until all the pick-and-choose stuff that happens after the word "verlassen". [It's as if Bach wanted this disintegration of the chorale to start on that prominent word (= abandoned!!!!!!), and be so chopped up thereafter that it ceases to exist; being brilliant text-painting in that regard. The chorale, and sense, forsake us at that point: as the thematic notes get grabbed-at between the beats, like a choking person, and as we have to ignore all the other inconvenient notes that come between them. YOWSA!!!]

To be clear: everything I've put into [brackets] in the above paragraph of commentary, I don't believe myself; it's deliberately over-the-top nonsense, reductio ad absurdum.

At least the stuff during the words "Wohl dem, der sich auf seinen Gott" is the type of material (Vorimitation, etc etc) that happens during organ chorale settings: playing around with a quotation of the first phrase (only) of the chorale to set up a cantus firmus presentation of that phrase. It's a technique that pops up regularly in Pachelbel, and in J Mike Bach (JSB's future father-in-law, Maria Barbara's dad), and done by scads of other composers before JSB did likewise.

But, that useful and formulaic compositional technique doesn't generally go on to grab other little bits and pieces from other phrases, ahead of their time, to stuff them between the beats. Nor does it here, beyond that first phrase. The treatment of the word "bleibt" here is particularly ludicrous, the way it's assigned to the highlighted red notes (N.B. NOT HIGHLIGHTED BY BACH!), squeaked out in passing and off the beats. Nor would any competent composer set the word "verlassen" itself with "-sen" as shown here, hitting an accented downbeat. Nor did Bach. Those are just scalar notes going up and then down, and leading into a typical bit of violinistic figuration for the remainder of that phrase.

Try this experiment: (1) Throw a couple spoonfuls of cottage cheese at a wall, and (2) go through the mess selectively, looking for individual curds whose positions spell out the notes shaping a phrase of any chorale of your choice. Ignore all the other inconveniently-placed curds that don't serve the foregone conclusion; dab them out of the way, or move them, if they're too pesky. (3) Don't forget to wipe the wall later.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 6, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>But, that useful and formulaic compositional technique doesn't generally go on to grab other little bits and pieces from other phrases, ahead of their time, to stuff them between the beats. Nor does it here, beyond that first phrase. The treatment of the word "bleibt" here is particularly ludicrous, the way it's assigned to the highlighted red notes (N.B. NOT HIGHLIGHTED BY BACH!), squeaked out in passing and off the beats.<<
The combination of facetious comments and analogies intermixed with ignorance regarding Bach's various techniques for treating/embellishing a melody is definitely a sign of haughty behavior based unfortunately not upon solid scholarship and intimate knowledge of material which could shed light on this matter but rather upon a lack of study and understanding of these techniques, some examples of which were given recently but not heeded. The so-called 'rules' given by Brad Lehman do not reflect the reality of Bach's compositions. These 'rules' invented after the fact by those who have not studied the sources sufficiently to see what Bach really does are perhaps rules established for beginners who need to understand the basic essentials in order not to become confused. They do not, however, reflect reality except for those who close their eyes/ears to these possibilities which Bach employed and prefer a simple, lifelessly 'logical', formulaic explanation over the much more complicated and diverse nature of embellishment, an art in which Bach certainly excelled.

Perhaps the cottage cheese on the wall is in reality this rigid method of analysis imposed upon Bach's entire arsenal of embellishment techniques. By wiping away the cottage cheese which some academically trained individuals have thrwon against it, the real Bach underneath will amazingly be revealed. A clean wall is certainly best in revealing all there is to see.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Perhaps the cottage cheese on the wall is in reality > this rigid method of analysis imposed upon Bach's entire arsenal of embellishment techniques. By wiping away the cottage cheese which some academically trained individuals have thrwon against it, the real Bach underneath will amazingly be revealed. A clean wall is certainly best in revealing all there is to see. >
Well, thank you for a good chuckle. If interested in presenting a "clean wall" and "the real Bach underneath" whatever-whatever-whatever, why not just put up scores without color-coding and without made-up analysis in them? Especially, without analysis that deliberately goes AGAINST "academically trained individuals" and insights thereof?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2006):
BWV 139 Score Samples; music theory

Somebody wrote:
< The combination of facetious comments and analogies intermixed with ignorance regarding Bach's various techniques for treating/embellishing a melody is definitely a sign of haughty behavior based unfortunately not upon solid scholarship and intimate knowledge of material which could shed light on this matter but rather upon a lack of study and understanding of these techniques, some examples of which were given recently but not heeded. >
A brief reaction to that unbelievably long and run-on sentence:

How does this gentleman have ANY idea whatsoever as to my alleged "ignorance", my lack of "solid scholarship", my lack of "intimate knowledge" of music theory (historical and modern), and yadda yadda yadda?

In case it matters: I was one of the students in grad school whose test paper in music theory placement was filed in the library (by my permission at their request), on reserve, for the next year's students to study as they prepared for theirs. I would tend to trust the judgment of those professors who nominated the work for that honor, above the judgment of [expletives deleted]. My earned credentials suggest that I'm qualified to teach this material at a university level. And, my published recordings suggest that I can actually play this repertoire (German chorale preludes of the 17th/18th C) at a level that's at least suitable for parish services. Have a listen:
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1002.html
http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/cd1001.html

So, please leave the unbelievably patronizing and mistaken moral judgments (like those above) in the deleted (i.e. unsent) portions of postings: if there ever is such a layer of self-control and proofin the first place, before they get sent. The use of run-on sentences suggests that there isn't much of such self-control, in either the writing or the thinking that generates it. If there's no respect for academia, behind such comments, well--leave it at home anyway. Those of us who have put in years of hard-earned work in this field didn't do it for nothin'. The point is to understand the material, and to be able to use it, reliably.

By the way, in case anyone would actually like to study historical music theory and take this material seriously: Joel Lester's book Compositional Theory in the Eighteenth Century is excellent in that regard. I wish it had existed at the time I took my music theory exams! But, its first edition was as late as 1992.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 6, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>...why not just put up scores without color-coding and without made-up analysis in them?<<
because there are individuals who may examine these color-coded analyses without a bias which already exludes the possibility that Bach may have intended what is indicated. These examples are offered as suggestions, some of which may be quite certain while others simply hint at possibilities that may exist.

BL: >>Especially, without analysis that deliberately goes AGAINST "academically trained individuals" and insights thereof?<<
It is unfortunate that some of these "academically-trained individuals" display a very rigid attitude toward certain rules when it suits their search for and understanding of basic beginner rules that they would like to impose upon Bach's genius as being valid in all instances where embellishment of a theme/chorale melody is involved.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 6, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>And, my published recordings suggest that I can actually play this repertoire (German chorale preludes of the 17th/18th C) at a level that's at least suitable for parish services.<<
Many performers have played chorale preludes without noting precisely where the key notes of the chorale melody are in the midst of all the embellishments. Certain editions attempt to place the words/syllables of the chorale text as close as possible to the appearance of the notes of the chorale melody (naturally without being able to mark precisely the notes with color-coding). Nevertheless, it takes an additional effort to analyze and locate precisely where the melody is found as it is stretched or pulled together in varying places with some notes falling on unaccented, off-the-beat notes or even in the middle of a passage of 16th or 32nd notes.

BL: >>If there's no respect for academia, behind such comments, well--leave it at home anyway. Those of us who have put in years of hard-earned work in this field didn't do it for nothin'.<<
Since when is well-founded criticism considered showing no respect for academia? This is no time to rest on one's laurels, but to continue striving to uncover facts and evidence, to suggest theories that might lead to a better understanding, and to advance speculations that appear to be reasonable in the light of evidence provided by serious scholarship. To denigrate and make to appear ridiculous insights, ideas, and speculations offered by others without being able to offer significant counter-evidence or solid reasoning not based upon personal bias is simply to obfuscate and confuse other readers who may still have an open mind and an ability to approach an idea without prejudice. Adding a litany of academic achievements which appear hollow because they are already dated does little to improve the understanding of a difficult matter.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2006):
< Adding a litany of academic achievements which appear hollow because they are already dated does little to improve the understanding of a difficult matter. >
Appearing "hollow" to whom?

And, the understanding of a "difficult" matter, difficult to whom? To people who have actually passed music theory courses and exams, and who have read expert materials in that field with understanding, grasping how musical embellishment works?

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2006):
< It is unfortunate that some of these "academically-trained individuals" display a very rigid attitude toward certain rules when it suits their search for and understanding of basic beginner rules that they would like to impose upon Bach's genius as being valid in all instances where embellishment of a theme/chorale melody is involved. >
Take an ordinary phrase such as this one from the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244): "Erbarme dich, mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen". Cross out all the letters you don't like (i.e. highlight in colors the ones you want to keep, and leave all the unwanted letters in black). It is quite easy to cross things out in such a way that the phrase is revealed to have both the "hidden" words "Erde" and "himmel" in it. Astounding, isn't it? Assign a bunch of pious-sounding theological implications to those coincidences. Don't forget that the words "breit(e)" and "eier" are also in there, not to mention a host of non-German words as well; and whatever's convenient should be compelled to mean something important, wherever it fits the preconceived theory. If wide eggs falling from heaven and hitting the earth have a theological meaning to be divined here, use it!

Now, issue the claim that Bach (and/or his librettist) was necessarily thinking of all this stuff, and the further claim that no other interpretation is as plausible as this. Put it up onto a web page, and then personally belittle anyone who happens to disagree, or who happens to present an argument for simpler interpretations. Never admit that the interpretation was arbitrarily chosen to begin with, and for no particularly solid reasons. The phrase "Erbarme dich, mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen" is apparently a brilliant elaboration of those hidden words, and everyone who disagrees is obviously too blinded by academic understanding (or whatever or whatever or whatever) to see what's plainly there. The true Bach is of course revealed by pointing these things out.

Well, this same absurdly one-sided procedure is being foisted upon us, in color-coded notes.

See the problem yet?

Tom Hens wrote (November 7, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Take an ordinary phrase such as this one from the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244): "Erbarme dich, mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen". Cross out all the letters you don't like (i.e. highlight in colors the ones you want to keep, and leave all the unwanted letters in black). >
The English parts of this sentence quite clearly contain a hidden message: my name.

_T_ake an ordinary phrase such as this one fr_om_ the St Matt_he_w Passio_n_: [German deleted]. Cro_s_s [no need to go on].

See, it says "Tom Hens" right there. How clever of Brad!

I'm sorry this is just email, so I can't do highlighting in colours. The use of colours would of course make it even more true.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 7, 2006):
Tom Hens wpote:
< _T_ake an ordinary phrase such as this one fr_om_ the St Matt_he_w Passio_n_: [German deleted]. Cro_s_s [no need to go on].
See, it says "Tom Hens" right there. How clever of Brad! >
"Tom Braatz" could also be found in the original German phrase, there, if we were allowed to do anagrams with the letters selected out.

"But that would be going a bit too far, don't you think?" - Mary Poppins (on the syllabic anagramming of "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious"...)

I trust that you already noticed the straightforward presentation of Bach's name, right there within the first two words, and omitting only seven other letters?

< I'm sorry this is just email, so I can't do highlighting in colours. The use of colours would of course make it even more true. >
Well, that would depend which colors you picked for it. Some of the colors have different truth values, especially when dealing with light instead of paint. And, "indigo" isn't even a discrete color within the rainbow, anymore, according to some people. But, we'd really need a definitive presentation about chakras anauras to be sure; I'm not worthy.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 13, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< BTW, Ed, I agree with your comments on Richter's recitative [1], Mvt. 3. In this recording, can you hear a note beating on "tut" - a slightly out of tune organ pipe, perhaps? >
I did not notice this on my own. I returned for another listen, and did not hear it, but I am limited to a portable CD player for the time being, perhaps lacking in detail. More likely, you have a more discriminating ear. BTW, my faithful CD player (ca. 1989) quit moments after I gave it a compliment in public. There is probably a lesson in there somewhere

I normally do hear the details you point out, so keep trying. One which we have both noticed is the raspy organ sound in some Koopman recits., which shows up in the higher notes toward the end of BWV 26/5. Not so much objectionable as curious, what is it?

On list, by intent. What the heck, its about the music!

 

Continue on Part 3

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