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Cantata BWV 141
Das ist je gewißlich wahr
Discussions

Discussions in the Week of January 25, 2009

Chris Kern wrote (January 27, 2009):
Apocryphal and Lost Advent Cantatas Intro

The "official" cantata for this week is BWV 141, but I thought I would take this opportunity to also make very brief comments on three other "lost" cantatas. I put "lost" in quotes because all of these cantatas are older (Weimer-era) versions of cantatas for which a Leipzig version exists. Although we apparently have the texts of the older versions, we do not have the music -- obviously the music would have been similar, but it is impossible to know for sure how extensive the changes were when Bach reused the music. It's worth noting that all of these older versions were used for different periods in the church year when they were used again, perhaps suggesting that it may be a mistake to tie Bach's cantatas too heavily to one particular liturgical date.

BWV 70a - Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!

This cantata was later moved to the 26th Sunday After Trinity, but the theme of watching and waiting seems appropriate for Advent as well. In this case it seems that the newer version simply added recitatives, but once again we have no idea what Bach might have done with the music in the recomposed version.

BWV 186a - Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht

This cantata was later moved to the 7th Sunday After Trinity. The theme of the opening chorus is that you should not be surprised that the Almighty God is in the form of a man, which seems to be an appropriate sentiment in the time of Jesus' birth. The second and third movements were arias that were not reused in the later composition, but both continue the theme of the coming of the Lord.

BWV 147a - Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben

This cantata was later used for the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary -- this seems a more appropriate movement since the Visitation is closely connected with Jesus' birth. Whittaker believes that the opening chorus was completely recomposed for the Leipzig version, but he has no evidence, just his personal feeling that the movement is too good to have been composed in the Weimar years (somewhat ridiculous, IMO.)

BWV 141 - Das ist je gewißlich wahr

This cantata is not by Bach, although it is included in the BWV catalogue. That it is not by Bach has been known for quite a while; even Whittaker, who accepts a number of spurious works as genuine, does not believe this is by Bach -- most of his mere half-page commentary on the cantata is devoted to criticizing the poor quality of the fugue in the opening chorus. The Bach Cantatas website says that this is a Telemann cantata, but I do not know if this has been conclusively proven or whether it is just a guess. This is about all I can say about this cantata since I was unable to hear a recording or even find an English translation of the libretto -- hopefully other more knowledgeable readers can chime in with opinions on the music itself or its appropriateness to Advent (if it was even performed in the Advent season?)

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 27, 2009):
Chris Kern wrote:
< Although we apparently have the texts of the older versions, we do not have the music -- obviously the music would have been similar, but it is impossible to know for sure how extensive the changes were when Bach reused the music. It's worth noting that all of these older versions were used for different periods in the church year when they were used again, perhaps suggesting that it may be a mistake to tie Bach's cantatas too heavily to one particular liturgical date.
BWV 70a - Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!
BWV 147a - Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben >
Both Leipzig versions employ a coloratura solo trumpet. None of Bach's Advent cantatas employ brass. Can we speculate if the Weimar cantatas had the same scoring? It would seem that brass was excluded from Advent music in Leipzig perhaps because of its festive aspect: trumpets, horns and timpani all come back in the first three days of Christmas. The opening of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) would have been particularly arresting after a month of brass deprivation.

William Hoffman wrote (January 27, 2009):
Apocryphal/Lost Advent Cantatas: BWV 141

Based on notes from CPO, Apocryphal Bach Cantatas II. This cantata was once considered by Bach and published in the BGA.

About 1950, as the NBA began with new publication of Bach's works, scholar Alfred Dürr found several sacred cantatas misattributed to Bach through Leipzig manuscript sources c.1750-68 such as the publisher Breitkopf or copyist C.F. Penzel at the Thomas School. None of them was part of the estate division primarily between Bach two oldest sons, W.F. and C.P.E. The authentic church cantatas probably had been stored by Bach in shelves in his workroom, separated by church-year service, beginning with Advent Sunday.

At the same time, rigorous work by Dürr and Dadelsen dating Bach's authentic vocal works through manuscript paper and ink marks, as well as source-critical studies, confirmed these findings. These included published librettos by authors such as Neumeister and Helbig along with works catalogs such as Mencke's on Telemann, assigning works and brief descriptions with numbers encoded TVWV (Telemann Vokal Werke Verzeichnis), like BWV (Schmieder's Bach Werke Verzeichnis).

Although a few apocryphal cantata manuscripts were in Bach's handwriting, most could not be directly linked to a Bach performance. Meanwhile, William Scheide showed that Bach's Cantata BWV 15 was by Meiningen cousin Johann Ludwig, along with some 19 others, also in Bach's hand, performed in 1726 as part of Bach's third cantata cycle and later owned by C.P.E. Bach. Beyond J.L. Bach, Telemann's cantatas have often been misattributed to Bach. These include BWV 141, BWV 160, BWV 218, BWV 219, and BWV Anh. 157 and BWV Anh 160. While none of these has been directly linked to a specific Bach performance, other Telemann works, authenticated through their librettos or incipits, may have been presented by Bach or his Perfect (second) at the Thomas School Choir. These are found in the BCW listing, Bach and Other Composers.

Cantata BWV 141, also known as TVWV 1:183, dates to 1719-20 in Eisenach to a libretto by Helbig (1720) in a complete cycle, including all four Sundays in Advent. Since BWV 141 for the Third Sunday in Advent postdates Bach's service in Weimar, it is theoretically possible that Bach could have presented it in Leipzig on Advent Sunday in the 1730s or 1740s. In fact, Telemann performed TVWV 1:183 on Advent Sunday, November 30, 1727, in Hamburg, according to Mencke. Cantata BWV 141 Score Vocal & Piano [0.95 MB] in the BCW template is still available from Belwin Mills. It includes the Henry Drinker Entranslation, which has always been in the public domain.

The movements are:

1. Chorus (tutti: ATB soli, SATB chs., 2 ob., str, bc), 4/4 (G): "This is now the Gospel Truth" (I Tim. 1:15)
2. Aria (Tenor, tutti instr.), ¾ (G): "Jesus Christ redeemed mankind"
3. Recitative (Alto, bc) 4/4 (G-D): "To know our God, one must endeavor
4. Aria (Bass, strings, bc): 4/4 (e): "Jesus, hope of them who falter"

The CPO notes say the misattribution to Bach came from publisher Breitkopf. The title was found in his 1761 catalog of score manuscripts available to be copied. The cantata was part of Telemann's siciliano settings with pastoral atmosphere from the Helbig cycle. Another characteristic of Telemann's cycle setting shows "the introductory biblical dictum as a choral movement with inserted solo sections as well as the alternation between strings and oboes in the first aria.."

William Hoffman wrote (January 27, 2009):
Thomas Braatz, BCW "Bach's Weimar Cantatas," www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Weimar-Cantatas.htm :

<The cantatas from December 1716:
BWV 70a 2nd Sunday of Advent December 6, 1716
BWV 186a 3rd Sunday of Advent December 13, 1716&#8232;
BWV 147a 4th Sunday of Advent December 20, 1716
BWV 63 1st Day of Christmas 1716 (?)

< At this point Conrad Küster develops a theory loosely connecting Bach's feverish cantata-composing activity and the death of Johann Samuel Drese on December 1, 1716. The death of Drese, the prominent Kapellmeister in the
Weimar region, caused a vacancy that was eventually filled by his son. Was Bach applying pressure on the authorities after Christmas 1716 by not composing any more cantatas for Weimar after he had proven himself worthy of presenting a new cantata each week? Did he realize that he was being overlooked in regard to a post that he might have sought? Did composing all those cantatas in one month (a feat which he would continue in Leipzig for a few years) make him wonder if all the effort (changing from composing one cantata a month to one a week) was worth it if he was not adequately compensated or not promised a more influential position in the future? Was he hoping to combine his own position as "Concertmeister" with that of the "Capellmeister" who had just died? And the questions go on an on.>

William Hoffman continues: Through the efforts of Küster, Klaus Hofmann, and Alfred Dürr (BJ) we have a good picture of Bach's cantata output in Weimar as he commenced his goal of a "well-regulated church music." Bach was nothing if calculating and tenacious. He had been appointed Concertmeister in early 1714 to compose Sunday church works every fourth Sunday, in part to relieve the slack of the aging capellemeister, J.S. Drese Sr. He gained the appointment after declining the post at Halle offered in December 1713. Like Telemann and others, Bach had sought another post to strengthen his current job.

For almost three years Bach met his obligation, except for an explained three-month hiatus in the fall of 1714 and the four-month closed period for the public mourning of his champion, Prince Johann Ernst, August to November 1715. Bach worked closely with court poet Salomo Franck who produced annual cycles of cantata librettos. Things soured after Bach produced a lengthy funeral cantata for the Prince, BC B-19, "Was ist, das wir leben," on April 2, 1716. He repeated four monthly cantatas from the previous year, missed his early August and September Sunday dates but produced cantatas for September 27 (BWV 161) and October 25 (BWV 162) and missed the last Sunday in Trinity and the First Sunday in Advent, November 22 and 29.

Bach composed no cantatas in 1717. Only one work is recorded, BC D-1, the so-called Weimar Passion, actually presented at the nearby Gotha Court on Good Friday, April 12, and possibly a version of Cantata BWV 63 for Reformation Day in Halle, November 30. At that time, Bach was freed from detention in Weimar and moved to the Köthen Court.

As for Bach's burst of activity in December 1716, actually the start of a full church-year cycle, Bach may have forced the issue by composing three successive cantatas in three weeks. He probably had on hand the entire cycle of Franck librettos, later published in 1717. Dürr's <Cantatas of J.S. Bach> presents the original cantatas, BWV 70a, BWV 186a and BWV 147a, in sequence as Advent cantatas with brief introductions, the original Franck texts with translations and the surviving music, including reconstruction editions of BWV 186a (Diethard Hellmann) and BWV 147a (Ute Wolf). Both editions are available from Carus and the former has an extensive 1963 Hellmann introduction in German.

All the Weimar Court royal in-fighting and intrigues would make for a great melodrama or soap-opera, including an attempt around 1716-17 to lure Telemann to take charge while remaining at Frankfurt. Johann Samuel Drese's son, Johann Wilhelm, who had been Weimar Court vice-capellemeister since 1704, succeed him. An interesting note about the Dreses in Boyd's OCC JSB, finds that in 1702 the younger Drese (1677-1745) "had
spent eight months in Italy, at the duke's expense, with the aim of perfecting himself in composition, but little is known of his activities after Bach left Weimar in 1717."

Too little, too late! Once again, Bach was thwarted by timing and lack of opportunity. The two major criticisms of Bach were that he lacked a university education and he had no Italian training, including opera. German composers who got their Italian training included Schütz, George Frideric, Hasse, Heinichen and Johann Christian Bach. Telemann didn't.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (January 27, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Too little, too late! Once again, Bach was thwarted by timing and lack of opportunity. The two major criticisms of Bach were that he lacked a university education and he had no Italian training, including opera. German composers who got their Italian training included Schütz, George Frideric, Hasse, Heinichen and Johann Christian Bach. Telemann didn't. >
If the Duke used Drese's training in Italy was a justification for giving him the position, that must have sounded like a pretty shallow excuse to Bach who certainly knew better, who certainly knew about Telemann's lack of training in Italy. Others who didn't go included Christoph Graupner (who wrote many successful operas and was already in Darmstadt for some 7years by this time), Johann Samuel Endler, Johann Friedrich Fasch, Philipp Heinrich Erlebach.

Personally, I would love to have seen any of the Drese's compositions, because you have to wonder what did the Duke hear in the man's music that warranted such a promotion?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 27, 2009):
Apocryphal/Lost Advent Cantatas

William Hoffman wrote:
>Bach was nothing if calculating and tenacious.<
He meant:
Bach was nothing, if not calculating and tenacious.

I enjoy Will's writing so much, that I suggest it worth the editing (ed. or Ed?) effort for BCW archives.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 27, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Certainly you can see a composition by Adam Drese, for he wrote the lovely tune "Seelenbrautigam" which is found in several settings in Reimenschneider as harmonised by Bach, and is also to be found in Lutheran and Anglican hymnals, the latter as "Round me falls the night". It was also set beautifully in Bachian fashion as an extended chorale in the ? Oxford Book of English Anthems, if my memory serves aright, by Walford Davies. If anyone has a better reference to this setting which I enjoyed as a chorister, I would be appreciative of chapter and verse so as to see if it has been recorded.

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 27, 2009):
Chris Kern wrote:
"I can say about this cantata since I was unable to hear a recording or even find an English translation of the libretto"
Francis Browne's English translation of Cantata BWV 141 is now presented on the BCW.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV141-Eng3.htm
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV141.htm

 

Cantata BWV 141: Recordings | Discussions | Discussions of Non-Bach Cantatas: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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

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Last update: ıDecember 6, 2009 ı17:42:02