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Cantata BWV 143
Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele
Discussions - Part 1

BWV 143, "Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele"

Lightmanaj wrote (November 28, 1999):
One of my favorite Bach Cantatas is BWV 143, "Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele", (not to be confused with BWV 69 of the same name). However, according to the liner notes of Masaaki Suzuki's recording of this piece [4], BWV 143 might not be by Bach. What disturbed me in particular is that this Suzuki's edition claims that BWV 143 lacks in sophistication. Does anyone else have any more information about the authenticity of this beautiful Cantata?

Nagaimiya Tutomu wrote (November 29, 1999):
The authenticity of this piece is still in dispute. The liner notes of Leonhardt recording (Teldec) [2] says, "The continuo writing and this early use of horns are strong arguments in favor of Bach's authorship." Generally speaking, I think, whether it lacks in sophistication or not has little to do with the authenticity.


BWV 143

Jane Newble wrote (February 8, 2000):
I have just received Suzuki's Vol. 5 [4] and I think it is wonderful. But does anyone know anything about BWV 143 Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele? Malcolm Boyd in his Bach Compendium does not mention it, as far as I can see.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 8, 2000):
You are right: not a word about it. It seems some doubt its authenticity, but you would expect the Bach Compendium to give at least the reasons for that. So I quote what Gerhard Schuhmacher writes in the booklet of the Teldec recording: "The occasion and date of composition and whether it was performed during Bach's lifetime of Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele (BWV 143) are still not at all clear. The claim by Spitta and Schering that it was performed on New Year's Day 1735 is contradicted by evidence that the fourth Cantata of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) was sung on that occasion. In its conciseness the Cantata is related stylistically to the motet (Nos. 1 and 7), to the older aria (Nos. 4 and 5) and to the sacred concerto (Nos. 2 and 4). Striking feature are the three horns, to which he added timpani in the fifth movement. Judging by the style, this work probably falls between Cantata BWV 71, the Cantata written for the occasion of the election of a new town council in Muhlhausen (1708), and the change in the style of his Cantatas in 1714. Since it is scored for horns, the date of composition is probably close to that of the Hunting Cantata, BWV 208 (1713). On all other occasions Bach symbolized the reign of Jesus the King by three trumpet parts and timpani, trumpets being the privilege of rulers. The continuo writing and this early use of horns are strong arguments in favor of Bach's authorship."

Has Suzuki recorded this Cantata [4]?

Jane Newble wrote (February 8, 2000):
Yes, it is on Vol. 5 [4], along with BWV 18, BWV 152, BWV 155, and BWV 161. And it is a wonderful CD! I suppose I should have mentioned that that was the reason for my question. In the booklet it says: "Although it is believed that Bach was the composer of this New Year's Day Cantata, there are many uncertainties surrounding it. The Cantata reaches us through a manuscript dating from 1762, twelve years after Bach's death, which doesn't even seem Bach-like in some aspects of its style..." So I wondered why Boyd didn't mention it, in view of these uncertainties, and why Suzuki recorded it if it was that uncertain. But Boyd may have forgotten it? Thank you for the quotation from the booklet of Teldec. It all helps.

Simon Crouch wrote (February 9, 2000):
When I was compiling my Cantata pages, BWV 143 stood out as being decidedly off-ish by Bach's standards and I wasn't surprised when I found out that the authenticity of this work has long been doubted. It's in the 1998 BWV main catalogue still, but with that lovely phrase "Echtheit des Werkes nicht gesichert" slapped on it.

For me, the dead give away is that there are some neat thematic ideas but the composer doesn't develop them to the extent to which we'd expect Bach to develop them. It is possible he was having an off day, but the dating of the work (on stylistic grounds) to the period 1708-14 doesn't correspond to his known off periods (that is, when he was having run-ins with his bosses and working-to-rule).

Jane Newble wrote (February 16, 2000):
When I first heard it, I was surprised. Somehow it didn't sound like the Bach I was used to. But as I have only heard about 100 Cantatas so far, I felt that I couldn't think like that. But your comments confirm my feeling that it sounds so different. I still wonder why Suzuki recorded it [4]. Perhaps he just likes it?

F. Oreja (February 16, 2000):
Here seems to be some confusion. There is a very big difference between doubting about the authenticity of a Cantata and setting the in-authenticity as the best choice. In fact there have been doubts about it (for example Geck, Bach-Studien 5, Leipzig 1975, p 70). But such doubts are based in external suspect moments and are in no way enough for establishing the work as spurious. The authenticity is not secured, that's all. The consideration of the Cantata as a spurious work must be supported it must be set by means of better proofs, then the authenticity cannot be demonstrated (properly speaking) even for many of the works for witch we have Bach’s own handwritings (they could be only copies or transcriptions). It is true that some movements in the Cantata aren't specially outstanding, but they are really not so bad too (for contemporary standards they are even very good). Movement 6 (the tenor aria) is in any case unmistakably very characteristic for Bach. As long as Bach’s authorship is not questioned with secure proofs, BWV 143 has to be considered as a Bach Cantata (may be a special one).

The reason for Suzuki to record the Cantata [4] is the same as the reason for Gardiner for performing it in Berlin at no other date as the first January 2000, the beginning of the Bach year (I was so happy to attend the concert in the first row).

Simon Crouch wrote (February 16, 2000):
True, but in this case there are the stylistic problems added to the manuscript source problems (only survives in very late copy). These add up to serious doubts. However, I like to hear works on the edge of the Bach canon, so that I can decide for myself - So good for Suzuki recording BWV 143 [4]!

Jane Newble (February 16, 2000):
I'll continue to enjoy it, whether it is Bach or not. As you say, it is rather good. It was just so different. And I was puzzled about the whole thing. And very eager to learn all I can.

I can imagine. I have just seen the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) on someone's video, taped from BBC TV (I missed it!) and it was wonderful, even though the quality of the tape was not good. The performances (from Weimar, I think) were magic.


Discussions in the Week of January 5, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 7, 2003):
BWV 143 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (January 5, 2003), according to Paul Farseth’s suggestion, and the opening one for 2003, is the Cantata for the New Year's Day [Circumcision of Christ - Holy Name] BWV 143 ‘Lobe den Herrn, meine Seele’ (Praise the Lord, my soul). 2003 is going to be our last year of the complete (first?) round of weekly cantata discussions, covering all of Bach Cantatas, both Sacred and Secular. About 50 cantatas remain to be discussed. Based on the past three years, this is going to be another great Bach year!

The commentary below, quoted from the liner notes to the Capriccio’s CD that includes the Rotzsch’s recording [3], was written by Max Pommer (English translation by Lionel Salter):

See: Cantata BWV 143 - Commentary

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 143 - Recordings

Since this is an early cantata, it could have been expected that it will be included in all five recorded cantata cycles. Yet, in this group we find this time recordings only by Rilling [1], Leonhardt [2], Suzuki [4] and Leusink [6]. Koopman preferred to skip this cantata, maybe due an advice of Christoph Wolff, who accompanies this series with the notes he writes for the booklets included in the albums. We are compensated by a recording of the complete cantata by Hans-Joachim Rotzsch [3], a former Thomaskantor, and a few recordings of individual movements from this cantata.

You can listen to Leonhardt’s recording [2] through David Zale Website:

Additional Information
In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to:
The original German text (at Walter F. Bischof Website); two complete English translations by Francis Browne and Z. Philip Ambrose; Hebrew translation by Aryeh Oron;
Score (Vocal & Piano version);
Commentary: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide), Brian Robins (AMG); in Japanese by Nagamiya Tutomu. Sorry, but the Spanish commentary by Julio Sánchez Reyes is temporary unavailable.

Spurious or not, this cantata, although short in duration (about 13 minutes), has a special charm. With so many members in the BCML (currently 324 and still growing!), I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion. Actually there have already been two short discussions of BWV 143, as you can see above: November 1999 & February 2000.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 9, 2003):
BWV 143 Authrentic?

Provenance? Authenticity?

These questions, as Aryeh has already indicated, have occupied Bach scholars in the past and still continue to plague us today. Aryeh has also referred to the discussions regarding this cantata that have already taken place on the BCML. All of this seems to confirm what I have felt about cantatas like this all along: Why are the experts so chary with their reasons concerning whether this cantata is really by Bach or not? Why are we, in most instances, left to our own opinions when those who have studied Bach’s cantatas have little or nothing to say in their professional journals or books in which they hardly give any substantial reasons for making a certain choice?

Aryeh’s listing indicates for the date of composition: “Mühlhausen or Weimar, 1708-14 (Doubtful)”

Certainly, there is reason for us to become very cautious about ascribing this cantata as being authentic if Ton Koopman does not include it in his series. In the collaborative effort between Koopman and Christoph Wolff (“The World of the Bach Cantatas”, 1995) which was prepared in conjunction with the Koopman’s Erato Cantata Series, (now defunct), this cantata, BWV 143, is not even mentioned at all. However, Suzuki (1997) includes it in his series [4]. (Leusink [6] does not count for much here, since he does not even seem to consult the NBA much for his recordings.) Why this disparity? Whom are we to believe in this matter?

The NBA I/4 KB prepared by the Bach scholar Werner Neumann in 1964 is of very little help here. Just by including this cantata in the NBA, the NBA has given it its imprimatur. But what reasons are given for doing so? None. According to the NBA KB there are only two meaningful copies of the score and both are from the 19th century (Dürr (1971, revised 1995) indicates the 2nd half of the 18th century, but I am unable to determine who was the first to state that it was in the 1760’s. Brian Robins states 1762, on whose authority – what is the reasoning behind this date?) Neumann treats the information about this cantata very gingerly, giving only as much information as is absolutely necessary. Regarding the date of composition, Neumann states that “without the original score and parts, all the usual methods used for determining the date of composition are not available.” He points out that both Spitta and Schering believed in the ‘war’ theory. Spitta had looked about for historical information about a war that seemed to be referred to in the text. The year he came up with was 1734. Neumann expresses his doubts about this and points to the performance of a section of the Christmas Oratorio on the Sunday that Spitta had selected.

For those interested in particulars about the documents upon which this cantata is based, here is what the NBA KB states:

An unknown copier (date of 20th of September 1836 is given) made this copy for Franz Hauser who had in his collection of Bach manuscripts the following (in this order:) BWV 130, BWV 16, BWV 188, BWV 174, BWV 156, BWV 56, BWV 164, BWV 81, BWV 161, BWV 143. (Notice that this cantata is the last. An afterthought? Is this a collector who is trying to increase the number of cantatas that he owns? What if someone knew that Franz Hauser was willing to pay a tidy sum of money for any Bach cantata that no one else owned? What if an unscrupulous person had the copier take a cantata by a Bach contemporary (or relative) and simply ascribe it to J. S. Bach? This would not be the 1st time that such a thing had happened.) The 2nd copy is a copy of the 1st copy and was copied by A. Werner working for Josef Fischhof (1804-1857) who also was an avid collector. The BG based its printing of this cantata entirely upon the latter.

The NBA also gives all the details about the text which are on Aryeh’s site as well. Other than this there is absolutely nothing about the reasons for including this cantata in the NBA. However, when a cantata is excluded, no reasons for this exclusion are given either.

As Gerhard Schumacher (1984) pointed out in his notes to the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt Teldec series [2], BWV 141 is by Telemann and the authorship of BWV 142 is still to be determined. Isn’t it interesting that BWV 143 follows directly upon two cantatas that have been removed from Bach’s oeuvre? What did the editors of the BG suspect about these cantatas, but never relate to us in words?

What do some other modern sources have to say about this cantata? Eric Chafe, who, admittedly discusses many, but not all of Bach’s cantatas, has nothing to say about this cantata.

Who then, of recent vintage, has anything significant to say about the authenticity of this cantata?

Todashi Isoyama (1997), in writing the notes for the Suzuki cantata series [4], states that the cantata “doesn’t even seem Bach-like in some aspects of its style, if indeed, Bach was the composer of this piece.” This does not seem to give the listener very much confidence that this cantata is really by Bach.

The New Grove Dictionary of Music & Musicians has placed this cantata into the spurious (doubtful) category.

The Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach [Boyd] (1999) omits this cantata entirely.

Alfred Dürr, in his book on the Bach cantatas, relates that there are doubts expressed about BWV 143’s authenticity and these are expressed by William H. Scheide (in a letter to Dürr) and Martin Geck in “Bach-Studien 5, Leipzig, 1975, p. 70). What kind of proof or reasoning do these scholars provide? According to Dürr, “beide ohne nähere Begründung” [“both without giving more specific reasons.”] What are these scholars hiding from us? Why are they so reluctant to share their insights into such matters? As Johan van Veen stated in response to Jane Newble’s observation (Feb. 8, 2000) that Boyd in his Bach Compendium does not mention it: “You would expect the Bach Compendium to give at least the reasons for that.”

This leaves Alfred Dürr [Die Kantaten, 1971, 1995] as the only scholar to approach this matter in a reasonable way that attempts to explain, in part, why this cantata could conceivably be by a very young Bach, possibly when he was circa 22 years old. Possibly, but not necessarily! That will be up to you to decide.

To be continued.

Paul Farseth wrote (January 9, 2003):
Replying to Tom Braatz (and the old archived discussions about the authenticity of BWV 143:

I have only the Gustav Leonhardt recording [2] of BWV 143, but it seems to me that the music has a contrapuntal compellingness that could only come from Bach. It reminds me of the elaborations in a very early Bach organ work, the chorale partita on "Sei gegruesset, Jesu guete!". Maybe it was written quite early in Bach's career, perhaps not entirely to his own liking enough to be performed often during his life.

What sticks in my head is that this work has a premonition of genius that doesn't quite come together fully. The last chorale ends too quickly, though that may be in part the fault of Leonhardt's handling of the closing notes and phrases, cut off without the sustain that would have said, "Yes, amen. Fini. SDG." (But notice that abrupt or unexpected endings pop up elsewhere as in the funeral cantata, "Actus tragicus -- Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit," (BWV 106?). The short secco recitative also seems like the work of a young composer experimenting with how to pull things together in a common theme... or maybe the result of the abrupt transitions in someone else's libretto. Or the cantata could have been pieced together from pieces some of which were written very early in Bach's career, others later.

But again, the contrapuntal lines do NOT sound to me like the styles of other contemporaneous composers with whose works I am somewhat familiar: Vivaldi, Telemann, Buxtehude, Johann Gottfried Walter. The styles are all more clumsy (Walter and Buxtehude), or vacuous (Telemann's elevator music), or less forceful, less compelling (IMHO). Vivaldi is great, but he didn't write German cantatas, though Bach and Walter transcribed some of his works for organ. (Bach's organ transcriptions owe much to their source but also much to Bach's reconceptualization, even as Busoni's transcriptions of Bach chorale preludes for piano are hugely compelling in their own right.)

Dick Wursten wrote (January 9, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< What if someone knew that Franz Hauser was willing to pay a tidy sum of money for any Bach cantata that no one else owned? What if an unscrupulous person had the copier take a cantata by a Bach contemporary (or relative) and simply ascribe it to J. S. Bach? This would not be the 1st time that such a thing had happened.) >
Thomas, you made me curious: Can you give other examples from the realm of Music in general and Bach in particular ?

Dick Wursten wrote (January 9, 2003):
The discussion reminds me of the theological/exegetical discussions I am familiar with about the historical quest for the 'true life of Jesus'. In one of his achievements (Die geschichte der Leben Jesu Forschung) Albert Schweitzer proofs convincingly that all so called scientists who were active in this field had an 'image about who Jesus could have been' (Vorverständnis - pre-judicium) and this image became the criterium by which the texts were judged. If in accordance with this image > true. If not > false.

The same happens when trying to work out criteria for judging what can be JSB, what not. No one is un-prejudiced, no one has a 'tabula rasa', no one can pretend to be 'objective'. The one who is the most aware of this and openly formulates his own pre-scientific opinions and sentiments and then investigates them as scrupulously as other man's prejudices and opinions is the most reliable.

By the way: Listening to BWV 143 is a very interesting experience. The music is good enough to listen to. At the same time it is confusing: sometimes you think you hear JSB (from far), and sometimes it is almost unimaginable that JSB wrote music, so simple and was satisfied with so little invention for so many lines of music. And: In the first decades of the 18th century there must have been douzains of cantores in Germany who wrote music to libretto's like this. From many of them we only know a name, which by no menas means their music was bad. In JG Walthers encyclopedia of contemporary musicians Telemann is by far considered to be the greatest, Bach ends somewhere in the middle section... You need distance to discern greatness.

Stevan Vasiljevic wrote (Jaanuary 10, 2003):
Paul Farseth states:
< What sticks in my head is that this work has a premonition of genius that doesn't quite come together fully But again, the contrapuntal lines do NOT sound to me like the styles of other contemporaneous composers with whose works I am somewhat familiar: Vivaldi, Telemann, Buxtehude, Johann Gottfried Walter >
There is another thing besides contrapuntal lines that indicate that this is a work by Bach. What I find unique in Bach's works is to what extent he elaborates a musical idea. Other baroque composers tend to use simpler themes and not expand them too much, and often constrain them into expected technical forms, idioms, and figurations, willingly or not. Therefore, sometimes their musical ideas seem like they need a few extra measures or a little more bravery in diverting from main line, and
sometimes even only as mere dry-as-dust exercises. Bach, on the other hand, employs technicalities as the means of achieving a certain point.

Given that perspective (the extent of elaborating a musical idea), to me the movement 2. (Choral) sounds definitely by Bach, but also do the other movements, even though they seem a bit to short than expected.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 10, 2003):
BWV 143 - Stylistic Analysis to Determine Authenticity

[Most of the material presented here is based upon Alfred Dürr’s ideas contained in „Bach: Die Kantaten“ Bärenreiter, 1971 (revised May 1995). I have added some of my own insights here and there.]

Using stylistic analysis, it would appear (at least to me) that there are more reasons for declaring that BWV 143 is not a work of a mature J. S. Bach as cantata composer beginning with his tenure in Leipzig than there would be reasons for attempting to prove that it did belong to that period (as Spitta originally had suggested.) In other words, the stylistic evidence is overwhelmingly against such a hypothesis and it would be too easy to present many arguments against assigning this work to Bach’s Leipzig period.

It then becomes necessary to determine whether and why this cantata might belong to the very earliest Mühlhausen period (1707-1708) or even perhaps as late as the Weimar period (1708-1717) where some of the traits of the early Bach found their highest degree of fruition as in the Actus tragicus (BWV 106).

[For most of my life I lived under the misconception that Bach somehow did not show the usual development of compositional skills that is apparent in most other great composers. Now, after being able to listen to all the cantatas in various recordings and, more importantly, in writing reports for the BCML, I have had to change this opinion. There are some stylistic features that are typical for Bach in the pre-Leipzig period, and these can be used to distinguish one period in his life from another, at least insofar as it is possible to separate this early period from the Leipzig Bach, who, despite the fact that his maturity is epresent, nevertheless continually experimented with various possibilities. Somehow he always manages to sound mature throughout the Leipzig period and since most of his cantatas originate from this period, this, then, is the prevailing impression that most listeners will have of Bach’s compositional style. In examining BWV 143, however, it will be necessary to delineate the characteristics of the early, pre-Leipzig Bach. I will try to indicate in which ways this cantata could conceivably be by this early Bach, but I will also point out where this cantata seems to fail even the test for this early period in Bach’s life. Of course, in such a venture, there are no guarantees, since this might have been a very unique Bach cantata that simply does not allow for such a comparison to be made.]

Perhaps one way to attack this stylistic analysis would be to identify those stylistic features that typify the mature Bach. Any of these on a smaller, less sophisticated scale would conceivably be found in the limited number of early cantatas that have come down to us. If a feature such as this (boldly present in Bach’s Leipzig cantatas) is also found on a lesser, trimmed-down scale, this might signify that the cantata or mvts. thereof were of the pre-Leipzig period. If these characteristics or traits are missing altogether or unBachian features are present, then the work might be considered to be by another composer, a contemporary of Bach, possibly a member of the extended Bach family, or a pupil of Bach’s. A checklist of these traits will follow and for each there will be a determination that will place it in one of the 3 categories: MB (mature Bach), YB(young Bach), or NB (not Bach.)


1. The use of 3 corni da caccia YB or NB
The use of these instruments is unique. Nowhere else in Bach’s oeuvre does such a combination of horns occur. Also, Csiba’s, in their book, “Die Blechbasinstrumente in J. S. Bachs Werken” indicate that this is the only occurrence of a corno da caccia in Bb, and then to top it all off, Bach uses 3 of them! If BWV 143 is really from the Mühlhausen period, it would according to Michael Marissen (“The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos”) be the earliest such use of corni da caccia in a concerto – we know that Bach entitled many of his cantatas as ‘Concerto’ and only infrequently (mainly in solo cantatas) as ‘Cantata.’

2. The placement of the bassoon (Fagotto) in a place of special prominence at the top, or near the top of the score. Only the brass instruments + Timpani have the highest place of honor at the very top in mvts. 1, 5, and Mvt. 7. In Mvt. 6, the bassoon is placed above the string orchestra (2 violins and viola). Assuming that the copyist copied correctly the sequence of instruments on the score from the top to the bottom, this point alone would weigh considerably toward NB. As it is, I would have to categorize this feature as mainly NB with a slight chance of YB showing us perhaps one of the earliest efforts by Bach where he had not yet decided definitively in favor of a meaningful sequence of instruments as seen from the top to the bottom of the score. Knowing all the difficulties that Bach had with bassoonists during this period, it seems all the more unlikely that he would give this instrumentalist a high place of honor on the score, literally abandoning the logical reasoning that would place it at the bottom in the continuo or as a solo instrument below the higher oboes or strings but above the solo voice.

3. There is something definitely odd about the manner in which Bach(?) closes the ritornello of Mvt. 1. When Bach has instrumental ritornelli of this sort in choral mvts., the instrumental ritornello precedes the entrance of the choir. Just before the choir enters, the entire orchestra plays a cadence to signal the end of the ritornello. All instruments at playing at this point and finish the cadence together whereupon the choir begins its first entrance(s). In ms. 7 & 8 of Mvt. 1 in BWV 143, the composer has done just that, but, when the ritornello is repeated at the end for the last time in ms. 33-34, the cadence is completed but the corni da caccia + timpani continue alone with a trailing ending. Such trailing endings are not unheard of in Bach’s early cantatas (BWV 106 - Actus tragicus - one mvt. has the soprano trailing off all alone, very effectively, on ‘Herr Jesu’ or the last mvt. at the very end of the cantata has the 2 recorders follow unaccompanied with a final quip.) But it does seem very unusual not to complete a ritornello to a ‘large’ choral mvt. YB? NB.

Compositional Techniques:

1. Use of ‘Komplementärrhythmik’ [‘complementary rhythm’] means that instruments are treated in an old-fashioned manner that hearkens back to the style of the keyboard partita. This occurs only in a few of the early Bach cantatas. An example of this is in Mvt. 6 where the continuo and fagotto play interleaving patterns. YB and NB.

2. Use of ‘Stimmaustausch’ [‘exchange of voices’] means that in imitative, fughetta-like passages the sequence of entrances of the voices is deliberately changed in subsequent sections of the same mvt. In Mvt. 7 ms. 6 ff. the sequence is A(lto), T(enor), B(ass); in ms. 11 ff. B, A, T; and in ms. 45 ff. T, B, A. This makes a mvt. such as the last Mvt. 7 more interesting, but also more difficult to compose. Bach used this technique with great proficiency in his mature period, but here it is already apparent albeit in a much more modest, short, and simplified form. MB, YB.

3. Use of inversion of the imitative, fughetta-like themes or subjects means that Bach turns these subjects ‘upside-down.’ Beginning in ms. 6 of Mvt. 7 a theme/subject is stated that has a certain shape or form; this is turned upside down in ms. 45 and following. MB, YB. Although the themes/subjects are very short and rather primitive here, the technique, as such, gives a definite foretaste of the greater things to come in Bach’s later works.

4. Use of ‘Echodynamik’ [‘echo dynamics’] means that a pattern of notes is repeated exactly a 2nd time in immediate succession, and, although the copyist has not copied any dynamics (Bach usually marked the dynamics himself, but did this directly in the parts, not necessarily the score), these repeated sequences (see for instance the initial entrance of the corni da caccia + timpani which is repeated a 2nd time immediately at the beginning of Mvt. 7) were intended to be repeated with a softer dynamic, thus emulating an echo. MB, YB.

5. Use of ‘Choreinbau’ [‘inbuilding of the choral parts’] means that the musical framework already exists (as in the instrumental ritornello) and when this framework is repeated, the choral parts are written into/on top of the existing instrumental parts. This is seen in the ritornello (Mvt. 1, ms. 4-7) which, when repeated later (ms. 22-25 –the corni da caccia have a different pattern here) with the choral parts written in to fit into this framework. This effort here is quite primitive here in comparison with Bach’s later cantatas. MB, YB.

To be continued.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 10, 2003):
Dick Wursten asked in regard to my statement:
"What if someone knew that Franz Hauser was willing to pay a tidy sum of money for any Bach cantata that no one else owned? What if an unscrupulous person had the copier take a cantata by a Bach contemporary (or relative) and simply ascribe it to J. S. Bach? This would not be the 1st time that such a thing had happened."
< Thomas, you made me curious: Can you give other examples from the realm of Music in general and Bach in particular? >
OffhaI can not. I vaguely remember reading about such things. Along these lines I remember that I read somewhere that Haydn suggested to Beethoven, his pupil at the time (Beethoven had wanted to study with Mozart, but just when he wanted to begin his studies with him, he (Beethoven) was called back home to Bonn due to his mother's death -- when he returned Mozart had already died, so Beethoven was 'left with the 2nd best teacher,' Haydn), "make sure that my name (Haydn's) appears on the front page of your new composition," thus implying that the music would sell better with the name of a famous composer on the title or front page. Needless to say, if one knows Beethoven's personality, he did not accept this fast route to fame. This was only one reason why Beethoven was dissatisfied with Haydn as teacher (he did not correct Beethoven's manuscripts carefully); he also felt that Haydn did not devote sufficient time to him (in other words, he wasn't getting his 'money's worth' out of Haydn.)

All of this sounds rather anecdotal in nature and such stories are easily embellished by the next person who relates the story. The reason such a story persists is that there was probably in it a grain of truth: the name of a famous composer goes a long way in selling music even if your composition was not composed by this famous composer.

Closer to home (from the MGG):

"So gelang Max Schneider der Nachweis, daß das 1844 von Griepenkerl als Kompos. von Friedemann Bach herausgegebene Org.-Konzert in d-moll eine Fälschung ist. Friedemann hatte dem Titel der autographen Bearb. seines Vaters die Worte »di W. F. Bach manu mei Patris descript.« hinzugefügt. Landshoff macht Friedemann ebenfalls für die nachstehende Titeländerung des angeblichen Autographs der Inventionen und Sinfonien verantwortlich. Hier hat der in wirtschaftliche Not geratene Sohn wahrscheinlich eine väterliche Urschrift vortäuschen wollen und mit eigener Hand die Vornamen Joh. Seb. eingetragen. Die Photographie beweist offensichtlich, daß der Name unter Bach, der sich wohl auf den Schreiber oder einen früheren Besitzer bezog, ausradiert wurde."

All of this indicates how W. F. Bach passed off works by his famous father as being his own simply erasing J. S. Bach's first and middle names and then inserting his own. Easy, isn't it when you are as unscrupulous as W. F. must have been. It is due to W. F. that we have lost the greatest number of J. S. Bach's cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 10, 2003):
Here's an interesting twist to ascribing a work to a composer who did not compose the work:

From the MGG:

>>Lieder von W. Fr. Bach sind nicht bekannt; »Kein Hälmlein wächst auf Erden« ist eine Fälschung des 19. Jhs. (Text E. Brachvogel; 1 Melodie von W. Baumgartner, 1 andere von Emil Bach, 1849-1902).<<

There are no known or verifiably extant songs by W.F. Bach, but the above individuals created one that became fairly widely known as being by him, perhaps just because it was thought to have originated with W.F. Bach. Without such a known composer as the author of this work, would it have ever been published, let alone have made money for the real author of it?

>>Das scharf umstrittene »Adelaide«-Konzert (KV Anh. 294a), angeblich vom 10jähr. Mozart am 26. Mai 1766 in Versailles komp. und 1933 erstmalig im Kl. A. veröff. (Hrsg. M. Casadesus), scheint sich neuerdings (nach noch unveröff. Forschungen von Walther Lebermann; briefliche Mitt.) als Fälschung herauszustellen. Schon 1934 verneinte Einstein die Echtheit (vgl. Essays on Music, London 1958, mit Nachw. des engl. Hrsg. R. Leavis) und nannte es eine »Mystification à la Kreisler« (Mozart: his Character, his Work, New York 1945, 278).<<

A violin concerto attributed to the 10-year-old Mozart, date and place specifically indicated (May 26, 1766 in Versailles), turns out not to be genuine. Alfred Einstein sees it as something à la Kreisler, the violinist, might have done (Kreisler actually passed off some of his own works as originating from a much earlier period.) After all this is said and done, we are still left with the intriguing question, "Who composed this work?"

[In regard to BWV 143, wouldn't it be relatively easy, after Bach's death, for someone with musical ability but not necessarily genius, and realizing that Bach's cantatas had become prized possessions, to compose a cantata à la very early Bach?]

I forgot to mention Count Walsegg zu Stuppach who wanted to purchase Mozart's Requiem and then pass it off on his own. I also wonder about Uniko van Wassenaer, also a nobleman, who may (I have no proof of this) have had his "Concerti armonici" composed by someone else (a young composer of great genius, but not yet well known) and then, pretending it was his own work, have it played for others in his class of society. (Other works, which may or may not have been by Wassenaer, come nowhere near the quality of these excellent baroque concerti.) These concerti first appeared in print as having been composed by G. B. Pergolesi, then later by Ricciotti, who, as it turns out, was simply an editor/publisher. For more on this sort of thing:

"Fr. Walker, Two Centuries of Pergolesi Forgeries and Misattributions in Music and Letters 30, 1949."

(Complete operas composed by lesser composers became known and were printed as being by Pergolesi.)

Andrew While (Drew) wrote (January 10, 2003):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< All of this indicates how W. F. Bach passed off works by his >famous father as being his own simply erasing J. S. Bach's first and middle names and then inserting his own. Easy, isn't it when >you are as unscrupulous as W. F. must have been. It is due to W. >F. that we have lost the greatest number of J. S. Bach's cantatas. >
I guess that is one of the perks of being Bach's "favorite" son ; ) Originality may not have been as important to eighteenth century composers as it is today, but still, passing them off as his own. What a schmuck!!! Everytime I hear / read about this, my blood starts to boil. But I guess we are fortunate to have 200 or so church cantatas. And, anyway, getting to know all 200 is a life-time pursuit.

Framcine Renee Hall wrote (January 10, 2003):
And what about poor Haydn whose moronic wife used his scored sheet music as tie curlers for her hair? And wasn't there a butcher in there somewhere who used priceless manuscripts to wrap his meat in?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 11, 2003):
BWV 143 - Stylistic Analysis to Determine Authenticity (Ctnd.)

Compositional Techniques:

6. “Wortmalerei” – word painting is present throughout the cantata. Some examples:

Mvt. 1: After introducing each voice separately on “Lobe” [“Praise”], there are two long held notes on “Lo-“ indicating that all different types of human beings are now unified, singing with one voice on the same pitch in unison one octave apart.

Mvt. 2: The continually upward-moving 16th notes in groups of four symbolize the voices of the congregation which, in the name of Jesus Christ are raised upwards “zu deinem Vater schreien” [“to cry out aloud to Your Father.]

Mvt. 3: The chromatic passages of the bc underline the ideas of “Tausendfaches Unglück, Schrecken, Trübsal, Angst und schneller Tod” [‘Thousand-fold misfortune, terror, sadness, fear and quick death.’]

Mvt. 5: The use of all 3 corni da caccia + timpani underscore the regal subject and the word, “ewiglich” [“eternally”], receives a very long coloratura with a long note included. The long extension on ‘für’ carries a similar meaning which is continuing on in time.

Mvt. 6: The cascading figures in the bc + bassoon seem to be the blessings for the new year that the congregation has been praying for. YB, MB

7. The incorporation of the chorale melody in three different ways:

a) Mvt. 2: sung by the soprano alone with violin solo + bc;
b) Mvt. 6: appearing wordlessly (a favorite device used by Bach, where the congregation is stimulated to think or sing silently the missing verse of the chorale) in the midst of a tenor aria as long notes played in unison by the upper strings;
c) Mvt. 7: appearing in long notes sung by the soprano. YB, MB

8. “Das mehrfache Durchmessen der Oktave symbolisert die Totalität der göttlichen Macht” [“The repeated crossing-through of the range of the octave symbolizes the totality of power of God”] This is heard in the opening motif that the bass sings in Mvt. 5 (the 1st corno da caccia has essentially the same motif at the very beginning (later in the mvt. the other horns follow with similar shortened motifs while the bass also continues with repetitions of it. YB, MB [If there is a single point that persuades me to consider this cantata as being Bach’s, it would be this one. This ties in with my discussion of the Brandenburg Concerti (on Aryeh’s site) based on a point that Eric Chafe had brought up. This motif which moves and encompasses the octave in the same way that God relates to the cosmos depicts God in his majesty and the 3 corni da caccia represent the Trinity. Michael Marissen relates this primarily to royalty, but here Bach uses these possibilities in a religious setting. Actually, in Bach’s time, the two were still very much connected in the minds of most people. This same motif appears in the Mühlhausen Ratswahlkantate BWV 71 “Gott ist mein König” from 1708, mvt. 5 “Durch mächtige Kraft” where 3 trumpets instead of horns are used.

9. The permutation fugue – although this is strong characteristic of the MB, some examples do exist from Bach’s early period and can be traced back to 1708. This is a typically Bachian type of choral fugue that differs from the instrumental fugues that he writes. This is not the appropriate time to describe this type of fugue here, except to say that it does not occur in this cantata. Only the 1st mvt. might have been the suitable place for it, but there Bach decided instead to use extremely short, fughetta-like entrances in the voices. NB (However, not every Bach cantata contains such a fugue.)

Structural Form:

1. Very unusual sequence of mvts: the tenor has 3 mvts. – the only recitative (extremely short – only 5 measures!) and 2 arias; the bass has only one aria and a soprano simply sings the choral melody. There is no final 4-pt. chorale, but rather one which has the sopranos singing the chorale melody and the supporting voices singing, “Halleluja.” YB, NB.

2. The reduction or increase of instrumentation in stages (already referred to in Instrumentation 3 above because of the unusual ending of Mvt. 1) is a characteristic of the YB, particularly apparent in BWV 106 Actus tragicus. YB

Here are some more general points that are made by some commentators to explain why they would not consider this cantata to be by J. S. Bach: Viewed primarily from the standpoint of Bach’s mature works, this cantata lacks sophistication.

1. a weakness of musical ideas
2. extreme shortness in many aspects
a. of the mvts.
b. of the sections or segments [“Kleingliedrigkeit”] within a mvt.
3. a tentativeness in the treatment of ideas
4. a lack of development of the musical ideas
5. very modest means are utilized
6. rather obvious immaturity

My personal view after all this investigation is that it does seem to be by a very young Bach or perhaps by someone who did a very excellent imitation of an early Bach composition. The very earliest cantatas by Bach might be the easiest to create, certainly much easier than those by the mature Bach. It could also be, as already suggested, that some individual mvts. (the arias are the most likely to fall into this category) might be genuine. The choral mvts. seem to demonstrate the greatest weaknesses and would be the prime candidates for creation by another, lesser composer.

Jane Newble wrote (January 1, 2003):
When I first heard this cantata 2 years ago, I was puzzled, and I still am. Perhaps it was written by Bach when he was young, and he had a headache that day, or he just wanted to try something out. Or perhaps it was by someone as robust as Kuhnau or Zelenka. (Incidentally, listening to Zelenka's Magnificat in C major yesterday, I was quite struck by some phrases that were identical to something in Bach, I just can't remember what!). Maybe it is true that it was sold by his son under his father's name.

Whether or not it is by Bach, it is a nice cantata to listen to, and to my ears it has Bach's fingerprints on it.

It was an amazing experience to first listen to the second half of the last movement of BWV 71 - Gott ist mein König -, and then to the first movement of BWV 143. Either that was written by Bach, or there was a very good imitator! It is extremely short, lively, and very pleasant.

The continuo with the simple chorale in the second movement also reminds me of Bach. The same with the arias for tenor.

For some reason I find the bass aria more puzzling, and the last movement seems almost too simple. I can't imagine Bach as we know him being content with just a 'Hallelujah' against the background of a chorale.

However, there are definitely Bachian ideas in this cantata, and it is possible that in 10 years time, when I have heard all the Bach cantatas many more times, I might come to some sort of conclusion.

In the meantime I am very grateful to Suzuki [4] and others for performing this attractive cantata, and I still wish Boyd and Wolff had explained why they did not include it.

Dick Wursten wrote (January 11, 2003):
BWV 143 Mvt. 4

When I listen to Mvt. 4 (aria tenor, tausendfaches Ungluck) I have the impression the music does not want to 'stream'. There seems to be hardly any connection between the notes as sung by the tenor and there is no 'pushing' forward in it at all (as if the music is stuck in a moor).

I wonder:
1. Is this 'Tonmalerei' (if it is, I don't like it) ?
2. Do I have to blame it on (resp. give credit to) Leusink [6] or Bach (NB,YB,MB).

Marie Jensen wrote (January 11, 2003):
It took me some time learning to appreciate BWV 143.

I am not able not tell if this is early an JSB or composed by somebody else.

Suzuki [4] should not have placed it after BWV 161 "Komm du Süsse Todesstunde" (vol 5) - even if BWV 143 is festive, it becomes an anticlimax - it is always hard to enter the stage after a star!

The sound painting is very primitive but some passages have their charm.

So I decided to listen to Leusink’s BWV 143 [6] first and then to Suzuki’s [4], and it became clear how Suzuki’s top professional performance lifts a cantata like this to a higher level. The chorusses live, and sound paintings are given a little extra spice: take f. ex. the tenor aria. The words "Schneller Tod" sound so ruthless.

I don't like the choral movements and the corni da caccia in Leusink’s version [6]....

My favourite early cantata is still BWV 106 "Actus Tragicus" .

Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ,
Wahr' Mensch und wahrer Gott,
Ein starker Nothelfer du bist
Im Leben und im Tod;
Drum wir allein
Im Namen dein
Zu deinem Vater schreien.
(BWV 143)

Philippe Bareille wrote (January 12, 2003):
Nobody can tell us for sure if this cantata was actually composed by J.S. Bach but it is an enchanting work (even if uneven) that resists to repeated listening (over several years in my case), richly scored and full of deep insights. I tend to think that it is a genuine J.S. BACH cantata, considering that a great Bach specialist like Gustav Leonhardt [2] decided to include it in his complete and pioneering recording of Bach's sacred cantatas. Ttone of this cantata is rather festive and the part played by the horns is splendid.

I have listened to Leonhardt [2] and Suzuki [4]. The latter uses different hunting horns in B flat which have a range higher that those used by Leonhardt. Both performances are excellent, bringing out the peaceful and rather joyful atmosphere (but also the menacing afflictions of the 4th movement) very convincingly.

Equiluz with Leonhardt [2] is better than his counterpart with Suzuki (Sakurada) [4] even if the latter sings very sensitively and beautifully. The boy soprano R Cericius sings with assurance and perfect tone in the short chorale. I wish Ingrid Schmithusen (Suzuki) was given a larger part in this ongoing complete recording of Bach cantatas. She captures the spirit of this music admirably and in my opinion is one of the few new sopranos who is a cogent alternative to a good boy soprano. I am glad Leonhardt didn't use countertenors for the choruses in this recording. The continuo is very lively in both recordings. van Egmond (with Leonhardt) comes off well in the low tessitura bass aria but it is not the kind of aria where he is at his best.

Two very enjoyable renditions.

Paul Farseth wrote (January 12, 2003):
Marie Jensen wrote:
< My favourite early cantata is still BWV 106 "Actus Tragicus". >
Ah yes! Richter's performance of that makes my hair stand on end and my nerves tingle. (This may be my private pathology, but BWV 106 is a fine piece.)

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 12, 2003):
BWV 143 - The Recordings:

This week I listened to Rilling (1975) [1]; Leonhardt (1984) [2]; Suzuki (1997) [4]; Leusink (2000) [6]

Mvts. 1 & 7 (The Choral Mvts.)

[1] Rilling:
The choir that Rilling uses here is the Frankfurter Kantorei which is not the Gächinger Kantorei that he uses more frequently. The two choirs sound remarkably similar even in respect to the problematic sopranos who are noticeable for their unsteady, unclear sound as they attempt to sing the chorale melody. Otherwise these trained voices sing with very good precision and intonation. The notes for this series indicate that 3 horn players are involved, but these instruments sound more like trumpets played in their normal, middle ranges (as opposed to the horns in Leusink’s and Leonhardt’s versions which sound an octave lower – and are probably easier to play that way.)

[2] Leonhardt:
It is amazing that the men whom Herreweghe supplied to sing the tenor and bass parts are extremely weak, insecure (particularly in the final mvt.) and to make matters even worse, they sing the ‘halleluja’s sotto voce. What kind of half-hearted praise is that! The boy sopranos from the Hannover Boys’ Choir put in a rather tentative performance of the cantus firmus in the soprano (and this could be better – more forceful, more joyous and without the tiny separations between the individual notes of the melody line.) The ‘corni da caccia’, judging by the notation, are playing everything an octave lower (a comparison with the Suzuki recording makes clear the Rilling, Leonhardt, and Leusink are cheating here) in any case, the sound of the instruments used in this recording is quite muffled and unclear.

[4] Suzuki:
Suzuki seems to have gotten just about everything right: the horns are playing at the correct octave (higher than the others which makes this sound very festive indeed) and the choir sings with greater energy (no ethereal Herreweghe-type treatment here) and clarity than any of the other choirs. Nowhere else in these recordings will you here the entries of the ‘halleluja’s (under the words “im Fried noch länger schallen” in the cf) as precise and balanced in the last mvt. of Suzuki’s recording. The soprano cf may sound rather shrill at times, but at least there is a steady, strong chorale melody line.

Something curious: Does anyone know or has anyone ever heard about a special technique for singing a long held note [in Mvt. 1 the choir twice sings the "Lo-" of "Loben" in unison (an octave apart) and each time, instead of holding the note normally, Suzuki has the choir sing "Lo-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho" in Santa-Claus fashion with a 'ho' on each beat. This becomes even more apparent the 2nd time when the held note is higher in pitch.] Where in the world did Suzuki pick up this notion that long, held notes were performed this way in Bach's time. Is this another arcane theory that the HIP scholars have uncovered or simply concocted so that we should believe that Bach performed these notes in this fashion? If you have the Suzuki recording, give it another spin. For a while I thought something was wrong with my CD player or with the recording technique used.

[6] Leusink:
The horns are playing an octave lower than notated and played in the Suzuki version, and, as a result, their sound level is low and muffled while the timpani has taken the most prominent role. These instruments are creating more noise than music. The basses in the choir are very weak or even non-existent at times. The sopranos tend to sing sharp because of the ‘warblers’ who are singing along.

Timing: No meaningful difference in Mvt. 1, but in Mvt. 7 Rilling [1] and Leusink [6] are slower and Leonhardt [2] and Suzuki [4] are faster.

Very Good:Suzuki [4];
Above Average: Rilling [1];
Average-Mediocre: Leonhardt [2], Leusink [6]

Mvt. 2 (Choral) for Soprano)

[1] Rilling (Csapò):
Csapò has a full operatic voice with a vibrato that she occasionally allows to ‘get out of hand.’ It is, however, interesting to hear this performed in this manner since it does not leave too much to the listener’s imagination when she reaches the conclusion on ‘zum Vater schreien’ [‘to cry out to the Father.’]

[2] Leonhardt (Caricius – Boy Soprano, Hannover):
The boy soprano, Caricius, sings the chorale cleanly (with only one slight intonation problem near the beginning) with a stentorian voice that would easily carry into the far corners of a large church. This is probably as good as a mvt. of this sort can get.

[4] Suzuki (Schmithüsen):
This version is noticeably faster than all the others. Schmithüsen has a ‘cutting’ voice with an unpleasantly shrill quality at times that is reminiscent of some of the other Japanese sopranos that Suzuki uses in this series. Although this is still a half-voice, Schmithüsen sings this chorale with a steady intensity and little vibrato as is befitting for a mvt. of this sort. The diction is clear and very convincing.

[6] Leusink (Holton)
Holton sings the notes accurately, but with her sotto voce style of singing the expression (mainly that of strength of conviction) is dearly lacking. This seems to prove that this voice is unable to project the necessary intensity that this part demands. What sentiment, emotion, or even thought is conveyed to the listener when Holton ‘pulls back’ (diminishes slightly) on the words, “…Christ, wahr’ Mensch und wahrer Gott?” Just because the notes are a few notes lower than the highest note, does not signify to the singer in the midst of a chorale melody that the intensity of singing should be cut back even gradually. Holton seems rather oblivious to the text.

Timing: Rilling [1], Leonhardt [2], Leusink [6] are about the same while Suzuki [4] is considerably faster.

Ranking (from top down): Leonhardt (Caricius) [2]; Rilling (Csapò) [1]; Suzuki (Schmithüsen) [4]; Leusink (Holton) [6]

Mvts. 3 (Recit); 4 (Aria); and 6 (Aria) for Tenor

[1] Rilling (Kraus):
Recitative: OK
1st Aria: Rilling uses a number of violins in unison in the 1st violin part and they play very much in a legato style. Kraus has good expression throughout.
2nd Aria: As usual, Kraus sings the coloraturas excellently, but tends to become harsh in the less melodic sections (where there are many words and few notes more like in a recitative. Coloraturas are Kraus’ forte, recitatives are not.

[2] Leonhardt (van Egmond):
Recitative: Very good
1st Aria: Equiluz seems to be trying too hard to bring out the expressive qualities in this aria – there is simply too much trembling in his voice and not enough of the lyrical quality which would sound much better.
2nd Aria: Equiluz continues in the same vein as in the first aria: too much effort expended toward expression and not enough attention being placed on the lyrical aspects of aria. The fast trembling quality in his voice soon becomes tiresome because he is unable or unwilling to change it.

[4] Suzuki (Sakurada)
Recitative: Good
1st Aria: Sakurada has been helped greatly by Suzuki’s slow tempo (considerably slower than the others.) Because of this slow tempo Sakurada is able coax many nuances from this aria that the other vocalists have overlooked. Everything comes together here in such a manner that this aria sounds very different compared to the same aria in the other recordings. Even though Sakurada technically has a half-voice, he uses it very wisely so that the listener can discover the many subtleties inherent in this aria.
2nd Aria: Suzuki chooses the fastest tempo here of all the recordings that I listened to; and, as a result, Sakurada is forced to hurry over many short phrases. Now he begins to sound just like the many half-voices that tippie-toe their way through Bach arias with the final result being that the listeners begin to ask themselves, “What was that?” Suzuki departs from the score using a reed-stop of the organ rather than the string choir (1st, 2nd violin and viola) on the chorale melody.

[6] Leusink (van der Meel)
Recit: Good to Fair
1st Aria: Leusink decides to have more than one violin play the 1st violin part. This version sounds lifeless compared to Sakurada’s. Instead of intensity of expression, there is a predominant feeling that there are many dead moments in this aria despite van der Meel’s attempt to put expression into this aria.
2nd Aria: van der Meel’s half voice becomes quite apparent here (particularly in the low range) as he makes his way through the numerous short phrases. There is a breathless quality and an inability to make a real connection with the words.

Above average: Rilling (Kraus) [1]; Suzuki (Sakurada-1st Aria) [4]
Average: Leonhardt (Equiluz) [2]
Below average: Suzuki (Sakurada-2nd Aria) [4]; Leusink (van der Meel) [6]

Mvt. 5 (Aria) for Bass

[1] Rilling (Schöne):
With the trumpets in the higher octave (compared to Leonhardt and Leusink), this version immediately sounds more regal and Schöne’s full-voice quality contributes much to this commanding effect as well. He moves easily through the coloraturas and has great strength in the low range where it is needed.

[2] Leonhardt (van Egmond):
The voice of van Egmond lacks the commanding quality that this aria demands. The lack of volume in the low range is compensated for by pressing out a ‘thin’-sounding final note. The blustery sounds of the horns and the completely unrestrained timpani contribute to the overall imbalance between the vocalist and the sections of the orchestra.

[4] Suzuki (Kooy):
Although Kooy can also be considered to be among the half-voices heard in many HIP recordings, he manages to give a more imposing performance than van Egmond’s. Here Kooy is aided considerably by Suzuki’s wonderful control of the orchestra which comes close to, but does not override the voice as much as Leonhardt does in his recording.

[6] Leusink (Ramselaar):
This is very similar to Leonhardt’s recording that has the horns playing in the low octave with the exception that now the horns are having difficulties and are blaring too much. They begin to sound somewhat like Dennis Brain playing a garden hose. The timpanist is having ‘a real field day.’ Ramselaar gives a straightforward performance with little variation either way. A commanding presence is not present here.

Very Good: Rilling (Schöne) [1];
Above Average: Suzuki (Kooy) [4];
Below Average:Leonhardt (van Egmond) [2]; Leusink (Ramselaar) [6]

Ratings for the Cantata as a Whole:

General Overall Excellence: Suzuki [4]
Above Average: Rilling [1]
Average to Below Average: Leonhardt [2], Leusink [6]

Olle Hedström wrote (January 12, 2003):
[To Paul Farseth] The BWV 106 was my first true love as far as JSB church cantatas are concerned. It's a piece of music of unbelievable quality, written by a 22-year old.

I have listened to it hundreds of times over many years, and none outperforms Leonhardt in this cantata. The artistry and sound quality of the Teldec recording is amazing, stunning. Try it, those of you who haven't done this so far.

Philippe Bareille wrote (January 12, 2003):
[To Olle Hedström] I completely agree with you Olle.

Marie Jensen wrote (January 12, 2003):
Paul Farseth wrote:
< Ah yes! Richter's performance of that makes my hair stand on end and my nerves tingle. (This may be my private pathology, but BWV 106 is a fine piece.) >
Me tooo!

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 12, 2003):
BWV 143 - The Recordings

Last week I have been listening to the following 5 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 143:

[1] Helmuth Rilling (1975)
[2] Gustav Leonhardt (1984)
[3] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1984)
[4] Masaaki Suzuki (1997)
[6] Pieter Jan Leusink (2000)

And to two recordings of individual movements from the cantata:

[M-1] Paul Steinitz (1968) - Chorale for Soprano (Mvt. 2)
[M-2] Elmer Iseler (1985) - Chorus (Mvt. 1) & Chorus (Chorale) (Mvt. 7)

I would not like to enter into the discussion of the authenticity of this cantata. This topic has been well covered by other members. I have read their views and arguments with interest, and my main conclusion is that the cantata contains enough music of merit, such that it deserves listening and discussing on its own terms. As with last week cantata BWV 28, I have avoided reading reviews of the recordings sent by other members of the BCML prior to mine.

Background & Review – The Chorales for Soprano & Choir

For me, the most interesting and most gratifying movements of this cantata are the two chorales: for soprano (Mvt. 2) and for 4-part choir (Mvt. 7), Verses 1 & 3 relatively of Jakob Ebert’s hymn ‘Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ(You prince of peace, Lord Jesus Christ). The melody of the hymn is also played by the strings in the second aria for tenor (Mvt. 6).

The background below is based on Robertson and Young and something of my own. The English translation of the original German text is by Francis Browne.

Mvt. 2 Chorale Soprano
Violino, Continuo
Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ
(You prince of peace, Lord Jesus Christ)

Unison violins play a gently swaying melody with rising figures to accompany the singing of the hymn by the soprano. This seems to represent a motif of beatific calm, attributed to the Prince of Piece. This is a really beautiful movement. As with other similar cases, the question if the soprano part should be sung by a solo singer or by the relevant section of the choir remains open. For a good rendition of this movement the soprano(s) have to sing with simplicity and purity of tone. The strings should play with delicacy. Over-expression might ruin the overall atmosphere. The rule is: KIS (Keep It Simple)!

Eva Csapó (with Rilling) [1] is unsuitable for the task. Her voice has too much vibrato, and her singing is lacking in delicacy. When I heard Leonhardt’s rendition of this movement [2] I said to myself: What a boy! What a boy! From time to time we hear a fine boy soprano in H&L series, as Roger Caricius, who is given this chorale to sing. Such cases justify the use of boys rather than mature women to sing the soprano parts. Indeed, the chorale is not too demanding technically, but to sing with such purity and with such angelic voice is a rare gift. In Rotzsch’s recording [3] the soprano part is sung by the relevant section of the choir. The Thomanerchor were in good form in this recording. They sing with such uniformity and coherence that one gets the impression that Rotzsch uses a small group of singers. All the sopranos are, of course, boys, and they sing like angels. Ingrid Schmithüsen (with Suzuki) [4] has beautiful voice with unique timbre, but I find her singing of the chorale somewhat uncomfortable. I believe that Midori Suzuki or Nonoshita (other sopranos in this series) would have done better with this chorale. Holton’s boyish timbre (with Leusink) [6] suits this chorale like a glove. She is the best of the women who sing this movement. The playing of the Leusink’s violins is tender and uplifting at the same time. Steinitz [M-1] also uses the soprano section of the choir (Time: 2:50). Yet this section includes women rather than boys and I have the impression that he uses many of them. Their singing, although relatively clean, is too slow and heavy and lacking some ‘blood’ in comparison with Rotzsch’s.

Solo soprano: Caricius/Leonhardt [2], Holton/Leusink [6], Schmithüsen/Suzuki [4], Rilling/Csapó [1]
Soprano section of the choir: Thomanerchor/Rotzsch [3], [big gap], London Bach Society/Steinitz [M-1]

Mvt. 7 Chorus
Corno da caccia I-III, Timpani, Fagotto, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Gedenk, Herr, jetzund an dein Amt
(Think, Lord, now of your ministry)

The lower voices of the choir sing only one word, ‘Halleluja’, repeatedly, while the soprano section sings the chorale in long notes. All the instruments accompany the chorus. The ‘Halleluja’ part seems to outweigh the sopranos, so that one must listen closely to hear all the text of this stanza of the hymn. Nevertheless, Bach (?) has composed an astounding conclusion in his own style. The listener might be reminded of Händel’s great ‘Halleluja’ chorus in Messiah. As with the opening chorus, if to a less extent, there are problems of inner balance. Sometimes the music sounds too rough. The fanfares of the three corni da caccia (or trumpets) dominate these two movements and it is very difficult to keep them in good balance with the other components (fagotto, strings, voices, etc.). In the opening chorus, even Suzuki cannot claim to achieve satisfying results. It is difficult for me to admit that the problem might be embodied in the score. The main challenge for a satisfactory rendition of this chorale is therefore keeping a good balance between contrasting elements, and allowing every voice to be clearly heard.

Rilling [1] falls into the trap of performing the concluding chorale too loudly. One can hear that he has good players and choir. But when everybody is trying to sing or play as loud as he can, the result simply cannot make the outmost of this chorale, which is enough problematic even without over-performing. The voices are not well balanced in Leonhardt’s rendition [2]. The playing of the corni da caccia is too strong and not clean. One an almost hear the individual players. I also miss real enthusiasm. Rotzsch [3] is doing much better with his forces. His players are better and his choir is more enthusiastic. There is no problem to follow the singing of the chorale by the sopranos. It could have been expected that Suzuki [4] would succeed with balancing all the components in the concluding chorale, and indeed he does. I can hardly choose between him and Rotzsch. Rotzsch’s choir has an extra edge here, because they have more warmth. On the other hand, Suzuki is more sharp and clear. Such sloppy playing as we experience with Leusink’s horns [6] is almost unforgivable. The lacking of rehearsing time is also felt in the singing of the choir, where the voices do not keep distinct and steady lines and they cover each other. Iseler’s rendition [M-2] is conservative by using relatively big choir. The singing is somewhat heavy but manages to sound also rhythmic. Iseler also uses a small number of players. The result is a more balanced and satisfying rendition than some of the more familiar names.

Preferences: Rotzsch [3] = Suzuki [4], Rilling [1], Iseler [M-2], Leonhardt [2], [big gap], Leusink [6]


A movement to take away: The Chorale for soprano with Caricius/Leonhardt [2].


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 143: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 07:39