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Cantata BWV 145
Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of March 24, 2002 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 23, 2002):

Like last week’s cantata BWV 134, the subject of next week's discussion (March 24, 2002), is another cantata for the 3rd day of Easter (Easter Tuesday). This cantata has a strange history. The libretto was written by Picander, beginning at the third movement, a Duet for soprano and tenor (Mvt. 1). Bach may have added a Chorale and a Chorus for the first two movements, because he felt that Picander’s text was insufficient for such an important festival. Yet it seems strange that Bach would have set a Chorus immediately after the Chorale at the beginning, so we may conclude that these movements were added by someone unknown, perhaps after Bach’s death. By these additions, there arises some confusion concerning the correct title of this cantata. The Chorale begins ‘Auf, mein Herz, des Herren Tag’ (Up, my heart, the Lord's day) and the Chorus ‘So du mit deinem Munde bekennest Jesum’ (If you proclaim Jesus with your mouth), the latter being taken from the Easter cantata by Telemann. Since neither of these movements was set by Bach, one must consider that the cantata begins with Picander’s third movement.

This is the fourth in Riccardo Nughes' proposed list of cantatas for discussion. In order to allow the members of the BCML being prepared for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata, the details of which can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 145 - Recordings

In the same page you can also find links to translations of the German text - to English (English-3), made by Francis Browne, and to Hebrew, by me. I hope that the English and Hebrew readers of the BCML will find the translations useful. I also wish to see other members of the BCML contributing translations to their languages (French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, etc.).

Cantata BWV 145 is one of the least recorded cantatas. It is included only in the three complete recorded cantata cycles (Rilling [1], Harnoncourt [2] and Leusink [3]). None of the current recordings includes the additional two movements. Consequently, this cantata is also one of the shortest. The playing time of all three recordings is about 9 and a half minutes.

I hope to see you at least some of you participating in the discussion. In the last couple of weeks I feel somewhat lonely, being almost the sole contributor.

Marie Jensen wrote (March 25, 2002):
"Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen" :

That two movements are missing hear is clearly heard, because the festive bass aria (Mvt. 3) seems to be a multi instrument conclusion. The lost opening chorale and chorus must have been festive too to keep the balance. So when this nine minutes long Easter cantata is over, I feel like I have been watching a movie without seing the beginning. But the music is of course OK.

I have a Leusink [3] and a Rilling version [1]. The continuo in Rilling’s version is too heavy in the opening duet, (Mvt. 1) but else I am satisfied with both versions.

Picander’s text to the tenor recitativo:

Nun fordre, Moses, wie du willt,
Das dräuende Gesetz zu üben,
Ich habe meine Quittung hier
Mit Jesu Blut und Wunden unterschrieben.

is like being outside at the Marktplatz. Perhaps the Leipzig merchants understood better this way!

Merke, mein Herze, beständig nur dies,
Wenn du alles sonst vergißt,
Daß dein Heiland lebend ist
; (BWV 145)

Aryeh Oron wrote (March 25, 2002):

The background below is based on several sources (mostly Robertson and Young) and something of my own. The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

The Gospel, Luke 24: 36-47 – the risen Lord reappears to His disciples in Jerusalem - is referred to only indirectly in the libretto of the first two movements.

Mvt. 1 Aria (Duetto) for Tenor (Jesus) & Soprano (Soul)
Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen,
(I live, my heart, for your delight)
Violino solo, Continuo
The words which the Tenor sings are obviously those of Jesus. The Soprano replies with the same words in the second person (the Soul), but Bach departs here from his invariable habit of allotting Jesus’ words to a bass. Picander probably imagined the scene from the Gospel reference to the disciples. The secular origin of the music is obvious. Bach most probably based this duet and the subsequent aria on some since-lost music that he had composed in Cöthen. This is a very melodious duet and one wonders at first what is the meaning of the constant up-rushing scale passage for the violin. Than we realise that the violin accompaniment gives the voices a dancing rhythm expressive of their joy. The Biblical reference to the laws of Moses occurs towards the end of their duet, when they both sing that the penalties have been erased by Christ’s sacrifice.

Mvt. 2 Recitative for Tenor
Nun fordre, Moses, wie du willt
(Now claim as much as you like Moses)
The decree Moses claimed was the Old Law, of which St Paul, in the Epistle to the Colossians 2: 14 described as ‘having blotted out the bond written in ordinances that was against us’. The words of the recitative continue: ‘Ich habe meine Quittung hier / Mit Jesu Blut und Wunden unterschrieben. Dieselbe gilt, / Ich bin erlöst, ich bin befreit’ (I have my receipt here / signed with Jesus' blood and wounds. / And this is valid, / I am redeemed, I am set free). At the end there is a moving little Arioso: ‘Mein Herz, das merke dir!’ (My heart, mark this for yourself!). These words lead into the following aria.

Mvt. 3 Aria for Bass
Merke, mein Herze, beständig nur dies
(Mark, my heart, constantly only this)
Tromba, Flauto traverso, Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Continuo
Bach brings in the additional instruments to give full force to the resounding octaves which he presents his main theme, and which ‘Merke’ (marks) that ‘Daß dein Heiland lebend ist’ (that your saviour is alive). The trumpet and the transverse flute really make this aria sparkle. All the instruments produce a most attractive melody in dance tempo, with the joy-motif shining through the whole movement. Its gaiety seems more akin to a secular than to a sacred aria, reminding the listener of Bach’s composing for the Cöthen court (Brandenburg Concerti, Orchestral Suites, etc.).

Mvt. 4 Recitative for Soprano
Mein Jesus lebt,
(My Jesus lives)
The singer is the Soul of the opening movement. The music is full of confidence and imagination; the Soul rises to heaven to behold the risen Saviour.

Mvt. 5 Choral
Drum wir auch billig fröhlich sein
(Therefore we are rightly joyful)
Zink e Flauto traverso e Oboe d'amore I e Violino I col Soprano, Oboe d'amore II e Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo
This is the 14th verse of Nikolaus Herman’s hymn and melody Erschienen ist der herrlich Tag (1560), fitting in triple time. Although no instrumentation is given in the survived score, Bach would surely have brought in all his instrumental force here.

Review of the Recordings

[1] Rilling (1984)
The strong violin of Georg Egger dominates the opening aria (duet) (Mvt. 1). This is an unashamed modern violin playing with full sound and vibrato, but he has the essence of truthful and soulful Bach playing. Kraus sings beautifully and with good understanding of the text and the way it should be expressed through the music, although I feel that he puts too much expression into his singing. He sounds almost over-enthusiastic both in the opening duet (Mvt. 1) and the ensuing recitative. Andreas Schmidt has deep and authoritative voice, which suits very well the message he has to convey. Costanza Cuccaro unique timbre of voice and penetrating delivery could be much more enjoyable had she not used so much vibrato. Also for the Soul part I prefer more innocent and boyish kind of voice and more humble expression.

[2] Harnoncourt (1984)
The violin playing (Alice Harnoncourt, I presume) is naturally less strong than Rilling’s, although it is relatively clean and pleasant. As a consequence more focus can be give to the two voices. Kurt Equiluz sings with lot of taste without putting too much emphasis on himself. Alan Bergius is a good boy. His clean delivery allows us to concentrate on the message he has to convey and he suits the role of the innocent and somewhat frightened Soul perfectly. Hampson light baritone voice and somewhat superficial delivery is less authoritative than Schmidt is in the aria for bass.

[3] Leusink (1999)
Leusink’s violin player (John Wilson Meyer) has more vivid and gaiety to his playing, and therefore he manages to make the part of the violin in the opening aria (duet) (Mvt. 1) the most meaningful of the three. On the other hand, Nico van der Meel is the least expressive of all three tenors, although there is nothing wrong in his singing. Ramselaar is an improvement after Hampson, with more expressive singing. He gives the impression that he really knows what he is singing about. Had he have the depth of Schmidt’s voice, I would find him even more satisfying. Holton’s boyish soprano timbre suits, of course, the role of the Soul and she is usually good in this kind of parts. But when she is compared to a really fine boy soprano, as Harnoncourt’s Alan Bergius is, she suddenly sounds too mature! Overall, although this rendition has evident deficiencies, it is the most balanced of all three, and the one to which I shall return most often.


Personal preferences:
Soprano: Bergius[2], Holton [3], Cuccaro [1]
Tenor: Equiluz [2], Kraus [1], Meel [3]
Bass: Schmidt [1], Ramselaar [3], Hampson [2]
Overall performance: Leusink [3], Harnoncourt [2], Rilling [1]

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Dick Wursten wrote (March 27, 2002):
Marie Jensen observed:
< Nun fordre, Moses, wie du willt,
Das dräuende Gesetz zu üben,
Ich habe meine Quittung hier
Mit Jesu Blut und Wunden unterschrieben.
is like being outside at the Marktplatz. Perhaps the Leipzig merchants understood better this way! >
Indeed a peculiar and a little bit 'shocking' imagery to us 21st century people. But for centuries very commonplace, esp. since in the 12th century Anselmus from Canterbury tried to explain the events of Good Friday in popular and then-present day terms (i.e. the the feudal society): 'Satisfaction' had to be paid to the Lord because 'his people' had robbed him of his honour (=sin, paying tribute to another Lord, > Devil). Jesus paid it in our place by the sacrifice of his own life, so 'atonement' was done and 'reconciliation' a fact.

The biblical roots of Bach’s/Picander’s text - as already pointed out by Aryeh - lie in the letter of Paul to the Colossians, where is referred to 'a note of debt that was against us' (litterally: a HANDWRITTEN NOTE; Die HANDSCHRIFT.. compare Mvt. 1: 'Die klagende Handschrift' ) and which is 'blotted out' by - strange twist of thought, brainwave, association of Paul - 'nailing it to the cross'. (Colossians 2:14,15).

Theology-historians usually point out that this imagery has its origin in Jesus own words at the institution of the Last Supper/Eucharist, where he refers to his death by saying: 'this is my body/blood given [as a ransom] for you'..

The chain of thought which begins here everyone can continue by him/herself, I think... so I quit.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 145: Ich lebe, mein Herze, zu deinem Ergötzen for Easter Tuesday (1729)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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