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Cantata BWV 149
Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg in den Hütten der Gerechten
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of April 27, 2008

Francis Browne wrote (April 25, 2008):
BWV 149 Introduction

This week's cantata is BWV 149, Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg. As always Aryeh has provided a wealth of material for the understanding and enjoyment of the cantata at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV149.htm

(Everyone who takes a turn at doing these introductions must come to appreciate how much has already been done by Aryeh: texts, translations, recordings, commentary, readings, scores, examples...... If there is ever any inclination to take it all for granted, all you have to do is to try to find the equivalent for another composer to appreciate what Aryeh has achieved)

It may be worth pointing out that there is a link to the Classical Music Library where it is possible to listen to the Rilling recordings [4] on line (and much else besides): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV195-Mus.htm

If, as here in Liverpool, your local library subscribes to the Naxos Music Library it is possible to hear the recordings by Rilling [4], Montreal Baroque [9] and John Eliot Gardiner [7] on line. (There are some Koopman recordings also - but not BWV 149 - and also American Bach Soloists, Theatre of Early Music and of course Naxos cantata recordings.)

The earlier discussion contains much information about the cantata which it seems superfluous to repeat here. Nicholas Anderson (in the Oxford Companion) gives a succinct summary of some basic information:

Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg (`One sings joyfully of the victory'), BWV 149. The last of Bach's three complete surviving cantatas for the Feast of St Michael and All Angels, first performed at Leipzig either in 1728 or, more probably, on 29 September 1729. The music survives in a score and parts copied by C.F. Penzel; the first 14 bars of the opening chorus also exist in an autograph sketch (BC A 182). The text, by Picander, is inspired by the encounter engaged in by St Michael and his angels against the dragon (Satan) and his fiery companions. The story is contained in the Epistle reading for the day and was clearly one that greatly appealed to Bach, since each of his cantatas for this festival, as well as the chorus of BWV 50 (which is all that survives of a fourth cantata for the Feast of St Michael, inspired him to write music rich in poetic imagery and instrumental colour.

Two of the recordings issued since the last discussion - Gardiner [7] and Montreal Baroque [9] - include all the cantatas for the Feast of St Michael and listening to them it is impossible not to share Anderson's view that the 'story appealed greatly to Bach' and inspired him to write magnificent music.

Nobody on this list will be surprised by the excellence of what Bach wrote -but about angels? What exactly is being celebrated here? In the previous round of discussions Peter Bloemendaal made - as often - a valuable contribution -- giving some information about Michael in the Christian tradition. But I suspect for most people today, perhaps even many Christians,the concept of angels is vague and obscure. Neither Christmas tree decorations nor the enigmatic figures in the poetry of Rilke or Wallace Stevens prepare us for these cantatas. Perhaps the angels both fallen and loyal in Paradise Lost or the majestic figures Dante encounters at the gate of the city of Dis or on the cornices of purgatory may give us a more adequate idea.

In reading about this cantata the most helpful remarks about the background I have come across are those by Gardiner in the notes to his recording [7]:

"One only has to think of the Sanctus in the B minor Mass to realise that Bach took the Book of Revelation and the concept of the angelic hosts very seriously. Accordingly he believed in a cosmos charged with an invisible presence made of pure spirit, just beyond the reach of our normal faculties. As incorporeal beings, angels had their rightful place in the hierarchy of existence: humanity is ranked 'a little lower than the angels' in Psalm 8. The concept of a heavenly choir of angels was implanted in Bach as a schoolboy in Eisenach, when even the hymn books and psalters of the day gave graphic emblematic portrayal of this idea; the role of angels, he was instructed, was to praise God in song and dance, to act as messengers to human beings, to come to their aid, and to fight onGod's side in the cosmic battle against evil. Probably no composer before or since has written such a profusion of celestial music for mortals to sing and play. ....... A dazzling cluster of cantata - movements composed to honour the archangel Michael have survived from the most productive years of Bach's cantata composition, the 1720s.

Michael the archangel (the name means 'Who is like God?') is one of the few figures to appear in the Old and New Testaments, the Apocrypha and the Koran. He appears as protector of the children of Israel (Daniel 12:1), inspiring courage and strength, and was venerated both as the guardian angel of Christ's earthly kingdom and as patron saint of knights in medieval lore, and, significantly, as the being responsible for ensuring a safe passage into heaven for souls due to be presented before God (hence the Offertory prayer in the Catholic requiem mass: 'sed signifer sanctus Michael repraesentet eas in lucem sanctam' - 'may the holy standard-bearer Michael bring them into the holy light'). Since it was first established under the Roman Empire some time in the fifth century, Michaelmas (Michaelisfest) had become an important church feast, coinciding with one of the traditional quarter days on which rents are levied and agreed in northern Europe, the start for many of the new agricultural year, and in Leipzig, with one of its three annual trade fairs. When Lucifer, highest of the Seraphim, led a mutiny against God, he became transmogrified into the Devil, appearing either as a serpent or a ten-headed dragon; Michael, at the head of God's army in the great eschatological battle against the forces of darkness, was the key figure in his rout.

(I quote extensively because the CD notes for all of his cantatas recordings are generously available available in English, French and German at: http://www.solideogloria.co.uk/recordings/bach_cantatas.)

We may not share these views but having some knowledge of them is helpful in trying to understand some aspects of the Saint Michael cantatas.

I shall again make use of Whittaker's account of the cantata.(Vol.1, p313-18) Following a remark by Ed I have (with Aryeh's kind assistance) arranged for the examples from the score given by Whittaker to be available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV149-Sco.htm

Mvt. 1: Chorus (SATB)

The opening chorus is recycled from the last movement of the Hunt Cantata (BWV 208) and, in 1740 he used the move­ment once again, this time as the conclusion to his cantata for the town council election, (BWV Anh. 193), the score of which has not survived. As Gardiner [7] points out, this first movement is festiverather than combative in tone.

Whittaker comments:

"The re­construction must surely have caused as much labour as an original composition; one must assume that Bach desired to hear his old chorus once again. In the hunting cantata it stands in F, in 6/8, the scoring two corni, two oboes, taille, fagotti, violin I, II, viola and violoncello on separate staves, and violone plus continuo grouped together. In 'Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg' it is in D, three trumpets, timpani, three oboes, bassoon, and strings in the normal manner. While the ritornelli are transferred bodily, the vocal parts are almost completely rewritten. The same general ideas are employed for the choir, but there is more imitative treatment and there is less squareness of phrase. One passage is reproduced intact, where the voices rise one after the other in long rolling phrases, to besieget' (` conquer ', to conquer sorrow) in the old, and erhöhet' ('exalted') in the new."

Dürr usefully adds:

"Bach adapts the chorus to the new text with great skill-a task facilitated by the fundamentally joyful mood of both texts, which even share certain verbal roots: 'freudige Stunden/mit Freuden' (joyful hours/with joy'); Trauren besieget/behalt den Sieg' ('what is victorious over sorrow/wins victory'). If we did not possess the `Hunt' Cantata, the parody character of movement would probably not be obvious from the setting of the text (the choice of a biblical passage for the parody text in any case called for a freer revision procedure than usual), but rather from the texture, which is strikingly homophonic* for a biblical-text chorus, and from the pure da capo* form. These features are in keeping with the jubilant, indeed almost playful nonchalance of movement, a mood that is no longer conscious of the `battle in heaven' that tookk place beforehand."

If Bach used parody for this opening movement, the obvious question arises of whether any other movements are also parodies.It is perfecly possible but all that can be said is that there is no clear proof. Dürr's opinion is "if they are [parodies], the original versions are lost, and the adaptations again exceptionally successful.

Mvt. 2: Bass Aria

On the second movement bass aria Whittaker comments:

"As the Epistle describes the victory of St. Michael and his angels over the dragon (Revelations 12: 7-12), it is only natural that such a tempting subject should be seized upon by writers of libretti for St. Michael's Day (in this case 29 September), and the four cantatas which Bach wrote for this Feast (the others are BWV 19, BWV 50, and BWV 130) contain opportunities to exploit musically the spec­tacle of conflict and victory. The tumultuous continuo of the bass aria is a splendid picture of the struggle, and a powerful voice is needed to do justice to the inspiring vocal line, even although there is nothing to battle against but continuo and violone. Bach's violonist at that time was evidently none too agile, for a simplified version of the continuo is provided for him:
[see examples 474 to 477: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV149-Sco.htm]

The simplifications are made in the ritornelli only; perhaps the in­competent one was instructed verbally to be silent during the re­mainder. Bach's indifference to dissonant clashes is shown by the fact that the violone plays the essential note of the melody when the continuo decorates it from above or below by an auxiliary note of a tone or semitone, as may be seen above. The fine continuo idea is altered to provide the vocal material:
[Ex.478]

When the singer continues Gott, dem Lamme, das bezwungen und den Satanas verjagt' ('(to) God, to the Lamb, Who subdued and the Satan drives away'), the continuo resumes its theme and the voice adds new ideas, 'Kraft' being isolated on high notes and a mighty run occurring on 'Stärke'. 'Der uns Tag und Nacht verklagt' ('who us day and night accuses') is leaping, with chromatics on 'verklagt'. In the interlude semiquavers 9-16 of Ex. 476 are developed, and play an important role during the remainder of the text: und Sieg ist auf die Frommen durch des Lammes Blut gekommen' Honour and victory is upon the pious through the Lamb's blood come'). It is obvious that this is the outpouring from Christ's wounds, for similar figures are used in other works where the rushing of waters is mentioned. The singer's first five notes are an inversion of notes 1-5 in Ex. 474, and they occur elsewhere. Otherwise the line is new, splendidly vigorous, with syncopations and joyful leaps. The three ideas quoted supra, together with another from the introduction and a run rolling to the depths, form almost the whole material for the bassi, the outpouring' motive being given especial prominence.

Mvt. 3: Secco recitative

Mvt. 4: Aria soprano

Whittaker considers this to be 'one of the loveliest of angel arias:

the strings suggest gentle undulations of their wings (see (a) in Ex. 479) and ecstatic peace prevails. The hovering of the heavenly pro­tectors above the bed of the sleeping believer is limned by the un­dulating motion set against sustained notes or chords. It is curious that this characteristic motive is practically identical with that indi­cative of tears, but Bach's treatment makes its effect totally different. Vocalists hesitate to separate these two-note groups, as a violinist would do, but there should always be a distinct break between them. Examples have already been given which prove that the idea that Bach should be invariably sung smoothly is quite false. The chief melody is exquisite:
[See Ex 479 ] http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV149-Sco.htm

The two clauses - 'Wenn ich schlafe' ('When I sleep') and wachen sie' ('watch they') - are set in antithesis; there is movement, naturally, to 'wenn ich gehe' ('when I go') and a sustained note to wenn ich stehe' ('when I stand') and the angel-motive appears for the first time vocally on the last word of tragen sie mich auf den Händen' ('bear they me on the hands')."

On this aria Dürr comments:

"a string piece of enchanting beauty. Dance character is manifest in its song-like melody and its clear articulation into four-bar phrases and their multiples; and even the text-engendered melodic figures that depict going, staying, and being borne up in the hands of angels do not alter this fundamental disposition.

Mvt. 5: Recitative tenor

Whittaker comments: "The low tessitura of most of the tenor recitativo secco suggests that Bach thought of the singer as lowly before the glory of these beings."

Mvt. 6: Aria Duetto Alto Tenor

Whittaker comments:

"One of the all-too-rare bassoon obbligati is heard in the arresting A.T. duet. (There is evidence that a good fagottist resided in Leipzig at that time. See Terry's Bach's Orchestra.) It is a poetic picture, the approach of darkness, the restlessness of the longing Christian and a plea to the holy watchers' to be vigilant, Seid wachsam, ihr heiligen Wachter, die Nacht ist schier dahin' ('Be wakeful, you holy watchers, the night is almost past'). The opening bassoon melody: [see example 480] serves, slightly modified, for the above text; the waving figures:[ex 481 and 482] typify the floating of the divine beings in the aether. Bassi and obbli­gato continue in the same strain during the next clauses: sehne mich and ruhe nicht, bis ich vor dem Angesicht meines lieben Vaters bin' ('I long and rest not, till I before the countenance of my dear Father am'). Sehne' is expressed by long-drawn syncopations, 'meines Vaters' is ecstatic. The colour of the fagotto tone gives a feeling of loneliness, almost of awesomeness; the choice of obbligato instrument is not fortuitous. It is as apt as Gluck's use of the flute in the Elyscene in Orpheus'".

Dürr's view: a duet with obbligato* bassoon whose tone-colour, rare in a context, is possibly intended to reflect nocturnal darkness, or perhaps rather, in its lively figurations, the vigilance of the watchmen. This movement is again notable for its approachable melody, and even the frequent canonic writing for the two voices nowhere creates the impression of an elaborate trapuntal texture, so unobtrusively is it adapted to the relaxed excitement of the piece.

Mvt. 7: Chorale

On the concluding chorale Whittaker comments:

"The treatment of the concluding chorale is unique. Strings, oboes,bassoon double the voices, trumpets and timpani are silent until thefinal bar-and-a-half, when they thunder out a few notes on the word ('eternally'). This unexpected blaze of glory is particularly thrilling. "

Anyone who is new to this cantata will find much to enjoy. It would be good to hear from some more of the many new members. It would also be interesting if anyone could point to any indication that other movements beside the first are parodies. There is a great variety of recordings -three new - on which to comment. Aryeh posted some interesting examples in the previous discussion.

Last week's discussion was to some extent diverted by general views of Whittaker, cantatas in English and the return appearance of the blessed blockflute. No great harm but perhaps it would be good to concentrate more on the musical feast Bach has provided for us. I look forward to learning more from others about a cantata I have come to regard highly.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 25, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Since it was first established under the Roman Empire some time in the fifth century, Michaelmas (Michaelisfest) had become an important church feast, coinciding with one of the traditional quarter days on which rents are levied and agreed in northern Europe, the start for many of the new agricultural year, and in Leipzig, with one of its three annual trade fairs. >
Have any scholars discovered why September 29 was so important in Leipzig that these massive Michelmas cantatas were written? Tax-time and a trade fair don't seem to be sufficient causes for such celebratory works. In fact, if festive scoring is an indicatory of importance, then Michelmas was equal to Christmas and Easter, at least to the ears of Leipzigers.

Once again we see the 3x3x3 configuration in oboes, trumpets and strings to symbolize the nine orders of angels (as in the Sanctus of the B minor Mass (BWV 232))

Julian Mincham wrote (April 25, 2008):
[To Douglas Cowling] I don't know the answer but this statue of St Michaels at the Leipzig monument (which I visited a couple of years ago) is impressive enough to suggest that he must have been a figure of some significance in the traditions of the city.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 25, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>...this statue of St Michaels at the Leipzig monument (which I visited a couple of years ago) is impressive enough to suggest that he must have been a figure of some significance in the traditions of the city.<
Without stumbling offensively into the theology, the Archangel Michael seems as important as the members of the Trinity (see Epistle for the day, Revelations 12: 7-12, in the fine Francis Browne translation). Bach's emphatically special music also seems to accord Michael that respect, and to fill out the quarter-days of the calendar.

Jean Laaninen wrote (April 25, 2008):
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10275b.htm

This link will take you to historical information about the Feast of St Michael, the Archangel. One bit of information I found interesting was that there is some parallel to our Thanksgiving Day in the US. So a comparison that has been made to Christmas and Easter seems to be very genuine. There are also many insights into how various cultures have related to the figure of Michael.

Lutheran children, and I hope this is not too simplistic or viewed as propaganda, are taught from early childhood to believe in angels, and to see angels as a link between God and humans providing care and protection and helping to solve problems. Mvt. 4 and Mvt. 5 have many parallels to the prayers young children are taught to pray before they go to sleep at night. So there would be a natural connection from even a very early age for families to celebrate the day in a special manner. The helpful aspect probably explains why debts might be re-figured or forgiven at that point in the year--in historical Germany.

As in many other cantatas the theme of death and new life is given together. Interesting parallels here...Advent is the season of hope for new life; Christmas it the initial promise of new life given; Lent is the season of repentance for life not taken with the seriousness we find in a variety of places in the cantatas or scripture; Easter is a paradigm of the new life, and Pentecost and Ascension the recorded fulfillment of preceding events. In nearly all of these major events of the church year angels play an important role. This factor supports a season or festival to appreciate angels in my mind.

Ed had written of the idea that Michael seemed almost equal to the Trinity. I remember <> saying correctly that Michael is the servant of the Trinity, rather than being equal. His involvement with overcoming evil is in my mind the reason this feast held an important place in the role of Bach's church year. Other's may be more articulate on this point, or wish to expand the idea.

I ordinarily look to the Emmanuel Music translation first unless I am going to work out a translation on my own - something I do a bit during the summer months.

Again, thanks to Francis for taking the reins here...you laid a good base.

Stephen Benson wrote (April 26, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< This week's cantata is BWV 149, Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg. As always Aryeh has provided a wealth of material for the understanding and enjoyment of the cantata >
Perhaps this has already been noted somewhere else, but, if not, I think it should be pointed out that at the end of the texts and translations in the liner notes for Gardiner's recording, readers are directed to the Bach Cantatas Website for "translations in other languages".

Neil Halliday wrote (April 27, 2008):
The Bethlehem site has some useful score examples: http://www.bach.org/bach101/cantatas/cantata149.html#149c

The second example has the 1st trumpet part (of the opening chorus) highlighted in a green rectangle. This important motif occurs regularly throughout the movement; first up on the bassoon (immediately after the trumpet) and then toward the end of the ritornello, under the trilling 1st and 2nd trumpets, again on the bassoon, in unison (an octave lower) with the 3rd trumpet. This prominent bassoon motif might sound like a horn, in places in some recordings. [The independent bassoon part throughout the opening chorus is an unusual feature suggesting, as does the very effective obbligato bassoon part in the attractive AT duet, that Bach had a skillfil bassoonist at hand]. In the central section, the motif also occurs in the unison upper strings alternating with the three unison oboes, over the lovely choral writing heard in an extended passage of parallel thirds, sixths and tenths on the word "exhalted". Notice the choral unison occuring just before this passage.

Organists might recognise the figuration of the rippling opening vocal BTAS phrases in the opening notes (in a very different context) of the second section of the "St. Anne" fugue BWV 552. (See the first score example on the Bethlehem page linked above).

As you can see in the Bethlehem score of the following bass aria (Mvt. 2), there is no bassoon stipulated; I think I prefer this vigorous continuo line as an obligato cello line. I'm not sure Bach necessarily doubted the abilities of his violonist; the effect of the vigorous cello line being continuously doubled an octave below by violone might not be very appealing. I'm wondering what the notated violone part might sound like if it were articulated as pizzicato. Rilling's Huttenlocher [4] is way too "operatic" for me; Werner [1], Gönnenwein [2], Leonhardt [5] and Koopman [8] all have better singers for the part.

In the soprano aria, Koopman's soprano [8] irritates me with her exaggerated "swelling" - likely to blast my eardrums one instant, and be inaudible the next.

The bassoon part needs to be highlighted in the appealing AT duet. Werner [1] nd Leonhardt [5] do this well; as does Rilling [4], except I don't like his sempre staccato articulation.

The entire score can be viewed here (because there happens to be a fault in the BGA CD ROM): http://www.kantate.info/BG/BGA_BWV149.pdf

Neil Halliday wrote (April 27, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>Organists might recognise the figuration of the rippling opening vocal BTAS phrases in the opening notes (in a very different context) of the second section of the "St. Anne" fugue BWV 552. (See the first score example on the Bethlehem page linked above).<
I see this "rippling" figure, introduced successively by the voices in BWV 149/1 (Mvt. 1) in the order BTAS, is a signicant departure from BWV 208/16 ("Hunt") in which the voices begin simultaneously with an entirely different motif. This is definitely a case of signicant re-writing for a parody (Bach knew the different effect he wanted to express Michael's victory over Satan); and the initial motif on the the 1st trumpet, while still low in its range, sounds much higher than the corressponding part on the 1st horn in BWV 208; the trumpet part (trumpet in D) sounds a tone higher than written while the horn part (horn in F) sounds a fifth lower than written.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 27, 2008):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< As you can see in the Bethlehem score example of the following bass aria (Mvt. 2), there is no bassoon stipulated; I think I prefer this vigorous continuo line as an obligato cello line. I'm not sure Bach necessarily doubted the abilities of his violonist; the effect of the vigorous cello line being continuously doubled an octave below by violone might not be very appealing. I'm wondering what the notated violone part might sound like if it were articulated as pizzicato. >
That idea occurred to me as well. Do any of the recordings play the Violone part pizzicato?

I have to admit that I was terribly disappointed by Bach in the final chorale (Mvt. 7). The brass only enter in the last two bars to provide a symbolic flourish on "Ewigkeit". I was left wishing for an arrangement like the final chorale in Part One of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). Perhaps the trumpet parts are fragmentary ...

A comparison of this chorale with the conclusion of the SJP (BWV 245) is a wonderful lesson in Bach's harmonic genius. Look at the final bars: solid, immovable chords in the SJP (BWV 245), joyous runs in the cantata. Two visions of heaven in two bars!

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 28, 2008):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
>Ed had written of the idea that Michael seemed almost equal to the Trinity. I remember (before I deleted my post, and I hope Aryeh has now deleted my errors) saying correctly that Michael is the servant of the Trinity, rather than being equal. His involvement with overcoming evil is in my mind the reason this feast held an important place in the role of Bach's church year.<
Thanks for taking my point without controversy, and for noting the important words <almost equal>. My key ideas were, and remain:

(1) Michael, unlike most (all?) other Saints, has a supernatural, rather than Earthly origin. The nature of Angels (Saints for that matter) within Christian theology, remains very unclear to me. I have given every one (including Earth) a capital letter, just to avoid discrimination.

(2) His Feast Day (Autumn equinox) neatly fills out the the fourth quarter day, along with Christmas (Winter solstice), Easter (Vernal equinox), and Pentecost (Whitsun, Summer solstice).

I am aware that the relations are not precise, see the calculation of Easter discussion for the fixed versus moveable feasts (correlation of solar and lunar calendars), and for other cumulative calendar miscalculations. I was mostly stimulated to speculate, by Dougs ongoing question as to why Michaelmas might have been so important to Bach.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 28, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>I have to admit that I was terribly disappointed by Bach in the final chorale (Mvt. 7). The brass only enter in the last two bars to provide a symbolic flourish on "Ewigkeit". I was left wishing for an arrangement like thefinal chorale in Part One of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).<
I agree with this. At a minimum, Bach should have brought the resplendent trumpets in for the whole of the final phrase, with its blazing major harmonies; the present scoring sounds truncated. Not all commentators agree; Robertson regards the entry of the brass on the last two syllables as a "master-stroke".

One point of difference with the SJP's chorale (BWV 245) is the 'modal' nature of the initial descending scale (soprano line), with the F# instead of the the F natural of the C major scale; there are some striking harmonisations along the way.

Francis Browne wrote (May 1, 2008):
BWV 149 recordings

Since BWV 149 was first discussed, three more recordings of the cantata have appeared: by Koopman [8], Montréal Baroque [9] and John Eliot Gardiner [7].

The recordings by Harnoncourt/Leonhardt [5], Rilling [4] and Leusink [6] generally have the virtues and limitations which have been often noted and are I think adequately dealt with by those who contributed to the earlier discussion. I shall concentrate therefore on the three new recordings -all of which I have enjoyed greatly.

Koopman's performance [8] has many of the substantial virtues of his cycle in general: good choral singing, excellent orchestral playing and generally good soloists. There is in this cantata at least no exaggeratedly fast tempi. The general result is a good performance which gives much pleasure.

But the two performances to which I have been returning are those by Montréal Baroque [9] and John Eliot Gardiner [7]. Montréal Baroque is OVPP (one voice per part) , and as often this gives the performance a more intimate quality and makes it easier to follow some of the detail of the score. For the arias and recitatives there is no disadvantage in having OVPP and all three arias here receive excellent performances which constantly delight with an original and generally convincing approach to the music. The opening chorus and concluding chorale are also enjoyable, but it is in these movements that I find JEG 's performance superior. In the resplendent opening of the cantata hilarger, excellently disciplined choir simply generate more jubilation among the spheres than is possible for the soloists from Montréal. As for the concluding chorale, in the Montreal perfomance the trumpets and timpani in the final two bars seem like an ill considered afterthought.But Gardiner's performance of the chorale seems to me outstanding -the gravely beautiful melody of the chorale is marvellously sustained so that the intervention of drums and trumpets in the final bars seems to grow naturally out of what has gone before and as the tempo slows, brings the music to a convincing and triumphant close.

It is therefore Gardiner's version [7] to which I shall return most often and which I would recommend to others. While I was listening to the various recordings of BWV 149 my copy of the latest volume of Gardiner's cycle arrived - (Volume 25 :BWV 86, 87, 97, 44, 150, 183). Again and again I found fresh illumination and beauty even in cantatas I thought I know well. Of course in live recordings produced under the pressure of the year of pilgrimage not everything is uniformly excellent but there seems to me to be always an original, engaged approach that makes this series in some ways the most interesting and stimulating of all the cantata cycles.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 2, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
>the gravely beautiful melody of the chorale is marvellously sustained so that the intervention of drums and trumpets in the final bars seems to grow naturally out of what has gone before and as the tempo slows, brings the music to a convincing and triumphant close.<
A rallentando as described here (not heard in the sample) is probably the key to making the entry of the brass and drums sound convincing at the end of this chorale.

I found this site with samples of Gardiner's BWV 149 [7]: e-music

Good soloists and enjoyable music making - I agree, a pleasing recording overall - but I found the important continuo line in the bass aria, and also the obbligato bassoon in the duet to be understated (in the samples).

John Pike wrote (May 2, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< It is therefore Gardiner's version to which I shall return most often and which I would recommend to others. While I was listening to the various recordings of BWV 149 my copy of the latest volume of Gardiner's cycle arrived - (Volume 25: BWV 86, 87, 97, 44, 150, 183) Again and again I found fresh illumination and beauty even in cantatas I thought I know well. Of course in live recordings produced under the pressure of the year of pilgrimage not everything is uniformly excellent but there seems to me to be always an original, engaged approach that makes this series in some ways the most interesting and stimulating of all the cantata cycles. >
I agree. I find Gardiner's BCP absolutely superlative. I also greatly enjoy Suzuki.

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 149: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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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