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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

Cantata BWV 151
Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of June 7, 2009

Francis Browne wrote (June 6, 2009):
BWV 151: introduction

This week's cantata is, BWV 151 Süßer Trost, mein Jesus kömmt written for the 3rd Day of Christmas 1725. If you are not familiar with this cantata, I strongly urge you to make a point of listening to it to discover the beautiful soprano aria.The text is by Georg Christian Lehms, and is only loosely associated with the readings for the day. The cantata is concerned with the joy of Jesus ' coming and astonishment that the humiliation Christ endures signifies our elevation and redemption.

Earlier discussions and commentary can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV151.htm

Dürr (p16) gives some useful background information on Lehms, the author of the texts of several cantatas to be discussed :

Georg Christian Lehms was born in 1684 at Liegnitz (now Legnica, Poland), attended school at Goerlitz, and studied at the University of Leipzig. At the end of 1710 he took up the post of court poet and librarian at Darmstadt, and before 1713 was appointed to the court council. On 15 May 1717, however, pulmonary tuberculosis brought his life to an untimely end. Lehms is best known for his dictionary Teuschlands galante Poetinnen (Germany's galant Poetesses; Frankfurt, 1715), yet he also wrote novels, opera librettos, numerous occasional poems, and several church-year cycles of cantata texts for services at the Darmstadt court, set to music by the resident Capellmeisters Christoph Graupner and Gottfried Grünewald. Bach adopted several texts from the first of these cycles, which appeared in print in 1711 under the title Gottgefidliges Kirchen-Opffer (Church Offering, Pleasing to God). This publication is divided into two parts: a cycle for the morning service, containing only biblical words, arias, and occasional chorales; and another for the evening service, characterized by its predominance of madrigalian verse, including recitatives. This evening cycle is thus a successor to Neumeister's cycles, and was probably conceived mainly for solo voice. From it, Bach set Cantatas 199 and 54 in Weimar and another seven cantatas later in Leipzig (BWV 57, BWV 151, BWV 16, BWV 32, BWV 13, BWV 170, and BWV 35). From the morning cycle, on the other hand, he set only a single text: Cantata no (Leipzig, 1725). An eleventh cantata, Liebster Gott, vergifit du mich, BWV Anh. I 209, originated at an unknown date, perhaps in Weimar, but is no longer extant. Other church-year cycles by Lehms survive, dating from 1712, 1715, and 1716, but as far as we know Bach set no texts from them.

By happy chance the next volume of the Suzuki cycle Vol.43 [14] has been published in England this week and includes a fine performance of the cantata(and BWV 57 and BWV 110).Since I have limited time this week , the notes that follow are based on those by Klaus Hoffmann from Suzuki's recording and from John Eliot Gardiner's notes. (http://www.solideogloria.co.uk/shop/shop_item15.asp}

Hoffmann :

The great opening soprano aria in three sections, one of Bach's finest inspirations, stands proudly above the rest of the cantata. The outer sections of the movement are set in the manner of a Christmas pastorale in rocking 12/8-time. The flute and soprano have broad, arching melodies, and the flute line is moreover richly ornamented. They join forces in an expression of rapturous, eager anticipation of Jesus' arrival. In the lively central part of the aria, however, expectation yields to realization: `Herz and Seele freuet sich' (`My heart and soul rejoice'), and the metre is that of a dance - a gavotte, about which Bach's learned colleague in Hamburg Johann Mattheson (1681-1764) once tellingly observed: `the emotion it conveys is indeed exultant joy'. Agile chains of triplets appear in the vocal line on the word `freuet' (`rejoice'); the flute takes up these figures and makes them the principal motivic element in this part of the aria.

Gardiner :

[The] G major aria in 12/8 marked molto adagio for soprano, obbligato flute and strings, with the oboe d'amore doubling the first violins. ....is hauntingly beautiful. Is this the Virgin Mother herself singing a lullaby to her newborn child, or is it simply solace offered to the fragile believer through Jesus' arrival on earth? Though unmistakably Bach-like and ineffably peaceful in mood, there are musical pre-echoes of both Gluck and Brahms, while the arabesques of the solo flute suggest something authentically Levantine or even Basque in origin. Any literal association with the musing Madonna is quickly dispatched the moment the 'B' section bursts out in an ecstatic alla breve dance of joy, part gavotte, part gigue - 'Heart and soul rejoice'. Flute, soprano and the first violins (momentarily) exult in elegant triplet fioriture - similar in style and mood to the kind of music Handel wrote as a young man when he first encountered the works of Scarlatti and Steffani in Italy - before the return of the opening cradle song.

[I assume Gluck refers to the Dance of the Blessed Spirits and Brahms to the marvellous song with viola accompaniment Geistliches Wiegenlied Op 91Nr2 - any better suggestions ?]

Hoffmann :Like the opening aria, the rest of the cantata is also on a scale appropriate for chamber music. Evidently Bach was keen to spare his singers and players, whose workload on those particular days was especially arduous. Three days later, on the Sunday after Christmas, they would have to perform another cantata (BWV 28) and, three days after that - on New Year's Day of 1726 - yet another (BWV 16). The two recitatives are thus accompanied only by basso continuo, and in the alto aria the oboe d'amore, violins and viola are gathered in a single unison part - although, admittedly, the frugality of the movement may also be an allusion to the text, to the lowliness of Jesus' birth, his 'Armut' (`poverty') and his ` schlecten Stand' (`hapless [i.e. simple] condition'). On this occasion the choir, too, has only a modest task: it rounds off the cantata with the last strophe of the well-known hymn `Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich' (`Let all together praise our God') by Nikolaus Herman (1560)

Gardiner:

Inevitably this inspirational aria overshadows the sequel. A pair of secco recitatives (Mvt. 2 and Mvt. 4) frame an alto aria 'In Jesu Demut' ('In Jesus' meekness'), with a pair of oboes d'amore doubling violins and viola in praise of the spiritual richness to be found in Jesus' physical poverty. The 'garlands of blessing' (Segenskränze) alluded to in the 'B' section seem to be the image which prompted Bach's imaginative response to the entire aria, including its head motif - the handicraft of weaving melodic threads on the 'loom' of the regular bass line. The eighth strophe of Nikolaus Herman's chorale 'Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich' (1560) with which the cantata ends is frankly solid. A little like Hymns Ancient and Modern, it needs an extra dose of festive spirit to come alive, a measure of brandy to set the Christmas pudding aflame.

Douglas Cowling wrote (J6, 2009):
Francis Browne wrote:

I had not heard this cantata before and the that opening sarabande is stunning. What a challenge to establish a tempo which isn't plodding for the singer yet allows the soloist's ornamentation to breathe. Here again we have a da capo aria which has completely new music in the B section.

This isn't first time that I have found Dürr's commentary about the relationship between the text and the readings to be inadequate (quoted in the last BC discussion.) The whole text of the cantata is permeated by the Johannine chiastic structure of the descent of the incarnate Light from heaven to earth and the return in glory. Bach's treatment of the theology of the Incarnation during the weeklong festival is more sophisticated that dancing angels and shepherds.

< Gardiner :
The eighth strophe of
Nikolaus Herman's chorale 'Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich' (1560) with which the cantata ends is frankly solid. A little like Hymns Ancient and Modern, it needs an extra dose of festive spirit to come alive, a measure of brandy to set the Christmas pudding aflame. >
If Gardiner wants some Christmas spirit from his Lutheran chorales, he should pack up his sarcasm and listen to McCreesh's choirboys sing it as an interpolation in the Schütz "Magnificat":

Click on Track 27 in the Listen to Samples: Amazon.com

In the second verse, the 17th century organ is using the exotic stop which sounds like birds chirping.

That's pretty festive to me!

Neil Halliday wrote (June 6, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Click on Track 27 in the Listen to Samples: Amazon.com >
Thanks for the link. (If the error page comes up, click on the home page link and find the McCreesh CD at the top LH corner).

Lovely organ tones throughout. Is that track 27 organ necessarily 17th century? Sounds like stops that would be available on any decent modern organ. As for tracks 32 and 34 (organ pleno) - positively magnificent 20th century sound!

Note the accompaniment in the recitatives - flowing and musical, as opposed to the disjointed non-accompaniment in most HIP Bach seccos.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 6, 2009):
BWV 151: Organ in the Cantatas

Neil Halliday wrote:
< Lovely organ tones throughout. Is that track 27 organ necessarily 17th century? Sounds like stops that would be available on any decent modern organ. As for tracks 32 and 34 (organ pleno) - positively magnificent 20th century sound! >
The Roskilde Cathedral Organ is an astonishing instrument which has been restored to its 1655 state: Gothic Catalog: Danish National Cathedral Organ in Roskilde

One of the interesting features of McCreesh's Schütz and Praetorius reconstructions is that he regularly employs the full resources of this massive organ, including 16' pedal reeds in vocal music --- most period ensembles would use a tiny portative box of whistles.

I have a constant complaint that modern performances of Baroque music all use small portatives with three stops and no pedal. Does anyone use pedal in Bach anymore? I can't listen to the Leusink cantatas which have large-scale obbligato organ movements played on inaudible organs.

Just once I would like to hear the opening two movements of Cantata BWV 29, "Wir Danken" as a big organ prelude and fugue -- I think the G Major Fantasia is the model. A virtuosic prelude followed by a fugue with a full organ plenum and earth-shaking pedal work.

But then we'd have to return to the organ lofts for which Bach wrote his cantatas.

Evan Cortens wrote (June 6, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I have a constant complaint that modern performances of Baroque music all use small portatives with three stops and no pedal. Does anyone use pedal in Bach anymore? I can't listen to the Leusink cantatas which have large-scale obbligato organ movements played on inaudible organs.
Just once I would like to hear the opening two movements of Cantata
BWV 29, "Wir Danken" as a big organ prelude and fugue -- I think the G Major Fantasia is the model. A virtuosic prelude followed by a fugue with a full organ plenum and earth-shaking pedal work.
But then we'd have to return to the organ lofts for which Bach wrote his cantatas. >
Very much agreed! If Bach used portative organs in performance, as Arnold Schering has speculated, it would certainly have performed a subsidiary role to the main church organ. Certainly it seems silly to perform the great organ obbligatos on an instrument that can barely be heard. Portative instruments would have been used for the realization of continuo secondary to the main organ. (A very few cantatas have multiple transposed and figured continuo parts, suggesting this sort of performance.)

One minor note, the direct model for the BWV 29 sinfonia is the fourth movement of BWV 120a, a wedding cantata, which is in turn modeled on the first movement of the G major partita for solo violin, BWV 1006.

 

Cantata BWV 151: 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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Last update: ýSeptember 8, 2011 ý15:37:23