Cantata BWV 153Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of January 22, 2006
John Pike wrote (January 22, 2006):
BWV 153 "Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind" : Introduction
As we proceed with our chronological survey of Bach's cantatas, in order of composition, the cantata for discussion this week (beginning 22nd January 2006) is Cantata BWV 153 "Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind"
("Behold, dear God, how my enemies" (by Richard Stokes))
Event in the Lutheran church calendar: Solo Cantata for the Sunday after New Year [2nd Sunday after Christmas Day]
Readings: Readings: Epistle: 1 Peter 4: 12-19; Gospel: Matthew 2: 13-23
Composed: Leipzig, 1724
First Performed: January 2, 1724 - Leipzig
Text: David Denicke (Mvt. 1); Isaiah 41: 10 (Mvt. 3); Paul Gerhardt (Mvt. 5); Martin Moller (Mvt. 9): Anon (Mvts. 2, 4, 6, 8)
The notes below are taken from sleeve notes from Suzuki's recording (by Klaus Hofmann, 2001) :
This is one of Bach's more modest Sunday productions: he did without a soprano, the chorus is given only simple chorale settings, and the orchestra contains no wind instruments, consisting of just strings and organ. The reasons for this lie in the great demands placed upon singers and instrumentalists in the preceding and following days: at Christmas 1723, Bach had performed the Magnificat (BWV 243a), and the Sanctus in D major (BWV 238) as well as three demanding cantatas - "Christen, aetzet diesen Tag" (BWV 63), "Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes" (BWV 40), and "Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget" (BWV 64); on New Year's Day there was "Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied" (BWV 190); and then the first Sunday of the year fell on the day after New Year's Day. This obviously tested the capabilities of his singers and orchestral musicians to the limit! Bach, however, had anticipated the situation in plenty of time, and planned a less strenuous work.
The order of the cantata is: 1. Chorale; 2. Recitative (Alto); 3. Aria (Bass); 4. Recitative (tenor); 5. Chorale; 6. Aria (Tenor); 7. Recitative (Bass); 8. Aria (Alto); 9. Chorale
Link to texts, translations, details of scoring, references, provenance, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV153.htm
Link to previous discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV153-D.htm
Chorales used in this cantata
Bach used three chorale melodies in this cantata:
1. Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh darein, with the alternative text "Schau, lieber Gott, wie meine Feind". See:
2. Herr Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht II with the alternative text, Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid. See:
3. Befiehl du deine Wege (I), with the text of Paul Gerhardt (1653). See:
Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear Leusink's recording of this cantata : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV153-Mus.htm
You can listen to short examples from other recordings through the links to Amazon provided at the Recordings page.
I look forward to reading your comments about this cantata and about the available recordings.
Eric Bergerud wrote (January 22, 2006):
ABS and chorales
Just came back from a concert by the American Bach Soloists in Berkeley. Featured cantatas BWV 97, BWV 51, BWV 9 and BWV 70. This is a fine group and it's always nice to hear cantatas live, no easy task in the Bay Area. Anyway, conductor and music directory Jeffrey Thomas had the audiance (500 maybe) sing along with the concluding chorale in each cantata. I realize that the weight of music scholarship argues that Bach did not employ this practice (although I did read some forgotten liner notes suggesting that it was possible). Regardless the audiance seemed to enjoy it and it actually sounded very good.
Peter Smaill wrote (January 22, 2006):
ABS and chorales, BWV 153 "Schau,lieber Gott,wie mein Feind"
The vexed question just raised , "Did the congregation ever sing along with the Chorales in the concerted music at St Thomas , Leipzig?" coincided neatly with the much-overshadowed BWV 153, produced for the Sunday after the Circumcision, ie the first Sunday of the New Year, 2nd January 1724.
Robertson, says "the plainly harmonised chorales were evidently planned for congregational participation." And indeed, Aryeh Oron took the same line in his Introduction to the prior series of discussions on BCW. By contrast, though
not necessarily denying this interpretation, the emphasis in Dürr is on the need to rest the choir after the rigours of BWV 63, BWV 40, BWV 64 and BWV 190.
En passant the latter BWV 190 is even more ignored than BWV 153- Harnoncourt  and Leusink  do not as far as I know bother with it due to the reconstruction of the first two movements even though it contains in the wholly authentic sections a duet of superlative quality, BWV 190/5, "Jesus soll mein alles sein", which in the hands of John Eliot Gardiner's soloists Gilchrist/Harvey achieves an intensely mystical quality despite the simplicity of the echoing vocal lines.
BWV 153's vocal activity is wholly different- the arias (except BWV 153/8) and recitatives are angular and dramatic, especially the tenor piece, BWV 153/6 ((Mvt. 6)), "Stuermt Nur". in this nach uses vigorous writing in octaves , a technique also to be found in the following cantata, BWV 65, "Sie Werden aus saba alle kommen".
The shifting direction of the theses, moving from angst to consolatioand back again, leads Whittaker to point out (a) that he thinks the librettist might be Bach himself , and (b) it is "indifferently designed; there is no clear progression from one mood to another; it sways back and forth wothout definite aim" Rarely does Whittaker come so close to indentifying weakness of construction!
Back to the Chorales , "Plainly harmonised "- well, are they all? The setting of the "Passion Chorale" BWV 153/5, v5 of "Befiehl du deine Wege" to the associated Hassler tune is to my ears not at all straightforward and with unusual key-shifts ( can anyone find it in Reimenschneider?).
The opening chorale BWV 153/1, otherwise "Ach Gott, vom Himmel sieh' darein" raises the problem discussed a propos BWV 50 - how does the choir, let alone the congregation , commence a work with no orchestral introduction to give the opening pitch and harmony? The answer may be that an organ prelude preceded.
Not only does this chorale set in (? E minor- key signatue one sharp) actually start and end in E major, resolving into A minor and B major en route, but ,as Reimenschneider points out , the tenor and alto voices audaciously cross over in the sixth and seventh full measures i.e. on the words "nicht halt,....So kann" . Would Bach really have wanted to entrust the subleties of his harmonisations to the New Year congregation?
Douglas Cowling wrote (January 22, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The vexed question just raised , "Did the congregation ever sing along with the Chorales in the concerted music at St Thomas , Leipzig?" coincided neatly with the much-overshadowed BWV 153, produced for the Sunday after the Circumcision, ie the first Sunday of the New Year, 2nd January 1724.
Not only does this chorale set in (? E minor- key signatue one sharp) actually start and end in E major, resolving into A minor and B major en route, but, as Reimenschneider points out , the tenor and alto voices audaciously cross over in the sixth and seventh full measures i.e. on the words "nicht halt,....So kann" . Would Bach really have wanted to entrust the subleties of his harmonisations to the New Year congregation? >
The Romantic myth that the chorales were sung by the congregation continues to be propagated even when the complexity of the harmonization and the high keys should convince all that this is music for choir alone. I've heard many Bach chorales sung by congregations and full organ and frankly they become churning masses of sound which obliterate Bach's inner voicings.
Particularly awful are performances of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) which invite the audience to sing along on the "Passion Chorales" ('O Haupt Voll Blut"). The result destroys all of Bach's subtle harmonic symbolism. I've complained bitterly for years that congregational hymnbooks invariably choose Bach harmonizations. The transposition of the final chorus of "Wachet Auf" down from E flat to C major, or the final chorus of "Ein feste Burg" from D major to B flat are acts of desecration.
Even the relatively simple chorales in BWV 153 are, as Peter so rightly points out, full of subtle voice-crossings and harmonic effects which would be destroyed by a congregation singing at three octaves. And how could worshippers who couldn't afford to buy a libretto know the words of the cantata?
Bach's congregations had plenty of opportunity to sing chorales in their familiar place and familiar manner. I always suggest that people listen to Paul McCreesh's reconstruction of the Epiphany Mass to hear the three different styles of chorale-singing:
1) unaccompanied in unison at any octave
2) in hamony with organ playing simple harmonization (i.e. Schein's Cantoral)
3) unison with the organ improvising interludes between the lines)
Amazon link: Amazon.co.uk
Why must we propagate this singalong myth? Does Bach become more populist because "everyone could sing along"?
Peter Smaill wrote (January 22, 2006):
Congregational Singalongs - BWV 153
Do simple harmonisations imply congregational singing? It is possible to contend that those of the apocryphal St Luke Passion BWV 246 Anh II, 30 are evidence of just such a connection and were intended to have block harmonies accordingly.
At the risk of arguing against myself and Doug Cowling, the final Chorale, BWV 153/9, is indeed simply harmonised, that old favourite,"Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid". Boyd points out that it is the only example in all of the Cantatas of three verses of the Chorale being set! Maybe that implies that all joined in?
But here, the complexity is in the syncopated, dance like rhythms; the congregation would have struggled with that aspect of the setting, so the inference that this Cantata ended with a congregational singalong must still be, on balance, resisted, even in this case which has been especially identified in the past as a prime candidate.
Peter Smaill wrote (January 22, 2006):
This third posting would be an imposition save that it is almost entirely the words of Eric Chafe ( and just a small extract) on the subject of the "plainly harmonised" Chorales of BWV 153!
"Bach's one-sharp key signature, indicates his awareness of a problem. He might have perceived the disparity between the B Hypophrygian mode of the melody and the fact that its sevenfold alternation of phrases ending on b' and a' invited interpretation in terms of A minor. His setting, which is considerably more complex and subtle than Kirnberger's, reflects the alternating phrase endings by alternating the pitches F sharp and F phrase by phrase......"
"Bach's setting, sung to the Phyrgian melody "Herzlich tut mich verlangen", appears in the "natural" instead of the one-sharp key signature (the first key signature shift of the work)......the chorale begins in the flat region of the recitative ending but moves sharpward....The flat-sharp motion of both the Stollen and Abgesang mirrors the overall sense of the chorale verse, which begins with the devil's opposition to the faithful and ends with an affirmation of God's help in leading things to His "Zweck und Zweil"....at the last moment Bach leads the leads the lower parts upward to a plagal a -E cadence instead [of Cmajor]....
"The four phrases of the final chorale strengthen the C by means of cadences on D (half close, G,G and C. Its text....summarize the progression from acceptance of worldly persecution (v.16) to readiness for death (v.17) and the anticipation of eternity (v.18), ending with the believer's cry for longing to be with God ..."
In his extended exposition Chafe ("Analyzing Bach's Cantatas" pp118-125) establishes that these settings are in fact part of a premeditated complex tonal progression from modal settings with quirky harmonies, to the dance-like concluding aria and Chorale. Neither plain nor congregational!
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 22, 2006):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The Romantic myth that the chorales were sung by the congregation continues to be propagated even when the complexity of the harmonization and the high keys should convince all that this is music for choir alone.<<
I must concur whole-heartedly with Doug Cowling's assessment of this issue. Anyone truly interested in this subject as it pertains to the practices that Bach employed in Leipzig, where most of his cantatas, Passions, etc. were performed, would be well advised to read the article on Congregational Singing from the MGG1 found translated into English at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Congregational-Singing.htm
In the introduction to this artic, in which I summarize the main issues, I pointed out:
"Blankenburg has also raised the question, as Doug Cowling recently observed, regarding the high range of numerous chorale melodies (cantus firmus) in Bach's settings which would make it very difficult, if not impossible, for the congregation to sing along. Also to be considered is the growing lack of enthusiasm for congregational singing which took place during Bach's tenure in Leipzig and the subsequent decades as a result of the attitudes that grew out of the Age of Enlightenment."
Subsequently, in working with the Bach chorales more intensively, I have determined that almost all of the members of Bach's main congregations (St. Thomad & St. Nicholas church, where the cantatas, Passions, etc. were generally performed), would have had considerable difficulty singing these Bach-chorale harmonizations, even simply the melody line. If they had anything at all in hand (there were no bouncing dots on a screen to direct the congregation to sing with the music), it would be either the printed libretti, if they were lucky enough to have or afford one, or a hymnal which they would have to bring with them to church. Most of these hymnals in use at the time when Bach performed his sacred music were devoid of even the basic melody line despite the fact that new hymnals were being printed for the Leipzig congregations every few years or so. The only Leipzig hymnal with most, but not all, of the melodies and even some 4-pt. settings was printed under the editorship of Vopelius in 1682 and it was huge and costly. Bach would have been lucky to have a copy of it and probably did because he had a rather large library where such a hymnal would have been important to him as a director of music of the main Leipzig churches.
Bach, as indicated in the article above, often used what might be considered 'antiquated' versions of chorale melodies with the older, much more interesting rhythms and changes in time signatures/meters that would occur somewhere in the middle of the chorale melody. How would a congregation be warned in advance that they would need to 'rock the boat' by changing suddenly from a 4/4 to a 3/2 meter and then back to 4/4 again? Did they have rehearsals with the congregation before the service? Did Bach have the choir sing the chorale a few times during the service and then signal to the congregation to join in? From what I have been learning about the Bach chorale melodies which he used, Bach could even change the notes of the melody (not just passing notes, but different intervals being employed) from one year to the next, not because he had shifted from Weimar (a different hymnal and chorale-melody singing tradition being used there) to Leipzig, but even within the Leipzig period itself. This seems to indicate that the choir and/or soloists were expected to perform the chorales with these melody and meter changes, changes which cannot be expected to be sung correctly by congregations who had become accustomed to other variants of the chorale melodies which they tended not to sing very enthusiastically.
With information such as this in mind, it will prove difficult any individual reasonably to claim that such a tradition of congregations singing along with the chorales in Bach's sacred music actually did exist at any point during Bach's tenure in Leipzig.
Douglas Cowling wrote (January 23, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< But here, the complexity is in the syncopated, dance like rhythms; the congregation would have struggled with that aspect of the setting, so the inference that this Cantata ended with a congregational singalong must still be, on balance, resisted, even in this case which has been especially identified in the past as a prime candidate. >
On the other hand, the pre-17th century versions of many congregational chorales (that is, pre-Praetorius, Schein and Bach) show a great deal of complex isorhythm which corresponds to the rhythmic flexibility in secular and folk music of the 16th century. The famous example of course is the "Passion Chorale". Hassler's setting of the secular song is full of duplets and triplets. When Bach harmonizes it, the rhythm is regularized.
In the 1980's, several congregational hymnbooks made an attempt to bypass the 18th century settings, of which Bach's are the crown, and return to the "original" rhythms of the chorales. The "Lutheran Book of Worship" (1987) offered some wonderful settings including Philipp Nicholai's bouncy "Wie Schön Leuchtet" (Hymn #138). The Episcopalian "Hymnbook" (1982) presented two versions of "Ein Feste Burg" (#687 & 688), one in 18th century regularized style and Luther's original melody in Hassler's jazzy setting.
Although some Lutheran traditions have retained the older isorhythmic versions, church musicians, labouring under a "Bach is Best" mindset, have been vociferously critical of the original forms of the chorales. Anglicans in particular continue to be very sniffy about any early settings. They would rather muck up a Bach harmonization than use a more "primitive" version.
Alas, the Romantic myth of Bach thundering out cantata chorales on the organ with thousands of people belting out his harmonies dies hard.
Scott Sperling wrote (January 23, 2006):
Text in Cantata 153
The readings for the Sunday for which Cantata BWV 153 was composed are Matthew 2: 13-23 and 1 Peter 4: 12-19. The passage in Matthew deals with the trials that the human family of Jesus experienced soon after His birth. Herod, seeking to kill the Messiah, put out a decree to murder all children in Bethlehem under two years of age.
Joseph was warned of this in a dream, and fled with his family to Egypt.
The passage in I Peter deals more generally with the trials and suffering that Christians experience. It begins: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you."
The text for Cantata BWV 153 relates directly to the Readings. Cantata BWV 153 is about the suffering Christian, and his struggles in faith during his time of trouble.
Though some may depict the Christian life as a life of ease, a trouble-less existence, this is not the Biblical view of the Christian life. As we see in the reading from I Peter, "fiery trials" for the Christian are not to be viewed as some "strange thing", rather, "fiery trials" are to be expected. Jesus Himself said directly (speaking to His disciples): "In the world you shall have tribulation" (John 17:33). Indeed, the testimony of the Bible is not that the Christian life will be free from trouble; rather, it is that God will be with us through our troubles.
This is the textual theme of Cantata 153. It begins with a Chorale depicting a Christian praying to God in the midst of his trouble: "Behold, dear God, how my enemies... easily overpower me." Striking to me, is that Bach ends this Chorale with an unresolved chord. It is as if Bach was saying that this prayer did not bring the requested peace to the supplicant.
The prayer continues in the Alto Recitative (Mvt 2), but this time in a more desperate tone: "My dearest God, ah, be merciful! Ah, help, help poor me!"
The prayer is answered, in the Bass Aria (Mvt 3), by the words of God Himself: "Fear thou not, for I am with thee. Be not dismayed, for I am thy God..." The text for this Aria is taken directly from the words of God in the Bible, specifically Isaiah 41:10.
Significantly, in the music to the Bass Aria, Bach emphasizes the word "I" throughout: "Fear thou not, I, I am with you..." and "Be not dismayed, I, I am your God." In doing so, Bach encourages the listener to meditate on the character of God, on who God is. "Fear thou not, it is I who am with you": it is I, the God of love; it is I, the God ojustice; it is I, the all-powerful Lord of the universe.
In the Cantata, these words of God do affect the supplicant. His response, in the Tenor Recitative (Mvt. 4), begins, "You truly speak, dear God, peace to my soul." But, alas, the peace is not complete, for he continues: "Ah! but my torment increases from day to day." And indeed, isn't this the struggle all embattled Christians face? We have the sure word of God, that He is with us, and yet, our focus remains, all too long, on the size of our troubles. It is this battle of faith that is waged in the hearts and minds of all Christians in trouble: the voice of faith, versus our worldly estimation of our situation. Can our faith in God's promises, that He will be with us through our troubles, overcome our perception that our troubles will do us in?
The Chorale in Mvt 5 is the voice of faith speaking to the supplicant, attempting to assure him that the trials are part of God's will and purpose: "What He desires will come about in the end, to carry out His purpose and goal."
This Chorale does not seem to comfort the supplicant. His response is the Tenor Aria (Mvt. 6), which to me, is full of anger: "Rage, rage you storms of trouble... yet God speaks to me in consolation: I am your stronghold and deliverer." To me, the supplicant is speaking to God in despair, even anger, as if to say: "God, how can you console me, when the storms rage about me?" Indeed, I dare say, many of us have been brought to a place where we speak the same words of despair to God.
The Bass Recitative in the seventh movement is the turning point. In it, the voice of faith triumphs. And how does it triumph? By referring to the text of the Readings for that Sunday. The Bass Recitative, as the voice of faith, begins: "Take comfort, my heart... God will soon, in His timing, restore you." Then, reference is made to the episode recounted in the Matthew Reading: "His own dear Son, your Jesus, even in His tender years, had to endure great trouble from Herod..." The Bass Recitative concludes with a reference to the other text, in I Peter. Peter says: "Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4: 12, 13). The Bass Recitative concludes by echoing this sentiment: "Whoever suffers here with Christ will be given by Him a share in the kingdom of heaven." Bach underscores the significance of these words by making them "Aria-like", giving them an Andante melody, with more than just chordal accompaniment. This device serves to arrest the hearer, making him pay special attention to these words.
The victory of the voice of faith is reflected in the Alto Aria (Mvt 8): "If I have to lead my life in suffering and trouble, yet it will cease in heaven." The voice of faith looks forward toward heaven, enduring present circumstances. "Jesus Himself transforms my suffering to blessed delight, to everlasting joy." The victory of the voice of faith is not only reflected in the text, but also in the music. In this Alto Aria, there is no trace of anxiety in the music.
The Cantata concludes with a Chorale (Mvt 9), that is a prayer that God would strengthen our faith to overcome our anxiety about the troubles that face us: "Therefore, will I, while I live, bear my cross joyfully after You. My God, help me to do this."
Neil Halliday wrote (January 25, 2006):
This cantata has three chorales, three arias and three recitatives, with modest instrumentation for strings (and continuo). The recitatives and the bass aria are continuo only movements.
Suzuki  has a nicely flowing alto recitative (Mvt. 2); while he does not have the wholly legato continuo line of Rilling , his instrumental support is expressive, both supporting and complementing the voice (Robin Blaze).
Koopman  has a lute as well as an organ (plus cello) in the continuo only bass aria (Mvt. 3), which helps to avoid the effect of an austere, bare cello/violone line accompanying the voice. Heldwein, with Rilling , has an authoritative "voice of God", but the continuo strings are too dense (possibly because they are doubled by the bass notes of this particular organ?).
The tenor aria (Mvt. 6) places virtuosic demands on the voice, and the strings have to be nimble as well. Turn up Rilling's recording  and be swept away by Kraus' accuracy on the coloraturas! Also listen to the vivid writing for the inner strings (2nd violins and violas) as well as the 1st violins and continuo. The harmonic structure of the ritornellos, based on a cycle of fifths, and the powerful dotted rhythms, imbue this defiant music with an aura of magnificence. ("Storms, floods, and fire sweep over me; fiends disturb my rest; yet God speaks to me: I am your protector and rescuer").
The alto aria (Mvt. 8), also with full strings, is the first and only expression of complete happiness, in the cantata. Ann Murray with Rilling , is a tad too operatic (strong vibrato); and Suzuki  is verging on rushing the piece, otherwise these are enjoyable performances.
John Pike wrote (January 26, 2006):
Bach may have had in mind giving his musicians a rest when he wrote this week's short and simply scored cantata, but he certainly did not compromise on quality. Particularly fine, I thought, were the two of the arias (#6 and #8) and the closing chorale. I have listened to 4 recordings, as background music as always, since that is all I have time for. I enjoyed them all.....Suzuki , Rilling , Harnoncourt  and Leusink .
John Pike wrote (January 26, 2006):
[To Doug Cowling] My comment was based on this extract from the sleeve notes from Suzuki's recording  (by Klaus Hofmann, 2001), and which I included in my introduction:
"This is one of Bach's more modest Sunday productions: he did without a soprano, the chorus is given only simple chorale settings, and the orchestra contains no wind instruments, consisting of just strings and organ. The reasons for this lie in the great demands placed upon singers and instrumentalists in the preceding and following days: at Christmas 1723, Bach had performed the Magnificat (BWV 243a), and the Sanctus in D major (BWV 238) as well as three demanding cantatas - "Christen, aetzet diesen Tag" (BWV 63), "Dazu ist erschienen der Sohn Gottes" (BWV 40), and "Sehet, welch eine Liebe hat uns der Vater erzeiget" (BWV 64); on New Year's Day there was "Singet dem Herrn ein Neues Lied" (BWV 190); and then the first Sunday of the year fell on the day after New Year's Day. This obviously tested the capabilities of his singers and orchestral musicians to the limit! Bach, however, had anticipated the situation in plenty of time, and planned a less strenuous work."
Performance of BWV 3 and BWV 153 today
Thérèse Hanquet wrote (January 25, 2009):
I am just coming back from a concert where our ensemble, the Chapelle des Minimes (Brussels, Belgium), performed two beautiful cantatas: BWV 3 ("Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid") and BWV 153 ("Schau lieber Gott, wie meine Feind").
Our artistic director had also added a five-parts motet written by Johann Michael Bach (father in law of JoSebastian) based on the same choral as the two cantatas: "Herr, wenn ich nur dich habe".
The conductor was Philippe Gérard, pianist and conductor, who regularly leads the Chapelle des Minimes. The vocal soloists were Jasmine Daoud (soprano), Albane Carrère (alto), Ludwig Van Gijseghem (tenor) and Bertrand Delvaux (bass). While the tenor had already sung with us, the three others are young singers, which we had never heard before. Too bad the bass was a little ill and could not give its best, but all three have beautiful voices, and I bet they will become better known in the years to come.
The two oboes d'amore (Elisabeth Schollaert and Stefaan Verdegem), who have an important role especially in BWV 3, were also excellent.
In the course of my introductions to the cantatas, I asked a question about examples of Bach dealing with war. Even if it is mostly war against the devil, BWV 153 is quite illustrative in this regard, particularly in the tenor aria (Mvt. 6).
I must say that the three "simple" chorals, one of which is the opening piece of the cantata, are actually not so simple to sing. They have very special harmonies, and for the inner voices, some parts sound especially strange! (test this with for example measures 9 to 12 of the last choral for the alti...).
The motet made a nice contrast, with rather simple harmonisations. We performed it with minimal accompaniment (organ and cello), and with a dance-like style (relatively fast tempo).
BWV 3 is remarkable for its opening movement, and is very enjoyable for the choir to sing (except maybe for the basses which have for once the cantus firmus...). The verse about the "narrow way" ("schmalle Weg") is particularly intersting as it depicts musically the idea of "trübsalvoll" ("troublesome" ), notably with chromatic patterns. The conductor asked us to emphasise the contrast between the part with dotted notes and the ones with simple quavers (more sustained).
We performed #2 (recitativo) with the four soloists, who came near us for this part. This provided a contrast between the choral bits (sung by the choir) and the recitative parts (sung by the soloists).
The da capo of the bass aria was skipped to spare the poor soloist 's voice. It must be very frustrating to be forced to sing that sort of piece with a health problem...
The two feminine soloists were wonderful in the beautiful elaborated duet (#5).
I just notice now that the recording of cantata BWV 153 by Sigiswald Kuijken and the Petite Bande  took precisely place in the Minimes church where we performed it today! I also read a (mitigate) account of their live performance in the same church two years ago (I do not know whether it was that one which was recorded). While we usually perform our concerts in the rear part, near the door, they apparently had to play in the chancel, where it is very difficult for the musicians to hear one another. The acoustics of the church is already a bit tricky, I cannot imagine what it must have been like!
Once again the link to our website for those interested: http://www.minimes.be/home.php?new_l=en
and the poster of the concert: http://www.minimes.be/images/concerts/2009-01-25_affiche_concert.pdf
Jean Laaninen wrote (January 25, 2009):
Thérèse Hanquet wrote:
< I am just coming back from a concert where our ensemble, the Chapelle des Minimes (Brussels, Belgium), performed two beautiful cantatas: BWV 3 ("Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid") and BWV 153 ("Schau lieber Gott, wie meine Feind"). >
Thanks so much for sharing your most recent experience with Bach live. You have an enviable opportunity.
Jane Newble wrote (January 25, 2009):
[To Thérèse Hanquet] Thank you Thérèse, for sharing this. It must have een a wonderful experience to sing these beautiful cantatas. I have only ever sung in the Mass and the Magnificat, but I shall never forget it. Hopefully when we move to a more 'cultural' area of the country I might take part again.
Continue on Part 3
Cantata BWV 153: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3