Cantata BWV 154Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of January 13, 2002 (1st round)
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2002):
See: Cantata BWV 154 - Provenance
See: Cantata BWV 154 - Commentary
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2002):
BWV 154 Finding the unifying element (by chance, randomness, or sheer curiosity)
See: Cantata BWV 154 - Commentary
Dick Wursten wrote (January 15, 2002):
 I listened to the Leusink version of 154...
First the good news, the surprise: Knut Schoch is replaced by Marcel Beekman in this cantate. My compliments to him. 'Schade' he did not sing more often in this series. He makes the mvts in which he appears solo much more exciting. He has a clear voice, expressive but always natural, never forced... A relieve after Knut..
The alto aria Mvt. 4: the instrumental part of it is very interesting (Thomas Braatz already wrote about it). I think Leusink tempo is to fast and will not make any remark about Buwalda's voice, since more than enough is written about that already. In the duetto (Mvt. 7) he is completely overruled by Beekman, not because Beekman sings to loud, but simply because Buwalda's voice does not have the 'power and the depth' (can you say that from a voice??) to 'concertare' with the tenor. It's a pity, because I think this must be a lovely duetto.
Apart from the usual criticism on Leusink’s choir, I like the chorals they sing and I have heard them sing worse..
Comment on the text of this cantata will follow later..
Aryeh Oron wrote (January 15, 2002):
The subject of this week's discussion (January 13, 2002) is Cantata BWV 154, according to Vicente Vida's proposed list of cantatas for discussion. In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV154.htm
There are at least five complete recordings of this cantata - one of them from the 1950's (Grischkat, on LP only) and the 4 others from the Bach Cantata cycles (Rilling , Harnoncourt , Koopman  and Leusink ). If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata not listed in the page of recordings, please inform me and send the relevant details, so that I shall be able to update the page.
I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.
The background below is based on several sources (Albert Schweitzer, Alec Robertson, W. Murray Young, Hans Christoph Worbs, etc.) and something of my own. The English translations are taken from Richard Stokes’ book.
See: Cantata BWV 154 – Commentary
Review of the Recordings
 Hans Grischkat (Mid 1950’s?)
I know nothing about Karl Markus, the singer in the aria for tenor in this recording, but I can tell you that he is a fine singer. His voice has hidden intensity, his approach is dramatic and expressive, and his diction is impeccable. In short, a classic golden voice of the Haefliger type, most suitable to sing the Evangelist. Markus conveys the agony and despair very convincingly. When he reaches the climax of ‘O Schwert, das durch die Seele dringt’ (O sword that pierces my soul), every parent, who has ever lost his child, can easily identify with him. The accompaniment is also very good. The strings are weeping with the singer in the first two lines, and vibrating in the words ‘O Donnerwort in meinen Ohren’ (O thunderous word in my ears) to depict the thunder. The singing of the choir is so stable coherent in the chorales that you can hardly tell that it is a big choir. It is also warm and moving. The contralto Elisabeth Wacker is very moving in her plea. Michael Schopper sings the arioso for bass softly and tenderly, and I find this approach very much to my liking. The duet for tenor and alto is a triumphant tour de force. The two singers complement each other in their expression of joy. This is not as fast as some the other recordings, but it is more sweeping than most of them.
 Helmuth Rilling (1978)
Aldo Baldin has a beautiful voice, but here he shows that he has also dramatic qualities. He is helped also by good accompaniment. Both he and the conductor takes the hysterical approach, and I find this entirely legitimate remembering the circumstances, although I prefer other approaches in this aria. Nevertheless, in certain places Baldin sounds pressed, his expression is less penetrating, and the accompaniment is less sensitive than those of Grischkat are. The choir is too big, their singing is less clean and the expression less moving than Grischkat’s. Ann Murray is in good shape in the aria for alto in terms of expression, but she is using too much vibrato to my taste. In the arioso for bass the stiffness in Heldwein’s singing and his uninteresting approach are really disappointing. In long recitative for tenor we hear Baldin again and he has problems to put significant meaning into this demanding movement. Something in the mysterious factor that we can call chemistry between the singers is not working in the duet, which also lacks some enthusiasm.
 Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1985)
The instrumental introduction is fragmented as we have learnt to expect from Harnoncourt. But I am not disturbed, because it is not going against the direction of the music and the words. What indeed disturbed me is that even an excellent singer as Equiluz does not put any meaningful expression into his singing of the opening aria for tenor. Maybe he and Harnoncourt did not see eye to eye this aria. The result is very disappointing. I accept the right that everybody has to express his anxiety in a personal way, but here I almost do not hear it at all. The singing of the choir in the chorale is straight and clean, but not moving. Paul Esswood raises the general level of this recording in his touching singing of the aria for alto. The playing of the oboes d’amore intensify the feelings expressed by the singer. Hampson is an improvement after Heldwein, but although he has a beautiful voice his expression leaves something to be desired, especially when he is compared to Schopper. Equiluz handles the recitative for tenor better than Baldin does. The accompaniment to the duet is heavy up to being a burden for the two singers to express their joy more openly.
 Ton Koopman (1998)
The instrumental introduction of the aria for tenor is the most tender and transparent of all the recordings, and Prégardien is making the outmost of this aria. He touches your heart with his sincere delivery and sensitivity to every nuance of this aria. The singing of the choir in the chorales is both smooth and warm. Landauer has a beautiful voice, but in the aria for alto he gives the impression that he saves some of it for himself. Mertens is good as usual in the arioso for bass, but something, which is difficult to describe, is missing. I found it easier to identify with Schopper than with him. Overt and spontaneous joy characterises Koopman’s rendition of the duet. The voices of the two singers blend nicely, but in comparison to Grischkat this rendition is somewhat lightweight.
 Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
It is very strange to hear Harnoncourt’s instrumental introduction being repeated in Leusink’s rendition. This is not the first time that I find Marcel Beekman’s singing better than most of the other tenor singers in Leusink’s cantata cycle. In the opening aria for tenor he is very goo, sensitive to the words and therefore interesting. He misses some points, but it could be fixed with more preparation. In the two demanding recitatives less convincing. The singing of the choir in the chorales is fresh but unclean. Buwalda is not bad in the aria for alto. Although his technical command is less impressive than that of Landauer, his expression is more convincing. Ramselaar in the arioso is not bad either. The duet is a nice surprise. It is performed so well by all participants in so sweeping way, that it continued to ring in my head after I finished hearing it. I missed this in some of the apparently more respectable recordings.
Mvt. 1 Aria for Tenor: Markus/Grischkat  = Prégardien/Koopman , Baldin/Rilling  = Beekman/Leusink , Equiluz/Harnoncourt 
Mvts. 2 & 6 & Recitatives for Tenor: Markus/Grischkat  = Prégardien/Koopman , Equiluz/Harnoncourt , Baldin/Rilling  = Beekman/Leusink 
Mvt. 3 & Mvt. 8 Chorales: Grischkat  = Koopman , Harnoncourt , Rilling , Leusink 
Mvt. 4 Aria for Alto: Wacker/Grischkat , Esswood/Harnoncourt , Landauer/Koopman  = Buwalda/Leusink , Murray/Rilling 
Mvt. 5 Arioso for Bass: Schopper/Grischkat , Mertens/Koopman , Hampson/Harnoncourt  = Ramselaar/Leusink , Heldwein/Rilling 
Mvt. 7 Aria (Duet) for Alto and Tenor: Markus/Wacker/Grischkat , Landauer/Prégardien/Koopman , Buwalda/Beekman/Leusink , Murray/Baldin/Rilling , Esswood/Equiluz/Harnoncourt 
My first priority for the complete recording of the cantata is definitely Grischkat . Among the modern interpretations (and more widely available) I prefer Koopman .
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Michael Grover wrote (January 16, 2002):
 I have Rilling's recording of this cantata on Hänssler.
There are primarily two main soloists: tenor and alto. Ann Murray is a fine alto, and I very much enjoy her aria (movement no. 4). She is one of the least operatic of Rilling's soloists I have heard. She sings in excellent counterpoint to the two oboe d'amore, which play a very pleasant accompaniment and end the movement very nicely.
I am less pleased with Aldo Baldin, the tenor soloist. The texts of the movements he is called on to sing are very emotional, and he sings accordingly. He is OK in the lower ranges, but when he needs to go high, he gets a shrill quality in his voice that is unpleasant to hear. And his singing is very choppy - which I suppose also fits the message of having lost Jesus, and the protagonist is nearly in a frantic panic about it. I just didn't like listening to it. The aria-duet between tenor and alto (Mvt. 7) is a very beautiful song, probably my favorite movement of the cantata, but I need to focus on Murray rather than Baldin to enjoy this rendition of it.
Walter Heldwein does a serviceable job with his bass arioso, and the chorales are sung very well by the Gächinger Kantorei.
Can I trade Baldin for Beekman  while retaining the rest of Rilling's forces? This would then be a very enjoyable rendition indeed.
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 16, 2002):
BWV 154 – Review of the Recordings
The recordings that I listened to were Rilling (1978) ; Harnoncourt (1985) ; Koopman (1998) ; Leusink (1999) .
 Rilling’s heavy bc throughout the cantata serves more as a distraction than an enhancement to the music. Specifically, some of the vocal soloists may have felt pressured to overexert they voices because of this, as if this were some Wagnerian orchestra that the soloist must try to ‘sing over.’ In a Wagnerian opera, it is even possible that problems that the soloist has may not even be noticed, but in a Bach cantata everything in the performance is much more transparent. It is essential that a balance be maintained between the capabilities of the voice and the conductor’s zeal in giving a powerful performance. Both Ann Murray and Aldo Baldin are not quite up to challenge required of them when the orchestra, and particularly the bc is very predominant. It is difficult to determine if Baldin almost immediately loses vocal control in the 1st phrase he sings, or whether he is attempting to act like an Italian operatic tenor with a sobbing voice. I personally would guess the former rather than the latter, because the latter would be entirely out of place in a Bach cantata. The aggressively fast tempo puts special pressure on Baldin to produce loud sounds in the high part of his range. The results are unpleasant to listen to. Yes, Baldin has expression, but perhaps at the expense of the melodic line that becomes more distorted than it has to be. Sometimes his wide vibrato is simply too much to bear. To Rilling’s credit, the orchestral effects in Mvt. 1 are impressive, particularly the effect of the trailing figures that accompany the voice in the 1st violin part. Both chorales sung by the choir are too operatic. There is lack of clarity in the soprano voice where the main melodic line is located. There is some strange (tape?) distortion in my recording for both chorales. It is as though the recording equipment suffered from a distortion overload with a waving in and out of what should be a solidly produced vocal line. Murray’s voice likewise suffers from Rilling’s blatantly operatic rendition of her otherwise beautiful aria. Having heard recently a broadcast of a recital that she gave about 12 years after this cantata was recorded, I can safely say that it was possible for her to control her voice, particularly her wide vibrato, better than she does here. It is simply unfortunate that she chose not to do so here, or she simply had no idea that Bach arias do not have to sound Wagnerian. With the dark quality in his voice, Heldwein expresses in a very dignified manner the words of the arioso that he sings. What can be worse than one singer having a wide vibrato? Just listen to the duet that sounds less like joy and more like there is heavy work being accomplished here!
 Harnoncourt’s beginning mvt. is slow and sad. In his appoggiaturas, the final note is frequently inaudible. This indicates how exaggerated the accent is on the first note of the appoggiatura! Here Equiluz is confronting the type of Bach aria that demands expressive angularity. With the orchestra lacking continuity because of Harnoncourt’s dissection of the musical lines, Equiluis forced to resort to almost overstraining his voice. As a consummate artist, he does not quite allow this to happen. Hence the performance is acceptable, but not up to his usual standard. When he sings the recitatives, he immediately demonstrates the excellence that we have become accustomed to hearing from him. The chorales sung by the choir are remarkably legato, but then Harnoncourt can be full of surprises, usually negative ones. In the 1st chorale you can hear strange accents that are completely out of character for a serious chorale. Esswood, despite his fast vibrato, actually sings his solo aria quite well, if you discount the fact that he can not be heard properly because of the oboi d’amore players who seem more intent on finding the correct pitches to land on and who lack very much the ability to provide a sensitive accompaniment to a small voice that is constantly in danger of being overwhelmed by loud orchestral accompaniment. Sometimes I really wonder if Harnoncourt ever bothered to listen to the tapes before they were processed and made available to the public. Hampson’s sotto voce treatment of these significant words in the bass arioso makes a mockery of the biblical text. His fast vibrato and the reduced note values only make this worse than it would have to be. If you thought the accompaniment to the alto aria was crude, then you should listen to this ‘peasant’ orchestra treatment of this beautiful aria (duet). Harnoncourt’s signature appears at the end of ms. 6 in the bc just before the voices enter: he transforms into appoggiaturas notes that were never intended to be treated in such a manner. Actually, if I were sitting in a German Wirtshaus with live dance music provided by a group of musicians from the nearest farming village, this sound would be quite natural and even catching. In a day and age when cross-over is considered to be in vogue, Harnoncourt’s Bach cantata recordings should be experiencing a renewed interest just because of these aspects of performance that he presented to the world. Somehow, however, I have difficulty transferring this type of Harnoncourt sound to one of the main churches in Leipzig during the 1720’s.
 Koopman provides a very sensitive orchestral accompaniment to Prégardien’s interpretation of the words. His voice does not sound forced even in the high register. Now everything ‘hangs together’ well, even with a slow tempo. His recitatives are excellent as well. Of course the Harnoncourt Doctrine is mistakenly applied by Koopman to the bc. The chorale performances are clear and well-balanced. My only objections are that the final fermati are too short and the 2nd chorale is not taken seriously enough. It sounds hurried and lacks substance. Not much in the way of belief in the words being sung is in evidence here. Koopman’s tempo in the alto aria is much too fast. The question here is whether Landauer’s beautiful voice would sound more interesting if a slower tempo were chosen. There is a slight resemblance to the Ruth-Holton-type voice, where not too much can be asked of such a voice since the volume and range are limited (the low range becomes very soft.) It is therefore judicious on the part of the conductor to choose an interpretation where the accompaniment is kept very light and fast. This way it will not be too obvious for the listener, when the soloist does not sing with a full voice, but rather settles for singing everything sotto voce. As a result the interpretation of the words suffers, as it will in all treatments of this type, where the soloist simply ‘taps’ each note lightly rather than singing with a full voice. A full voice means emotional commitment as opposed to the half voice penchant for thinking, “I’ve sung all the notes correctly, haven’t I? What more do you want?” The alto, tenor duet is also too fast. Prégardien has to hold back to preserve the balance between his voice and the lesser voice that Landauer has. Now everything becomes too light. I tire of these half-hearted treatments of such great music. This happens in part due to the insufficiencies of the many half-voices. The interpretation of the music has to be completely adjusted to fit their vocal deficiency.
 Leusink combines some of the worst aspects of Harnoncourt’s recording (cutting note values, emulating the primitive, amateurish sound – this may not have been too difficult to accomplish), which he must have studied assiduously, with a loud and clumsy bc that is one of the hallmarks of this series. Leusink now demonstrates his originality? by taking an extremely fast tempo in the Mvt. 1 Beekman’s vocal performance is clean and clear without very much in the way of expression. In the recitatives the Harnoncourt Doctrine prevails. (What else did you expect?) The chorales performed by the choir reveal the occasional yodelers with the sopranos having intonation problems. The pronunciation of German is poor indeed. It does not help Buwalda when the oboi d’amore are not in tune. Although these instruments sound rather soft and subdued when the aria begins, it is amazing how loud they seem when Buwalda is unable to conjure up very much in the way of volume in the lower part of his range. The tempo is simply too fast. Despite all these negative circumstances, Buwalda sounds better than usual, if you are able to hear him. Ramselaar’s sotto voce treatment makes one wonder if he was deliberately attempting to sound like a soft-spoken Jesus. Somehow this is not the picture of Jesus that I have in my mind, nor the sound of his voice that I might imagine. It takes quite a stretch of the imagination to even begin to believe in Ramselaar’s rendition. The duet begins with a thumpy bc. This causes Buwalda to push his demi-voice to the breaking point. This is the funny-sounding voice of Buwalda that I am used to hearing. It appears that the microphones were placed closer to the singers, lest the entire mvt. become a complete loss.
I wish I had the Grischkat version  for comparison. It seems to be better than most of what I listened to in these four versions. Here are my favorites:
Mvt. 1: Koopman-Prégardien 
Mvt. 2 & Mvt. 6: Equiluz 
Mvt. 3: Koopman 
Mvt. 6: Harnoncourt 
Mvt. 4: Heldwein 
Mvt. 5: ??
Marie Jensen wrote (January 16, 2002):
Cantata BWV 154 , Koopman  and Leusink .
"Mein liebster Jesus ist verloren". Tenor Marcel Beekman and Netherlands Bach Collegium don't seem to care. They are skating through the opening aria like they were reading the latest tv-news.
And could anything be worse for a Christian than if Jesus was completely gone, also for his mother Mary, who had to go all the way back to the temple in Jerusalem to find her 12 year old son ?
What a difference The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Prégardien means. From the first bass chord and the mourning violins shouting into the emptiness to Prégardien’s dramatic text interpretation . It moves me deeply.
The tenor plays the great part here, on the personal level telling the drama about Jesus lost and found . Beekman sings better when he finds his Jesus again (Dies ist die Stimme) . But still I prefer Prégardien.
But first Mary (always an alto) has to go out and find her son. (Jesus lass Dich finden), Hirtenmusik , but the other way round. This time Jesus is not the shepherd but the lost sheep. There is no bass. (Jesus has gone), Landauer (Koopman ) sings much better than Buwalda. His voice also blend better with the in the final joyful duet. The soul and Mary rejoice together. Jesus is always here, even if it does not seem so. He never disappears. There seems to be an error on my Leusink disc . Somewhere in the middle of the duet there is a howling noise for about a second.
As usual Mertens (Koopman)  makes a fine Jesus, with kind authority. Ramselaar is not bad either. But Mertens voice has more volume.
For me the best Bach interpretation always is the one who takes the text seriously. It is because of the text, the cantata is composed. Today Koopman makes a wonderful example.
I have really enjoyed this cantata, because of its message and its wonderful music.
Thomas Braatz wrote (January 16, 2002):
BWV 154 Mvt. 4 (Alto Aria senza true bc)
Aryeh Oron commented:
“This aria is very moving in her plea to let her find Jesus. He repeats the opening words 'Jesu, laß dich finden' (Jesus, let Thyself be found), at the beginning of each clause. These repeats are very effective, as are the second and third lines, which evoke the imagery of her sins being thick clouds hiding Jesus from her. Much colour is added to this aria by the oboes d'amore and the strings. Bach did not provide parts for bass strings in this aria but specified the harpsichord (or organ) doubling the upper string parts an octave below.”
Correction: Bach specified the harpsichord only for the bc.
Marie Jensen commented:
“But first Mary ( always an alto) has to go out and find her son. (Jesus lass Dich finden), Hirtenmusik, but the other way round. This time Jesus is not the shepherd but the lost sheep. There is no bass. (Jesus has gone)”
The lack of a true bass part in a Bach aria has symbolic significance which was not lost on the important Bach scholars who made some observations on this phenomenon which is technically called a “Bassettchen” (“Bassetchen/Bassetgen” in German; “petit basse” in French, and “bassetto” in Italian). Previously, in my discussion of BWV 135 on this site, I quoted Eric Chafe who gives a definition of this term and some important indications regarding the significance of Bassettchen in Bach’s cantatas, passions and oratorios. He explains the term as one “used by theorists of the 17th and 18th centuries to designate basso continuo accompaniment in a register other than the bass, as well as a bass line that substituted for the basso continuo in the upper register." Regarding its significance, Chafe states: "Bach uses the bassettchen texture for a variety of purposes in the church music; in Cantata BWV 135, for example, it stood for the opposition of God's wrathful and loving natures through juxtaposition of the low and the high bass parts."
Some of the limited examples of mvts. without a natural bass that I had listed were BWV 243/10; BWV 135/1; BWV 11/10; BWV 46/5; BWV 234/3. This list can now be expanded to include BWV 244/49; BWV 154/4; BWV 105/3 and BWV Anhang 1, 196/5.
In the present cantata, BWV 154/4, the instrumentation consists of 2 oboi d’amore and a lower voice that makes use of the violins and the viola joined by the harpsichord (the usual organ and string bass accompaniment is lacking.)
Dürr comments as follows: Just as Bach did in the aria from BWV 244/49 (SMP) “Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben,” he wants the lack of a true bc to represent ‘Innocence.’ The “Bassettchen,’ Dürr surmises, consisted originally of violins and viola only, with the harpsichord added for a later performance. In order to understand Bach’s purpose in removing or weakening the bass line, we need to understand the function of the bc in Bach’s time: It is the basis, the foundation, the reliable support for every kind of music. The lack of it in Bach’s compositions generally carries symbolic significance and usually points to the person who does not need this support (BWV 244/49) or BWV Anhang 1, 196/5 “Auf! süß entzückende Gewalt” in the aria “Unschuld, Kleinod reiner Seelen” in which the bc is missing. The libretto terms the text for this mvt. „Schamhaftigkeit“ („modesty, chastity“), or it points to the individual who has lost it, a person who no longer has a firm foundation under his feet, or who had distanced himself from God. In BWV 170/3 (alto aria), the lack of the bc characterizes those (“die verkehrten Herzen, die dir, mein Gott, so sehr zuwider sein”) who are repulsive to God because they have turned away from him.
Christoph Wolff (1998) in his notes for the Erato/Koopman cantata series  misses the point entirely and comes up with this piece of ‘fluff’: “Bach achieves an unusual musical effect in Mvt. 4. with the introduction of a harpsichord.” This does not demonstrate very much in the way of insight into the Bach cantatas. Whatever great hopes anyone might have had for meaningful notes, not to mention the disastrous 3 volume set that accompanied this series, “The World of the Bach Cantatas” by Wolff and Koopman, they are dashed when information such as this is offered to the listeners who are eager to find out more about the cantatas.
Hans Christoph Worbs (1985)  reiterates Dürr’s ideas about the symbol of innocence indicated by the lack of a true bc. “An unusual feature is the harpsichord which doubles the upper string parts an octave lower.”
Clemens Romijn (1999) states: “The absence of the bass part is a remarkable effect, as Bach paints a picture of Jesus concealed behind the clouds.” This is based on Schweitzer’s observation that the continuo line symbolizes the dark clouds of sin which…conceal the soul of the Redeemer.”
Dick Wursten wrote (January 18, 2002):
As promised some remarks about the text of BWV 154
1. the connection with Luke 2:41-52 is clear and sufficiently commented on by others... the 'search for Jesus' by his father and mother is spiritualized, allegorized to the 'quest for Christ' of the faithful.
2. The link with the Song of Songs in Mvt. 6 (recitative, Tenor) is classic. The passionate search of the 'girl' for her ' lover', which is so vividly depicted in this beautiful lovepoem has always been allegorized both in the Jewish and the christian tradititon: the 'girl' = the soul..., her 'lover', whom she misses so is 'God' (or -christian- his representant = Jesus). This pattern of thinking, reading of the Song of Songs, is intertwined with the fact that Mary also symbolizes the church... The fact that she is desperately seeking Jesus makes the 'association' with the Song of Songs even more at hand.
3. Jesus is 12 and in the temple, and in discussion with the rabbis, about the law and the prophets I presume... Bar Mitsvah ?
4. I personally like this creative way of texttreatment... IMO The textwriter of BWV 154 (the famous Anonymous) succeeded very well in his spiritual application of the gospelreading...
Dick Wursten wrote (January 19, 2002):
BWV 154 revisited and re-evaluated
 I listened again to this cantata in the Leusink version, this time with better loudspeakers than the first time (now I at least could hear Buwalda, but still his performance lacks power, though -strange enough - he sounds as if he is doing the utmost..
In the discussion I noticed an interesting clash of opinions between the listeners, esp. about Marcel Beekmans guest appearance (Knut was ill perhaps??)...
1. Aryeh wrote: <<Marcel Beekman's singing better than most of the other tenor singers in Leusink's cantata cycle . In the opening aria for tenor he is very good,sensitive to the words and therefore interesting. He misses some points, but it could be fixedwith more preparation. In the two demanding recitatives
less convincing. >>
Marie Jensen on the other hand wrote: <<Tenor Martin Beekman and Netherlands Bach Collegium don't seem to care. They are skating through the opening aria like they were reading the latest tv-news. [...] . Beekman sings better when he finds his Jesus again (Dies ist die Stimme) >>
AND about the duet alto/tenor Aryeh wrote:
<<The duet is a nice surprise. It is performed so well by all participants in so sweeping way, that it continued to ring in my head after I finished hearing it. I missed this in some of the apparently more respectable recordings.>>
I wrote on the same: <<In the duetto (Mvt. 7) Buwalda is completely overruled by Beekman, not because Beekman sings to loud, but simply because Buwalda's voice doesnot have the 'power and the depth' (can you say that from a voice??) to 'concertare' with the tenor. It's a pity, because I think this must be a lovely duetto.>>
After relistening and re-evaluating I tend to agree with Marie considering the first movement. Here they all are too much in a hurry to give a worrying expression to the aria. But on the other you could argue that the more abrupt and note-shortened way of performing is a reflection on the the other aspect of this aria: The word about the 'sword, that is going through the soul', the 'Donnerwort'. Panic is the word.... mixed with anxiety. But I don't think Beekman and Leusink  were thinking this way... Harnoncourt  perhaps (but I have not heard his performance).
I even more strongly disagree with Aryeh (I'm sorry) about the recitatives. Here Beekman is at his best, not in the first (Mvt. 2), but in his second (Mvt. 6: Dies ist die Stimme). I am very much pleased and satisfied with his performance of this text. clear, expressive, not overdone etc... well balanced.
In the duetto.. the fact that I said that Buwalda was completely overruled by Beekman, was partly due to the fact that I listened to it on my little computerloudspeakerset... The volume-balance on my livingroomstereo was better. But I still have difficulty in really appreciating the way Buwalda sings...
But I don't want to end with a negative note. My overall appreciation: The Leusink-club did a reasonably good job in this cantata ... Proficiat.
EXTRA: Mvt. 3, line 3: "Jesu, starker Schlangentreter" ... For those who are not familiar with the 'bible-jargon': The reference is to what theologians call the 'mother of all promises' : Genesis 3: 15, where the ' old snake' is condemned because one of Eve's offspring shall trample him to death..
Andrew Oliver wrote (January 19, 2002):
I had never heard this cantata before this week, but I am pleased that Vicente chose it, because it seems to me one of Bach's best.
As always, I particularly like the chorales, and, best of all, there is that lovely duet.
I have the Harnoncourt  and Leusink  versions. Of the two, I prefer Harnoncourt's for this cantata.
Tom Braatz wrote about Harnoncourt's version of the duet :
"If you thought the accompaniment to the alto aria was crude, then you should listen to this 'peasant' orchestra treatment of this beautiful aria (duet)......... Actually, if I were sitting in a German Wirtshaus with live dance music provided by a group of musicians from the nearest farming village, this sound would be quite natural and even catching......"
Frankly, if I try to imagine Mary's happiness at finding her lost son, I think her reaction would have been expressed not in a refined, artistic manner but with a relieved, joyful abandonment. I feel sure that this is the emotion Bach was trying to convey here. Harnoncourt's version  works for me at this point. (I also like his interpretation of the first movement, apart from the over-exaggerations.)
The final chorale (words and melody, with different harmonization) was used as the original closing number of Part One of the SMP (BWV 244), performed on 15 April, 1729.
Continue on Part 2
Cantata BWV 154: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4