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Cantata BWV 161
Komm, du süße Todesstunde
Discussions - Part 1

Bach Cantata Top Ten

Peter Lewis wrote (January 30, 1999):
Darryl wrote:
< I would like to vote as many times as possible for BWV 78, because of the duet, of course. I think it is without equal. >
Cantata BWV 78 is a fine work and is definitely in my top 30. However, I must go for the following gems: Cantatas BWV 21, BWV 41, BWV 62, BWV 68, BWV 84, BWV 119, BWV 127, BWV 131, BWV 161 and BWV 198. There would be a triple tie for first place between BWV 62, BWV 131 and BWV 198. I recommend Bach fanatics to listen to BWV 62 and BWV 131 especially.


Cantatas: Koopman vs. Suzuki

Bob McDonald wrote (March 27, 1999):
This is my first e-mail to this discussion. I'm sorry if this has been discussed before; I tried going through the archives but didn't find much to go on as far as a direct comparison (the search engine also seemed to be very slow; is there something I should know?). I am certainly overstating my question in the subject line -- I'm not interested in a battle of the cantatas. However, I have just begun to gain an interest in the Bach cantatas and am wondering what people would recommend for a complete set. I have listened to Vol.3 of Koopman and Vol.5 of Suzuki. At this point I prefer the Suzuki, but also see some advantages to the Koopman performances. My question is what opinions others with more experience and knowledge than I have regarding these two performances of the cantatas and what other recommendations people might have.

As for my casual reflections thus far on the two performances:

The Koopman cantatas are miked more closely, giving a more chamber-like atmosphere. This allows the counterpoint to come through with amazing clarity. The balance between voices and instruments seems very well placed for an analytical enjoyment of the cantatas. On the other hand, Suzuki's recording projects the church ambience with everything slightly washed by the church space -- It projects more of a solemn, sacred ocassion. This does not, however, blur the counterpoint but it is also not as clearly etched as in the Koopman recording.

I think that Suzuki has singers whose voices are more immediately beautiful (I am pleased with all singers on Vol.5). I don't know that they give a more characterful reading, but they seem to be unstrained in everything (even though Suzuki, like Koopman, pitch everything higher than is customary). The soprano and alto sound more youthful and "boyish" than Koopman's singers.

The tempi seem to be largely the same, as is the size of the chorus. I haven't been able to hear great differences in the instrumental virtuosity or general interpretation. I sometimes think that Suzuki's interpretation conveys more of the religious significance and context of the cantatas but this could be influenced by what I've read elsewhere and by the recorded sound.

A final note, one not entirely insignificant for those not proficient in German, I do prefer the English translations that accompany the Suzuki recordings. They are literal without being sterile and unliterary. For instance, the first aria of Cantata BWV 161: "Komm du süße Todesstunde/Da mein Geist/Honig speist/Aus des Löwens Munde" is reasonably translated as "Come, thou sweet death's hour,/When my spirit/Will eat honey/From the lion's mouth." This conveys the gorgeous and startling catachresis of the line. While in the Koopman translation we get: "Come, sweet death,/Thou blessed Healer,/Welcome rest, perfect peace,/Quiet everlasting." That's a horrible abuse of translation.

Thanks for any help you can give me. I do think that I am ineluctably venturing into the purchase of a complete cantata set and I would like to make an informed choice.

Thanks again,


Your Cantata favourites?

Gilbert Elliott wrote (July 28, 1999):
Well, this is an old game.

I've always had a soft spot for BWV 106, or (and is this cheating?) one of the parts of the Xmas oratorio. But actually, I must be feeling a bit funereal just now because I'm also thinking of "Komm, du süße Todesstunde" (BWV 161), and the title of BWV 156 alone must be one of the best (not to mention the parody of the harpsichord concerto in the first movement). BWV 140 is effective, if a little lite-operatic.

A really considered response of course should consider not just the music but the text as well, not only for what it provokes musically. But it's probably a shame to stick by too many of the tried and trusted favourites, since almost every cantata has some particular part which will appeal, and many of the favourites are well known because of the appeal of their liturgical occasion (and hence programability) rather than their merits in their own right. And the solo cantatas are so atypical that I think it a shame to use them as representative "bests". And are we counting secular cantatas in this?


Eva Music/Song question

Michael Wignall wrote (January 21, 2000):
(Snip) BTW: I had found this before, but looking at Bach stuff reminded me of it, Bach's Cantata BWV 161 is Komm, du süße Todesstunde (Come thou sweet death's hour) ie, Komm süßer Tod (Come Sweet Death). Now I've heard this cantata and its nothing like the Komm süßer Tod we know and love. What is the connection? More Anno liking German and Bach and he thought it is a pretty good name?

Michael Wignall wrote (March 23, 2000):
Angels Pride wrote:
<< The song 'komme süßer Tod' (er, think I've spelt it wrong), I read somewhere it translates to 'come sweet death', is the title German?
Sonja Ott wrote:
< "Komm süßer Tod" Yeah, that's my native language - German. >
I've brought this up before but... I think the name was inspired from Bach's Cantata BWV 161 "Komm, du süße Todesstunde" (Come thou sweet death's hour).


Kruidvat Cantatas?

Johan van Veen wrote (February 1, 2000):
I bought both sets (Cantatas, Vols. III and IV) last Thursday. I haven't had the opportunity yet to listen to all of them carefully. I have played them all just to see whether they were technically alright. As we know by now, you have to listen from a technical point of view, since too many Kruidvat CD's have technical failures. Fortunately I haven't heard any irregularities. Earlier today I have listened more extensively to two of the cantatas from vol. III, BWV 106 and BWV 199. This CD (the second of the set) has been sensitively programmed, since both these cantatas and the third (BWV 161) have in common that they are all early works (between 1705 and 1715). They also have in common a somewhat sombre mood: BWV 106 and BWV 161 about death and BWV 199 about sin and repentance. They all end - as is usual with Bach's cantatas - on a positive note. The two first cantatas on this disc represent perhaps the best and the worst performances of this edition so far. (Snip)


Welt, gute Nacht!

Nagamiya Tutomu wrote (August 2, 2000):
I found this phrase in three cantatas: BWV 82, BWV 159, BWV 161. And every piece is very touching, full of comfort. What do you think about these pieces? And do you know any other including this phrase?


Discussions in the Week of October 8, 2000 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 8, 2000):

This is the week of cantata BWV 161 according to Ryan Michero's suggestion. This early cantata is a masterpiece. This cantata belongs to the highest level and is recommended to every beginner in the rich world of Bach cantatas. As is written in the linear notes to the Vanguard recording: "Although modest in the reit requires, it exhibits a high degree of artistic unity, a cumulative intensity as each movement adds to the preceding one, sensitive word-music settings, and imaginative touches that bind the entire work together."

As a background for the review of the various recordings of BWV 161, I shall quote from the linear notes to the Schröder's recording of this cantata (on Telefunken LP), written by Christoph-Hellmut Mahling:

"The cantatas in which Bach deals with the group of subjects involving dying, death, life after death are particular gems. It would appear as though he had immersed himself more deeply in these works than in any others. Calmness and certainty of faith is noticeable here that is not clouded by the slightest fear. It is also this sphere that the cantata 'Komm, du süße Todesstunde' (Come, thou sweet hour of death) belongs. First performed in Weimar on the 6th October 1715 (11 years later to the day the cantata 'Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende' (who knows how near my end), BWV 27, was first heard in Leipzig), it was heard again, probably in unchanged form, in Leipzig on the 2nd February, i.e. the Festival of the Purification of Mary, 1735. The text of the cantata is by Salomo Frank, who has linked it to the Gospel reading for this Sunday (Luke 7: 11-17: the raising of the youth of Nain) though without following this up any further.

In the opening aria for alto voice, two flutes, organ and continuo, a deeply felt and fervent longing for death is expressed not only through the character of the instrumentation, but above all through the 'sighing' motif of the theme. First played on the flutes then taken up and repeated by the solo voice, it represents the basic element of the entire movement as it were. Longing for death and certainty is being able to meet it calmly is expressed even more calmly, as though objectified, by the introduction of the chorale 'Herzlich tut mir verlangen nach einem sel'gen End' (Heartily I long for a blessed end) at the moment when solo voice sings the word 'Todesstunde' (hour of death) for the second time. (It is played at the present recording not on the organ but on the oboe.) In the recitative that follows (tenor) disdain for the world and the peace that will be with Jesus (rocking semiquaver figures in the bass at the end) are illustrated altogether emphatically. Similar in its basic feeling and content to the first aria, though considerably more definite in its attitude through the omission of the flutes and the use of the strings only, the tenor aria once more asserts the longing for death. In the accompanied alto recitative that now follows, gentle sleep (descending quaver figure), reawakening (ascending semiquaver figure) and, in the bell-like stationary sound, the last hour are suggested in wonderful fashion. The knowledge that the moment of death depends not on man but alone on God's will is expressed in a choral movement full of calm motion to which the two flutes impart a peculiar attractiveness through their figuration. In conclusion, the chorale already heard in the first aria is taken up again, its fourth verse now being sung by the choir while the two flutes in unison elaborate the chorale melody in a manner well known from Bach's chorale preludes; this lets the work appear rounded off as one large musical entity."

Personal Viewpoint

Samson and the lion

"Come, O sweet hour of death, / When my spirit / Feeds on honey / From the lion's mouth;" The words of the aria allude to the episode of Samson finding a swarm of bees and honey in the body of the lion he had torn apart 'as one tears a kid'. Hence the familiar line, 'Out of the lion came forth sweetness' (Judges, 14: 8). In the original Hebrew text the short phrases through which this story is being told, sound like music to me. The soul finds this sweetness in the jaws of death and in the middle section prays, "Make my departure sweet, / Do not delay, / O my last light, / The moment when I shall kiss my Saviour". It is very tempting for the performers, especially the alto singer, but also the flutes (or recorders) players, to emphasis the sweetness of the music. But I believe that the sorrow of the situation should also found ways to be expressed. Indeed the lion is dead, but the Death itself is very much alive and waiting in patience until 'my last light' arrives.

Review of Complete Recordings

See: Cantata BWV 161 – Recordings.

(1) Felix Prohaska (1952)
How delightful it is to start the long traversal of listening to this cantata with charming rendering as this one. Indeed it is old-fashioned, but its level is very high along all the movements. The singing is good and neat, starting with Hilde Rössl-Majdan in the opening aria, through the impressive Waldemar Kmentt in the recitative for tenor with minimal accompaniment and the aria which is much more captivating than is apparently suggested, up to the exquisite recitative for alto. Rössl-Majdan belongs to the marvellous school of contralto female singers, to which Christa Ludwig and Maureen Forester also belong. We very rarely meet such female singers nowadays, with full, warm, stable and impressive voice. Their parts are usually performed by countertenor male singers. I am glad that on my shelves their recorded renderings lay next to each other, and I can choose whatever I like at any given moment. And after the four movements for solo voices with accompaniment, come the two concluding choral movements and we hear a well-balanced performance, in which the choral and the orchestral parts stand out clearly.

[7] Hans Grischkat (1960’s?)
Hildegard Laurich belongs also to the old school of contralto singers, but her voice is much less impressive than that of Rössl-Majdan (with Prohaska). It is less full, with somewhat hollow centre, and its vibrato is too much felt. Regarding expressiveness, Peter Wetzler is doing his best in the recitative and aria for tenor, but I do not like his timbre of voice. It is not pleasant enough and sometimes certain hoarseness can be heard. The accompaniment in the first four movements is plausible but no more than that. The singing of the choir is very soft and not focused, and the blending of the choir and the accompaniment in the last two movements is not working well. In the one before last movement of the cantata in this recording, I was bored. But somehow the magic of Bach causes even this mediocre performance to touch the heart in the concluding chorale.

[2] Heintz Markus Göttsche (Mid 1960's?)
The playing of the flutes in the opening of the aria for alto is charming. Then enters Sabine Kirchner and her voice is light and pleasant with minimal vibrato. But she does not penetrate under the surface to bring out the deep sorrow. The sweetness is there, but the death is not present. Theophil Meier has a delicate and gentle voice, but his singing is also somewhat superficial. There is also certain non-clarity in his singing, as if he is swallowing the words. The singing of the choir is not up to the level of the other participants. But again, who can not be arrested by the combination of the choir and the flutes in the concluding chorale?

[5] Jaap Schröder (1969)
During the late 1960's and early 1970's a group of dedicated end excellent musicians, most of them Dutch, recorded some LP's of Bach cantatas for the German Telefunken label. The group included Jaap Schröder and Concerto Amsterdam, Jürgen Jürgens and Monteverdi-Chor Hamburg; vocal soloists - Sheila Armstrong (Soprano), Helen Watts (Alto), Kurt Equiluz (Tenor), Max van Egmond (Bass) and others; instrumental players - Hermann Baumann (Horn), Anner Bylsma (Cello), Gustav Leonhardt (Organ) and others. I did a small research and found out that they made the following LP's:
a. CantatBWV 27, 59, 118, 158
b. Cantatas BWV 51, 202
c. Cantatas BWV 89, 90, 161
d. Cantatas BWV 106, 182
e. Cantatas BWV 198
These recordings lay on the seam-line between the old school of non-HIP Bach cantata recordings (Richter, Rilling, Werner, etc.) and the new school of HIP recordings (Harnoncourt, Leonhardt, and almost everybody that has recorded Bach cantatas since the mid 1970's. As can be seen, the soprano and alto parts were given to female singers, and the instruments were combination of old and new ones. These recordings have a special charm and beauty, kind of objectivity combined with purity, which make them captivating and irresistible. They were very well prepared - the vocal soloists were of the very first rank and in their prime, and so were also the instrumental players. This mini-project had been stopped when Harnoncourt and Leonhardt started their monumental project of recording all the Bach secular cantatas for the same label. Most of these recordings have never been reissued in CD form. BWV 198 from this group of recordings is my favourite rendering of this cantata (which has already been discussed in our group). And so is the recording of BWV 161. I hope that Teldec, despite their Bach-2000 project, will find the time and budget to make these recordings available again for the wide public, maybe in a form of Box set. Regarding the recording of BWV 161 by this group of performers, the singing and the playing are of the highest order; sensitivity and inspiration are dominant along the whole cantata. IMO, this is the best recording of this cantata and the only one to which the quote above, "it exhibits a high degree of artistic unity, a cumulative intensity as each movement adds to the preceding one, sensitive word-music settings, and imaginative touches that bind the entire work together", can be fully applied.

[7] Helmuth Rilling (1975+1976)
The playing of the flutes in the introduction to the opening aria for alto is enjoyable, as could be expected from Rilling, but they do not express any sadness. This indeed is a sweet hour, but some more grief atmosphere suits better this aria, as has been proven by some of the other recordings. Hildegard Laurich has not improved since her previous recording with Grischkat [6]. Adalbert Kraus is almost the only beam of light in this recording. The mourning in the recitative and longing in his aria have rarely been expressed in a more sensitive and touching way. Your soul is sinking together with his to its rest. The choir is bigger than it should be to perform convincingly the last two movements.

[10] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1986)
The playing of the recorders in the opening aria for alto lacks sweetness. Paul Esswood voice is impressive, but he does not vary his interpretation according to the possibilities suggested by the words of this aria. Kurt Equiluz remains true to himself, as he was in the recording with Schröder [5], which means singing and interpretation of the highest order. The playing of string in the aria for tenor is not clean, but Equiluz' singing makes it the centrepiece of this recording. The singing of the Tölzer Knabenchor in the last two movements is lifeless and lacks warmth. Sorry, but I do not find that 'Harnoncourt's vivid sense of drama brings a vital urgency', as Gramophone's reviewer claims, suitable to this cantata at all. Teldec has a much better recording of this cantata in their archives. See [5] above. Even Equiluz did a better job in that recording, inspired probably by his partners.

[11] Jeffrey Thomas & ABS (1993)
The best parameter of Thomas and his American Bach Soloists is the intimate atmosphere. This is one of those cantatas, which benefits from OVPP approach. But the weakest parts of this rendering are the vocal soloists. Drew Minter has a pleasant voice in the middle register, but he does not propose much more than that. In the upper register he has some difficulties, his interpretation is somewhat bland and he fails to express both the sweetness and the sorrow of both the opening aria and the recitative. Jeffrey Thomas does not compensate for Minter's weakness, because his voice sounds ordinary and his singing is not expressive enough to my taste, although he is more attentive to the words than his partner is. As has been expected, the choral movements come out as the best part of this recording. The four-part vocal harmony with delicate instrumental filigree of the concluding chorale are beautifully played and sung.

[12] Ton Koopman (1995)
The recorders illustrate the sombre-sweet mood for the first aria. The voice of Elisabeth von Magnus is light, a timbre of mezzo-soprano, but in terms of expression it does not suggest more than pleasant sweetness. This aria, and actually the whole cantata, calls for the uncommon combination embodied in the words 'sweet hour of death'. Agnew is doing much better than she does, in his recitative and aria for tenor. In the recitative you can visually see the thorns of the roses tormenting his soul. His singing in the aria is assured, he knows exactly where is he going to and the longing of his soul to dissolve and be with Christ is convincingly expressed. Magnus returns in one of the most marvellous recitatives Bach has ever composed, but in her singing most of its potential is not revealed. The lightness of this rendering permeates also to the concluding choral movements. Koopman interweaves beautifully the playing of the recorders into the singing of the small choir. But at the end I have to admit that other recordings of this cantata touched my heart deeper, much deeper.

[13] Masaaki Suzuki (1997)
Usually Koopman and Suzuki are going along the same lines and their recordings have much more in common than differences. But that is not the case here. In this cantata Suzuki succeeds exactly in the same places where Koopman fails. Suzuki's singers have the right sense of drama, which is needed to a successful rendering of this cantata. Both Yoshikazu Mera and Makoto Sakurada know how to combine the sweetness with the sorrow and sound very convincing while doing it. Usually I do not like Mera's timbre of voice, but here I was so captivated by his moving singing that I found myself not thinking about his voice at all. The two choral movements are superbly balanced. This is not surprising, because good balance between all the components has always been one of Suzuki's Bach recordings' strength. The limpid and beautiful playing of the recorders, as well as the consistent approach of Suzuki, contribute to keeping the sustained beauty of this cantata and connect all the movements into a coherent "large musical entity".

[14] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
The chamber nature of this cantata suits Leusink's approach very well. So far as the instrumental playing is concerned. It is less dramatic than Suzuki's is, but it works fine. Buwalda's voice may disturb some listeners. I do not have major problem with it, however uniqueness of voice cannot compensate for lack of penetrating interpretation. Regarding expression and sensitivity to the words, Schoch in his recitative and ensuing aria, delivers everything that Buwalda fails to supply. The longing of the soul to be embraced by Christ is expressed so convincingly in his interpretation. This is one of the most moving renderings of this movement. Then we return to Buwalda in the demanding and challenging recitative and the disappointment is even bigger. The task is simply too heavy for his fragile shoulders at this stage of his singing career. In this recitative we have the feeling that "the recorders and the strings accompany the mortal soul realistically to its soft sleep" (as is written in the linear notes to this recording), but the soul itself is not convincing. The delicate weave of the choir and the recorders in the last two movis charmingly and lucidly sung and played. This recording could have been rated very high if only they had a maturer alto singer.


Before starting my listening to BWV 161, I have not realised that I have 10 recordings of this cantata. Judging it after the listening experience, I do not regret for a moment that I have so many, although not all of them excel. If you are Bach cantata lover, you cannot allow yourself not having at least one recording of BWV 161. Regarding my personal preferences, Schröder is my first choice among the traditional recordings and Suzuki among the modern ones. Schröder's recording is the most charming and Suzuki's is the most coherent. Both of them touched my heart deeply.

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

Jill Gunsell wrote (October 8, 2000):
What a wonderful review from Aryeh. I am so glad to have found this list.

Marie Jensen wrote (October 8, 2000):
As a 21st century being I find the pietist/mystic attitude "Wish I was dead" rather odd. I cannot understand that a man at his best age responsible for wife and children can come up with such a point of view and even express it in public. That goes for both Salomo Franck, librettist, and J.S. Bach, composer. Of course their families did not have to fear suicide. Adversity was even considered a gift from God. And perhaps their families thought the same, that after death everything would be much better. But after launching this tirade, I have to admit that I love cantata BWV 161 anyway.

The Christian opinion about death has always been a mix of hell threats and longing for Heaven. Here hell is not mentioned with a word. The cantata is a comforting therapy saying: death is wonderful. There is nothing to be afraid of, and that is a fine thing to express in public, especially because it is obvious that Bach do not seem to be a hypocrite but a visionary person who has been allowed to take a look behind the curtain of eternity, because when it comes to death his tonal language is more intense than ever. Praising a Herzog von Wissen Wassen for all his wisdom in a birthday cantata, one can bluff. With death one can't. Try to listen to BWV 53 "Schlage doch gewünschte Stunde" which is not by Bach but by his father in law Hoffmann. A real bell is used here to illustrate death. It is so superficial compared with BWV 161.Bachs sound painting seems more real and experienced.

This is one of the most quoted works, when it comes to Bach's fascination of death.
It is a treasure box of imaginative word painting, a work from 1716 pointing towards later works as, for example, the cello suites and the passions. But Salomo Franck has to take a part of the prize too for a very colourful poetry. For example:
Komm, du süße Todesstunde,
Da mein Geist
Honig speist
Aus des Löwen Munde;
To eat honey from a lions mouth... compared with other baroque poetic expressions these opening lines do not seem outdated at all. Of course we also meet the predictable rhyme: "Der Schluß ist schon gemacht, Welt, gute Nacht!" and similar passages, but also very fine expressions as for example: "Dein Freudenlicht ist mein Komete" about the joys of this world. Franck (1659-1725) might have seen the ominous comet Halley in the beginning of the 1680's. BTW astronomer Halley himself lived from 1656 to 1742.

But to return to the opening lines: Death as the terrible mouth of a lion filled with honey makes me think of the biblical words Isaiah 11:6 The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatting together; and a little child shall lead them.

As mentioned above: If somebody wants to study Bach's death symbols, this cantata is the right place. First of all: the use of the "death" instrument, the divine sounding flauti dolci in nearly every movement. In the opening alto aria the organ play "Befiehl du deine Wege" later the most used chorale in St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244), or "Wenn ich ein mal soll scheiden" as it sounds, when Jesus dies.

This opening aria is for me the culmination of it all, but also the rest of the cantata is on a very high level. Take the recitativo for tenor (No.2): The cello plays a big role. In the last part of it, after the clock has measured out the last seconds of life, a journey begins perhaps with a kind of Charon boat. It reminds me of the later cantata BWV 56 (The "Kreuzstab" Cantata) recitativo (No.2) "Mein Wandel auf der Welt Ist einer Schiffahrt gleich" where the cello plays a similar rocking wave motive. Here in BWV 161 it ends in a solo, which sounds like a bit of a cello suite. If I conclude the other way around, then perhaps the cello suites have something to do with death. I have never thought of that before. Then it continues with sound painting after sound painting in the tenor aria and in the alto recitativo. To mention some of them: "sanfter Schlaf", "Kühle Grab", "auferwecken" ending in "So schlage doch, du letzter Stundenschlag!" where the rococo clock sounds. The chorus (No.5) could be a final chorus of a passion. Both rhythm and mood have similarities. The final chorale is the same tune as in the beginning but with a very optimistic text.

I prefer Suzuki's version [13] to Leusink's [14]. Most of all because alto Sytse Buwalda never will be a Yoshikazu Mera. In the opening aria the organ chorale is heard very clearly in the Suzuki version, which also seems polished and divine. But if you listen very carefully, Mera sings "Löwens" Munde and it is "Löwen Munde". But I forgive him. He sings wonderfully. Suzuki is slower here. I like that. The recitativos are more elaborate in Suzuki's rendering. The tenor aria No.3 "Mein Verlangen": I like both versions. Schoch (Leusink) is nearly three-quarters of a minute slower than Sakurada (Suzuki). Sakurada has no troubles singing the long word "zermalmet". Schoch has to take a breath in the middle. The alto recitativo No.4: Buwalda seems to stumble over the first notes especially over the word "Schluss". On the other hand when he sings "Sanfter Schlaf" he does it very beautifully. The Chorus No.5 "Wenn es meines Gottes Wille": Especially Leusink's rather slow version makes me think that this could be the end of a passion.

As a whole I prefer Suzuki, but Leusink has his good moments too.

Marie Jensen wrote (October 8, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for telling the story about Samson and the lion. I did not know it, when I wrote my review. And what a fine lay out you have invented.

Andrew Oliver wrote (October 11, 2000):
What a wonderful, interesting and appealing work this is! I am just sorry that I have only the Leusink recording [14] of it. Although neither Buwalda nor Schoch are among my favourite soloists, I can still appreciate the composition. Death viewed as the gateway to heaven is, to judge from the quality of the music Bach wrote for it, one of the subjects dearest to his heart. Although Bach was only in his early thirties when he wrote this, we have to remember that, in the early 18th century, life must have been difficult for most people, and it must have seemed precarious at times True, some people lived long lives - Schütz lived to 87. One of my own ancestors died in the same year as Bach when she was 94, but these are exceptions; most people died much younger.

Every movement of this work is packed with interest, but my favourite has to be the sublime lullaby that is No.5. It is deceptive in its simplicity, because the beauty of the melody distracts us from both the harmony, which Bach sets in his typically masterly yet entirely appropriate fashion, and from the ornamentation provided by the recorders, which seems to be a completely natural part of the composition, although it is highly intricate in places. I wonder iBach had anyone particular in mind when he set these words. He may have been anticipating his own death. I am reminded of Shakespeare's words, said about Hamlet's death: Now cracks a noble heart. Good night, sweet prince; And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 11, 2000):
I sent the review below to the group couple of days ago in HTML format. It was the first time I used this format, and I was not aware that it would arrive to some of you in corrupted and unreadable way. I thought that it will make for nicer reading, but the opposite has happened. Due to the messages I have received from some of you, I realised that I made a mistake. Therefore I am sending the review again in plain text format. Sorry for all the inconvenience it caused to some of you. The HTML format will be available on the Archive site couple of weeks from now, together with your feedback. Regarding feedback, I wonder how can I encourage the members of our group to contribute more. In the last couple of weeks, I see very few messages coming for each cantata. Even short messages are better than nothing. Something like, I like this recording, I do not like that, etc.

Kirk McElhearn wrote (October 11, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] My mailer stripped the HTML, but it's not the case for all. Do send messages in text format only.

Roy Reed wrote (October 11, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] Your original transcript on BWV 161 came through excellently on this end. Truly beautiful, in fact. Red, blue, great graphics. Loved it.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (October 11, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] First of all, an apology: The last couple weeks have been heck at work...and I see not much change for about one more month. After that, I promise I'll be a bit more active in contributing!

Regarding BWV 161: I have Koopman [12] and Leusink [14], but I have to confess that I seldom listen to the Leusink. I enjoy his ensemble work but I'm one of those that just can't get past Budwalla's voice. Sigh.

Aryeh and Marie's interpretations, as usual, take two really different approaches...both are enlightening. Thanks to everyone!

I'm especially fond of Scholl's voice in the Koopman versions. My personal preference is for female altos, but here Scholl shines. I'm also taken with the insistence of the recorders in the two final choruses. The Leusink booklet refers to a "sobbing motif" and whatever the motif is, I find that these recorders are penetrating and help move the work along.

Well, once again, I've enjoyed the expert guidance of all who have contributed and am looking forward to my continuing cantata course of study.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 161: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 07:03