Cantata BWV 163Nur jedem das Seine!
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of May 15, 2005 (2nd round)
Thomas Shepherd wrote (May 14, 2005):
BWV 163: Introduction
The cantata for discussion this week (May 15-21) is:
Cantata BWV 163
Nur jedem das Seine!
Event in the Lutheran church calendar: Solo Cantata for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity
Composed: Weimar, 1715 | 1st performance: November 24, 1715 - Weimar
Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV163.htm
Link to previous discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV163-D.htm
Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear Leusink's version of the whole cantata : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV163-Leusink.ram
From Tadashi Isoyama's 1996 notes for vol 4 of Suzuki's Cantata cycle on BIS records :
"Between August and November 1715, the court of Weimar was in mourning for the young and musically gifted Duke Johann Ernst. During these three months, the performance of cantatas was halted. The first cantata to be performed at the court chapel after the court came out of mourning, on 24th November, was BWV 163, for the Twenty-Third Sunday after Trinity. The Gospel appointed for this day (Matthew 22: 15-22) is a discussion between Jesus and the Pharisees. Jesus, being questioned as to whether is was 'lawful to give tribute unto Caesar', points to a denarius (a Roman coin) and replies, 'render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's'. This is an expression of the concept of the separation of state authority and ecclesiastical authority, and it relates also to the Epistle reading for the day (Philippians 3: 17-21), which says that 'our country is in heaven'. Salomo Franck's libretto of 1715 clearly takes this as its base, exhorting us so render unto God the true tribute of a pious heart. This work, which shares the form of many of the Weimar cantatas, is written for soloists with strings and continuo. A chorus is used only for the concluding chorale. The music, however, is full of devices. In particular the third movement, an aria with obbligato for double cello, and the fourth movement, a recitative dialogue for two voices in alternation, reveal the spirit of experimentation of the young Bach. The first movement, a tenor aria in B minor, repeats the phrase Nur jedem das Seine! (To each only his due!) as though it were a motto. The shortness of this phrase gave Bach sufficient freedom in composition. The second and third movements are a bass recitative and aria. The bass first says that all that we possess comes from God, and that all we can use as currency to repay Him is our hearts, Is not this currency, however, like a counterfeit coin? The final six bars, a fearful question, are marked by successive dissonances. The aria which follows (in E minor), with its deep voicing in instrument and singer, is unparalleled in form. The movement is scored for continue with obbligato for two cellos which move contrapuntally. Does this suggest the work of the labourers reminting the currency, or the renunciation of the tarnished coin of Satan? The fourth and fifth movements are a recitative and duet for soprano and alto. The recitative with continuo accompaniment is a very distinctive piece in which the two voices, alternating between imitation and parallel movement, express the joy of giving the heart to God and the fear that the betraying flesh and blood will sully the offering. The tempo accelerates at the prayer for release from this world, and the continuo movement becomes more lively, emphasizing the words 'the true Christian'. The duet, a mystical piece, prays that we may be united with Christ. This type of piece is typical of the Weimar period. In the background, the strings in unison play the chorale melody Meinen Jesum laß ich nich (I will not leave my Jesus). The closing chorale is indicated in the score as 'Chorale. In simplice stylo, and only the figured continuo part is given. The movement as it is recorded is a restoration from this incomplete score. The words are those of the eleventh verse of Heermann's 1630 chorale Wo soll ich fliehen hin?
Very little has been said about this cantata in the first round of discussions and it would be good to see more about this ravishing piece. The most interesting movement has to be M-3 with the double cellos. This week recordings of M-5, like BWV 185 M1, another aria with chorale accompaniment. This also is a most lovely movement.
Rilling: Arleen Augér (Soprano), Helen Watts (Mezzo-soprano, Contralto) 
I was always very fond of Helen Watts. There were years in my youth (the 60s & 70s) when it felt as if the only English female singers that one heard of were Heather Harper, Janet Baker and Helen Watts. So to hear Helen Watts singing in BWV 163 was something of a trip down memory lane. Now years on, I'm not sure about this performance, consumate as it is in careful preparation. It seems that Augér and Watts are competing. We have been spoilt by the thinner sound of the treble voice (male and female) of more recent small group HIP and semi-HIP recordings.
Harnoncourt: Tobias Eiwanger (Boy Soprano), Panajotis N. Iconomou (Boy Alto) : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV163-M5-Harnoncourt.mp3
Suzuki: Aki Yanagisawa (Soprano), Akira Tachikawa (Counter-tenor) : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV163-M5-Suzuki.mp3
Leusink: Ruth Holton (Soprano), Sytse Buwalda (Counter-tenor) : http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV163-M5-Leusink.mp3
I hope to see many of you enjoying the music and joining in the discussion about this aria or any other aspect of the cantata.
Peter Smaill wrote (May 14, 2005):
The skipping orchestral rythmn of the six-note instrumental motif has always made this, for me, an infectious, dancing introduction to what is, doctrinally, an otherwise stern Christian doctrine. That is, of rendering what is due to Caesar; but the heart to God. It is the answer Jesus gives to the Pharisees when asked about to whom is obedience due; God or Caesar? On asking for the coin of the tax monies, it is Caesar's image that is due earthly obedience; but to God, the heart.
Luther greatly emphasised the need to obey earthly authorities; some have indicated that the obeisant tone of Bach towards Frederick the Great, who after all had overrun Leipzig, was due to the religious insistence of deference.
Boyd makes the interesting pint that Salomo Franck, the librettist, was Court Numismatist at Weimar, hence the theme of the coin is developed with talk of counterfeit and the obverse being the image of Satan.
The happiness of the cantata at the contemplation of earthly duty, and the superb interchange of vocal in the duet, used to make this an early favourite. Suzuki chooses to end with the chorale "Wo soll ich fliehen hin ?", whereas Harnoncourt chooses a prosaic setting of "Fuhr auch mein Herz und Sinn". On aesthetic grounds, and on the evidence of the surviving figured bass, it seems that Suzuki represents progress on this point.
Pleasure in BWV 163, was, however, tarnished by visiting Weimar last year. The title of the cantata is, as far as can be seen in Unger's concordance of the Bach texts, not actually a quote from scripture; "Nur Jedem das Seine", "Only to each what [he deserves]" is a gloss on the the text regarding the Caesar/God dichotomy. However, in chilling imitation "Jedem das Seine" was chosen by the National Socialists to be the text above the entrance to the konzentrationslager, mainly a labour camp, outside Weimar, at Buchenwald.
The Buchenwald woods, a favourite spot for Goethe and particularly Schiller whose favourite oak stood there, has always been considered a desecration of culture for that reason. But is it not also a strange coincidence that "Jedem das Seine" is almost the incipit of a Cantata written at Weimar, and whose message is in fact subversive of the Nazi's demand for total obedience from the dissidents who were interned there, this camp being established well before the war and aimed at Germans?
There is a known painting of the Führer called "Hitler as God"; and he unsuccessfully tried to destroy Lutheranism in favour of a State Church. To anyone entering Buchenwald familiar with the text of this Cantata, the true meaning of "Jedem das Seine" would inculcate faith unto death that the heart belongs to the true God alone.
Salomo Franck's warning about the appearance of Satan on the coinage was to turn out to be horribly prophetic.
Doug Cowling wrote (May 14, 2005):
Thomas Shepherd wrote:
< The cantata for discussion this week (May 15-21) is:
Cantata BWV 163 Nur jedem das Seine! >
Can anyone point me to a scholarly discussion of why Bach chose to write "solo" cantatas without an opening chorus? The old myth that Bach's choir wasn't up to it every week clearly doesn't cut the mustard anymore -- the choir certainly sang in other parts of the service. That seems to suggest that Bach chose his vocal forces for artistic perhaps even theological reasons. In listening to these early cantatas, many of which I have never heard before, the "cantata" seems to be essentially a solo work with frequent ensemble work. When we arrive in Leipzig, the ensembles become fewer in number and the opening chorus is certainly the norm.
Doug Cowling wrote (May 14, 2005):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Pleasure in BWV 163, was, however, tarnished by visiting Weimar last year. The title of the cantata is, as far as can be seen in Unger's concordance of the Bach texts, not actually a quote from scripture; "Nur Jedem das Seine", "Only to each what [he deserves]" is a gloss on the the text regarding the Caesar/God dichotomy. However, in chilling imitation "Jedem das Seine" was chosen by the National Socialists to be the text above the entrance to the konzentrationslager, mainly a labour camp, outside Weimar, at Buchenwald >
We know the Party line for Wagner, Beethoven and Mendelssohn, but what attitude did the Nazis take in assigning Bach a role in "German Art"?
Peter Smaill wrote (May 14, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] I'm afraid that the Nazis rather admired Bach for championing Teutonic counterpoint, and (to a degree) resisting italian influence, although of course both French and Italian traits are evident epecially after Leipzig (and possibly at at Cöthen: the Forlane in the suite no.1 in C major is a Venetian dance).
Perhaps more sinister is their interest in Bach's remains, which were interpreted as revealing the lineaments of a tall, robust Aryan type.
All this is set out in David Yearsley's "Bach and the Meaning of Counterpoint".
Thomas Braatz wrote (May 15, 2005):
Doug Cowling asked:
>>Can anyone point me to a scholarly discussion of why Bach chose to write "solo" cantatas without an opening chorus?<<
Alfred Dürr, in his book, "Johann Sebastian Bach: Die Kantaten" [Bärenreiter, 1971-2000 with numerous editions and a 1995 revision] has an extensive introduction (pp. 17-100) in which he treats among other things the development of the church cantata before Bach but he also traces the development of the Bach's cantata form through the various periods of his life. It becomes clear from reading this that it is not so much a question of why Bach chose a particular form, but rather that the libretti and the availability of musicians (excellent soloists from the Court Chapel vs. a boys choir from a church nearby or a combination of both) 'dictated' the form (whether there was an opening chorus or a concluding chorale) of the cantata.
>>The old myth that Bach's choir wasn't up to it every week clearly doesn't cut the mustard anymore -- the choir certainly sang in other parts of the service.<<
pp. 155-169 of Christoph Wolff's "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician" [Norton, 2000] should help to fill in the details about the Weimar period. The boys joined in only for a specific part of the service, otherwise they were absent from the
Do you have a listing of the Order of Services for Bach's Weimar cantata performances? I have not yet seen one that gives specifics about the boys choir singing in other parts of the service.
Just what is it that "clearly doesn't cut the mustard anymore"? Are you possibly conflating Bach's Leipzig situation, where "the old myth that Bach's choir wasn't up to it every week" does apply, not as a myth but as a demonstrable fact, during certain periods of the year with numerous special feast days with his cantata obligations in Weimar which were quite different?
Neil Halliday wrote (May 15, 2005):
BWV 163: SA duet examples
By now it is clear that vocal vibrato does not aid in the comprehension of the charming vocal canonic imitation that is often a feature of Bach's duets, and certainly is a feature of this one. The ear already has enough to deal with, in comprehending the non-synchronous text from the two vocalists; disturbance of each singer's melodic line as well, through the addition of excessive vibrato, makes a difficult task of what should be easy enjoyment of the music.
Augér especially, and Watts (Rilling)  are simply too powerful for this charmingly intimate movement; and the boys with Harnoncourt  have too much wobble in their voices, not helped by the manner in which Harnoncourt unnecessarily breaks up the flow of the continuo.
Suzuki and Leusink  give the performances that sound 'natural' for the music, with the vocal imitation referred to above, made easily accessible to the listener.
I like the more graceful rendition that results from Leusink's slower tempo.
Rank: 1. Leusink  2. Suzuki  (gap) 3. Rilling  4. Harnoncourt .
Neil Halliday wrote (May 15, 2005):
The Rilling , Harnoncourt  and Leusink  recordings.
#1. Tenor aria.
Rilling's legato, moderate tempo, modern instrument version, with tenor Adelbert Kraus, is tuneful, relaxed, and atractive.
Rilling follows the orchestration of the BGA, using an oboe d'amore and only one violpart (plus viola and continuo), which gives added colour over the Harnoncourt and Leusink versions that do not use oboe. Rilling's version also brings the viola part into greater prominence, since there is only one violin part.
Equiluz with Harnoncourt gives us expressive singing, as usual.
Leusink's version has the peculiar 'thick' resonance of the continuo strings which is not attractive.
1. Rilling . 2. Harnoncourt . 3. Leusink .
#3. Bass aria.
Rilling's version (legato, moderate tempo) of this distinctly scored aria (2 obligato cellos plus continuo) immediately reminded me of the orchestral colour of Villa-Lobos's famous Bachianas Brasileiras no.5. (Perhaps the Brasilian composer had heard Bach's aria, and emulated the distinctive colour).
Holl's vibrato (Harnoncourt) disturbs somewhat.
1. Rilling . 2. Leusink . 3. Harnoncourt .
#4. Recitative for S,A.
The vocalists in the HIP versions are more satisfying than Rilling's singers, most likly because Auger and Watts are brought too far forward in Rilling's recording, in other words, the balance between these fine voices and instruments (in Rilling) is unsatisfactory in this and the following movement.
1. Leusink . 2. Harnoncourt . 3. Rilling .
#5. Duet for S,A.
John Pike wrote (May 18, 2005):
BWV 163 "Nur Jedem das Seine"
Cantata for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity.
There is some very fine music in this week's cantata. I particularly enjoyed the first movment in all the recordings I listened to, and the duet aria (no.5), in Leusink's recording.
I have listened to Harnoncourt , Leusink  and Rilling , in that order.
Harnoncourt's account begins with a very incisive and well articulated tenor aria, with Kurt Equiluz. I also greatly enjoyed Leusink's version of this aria, which is lighter but no less impressive. I found Rilling's account slow and ponderous to start with, perhaps after hearing the other 2 first, but it settles down to some very nice singing and playing.
The main drawback's for me were the boy soloists in Harnononcourt's recording, with problems in intonation, and the obtrusive vibrato in Rilling's soprano and alto soloists.
Overall, my favourite recording was Leusink's. I particularly enjoyed the soprano and alto recitative and duet (nos. 4 and 5). I found it deeply moving and with the restrained and intimate approach it nicely conveyed a sense of full submission to Christ.
The cantata was most enjoyable and, I think, deserves to be better known.
Continue on Part 3
Cantata BWV 163: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4