Cantata BWV 164Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of September 9, 2001 (1st round)
Aryeh Oron wrote (September 10, 2001):
This is the week of Cantata BWV 164 according to Peter Bloemendaal, the sixth one in his proposed list of cantatas for discussion. Although this is relatively unfamiliar cantata, it has a lot of beauty and charm. Alberto Basso wrote in the ‘Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach’ that ”The cantata is notable for the variety of its aria forms, which do not include the typical da-capo structure.” But the rest of his short article is rich with factual data and poor with enlightening explanation that enriches the listening. For that purpose I shall return to W. Murray Young’s book ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach - An Analytical Guide.’ I shall skip the factual data, most of which appears above, and the text (original German and translation into English) for which I put above links to the relevant pages in other sites.
“The Gospel, Luke 10: 23-37, dealing with the parable of the good Samaritan and with having pity on one’s neighbour’s suffering, is this time adhered to throughout.”
I am aware of only three recordings of this cantata. All of them are taken from the cantata cycles, which have been already completed. See: Cantata BWV 164 - Recordings.
(1) Helmuth Rilling (1981-1982)
(2) Gustav Leonhardt (1987)
(3) Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
Review of the Recordings - Movement by Movement
Mvt. 1. Aria for Tenor
“There is dramatic quality about this initial aria sung by the tenor, who represents, perhaps, the good Samaritan. The swinging rhythm conjures up a pastorale scene along a country road, where the wayfarer denounces the lack of pity in those who pass on the other side of the road and ignore the wounded man.”
(1) In the first round of listening to this cantata for this review I did not know who the singers were. But from the first notes of the tenor who sang in Rilling’s recording I assumed that he was neither Adalbert Kraus nor Aldo Baldin, the usual Rilling’s tenor singers. Both have lyric tenor voices, and here I heard dramatic voice with boldness and vigour. I find that Lutz-Michael Harder suits very well the demands of the opening aria. He declares the main message of whole aria, and this has to be done bravely, clearly, confidently and convincingly. And this is exactly whar we get in his rendition. After his declaration, one should have no doubt what the right direction is. Rilling chose wisely his tenor singer for this aria.
(2) At first Leonhardt’s rendition of the opening aria sounded to me slower than that of Rilling. Comparing the playing time I was astonished to find that Rilling’s is 4:30, when Leonhardt’s is 4:28, which means that they are almost identical. The real difference is therefore not the pace, but the approach. Leonhardt’s rendition is more relaxed, where Rilling’s is more energetic. I like them both because they illuminate the aria from different angles. These conductors teach us that red-hot debates are in many cases unnecessary. This is also the main message of the whole cantata ‘love thy neighbour as you love thyself.’ Love your neighbour also means respecting his right to have a strong opinion, which might be different from yours. After hearing him so many times in previous cantatas, it was not difficult to identify Equiluz. He is a multi-faced singer, who has the ability to convey convincingly almost every feeling and nuance existing in the music and the text of the Bach Cantatas. Here he is bringing forth his sense for drama. Dramatic expression in Bach’s vocal works does not have the same meaning as in the operas of Verdi and Wagner. The drama should not necessarily mean strong and extrovert singing and over expression. In Bach’s works it must come from within and being conveyed in somewhat subdued way. Equiluz has it all. His voice is richer than that of Harder, and he reveals more hidden corners. However, I like them both.
(3) Leusink prefers lighter approach and his singer, whose singing and voice are pleasurable and delicate, is not interested to handle the dramatic potential of this aria. I feel that he is saying to us, this aria has beautiful melodies, and its text can have different meanings. I shall not force my interpretation on it. Here it is, plain and simple. Take from it whatever you like. I can live with this kind of interpretation too. Is it Marcel Beekman? Interesting.
Mvt. 2. Recitative for Bass
“Quotes a paraphrase of St. Matthew’s text 5: 7: ‘Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy’, followed by examples of those who are merciless: the priest, the Levite, and we other Christians who ignore the pain of our neighbour’s suffering.”
(1) The bass singer in Rilling’ recording has compassion and mercy, which he conveys with authority of somebody who knows exactly what he wants. These feelings are expressed convincingly in every word, as it should be. I was somewhat surprised to find out that the singer was Walter Heldwein, whose singing had sounded to me occasionally a little bit stiff in some other cantatas. Here he outdoes his usual self.
(2) Max van Egmond (with Leonhardt) is somewhat restrained in his expression. More expression, which he is surely capable of, would have made his interpretation more interesting.
(3) Ramselaar’s singing (with Leusink) in this recitative is not interesting enough. It seems that he does not have a clear picture in his mind what he wants to convey in this recitative.
Mvt. 3. Aria for Alto
“The transverse flute accompanies the aria with a tender tear-motif to praise the love and compassion shown by the Samaritan. This feeling we should strive to emulate, in order to be like God.”
(1) Tenderness and mercy are reflected from the alto singer’s expression, and her timbre of voice suits very well the mood of this aria. This is Julia Hamari, whose expression almost always leaves nothing to be desired. But here the technical demands of the aria are not very difficult, and she has no problem to handle also this aspect of the performance.
(2) The playing of the flute in Leonhardt’s recording is captivating with its wooden ancient timbre and the easiness in which it is played. Esswood is showing himself hear as a master of humble expression. The singer and the player are enjoying performing together this aria. This is a really sublime rendition, which takes you to heaven. With this kind of performance you feel closer to God.
(3) When the technical demands are not very high, and the expressive demands are not too varied, Buwalda can handle a Bach’s aria for alto almost as good as anybody else. He conveys the love and compassion naturally and effortlessly. The flute player complements him with tender playing, in which a special attention is giving to the tear-motif.
Mvt. 4. Recitative for Tenor
“Prays that he would practice true Christian love towards friend or enemy, heather or Christian, whose sorrow he will feel as his own. His final wish is ‘May my heart be rich in love, gentle and mind. Thus will Thy Likeness be transfigured in me’.”
See Mvt. 1 above.
Mvt. 5. Duet for Soprano & Bass
“Accompanied by the unison playing of all the instruments, the vocalists sings the line in canon to convey beautiful imagery of hands, eyes and hearts, which begin alternate lines. These parts of the body should never be closed to any pain suffered by our neighbours, for the Lords will rewardthose who show compassion. The duet is the most charming part of the cantata.”
(1) The opening ritornello of Rilling’s recordings is both rich and tender. The wonderful soprano has a darker voice than either Arleen Augér or Helen Donath, the usual soprano singers in Rilling’s cycle. Edith Wiens singing has both warmth and inner deep sorrow, which I found irresistible. Her helpmate Heldwein responds wonderfully to her pain, supporting her by maintaining the same feelings he has shown in his recitative, conveying them with the same high level. This is a fascinating and heartfelt rendition.
(2) In Leonhardt’s rendition the boy soprano shows expressive abilities and sensitivity which are relatively uncommon in boy sopranos. He is helped by Egmond, who does not try to compete with the boy, but to support him and complement him.
(3) The opening ritornello of the duet in Leusink’s recording is bolder and sharper than in the other two recordings. Surprisingly, Holton and Ramselaar, who sang together many cantatas, do not reflect the empathy and the chemistry, which we have found in the other recordings. They are more competing than complementing each other, and this is definitely against the spirit of this duet in particular and this cantata in general.
Mvt. 6. Chorale
“Based on verse five of Elisabeth Kreuziger’s hymn ‘Herr Christ, der einge Gottes Sohn’ (Lord Christ, the Only Son of God). It is the same chorale that concluded BWV 22, but here it is more plainly sung, although its meaning is still fitting for the ending of this cantata.”
(1) If this choir was supposed to be sung by the audience, than it is definitely justified to sing it with mixed choir, as Rilling choir is. This rendition reflects the feeling of a little kid coming home after a long absence and getting warm and loving embrace from his parents.
(2) The singing of the combined choir of Tölzer Knabenchor and Collegium Vocale Gent with Leonhardt is precise and polished, if less flowing and less warm than Rilling’s choir.
(3) The singing of Leusink’s Holland Boys Choir’s is less coherent than that of Leonhardt’s combined choir and dryer than that of Rilling’s choir.
I like all three recordings of this cantata, with no special preference.
One last thing - the message in this cantata is unified and it is fascinating to follow Bach’s different ways of handling the same subject along the cantata. Therefore it is most recommended hearing it in one sitting without a pause.
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Thomas Braatz wrote (September 9, 2001):
The Text / Date of Composition and Performance / State of Original Score and Parts:
See: Cantata BWV 164 - Provenance
Comments on the Mvts (Musical Form and Content):
See: Cantata BWV 164 - Commentary
The recordings of BWV 164 that I have listened to are: Rilling (1981-82) (1), Leonhardt (1987) (2), and Leusink (1999) (3).
Mvt. 1 (Tenor)
(1) Rilling: The canonic theme that is announced by the 1st violins in measure 1 is immediately restated in measure 2 by the 2nd violins in what is a Canone all Unisuono. Note the legato statement of the 4 dotted quarter notes that comprise the main element of this theme. In contrast to this, Rilling decides to treat the moving triplet eighth notes (9/8 time signature) as staccato. Bach did not mark everything, in this case at the beginning of the mvt., so a conductor might think, "Now I can do whatever I want here." However, if you examine the score carefully, you will find these eighth-note triplet figures tied together under a single ligature as in the viola (measures 1 and 2), in the 1st violins (18-19), and all the strings except bc (28-31, and, once again, all the string parts in the entire ritornello (42-49.) These indications should not be overlooked, but rather considered as a strong directive by Bach on how he wanted these notes to be played - not staccato, not tenuto with tiny separations in between them. Rilling even changes the eighth-note triplet figures from Bach's 'dah?-ah-ah' to 'dah-ah dot,' in essence tying the first two eighths together and playing the last eighth as a staccato note. The effect of all this is like having a pastor harangue his congregation with serious admonitions placing more emphasis upon "so sind sie härter als ein Stein" ("hearts harder than stone") than "die Herzen sollten liebreich sein" ("hearts that should be kind.") Harder's presentation reflects this 'hard' line and this attitude is particularly evident when he sings the coloraturas beginning in m. 24 with the voice in the high range. Here the distinction between angry expression and the difficulty Harder actually has in singing these words becomes blurred. Note also that Harder sings, "Ihr, die ihr euch" without a breath or break after the "Ihr" although a comma exists in the text. Since, as Dürr pointed out, this mvt. is an example of the voice singing an instrumental line the way an instrument would play it, it sounds entirely suitable and appropriate to do it this way. Sometimes the combination of a strong nasal quality and a fast vibrato that characterize his voice becomes almost too much to bear. There is no momentary relief from all this intensity. Does Rilling follow the dynamic indications? No, he allows his instrumental forces to play 'forte' all the time. 'Piano' markings by Bach are found (I will not indicate the 'forte' markings because that is what is normally heard in all the recordings all the time) in measures 10, 16, 31, 53, 75, 91. I thought that most conductors of Bach's music were familiar with the concept of 'tiered' dynamics, but obviously this is not the case.
(2) Leonhardt: Instead of treating the 4 dotted quarter notes as "dah, dah, dah, dah," Leonhardt has the violins play "Dee¯yah dot dah." In contrast to Rilling's version, however, the moving triplet eighth-note figures are now done correctly as Bach had indicated them. Listen to the unison playing of the strings, particularly the 1st violins. They are having serious problems trying to play the same notes together at the same pitch. This goes on through the entire mvt. and is very noticeable in the higher range (above the top line of the treble clef.) With his usual excellence, Equiluz presents not only the correct notes, but adds emotional expression that underscores the two opposing ideas - the 'hearts harder than stone' vs. the 'kind, generous hearts showing true mercy.' Who can not help being moved by Equiluz performance that demonstrates vocal control as well as complete understanding of the text? Of course, his voice sounds ideal when he does not have to 'force' it. When the latter occurs (as with the fast vibrato on the final note that he sings,) we need to remind ourselves that he has been singing publicly for at least forty years when this recording was made. Note also, how Equiluz treats the opening motif: At first, he hardly creates any kind of decisive break after the "Ihr" in "Ihr, die ihr." although the comma would normally demand it. In any case, we have a definite conflict here between Leonhardt's phrasing of this initial motif (see above) and the demands of the text. Each time this motif reoccurs, Equiluz makes less and less of an attempt to adhere to the rigid rule of commas, and decides in favor of the more musical treatment with no break whatsoever (listen to m. 75!) Actually he should have placed a slight break after the second 'ihr' because that is where Leonhardwrongly places the break at the very beginning of the mvt. In order to provide a 'unified' performance of a Bach composition (or any similar polyphonic composer) it has always been my understanding that the players/singers must agree on how they will play or sing a similar motif (fugal subject, etc.) This is done not only for the sake of coherency, but also for the intelligent listener's pleasure which would be diminished if this were not the case. Phrasing, dynamics, embellishments must be the same or very similar. Why is this commonsense rule frequently abandoned in the Bach cantata recordings? What is so different about the cantatas, that less attention to detail is allowed?
(3) Leusink: What's this? After the 1st two notes of the four-note canonic theme are played, the main motif suddenly recedes into the background and becomes prematurely an accompaniment to the bc. Doesn't Leusink recognize the entire theme? The bc is now back to Rilling's staccato treatment of the triplet eighth-note figures with each eighth note separated from the one that follows. The bc, as usual, is too loud, but listen to the difference in the violins! The unison playing is much more in unison than in Leonhardt's recording where two violins were not quite in tune with each other. Beekman sings the initial motif legato with all four notes of equal intensity and duration. This sounds to me to be the most natural and reasonable approach as it also provides a contrast to all the moving triplet eighth-note figures. The canonic effect is missed for the most part because the violins fail to play (or 'sing' out) properly the theme whenever it occurs. An egregious example of this is found in measures 57 and 58 (the second time the tenor finishes singing the words, "allzu weit") where the instruments are playing alone (no need to play softly,) but Leusink fails to make the theme become apparent. He thinks it is only part of an accompaniment to the bc. Vocally Beekman does quite well and is pleasant enough to listen to. His range of expression is very limited, but he does try to put a different emphasis on "härter" (measure 63.) He creates a beautiful musical phrase on "allzu weit" (the 2nd time this occurs) and I like the fact that a vibrato does not distract from the music and words as in the other two recordings. Leusink does not follow Bach's dynamics where there certainly are ample opportunities to do so.
Mvt. 2 Recitativo (Bass)
(1) Rilling: Heldwein has a strong voice that he modulates to good advantage in order to bring out the many different nuances contained in the text. There is no disturbing vibrato that might distract a listener from concentrating on the text. For any listener who happens to have this recording as well as any of the others that I have listed, here (in the Rilling version) is an opportunity to hear clearly the difference between the secco recitative as notated by Bach and played according to his notation as contrasted with those who subscribe to the Harnoncourt Doctrine: Leonhardt and Leusink, who, for no valid reason as far as anyone can determine, remove the sustained notes in the bc and replace them with a quarter note followed by rests.
(2) Leonhardt: van Egmond sings sotto voce, but his expression of the text is very good. This is an art which he perfected, however this is not a full voice. It sounds as if he is always holding back, or that the voice simply does not have anymore to give. Leonhardt, for a reason known only to himself, decides to hold the first note in the initial secco recitative (before the arioso) for a full 9 beats, just as Bach had intended, but then, after the arioso, he reverts entirely to the Harnoncourt Doctrine. Perhaps this was a momentary, unconscious lapse on Leonhardt's part before he was suddenly reminded of his duty to his mentor Harnoncourt, in whose cantata cycle he was a participant. For the greater portion of this recitative it was entirely Harnoncourt's conception that prevailed.
(3) Leusink: Leusink follows the Harnoncourt Doctrine utterly. Ramselaar has a clear voice with even less power than van Egmond's, but in contrast to van Egmond, there is a clear, but, unfortunately, constricted quality in Ramselaar's voice (the opposite of 'open.') There is less expression here - the main goal is to hit all the correct notes and sing the words as written.
Mvt. 3 Aria (Alto)
(1) Rilling: The two flute parts are clearly delineated. Of course, these are modern instruments, hence they are louder and more brilliant as well as a semitone higher than the other two recordings. In Hamari's voice I can hear the perception of the empathetic pain felt by the Good Samaritan, a pain that moves to compassion and mercy as the listener is included in this group: "Samaritergleiche Herzen" ("hearts that are like that of the Good Samaritan.") A very moving aria indeed!
(2) Leonhardt: If you are fortunate enough not to be sensitive to relative intonation problems, then this is the version for you to enjoy. For me there is nothing but musical pain caused not only by the wooden transverse flutes not being in tune with each other, but also by Esswood's tendency to sing almost every note flat. Perhaps Leonhardt wants the listeners to feel the pain along with the Good Samaritan. Yes, I feel the pain, a pain of compassion that moves me to want to go to the musicians and show them exactly where the correct pitches of their notes should be. BTW the last long note that Esswood sings is in tune. Perhaps he is trying to let us know that he is aware of the correct pitch and that this aria was intentionally sung this way, thus artificially inducing pain in the listeners?
(3) Leusink: The tempo is faster, but the wooden transverse flutes are in tune. The thin, reedy, expressionless voice of Buwalda seems to threaten to fracture at any moment and break apart. Buwalda occasionally cuts short certain note values, and at times he is in danger of being outperformed by the musical ensemble, an ensemble that, after all, is not very loud to begin with.
Mvt. 4 Recitativo (Tenor)
(1) Rilling: Harder always sounds like he has a cold. I have no idea why he changed a note in the recitative. It is very possible in a Bach recitative to add extra appoggiaturas, of this I am aware, but in this instance Bach has three consecutive Db's in a row on the words, "kalten Herzen." Harder changes the second Db to a C. I have checked the NBA KB to see if any variations in the sources are indicated. There are none that pertain to this change.
(2) Leonhardt: Equiluz has some exquisite moments in this recitative which he delivers almost perfectly. In the middle of the recitative, he uses a bit too much vibrato (or has some difficulty controlling it,) but toward the end he gets better and better. Many tenors will need to listen to recordings of this quality to see what it is that they can learn from Equiluz here. There is magic in his delivery. I would like to attribute it to a genuine emotion that flows easily from the performer to the listener. This is a numinous quality that goes beyond any words that can be used to describe what is happening here musically.
(3) Leusink: Beekman has a 'dead' quality in his voice as he hits all the right notes. There is little expression, and, as a result, this performance does not move the listener. Too much here is a matter-of-fact production of the music as it appears on the printed page.
Mvt. 5 (Duet Soprano, Bass)
(1) Rilling: The voices of Wiens and Heldwein blend quite well. This is a very reasonable, enjoyable performance of this music with all the canonic interplay between instruments and voicthoughtfully and clearly elucidated.
(2) Leonhardt: While Rilling's version was more legato in style, this version is bouncy, dance-like with much staccato, foreshortening of note values, and the typical light tapping of notes that characterizes many of the cantata performances nowadays. However, somehow this whole mvt. does not hang together very well. The soprano boy, Wegmann, does some things well, but has difficulty with the moving eighth-notes at this faster tempo (too fast for him.) A vibrato on long whole notes does not help his intonation which is insecure at times (tends to go sharp.) Van Egmond's vibrato does nothing to improve the situation here. This is a joyless, perfunctory performance with only a few high points.
(3) Leusink: The conductor has chosen a similar light, jumpy treatment, but this time, if you disregard Ramselaar's voice quality, you will hear more of the music contained in this mvt. as both voices (Holton's as well as Ramselaar's) are very suitably matched and capture wonderfully the complicated interplay of all the canonic figures. Here the voices are more like instruments in clarity and blend. The only thing lacking is expression of the words in the text. This, perhaps, is impossible at this fast tempo.
Mvt. 6 (Chorale)
(1) Rilling: This version is serious and slow. A few voices in the sopranos and tenors detract through their vibratos from the clarity of the vocal lines.
(2) Leonhardt: There is a tendency toward heavy emphasis of each quarter note, a tendency not enhanced by his decision to insert a comma after "erweck" where there is none. This may otherwise be conceived as a feeble, artificial attempt to put expression into the singing of this chorale. Depth of feeling can not be replaced by a method artificially contrived and derived from following a musical doctrine.
(3) Leusink: Here there is more legato. The final quarter notes under a fermata are too short. The soprano falsettists spoil an almost acceptable performance by swooping up with a yodeling glide to the word "den." Too bad that this could not be improved with better control.
Marie Jensen (September 11, 2001):
This cantata BWV 164 (The Leusink version (3)) for the "Sunday of the Good Samaritan" is "liebreich, sanft und mild" to use some words from the tenor recitativo (Mvt. 4). It brings lots of associations.
The siciliano rhytm in the opening tenor aria (Mvt. 1) reminds me of pastoral settings, where the story could take place, but also of a rocking cradle: a symbol of Gods love. The tender melody is sung a text about how hard a mans heart is compared with Gods. The melody has a slight melancholic touch , and now and then its tenderness is broken: for example: "Wo bleibet die Barmherzigkeit?" and "härter als ein Stein".
If you remember BWV 179 , the tenor aria "Falsche Heuchler", reviewed a few weeks ago it was a strong reprimande about human hypocrisy. This text is too, but here is Gods love considered more important , embellishing the words in a completely different musical expression.
Of course I don't know other versions. They might have a different mood.
Charity is to take care of the helpless and fragile. Buwaldas voice has a fragile timbre which in this particular case suits the alto aria (Mvt. 3) with its two flutes well. This aria reminds me of a mother teaching softly an infant on her knee, perhaps because the aria is rather simple.
The duet (Mvt. 5) has a beautiful text about what you give to your neighbour, God gives back in rich amounts. The bass and soprano could be Jesus and the soul as so often in these cantatas.The instruments feed the dialogue with energy every time they make a new entry. It is one of those dancing energy recycling (or should I say energy accumulating) arias I love so much.
Roy Reed wrote (September 13, 2001):
Stunning shock, terrible sadness, rage, confusion!! How could it be? Can such hate be possible? I don't know who has passed by uncaring, but Good Samaritans are putting themselves forward in multitudes in New York City. And all over the nation people are coming forward to do whatever they can....give blood, give money, time, organize times of pray and sharing.... trying to find ways to come to the aid of their suffering neighbors.
This cantata is so poignant for me at this terrible time, with its message of care for the suffering. It's message, and the gospel it interprets (Luke 10: 23-37) holds a word from Jesus that is more complex than the chastisement of the hypocrites and the encouragement of loving care. Jesus tells this parable in reply to the question, "Who is my neighbor?" It turns out that the neighbor is the heretic Samaritan outside my clan. I suppose this is the hardest message.... as the cantata puts it, that "my neighbor's woe, whoever he may be, friend or foe, heathen or Christian, may touch my heart as if it were my own sorrow."
A colleague and I just sent a book off to editors whose title will be something like (depends on editors at Eerdmans) "Moral Courage, Forgiveness and Reconciliation." The latter two are a tough sell in the USA this day. There was an article in today's paper with the heading, "SHALL WE HATE BACK?"
What is the source of such insane hate? Many things, of course, but up there at the top is religious fundamentalist fanaticism and xenophobic tribalism. And when these combine you have just the most evil force in the world. In this regard the histories of these three great religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam have nothing to be inordinately proud about and much to be ashamed of.
Shall we too rise up to the level of super-haters? Behind hate there are reasons...there are also malevolent, wicked evil persons, and I don't object to doing them in. Would that I could have put a bullet in Hitler's brain. But the multiplication of horrors is not the answer. Some brave souls must step forward to rectify injustices, step over the past and pave the way to a human future.
Meanwhile Jesus heaps scorn on religious hypocrisy and lauds the outsider as true neighbor. Hard to hear today.
I have two settings of BWV 164. Rilling (1) and Leusink (3). I vastly prefer Leusink, although the second flute in #3 is kind of shy. I very much appreciate the singing of tenor, Marcel Beekman (My kind of Bach tenor) and I think that the duet (Mvt. 5) of Ruth Holton and Bas Ramselaar is magic.
Andrew Oliver wrote (September 14, 2001):
How up to date these cantatas are! Have we not seen a graphic demonstration this week of the cantata we have been considering?
Nur durch Lieb und durch Erbarmen
Werden wir Gott selber gleich.
Lassen fremden Schmerz sich schmerzen
Und sind an Erbarmung reich.
Which Z. Philip Ambrose renders:
Just through love and through compassion
Will we be like God Himself.
Hearts Samaritan in kindness
Find the stranger's pain as painful
And are in compassion rich.
Many of us will have watched or heard or read about the selfless dedication of scores of members of the emergency services in New York, not to mention the strain which the medical services must be under. Why, I wonder, does it often take a tragic event such as this colossal devastation to bring out the spirit of the good Samaritan of which this cantata speaks? Many people there, on the spot, are demonstrating this spirit, but what of us? Sometimes, when there are natural catastrophes in the poorer parts of the world, the hearts of many around the globe are touched, and then perhaps we are able to demonstrate our concern by responding to appeals for aid. But what if a most unnatural catoccurs in a powerful nation, rich enough not to need any financial or practical assistance from outside? Read the cantata. The important thing is to have a heart of compassion. If we are not in a position to give any practical assistance, we may still pray for those who are. If you do not believe in prayer, then simply run through your mind all those who need support: the injured, any awaiting rescue, the bereaved, those who do not know whether they are bereaved or not, those struggling to find survivors, the medical services, those who, though not in any of the above categories, have suffered the psychological shock of witnessing horrific scenes. Nor should we forget the distress felt by many of us far from the scene, who have witnessed these things indirectly. Nor, again, should we forget the wisdom that will be required by those in authority in dealing with the aftermath, because, without doubt, there will be repercussions.
Consider the words of this cantata, set most effectively by the master composer, and hear the lessons they teach.
Harry J. Steinman wrote (September 15, 2001):
(3) Well, I have only the Leusink version and have found this cantata to be a pleasant experience. A few thoughts...
First of all, I found Buwalda's voice to be not just tolerable, but appealing in the alto aria (Mvt. 3). I wonder what it is that is different here; his voice does not labor or sound 'tight'.
I thoroughly enjoyed the bass/soprano duet (Mvt. 5). I'm a sucker for duets; don't know why. That's just the way it is. I frequently listen to the cantatas in my car as I travel about (recently got a new car and my #1 criteria was to have a bitchin' stereo! ;D ) Anyway, I was very pleased with the movement. I don't understand any German; found it difficult to look for a translation at 55 miles per hour, and was just hoping that the libreto was something happy.
It also seemed to me that the very first 2 notes of the 1st movement were the same as the very first 2 notes of the duet (Mvt. 5). I'm not sure what this means (I'm only a civilian in the world of music and Bach; not a technical genius like some of the contributors) but I liked the way this tied the two movements together.
Well, not much to add to all of the other contributions...but I enjoyed this work.
Continue on Part 2
Cantata BWV 164: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4