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Cantata BWV 164
Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 15, 2012 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 164 -- Ihr, die ihr euch von Christo nennet

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 164, the last of three works for the 13th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 164 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner and Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 164 page. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages.

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

Francis Browne wrote (January 18, 2012):
BWV 164 notes on the text

BWV 164 was written for and first performed on 26 August 1725. The text is taken from Salomo Franck's Evangelisches Andachts-Oppfer published at Weimar in 1715. This is the source of the texts of ten of Bach's Weimar cantatas (BWV 132, BWV 152, BWV 155, BWV 80a, BWV 31, BWV 165, BWV 185, BWV 161, BWV 162, BWV 163) and the question arises whether an earlier version of this Cantata was written at Weimar. In 1715 13th Sunday after Trinity occurred during the period of mourning for Prince Johann Ernst and there is no record of any performance in 1716. Dürr suggests that "if a Weimar setting of this text by Bach ever existed it must have differed so much from the setting we know that it would practically amount to a different composition." An attractive suggestion by Julian Mincham is the Bach wrote both this Cantata and BWV 168 from texts by Franck in the summer of 1725 as homage to his friend who had recently died.

[I would in passing strongly support Ed Myskowski's regular recommendations of Julian's commentaries. As I listen to the cantatas to write these notes, I find what Julian has written constantly informative, perceptive and stimulating, even for cantatas which I thought I knew well For this cantata the account of the duetto for soprano and bass is particularly helpful.]

The gospel for this Sunday is Luke 10: 23-37, the lawyer's question to Jesus about what he must do to inherit eternal life and the parable of the good Samaritan. As often the cantata text moves from an opening generalisation which is then developed in various ways to reach a personal appreciation of the truth. Starting from the rarity of compassion that is implied in Jesus's parable Franck in the opening aria addresses a question to the whole Christian community : where is the compassion that should distinguish Christians. Their hearts are harder than stone.

The following recitative makes use of what Christ says in the sermon on the Mount ( the merciful will obtain mercy, knock on the door will be opened) and imagery from the day's gospel(the priest and Levite who should give the lead in compassion riding by the stricken Samaritan) to bring home to us how far our current behaviour differs from what it should be.

The Alto Aria puts forward the solution that we should imitate God's mercy and compassion and so develop Samaritergleiche Herzen (instead of the hearts harder than stone mentioned in the first Aria).

The second recitative changes to the first person for an impassioned prayer and plea that 'my heart' may be liebreich, sanft und mild so that God image will be 'in mir verklärt'.

After this personal application the last aria for soprano and bass generalises using the imagery of hands, eyes and hearts to suggest the positive consequences that will result from more compassionate attitude.

The cantata concludes with the only choral movement, a setting of the fifth stanza of the hymn Herr Christ, der einge Gotts Sohn by Elisabeth Creuziger (1524)

Since this is the first text by Franck for which I have written notes I add Spitta's detailed more positive appreciation of Franck as a writer :

Franck was undoubtedly one of the true poets of his time. In neatness and grace of diction he was equal to Neumeister, and but little his inferior in purity of expression. Added to these he had what Neumeister often lacked, depth and fervour of feeling. This natural bent would of course lead him to lyric poetry, and with this, at that time, sacred verse was synonymous. His masques, his poems written for weddings, on occasions of mourning, and others of the kind, are distinguished by their refined and elegant 'character, without displaying any great variety or originality of thought. In religious poetry, on the other hand, he revealed a very marked and remarkable individuality. His scope, even here, is limited, no doubt ; but his way of seeing and modes of expression are neither borrowed nor absorbed from others ; they are the genuine offspring of his own mind. Grandeur and a soaring flight he has not, but a very picturesque vein of rhapsody and tender melancholy. He likes to dwell on the sorrows and sufferings of human life ; he lingers by the grave, and muses on death and the inspiring and hopeful images of heavenly joys. In treating of this he displays a very uncommon wealth of fancy, and he soon formed for him­self a distinct style for the adequate expression of his ideas and feelings. A certain amount of,familiarity with his mode of treatment makes it almost impossible not to recognise it at once ; in it he reminds us of Eichendorff, as well as in a certain key of mystical dreaminess, when due allowance is made for the difference of their periods, and in some degree of their subject-matter. Certain turns of language and figures of speech he is apt to repeat frequently, and in the same way he is fond of using intricate metres, artificial schemes of rhyme, and a mixture of long and short lines ; he likes, too, to frame in a verse, as it were, by repeating the first lines at the end of it.

The subjective character of his poems did not hinder their extensive use for church purposes. Franck is a very con­spicuous witness to the fact that the transfusion of the objec­tive catholic church sentiments into personal religious feeling met an universal predisposition half-way as it were, even out­side the special circle of the Pietists. A reader of his poems, whose knowledge of the conditions under which they were written was merely superficial, would certainly attribute them to a pietistic writer. But that he was far indeed from this is sufficiently proved by his friendship with Olearius, the superintendent at Arnstadt, and by the positioof esteem he held at the court of Wilhelm Ernst ; there is still further evidence in his numerous texts for cantatas, arranged in the manner of Neumeister. Of his hymns the best known is " So ruhest du, 0 meine Ruh," although its want of simplicity, and particularly an incessant seeking to play upon words, show that it is a youthful work; and indeed it is contained in his first collection.238 Twelve years later he brought out at Arnstadt a collection of Madrigals on the Passion ; we may sympathise with the fervent feeling of these poems, but cannot overlook the want of taste in much of the expression, and the turgid or lame character of the images. However, as he went on he succeeded better in finding natural and touching expres­sion for his ideas. His sacred and secular poems (Geist and Weltlichen Poesien), which came out in two parts in 1711 and 1716, mark the highest level of his works in the sacred lyrics it contains ; 239 indeed these volumes include most of what he had produced in the way of occasional poems up to the year when the second part was published, excepting some sacred cantatas, which we must now study more closely

Franck's earliest cantatas were written in the old form, and consist of Bible texts and hymns in verses. One whole series is included in the sacred and secular poems 94 to 210; a rhythm adapted to recitative is introduced only into two dialogues, for the second day of Christmas-tide and the first day of Easter, and in both cases unhesitatingly given to the chorus. In the second part of the same col­lection there is likewise a series of hymns for the year under the title Singende Evangelische Schwanen-Gospel Songs of the Swan (pp. 2 to 86),-on the subject of death and the life to come. While these are all, without excep­tion, simple arias-that is to say, hymns in verses-in pp. 132, 134, and 190 we find the first of his cantata texts in the complete form as devised by Neumeister. Between these again there are several poems, intermediate in cha­racter, which are devoid of recitative, consisting only of a string of arias of modern style and of various metres, inter­spersed with short ejaculations or axioms.

This attempt to reconcile the forms of the older and the newer cantata -by no means advantageous from the musical point of view-was evidently the result of the fact that Franck did not become acquainted with the new style till he was a man of fifty, and could not at once make up his mind to give up the old form that he knew and loved. Of the three series of cantatas for the year which he wrote, and which have come down to us, the second only consists of poems of this older character ; while in the other, recita­tives after the Neumeister model are also introduced. So far as I have been able to discover he was alone in his experi­ment. It seems clear too, from the fact that these new methods were not used by him before he wrote the second part of his sacred and secular poems, that the idea of adopt­ing the new form of sacred cantatas had been suggested from Eisenach, and chiefly by the third and fourth cycles of Neumeister.

Johann Sebastian Bach by Philip Spitta (Vol 1, p526)

Julian Mincham wrote (January 15, 2012):
[To Francis Browne] Thank you Francis.

I read your notes every week and I must say there have a number of times when I wished I had read them, and you insights, when writing some of my essays. The two complement each other well, I think.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 17, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via:
The Kuijken chorales are especially recommended for those who need an introduction to OVPP chorus performance. >
The H&L (Teldec label) recording of BWV 164 is by the L half of that combo, Gustav Leonhardt, who passed away yesterday, about a month after his final performance, noted in BCML posts.

Others may wish to join me in appreciation of the history (recent 30 myears) and advancement of Historically (longer) Informed Performance (HIP) by enjoying the Leonhardt and Kuijken recordings, in comparitive listening, and in memoriam Gustav Leonhardt.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2012):
Francis Browne wrote:
< An attractive suggestion by Julian Mincham is that Bach wrote both this Cantata and BWV 168 from texts by Franck in the summer of 1725 as homage to his friend who had recently died. >
A parallel thought is Julians fourth paragraph, beginning <The underlying theme is the parable of the good Samaritan>. I am unable to copy and paste the text, at the moment, or perhaps by design. Easy to find.

From a recent crypto-puzzle, a quote from Louise Beal:

<Love thy neighbor as thyself, but choose your neighborhood carefully.>


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 164: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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