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Cantata BWV 166
Wo gehest du hin?
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 17, 2010 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 17, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 166 -- Wo gehist du hin?

This weeks discussion represents a return to the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension , Pentecost, and Trinity, with BWV 166 for the Fourth Sunday after Easter (Cantate) from the first Leipzig cycle. 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. Note that five selected recordings for the current weeks discussion are highlighted on the BCW main (home) page.

Because Julians commentary is so useful and accessible, it does not add much for me to cite Durr every week. I will vary with a few thoughts from Gardiners notes to his pilgrimage CD release [6]. Incidentally,now that the series is complete, it is especially convenient for our ongoing discussions, given its orientation to the liturgical year. This weeks work and next weeks (BWV 108) are linked by this thought:
<The more you immerse yourself in these works, the more you experience yet again the exceptional potency of Bachs post-Resurrection cantatas, which cover such a wide gamut of styles and moods. Bach is constantly challenging his listeners to consider what it is to be alive, using his music to tease new meanings out of the Gospel texts. In BWV 166 Wo gehist du hin? he reminds us how ephemeral human life is, and what a potential mess we make of it and its opportunities, but how there are signposts to be read, props to lean on and compass bearings to bring us back on course, even at the times when we sense that we are most alone -- when God appears to have abandoned us to our own murky devices.> (end quote)

Not exactly a related thought (though not exactly unrelated, either) is this from Brian McCreath via his weekly Bach hour ( in a recent week, which I pass along before I forget. Although we make much of the distinction between secular and sacred cantatas, this is in fact a more recent concept. No such distinction existed in the world view of Bachs time.

I notice from the archived discussions that the last time BWV 166 came up was over four years ago, when I was quite new to BCW and had only the old (but still superb) LP by Helmut Barbe [1]. I intend to add some comparisons with recent releases (Gardiner [6] and Suzuki [7]) during the week, but I can already convey that the Cantate LP has lost none of its charm and grace over the years.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2010):
Introduction to BWV 166 - Recordings

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I was quite new to BCW and had only the old (but still superb) LP by Helmut Barbe [1]. I intend to >add some comparisons with recent releases (Gardiner [6] and Suzuki [7]) during the week >
I had some hope that others might get there first, providing ideas to respond to, perhaps even saving me the trouble. Not to be.

A thought from Julian Minchams commentary [linked via BCW, or directly at] which caught my mind immediately:
<Or, to take another example, how to depict boredom or lack of purpose without becoming tedious or pointless? Bach, in keeping the aria [BWV 166/1 (Mvt. 1)] very short (well under two minutes) was obviously attuned to the risks, but, consummate artist that he was, he goes much further in fashioning the image. The rhythms of both the instrumental lines and periodically, that of the singer, are fragmented and disjointed with rests.> (end quote)

Suzuki (1:26) [7] makes a striking contrast with Barbe [1], as well as with Gardiner (1:59, barely making the two minute standard) [6]. The timings are indicative of tempo. In addition, Suzukis articulation adds to the fragmented and disjointed writing that Julian suggests, resulting in a jaunty feeling that I find appealing, dance-like, but which may be offensive or inappropriate to some as a presentation of a Biblical citation. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as is its opposite.

The Suzuki [7] is a recent acquisition for me (part of the 10 CD box set reissues, priced around $50, including all original booklet notes), and thus a first hearing. My initial response to Suzukiís interpretation of Mvt. 1, was to recall the Richard Alpert (aka Ram Dass) saying, as an answer to Wo gehest du hin? :
<Wherever you go , there you are.>

[body note] Adopting the name Ram Dass strikes me as a rather lame attempt by Alpert to dissociate himself from his early affiliation with Richard Leary, of LSD reknown and/or infamy. I had hoped to find an earlier Hindu/Buddhist source for the saying, but one is not apparent from Google (!). Assistance would be greatly appreciated.

Before you decide too quickly to go with Gardiner [6], for Leipzig Lutheran accuracy, consider:

With regard to Mvt. 5 (alto aria) Julian notes:
<Bach, therefore, must have felt it both aesthetically and contextually entirely appropriate to place this jolly and almost pantomime-like movement before the closing chorale.>
Gardiner [6] goes even further, including this phrase: <frivolous cascades of paired semiquavers, a foil for the buffo melismas given to the alto soloist.>

Perhaps the tempos are are a bit too quick, but neither Robin Tyson with Gardiner [6] or Robin Blaze with Suzuki [7] sound even close to Lotte Wolf-Matthaus with Barbe [1], for actual singing. I f Gardiner was encouraging the buffo effect from Tyson, he succeeded; a significant edge to Robin Blaze in a one-on-one comparison.

Suzukiís presentation [7] of the closing chorale, Mvt. 6, is straightforward, with accompanied chorus. Gardiner [6] takes it as an opportunity for maximum contrast:
<I feel it lends itself to quiet a cappella treatment: after the buffonerie of the alto aria it provides [focus on the concluding chorale, almost a prayer]>. (end quote)

I condensed several sentences into the concluding bracket, all words are by Gardiner [6].

I do not have the opportunity to compare Koopman [4] at the moment, I expect he is competitive in overall performance quality. I believe Julian mentioned that there is an oboe damore obbligato alternative for Mvt. 2 included, a nice touch characteristic of the Koopman series. Further comments invited.

If you would like to have 10 Suzuki CDs [7] at a reasonable price, that is probably the best buy at the moment. In fact the first 40 volumes of Suzuki are available as four 10 CD boxes, not exactly a steal compared to download prices, but you get the fine booklet notes by Klaus Hofmann, as well as Suzukis own production comments, in a concise format your spouse may not even notice coming through the door. If you are not yet familiar with the Gardiner pilgrimage series [6], they are all fine quality and fair value, if the odd bit of buffonerie does not raise your spiritual hackles (if it does, perhaps try Rilling [2]?). Probably the most convenient way, other than the Rilling CD releases to get any particular cantata.

Sooner or later, you will want at least one version of each, if you are reading this list regularly. You might as well face up to that sooner, rather than later, and plan purchases accordingly. The most cost effective route to that end (on CD) remains the Leusink cantata series, included with the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition. 155 or 160 CDs, depending on which issue, both virtually complete, available for less than US$1/CD (a few years back, about $100 for the entire edition). We have not discussed Leusink much of late, what with all the more recent and more prestigious releases. His performances are not often (but not never!) anyones first choice, but much of the negative commentary in the BCW archives is overdone (to put it mildly!) I will make it a point in coming weeks to add comments re the Leusink recordings, in fact I will get out BWV 166 right now, and provide an addendum if appropriate.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 28, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< If you would like to have 10 Suzuki CDs [7] at a reasonable price, that is probably the best buy at >the moment. In fact the first 40 volumes of Suzuki are available as four 10 CD boxes, not >exactly a steal compared to download prices, but you get the fine booklet notes by Klaus >Hofmann, as well as Suzukis own production comments, in a concise format >
Beginning with Vol. 28, the original (and ongoing) Suzuki releases are in four channel SACD surround sound (shades of The Who -- Quadrophenia!). The limited anniversary edition, 10 CD box sets, includes this proviso with Vol. 4: <For the purpose of this collection, discs 28-40 have been produced as conventional Compact Discs, and not as Hybrid SACDs ...>

Apologies for technical difficulties, I believe the original introduction to BWV 166 went out properly, but my subsequent two posts with comments on recordings were apparently sent to myself only, at first. I hope everyone interested has seen them at least once (and not too many times more). I am not exactly clear as to how this happened, but I believe with a bit more attention to detail I can avoid recurrences, even with my ancient Apple iBook (prototype for the iPod, iPad, etc.), and interfaces and software of the same vintage.

William Hoffman wrote (November 16, 2010):
Cantata 166: Cantate Sunday, Fugitive Notes

Cantate Domino The Fourth Sunday after Easter in Bach's Leipzig is called Cantate Sunday, "Sing to the Lord," based on the day's Introit, Psalm 98:1: "O sing unto the Lord a new song; for he hath done marvelous things"

The Gospel reading is John 16: 5-15, "The Work of the Paraclete," called Holy Spirit, advocate, or intercessor. The passage is found in Jesus'12 Farewell Discourses, John's Gospel, Chapters 14-16. In the Harmony of the Gospels, it is the second section in the Passion Narrative, just after Jesus' prediction in Gethsemane of Peter's denial (<Synopsis of the Four Gospels> RSV, United Bible Societies 1982: 290-96).

Five of Jesus' 12 Farewell Discourses are the Gospel readings for the four final Sundays after Easter and Pentecost Sunday. The Sundays, service themes and cantatas are:

Jubilate [3rd Sunday after Easter, "Make a joyful noise"], John 16: 16-23, "Sorrow turned to joy" in "Christ's Farewell"; Cantatas BWV 12, BWV 103, BWV 103 (BWV 224).

Cantate [4th Sunday after Easter, "Sing"], John 16: 16-23, "The work of the paraclete"; Cantatas BWV 166, BWV 108.

Rogate [5th Sunday after Easter, "Pray"], John 16: 23-30, "Prayer in the name of Jesus" as Christ's Promise to the Disciples; Cantatas BWV 86, BWV 87.

Exaudi [Sunday after Ascension, "Hear"], John 15: 26 - 16: 4, "Spirit will come" in the "Witness of the paraclete"; Cantatas BWV 44, BWV 183

Whit Sunday [1st Day of Pentecost], John 14: 23-31 "Promise of the Paraclete" as "The Gift of Peace"; Cantatas BWV 172, BWV 59, BWV 74, BWV 34, BWV 218

In the Leipzig service and Bach's usage, certain Easter chorales were used to anticipate the succeeding Feasts of Ascension and Pentecost, as Bach had done in Epiphany chorales anticipating the three pre-Lenten Sundays. Cantata BWV 108, for the Fourth Sunday After Easter 1725 in the von Ziegler text, closes (No. 6) with Gerhardt's Pentecost chorale, "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist."

Bach's Cantate Sunday Cantatas BWV 166 and BWV 108 anticipate the related discourse theme in John 15: 26 - 16: 4, "The Work of the Paraclete," the Gospel reading for Exaudi, the Sunday After Ascension.

The Gospel references in BWV 166 are the opening bass aria (Mvt. 1), the dictum John 16:5b, "Where goest thou hither?", and John 16:7, Jesus' departure; the tenor aria Mvt. 2, "Ich will an den Himmel denken" (I will in heaven think), John 16:8-11, the fulfillment of Jesus' mission, John 16:7; and the bass recitative Mvt. 4, John 16:13, the "Holy Spirit as the truth of the things to come."

Cantata BWV 166, possibly to a text of Christian Weiss., uses the form of an opening rare double aria for bass (Vox Christi) and tenor, followed by a central four-part chorale and the bass recitative, Mvt. 4, "Gleichwie die ein Regenwasser Bald verfließen" (Even as the rainwaters soon flow away), a reference to Isaiah 55, God's Offer of Mercy, Verse 10, the dictum for Cantata BWV 18, "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt" (Even as the rain and snow fall from heaven), Sexagesima, 1715, 1724, and c.1732-35.

Cantata BWV 166 continues with, tutti Alto Aria, Mvt. 5, "Man nehme sich in acht" (Let one take care of himself) and concludes with the four-part plain chorale, Mvt. 6. Rudolstadt's 12-stanza 1688 chorale text, "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende" (Who knows how near to me is my end?), to the Neumark 1657 melody "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" (Who only lets the dear God govern). Bach later used the same opening stanza and melody in the opening chorale chorus/recitative of Cantata BWV 27 (composite text) for the 16th Sunday after Trinity in 1726 and the final stanza with the same melody, "Ich leb indes in dir vergnüget" (I live meanwhile in Thee contented) in Cantata BWV 84/5 for Septuagesima Sunday 1727, found in Picander's fourth cantata cycle text.

Bach uses the Neumark melody to its own associated seven-stanza Neumark text of 1641, often associated with the 5th Sunday after Trinity (Stiller: 229), in Cantata BWV 21/9, chorale chorus (Stanzas 2 & 5), for the 3rd Sunday after Trinity and "per ogni tempo" to a Salomo Franck text, 1714 and 1723; closing plain chorale in Cantata BWV 88/7 (Stanza 7) for the 5th Sunday after Trinity 1726 to a Rudolstadt text (Cycle 3); in Chorale Cantata BWV 93 for the 5th Sunday after Trinity 1724 and c.1732; to close c.1736-37 Wedding Cantata BWV 197, "Gott ist unsre Zuversicht" (God is our Trust), to an unknown librettist, probably with the last verse; in the A-Minor/Major free-standing four-part chorale, BWV 434, possible used in the Picander fourth cantata cycle: P 13/5 or 58/5, respectively for Trinity +15, 9/51728 or Epiphany +2, 1/16/1729; Schübler Chorale No. 3, BWV 647 (c.1748), transcription of soprano-alto duet, BWV 93/4; and in miscellaneous organ chorale preludes BWV 642, 690, and 691(a), dates unknown.

The form of Cantata BWV 166 - aria(s), chorale, recitative, aria, chorale - is Dürr's third group form (Cantatas of JSB: 27f), found in the cantatas for the 4th to the 6th Sundays After Easter in Cycle 1 (1723) and Easter Monday to the 2nd Sunday after Easter, Cycle 2 (1725), all possible by Weiss.

Textual allusions to the Cantata Sunday Epistle Reading, James 1:17-21 (Gift from above) are found in Cantatas BWV 108/4 (v.18) and BWV 108/6 (v.17) in the 1725 second cycle.

Service Music, Cantate (Fourth Sunday After Easter, BCW, Douglas Cowling):
Introit: "Cantate Domino" (LU 826)
Motet: "Cantate Domino"
Hymn de Tempore: "Christ Lag in Todesbanden" (Easter)
Pulpit Hymn: "Christ ist Erstanden" (1 3-part verse, AAB) 66/6, 276
Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing:
Herman "Erscheinen ist der Herrlichen Tag" (14 stanzas) 67/4, 145/5

For Cantate Sunday, the Fourth Sunday After Easter, remnants of as many as five cantatas survive that may have been performed by Johann Sebastian Bach:

Cantata BWV Anh. 191, "Leb ich, oder leb lich nicht" (Live I or live I not), S. Franck text only (1715); ?5/19/1715, reperform ?? 5/10/16 and ? 5/7/1724 w/BWV 166.

Cantata BWV 166, "Wo gehest du hin?" (Where goest thou?), 5/27/1724; possibly Christian Weiss text.

Cantata BWV 108, "Es ist euch gut, daß ich hingehe" (It is good for you that I go away), 4/9/1725; Mariana von Ziegler text (1728).

Johann Ludwig Bach Cantata JLB-14, "Die Weisheit kommt nicht in eine boschaft Seele (Wisdom comes not in a malicious soul), Rudolstadt text; 5/12/1726, reperformance c.1743-46.

Picander Cantata text P-34, "Ja, Ja, ich bin nun ganz Verlassen (Yes, Yes, I am now entirely forsaken), 5/28/1729; no music found.

Cantata Domino Sunday Chorale usages:

Cantata BWV 166:
Mvt. 3: Chorale. Soprano Trio, "Ich bitte dich, Herr Jesu Christ" (I pray thee, Lord Jesus Christ), Stanza 3, Ringwaldt's "Herr Jesu Christ, ich weiß gar wohl" (HJC, I know Thee quite well), to the melody "Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut" (HJC, Thou Highest Good).

I pray to thee, Lord Jesus Christ,
Hold me to these reflections
And let me never any time
From this resolve to waver,
Instead to it be ever true
Until my soul shall leave its nest
And into heaven journey.
(Z. Philipp Ambrose, BCW:

This is Bach's only use of the nine-stanza Ringwaldt 1582 chorale text. The possibly-Ringwaldt associated melody is found set to its own Ringwaldt 1588 text as Chorale Cantata BWV 113 for the 11th Sunday after Trinity 1724; Cantata BWV 168/6 for the 9th Sunday after Trinity, ?1716, 1725; four-part plain chorale BWV 334; and to a different text (S. 12, Herr Christ, ich drei zu dir) in BWV 48/7 for the 19th Sunday after Trinity 1723.

Mvt. 6. Rudolstadt, "Wer weiß, wie nahe mir mein Ende" (mel. Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten), S,6 also in BWV 84/5 Septuageisma)

Cantata BWV 108:
No. 6, Gerhardt "Gott Vater, sende deinen Geist" Pent. (S10), mel. "Kommt her zu mir," S.10; Stiller, Ascension, Dresden; Leipzig, Pentecost Sunday; "Various Hymns for Chancel, Communion & Closing"; also in BWV 74/8, Pentecost, S.2

Cantata JLB-14 (Rudolstadt: Meiningen Prince Ernst Ludwig)
No. 8 Grunwald "O du allersußeste Freude" (S.1, 5); no JSB setting.

Cantata BWV Anh. 191, "Leb ich, oder leb lich nicht" (S. Franck text 1715); 5/19/1715, reperform? 5/10/1716; text possibly set by Bach, Dürr, <Studien2> 1977: 67, 244f; Dürr, <Cantatas of JSB> p.315; Hofmann, <BJ 1993> pp. 28f. Music lost, text possibly set by Bach. Possible reperformance 5/7/1724 with BWV 166 on double bill, Christoph Wolff, "Wo bleib Bachs fünfer Kantatenjahgang?", <Bach Jahrbuch> 1982, "Kleine Beiträge," pp. 151f. Wolff suggests that certain Weimar cantatas were reperformed in 1723-24 in Leipzig as part of a partial double-bill internal (?fifth) cycle: BWV 80b, BWV 61, BWV 161, BWV 158, BWV Anh. 191, and BWV 54 (de tempore classification uncertain).

Picander's cantata printed text P-34, "Ja, Ja, ich bin nun ganz Verlassen, (Yes, Yes, I am now entirely forsaken), intended for 5/8/1729, contains no closing chorale.

Thus Bach beginning in 1724 utilizinged a wealth of non-Easter Season omnes tempore chorale texts and melodies in his later Easter Season cantatas, anticipating the coming half-year Trinity Season of omnes tempore thematic, devotional chorales.

Meanwhile, it is possible that Bach had no appropriate, readily available chorale to use as a chorale cantata for Cantate Sunday in 1725, as well as the First Sunday After Easter (Quasimodogeniti) and was limited in the possibilities for Easter and Pentecost Tuesdays as well as the Third Sunday After Easter (Jubilate).

Bach in 1725 for Cantate Sunday Cantata BWV 108 (text by Ziegler) would repeat the structural format of his 1724 Cantate Sunday Cantata, BWV 166: double aria-dictum with Vox Christi opening, choral movement in the middle and closing chorale, similar to Dürr's third cantata group form. This format would enable Bach to choose chorale verses and melodies appropriate and to the Biblical texts as well as the sermon theme and cyclical emblem of Dr. Christian Weiss, Sr. Thus Bach was able to engage a new poet with enriched texts in a variety of movements and formal structures providing both great contrast and sound repetition.


Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 166: 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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