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Cantata BWV 167
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 16, 2002

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 16, 2002):
Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (June 16, 2002), according to Francis Browne’s suggested list, is the Solo Cantata BWV 167 ‘Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe’, for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist. The librettist for this cantata is unknown. The Gospel, Luke 1: 57-80 - the circumcision of John and the prophecy of his father Zacharias - is reflected in this libretto.

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 167 - Recordings

Since this cantata was firstly performed in 1723, Bach’s first year in Leipzig, all its five complete recordings are coming from the 5 recorded cantata cycles (Rilling, Harnoncourt [2], Koopman, Suzuki, and Leusink [5]). The cantata includes two high points. The first is the duet for soprano and alto (Mvt. 3), with one of those arresting themes, which we can almost always find in most of Bach Cantatas. Sometimes the voices sing together; other times they echo one another in imitation. With the oboe da caccia the duet becomes actually a trio. The second memorable movement is the concluding chorale (Mvt. 5) with wonderful instrumentation, especially in the obbligato trumpet. Not surprising to find that there are also several recordings of this chorale, all of them adaptations for various combinations, none of them includes the choir!

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Marie Jensen wrote (June 17, 2002):
I have always loved cantata BWV 167 "Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe" for its wonderful final chorale, building a cathedral of praise and for its duet :

Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht,
Es geschieht, was er verspricht.

Last winter when we discussed cantata BWV 154, Thomas Braatz listed a number of cantatas without natural bass (BWV 154 mvt 4 / alto aria senza true b.c. 16-01-02) God / Jesus / the Word was missing - so life had no solid foundation, and music no basso continuo. Here is an example of the opposite. God’s Word does not deceive!
You can rely on it, sure as gravity! So the b.c. is hammered in, not heavily, but with musical nails, a firm rhytm to walk on, to unfold oboe ritornellos on, or singing duets!

Once I had Rilling’s version [1]. I still remember it, especially the final chorale expressing joy and dignity at the same time (He's a little slower than the rest) and of course the duet.

Now I have Leusink [5] and Koopman [3], and on some points Leusink is doing better. Koopman’s rather slow duet contradicts the wonderful message: "You can rely on God"; and in the b-piece is too fast for singers and listeners. The same can be said about the final choral.

On the other hand Koopman’s opening and recitativos are a little bit better. So no yelling at Schoch and Buwalda this time. (That is actually why I decided to write this week).

I have also listened to the BCJ [4] in the radio. If you can live with the accent in the recitativos, their version is good too. Especially the final choral with its crystal clear orchestral praise and disciplined choir.

Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht,
Es geschieht, was er verspricht.
(BWV 167)

Francis Browne wrote (June 22, 2002):
I have enjoyed listening to this week's cantata : the tenor aria, the duet and most of all the exhilirating final chorus were all worth discovering. But they leave me with a question. Why in this cantata did Bach depart from his normal practice of an opening, fugal chorus (for which the text seems suitable) and a simple closing chorale ? The obvious answer is that his choice was determined by the forces available and there was no law that said he had to follow a rigid unvarying pattern. Still, I am delighted and grateful that Bach chose to bestow this wonderful chorus on the good citizens of Leipzig and on us, but I do wish I knew what exactly led him to such generosity on this particular occasion.

[5] (I shall follow Marie's lead and not criticise Schoch this week or bemoan shortcomings in Leusink's recording, which I have enjoyed. When I first heard the tenor aria, I was most pleasantly surprised: the singing was far more expressive, less strained than usual - I thought Schoch had improved greatly. Unfortunately the singer is actually Nico van er Meel. Keep trying, Knut)

Thomas Shepherd wrote (June 22, 2002):
The Suzuki recording of BWV 167 [4] has been on in the car this week. As I act as unpaid taxi driver to three teenagers, they have to put up with my music in the car. So I was surprised to find elder daughter and son singing along to the final chorus. "Why do you like it?", I asked and got the reply from my daughter that the violin part was lovely and possible to sing as a melody. My son likes the running bass-line. He thinks Bach is clever not to emphasise the strong beats of the bar by missing them out in the bass line. They think its a short, pretty, simple and happy chorus. Their response partially explains what had been bothering me ­ why are there so many recordings of this last movement, and for different combinations of instruments? It's like the concluding chorus to each part of BWV 147, Bach understates his technical prowess in favour of a simple and immediate piece.

The third line of this extended doxology has an allusion to John the Baptist's own prophecy about himself; "'I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom's voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease." (John 3:27-30) Its a well known chorale and I wonder if, with the supporting lead from tromba, the good people of Leipzig present in church that day in 1723 sung the chorale by themselves or along with the choir?

Personally I like the long duet, Gottes Wort. A clear, simple and unambiguous statement that God's Word will never let us down in this world or the next.

Altogether the cantata is a wonderful mid-summer offering for the feast of John Baptist. It is light and airy. It stands at the time of the year for pastoral dances and hopes of fruitful harvests. To this is added the soul's genuine love and praise of the good creator of all gifts around and the hope of the promise to be fulfilled in life everlasting.

Jane Newble wrote (June 22, 2002):
Like Marie, I love this cantata, and the words and music reflect very much my experience during the past few months.

Apart from the fact that she is right about 'Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht', that we can put our complete trust in its truth, it is a wonderful duet, with superb instrumental parts.

Although I have come to love most of the Suzuki recordings [4], here I actually prefer Koopman [3], partly because of Klaus Mertens, but also because it 'feels' more solid, in line with the words.

And I always love Koopman's chorales.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 22, 2002):
BWV 167 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 167 - Provenance

Francis Browne inquired:
< Why in this cantata did Bach depart from his normal practice of an opening, fugal chorus (for which the text seems suitable) and a simple closing chorale? >
My guess would be that cantatas of this type would have been used in the second half of the service and that the 1st part very likely consisted of a cantata with an opening choral mvt. BWV 167 might then be used the 2nd part following the sermon. This might explain the feeling that this cantata seems to begin more tentatively in medias res. The strong chorale with an additional orchestral accompaniment might have provided a suitable, solid conclusion for this special religious holiday (Festtag=Feast Day.) There are quite a number of Bach cantatas that are already split up into two separate parts. In this case, simply imagine that another cantata preceded this one in the slot designated as part 1 before the sermon.

Thomas Shepherd wonders:
< Its a well known chorale and I wonder if, with the supporting lead from tromba, the good people of Leipzig present in church that day in 1723 sung the chorale by themselves or along with the choir? >
All evidence that I have come across seems to point to the fact that this was not done. One reason that seems rather apparent is that Bach’s harmonizations of the final chorale are anything but simple. You might miss much of the compositional intricacies if you were to sing along in a full voice. Bach also wrote out special embellishments even for the soprano part. Sometimes he would lengthen or shorten notes so that the melody line would not agree perfectly with the simple chorale melody that the congregation could see in the hymnals. What personally intrigues me is that Bach, on occasion, would include a special motif in one of the other (non cantus firmus) parts that relates the chorale back to the material presented somewhere in the preceding mvts. All of this effort would be lost (it is frequently lost anyhow in some of the recorded chorale renditions where all the voice parts can not be clearly heard) on the members of the congregation who should be listening carefully to the musical artistry being presented for their benefit and to glorify God. This is definitely not a “Sing-a-long” situation.

Marie Jensen wrote (June 22, 2002):
Francis Browne wrote:
< (snip)
( I shall follow Marie's lead and not criticise Schoch this week or bemoan shortcomings in Leusink's recording, which I have enjoyed. When I first heard the tenor aria, I was most pleasantly surprised : the singing was far more expressive, less strained than usual - I thought Schoch had improved greatly. Unfortunately the singer is actually Nico van er Meel. Keep trying, Knut) >
Thank you for correcting me . The tenor is Nico van der Meel.

Aryeh Oron wrote (June 22, 2002):
Like a major part of the human race I was extremely busy this week watching the games in the Mondial. Most of my free hours at home were dedicated to this time-consuming hobby. I had to listen to the five recordings of Cantata BWV 167 in my car. Fortunately, I have had many driving hours this week and it allowed me to feel the gap. I was also happy to see that at least five members of the BCML have sent their reviews of this cantata before I have finished mine. I have avoided reading them because I wanted my mind to stay free of prejudices. I intend to read them afterwards.

The Recordings

During last week I have been listening to the following complete recordings of this cantata.

[1] Rilling (1974)
[2] Harnoncourt (1987)
[3] Koopman (1998)
[4] Suzuki (1998)
[5] Leusink (1999)

Background

The background below is taken from the following sources:
Alec Robertson: ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972)
W. Murray Young: ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide’ (1989)
The English translations are by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

I chose to review the recordings of Mvts. 1, 3, & 5 only, and therefore I avoided quoting the relevant parts of the remaining two movements.

Mvt. 1 Aria for Tenor
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
(You people, sing the praises of God's love)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Robertson: The main melody of the aria is in one of Bach’s flowing 12/8 measures but it does not seem to me that he had the Jordan in mind [as in Cantata BWV 7 for the same event, A.O.], as he has been suggested, in choosing this rhythm, but rather wanted to express heartfelt gratitude for God’s love – as the text goes on to say – that Zacharias’ prophecy was to be fulfilled.
Young: The undulating siciliano rhythm of the strings seems to suggest the tenor’s joy in knowing that Christ would soon be born. It is easy to imagine the tenor in the role of John, speaking to the people to announce the coming of the Lord and encouraging them to praise God for that. The joy-motif appears throughout the aria and its dancing, pastoral tone may have some connection with the music surroundings where John worked for the Lord. Note the artistic effect of his runs on ‘preiset’ (extol).

[1] Rilling starts the instrumental ritornello with full force and Adalbert Kraus enters with lot of expression and enthusiasm, as if saying, ‘I am glad that I am here, and I want everybody to know it’.
[2] The fragmentary accompaniment he is getting from Harnoncourt does not prevent Equiluz from giving an exemplary rendition of the aria for tenor. Had he got a more flowing and cheerful accompaniment, this would be a hard to match rendition.
[3] Koopman’s supplies Jörg Dürmüller with sensitive and tender accompaniment and the singer sings with delicate expression, full of nuances.
[4] The tempo Suzuki is setting in the opening ritornello sounds right and Türk sing with ‘heartfelt gratitude for God’s love’. The softness of his singing combines both sensitivity and joy.
[5] The accompaniment is better than the singing in the Leusink’s rendition of the aria for tenor. Nico van der Meel sings everything right, but his singing lacks interest and no real joy is reflected from it.

Personal preferences: Kraus/Rilling = Dürmüller/Koopman = Türk/Suzuki, Equiluz/Harnoncourt, Meel/Leusink

Mvt. 2 Recitative for Alto
Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel,
(Praised be the Lord God of Israel)
Continuo

Mvt. 3 Aria (Duet) for Soprano and Alto
Gottes Wort, das trüget nicht
(God's word does not deceive)
Oboe da caccia, Continuo
Robertson: At the start and the five repetitions of ‘Gottes Wort’ (God’s word), the voices are always together and elsewhere echo one another in imitational phrases. The tempo changes from 3 / 4 to 4/4 at the middle section. The ‘viel hundert Jahren’ (many hundreds of years) are illustrated in six-bar florid vocal phrases and in the middle section, the fulfilment of the promise in similar style.
Young: Supported by oboe da caccia and continuo, they affirm that God always keeps His promises. They sing the first line simultaneously, then in canon for the rest. The joy-motif is apparent everywhere in this duet.

[1] The soprano Kathrin Graf and the alto Helrun Gardow are satisfactory in their singing of the duet, but I have to admit that I have heard better couples in Rilling cycle of the Bach Cantatas. The match between the voices is not the best, and the vibrato is clearly heard and causes the singing in both the unison and the canon parts to sound unclean. The joy is there, especially in the accompaniments, but after hearing other renditions, this is not the one to which I want to return.
[2] Harnoncourt’s idea of using two boys – soprano and alto – for the duet is an interesting one. But the results are not so satisfactory. Both have problems to stay in tune, to sing together and to follow one another. You feel as if the are walking on a thin ice, which might be broken under their legs every second. Forget about expressing joy and ‘florid vocal phrases’. None of the participants is able to convey them here.
[3] The voices of the soprano Dorothea Röschmann and the alto Bogna Bartosz match nicely and the whole rendition under Koopman’s capable hands is full of charm. The second part (the canon) is bethan the first, with more spontaneity from the singers. However, some energy and more overt joy are somehow missing.
[4] The combination of the voices of Suzuki and Blaze is simply irresistible. Their voices blend wonderfully together initially and then they are chasing one another as two voices of the same persona. The oboe da caccia player meshes perfectly and indeed sounds as a third voice in a trio.
[5] The balance between Holton and Buwalda is not so good in Leusink’s rendition. They sound like strangers who have incidentally met. She is pushing ahead; he is lagging behind. I hear no sheer joy in this rendition; only the efforts of a group of performers trying unsuccessfully to do something together.

Personal preferences: Suzuki & Blaze/Suzuki, Röschmann & Bartosz/Koopman, Graf & Gardow/Rilling, Boy soprano & alto / Harnoncourt = Holton & Buwalda/Leusink

Mvt. 4 Recitative for Bass
Des Weibes Samen kam
(The woman's seed came)
Continuo

Mvt. 5 Chorale
Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren
(Praise and glory with honour be)
Clarino, Oboe, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo
Verse V of Johann Graumann’s hymn ‘Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren’ ((Now praise, My Soul, the Lord) (1540).
Robertson: A joyous setting of verse V of Johann Graumann’s hymn – a version of Psalm CIII – to its associated melody.
Young: This is the high point and also the best movement in this cantata. Bach treats this extended chorale with wonderful instrumentation, especially in the obbligato trumpet. This is a magnificent hymn of joyous thanksgiving and trust in God. The orchestral ostinato dance-like theme at the beginning and after each pair of lines must signify for Bach a perfect picture of heavenly bliss.

[1] Rilling approaches the concluding chorale with full force and overt joy. It indeed sounds magnificent and full of gratitude. But I believe that it would have been improved with more tenderness and delicacy.
[2] The choir is satisfactory in Harnoncourt’s concluding chorale and the needed energy is also there. But the atmosphere sounds forced, as if nobody really feels cheerful.
[3] The delicacy and tenderness, which I have missed in Rilling’s rendition, are fully evident in Koopman’s. On the other hand he does not let the joy to appear intensified.
[4] With Suzuki everything falls into its place in the concluding chorale. The balance between the voices and the instruments is perfect, the trumpet playing is superb, and most important – the atmosphere is full of glory and joy.
[5] The concluding chorale is the best part of Leusink’s recording. The choir sings with enthusiasm, the instruments keeps the joyous atmosphere and the trumpet glows. Although this rendition is far from being polished, there is still a lot to enjoy from.

Personal preference: Suzuki, Koopman, Rilling = Leusink, Harnoncourt

Conclusion

Personal preference of the overall performance: Suzuki [4], Koopman [3], Rilling [1], Leusink [5], Harnoncourt [2]

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

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 23, 2002):
Thinking about Thos. Shepherd’s comments on the final chorus of BWV 167 which point out its similarity to the final chorale in BWV 147 (“Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben”) where he stated: “It's like the concluding chorus to each part of BWV 147, Bach understates his technical prowess in favour of a simple and immediate piece,” helped me to make a connection I had never considered before: Bach’s composition and performance of both pieces took place within approximately one week’s time: June 23 and July 2 of the same year, 1723 in Leipzig! This is truly remarkable.

Regarding Francis Browne’s inquiry about the rather unusual form of BWV 167 as it lacks a solid introductory choral mvt., a number of commentators have ascribed this ‘deficiency’ to Bach’s lack of time in preparing sufficient new musical material for his new position in Leipzig. Whereas this observation could possibly offer an explanation for this lack or diversion from Bach’s usual overall cantata form, it could also be feasible to consider that the Leipzig churches demanded a different arrangement of cantatas (before and after the sermon), an arrangement not required by the courtly church in Weimar. For this Bach may have quickly supplied already existing music (score and parts) which he had brought along with him from Weimar. Some of these cantatas could have been of the “in ogni tempi” type applicable generally to any Sunday or special church holiday, or even a cantata by another composer which the church library possessed.

Eric Chafe, famous for his ‘katabasis – anabasis’ [these fancy Greek terms simply mean a going-downward or upward] theory which assigns meaning to Bach’s sequence of keys (key signatures) as he moves from mvt. to mvt. in a given cantata, has an interesting account for BWV 167 in his expensive book, “Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach.” Here is the pertinent paragraph:

“The pattern of descent/ascent need not emphasize only the negative side of the world. Cantata 167, “Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe,” for the feast of John the Baptist (1723), follows a downward curve from G major (opening aria) through E minor (rec. and arioso) to A minor, then back up to G major (rec. and chorale) to represent the coming of Christ as the fulfillment of God’s promise, the way having been prepared by John the Baptist, the last of the prophets. Even the first recitative presents this idea with a descent from E minor through A minor (“der sich in Gnaden zu uns wendet”) to D minor (“und seinen Sohn vom hohen Himmelsthron zum Welterlöser sendet”). The return to E minor mirrors the recounting of Jesus’ act of redemption: “hierauf kam Jesus selber an, die armen Menschenkinder und die verlor’nen Sünder [rec.] mit Gnad’ und Liebe zu erfreu’n und sie zum Himmelreich in wahrer Buss’ zu leiten [arioso].” The central A minor duet expresses simply the fulfillment of God’s promise on earth (“Was er in dem Paradies und vor so viel hundert Jahren denen Vätern schon verhiess, haben wir Gottlob! erfahren”), and the return ascent in the following recitative leads to a hymn of praise and thanks to God.”

Schweitzer detects in BWV 167 the felicity motive which “is prompted by the idea of quiet, gently-flowing waves.” In the final arioso section of the 1st alto recitative, this appears as an accompaniment in the bc to the words, “Mit Gnad’ und Liebe zu erfreuen.”

The mainly string accompaniment figure to the final chorale Schweitzer designates as a joy motif.

In the aria-duet (mvt. 3), the words being sung are expressed in the bc “by a “step” motif that symbolizes the steadfastness of God’s pledge, and by a “joy” motif [the middle section in ¾ time] that answers to the “God be praised” for the fulfilling of the promise.”

Philippe Bareille wrote (June 23, 2002):
Like Bach cantatas football can become addictive !

I have 2 versions of this marvellous cantata: Suzuki [4] and Harnoncourt [2]. I believe the latter has the edge thanks to Panito Iconomou who is [to my ears] an outstanding alto. He is technically flawless and offers notably an endearing account of the recitative "Gelobet sei der Herr Gott Israel" . He has an innate sense of the melodic frame and nuance of this demanding music. The "ideal" alto voice suited to Bach music is probably the voice of children even if many may demur; it is certainly what the cantor had in mind when he composed his cantatas. But it is obviously a rare gift as there are vfew good boy alto. Iconomou is one of those. As far as I am concerned, counter-tenors were not used by Bach. Robin Blaze in Suzuki's recording sounds flat compared to Iconomou. He cannot realise the full expressive potential of the music. Equiluz is excellent as usual but I agree that Suzuki intrumental playing sounds more playful more lively and less abrupt.

NB: Having said that, I shall confess that for me a great woman alto is the most satisfying choice but good women alto are also exceptional in this repertoire. My favourite is the incomparable Aafje Heynis. I remember listening to a distinctive recording of the BWV 169/BWV 170. Has it been re-issued on CD?

Jane Newble wrote (June 24, 2002):
Philippe Bareille wrote:
< NB: Having said that, I shall confess that for me a great woman alto is the most satisfying choice but good women alto are also exceptional in this repertoire. My favourite is the incomparable Aafje Heynis. I remember listening to a distinctive recording of the BWV 169/BWV 170. Has it been re-issued on CD? >
My favourite is also Aafje Heynis, and I have got her CD with BWV 169/BWV 170. It also has "Schlafe, mein Liebster' from BWV 248, and 'Agnus Dei' from BWV 232 on it.
It is Philips 438 772-2.
I love listening to it.

Michael Grover wrote (June 24, 2002):
Thomas Shepherd wrote:
[4] < The Suzuki recording of BWV167 has been on in the car this week. As I act as unpaid taxi driver to three teenagers, they have to put up with my music in the car. So I was surprised to find elder daughter and son singing along to the final chorus. "Why do you like it?", I asked and got the reply from my daughter that the violin part was lovely and possible to sing as a melody. My son likes the running bass-line. He thinks Bach is clever not to emphasise the strong beats of the bar by missing them out in the bass line. They think its a short, pretty, simple and happy chorus. >
You have teenagers that not only LIKE Bach, but they SING ALONG IN THE CAR??????? In GERMAN???????

There may be hope for the human race yet.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 24, 2002):
BWV 167 - The Recordings:

During last week I have been listening to the following complete recordings of this cantata.

[1] Rilling (1974)
[2] Harnoncourt (1987)
[3] Koopman (1998)
[4] Suzuki (1998)
[5] Leusink (1999)

Realizing that many list members who read the remarks of others who contribute their opinions on the designated weekly cantata have varying degrees of experience in listening to and assessing the quality of performance, I find it very difficult to adjust my focus properly so that my criticisms will not overwhelm a listener who is just making a first acquaintance with these marvelous compositions. As much as I try to recall my first listening experiences in this regard, experiences in which, in retrospect, the impression of the music itself was more important than the actual quality of performance, I now find myself amazed at my lack of critical evaluation of the performance when I first encountered this music. Is it a blissful lack of criticism that allows for an immensely enjoyable direct experience of the music devoid of any prejudgment that arises from a comparison of different renditions of the same work? Were the musicians that I heard back then simply better than anything that I can hear today? Were they perhaps better because they did not feel obligated to perform and record all sacred cantatas in one or two years? Is there any way to compare a lifetime of Bach cantata listening before the general availability of recordings, a lifetime that would allow an individual to perhaps hear no more than one or two dozen cantatas in live performances? How does such an experience compare with that of a present-day listener who could fairly easily hear four or five different recordings of the same cantata side by side? Or listen to them as background music for some other activity in which the listener is engaged? Does the apparent wealth of recorded cantatas make it easier for us to distinguish true quality, or do we eventually become so excessively critical desiring ever greater perfection that none of the available recordings can satisfy us? A German proverb comes to mind: “Wer die Wahl hat, hat die Qual.” [„Whoever is faced with making a choice between many options, is also faced with the agony of making a proper choice.“]

Putting all these musings aside, I will nevertheless attempt to document my impressions and criticisms of this cantata. One factor that has become very important in my listening experience is the degree to which the conductor, singers, and instrumentalists are faithful to Bach’s music. This “Werktreue” [faithfulness to the composer’s work itself] has been a bone of contention which determines how you will hear Bach’s music performed today. This word means different things to different people. Harnoncourt has personally defined this not to mean “Buchstabentreue” [faithfulness to the printed musical notation] except when it suits him to follow Bach’s indications. In essence Harnoncourt is saying, “Remaining faithful to the spelling of words is not as important as creatively, expressively ‘playing around with’ and changing the spellings of words that Bach correctly spelled out for his musicians.” For Harnoncourt it does not matter whether Bach’s word, “collar” is spelled as “dollar” by Harnoncourt because it does rhyme and does sound similar. The fact, however, is that these words have different meanings. Harnoncourt’s answer to this is that, as a ‘true’ artist, he has a direct pipeline to Bach’s genius and that Bach would spell the word differently today, if he were here with us. Harnoncourt’s pretense to be interested in the actual ‘spelling’ of Bach’s words is severely tempered by the artistic license that Harnoncourt claims for himself as a living advocate of Bach’s music. Actually Harnoncourt claims that there is no such thing as an authentic performance of Bach’s music, and that the only thing that can be considered ‘authentic’ is the performer’s own interpretation of such a work.

Is there validity to the argument that simply playing slavishly every jot or tittle will automatically [‘Buchstabentreue’ taken to its extreme] produce a good performance of a work? No! But somewhere between these two extremes (Harnoncourt’s interpretation of ‘Werktreue” and deadly “Buchstabentreue” which does nothing but mechanically and correctly reproduce everything that Bach had notated) there exists a happy medium that should serve us well in hearing what Bach had intended for us to hear.

Now back to Mvt. 1 of BWV 167:

[2] Harnoncourt’s recording illustrates my point. If you listen carefully and have before you the NBA printed version of this cantata based on the most recent research and careful inspection of all available sources along with intelligent comparison with other cantatas where Bach has similar passages, you will discover that Harnoncourt departs from Bach’s articulation marks (Harnoncourt had at least 5 years to consult the NBA version – his recording was made in 1987 and the NBA was published in 1982.) In those measures (9-10; 22-23; 37-38; 43-44; 57-58; 69-70) where the 1st violin has legato phrase markings over the triplet groupings of eighth notes, Harnoncourt insists on changing them to a staccato treatment. In Harnoncourt’s defense, he at least follows the dynamic markings carefully in this mvt. and he manages to control the string orchestra sufficiently from overwhelming Equiluz’ voice. Whether the delicate treatment, as listenable as it may be here, by both artists is appropriate here is truly open to question in this instance. Intimate, delicate, very subdued praise with Equiluz singing? How does this fit the text? I find Har’s tempo to be suitable even though it is at the extreme end of a range of tempi:

Mvt. 1:
[3] Koopman 4:16
[1] Rilling 4:29
[4] Suzuki 4:41
[5] Leusink 4:49
[2] Harnoncourt 5:44

[2] Only a great artist such as Equiluz would be able to fill out this expansive mvt. with such emotional yearning for praise which is utterly restrained and unable to fulfill its own longing for fullness. While Harnoncourt’s tempo allows for a gentle, comforting sweetness to be expressed, Equiluz almost does a vocal disappearing act as he sings some passages sotto voce. This may be fine for a recording, but would not project Bach’s message (which message here?) to a large congregation very well. This is an intimate chamber music performance. Sometimes, on an irregular basis, Harnoncourt has the strings play the triplet eighth-note figures not as indicated (each triplet group with a legato phrase mark extending over each group of three), but rather as a stronger accent on the first note which is tied to the second after which a slight separation or pause occurs before the third note is played as a light staccato, unaccented. This DUH-ah-dot pattern is inconsistently applied as he sometimes prefers the legato treatment (as indicated in the score) over this pattern.

[3] To see how a very fast version holds up, let’s examine Koopman’s version of mvt. 1 which is a minute and a half faster than Harnoncourt’s. Koopman generally follows Harnoncourt’s example, changing the same legato triplet eighth-note patterns to staccato, although here at this fast tempo, the staccato effect is less pronounced and begins to sound more like a portato (the separation between notes is apparent, but not as noticeable as a true staccato would be.) In contrast to Harnoncourt, Koopman already begins using the staccato treatment as early as ms. 3 and 4. This generally leads me to perceive Koopman’s versions as being lite-entertainment rather than serious-listening type music. Dürmüller does sound rushed at times and does not provide much in the way of expression when he tries to fit in all of the words (this always gives me the impression that Koopman is not really seriously interested in the words, but rather prefers to create a version for easy-listening, or as background music.) Koopman makes very little distinction between the ‘p’ and ‘f’ dynamic markings.

[4] Suzuki’s version is only a full minute faster than Harnoncourt’s. Now let’s see what he does with Türk as soloist. Suzuki is not a simply copy of Harnoncourt or Koopman. In the passages noted above, Suzuki correctly phrases them according to the NBA score, but in a few other places he indulges in deviating from the pattern: the Duh-ah-dot pattern emerges for just a few moments and rears its ugly head. At times the bc becomes only slightly obtrusive with an occasional ‘chug-chug-chug’ sound for the triplet figures. The dynamics are meticulously observed. The soloist, Türk, has much better expression than Dürmüller and the voice is reasonably strong (stronger than Equiluz who was almost reticent in comparison) and convincing. Here a message, rather than simply the notes, is being conveyed.

[5] Leusink’s tempo is about the same as Suzuki’s, but here the comparison ends. Leusink adopts as a mechanized rule, the figure used only occasionally by all the preceding HIP artists, a phrasing not indicated in Bach’s score. The monster that had only reared its head on occasion in the previous recordings has taken over completely emphasizing and accenting very strongly the initial note in each triplet figure and then allowing the subsequent two eighth notes almost to disappear in an exaggerated fast waltz rhythm: “WHOMP-dit-dit” This soon begins to sound rather silly and has no place in a Bach cantata. The effort exerted in providing these strong accents makes this version sound rather punchy. Leusink has taken the idea of a dance to an extreme here. Actually, this is the way I would have expected Harnoncourt’s version to sound, but Harnoncourt surprised me this time (if anything, ‘genius’ of Harnoncourt’s type is “unberechenbar” [unreliable-you never know what to expect]) It seems that Leusink filled in the missing gap so that we might all know what Harnoncourt would usually sound like.

[1] With Rilling you can clearly hear the major watershed between non-HIP and HIP performances. What is so different here? For one thing, the orchestral forces are not pared down to a single instrument for each part. This extended orchestral apparatus (what we would normally call a string orchestra) enhances the ability to create a lush, shimmering violin sound that we are used to hearing from major symphony orchestras. These non-period instruments are louder and tuned a half-step higher than those in HIP orchestras. This makes for a brighter sound, and it is easier to create the very sound that Harnoncourt and his followers abhor because it reminds them too much of the late romantic orchestral performance traditions. You can almost hear Harnoncourt and others saying, “Echhh! Much too much legato!” I personally find Rilling’s treatment very satisfying, much better that all the light ‘pussy-footing’ of some of the HIP performances that lack true substance. With greater string resources at his disposal (imagine also a string bass or two in the bc), Rilling tends to allow the bc to become to loud, but not here in this mvt. He observes the dynamics and the articulation marks, which help to give the sustained support needed for this message of promise. Kraus, the tenor soloist, is, however, on the verge of overdoing his part by forcing his voice and using too much vibrato, but his delivery of the text is joyful, forceful, and convincing as well it should be if you judge this mvt. by the text that he is singing. Had Schreier sung this aria with Rilling, we would have had a version that would leave all the others behind in the dust.

Leusink gives us the worst of the HIP performances, even outdoing Harnoncourt, where the latter still manages to restrain his instrumental forces from going overboard. Add to this the uninspired singing of van der Meel with his tendency to sing with a nasal quality and you have a performance at the bottom of the list. Between Türk (Suzuki) and Dürmüller (Koopman), Türk wins out without question. Despite his inability to follow Bach’s explicit instructions, Harnoncourt still provides a very sensitive accompaniment to Equiluz’ almost too sensitive and reticent rendition of the text. There is, however, in Equiluz’ voice and expression a quality that transcends the others as long as he does not have to force his voice. Kraus (Rilling) is overpowering and seems almost to lose control of his voice. When Kraus begins sing in his “recitative voice” as he sometimes does in this aria, it is time to turn down the volume and head for another room.

If I find time, I want to say a few things about “das Horn des Heils” [“the horn of salvation/deliverance”] which to my dismay (and Bach would probably deplore the loss of this word as well) has been removed from the modern Bible versions, including the updated Luther translation. Would you believe: “die Macht des Heils, der starke Retter, saving power, mighty savior?“ Did you know that the word „Horn“ occurs only once in all of Bach’s cantata texts? Do you think that Bach would allow such an opportunity as this (to relate this word to a musical instrument) slip by unnoticed?

Thomas Shepherd wrote (June 24, 2002):
BWV 167 - In-Car Bach

[To Michael Grover] You replied to an earlier message
< You have teenagers that not only LIKE Bach, but they SING ALONG IN THE CAR??????? In GERMAN??????? There may be hope for the human race yet. >
Thank you for the enjoyable enquiry!

There is nothing quite like the opportunity to talk about one's children!

So here is sabout their encounter with Bach.

Elder Daughter: Sung, Passiontide 2001, with [England] Manchester Cathedral Cantata Choir/ Northern Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Stokes – Matthew Passion in English, and Passiontide 2002 - John Passion in German. Thought the experience of both was fantastic, although she said much the same when she sung in Monteverdi's Vespers!. As part of "A" level music (U.K. pre-University entry exams) did as an individual project a comparison between Bruckner's Magnificat and Bach's BWV 243.

Son: Sung with Manchester Cathedral Statutory Choir Passiontide 2000 and 2001in the ripieno section of mvt.1 and chorales of Matthew Passion with Cantata Choir/ Northern Chamber Orchestra/Christopher Stokes. As a chorister sung other bits and pieces of Bach. Now as a tenor in Cheethams School of Music Chamber Choir he has sung BWV 229, Komm, Jesu Komm, and BWV 227 Jesu, mein Freude

Younger Daughter: has sung THAT chorale from BWV 147 at several weddings as a
member of the church choir, and plays simple Bach on the violin.

They are all very lucky to have had this sort of rich experience at such a young age but before you think that Bach is their only passion (Oh fond wish!) they all like other 'classical' music, ancient and modern and we have to put up with all sorts of teen stuff from both sides of the Atlantic. They think it's cool, I think its crass. A generation thing perhaps??!!

They never got to singing in German for BWV 167 ­ it was more do-be-do-be-do to the violin part of the final chorus and pum-pum-pum to the continuo!

As for hope for the human race, Deo volente.

Regards (as a proud father!)

Dick Wursten wrote (June 25, 2002):
Too late, but still a few remarks regarding Francis Browne’s question about the rather unusual form of BWV 167. Thomas Braatz offered two possible answers:
"a number of commentators have ascribed this ‘deficiency’ to Bach’s lack of time in preparing sufficient new musical material for his new position in Leipzig."

His own guess is "that cantatas of this type would have been used in the second half of the service and that the 1st part very likely consisted of a cantata with an opening choral mvt. BWV 167 might then be used as the 2nd part following the sermon. This might explain the feeling that this cantata seems to begin more tentatively in medias res"

At 1st sight both arguments sound plausible, but are they as plausible at 2nd sight?: Judge for yourselves:

1723: Bach starts his cantata-activity with a series of 2-part-cantatas (principle explained by Thomas Braatz). Very ambitious.

30/5: BWV 75 2-part (die Elenden sollen essen): NEW
06/6: BWV 76 2-part (Die Himmel erzahlenl): NEW
13/6: BWV 21 2-part (Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis): already made

- speculative interjection: Bach already felt it was not going to work, he slowed down his project and after one re-creation of older work he tries it with two different cantates: composing one new, re-creating an other:

20/6 BWV 24 (Ungefarbt Gemute) NEW & BWV 185 (Barmherziges Herze) ready made
02/7 BWV 147 (Herz und Mund...) 2 part; ready made but changed
09/7 BWV 186 (Argre dich nicht) 2 part; ready made

The next question is crucial: Did Bach give up using 2-part-cantatas or two cantatas ? BECAUSE the rest of 1723 only once the 2-cantata-principle reappears (again one new, one already made) and once a 2-part-cantate: at the end of the church-year (special occasion: BWV 70 (being also already made but re-arranged).

OR is an immense part of Bach’s second cantatas lost. IMHO Bach slowed down his project, only incidentally using the two-part or two cantates principle.

The idea that the cantata BWV 167 is perhaps used as a 2nd cantata is possible (I find this the best guess about the rahter unusual form). esp. because at that time (24/6) Bach is stil sticking to the 2-part or 2-cantata principle.

The argument "lack of time" seems very plausible, because St John’s feast (if this cantata IS for this feast, as Dürr supposes) was an extra-holy day, so no holiday for Bach (in between two norma sundayservices). But the argument becomes less convincing when you look at the sunday before and after: Both sundays Bach use a lot of old material. (See above)

By the way 1: the scheme is derived from Chr. Wolffs biography of Bach.
By the way 2: wonderful cantata, indeed.

 

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 25, 2002):
BWV 167 Mvt. 1

“das Horn des Heils”

The unknown librettist included this phrase taken from the Gospel reading for „Johanni“ that is derived from Luke 1. In Luke 1: 69 we find in the original Luther translation of the Bible “und hat uns aufgerichtet ein Horn des Heils in dem Hause seines Dieners David,” for which the KJV has „and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.” These translations are based on the Greek which uses “keras” and Latin Vulgate which has “cornu,” however modern German (revised Luther) and English Bible translations have instead of ‘horn’ “saving power, mighty savior.” Have we lost the ability to think symbolically, metaphorically?

In the single occurrence of this word “Horn” in all of Bach’s cantata texts, (ms. 37 of mvt. 1 of BWV 167), Bach, in his usual penchant for punning, latches onto the meaning of “Horn” as a musical instrument and illustrates this instrument without actually using it in performance (only the Clarino appears in the final mvt. to lend support to the cantus firmus.) Bach, however uses other ways to characterize the horn so that we know that he is consciously making this connection. He uses upward-leaping intervals separated by rests in the voice and a repeated triplet note figure in the accompanying string parts (2nd violin and viola.) When Equiluz sings “das Horn” he lands on the high note of the two note phrase with a vibratoless, horn-like sound that reminds me of a humorously sung, story-like presentation of a Mozart horn concerto mvt. by Flanders and Swann. When the soloist sings the word ‘horn,’ he creates a sound that truly sounds like a horn. It is amazing how close to a horn sound the human male voice can sound. The other horn imitation that Bach provides is just a bit more subtle: repeated eighth notes in a triplet figure containing only the same note. Check out the numerous figures of this type in the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 (BWV 1046) Mvt. 1: ms. 2-3; 8-10; 27; 29-32; 73-74; 79-81; 83-84; Mvt. 3 ms. 4, 8-17; 27-30; and Mvt. 4 where many such patterns occur. Haven’t you ever wondered why, in a cut time mvt. (mvt. 1) Bach has the Corni di Caccia play 3 against 2 or 3 against 4? These horns are downright recalcitrant! But a little later (ms. 27, 29-32) they finally give in to play a series of 16th notes (again at the same pitch) so that they do not stick out like a sore thumb. They seem to prove that they are capable of learning and adjusting to their musical environment. In mvt. 2 ms. 27-10 the horns are playing slow triplet figures along with the strings. Again, they seem to be stuck on a single note just as the strings in ms. 37 of mvt. 1 of BWV 167 are.

Is the use of horns in the Brandenburg Concerto No. 1 a fluke? As a Sinfonia to BWV 174, Bach expanded his Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 for strings to include 3 new ‘ripieno’ parts (oboes and strings) and 2 new Corni di caccia parts, Bach uses the typical triplet figure in ms. 10-11, 17-18, 23-28, 35-36, 55-56, 97-99, 115-121 and for good measure he throws in a series of repeated 16th notes in ms. 15, 37, 134-135. I am certain, I would find similar results in BWV 208, BWV 213, BWV 248, BWV 14, BWV 16, BWV 107, BWV 109, BWV 232/11 (ms. 28, 30, 72-74, 90-91, 109-111). these cantatas for corni di caccia we still have not scratched the surface of all those cantatas that have simply “corno” [whatever that can mean] parts indicated.

A question for the theologians: Just what does ‘keras’ [‘horn’] mean in the Bible: a trumpet? A trumpet made of rams’ horn? A horn containing oil for anointing? The horn as the instrument of the oxen’s strength symbolizing power? The horn as a peak or summit of a hill? The horn as an emblem of power, strength, honor, dominion, glory or fierceness? Could the horn be a cornucopia? The horn as a symbol of royal dignity and power?

Michael Marissen in his book, “The Social and Religious Designs of J.S. Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos,” (pp. 22 ff.) states the following:

”The participation of two ‘Corni di caccia’ (hunting horns) in a concerto grosso must have seemed unusual to early eighteenth-century audiences, for in the 1710’s and 1720’s the hunting horn was by no means a standard member of instrumental ensembles with strings. Furthermore, there are no known German precedents for the participation of horns in a concerto.

The horn first achieved stature in connection with the mounted hunt. The size and grandeur of a nobleman’s hunt became a symbol of his wealth and social status, for the expenses associated with the hunt were enormous. He had to purchase and maintain a respectable number of horses and hounds, weapons, musical instruments (one could live for a year on the price of a horn!), uniforms, and so on. Large amounts of money were paid to individuals who could play the horn as well as ride and shoot….

The sound of the horn was therefore able to excite deep feelings in the aristocracy, in whose minds it symbolized the very essence of nobility.”

Marissen thinks that Bach quoted the hunting calls in the 1st Brandenburg Concerto.

“In the ritornello, the horns clash rather strongly with the rest of the ensemble, by means of three-against-four rhythms and conflicting harmonies. (Apparently disturbed by these conflicts, many conductors today instruct their horn players to perform the ritornello as quietly as possible.)” While the rest of the orchestra behaves properly “by the very calling up of their traditional, aristocratic associations, the horns disrupt the surface order of Bach’s otherwise complete, double-choir ritornello. And, in spite of their striking presence, the horn parts could be removed from the ritornello without affecting its formal coherence or contrapuntal integrity.” Just as Bach was able to add them back in as seen in the Sinfonia of BWV 174, as I pointed out above. Marissen seems to think that these hunting horn players had great skill in playing as well as shooting. I do not see evidence of this in Bach’s hunting horn parts which are very much reduced to utter simplicity as if to display their limited abilities. It sounds almost like Mozart’s Musical Joke, when Bach has them play 3 against 4 or 3 against 2. It is as though they have not yet truly mastered playing music from the printed page, while they might be reasonably good as long as they play by ear the hunting licks that they have learned and mastered. When Marissen states, “the horns reach their greatest prominence contrapuntally only when, at the end of the process, they adopt a style utterly unidiomatic to the instrument. (As if in recognition of having gone too far, Bach closes this episode with more conventional clarion-style writing.” Marissen speaks of ‘bridging the social distance between the horns and the rest of the ensemble.” I personally think that Bach tames the raucous, outdoorsy nature which makes its independence from the rest of the orchestral ensemble apparent throughout most of the mvt. but then shows that they begin to learn how to adjust to the demands of the entire group when the repeated 16th note patterns appear. Here these instruments have merged completely with the group. The flamboyant individualists have now learned to sublimate their customary urges (repeated note triplet figures even when everyone else is playing in strict cut time) by joining along harmoniously and rhythmically with the rest of the group.

Handel Next wrote (June 25, 2002):
[Regading the topic of ‘In-Car Bach’] Has anyone ever wondered if there are any such youths that access this site? well, you're reading one of his posts right now. I'm 17 and I have to say that the 200 sacred dramas of J.S. Bach are among the finest art known to man, and as a burgeoning composer of neo-baroque (yes, I invented that) style, I dream of sounding like that!

Andrew Oliver wrote (June 25, 2002):
Tom Braatz wrote:
"A question for the theologians: Just what does 'keras' ['horn'] mean in the Bible: a trumpet? A trumpet made of rams' horn? A horn containing oil for anointing? The horn as the instrument of the oxen's strength symbolizing power? The horn as a peak or summit of a hill? The horn as an emblem of power, strength, honor, dominion, glory or fierceness? Could the horn be a cornucopia? The horn as a symbol of royal dignity and power? "

Just a few comments on Luke 1:69 from three sources :

69. horn of salvation--that is "strength of salvation, " or "mighty Salvation, " meaning the Saviour Himself, whom Simeon calls "Thy Salvation" (#Lu 2:30). The metaphor is taken from those animals whose strength is in their horns (#Ps 18:2 75:10 132:17).

{Horn of salvation. A common metaphor in the O.T. (#1Sa 2:10; 2Sa 23:3, etc.). It represents strength like the horns of bulls. Cf. #Ps 132:17.

1:69 And hath raised up an {i} horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;

(i) This word "horn", in the Hebrew language, signifies strength, and it is a metaphor taken from beasts that fight with their horns: And by raising up the might of Israel is meant that the kingdom of Israel was defended, and the enemies of it laid on the ground, even then when the strength of Israel seemed to be utterly gone.

Dick Wursten wrote (June 25, 2002):
BWV 167 – Horn des Heils

< Thomas Braatz asks: A question for the theologians: Just what does ‘keras’ [‘horn’] mean in the Bible: a trumpet? A trumpet made of rams’ horn? A horn containing oil for anointing? The horn as the instrument of the oxen’s strength symbolizing power? The horn as a peak or summit of a hill? The horn as an emblem of power, strength, honor, dominion, glory or fierceness? Could the horn be a cornucopia? The horn as a symbol of royal dignity and power? >
ANSWER:
general:
biblical lexikon: 'keras'
Meaning: 1) a horn
1a) of animals
1b) since animals (esp. bulls) defend themselves with their horns, the horn with the Hebrews (and other nations) is a symbol of strength and courage, and used as such in a variety of phrases
1b1) a mighty and valiant helper, the author of deliverance, of the Messiah
1c) a projecting extremity in a shape like a horn, a point, apex: as of an altar
Usage: AV - horn 11

Old Testament concordance to Luke 1:69:
Horn is used in Ps 132:17 (Hebrew: 'qeren') of a successor to King David (> royal power, dominion), but the language here (i.e. Luke 1:69) reflects even more ps 18:2 (or 3), where this 'symbolic phrase' is surrounded with a plethora of other images, which mutually explain eachother: David, after being delivered from his enemies, sings: (1) I will love thee, o Lord, my strength: (2) The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.

Further and very interesting parallel: 1 Samuel 2:10 (canticum Hannae, comparable with the canticum Mariae):
"... the LORD shall judge the ends of the earth;
and he shall give strength unto his king,
and exalt the horn of his anointed."

'anointed' in Hebrew: 'mashyiach' [Greek translation (Septuaginta):
christou] > a messianic application of this image lies at hand.

compare for the meaning of 'qeren' also: : IISamuel 22:3, psalm 75:,5,6,11.

In one phrase: the horn of salvation is the redemptive power of God, which will materialize in the appearance of the Messiah...

The full phrase in Luke 1:69 and the context (St.JohnBaptist shall be the precursor (as Eliah) of Messiah) is a perfect illustration of this meaning:
'God has raised a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David'.

FINALLY:
The association with the cornucopia I always make (associations are made before the moment of reflection arrives and can never be wiped out, only suppressed, but one should not be too rigorous in suppressing as long as one is aware of what one is doing... Imagine that all associations were wiped out from the texts of the Bach-cantatas, almost nothing would be left to enjoy or to inspire Bach....), but is lexicograhpical and exegetical incorrect, as far as I can see.

The association with the musical instrument lies at hand in many languages, but is not meant here, though possible both in Hebrew and in Greek.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 25, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten & Andrew Oliver] Thanks to both Dick Wursten and Andrew Oliver for shedding more light on all the various theological connections and associations that exist regarding the word, "Horn."

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 25, 2002):
BWV 167 Mvt. 5

Simon Crouch says about this mvt.: “the real gem of this Cantata: A brilliantly joyous accompanied chorale. If you like Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring from BWV 147 or Humble Us by Thy Goodness from BWV 22 then you should run as fast as you can to obtain a copy of this. I find it quite incomprehensible why this piece is not better known.”
Aryeh quotes his sources:
“Robertson: A joyous setting of verse V of Johann Graumann's hymn - a version of Psalm CIII - to its associated melody.
Young: This is the high point and also the best movement in this cantata. Bach treats this extended chorale with wonderful instrumentation, especially in the obbligato trumpet. This is a magnificent hymn of joyous thanksgiving and trust in God. The orchestral ostinato dance-like theme at the beginning and after each pair of lines must signify for Bach a perfect picture of heavenly bliss.”
Francis Browne called this “the exhilarating final chorus,” and Thos. Shepherd referred to how his children found immediate pleasure in hearing and singing along with this mvt.

I began to wonder where Bach composed similar mvts. as the conclusions of cantatas (or parts of a cantata.) BWV 147/6,10, the most famous example quoted above, has the same music at the end of the 1st part (before the sermon) and then again at the end of the 2nd part of the cantata performed after the sermon. I found other instances where Bach does the same thing: BWV 75/7, 14; and BWV 186/6,11; (the numbers following the slash indicate the mvt. numbers within the cantata.) It is always interesting to see how Bach opens the 2nd part of a two-part cantata: a sinfonia, a tenor recitative, a tenor aria, etc. but not with choral mvt. This is why it seems rather possible that BWV 167 was used as the 2nd pt. of a 2 pt. cantata, or, in any case, with a different cantata performed before the service. If BWV 167 is fragment, then the mvt. immediately at the end of pt. 1 would most likely have consisted of the very same music as mvt. 5 of BWV 167, only a different verse of the same chorale would be sung just as it is done in BWV 147.

I decided to find out where else Bach provided similar concluding chorale mvts. to a cantata where a 4 pt. harmonization is used and the instruments are not simply in an accompanying mode (primarily duplicating the vocal parts) nor are they providing a descant with flutes, strings, trumpets, etc. There a quite a number of beautiful mvts. occurring in the middle of (usually) chorale cantatas where a solo voice (or voices singing the same part in unison) is accompanied by a flowing accompaniment that takes on an interest all of its own. All these I have excluded. Sometimes the final 4 pt. chorale resembles an opening mvt. to a chorale cantata with extended ritornello. In one instance Bach uses the same music for the opening and closing mvts. of a cantata: BWV 117/1, 9. Other concluding chorale mvts. that sound more like an opening mvt. are BWV 11/9; BWV 100/6; BWV 109/6 and BWV 192/3. BWV 138/6 has a rather wild accompaniment as well.

Here are some other final mvts. that are similar in treatment to BWV 167/5:
BWV 22/5; BWV 24/6; BWV 46/6?; BWV 105/6?; BWV 106/4; BWV 107/7; BWV 248 (Christmas Oratorio) mvt. 23 at the end of pt. 2; mvt. 42 at the end of pt. 4; and mvt. 64 at the end of pt. 6.

The timings for Mvt. 5 from BWV 167 are as follows:

[3] Koopman 2:05
[4] Suzuki 2:18
[5] Leusink 2:26
[2] Harnoncourt 2:37
[1] Rilling 3:20

For such a short mvt. the timings show clearly the division between the HIP and non-HIP performers. Here one can see how the light and fast treatment has become generally entrenched in the HIP camp, particularly in the top three fastest times. Harnoncourt, on the other hand, has invited his country bumpkin instrumentalists to join the boys’ choir which he pushes beyond all their limitations. The result is one of the many reasons why I find Harnoncourt’s renditions generally of such a low caliber so that they seem to fit the description of musical performances that Mattheson, in his “Der vollkommene Capellmeister,” would call an anathema to sacred music in general:

p. 207 28
".wenn beide [Menschen=Stimmen, Instrumente] zusammen arbeiten, die Instrumente nicht hervortragen müssen. Die Meinung ist hier nicht, als ob die Instrumente sich bey so gestalten Sachen niemahls mit einiger Ausnahm hören lassen dürften; sondern nur, daß sie, wenn die Singstimmen zugleich mit ihnen gehen, eine Stuffe herunter treten, sich nicht so laut machen, jene erheben, nicht aber sich selbst empor schwingen sollen."
(".when both voices and instruments sing and play together, the instruments should not stand out over the voices. This opinion does not mean that instruments, as things are 'shaped' during a performance, should never let themselves be heard with only few exceptions, but rather that, when the instruments play colla parte (play the same notes as the voices) they should step down to a lower volume level, and not continue to play as loud as otherwise. They should support the voices, but not let themselves go above the voices in volume."

p. 221 66
In concurring with Viadana, the 'inventor' of basso continuo, Mattheson lists the excesses of motet singing, which Viadana also perceived and tried to correct, in the churches at the beginning of the 17th century (Frankfurt, 1613.) Among these excesses were church music performance practices that Mattheson also felt strongly about:
"Da.alles verwirrt und verirret unter einander, mit lärmreichen Fugen und polternden Contrapuncten, mit starcken aus vollem Halse schreienden Chören, ohne Unterschied guter oder böser Stimmen, ohne Manier oder Zierlichkeit, ohne Melodie und Verständlichkeit, in den Kirchen getrieben wurde: so daß man auch bedacht gewesen, allen Gesang und Klang gantz und gar vom Gottes=Dienst zu verbannen."
("Since music was being performed in the churches with confusion in the voices, with loud fugues and thumping counterpoint, with loud choirs screaming at the top of their lungs, irregardless of whether the voices were good or bad, without any sense of decorum or delicateness, without a sense of melody and clarity, the authorities were seriously considering eliminating entirely all singing and other musical sounds from the church service.)

[2] In the Harnoncourt performance the strings and oboes fracture the musical line with quite a lot of scratchy staccato playing. This version hardly flows. The clumsy, heavy-handed basso continuo treatment pokes along with strong accents on the pick-up notes that slide into the note that is on the beat, but this second note is played very lightly and has its note value rbefore the next note is attacked. Of all the recordings, only Harnoncourt does it this way. This is also the way that he treats appoggiaturas with a heavy accent on the leading note, but the following main note becomes so de-emphasized that it loses substance (volume) and time value. This is one of Harnoncourt’s key trademarks. He loves super-strong accents. It is as if he relishes a certain amount of crudeness which he must feel represents the performance standards and capabilities of Bach’s musicians. Harnoncourt makes the musicians, through their manner of playing and singing, call attention to themselves by overemphasizing certain musical characteristics, by pushing the voices beyond their normal limits, and by applying staccato in the strings liberally because he believes that the short-bowed string players in Bach’s day were unable to sustain a legato sound. It is almost as though Harnoncourt spoke to the group just before recording this movement: “Hey, guys (and gals), don’t forget to stomp your feet in time with the music so that you won’t lose your place. OK, now, let’s hit it and make those wigs bounce all over the place!” This version goes to the very bottom of my list of favorites.

[1] The extreme in the other direction is Rilling’s legato treatment which sounds to me more like the way the singing of a chorale should sound: here all the jagged edges have been removed. The instrumentalists lend gentle but solid support to the choir without distracting the listener from the reverence with which the chorale should be sung. The flowing passing notes (8th notes) in the voices are matched by the faster flowing 16th notes in the violins and oboe. Everything is balanced properly, all the parts can be heard equally and they all fit together well to form a unified whole.

[3] Koopman with the fastest version gives us another lite performance (how could this be otherwise?) The chorale definitely sounds rushed. All the 16th notes in the violins and oboe parts are played in a very light, detached (almost staccato) style. These notes are not given any chance to develop. (It does take a certain amount of time for these notes to be developed to the point of being considered as having a full sound, but here the fast tempo makes this impossible.) There are passing 16th notes in the vocal parts as well. The alto part in ms. 10 and 14, for instance, has such notes that can not be heard at all. Koopman has taken such an extremely fast tempo that some of Bach’s notes are lost and can not be heard by the listener. Why did Bach write these notes in the 1st place, if they were not going to be heard? Actually the onus is entirely on Koopman who did not use these 16th notes in the inner voices to judge the tempo that he should take. At this speed the chorale loses some of its dignity (as well as some of Bach’s notes!)

[5] Leusink’s version is slightly slower, but it still feels very light in its treatment. Here I can hear Buwalda (or a Buwalda-type voice) clearly singing the notes that were unheard in Koopman’s rendition, but now the problem is that I should not become aware of the fact that Buwalda is singing. His voice is so utterly distracting that it attracts too much attention to itself. Other individual voices stick out as well. The choir sounds rather tired throughout and the instrumentalists play very mechanically what is on the page. There is almost no variation (phrasing, change in dynamics, etc.) in their playing until the final slight ritardando at the end of the piece. What can one expect here, if they are essentially sight-reading this music and have not had much time to digest its substance?

[4] Suzuki is also too fast and has difficulty making the inner voices in the choir be heard. The acoustics of the building make it more difficult to hear the passing notes properly. The choir blend, however is much better than Leusink’s. This version is much more interesting than Leusink's as well.

My favorites in this mvt. are from the top down: Rilling, (a large gap here, then) Suzuki, Koopman, (and at the bottom two very different contenders: Leusink (too boring) and Harnoncourt (too idiosyncratic and overly energetic, and as a result, unmusical,)

Mvt. 3 – I was not favorably impressed by any of the versions. I do know for certain that Harnoncourt’s version with Wittek and Iconomou makes me very uncomfortable when I listen to it. I am always surprised to learn that others can enjoy this rendition. Although not quite as bad, Rilling’s version belongs near the bottom of the list as well. Perhaps with Aryeh’s encouraging assessment of Koopman and Suzuki, I will listen to these versions once again and reassess my nonenthusiastic response to these recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 26, 2002):
BWV 167 Mvt. 3

Timings:

[1] Rilling 6:44
[4] Suzuki 7:09
[2] Harnoncourt 7:25
[5] Leusink 7:33
[3] Koopman 7:45

I listened once again to all versions of this mvt. after having heard it mostly at a distance from the speakers before this time. Some initial impressions improve, others are confirmed even more strongly.

[3] For me the best balance between voices is achieved in the Koopman (Röschmann/Bartosz). Both singers have good expression of the text which is also enunciated clearly. My only objection here is that the middle section might be a bit too fast and that Koopman allows too much sotto voce singing. The strength of the expression is weakened thereby.

[4] Suzuki (Suzuki/Chance) also has a spirited performance with the soprano, Suzuki, and the alto, Chance generally blending well together, but both singers have very narrow, penetrating voices that take some getting used to. Suzuki has an unnerving, very slow vibrato on some of her higher notes while Chance’s ‘unusual,’ unique voice does call attention to itself, a fact that detracts from having an ideal blend.

[5] A somewhat similar type of blend is found in Leusink’s (Holton/Buwalda) where Buwalda’s unmistakable voice quality is much too apparent and where Holton simply manages to tap certain notes. Yes, she hits all the notes correctly, but there is more to singing than just this. The pronunciation of the German text is quite lax, as if the text is simply incidental to the music. These two half-voices simply are not able to produce more sound and expression. We are grateful that we can get to hear all the notes sung in tune. Holton seems to have a rock-solid sense of correct pitch. It is too bad that her natural voice is so restricted in volume and range. And Buwalda? Not too bad. I have heard much worse from him.

[1] Rilling (Graf/Gardow,) in true non-HIP style, at least enlists fully trained voices as soloists. They do not engage in sotto voce tactics as all of the above recordings do, but we do have to contend with their noticeable vibratos. The blend between the voices could be better. In certain passages Gardow seems to lose vocal substance. I hear her singing all the notes but somehow a full alto sound is not being projected sufficiently.

[2] Harnoncourt (Wittek/Iconomou) chooses to use boy sopranos who are unable for various reasons to do justice to their parts. Wittek tries to sing with a vibrato on all the moving 16th notes! On top of this, both boy singers wobble uncontrollably so that a clear pitch for each note can not be determined. The oboe da caccia does not help much in this regard either. My impression is that both singers are past their prime as boy soprano and alto. All the effort expended in trying to train their voices and learn this difficult music only has made matters worse for both. Perhaps they have assumed these vocal mannerisms because they have been encouraged excessively (beyond capabilities) by their voice teachers, parents, and even Harnoncourt who then tells them to add special strong accents that he thinks Bach would have wanted. Perhaps all the attention that they have been given has gone to their heads. In any case, this is a typical example of Harnoncourt’s musicianship throughout most of this cantata series.

My preferences would be in this order:
[3] Koopman (Röschmann/Bartosz); [4] Suzuki (Suzuki/Chance) = above average
[1] Rilling (Graf/Gardow) = just barely average
[5] Leusink (Holton/Buwalda) = below average
[2] Harnoncourt (Wittek/Iconomous) = simply not good enough

Bob Sherman wrote (June 26, 2002):
[To Handel Next] Good luck. I'd certainly rather hear neo-baroque than twelve-tone or crap like that.

Robin Crag wrote (June 29, 2002):
Hello again! I haven't joined in the disscussions since Easter, as I haven't had recordings of the cantatas you were doing. But I've started getting to know some other cantatas: BWV 44, BWV 51, BWV 85, BWV 86, BWV 135, BWV 165 - lots of beatifull music!

Re the teenagers and Bach thread, you can add me to your list of optimisms. (16 I am, I listen to lots of Bach, play lots of Bach! (but the playing i do so badly, so I'm not sure you should be too optimistic about that :-) )

Sorry if my messsage is not wanted, now you're discussing the next cantata. But I thought I might as well "share my thoughts" anyway.

BWV 167 - Mvt. 1
The first movement is very joyfull, but it is not a joy that comes out and whacks you in the face. I think it is only joyfull when you listen in the right way. The words are full of praise. The music doesnt communicate this by shouting out loud, it is more like a quiet prayer or something.

Mvts 2+3
Listening to these to start off with, I found these movements very beautifull, but also a little sad. So I was supprised when I looked at the text (with a translation), to find no anxious longing or grievious sorrow at all... After listeng more, though, I found happiness here too. In most of the recitative, I think I can see how the music and the text match. But i dont really understand what the text has got to do with the last part at all (ie the music is very sad) The bassline in the "A" part of the aria makes me think of walking, but with a slight skip in the step (if u see?). (Maybe Bach is thinking of the "Weg und Bahn" in mvt2 ??) I think i've realised why the music is half joyfull, half sad here. My idea is that Bach is thinking here of "Gods word" generally, not just of the specific promise. And Gods word is not all peace and love by any means (I am not a Christian, you see. Sorry if you find me to be blasphemous etc etc). The "B" part is joyfull, though. There is more than a skip in the step here, its more like the music is dancing (more so in the ¾ part, but not just there)

Mvts 4+5
Now here is joy that does whack you in the face! The recitative is joyfull too, especially in the "lovesong" at the end (actually, I think Ive appreciated the recitatives in this cantata more than I do normally). The choralemovement is joyfull of course! (I hope evryone came out of the church smilling that week :-)

Thanks everyone for all the intresting things you have to say about the cantatas. Oh and thanks Aryeh for pointing out (and linking too) the site with the pianoreductions- its dead usefull!

Right, I shall leave you all to BWV 177 now...

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 167: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: 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

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Last update: ýApril 21, 2013 ý07:56:06