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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

Cantata BWV 167
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 24, 2005

Peter Bright wrote (July 25, 2005):
Introduction: BWV 167

The cantata for discussion this week (July 25 - 31) is:

Cantata BWV 167
Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe
(‘Ye mortals, extol God’s love’)

Solo Cantata for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist, written and performed in the summer of 1723. The librettist for this cantata is unknown.

Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV167.htm

Link to previous discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV167-D.htm

Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear complete versions of the whole cantata – by Harnoncourt (1987) [2] and Leusink (1999) [5]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV167-Mus.htm

The following notes are from Sir John Eliot Gardiner’s notes to his superb first volume of the cantatas on Soli Deo Gloria (SDG 101) [6]. His complete rolling journal entry for this set can be found at: http://www.monteverdiproductions.co.uk/resources/sdg101_gb.pdf
----
Bach composed BWV 167 Ihr Menschen, rühmet Gottes Liebe shortly after assuming his post in Leipzig in the summer of 1723. To illustrate the way prepared by John for Christ’s entry into the world (so fulfilling God’s ancient pledge) Bach inscribes a modulatory arc through the five movements of this cantata, curling downwards from G major via E minor to A minor, then up again to G. There is no opening chorus; instead, Bach begins with an aria for tenor and strings, a spacious 12/8 movement with an intriguingly varied phrase-pattern, a meticulous dynamic scheme and an almost Weberian leaping passage to describe ‘das Horn des Heils’. The alto recitative which follows concludes with an arioso section of winning tenderness and wistfulness over an arpeggiated cello continuo, to describe the repentant sinner’s journey to paradise (anticipating Schumann’s oratorio Das Paradies und die Peri by 120 years). The centrepiece of the cantata is an extended soprano/alto duet with oboe da caccia. The lyrical oboe melody gets pared down to the singers’ three-note phrase (‘Gottes Wort’) and its four-note answer (‘das trüget nicht’) in thirds and sixths – euphonious and pithy, and typical of Bach’s consummate skill in unifying instrumental and vocal material. The fast middle section is constructed as an eight-bar canon for the two voices with lavish roulades, passing almost imperceptibly into 3/4 at the words ‘haben wir Gottlob erfahren’, a delicious shift of stress and metre. The final Loblied, ‘Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren’, uses the same technique of sparkling piacevole string and oboe writing over a walking bass to contrast with the chorale, one that Bach used four months earlier to conclude his Leipzig test piece, BWV 22, and was to use again a few days later for the First Sunday after Trinity in BWV 75, with the burnished open tones of a clarino etching the hymn tune.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 26, 2005):
BWV 167/5 'piacevole?'

Sir John Eliot Gardiner's in his notes to his first volume of the cantatas on Soli Deo Gloria (SDG 101) [6] as shared by Peter Bright in his introduction to this cantata state as follows:
>> The final Loblied, 'Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren', uses the same technique of sparkling piacevole string and oboe writing over a walking bass to contrast with the chorale, one that Bach used four months earlier to conclude his Leipzig test piece, BWV 22, and was to use again a few days later for the First Sunday after Trinity in BWV 75, with the burnished open tones of a clarino etching the hymn tune.<<

I was a bit disconcerted and taken aback by Gardiner's choice of the word 'piacevole', a descriptive word to characterize the style of composition and its performance, in this instance, the concluding chorale for Cantata BWV 167. This was a term with which I had not been acquainted since I had never before seen this term used to describe any of Bach's sacred compositions, so I decided to investigate this matter somewhat more thoroughly. Here is what I found:

1. Orazio Vecchi (1550-1605), an Italian composer, who is known mainly for his entertainment music, particularly the madrigal comedy, or as he calls it, a 'comedia musicale,'"L'Amfiparnaso," seems to have been the first person to apply this term to describe a type or style of music. William R. Martin, in his article on Vecchi in the Grove Music Online, [Oxford University Press, 2005, acc. 7/25/05], puts it this way: >>Vecchi's title for this quasi-dramatic work is undoubtedly a reflection of his adherence to the 16th-century literary philosophy that the 'Parnassus' of expression is to be reached through contrasting the serious ('grave') with the gay ('piacevole'). Vecchi alluded to the contrast of the 'piacevole' with the 'grave' in the preface to Le veglie di Siena of 1604 asking, 'How is the musician better able to be useful than with the serious [='grave'], and to amuse than with the ridiculous [="piacevole"]?'<<

2. Subsequent uses of this term, 'piacevole,' which the Grove Music Online Dictionary defines simply as: >>A word that appears as a qualification to tempo designations,<< a use that begins with Beethoven and can be documented in only a few compositions subsequent to his time: Sir William Sterndale Bennett (1816-1875), Sir Edward William Elgar (1857-1934), Edward Joseph Collins (1886-1951), and Halsey Stevens (1908-1989).

3. The term, 'piacevole,' is not listed among the thousands of musical terms discussed and defined in Johann Gottfried Walther's "Musicalisches Lexicon oder Musicalische Bibliothec" [Leipzig, 1732]. This means that in all likelihood Bach was not acquainted with this term and he certainly never used it in any of the autograph scores and original parts that have come down to us.

4. The significance in Gardiner's use of this term, 'piacevole,' in describing Bach's style of composition and the probable performance practices that a conductor might elicit from Bach's scores is that it reflects an attitude toward the performance of Bach's sacred scores which I believe leads toward the 'lite' treatment of Bach's sacred music. 'Lite' here means that there is a connection to what might be termed a 'light' entertainment style for presenting music. For all practical purposes, the choir could be singing about having fun after the church service is over. This manner of performance often used by HIP ensembles usually entails such factors as:

1. faster tempi than what might be considered normal

2. a faster tempo usually affects the style of playing with the notes being played shorter than their notated values with a primarily staccato-like treatment of most notes. The volume of sound is usually reduced, the text is sung/pronounced/expressed much less explicitly (and hence with less significant meaning) as both orchestral and vocal forces tip-toe their way through the mass of many fleeting and often indistinct notes.

3. a disparity, often a huge abyss, opens up between the meaning of the chorale text and the manner in which the music is presented. On the one hand, Bach has placed at the end of this cantata the crowning mvt. of this cantata in the form of a song of praise. Alfred Dürr describes this mvt. as a 'shining/beaming' crown, but what many HIP recordings reveal here is a musical ensemble including singers which is hurrying to get throthis music as fast as possible with the attendent lightness of musical presentation without having to sing and perform the words 'from the bottom of their hearts.' What they are supposed to be singing/playing here is [not an exact translation]:
"We fervently believe from the bottom of our hearts that: God, with his Son, and with the Holy Spirit will increase within us what He has promised through his grace: that we will continue to believe firmly in Him, that we have complete faith in him, and that our hearts, feelings and thoughts always be directed toward Him. For this purpose, at this moment in time, we sing 'Amen' to the fact that we will achieve this lofty goal in the future."

Is Gardiner's application of this term, 'piacevole,' more of a 'lapsus linguae' revealing his real attitude toward the music rather than perhaps an erudite application of a rather obscure musical term with which he wishes to impress his readers? Is Gardiner expressing here, what seems to be a rather common sentiment among HIP conductors: make Bach's music more appealing to some present-day listeners by deemphasizing or treating light-heartedly Bach's texts, particularly the chorale texts and by emphasizing the watered-down pleasantness and agreeableness which can even be taken to the point of bordering on Vecchi's understanding of 'piacevole' = to amuse with the 'gay' or 'ridiculous?'

PS I just found the following quotations in the MGGI [Bärenreiter, 1986] and although I am unable to translate them directly/correctly, I believe that they do confirm everything already stated above:

Regarding an Italian light opera composer, Gennaro Astaritta (or Astarita) (1749-1803) a written report states:
»Ebbe meritatamente fama di ottimo compositore per la versatilità del suo ingegno, e perchè perfettamente padrone delle situazioni comiche. Il suo stile piacevole e naturale gli conciliò dovunque il favore del pubblico.<<

A source quoted simply as Vicentino wrote in 1555:
»... gran differenza si farà a comporre una composizione da cantare in chiesa a quella che si ha da cantare in camera et il compositore dè havere il suo giudizio limato et comporre le sue composizioni secondo il soggetto et il proposito delle parole ... L'ordine di comporre le composizioni volgari dè essere piacevole et intese senza canoni e senza troppo sottilità di proportioni ...«.

Perhaps someone who knows Italian can quickly translate these two passages?

Doug Cowling wrote (July 26, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< 4. The significance in Gardiner's use of this term, 'piacevole,' in describing Bach's style of composition and the probable performance practices that a conductor might elicit from Bach's scores is that it reflects an attitude toward the performance of Bach's sacred scores which I believe leads toward the 'lite' treatment of Bach's sacred music. 'Lite' here means that there is a connection to what might be termed a 'light' entertainment style for presenting music. For all practical purposes, the choir could be singing about having fun after the church service is over. This manner of performance often used by HIP ensembles usually entails such factors as:
1. faster tempi than what might be considered normal
2. a faster tempo usually affects the style of playing with the notes being played shorter than their notated values with a primarily staccato-like treatment of most notes. The volume of sound is usually reduced, the text is sung/pronounced/expressed much less explicitly (and hence with less significant meaning) as both orchestral and vocal forces tip-toe their way through the mass of many fleeting and often indistinct notes. >
In the past, there was a great deal of industry developed in trying to make a distinction between a "sacred" and a 'secular" style in Bach's vocal music. The classic example of course is the ubiquitous "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Most choirs still perform this chorale with a stately tempo with endlessly legato string lines. It is more likely that Bach intended the orchestral melody to be a 9/8 gigue which suggests a very fast tempo and much more articulation. I simply don't believe that Bach would have changed his notion of that dance genre and performed it with an over-stated "gravitas".

Of course, I think it's even more playful than a gigue: I think the chorale harmonization in 3/4 is intentionally shaped like a minuet and the two dances are meant to symbiize the "Freude" of the text. If so, then Bach scooped Mozart in the dance quodlibet at the end of Act of "Don Giovanni"!

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 26, 2005):
Doug Cowling wrote: >>In the past, there was a great deal of industry developed in trying to make a distinction between a "sacred" and a 'secular" style in Bach's vocal music. The classic example of course is the ubiquitous "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring". Most choirs still perform this chorale with a stately tempo with endlessly legato string lines. It is more likely that Bach intended the orchestral melody to be a 9/8 gigue which suggests a very fast tempo and much more articulation. I simply don't believe that Bach would have changed his notion of that dance genre and performed it with an over-stated "gravitas".<<
Nor would it have been performed at a very fast tempo emulate a gigue performance heard in a different environment. The latter point ('over-stated "gravitas"') is certainly an exaggeration since there is always a sensible middle road that can be followed.

As evidence for making a clear distinction between dance music ('a 9/8 gigue which suggests a very fast tempo,') there are numerous statements by a number of important German musicians/composers who lived during Bach's time and who composed and performed for all three venues: church, court chamber, and theater. More specifically, it sets church music apart from both chamber and theater music which have much in common. Here is just one example that those who perform Bach's
chorales at ridiculous tempi tend to overlook:

>>In seinem rechten Gebrauche ist der Kirchen=Styl von dem Cammer= und 'Theatrali'schen 'Stylo' gänztlich unterschieden, und der anderswo eingeführte Mißbrauch hebt die Sache nicht auff, wie schon vorhero erinnert worden. Es wäre indessen zu wünschen, daß all 'Musici' in diesem Stücke das gebührende 'Decorum,' und was vor ein Unterscheid zwischen Kirche und 'Theatro' sey, besser 'observir'en lernten. Das 'Auditorium' ist wohl am meisten Schuld daran, als welches auch in der Kirche immer was lustiges zu hören wünschet, alleine der 'Componiste' sollte dem ohngeachtet besser verstehen, was dem Orte 'convenable' sey, oder nicht. Und also machen alle kluge 'Musici' billich einen grossen Unterscheid hierinne.<<

'lustiges' = 'piacevole'

pp. 221-222 "Der Orchester=Kanzeley II. Convolut" contained in 'Critica Musica" Volume II by Johann Mattheson [Hamburg, 1725]

["Properly applied, there is a vast difference between the style of composition and performance for a church, for a chamber or a theater, and the fact that in some places, these styles are improperly applied, does not cancel out the primacy of these categories, as already indicated earlier. It would, nevertheless be desirable that, in this matter, all musicians should observe the proper decorum [befitting the place where they perform] and do a better job of learning how to distinguish between the style of performance in a church and that in a theater. Most of the blame should probably be placed on the audience which desires, even in a church, always to want to hear something amusing. Despite this, however, the composer should have a better understanding as to what type of music/performance is suitable or not for a given place. And so it is that all sensible/intelligent musicians are justified in making a great distinction between them.<<

John Pike wrote (July 26, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz - 1st message above] I had come across this term quite a lot in the past and I felt sure it was in music by Bach. I am now wondering whether it was just an editorial marking and not one by Bach himself. If I get time I will try and find out where I saw it used.

Neil Halliday wrote (J26, 2005):
BWV 167

Rilling [1] and Leusink [5]; some observations.

(BWV 163 is selected when an attempt to access the the Harnoncourt recording is made from the BCW, so I have not heard his recording).

1st movement: tenor aria.

Problems with Rilling:
1. I feel it is too fast.
2. Kraus' vibrato is often disturbing.

Problems with Leusink:
1. The string playing lacks strength, caused partly by small forces, but mainly by phrasing that involves playing <tenuto> only the first of the three quavers (of each group), the following two being played staccato. (Bach has a slur over all three notes in each group, in the BGA score).

2nd movement: alto recitative.

Rilling:
Gardow has too much vibrato, but at least the accompaniment is pleasant.

Leusink:
The accompaniment is disjointed in the first section (satisfactory in the arioso).

3rd movement. SA duet.

Rilling:
The vocal vibrato of the two ladies distracts from appreciation of the
interweaving lines.

Leusink's version is more enjoyable, as a result of the cleaner singing.
(less vibrato).

An intriguing aspect of this duet (referred to by Gardiner) is the manner in which, in the middle section, the time-signature imperceptably changes back to triple time from 4/4 time, without pause or other warning that this is about to happen (the repeat of the first section is quite obvious, of course). The melismas on "hundert" and "erfahren" must be among the longest in Bach!.

4th movement: bass recitative.

Rilling, with Tüller, gives an effective performance.

5th movement: chorale.

The trumpet in Rilling's recording is not prominent enough, otherwise this is pleasing performance.

Leusink seems to 'chug' along as a result of the overuse of staccato in the continuo.

John Pike wrote (July 26, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz - 2nd message above] I really don't know how you can be so certain that Bach didn't perform these works at a lively tempo. CPE Bach tells us in the obituary that his father generally took things at a lively tempo and I don't see anything in the least bit inappropriate in taking a lively tempo in Church music. I think it was Haydn who, when asked why his masses were so "jolly", he replied that just thinking about God and Jesus made him full of joy, or something like that. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I would go so far as to say it is how all Christians SHOULD feel when thinking about Jesus and God. Much of this attitude is reflected in Bach's own music. There is nothing wrong in itself with having some joy and fun in Church, so long as it properly inspired. On the conrtary, it is what we should be feeling at everything God has done for us, through Christ.

Dale Gedcke wrote (July 26, 2005):
[To John Pike - 1st message above] RE: Gardiner's reference to "...sparkling piacevole string and oboe writing over a walking bass to contrast with the chorale...." in BWV 167/5:

Curiously, "piacevole" is a well-established word in the Italian language. My Italian/English dictionary translates: "piacevole: pleasant, agreeable."

Perhaps Gardiner was simply using a convenient Italian word to describe the style of the music. There may be no connection with Bach using or not using that same term. In fact the meaning of the word, "piacevole", may have changed slightly from Bach's time to the current century.

John Pike wrote (July 26, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] This is certainly much more in line with the way I understood this word. I am now pretty sure that I have seen this marking used in my excellent Associated Board of Music edition of the 48. I seem to remember that a number of the preludes have been marked in this way (presumably editorial). In this translation of the word, it seems an eminently sensible marking for the way the music flows.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Dale Gedcke] Did the meaning of 'piacevole' change slightly from Bach's time? Does this really matter, if it is indeed true, since it can not be documented that it was ever used during Bach's time?

Why would Gardiner have to used 'a convenient Italian word' for a description when the English language is so rich in vocabulary, if 'pleasant, agreeable' was all that Gardiner wanted to say in the first place?

'Piacevole' does indeed function as a musical term adopted from the Italian language. Was Gardiner unaware of this? Did he not realize that it was used as a qualifying tempo designation since c. 1800? Why would he want to confuse the non-musical use of this word with the musical one? If this word is to be used by Gardiner to describe the specific style of music, he is then confusing the already established musical meaning with one that he has used as a whim, or by overlooking its use by Vecchi in the late 16th and early 17th centuries. By the way, the OED unabridged version does not contain 'piacevole,' but I did share the Grove Music Online definition which is rather specific.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 27, 2005):
John Pike stated:
>>I had come across this term quite a lot in the past and I felt sure it was in music by Bach. I am now wondering whether it was just an editorial marking and not one by Bach himself. If I get time I will try and find out where I saw it used.<<
>>I am now pretty sure that I have seen this marking used in my excellent Associated Board of Music edition of the 48. I seem to remember that a number of the preludes have been marked in this way (presumably editorial). In this translation of the word, it seems an eminently sensible marking for the way the music flows.<<
This will be interesting. I am waiting with eager anticipation to hear more about this. At least we might find out where Gardiner may have picked up this erroneously applied musical term. It sounds like the Associated Board of Music edition of the 48 would probably have pedal markings in it as well. Does it?

>>I really don't know how you can be so certain that Bach didn't perform these works at a lively tempo. CPE Bach tells us in the obituary that his father generally took things at a lively tempo<<
From Bach-Dokumente II, Item 666 Bach's necrology written by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788); Johann Friedrich Agricola (1720-1774); Lorenz Christoph Mizler (1711-1778); Georg Venzky (1704-1757) the latter wrote the final poetry included at the end of the obituary.

>>Sein ernsthaftes Temperament zog ihn zwar vornehmlich zur arbeitsamen, ernsthaften, und tiefsinnigen Musik; doch konnte er auch, wenn es nöthig schien, sich, besonders im Spielen, zu einer leichten und schertzhaften Denkart bequemen.Im
Dirigiren war er sehr accurat, und im Zeitmaaße, welches er gemeiniglich sehr lebhaft nahm, überaus sicher
.<<

["First and foremost, Bach was naturally disposed toward thoroughly developed, serious, and profound music; however, he could also, when it seemed necessary (this happened particularly while playing an instrument,) take the trouble of adopting a
light-hearted, humorous mentality.. He was very accurate in his conducting and extremely secure in matters of rhythm (not necessarily tempo, but the rhythmic structures within each bar!*) which he generally treated very passionately."]

* 6/8 Zeitmaß, Walzer-Zeitmaß, {this does not necessarily tell us how fast - is it a slow or fast 6/8 or a slow or fast waltz?} the notation (how many whole, half, quarter or eighth notes per measure/bar) may help to indicate whether the Zeitmaß is 'langsam' ['slow'] or 'schnell' ['fast'] an 'adagio' marking in Bach's music does not mean the same 'Zeitmaß' as an 'adagio' marking in Beethoven's music. [MGGI: ("'adagio' ist bei Bach nicht das gleiche Zeitmaß wie bei Beethoven"). The value of the notes per measure/bar, the affect, and only in part the notion of 'tempo' - the actual speed at which the composition is performed - determine what the resulting 'tempo' of the mvt. will be.

This famous quote may not mean at all: "that his father generally took things at a lively tempo", but rather that Bach was extremely securin keeping time (the explicit durations and precise emphases upon notes in rhythmic structures) and that he carried out this aspect of music-making with great passionate, personal involvement.

Check Johann Joachim Quantz "Versuch." [Berlin, 1752] pp. 254ff for more on 'Zeitmaaß' as distinguished from 'Tempo.'

Also from Johann Joachim Quantz "Versuch." [Berlin, 1752] p. 266 where the word "Zeitmaaß" occurs:

"Mit einer Kirchenmusik hat es eben dieselbe Bewandtniß, wie mit den Arien: ausgenommen daß sowohl der Vortrag bey der Ausführung, als das Zeitmaaß, wenn es anders kirchenmäßig seyn soll, etwas gemäßigter als im Opernstyl genommen werden muß."

["It's the same thing also with church music as with arias generally: with the exception that in a church performance both the manner of presentation as well as the "Zeitmaaß" {treatment of rhythmic structures within each measure} are treated with somewhat greater moderation {excessive exaggerations are avoided} than in an opera-style performance."]

p. 289

"Ueberhaupt wird zur Kirchenmusik, sie möge bestehen worinn sie wolle, eine ernsthafte und andächtige Art der Composition, und der Ausführung, erfodert. Sie muß vom Opernstyle sehr unterschieden seyn."

["Church music, on the whole, no matter what type of compositions it may consist of, requires a serious and reverent manner of composition and performance. It must be completely different from the operatic style of composition/performance."]

p. 169

"Solche junge Leute spielen mehrentheils alles was ihnen vorkömmt, es sey Presto, oder Allegro, oder Allegretto, in einerley Geschwindigkeit. Sie glauben wohl gar sich dadurch vor andern besonders hervor zu thun; da sie doch, durch die übertriebene Geschwindigkeit, nicht nur das Schönste der Composition, ich meyne das untermischete Cantabile, verstümmeln und vernichten; sondern auch, bey Uebereilung des Zeitmaaßes, sich angewöhnen, die Noten falsch und undeutlich vorzutragen."

["Young people like that mostly play everything that they can get their hands on, whether it is marked 'presto,' 'allegro,' or 'allegretto' at the same tempo/speed. They probably think that they are distinguishing themselves from all other players as being better than they are; and yet, they corrupt and destroy not only the most beautiful compositions (I refer here particularly to the 'cantabile' passages that are mixed in), but they also get into the habit of performing the notes incorrectly and indistinctly by rushing the rhythmic elements within the bar."]

[This applies to many HIP recordings of the Bach cantatas.]

p. 245

"Nicht nur ein jedes Stück und eine jede Leidenschaft insbesondere, sondern auch der Ort und die Absicht einer Musik, geben dem Vortrage derselben gewisse Regeln und Einschränkungen. Z. E. Eine Kirchenmusik erfodert mehr Pracht und Ernsthaftigkeit, als eine theatralische, welche mehr Freyheit zuläßt. Wenn in einer Kirchenmusik, von dem Componisten, einige freche und bizarre Gedanken, so sich in die Kirche nicht wohl schicken, mit sollten seyn eingeflochten worden: so müssen die Accompagnisten, besonders aber die Violinisten, dahin trachten, daß solche durch einen bescheidenen Vortrag, so viel möglich, vermäntelt, gezähmet, und sanfter gemacht werden mögen."

["The manner of performance is determined by certain rules and limitations imposed not only by the nature of every composition and specifically each affect contained in it, but also by the location where the composition is performed and the purpose which it is intended to serve. For example, a sacred composition (a cantata) demands more splendor and seriousness/earnestness than a theatrical one which allows for greater freedom. If a composer has included several daring/brazen, bizarre/strange musical ideas which are not suitable for performance in a church, then those accompanying, particularly the violinists, must see to it that they will manage as much as possible to cloak, curb this by means of a very modest/reserved/unobtrusive performance."]

p. 47 "Deutliche Beweis=Gründe" [Hamburg, 1717] by Christoph Raupach, edited by Johann Mattheson.

"Es finden sich zwar / leider / böß-gesinnete Menschen / welche über unsere heutige mit 'gravi'tätischer 'Manier' wol='temperi'rte frolockend und jauchzende Kirchen='Musiqu'en / ihren Spott und Kurtzweil treiben / indem sie dieselben nicht zu dem Ende anhören / daß sie dadurch freudige Andacht über GOttes Gnade und Wohlthaten schöpffen / noch weniger / daß sie sich dabey des ewigen Freuden=Lebens erinnern; sondern dagegen eine Erinnerung ihrer gewohnten / zur Sünde gemißbrauchten Welt=Lust daraus erzwingen / wie die Spinnen / bey welchen der aus den süssen Blumen von ihnen gesogener schöner Safft / sich nachmals in Gifft verwandelt; ..Rechtschaffene und tüchtige 'Compositeurs' wissen sich auch wol zu bescheiden und einen Unterscheid zu machen zwischen einer solchen Tantz= oder Spring=Art / derer sich die Welt zur Üppigkeit gebraucht / und einer solchen / dadurch das menschliche Hertz zu Göttlichen Dingen kan aufgemuntert /brünstig und springend gemacht werden."

["Unfortunately there are always some evil-minded people who take pleasure in poking fun of our present-day dignified manner of performing 'well-tempered' jubilant and exultant church cantatas. This they do without even listening to them all the way to the end so that they might obtain, through listening, some joyful, meditative thoughts about God's grace and benevolence; and, perhaps even less than that, that they might through listening to such music be reminded of a life of eternal joy; but, instead of this, they extract from this musical devotion a remembrance of their own misuse/abuse of the sinful pleasures of this world the same way that spiders take the sweet juice which they have sucked out of sweet flowers and afterwards change it into poison..Upright and competent composers know how to restrain themselves {within the requirements of church style} and make a distinction between that kind of dancing and jumping which the world uses excessively and the other kind which is used for cheering up and opening the human heart so as to encourage it to be concerned ardently/fervently with divine matters."]

p. 38 "Musicalische Handleitung" Friedrich Erhardt Niedt, edited by Johann Mattheson [Hamburg, 1717]

"Ich richte meine Kirchen=Stücke auf 'Cantat'en Art ein / doch alles 'serieux' und 'modest,' und habe insonderheit alle 'Passagi'en und Läuffe 'abandonni'rt / weil unsere Frau Mutter=Sprache solche Italiänische Possen nicht vertragen kan."

["I do arrange/adjust accordingly my church cantatas to be in a cantata style, but everything must be serious and moderate; I have specifically given up using florid passages and coloraturas because our mother tongue {German} can not tolerate such Italianate antics." ]

p. 44 (on congregational singing, but this would apply to the performance of chorale mvts. and final chorales to the cantatas as well)

"Doch kan ich nicht umhin / ich muß wider Willen die Herren 'Cantores, Küster oder 'Choralist'en' / die solchen Gesang führen / hiemit erinnern und bitten / daß sie solche Gesänge nicht gar zu geschwinde / gleich als solte es zum Tantz gehen / daher blöcken; auch nicht zu lange zerren / daß man darüber einschlaffen möchte / sondern fein andächtig und vernehmlich solchen Gesang 'formir'en / damit ein jeder frommer Christ seine Andacht dabey mit ausführen kan."

["As much as I do not wish to do so, I simply can not avoid reminding and requesting all cantors, sextons or others who lead the singing of chorales in church that they should not use tempi that are too fast as if they were going off to some dance and to show off in front of others; but they should also not drag the tempo so that you would want to fall asleep in the middle of the chorale, but rather they should have the chorale take on a shape/form which is appropriately devout/pious and audible/distinct so that every/any pious Christian can have the required reverence {to carry out one's personal devotions, to contemplate in prayer devotionally} while singing."]

All of the above quotations can be used as evidence to support the idea of moderation, seriousness, but also jubilation expressed in the performance of Bach's cantatas (specifically here, under discussion, the chorale mvts.) as a fervent inner feeling rather than an outward display of virtuosic speed which undermines the significance of the texts which are gloriously set to great music that receives a 'lite' treatment by a number of HIP ensembles.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 27, 2005):
John Eliot Gardiner has more musical experience, and more collaborative experience with real musicologists and performing specialists, and more direct conversance with the musical repertoire (and its nomenclature), than all the members of this discussion group put together. That's a fact that I think should matter here.

Brendan (Dorian Gray) wrote (July 27, 2005):
<<John Eliot Gardiner has more musical experience, and more collaborative experience with real musicologists and performing specialists, and more direct conversance with the musical repertoire (and its nomenclature), than all the members of this discussion group put together. That's a fact that I think should matter here.>>
He also would never say anything as absurdly obnoxious as that. Truly great artists almost never feel the need to puff themselves up- they know that they still don't know everything and always are willing to learn from others, no matter what their perceived stature.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Performance of Bach's Vocal Works - General Discussions Part 14 [General Topics]

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] And Lance knows more than all of us together about bicycling. Does it mean that he is beyond criticism?
Does it also mean that when Lance or JEG says something about their respective area of expertise, we all have to shut up?
Indeed they should be respected for their achievements, but I do not believe that even they expect an absolute agreement with their opinions.

I do not expect an answer; just wanted to put things in proportion.

John Pike wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I really must take exception to this criticism of Sir John Eliot Gardiner. I find it quite incredible that anyone should expend so much energy on criticising one of the world's foremost baroque conductors because he chose to use an italian word not used in Bach's day to convey a sense of how the music feels to him. He is perfectly entitled to such a thought, just as others are to disagree, though I am close to snapping point with the often ignorant barrage of attacks on HIP enthusiasts on this list.

I asked a lecturer in Italian at Bristol University last night what "piacevole" meant. She replied that it means "pleasant" or "pleasing", just as Dale said. I suspect it has always meant this. Is it really so outrageous for Sir John to use such a term to describe a movement by Bach? Get real.

John Pike wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Aryeh Oron] I must confess I found this an odd e mail, Aryeh. Your selection of Lance Armstrong is curious. For someone to win the Tour de France 7 times in succession despite having been previously diagnosed with widely disseminated testicular cancer is actually completely beyond criticism.

Sir John Eliot Gardiner, of course, is not beyond criticism. I am sure we could all find sensible criticisms that could be made of many of his performances, excellent though many of them are, but the particular criticism levelled at him this time, notably that he used a very innocent term, unused in Bach's day, to decribe how he felt about a movment by Bach, is PATHETIC IN THE EXTREME <>

John Pike wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] OK. This is a valid and different translation from the one I was familiar with. It matters not that it was not CPE Bach who wrote that particular section since he must have authorised the whole.

The dogmatic attack on HIP performances in general is pathetic and unsustainable. Most modern performers are perfectly capable of adopting an appropriate manner of performance for a particular piece, taking everything into consideration, such as place of performance, the type of music, and everything in the music itself. This sort of attack on them is wholly unjustified. I cannot remember the last time I heard something that I thought was irreverent etc....probably never.

Peter Bright wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thanks for providing these translations - I found them very interesting. For me they raise the issue once more of performing Bach according to the way he may have intended vs the way that is most pleasing to modern sensibilities. I find the translated texts convincing and they lend themselves well to your critical attitude towards a lot of the HIP performances and approaches currently in vogue. On the other hand, I really do prefer the liveliness, lightness and dance-like interpretations of some cantata performances compared with older performances from before the HIP 'revolution'. I guess this is my advantage of being purely a consumer of classical music - I don't need to worry too much (though remaining interested) about what is the historically 'correct' way of playing - only in what moves me. And the conducters that move me more than any others at the moment are the likes of Suzuki and Gardiner.

John Pike wrote (July 27, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I have had another close look at these interesting quotations. I am still not convinced that these terms "moderation, seriousness, but also jubilation" and "not too fast" really tell us an awful lot about the ideal manner of performance for all of Bach's church cantatas. What is "not too fast?" These terms are all relative. In general, I would agree with "moderation" and I think there is good evidence that Bach called for purity and tastefulness in music, but I think that the vast majority of HIP performances do, indeed, manage all this. HIP performances often are faster than some more traditional ones, but some of those traditional ones often do make me "want to fall asleep". In this passage, Mattheson cautions that "they should not use tempi that are too fast as if they were going off to some dance and to show off in front of others; but they should also not drag the tempo so that you would want to fall asleep in the middle of the chorale, but rather they should have the chorale take on a shape/form which is appropriately devout/pious and audible/distinct so that every/any pious Christian can have the required reverence {to carry out one's personal devotions, to contemplate in prayer devotionally} while singing." I can honestly say that I think the vast majority of HIP performances do indeed mange to achieve all these things...no showing off, but maintaining a nice flow to the music and certainly helping me in my personal religious reflections. I do not think that the excesses described by some of these commentators in rather flamboyant language could be applied to the HIP performers of today.

I agree with the call for jubilation in much of Bach's church cantata writing but I agree with all Doug's comments about "Jesu bleibet, meine Freude" and the performance style suggested by the music and libretto. To take another example that comes quickly to mind, BWV 68/2

Mein gläubiges Herze,
Frohlocke, sing, scherze,
Dein Jesus ist da!
Weg Jammer, weg Klagen,
Ich will euch nur sagen:
Mein Jesus ist nah

My heart ever faithful,
Exulting, sing gladly,
Thy Jesus is here!

Hence sorrow! Hence grieving!
I will simply tell you:
My Jesus is near!

I think everything about the music and words calls for a joyous style of performance.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 29, 2005):
Arioso in BWV 167

This arioso appears in the second half of the 2nd movement.

The arioso is marked 'adagio', and the cello part, with its wide-ranging interval leaps (strong, emotional writing in a minor key), is reminiscent of certain writing in a cello suite prelude. Leusink, at a slower tempo [5], is more striking than Rilling [1], in this sec.

Re the recent discussion on chorale tempi, I think I prefer Rilling's slower, grander approach; in the case of this cantata, a little more sharpness, here and there, in the phrasing of the continuo, and a trill or two from the trumpet at the end of some lines of text, would make it perfect - grand, serious, and joyful.

Also, having heard a web sample of Suzuki's duet, I still like Holton and Buwalda with Leusink, for the instrument-like purity of their voices.

John Pike wrote (July 29, 2005):
BWV 167

I greatly enjoyed this week's cantata. I have listened to Gardiner [6], Leusink [5], Harnoncourt [2] and Rilling [1]. There was much to enjoy in all 4 recordings. I paid particular attention to tempi this week, given recent discussions about tempo in HIP performances and various other allegations that they often fail to meet "acid tests" of "moderation, seriousness, but jubilation" and "not too fast". There are a very broad range of tempi in these 4 recordings but no pattern to who does what. I did not feel that any of the recordings have tempi that are too fast or slow. There was no evidence of showing off, just a heart-felt desire to do justice to this wonderful music. The blend of moderation, seriousness, "jubilation" was absolutely fine in all the recordings, despite their differences. In the first beautiful movment, Gardiner is fastest, followed by Leusink, Harnoncourt and Rilling, I seem to remember. All are very fine. I think Rilling's performance of this first movement is one of the best I have heard from him with nice articulation and gentle accentuation. The soloist is very fine. In the duet 3rd movement, speeds are reversed. Gardiner is about 90 seconds slower than both Leusink and Harnoncourt and slower, I think, than Rilling as well. Rilling's performance is marred by the obtrusive vibrato of the soloists, but intonation is very sound. Harnoncourt's performance is the most dramatic for me. I think Gardiner mentions in his notes that there is a faster middle section. I am wondering what markings there are in the manuscript indicating this. I am also wondering whether all the performers observe this or whether Gardiner is the only one who does, so accounting for his longer performance time overall for this movment. All 4 recordings give a fine account of the closing movement. Curiously, if I were to describe any of the string playing in this movement as "piacevole", it would be Rilling's players, perhaps because of a slightly more tenuto approach to the notes.

Nevertheless, all the performances of this movement were very pleasant.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 29, 2005):
John Pike wrote: >"I am wondering what markings there are in the manuscript indicating this (faster middle section ij the duet). I am also wondering whether all the performers observe this or whether Gardiner [6] is the only one who does, so accounting for his longer performance time overall for this movment".<
John, the BGA score has 'andante' at the beginning of the duet, but no other tempo markings. Both Rilling [1] and Leusink [5] speed up a bit when the music changes to 4/4 time, after the first two lines of text, ie, at 'Was er in dem Paradies...'. The interesting thing is that, after the next three line of text, at 'Haben wir Gottlob erfahren' the time-signature changes back to 3/4 time, while maintaining this faster speed (ie, each crotchet goes by at the same speed). Only with the repeat of the music and words of the first two lines of text do we have a return to the slightly slower tempo (in Rilling and Leusink, and presumably Gardiner [6]), while remaining in 3/4 time.

A nice detail to notice is the swapping of a little figure on the oboe d.c. with the continuo several times during the long melisma on 'hundert'.

A most enjoyable movement.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 29, 2005):
John Pike wrote: >>In the duet 3rd movement, speeds are reversed. Gardiner is about 90 seconds slower than both Leusink and Harnoncourt and slower, I think, than Rilling as well....I think Gardiner mentions in his notes that there is a faster middle section. I am wondering what markings there are in the manuscript indicating this.<<
There is no autograph score! Only the original parts are extant and there are some unusual aspects involved:

In BWV 167/3, the mvt. begins with an 'Andante' marking, but this exists only in the two continuo parts, the only parts not copied by Johann Andreas Kuhnau or Copyist 1 who were responsible for all the other parts. The simple continuo part, the only part from the entire set copied by Copyist 2 could not have been copied from the autograph score nor from the original continuo part (not transposed and without figured bass). There are no corrections in this part by Bach (almost all of the other parts were edited carefully by Bach.)

The other continuo part is transposed and has a figured bass. Bach almost always supplies the figured bass, but not in this instance, which is highly unusual. The copyist is Johann Christian Köpping, a copyist rarely employed by Bach. This part has an 'Andante' marked both at the beginning of the mvt. and at m. 93 just before the dal segno return. Bach may have corrected only two of the figures, possibly filling in a missing '7' but this is not clear (a question mark is included by the editors) and another correction possibly of a 7/# (again 'vielleicht' (maybe) is indicated by the editors). A footnote explains that these corrections "sind vermutlich nicht autograph" ['possibly not autograph'] but may have been put there by someone else during Bach's lifetime.

So, although the NBA has retained the designation of 'Andante' at the beginning of this mvt., this is based upon rather flimsy evidence. Consider that the soprano, alto, and oboe da caccia parts do not have any such designation on parts which truly belong to the original set of parts without question.

Around 1730 (1731 at the latest) Christian Gottlob Meißner made a copy of the score on paper which can not be related to any paper that Bach used during his lifetime. (Perhaps he made a copy of the score for his own use or that it might have been used by one of the 'Vicarios and Praefectos' for a performance in one of the other churches and not under Bach's direction - there are no indications that Bach used this score or left markings or corrections on it.) This score does have 'Andante' at the beginning of mvt. 3. In the 2nd section, the text reads 'thousands' instead of 'hundreds' of years.

A later copy made in 1836 has a 'Vivace' indicated at the point where the 3/4 changes to C in the middle section. The text has been changed considerably (in all mvts.!) as well:

Mvt. 3
(Andante)
Gottes treuer Vatersinn
Blickt nach bangen Sündern hin. 3/4 to C (Vivace)
Seine Hand ist ausgestreckt,
Sie mit Freuden zu empfangen
, C to 3/4 (Andante)
Wann sie, von dem Schlaf erweckt,
Sehnlich seine Huld verlangen.

Instead of the original middle section where 'God had promised in paradise many hundreds (thousands) of years ago,' we now have 'His hand is stretched out to receive the lost sinners joyfully.'

It would appear that over a century after Bach's first performance of this cantata, 'joy' was already beginning to be equated with 'fast.'

 

Continue on Part 3

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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