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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 168
Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 2, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 2, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 168 -- Tue Rechnung! Donnerwort

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV168 , the last of three works for the 9th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV168.htm

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

The BWV 168 page also has convenient access to notes from the Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issue, via link beneath the cover photo.

The Gardiner CD needs special mention. The works for Trinity 9 are one of four actual pilgrimage recordings which were released by DG Archiv, rather than on Gardiner’s own SDG label. The others are for Trinity 11, Epiphany 3, and the Purification. Notes by Gardiner are not included, so there is no BCW link this week.

The chorale text and melody are also accessible via links at the BWV 168 page. Francis Browne is adding new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3].

Francis Browne wrote (October 3, 2011):
BWV 168 Notes on the text

Notes on the text

BWV 168 was composed for the 9th Sunday after Trinity and was first performed on 29th July 1725. The text is by Salomon Franck. Bach used his Evangelisches Andachts-Opfer for some of the cantatas he composed a decade earlier in Weimar. Wolff suggests that in 1715 the 9th Sunday after Trinity fell during a period without music, the time of state mourning for Prince Johann Ernst. The autograph score according to Dürr clearly originated in Leipzig, and so it is plausible to suppose that Bach recalled the text he could not use in Weimar and set it years later in Leipzig .

As was his custom Franck keeps close to the gospel for the Sunday (Luke 16: 1-9, the parable of the unjust steward). The opening aria echoes some of the words of the gospel. Hans Joachim Schulze suggests as possible sources for Franck's text a sermon printed in 1679 by HeinrichMüller, a theologian from Rostock , in his Evange­lischer Hertzens-Spiegel
Wir sitzen auff Rechnung / und müssen augenblicklich gewärtig seyn /daß diß Donner-Wort erschalle: Thue Rechnung... Fordert es Gott nicht ehe / so fordert er es gewiß in der letzten Todes-Stunde / da muß die Seele an die Rechen-Banck / und Antwort geben." and also a stanza from a hymn by Johannes Olearius printed 1671 in Leipzig in his Geistlichen Singekunst:
Thu Rechnung! Gott will ernstlich Rechnung von dir haben,
thu Rechnung, spricht der Herr, von allen deinen Gaben,
thu Rechnung, fürchte Gott, du mußt sonst plötzlich fort,
thu Rechnung: denke stets an diese Donner-Wort."

The occurrence of both Tue Rechnung and Donnerwort seems striking but the same collocation is found in Andreas Gryphius :
Weil mir das ernste Donnerwort durch Ohr vnd Muth/ vnd Geister kracht.
Thu Rechnung Mensch/ von Leib vnd Geist/ von reden/ lesen/ thun vnd schreiben
. (Sonnet 46)
This suggests that it is a question of a rhetorical commonplace of the time rather than a direct source.

Franck's libretto with its short lines rhymed throughout is competent rather than inspired . Even as fair and judicious a critic as Dürr says :
The baroque poet Franck is not deterred from using detailed metaphors whose realism, to our way of thinking today, exceeds the bounds of poetic possibilities: for example, 'When I see my accounts so full of defects' and 'principal and interest'.

Many might agree, but such judgements may also be seen as being based on a limited assumption of what is possible in poetry, more appropriate for romantic lyrics rather than the extravagance and ingenuity of baroque poetry.

The opening stanza at least makes a forceful beginning with its triple repetition of the key phrase.Donnerwort is found fairly often elsewhere in German literature and so is not as striking an expression as 'thunderous word' in English.

Problems perhaps begin with the first recitative which includes both a prosaic examination of accounts and, using the words of the prophet Hosea quoted by Christ on his way to Calvary, an emotional plea for mountains and hills to fall on the speaker. Incongruous juxtaposition of different spheres of imagery or apt illumination of the transcendent by the temporal? Each reader or listener will decide for themselves.Similarly the accounting and legal imagery of the tenor aria and the second recitative will evoke differing reactions.

The second recitative as often in the later movements of the cantatas proposes a solution to the problem posed earlier. Christ provides an answer to our fears of death and judgement.Here Franck adds also a passage which reflects on the gospel : use Mammon wisely so that death loses its terror

The final stanza is taken from Bartholomäus Ringwaldt's Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut (1588) and returns to thoughts of Jesus' sacrifice and our own death.

Bach thought sufficiently well of this libretto to remember it for ten years . Nobody would consider the cantata he produced in Leipzig to be among his greatest works, but as Julian Mincham concludes 'we should be grateful for this minor work if only for the superb openiing aria'.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 3, 2011):
Cantatas and Mourning

Francis Browne wrote:
< Wolff suggests that in 1715 the 9th Sunday after Trinity fell during a period without music, the time of state mourning for Prince Johann Ernst. >
What were the protocols in Leipzig for court mourning? Was there a "closed" period like Lent and Advent when concerted music was prohibited on Sunday? How often did it occur, and how long was the mourning period? Has anyone calculated how it may have affected Bach's regular cantata performances?

Julian Mincham wrote (October 3, 2011):
BWV 168 composition

Francis Browne wrote:
< BWV 168 was composed for the 9th Sunday after Trinity and was first performed on 29th July 1725. The text is by Salomon Franck. Bach used his Evangelisches Andachts-Opfer for some of the cantatas he composed a decade earlier in Weimar. Wolff suggests that in 1715 the 9th Sunday after Trinity fell during a period without music, the time of state mourning for Prince Johann Ernst. The autograph score according to Dürr clearly originated in Leipzig, and so it is plausible to suppose that Bach recalled the text he could not use in Weimar and set it years later in Leipzig . >
There are several intriguing possibilities. Perhaps he had composed the cantata in Weimar and reused it here in July 1725 although, as Dü points out, it would have had to have been rewritten as the autograph score clearly marks it from the Leipzig period. It was the first cantata after a break of six weeks that Bach took after BWV 176 which completed the secon cycle. Wolff places it as the first cantof a possible third cycle although this is problematic.

As far as I am aware noone has pointed out the possible connection of the dates of Frank's death and this work. The former occurred around a fortnight before this cantata was first performed on July 29th 1725. I think it very possible that Bach, having received news of the death of his former collaborator and, it is thought, friend, that he deliberately chose this text to set as a tribute to him. A fortnight later he set another of his texts in BWV 164.

Francis Browne wrote (October 3, 2011):
[regardingCantatas and Mourning]
Doug Cowling asked an interesting question about how periods of offical mourning may have effected Bach in Leipzig - to which I do not know the answer.

The information I gave about mourning in Weimar in 1715 came from Wolff's notes for Koopman's recording. In his biography of Bach he gives more detail :
on receiving the news in August 1715 of the untimely death of his 18-year-old brother, Duke Ernst August declared a six-month, duchy wide mourning period through February 2, 1716. Every kind of music was banned, though church music was allowed to resume prematurely on November 10, the 21st Sunday after Trinity. Bach, like all members of the court capelle received 12 florins for buying mourning clothes. On April 2, two months after the mourning period was lifted, a memorial service was conducted at the Himmelsburg, with the performance of an elaborate funeral peace'(p177)

Julian Mincham wrote (October 3, 2011):
[To Francis Browne, regardingCantatas and Mourning] I don't have specific references to hand but my impression is that it was often a move-able feast, the period and type of mourning depending on the status of the individual and the wishes of dukes and princes and other people of high status. There were also individual initiatives as in the case with BWV 198 and the involvement of the university in marking the death of a queen, popular for not ditching her faith.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 3, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote [regarding composition]:
< The autograph score according to Dürr clearly originated in Leipzig, and so it is plausible to suppose that Bach recalled the text he could not use in Weimar and set it years later in Leipzig. >
Adding some support and/or additional questions about Bachs freedom and influence on text selection in Leipzig. Without reviewing all the details, we seem to be accumulating evidence that he had considerable personal latitude, if not actual control.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 3, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote [regarding Notes on the text]:
< Even as fair and judicious a critic as Dürr says : The baroque poet Franck is not deterred from using detailed metaphors whose realism, to our way of thinking today, exceeds the bounds of poetic possibilities: for example, 'When I see my accounts so full of defects' and 'principal and interest'.
Many might agree, but such judgements may also be seen as being based on a limited assumption of what is possible in poetry, more appropriate for romantic lyrics rather than the extravagance and ingenuity of baroque poetry.
[...]
Each reader or listener will decide for themselves. Similarly the accounting and legal imagery of the tenor aria and the second recitative will evoke differing reactions. >
If it rhymes, it suits the times!

William Hoffmam wrote (October 3, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski, regarding Notes on the text] Different strokes for different folks.

 

Cantata BWV 168: 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: żOctober 3, 2011 ż22:09:54