Cantata BWV 172
Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of June 11, 2000
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 14, 2000):
This is the week of cantata BWV 172, according to Jane Newble's suggestion. After some humble and somber cantatas in the last couple of weeks, we have now one of festive ones. Well, not wholly festive, because in each of the Bach cantatas you can find sad movements as well as happy ones. With this cantata every movement fall easily on the ear, most of them are catchy and not many listenings are needed to get captivated by the music. In short, a very good starting point to beginners in the huge, rich and endless world of Bach cantatas.
For some background on this glorious cantata, I would like to quote from 2 books.
Alec Robertson wrote in his book:
"It is strange that not one of the four librettos Bach set for Pentecost makes any allusion to the awe-inspiring descent of the Holy Spirit as related in Acts 2: 1-13, appointed to be read on this Sunday, and so we are deprived of the stirring picture Bach would have made of the mighty rushing wind and the tongues of fire".
W. Murray Young wrote in his book:
"Probably Bach set this Whit Sunday cantata to an unpublished text by Salomo Frank in 1714, at the time he was court composer in Weimar. It was performed in Leipzig in 1724, and again in 1731 after Bach had revised it. Ewe hear the 1731 version in our modern performances.
The Gospel, John 14 (23-41), provides the text of the only recitative in the cantata. There are references to this Pentecost Festival in the libretto, but no other Scriptural quotations are included, even for the Epistle, Acts 2 (1-4), which describes the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles.
The vocalists are SATB, which parts are allocated also to the four-part chorus. The orchestra is quite unusual, having 3 trumpets, timpani, a bassoon, 2 violins, 2 violas, organ and continuo, but without woodwinds. The magnificent sound produced seems to make the cantata more like an outdoor piece than one would expect inside a church where it occurred. Perhaps Bach had it ion mind as a secular composition originally".
Review of the Recordings
BWV 172 has already been recorded by all five groups of the complete cycles - Rilling , Harnoncourt/Leonhardt , Koopman , Suzuki , and Leusink . Besides them we have also one of the first generations of cantatas recordings from Cantate label, this time by Ziegler  and one from the incomplete cycles recorded by four of the St. Thomas Kantors - Ramin, Kurt Thomas, Mauersberger, and Rotzsch . The only one missing here is Karl Richter and it is a pity, because the nature of this cantata suits very well Richter's approach. Let's forget what we have missed and concentrate on what we have, because some of the recordings are on a very high level. See: Cantata BWV 172 - Recordings.
 Klaus Martin Ziegler (Mid 1960s?)
I have learnt to love this cantata with this recording. Therefore it was the first one I listened to in the process of comparing the various recording of BWV 172 and I was not disappointed. The trumpets and the choir in the opening chorus are bubbling with joy. There is special naivety and spontaneity in the singing of the choir that I like a lot. The marvelous voice and the singing of Stämpfli are of the most suitable for the recitative and aria for bass. He is authoritative, sensitive, warm and merciful. The trumpets in the aria are bright and alert. There is perfect match between the strings and the tenor in the following aria. They complement each other, gushing out from each other, taking each other away along this aria. I feel as if the strings are singing. The soprano and alto sing so well together, that I thought for a moment that both voices come from the same throat. Each one of them interprets her part perfectly. The soprano is troubled worried and the alto is giving her confidence and comfort. The only problem here is the playing of the organ obbligato, which is too prominent, and somehow spoils the delicate balance. The opening chorus is repeated here in faster tempo. When I heard this recording one more time after Koopman and Suzuki, I became less enthusiastic. The recording is showing its age and the performance sounds to me now a little bit slow and heavy. However, I shall keep loving it. It is unfair that the old recordings did not enjoy the same level of recording techniques like the newer ones.
 Helmuth Rilling (1975)
The trumpets shine in the opening chorus. The play splendidly, with assured tone and stable sound.
This is a middle of the road performance. The playing of the trumpets in the opening chorus is bright and solid. The choir is impressive, although not so clear as some of the other recordings are. Schöne is very flexible and authoritative and he manages to get along with the trumpets in the aria for bass. The aria for tenor is so somber in Kraus singing. The duet of the soprano and alto is ordinary. The voices match well, but the excitement is not there. The opening chorus is not repeated at the end of the cantata. More and more I come to conclusion that the best parts in the Rilling's cycle are the soloists. Regarding this aspect, the main thing that I miss in this recording is the sublime voice of Arleen Augér, but
 Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1981)
I found her in Rotzsch's recording. This recording has similar characteristics to that of Rilling. It is less vigorous and more relaxed, but somehow it also sounds truer. The trumpets in the opening chorus are very good and the singing of the choir is fresh. The singing of Theo Adam in the aria for bass is too slow. He is trying to hold the slow movement with his impressive voice, but it sounds unnatural. For Schreier singing of the aria for alto I have nothing but praises. And than comes the duet for soprano and alto. Wenkel, the alto singer, cannot match Augér and consequently there is not good balance between the two female voices. But Augér is so marvelous - sensitive, deep and touching in her interpretation, her voice is simply sublime, that she succeeds in holding the duet by herself. There is only one soprano that I love and appreciate on the same level as Augér. She has also recorded with Rilling, but we have not met her so far in the weakly cantatas' discussion. Don't worry, her time will come. The opening chorus is repeated here, exactly in the same tempo.
 Gustav Leonhardt (1987)
Leonhardt's conducting in the opening chorus is dogmatic. The singing of the choir is splendid, but you get the feeling that they want to express openly their joy, but are hold by the conductor. Van Egmond is sensitive and touching in his recitative. The playing of the trumpets is improving in the following aria for bass. They push to move ahead and the bass calm them down. This relation between the bass and the trumpets is unique to this recording. The trumpets sound to me like a parade in an old German City back in the 17th century. Van Altena, The tenor singer, is restrained in his aria, and not exciting enough. But the playing of the string in this aria is very beautiful indeed. There are no intonation problems, which can be found in some other cantatas recording of the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt cycle. The weakest movement of this recording is the duet for soprano and alto. The boy has problematic voice and he does not control his part. There is no matching between the two voices. It is unpleasant to listen to this duet inthis performance. The repeat of the opening chorus is missing here. In the last line I can say that although this recording is far from being perfect, it is still so different from the others, especially in the ancient atmosphere, that it is illuminating to listen to it.
 Ton Koopman (1995)
The opening chorus is fast, fresh and right. The choir is fantastic - fluent and flowing. The playing of the trumpets here is the brightest of them all. The separation between the voices of the choir is so clear, that it is very easy to follow the different voices in the splendid fugal middle section. It is felt that Koopman did a very meticulous work with the choir and yet they sound so spontaneous and full of joy. Mertens singing, both in the recitative and the aria for bass, is delight to the ear. His voice is flexible and he is doing the coloratura very easily with no effort at all. His voice sounds good in all the registers. The ideal Bass singer in this cantata, although he is in a very high level group. With the authority he transforms, he dominates easily the aria for Bass. As though he is saying to the trumpets, this is my aria, you can get excited as you want, I am not impressed. The timbre of voice of Pregardien suits so well his aria. The playing of the strings in unison in the ascending and descending legato gives the right mood to the serene melody. And the singing of Pregardien above the strings is flexible, warm, clear and unpretentious. The match between the voices of Schlick and Wessel in the duet for soprano and alto is perfect. She is worried and he is calming. The playing of organ in this duet is fine and gentle. The praises of the choir were already sung, bur in the chorale there is also beautiful playing of the violin, which is raising from within and above the voices in a memorable moment. It is such a great fun to hear the opening chorus in this recording one more time at the end of the cantata. It ends with a roll of drums, which leaves you wanting to here more. The whole rendering is very homogeneous, and it is also helped by very good recording. But the real hero of this recording is Koopman himself. He is very professional, yet he manages to be also human and to keep the atmosphere of spontaneity.
 Masaaki Suzuki (1997)
This recording is the twin of Koopman's. A little bit less warm and a little bit more clean, but no less exciting. Kooy performs his role with the same degree of conviction as Mertens do, although I have to admit that I prefer Mertens' voice is more to my taste. Sakurada is somewhat weak along his accompaniment. The pick of this performance ids the duet for soprano and alto. It shows how important is to use voices, which were cleverly chosen, They match so well. Schmithusen singing is vibratoless, less beautiful than that of Schlick and Mera is no match for Wessel. But the combination of both voices is making wonders. I was captivated by this duet. Comparing Koopman's and Suzuki's recordings is similar to two paintings of the same landscape by two excellent painters. You realize that it is the same landscape and you can enjoy both paintings. One can easily see that both conductors invested a lot of time in researching in order to get the best results in terms of truthfulness to the aims of the composer. Lucky me that I am not forced to choose. Suzuki's recording does not repeat the opening chorus.
 Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
This recording has too many drawbacks. The opening chorus is very disappointing. It sounds as if it was recorded behind a heavy curtain, the choir is hollow, the trumpets lack any bright and the drum is too prominent. The whole sound of the opening chorus is not appropriate. Instead of being light and bright, it is dark and morbid. The voice of Ramselaar in his recitative sound so close, that I got the impression that the microphone was put deep into his throat. In the aria for bass the playing of the brass and the singing of the bass have no connection to each other. In the duet for soprano and alto, the voices of the Soprano and the alto complete each other but give very strange and unnatural feeling, The reason for that might be the voice of Buwalda. The fragile quality of his tone fails to convince that this Holy Spirit can give confidence to the troubled soul. In this recording there is no repeat of the opening chorus at the end of the cantata. This is not a recording I shall come back to very often.
Koopman  is my first choice, and Suzuki  comes very close second. Both of them gave me experience of very high level. Leusink's recording  is the weakest of all the 7 complete recordings of this cantata that I have heard.
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Marie Jensen wrote (June 14, 2000):
BWV 172 "Erschallet ihr Lieder", according Jane's suggestion, is a great cantata, also very variated in its rich instrumentation. It celebrates the birthday of the Church, the Whit, where the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples in Jerusalem 10 days after the Ascension, 50 days after Easter. That is why Whit also is called Pentecost.
The Holy Spirit is the third of Gods aspects, completing the Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Ghost (Spirit). So the number 3 will play a role.
The opening is very festive with 3 trumpets and drums like the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), and it is repeated in the end like the third part of the Christmas Oratorio. "Erschallet ihr Lieder, erklinget ihr Saiten", that is exactly what happens here, the drums coming up from the ground, the trumpets coming down from Heaven to make a powerful field of joy: "O Seligster Zeiten" The way the word "seligster" hangs in the air makes me blissful too!
After a Vox Christi bass recitativo joy continues to explode in trumpet triades in the following bass aria.
Then the cantata changes character from praising God to describing the Holy Ghost. The symbol of the Holy Spirit is the peaceful dove appearing in the sky. So the trumpets are put aside.
The tenor aria is a smooth gentle breeze of strings, describing Gods breath, the Holy Spirit blowing life into the creation, a Spirit still around.
Then comes the duet where the soul is meeting the Holy Ghost: The soul symbolized by a soprano, the Holy Ghost symbolized by an alto. The soul longs and just before the Holy Ghost answers, a long tone floats in the air to symbolize its coming.
The three parts lie so close, making a very dense construction, which requires extra concentration when listening. It is easier to listen to a Soul-Jesus duet, where the soprano sings together with a bass.
The tune of the final choral is the same as in BWV 36 for the first Sunday in Advent. As that Sunday opens the festive part of the church year and Whit ends it, it seems a very good choice.
It is also a fine choice to repeat the opening part. Because starting with trumpets means ending with trumpets. A Whit Sunday cannot just fade like that.
The Rilling version  and the Leusink version  are very different, and both have advantages and disadvantages.
The opening: Rilling's opens rather slowly with dignity and lots of trumpet glow, and now I write it again I love the Rilling trumpeters! The Gächinger Kantorei has a beautiful balanced and very pleasant sound.
Leusink makes a good opening too, more unpolished, with more weight on the drum than the trumpets. But I'm sure it would be better if the trumpets were more in the foreground.
In the bass recitativo Ramselaar (Leusink) has not enough power on the last very deep note: It is a challenge to sing "machen", a long long winding "Ma-" to fall down with power on "chen". It takes time to build a "Wohnung"
The tenor aria: Schreier in Rilling's version is so fine.His voice has an Apollo character, classic and cool as the shadow of ancient Greek archades. Schoch (Leusink) is not powerful enough here.
But in the duet the Leusink crew is a clear winner. Here the more vibratoless style makes the dense construction clearer, so the voices (and not a word about them, I promised) are much easier to separate than in Rilling's version. HIP will be best here, I'm sure, so I'm looking forward to read about f. ex. Koopman, read, because my wallet is empty. For the long note introducing the Holy Spirit, Leusink uses organ and Rilling oboe.
It is a pity, that the Leusink crew does not repeat the opening as Rilling does.
Conclusion: Except the duet Rilling's version  is best, but Leusink's version  is absolutely worth listening to.
Jane Newble wrote (June 14, 2000):
Well, as I only have Koopman  and Leusink , and Marie has already written about Leusink, here is my impression of Koopman. In short, I love it. The choral singing is beautiful in the opening chorus, very festive and happy. But I have always loved the singing on the Koopman CD's.
Then comes the divine voice of Klaus Mertens, and the recitative ends in that wonderful incredibly low note.
The Bass aria makes me think of my favorite from the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248): "Groszer Herr, o starker König". And who could resist the way he sings: "Komm" with so much persuasion in his voice.
The tenor aria could perhaps have been taken a little slower.
The duet makes me wish that Ruth Holton was singing it, but that is only because I'm not a great admirer of Barbara Schlick's mature voice. Ruth Holton and Kai Wessel would have been ideal. As it is, Kai Wessel is a bit overpowered.
In the chorale I love the violin part, as if to reiterate the part of the Holy Spirit. And then just to make sure you will want to hear the whole thing all over again, the opening chorus breaks in again.
Leusink is noticeably slower when listening to it after Koopman. In fact, it is not a good idea to listen to Koopman first, as Leusink sounds a bit wooden on the "Erschallet". And of course no one can compare with Mertens, IMHO. Even though Bas Ramselaar has a good bass voice. Thankfully, Leusink uses Nico van der Meel for the tenor-aria. Personally I find Knut Schoch almost unbearable with his metallic unfeeling shouting voice. Koopman has Pregardien who I like. And I take back what I said before about this aria being longer. Leusink's is nearly a minute longer, but I prefer the way Koopman takes it, although I would be quite happy if this was the only version I had. It is slightly sleepifying though. I always admire Ruth Holton for singing duets with Buwalda. But the combination Holton-Buwalda I find far preferable to Schlick-Wessel. Much easier to listen to, as the alto does not disappear in the background. It is a pity that Leusink stops after the chorale as Marie also says. And of course, I wish I had more versions, Suzuki , for example?
Matthew Westphal wrote (June 15, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron, regarding the quote from Robertson] What about BWV 34, "O ewiges Feuer"? To what does Alec Robertson think the "Feuer" (fire) of the opening chorus refers if not to the tongues of fire (that is, the Holy Spirit) descending upon the Apostles?
[snip excellent discussion by Aryeh of the various performances, none of which I have yet heard]
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 15, 2000):
[To Matthew Westphal] Hi Matthew, Thanks for your feedback. You are absolutely right. In the same book, 5 pages after the above quote, Robertson wrote about the opening chorus (Mvt.1) of BWV 34, as follows:
"The 'fire', as the text implies, is not that of historic event but symbolic. Fire gives light and flames, and typical figures in all the instrumental parts are marked staccato to enhance the radiant effect. There is a fine homophonic passage at 'inflame the hearts and consecrate them', repeated - with the brass silent - at greater length and yet again with a thrilling re-entry of the brass".
So, nobody is free of mistakes, not even Robertson. I could not hold myself after your remark and I listened to the opening chorus of BWV 34 (in Rilling version). The picture of the tongues of flames stepping high, competing with each other and interlacing with each other is very vivid. It could be fascinating to open now a discussion about BWV 34, but I have to do my homework for BWV 165, the cantata for the next week discussion.
And what about BWV 172? 7 recordings and you have none of them? I thought that you write regularly reviews for Amazon. Koopman  and Suzuki  are recent recordings and quite easily to get worldwide. You do not have to look any further, because these two are the best recordings of this cantata, IMHO.
Matthew Westphal wrote (June 15, 2000):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< And what about BWV 172? 7 recordings and you have none of them? I thought that you write regularly reviews for Amazon. >
I am embarrassed to report that not only do I have the Suzuki (Vol. 7) , but that I have reviewed it for Amazon. (Talk about mistakes!)
I see another inaccuracy in the review itself -- I claim that all the cantatas on the disc are for Advent or Christmas. OOPS! Actually, I think I was fudging there: the review was done in the fall, just before the Christmas shopping season (thus providing a "hook" and a convenient lead sentence); at that point we still had very strict length limits for reviews. And hey -- the final chorale is "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern"! I wasn't SO very far off (he said shame-facedly).
It's funny -- I don't really miss the woodwinds in the opening chorus; actually, I think the lack of woodwinds helps the very high violin writing shine through all that festive trumpeting. Peter Kooy is indeed excellent in his aria, but I'm really impressed by trumpeter Toshio Shimada. I agree that tenor Makoto Sakurada is a bit dull (I think he has improved since then). The blend between Ingrid Schmithusen and Yoshikazu Mera (two favorites of mine) is particularly lovely, although I kept thinking the duet would be much more beautiful if performed a bit more slowly. The chorale harmonizations that typically end Bach cantatas (especially the Leipzig ones) usually strike me as a bit of a let-down, but the performance of "Wie schön" is gorgeous.
Jane Newble wrote (June 15, 2000):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
 < The match between the voices of Schlick and Wessel in the duet for soprano and alto is perfect. She is worried and he is calming. >
Thank you Aryeh, for what you wrote about Koopman's version. As far as the duet is concerned, I had not looked at it this way, and I suddenly thought of the Holy Spirit as the 'still small voice' of God, which Elijah heard in his worried state. In that sense it is appropriate that the alto should be softer. I'll have to listen to it again now with this in mind.
Thank you for all your reviews, they are very enlightening and instructive.
Ryan Michero wrote (June 16, 2000):
It seems I have little to add this week because of the fine posts from Marie, Aryeh, Jane, and Matthew. But I'll throw my two cents in for what they're worth:
 Leonhardt's recording has its good points, but overall it has too many weaknesses for me to recommend it. I quite like the opening chorus here. Perhaps Leonhardt is a bit rigid in his conducting, but the lovely playing and singing make up for this. The trumpet playing is surprisingly accomplished for the Teldec series. In the bass recitative and aria, Mvan Egmond is not up to his usual high standards (perhaps he was under the weather?), and the trumpets overpower him in the aria. I really love the sounds of the trumpets and drums in this performance, though--quite powerful and assured. I agree totally with Aryeh about the performance of the tenor aria--van Altena is inexpressive but the string section sounds gorgeous. The weakest part of the recording, though, is the soprano and alto duet, ruined by the dangerously insecure voice of the poor boy soprano. The chorale sounds beautiful, but it is too little too late.
 Koopman's recording is excellent but not my favorite. The opening chorus is wonderfully joyous and dance-like, but I don't agree with Koopman's decision to use single strings with his normal MVPP (multiple voices per part--is that an acceptable acronym?) choir. The strings sound too thin--go OVPP all the way or not at all. As Jane and Aryeh have mentioned, Mertens is in wonderful voice here and steals the show in his recitative and aria. The tenor aria "O Seelen-paradies" is also very well done. Pregardien is wonderfully expressive, and the orchestra, enhanced by a recorder, sounds beautifully delicate and gentle. But like Jane, I'm not too fond of the performance of the soprano/alto duet. Wessel is fine, but Schlick, while expressive, tends to screech (to my ears) in her upper register. Also, Koopman's organ is way too loud, and he ornaments the chorale line beyond recognition. The "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" chorale is nicely sung, but the violins again sound too thin against the choir. Perhaps I'm just used to Leipzig-era cantata structure, but repeating the opening chorus after the final chorale seems strange to me (even though I know Bach did this at first).
 I know you all probably guessed that Suzuki's version would be my favorite, but what can I say? --IT'S GREAT! The opening chorus seems to have more life and joy than even Koopman's. I love the way the imitative choral and instrumental lines seem to arch over each other like a perfectly timed fireworks show. The choir sounds suitably ecstatic, and the brassy trumpets and rich strings sound magnificent. Contrary to popular belief on this list, I think Kooy tops Mertens in his performance of the bass recitative and aria. Kooy has a heroic quality in his voice that suits the aria perfectly, making this number something of a tour de force for him. I do think the trumpets could be a bit more forward though--but perhaps Kooy wouldn't be as impressive then? The string section sounds wonderful in the tenor aria, though I think Makoto Sakurada has had finer moments. I completely agree with Aryeh that the soprano/alto duet is captivating in Suzuki's performance. The voices of Ingrid Schmithusen, tremulous and innocent, and Yoshikazu Mera, sweet and comforting, blend perfectly, and their singing is marvelously expressive and touching. "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" is one of my favorite chorale melodies, and Bach's setting of it in this cantata moves me deeply. In Suzuki's performance it sounds perfect. The combination of the soaring string melody and the voices makes my heart melt.
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 16, 2000):
[To Ryan Michero] Thanks for your fine posting. I have only one minor question.
You wrote regarding both Koopman  and Suzuki  recordings:
The "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern" chorale...
But the opening words of the chorale (Mvt. 6) in BWV 172 are:
"Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein"
(A joyful light comes to me from God)
Where in BWV 36, where Bach used the same melody, the opening words of the chorale (Mvt. 4) are:
"Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara"
(Play the strings in Cythera)
The only place I could find the words:
"Wie schon leuchter der Morgenstern"
(How beautiful is the morning star)
is in the following record (mentioned in my review)
[M-1] Herman Kreutz/Bachchor Gutersloh
(Cantate, recorded 1968). Time: 2:50
This is a record of Well-known Chorales in Settings by Johann Sebastian Bach, which includes the Chorale (Mvt. 6) from BWV 172 and (Mvt. 4) from BWV 36.
Am I missing something? Being non-Christian, I do not have too much knowledge about the chorales' tradition. I know that the original melodies were composed by different composers along the years and Bach harmonized them when he used them in his cantatas. I know also that the same melody could be used for chorales with different words and vice versa. But I do not know if the connection between the words and the melody in the chorales has any meaning.
F. Oreja wrote (June 16, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] 'Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern' is a very old epiphanies song (Strassburg, by Philipp Nicolai 1599) and belongs since then to the evangelic song book. I have an exemplar from 1951. The song there has 7 strophes. I quote the first verses of each one:
1. Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern
2. Ei meine Perl, du werte Kron
3. Seuf sehr in das Herz hinein
4. Vom Gott kommt mir wie ein Freudenschein
5. Herr Gott Vater, mein starker Held
6. Zwingt die Seiten in Cythara
/(Other version:) Bringt das Seitenspiel (die Cythara) zum klingen
7. Wie bin ich doch so herzlich froh
It is also always the same song with the same melody, where different strophes are being sung.
Jane Newble wrote (June 16, 2000):
Ryan Michero wrote:
< Perhaps I'm just used to Leipzig-era cantata structure, but repeating the opening chorus after the final chorale seems strange to me (even though I know Bach did this at first). >
The first time I heard this being done was in cantatas by Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795) and in the notes it says: "...a seven-part design corresponding to the type of many Central and Northern German cantatas of the second half of the eighteenth century such as are known to us in the music of C.P.E. Bach: a chorale forms the center and is framed symmetrically by recitatives and arias, with the introductory chorus being repeated at the conclusion".
This puzzles me. Are there more examples of JSB doing this? Even here he does not use this particular structure. Was he just trying it out? Did he not like it? Erlebach also used it (1657-1714). I expect I'll have to read up about it somewhere, unless you or someone else knows the answer?
 < I know you all probably guessed that Suzuki's version would be my favorite, but what can I say? --IT'S GREAT! >
When I read what you say about Suzuki makes me think I really will have to get it!
Marie Jensen wrote (June 16, 2000):
(To Jane Newble) The symmetrical structure: Chorus, duet, solo, chorus, solo, duet, chorus is used in BWV 4 Christ lag in Todesbanden, though the opening and final choruses not are identical in text and are different arrangements of the same chorale tune.
Identical choruses are found in BWV 248/3 "Herrscher des Himmels" but it has no symmetrical structure.
That is what I can remember right now, but I would also like to learn more.
Both BWV 172 and BWV 248/3 are festive. Perhaps putting trumpets on the final choral is not enough or not a good choice. So perhaps reusing the opening is a way to underline joy. (my private Friday night theory!) I think it has something to do with the trumpets. Praising God with trumpets from the start means you have to return to them in the end or the joy will fade out (Un-Bachish), while the opposite makes fine sense: starting in depression - ending in joy and triumph, for example BWV 12 and BWV 21.
Do any Bach cantatas start with trumpets and end without?
F. Oreja wrote (January 18, 2000):
(response to Ryan Michero and Jane Newble messages) BWV 172 was composed, as it was repeatedly said, in Weimar 1714. Bach has performed the cantata at least four times in Leipzig. For some of these performances he changed the key from C-Major to D-Major, for other not (the C-Major choir-tuning in Weimar corresponds with D-Major; it is also a natural transposition for conserving the original tuning). Curious is indeed, that the 'chorus repetatur ab initio' (the repetition from the beginning of the initial chorus) is only in the D-Major version, i.e. in a version for later performances in Leipzig. It is thus in Leipzig, not in Weimar, where the repetition is required. When Suzuki or Leusink choose not to repeat the chorus, it is also sure not only a personal decision: they have chosen to perform the original (not modified) version in C-Major from the year 1714. I have no idea what could have been the reason for the required repetition of the initial chorus in the later versions in D-Major.
Ryan Michero wrote (June 18, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron, regarding the chorale of BWV 172] There is a simple explanation for this: When Christians sing a chorale or hymn in church, the actual melody (usually with simple harmonizations) is written out on, say, one page. Often, there are multiple verses of this single chorale that can be sung to the same music. When we finish the first verse all the way through, we move on to the next, singing any additional verses to the exact same melody. We identify these chorales with the first line of the first verse. For the chorale in question, the first line is "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern", while the other verses start with different phrases ("Von Gott kommt mir ein Freudenschein", and "Zwingt die Saiten in Cythara"). Like I said in my post, the melody for the chorale that begins with the line "Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern" is one of my favorites, and I identify the melody with that line rather than the opening line of another verse.
Bach usually only uses one verse of a chorale per movement for his cantatas and passions. However, there are exceptions to this. For instance, take the chorale tune that is repeated most frequently in the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244)--what many call the Bach chorale. It is customary to refer to this tune as "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden", even though it only sung with that text once in the passion. When these words are sung, though, Bach repeats the same music with another verse of the text--pretty rare occurrence for Bach that points out how important the idea expressed in the chorale is in the passion story.
Aryeh Oron wrote (June 18, 2000):
[To Ryan Michero, regarding the Chorales] Thanks you for your enlightening explanation. I was so disturbed for not understanding the issue, that since I had written the original message, I searched in my library and found detailed description about the history of the Chorale in the opening chapters of Schweitzer's book about JSB. Your explanation is shorter, yet go directly to the point. Thanks again.
Ryan Michero wrote (June 18, 2000):
[To Marie Jensen, regarding repeating the first chorus at the end of the cantata] Actually, Konrad Junghänel believes Bach originally repeated the music of the opening chorus at the end of BWV 4 when it was first performed. It is recorded this way on his recent Bach cantatas disc, and it is an interesting way to hear it (though ultimately not as satisfying to me as the later version).
< Both BWV 172 and BWV 248/3 are festive. Perhaps putting trumpets on the final choral is not enough or not a good choice. So perhaps reusing the opening is a way to underline joy. (My private Friday night theory!) I think it has something to do with the trumpets. Praising God with trumpets from the start means you have to return to them in the end or the joy will fade out (Un-Bachish), while the opposite makes fine sense: starting in depression - ending in joy >
Your theory makes perfect sense to me!
Harry J. Steinman wrote (June 19, 2000):
Just a quick note to you all, to thank the folks (once again) who write about the cantatas. I have, over the last year or so, acquired LOTS of cantatas (fastest growing category of my JSB collection) but I tend not to know where to start listening, and sometimes have difficulty picking one to listen to. Nearly every week I listen to what is being discussed, and read all of the posts. I was especially intrigued by the discussion of BWV 172, looked in my collection, and Lo and Behold! I have Koopman's recording . And that's one of the ones most everybody raved about. Now I'm a fan of it too. Haven't gotten too much further than the wonderful first movement, the subsequent bass aria and the duet. But then, that's a lot!
Continue on Part 2
Cantata BWV 172: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4