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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 172
Erschallet, ihr Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of March 6, 2005 [Continue]

Cara Peterson wrote (March 8, 2005):
BWV 172: Low C

Good Evening (or whatever it is when you get this)!

In response to Peter's mail about the low C...in BWV 172, that's interesting. I have actually heard a low C before (and not just by Barry White, so this is quite a feat for someone my age), but with the human voice, it's not much audible - you can hear the tone, but unless the singer is VERY good, the note's not too loud.

So why would Bach write a low C? That's my question - it's not heard easily, it was likely NOT common in his age - though, yes, I'm not a wonderful Bach scholar, Bach's music is normally reasonably possible. A little story (that actually has to do with this). About two weeks ago, I was sitting at the console, yes, of St. Mark's (which I've announced loudly already). I played the pedals with the 32 ft flute (well...prestant) stop. [There was a 'bassoon' pedal 32ft also, but...no, we'll not go into that] When I played the higher notes, I could hear them - much like a bass flute, that sort of thing. But the lower I got, the softer the notes, because really, the fan powering the instrument could only do so much to make a sound out of pipes that are between 25-32 feet high and about a 14 inch diameter at the top. The mouths, though they have ears on the sides (to concentrate the sound), are still VERY large, and besides: the note is so low, most of what you hear is the ground sha!
king.

In connection, likely when the singer was singing that low C (of course to a singer and not an organ :D), probably, unless the singer again had been VERY good, only the people in the choir/loft could hear.

I have also read somewhere that the lowest written vocal note was a D, but I could most definitely be wrong - that's certainly not unheard of.

And just to add to the 'Jauchzeit Gott' comment [:D:D:D - sorry, inside joke, had to, had to], I believe that the Alleluia at the end sports one or two high Cs. In other Baroque music, some of the choir music in 'Messiah' require high B flats (from back in the days when I actually COULD sing that note). Not as impressive, but just as difficult nonetheless.

I would imagine that there are also cadenzas written to Bach's music (God knows why, however) there are some outrageous notes, but when you get later and later, composers were discovering that - hey, the sopranos can sing higher than a G, and hey, the basses can sing lower than an A! No doubt this has had influence on that sort of thing. I do hear that some of the cantatas are only copies from after Bach's lifetime (although I could have been making all that up too), so suppose the copyist added some touch? If you know the Well-Tempered Clavier enough (Books I and II), you know that many of the copies made by Bach's pupils were almost never completely identical - laziness, forgetfulness, simply skipping a measure or line by accident, or an omission made by the pupil (and actually, Bach - in AMB's book of 1725, the C major prelude is missing some measures [too lazy to go see which ones]).

Enough of my rambling.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (March 8, 2005):
Cara Peterson wrote:
< In connection, likely when the singer was singing that low C (of course to a singer and not an organ :D), probably, unless the singer again had been VERY good, only the people in the choir/loft could hear. >
I've never heard anything lower than a D at a classical concert. But I do remember hearing a contra B-flat at a gospel concert once upon a time. And believe me, the man could be heard further away than that... For that matter, I also recall reading an article sometime last year about the discovery of the lowest note in the universe - it is apparently also a B-flat (just 64 or so octaves lower than than the one I mention here :) ), and plays continuously in some far-off corner, not sure if it's even in our galaxy :).

< And just to add to the 'Jauchzeit Gott' comment [:D:D:D - sorry, inside joke, had to, had to], >
???

< I believe that the Alleluia at the end sports one or two high Cs. >
Only one. But much of it is above the treble staff, and even more above the soprano-clef staff (I am learning it for a performance in April, and what I had at my disposal was the BGA score...)

Clear Mind wrote (March 8, 2005):
Cara Peterson wrote:
< In response to Peter's mail about the low C...in BWV 172, that's interesting. I have actually heard a low C before (and not just by Barry White, so this is quite a feat I played the pedals with the 32 ft flute (well...prestant) stop. [There was a 'bassoon' pedal 32ft also, but...no, we'll not go into that] When I played the higher notes, I could hear them - much like a bass flute, that sort of thing. But the lower I got, the softer the notes, because really, the fan powering the instrument could only do so much to make a sound out of pipes that are between 25-32 feet high and about a 14 inch diameter at the top. The mouths, though they have ears on the sides (to concentrate the sound), are still VERY large, and besides: the note is so low, most of what you hear is the ground shaking.
In connection, likely when the singer was singing that low C (of course to a singer and not an organ :D), probably, unless the singer again had been VERY good, only the people in the choir/loft could hear. >
This particular low C is two octaves higher than what you have in mind -
it's equivalent to the bottom C in an 8-foot register. I can sing it passably well when I've been vocalizing furiously for several days, thereby thickening my vocal folds. Singers who can sing down there really well are fairly uncommon but not completely rare. They're called bassi profundi. You hear them sometimes as the "bass man" in doo-wop and gospel groups. Everyone's voice gets softer as it approaches the bottom of its range. I do consider that particular note too soft for unamplified solo work, given my particular voice, but I have used it in choral singing. I think you mentioned D as the lowest note in musical use. I don't think that's quite right, but it is commonly accepted as the nominal bottom of the basso range.

Joel (Clear Mind) wrote (March 8, 2005):
Tom Dent wrote:
< I believe that means there should be no continuo chords in the right hand. Doubly effective, first in depicting the desolation of the grave, second in not masking what may be a note where the singer has not much power. (But what else is happening through the 7 beats?)
8th note fanfare-like figures in the strings. The full image is actually that of death followed by resurrection, not simply "the grave" as I put it before.
<snip>
I believe Purcell had a top G for bass in at least one place; Wagner has a single top G for bass (Alberich)... so hardly surprising that Bach did not risk the A flat. >
I'm curious what Purcell's pitch standard was. Wagner's would be if not modern pitch very close to it. I'm starting to think that Bach wrote pragmatically for several different pitch standards, depending on what was in use at whatever venue he was writing for, and adjusted voice ranges accordingly. I'm also starting to suspect that it would have been natural to tune to the organ when there were no fixed-length winds in the orchestra - we still tune to the oboe if there is one. This suggests that bwv4 might have been performed in Chorton - although there is a cornetto doubling the soprano in one of the duets.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 8, 2005):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< I've never heard anything lower than a D at a classical concert. >
I don't have my score to hand, but I think Mahler calls for low C's and B flats at the end of the Eighth Symphony, but they're doubled by the strings.

Anna Vriend wrote (March 8, 2005):
Clear Mind wrote:
< This particular low C is two octaves higher than what you have in mind - it's equivalent to the bottom C in an 8-foot register. I can sing it passably well when I've been vocalizing furiously for several days, thereby thickening my vocal folds. Singers who can sing down there reallwell are fairly uncommon but not completely rare. They're called bassi profundi. You hear them sometimes as the "bass man" in doo-wop and gospel groups. Everyone's voice gets softer as it approaches the bottom of its range. I do consider that particular note too soft for unamplified solo work, given my particular voice, but I have used it in choral singing. I think you mentioned D as the lowest note in musical use. I don't think that's quite right, but it is commonly accepted as the nominal bottom of the basso range. >
In the introductory pages of the notebook for WF Bach, Bach explains the use of the keys (claves signatae), and specifies the range of singing voices: on 4 different C-clef for soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto and tenor; and F-clef 4th line for ordinary bass (he also distinguishes Hoch-Bass and Tief-Bass).

For ordinary bass the range is written out over two octaves from c above the stave to c below the stave.

It seems to imply to me that this low C was an accepted note in the range of a bass. How low effectively this note was, would of course depend on issues regarding instrumental pitch, Kammer/Chor-Ton etc.

Anna Vriend wrote (March 8, 2005):
See also this facsimile from the notebook: http://www.jsbach.net/images/clavierbuchleinwfbach.html

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 8, 2005):
Anna Vriend wrote:
>>In the introductory pages of the notebook for WF Bach, Bach explains the use of the keys (claves signatae), and specifies the range of singing voices: on 4 different C-clef for soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto and tenor; and F-clef 4th line for ordinary bass (he also distinguishes Hoch-Bass and Tief-Bass).<<
Although the notes for the ordinary bass are correctly given, the actual placement of the bass (F-clefs)in the line above the complete bass range under the words "die dritte arth sieht also aus" (the staff below has the three correct F-clefs indicated) are incorrect and have been excluded in the NBA printed version of this page. Restated for anyone examining the facsimile: only the final line/staff on the page has the correct indications. Could it be that Bach so infrequently used the other bass clefs that he became confused, but then corrected himself?

Anna Vriend wrote (March 9, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] I think the first set of 2 bass clefs is just intended as an illustration, to show the shape of the clef, and that it does not pretend anything else.

"Die dritte Arth sieht also aus < illustration of 2 (casual) bass clefs> und hat einen 3 fachen Sitz: Wobey zu mercken, dass die note, so auff eben dieser Linie zu finden, wo das Zeichen stehet, f heisset. <Hoch-Bass clef, Ordin. clef, Tief-Bass clef> "

John Pike wrote (March 10, 2005):
BWV 172 "Ehrschallet, ihr Lieder"

Probably first composed for Whit Sunday 1714 in Weimar (May 20). Bach performed it it at least 3 more times, making alterations on each occasion. a D major version from Leipzig corresponds approximately to the pitch of the Weimar Chorton (C major).

I particularly enjoyed the opening chorus, the Bass aria and the final chorale.
I have listened to Gardiner on DG [13], Leonhardt [7] (including Herreweghe as chorus master of Collegium Vocale, Ghent) and Rilling [5]. Gardiner gives a superb account. There is much joy in the opening chorus and singing and technical standards are good throughout. Much of Leonhardt's recording is also very enjoyable but I thought there were some major problems with intonation in the soprano/counter-tenor duet and the soprano (a soloist from from Knabenchor Hannover) seemed to have real problems reaching the top notes.

There is much to enjoy in Rilling's recording, with nice tempi, dynamics and phrasing, and there is a real sense of joy in the opening chorus. I felt the recording quality was not always top notch, especially in that first chorus; there seemed to be a slightly muddy/fuzzy quality at times.

Neil Halliday wrote (March 11, 2005):
John Pike wrote wrote (of BWV 172's duet): "Much of Leonhardt's recording [7] is also very enjoyable but I thought there were some major problems with intonation in the soprano/counter- tenor duet and the soprano (a soloist from from Knabenchor Hannover) seemed to have real problems reaching the top notes".
Yes, and in the Rilling [5], the soprano's strident vibrato is a distraction; Leusink [14] has the 'easiest on the ear' version, and is quite enjoyable, although the chorale line on the organ is soft and indistinct.

John Pike wrote (March 11, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Agreed. I find this obtrusive vibrato a recurring problem with Rilling's recordings [5], which in many other ways are enjoyable. Thanks for the tip about Leusink [14]. I will try and listen over the web, but maybe another complete cantata set (and a bigger hole in the bank balance) is on the horizon!

Peter Bloemendal wrote (March 14, 2005):
BWV 172 - Erschallet, iht Lieder, erklinget, ihr Saiten!

The transparent title of this joyous cantata, a call to let hymns resound and strings ring out, suggests a major role for the violins throughout each movement. Yet, the word "erschallet" already evokes the appearance of triumphant trumpets, and indeed, it is the tromba I, II and III that dominate the concertante strings and the compelling timpani in the opening chorus throughout the outer sections. In the next two movements the strings are not heard at all. The bass secco recitative, "Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten", with its gentle arioso on "Wonung bei ihm machen" and its famous, to most basses notorious, final low C (the Spirit has to sink in deep), shows the continuo in its usual supporting role, and the following aria, "Heiligste Dreieinigkeit", features the trumpets and the drums again together with an obligato bassoon droning in the background. It is not until the fourth movement that the violins, in unison with the violas, take pride of place. This gentle tenor aria "O Seelenparadies" is actually an elegant menuet. Though I am aware that Bach chose this dance as a musical pattern underlying the movement, I would like to think that he also had the association in mind of Paradise and dance rhythms. In the following, exquisite aria for soprano and alto, the oboe (or the organ) and the obligato violoncello are having an interactive discourse with the two voices in an intimate duet between the soul and the Holy Spirit. The concluding chorale is scored for strings, bassoon and continuo. Since the original Weimar manuscript got lost, scholars do not agree on the occasion when the opening chorus was first repeated as the final movement. In none of the recordings in my possession (Gardiner [13], Leusink [14] and Suzuki [11]) the chorus is replayed, possibly indicating that these conductors did not think it to be Bach's original and final idea to do so. Gardiner and Suzuki have the oboe in number 5, whereas Leusink chose for the post 1731 version with the organ taking over. Where Bach could possibly not count on a reliable oboist, I regret that Leusink, having several excellent high woods at his disposal, opted for the organ version. Still his duet remains my favourite one.

The epistle reading for Whit Sunday from Acts 2: 1-13, relating the events of Pentecost, does not play a direct role in the libretto. It is a cantata about inspiration and being inspired, in particular by the Spirit of Jesus. "Wer mich liebet", the gospel reading for the day from John 14:23-31, finds its place in the vox Christi bass recitative. Iwas to be the title and opening chorus for another Whitsun cantata in 1723 Leipzig, where a festive congregation probably heard Cantata BWV 172 before the sermon and Cantata BWV 59 after it. Wish I had been there.

Some interesting thoughts about "Erschallet, ihr Lieder" can be found in the booklets accompanying the recordings on DGG, Brilliant, and BIS, written by respectively Ruth Tatlow, Clemens Romijn and Tadashi Isoyama.

Ruth Tatlow reflects on the guideline of Bach's creative activity in composing cantatas.

Cantata composition always began with the text. But as the text-writers began with sermons, and the preachers began with Luther, and Luther began with the Bible, the true beginning was the Word.

Sitting in his Weimar apartment just two weeks after being promoted in 1714 to the post of "Konzermeister" , Bach pored over a cantata text by the court poet Salomo Franck, based on a verse from the Gospel reading for Whit Sunday, John 14:23: "He who loves me will keep my word, and my father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our abode with him." He may well have taken from his bookshelf a copy of August Pfeiffer's sermons and read the introduction to the Pentecost homily: "Dearly Beloved, Eight days ago Jesus ascended; today the Holy Spirit descends. Even today will the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit come to us in grace and make his dwelling in our hearts, so that we may beat our breasts and say: How holy, how beautiful is the dwelling, here is none other than God's House, and here is the Gate of Heaven, a temple of his Holy Spirit, a residence and palace of the Holy Trinity." Franck's text spoke in a similarly passionate and personal way of the indwelling of the Spirit. How could Bach express this intimacy for the high festival on 20 May?

The cantata opens with the jubilant sound of three trumpets and timpani. Bach then creates a silence. The gravity of the matter is conveyed: "God will make temples of our souls." The setting of the Gospel as bass recitative is followed by the three trumpets depicting the "Most Holy Trinity." The bass soloist begs God to enter our hearts [the perennial question whether the seat of the soul is the heart, the blood or the brain is here settled in favour of the heart -PB], the tenor then bids the believing soul to be prepared for the approaching Comforter [ the name for the Holy Spirit that expresses his major characteristic -PB]. Bach leads his congregation with sensual vocal lines. Expressed in the language of lovers, the impatient desire of the believing soul (soprano) contrasts with the tenderness of the kisses of the Holy Spirit (countertenor). The emotional climax of the duet coincides with the union of the soul, making a threefold invitation "komm herein", and the Holy Spirit, singing "Ich bin dein, und du bist mein!" The physical comfort of the beloved continues as the choir sings "Take me tenderly in your arms that I may be warmed by grace." A richer, fuller expression of John 14:23 is hard to imagine.

Clemens Romijn observes that BWV 172 is a fine example of the economical and painstaking manner in which Bach borrowed his own music. The radiant and dance-like opening chorus is reinforced by the trumpets and timpani, seeming to compete with the strings. The mood of the music is reminiscent of the opening of the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248).

Tadashi Isoyama reminds us of the fact that Pentecost with Christmas and Easter ranks as one of the three great feasts of the Lutheran Church year. The number three plays an important role. There are three other cantatas for Pentecost (BWV 59, BWV 74 and BWV 34), but BWV 172 must have been Bach's favourite since he reused it in 1717, 1724, 1731 and at least one more time after that. Movement three is dedicated to the Three-in-One, featuring three trumpets acting as one, moving in steps of a third. The bass also plays with the number three; the melody is based on thirds and the whole movement exhibits a free three-part form. With its three "voices" (tenor, strings and continuo), ¾ time and three-part form, movement 4 in a sense inherits the spirit of the preceding movement, but the mood is entirely different. The trumpet echoes give way to a gentle flowing line for unison strings, and the great rise and fall of the smooth melodic line creates a dreamy image of the "Paradise of souls through which God's Spirit breathes". This setting draws us toward the inward spirituality of No. 5, a duet in F major. Schweitzer refers to the ostinato-like form in the continuo as "a motif of purified happiness". When the duet begins, the oboe (later the organ) enters with a lavishly decorated version of Luther's chorale "Veni Creator Spiritus". The chorale which closes the cantata (No. 6, in F major) is the fourth verse of Philipp Nicolai's 1655 famous hymn "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern". It is written in five voices, including the independent first violin part, and the harmony is filled with gentle longing.

One can understand why some listeners would prefer the jubilant opening chorus to be repeated at the end. After all, it is such a festive piece. But I would rather give the last word to the congregation, singing out loud with the choir or humming softly the familiar last words of the much loved chorale: "Nimm mich freundlich in dein Arme, dass ich warme werd von Gnaden: auf dein Wort komm ich geladen." I could not agree more with Ruth Tatlow's conclusion that richer and fuller expression of the Gospel for the day is hard to imagine. And if you insist on listening to the chorus once more, just click on movement 1. It is that simple in your home concert hall.

When comparing the three recordings mentioned before, I was surprised to find Suzuki to have the fastest tempi and Leusink the slowest, mainly due to the fourth and fifth movement.

Suzuki [11]

Gardiner [13]

Leusink [14]

Mvt. 1

Chorus "Erschallet"

3:52

3:53

4:02

Mvt. 2

Recitative Bass

0:47

0:51

0:51

Mvt. 3

Aria Bass

2:05

1:59

2:16

Mvt. 4

Aria Tenor

3:55

5:12

5:00

Mvt. 5

Duet Soprano Alto

3:43

4:20

4:33

Mvt. 6

Chorale

1:49

1:22

1:31

Total Playing Time

15:42

17:26

18:13

Appreciation per movement:

Mvt. 1 Chorus.

All three of them are super in various aspects. My overall ratings have Suzuki first [11], Leusink second [14] and Gardiner third [13]. Suzuki's recording is very transparent, both in the vocal voices and the instruments. Every one of them is in balance with the whole. The concerting role of each of the voices stands out most in this performance. Yet, the smoothness of it all could be held against Suzuki as being too polished. Leusink is full of energy. Though the trumpets are not so bright as with the Japanese, the Dutch boys go full throttle on the "Erschallet!" and "Erklinget!" It is sheer joy of singing and joy for the occasion. This being a very direct recording, the timpani got too much exposure. Still, if you like a solid drum, it may please you. It may beat off others. The Monteverdi Choir, to my surprise, sounds a bit flat, almost uninspired. It seems as though the choir has not awoke yet, in spite of the drums and trumpets.

Mvt. 2 Recitative Bass.

Superior Peter Kooij [11]: great presence, great presentation, inspiring, the ideal vox Christi. Kooij even seems to have no problem whatsoever with the lowest note. This is the spirit sinking down andin with the intention to last forever. Both Reinhard Hagen [13] and Bas Ramselaar [14] are struggling to get that deep. Hagen has a pleasant, solid voice, but Ramselaar, trying hard to be the image of Christ, sounds a bit tense and artificial in this role.

Mvt. 3 Aria Bass.

Again a glorious performance by Peter Kooij [11], though the Japanese brass seem to be in trouble at times. Ramselaar [14] is much better in this aria than in the previous recitative. Probably owing to the relatively moderate pace, he sounds relaxed and convincing here. Reinhard Hagen's singing [13] seems a bit rushed, which is little wonder since Gardiner's pace is 12,5% faster than Leusink's.

Mvt. 4 Aria Tenor.

Here the slower performances are the clean winners. Makoto Sakurada can handle the high Suzuki tempo [11], but he is having some troubles with the lows and his timbre is a bit edgy. Suzuki must have thought this the appropriate minuet tempo, and I understand Koopman [9] is pretty fast as well, but I prefer the elegance of an easy-flowing dance into Paradise as presented by Leusink [14] and Gardiner [13]. My favourite here is Christopher Genz with Nico van der Meel, in spite of being slightly faster than Genz, as a worthy runner up. Genz goes nice and slow, rendering the right accents and details in the right places. Van der Meel's singing seems effortless with good expression. I also like the playing of the strings in the Brilliant aria. And I'd love to hear Christoph Prégardien and Peter Schreier.

Mvt. 5 Duet Aria Soprano Alto.

Ruth Holton and Sytse Buwalda [14], by far my favourite couple. They blend extremely well. Buwalda's conscientious interpretation of the comforting soul is quite convincing and Ruth Holton is one of the few sopranos who can restrain herself on the higher notes, where others soar up to overpower their duet partner. Although I miss the oboe, I have to give credit to Vaughan Schlepp and Frank Wakelkamp for their accompaniment in Schweitzer's "motif of pure happiness". In spite of their cheap edition, Brilliant always mentions the names of the instrumentalists responsible for a special contribution. I appreciate that. In second place I merit Martina Jankova and Robin Blaze with Gardiner [13]. I love Jankova's voice and she and Robin Blaze go together very well, too. Ingrid Schmitthüsen and Yoshikazu Mera [11] are not bad, either, both fine voices, though Mera sounds a bit throaty in the low register and Schmitthüsen flies away from him when hitting the higher level. But still, if this were the only recording I had, I would be quite happy with it.

Mvt. 6 Chorale.

Here Suzuki [11] has found the right pace. The congregation can sing along. Again well-balanced with fine articulation. The strings come out well, too. Yet, I prefer Gardiner's faster rendition [13]. This is excellent choir singing. They have had to wait more than ten minutes after the opening chorus, but now they are wide-awake. What great expression. If I were in the church listening to them, there would be no need for me to sing along. I would sit down and listen and enjoy. Holland Boys Choir comes as a close third [14]. Quite convincing singing at a pace in between Suzuki and Gardiner.

It will be obvious from my appraisal of these three recordings that I find it hard to say which is my overall favourite. I am sure I shall return to all of them more than once in the future.

And now it is time to dedicate a week to a most sorrowful cantata with another impressive duet, BWV 21 "Ich hatte viel Bekümmernis".

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 14, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
>>The concluding chorale is scored for strings, bassoon and continuo. Since the original Weimar manuscript got lost, scholars do not agree on the occasion when the opening chorus was first repeated as the final movement.<<
Only those scholars who fail to examine the extant original parts would come to the false conclusion that Bach did not want to have the final mvt. repeated. Actually, more often than not (3 out of 5 times) the repeat was included. Only beginning with the 4th repeat performance in 1731 and another one after that date do the parts show that Bach terminated the cantata with the chorale in mvt. 6. All other performances, even the one on May 28, 1724 in Leipzig call for a repeat of the first mvt. (after mvt.6, Bach had his copyists write on the parts "Chorus repetatur ab initio.")

>>In none of the recordings in my possession Gardiner [13], Leusink [14] and Suzuki [11]) the chorus is replayed, possibly indicating that these conductors did not think it to be Bach's original and final idea to do so. Gardiner and Suzuki have the oboe in number 5, whereas Leusink chose for the post 1731 version with the organ taking over.<<
In this case Leusink [14] may have 'lucked out' by choosing this feature from the 1731 or thereafter performances which might signify that he was attempting to reconstruct the version from Bach's 4th or 5th repeat performances of this work. Was Leusink using the late-Leipzig C-major version from the NBA or a different source (Breitkopf & Härtel, etc.)?

In the case of Suzuki [11] (or perhaps also Gardiner [13]), the conductor(s) is/are trying to present the original 1st performances in chronological sequence with the original instrumentation. (Why, otherwise, would Suzuki include this cantata at the beginning of his series and clearly mark it as a Weimar cantata?) For such a conductor to choose to disregard Bach's intentions that are well documented in this instance can only cause us to wonder just how carefully the sources were studied and why Bach's wishes were not respected. There are some conductors who might say: "Why should I not present an eclectic summary from all 5 of Bach's own performances? I will choose what I think is best from each performance and present this conflation as Bach's last will and testament." I am certain that there are well-intentioned conductors in the past and present who have done this, and as long as they notify the listening public quite honestly about their personal 'arrangement' by indicating the variety of choices that are available and as long as they specify what they have done, it will not lead to speculations on the part of listeners that some conductors "did not think it to be Bach's original and final idea to do so [to repeat the 1st mvt. at the very end.]" (The latter statement can be considered contradictory in itself, depending upon how the word 'original' is construed: 'original' beginning source vs. authentic, originating with Bach's personal involvement at any time during his career as composer/conductor. As far as 'final' goes: the NBA has printed out 2 versions - D major and C major. The D major version has "Chorus repetatur ab initio" at the end, whereas the C major version does not. The editorial policy is generally to present the final intention ('aus letzter Hand')of Bach, but frequently is forced to print out various versions or include additional instrumental parts separately which deviated from these versions.)Of course, the NBA KBs give the details about all the variants that do exist.

>>One can understanwhy some listeners would prefer the jubilant opening chorus to be repeated at the end. After all, it is such a festive piece.<<
For most of the performances under Bach's direction, he wanted it this way.

>>But I would rather give the last word to the congregation, singing out loud with the choir...<<
This personal preference on your part certainly was not the tradition when Bach performed his cantatas, or can you provide evidence to the contrary?

Doug Cowling wrote (March 14, 2005):
BWV 172 - Congregational chorales?

Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
>> But I would rather give the last word to the congregation, singing out loud with the choir...<<
Thomas Bratz wrote: < This personal preference on your part certainly was not the tradition when Bach performed his cantatas, or can you provide evidence to the contrary? >
What evidence is there that Bach's congregation EVER sang the concluding chorales? I simply don't believe that Bach's congregation sang, for instance, the concluding chorales of the St. John Passion (BWV 245) or Wachet Auf. They both have symbolically celestial tessiaturas which would have made a sing-along grotesque.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Chorales in Bach Cantatas [General Topics]

Peter Bloemendal wrote (March 14, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
>>The concluding chorale is scored for strings, bassoon and continuo. Since the original Weimar manuscript got lost, scholars do not agree on the occasion when the opening chorus was first repeated as the final movement.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Only those scholars who fail to examine the extant original parts would come to the false conclusion that Bach did not want to have the final mvt. repeated. Actually, more often than not (3 out of 5 times) the repeat was included. Only beginning with the 4th repeat performance in 1731 and another one after that date do the parts show that Bach terminated the cantata with the chorale in mvt. 6. All other performances, even the one on May 28, 1724 in
Leipzig call for a repeat of the first mvt. (after mvt.6, Bach had his copyists write on the parts "Chorus repetatur initio.") >
How can you be so sure? The surviving Weimar parts are in C-major and none of those have the "chorus repetatur ab initio" written on them. Besides, Alfred Dürr states that this repetition is "nur in der D-dur Fassung". That would be the 1724 Leipzig version if I'm right. So, if your theory is valid and this repetition is an original Weimar feature, either Schulenberg or Dürr is wrong. I don't have access to the original surviving manuscripts, but I wonder which versions actually contain that instruction to repeat the chorus, or is your opinion based on just one fragment?

PB: >>In none of the recordings in my possession Gardiner [13], Leusink [14] and Suzuki [11]) the chorus is replayed, possibly indicating that these conductors did not think it to be Bach's original and final idea to do so. Gardiner and Suzuki have the oboe in number 5, whereas Leusink chose for the post 1731 version with the organ taking over.<<
TB: < In this case Leusink [14] may have 'lucked out' by choosing this feature from the 1731 or thereafter performances which might signify that he was attempting to reconstruct the version from Bach's 4th or 5th repeat performances of this work. Was Leusink using the late-Leipzig C-major version from the NBA or a different source (Breitkopf & Härtel, etc.)? >
I know that the choir used the Edition Breitkopf. There must be a simple explanation why Leusink [14] chose for the organ instead of the oboe. There wasn't a second recording day for that particular movement. Maybe the scheduled oboist was sick. Maybe Leusink, being an organist himself, just preferred the organ version.

TB: < In the case of Suzuki [11] (or perhaps also Gardiner [13]), the conductor(s) is/are trying to present the original 1st performances in chronological sequence with the original instrumentation. (Why, otherwise, would Suzuki include this cantata at the beginning of his series and clearly mark it as a Weimar cantata?) For such a conductor to choose to disregard Bach's intentions that are well documented in this instance can only cause us to wonder just how carefully the sources were studied and why Bach's wishes were not respected. There are some conductors who might say: "Why should I not present an eclectic summary from all 5 of Bach's own performances? I will choose what I think is best from each performance and present this conflation as Bach's last will and testament." [snip] >
I think you are unfair to Suzuki [11] and Gardiner [13]. I am convinced of their integrity. They obviously disagree with you when you claim that Bach's intentions are well-documented in this case. You insult them by saying that they did not respect Bach's intentions. Your personal convictions are arbitrary according to several experts. You ought to accept that fact.

PB: >>One can understand why some listeners would prefer the jubilant opening chorus to be repeated at the end. After all, it is such a festive piece.<<
TB: < For most of the performances under Bach's direction, he wanted it this way. >
I was not referring to Bach, but to the audience, to dear Mary and Jane for instance.

PB: >>But I would rather give the last word to the congregation, singing out loud with the choir...<<
TB: < This personal preference on your part certainly was not the tradition when Bach performed his cantatas, or can you provide evidence to the contrary? >
No, I can not and I agree that it would be "not done" to sing along, but nevertheless the chorale is the congregation's response to this great and happy mystery of Pentecost, and the final words of this chorale could not be chosen better to wrap up the intimacy of the relation between the soul and the Holy Spirit.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 15, 2005):
Peter Bloemndaal wrote:
>>How can you be so sure? The surviving Weimar parts are in C-major and none of those have the "chorus repetatur ab initio" written on them.<<
The NBA KB I/13 p. 36 states about the 1st performance on May 20, 1714 in Weimar "in C major: Chorton = D major: Kammerton.) This means for modern pitch standards a performance in D major which is the way the Weimar version is printed in the NBA. The proof for this was documented by Alfred Dürr in 'Studien über die frühen Kantaten J. S. Bachs" [Leipzig, 1951.] Dürr still confirms this information in the BWV [Breitkopf & Härtel, 1998.] The parts which were written out in C major but sounded at D major Kammerton pitch are Tromba I, II, II, Timpani, Violino I, Viola I, II, and Violoncello and Bassoon. The KB indicates "Repetatur-Angabe in den betreffenden Stimmen" [repeat indications at the end of the cantata for mvt. 1 are given in the parts referred to above.]

The first repeat performance in Leipzig on May 28, 1724 also sounded at the D major Kammerton pitch, but Bach had to create for this performance under different circumstances the following parts in D major (not in C major, as with the original extant parts): Flauto traverso, Oboe mvt. 1 or Oboe d'amore mvts. 5,6, Violino I, II, Bassoon, Violoncello. These newly created parts also call for a repeat of mvt. 1 and the end of the cantata.

>>Besides, Alfred Dürr states that this repetition is "nur in der D-dur Fassung". That would be the 1724 Leipzig version if I'm right. So, if your theory is valid and this repetition is an original Weimar feature<<
This is correct (it's not my theory as I am only reporting from the most reliable evidence that can be offered.) Bach did keep this repeat feature from Weimar until the creation of the C major version on May 13, 1731 (performed in the early morning at St. Nicholas and in the early afternoon at St. Thomas Church.) By using C major, Bach was now able to use from the old original set of parts: Tromba I, II, II, Timpani, Violino I, II, Viola I, II, Bassoon and Violoncello but Bach had to create a new Organo part in B major for this performance.

>>either Schulenberg or Dürr is wrong.<<
Schulenberg is correct when he states that Bach eliminated the repetition of the 1st mvt. at the end of the cantata beginning with the 1731 performance.

Dürr comments that the cantata receives a proper 'rounding off' with the repetition of the 1st mvt. At the end at several of the performances that Bach gave.

>>I don't have access to the original surviving manuscripts, but I wonder which versions actually contain that instruction to repeat the chorus, or is your opinion based on just one fragment?<<
Isn't that last comment a bit unfair? Fact: all the extant parts from the Weimar period and those from the 1st performance in Leipzig on May 28, 1724 have these markings at the end. The NBA KB I/13 gives two facsimiles of oboe parts, one from the 1724 performance and the other from 1731: the first has the repeat indication written out in huge letters, the second (an undesignated oboe part for mvt. 5 & 6 has nothing indicated at the end of it.

>>I know that the choir used the Edition Breitkopf. There must be a simple explanation why Leusink [14] chose for the organ instead of the oboe. There wasn't a
second recording day for that particular movement. Maybe the scheduled oboist was sick. Maybe Leusink, being an organist himself, just preferred the organ version.<<
The simplest explanation might be that he was simply following what Edition Breitkopf (based on the BGA) had indicated. The BGA still had not sorted out all the difficult aspects involved in reconstructing Bach's performances of this work.

>>I think you are unfair to Suzuki [11] and Gardiner [13]. I am convinced of their integrity. They obviously disagree with you when you claim that Bach's intentions are well-documented in this case. You insult them by saying that they did not respect Bach's intentions. Your personal convictions are arbitrary according to several experts. You ought to accept that fact.<<
I certainly have a right, as would anyone on these lists, to dispute their choices if I am able to produce the necessary documentation which places into question the choices they have made. Much of this information has been known since 1951. The NBA has given full documentation of everything that has been found. They have even printed out two separate versions of this cantata: the D major version for performances in Weimar and the Leipzig (1724) and the C major version for Leipzig (1731 and thereafter. I am not insulting any conductor, but only seriously wondering what the basis for their choices is if and when it does not represent what the original sources do show.

>>I agree that it would be "not done" to sing along<<
I am glad we can agree on this at least.

Eric Bergerud wrote (March 15, 2005):
I certainly concur with Peter that BWV 172 is a wonderful work. I also agree that Leusink's ensemble [14] does a very good job on this cantata. (Sorry Aryeh.) I like boys in Bach cantatas and that certainly influences how I react to various performances. Obviously this is a real plus for Leusink to my ears. Actually, I've been listening to a lot of Leusink's performances lately and and enjoy them more with repeated hearing. I don't regret a penny spent - indeed, another box is on the way. But it's more than the Holland Boys Choir. I think Leusink's soloists do very fine work by and large. I really like Ruth Holton and find her duet with Buwalda in BWV 172 a treat. (For the same reason I think Leusink's BWV 21 is very good indeed. Ruth Holton is in top form there and if one likes that delicate tone of hers, BWV 21 is great because she's singing in half of it.) I am sure the extremely difficult recording schedule had a real disadvantages for the performers. However, I wonder if there weren't some paybacks. I hesitate to compare an individual endeavor with a group, but I do my best work when I'm pushing some deadline at 3AM - you get in a grove. Hard to describe. In any case, when compared to many of other cycles Leusink has a high degree of continuity with soloists. That must have helped.

Leonhardt's performance is his cycle written large. The original instruments sound ... original. The boy soprano sounds like a boy. The male choir sings beautifully. No doubt the quality of individual performances varies, but every time I listen to a Leonhardt or Harnoncourt cantata I am reminded that they created a monument to the art of classical recording. I doubt we will soon, if ever, hear anything at all like it again.

Koopman [9] is about what you expect from a contemporary performance. Splendid playing, fine singers, excellent sound. I like it very much. Whether Bach would have recognized it is another question.

The numerous kudos on this list given to the "big battalion" approach of older cantata singing has finally made something of an impact. I have bought some Richter and am waiting patiently to hear the magic. It's beautiful in it's way, but twenty years of HIP has made me a hard sell for Richter's approach. (My wife liked it however. She finds counter-tenors about as melodious as I find Hank Williams. It appears Richter uses a mezzo.) I have found a superior alternative for my taste however. I've picked up six CDs by Rotzsch and the Thomanerchor supported by either the Neus Bachisches Collegium Musicum or the Gewandhaus. Rotzsch certainly does have boys and they sing wonderfully. I was very taken with their BWV 172 and agree with Aryeh that Arleen Auger is a rare talent. They do a bang-up job on BWV 80 among others. I was even willing to put up with an East German flag as cover art for one of the CDs sporting no notes on Bach but praising the artistic prowess of the "East German Revolution." (Did everyone know that Kurt Masur was "conductor of the revolution"? As I recall he didn't show much loyalty in 1989.) Anyway the other CDs have poor notes but wonderful cover art. And great music. I will be grabbing these whenever possible.

Doug Cowling wrote (March 15, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< (My wife liked it however. She finds counter-tenors about as melodious as I find Hank Williams. >
You'd both like the old 60's recording by the Tallis Scholars, the tenors and basses of the the Choir of King's College, Cambridge. They do close harmony arrangements of pops songs. The whole countertenor section sings "You Don't Have to be a Baby to Cry".

Neil Halliday wrote (March 17, 2005):
Suzuki's BWV 172 [11]

This arrived today. The opening chorus, tenor aria, and the duet, are the finest of the recordings I have heard, the others being Rilling [5], Leonhardt [7], and Leusink [14].

The opening chorus has a pleasingly strong sound, with well-recorded trumpets and timpani; and the reverberant acoustic, similar to the sound of BWV 71 on the "Leben und Werk' DVD mentioned recently (recorded in the Marienkirche Mühlhausen), is attractive.

manages the low 'C' well, in the recitative; but the accompaniment is disappointingly sparse.

The first trumpet has much trouble with those demisemis in the bass aria; the baroque trumpet definitely presents problems that are beyond the capabilities of the player, with numerous notes that are flat in pitch.

The tenor aria is pleasant sounding, and the oboe in the following SA duet proves to be the best of the solutions for articulating the chorale tune - better than the organ used in the other fine version of this duet, namely the one from Leusink, in which the organ line is rigid and indistinct. (Rilling's organ registration is fine, but his vocalists are somewhat raucous).

I don't like the 'messa di voce' effect on each note, in the final chorale - it seems to weaken the impact of the music, making for a light, frivolous conclusion, IMO.

 

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Cantata BWV 172: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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