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Cantata BWV 176
Es ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of April 3, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 3, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 176 -- Es ist ein trotzig und verzagt Ding

This weeks discussion continues the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity. With BWV 176, we have the third of four works for Trinity Sunday,

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV176.htm

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

The BWV 176 page also has convenient access to Gardiners notes to the pilgrimage CDs, by clicking on the PDF link under the picture of the CD cover. Volume 27, including this weeks BWV 176, is appropriate for all four weeks with the cantatas for Trinity Sunday.

Last week, I followed Gardiners notes, and my understanding of Will Hoffmans post, to begin to discuss Trinity Sunday as the closing of the first half of the church year, a significant event in itself, and anticipating Trinity 1 (First Sunday after Trinity) which is the opening of Bach’s Leipzig career and his two major cantata cycles there (Jahrgang I and II). Doug Cowling indicated that the division of the church calendar into two halves is a misunderstanding. I first encountered the idea ten years ago in the booklet notes by Craig Smith to the Emmanuel Music 2 CD set: Cantatas for Trinity 1 and 2:

<The so-called liturgical year, the cycle of readings for a whole year, was divided into two parts. From Advent [...] until Trinity Sunday [...] the lectionary uses events from Christs life to teach the values of the church. This takes approximately six months. The rest of the year is taken up with Sundays after Trinity, in which the readings use the parables and teaching of Christ to lead the Christian to a better life.> (end quote)

From a brief look, I do not find any additional support for the Smith and Gardiner notes. Wolff (JSB:TLM) provides significant detail (p. 254-55, and Appendix 4) in agreement with Doug. In particular Appendix 4: The Lutheran Church Calendar makes no mention of a division into two parts.

Regardless of the church calendar, BWV 176 for Trinity Sunday 1725 does represent a culmination for Bach (see [ Mincham]).

Peter Smaill wrote (April 3, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] Two points of hermeneutical interest in this Trinity Sunday work which closes Jahrgang 2.

Under the usual number alphabet, (a=1,b=2 etc.) the opening chorus incipit has a score of 368, noted by Hirsch to be exactly the number of notes in the Bass line. Coincidence or what?

In the Alto aria , BWV 176/5, the three oboes join in unison, in one of the few texts where Bach is actually setting a direct reference to the Trinity ("dreieinig" "or Dreifaeltig", triune; -igkeit, Trinity). Although doxologies occur often in Bach's texts (including BWV 176) the German expressions for the Trinity itself are rare.

The musical allusion (unlike the numerological) is obvious.

William Hoffman wrote (April 3, 2011):
Ed Myskowski: "The Lutheran Church Calendar makes no mention of a division into two parts."

Günther Stiller: "Furthermore, the church year, at least in its first half, was richly arranged into various long and important cycles. . . ." (<JSB & Liturgical Life in Leipzig>, 1984: 58)

Robin Leaver: "from Advent through Pentecost the focus was on the life and work of Christ; throughout the Trinity (now Pentecost) season, the concentration was on the life of Christians in Christ." (<Luther's Liturgical Music>: 2007: 167)

Russell Stinson: (Of the 164 chorale titles in the <Orgelbüchlein>), the "first sixth are designated for a specific time in the church year - either as season or a particular festival - and therefore fall into the category of <de tempore>. They follow the order of the church year. The remaining 104 are <omne tempore> (ordinary, regular) chorales appropriate for any season. They begin with the articles of the Catechism and then move on to such topics as "Christian living, the Bible and the Church, and death." (<Bach: The Orgelbüchlein>: 2),

There seems to be a general division of the church year into two distinct components, which are not entirely chronological and fixed. The difficulty comes with the use of such general terms as the "season," or segments of time, and "times" during the church year. The best understanding I have found is in "Sundays and Principal Festivals," <Keeping Time: The Church's Years>, Aubsburg Fortress 2009: 67-69): "The Green (Ordinary, Regular) Sundays" "ordinary time" for these Sundays "refers not to the quality of the Sunday but simply means that the Sundays are <ordered> -- counted or numbered - rather than given specific or seasonal names." "The time between Epiphany and Ash Wednesday was formerly called the season of Epiphany. It has never been a true season of the church year, but rather a time, like the time after Pentecost, to live with Christ and one another as the church." Thus, in Lutheran hymnals, there are no "Epiphany" hymns designated as such, and the color green is used at Epiphany time as well as Pentecost (or Trinity) time.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
Ed Myskowski: "The Lutheran Church Calendar makes no mention of a division into two parts."
Günther Stiller: "Furthermore, the church year, at least in its first half, was richly arranged into various long and important cycles. . . ." (<JSB & Liturgical Life in
Leipzig>, 1984: 58)
Robin Leaver: "from Advent through Pentecost the focus was on the life and work of Christ; throughout the Trinity (now Pentecost) season, the concentration was on the life of Christians in Christ." (<Luther's Liturgical Music>: 2007: 167) >
Thanks for additional references. I will continue the topic again in two weeks when we begin the Trinity 1 cantatas, with recognition that the information from CD booklet notes which I previously cited is overly simplistic.

My comment, which Will cited, was with respect only to Appendix 4 in Wolff, JSB:TLM. On pp 254-55, Wolff begins his related discussion: <According to Leipzig tradition, the ecclesiastical year comprised regular Sundays and various kinds of feast days [Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and more]>. This essentially agrees with information posted by both Will and Doug Cowling; all three are in accord, and differ significantly from Gardiners booklet notes, which Doug first questioned when I cited them.

Note that the quote from Stiller, with reference to <the church year, at least in its first half>, does not necessarily imply a formal division into two halves, but only an irregular distribution of festivals and regular Sundays throughout the year, which I believe has been Dougs point as well.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 4, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Note that the quote from Stiller, with reference to <the church year, at least in its first half>, does not necessarily imply a formal division into two halves, but only an irregular distribution of festivals and regular Sundays throughout the year, which I believe has been Dougs point as well >
Although there is not a formal division of the church year after Trinity Sunday, there is a definite change at the end of the Easter season. There is a close to the scriptural narrative which began with the Passion on PalmSunday and ended with the Sending of the Spirit on Pentecost.

However that doesn't mean that Christ is back in heaven and the now it's just general theologizing and moralizing about the Christian life. As soon as the Easter cycle ends, the Gospels to a sequential reading of the events in the teaching ministry of Jesus which began in the Sundays of Epiphany.

Most of these readings sound like sermons because they are drawn from the set discourses of Jesus such as the Sermon on the Mount and the parables. They may not have the drama of the Passions, but they form the majority of the narratives in the Four Gospels. The seemingly fragmented narratives across the whole calendar are a salutary reminder that the church year is not a simple Life of Jesus, just as the four Gospels are not biography.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 4, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< The opening chorus places this cantata in a small group including "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (BWV 19) and "Nun ist das Heil" (BWV 50) which begin "ex abrupto" without an introduction even though there is a full orchestra available which could have provided one. >
We know that Bach always "preludized" before the cantata and his prelude would have given the voices their opening pitch. What did he play before this cantata? Was it a chorale prelude perhaps based on the closing chorale "Christ unser Herr"? His magnificent setting in BWV 688 is even in that modal C minor of the chorale!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xkV7Wc7Ck0g&feature=related

Or was it a free Toccata which created a "Prelude and Fugue" pairing with the opening chorus?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKIgas_wjM0

The "Brandenburg Motif" of tremolo string arpeggios is used so often by Bach that it's hard to prove that it was an inside joke: it appears in the middle section of "Es ist Vollbracht" in the St. John Passion.

The use of the final chorale which celebrates the baptism of Christ at the beginning of his public life is a perfect example of Bach's allusive use of chorale melodies. In one allusion, it refers to the Trinitarian formula in baptism, a weekly rite in Bach's churches.

It also signals the return to the narratives of teaching and healing which began in the Sundays after Epiphany and continues in the long sequence of the Sundays after Trinity. The chorale in essence announces the post-Trinity sequence of cantatas which we call a Bach Jahrgang.

Evan Cortens wrote (April 4, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We know that Bach always "preludized" before the cantata and his prelude would have given the voices their opening pitch. What did he play before this cantata? Was it a chorale prelude perhaps based on the closing chorale "Christ unser Herr"? His magnificent setting in BWV 688 is even in that modal C minor of the chorale! >
Folks might be interested to know that the source for the fact that Bach 'preludized' (or preluded? hmm...) before the cantata comes directly from his own hand: http://tinyurl.com/3aw36gs

This is the back of the title page to BWV 62, in which Bach gives the entire order of the service. It is interesting to note that (9), the entry relevant here, doesn't even mention the performance of the work: "(9) Praludiert auf die Haupt Music" (preluding on the principal music, i.e., the cantata).

This document is transcribed and annotated in the New Bach Reader, but I regret I don't have this to hand at the moment. (It's not in the "old" Bach Reader.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 4, 2011):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< Folks might be interested to know that the source for the fact that Bach 'preludized' (or preluded? hmm...) before the cantata comes directly from his own hand: http://tinyurl.com/3aw36gs >
Perhaps 'improvised a prelude'?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 5, 2011):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Two points of hermeneutical interest in this Trinity Sunday work which closes Jahrgang 2.
Under the usual number alphabet, (a=1,b=2 etc.) the opening chorus incipit has a score of 368, noted by Hirsch to be exactly the number of notes in the Bass line. Coincidence or what? >
Thanks for pointing this out. I am not prepared to suggest coincidence, exactly, but I do wonder how many analyses Hirsch, or anyone, has to go through to come to up with a significant result?

I did not check the math! I presume the incipit is only part of the entire one line German text of Mvt. 1? In any case, I can see that the unusually brief text might invite curiosity, but even so ...

I do agree with Peters (and Julian Minchams) point that BWV 176 has a unique position in Bachs output, closing out his second year in Leipzig. Thomas Seedorf, in booklet notes (non-juried!) to the Herreweghe recording which includes BWV 176 [7]:
<there can be no doubt that Bach began his activities in Leipzig with exceptional commitment, and indeed went far beyond what was expected of him.> (end quote)

Doug Cowling asked at one point whether Bach was contractually required to produce new music. It appears that such a requirement was an informal expectation, at most. OTOH, it was indeed a formal contractual requirement that the music not be too long! I cannot help but wonder if the brevity of BWV 176 is not Bachs exclamation point to that. It is exquisite in every way.

Consider this description of Bachs ideal cantata architecture, by Robin Leaver, Music and Lutheranism, in The Cambridge Companion to Bach, p. 38:

<As the doctrine of original sin declares that <since the fall of Adam all men . . . are born in sin . . . which even now damns and brings eternal death.[Augsburg Confession, Book of Concord], the Law condemns, in contrast to the Gospel, which converts. Of course there is much more to the distinction between Law and Gospel than this, but this is sufficient to understand the conceptual structure that underlies many of Bachs cantatas. In the opening chorus the problem is stated, often in biblical words, that we humans are afflicted in some particular way by the dilemma of sin and stand under the condemnation of the Law. Succeeding recitatives and arias explore some of the implications of the impasse. Then a movement, often an aria, presents the Gospel answer to the Law question. Thereafter the mood of both libretto and music take on the optimism of the Gospel, the final chorales being an emphatic endorsement of the Gospel answer> (end quote)

BWV 176 fits this precisely, as concisely as possible, including the Chorale appropriate for Trinity Sunday, in one of Bachs briefest works. Hold that thought, like an inverted exclamation point at the front of a Spanish sentence, until we approach BWV 76 in a couple weeks, for the formal opening of Bachs Leipzig tenure.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 5, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Or was it a free Toccata which created a "Prelude and Fugue" pairing with the opening chorus?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKIgas_wjM0 >
See also this information from Will Hoffman, re BWV 165:

B. OB 53, "Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'" (To God alone on high be glory); Nikolaus Decius 1526 (Trinitarian hymn, Luther text modification, 3 stanzas) German Mass Gloria, NLGB 425) melody in Cantatas BWV 85/3, BWV 104/6, and BWV 112 (all for the Sixth Sunday After Easter [Exaudi]), BWV 128/1 (Ascension); BWV 260 (for the Deutsche Mes); and as organ chorale prelude in the "Great 18 Leipzig" collection (BWV 662-664), Clavierübung III "Organ Mass" (BWV 675, 676), Kirnberger Miscellaneous (BWV711), and the general Miscellaneous collection (BWV 715-717).

This Trinitarian hymn would also seem to be a likely basis for improvisation (preluding?) for Trinity Sunday.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 6, 2011):
Apologies for a bit of duplication.

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Or was it a free Toccata which created a "Preludeand Fugue" pairing with the opening chorus?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FKIgas_wjM0 >
This is a link to Fantasia, c minor, BWV 562, for others who may join me in finding it easier to access a CD for listening. I believe BWV 562 includes an incomplete fugue?

See also this information from Will Hoffman, re BWV 165:

< B. OB 53, "Allein Gott in der Höh' sei Ehr'" (To God alone on high be glory); Nikolaus Decius 1526 (Trinitarian hymn, Luther text modification, 3 stanzas) German Mass Gloria, NLGB 425) melody in Cantatas BWV 85/3, BWV 104/6, and BWV 112 (all for the Sixth Sunday After Easter [Exaudi]), BWV 128/1 (Ascension); BWV 260 (for the Deutsche Mes); and as organ chorale prelude in the "Great 18 Leipzig" collection (BWV 662-664), Clavierübung III "Organ Mass" (BWV 675, 676), Kirnberger Miscellaneous (BWV711), and the general Miscellaneous collection (BWV 715-717).
This Trinitarian hymn would also seem to be a likely basis for improvisation (preluding?) for
Trinity Sunday? >
And from BCW archives: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Allein-Gott-in-der-Hoh.htm

<Chorale Melodies used in Bach's Vocal Works
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her
The German Gloria (in excelsis Deo)
This melody is based in part on the Gregorian chant “Gloria in excelsis” from the Latin Late Medieval Liturgy and on a “Sanctus in festis duplicibus” of the “Graduale Romanum”. The first section (Stollen) of “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr” is similar to a 10th century Easter song which subsequently spread to other countries.
[...]
Prepared by Thomas Braatz & Aryeh Oron (April 2006)>

As Will pointed out, Bach first designated this hymn as a Trinity Sunday chorale in the OrgelBuchlein (OB), but never set it there as a chorale prelude. He subsequently used it extensively in Easter season and Gloria settings, perhaps more related to the original sourece(s)?

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 7, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< [..] BWV 176 has a unique position in Bachs output, closing out his second year in Leipzig. Thomas Seedorf, in booklet notes (non-juried!) to the Herreweghe recording which includes BWV 176 [7]:
<there can be no doubt that Bach began his activities in
Leipzig with exceptional commitment, >and indeed went far beyond what was expected of him.> (end quote) >
I have enjoyed reading the comments, predominantly negative, re Herreweghes 2009 New York City BMM performance, including the complaint that it was in a different style (tempo and articulation, I believe) than an earlier recorded interpretation, which had positive response and expectations.

That was a bit of relief, that I am not totally out of phase, as Herreweghes recordings are among my favorites. I would make it a point to recommend this weeks BWV 176, both for the performance and for the clever combination with BWV 20 and BWV 2, providing a liturgically appropriate sequence for Trinity Sunday, Trinity 1, and Trinity 2, but I see that the current price indicated on BCW home page is over US$50. I will make it a point to investigate that a bit.

In any case, the couplings are clever because they represent the two opening works, and the closing work, in composing sequence, for Bachs second Leipzig cycle (Jahrgang 2). So clever, in fact, that whoever wrote the jacket blurb (presumably not Thomas Seedorf) managed to confuse both the composing and liturgical schedules:
<Bach had decided to write a complete cycle of chorale cantatas, thus producing a body of work that went far beyond the expectations of his employers. The target he had set himself now offered an unparalleled laboratory for musical experimentation. These three cantatas for the Sundays after Trinity, which begin the liturgical year, date from this period.> (end quote)

In the sequence on the recording:

BWV 2, Trinity 2, the second work composed for Jahrgang 2.

BWV 20, Trinity 1, the first work for Jahrgang 2, but not the beginning of the liturgical year in any interpretation.

BWV 176, Trinity Sunday, the final work composed with Jahrgang 2, but ultimately not associated with his chorale cantata cycle by Bach.

Any wonder that we have to work a bit to sort this out?

That should not deter you from enjoying the performances, at a reasonable price. In archived comments on other Herrweghe recordings, Neil Harriman has commented on Herreweghe’s [7] swelling tone as a distraction, while Brad Lehman has defended it as an example of appropriate gestural articulation. Appropriate or not, it is clearly an intentional affect, characteristic of Herreweghe. Worth hearing for yourself, and coming to your own conclusion.

Dick Siegel wrote (April 7, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] FWIW the Herreweghe recording of BWV 2, BWV 20 and BWV 176 [7] is available on Emusic.com for $5.99. It is a great recording.

Julian Mincham wrote (April 7, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< BWV 2, Trinity 2, the second work composed for Jahrgang 2.
BWV 20, Trinity 1, the first work for Jahrgang 2, but not the beginning of the liturgical year in any interpretation.
BWV 176,
Trinity Sunday, the final work composed with Jahrgang 2, but ultimately not associated with his chorale cantata cycle by Bach. >
What is truly amazing is the degree of contrast between these these works
,, each entirely individual in character and construction.

 

Cantata BWV 176: 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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