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Cantata BWV 179
Siehe zu, daß deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of September 4, 2005 (2nd round)

Santu de Silva wrote (September 4, 2005):
BWV 179: Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht ... Introduction

BWV 179: "Siehe zu, dass deine Gottesfurcht nicht Heuchelei sei"
(See to it that thy God-fearing be not hypocrisy)
Leipzig, 1723

Oboe i, ii; vi i, ii; Vla, continuo
[Note: Koopman's orchestra [5] featured a continuo that included the organ and a lute, and the latter added a crisp vehemence to the Tenor aria that was very effective.]

182 years and a couple of weeks ago, Bach hurled not one, but two (2) cantati at his fans: this one, and BWV 199. Wow.

While there are elements of that other cantata that I like, this one is simply a knockout musically. (I was ready to complain about the fire+brimstone text, but I suppose it is not superlative only in comparison to the music.) Every bit of it is a winner, (I know, these tired American cliches are a little out of place, but I'm too deeply immersed in my world out here, and besides, this Cantata simply overwhelmed me) and it all comes together beautifully. One is left feeling frustrated by its brevity. Fortunately for the congregation, though (if, indeed, as C. Wolff suggests, they got two cantati on the same Sunday).

Mvt. 1 Title Chorus (I had to invent a term to celebrate this occasion).

This chorus is a strict fugue, with the second (tenor) and fourth (alto) entries in inversion. It is highly chromatic almost to the point of distraction. You simply can't follow 'tunes' here; you have to soak in the texture and Feel the Force, as Obi-wan would have said.

Robertson observes that the falling chromatic phrase underscores 'false hearts' in all parts towards the end, in the 'stretto'. A stretto is a feature in some fugues where successive entries are positioned before the previous entry has finished its statement (something often done towards the end of a fugue to increase the tension).

Mvt. 2: Recitative - Tenor+Continuo "Das heut'ge Christentum ist leider schlecht bestellt"
(Christendom is unfortunately badly ordered [at present])

Mvt. 3: Aria - Tenor+ full orchestra "Falscher Heuchler Ebenbild können Sodoms Äpfel heissen"
(False hypocrites' likeness can Sodom's apples be called)

This aria could almost have been written by Handel; so modern is it in spirit. The tune is a march, and is said to appear in one of Bach's masses (BWV 236 in G major), as does the opening chorus. In spite of being charged with the delivering the brunt of the denunciation of the recitative and aria, this tenor did an absolutely superlative job. How can I say what a knockout this aria is? The oboes, playing in unison with the violins have a jagged, angular line that keeps goading the tenor on to greater vehemence in his condemnation
of the miserable hypocrites.

[Mvt. 4: Recitative - Bass+continuo "Wer so von innen wie von aussen ist, der heisst ein wahrer Christ, so war der Zöllner in dem Tempel"
(Whoever, then, is from within as from without, he is called a true Christian, as was the publican in the temple.)
This is a reference to Jesus's diatribe against "whitewashed sepulchres", which ends with the publican (tavern keeper) saying: God have mercy on me, a sinner. The bass is gentle as he describes the repentant, unpretentious man.

Mvt. 5: Aria - Soprano Oboe da caccia i, ii, Continuo.
"Liebster Gott, erbarme dich, lass mir Trost und Gnad erscheinen"
(Beloved God, have thou pity, let comfort and mercy to me appear)
This is an expansion of the words of the publican (tavern-keeper) of the story. The aria is hauntingly beautiful, and Koopman's soloist (Caroline Stam or Ruth Ziesak; it is hard to tell from the documentation*) does an absolutely brilliant job. Indeed, this aria seems to inspire the singers, especially since there is scope for subtle expressive singing in the long, long notes. Magdalena Kozena does a superlative job with it in Gardiner's recording [8] (but I think Koopman's recording is superior, and his soloist has the more expressive and elastic voice, though I dearly love Ms Kozena).

This number was used later in the A major mass (BWV 234)

Mvt. 6 Chorus
"Ich armer Mensch, ich armer Sünder, steh hier vor Gottes Angiesicht"
(I poor man, poor sinner, stand here before God's countenance)
A better translation is probably
A feeble sole, a feeble sinner, I stand before God's majesty which is the translation provided in the liner notes of Koopman.

This is almost magical writing of a simple chorale. There is great texture in the parts, both vocal and orchestral, in Bach's harmonization of this hymn (Christoph Tietze (1663)) 'set to Georg Neumark's "Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten,' says Alec Robertson. [music: Neumark, words: Tietze?] Robertson surmises that Bach was deeply touched by the words.

One of Bach's loveliest cantatas, BWV 179 is presented with BWV 199 in the John Elliott Gardiner / Monteverdi Choir recording, featuring Magdalena Kozena. The librettist is not on record, and perhaps the biggest obstruction to wider performance of this cantata is probably its subject-matter. The last aria, as well as the closing chorale verse (Mvt. 6) are about penitence (as is BWV 199 in its entirety), and as such more generally suited for performance in a Church setting. (indeed, the whole of it is, but it's hard to see a church choir practicing for weeks to rail at its congregation about their hypocrisy . . .)

* I seem to remember this confusion from earlier; I don't know whether it was conclusively established that indeed it was Ruth Ziesak who sang the Soprano solo in 179 for Koopman. Page 12 of the liner notes of my Erato CD gives "Amsterdam baroque Choir Soloists, including Caroline Stam, and from what Christoph Wolff says "Apart from the choir (with solo contributions from Soprano, Tenor and Bass), the piece is confined to string ensemble, with two oboes and continuo." It seems to suggest that the soloists were not featured soloists, but members of the choir.

However, I have the uncomfortable feeling that all this has been said before, and that some conclusion was eventually reached on this very list, but I cannot remember what it was.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 5, 2005):
Chorale (Mvt. 6) from Cantata BWV 179

The concluding Chorale (Mvt. 6) from BWV 179, the cantata for discussion this week, uses the 1st verse of the CT (hymn) "Ich armer Mensch, ich armer Sünder" by Christoph Tietze (1663) set to the CM 'Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten' by Georg Neumark (1641).

Francis Browne translated the complete CT into English:

Thomas Braatz contributed a page dedicated to this CM, which was used by J.S. Bach in his vocal works with 3 different CT:
The page includes, among other things, scores and music example (midi and ram formats).

Francis Browne contributed also his English translation of BWV 179 text:

Neil Halliday wrote (September 8, 2005):
BWV 179

From the information supplied by Thomas Braatz and Aryeh at:

a total of six `plain' four-part harmonisations of the chorale melody "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" have been identified, in the cantatas:

1.BWV 84/5, in B minor. Text "Ich leb' indess in dir vergnueget".
2.BWV 88/7, in B minor. Text "Sing, bet' und geh' auf Gottes Wegen".
3.BWV 93/7, in C minor. Text "Sing, bet' und geh' auf Gottes Wegen."
4.BWV 166/6, in G minor. Text "Wer weiss, wie nahe mir mein Ende".
5.BWV 179/6, in A minor. Text "Ich armer Mensch, ich armer Suender".
6.BWV 197/10, in B minor. Text "So wandelt froh auf Gottes Wegen".

All of these harmonisations differ from one another, even the three in B minor, with the most elaborately chromatic being the one in A minor (in this week's cantata), perhaps in keeping with the highly chromatic nature of BWV 179's opening chorus.

In the opening chorus, Ramin [1] brings his trademark enthusiasm and strength to the movement, but some will not like the extremely slow tempo; at the other extreme, Koopman sounds rushed and light in parts, to my ears, but will no doubt please some listeners.

In between, Rilling [2] is fine but his continuo lacks definition. Richter [3], Harnoncourt [4] and Gardiner [8] have the same brisk tempo (but not as fast as Koopman [5]); Gardiner is probably my pick of this group.

In the tenor aria, Padmore (with Gardiner) was recently mentioned; his voice has a somewhat distracting vibrato that reminds me of Baldin or Kraus, otherwise this is a pleasing performance.

Arleen Auger's soprano aria (with Rilling) is very moving, but she is too shrill and forceful on some high notes.

John Pike wrote (September 23, 2005).
BWV 69a, 77 and 179

I have been catching up on cantatas after my holiday. I have listened to Leonhardt/Harnoncourt [4], Rilling [2] and leusink of all these cantatas. I also listened to Gardiner's recording of BWV 179 [8]. I greatly enjoyed all these cantatas....some really very beautiful music in all of them, and I enjoyed all the performances. I always tend to find the vibrato in Rilling's sopranos and altos a little obtrusive, but his instrumentalists make such a pleasant sound, that his recordings are always a joy to listen to. The boy soloists in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt recordings were often very satisfying.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 179: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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