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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 18
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt
Discussions - Part 1

BWV 18 = K 546 ???

Soonhak Kwon wrote (December 18, 1996):
A few days ago I bought volume 1 and 2 of complete cantatas of Ton Koopman on Erato [5] from BMG Service. While I was listening the introduction (sinfonia) (Mvt. 1) of BWV 18, I was suprised because the tune was so similar to the fugal part of K 546, Adagio and Fugue in C minor of Mozart. So I read the linear note of that CD which contains K 546. But it doesn't say anything about BWV 18 or whether Mozart had any knowledge about that piece. I'm not a music major and I'm very naive on the matter of technical side of music. But to my ears, they sound so similar. Maybe one of you have some explanation. By the way, I'm now seriously considering to buy complete cantatas set from Teldec ($600), big money.

Cadence Devane wrote (December 18, 1996):
[To Soonhak Kwon] It is important to know that Mozart did in fact go into a fuguing frenzy when he heard Bach fugues. It might be. I haven't heard any of Mozart's stuff so I really wouldn't know.

I strongly recommend Teldecs I do have them all. Period instruments and boys singing the top parts. Very , IMHO, close to what Bach wanted.


BWV 18 / BWV 18 Mvt. 3 - the Litany

David E.G. Smith wrote (January 28, 2002):
Sorry for posting this ahead of time. I'm moving in two days and I wanted to have it listed. Thank you so much for all the illuminating comments about BWV 155. Jane Newble's reconstruction was very helpful at providing a sense of perspective as to what the cantatas might have meant to someone. I am going to revisit my own offering at our website in light of the new insights. Here is what I wrote for BWV 18.

Commentary on Bach Cantata BWV 18 "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee"

See: Cantata BWV 18 - Commentary

Dick Wursten wrote (January 29, 2002):
As already pointed out by David Smith Mvt. 3 consists of a series of recitatives joined together by petitions from Luther's litany. He also noted that these petitions are quite similar to the petitions of the Anglican litany.

Since I had to prepare an introduction to Purcells Anthem: 'Remember not o Lord our offences' (= a supplication from the Anglican litany), I had to study a little bit on the history and contents of the 'litany'. Here a few excerpts from my notes on this subject.

1. litany = from the greek litaneuein = supplicate, beg
2. The cry: 'eleison' was generally used in the Middle-East before christendom christianized it. (also to be found by Homer in the Odyssee (XI, 43) and Ilias (IX,502)
3.The litany was originally part of the Introit. In a procession petititons were prayed, every petition being answered by 'kyrie eleison'... In the 7th century the petitions disappeared and only the 'kyrie eleison' was left. (pope gelasius had already added 'christe eleison' before that). The litany stayed as a processional prayer for special occasions/situations. (esp. distress)
4. From the 12th century the name 'litany' also can be found to mean the procession in which the litany was prayed.
5. The increasing popularity of Mary and the saints leads to the litany of all saints. Very long (almost never ending) lists of petitions appear. (> negative association: litany = never ending complaint).
6. Luther first drops the litany, but when in 1529 the Turks re-appear in central Europe, he re-makes and re-mixes the litany of all saints (of course without saints) to the Lutheran litany: latina litania correcta. In my German hymnbook I find it as hymn 138 ( Litanei oder Das Fürbittegebet). > BWV 18, Mvt. 3, I suppose.
7. In the Anglican liturgy (Book of Common Prayer) the litany forms the conclusion of the Morning Prayer.
8. Remnants of or allusions to litany-praying can be found in some hymns Luthers 'Mitten wir im Leben sind' (Media vita in morte sumus) has a very impressive litany at the end (Heiliger Herre Gott..) and the same goes for 'O wir armen Sunder' (kyrie elesion at the end of each verse)

Richard Grant wrote (January 29, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] See: Cantata BWV 18 - Commentary


BWV 18 - Dutch translation

Dick Wursten wrote (February 3, 2002):
In between two performances of BWV 82 (Candlemass: 02/02/02), one as a concert and one at his right place: that is in a Lutheran mass, I made a Dutch translation of BWV 18, esp. because of the litany-parts (about which I wrote already a week ago).

Esp. the members of this honorable Mailinglist who have any knowledge of the Dutch language are invited to look through this text and criticism etc... is welcome, esp because I interjected a praying-formula before every litany. To my opinion this makes the syntaxis of the litany understandable... but I might be wrong.. And: A translation always also is a betrayal (tradere...), I know.

Aryeh was so kind to give my translation already an official place on the website:


BWV 18 - List of Recordings

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 2, 2002):
The subject of next week's discussion (February 3, 2002), according to Vicente Vida's proposed list of cantatas for discussion, is Cantata BWV 18, 'Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt' - for Sexagesima Sunday. This early cantata from the Weimar period (1713-1714) is inusual in two respects; its development depends largely on the use of recitatives and chorales with only one aria, and the intrumentation consists of 4 violas (no violins), 2 recorders, a basson and organ continuo accompaniment. In the powerful opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1), in form of a chaconne, we hear a beautful pastorale, depicting the quiet fall of rain and snow in early spring or later winter. This is one of the most memorable Sinfonias Bach has ever composed.

In order to allow the members of the BCML preparing themselves for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata. I put the details of the recordings in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 18 - Recordings

As for every early cantata, we have recordings of BWV 18 from all 5 recorded Bach Cantata cycles (Rilling, Harnoncourt, Koopman, Suzuki and Leusink). There are also (at least) two other complete recordings: one from a Thomaskantor - Erhard Mauersberger, and a more recent one - the American Bach Soloists under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas. All these recordings are available in CD form. If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata not listed in the page of recordings, please inform me and send the relevant details, so that I shall be able to update the page. I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.

Charlie Ervin McCarn wrote (February 4, 2002):
[To Aryeh Oron] There is a recording of Cantata 18 that is not on your list. I think
that it may have been the first one made, because I had it when I was in college in the late sixties.

The soloists are Agnes Giebel, Bert van t'Hoff, and Jacques Villisech. The featured instrumentalists are Jaap Schroder, Anner Bylsma, and Gustav Leonhardt. THe Monteverdi Choir of Hamburg is conducted by Jurgen Jurgens. (There are umlauts over those "u"s.) It is a Telefunken Das Alte Werk LP - SAWT-9442-B.

Thanks for the great website.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 4, 2002):
[To Charlie Ervin McCarn] Thanks for the info regarding the recording of BWV 18 by Jürgens. Jürgens and his friends made some fine recordings of Bach Cantatas during the second half of the 1960's. Their recording of BWV 198 (Funeral Ode) is my favourite amothe 13 recordings of this cantata. Alas, most of the recordings by this group are unavailable in CD form. You can see a list of them in the following page:

I have not been aware of their recording of BWV 18. What are the other works on this LP?

Thanks for your kind words regarding the Bach Cantatas Website.


Discussions in the Week of February 3, 2002 (1st round)

Dick Wursten wrote (February 6, 2002):
Yes, I like the young Bach very much. His is experimenting so nicely, his inventiveness is still allowed to float free. Yes, the concept, the form, the internal linking between the different parts of the movements (esp the recitative-litany) is not so strong, but for me it is fully compensated by the joy in writing and performing beautiful music ('Musizierfreude').

I don't know (and frankly don't care too much) whether Leusink c.s. give a minor, mean of major performance of it compared with others, I was taken away by all parts of this cantata

Mvt. 1: this wonderful sinfonia, with the persistent ground. I was reminded of the early organwork of bach, I had to learn in my youth: Sey gegrusset Jesu gutig (partita), first variation... Still one of my favourites (I recently read that this might be a composition dating from 1700??):

Mvt 2: Durr gives a small analysis of the typical aspects of this bible-recitative (German edition S. 93). So familiar and different from bachs later recitatives (with arioso-aspects). By the way: compliment to Neumeister in linking this bibletext with the parable of the sower and the seed, one of the most intriguing parables of Jesus...

Mvt 3. Leusink [9] has a different tenor, had not heard him before. To me satisfactory in this extraordinary piece of music. the soprano sings the litany beautifully, esp. the way she sings the final notes. It sounded 'old' and I think that is one of the intentions of Bach, contrasteffect. The contents of the parable is reflected in the different parts of the 'meditation/adhortation'. Beuatiful musical figures, very lively and not pretentious...

Mvt 4. A short aria, compact. Why not ? The whole cantata is moving forward, has a youthfull drive and tempo... Perhaps the Leusink tempo is to speedy. The soprano has difficulty in singing fort, fort fort... she almost stumbles.

Mvt 5. A famous choral, pobably hardly ever sung these days, because of the contents. musically I'm always irritated by the way some of the Leusink choirmembers shout, confusing loud with expressive. But as a whole...

Thanks for sugesting this cantata.

Marie Jensen wrote (February 6, 2002):
This cantata has been such a pleasure to listen to. It gets better and better every time no matter which version.

The opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) could be a movement in Bach’s "Four Seasons": "Late Winter / Early Spring" seen from a window in an old Thuringian town; it rains, drips from the roof; it snows with big flakes and melting water runs through the streets. The movement has a slight touch of peasant music too. And like water and seed corn are our basis of living, so is the Word of God, and the cantata leeds us into the "Parable of the Sower" and the Litany praying for the Word to fall in good soil in spite of all the many sins mentioned. There is only one aria in the cantata. So in my youth this cantata was not among my favourites.

The sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is great in Suzuki’s version [7]. The raindrops really drip. In Leusink’s version [9] the organ is heard too much. The four violas have to play the main role.

The recitativo is sung well by Ramselaar (Leusink) [9], slowly, intensely and clearly. Ramselaar is at his very best in this cantata.

The litany is sung perfect by all Suzuki’s soloists and choir [7], but perfect beauty is not the most important matter when a congregation is begging God for mercy. Here Leusink’s choir [9] fits the role better. The boys are not perfect but their singing seems spontaneous and thrustworthy. Also the seldom heard tenor Getchell and soprano Strijk take the text seriously. The soprano chants more phrases on the same note. This leaving melody behind adds intensity to the prayer and reminds me of a priest at service. Who do I prefer: Suzuki [7] or Leusink [9]? both of them I believe. I like this cantata more and more.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 7, 2002):
The subject of this week's discussion (February 3, 2002), according to Vicente Vida's proposed list of cantatas for discussion, is Cantata BWV 18, 'Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt' - for Sexagesima Sunday. This early cantata from the Weimar period (1713-1714) is unusual in two respects; its development depends largely on the use of recitatives and chorales with only one aria, and the instrumentation consists of 4 violas (no violins), 2 recorders, a bassoon and organ continuo accompaniment. In the powerful opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1), in form of a chaconne, we hear a beautiful pastorale, depicting the quiet fall of rain and snow in early spring or later winter. This is one of the most memorable Sinfonias Bach has ever composed.

As for every early cantata, we have recordings of BWV 18 from all 5 recorded Bach Cantata cycles (Rilling, Harnoncourt, Koopman, Suzuki and Leusink). There are also (at least) two other complete recordings: one from a Thomaskantor - Erhard Mauersberger, and a more recent one - the American Bach Soloists under the direction of Jeffrey Thomas. All these recordings are available in CD form. If anybody is aware of a recording of this cantata not listed in the page of recordings, please inform me and send the relevant details, so that I shall be able to update the page.

I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.


The background below is based on several sources (mostly Alec Robertson and W. Murray Young) and something of my own. The English translations are taken from Richard Stokes’ book.

The Recordings

The recordings I have listened to during last week are:

[2] Erhard Mauersberger (1967)
[3] Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1972)
[4] Helmuth Rilling (1975)
[5] Jeffrey Thomas & American Bach Soloists (1994)
[6] Ton Koopman (1995)
[7] Masaaki Suzuki (1997)
[9] Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
[M-3] Fabio Biondi (1st Mvt. only)

Review of the Recordings – Movement by Movement

Mvt. 1 Sinfonia
Mauersberger (3:52) is rounded and somewhat heavy. This rendition has a kind of internal beauty and conviction, although I do not see rain and snow while listening to it. Harnoncourt (3:07) is almost the opposite of Mauersberger – sharp and precise, although the playing is not exactly clean. It is also somewhat dry and therefore not enough vivid. Rilling’s approach (4:04) is close to that of Mauersberger, but is slower and has more legato. I find that it works against the imagery suggested by the words of the ensuing recitative. I have heard the Rilling’s orchestra playing better in many other cases. Jeffrey Thomas’s Sinfonia (2:54) has everything I could have wished for. It has sharpens and vividness. The slight changes in the tempi has to imagine the rain and the snow falling down, from a slow start it becomes faster and faster. The colour of the instruments has kind of bitter-sweetness which is very much to my liking. Koopman’s orchestra (3:24) is lightness, clean andtransparent. It is almost too pleasant. Suzuki’s approach (2:45) follows Koopman’, but it is quicker and has more boldness and the colours are stronger. The only fault of this rendition is its being too fast. Leusink (3:06) has the best of both Koopman and Suzuki and I prefer it to both. Biondi recorded the Sinfonia only (3:31), and it is included in a CD of Bach’s Cantatas and Arias under the name of the tenor Ian Bostridge. After hearing some of the previous recordings it is somewhat disappointing. The playing is beautiful, but is dragged and has no momentum. It is as if the conductor did not know what it is all about, and performed it as an instrumental music. Maybe this Sinfonia should not be performed separately.

Personal priorities: J. Thomas, Leusink, Suzuki, Koopman, Mauersberger, Harnoncourt, Rilling, Biondi

Mvt. 2 Recitative for Bass
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt
(Far as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven)
Bach vividly illustrates the biblical text. The voice of Christ gives vocal expression to the picture portrayed in the opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1). The voice seems to descend in broken phrases like raindrops splashing down in an irregular pattern. Alternating arioso sections in this recitative gives this impression.

Theo Adam’s voice (with Mauersberger) embodied Christ perfectly and his delivery brings out everything written above about this recitative. Max van Egmond (with Harnoncourt) is in good shape, but I prefer more bottom for Christ’s voice than he has. Wolfgang Schöne (with Rilling) has more prominence than Egmond has, conveys more internal conviction, and his expression is also more varied and therefore more interesting. Weaver is expressive and emphatic but a little bit stiff. Mertens maintains the high level we have learnt to expect from him. He shows more sensitivity than many the previous bass singers do, but he does not outshine Adam or Schöne, who have more depth. Kooy is almost on the same par with Mertens. Ramselaar uses the extra space given to him by Leusink to put more expression into his performance.

Personal priorities: Adam, Schöne, Mertens, Kooy, Ramselaar, Weaver, Egmond

Mvt. 3 Recitative for Tenor & Bass and Chorale (Litany)
Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein
(My God, here shall my heart abide)
The tenor entreats God to send his Word like seed into the heart. Here, as in after each section of the recitative, the choir sings parts in Luther’s militant Litany, which interrupts the peaceful musical description of nature, which has preceded. After the tenor the sopranos intone the first line of the Litany praying for deliverance from hardness of heart, ‘Satan’s wiles and the assaults of the Turks and the Papists’, answered each time by the Chorus,’Hear us, Good Lord’. The first bass recitative has a declamatory passage about the devil’s attempt to rob the Christian of ‘the Word’ and in the following one, for tenor, which speaks of ‘Verfolgung’ (persecution) of the faithful, Bach gives to that word the most astonishing run in all his church music. This is followed by the denunciation, in the Litany, of the ‘murderous’ Turks and Papists. The last recitative, for bass, tilts at the gluttonous, the rich and the sensual, concluding with a tortuous phrase on 'irregehen’ (let astray).

Everything in Mauersberger’s rendition (6:37) is performed on high level. The weak point is the soprano Adele Stolte who is not in her prime and whose voice lacks stability. The opening recitative by Equiluz is promising, but what follows is disappointing. The anonymous boy soprano cannot hold his demanding part. When he sings I feel as if he is walking on a fragile ice. The components do not form a convincing whole. The opening recitative by Equiluz in Harnoncourt’s recording (5:50) is promising, but what follows is disappointing. The anonymous boy soprano cannot hold his demanding part. When he sings I feel as if he is walking on a fragile ice. The components do not form a convincing whole. Rilling performs this movement OVPP and it suits it very well. Although the singers are very expressive their singing is controlled and there is a good balance between them. Although Jeffrey Thomas also adheres to OVPP approach (5:31), his performance sounds more natural and homogenous than Rilling’s. The voices of the singers blend nicely together and their expression is not too prominent, as the impression I have got from Rilling’s rendition. Koopman (5:02) gives the soprano part to the choir and with singers in the calibre of Prégardien and Mertens and his excellent choir and his good taste he his rendition goes directly to the top of the crop. Suzuki (5:37) follows Koopman’s route, and has a slight more energy and a slight less charm. Leusink’s (6:15) tenor - Robert Getchell, with whom I have not been familiar, as a gentle and pleasant if small voice, which suits this movement well. The other singers in this recording are also satisfactory if not outstanding.

Personal priorities: Koopman, Suzuki, Thomas, Mauersberger, Rilling, Leusink, Harnoncourt

Mvt. 4 Aria for Soprano
Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort
(My soul’s true treasure is God’s Word)
This delightful aria is like a ray of sunshine after the sermonising of the preceding recitative. Although the text has a swipe at Satan, the music is cheerful. It has a wave-like melody, possibly called to Bach’s mind the word ‘Netze’ (nets), which the world and Satan stretch out to catch worthless souls; she, however, will hope to avoid the nets in knowing that ‘Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort’ (Mu soul’s true treasure is God’s word). Her rejection of Satan’s proffered treasures is lyrically expressed in ‘Fort mit allen, fort, nur fort!’ (Away with them all, away, away!) with its effective ritornello.

As I wrote above, Stolte (3:18), when she recorded this aria, was not the kind of soprano singer that would make this aria attractive. It is also performed relatively slow, and at this pace the deficiencies of the singer become overt, and all the cheer is gone. I have said enough about Harnoncourt’s poor boy soprano (3:04). The heavy accompaniment he gets makes his task even more difficult. Eva Csapó (with Rilling) is a nice surprise. Rilling accompaniment is cheerful and wavy and the fresh voice of the singer and her expressive singing conveys the message of the aria convincingly. Others may call her voice operatic, but it works for me. Although I prefer Julianne Baird in her earlier recordings with Rifkin, she shows in her performance here (3:01) that she can still deliver successful a Bach aria as attractive as this one is. Schlick is not among my favourite modern sopranos, but with Koopman she is at her best in both technical and expressive terms. Midori Suzuki (3:16) is simply the best of them all and the accompaniment she gets is vivid, colourful and delightful. The aria in Leusink’s recording (2:45) is the fastest I have heard. This does not help Marjon Strijk, who has some technical difficulties and her expression leaves also something to be desired.

Personal priorities: Suzuki, Baird, Schlick, Csapó, Strijk, Stolte, Anonymous boy Soprano

Mvt. 5 Chorale
Ich bitt, o Herr, aus Herzens Grund
(I bid Thee, Lord, from the depth of my heart)
The choir expresses the hope that God will not take away His Word, which he has given to ‘me’, as protection against sin and guilt. This brings us back to the original idea that God’s Word fall s upon us from above like rain and snow, so that we may grow like seeds to bear fruit to Him.

Personal priorities: Koopman, Suzuki, Thomas, Leusink, Rilling, Mauersberger, Harnoncourt


I found that this cantata is so charming and beautiful, that it can please with every rendition (at least, with those I have heard). If I had to choose only one recording it would be Jeffrey Thomas [5], but Koopman [6] and Suzuki [7] arvery close second.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 8, 2002):
Review of the Recordings

This week I listened to: Mauersberger (1967); Harnoncourt (1972); Rilling (1975); Koopman (1995); Suzuki (1997); and Leusink (2000)

[2] Mauersberger:
Mauersberger uses the later Leipzig version at the higher pitch with the two recorders.
Mvt. 1: The tempo is quite slow with a primarily legato treatment. The bc is definitely too heavy and a harpsichord can be heard. The 1st recorder simply decided not to play the highest note in ms. 35. Mvt. 2: Adam certainly has a full voice with great strength, depth, and expression, but it is so operatic with a wide vibrato that it becomes impossible to tell apart the non-trilled notes from the trilled ones (ms. 10,11). Mvt. 3. Schreier delivers his part with near perfection. Stolte’s voice in this section sounds very narrow. This is not a very good solution for this litany part. Mvt. 4: In the aria Stolte is quite good with only the orchestra being too loud at times. Mvt. 5: The chorale is reasonably good as well.

[3] Harnoncourt:
Harnoncourt uses the earlier Weimar version at the lower pitch sans recorders.
Mvt. 1: Harnoncourt decides to take a rather fast tempo. Although much staccato (none of this is marked in the score) is used, he manages to maintain the balance between the viols and the bc. Here Harnoncourt’s experience with this type of instrument definitely shows. Mvt. 2: van Egmond’s half-voice is not very strong, but his expression is quite good. Mvt. 3: Equiluz is the bright spot in this mvt. but the other aspects of the performance leave much to be desired: the boy soprano is insecure in his voice control. Listen to the bc in the recitative accompaniments – the string instruments place a strong accent on the beginning of the long held notes. It is as if Harnoncourt gets really angry about having these long notes in the score. Soon Harnoncourt will decide to do something about this problem. If Bach had only considered shortening these note values when he composed the cantatas, then this would not have become such a problem for Harnoncourt to attempt to solve. Mvt. 4: The boy soprano has rather serious problems: too much vibrato which he is unable to control properly as well as intonation problems. Mvt. 5: The choir adds extra hiatuses in the musical line where they do not belong. These are places where no punctuation marks are in the text. Nevertheless Harnoncourt finds pleasure in breaking up the musical vocal line so that it becomes non legato. This could only happen with someone who has little or no experience with singing.

[4] Rilling:
Rilling uses the Leipzig version at the higher pitch with the two recorders added.
Mvt. 1: The tempo is slow and deliberate and the bc is perfectly balanced (not too loud.) Here, as in the Mauersberger recording, the harpsichord is heard once again. With the legato treatment given here, this mvt. reveals itself as an entirely different composition when compared with Harnoncourt and all the later versions. Mvt. 2: Schöne has a full voice without the operatic excesses heard in Theo Adam’s version of this mvt. Schöne’s expression is notable. Mvt. 3: Kraus is very difficult to listen to here. When he hits the loud high notes on “mein” and “ach” he produces a terrible vocal sound. Only when the recitative becomes more lyrical (arioso) without the strong accents, does his voice sound acceptable. Mvt. 4 Csapo has a voice with many problems: too narrow, too much vibrato, attacking high notes with a vengeance as if she were singing a Queen of the Night aria. Her voice is definitely ‘in your face’ as she barks out the command, “fort, fort,” just as a female officer might in commanding her troops. Mvt. 5: Although there is always the somewhat objectionable wobbly vibrato sound of the voices to contend with, this is nevertheless an excellent version with a legato singing line. Listen carefully to the conclusions of each line. They are perfectly executed without abbreviating the note values or de-emphasizing the final syllables.

[6] Koopman:
Koopman uses a mishmash of both the Weimar and Leipzig versions by using the lower Weimar pitch, but including the recorders which were only added later. Interesting, but not authentic!
Mvt. 1: Koopman creates contrast by using staccato with a heavy bc in some sections, but lyrical delicacy in the other sections where the viols seem rather soft. Something is not quite in balance here. Mvt. 2: Mertens with a half-voice decides to cut back to sotto voce for extended passages, hoping thereby to gain something in expression. The general effect is one of non-commitment since a ‘lite’ touch to the music is preferred. The Harnoncourt Doctrine is employed in the bc. Mvt. 3: Prégardien is superb here, even better than Equiluz. The choir here is also very good, but Koopman indulges in one of his tempo-fits where the bc has long, wild passages of continuous 16th notes. Can these be heard on this recording? No, because Koopman has established a ‘crazy’ tempo, a tempo that forces the bc to play very softly and fast. It would be fun to see a DVD of this recording with the cello playing ‘like crazy’, but nothing is heard because the choir is singing! Mvt. 4: Schlick’s half-voice simply can not ‘cut it’ here. It does not help one bit either, that Koopman has chosen another one of his extreme tempi without regard to what the voice might be able to do. At this fast pace, everything has to be sotto voce, understated, and with the goal of ‘lite’ entertainment in mind. Mvt. 5: Koopman throws in a few unnecessary pauses (cf. Harnoncourt) and the continuous sotto voce singing of the choir leaves the impression that they sing without conviction or simply have no idea what they are singing about.

[7] Suzuki:
Suzuki uses the Weimar version correctly at the lower pitch.
Mvt. 1: The tempo is too fast. He uses some staccato, but this is more delicately applied. The bc is in good balance with the rest of the ensemble. Unfortunately, the 3rd and 4th viols are too weak. Mvt. 2: Kooy has a voice rather similar to Mertens and emulates Mertens use of sotto voce. The bc is according to the Harnoncourt Doctrine. Mvt. 3: Sakurada has a half-voice that is weak in the low range, but otherwise has a bright, clear sound. Mvt. 4: Suzuki establishes a legato, flowing orchestral accompaniment for Midori Suzuki’s excellent presentation of this aria. Mvt. 5: This chorale version is similar to Koopman’s treatment of the same.

[9] Leusink:
Leusink uses the Weimar version at the lower pitch.
Mvt. 1: The tempo is too fast, the chest organ too loud and distracting, and the delicate musical lines of the viol quartet are overwhelmed by the loud, aggressive sound of bc + chest organ. Mvt. 2: Ramselaar sings some passages quite well, but as a whole his voice production is primarily sotto voce. Mvt. 3: Getchell is another half-voice that is weak in the low range. This is disastrous because the instruments are too loud. The choir is terrible here as it applies special strong accents where there should be none. The yodelers make an appearance. Ramselaar suddenly has a thin, metallic sound as he sings. Mvt. 4: The bc is too loud. Strijk is similar to Holton in many ways. This version is worth listening to. Mvt. 5: Leusink has the usual problems with a chorale, foreshortening the final fermata. Even the yodelers among the sopranos and the individual voices from the choir put in an appearance.

Summary (mvt. nr. emphasis indicated as follows: 2=Mvt. 2&3 for bass; 3=Mvt. 3 for tenor):

Excellent: Rilling (1); Schöne (2); Prégardien, Schreier (3); Midori Suzuki (4); Rilling (5)

Good: Harnoncourt, Suzuki (1); Mertens, Kooy (2); Sakurada, Equiluz (3); Stolte, Strijk (4); Mauersberger, Koopman, Suzuki (5)

Fair: Mauersberger, Koopman (1); van Egmond, Ramselaar (2); Getchall, Kraus (3); Boy Soprano (4); Harnoncourt (5)

Poor: Leusink (1); Adam (2); Csapo, Schlick (4); Leusink (5)

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 8, 2002):
I love cantate BWV 18 and the way Marie writes about it lovingly.

My screensaver reads: I love Bach, Bach forever.

Dick Wursten wrote (February 8, 2002):
By the way: This concluding phrase of Neumeisters litlle sermon on the parable of the sower is one of the best he has ever written... A compact and intriguing play with the word-pair world/heaven. First the image is turned upside down (die Welt muss ihnen anstatt des Himmels stehen: They want this world to be 'heaven' ) , and then - when trying to reach heaven - they are completely lost.. of course.

It makes me feel sad that I never will be able to hear Neumeister preach... Must have been a brilliant orator.

But for the rest: I was content to learn from your review that the soprano-aria generally is performed less quickly than by Leusink [9]...

Dick Wursten wrote (February 8, 2002):
[To Jan Hendrik]Lets continue our Dutch discussion on my translation of BWV 18
1. It is at least not the SAME mistake I make. I didnot translate 'Papst' with 'baptist', but with the dutch word 'Paap'.
2. Why did I do that: Because of the fact that 'Paap' in Dutch is/was the commonly used 'scheldwoord' (pejorative term) for the romancatholic enemies in the 16th/17th century. There even exists a saying: rather Turkish than papist ('Liever Turks dan Paaps'). 'paaps' = (Dutch dictionary: VAN DALE: 'bn. pausgezind' )
In a strict litteral translation 'des Papsts' indeed should be translated with 'of the Pope', but in a dynamic equivalent the translation 'Paap' is to be preferred... In my humble opinion. But thanks for the comment.

By the way: Luther in his litany not only refers to the atrocities committed by the soldiers of the pope (or - if you like the 'papist' troups) but also to the turkish troups whom the protestants (and romancatholics alike! ) of that era feared enormously. The turks came as far as Vienna two times: 1529 (date of Lutheran litany) and 1683 (two years before JSB was born). I don't know till where their power reached in Bachs days in Leipzig, but I'm sure they were not mythical yet.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 8, 2002):
Dick Wursten wondered:
< I just wondered (because mr. Boyce mentioned the name, I remembered): This text of Neumeister (1711) was meant for the Eisenach-court and Telemann set it to music (says Alfred Dürr) just a few years before Bach did. Is there someone who has ever heard the Telemannversion of the same cantata ? If so, can he/she gives a a verbal evocation / description of Telemanns musical choices put next to those of Bach... f.i.: what does Telemann do with the litanyprayers etc... >

In regard to BWV 18, Spitta devotes almost a full page to an example of Telemann's setting of the recitative (Mvt. 2) so that the reader may see how there is nothing special to connect the text with the music. In comparison, Spitta states that "der melodische Strom" ["the melodic stream of notes"] in Bach's recitatives is "so voll und gleichmäßig, daß man ihn getrost von den Textworten ganz abstrahieren kann" ["so full and regular/uniform/even, that one could easily determine the words from simply seeing the music."] Perhaps Spitta has slightly exaggerated the point that he was trying to make, but his direction pointing toward the truth is well taken.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 8, 2002):
My translation of
< In comparison, Spitta states that "der melodische Strom" ["the melodic stream of notes"] in Bach's recitatives is "so voll und gleichmäßig, daß man ihn getrost von den Textworten ganz abstrahieren kann" ["so full and regular/uniform/even, that one could easily determine the words from simply seeing the music."] >
should probably read "The melodic stream of notes is so full and even, that one can simply figure out what the musical line will be by examining the text" What I believe Spitta is attempting to say in a rather roundabout way is that the cantata text and Bach's music become inextricably linked as if they were originally meant to be together.

I also found in Spitta the reference to Telemann's treatment of the Litany, where Spitta points out how Bach's cantata [BWV 18] was superior to Telemann's setting: Bach has the soprano voice alone introduce the Litany accompanied by an agitated bc, only after which the choir enters with "Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott" together with all the remaining instruments. Telemann, in contrast, uses the choir throughout the Litany sections. Spitta states: "Generally this text is too expansive and moralizing; but for this reason Telemann achieves a more favorable total impression, since he hurries more quickly over the solo sections than Bach does, Bach, who burrows more deeply to extract musical depth from a rather dry text.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 9, 2002):
BWV 18 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 18 - Provenance

Commentaries: [Spitta, Schweitzer, Chafe]

See: Cantata BWV 18 - Commentary

Andrew Oliver wrote (February 9, 2002):
There are a number of things I like about this cantata, and the first of these is the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) with its musical scene-setting. The texture of it (without violins) reminds me of the sixth Brandenburg Concerto, and the theme which rises in steps with the violas leapfrogging each other I find very reminiscent of the first movement of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater (which was written 21 or 22 years later). Of the two versions I have, I prefer Harnoncourt's [3] to Leusink's [9], both for this sinfonia (Mvt. 1) and for the closing chorale. However, I much prefer Strijk (with Leusink) to Harnoncourt's boy soprano, and I would have liked to hear more of Robert Getchell, Leusink's tenor in the third movement. Bach seems to have enjoyed illustrating the text with his word-painting, e.g. the fall on 'fallen'.

This is a cantata to come back to.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (Februar10, 2002):
Wotta Cantata!

Yes, it's me...cantankerous, curmudgeonly, and ever complaining...but if there's anything that'll get me back to participation, it's Bach.

I'll just say one thing about me-and-the-List and then I'll move on to the Cantata. I'm not a music scholar (nor do I play one on TV) and I have felt so very outclassed by the erudite and, um, comprehensive reviews submitted by others. While I respect the integrity and effort of some of these lengthy and detailed reviews, for me, it's like pulling the petals off of a rose to understand the rose. And so much to read! I'm an experiential kinda guy and I can only tell you how the music makes me feel because I don't have the vocabulary of others.

There! I've said it!

Now, as to this cantata. I love the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1)...but I was looking for a "rain falling" type of theme in it and didn't hear it as I expected. So often, the "rain falling" motif is a violin playing a rapidly descending figure. (Semi-quavers? Demi-quavers? Some kind of quavers...) But then my fiancé, Jody, pointed out that the very first few notes of the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) were like a slow dripping, the first drops of rain. Aha! And, as it pertains to rain imagry, I found interesting in the Leusink recording [9] of the extended recitative, the third movement, where the bass gives way to the soprano, and there you have it: A rapid descending figure in the violas. So, I'm happy: I could pick out a bit of musical symbolism. Made me feel all smart. But not too smart to enjoy the music!

I enjoy Strijk's singing very much (in the Leusink recording) but then, I'm a sucker for sopranos anyway. I compared the Leusink [9] with the Koopman [6] recordings and prefer the former, overall. My fiancé liked the Koopman sinfonia ()Mvt. 1 better; she heard Leusink's organ overpowering the other voices. I was a bit frustrated by Koopman because although he adds the recorders that Bach assigned in his later re-work of the cantata, I found them difficult to hear. Sorry, I like my music distinct. For that reason, I prefer Leusink's use of a solo soprano voice in the third movement as compared to Koopman's use of multiple soprano voices.

Well, that's it for now. Hope you all enjoy the music as much as I did. Later!

Michael Grover wrote (February 11, 2002):
[To Harry J. Steinman] Harry, welcome back. Good to see one of the "old-timers" back participating. :)

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (February 12, 2002):
This cantata contains one of my favorite arias, namely Mein Seelenshatze is Gottes Wort! I love the busy accompaniment; it reminds me a little of the music in Das Rheingold, with the dwarves digging for jewels underground. I wonder what the musical imagery was intended to mean?

The instrumentation is, as reported by others, lovely and dark and quiet.

Richard Grant wrote (February 12, 2002):
[To Santu de Silva] I always took that glittering accompaniment to represent the glittering or shine of a treasure.

Santu de Silva (Archimedes) wrote (February 13, 2002):
In relation to "the busy accompaniment [to 'Mein Seelenschatze is Gottes Wort,' the first aria of BWV 18, which] reminds me a little of the music in Das Rheingold with the dwarves digging for jewels underground," (my words,)


French translation BWV 18

Cesare Colletta wrote (June 18, 2003):
[snip] By the way, am I the only Italian on this (great and to me most useful) mailing list?

Anyone noticed the French translation of the "terrible" line in BWV 18:
"Und uns für des Türken und des Papsts / Grausamem Mord und Lästerungen, / Wüten und Toben väterlich behüten"
"Et garde-nous tel un père du meurtre cruel des Turcs, / Des blasphèmes contre le Pape, / De la rage et de la fureur" (!!)

Riccardo Nughes wrote (June 18, 2003):
[To Cesare Colletta] [snip] There is also BWV 126:
"Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort/Und steur des Papsts und Turken Mord/die
Jesum Christum, deinen Sohn,/Sturzen wollen von seinem Thron
This Cantata has been recently performed here in Milan in a Catholic church!

In the past Pope Pio X was "against" Bach. See an interesting discussion at:

Thomas Gebhardt wrote (June 18, 2003):
[To Cesare Colletta] This French translation seems wrong to me (as far as I understand French)!

I think it should be:
"Et garde-nous tel un père du meurtre cruel, des blasphèmes et de la rage et de la fureur des Turcs et du Pape" (!!)

C'est une différence, n'est-ce pas?

Jean-Pierre Grivois wrote (June 18, 2003):
[To Thomas Gebhardt] Ma traduction Note à Note figurant dans ce site, même si la phrase en Français est un peu distordue, au moins ne prête pas à confusion. D'où l'utilité d'être proche du texte, même si c'est au détriment de l'élégance de la langue dans laquelle on traduit.


Dick Wursten wrote (June 18, 2003):
[To Thomas Gebhardt] Not Bach has to be blamed for this in modern ears terrible phrase/prayer. It's a prayer from the Lutheran litany, dating back to the 16th century where both threats were real for the Lutherans in parts of Germany. Don't forget a 30year bloody religious war has been fought there (end 1648), and even in Bachs days Leipzig once witnessed the streaming-in of a great number of protestant refugees who had to leave their home-country.


Cantata #18 and recorders

Bradley Lehman wrote (December 16, 2004):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< Um, how do I say this? 'Mein Seelenschatz...' is first of all in a major key, secondly the key signatures are not like modern key signatures because they are missing a flat. The 'high' version - with the flauto dolce - is in F major (the 'empty' key signature notwithstanding :) ), and the 'low' version - with just viola - is therefore presumably in E-flat (don't feel like grabbing my score to check :) ). >
I was referring to the cantata as a whole, being in G minor vs A minor. Not that movement in particular, which of course is in either E-flat or F major.... I was assuming of course that you've taken your parts from a published set of the complete cantata.

Cantata BWV 18 figures prominently throughout this article by Bruce Haynes:
"Questions of Tonality in Bach's Cantatas: The Woodwind Perspective." The topics covered include the various flutes/recorders, various oboes, Bach's various transposition situations (Chorton vs Cammerton), pitch in historical sets of woodwinds (and individual woodwinds), and problems in key selection among modern editions (including the NBA). "JAMInstrSoc" is the Journal of the American Musical Instrument Society.

p.s. 40 here too, this past summer.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 18: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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