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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 2

Continue from Part 1

BWV 18 - Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 23, 2005):
This beautiful early cantata for the Sunday Sexagesimae owes its appealing title from the powerful metaphor of the first bass recitative, taken from Isaiah 55:10,11. I do like that chapter 55. It is a really inspiring message, offering a perspective of peace, joy and salvation to all who will incline their ears to listen to God's words. It is the Old Testament equivalent of the Gospel reading of the day, the parable of the sower from St. Luke 8: 4-15, worked out by Bach on the lyrics of the poet Erdmann Neumeister from his 1711 cantata cycle "Geistliches Singen und Spielen". The Epistle reading from the Second Epistle to the Colossians, stating that God can demonstrate his power most strikingly in our weaknesses, is not dealt with here.

Isaiah's wonderful words are preceded by a fascinating sinfonia (Mvt. 1) concertante in the form of a chaconne, a baroque dance and instrumental piece based on continuous variations of a four-bar phrase (OCC). The chaconne has its roots in early 17th-century guitar music in Spain and Italy and was a favourite at the court of the French "Roy Soleil" Louis XIV. Chaconnes are normally notated with a time signature of 3 or ¾ and use a tempo slightly faster than a sarabande. Since the latter has a slow, sustained, serious character, the motion of the chaconne itself must have been pretty quiet as well. Many chaconnes are long, complex, emotionally charged pieces using a wide variety of techniques, including strong contrasts in instrumentation, dynamic level, texture, mode and key, repetition scheme, melody, harmony, rhythm and occasionally even metre. The OCC mentions that only two chaconnes by Bach survive, the concluding chorus ("Meine Tage in dem Leide") of Cantata BWV 150, "Nach dir, Herr, verlanget mich" and the gigantic "ciaccona" that concludes the second partita for solo violin BWV 1004.

And then we have this sinfonia (Mvt. 1), a really interesting piece. David Schulenberg (in the OCC) observes that it resembles the Sixth Brandenburg Concerto in its instrumentation. It combines ritornello and da capo form. Moreover, the unison ritornello recalls concerto movements by Bach and Vivaldi, as does the subsequent employment of the ritornello theme as bass line for certain solo passages. Bach's music abounds in the application of French court dances such as allemande, bourrée, chaconne, courante, gavotte, gigue, forlana, loure, minuet, passacaglia, passepied, polonaise, sarabande and siciliano, both in his instrumental works and his cantatas, oratorios and passions. Bach must have loved to incorporate those dances in his music for when these movements are being played well you just feel "die Aufforderung zum Tanz". Although the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) was not meant to be actually danced to, what a thrill it would be to see the chaconne performed in period costumes, or even better to be involved in a royal dance party at the Weimar palace. Yet, the cantata was performed in the splendid palace church with its equally glorious name "Himmelsburg" ("Heaven's Castle") on 14 February 1715, though it may have been conceived one or two years earlier.

Another aspect of the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is its overture character. The listener is musically prepared for the following recitative, Bach evoking a subtle musical image of the snow coming down through the descending tones in the bass instruments. The wayward rhythm also strongly reminds us of the unsteady movements of the snow flakes whirling to the ground. Remarkable is also that throughout the cantata no violins are deployed. The four lower-pitched violas create a warm timbre that really suits not only the litany, but the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) and the soprano aria (Mvt. 4) as well.

The recitative on Isaiah's words, in the Christian tradition attributed to Christ himself and therefore given to the bass soloist, is a secco, only accompanied by the continuo. It has a few arioso parts, especially at "und macht sie fruchtbar und wachsend, daß sie gibt Samen zu säen und Brot zu essen".

The central piece is the following Recitative and Litany (Mvt. 3). In fact it is a composition with four similar parts. We hear successive recitatives by tenor, bass, tenor, bass, varying in pace according to the mood they express, each of them followed by a prayer of the soprano functioning as a precentor or cantor to the congregation (the choir), who answer her plea with the liturgical chant "Erhör uns, lieber Herre Gott!" The accompaniment of the four violas plus BC provides a warm and solid bedding for the solo male voices. In the soprano lines their running notes push the prayer forward and upward to heaven and after that they sustain the stereotype second-prayer by the tutti voices.

The first recitative deals with the parable of the sower. It is a message of fruitfulness and fertility and God is asked to grant the power of his Holy Spirit to those who receive his Word (the seed). There follows in the second recitative a plea for protection against Satan, the liar and sinner from the beginning ("the serpent beguiled me .!"). This is a reference to the seed that fell by the side of the way. Those at the wayside are most liable to be ensnared by Satan's shrewd tricks to lure the word away from their hearts. The faithful beg for the defeat of Satan, slightly twisting the traditional image of the antique world of God as a victorious ruler, treating his captured, prostrated enemies as his footstool, a vision found back in various wordings in both the OT and NT: Psalm 110:1, Malachi 4:3, St. Mark 13:36, Romans 16:20, Hebrews 1:13. The Weimar Lutherans must have loved Romans 16:20, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly." Then the tenor complains that quite a few of those who hear the Good News lack the fertile soil in which the seed can germinate, root and grow firm. They denounce the Word in times of temptation and fall away. Their hearts are like the rock from the parable. The soprano plea for protection against the Turks and the Pope seems outrageous. It needs some historical explanation later. In the final recitative the bass sings about the Mammon, the god of covetousness (Milton), greed and gluttony (St. Luke 16:13, Matthew 6:24). These evil influences are symbolized by the thorns that choke the growing grain so that it withers before it can even bear fruit. Throughout this movement we can hear Bach word-painting on ideas that need special emphasis. The litany ends in a prayer to bring back all those who have been led astray.

In spite of the da capo, the only aria of the cantata is way too short, only three minutes, but so warm, so intimate, so vibrating with love that it takes some time to realize that this is not a text from the Song of Songs but a song of praise for the Word. Not even do we hear the metaphorical bride declaring her adoration for her heavenly bridegroom, but the treasure of this righteous soul is God's Word. Amazing lyrics, a love song for a book, albeit a holy book, and the divine words speaking from its pages, compared to which all the treasures of the world are nothing but snares, laid by Satan to seduce the scornful people of this world. An astonishing libretto, indeed, for us, modern westerners (David Schulenberg even calls it an "ungrateful text"), but not for the pietistic Lutherans of late 17th and early 18th century Thuringia. The soprano is elegantly accompanied by the four violas inunison. Together they make the music swing blissfully (I almost wrote "as hell", which would be rather out of decorum here, though). The second part contains a rising motive on the insisting "Fort mit allen, fort, nur fort!", which leads very effectively to the final confession: "Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort."

The last movement is a simple four-part setting of stanza eight of Lazarus Spengler's chorale "Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt". Here the congregation is on common ground again, an almost two centuries old hymn proclaiming the reassuring promise that he who trusts God on his word will never see death.

Unfortunately, I only have two recordings which are both very pleasing, one by Pieter Jan Leusink with Netherlands Bach Collegium and Holland Boys Choir [9] and the other by Jeffrey Thomas and his American Bach soloists [5]. Both chose the Weimar original. No Leipzig recorders in these performances. The Americans added an archlute to their instruments, but I'm afraid my hearing is not keen enough to be able to distinguish its sound among the other strings. I consider myself fortunate though with the latter recording because I love the way they perform the opening movement.

The American Bach soloists take it nice and slow in 3:32 where Leusink c.s. clock 3:06. The Dutch version is well-played, nice and flowing baroque music, but Jeffrey Thomas makes the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) an absolute experience with punctuated rhythms, varied with flowing outpours in the strings, arresting timing and jerky moves of snow flakes that seem to come tumbling down on you. It is like a different piece of music compared to Leusink's interpretation and it made me wonder if there are any other renditions that can come even close to this one.

I also like the calmer pace of the aria better with Julianne Baird. I do not share the criticism I read of Marjon Strijk's hasty singing though. She can handle that fast tempo fine, but I would prefer the aria to last and last for ever. Moreover, I would love to hear a good modern performance at an even slightly slower speed than the American Bach soloists went for. What I prefer the Dutch performance for, is the use of a (relatively small) choir in the litany and the chorale. The OVPP Bach soloists sound too thin here, and I think the idea of a choir more fitting to the occasion and to chorales in general.

"Des Türken und des Papst grausamen Mord und Lästerungen, Wüten und Toben" in historical perspective.

According to our present day ideas the above mentioned accusations of hideous crimes, allegedly committed by the Pope and the Turks, would seem an outrageous example of religious and ethnic discrimination. However, in Bach's time the Turks and the Pope were enemies of the state, with whom the german emperor was actually at war. Although neither Bach nor Erdmann Neumeister ever showed any real interes in politics and were not anti-Roman-Catholic from a religious point of view, both of them were aware of the political situation of their era..

The Turks:

In 1683, the Osman or Ottoman realm reached its ultimate power. The entire North-African continent, the major part of the Arab world, the Middle East, Asia Minor and Southern Europe had been occupied and made tributary to the Turkish oppressors. On the European continent, Russia, Poland, the Balkans, and Austria groaned under the yoke of the Turkish sultanate. They had advanced as far as the borders of the Danube. In 1683, they besieged Vienna for the second time. Assisted by the Polish, the Russians and the Venetians, the Habsburg emperor Leopold I, the Great, scarcely managed to beat the enemy off the city walls. In 1713-15, when this cantata originated, several battles were waged between Leopold's son and successor, Karl (Charles) VI and the Turkish armies. It was not until 1718 that the Peace Treaty of Passarowitz was concluded, through which the Turks lost Austria-Hungary definitively to the Habsburg emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Pope:

Not only the Turks were aggressive. Also the Western-European kings wished to expand their power. When in 1701 the Spanish King Carlos II died without child, a fierce struggle broke out for the succession to the Spanish throne. There were several pretenders. Although already before his death, King Carlos had appointed Philippe d´Anjou, Louis XIV´s grandson, as his heir, also the Bavarian elector claimed the throne and the Habsburg emperor Leopold I wanted the Spanish throne for his son, the later Karl VI. Also the Netherlands and England were involved in the conflict. The latter feared an excessive power of either the German emperor or the French Sun King and therefore they supported the Bavarian elector.

Finally, in 1713 the Peace Treaty of Utrecht decided the validity of d´Anjou´s claim, so he was crowned King Philip V, with the assurance that the French and Spanish crowns would forever remain separated. Thus the balance of power in Europe remained secure.

In this war two Popes, who were major political factors at the time, played an important role. Until his death in 1700, Pope Innocentius XII supported Emperor Leopold I in his endeavour to secure the Spanish throne for his son Karl. His successor Clemens XII, who was to be Pope from 1700/1721, withdrew his support for Karl and tried to pacify the warring parties. However, the consequence was that the Pope himself got into conflict with all the hostile parties. Especially Leopold I and Karl VI after him considered the Pope as a traitor to the Habsburg claims and rights. So the Pope was a political enemy of the German Empire, whose troops were repeatedly engaged in battle against those of the emperor in Bach´s lifespan.

Besides, since the Reformation, the Pope had always been a formidable adversary from a religious point of view. As early as in the 13th century Pope Gregorius IX had founded the Inquisition, an ecclesiastical tribunal for suppression of non-conformist believers, called heretics. They had to be tracked down and punished. The execution of this punishment was usually delegated to the worldly authorities. Since 1520, when Pope Leo X excommunicated Martin Luther, the Inquisition's activities had increased dramatically. Thousands of Lutherans and Calvinists were tortured and burned alive on the stake. In 1715, this was no longer common practice in the central part of Germany, where Lutheranism had spread, but at the time the Inquisition was still active in France, Spain and Portugal.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 24, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
>>Isaiah's wonderful words are preceded by a fascinating sinfonia (Mvt. 1) concertante in the form of a chaconne, a baroque dance and instrumental piece based on continuous variations of a four-bar phrase(OCC).<<
>>The OCC mentions that only two chaconnes by Bach survive<<
>>And then we have this sinfonia (
Mvt. 1), a really interesting piece. David Schulenberg (in the OCC) observes<<
I may have missed something here. Could you please identify "OCC"?

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 24, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] OCC: Oxford Composer Companion
Thomas, thanks for your answer about the Weimar cantatas (see: Bach's Weimar Cantatas). I have not had time to study it, yet.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 24, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
>>OCC: Oxford Composer Companion<<
I must have had a blind spot not to recognize this book that I refer to frequently.

Thanks,

Peter Bloemendaal wrote (February 25, 2005):
Rummaging through my CD shelves, I stumbled upon a Rilling CD containing BWV 18 [4] and I immediately put it on. But what a setback. My favourite movements were really disappointing. The opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) lacked all the poignant which attracted me so utterly with the American Bach soloists. The tenor could not please me at all, but the real pain came from the soprano Eva Csapó, an outright squealer, who ruined the lovely aria and my ears. The inferior efforts of the two high solo voices also mar the third movement. I liked the bass recitative though, so credit to Wolfgang Schöne, and the concluding chorale as well. I admit you can hear Rilling is a Bach expert, but here he is not at his best, to say the least of it.

Johan van Veen wrote (February 25, 2005):
Peter Bloemendaal wrote:
BWV 18 - Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt
In spite of the da capo, the only aria of the cantata is way too short, only three minutes, but so warm, so intimate, so vibrating with love that it takes some time to realize that this is not a text from the Song of Songs but a song of praise for the Word. Not even do we hear the metaphorical bride declaring her adoration for her heavenly bridegroom, but the treasure of this righteous soul is God's Word. Amazing lyrics, a love song for a book, albeit a holy book, and the divine words speaking from its pages, compared to which all the treasures of the world are nothing but snares, laid by Satan to seduce the scornful people of this world. An astonishing libretto, indeed, for us >
Some of us, you mean.

< but not for the pietistic Lutherans of late 17th and early 18th century Thuringia >
In comparison to other texts it is not very pietistic.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 26, 2005):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
>>On second reading it appears that Mr. Braatz is only referring to the pre-Leipzig period. Obviously then, Leipzig matters would not be part of the equation. Apologies.<<
Apology accepted.

>>So, forget Thomanchor and simply take up the matter with Wolff, Harnoncourt, Leusnik and every other conductor that has ever used a boys choir for a Weimar cantata.<<
There is not need to take up the matter with Wolff as he simply presented the information as he saw fit. The information is not incorrect, simply less detailed and not as carefully focused as Küster's is. Wolff even has Küster's book "Der junge Bach" (1996) listed in his bibliography to his recent Bach biography, but how can one expect Wolff, who attempts to cover all of Bach's life, to give all the specific details on a limited period in Bach's life?

Harnoncourt [3] can not be faulted for presenting BWV 18 authentically as a Weimar cantata sans recorders. He has adult soloists and the Chorus Viennensis (also adults) assisting. If the Wiener Sängerknaben sing only the soprano chorale lines (perhaps even the simple alto lines in the chorales - in mvts. 3 & 5, this would be an attempt to recapture the initial spirit of the 1st Weimar performance. Using a boy soprano for the recitatives and aria (soprano is not listed, hence a member of the Wiener Sängerknaben) would be taking things too far, if Harnoncourt prided himself in being truly authentic.

Leusink's [9] care and concern for authenticity is questionable and a different standard should be applied here. For instance, on numerous occasions he was not even concerned enough to check his performance version with the NBA, allowing his singers to sing different versions of the texts than those made available by serious scholarship.

>>I should think the OVPP crowd would like Kuster's thesis very much. Paying singers is a real incentive to keep the numbers down.<<)
It is well known that there were space limitations, but 8 professional singers is an interesting number for the Weimar cantatas that are often performed strictly OVPP.

>>BTW: as a matter of research methodology, unless there is consensus on an issue, one scholar does not "paint an overly rosy picture" about a matter while another scholar possess truth. What one does say is that "in contrast to what Dr. Wolff argues, it is the opinion of Mr. Kuster that.." That changes the matter from being a matter of right wrong (in which case, simply call Dr. Wolff wrong) to one of a difference in interpretation, a common situation in every academic field. Now, if Wolff has recognized he is in error and agrees with Kuster this should be made quite clear and the matter is over. If not, you're masquerading your opinion as fact. Doubt that would get past peer review.<<
When I state that Wolff 'tends to paint a rosy picture of', I am offering a personal interpretation and a characterization of Wolff's contribution to a specific aspect of historical material. As a contributor to these lists, I am not trying to 'get past peer review' and follow the strict guidelines for academic research that needs to be accepted and published.

When I state that Wolff 'tends to paint a rosy picture of', this means that his treatment of the subject matter is slightly less focused than Küster's in regard to the matter under discussion. People can read much more into the information (like a boys choir is possibly acceptable.) I have not disputed any of the facts that Wolff presents to indicated that Wolff is 'wrong' and Küster is 'absolutely right' in a given matter. Actually, your suggestion to use "in contrast to what Dr. Wolff argues, it is the opinion of Mr. Kuster that.." would be a slap in the face of Küster who is a professor of musicology at the University of Freiburg. I think there is much less harm done by pointing out as I did that Wolff's treatment has, despite his excellent presentation otherwise, less pertinent details regarding to the use of boys in Bach's Weimar cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 26, 2005):
Sorry, my preceding comments reference BWV 18 instead of BWV 182. This is important to understanding my comments about the Haroncourt recording. But otherwise the discussion applies to both BWV 182 and BWV 18.

 

Discussions in the Week of April 10, 2005

Thomas Shepherd wrote (April 9, 2005):
The cantata for discussion this week (April 10-17) is:

Cantata BWV 18
Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel fällt

Event in the Lutheran church calendar: Cantata for Sexagesima Sunday

Composed: Weimar, 1713-1714 | 1st performance: 1713 or 1714 or at the latest February 24, 1715 - Weimar; 2nd performance: February 13, 1724 - Leipzig
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Link to texts, commentary, vocal score, music examples, and list of known recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV18.htm

Link to previous discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV18-D.htm
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV18-D2.htm

Streamed over the internet, it is possible to hear Leusink's version of the whole cantata [9]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV18-Leusink.ram

Link to liturgical Readings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Sexagesima.htm

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Mvt. 3. Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein
Alain Bruguieres reminds us to enjoy recitatives in the cantatas. The third movement of this cantata is full of surprises. The soul earnestly prays that it will become a fertile place for the good seed of the word to prosper and that it will not be overcome by the the snares of sin and the world. The mood changes from humble anxiety to the the fast and furious (the complex twists and turns of the Tenor soloist on the word "Verfolgung" for instance). Into the anxious contemplation of the soul comes the clear and defining moments of certainty founded upfaith - faith in this case the versicles and responses of a church litany. It is a daring movement full of complex style and mood changes. Did Bach ever do recitatives with more drama?

Mvt. 4 Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort.
Peter Bloemendaal recently has written a substantial piece on this cantata. The lovely soprano aria "Mein Seelenschatz ist Gottes Wort" is, I think, one of his favourites. So for Peter and others who might like to compare a few versions of this simple flowing and comparatively short piece, here are links (courtesy of Aryeh) to five versions:

Mauersberger [2]: Adele Stolte (taken, I fear from a quite badly worn vinyl record. But it was one of the first cantatas I ever heard in the 70's and the record was played regularly on poor equipment!): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV18-M4-Mauersberger.mp3

Rilling [4]: Eva Csapó (Peter's "outright squealer". I'm afraid I fully agree !): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV18-M4-Rilling.mp3

Harnoncourt [3]: Un-named Boy Soprano: Soloist of the Wiener Sängerknaben (intonation, as usual a problem for Harnoncourt's boys ): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV18-M4-Harnoncourt.mp3

Suzuki [7]; Midori Suzuki (a modest performance which will do for repeated listening. I have to say this about Suzuki every week 'cos the investment in the BIS cantata series involves serious money!): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV18-M4-Suzuki.mp3

Leusink [9]: Marjon Strijk (too fast): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/MusEx/BWV18-M4-Leusink.mp3

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I hope to see many of you joining in the discussion about the recitative, aria or any other aspect of the cantata.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 11, 2005):
BWV 18: 3rd movement

The central movement of BWV 18, by far the longest, has a marvellous, operatic quality.

It is a distinctive organisation of accompanied recitative/arioso, given to solo voices four times in the order: tenor, bass, tenor, bass; each time successively interspersed with dramatic chant-like sections given to the soprano who sings the same repeated note, answered by a short, impassioned chorale-like supplication "Hear us, dear Lord God!" performed by all the instruments and voices (SATB).

Further, the latter expositions of the tenor and bass recitatives contain sentences accompanied by continuo only, featuring long, expressive melismas, that drive home the significance of the text in a powerful manner; eg, the last line of the final bass recitative, with continuo only, is repeated no less than three times, highlighting the "wanderers" from Heaven, with disturbed, drawn-out melismas on "irregehen".

There are other examples of tone painting on the often highly descriptive text; eg, the melismas on "berauben" (rob) and "Verfolgen" (persecution), and the detached, wild-harmonies on "Teufels Trug" (devil's tricks).

[Modern listeners might wish to change the reference to "the Turks and Papists" with, for example, "destroyers of international law". OTOH, in this text that contains such vivid imagery as "Den Satan unter unsre Fuesse treten" and "Und (the faithless) fallen ab wie Faules Obst", what the heck!].

All of this is presented by Rilling [4] in a most effective manner, with the strong, somewhat operatic quality of his vocalists actually being a plus, in this dramatic and variegated movement. The extra colour of the recorders in the orchestra, not heard in some other recordings, is also desirable.

A criticism I have of Harnoncourt's performance [3] is his disregard of the change of tempo (indicated in the score) at the start of each chant-like section (soprano); he moves from the previous section with his sempre detached quavers in the continuo, continuing into the chant -section at the same speed, thereby reducing the dramatic impact of the music, IMO.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 13, 2005):
BWV 18: soprano aria (Mvt. 4)

The orchestral ritornello of this aria has an interesting melody that is rather long, and has twists and turns that make it difficult, at first, to hum, or pick out the notes on a piano, but it is quite attractive in its brightness and cheerfulness.

[Test your musicianship; see how far you can progress, after a few hearings, with the melody of the ritornello, by humming along. I had to look at the score to be able to do this all the way through the ritornello. Yet once the melody's shape is determined, it is a model of logic and inevitability, and is therefore easily remembered. Those who can also add the correct continuo line at the piano, without looking at the score, go to the top of the class!].

Of the examples at the BCW, I like the bright sound of the modern instrument groups with recorders. Rilling [4] is a bit loud at first but settles down nicely, and even the soprano (Csapo) starts out well, but soon spoils everything by screeching on those high notes. Stolte (with Mauersberger [2]) shows how the high notes can be reached without screeching, and this performance (apart from the always detached continuo notes) is as good as any (allowing for the old LP recording's engineering). Suzuki's recording sounds smooth, with the reverberent acoustic; Harnoncourt [3] seems subdued, and Leusink's accompaniment [9] sounds light and disjointed.

Speaking of Leusink [9], I quite enjoy his performance of the elaborate and dramatic 3rd movement, which has some of the vitality of Rilling's performance; IMO Harnoncourt's performance [3] seems subdued in this movement, as well as in the aria noted above. As for the second movement (continuo recitative), there are obviously two schlools of thought amongst listeners on this list, but I do not like the sudden, periodic disappearances of all the continuo instruments (in the period versions) for extended periods, leaving the vocalist high and dry, as it were.

John Pike wrote (April 13, 2005):
BWV 18 "Gleichwie der Regen und Schnee vom Himmel faellt"

This week's cantata was composed for Sexagesimae Sunday, 1713, 1714 or, at the latest, 1715.

It was subsequently reperformed at Leipzig with doubling at the octave of the first and second violas by the recorders. There are 4 violas and no violins.

I particularly enjoyed the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) and the Soprano aria (Mvt. 4).

I have listened to Harnoncourt [3] and Rilling [4].

I enjoyed Harnoncourt's [3] opening and also the soprano solo. Despite the boy soprano's usual problems with intonation in places, the top notes are oftn bang in tune and the soloist has a very pleasing and beautiful voice. He gives an appropriately intimate feel to the performance.

Rilling's [4] slower pace for the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) made it less enjoyable for me, but the instruments make a pleasing sound, characteristic of Rilling's recordings that I have heard so far. The recitative "Mein Gott, hier wird mein Herze sein" is very dramatic but I found the overall sound a bit harsh in places, especially from some of the soloists. I found the instrumental introduction to the soprano ari(Mvt. 4) very bland and lacking in articulation and in interest in phrasing and dynamics. The soprano is overpowering and I agree with Neil's comments on this. However, I personally much prefer Harnoncourt's "subdued" approach to this charming and intimate aria.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2005):
Some of my favorite recordings of BWV 18: the old Leonhardt/Jürgens (LP only) [1] as I mentioned recently re its discmate BWV 152; the American Bach Soloists directed by Jeffrey Thomas [5]; and Leusink's [9]. I have the Harnoncourt [3] but am not fond of the way he pulled around the tempo of the unison opening ritornello that much.

My favorite feature of the whole cantata is the texture of the four violas swirling about, like gusts of inclement weather. The long string of repeated notes in the second big movement really grabs me, too, the way the soprano has that persistent theme getting the action going.

Doug Cowling wrote (April 13, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
< Rilling's [4] slower pace for the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) made it less enjoyable for me, but the instruments make a pleasing sound, characteristic of Rilling's recordings that I have heard so far. >
I've never seen the full score of this cantata. Is there an indication of "tasto solo" or "unisono" in the opening figure of the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1)? The on-line vocal score realizes the bass throughout.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] 'tasto solo' is indicated in both versions (Weimar & Leipzig).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To Bradley Lehman] I actually favor Erhard Mauersberger and the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig [2]. The pace might be a tad slow, but considering the text, time of year, and other factors, I think it is truer to the music.

Another factor that makes me favor it over, say, Rilling's recording [4] of the work is the fact that he (Mauersberger [2]) uses a Harpsichord in the Continuo. Just because a work is sacred in nature does not mean that an Organ must always be used. If one looks at the score, one would note that the instrumentation only states "Continuo", not "Organo e Continuo". Meaning? That the Harpsichord was the only Keyboard instrument intended in the Continuo section.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] No there isn't.

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] The Bach-Gesellschaft score has tasto solo at each place. The download is available at: http://www.mymp3sonline.net/bach_cantatas/mp3.asp

Doug Cowling wrote (April 13, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I Just looked at the full score which Thomas sent to me and the continuo is marked "tasto solo"

Neil Halliday wrote (April 14, 2005):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
<"Another factor that makes me favor it over, say, Rilling's recording of the work [4] is the fact that he (Mauersberger [2]) uses a Harpsichord in the Continuo.">
Rilling [4] uses continuo harpsichord in all movements of BWV 18, except the final chorale; as for this last movement, Rilling gives a typically fine performance with rich instrumentation - in this case you can hear the bassoon and recorders as well as the strings, with the choir.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (April 14, 2005):
[4] [To Neil Halliday] I guess it depends on which recording you are talking about. The one I am talking about is the Edition Bachakademie one. In this (just as in the recordings of the Passions and the Oratorios for this series), Rilling uses Organ instead of Harpsichord.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 15, 2005):
[4] [To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I have the (Hänssler) Edition Bachakademie vol. 5 recording, with harpsichord.

Is it possible that the 'Die Bach Kantate' recording (vol.26) listed at the BCW, which shows the same performers, has a different continuo group?

Neil Halliday wrote (April 15, 2005):
I wrote:
[4]"I have the (Hänssler) Edition Bachakademie vol. 5 recording, with harpsichord."
To be precise, Rilling uses both organ and harpsichord in the continuo of the 3rd movement - with the harpsichord being employed in the 'recitative' sections, and the organ being employed in the intervening sections with solo soprano and choir - a most effective arrangement, by Rilling, of the continuo instruments in this movement.

As already mentioned, the other movements have harpsichord only, in continuo, apart from the final chorale movement.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 18: Details & 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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Last update: ýOctober 1, 2011 ý20:18:54