Cantata BWV 182Himmelskönig, sei willkommen
Discussions - Part 1
Carl Burmeister wrote (January 12, 2000):
 I have Fritz Werner conducting BWV 43 and BWV 182 on an Epic LP and its one of my favourite cantata recordings. It's with the Heinrich Schütz chorale and the Pforzheim Chamber Orchestra. Epic BC 1276.
Discussions in the Week of April 16, 2000 (1st round)
Aryeh Oron wrote (April 16, 2000):
This is the week of cantata BWV 182, according to Jane Newble's suggestion. BWV 182 was the second cantata of Bach I knew. The first was BWV 4, which was on the other side of the same Vanguard’s LP. It was at the early 1970’s and I bought the LP for a very cheap price. I remember that in those years BWV 182 sounded to me as the poor relative of BWV 4. I was not familiar enough with Bach’s music yet and have not yet realized, as I do today, that each cantata has its own virtues. One of the main benefits of our discussion on one particular cantata each week, is that each cantata can be explored and discussed on its own terms, without judging it in comparison to others. It is of course a happy event, when we can discuss a famous cantata, like BWV 106 or BWV 131. But for me it is even a happier moment, when we have the opportunity to discuss a lesser known cantata, searching, listening again and again, until we remove its external peels and expose its internal beauty. Until it becomes no longer a poor relative.
Aria for Tenor and concluding Chorus
For me the picks of BWV 182 are the Aria for Tenor and the concluding Chorus. For some background on BWV 182, I would like to quote from what Robertson’s wrote about the cantata in general and about these 2 movements in particular:
"The form of this cantata is unusual as the body of it consists of 3 Arias in succession, the first proceeded by a recitative, the last followed by a Choral and concluding Chorus.
Mvt. 6 Aria (Tenor)
‘Jesu, laß durch Wohl mich auch dir ziehen’
(‘Jesus, through weal and woe, let me with Thee go’)
Tenor, Cello, Continuo.
In each of the 2 preceding Arias Bach reduces the scoring and now uses the Continuo only. This is one of the most poignant Arias Bach ever composed. 5 times the vocal phrases break off and there is a silent beat. It is as if Bach had in mind the Savior’s falling to the ground as He bore the Cross to Calvary. There is a cry in the anguish – ‘the weal and the woe’ – near the end leaving the voice on a high G, the Continuo Bass on a low C sharp, and there is more astonishing discord at ‘crucify’ (cries the world’) in the first half of the Aria. The loneliness of this superb Aria, which speaks of ‘cross down and palms’, conveys is heartbreaking.
Mvt. 8 Chorus
‘So Lasset uns in Salem der Freuden’
(‘Let us thus enter joyful Salem’)
SATB, Flute, Violin, 2 Violas, Cello, Continuo.
The melody of this mainly light-hearted professional Chorus has an outline and rhythm similar to that of The Sagas of Sheba (BWV 65). The line ‘accompany the king in love and sorrow’ alone reminds the listener of the price paid for ‘the Salem of joy’."
And something I would like to add:
Mvt. 6 Tenor Aria
Since Bach times syncopation has become one of the basic tools in Jazz music. The use of this tool in Jazz serves as an element of keeping the tension, the driving force and the element of surprise. It is so common in the Jazz music, that it is actually not surprising any longer. You become used to expect the unexpected. In Bach’s music the tool of syncopation is being used from time to time as a dramatic tool, or to illustrate a certain picture. Every time I hear the Tenor Aria of BWV 182, whenever the Tenor stops singing, I am caught unprepared. The dramatic effect is so strong, that I feel as if my heart is falling down. But that is the way Bach’s music always works. On one hand, it always sounds familiar. On the other hand, it has always the surprising factor. That is why it is always fascinating us. We anticipate it and we expect it to be unexpected.
Mvt. 8 Concluding Chorus
I do not know what does Robertson mean, when he writes ‘professional Chorus’. For me this Chorus is mesmerizing and irresistible. Something I have to wait patiently through all the previous movements until it arrives, and I have to hold myself from not jumping directly into the track containing this movement. And when at last it comes, its taste is even sweeter. The flute sets the theme, then the Cello, then the Violin, then all the rest. Then the voices enter. First come the Sopranos, who repeat the line of the flute. And it continues and develops into series of canons; every voice is trying to ride over the others, competing with the others who will sound gayer and jollier. When I am listening to this movement, I do not want it to stop. But as they say - all the good things must come to an end, and so is this Chorus. But, although I know that its end will definitely come, I am always caught in surprise. I do refuse to expect the unexpected.
Review of the Recordings
During last week I have listened to 8 recordings of this cantata. See: Cantata BWV 182 – Recordings. Hereinafter are my impressions:
 Wilhelm Ehmann (1966)
General: This is the recording I grew up with. Naturally I listened to it first in the cycle of my comparison. Then I heard it once again in the second round and after I had finished listening to all the recordings in the second round, I heard it one more time before concluding my comparison. The most astonishing phenomenon for me was that with each hearing this recording improved. In the last hearing I came to conclusion that it its place is on the top of the crop. What a pity that this recording is unavailable in CD form. It belongs to the group of some dozens cantatas recorded for Cantate label in the 1950’s and 1960’s by various East and West German forces. I still have some hope that during this year one of the European record companies will reissue this recording, together with the others, in CD form. Is there any chance that Berlin Classics, who started a series of Box sets by the name ‘Bach Made In Germany’, will do the job?
Tenor Aria: Hoefflin sounds tired, very very tired. At the first hearing it disturbed me. At the last one, it sounds to me much more convincing than the other versions. This is clearly one of those cases where understanding of the text adds extra dimension to our enjoyment from a Bach cantata. He is so tired, that when from time to time he stops singing or let the accompaniment cover him, it sounds so true, right, proper and in place.
Concluding Chorus: I could not find details in the linear notes, but the Choir sounds to me very small. Every voice and instrument can be heard very clearly. They transfer the feeling of the excited crowd very convincingly.
 Karl Richter (1974+1975)
Tenor Aria: Although Schreier sings with a lot of taste and follows the instructions suggested by the music and the text, the heavy Continuo burdens on the flow of the music.
Concluding Chorus: Although the Choir sings with vigor and boldness, they lack enthusiasm and real joy.
 Helmuth Rilling (1975)
Tenor Aria: Aldo Baldin’s voice is not as pleasant as that of Adalbert Kraus, the usual Tenor singer in Rilling’s cycle. But he has a sense for drama and he succeeds in bringing out most of the potential of this Aria.
Concluding Chorus: The orchestral opening starts quite softly, and things are not getting better with the entrance of the voices. The separation of the voices is not clear enough. They sing merely, without evident joy and enthusiasm, for which the words of this movement are calling.
 Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1988)
Tenor Ari: Equiluz proves once again what a great Bach singer he is. He adds here a kind of shiver to his voice that reflects the weakness of the tired man. When he stops from time to time to rest, it sounds very natural for such weak man, who is losing his power.
Concluding Chorus: The playing and the singing are beautiful and clear, but they almost do not show the joy and enthusiasm, expected from the people who follow him, who ‘leads the way, And prepares the path’.
 Jeffrey Thomas & ABS (1994)
General: I like the approach of American Bach Soloists to performing Bach cantatas. Their freshness and originality is quite different from the other similar (HIP) groups. They have clear, bold and sharp approach, which is very much to my liking. They understand very well Bach’s idiom, and I wish that they would do more cantatas. On the other hand, because Thomas uses the same singers to sing the parts of both the Arias and the Choruses (OVPP), it can be said that the whole is greater than its parts. I mean that the group singing in the Choruses is better than the individual singing in the Arias. The voices blend very well together in the group singing, and are not interesting enough in the Arias.
Tenor Aria: Thomas has a pleasant but not special voice. His singing is much less appealing than that of other Tenors in this cantata. Is he a better conductor than he is a singer?
Concluding Chorus: Every voice can be heard clearly, the right amount of enthusiasm is also existing. You could easily follow them.
 Ton Koopman (1995)
General: This performance is faster than the others are. I do not find it disturbing. On the contrary, the slow movements become livelier and the whole performance becomes more integrated.
Tenor Aria: I am very sorry to admit that, but Prégardien outclasses Schreier in almost every aspect of the performance. The voice is richer and more varied. His singing is more expressive. He is trying again and again to encourage himself and fails, and you feel very sorry for him, but when he stops singing from time to time, he really catches your heart. The sensitive accompaniment mirrors the singing.
Concluding Chorus: Perfect – warm, precise, and enthusiastic playing and singing. It is still continuing to reverberate in my head while I am listening to the other recordings.
 Masaaki Suzuki (1996)
General: Something that I read lately in Ryan Michero (the great admirer of Suzuki’s cycle) description of Suzuki recordings of BWV 196, explained for me what I find sometimes as a weakness in Suzuki’s recordings of Bach cantatas. Ryan wrote: “Suzuki's singers, two-to-a-part, are minimizing vibrato, making sure they pronounce consonants at the same time, etc., so as to blend with their partners in the same register. The result is elegant and clear, but a bit cold.” If I were allowed to make (risky) generalization, I would say that sometimes they sound to me too perfect. I mean, that for me the human side of Bach’s music is one of its the most important factor. But when the performance is worked out to perfection, some of the humanity is getting lost in the way. After all, we are all human, and human beings are making mistakes.
Tenor Aria: The singing of Sakurada is pleasant and light, but does not penetrate under the surface of the music. He fails in exposing the drama of this Aria, and does not convince that he understands what he is singing.
Concluding Chorus: The picture of the people competing with each other who will sound gayer, is very clear here, maybe clearer than in every other recording of this movement. However, it does not move me, as some of the other recordings do. Could it be because it is too perfect?
 Pieter Jan Leusink (1999)
General: I am aware that Jan Leusink cycle is being done under pressure and that no much time left for rehearsals. But this attitude does not guarantee necessarily failure. On the contrary, it gives to their recordings a special kind of freshness, missing from many other recordings. But the results here justify any preliminary skepticism.
Tenor Aria: Not only that Schloch sings superficially, sometimes his singing even sounds sloppy. I do not know if either he has not done his homework, or he is simply not capable of the job. There is no dialogue between the singer and the accompaniment. I even get the impression that they disturb each other.
Concluding Chorus: The singing of the Choir and the playing of the instruments sound both so unprepared and unorganized, that it is really difficult to enjoy their performance. After so successful performance of BWV 196 (which was discussed in this group last week) I expected more, much more. What is more unforgivable is that they lack enthusiasm, and this is not so difficult to achieve even with little rehearsal time. Don’t they enjoy this movement, as do I?
Ehmann  (historical recording) and Koopman  (HIP recording) are the best in this cantata, especially in the concluding Chorus. Both recordings of this movement are still ringing in my head.
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Marie Jensen wrote (April 15, 2000):
Have to post this a little early, since I don't have a chance to get near a computer the next 2-3 days. So let me risk my skin being the first to write about BWV 182.
Jesus did for sure not enter Jerusalem on a white stallion, while trumpets were playing. No, he was riding a donkey to recorder accompaniment, anyway in Bach’s cantata world. To day the option perhaps would have been a limousine versus an old bicycle, and who would write the music? But "Himmelskonig sei willkommen"! What a wonderful intrada! "Kantatenkonig sei willkommen" in Weimar, and for the first time in Italian style!
This cantata is one of my absolute favorites. It is simply so beautiful. Tadashi Isoyama calls it a Tour de Force in the BCJ booklet, which it also would be if all the movements had to be reviewed. For which one should I choose? Every movement attracts attention here.
First I was happy with my old falling apart Rilling , taped from the radio. Then I bought the BJC  and the Leusink , while Goebel  played in the radio to wake up my inner colors, so what luck I had a tape running too.
The opening Chorus: Rilling  is the slowest of the four. First I meant the others were too swift. I don't do now. But Rilling has one advantage (sad I don't have score and can mention the exact bar). 70 seconds after the movement starts, the choir sings "Himmelskönig", recorder answer, "Sei willkommen". This recorder sounds as came it directly from Heaven. It goes straight into my heart. The other allegro versions miss this point, which probably only works moderato. But then they have more joy.
 The BCJ: A very clear and fine Chorus, polished and beautiful.
 The Leusink: OK, but again thanks to the few rehearsals it doesn't really become a whole.
 Goebel’s One Voice Per Part is so crystal-clear and beautiful. What I especially love in this version is the excellent instruments used sounding rich and at the same time delicate. Instruments and singers make a perfect unit of divine sound. But there was more than a handful of people to greet Jesus, when he rode into Jerusalem. So this approach is more a symbolic or contemplative matter, where Jerusalem is our hearts. But the text points in this direction too (Laß auch uns Dein Zion sein)
The Alto Aria: "Leget euch dem Heiland unter": Though the recorder lies like an easy yoke on the Alto voice, it goes deep too, down on e, one note lower than the normal treble range. In his notes to a recorder transcription of Bach's violoncello suites Jean Claude Veilhan recommends to place the bottom hole of the recorder on the knee. If you are smart enough, an e can be made. I don't know if the Goebel and Rilling recorder players do that, but the BCJ uses a special low Kammerton recorder which can be read about in the booklet, and Leusink’s Anneke Boeke cheats by going an octave up those places, which spoils much. Let me continue for a while with Leusink: I have to get habituated to Buwalda (not his young Bach hair but his very special voice). But here in this rather low Aria, I find him better than in the very few things I have heard else.
 The BCJ: Sad that the Aria is played so slow, that it's nearly falling apart, because Mera does fine.
 Rilling: Non HIP of course with vibrato, (Doris Soffel), I will still like it until my tape retires.
 Goebel: Vessels voice has a wonderful rich sound, so great together with the excellent recorder.
I'm not going to buy more than the two BWV 182's I have, though it would be great to have the Goebel version on CD with the overall celestial sound. None of the other versions are really bad, so with my budget, I'm satisfied anyway. But I would like to hear what's on the Goebel CD besides BWV 182. It is a temptation. The radio was so kind to play it with Musica Antiqua Köln directed by Goebel.
Matthew Westphal wrote (April 17, 2000):
Excellent analysis once again, Aryeh. Thanks.
 I've heard the Koopman once -- it was indeed excellent (especially Prégardien), although I prefer the Thomas/ABS approach to the Choruses.
 Yes, Jeffrey Thomas is a better conductor than singer - at least at this stage. He could be really wonderful in the 1980’s, when he was known pretty much only in North America. However, I heard him in concert last night (Weckmann, J. C. Bach and three cantatas of JSB, along with the wonderful Ellen Hargis, Roberto Balconi, Curtis Streetman and the NY Collegium conducted by Leonhardt); he (Thomas) sounded quite good. Unfortunately, his voice has never been flattered by the recording process; he almost always makes a better impression live.
Jane Newble wrote (April 17, 1999):
Although I want to write some more lately on, I'd just like to give my impression of this Aria. I really like what you said about this, Aryeh, and it has added to what I always think when hearing this. Personally, especially after listening to the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) again, I have always felt as if this is Peter, but in a more subdued mood. He wants to follow Jesus through everything, even if it means crucifixion, but he stops, thinking of that awful moment when he denied Jesus. It is as if he is contemplating the horrible possibility that he might do it again, and it is like a prayer for strength to keep going.
Ryan Michero wrote (April 22, 2000):
Sorry it took so long for me to reply to this thread. I've been prepared to talk about it since the beginning of the discussion, and I have read the messages about BWV 182 with much interest (Thanks to everyone who wrote in!). However, I was waiting to write about until after hearing Jeffrey Thomas' version of it, which I ordered online last week. Well, the package came on time...but there was no Thomas recording in it! It was out of stock, when the CDWorld Website clearly stated that two copies were available. Surely nobody could've bought them? Is CDWorld lying about what they have in stock to get you to order from them?
Well, the reason I wanted to hear Thomas' version was because I don't think any version of BWV 182 I have is completely satisfying--there's at least one thing about each performance I have that bothers me. Also, since this is an early cantata and a contrapuntally complex work, I was eager to hear a one-voice-per-part (OVPP) version. Alas! It was not to be. I'll try to acquire it at another time.
But for now, here are my thoughts on BWV 182:
< But it is even a happier moment, when we have the opportunity to discuss a lesser known cantata, searching, listening again and again, until we remove its external peels and expose its internal beauty. Until it becomes no longer a poor relative. >
Very well said, Aryeh, and I completely agree.
 (Harnoncourt) I like this version overall, but I can't give it an unqualified recommendation. The sounds of the period instruments in the Sinfonia are quite lovely, but I'm a bit divided about the interpretation of it. Harnoncourt takes quite a few liberties with the rhythm, savoring little turns of phrase and lingering over particularly lovely passages. While this is nice in a purely musical sense, it seems at odds with the pictorial image of Christ riding into Jerusalem on a mule that Bach is evoking. (Unless you consider it a very stubborn mule that refuses to walk at a steady pace!) Harnoncourt takes an austere approach in the opening Chorus, taking it at a somewhat slow tempo--I think it works well enough for this movement. The Bass recitative and Aria, sung by leaden-sounding Robert Holl, are heavy going and not very pleasurable. Paul Esswood turns in an excellent performance of "Leget euch dem Heiland unter", and Harnoncourt adopts a slow tempo (this movement takes 8:03 here) that is quite affecting. My only problem is that a transverse flute is substituted for the more apt low-pitched recorder of the Weimar version. Aryeh is right in praising Kurt Equiluz's singing in "Jesus lass durch Wohl und Weh"-- is very dramatic and emotionally true. Harnoncourt's austere approach works wonderfully in the 'stile antico' Chorale fantasia "Jesus, deine Passion", but I agree with Aryeh that there is little joy in the group's performance of the final Chorus.
 (Jeffery Thomas) I have high hopes about this one...
 (Koopman) Like Aryeh, Koopman's recording is my favourite HIP recording of this cantata, even if it has its drawbacks. The opening Sinfonia is very lovely thanks to the beautiful playing of Margaret Faultless and Marion Verbruggen and Koopman's perky tempo. In the opening Chorus, there is quite a contrast between Harnoncourt and Koopman, as the latter takes a faster than normal tempo, favors very precisely phrased lines, and generally emphasizes the joy of the proceedings--very nice! Klaus Mertens is great in the ensuing recitative and Aria. I even favor him to Peter Kooy (!!!) in these movements, as Mertens seems more tender and expressive. Koopman's biggest weakness in BWV 182 is the lovely Alto Aria "Leget euch dem Heiland unter", here sung by Kai Wessel. It's not that I don't like Wessel, who is quite comparable with his competitors in this movement--I just don't like Koopman's tempo (he takes 6:36 to Harnoncourt's 8:03 and Suzuki's 8:53), which is too fast and seems to me to gloss over the emotional content of this movement. The performance really shines in the Tenor Aria, though, with Christoph Prégardien turning in a beautifully dramatic, expressive performance--my favorite version of this important Aria. He really brings out the pain in the 'via crucis', and his singing in the final bars is very intense. Koopman's version of "Jesu, deine Passion" has some perfectly clear and expressive choral singing. But the Chorus gets to really shine in the final movement, "So lasset uns gehen in Salem der Freuden". Koopman's tempo dances infectiously, and the overlapping choral and instrumental lines sound great. The dissonances on the word "Leiden" are also beautifully savored. Great!
 (Suzuki) For once, I don't prefer Suzuki's recording over his competitors' versions! However, while overall I think Koopman's version is a bit more satisfying, I would not want to be without thisfine recording. The instrumental Sinfonia here is very lovely--quite similar to Koopman but with even lovelier period-instrument sounds. The opening Chorus is clear and joyful, if lacking that last bit of choral vigor that gives Koopman the edge. Kooy is predictably fine in the Bass recitative and Aria, if not quite as touching as Mertens. The real treasure of Suzuki's performance in my opinion is the Alto Aria, "Leget euch", gorgeously and raptly sung by Yoshikazu Mera. Suzuki takes a daringly slow tempo (8:53!) that pays off beautifully, really making this Aria about giving your heart to Jesus the emotional center of the cantata. The recorder line, played by (recordist?) Yoshimichi Hamada, sounds wonderful. This is easily the best version of this Aria. Unfortunately, Makoto Sakurada's flaccid singing of the Tenor Aria simply cannot compare to that of Equiluz and especially Pregardien. (Thankfully, he has gotten much better since this recording.) The ethereal Chorus is particularly well suited for "Jesu, deine Passion", and the final movement is fine even if the Chorus lacks some of the vigor of Koopman's Chorus. Overall, I prefer Koopman's recording, but I would not want to be without Mera's version of the Alto Aria.
I'm flattered that you would quote me, Aryeh, even if the comment I made is not entirely representative of my feelings for the BCJ Chorus. The recording of BWV 196 was on their very first CD, and I think they were still getting comfortable with Bach's expressive language. They have become a much more fluent and expressive group since their first recordings--witness Vol. 12 of the cantatas and their St. John (BWV 245) and St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) recordings. I do agree, though, that they are not ideally expressive in BWV 196 and 182.
Johannes Rinke wrote (January 20, 2001):
Last week I first visited the Bach-Cantata-Website - thanks very much for this possibility to get information concerning the different interpretations of the cantatas.
Let me tell you about an interpretation of BWV 182 (Himmelskönig, sei willkommen) that you haven't quoted yet: The conductor is Joshua Rifkin , Soprano Susanne Ryden, Alto Steven Rickards, Tenor John Elwes, Bass Michael Schopper and, of course, The Bach Ensemble. As usual, Rifkin's performance is OVVP, and - very special: He takes the Second Version from Weimar - most (or even all) other recordings "create" a mixture of the different versions (two from Weimar and two from Leipzig). Unfortunately I heard Rifkin's interpretation on radio in the late nineties, and as I'm informed the recording is not available on CD.
Mary Legge wrote (January 24, 2001):
When checking the Robertson info on this cantata, I discovered the word you were so concerned about was not "professional chorus" but, "processional chorus". It makes a significant difference to your appreciation of the work!
Many thanks for your reviews. I have just had to change the repertoire for Palm Sunday, and I think this might be an excellent choice.
Aryeh Oron wrote (January 25, 2001):
[To Mary Legge] Thanks for your remark regarding Cantata BWV 182. I checked again in Robertson's book and you are absoloutly right. Processional chorus is much more logical and is compatible with my impression and appreciation of this sweeping movement.
Thanks also for your kind words.
What do you mean by 'change the reprtoire for Palm Sunday' - as a listener or as a performer?
Are you a member of the Bach Cantatas Mailing List?
Continue on Part 2
Cantata BWV 182: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4