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Cantata BWV 182
Himmelskönig, sei willkommen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

BWV 182, BWV 245

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 27, 2006):
In the course of current discussions, I have been listening a bit to the music heard in the long gap between BWV 181 (2/13/1724) and BWV 66 (4/10/1724), which we have treated in successive weeks because of the chronology of composition or adaptation of cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (3/17/06, re BWV 106):
< In Leipzig, Bach began writing parts for the Traversa at the end of the 1st yearly cycle of cantatas (spring of 1724). The most likely reason for their appearance in Bach's cantata scores at this time is associated with excellent playing capabilities of one, Friedrich Gottlieb Wild >
According to Wolff (B:LM, p. 292 and n. 89, p. 495), "In BWV 245, Bach apparently used transverse flutes for the first time in his Leipzig church music." (First performance, 4/7/1724). This would have been the first music heard after the Annunciation, BWV 182, on 3/25/1724.

The long alto aria with bec (recorder) in my version (Richter) of BWV 182 [5] especially caught my attention. I soon realized I am not alone:

Neil Halliday wrote (February 21, 2005):
< BWV 182: Richter [5]. #5. Alto aria.
Whereas I don't understand Robertson's election of the following tenor aria as one of the most poignant movements Bach ever wrote, I have no problem applying his description to this movement, especially after hearing Richter. This very `moving' (and slow -10.20) account has Reynold's quiet, highly expressive singing, decorated with the lovely melodic line weaved around it by the recorder. >

This post is intended primarily as a reminder for future reference and discussion. Surely it is more than coincidence that the first Leipzig church performance for transverse flute comes in the next music heard after a cantata with prominent bec performance, and with an outstanding player (Wild) recently available.

 

BWV 182

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 9, 2006):
Palm Sunday greetings from Salem MA. WGBH Boston has just broadcast the Suzuki version [15] of BWV 182, in a new format, beginning today, where the weekly broadcast will follow the liturgical calendar, rather than BWV numerical order.

It is an interesting coincidence for me that the final chorus (Mvt. 8) of BWV 182 opens -"So let us go in the Salem of joy." Robertson points out that the line "accompany the King in love and sorrow" reminds us of the price paid for Salem of joy.

We will leave for another time, or simply blind our eyes to the fact that our town was known by the Native Americans as Naumkeag, meaning approximately "good fishing place." Not so good for them anymore.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 10, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote (February 19, 2005):
BWV 182:
Robertson says of the tenor aria: "This is one of the most poignant movements Bach ever composed".
Indeed, to continue quoting Robertson: "Five times the vocal phrases break off and there is a silent beat. It is as if Bach had in mind the Saviour's falling to the ground as He bore the Cross to Calvary. Indeed, but there is no way I can experience much of this from any of the recordings. But, play the breathtakingly beautiful piano part, and it becomes clear why one can hear everything and more, of which Robertson speaks
.

After hearing a radio broadcast of Suzuki [15], Palm Sunday morning, I returned to my Richter recording [5] and BCW notes for comparison, at the end of the day. The tenor aria is indeed poignant, I could listen to Schreier sing it many times before tiring. But like Neil, I do not experience the Saviour's falling, any number of times, from vocal phrases breaking off. Not on the recording.

I did not revisit the Stations of the Cross today, or recently, but my recollection from youthful devotion is that Christ fell three times, not five. How does the five times Robertson mentions correlate, and can this really be found in the piano score (alas, beyond my access and capabilities)?

Neil Halliday wrote (April 10, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<"The tenor aria is indeed poignant, I could listen to Schreier sing it many times before tiring..... (but)I do not experience the Saviour's falling, any number of times, from vocal phrases breaking off. Not on the recording. >
If you have the text in front of you and can listen to the words Schreier sings (easy, because he is very clear in Richter's recording [5]), the five vocal phrases Robertson is talking about indeed "break off five times, and there is a silent beat": 1st, to the words "Mich auch mit dir"; the next three times to the words "So lass mich nicht", and finally once again to "Mich auch mit dir". Note that in each case, these four words are immediately repeated, so Robertson's "silent beat" (in the vocal line) occurs between the two consecutive statements of the words, in each case. ("Mich auch mit dir" also occurs separately once more in the `coda').

"Jesus, let through wellness and woe me also with you move" (in the German word order).....Cries the world only `crucify!, yet let me not flee."

Indeed this is poignant music for a poignant text.

The Richter/Schreier recording, with a developed organ part to counterbalance the bare, angular cello line in the continuo, is one of the finest recordings, IMO. However, I notice that Schreier does tend to cut short Robertson's "silent beat", thereby reducing the impact of that particular detail.

For me, a most enjoyable performance of this aria would entail a good tenor accompanied by piano in the version shown at the BCW, even if, as Brad stated, this is a 19th century (post baroque) conception of the piece.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 10, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
"... the five vocal phrases Robertson is talking about indeed "break off five times, and there is a silent beat"...."
I should have finished this post with the observation that whether this "silent beat" represents Christ falling to the ground (Robertson), or something else, is a matter of conjecture; for my part, the idea of faltering, or doubt, or suspense, is certainly palpable.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 10, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< If you have the text in front of you and can listen to the words Schreier sings (easy, because he is very clear in Richter's recording), the five vocal phrases Robertson is talking about indeed "break off five times, and there is a silent beat": >
Yes, thanks. The effect is very clear, with Schreier's enunciation [5], and with your guidance. In fact the breaks and phrase repetition do create an impression of stumbling, or at least faltering, as you suggest. I am glad I persevered to enjoy it. I am responding publicly in case others have joined us in this detail.

Thomas Braatz wrote (April 10, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>...the five vocal phrases Robertson is talking about indeed "break off five times...<<
According to Biblical and Christian church traditions, the number 5 stands for Satan, the devil, and the quintessence of evil.

Andreas Werckmeister, whose books Bach must have read and studied, states in his "Musicalische Paradoxal-Discourse" Quedlinburg, 1707, p. 94, that the number 5 is a "Numerus sensualis", a number involving the 5 human senses, it is also a "Scheide=Zahl" ("decisive number that separates between life and death"), a number that is clumsy (imperfect) and incomplete like a physical human being, and a number which the philosophers call "die böse GeisteZahl" ("the number of the evil spirits")

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 11, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>...the five vocal phrases Robertson is talking about indeed "break off five times...<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< According to Biblical and Christian church traditions, the number 5 stands for Satan, the devil, and the quintessence of evil. >
Also the number of fingers (including thumb) on our hand. Certainly one of the most ancient, most widespread sacred symbols we have. Many years ago (over 30) Jacob Bronowski made a PBS video of his book "The Ascent of Man" which concluded with him placing his handprint next to a 30.000 year old handprint in a cave in France. Do I dare say, C'est la vie?

Now that Neil has coached me into hearing them, the five breaks in BWV 182/6 can be further structured as two big breaks, the first and last, surrounding a more subtle group of three in the middle. A very subtle combination of five and three. A bit devilish? Perhaps. Also not out of phase with the three falters on the Stations of the Cross.

 

Discussions in the Week of May 23, 2010

David Jones wrote (May 23, 2010):
Himmelskonig sei wilkommen

Today's cantata is

Himmelskonig sei wilkommen

Cantata for Cantata for Palm Sunday
Readings: Epistle: Philippians. 2: 5-11 / 1 Corinthians 11: 23-32; Gospel: Matthew 21: 1-9
or for the Feast of Annunciation of Mary

Composed

Weimar, 1714
The NBA KB I/8.1-2 indicates how different parts and different arrangement/selection of mvts. from this cantata BWV 182 resulted in at least 6 different performances during Bach’s lifetime: 1st performance: March 25, 1714 - Weimar
2nd performance: 1717-1723 - Weimar (undatable, possibly performed away from the Weimar Court Chapel)
3rd perormance: 1717-1723 - Weimar (undatable)
4th performance: March 25, 1724 - Leipzig
5th performance: March 21, 1728 - Leipzig (and possibly another performance using this particular arrangement later on in Leipzig)
6th performance: After 1728 with the date being uncertain - Leipzig (again using the 1728 version)

Scoring

Soloists: Alto, Tenor, Bass; 4-part Chorus
Orchestra: Flute, violin concertante, violin ripieno, 2 violas, violoncello, continuo
Mvt. 1: Sonata | Mvt. 2: Chorus | Mvt. 3: Recitative | Mvt. 4: Aria | Mvt. 5: Aria | Mvt. 6: Aria | Mvt. 7: Chorale (Chorus) | Mvt. 8: Chorus

As always, for me Gardiner [19] takes, and deserves, pride of place. His pacing of the opening sonata is utterly charming, and nothing could be more magical than the blossoming out of the music when the strings change to arco from pizzicato......lovely! The Monteverdi choir is to be commended for its light handed treatmeant of the opening chorus and the closing fantasia, which both require agility, purity of attack and sparkle.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 23, 2010):
David Jones wrote:

< Himmelskonig sei wilkommen
Cantata for
Palm Sunday
or for the Feast of Annunciation of Mary
1st performance: March 25, 1714
Weimar
2nd performance: 1717-1723 -
Weimar
3rd perormance: 1717-1723 -
Weimar
4th performance: March 25,
1724 Leipzig
5th performance: March 21,
1728
6th performance: After
1728 >
The BCML listing is actually somewhat misleading. "Himmelskönig Sei Willkommen" was not intended for Palm Sunday when no cantata was sung, but rather for the Feast of the Annuniciation on March 25. Because of
calendrical occurrence, March 25 fell on Palm Sunday in 1714.

It is curious why Bach's churches were so keen to celebrate this Marian festival which so often fell in the penitential season of Lent and Holy Week -- the latter in 1739. In the Catholic calendar, the Annunciation was moved until after Easter if it fell in Holy Week. Was March 25 a significant day in the civil calendar? In England, the legal year began on March 25 when taxes were due. After the calendar reform of 1752, tax day in the UK became April 6, and both American and Canadian tax days occur under that influence. Was March 25 Bach's tax day as well? Contracts were also renewed that day.

If there was a sixth performance of the cantata after 1728, it could well have been in 1736 when Palm Sunday and Annunciation occurred again.

The juxtaposition of the themes of the Incarnation and the Passion inspired Bach's imagination, not unlike the 17th century English mystic, John Donne who wrote a poem on the occurrence of Good Friday and the Annunciaton (see below).

" ... this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away"

**********************************
THE ANNUNCIATION AND PASSION.
by John Donne

TAMELY, frail body, abstain to-day ; to-day
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur ; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came, and went away ;
She sees Him nothing, twice at once, who's all ;
She sees a cedar plant itself, and fall ;
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive, yet dead ;
She sees at once the Virgin Mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha ;
Sad and rejoiced she's seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty, and at scarce fifteen ;
At once a son is promised her, and gone ;
Gabriell gives Christ to her, He her to John ;
Not fully a mother, she's in orbity ;
At once receiver and the legacy.
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
Th' abridgement of Christ's story, which makes one<
As in plain maps, the furthest west is east<
Of th' angels Ave, and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God's Court of Faculties,
Deals, in sometimes, and seldom joining these.
As by the self-fix'd Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th'other is, and which we say
So God by His Church, nearest to him, we know,
And stand firm, if we by her motion go.
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar, doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud ; to one end both.
This Church by letting those days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one ;
Or 'twas in Him the same humility,
That He would be a man, and leave to be ;
Or as creation He hath made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating spouse would join in one
Manhood's extremes ; He shall come, He is gone ;
Or as though one blood drop, which thence did fall,
Accepted, would have served, He yet shed all,
So though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords.
This treasure then, in gross, my soul, uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 23, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The BCML listing is actually somewhat misleading. "Himmelskönig Sei Willkommen" was not intended for Palm Sunday when no cantata was sung, but rather for the Feast of the Annuniciation on March 25. Because of calendrical occurrence, March 25 fell on Palm Sunday in 1714.
It is curious why B's churches were so keen to celebrate this Marian festival which so often fell in the penitential season of Lent and Holy Week -- the latter in 1739. In the Catholic calendar, the Annunciation was moved until after Easter if it fell in Holy Week. >
Well, is it not the Reformation (if not specifically Lutheran) method to avoid following the Catholics? You have to admire (if not exactly love) folks who start new sects -- vive la difference (although I do not believe that is what the French implies).

Thanks for the important clarification, re liturgy and calendar.

< **********************************
THE ANNUNCIATION AND PASSION.
by John Donne
[...]
As by the self-fix'd Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where th'other is, and which we say
?Because it strays not far?doth never stray, >
Some might say, never follow a Pole, he is probably lost also. Or Yogi Berra: <If you come to a fork in the road, take it!>

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 23, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Well, is it not the Reformation (if not specifically Lutheran) method to avoid following the Catholics? >
One of the interesting musical features of the Lutheran reform is that it took place before the Council of Trent at the end of the 16th century when the Roman version of Gregorian chant was imposed uniformly across the church and medieval regional variants were suppressed. The Lutheran Latin chant which Bach knew was a German family of chants which disappeared in the Catholic Church in the Tridentine reforms.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 23, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The Lutheran Latin chant which Bach knew was a German family of chants which disappeared in the Catholic Church in the Tridentine reforms. >
Aha! Sorry I snipped a bit too much, but if I did the calculation correctly, this would apply to Schütz, a couple generations before Bach, as well?

Thanks as always for these informative tidbits.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 23, 2010):
German Variants of Chants

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Sorry I snipped a bit too much, but if I did the calculation correctly, this would apply to Schütz, a couple generations before Bach, as well? >
The tradition can be seen back through Praetorius to Walther who worked with Luther on the German Mass and the Formula Missae. As a choirboy, Bach would have learned and passed on to his pupils the northern variants of the chants. For instance, the opening Gregorian introits which gave their names to Sundays (e.g. Estomihi or Jubilate) would have been sung by Bach's choir if a motet was not substituted. The most famous example of this German chant repertoire is the theme of the "Credo" in the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232) which is a variant of the better-known Roman melody.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 23, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The tradition can be seen back through Praetorius to Walther who worked with Luther on the German Mass and the Formula Missae. As a choirboy, Bach would have learned and passed on to his pupils the northern variants of the chants. >

I was especially interested in Schütz because of a recent Boston performance of Schwanengesang, as the conclusion of a season featuring Schütz by the Cantata Singers. Much detail is probably off-topic here, but the interspersed Gregorian chant within verses of psalm settings is striking. It did not occur to me that the chant is specifically Lutheran, along with the overall work, which is smack in the mainstream of music from Luther to Bach.

It also did not occur to me until the present discussion that the Catholic standardization of Gregorian chant was that late, and can reasonably be interpreted as specifically counter-Reformation (my inference). Did not one side or the other (I have lost track of which) make some serious attempts at reconciliation early on?

On my block, there is a Brazilian evangelical congregation occupying a former Methodist church. They all look happy and well-dressed, when I drive by. I have not checked out the music; if it is samba, maybe I will join. Would Luther approve?

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 24, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Much detail is probably off-topic here, but the interspersed Gregorian chant within verses of psalm settings is striking. It did not occur to me that the chant is specifically Lutheran, along with the overall work, which is smack in the mainstream of music from Luther to Bach. >
The tones are not specifically Lutheran, but rather the regional variants of the Catholic rite which were frozen in time at the Reformation and never "reformed" by Tridentine revisions.

The Swan Song of Schütz is a massive setting of Psalm 119, the various sections of which were allocated to be sung at Vespers on specific weekdays during the year. Each polyphonic setting begins with the second half of the opening psalm verse. The first half is "intoned" in Gregorian chant, as the Gloria, Credo and Magnificat were introduced in Renaissance and some Baroque settings.

Amazon.de

These are the psalm melodies which Bach's choirboys sang every day at Matins and Vespers. The most famous is the "Tonus Peregrinus" which became identified with the Magnificat and was transformed into a chorale. The Roman version begins with a semitone; the German version has a rising minor third. The chant theme was used many time by Bach in the organ works and cantatas. The oboes play it in the "Suscepit" of the "Magnificat".

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 25, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The tones are not specifically Lutheran, but rather the regional variants of the Catholic rite which were frozen in time at the Reformation and never "reformed" by Tridentine revisions. >
This somehow reminds me of New England (USA) Puritans, who left England seeking religious freedom (as the story goes), only to subsequently deny it in no uncertain terms.

Are the regional variants in fact frozen in time with Luther, or was there ongoing variation and evolution? Is this analogous with chorale melodies? How dogmatic was Luther that what he set down was the final edition?

DC
< The Swan Song of Schütz is a massive setting of Psalm 119, the various sections of which were allocated to be sung at Vespers on specific weekdays during the year. [...]
These are the psalm melodies which Bach's choirboys sang every day at Matins and Vespers. >
EM:
I do not have anything to add other than questions, but this seems to be a topic worthy of ongoing thought.

Incidentally, David Hoose, in his spoken introduction to the performance of Schütz Schwanengeasng suggested that it was in fact a novelty (neologism), the first use of the term Swan Song. Any confirmation/contradiction?

Peter Smaill wrote (May 25, 2010):
[To Ed Myskowski] The expression "swan song" is probably an ancient myth, namely that the swan, mute for its life , sings beautifully at the approach of death. It certainly predates Schütz in that there is Orlando Gibbons' beautiful "The Silver Swan" from the 1612 "First set of Madrigals and Motets".

I'd also be interested if there can be found the first source of the image.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 25, 2010):
[To Peter Smaill] It goes back about 2000 years to the Romans. I think it was mentioned by Pliny in his nature essays. So it predates both these references by a good millenium or more.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 25, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< It certainlpredates Schütz in that there is Orlando Gibbons' beautiful "The Silver Swan" from the 1612 "First set of Madrigals and Motets". >
"More geese than swans now live,
More fools than wise."

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 25, 2010):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It goes back about 2000 years to the Romans. I think it was mentioned by Pliny in his nature essays. So it predates both these references by a good millenium or more. >
From this site (choir directors, note Coleridge!): http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/swan-song.html

This term derived from the legend that, while they are mute during the rest of their lives, swans sing beautifully and mournfully just before they die. This isn't actually the case - swans, even the inaccurately named Mute Swans, have a variety of vocal sounds and they don't sing before they die. The legend was known to be false as early as the days of ancient Rome, when Pliny the Elder refuted it in Natural History, AD 77:

"Observation shows that the story that the dying swan sings is false."

[...]

The actual term 'swan song', with its current figurative meaning, doesn't crop up in print until the 18th century. The Scottish cleric Jon Willison used the expression in one of his Scripture Songs, 1767, where he refers to "King David's swan-song".

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) turned the phrase on its head in the poem On a Volunteer Singer:

Swans sing before they die; ’twere no bad thing
Did certain persons die before they sing.

If people ever did believe in the 'singing before death' story, few would now claim to do so. 'Swan-song' is now used figuratively and most commonly to refer to celebrated performers embarking on 'farewell tours' or 'final performances'. Those ironic quote marks were never more appropriate than in the case of Nellie Melba, whose swan song consisted of an eight year long string of 'final concerts' between 1920 and 1928. This led to the popular Australian phrase - 'more farewells than Nellie Melba'.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 25, 2010):
David Jones wrote:
> Today's cantata is Himmelskonig sei wilkommen<
There is plenty of archived discussion at the BCW, for those who are interested, including the recently added Mincham commentary. http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV182.htm

---

On a personal note, I prefer the legato articulation of the dotted rhythm phrases on the violin and recorder, in the opening sinfonia, as performed by Thomas and the ABS [9], compared to the light, semi-staccato approach of Gardiner [19].

Thomas: Amazon.com

Gardiner: ClassicsOnline

There are BCW amazon samples of many of the more than two dozen recordings, including OVPP; Koopman [12] includes an alternative reading of the sinfonia with oboe replacing violin.

 

Cantata BWV 182: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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