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Cantata BWV 186
Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht
Cantata BWV 186a
Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of August 7, 2005 (2nd round)

Santu de Silva wrote (August 8, 2005):
BWV 186: Ärgre dich - - seventh Sunday after Trinity

Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht BWV 186.

The following is verbatim from Alec Robertson, except for the portions in [] or {} which are my remarks:

Epistle: Romans 6: 19-23 (the wages of sin s death);
Gospel: Mark 8: 1-9 (Christ feeds the four thousand).

Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht (Trouble thyself not, O Soul.)
Libretto from Salomo Franck 1723


Mvt. 1 Chorus: Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht
SATB Ob i, ii with Vln i, ii, Te* with Vla, Fag, Cont.
[*Te is Taille, 'a tenor oboe,' according to Robertson]

The text is a paraphrase of Matthew 11: 3-10, which has no connections with this Sunday's Gospel, which substantiates the opinion that Bach set Franck's libretto, written for the Third Sunday in Advent, in 1716, and got him to revise it for this Sunday, or did it himself. The brief text, twice repeated, is concerned with Christ's reply to the imprisoned John the Baptist's doubts, 'Are you he who is come, or shall we look for another?' Christ told the messenger to relate the miracles he had accomplished, but the words of the chorus continue, 'that the splendor of the all-highest light, God's splendour and image itself in servant-form veils'. The text is, of course, aimed at strengthening those weak in faith, hence the force of the music.

[Musically, this chorus, with its gorgeous opening in sensuous and expressive sixths and soft, rocking rhythm is limpidly beautiful, rather than forceful. Perhaps the movement could be played and sung forcefully; I was listening to the Koopman recording [3], and do not know another for comparison.]

Mvt. 2 Recitative (Bass, Cont)
'Die Knechtgestalt, die Not, der Mangel, triffit Christi Glieder nicht allein' (Paraphrasing: servitude, distress, want, affect not only Christ's members {but all mankind})

The arioso at the close: 'Lord, how long wilt Thou forget me' is the chief point of interest in this recitative.

Mvt. 3 Aria (Bass, Cont)
'Bist du, der mir helfen soll, eilst du nicht mir beizustehen?' (Art Thou he who shall help me, hurriest not Thou to stand by me?)

The doubts return. 'My mind is full of doubt, Thou rejectest perhaps my supplication, yet O soul, doubt not, let reason not thee ensnare.' the soul is directed to behold its helper, Jacob's light, in the scriptures.

[Again, I should have checked this out, but what scriptures does Robertson refer to?

Musically, I thought this aria bore a resemblance--principally in the rhythm, certainly-- to the aria O Jesu komm zu deine Kirche. Where have I heard that aria? Are they related?

Mvt. 4 Recitative (Tenor, Cont)
'Ach, dass ein Christ so sehr fuer seinen Koerper sorgt' (Ah that a Christian so much for his body cares)

The body must return to earth, the salvation of the soul lies in Jesus. Here again the long arioso is the center of interest and there is a most expressive phrase at the close to the words 'Taste and see then how friendly Jesus is' (Psalm 34, v 8)

Mvt. 5 Aria (Tenor, oboe da caccia, Cont)

Bach's first use of an oboe da caccia obbligato part is the most interesting feature, which shows we are still with St John (the Baptist)'s doubts.

[The first few notes recall a well-known hymn whose title eludes me.]

Mvt. 6 Chorale (SATB, full orchestra)
'Ob sich's anliess, als wollt er nicht, lass dich es nicht erschrecken' (though it appeared as He would not, let it not alarm thee)

Paul Speratus's hymn "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her' [in] a fine extended chorale setting.


Mvt. 7 Recitative (Bass. Vln i, ii, Vla, Cont)

'Es ist die Welt die grosse Wuestenei: der Himmel wird zu Erz, die Erde wird zu Eisen, wenn Christen durch den Glauben weisen dass Christi Word ihr groesster Reichthum sei' (The world is the great wilderness; heaven becomes as brass, the earth becomes as iron, when Christians through faith show that Christ's word is their greatest riches)

[Robertson says] By this time any perceptive member of the Leipzig congregation should have become irritated. There is no mention of Christ having compassion on the hungry multitude. Bach is defeated by the text.

Mvt. 8 Aria (Soprano. Vln i, ii (unis.), Cont

"Die Armen will der Herr umarmen mit Gnaden' (The poor will the Lord embrace with mercy)

At last in this moving aria there is reference to the compassion of Christ to the hungry multitude and a forgetfulness of self. The violin's part is particularly expressive.

Mvt. 9 Recitative (Alto. Cont) [In this recording: Elisabeth von Magnus]

'Nun mag die Welt mit ihrer Lust vergehen, bricht gleich der Mangel ein, doch kann die Seele freudig sein' (Now may the world with its pleasures pass away, even if want breaks in, still can the soul be joyful)

Mvt. 10 Duet (Soprano, Alto. Ob i, ii, Te, Vln i, ii, Vla, Cont)
'Lass, Seele, kein Leiden von Jesu dich scheiden, sei, Seele getreu' (Let, soul, no sorrow separate thee from Jesus; be soul, faithful)

Joy breaks in with the prospect of a crown through mercy as reward. The music in 3/8 time, trips delightfully along with its varied rhythm enlivening all parts of the score.

(It is probable that the cantata ended with a repeat of the opening chorus.)

[In this recording, on the contrary, it ends with 6: Chorale.
This is the first time I have listened to this cantata, so forgive the lack of my personal observations !

Aryeh Oron wrote (August 10, 2005):
Chorale Melody 'Es ist das Heil uns kommen her'

The Chorale Melody 'Es ist das Heil uns kommen her' has been added to the BCW.
This CM is used in Mvts. 6&11 of BWV 186, the cantata for discussion this week.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 10, 2005):
BWV 186: chorus and chorale

Like Jane Newble, I enjoyed reading Roy Reed's year 2000 comments on the opening chorus:
<"I love the opening movement (Mvt. 1), the anti-vexation tonic, and does Bach go after that. Really rubs in the "vex thyself not" theme and supports it with this flowing accompaniment of peace. But.there is a bit of vexation left in. I love the entering pitches of the choir: d, e, f sharp, b flat: SATB. Well, I guess you have to be vexed to get unvexed. This same sort of thing occurs again in ms. 29: f, a flat, b natural, d. Love it. There is also a delightful touch in ms. 25. The text is about the brightness of the image of God being verhüllt (veiled) in the form of a servant. On the word "veiled" Bach sends the sopranos off on a bright upward-swinging Melissma of 16th and 32nd notes telling us that the disguised is really a revealing. Right out of the synoptic gospels. Fifth Evangelist, indeed. Wonderful chorus".>

Those opening pitches in the choir are indeed striking (in descending order): sopranos, D; altos, E flat (not E as stated above); tenors, F sharp; and basses, B flat.

The ambivalence of this harmony can be readily comprehended by playing on piano a G minor triad (G, B flat, D) followed by what appears to be the 2nd inversion of the E flat minor triad - G flat, B flat, E flat; but notice that these latter three notes are all contained in the harmonic G minor scale, as F sharp (enharmonic G flat), B flat, and E flat.

It's worth knowing, in listening to these opening notes of the choir, that the enter on the 2nd beat, A on the 3rd beat, (then in the next bar) T on the 1st beat and B on the 3rd beat. (Knowing this, I can hear all the pitches in the Rilling recording [1], for example).

The first line of text is then extensively sung, first by A and S, joined later by B and T.

The next three lines of text are presented with the sopranos in cannon with the ATB, with the little sopranos' melisma mentioned by Roy occurring near the end of this section.

Then the repeat of the first line of text starting with the new pitches, again striking (in descending order): F, A flat, B natural, and D. This time T, B follow on, later joined by S, A. ; and a repeat of the three middle lines of text.


The chorale is noteworthy for the presentation of the soprano part in 1/4 notes, followed by the ATB parts in 1/8 notes. Robertson says that "it is probable that the cantata ended with a repeat of no.1", but I presume he means the chorale, no. 6 - as precedent would suggest (BWV 147 etc).

Neil Halliday wrote (August 12, 2005):
Scoring of BWV 186/5

The use of unison violins (Harnoncourt [2]) and what sounds like unison recorder plus violin (Leusink [5]) for the oboe da caccia part in the tenor aria is a bit of a mystery.

Both Robertson and the BGA allot the obligato instrument line to the oboe da caccia, as is heard in the Rilling recording [1]. Any clues?

Interesting is the fact that Equiluz is the tenor in both the Rilling and Harnoncourt recordings.

Rilling's arrangement of the continuo, featuring bassoon, with harpsichord and double bass but no cello, is most effective for its contrast of the two woodwind instruments (ie, oboe d.c. and bassoon).

[More than once I have been disturbed by the coarse and frankly ugly sound of the bare cello/double bass combination in recordings, especially continuo only movements].

This gentle, tuneful, and flowing aria is expressively sung by Equiluz, in both recordings.

John P ike wrote (August 12, 2005):
Ärgre dich, o Seele, nicht, BWV 186

Cantata for 7th Sunday after Trinity.

This cantata really grew on me with repeated listening. On first hearing, it was only the duet no. 10 that really grabbed me but, after hearing 3 recordings, I decided it was a little gem of a cantata with many lovely movements. The bass aria no. 3 reminded me of the aria "Komm Jesu komm zu deine Kirche" in another cantata (?which one). There are so many very satisfying arias and choruses in this work.

I listened to Harnoncourt [2], Leusink [5] and Rilling [1] while driving to my violin lesson yesterday. I found all 3 very enjoyable as background music, but did not listen closely enough to make any further comments on relative merits.

Neil Halliday wrote (August 12, 2005):
John Pike wrote:
<"The bass aria no. 3 reminded me of the aria "Komm Jesu komm zu deine Kirche" in another cantata (?which one).">
(a useful site)

BWV 61/3.

Yes, I see your point.

As a matter of fact, I have difficulty appreciating 186/3 (bass aria) in all the recordings.

In the absence of an obligato instrument, clarity of both vocal and continuo lines is required, which is lacking in Rilling [1] (unclear pitch, especially in chromatic pssages, from Huttenlocher), and Harnoncourt [2] (continuo too soft and fast for clarity).

Playing through the score (shown at the BCW) on a piano, helps to understand the 'musical shape' of this aria.

Thomas Braatz wrote (August 12, 2005):
Neil Halliday asked:
>>The use of unison violins (Harnoncourt [2]) and what sounds like unison recorder plus violin (Leusink [5]) for the oboe da caccia part in the tenor aria is a bit of a mystery. Both Robertson and the BGA allot the obligato instrument line to the oboe da caccia, as is heard in the Rilling recording [1]. Any clues?<<
The confusion arises out of Bach's own indications written on the autograph score:

Announcing the tenor aria, he wrote only the following as a title to this mvt.: "Aria. Hoboe da Caccia" but to the left of the top staff which has the obbligato line: "Hob: 1. Viol: 1:. | viol. 2" and over the 2nd staff: "Tenore." A closer inspection reveals that all the instruments listed for the first, topmost staff are written on top of an erasure. What was there before? Obviously Bach is reusing the score for a Leipzig performance of the earlier Weimar version.

Here is the specific commentary by the NBA KB I/18, p. 38:

>>There is an obvious correction in the title for this mvt. [a magnified facsimile is provided]; nevertheless the alto clef in the 1st staff and the wording "Aria Hoboe da Caccia" leave no doubt about the hypothesis presented In NBA KB I/1, pp. 89ff. that the Weimar version of this mvt. did have an Oboe da caccia (along with tenor and bc), which played in F minor Cammerton while the other musicians performed this mvt. in D minor Chorton, for only then, if you transpose it up by a minor 3rd will the part be made playable in D minor by the Oboe da caccia which has a range from d to e'.

The secondary indication to the left of the 1st (top) staff including "Hob: 1, Viol: 1, viol. 2." is quite obviously the solution that was found to address the problems of the Leipzig performance situation; this can only make sense when the [Oboe da caccia] part is transposed an octave higher, which is the way the Leipzig version of this cantata is printed in the NBA.<<

Neil Halliday wrote (August 13, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"The confusion arises out of Bach's own indications written on the autograph score:...">
Thank you, Thomas, for the detailed explanation regarding this matter.


Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 186: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Cantata BWV 186a: Details
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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