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Cantata BWV 187
Es wartet alles auf dich
Discussions - Part 1

BWV 187 Aria solo a la Colmar

Boyd Pehrson wrote (April 3, 2002):
I have loaded a .ram file of a french boy soprano singing the J.S. Bach aria "Gott versorget alles Leben" (Mvt. 5) from Cantata BWV 187 [M-5]. It is quite beautifully sung. The boy is a soloist of La Maîtrise de garçons de Colmar (Colmar Boys' Choir). I think Andreas identified the boy as Antoine Walter in an earlier file upload/post. Arlette Steyer is Directrice Artistique et Pédagogique of the Colmar Boys' Choir.

This French Boys' Choir is located in the Alsace, on the border of Germany and of Switzerland. It is 17 years young, and already seems to be on the verge of becoming a world class boys' choir. Reviews are good and recognition and awards are coming their way. There is a different sound to this choir than one finds further West with the Petits Chanteurs of Paris. Their website is new, and since the beginning of this year it has been ambitiously filled with information, but so far just in French. The choir is racking up recordings as well- working on 13 CDs in their short career.

It is exciting for me to see the ambition and growth of this choir, and I am thrilled that they are progressing to higher artistic levels, especially since Colmar is not a "Big City" by any means, only 67,000 inhabitants! This says a lot about what hard work and persistence can accomplish. How many more small cities around Europe and the U.S. could support a boys' choir of this quality?

The Alsace currently boasts about 6 boys' choirs of various performance levels, making it an area "wealthy" in this artform by French standards. The Alsace region tends to be "conservative" and perhaps this is where the appeal to "traditional values" may make it a safe haven for the boy choir art form.

The Colmar Boys' Choir website:

Here is the sound file link:

The CD:
"Aria" - Jean-Sébastien BACH
1. Aria "Ach Herr ! was ist ein Menschenkind?" de la cantate BWV 110
2. à 5. Sonate n°2 BWV 1028 en ré Majeur
6. Aria "Kreuz und Krone sind verbunden" de la cantate BWV 12
7. à 9. Sonate n°6 BWV 530 en do Majeur
10. Aria "Gott versorget alles Leben" de la cantate BWV 187
11. à 13. Concerto italien BWV 973
14. Aria "Ach bleib bei uns Herr Jesu Christ" de la cantate BWV 6


Discussions in the Week of July 14, 2002 (1st round)

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 14, 2002):
BWV 187 Es wartet alles auf dich - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 187 - Provenance

[had to skip BWV 117 because I simply had no time available and was getting tired of lagging a week behind in my reports]

Thomas Shepherd wrote (July 15, 2002):
Thanks Thomas B. for the information about Bach's use of BWV 187 in the Mass in G, BWV 235.

From that information, I've just spent some time this afternoon reconstructing the music for BWV 187 from the piano score of BWV 187 ( ) and a CD of the Mass in G min. conducted by Peter Schreier on the Philips label.

I will at least have some idea of the MUSIC that is to be discussed this week. There are a lots of nice bits to consider!

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 15, 2002):
BWV 187 - Introduction

The subject of this week’s discussion (July 14, 2002), according to Francis Browne’s suggested list, is the Cantata BWV 187 ‘Es wartet alles auf dich’, (Everything depends on you) for the 7th Sunday after Trinity. The plan for this cantata is similar to that of Cantata BWV 39 ‘Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot’ for the 1st Sunday after Trinity, which was discussed in the BCML about a year ago. It might be that the fine anonymous librettist was the same person. Both works have Biblical quotations from the Old and the New Testament, not referring to the Scriptures for the day, but having two parts that contain identical movements. The Gospel, Mark 8: 1-9 – Christ’s miracle of feeding the four thousand – has a direct bearing on the libretto in general: the theme of thanks-giving to God for providing food for all his creatures.

The details of the recordings of this cantata can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 187 - Recordings
English translation by Francis Browne:
Another English translation by Pamela Dellal (from Emmanuel Music Website):
Another English translation by Z. Philip Ambrose:
Hebrew translation by me:

While doing the Hebrew translation I was very impressed by the beauty of the poetic libretto. This conclusion is applicable not only to the two Biblical quotations - Psalm 104: 27-28 (Mvt. 1) and Matthew 6: 31-32 (Mvt. 4) - but to the other movements as well. An evidence of Bach’s high opinion of the music he composed for this cantata, can be found in the fact that he re-used all its movements, except the recitatives, for his Lutheran Mass in G minor BWV 235.

Three complete recordings of this cantata come from the regular forces (Rilling [2], Leonhardt [6], and Leusink [8]). The other two are from very different schools. One by Karl Richter’s [4] big forces and romantic approach [4], and the other by the modest forces of Sigiswald Kuijken [7], who chose to record this cantata (together with two others – BWV 9 & BWV 94) using OVPP approach. My interim conclusion, after the first round of listening, is that this cantata should be ranked very highly, since it is so captivating from beginning to end in all its recordings.

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

Dick Wursten wrote (July 15, 2002):
BWV 187 - English translation

While preparing the listening to the cantata by reading the text, I stumbled on the English translation by Pamela Dellal (from Emmanuel Music Website):
which Aryeh provides as a third alternative (next to Ambrose and Browne).

There was something odd about it (8 movements in stead of 7..). Then I saw what it was: The first verse of the final Choral had been placed after Aria 3 (end of part I) becoming mvt 4, so that only the second verse was left as the concluding choral of Part II (now mvt 8). I can understand the 'logic' of it, but I don't know whether this is an invention of Emmanuelmusic, or a tradition or...

Anyone knows ?

Dick Wursten wrote (July 15, 2002):
Experimental reading of BWV 187 as an abridged musical sermon on psalm 104: 27-28 and Matthew 6: 31-32

PART I. Lectio and meditation taken from the Old Testament

Mvt 1. = (reading of the text) Psalm 104:
27 Es wartet alles auf dich, daß du ihnen Speise gebest zu seiner Zeit.
28 Wenn du ihnen gibst, so sammeln sie; wenn du deine Hand auftust, so werden sie Gut gesättigt.
(Everything waits for You, so that You give them food at the proper time. When You give it to them, they gather it; when You open Your hand, then are they satisfied with goodness.)

Mvt 2. = a free paraphrase and elaboration (Durchführung) of other elements from psalm 104: 'all creatures great and small' are gathered together in this psalm to praise Gods glory in creation.The mountains ((8,13, 18,32) with the birds it (12,17) and the floods (6-9, 25,26) with the fish in it (25) are present; Man is part of it, working on it, and depending on it for 'food' (23)

The mentioning of the 'monarch' in the end is the only element that is free invention, but it also makes a nice 'bridge' to the next association: psalm 65, because this psalm is the psalm of 'the king' which ends with the connection between good regiment and food for all.. So the next movement is already announced, because

Mvt 3. = almost litteral quotation of psalm 65
11 Du krönst das Jahr mit deinem Gut, und deine Fußtapfen triefen von Fett.
12 Die Weiden in der Wüste sind auch fett, daß sie triefen, und die Hügel sind umher lustig.
(Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness. They drop upon the pastures of the wilderness: and the little hills rejoice on every side.)

PART II. Lectio and sermon taken from the New testament
Not the reading of the Sunday (Marc 8:1-9), but of a part of the gospel that is often connected with it (Matthew 6:25-34): Jesus' speech about the uselessness of worrying about the earthly goods and his call to 'trust' in the creator: Don't worry, be happy.. by trusting in the Lord (compare the 4th prayer from the Lords prayer). God is the creator, and thus protector and maintainer. The 'text' of this sermon:

Mvt 4. = Matthew 6: 31-32:
Darum sollt ihr nicht sorgen noch sagen: Was werden wir essen, was werden wir trinken, womit werden wir uns kleiden? Nach solchem allen trachten die Heiden. Denn euer himmlischer Vater weiß, daß ihr dies alles bedürfet.
(Therefore do not be anxious, saying: "What will we eat, what will we drink, With what shall we clothe ourselves?"The Gentiles concern themselves with all this. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.)

Mvt 5 and 6 can be read as the elaboration (Durchführung) on this central text, with 'Heranbeziehung' of some other (and the same) Old Testament bibleplaces.
Mvt 5 f.i. refers to the Old Testament expression 'all that has Breath' (Alles was Odem hat/hegt), which is the Hebrew way of saying: every living creature.
Psalm 104 (!): 29b du nimmst weg ihren Odem, so vergehen sie und werden wieder zu Staub.
30 Du lässest aus deinen Odem, so werden sie geschaffen.
(Thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created)
Also the famous exhortation to praise God psalm 150: Alles was Odem hat, lobe den Herren (Everything that has breath, praise the Lord) can be named. Seine Treue wird mir täglich neue (His faithfulness is renewed for me daily) is associative referring to the Lamentations 3: 22b,23a (one of the top 10 quotes from the Old Testament).

Mvt 6. gives the personal application, worded in the first person singular. Including oneself in the adhoration makes it more easy to the listener to 'get along'. Here the text moves away most from the 'bible-language, idiom' and is more coloured by the 'sermon-language' of 18th century christianity: general providence preaching.

Mvt. 7 can be beautifully interpreted as the summary and conclusion of the whole sermon.

The first verse of the hymn is completely in line with the first part of the cantata. Yes even more: The introduction of wine and bread also can be traced back to psalm 104 (verse 15), Yes even more: the whole verse can be understood of a rhymed version of Psalm 104: 13-15:
13 Du feuchtest die Berge von obenher; du machst das Land voll Früchte, die du schaffest;
14 du lässest Gras wachsen für das Vieh und Saat zu Nutz den Menschen, daß du Brot aus der Erde bringest,
15 und daß der Wein erfreue des Menschen Herz, daß seine Gestalt schön werde vom Öl und das Brot des Menschen Herz stärke;
(He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; And wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart.)

The (right) answer to conclude all this is suggested in verse 2: We have to praise and thank God, by living according to his commandments and glorify his name. That is the 'true gratias'.. I hear this twice: 'Gratias sagen' is: 'say thank you'. But 'Das Gratias' in German also refers to the thanksgiving to God after every meal: 'Das Gratias nach dem Essen', which by Luther once was suggested and formulated with the words of.. Psalm 104: 27-28. 'Aller Augen warten auf dich Herre, das du gibest ihnen ihre Speise etc. followed by the Lords Prayer. (very useful and not-difficult 4-part harmonisaton by H. Schütz). Now the circle is complete, we are where we started.

Gerald Gray wrote (July 15, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Ask her yourself. She's a colleague and friend of mine and she would love to discuss it with you and -if there is an error- would likewise want to know it and correct it.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 16, 2002):
BWV 187 - the final chorale (Mvt. 7)

[To Dick Wursten] I just stumbled upon a musical connection which Bach may, or may not, have made in his mind. In any case, Bach had two different (not the beginning verses!) sung at the conclusion of the cantata as the NBA pointed out:

< The final chorale (Mvt. 7) uses verses 4 and 6 of the chorale by Hans Vogel (1563) “Singen wir aus Herzensgrund.” >

While this refers to the text, too often it is assumed that the chorale melody originated with the text which is not necessarily the case.

The melody we have here (as far as I know Bach did not use this hymn elsewhere) is really based upon a Pre-Reformation Latin Christmas hymn (carol?) (Bach makes slight alterations to the musical line): "In natali Domini gaudent omnes angeli" originating in the 15th century. There is a German version of this Latin hymn still in the German hymnal that I possess: "Da Christus geboren war" first printed in Wittenberg, in 1560. But the melody was also popular elsewhere. It is included in "Ein Gesangbuch der Brüder in Behemen vnd Merherrn" Frankfurt am Main in 1589.

If Bach was aware of this Christmas connection via the melody, perhaps he may have considered the birth of Christ as the greatest 'manna' given to mankind by God. Bach would often hint at things indirectly in this fashion. It would also fit the main theme stated in the beginning of the 1st mvt. This might be a fitting way to conclude the cantata by allowing some of the listeners to make this type of connection although nothing explicit has been stated in this regarded.

Dick Wursten wrote (July 16, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Though interesting, I don't think you are right. Too far fetched. The hymn-text and melody belong together from the first publication AFAIK and in Bach’s days they usually did not care much about where a melody came from (it still was a no HIP-time). If a melody was too difficult to sing it was adapted, or simple replaced by a better singable (f.i. the case with the choral of last weeks cantata: BWV 117).

The hymn in BWV 187 is a hymn for thanksgiving after a Meal (das "Gratias" sagen), closely related to psalm 104 (even more abundant in summing up the goods of the earth). This close textual and thematical connection with the cantata-text gives IMO a sufficient and conclusive reason to account for Bachs choice.

Which of course doesnot mean, that your are wrong, because in christianity always the link of 'a meal' with 'The Meal' is present, esp when in the hymn 'bread wine' are singled out..

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 16, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] You stated:
< The hymn text and melody belong together from the first publication AFAIK >
This does not mean that these two are 'frozen' together in such a way that the hymn text cancels out any associations that the chorale melody originally had, particularly if that melody is still being sung today with the translation from 1560 in Wittenberg. It could also be that the hymn text that you are referring to would not have existed for very long, if it were not for the previously existing (over a century earlier, at least) chorale melody that provided the convenient and necessary basis for the congregation to remember it.

< in Bach's days they usually did not care much about where a melody came from (it still was a no HIP-time). >
AFAIK Bach had in his library a book (or books) on the subject of chorale melodies. He must have been very sensitive to the various associations that chorale melodies could have. He must certainly have known where chorale melodies came from. When I hear Bach's Christmas Oratorio chorales, I am very much aware of the fact that, although Bach is actually using a chorale text with a Christmas connotation, he is nevertheless pointing to something else when the chorale melody behind the text happens to be "O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden." It is as though he is deliberately 'closing the circle' and reminding the listeners on another level of the crucifixion yet to come.

< If a melody was too difficult to sing it was adapted, or simple replaced by a better singable (f.i. the case with the choral of last weeks cantata: BWV 117). >
This was done because of a local Leipzig tradition of using another melody instead. In doing this, Leipzig was 'out of step' with most other churches where the original melody was preserved. To say that the melody, "Es ist das Heil uns kommen her," is less singable, is difficult for me to understand. This chorale melody is eminently singable (one of my favorites, in fact.)

< The hymn in BWV 187 is a hymn for thanksgiving after a Meal (das "Gratias" sagen), closely related to psalm 104 (even more abundant in summing up the goods of the earth). This close textual and thematical connection with the cantata-text gives IMO a sufficient and conclusive reason to account for Bach's choice. Which of course does not mean, that your are wrong, because in christianity always the link of 'a meal' with 'The Meal' is present, esp when in the hymn 'bread and wine' are singled out. >
I think this adds to my understanding of why Bach may have chosen this chorale text, but with Bach's usual multi-level approach to things of this sort, I would not exclude the possibility that I had suggested: that he often had more in mind than we can normally imagine. Very likely, he saw both possibilities (and a few more still unknown to us) when he went about selecting this chorale.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 16, 2002):
BWV 187 Es wartet alles auf dich - Commentary [Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Dürr, Smend]

I want to share the commentary (most of which is my translation or paraphrase from the original) on this cantata. Later on I wish to expand on some of the ideas given here:

See: Cantata BWV 187 - Commentary

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 17, 2002):
BWV 187 Es wartet alles auf dich - Mvt. 1 (ctnd.):

See: Cantata BWV 187 - Commentary

To be continued.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 17, 2002):
See: Cantata BWV 187 - Commentary

Jane Newble wrote (July 18, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] I have read Thomas Braatz' quotations from commentators with great interest, and was very surprised at Voigt's comment:
"The introductory mvt., despite all of Bach's musical artistry is definitely lacking something from the poetic standpoint. It is conspicuously gloomy (dismal, sad, depressed, dull, etc.) and, as a result, it contradicts somewhat the texts and interpretation of the texts in the following mvts."

The only way I can explain it is that the poor man had not heard Richter [4]. From the first note, Richter's performance is all excitement. It is as if in the text of Ps. 104 there is already a looking forward to the feeding of the 4,000 in the text for the preaching of that day. Just imagine, 4,000 fed with only 7 loaves, and then gathering up 7 baskets full of fragments! That does call for excitement, and I feel that Bach's fugal treatment of this movement brings that out with great effect, especially the stress on the 'sammeln' - the gathering up of just left-overs, after everyone of those 4,000 had had enough. I can hear the amazement of the crowd in this movement. The 'seven notes' pointed out by Thomas Braatz, make it even more interesting.

Just had to get this off my chest after listening to Richter's fantastic version [4]! It makes Leusink [8] (the only other one I have) sound quite dull in comparison, even though it is perfectly acceptable in its own right.

Dick Wursten wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] What do you mean by:
< ms. 78 – 79 a failed fugal attempt by the B(ass) voice >

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Dick Wursten] Bach deliberately 'botched' this entry so that it would not be considered as a full entry of the fugal subject as the other 14 legitimate entries are. How does he do this? 1) The 1st half of the fugal subject '(a)' with the all important 7 repeated notes on the same key or pitch has in the B(ass) voice only 5 repeated notes; 2) the significant octave leap of the 1st two notes in '(a)' in the B(ass) voice is only a leap upwards of a 4th; 3) of the 24 running 16th notes normally present in section '(b)' of the fugal subject, there are only 8 in this failed entry of the B(ass) voice, hence, a very much abbreviated version of the fugal subject; 4) this is the only fugal entry treated this way; there are no similar entries of this kind anywhere else in this mvt.

Charles Francis wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Forgive my diversion into Bach's secular output, but your analysis of BWV 187 reminded me of a surprising discovery concerning the unfinished final fugue from the Art of Fugue. As you probably realise the opening theme


is palindromic, i.e. it plays the the same backwards (by the way, it has been claimed that this theme corresponds to the structure of fifths in Bach's system for tuning his harpsichord). Now using the pictorial analysis of Bach's fugue provided by Timothy Smith:

one can see that this palindromic theme is repeated 24 times during its exposition and subsequent development (including the inversions). Indeed, Bach goes on to add another 24 statements of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd themes to give a total of 48 thematic statements, before harmonically combining all three themes. The last part of this unfinished fugue is based on the famous "B-A-C-H" motif (B=2, A=1, C=3, H=8) and as it happens 2 X 1 X 3 X 8 = 48. The B-A-C-H motif is in fact repeated 12-times in total and allowing for the final combination with the two earlier themes in the fugue, the ultimate thematic statement of B-A-C-H is the 14th theme in the exposition and development of B-A-C-H. Now as we know B+A+C+H = 2+1+3+8 = 14, so it is fitting indeed that the final fugal theme to be written by Bach should be B-A-C-H, and should be the 14th entry in the exposition and development of B-A-C-H. It is likewise fitting that this fugue should be the 14th fugue of the Art of Fugue! However all this presupposes Bach left the fugue unfinished deliberately.

I understand it was the esoteric thinker Henk Dieben (1902-1956) who first identified Bach's alphabet (A=1; I,J=9; U,V=20; Z=24) after studying a copy of "Deutsche Caballa.". As he discovered in 1933, the numb14 (Bach), 29 (JSB), 41 (J.S. Bach) and 48 (2x1x3x8) represent an important factor throughout Bach's output.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 19, 2002):
[To Charles Francis] Thanks for the additional information from the KdF!

Of particular interest to me is the reference to Henk Dieben, who was the first to discover Bach's use of gematria.

I am looking forward to reading Ruth Tatlow's book on this subject that should be coming out in August, if all goes well:

Of course, I am not recommending that others purchase this book (I have no personal connection with the author or the publishing firm) because it is not cheap by any means.

I referred to one of her discoveries my discussion of BWV 74: Cantata BWV 74 - Discussions

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 20, 2002):
“If you can not hear the words, then the vocalist is excluding the aspect of truth from the art of music. If, finally, you can not understand the words, then there really is not any difference between a human voice and a cornet or an oboe.” J. F. Agricola (see complete quotation at the end.)

BWV 187 Es wartet alles auf dich

The Recordings of Mvt. 1:

This week I listened to Rilling (1971) [2]; Richter (1976-77) [4]; Leonhardt (1989) [6]; Herreweghe (1990-93); and Leusink (2000) [8].

The Herreweghe is the same music as contained in the final mvt., “Cum Sancto Spiritu” of the Missa in G minor BWV 235. This version excludes the entire introductory, instrumental ritornello and begins immediately where the choir also begins in the cantata. The 1st 7 ms. of the Missa are essentially repeated with different arrangement of the choral parts (this is not the case in the cantata.) Taking all these changes into account, I was able to come up with the following timings for this same mvt. in all of the above recordings:

Almost exactly the same fast tempo is taken by

[4] Richter (non-HIP) 5:14
Herreweghe (HIP) 5:23

Fairly close together with the slowest tempi are

[6] Leonhardt (HIP) 7:10
[2] Rilling (non-HIP) 7:29

Mediocre (which sometimes means ”of a middle quality”) is

[8] Leusink (HIP) 6:23

Generally it is assumed that the HIP conductors take faster tempi and the late romantic ’hangovers’ of the non-HIP category prefer the slower tempi. For the former, the more ‘primitive’ nature of the original instruments dictates that faster tempi are necessary because long phrases are difficult for the ‘short-bowed’ string instruments which make up a large part of the orchestra. For the latter, the rich orchestral string sound of a late romantic version of a piece like the Albinoni Adagio requires slow tempi to achieve the appropriate effect. So much for general observations!

Here, however, we see the opposites paired at both ends of the tempo spectrum. What is achieved (or not achieved) when a conductor goes to one of these extremes? What are the advantages and disadvantages that arise from such a tempo selection?

The 1st and foremost impression of the Richter recording [4] is that it has a driving force, great forward momentum and a sense of unequaled conviction. My first impression was that it was a bit too fast, but wow! This recording makes you want to sing along with certain parts except that after the first few notes it becomes almost impossible to produce the many 16th notes that usually follow. This is a version meant to grab your attention. Of course the large orchestral and choral forces are a definite reason why this is so. It is easy to imagine Richter [4] here as the circus director forcing his wild animals to go through their paces, something that Richter had in common with a number of conductors of the past and present. Occasionally the animals will rebel and the results are not what is expected.

With Herreweghe, I usually sense immediately that here is someone who truly understands what choral singing is all about (in contrast to Harnoncourt who almost always exhibits weaknesses in this regard.) Herreweghe, although originally a Harnoncourt disciple?/collaborator? as his assistance with the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt Bach cantata series demonstrates, has subsequently refined some of these revolutionary ideas and notions in favor of subtleties, refinement, and precision choral singing. Somehow I sense a French influence in his style of music making which is very different yet refreshing. There is an ethereal tenderness that makes this type of rendition seem to come from a very distant world.

“But there is no joy in Mudville – both conductors have struck out.”

The fast tempo is simply too fast for either conductor to handle properly. As a result, much of Bach’s music is lost. It can be seen in the score, but it is simply not available to the listener except in the listener’s imagination. Nowhere is the mud of Mudville as apparent as in the great fugue of the middle section where the many 16th notes in succession either become muddy or are simply not heard at all. Despite playing along with the vocal parts using rather strident organ stops, Richter [4] has difficulty maintaining the precision in the voices once they ‘hit’ the 16th-note sequences. Because all the singers on a single part (there are quite a number of them) are unable to coordinate their vocal reflexes to sing together with great precision, you will hear the result as the choir members with different degrees of vocal ability no longer sing together properly. Perhaps some are able to manage this treacherous tempo, but others definitely are not. This is what causes the muddiness in the part. The precise notes are not clearly heard, only an approximation thereof.

Herreweghe has a small choir with only a few singers on each part. You would expect now, with the high caliber of singers that he has selected, that all would be fine here, but it is not. Here Herreweghe is plagued by the HIP syndrome that occurs when you are using these smaller forces on a HIP scale: Herreweghe’s singers are all of the half-voice category, which means that they sing almost exclusively sotto voce, or at least sound this way to any audience. In the lower range of their voices, the volume that they produce is very weak indeed. If you follow the score, you would see, for instance, that the fast 16th notes in the bass voice are practically non-existent in the world of sound, despite the backup that they receive from the bc. All this is to be expected, of course, for the faster you sing in the HIP school, the less volume you will hear from the singers, particularly in their low ranges. Koopman essentially does the same thing with many of the major choral mvts. of the cantatas: he takes such mvts. very fast, while only lightly tapping the notes and making no special effort to project the music to an audience. In doing this, Herreweghe (and Koopman) create an impressionistic background of music for the listener. This is the negative side of the French influence on the performance style of Bach’s sacred music. This is music made not to engage or disturb the listeners who are more interested in pursuing vague thoughts and indefinable feelings than being preached to by an 18th century cantor whose cantatas have difficult texts in a foreign language. I can not help but think of the great number of organists in small churches who play inoffensive, saccharine music with tremulant stops to create a religiously vague atmosphere among the members of the congregation. For Herreweghe or Koopman to actually drop the syllables of a word or to allow wsequences of notes to fall below the table as if they did not exist is equally as bad as Richter [4] attempting to impose his will so strongly upon the choir and orchestra, that the extreme tempo means that there is a considerable loss of clarity and it becomes eminently clear that the choir simply is not able to sing all the notes correctly. This is where common sense on the part of Richter [4] and Herreweghe ‘flew out the window.’ Both missed the mark, despite the fact that both have redeeming qualities as well.

Leusink [8] has been discussed frequently enough that I will simply skip dealing with the drawbacks of his recording.

Now, on the very slow end, we should at least be able to hear almost all of the notes that Bach intended for us to hear. Here, however, the slow tempo definitely affects the interpretation of the words, because there is great danger that the slower tempo might undermine the strength of conviction that the text must show.

What are some of the characteristics of the Leonhardt HIP orchestral sound as evident in this recording?

1) There are heavy accents, usually on the 1st beat of every measure. The bc, which is rather heavy (the slow tempo makes it sound much heavier than Herreweghe’s bc sound) now sounds even heavier at this slow tempo. Leonhardt, following Harnoncourt’s example (Harnoncourt ‘wrote the book’ on this aspect of bc treatment) will break down Bach’s ‘stalking’ bass consisting of 8 eighth notes per measure, broken down into 2 groups of 4 so that one group of 4 will sound like this (dah-hup’ dot’ dot’):
a) a heavy accent on the 1st eighth note in each group
b) a slur or tie from the 1st to the 2nd note makes this sound like an appoggiatura where the 2nd note is played as a light unaccented staccato note
c) the final 2 eighths are also played with a light staccato

2) Where the notes in the oboes and violins have an extended value (ms. 9-11, for instance), each note is treated as a separate crescendo (the attack is soft to begin with and by the end of the note value the oboes begin to reach a point (just before they go to the next note) when they sound uncontrolled (they are pushing the volume almost to the breaking point.) Where the running 16th note figures occur in the oboes and violins, each group of 8 16th notes is treated with the same type of crescendo. This type of short crescendo is never marked in any original score by Bach that I have seen.

3) Incongruency reigns. Bach entitled this mvt., „Concerto,“ which means that groups (choirs) of instruments will be ‘in contention’ with each other, but not quite as literally as Leonhardt understands this. The musical figures of one group (for instance, oboes) are at a later point played by the violins (or vice versa), or sometimes the 1st oboe and 1st violins play a figure in unison which is then repeated as an answer in the 2nd oboe and 2nd violins. Common musical sense would dictate that the same musical figure played by one group be played similarly in the other group, but this does not always happen with Leonhardt. In ms. 20 the oboes have a special phrasing (more legato) which is answered by the violins with staccato in the following measures. Bach clearly marked a number of figures as staccato, but not the one the Leonhardt insists on doing this way. Even if we allow conductors to do whatever they want with Bach’s music (the non-HIP conductors essentially took the same freedom for themselves), there ought to be come congruency between similar ideas. This does not happen here.

4) There are problems of balance and clarity with the choir. The singers supplied by Herreweghe (tenors and basses) simply are not able ‘to cut it.’ The initial bass entry of the grand fugue in the middle section sounds really insipid. The singing is very tentative and lacks any sense of commitment to projecting affirmatively this statement from the OT. Most of the time the tenors and basses are singing sotto voce. The impression upon the listener, if this is to be understood as an approach to a legitimate interpretation of this mvt. is that here we have a group of people who are ‘on their last legs’ and lack the stamina to make any kind of strong statement. These people have been crushed to the point of complete submission, and now, very hesitantly, they attempt to make a statement while they fear tremendously that they will soon be beaten back even more severely by the powers that be.

5) Due to over-accentuation of certain parts of words, the later syllables in a word are strongly de-emphasized, leading to a complete loss of text, meaning, and music. See Agricola at the end of this post.

With a very similar slow tempo, what is Rilling trying to accomplish with his predominantly legato interpretation that immediately sounds like everything that we would expect from a late romantic interpretation?. While the musical forces involved are not as large as Richter’s [4], Rilling uses modern instruments with a modern pitch a semi-tone higher than the HIP recordings. His heavy/loud bc with double bass almost always begins to resemble the sound of a modern orchestra. The fully trained voices with vibrato tend to detract from attaining an absolutely clear idea where each note is located. For greater precision in this regard you might turn to a good Herreweghe performance. Nevertheless Rilling usually attains balance and clarity of parts which makes it possible to hear every part as a separate entity and yet experience the beauty of having all these parts come together to form a greater choral unity than is usually found in other Bach cantata recordings.

Rilling’s approach at this slow tempo is to make the entire mvt. build very slowly from the beginning to its climax at the very end of the mvt. As I have previously pointed out, Bach had already provided for this type of treatment by shortening the repeated sections and creating faster and faster entries as the mvt. moves toward its conclusion. It comes almost as a shock, after hearing the super-energetic Richter recording [4], to hear Rilling’s choir enter the 1st time with only a moderate volume. This seems to work, however, because everything is completely in balance at all times and every part can be clearly heard. Even the 1st entry of the bass in the main fugal section begins at a lower volume level (not sotto voce!) and is treated in legato fashion. Later, when the bass enter for the last time (ms. 103), you will recognize how the volume (and strength of commitment) has been increased gradually. The final note in the mvt. is no longer a tentative stop, as in the Leonhardt recording, because now it is the true culmination of everything that has gone on before.

Personal preferences in order: Rilling [2], Richter [4], Herreweghe, Leonhardt [6], Leusink [8]

„Ist die Aussprache verbessert, so sey der Meister besorget, daß der Untergebene die Worte auf so eine Art ausspreche, daß sie, ohne einige Affectation, so deutlich können vernommen werden, daß man auch nicht eine Sylbe verliert. Denn wenn man die Worte nicht verstehen kann; so beraubt der Sänger die Zuhörer eines großen Theils der Anmuth, welche der Gesang von den Worten erhält. Wenn man die Worte nicht höret; so schließt der Sänger die Wahrheit von der Kunst aus. Wenn man endlich die Worte nicht versteht: so unterscheidet sich die Menschenstimme nicht von einem Zinken oder einer Hoboe.“ pp. 136-7

[„Once the pronunciation (of consonants by the vocal student) is corrected, then the vocal teacher/coach must teach the student to pronounce the words without any kind of affectation in such a way that they can be understood clearly and that not a single syllable is lost. For if this is not done, then the singer will rob the listeners of a great portion of the charm/attractiveness which is contained in the song/vocal composition. If you can not hear the words, ththe vocalist is excluding the aspect of truth from the art of music. If, finally, you can not understand the words, then there really is not any difference between a human voice and a cornet or an oboe.”]

„Man muß sich befleißigen, wieder so lange in einem Athem fortzusingen, als ohne großen Zwang möglich ist.“ p. 141

[“You have to keep trying to sing as long as possible in one breath without making it appear that great force is being applied.”]

From a “Guide to the Art of Singing,” Berlin, 1757, by Johann Friedrich Agricola, who studied with Bach and performed frequently under his direction.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 20, 2002):
Dick Wursten recently inquired about the final chorale (Mvt. 7) in BWV 187:

< While preparing the listening to the cantata by reading the text, I stumbled upon the English translation by Pamela Dellal (from Emmanuel Music Website): which Aryeh provides as a third alternative (next to Ambrose and Browne).

There was something odd about it (8 movements instead of 7..). Then I saw what it was: The first verse of the final Choral had been placed after Aria 3 (end of part I) becoming mvt 4, so that only the second verse was left as the concluding choral of Part II (now mvt 8) I can understand the 'logic' of it, but I don't know whether this is an invention of Emmanuelmusic, or a tradition or...
Anyone knows? >
Not wanting to wait for a book about this by the creator of this theory (Craig Smith), I spent just a little time investigating this in order to see how this theory might stand up in the face of the facts that are available to me.

I can not find a shred of evidence that might even begin to point into this direction that would allow for making such a change in the sequence of mvts of this cantata. Here are some important points to consider:

1) Bach’s performance indications regarding the sequence of mvts. in a 2-part cantata are clearly indicated in the original score and original parts: The most famous example that many listeners can identify with is BWV 147 which has the “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” chorale at the end of both Part One and Part Two of that cantata. It is the same music repeated with a different verse of the chorale just as we have a final chorale in BWV 187 with two verses.

2) In the autograph score of BWV 147, Bach writes out the music only once, at the very end of Part One. The repetition of the same music with another verse at the end of “Parte seconda” is accomplished with a single mark of repetition at the end of the cantata, a mark which lets the conductor (in his score) and musicians (in their parts) know that they should return to the chorale at the end of Part One (the part performed before the sermon.) If Bach had wanted the chorale in BWV 187 to appear at the end of Part One, he would have written out the chorale at that point and put a repeat (with different verse to be sung) at the end of the cantata.

3) That the reverse of this procedure seen in BWV 147 is never done is made clear by Bach’s arrangement of mvts. in BWV 187: The music for the chorale stands at the very end of the cantata (at the end of ‘Parte seconda” with the added description: “2 Vers.”, but the text is not given because it would take up too much room (and all the singers knew all the verses anyhow.)

4) Frequently, on his score as he is composing, Bach indicates “Sequitur” with the name of the type of mvt. to follow directly. At the end of Mvt. 3 (aria) in BWV 187, he states: “Fine della 1 parte,” thus stating that nothing (not even a verse of a chorale!) follows the aria at this point until after the sermon when the cantata resumes directly with “Parte 2. Aria.” At the end of the page which has the soprano recitative (Mvt. 6), Bach writes, “Choral,” and on top of the next page he writes, “Choral 2 Vers.” [This demonstrates how Bach indicates which mvt. should come next.]

5) The original parts for instruments that do not play in certain mvts. have their parts clearly marked with “tacet.” Certainly, they would have to have a special designation to direct them to go to the very end of the cantata for the chorale and then return to where they left off. This type of scenario is highly unlikely.

Faced with all this evidence, the only type of argument that I can imagine might be advanced is one similar to the HIP secco recitative accompaniment argument which rests mainly upon undocumented, supposed performance practices to which only the performers in Bach’s time were privy.

I can see no validity in making such a change in the sequence of mvts. in this cantata. Indeed, everything that I have found seems to prove that such shifting is without any basis in fact whatsoever.

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 20, 2002):
BWV 187 - Background

The background below is taken completely from Alec Robertson’s book ‘The Church Cantatas of J.S. Bach’ (1972). The English translation is by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML.

See: Cantata BWV 187 - Commentary

The Recordings

During last week I have been able to listen to 5 complete recordings of this cantata. Although I like this cantata as a whole, from beginning to end, I have also other duties, which force me to limit myself to review only couple of movements. The other movements will have to wait, not to mention recordings of the Lutheran Mass BWV 235.

[2] Rilling (1971)
It is hard to imagine a more colourful and lively rendition of the opening chorus than the one given to us by Rilling. Like a great painter he portrays before us all the minor details while the big picture is being built. Laurich in the aria for alto (Mvt. 3) has a big and warm voice and reliable if not exceptional expression.

[4] Richter (1976-1977)
This is a relatively late recording for Karl Richter. He has been often criticised for recordings from this period. Judging by this recording, it is difficult to understand why. The vigour and momentum he manages to put into the opening chorus are second to none. Indeed, the tempo of this movement is faster than of any other recording, but everything is clear and easy to follow. One can almost physically feel the joy with which The Lord is praised for the thousands creatures he has created and the admiration from his ability to feed them all. (one can see the second movement as an expansion of the main idea expressed in the opening chorus). Hamari’s is the performance to keep of the aria for alto (Mvt. 3). Not only does she have an admirable voice, warm, full, and varied. She also uses it to its best to express the gratitude, the grace and the praise to the Lord. She seems to be emotionally involved, and one can easily believe her that she feels what she is singing about.

[6] Leonhardt (1989)
The main problem of the opening chorus under Leonhardt’s direction is its dryness and the lack of variety and colours. I avoid mentioning the usual drawbacks of this rendition, because they have been described many times in previous reviews. Esswood’s singing in the aria is pleasant, but his expression is somewhat limited.

[7] Kuijken (1999)
I like OVPP recordings, because through them I can hear details, which usually pass unnoticed in the performances with bigger forces. But the cantatas to be performed with this approach must be chosen very carefully. Cantatas that have intimate atmosphere, or that their message calls for smaller forces are more suitable for such approach. I do not understand why did Kuijken choose especially this cantata and what did he want to approve. IMO, both the opening chorus and the concluding chorale cfor large-scale forces, or at least small choir with full and rich sound. As a consequence, his rendition of the opening chorus is the weakest I have heard. Furthermore, the sum of the four soloists is less than the whole, because I find that their voices do not blend well together. There are also problems of balance between the voices and the instruments. Next to the other two female singers of the aria for alto (Mvt. 3), Kožená is not especially convincing. Her voice is not as full and rich as theirs, and I hear some hesitancy in her delivery, which does not seem as a mean of expression. Maybe she simply had a bad day.

[8] Leusink (2000)
Surprisingly, or maybe not so, Leusink’s opening chorus is much better than Leonhardt’s. It is more lively, rich, and interesting. Naturally, it does not have the big dimension and the volume that both Rilling and have, but it has enough variety and dancing quality of its own to give satisfaction. In technical terms, Buwalda is not bad in the aria for alto (Mvt. 3). But regarding his expression and his ability to convey the message of this aria he does not have much to offer. His kind of voice is not the to which you will turn to when you ask for blessing and grace.


Personal preferences:
Opening Chorus (Mvt. 1): Rilling [2], Richter [4], Leusink [8], Leonhardt [6], Kuijken [7]
Aria for Alto (Mvt. 3):
Contraltos (& Mezzos): Hamari/Richter [4], Laurich/Rilling [2], Kožená/Kuijken [7]
Counter-tenors: Esswood/Leonhardt [6], Leusink/Buwalda [8]
Overall performance: The same as the opening chorus

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

Philippe Bareille wrote (July 21, 2002):
After the illuminating essay by Tom Braatz, there is little to add.

As for the performances I have listened to Rilling [2] and Leonhardt [6]. I agree with Aryeh that in the opening chorus Rilling is at his best and unrivalled.

But for me Leonhardt gives also a sensitive account of this marvellous cantata. The soprano aria is particularly moving even if the boy is a bit strained at times (Bach always imposes enormous demands from his singers!)

Gerald Gray wrote (July 17, 2002):
The following is a reply intended to be forwarded. It is in reply to Mr. Wursten's inquiry as to why the translation to BWV 187 is arranged as it is on the Emmanuel Music web site. Pamela Dellal, the translator replied:
Dear Mr. Wursten:

Yes, the idea of splitting the chorale verses in between the sections of the cantata is Maestro Craig Smith's, the conductor of Emmanuel Music, and I arranged the translation for our performances accordingly. He is planning to put out a wonderful book on the Bach Cantatas where I'm sure he will justify this and other choices of his.

I, too, used Dürr's book as a definitive source for the German texts and the text sources. Hopefully Smith's book will be available soon, so you can read about his thoughts on this practice of splitting the chorale!

Pamela Dellal
Hope this helps.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 187: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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