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Cantata BWV 188
Ich habe meine Zuversicht
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 9, 2003

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 9, 2003):
BWV 188 - Introduction

The chosen work for this week’s discussion (November 9, 2003) is the Solo Cantata ‘Ich habe meine Zuversicht’ (I have placed my confidence) for the 21st Sunday after Trinity.

This cantata was based on Picander’s libretto, to which Bach added as a Sinfonia prelude (Mvt. 1) the first movement of his D minor Clavier Concerto BWV 1088, re-arranged for organ and orchestra. It was the first of a series featuring an obbligato organ. According to Schweitzer these were all performed at the Nicolai Church, because Bach wished to give the organist there, Johann Schneider, a chance to display his skills. Terry thinks that there is a possibility that Wilhelm Friedemann Bach set part of the music, but does not mention which parts. Certainly not the first two movements, which are definitely by his father.

Neither the Epistle (Ephesians 6: 10-17) nor the Gospel (John 4: 46-54), is directly quoted in the libretto, which speaks of confidence in God’s power to govern our lives. Only the Epistle, verse 10, refers to in this theme: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.”

Recordings

BWV 188 has only three complete recordings, all of which come from complete cantata cycles: Rilling (1983) [1], Harnoncourt (1989) [2] and Leusink (1999) [3]. The details of the recordings can be found at the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website (BCW): Cantata BWV 188 - Recordings

Additional Information

In the page of recordings mentioned above you can also find links to useful complementary information:
a. Original German text and various translations, three of which were contributed by members of the BCML: English (Francis Browne) and French (Jean-Pierre Grivois), and Hebrew (Aryeh Oron).
b. Score in Vocal & Piano version and BGA Edition.
c. Commentaries: in English by Simon Crouch (Listener’s Guide), and in Spanish by Julio Sánchez Reyes (CantatasDeBach).

BWV 188 is the last sacred cantata to be discussed in the first round of weekly cantata discussions. Apart from this work, only 4 cantatas, all of them secular, remained to be discussed in the BCML!

Marie Jensen wrote (November 11, 2003):
BWV 188 alto aria (Mvt. 4)

Unerforschlich ist die Weise,
We der Herr die Seinen führt.
Selber unser Kreuz und Pein
Muß zu unserm Besten sein
Und zu seines Namens Preise.

The ways of the Lord are past understanding....

An organ voice walks a meandering path. Calm, never stumbling, almost sounding improvised, but nevertheless - the right way. Below that a companion - a dark violoncello walks the same way. In the middle a soul sings about God leading him through life, and even bad times are good times. The overall impression - a quiet joy.

The last sacred cantata aria to be reviewed on our four year long journey is in every way a pearl.

Selber unser Kreuz und Pein
Muß zu unserm Besten sein
(BWV 188)

Neil Halliday wrote (November 13, 2003):
One of the (many) attractions of the cantatas is the occasional appearance of a much-loved instrumental work, as a `prelude'. In this case we have one of the movements of BWV 1052 (the D minor concerto for harpsichord and strings) arranged for organ and orchestra.

There appears to be some dispute as to the actual movement to be performed here; Robertson says that "A note on the only copy of the score of this cantata indicates that Bach meant the first movement... to be played", but in the booklet with the Rilling recording [1], written by Dr. Andreas Bomba, we have "..the score to this cantata was broken up...some material is missing, especially to the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1)...this music can be shown to stem from BWV 1052...Here it is the finale; Bach had already used the first two movements in the cantata BWV 146."

Organist Martha Schuster made the arrangement of the third movement of the concerto, heard in the Rilling recording [1], for oboes, strings and continuo, with concertato organ; this version is amazing for its drive and vitality, and features a bright organ registration which fairly sparkles on the treble stave notes of higher pitch. It's a joyful prelude to this cantata, whose basic message is "everything's right with the world, even when/if this is not apparent".

Mvt. 2: Tenor aria.

This movement ("Ich habe meine Zuversicht /Auf den getreuen Gott gericht") has something of the nature of a popular song. In the key of F major and in triple time, its cheerful mood and moderate, dance-like rhythm seem to grow on me with repeated hearings. Baldin has a fine, strong voice with suitable expression.

Mvt. 3: Secco recitative, (and short arioso, for Bass).

There are interesting chord progressions on "toten" and "Grausamen" (cruel God), readily seen with the piano reduction score, available at the BCW.

I expect Richter would have made an interesting organ realisation of this; Rilling [1] gives a satisfactory `as notated' version with harpsichord. (I often think these recitatives, with their apparent lack of the rhythmic definition which characterises most other baroque music forms, have a parallel to the contemplative rythmn-free beginning of Indian ragas, (called `alap', which sets the mood of the piece), when given a musical/instrumental setting in the - apparently anachronistic - mid-20th century manner.)

Mvt. 4: Alto aria.

Marie's description of this aria, at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachCantatas/message/6646
is excellent. Interestingly, the BGA shows this movement, in 4/4 "walking" time and key signature of E minor, to have been written with the obligato organ part in D minor. I expect Brad has covered the reason for this in his posts concerning temperament/organ tuning.

The movement has an elaborate part for organ with triplet and demisemiquaver figures etc, which accompanies the alto's gentle, "quiet joy"; Schuster uses a tremolo stop which is fortunately not obtrusive, and remains appealing. (I normally dislike the tremolo stop on organ).

Robertson has this to say:

"Whittaker considers that the addition of the vocal part makes the number sound laboured. A look at the score shows how true this is... This is a case of a faulty adaptation of a previously existing movement."

All I can say is he has not heard the Rilling recording [1]!

(This is not the first time I disagree with Robertson and Whittaker; their condemnation of BWV 24 - "Ein ungefaerbt Gemüte von deutscher Treu and Güte' - as 'one of the most sterile things Bach ever wrote', appears to be little more than an early to mid-20th century Anglo/American dislike of the expression of German nationalism referred to in the title; I find much of interest in this trio).

Julia Hamari has a magnificent voice with restrained vibrato, and the melismas on "Preise" are particularly enjoyable.

Mvt. 5: Accompanied recitative (soprano).

A striking start, with double-stopped string chords, is followed by a yearning, beautiful 4-part string setting, with the vocal line for soprano (Auger).

Mvt. 6: Chorale.

A straightforward setting ends the cantata, with Rilling displaying his usual excellence, in this type of movement.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 22, 2003):
BWV 188 - Recordings & Timings

During last week I have been listening to 3 complete recordings of Cantata BWV 188:

No

Conductor

Year

Mvt. 1

Mvt. 2

Mvt. 3

Mvt. 4

Mvt. 5

Mvt. 6

TT

[1]

Rilling

1983

7:39

6:17

2:16

5:37

0:57

1:00

23:46

[2]

Harnoncourt

1989

7:38

8:06

2:00

5:42

0:34

0:50

24:50

[3]

Leusink

1999

-

8:58

1:56

6:50

0:35

0:48

19:07

The Two Arias

The background preceding the review of the recordings is based on Robertson, Young and something of my own.

Mvt. 2: Aria [Tenor]

Oboe and strings accompany the sincere and beautiful expression of the singer’s emotions. This is genuine confession of faith. The melodious tenor aria is an affirmation of complete truth, for in God, ‘Da ruhet meine Hoffnung feste’ (there my hope rests firmly). The text of the middle section asserts that this trust will hold firm: ‘Wenn alles bricht, wenn alles fällt, / Wenn niemand Treu und Glauben hält’ (If everything breaks, if everything falls, / if nobody keeps faithfulness and belief), words illustrated by detached falling arpeggios for the oboe and agitation in the strings until the last line before the da-capo: ‘So ist doch Gott der allerbeste.’ (God is still the best of all.). So, in the last sacred cantata to be discussed, unjustly neglected, as many of them are, we have one of Bach’s best tenor arias.

[1] Aldo Baldin (with Rilling) was in one of his best days when he recorded this aria, and his usual enthusiasm suits the message very well. He is firm and secure with his faith, his voice becomes darker and trembles a little when he is singing of the breaking and falling of the world, and he returns gladly to declare that God is best.
[2] Kurt Equiluz (with Harnoncourt) is almost as good as Baldin, although his approach is more restrained. If I am not mistaken, he was 60 years old when he recorded this aria, but his age is hardly noticed. The introvert has confidence in his faith as much as the extrovert has. I am less pleased with the slow tempo chosen by Harnoncourt, which does not seems to reflect well the message of the aria. On the other hand, one could say: “I have strong faith in God; I am not running anywhere”.
[3] Nico van der Meel (with Leusink) represents the middle of the road between these two approaches, but he manages to bring out the message of the aria quite satisfactory. What works against him is the very s-l-o-w tempo Leusink adopts for this aria, following Harnoncourt’s footsteps.

Mvt. 4: Aria [Alto]

With cello and organ obbligato the singer sings of God’s moving in mysterious ways which influence our lives. Even our grief and pain can at times be in our best interest, leading us to Him. A feeling of Christian resignation to fate pervades the aria. Whittaker considers that the addition of the vocal part makes the movement sound laboured. Robertson indicates that a look at the score shows how true this is, the more the pity, for it is quite a long aria. This is a case of a faulty adaptation of a previously existing movement. How come, therefore, that this aria is so moving? In the hands of a capable singer and a sensitive organist the mixture of pain and hope may tear our hearts apart.

[1] In Julia Hamari (with Rilling) I found the most satisfactory singer of this aria. With her warm and rich voice and multi-layered singing one does not have to look any further. She proves that the potential for convincing expression is embedded in the aria, despite what some experts had to say. The imaginative playing of the organ by Hans-Joachim Erhard contributes to the success of this rendition.
[2] Paul Esswood’s (with Harnoncourt) low-profile singing fails to raise the aria to a convincing level. He does not hold the attention of the listener. Herbert Tachezi’s delicate playing is the best part of this rendition.
[3] After listening to so many of Leusink’s cantata recordings during the four last years, I do not expect much from Sytse Buwalda’s singing. Only rarely I have found some beauty in his voice production and in most cases his expression has been problematic, to say the least. Sorry, but his performance of this aria has not changed my mind.

Conclusion

Two days ago I attended a lecture about Cantata BWV 106 Actus Tragicus. The lecturer quoted Schweitzer by saying that certainly there is not even one Bach’s fan, who has not thought to himself/herself that he/she would replace most of the two hundreds sacred cantatas with one Actus Tragicus. It is hard for me to accept this assumption. Don’t get me wrong. I am very fond of Actus Tragicus. But I have found in almost all of Bach’s sacred cantatas many moments of rare beauty and high inspiration; moments, and movements, and complete cantatas, I would not like to replace. I hope to be able to return to them many times in the future. The case of the two arias of Cantata BWV 188 is an absolute testimony of my conclusion. Rilling’s recording [1] is my preferred performance of this cantata, the one to which I shall return.

I would like to hear other opinions.

Philippe Bareille wrote (November 23, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
[2] < Kurt Equiluz (with Harnoncourt) is almost as good as Baldin, although his approach is more restrained. If I am not mistaken, he was 60 years old when he recorded this aria, but his age is hardly noticed. The introvert has confidence in his faith as much as the extrovert has >
I haven't the Rilling performance [1] but Equiluz [2] at the end of his career was still an example to most of his younger colleagues. His singing in this beguiling aria is, as usual, full of subtle expressive nuance and always alert to the core message of the text. I also recommend the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1), reworked from the last movement of the Concerto in D minor. The organist Herbert Tachezi is fantastic. The quick tempo captures perfectly the spirit of this powerful music. Helmut Wittek has just the few notes of a recitative to sing but his commitment to the text and expression are commendable. Esswood gives a sensitive performance but uneven in my opinion.

This cantata is full of surprises and worth discovering.

Hans-Joachim Reh wrote (November 24, 2003):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
Conclusion
Two days ago I attended a lecture about Cantata
BWV 106 Actus Tragicus. The lecturer quoted Schweitzer by saying that certainly there is not even one Bach's fan, who has not thought to himself/herself that he/she would replace most of the two hundreds sacred cantatas with one Actus Tragicus. It is hard for me to accept this assumption. Don't get me wrong. I am very fond of Actus Tragicus. But I have found in almost all of Bach's sacred cantatas many moments of rare beauty and high inspiration; moments, and movements, and complete cantatas, I would not like to replace. I hope to be able to return to them many times in the future. The case of the two arias of Cantata BWV 188 is an absolute testimony of my conclusion. Rilling's recording [1] is my preferred recording of this cantata, the one to which I shall return. >
You are absolutely right. But this is not only true for Bachs sacred cantatas. The other day I listened to BWV 205 (Aeolus) and to tell you the truth ­ I couldn´t believe what I heard. I am a church-musician, (two weeks ago we performed BWV 100 ­ one of my favorites, especially the first and last movement) sI never really cared much about Bachs secular cantatas. I thought I knew Bach and had heard at least all of his important music. But here one can hear Bach demonstrating Drama per musica on a level no other composer of his aera (later?) ever reached. In that first movement one can actally feel demolition, followed by a recitativ that I had a hard time enduring, because I was shook by the way Bach put this announcement of desaster into music. As if this wasn´t enough, the following aria brings relief and made me laugh, without nowing the text, until the point where die Daecher krachen.

I am not aware of any music with more opera and drama. To complete this, movement No 11 (Zuruecke ...) with two horns, trumpets and Bass is one of those arias, where you sit back and wonder, how could he do it? Just horns and trumpets ­ unbelievable ­ BACH.

Jane Newble wrote (November 28, 2003):
Although I am rather late because of buying and selling a house for an upcoming move to Scotland, I'd like to express some of what I felt about this cantata.

The first aria (Mvt. 2) has a haunting melody, and is a confirmation of quiet faith and trust in God. In Him rests my hope, so firm and solid that nothing can shake it. But then reality sets in - the music with jagged notes breaking the lovely solidity and peace. Everything in life falls to pieces, dreams and hopes are shattered, people disappoint. It seems that there is nowhere to go. 'So ist doch Gott der allerbeste' sounds more like a cry of despair, a last resort. But it is a last resort that does not disappoint, because the confirmation of trust returns, this time with an undertone of the trauma and sadness experienced. Nevertheless, it is real, with the long notes again on 'ruhet' and 'feste'.

The recitative (Mvt. 3) is consoling, explaining and exhorting to hold on to God despite everything. I like to think that it was Bach's intention to use the bass as a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ, as he so often does.

The organ notes in the alto aria (Mvt. 4) express something of the bewilderment and non-understanding about the way life can take us. The alto voice underlines this in its almost weeping lament.

The following recitative (Mvt. 5) and choral (Mvt. 6) come back to God as the only one to build on.

It is my conviction that only someone who has been in the depths of despair could have written this music to harmonize so completely with the words.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 188: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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