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Cantata BWV 188
Ich habe meine Zuversicht
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of May 4, 2008

Francis Browne wrote (May 2, 2008):
BWV 188 Introduction

The cantata for this week's discussion is BWV 188, Ich habe meine Zuversicht. As always Aryeh has provided details of the Cantata, recordings, translations, commentaries, musical examples etc at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV188.htm

Dürr notes that this cantata belongs to the cycle whose texts were published in 1728-9 by Picander. Its composition therefore probably dates from 1728 (for performance on 17 October) or soon afterwards.

Mvt. 1: Sinfonia

In the nineteenth century the autograph score was broken up and sold in fragments . As a result most of the opening sinfonia is lost though enough survives to show that it was a version of the final movement of the lost violin concerto that Bach later arranged for harpsichord as BWV 1052. Dürr adds that the sinfonia required obbligato organ, and three oboes: (oboe I, II and taille) were added--whose parts have not survived, however, apart from the closing bars. He also states that today the cantata is usually per formed without its introductory sinfonia. In fact , of the four recordings available only Leusink [3] does not include the sinfonia.

Bach of course uses other instrumental movements elsewhere in the cantatas and when this happens it often feels to me like meeting an old friend unexpectedly. But after the pleasure of recognition it is often difficult to see exactly why a particular movement has been included in the cantata . In the Oxford Composer Companion David Schulenberg suggests "The Sinfonia is ....a furious virtuoso movement, after which the opening aria, for tenor, oboe, and strings, sounds, appropriately, as a confident respite ('I have my assurance'). This is as plausible explanation as any,

Mvt. 2: Tenor Aria

This is the most substantial movement and will I suspect be the highlight of the cantata for most people.

Dürr comments :

"the first aria [is] a full-textured piece for strings with an oboe part that in places doubles the first violin and elsewhere achieves independence as a soloist. The introductory ritornello is dance-like in effect, resembling the Polonaise from the sixth French Suite. Its phrase structure fluctuates between two- and three-bar groups (twice 2 + 2 + 3 bars), which creates a hovering, relaxed impression. The tenor takes up the opening theme in the A section, sometimes indeed singing it in octaves with the top instrumental part, which causes an easy, unproblematic effect. The relatively brief middle section brings a sudden change of mood at the words `When all breaks, when all falls, when no one holds up loyalty or faith'. Here, lively string figuration and falling oboe motives* illustrate the text; and, significantly, only at the closing line of this section, 'God is indeed best of all', does the thematic material of the principal section return.

Whittaker regards this aria as :

"a number of outstanding beauty and one of the most grateful pieces of writing for that voice in the cantatas. The chief melody is winning in its graciousness [see example 371 at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV188-Sco.htm].... There is a felicitous touch in one portion to da ruhet meine Hoff­nung feste' (`there rests my hope secure'), where a waving figure enters in imitation: [see example 372] The section `Wenn alles bricht, wenn alles fällt, wenn niemand Treu' und Glauben hält' ('When all breaks, when all falls, when nobody faithfulness and belief holds') has leaping figures in voice and continuo, dropping staccato passages for oboe, and the upper strings, massed into unison, picture the confusion of the world. 'So ist doch Gott der allerbeste' ('So is yet God the best of all') recalls the opening idea, and in five and four bars from the Da Capo are splendid leaps for violin, expressing exuberance at the thought that God is the best of all."

[The word Zuversicht is important in this aria and also in BWV 197 next week. My German- English dictionary gives 'confidence, faith' The Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch suggests Vertrauen in die Zukunft (trust in the future) feste Hoffnung (firm hope) Uberzeugung (conviction); Langenscheidt suggests a firm belief that something positive will happen.

The online http://wortschatz.uni-leipzig.de/abfrage/ gives a further idea of the word's range

Synonyme: Aussicht, Chance, Erwartung, Hoffnung, Lichtblick, Optimismus, Zutrauen

a.. vergleiche: Optimismus
b.. ist Synonym von: Erwartung, Fortschrittsglaube, Glaube, Hoffnung, Hoffnungsfreude, Hoffnungsfunke, Optimismus, Vertrauen, Zutrauen
c. wird referenziert von: Hoffnung, Vertrauen
(The DWB of the Brothers Grimm is offline at the moment)

Luther uses it 32 times in his translation of the bible, mainly in the psalms where the Authorised Version generally translates refuge. In poets such as Rist and Gerhardt, whose writings are used by Bach, it is often used with such words as Trost (consolation), Hoffnung ( hope), Heil (salvation).

Perhaps to be very verbose and over -explicit we could say: Ich habe meine Zuversicht and Gott ist unsre Zuversicht would mean that God is the firm and unshakeable foundation for my unwavering conviction based on committed faith that whatever happens in the future will be for the best and -no matter how unlikely it may seem at times- will in the end prove to be positive, and this fundamental reassurance is my refuge from all life's troubles, a refuge that is secure since it is based on the omnipotent God.]

Mvt. 3: Bass recitative

Dürr comments :

A plain secco recitative follows (no. 3), which flows into arioso* (with a change of time signature) for the closing paraphrase of Genesis 32.26.

Schulenberg adds:

An extended bass recitative concludes with an imitative setting of Jacob's words to the angel, `I will not let thee go, except thou bless me' (Genesis 32: 26); a rising melisma marks the crucial word 'segne' (`bless')

Mvt. 4: Alto aria

This aria has evoked very different reactions. Dürr thinks that it is probably the most significant piece in the cantata : "[It] is scored for alto voice, obbligato organ, and cello, which doubles the organ bass line in continuo style. Like the first aria, this movement has a hovering rhythm, here caused by the syncopated opening theme and the clustered figure-work of the upper organ part which is rhythmically articulated in multifarious ways.

Whittaker - followed by Robertson - is far less positive. Robertson says :

Whittaker considers that the addition of the vocal part makes the number sound laboured. 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.

I transcribe what Whittaker says in full:

The number for alto, iii, recalls the first aria of BWV 169; it is an instrumental movement given to organ obbligato (written a tone lower) and a voice part adapted. In this case a 'cello doubles the left hand of the organist:

[see Ex.373] for which there is no indication as to 8 or 16 ft. and no figuring. There is no continuo part proper; perhaps 8 ft. tone was intended in all these obbligati. The organ part sounds better without the vocal addition; the latter makes the number sound laboured. The first part of the text is devoid of suggestions for musical treatment - 'Uner­forschlich ist die Weise, wie der Herr die Seine führt' ('Unfathomable is the way (in) which the Lord His own guides ') - and the emean nothing. The previously composed music does not prevent the remainder - 'Selber unser Kreuz and Pein muß zu unserm Besten sein, and zu seines Namens Preise' ('Even our cross and pain must to our best (interest) be, and to His name's glory') - from being admirably expressed in the vocal line, there are leaning tones on 'Kreuz' and 'Pein', Preise' rejoices in lengthy flourishes and the final words of this section are set in coruscating trills and leaps. 'Unserm Besten', however, does not mate comfortably with coloratura.

Mvt. 5: Soprano recitative

Dürr comments:

"The brief recitative that precedes the plain concluding chorale (Mvt. 6) is scored with strings, which depict in concise but graphic figures the waning of earthly might (tremolos) and the eternity of God (held notes and ongoing accompaniment figures)."

Whittaker, as usually more expansive says :

The penultimate number is a fine little recitative for soprano. 'Die Macht der Welt verlieret sich' ('The might of the world loses itself') is heralded with crashing chords for strings, both lines of violins and violas being in double stopping, and followed by an ar­peggio descent. 'Wer kann auf Stand and Hoheit bauen?' ('Who can on rank and position build?') is accompanied by detached chords. After a sustained chord to 'God but abides eternally', the strings pul­sate in gentle repeated quavers, the prayer-motive, during' (It is) well for all who in Him trust'

Mvt. 6: Chorale

Whittaker notes:

The melody of the final chorale is one of those secular tunes which curiously came to serve for hymns, 'Venus du and dein Kind' ('Venus thou and thy child'). Another instance is H. Isaak's 'O Welt, ich muß dich lassen' ('O World, I must thee leave'), which was originally Innsbruck, I must thee leave'. The melody of the song about the goddess of love came to be associated with two hymns- J. Heermann's 'Wo soll ich fliehen hin' and S. Weingärtner's (?) 'Auf meinen lieben Gott', and it is the first stanza of the latter which is set here: On my beloved God, Rely I in anguish and need; He can me always deliver From trouble, anguish and needs, My misfortune can He turn, Stands everything in His hands .

For much more detailed information on this, see Thomas Braatz's discussion on the BCW: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Wo-soll-ich-fliehen-hin.htm

Three questions:

Is the choice of sinfonia (Mvt. 1) arbitrary or is it in someway connected with the cantata?

Simon Crouch wrote about the tenor aria (Mvt. 2): "I must admit that I can't decide whether this is one of Bach's truly great movements or one of his near misses: Does he really make the most of developing that tune?"

Is the alto aria (Mvt. 4) 'a faulty adaption of a previously existing movement?

What do you think?

These are not rhetorical questions to which I know the answer, but they are questions which after listening to this cantata for some time seem worthy of consideration and I hope the discussion will produce a range of views to illuminate this cantata .The more I have got to know this music the more I have enjoyed it. But of course no one should feel obliged to deal with these particular questions and while I greatly appreciate the contributions of the regular stalwarts it would be good if some of the many new members of the list could also share their views.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 2, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< In the Oxford Composer Companion David Schulenberg suggests "The Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) is ....a furious virtuoso movement, after which the opening aria (Mvt. 2), for tenor, oboe, and strings, sounds, appropriately, as a confident respite ('I have my assurance'). This is as plausible explanation as any, >
I'm not sure if many of these recycled concerto movements serve any programmatc purpose other than as an overture to a significant work. 19th century commentators exhausted themselves trying to figure out the "meaning" of the Overture to Händel's "Messiah". All kids of inventive fantasies were conconcted: the minor key Grave was the sadness of the Israetlites waiting for the Messiah while the major key Allegro was their joy at the Messiah's approach. For Händel it was probably just a French overture which symbolized the beginning of all his operas and oratorios. I suspect that Bach's sinfonias are the same: curtain-raisers without any particular program. Nor are they inserted because Bach's choir was hung-over or decimated from the plague.

One question though. Do other composers start adding overtures to their cantatas in this period? Is it a new fashion?

John Pike wrote (May 3, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< The word Zuversicht is important in this aria and also in BWV 197 next week. My German- English dictionary gives 'confidence, faith' The Wahrig Deutsches Wörterbuch suggests Vertrauen in die Zukunft (trust in the future) feste Hoffnung (firm hope) Uberzeugung (conviction) ; Langenscheidt suggests a firm belief that something positive will happen.
The online
http://wortschatz.uni-leipzig.de/abfrage/ gives a further idea of the word's range
Synonyme: Aussicht, Chance, Erwartung, Hoffnung, Lichtblick, Optimismus, Zutrauen
a.. vergleiche: Optimismus
b.. ist Synonym von: Erwartung, Fortschrittsglaube, Glaube, Hoffnung, Hoffnungsfreude, Hoffnungsfunke, Optimismus, Vertrauen, Zutrauen
c. wird referenziert von: Hoffnung, Vertrauen
(The DWB of the Brothers Grimm is offline at the moment)
Luther uses it 32 times in his translation of the bible, mainly in the psalms where the Authorised Version generally translates refuge. In poets such as Rist and Gerhardt, whose writings are used by Bach, it is often used with such words as Trost (consolation), Hoffnung ( hope), Heil (salvation).
Perhaps to be very verbose and over -explicit we could say: Ich habe meine Zuversicht and Gott ist unsre Zuversicht would mean that God is the firm and unshakeable foundation for my unwavering conviction based on committed faith that whatever happens in the future will be for the best and -no matter how unlikely it may seem at times- will in the end prove to be positive, and this fundamental reassurance is my refuge from all life's troubles, a refuge that is secure since it is based on the omnipotent God.] >
The word "Zuversicht" also appears in BWV 138/4, the glorious Bass aria "Auf Gott steht meine Zuversicht", which Bach later used in the Lutheran Mass in G major, BWV 236.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 3, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< One question though. Do other composers start adding overtures to their cantatas in this period? Is it a new fashion? >
No it wasn't new, it was quite the norm to have instrumental introductions called either "sinfonia" "concerto" or "sonata" to open up a cantata. Of Bach's peers (and friends), Graupner and Telemann used opening instrumental sonatas and sinfonias in their cantatas. Bach's sinfonias are definitely longer though, But there are some real beauties in the Telemann opus.

In an interesting example, Christoph Graupner actually used a single movement Ouverture (and calls it precisely that) for a homage birthday cantata in honor of his patron, Ernst Ludwig of Hessen-Darmstadt performed on December 26, 1726, so it's lavishly scored for 2 Trumpets, timpani, 2 Oboes, Strings and Continuo. Ludwig was an avid Francophile (composer and dancer and actor too!), so what better way to celebrate his birthday than to capture his essence in French styled music?

I have an mp3 recording of this Ouverture if anyone would like a copy, write to me off-list, or maybe the file could be placed in the Cantata website for easy access.

Thérèse Hanquet wrote (May 3, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< [...]
Mvt. 3: Bass recitative
Dürr comments :
A plain secco recitative follows (no. 3), which flows into arioso* (with a change of time signature) for the closing paraphrase of Genesis 32.26.
Schulenberg adds:
An extended bass recitative concludes with an imitative setting of Jacob's words to the angel, `I will not let thee go, except thou bless me' (Genesis 32: 26); a rising melisma marks the crucial word 'segne' ('bless' >
Just something that struck me while reading, the end of the bass recitative:
"Drum lass ich ihn nicht, er segne mich denn" reminds me of the heading of the recently discussed BWV 157 : "Ich lasse dich nicht, du segnest mich denn!".
Is there some link between both cantatas? Apart that both texts were by Picander.

There is also a (beautiful) motet with the same heading (BWV Anh 159) by Johann Christoph Bach (and JSB?) which was recorded by Cantus Cölln. I recommend the whole double CD: Amazon.com | Amazon.de | Amazon.co.uk

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 3, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< BWV 188 Introduction
Mvt. 2: Tenor Aria -This is the most substantial movement and will I suspect be the highlight of the cantata for most people. >
What an enjoyable beginning. Also interesting for me is the balanced form found in the text of this aria, and with some parallels in poetic arrangement in Mvt. 4 and Mvt. 6. As a singer I often look at the text while listening--using the one from Emmanuel Music, observing pronunciation endings at the end of each phrase. In singing one must be careful not to drop the ending sounds, and where there are poetic parallels I find the patterns ease the learning process.

The tenor aria (Mvt. 2) is beautiful, as well as the bass recitative. In Mvt. 4 I love the use of the organ and the drama of the poetry.

I was surprised by the brevity of the soprano recitative (Mvt. 5).

Thanks, Francis, for the detailed descriptions of instrumentation you have provided.

Aryeh Oron wrote (May 3, 2008):
BWV 188 Provenance

Thomas Braatz contributed Provenance page for Cantata BWV 188.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV188-Ref.htm

Neil Halliday wrote (May 3, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
(quoting Whittaker, on the alto aria (Mvt. 4));
>The first part of the text is devoid of suggestions for musical treatment - 'Uner­forschlich ist die Weise, wie der Herr die Seine führt' (`Unfathomable is the way (in) which the Lord His own guides<
Whittaker misses a very obvious point here, made even clearer if "führt" is translated as "leads"; the opening organ motif (seven notes) serves as the basis of a little canon between organ and voice that is heard several times, first time when the alto first sings the two syllables of "führt" - the organ simultaneously begins the seven note motif, which the voice immediately adopts for the repeat of the text beginning with "unfathomable", so we have this "unfathomable leading (of God)" expressed musically in canonical form. It seems unusually appropriate to me. The setting of "Kreuz" and "Pein" with chromatic harmonies and "Preise" with a particularly lovely melisma also seems made to fit.

I sometimes wonder if Whittaker has ever heard a satifactory performance. Rilling's recording [1] with Hamari is a delight, not a hint of a "laboured" vocal line, and with a bright organ registration. Rilling omits the double bass from the continuo, a wise move since the organ bass is playing the same line as the continuo; the cello alone adds the right touch.

Who needs an explanation for the 3rd movement of the D minor concerto with organ obbligato as an overture? Sheer delight...

I've enjoyed the entire Rilling CD [1], with BWV 188, BWV 190, BWV 191 and BWV 192.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 3, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I have an mp3 recording of this Ouverture if anyone would like a copy, write to me off-list, or maybe the file could be placed in the Cantata website for easy access. >
The moderator was kind enough to create a Graupner webpage along with two audio samples: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/Graupner-Mus.htm

The two clips are from

1. The Ouverture to the 1726 birthday homage cantata for Landgraf Ernst Ludwig Hessen-Darmsadt "Bey Paucken und Trompeten Schall"

2. The chorale from one of Graupner's Leipzig audition cantatas in Janurary 1723, "Lobet den Herrn alle Heyden."

Many thanks to Aryeh ;)

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 3, 2008):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< The moderator was kind enough to create a Graupner webpage along with two audio samples: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/Graupner-Mus.htm >
Thanks so much for these clips. It is always instuctive for us to hear the music of Bach's contemporaries in performance rather relegated to bland comparisons in studies of Bach and Händel.

The full-blown two movement Overture is particularly interesting because Bach didn't use that convention, preferring to assimilate the French overture into the opening chorus. Such a grand overture does give us a context for Bach's concerto-movement sinfonias. The chorale is very sweet and elegant even if the orchestral rotornellos are a little repetitive.

Keep these clips coming!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 3, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The full-blown two movement Overture is particularly interesting because Bach didn't use that convention, preferring to assimilate the French overture into the opening chorus. Such a grand overture does give us a context for Bach's concerto-movement sinfonias. >
The ouverture is from a secular cantata, although there are instances where Graupner did use instrumental preludes in the sacred cantatas. The nature of the research in Graupner's sacred music is very limited, even at this rather late date (I use the phrase late meaning, his music has been known for quite some time and the manuscripts have been available for research for many many years). While his instrumental works have been catalogued (GWV system), the efforts at the vocal works has just recently started, and with 1500 cantatas, it's going to take quite some time.

I say all this to preface that Graupner could have indeed used a choral version of the ouverture form in his sacred cantatas, but so far I don't know. His cantatas seem to stress brevity, and I don't know why. It could have been the requirements for Darmstad, which was more affected by Pietism than Leipzig, or it could have been a practical matter, since Graupner wrote out all the parts himself: using long ritornellos and huge movements just simply more work for a man who was already at the breaking point with being overworked. Maybe the brevity was a stylistic feature for him?

< The chorale is very sweet and elegant even if the orchestral rotornellos are a little repetitive. >
Yes, that's Graupner's approach in handling chorales: he never touches the main melody EVER; and saves the real fireworks for the orchestral forces. Because of this and maybe because the Darmstadt court attended the services in the chapel would sing with the chorale, I suppose maybe the instrumental backdrops had to be consistent. While the sound clip I provided was written for St. Thomas Church in Leipzig in Jan of 1723, apparently Graupner's compositional style didn't change because of the circumstance.

< Keep these clips coming! >
Kevin Mallon is definitely interested in recording some Graupner CD(s) for Naxos and I'm hoping to convince him to do a recording of the St. Thomas audition cantatas of Telemann and Graupner.

Thanks ;)

Peter Smaill wrote (May 3, 2008):
BWV 188 Chorale (Mvt. 6)

Apart from the excellent notes on the provenance of this Cantata, the BCW also offers an interesting analysis of the Chorale, "Auf meinen lieben Gott", otherwise known as "Wo soll ich fliehen hin".

Two passing thoughts on this. The chorale was previously encountered in BWV 5, for the 19th Sunday in Trinity, 15 October 1724. This setting is for 21st Sunday in Trinity, but falls on almost exactly the same calendar date, 17 October (1728). Perhaps this is an isolated and coincidental example of recurrence following the calendar rather than the Church Year.

It is true that other settings such as is found in BWV 136 do not fall at this time. However, the similarity there is, as in BWV 188, Bach pitching the Chorale (Mvt. 6) very high in the treble register, in both cases giving a brilliance to the faith-asserting close. In BWV 188, the sopranos hit high G, in BWV 136 (one of Bach's most exquisite settings) an A. (Is that the highest treble note in any of Bach's chorale harmonisations, only elsewhere found in a semi quaver in the closing chorale to the SMP (BWV 244), "Herzlich lieb hab' ich dich..."?)

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2008):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>> One question though. Do other composers start adding overtures to their cantatas in this period? Is it a new fashion?<<
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
>No it wasn't new, it was quite the norm to have instrumental introductions called either "sinfonia" "concerto" or "sonata" to open up a cantata. Of Bach's peers (and friends), Graupner and Telemann used opening instrumental sonatas and sinfonias in their cantatas. Bach's sinfonias are definitely longer though, But there are some real beauties in the Telemann opus.<
See BWV 150 (Bachs <Opus 1, as it were>, according to JEGardiner notes), Mvt. 1 Sinfonia. Not long at all, at the outset of Bach's cantatas.

Although I have not yet had the time to access the posted clips, I agree with the principle of getting as many relevant music examples as possible available on BCW. Especially those putting Bach in the context of his peers (and friends), an important and easily overlooked idea.

Francis Browne wrote (May 7, 2008):
BWV 188 recordings and three questions

Since the earlier discussions of the BWV 188 in 2003, there has only been one new recording of this cantata -Ton Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and choir [5]. I'm sorry to say that I do not think this recording brings any fresh illumination to the cantata. The opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) seems lacklustre in comparison with Rilling [1] and the tenor aria (Mvt. 2) is taken at a skimble-skamble breakneck pace that makes it impossible for the music to achieve its effect. Other movements are somewhat better.

Of the earlier recordings that by Rilling [1] seems to be most successful. Neil Halliday has already made perceptive and judicious comments on this recording in the earlier discussion, and I have nothing original to add. There is much also to enjoy in the Harnoncourt recording [2]. -- there is not what sometimes seems a perversely original interpretation and soloists perform well.

As so often it was through the Leusink recording [3] and I first got to know this work. In listening to this cycle I always found something of a relief when the tenor part was taken by Nico van der Meel instead of Kurt Schoch, and here he gives a very enjoyable performance at a very uncharacteristically slow pace for Leusink. It is about three minutes longer than Koopman's [5] express train approach : it borders on the self-indulgent but I think that it is in keeping with the general spirit of the movement.

In my introduction I asked three questions about this cantata. The discussions as often have taken a different route so

I shall answer my questions - an occupational hazard for teachers.

On the connection between the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) and the cantata follows that I would agree with Douglas that it is probably misplaced ingenuity to try and suggest some link. It may be that the use of a Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) was determined by the particular circumstances of the production of a cantata -and such information is generally unrecoverable.It is surely sufficient simply to enjoy the music.

Simon Crouch's question about whether the tenor aria (Mvt. 2) is a masterpiece or a near miss is more difficult. After repeated listening I have come to enjoy this aria greatly but it simply does not seem to be in the same class as e.g. Es ist vollbracht from BWV 159 or Wo zwei und drei versammelt sind BWV 42 or Ich habe genung BWV 82. "Zuversicht" here at least , even with the contrasting middle section, is not a concept that leads Bach to plumb the depths or scale the heights. In a way Zuversicht can border on complacency and perhaps not even Bach could make sublime music out of complacency.

My last question was whether Robertson was right to regard the alto aria (Mvt. 4) as 'a faulty adaption of a previously existing movement'. Neil already expressed his disagreement with this view in the earlier discussion . Possibly it may again simply be my obtuseness but I can find no clear evidence of clumsy adaption. However, I have not found this aria as moving as such sensitive listeners as Jane Newble and Marie Jensen did in the previous dicussion,

This marks the mid point of my period of introductions.The regular contributors have of course made valuable contributions on the weekly cantatas and much else besides. But I find it disappointing not to hear more from the many hundreds who have joined the list since the last discussion. Since they subscribe to the list I presume many listen tor study the cantata chosen each week - if you do so, why not share your thoughts and reactions with others who share your delight in Bach?

Jean Laaninen wrote (May 8, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Of the earlier recordings that by Rilling [1] seems to be most successful. >
The Rilling recordings were my introduction to the Cantatas, and I spent a summer listening to a third of them as I checked them out from the ML on long playing records. I still find Rilling so satisfying--he seems to be such a master conductor. I also appreciate the efforts of the others greatly, but somehow Rilling did such a great job.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 8, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote
>In my introduction I asked three questions about this cantata. The discussions as often have taken a different route so I shall answer my questions - an occupational hazard for teachers.<
An occupational hazard for students, as well? There was some response re the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) (Question 1), and after all, it is only Wednesday. When is the exam?

>But I find it disappointing not to hear more from the many hundreds who have joined the list since the last discussion. Since they subscribe to the list I presume many listen to or study the cantata chosen each week - if you do so, why not share your thoughts and reactions with others who share your delight in Bach?<
I expect anyone who has taken the time to write a few introductions will share your sentiments. Although the current discussions may wander a bit (OK, a lot) the breadth of participation seems to me to be on the rise, as does the tone of civility.

I would guess that many of the subscribers are much more comfortable reading English than they are writing it. The best we can do is try to provide an encouraging word when someone new does make the effort, which is quite considerable, if you thnk about it.

I have been a little lax with comments on recordings, but not without consideration. The coverage has been quite thorough, I have been distracted by other commitments, and my opinions would be mostly in the nature of agreeing with other posted opinions. That is worth doing, I intend to add some current (and belated) thoughts. In particular, I share your enthusiasm for the Gardiner performance of BWV 149, and for the entire pilgrimage series of concert recordings.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 8, 2008):
Questions

Francis Browne wrote
< My last question was whether Robertson was right to regard the alto aria (Mvt. 4) as 'a faulty adaption of a previously existing movement'. Neil already expressed his disagreement with this view in the earlier discussion . Possibly it may again simply be my obtuseness but I can find no clear evidence of clumsy adaption. However, I have not found this aria as moving as such sensitive listeners as Jane Newble and Marie Jensen did in the previous dicussion,
This marks the mid point of my period of introductions.The regular contributors have of course made valuable contributions on the weekly cantatas and much else besides.But I find it disappointing not to hear more from the many hundreds who have joined the list since the last discussion. Since they subscribe to the list I presume many listen to or study the cantata chosen each week - if you do so, why not share your thoughts and reactions with others who share your delight in Bach? >
I have more or less stopped contributing to discussions in recent weeks although I still read what interests me of the contributions. The reason is that I find the discussions only seldom focus upon the weekly cantatas and I too find disappointing as my main purpose for belonging to a 'Bach Cantata List' is that I am interested principally in what people have to say about the substance and performances of these great works. Of the latter, Neil, Ed and a couple of others?have done a pretty sterling job in keeping us up to informed about recordings and their pluses and minuses but?substantive comments on the canatatas tend to fizzle out very quickly, sometimes into interesting allied topics but as often not (speaking personally).Take out the comments on performances of the last, say, 200 contributions I would guess (haven't bothered to count 'em) that fewer than 10% of contribution are actually directly related to the music and texts. I know that there have been a number of occasions over the last year when i have commented upon specific aspects of a ?work and noone has followed them up and one can infer from this that many of those who do contribute prefer a broad brush and not to get too involved in discussions of the actual works. As you say, though, what about the others?.

However on the matter of the alto aria (Mvt. 4) mentioned above I do take issue with some of the comments published by some of ?the professions--I reckon this aria to be the jewel of this work, a very powerful piece of musical rhetoric. But it raises a general issue which, I fear, probably eminates from Schweitzer's habit of suggesting, with absolutely no evidence, that an aria he doesn't like has been lifted from an earlier (inferior!) work. There are numerous examples but to take one, look at what he says about the tenor aria from BWV 38. He even suggests that the cantata is best performed without this movement and this is sheer nonsense as it is the central keystone movement with motivic links to other movements. But this sillyness seems to have caught on and i have come across a number of examples where commentators have made similar suggestions without offering any evidence other than a personal prejudice.

My question therefore is this--is anyone aware of the existence of this alto aria (Mvt. 4) in any other work?? I'd be interested to know if it pre-existed or whether this?is simply an unsubstantiated premise.

The other offensive thing about this habit is the underlying assumption that?the earlier works were inherently 'inferior' ( BWV 106??----- I don't think so!) or became so because Bach subsequently reset them badly. The evidence is overwhelmingly to the contrary. Bach seldom if ever created an 'inferior' piece through paraphrase or reworking. There are many example one could quote of his giving the material a wholly new and enlightening perspective.

Whilst getting the bit between my teeth, there is also the matter of the long sinfonias taken from earlier works (much more common in the third cycle for some unexplained reason). Of course it's a nonsense to try to find direct?links between them and the rest of the cantatas they served to open. It is not a nonsense, however, to speculate upon why Bach might have chosen that particular existing work for this particular cantata and i think we can often find relevant clues to this. Or put another way, why did he NOT use several available works? Of the Brandenburg movements he used very few----1 and 3 are exceptions. Might this lack of drawing upon some of these great movements indicate that he was quite choosy about his choices of sinfonias and had clear criteria for selecting the most appropriate sinfonia for a recently composed cantata. As with so much about Bach we can't be certain, but that does not mean that the available clues should be disregarded.

Finally Francis, I did about a dozen and a half intros last year and it was interesting to note the differences in responses--some attracted discussion others none at all. Maybe it's partly to do with whether people already know them or not--maybe they are just busy with other things that particular week. That's the way it goes I'm afraid---however I do support your plea for more comment on the substance works themselves. It doesn't always have to be technical. Some quite interesting and enthusiastic comments have come from music lovers who have heard the weekly cantata for the first time (I wish?I could go back to hearing some of?them for the first time myself!)

Well, back to lurking mode.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 9, 2008):
JuliaMincham wrote:
>My question therefore is this--is anyone aware of the existence of this alto aria (Mvt. 4) in any other work? I'd be interested to know if it pre-existed or whether this is simply an unsubstantiated premise.<
Hi Julian, the OCC makes no mention of pre-existing music in relation to the alto aria (Mvt. 4), nor do they comment on any perceived faulty textual adaptation, so I presume there is no real evidence for the premise/opinion held by Whittaker and Robertson in this case. It would certainly be an interesting discovery if such pre-existing music was identified.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 9, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] No I could never discover a source either?and I think this is simply part of the pernicious and ignorant? tradition of subscribing movements which the writer does not like or understand to mythical 'inferior' earlier compositions.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 10, 2008):
Francis Browne wrote:
>There is much also to enjoy in the Harnoncourt recording [2]. -- there is not what sometimes seems a perversely original interpretation and soloists perform well.<
Yes, in fact if I can go by the samples I would probably choose Harnoncourt [2] in the first and second movements, and Rilling [1] for the remainder. I perceive a certain 'mechanical' articulation in places in Rilling's sinfonia (Mvt. 1), and while Kraus is more than satisfactory, I like the gentler more flowing approach of Harnoncourt/Equiluz [2] in the tenor aria (Mvt. 2). (Aryeh characterised this contrast as "extrovert (Rilling [1]) and introvert (Harnoncourt [2]).

Rilling's [1] 'larger scale' alto aria (Mvt. 4), with Hamari's magnificent voice, is a clear leader, and his expression in the accompanied recitative is more moving than the others. I enjoyed Leusink's [3] tenor aria (Mvt. 2), and Koopman [5] has a fine alto voice.

[The usual tiny portativ organs, especially in Harnoncourt [2], Leusink [3] and Koopman [5], are not necessarily the ideal for this music, IMO.]

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 10, 2008):
Questions (BWV 188)

Julian Mincham wrote:
>No I could never discover a source either and I think this is simply part of the pernicious and ignorant tradition of subscribing movements which the writer does not like or understand to mythical 'inferior' earlier compositions.<
There are analogies among BWV 188, BWV 146, and BWV 169. It would be structurally satisfying if the aria in BWV 188 were also derived from some earlier work, along with the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1). Perhaps Bach was reusing materials with some special emotional, or musical (or both) content?

What if this were true, but Whittaker did not think of it, and he was simply having a bad moment (pernicious and ignorant is a bit severe?) with respect to the BWV 188 aria?

Note that Francis has compared Robertsons citation (only the negative comments by Whittaker), with the entire commentary by Whittaker, which is much more balanced. Worth reviewing.

I think these three works would make a nice set for comparitive listening and analysis, at some point.

Good to see that Julian has been enticed to write!

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 10, 2008):
Of the two recordings I have, Leusink [3] omits the Mvt. 1 Sinfonia, and Harnoncourt [2] uses BWV 1052, Mvt. 1 (the same as Bach used for BWV 146), rather than Mvt. 3, as indicated by the BWV and as used by Rilling [1] (see Neil Halliday comments from 2003). Can anyone report on Koopman [5], just so we have a complete record.

Question 2. I did not yet take the time to read the Simon Crouch comments, but I do not think I would call the tenor aria, Mvt. 2, a near miss, or a miss of any kind. I find the invention, the motto, reminiscent of the SMP final chorus (BWV 244/68), with the same rhythm, and a 3-2-3-4-3-2-1 (major) sequence, as opposed to 3-4-5-4-3-2-1 (minor) for SMP (BWV 244). Hope I got that right, corrections from musicians welcome. This gives it a comfortable, familiar feel (Zuversicht?), but nicely contrasted by the middle section, as Francis noted.

If we consider the possibility that in works such as BWV 146, BWV 169, and BWV 188, Bach was reusing some favorite materials, perhaps we are getting close to Willliam Hoffmans idea of <the contented composer>? Can peace be sublime? Why not? We should give it a try some time.

Thanks to Francis for the questions, and also for the nudge to respond. Hope I am timely for full credit.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 10, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> Of the two recordings I have, Leusink [3] omits the Mvt. 1 Sinfonia, and Harnoncourt [2] uses BWV 1052, Mvt. 1 (the same as Bach used for BWV 146), rather than Mvt. 3, as indicated by the BWV and as used by Rilling [1] (see Neil Halliday comments from 2003). Can anyone report on Koopman [5], just so we have a complete record.<
Does your Harnoncourt [2] really have the 1st movement of the D minor concerto as the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) of BWV 188? Listening to the samples, I hear the 3rd movement for Rilling [1], Harnoncourt [2], and Koopman [5].

> I find the invention, the motto, reminiscent of the SMP final chorus (BWV 244/68), with the same rhythm, and a 3-2-3-4-3-2-1 (major) sequence, as opposed to 3-4-5-4-3-2-1 (minor) for SMP (BWV 244).<
Interesting observation. I also appreciated Francis Browne's comment drawing our attention to the 'phrasing' of the ritornello, ie, two bars + two bars + three bars, repeated in the second half of the ritornello. It's one of those ritornellos with a melody that I like to learn by heart.

 

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

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