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Cantata BWV 196
Der Herr denket an uns
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 30, 2005 (2nd round)

Neil Halliday wrote (January 29, 2005):
BWV 196: Introduction

The cantata for discussion during the coming week:

BWV 196 "Der Herr denket an uns".

Event: (presumed)wedding.

Date of composition: unknown, thought to be 1708.

From the Suzuki booklet: "The surviving full score, from which the modern editions are derived, is written in the hand of J.L.Dietel, a student of Bach's in Leipzig, and dates from 1731- or 1732".

1. Text, commentary, music examples, and list of known recordings:

2. Messages from first round of cantata discussions (1999-2003):

Many interesting impressions from contributors here, including an account by Aryeh Oron, of his 1999 visit to the church in which Bach married Maria Barbara in 1707).


This short (around 12 mins.) relatively simple, yet tuneful cantata appears to have only one non-HIP recording, that of Rilling, which was recorded in 1976, before he adopted the often brisker tempi and lighter articulation of his later semi-HIP style. Tempi of the subsequent recordings increased thereafter, with Junghänel [7] setting the record in 2000. Interestingly, in that same year, Fasolis [8] has adopted the slowest of all the recordings (13.30). (I have not heard this recording).

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

Neil Halliday wrote (January 29, 2005):
A note on the BGA score of BWV 196

If you think the opening Sinfonia of this cantata sounds surprisingly rich in the upper range of the cello, you are correct: The BGA score shows a separate cello line, that is often different to the continuo line (which is marked 'organo e continuo'), with the cello having the dotted rhytmn figure that permeates the upper string parts. So now we have divided cellos! Or separate cello and double bass parts!

A further anomoly occurs with the designation of this (previously marked cello) line in the following movements, in that it is marked 'continuo' rather than 'cello' as in the Sinfonia, while the bottom line, which was marked 'continuo' in the Sinfonia, is now designated only 'organo'.

Rilling [1] ignores this (I have not checked the other recordings yet), as can be clearly heard at the the beginning of the fugue in the second movement (sopranos: "Er segnet das Haus Israel"); he realizes the bottom clef with continuo bass strings, not organ as marked. (The line marked continuo in the score - this line is immediately above the vocal clefs - is not notated at this point.

The result of Dietel's full score copy of Bach's lost original?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 29, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>The result of Dietel's full score copy of Bach's lost original?<<
The anomalies go back to Dietel's copy, but were further complicated by tensions between the BGA editor, Wilhelm Rust and Franz Hauser who had another important copy (not Dietel's) in his possession and did not want to share it with the BGA (this is something like the fiasco with the Mass in B minor, which was supposed to have been the first work by Bach to be published by the BGA, but Nägeli in Switzerland did not want to share the copy - as a result, what was to be the first work published by the BGA as no. 1 and could later have been BWV 1, had to be published later and became BWV 232 as the BWV system was essentially based upon the BGA numbering system.) Wilhelm Rust, who edited and published this cantata BWV 196 in 1864 as vol. 13, was unable to compare the Dietel version with Hauser's copy. As it turned out, the latter is not simply a copy of the Dietel score, but must have been copied from another source; hence it gives important information that was not available to Rust, but was taken into consideration by the NBA almost a century later.

With Aryeh's help, the beginning of each mvt. according to the NBA is available for inspection so as to try to understand the orchestration involved in each.

Note that the italicized words (sometimes enclosed in parentheses) are not original. They were put their by the editors of the NBA as the best possible guess in each case.

Also, as requested, since there is no printed version of this piece easily available at the present time, the NBA printed version of BWV 991 from the Anna Magdalena Notebook (1722) has been placed on the BCW (for study purposes only!):

Thanks for your kind assistance, Aryeh!

Neil Halliday wrote (January 30, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"With Aryeh's help, the beginning of each mvt. according to the NBA is available for inspection so as to try to understand the orchestration involved in each">.
Thanks, Thomas, for this clarification of the matter.

It's interesting to notice that Junghänel [7] goes with the BGA score; so that at the start of the fugue in the second movement, he has only the organ accompanying the sopranos. Some bars pass before the bass strings (cello and violone - in the line marked 'continuo' in the BGA score) make their impressive entry with the fugue subject.

Rilling [1] (with harpsichord, rather than organ) and Suzuki [5] give the NBA reading, with the violone making its entry at the start of the fugue.

BTW, the Junghänel performance [7] is very enjoyable, even if the sensation seems somewhat schizophrenic for me, because the manner in which he belts out a brisk 8-to-a-bar rhythm (especially in the bass strings)in the choruses reminds of the days of my miss-spent youth, grooving along to trad-jazz bands down at the local.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 30, 2005):
Cantata 196 & Wedding liturgy?

We just went through a discussion of funeral customs with Cantata BWV 106. I'm curious now how a wedding cantata like BWV 196 fit into a Lutheran wedding. What kind of bethrothal and wedding vows were exchanged? Was there a sermon with a prefatory cantata? Was the cantata performed before or after the wedding vows? Did the bride and groom sit together or apart to listen? What scriptural readings were read? Wolff has nothing about the liturgical context and I can't imagine Bach's cantata as "cover" music for the "signing of the register"!

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] From NBA I/33 KB pp. 7ff. mainly in regard to the wedding ceremonies in Leipzig during Bach's tenure:

There are three 4-pt. chorale settings which Bach used as follows:

Before the wedding ceremony "Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan" BWV 250

After the wedding ceremony (after the couple has been pronounced man and wife): "Sei Lob und Ehr dem höchsten Gut" BWV 251

After the blessing has been spoken: "Nun danket alle Gott" BWV 252

Schweitzer speculated that BWV 97 and BWV 100 were used for wedding ceremonies. Schering added to this list BWV 9, BWV 93, BWV 99 (or BWV 100?) and BWV 111. All these conjectures, still not supported by proof, seem nevertheless to be reasonable assumptions.

The 'Agenda' which is the prescribed sequence (order of service) that needed to be followed by pastors during Bach's time in Leipzig also included the appropriate chorales, Latin hymns, collects, prayers, blessings, etc. [It is important to note that both German and Latin hymnsare used as part of the ceremony.]

The pastor has to announce to the congregation 3 times on subsequent Sundays the names of the couples and whether it is the 1st, 2nd or 3rd time that the
announcement is given. The pastor asks: Is there anyone who has any objection to these couples being united in marriage, let them speak up in time or remain forever silent after the marriage. The Lord give them His blessing for Christ's sake. Amen.

These announcements were made from the lectern immediately after the sermon. The 'tempus clausum' prevented these Sunday announcements from being made during Lent or Advent (except on the 1st Sunday in Advent.) In the case of the important feast days (Christmas, Easter, Pentecost), the announcements could be made only on the day following the primary holiday.

Bride and Bridegroom appear in church for the wedding (there were also home weddings possible which follow the same order of service as given here):

The moment the couple enters the church, the wedding music (a chorale or 1st part of a cantata) begins. Bach has written "Vor der Trauung" ["before the wedding"] over the 1st part of a wedding cantata to be performed at this time.

Pastor: Since you have been promised to each other and have had your names announced in public and now desire to be married, I ask you:
(facing the bridegroom:) [his name is spoken] do you wish to take [her name is spoken] as your properly wedded wife, then announce this confession before this assembled Christian congregation and say 'yes.'
[Bridegroom:] 'Yes.'
The same is repeated with the bride.

The exchange of rings takes place

Pastor: Whatever God has brought together, let no man break asunder, for these two Christian individuals desire to enter the married state and confess this openly here before God and the world. And now that they have exchanged rings with each other, I now, as a designated servant of the church, pronounce them before this Christian congregation to be married in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It is possible that the singing of Psalm 127 or 128 and the reading of John 2:1-11 and the congregation singing "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" took place at this time.

The pastor now walks toward the altar, followed by the bride and bridegroom. It is at this time that the 2nd half of a wedding cantata would be performed, either as the couple walks toward the altar or when they arrive there. Bach designates this part of the wedding cantata as "Nach der Trauung" ['after the wedding'] or 'Post Copulationem.'

Pastor: Since you have now entered into the sacred marital bond in the name of God and so that you will begin your marriage properly in His name (not without understanding God's word the way non-believers do,) so you should now hear first of all from the Holy Bible, how holy matrimony has been instituted by God:

For it is written: Genesis 2: 21-24
Also, listen to God's command regarding marriage and how you should act toward each other.
Paul spoke as follows: Ephesians 5:25-29, 22-24
Listen also how the cross which has been placed on the marital condition by the fall by God was placed there with good purpose for the sake of your sins.
God spoke to the wife as follows: Genesis 3:16
And to the husband God said: Genesis 3:17-19
It is for your comfort that you should know and believe how God looks favorably upon your marital state and blesses it. For it is written: Genesis
1:27-28, 31
David also speaks about this: Psalm 128
And Solomon says: Proverbs 18:22

Bride and Bridegroom now kneel.

Let as pray for this new Christian married couple, for the marital condition generally as well as profess before the entire Christian church: Our Father..

Let us also pray: Dear Lord, you have created man and woman and have provided for marriage with the fruits of the body and the sacrament of your dear Son, Jesus Christ and have designated him as the Bride of God's churches, we ask for your endless kindness that you will not allow your creatures to change or spoil your order and blessing, but rather kindly spare us through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.

The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord let his face shine over you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift his countenance over you and give you peace.

At this point the 'Tedeum' is sung

Now follows the prayer for all Christianity:

Almighty and eternal God, you sanctify and rule over all Christianity with your Holy Spirit, hear our request and kindly grant us that the church with all of its members should serve you through your grace, through Jesus Christ, Your dear Son, our Lord. Amen.

A general blessing is given.

[This might be the place where BWV 252 "Nun danket alle Gott" is sung or does this take the place of the Tedeum?]

Bach had two types of wedding services: 1) 'gantze Brautmeße' ['complete weddings'] and 2) 'halbe Brautmeße' ['half weddings'] in which case no cantata would be performed, but rather chorales such as BWV 250-252. There was also a difference between these two types regarding the employment of 'Stadtpfeifer' [waits] vs. 'Kunstgeiger' ['freelance? violinists']

There is also evidence of a 'tragbares Trauungspositiv' ['a mobile positiv for weddings only with "1 Prinzipal von 2 Fuß' - a single 2' stop.']

It is estimated that Bach had composed c. 60 wedding cantatas.

The English translation of the wedding ceremony given above was put together 'on the fly.' If anyone, particularly pastors, would like to improve the English, please feel free to do so.

Doug Cowling wrote (January 30, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Bach designates this part of the wedding cantata as "Nach der Trauung" ['after the wedding'] or 'Post Copulationem.' >
Sounds pretty racy to me!

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] Bach uses this designation at the top of BWV 34a/5; BWV 120a/4 and BWV 197/6.

BWV 120a/4 also has Bach's title: 'Secunda Parte' which clearly shows how cantatas were split into two parts and inserted into the service as already described.

Imagine hearing BWV 195 at a wedding! It is scored for 3 trombae and timpani, 2 flauti traversi, 2 oboi, strings + bc including violoncello, violone and and essentially an 8-pt. choir (not just simply concertisten and ripienisten although many of the choir sections seem to be treated this way.)

Doug Cowling wrote (January 30, 2005):
[To Thomas Braatz] It also speaks volumes about the stratification of the society in which Bach worked. I'm sure the scullery maids in the burgers' houses could only afford a "half wedding" at home, and not the spectacle of a full wedding at church with Bach himself conducting an original cantata with festival orchestra.

It would interesting to know if any of the early wedding cantatas might have been sung at one of Bach's own weddings. I can't imagine him having a "half-wedding" at home with all those music-making relatives.

Stephen Benson wrote (January 31, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< BTW, the Junghänel performance [7] is very enjoyable, even if the sensation seems somewhat schizophrenic for me, because the manner in which he belts out a brisk 8-to-a-bar rhythm (especially in the bass strings)in the choruses reminds of the days of my miss-spent youth, grooving along to trad-jazz bands down at the local. >
Perhaps this is part of the source of the rustic, earthy enthusiasm that I find in Junghänel's reading [7], and that I find to be so appropriate and attractive in this cantata.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 1, 2005):
BWV 196: Rilling [1]

The opening Sinfonia is an example of a movement that features a dotted rhythm motive, but yet is not of the French overture type.The frequent alternation of this motive on the first violins and violas on the one hand, with the second violins and cellos on the other hand, is an interesting aspect of the movement's structure. Rilling's recording, with the large modern string orchestra, vividly captures trich string counterpoint with its separate double bass part.

The second movement (chorus) 'survives' Rilling's 1975 large-scale approach spendidly, and features a clear presentation of the choral and instrumental lines of the fugue.

Soprano Doris Soffel brings a pleasantly controlled vibrato to her tuneful aria.

The strong vibratos of the tenor and bass, in conjunction with the large orchestra, perhaps sound overly 'operatic' in the duet; enjoyable nevertheless.

The final chorus is unusual in that most of its length is taken up with an extended 'Amen". I suppose this may have been designed as accompaniment for the exit of the newly-wed couple from the church; in any case, Rilling creates a splendid effect.

John Pike wrote (February 4, 2005):
Another early work, this time a wedding cantata from 1707-8, much praised by Spitta. I listened to Harnoncourt [2] and Rilling [1].

Both were enjoyable but I had some doubts about the intonation at times in the Harnoncourt.

I felt there were some similarities between a figure in the soprano aria, and the duet from BWV 78. Probably coincidence.

No time for more.

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 7, 2005):
Re-visiting Dornheim and Cantata BWV 196

Dornheim, a dear place to all Bach lovers, which no one misses when visiting Arnstadt, is forever connected in my mind with Cantata BWV 196.

About five years ago I described my impressions of the first visit to Dornheim. You can read them at the page: . This second time it was our one before last station in a day which started in Erfurt, continued in Arnstadt and passed through Dornheim in our way back to Leipzig, to take some rest from an exhaustive tour and to hear few more concerts in the yearly Bach Festival. Unlike the first time, it was a cloudy day. I did not have to use the map, since I remembered the way to Dornheim from my previous tour. The church stood at the same place, intact, exactly as I remembered it, but unlike the first time, it was closed. If prior to the second visit I had imagined myself standing in the small church, hearing in my mind cantata BWV 196, the experience could not be repeated. Maybe it was for the better, because the second time of any experience can never equal the first. You are different. The time is different. Nevertheless, the memories from my first visit to Dornheim are still engraved strongly in my mind. I remembered that almost all the photos of Dornheim show the church from the front. I wanted to see how it looked from the other side. The gate to the graveyard was opened. I entered, took some photos, and stayed a little while to feel the atmosphere and to enjoy this lovely and charming place. It was peaceful and quite, very quite. It seemed that the time stood still. Only occasionally, a noise of a passing car from afar broke the illusion. See:

Cantata BWV 196, is a chamber work with light instrumentation (strings and organ continuo), and it seems to be ideally suited to OVPP performance. Since my previous review of the recordings of this cantata, three new recordings have been released. Two of them are indeed OVPP: Cantus Cölln under the direction of Konrad Junghänel [7] and Purcell Quartet [9]. The 2nd is released only this month, and I have not had the opportunity of listening to it. The praises of the Cantus Cölln's album have been sung many times in the BCML and elsewhere, but IMO their rendition of Cantata BWV 196 is the least successful in their otherwise exemplary album. I believe that the best results in OVPP performance are achieved with chamber vocal ensemble, whose members use to sing together for a long time, and know how to blend their voices to get the optimal balance. Cantus Cölln is indeed such an ensemble. The main problem with their performance is the break-neck tempo. Their rendition is the fastest on record and does not do justice to the work. If this is indeed a wedding cantata, the opening sinfonia for example, which is the introduction, or invitation to the ceremony, should be done slowly and peacefully, but with a tinge of dance rhythm. Cantus Cölln are telling you 'Hurry up! Don't linger! We are about to begin!"

In my previous review I thought very highly of Leusink's recording [6]. I still do, and Ruth Holton has the ideal voice for the soprano part: innocent, young and fresh. But since then, a better recording has appeared and this is Fasolis [8]. Antonella Balducci is no less successful than Holton. Her singing is more varied and the joy motif in the aria for soprano is more prominent. Charles Daniels (BTW, he sings also with the Purcell Quartet) and Furio Zanasi are more to my taste than Johan van der Meel and Bas Ramselaar. But two major factors make the difference. Firstly, the choice of tempi. Fasolis is the slowest on record, but under his hands these seems to be the ideal tempi for each movement of the cantata. He causes most of the other renditions to sound somewhat rush (excluding Rilling, but Rilling's approach [1] with thick strings, MVPP choir and heavy rhythms does not suit the cantata at all). The second factor is the playing and conducting. Fasolis has a special ability of keeping the tension even in the slowest tempi, and the quality of his instrumentalists and beauty of their playing leave nothing to be desired. The exuberant joy in the concluding chorus is unequalled by any other ensemble (OVPP or not). In short, Fasolis is my first choice in this too short cantata. One additional word. As many other early Bach cantatas, BWV 196 should be heard continuously in one sitting. Anyway, it comes to an end too soon.


Continue from Part 3

Cantata BWV 196: Der Herr denkt an uns for Wedding ? (1707-1708)
Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | 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
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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