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Cantata BWV 198
Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl
Discussions - Part 1

Gardiner

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 4, 1998):
Hi to the list and especially to J.E.Gardiner's foes and fans.

I'd like to add a point, but first - a warning: I cannot read music, cannot play, cannot sing, and my musical ear is very limited. My contributions must therefore be limited strictly to personal emotional reaction to music, so, please - I can take some stone-throwing, but kindly refrain from actual crucification...

I find many Gardiner's recordings outstanding, while others are only so-so, and I think this is only natural.

Let me bring to the discussion his recording of BWV 198 - Trauerode [10]. I was first introduced to this piece thru Herreweghe's recording [8] and was immeditely taken by it. I later listened to Rilling [7], Thomas (American Bach Soloists) [11], and Koopman [12] with mixed feelings. Only then I came across Gardiner's version [10], and, frankly, I was stunned and overwhelmed by the experience. Checking recommendations at The Bach Page I noticed critics taking exception to Gardiners quick tempo ("racing"). My own thoughts, trying to "explain" to myself the "reasons" for my enjoying this version, were different: True, this is indeed funeral music, but does that mean "slower is sadder"? When one checks into the text it becomes obvious that the mourners are summing up the ecceptional life of an examplary personality, drawing solace and guidance from her story. There is a strong underlying optimism: "No, Queen, you do not die" in the final chorus (Mvt. 10). For me Gardiner's interpretation captures the true emotions of the moment, while most other performers deliver only a textbook "slow-is-sad" renditions which miss the point. My "ranking":

[10] Gardiner - just 30 minutes for the whole cantata : Captivating.
[8] Herreweghe - about 34 mins.: Beautifull choir sound, but doesnt really rise to the occasion.
[12] Koopman (whom I generally like and devotionally collect): over 38 minutes!!... I fell asleep.

Would anyone react with his/her reaction and point of view?

I will be delighted to have your suggestions as for other recommended recordings of this beautifull cantata!

Mark Dennison wrote (March 4, 1998):
[To Ehud Shiloni] Like Ehud Shiloni who drew our attention to the beauty of the Funeral Cantata, BWV 198, I don't read music or play. So the same provisos apply. I'm just a self-confessed Bach fan(atic). I also love the Funeral Cantata and have a couple of recordings - one by Rifkin and the Bach Ensemble (I'm a particular fan of his recordings) and one on LP by a small ensemble on Harmonia Mundi (coupled with Telemann's Funeral Cantata) whose name escapes me at the moment as I haven't played it for years. I like the small scale approach to Bach - one voice to a part - and having heard Rifkin in concert remained convinced. Is anyone else a supporter of this approach...?

 

Rifkin and alternative versions of BWV 131

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 9, 1998):
No need to apologize for the "phantom" BWV 198. I guess we'll have to wait for Rifkin to hopefully re-embark on cantata recording action (I read an interview in which he said he abandoned the field because he couldnt make any money there! ). (Snip)

P.S.To Bob Halliday:
Thanks for your BWV 198 recommendation of Teldec/Jürgens [4]. I shall most definitely try to get hold of this one: Although based on your comment I assume it will not prove to be my best choice, still, this music is so beautifull and touching that even the least preferred version must be a joy.

Any other recommendations from the list??

Mark Dennison wrote (March 9, 1998):
(To Ehud Shiloni) Thanks Ehud Shiloni for bringing BWV 198 to my attention. It's not a work that I know but I intend to visit my local store and seek out some versions to investigate as soon as possible. I will try and listen to Gardiner's recording [10]. <Snip>

 

BWV 198

Ehud Shiloni wrote (March 15, 1998):
(To Mark Dennison) Glad to see you picked-up beautiful BWV 198. I do suspect, however, that you are not going to endorse my preference for Gardiner's version [10] once you have a chance to hear it: If you preferred Koopman's [12] very slow tempi, than we probably have different tastes...

In any event: what do you think about Bach's choice of a definite dance-like tune for the concluding chorus? I felt it indicates a "built-in" hint about a rather lively performance tempo, but, again, this is strictly my personal feeling about it - nothing more...

Mark Dennison wrote (March 17, 1998):
(To Ehud Shiloni) I cannot compare Koopman [12] with Gardiner [10], as I haven't heard the latter. What's more, I haven't got a copy of the score and so can't make any serious comment on what the tempo might be. My comments relate to the brief comments in the booklet provided with Volume 4 of the Cantatas by Koopman and my own experience of the music. To my mind the speed adopted by Koopman is well judged: the work is a funeral ode for a queen - the booklet says Bach was commissioned to write a "solemn funeral music" - and was performed in a highly formal setting. Bach referred to the work using the French word, tombeau that reflects the subtle use of lute and viola da gamba, producing a restrained, elegant and solemn piece. To my mind, the restrained quality of the final chorus (Mvt. 10), notwithstanding the dance-like tune, underscores the general quality of restraint and delicacy of scoring throughout. But I am now intrigued to hear alternative versions! I read with interest the posting on baroque tempi. I would be interested in any comments on the final chorus (Mvt. 10) of BWV 198 from those more qualified. Thanks again, Ehud, for bringing the cantata to my attention.

Marc Seiler wrote (March 18, 1998):
Mark Dennison wrote:
< Thanks for your comments, Marc, on BWV 198 they are assisting me to understand something about this cantata. Was the expectation that funeral odes in Lutheran churches would be delivered in Latin? I'm also curious why the form is described as Italian when Bach referred to his work as a tombeau (i.e. French). Is it the case that the form of the cantata is Italian while the instrumentation and style of this funeral ode is French? Also, why was Görner offended by the demand made on Bach to compose the work? >
To give some music for a death is current in the time of bach in Lutheran Church in Leipzig for important persons but the kind of music and the form of the BWV 198 is perhaps unique. Perhaps another example is BWV 244a "klagt, kinder, klagt es aller welt", for the death of Leopold d'Anhalt-Köthen played in 1729, for these, whose we haven't found the partiture, we know that he has taken some part (aria of the Matthew's passion) it must be also "a funeral ode", with an implicit reference at the personality of the dead. Because the habitude in Lutheran church was to sing a theological motet in the office, (you know the eight motets of Bach), they are all for funeral services, but speak only about the theological perspective. The BWV 198, turn over the personality of the princess. But she was a Lutheran princess in a very catholic country, Sachsen. Probably this fact is determinant because many people of Sachsen were coming for this service in Leipzig.

Görner was music director in the St Paul church where the service for the princess took place. Logically, Hans Karl von Kirchbach, who commanded this funeral ode, might ask to örner. On 9 October 1727 he wrote to the university a very interesting letter where he speak about the prejudice for his reputation of the fact that is Bach who make the music. But Kirchbach knew very well why he asked to Bach.

 

One possibility to treat the last choir of the 198

Marc Seiler wrote (March 17, 1998):
Mark Denison ask for the interpretation of the last chor of the BWV 198.

I propose a possibility who come from the Bach treatemnt of the Recitativ -arioso who preced. In this recitative-arioso, the first part (recitative) say the hope for the new cloths of the princess in her eternity "the pearl-white robe".

The arioso begin when the text describ all the parts of the territory of the princess Eberhardine who cry her dead, and this arioso stay over the words "Erhebt dich Stadt und Land" "Town and Country with thy praise do glow" and curiously here the recitative come again for the two last parts " The Torgau and the Pretzsch and without a new arioso begin the last chor.

The arioso visibely is the "plainte" of the first towns, also perhaps is the last chor a big arioso for chor who give the unity of the distress of all.

So, the rythmus cannot be too quick, it's the last pray of all the people of Sachsen for their princess. We must know three things about this cantate BWV 198:

1 - It's a private command of a noble student von Kirchbach
2 - It was playing in St Paul in Leipzig, where the musiker was Görner, who is offensed by this demand made to Bach.
3 - It's very curious in a lutherian church to have a funeral ode in german speaking.

These three reasons can explain the pleasure and the surprising form of this cantata, his "italian" form.

 

Cantata BWV 198

Akira Tokuhisa wrote (June 21, 1998):
[9] The Cantata BWV 198 was composed for the funeral of the queen of Sachsen who was deeply adored by the people there. It was performed in Leipzig on a late autumn day. This work is full of sorrowful arias and dignified choruses. Among the performers, I highly appreciate the Knabenchor Hannover, one of the most famous boys' choirs in Germany, which made a great contribution to Teldec's Das Kantatenwerk. How naturally they can express the pure and deep grief of this work. "An dir, du Fürbild großer Frauen" of the track 7 is breathtakingly beautiful. The ending of a word sung by the choir is exceptionally weightless and gently pervades the air (listen to the ending of the words "Ihr Dichter, schreibt" in the track 10 "Doch Königin! Du stirbest nicht"). Undoubtedly the Knabenchor Hannover is the best choir to sing this kind of music. Unfortunately we have to buy a set of 6-CD's to get the recording of BWV 198. I request Teldec Co. to issue it in one CD so that we can buy one easily.

 

Gardiner cantatas

Benjamin Mullins wrote (February 28, 1999)::
For those of you who have heard it, what is your opinion of Gardiner's recording of cantatas BWV 106, BWV 118b, & BWV 198? And is there any more news of his year 2000 cantatas project?

Andrea Klassen wrote (March 5, 1999):
I know this thread has come and gone but here's my two cents (canadian funds). I'm responding because I can't believe all the negative postings about this recording.

< Benjamin Mullins wrote: For those of you who have heard it, what is your opinion of Gardiner's recording of cantatas BWV 106, BWV 118b, & BWV 198? And is there any more news of his year 2000 cantatas project? >
This is the fist Bach recording I ever purchased and it remains one of my favourites. I think the recording is extremely dramatic (especially the ending of the soprano solo in 106) and Gardiner's interpretation of Bach's symbolism can be heard. My only quam with this CD is that the altos sing a significant phrase of their cantus firmus melody very out of tune on the low side (Wie Gott DIR verheissen hat). Gardiner captures the depth of BWV 106. (Snip)

BWV 198 is vibrant to my ears. Bach's funeral music is always so joyous (a true Lutheran) and I think Gardiner captures the spirit of the music and text. <Snip>

 

BWV 106 + BWV 198

Adam N. LaSpata wrote (October 14, 1999):
Can anyone recommend a recording of the Actus Tragicus and Trauer Ode? What are some opinions on the JEG recording [10]? Thanks.

Donald Satz wrote (October 14, 1999):
Adam asked for recommendations for recordings of BWV 106 and BWV 198. The only recording I'm aware of that has both these cantatas is the Gardiner on Archiv [10]. That's a fine recording, but I do have reservations about Nancy Argenta.

Concerning BWV 198, Herreweghe on Harmonia Mundi [8] is the one to go for as I consider Herreweghe the leading conductor for Bach cantatas. But, the Koopman [12] and the Parrott on Sony [13] are very good as well.

Jacco Vink wrote (October 14, 1999):
In general, I find Gardiner's Bach [10] a bit too extreme. He has an excellent choir that sings perfectly, even with a fast tempo, but usually his tempi are too fast for my taste. It seems sometimes that he is showing off. So for the Trauer Ode I would go for Herreweghe [8].

Ehud Shiloni wrote (October 14, 1999):
If you search the Archives you'll find lots stuff about these two. My own "rating":

198
1. JEG (Torrid pace. Not to everyone's liking) [10].
2. Jürgens [4]
3. Herreweghe [8]
Others: Koopman [12] - A bit too slow. Parrot [13] - Lethargic.

Ambroz Bajec-Lapajne wrote (October 17, 1999):
Firstly I have to explain and warn that I have no intentions and it would be utterly improper to start another 'tempi-discussion' so I will really shortly explain what I meant with my previous post.

< I don't see your point. These are religious works and should be performed and listened to as such. From which perspective should we listen to it today, whether you are religious or not? Why should it be faster from "today's perspective of death"? Please elaborate. >
The conception of death in the Bach times (as indeed before and later) was a different one that we have nowadays. Today death is perceived as something that people fear and a death experience is for those close to the deceased something extremely sad. In those days death was a salvation from this (unperfect, sinful) world and the beginning of an eternal life in heaven - under a condition of course that you reached it. I do not mean people died gladly, or that they didn't mourn over the deceased. This is what I meant by the saying that since Bach was a very religious person he felt this perhaps even stronger than others (bearing in mind that he was an artist too) did. His funeral music is therefore written in somewhat different motion as we are used today. And if we consider this hypothesis of mine, perhaps we see that the funeral music needs not to be as dark and sad in order to translate it to the cultural language of today. Listen to Purcell Funeral sentences and you will notice the very similar feeling. I hope I haven't been too philosophical, and I might add that I have not been raised in any religion and am an agnostic.

< As has been mentioned on this list quite a while back : Gardiner makes Argenta sound like an angel. She shouldn't be one in BWV 106. Gardiner has his Reformation theology up side down in this one and therefore, IMO, it is a bad performance, no matter the tempi and regardless of how beautiful it sounds. >
I'm not saying that she sings as an angel - for me she is the desperate cry (in the night, if you will) for God.

< If you mean to say itshould NOT be performed from Bach's perspective, why should Gardiner bother with HIP? >
Quite 'au contraire' my friend - his interpretation absolutely fits my hypothesis on Bach perception of death.

< Others do/have done a lot of research also and come up with different tempi. Why should he be the only one who's right? >
My, my, you are a militant chap. I never claimed his is the only right one. I personally believe that music is a matter of taste. However, Early Music is a subject to heavy disputes simply because we have so little knowledge of the performance practice. There is enough of so called HIP, so that you have the ability to choose the one you like most. JEG [10] just has that something for me that he persuades me with his interpretation as well as answers my questions rather sufficiently.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 10, 2000):
What are we talking about next week? I know very little about the church calendar. Is this coming Sunday considered the fifth Sunday after Epiphany? Is there such a thing and did Bach write a cantata for it? Marie suggested we talk about BWV 198, which is fine with me, as I have a couple of new versions I haven't listened to yet (Parrott [13] and Herreweghe [8]). Are we going to follow Marie's schedule in the next few weeks?

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 11, 2000):
For me BWV 198 is also fine. I have 9 recordings of this Funeral Ode and I have already listened to all of them. Before I did my homework for next week discussion, I had not realised that I have so many. But Bach's music can stand many repeated hearings, even one after the other without break, especially when listening to different performances of the same cantata. I do not have the same feeling with other composers' music, even not Mozart. With others, even the thinking about one more hearing of a certain piece of music irritate me. Scheherazade by Rimsky Korsakov is an example. But there are some Jazz musicians, like Herbie Nichols, to their music I can listen over and over and over again and to enjoy and discover new things and insights each time. I intend to send my humble opinions about BWV 198 to the group at the beginning of next week. The 2 new versions you have are among the best.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 11, 2000):
I know just what you mean! I can hear a Bach piece over and over and each time learn something new about it. Perhaps I could do the same with other great composers, but, like you, often I have no desire to listen to the same piece again after I've heard it. With Bach, the emotions and the technical genius are so deep that repeated listenings are often even more rewarding than the first few times.

Jane Newble wrote (February 11, 2000):
Sunday 13th February is the 6th Sunday after Epiphany, and there is no cantata for it. So I think BWV 198 is a good one to talk about. I've only got one version, but I'll look forward to Aryeh's contribution. Marie's schedule for the coming weeks is in line with the church-calendar.

Ryan Michero wrote (February 14, 2000):
We're talking about BWV 198 right now, the Trauer Ode. Do you have a favourite recording of it?

Billy Kitson wrote (February 16, 2000):
I am not "fiscal" enough to have the luxury of choosing which copy I would like - the one I get cheap is often the ONLY one I get.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 198: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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