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Cantata BWV 198
Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of February 13, 2000 (1st round)

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 13, 2000):
Background

Before I started to listen to the recordings listed below, I had not realised that I have so many. This treasure, which once was a rare item and a well kept secret between the Bach’s lovers in the 1960’s and 1970’s, became very popular in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Not exactly sacred, not exactly secular, it fallen somehow between the chairs. But once you discover it, you will never let it leave you. This cantata is full of beautiful melodies and heartfelt moments.

I do not have place here to quote others that wrote about this cantata. I recommend everybody to read what Simon Crouch wrote in his Cantata Pages about the Funeral Ode. The URL is: http://www.classical.net/~music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/198.html

Review of the Recordings

I have listened to and compared 9 recordings. See: Cantata BWV 198 - Recordings. This is a big number indeed, and I am not sure that one must have all of them, although I think that there is never too much Bach. Therefore I will describe only the general characteristics of each one of them. The performances I have listened to (in chronological order) are:

[4] Jürgen Jürgens (1966)
This is the recording through which I and I believe that also many others discovered this charming cantata. It set a very high standard of performing, recording and even linear notes, by which all the following recordings should have been measured. Perhaps this was the reason that 9 years passed before the second recording of this cantata appeared and 17 years before the third one. Sentimentality aside, this recording has now to be judged in comparison to 8 newer recordings, all of which were done with the pioneering recording as a reference point. I have to admit that in this case, to my ears, none of the newer recordings outclassed the first one.

[5] Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (1975)
This performance lacks tension and focus. It is lazy and uninspired, pleasant but not much more. The soloists, the orchestra, the choir are all good but not definitive. What keeps this performance together is the strength of the music. The music is so strong that unless you know other performances you do not realise that you are missing something.

[7] Helmuth Rilling (1983)
Quite surprisingly, the characteristics of this performance are similar to those of the previous one. The main difference is the tempo. Where the previous recording was too relaxed, some of the movements here are too fast. But the velocity does not cover up for lack of real tension. It has an advantage in the soloists; most of them perform their parts with much more drama and feeling than their predecessors.

[8] Philippe Herreweghe (1987)
The ‘drama from within’ (In Herreweghe own words) and the ‘dreamy quality’ (in Ehud Shiloni words) are all evident here and they contribute to the success of this performance. Everything sounds balanced, right and calm in this performance and these qualities are so proper for this work. The soloists are not exceptional (excluding Kooy), but the wonderful chorus and the orchestra compensates for this (relatively) small flaws.

[9] Gustav Leonhardt (1989)
It is strange that Telefunken, the original producer of the Teldec cycle, had not chosen to use the beautiful recording they already had in their vaults and decided to do a new one. I think that consistency was the main consideration for this decision, or perhaps Leonhardt’s wish to record his own version, for a work he loved. Whatever will be the reason, the result does not justify the effort. The main flaw is the use of a Boy Soprano, instead of a woman. After all it was written for the death of a Queen the and boy sounds inappropriate for this cantata. There is also certain kind of dryness in this performance, which takes out a lot of the deep sorrow, which calls out to be expressed. The good parts are the playing of the old instruments and the singing of the choir, which is really excellent.

[10] John Eliot Gardiner (1990)
Gardiner misses the main point. His over aggressive, intensive and dramatic approach does not suits the mood of this calm cantata. Why does he push so hard? Where is he running? Actually I do not like too much either of the soloists, so that for me this recording does not have much to its favour. Like the previous recording, the strong parts here are the orchestra and the choir. But I have the feeling that their qualities are not used properly in this cantata.

[11] Jeffrey Thomas & ABS (1992)
I ordered the 6 volumes of Bach Cantatas performed by American Bach Soloists under the leadership of Jeffrey Thomas, without knowing in advance what to expect. My expectations were not too high, because I thought that only European - Being Dutch or German - with their long tradition, could do justice to Bach’s choral music. I could not have been more mistaken. Yes, they are not European, but they understand the Bach’s idiom, they have done their homework did know very well what they are doing. They are not making popular, schematic, or banal Bach, but adding a new dimension, not usually found in the European performances. I do not know exactly how to define it – fresh, Jazzy, unorthodox, clear, direct, simple, and even naive. They avoid being romantic, although they have warmth. Most of their recordings have chamber quality, because of the small forces they use. As though they put all the tradition aside, and took a look at the cantatas from a new and untied angle. For some cantatas it works fine, for others less so. The results they achieve in BWV 198 are marvellous. I wish they would do more cantatas. After all we have 2 and a half Dutch cycles (Leonhardt, Koopman, Jan Leusink), one and a half German/Austrian (Harnoncourt, Rilling), one Japanese (Suzuki). Why should not we have an American one? Especially when its approach is so different from the others.

[12] Ton Koopman (1996)
Everything is on very high level here – the choir, the orchestra. Koopman chose the right tempo for each movement, and I feel that he also chose the soloists whose voices were the most suitable to this cantata. The mood set is also right. If I miss something, it is a little bit more sadness and sorrow.

[13] Andrew Parrott (1997)
The last recording of BWV 198 is to my taste the best of the modern versions. Parrott’s approach is very calm, tender and sensitive. You can hear every detail, every nuance, every voice and every instrument – even the secondary and minor parts. The performance is very homogenous, as though all the participants have the same mind and mood, and they blend very beautifully together. This performance is gentler than Koopman [12] and Herreweghe [8], however the sorrow here is deeper and it comes out from the performers and not only from the music.

Conclusion

My final conclusion is that the Jürgens recording [4] has remained the best in every aspect – singing, expression, tenderness, clarity, purity. But since its appearance few more recordings appeared, which are almost in the same class as the first one. They are – Herreweghe [8], Koopman [12], Thomas [11] and Parrot [13]. If you are not a collector (I have to admit that I am one), you have a limited budget, you want only one good recording of the crop of the cantatas (to which BWV 198 belongs), and you have one of the ‘new’ recommended recordingsmentioned above, you do not have to look further. Put the CD in your CD player, put your body in your armchair, open up your ears, listen again and enjoy. But if you can allow it to yourself, I recommend adding the Jürgens recording. I wish somebody would write such a beautiful Musical Ode to my funeral. I realise that it will never happen, and if it will, I shall never know.

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

Enjoy and Happy Bach Year,

5 numbers from BWV 198 were parodied in Bach's Markus Passion BWV 247. So, if you like the music of BWV 198, you may also look at those recordings of BWV 247, whose construction was based on BWV 198.

Marie Jensen wrote (February 15, 2000):
[5] I have this version, and I agree with Aryeh about the first part of the Ode being lazy and uninspired. But from "Der Ewigkeits Saphirnes Haus" until the end it is much better. Yet the many images of the text to this Aria has clearly inspired Bach to lots of sound painting on his favourite subject. For example, try to pay attention to the long long word "Ewigkeit" or later "Umsponnen". It is a fantastic Aria no matter what, and I love its colourful text.

The final Chorus (Mvt. 10) has a rather unexpected side effect on me. It is those innocent Thomaner boys with their pure voices standing around the open coffin with the dead princess in it. (I don't know about the real Fürstin, but I'm sure the coffin lid was closed, probably a good idea!). It undeliberately becomes kind of Bach/Tchaikovsky cross over. First of all the interpretation is rather romantic, the adventure scene I described above is also a 19th century phenomena but the music itself has by chance a certain similarity to a theme in the famous piano concerto of Tchaikovsky (2nd or 3rd movement, not sure, don't have it any more), and at the same time this well known Bach passion Chorus sound.

I will however buy a more up to date alternative when I see one. Thanks for writing about so many, Aryeh.

Jane Newble wrote (February 16, 2000):
Every day this week I have listened to this cantata. I only have one version (Herreweghe) [8], so I have to make the best of it. Just some things I have noticed:

Listening to the first Chorus from another room, without paying attention to the words, it struck me that the music and the voices sound very sad and sobbing. There is a feeling of desperate crying and lamenting. I don't know how other versions sound of course, but Herreweghe [8] does this very well. It is also strengthened by the continuo.

I love the pictorial recitative (No.4) of bells, from little ones to enormous heavy ones. It reminds me of the starting chorus in BWV 8, (again Herreweghe). Also the gambas and lutes are very expressive. The whole thing is wonderful, as Aryeh and Marie have already written. I am just keep wanting to listen to it again and again to get to know it better.

As I am becoming more and more of the opinion that female Altos have more depth and feeling in their voice, I shall have to get one of the ones Aryeh mentioned, which will most likely be Koopman [12], and then after that Parrott [13]. I can't see myself being able to find a Jürgens LP [4] somehow, but who knows?

Malcolm Boyd in his Compendium relates a report from C.E. Sicul's 'Das thranende Leipzig':
"There was shortly to be heard the mourning music which Kapellmeister Johann Sebastian Bach had composed in Italian style, with harpsichord, which Herr Bach himself played, organ, violas di gamba, lutes, violins, recorders, flutes, etc. half sounding before, half after the oration of praise and mourning." Oh, for a time machine...!

The other thing Malcolm Boyd points out is that Bach "patently ignored the ode structure of Gottsched; furthermore, the stanzas were spread over the divisions of the musical movements. This, and the fact that Bach apparently changed some of the words themselves to create a more pictorial text, shows clearly that the composer was thinking entirely of the musical potentialities of the text; he showed no respect for the literary style per se and, indeed, probably had little conception of Gottsched's importance as a poet." Does anyone know if it is possible to find the original poem and where?

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 19, 2000):
[4] The Jürgens recording of BWV 198 was reissued on CD by Teldec (coupled with 2 more cantatas). AFAIK, it is commercially available. I saw it both on amazon.com and amazon.co.uk. I recommend warmly getting it. The reasons were detailed in my posting to the group about this cantata.

Michaela Blaha wrote (February 17, 2000):
[To Aryeh Oron] Thank you for taking the time to write up an overview of all your recordings of this cantata. I think I have to run out today and try to get at least one of the ones that you recommended!

Ryan Michero wrote (February 21, 2000):
Well, I would've written on this cantata earlier, but I have lots of recordings of BWV 198 and it took me a while to listen to them all. I even got a new one on Friday night that I had to listen to. The result? A bit of information overload, actually. It's hard to compare different versions, especially when many of them have equally valid interpretations and merely subtle differences between them. For the sake of my own mental stability, I'll try to keep my comments pretty brief.

[4] (Jürgens) This excellent recording was my introduction to BWV 198. I like many things about it, not least the singing of the soloists. I'm not otherwise familiar with Rohtraud Hansmann, but I quite like her singing here. I bit too much vibrato for Bach, perhaps, but I enjoy her voice very much. There are a couple of drawbacks for me here though. This being a recording from 1966, some aspects of the performance seem a bit old-fashioned to my ears. Jürgens seems to phrase with too much legato, Helen Watts sounds annoyingly operatic, Leonhardt's harpsichord continuo (yep, that's old Gustav at the clavier) is a bit sharp and gangly, and the choir is too big. However, I must say that it holds up surprisingly well considering its vintage, and it is an extremely effective performance. This is excellent value at mid-price.

[8] (Herreweghe) This one's great. Herreweghe seems to pace the work perfectly, and instrumental and choral performances are wonderful. To my ears, there is more vivid emotion here than in any other performance. For instance, the final chorus (Mvt. 10) perfectly conveys the bittersweet mood of tragedy mixed with hope and acceptance. Everyone seems to be paying attention the text, which is always nice. Schmithüsen is not entirely secure in her intonation, but I admire her Bach singing nonetheless because she is obviously so engaged with the music. Charles Brett is a bit on the annoying side, but his account of the Alto Aria is nonetheless quite moving. High marks.

[9] (Leonhardt) I have this (in the Bach 2000 set) but I haven't been able to listen to it! I'm a bit over-saturated with BWV 198 now--another time.

[10] (Gardiner) In spite of fine choral singing and orchestral playing, I can't get into this one too much. Gardiner seems barely engaged with the meaning of the text, which is a shame. Perhaps he is making the point that funeral music doesn't have to be slow and mournful. I don't think he's entirely successful.

[11] (Jeffery Thomas) Interestingly, Thomas takes many tempi faster than Gardiner does, yet he and his forces seem much more engaged with the meaning of text and music. I especially like the singing of Judith Nelson in her recitative and Aria, perhaps my favourite Soprano in any version. The chorus sounds a bit dry and flat, but I suspect this is the fault of the recording engineers. Instrumental playing is excellent, but do I detect some sour tuning in the gambas? Thomas really phrases things differently than many of his competitors (compare to Jürgens), which I quite like.

[12] (Koopman) A fine version with much feeling, comparable to Herreweghe's [8] in many ways. My main caveat has to do with Koopman conducting from the harpsichord. In the instrumental sections, he embellishes quite a bit, sometimes even introducing elaborate cross-rhythms that distract from the stuff Bach actually wrote. But then, when the choir comes in, he stops dead, apparently using his hands to conduct the choir. I've seen this done without a problem in performance, but with the increased clarity of a recording it sounds strange to have an aggressive continuo instrument just disappear from the texture. Also, I don't really like Von Magnus in the solo Alto numbers. The instrumental playing is especially good, though, and the chorus is also wonderful.

[13] (Parrott) This is a great one, and I recommend it even to those that have other versions because of the fresh insights Parrott brings to BWV 198. First and foremost, the Choruses are sung one-to-a-part, giving the choral lines increased clarity and imparting a nice chamber-music feel to the work. Perhaps this work in particular would be a good one for ripienists since the choral writing is generally homophonic with one brief, fairly simple fugue, but Parrott makes a good case for using concertists alone. One revelation, in particular, comes when the solo Tenor, finishing his recitative, begins the ensuing fugue, connecting the two movements much more closely than they would be otherwise. Also, in the Alto recitative where the text evokes bells, Parrott's version uses the harpsichord in the continuo to support the Bass, its low notes vividly evoking the ringing of church bells--DING, DONG, DING, DONG! Soloists and instrumentalists are all great. Indeed, I highly recommend Parrott's version.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (February 22, 2000):
Here are some late comments, with a "surprising" personal favourite:

[4] (Jürgens) Fully agree! A jewel performance in all respects. Highly recommended. Equiluz and van Egmond are super. The all-star group includes – in addition to "old Gustav at the clavier" - Jaap Schröder, Anner Bylsma and Wieland Kuijken.

[5] (Rotzsch) Right on the money - AVOID.

[7] (Rilling) Again I agree.

[8] (Herreweghe) Now I am flattered at being quoted! This version was my own introduction to BWV 198, and I liked it a lot, until...[see later]

[9] (Leonhardt) Don’t have this one, and based on Aryeh's comment probably never will...

[10] (Gardiner) Here is my personal "story": I heard Herreweghe [8] and Koopman [12], which got me into the "conventional" interpretation of BWV 198 as a "calm" and "sad" cantata. Then I listened to JEG, and found myself stricken. The effect on me was like watching a two-dimensional black-and-white picture transforms into a multi-colour three-dimensional Bass-relief. It was captivating - I could not stop listening to this energetic performance, again and again.

OK - I know from other reviewers, as well as from you guys, that I am probably the only listener who finds the JEG version [10] appealing, but, you know, you cant argue with a matter of personal taste. If there is any need for "defence", I'd like to throw a few points in support of JEG's interpretation:
A. There is no tragedy here! [Sorry, Ryan]. This is no "passion" music! "Passion" is reserved for a young man who was brutally executed, while our heroine here died naturally, some thirty [!] years after abdicating her lofty status [and for that she was admired].
B. The underlying attitude of the poem is actually a celebration of an exemplary life! There is sorrow, of course, but it takes the back seat to the recount of the noble life-story and the solace the congregation draws from it.
C. And consider the progression of the choruses which Bach selected: From a stately "tombeau" in the opening, through an energising fugue in the middle, and on to a concluding DANCE! Does that point to a lethargic tempo selection?

In summery: JEG's [10] energy wins the day for me!

[11] (Jeffery Thomas) I say we should! And I vote for Rifkin to return to the cantata scene too!

[12] (Koopman) And, at 38:23 minutes [to Gardiner's 30:32!], it does have a slightly tranquillising effect...

[13] (Parrott) I agree with everything Aryeh and Ryan said about this performance, however, as one taken over by JEG's interpretation [10] I sense a lack of energy here. A shame, because I am a great fan of all other Parrott's interpretation of Bach music.

So much for my "other opinion" - hope it was not too long [in addition to being quite late...]

Ryan Michero wrote (February 22, 2000):
[10] (To Ehud Shiloni, regarding Gardiner's recording) Don't be sorry! One of the most interesting things about discussions like this is when others' assumptions are challenged. Now, forgive me if I challenge yours:

Actually, this IS passion music, according to Bach! It is accepted among scholars that Bach parodied the music in the Trauer Ode for his St. Mark Passion. True, when Bach parodied his own music he could often put pieces in a radically different context. But then, how do you explain the violas da gamba, instruments rare in Bach's vocal music--except in the Passions! Yes, the circumstances of the death of the Queen and the death of Jesus are worlds apart. But it certainly wasn't in Bach's self-interest to suggest that the Queen's death was any less of a tragedy, especially to her mourning family!

Yes, but death still has its sting, even if it is tempered with joy and solace near the end. And certainly one can't argue that sorrow doesn't take the FRONT seat in the beginning. I quote the opening recitative:

"Thy Saxons, like thy saddened Meissen,
Stand numb beside thy royal tomb;
The eye doth weep, the tongue cries out:
My pain must be without description!
Here mourn August and Prince and land,
The nobles moan, the commons sorrow,
How much for thee thy folk lamented
As soon as it thy fall perceived!"
(Translated by Ambrose)

The Passions are tragic as well as life-affirming just as the Trauer Ode is-- "Wir setzen uns mit Tranen nieder" sits comfortably alongside "Sehet, Jesus hat die Hand" in the St. Matthew. (And, yes, I think Gardiner's version of the closing chorus of the Matthew Passion (BWV 244) has the same problem--lack of feeling.)

The "tombeau" is certainly a stylised dance--but that doesn't mean its "tearful offerings" aren't mournful.

You do have a stronger case for the closing chorus being quicker and lighter, but I still think it should be bittersweet in light of the mourning that has gone before it. Heck, I wouldn't even complain if Gardiner's version were just plain sweet! For me it just lacks ANY kind of feeling. Note that I said that Thomas' version, with tempi often quicker than Gardiner's, works better for me.

I DO understand what you're saying, though, Ehud. We can both find evidence to support our own preferences. What it all boils down to is that Gardiner works for you and not for me--which is fine! Viva la d!

Ehud Shiloni wrote (February 23, 2000):
(To Ryan Michero) I am aware of the St. Mark and its musical origins, but I have a personal suspicion that had the music survived we would have all been in agreement that - how shall I put it - it is not up to the emotional standard of the SJP and SMP. My speculation draws upon:

1. The fact that none of the reconstruction efforts turned out to be convincingly effective.
2. The fact that Bach hardly parodied for the SMP (BWV 244) [and parodied very selectively and only uniquely effective music for the Mass in B (BWV 232)].

The St. Mark story smacks of a rather hastily put-together effort, unlike the "great passions" [I grant that this is pure speculation on my part].

That fact is, of course, tougher to explain away. However, I did not dispute the basic reality that it IS a funeral Ode in the first place. Therefore, the VDG may be in place for the mourning element, which does not conflict with my idea that a strong line of optimism is evident in both the poem and in Bach's music.

When eulogising royalty in those days, a poet must have had P.R. strongly in mind... Some of the words are heavily over-painted: I doubt that August was actually "moaning" after 30[!] years of separation.

Somewhere I once read a description of "Wir setzen" as "almost unbearably powerful". With all my liking of BWV 198, I believe its emotional impact is not in the same class. BTW, my Gardiner "bias" works for me fine with the SMP as well, and I don’t sense any lack of feeling in his rendition.

I admit that all my rationalisations about JEG's version [10] do somehow "contradict" my own admiration for the Jürgens version [4] with its much slower pace. Obviously there is more to an effective performance than the choice of tempo...

Ryan Michero wrote (February 22, 2000):
(To Ehud Shiloni) I think both Charles Brett (Herreweghe) [8] and Michael Chance (Gardiner) [10], both leave something to be desired in their performances of the alto aria in BWV 198, so recordings with female Altos are probably your best bet for now, especially Caroline Trevor for Parrott [13]. Now, if Andreas Scholl or Robin Blaze were to do it, I may tell you differently...

If you hear the Jürgens version with Helen Watts singing [4], you will experience the main drawback of hearing female Altos in this music--wobbly, operatic awkwardness. (Granted, Brett is not much better).

Jane Newble wrote (February 28, 2000):
Yes, that's possible. I also can't wait for Leusink (BC) [14] to do it, as I am getting more and more impressed with Sytse Buwalda. And of course, I was brought up on Aafje Heynis, who can draw tears out of a stone, so perhaps comparing her with any male alto isn't really fair. BTW, the female Alto JEG used in his Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) (Bernarda Fink) was very good, but perhaps it made a difference seeing her sing?

Ryan Michero wrote (February 28, 2000):
Well, it's tough to justify my own preference for male Altos against people like Bernarda Fink, Anne Sofie Von Otter, Magdalena Kožená, Sara Mingardo, etc. I think Fink is wonderful, and I'd love to hear her in more Bach recordings.

[4] (Jürgens) In spite of my reservations about Watts, it is a fine performance. I'm sure you'll love it.

Jane Newble wrote (March 4, 2000):
[4] (Jürgens) Found it, ordered it, and am enjoying listening to it. Also one of the Jeffrey Thomas Volumes [11], as I have never heard them either, and what you said about them made me think I ought to...! I am very glad you recommended these! Thanks very much.

 

An old subscriber is back / BWV 198 / BWV 198 (and gambas in Bach)

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (January 30, 2001):
Here I am back after a long period... My name is Vincenzo, from Roma, Italy. Hope discussions are interesting, and lively!!

Right now, my "cantata of the day" is BWV 198 (which is not properly a cantata....) and particularly the WONDERFUL alto aria for two gambas and lute.Not to mention the bizarre, Philip Glass style, recitative.... If someone has something to say about it, he's welcomed!

John Downes wrote (January 30, 2001):
(To Vincenzo Vennarini) Yes, this is one of my favourites too. Throughout it is written in a style that to me is reminiscent of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). Dignified, intense, personal. And the final chorus (Mvt. 10), a dance movement again, is deeply moving.

I have the Leonhardt [9] and JEG [10] recordings and am not completely happy with either. The best performance I have heard is that by Ton Koopman [12] which is available in (I think) vol. 5 of his cantata series.

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (January 30, 2001):
John Downes wrote:
< Yes, this is one of my favourites too. Throughout it is written in a style that to me is reminiscent of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). >
No surprise about that. Studies about it shows that its music was part of the lost St. Markus passion (BWV 247). So it sounds like a passion music, because it IS a passion music! ;--D

< Dignified, intense, personal. And the final chorus (Mvt. 10), a dance movement again, is deeply moving. >
I was forgetting! the final chorus (Mvt. 10) is one of my favourite one. With its addictive melody and unisono passages, it's really peculiar.

< I have the Leonhardt [9] and JEG [10] recordings and am not completely happy with either.>
I like very much the final chorus (Mvt. 10) made by JEG [10]. Not very much arias...

<The best performance I have heard is that by Ton Koopman [12] which is available in (I think) vol. 5 of his cantata series. >
Really? I absolutely have to listen to it. Who's the alto?

Thank you for the advice, John.

John Downes wrote (January 30, 2001):
[To Vincenzo Vennarini] When I said best performance, I meant of the final chorus (Mvt. 10). Haven't heard the rest! But addictive is right. I'm humming it all the time at the moment!

Cast list: Soprano – Lisa Larsson, Alto – Elisabeth Von Magnus, Tenor – Paul Agnew, Bass – Klaus Mertens

(According to http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV198.htm)

Frank Fogliati wrote (February 1, 2001):
Vincenzo Vennarini wrote:
< No surprise about that. Studies about it shows that its music was part of the lost S.Marcus passion. So it sounds like a passion music, because it IS a passion music! ;--D >
A very astute observation!
Just listen to Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano) accompanied by viola da gamba perform the arias from this cantata. It is so obviously Passion music, as Bach intended it. The presence of a gamba strongly supports the evidence.

'Wie starb die Heldin so vergnugt!' (How contentedly the heroine died!) with a mournful viol continuo is the very stuff of Passions. Bach composed outstanding obbligato parts for gamba in the SMP and SJP. In the Passions the cello affords no satisfactory substitute; the texture is just too thick and does not sit as well with the singer.

< I like very much the final chorus (Mvt. 10) made by JEG [10]. Not very much arias... >
I'm a big fan of Kožená. She sings superbly on the arias 'Wie starb die Heldin so ve!' and 'Verstummt, verstummt, ihr holden Saiten!'

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (February 1, 2001):
Frank Fogliati wrote:
< Ciao Vincenzo! >
Ciao Frank, any italian DNA in your cells? ;--D

< A very astute observation! Just listen to Magdalena Kožená (mezzo-soprano) accompanied by viola da gamba perform the arias from this cantata. >
I must confess I did not know this mezzo, yet. Too curious now, I have to rush to the closest classical store.....did she record also sets of solo alto cantatas?

< It is so obviously Passion music, as Bach intended it. The presence of a gamba strongly supports the evidence. >
I never thought about that, but it is a very interesting observation; Gambas are used in the early cantatas (like actus tragicus) and then somehow less used.....but in passions they are back. I think mood established by gambas is more melancholic, intimate, and Mr. bach thought those moods suitable for passions...or maybe some more expert member of the group has more convincent reasons...

< 'Wie starb die Heldin so vergnugt!' (How contentedly the heroine died!) with a mournful viol continuo is the very stuff of Passions. Bach composed outstanding obbligato parts for gamba in the SMP and SJP. In the Passions the cello affords no satisfactory substitute; the texture is just too thick and does not sit as well with the singer. >
Never heard any performance with such a substitution, and I'm not even interested in! ;--D (just like traverso flutes in substitution of recorders: pure horror!!! can't even mention WHO did this sort of slaughter...)

Thank you for the advices frank!

John Downes wrote (February 1, 2001):
In an earlier post I said that the Ton Koopman recording [12] of this lovely piece was available in Vol. 5 of his Cantata series. I was wrong. It's Vol. 4, I saw it today in a record shop, though at £45 it was too much for me.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (February 1, 2001):
(To Frank Fogliati & Vincenzo Vennarini) Yes, the cello is/ was the common substitution and it really hurts to hear it. In Rilling SMP I attended Carnegie Hall c. 1971 he used the cello and it was awful. Richard Westenberg used the same week the Gamba and how great his performance was! No, I haven't gone to live performances since then, more or less (only to some small chamber concerts).

(To John Downes) John, how many CDs in this volume?

John Downes wrote (February 1, 2001):
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) Three, I believe.

Robert Sherman wrote (February 3, 2001:
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) I find it depends more on the individual player than on the instrument. I've heard it done well and badly with each.

To me the most magnificent of these aras is "Es Ist Vollbracht" in SJP (BWV 245), and the most moving performance by far is Hertha Toepper with Richter. Oswald Uhl plays with her on gamba and it's magnificent, but in part because he has a rich, almost cello-like sound. Given my druthers, I prefer cello (and also modern flute, trumpet, etc.) provided they're played with deep understaning of baroque style. But my preference for modern instruments doesn't extend to keyboard in the choral or chamber works, where harpsichord always works better than piano.

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (February 1, 2001):
Does anyone tell which record Kožená sings BWV 198? can't find it on the internet....

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 1, 2001):
(To Vincenzo Vennarini) AFAIK Magdalena Kožená has not recorded yet Cantata BWV 198 in its entirety. However, she recorded two arias from this cantata (one for soprano and one for alto). Both are included in the beautiful CD she made with the conductor Marek Stryncl and the ensemble Musica Florea for Archiv Produktion, and which is simply called 'Bach Arias'. You can find all this information and more in the new Archive Site in the page dedicated to this cantata. The address is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV198.htm

Frank Fogliati wrote (February 2, 2001):
Vincenzo Vennarini wrote:
< Ciao Frank, any italian DNA in your cells? ;--D >
50%. My father immigrated to Australia when he was 7, and eventually married a woman of celtic extraction (my mother). A damn fine, if not fiery, combination. Unfortunately I speak no Italian. I also have relatives in Argentina, Canada, and the US who departed Italy at the same time as my father's family. In those days Australia was a popular choice for re-settlement.

< I must confess I did not know this mezzo, yet. Too curious now, I have to rush to the closest classical store.....did she record also sets of solo alto cantatas? >
As Aryeh mentioned she has only recorded the two arias which are featured on the Archiv Produktion Bach Arias 457 367-2. If the entire cantata is ever released I would certainly consider purchasing her version. And of course you get Musica Florea playing on period instruments. Wonderful stuff!

< I never thought about that, but it is a very interesting observation; Gambas are used in the early cantatas (like actus tragicus) and then somehow less used...but in passions they are back. I think mood established by gambas is more melancholic, intimate, and Mr. bach thought those moods suitable for passions...or maybe some more expert member of the group has more convincent reasons... >
Contrary to popular belief, Bach wrote for the gamba throughout his entire compositional life. He did not view it in the same obsolete light as some of his contemporaries, and instead maintained the clear distinction between the uses and repertoire of the cello and that of the viola da gamba. For Bach it was never a case of "let's just substitute if we get stuck...cello, gamba, same thing."

BWV 106, written when he was 22 (?) years old is a sublime piece of gamba music. Then there is the Sixth Brandenburg, additional cantatas (BWV 76, BWV 152, BWV 198, BWV 199, BWV 205), and the Passions. And not forgetting the 3 magnificent sonatas for gamba with obbligato harpsichord (BWV 1027-1029). These sonatas were once dated from the Köthen period (1714-1723), but are actually from the early 1740's.

< Never heard any performance with such a substitution, and I'm not even interested in! ;--D (just like traverso flutes in substitution of recorders: pure horror!!! can't even mention WHO did this sort of slaughter...) >
I absolutely agree. And now we know where you stand on the HIP-HOP divide. Welcome!

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (February 2, 2001):
Frank Fiogliati wrote:
< 50%. My father immigrated to Australia when he was 7, and eventually married a woman of celtic extraction (my mother). A damn fine, if not fiery, combination. Unfortunately I speak no Italian. I also have relatives in Argentina, Canada, and the US who departed Italy at the same time as my father's family. In those days Australia was a popular choice for re-settlement. >
Must be an exciting sensation all those races running in your blood... Unfortunately, I can't understand it very much: not only I am italian, but I am purely roman! my origins "get lost" in a radius of 40 km.... ;--)

< I absolutely agree. And now we know where you stand on the HIP-HOP divide. Welcome! >
When I was an active writer of this list some time ago, I used to make strong fights with other subscribers about HIP... I am very passionate about this matter, and not very tolerant, I must confess.... ;--D (don't talk to me about Richter please... eheheh....) Without mr. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, I would never be interested in baroque music.(and therefore, in classical music) I am really grateful to him!

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 2, 2001):
Vincenzo wrote:
<< Never heard any performance with such a substitution, and I'm not even interested in! ;--D (just like traverso flutes in substitution of recorders: pure horror!!! can't even mention WHO did this sort of slaughter...) >>
Frank replied:
< I absolutely agree. And now we know where you stand on the HIP-HOP divide. Welcome! >
I'm sure if Vincenzo's point slipped by Frank or others, but just in case:

"Esurientes"
BWV 243a --> BWV 243

Frank Fogliati wrote (February 5, 2001):
(To Matthew Westphal) Como? Okay I'll declare my ignorance on this one I thought Vincenzo was alluding to the slaughter of baroque music inflicted by the likes of Herbert von Karajan et al. You know, conductors/directors who wouldn't recognise a gamba or a recorder even if it had neon flashing signs.

Did I miss something? Maybe it's a northern hemisphere thing and it loses in the translation crossing the equator.

Matthew Westphal wrote (February 6, 2001):
(To Frank Fogliati) Ah! I had thought that Vincenzo was making an ironic joke about how Bach himself replaced the recorders in "Esurientes" (from the Magnificat in E-flat BWV 243a, the first version) with transverse flutes (in the Magnificat in D BWV 243, the later and better-known version).

I guess the key to the mystery is whether, by "traverso flutes," Vincenzo was referring to modern Boehm flutes (as used by the likes of von Karajan and Bernstein in Bach) or the Baroque flauto traverso.

Vincenzo? Which was it? ;-)

 

BWV 198

Peter Sandell wrote (March 12, 2002):
I have a question regading the cantata BWV 198, "Laß, Fürstin, laß noch einen Strahl". It's a very beautiful cantata that could be used like a short passion, but the text isn't what one could expect. I know it was written to the funeral of Christiane Eberhardine, Kurfürstin von Sachsen and I also know that most of the arias and choir parts are used in the St. Mark passion BWV 247. The problem is the texts for the recitativs. Does anyone know if I can find texts for the recitaivs that can be used together with the aria and choir texts from the St. Mark passion?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Peter Sandell] The NBA II/5 KB includes a photocopy of the original Picander text. The Evangelist sings the text from the Bible as you might expect. Perhaps a recording of the St. Mark passion would include this text with an English translation. I do not have a recording of this passion.

Dick Wursten wrote (March 12, 2002):
[To Thomas Braatz] Brilliant Classics - Bach edition - Passions includes BWV 247: st Marks European Union Baroque Orchestra, Roy Goodman: reconstruction by Dr. Simon Heighes. Of course not the recitatives but only the aria's from BWV 198 are used... and performed very well... They sound convincing.

 

BWV 198 tenor aria (Mvt. 8)

Juozas Rimas wrote (November 10, 2002):
What are you recommendations on the singer for this aria?

I wasn't content neither with Herreweghe's Howard Crook [8], nor with Leonhardt's John Elwes [9]. What a pity Leonhardt felt he had to re-record this cantata. I expected Equiluz in it... :(

Perhaps the most moving tenor aria (Mvt. 8) I've heard, spoilt by the singers, again...

Philippe Bareille wrote (November 10, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] I warmly recommend Jürgen Jürgens with Equiluz [4] recorded in the late 60's. (this CD features also the BWV 27 and BWV 158).

 

RICERCAR CONSORT 198

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (December 15, 2007):
I received today from CDUniverse (not available at Amazon) the Ricercar Consort (Philippe Pierlot) recording of BWV 198 [17]. I could not wait to hear it (having stupidly waited for it to appear at Amazon).

I was previously so impressed by their recording, the Consort's 2nd recording of BWV 106, that I expected much of this and in fact it failed not to fulfill expectations.

Let's face it: there are many wonderful recordings of both cantatas BWV 106 and BWV 198. They are Bach's finest cantatas in my opinion and, no, I do not believe that every cantata is a masterpiece.

I've only recently went through all of Harnoncourt-Leonhardt in 61 days (many days I missed and others I doubled up CDs).

Of BWV 106 I have Scherchen, Werner, Prohaska, Leonhardt (boy soloists), Junghänel, and Pierlot (I have just ordered Ricercar 's 1st recording [with other German Trauer-Cantatas]).

Of the above only Leonhardt's holds a place for me with Pierlot's.

Of BWV 198 I have Jürgens [4], Scherchen [1], Herreweghe [8], Parrott [13], Leonhardt [9], and now Pierlot [17].

While Leonhardt's [9] has René Jacob as alt and I am not a fan (he ruins both Leonhardt's B-Minor (BWV 232) and Matthäus-Passion (BWV 244) for me [the B-Minor has other problems]), I love the 198 with Leonhardt and Jacobs. I don't really dislike the Leusink of this work at all.

The Pierlot [17] is sui generis in many ways. It reconstructs by the theory of Gilles Cantagrel (who writes the notes) the use of organ Prelude and Fuge BWV 544, resp. before and after the cantata and inserts BWV 727 on organ as a divider before 2da Pars where the encomium of over an hour would have been.

The performance itself, glorious, is thus made an even better listening experience. The CD also includes the Missa Brevis BWV 234, to which I have not yet listened.

This is simply a great Bach cantata CD in an overcrowded field and Ricercar Consort, whose recordings I first sought out, advised by this list, for the solo alt cantatas with Ledroit and later with Mena, has given us another treasure.

Anyone know where one can get their few other cantata recordings?

Arjen van Gijssel wrote (December 15, 2007):
[To Malvenuto] I decided to buy BWV 198 of Ricercar Consort [17] today. It certainly is interesting, but I am not as impressed as you seem to be. The balance between the OVPP choir and orchestra is not okay in my opinion. I know these are not small voices, so it must be balance. I cannot hear what they are singing. There is a big loss of dramatic lines. This is my first contribution after a while. I am sorry that it is rather negative!

Yoël L. Arbeitman (Malvenuto) wrote (December 16, 2007):
[To Arjen van Gijssel] May I dare ask what recordings of this work you prefer? Yes, I am totally impressed with this and with their 2nd BWV 106 [17].

I look forward to your further posts although I, myself, rarely participate these days.

BTW and I know that this does not happen usually on this list (it does happen on symphonic and opera lists frequently with unavailable material), a kind member is sending me Ricercar's OOP BWV 82, BWV 152, BWV 202 CD.

If anyone who has other Ricercar Bach CDs (I have their 1st and 2nd BWV 106 with diskmates, their BWV 198 with the missa brevis, and the Ledroit, van Egmond solo cantatas) and would not mind making a private trade with me for any other material I have (a decent collection), I would be indebted. This seems to me a perfectly ethical and fine thing to do.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 198: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6

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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Last update: ýNovember 3, 2014 ý19:45:12