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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

Cantata BWV 199
Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of November 6, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 6, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 199 -- Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 199, the first of three works for the 11th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV199.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 199 page also has convenient access to notes from the Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issue, via link beneath the cover photo.

The Gardiner CD [30] needs special mention. The works for Trinity 11 are one of four actual pilgrimage recordings which were released by DG Archiv, rather than on Gardiners own SDG label. The others are for Trinity 9, Epiphany 3, and the Purification. Notes by Gardiner are not included, so there is no BCW link this week.

The chorale text and melody are also accessible via links at the BWV 199 page. Francis Browne is adding new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English-3].

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] The interesting thing about this cantata is that it is the only solo cantata Bach presented in his first two years at Leipzig. He had composed them before and after these years presenting in all four for alto, several more for soprano, a clutch for bass and (unfortunately) only the one for tenor.

The intriguing question is, why no more in the prolific first 24 months at Leipzig? Did 199 not go down well? Did Bach have to wait until Italian operatic traditions became more widespread in conservative centres making the solo cantata more acceptable within the church services?

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 6, 2011):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< The intriguing question is, why no more in the prolific first 24 months at Leipzig? Did 199 not go down well? Did Bach have to wait until Italian operatic traditions became more widespread in conservative centres making the solo cantata more acceptable within the church services? >
The most arresting aspect of this unusual cantata is that it opens with a recitative. It always disturbs my sense of cantata "gravitas" not to have a large-scale movement, be it choral or instrumental, which acts as kind of overture. Is there any collateral evidence of the kind of organ, pfeifer canzona or instrumental work which might have served as a prelude? Are there other ex abupto cantatas by other composers?

I also find it unusual that the one chorale-based movement is tucked into the middle. It reminds how brilliant is the conclusion to "Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen".

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Yes it is the first cantata Bach was to present in Leipzig beginning with a recitative---although not the first to begin without a chorus.

Francis Browne wrote (November 7, 2011):
BWV 199 Notes on the text

BWV 199 was first performed at Weimar on the 12th August 1714 , though it may have been written the previous year. It is a cantata of striking and original beauty, and it is therefore not surprising that Bach produced further performances not only at Weimar , but also at Cöthen (1717-23),possibly at Hamburg (1720) and Leipzig (first performance August 8th 1723).These later performances were adapted to circumstances by change of key and different instrumentation. Hans Joachim Schulze suggests also that Bach's awareness of the libretto's merit may have led him to give the work a prominent and lasting place in his repertoire.

The text was written by Georg Christian Lehms (1684-1717), court poet and librarian at the court of Darmstadt. He wrote a very great number of cantata texts which were set by Christoph Graupner and Gottfried Grünewald , who were Kapellmeister and vice-Kapellmeister at the Darmstadt court. It is very probable that Bach possessed a copy of Lehm's yearly cycle of cantata texts printed in 1711 Gottgefälliges Kirchen-Opffer. Around 1714 Bach set the present text by Lehms and also Widerstehe doch der Sunde BWV 54; around Christmas 1725/January 1726 he used Lehms for BWV 110, BWV 57, BWV 151, BWV 16, BWV 32 and BWV 13. In the following summer he again drew on Lehms' cycle for BWV 35 and BWV 170, both cantatas for solo alto.

Lehm's cycle includes larger texts for morning services and more intimate ones for afternoon services. Among the texts set by Bach only BWV 110 comes from the texts written for the morning services . All the others are for the afternoon services and their intimate character - as in the case of BWV 199 -is reflected in their vocal scoring. Graupner set the text for solo soprano two years before Bach and scholars argue that Bach was familiar with Graupner's piece.
(Hans Bergmann and the Ensemble Musica Poetica Freiburg have recorded both settings. See the list of recordings [33]).

The text deals with sin and repentance , guilt and reconciliation in general terms which allowed Bach to use the cantata on various occasions. His autograph score ,which was not discovered until 1911 in the Royal Library, Copenhagen, is headed 'Cantata a Voce sola'. But the text is tenuously connected with the
gospel for the 11th Sunday after Trinity, the story of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Luke 18: 9-14). The tax collector's plea , "Gott sei mir Sünder gnädig" is placed in the centre of the text as the turning point where anguish for sin turns to repentance and hope.

The extensive opening recitative deals with self -accusation with increasing intensity. The opening image -Mein Herz schwimmt im Blut - is connected by Schulze with a motif in baroque emblems used earlier by Weißenfels and Sorau and later by Erdmann Neumeister in Hamburg. Nicholas Anderson argues :The images of torment,
though out of tune with modern sensibilities,were in accordance with the Baroque concept of piety". Certainly some expressions -Sünden Brut, Ungeheuer, Höllenhenker, Lasternacht - and the repeated apostrophes may seem strained but the text which uses the intimacy of the first person throughout is carefully structured
to progress from the initial anguish through self-awareness to contrition, reconciliation and finally joy in God. The chorale in movement 6 - a beautiful setting of Johann Heermann's hymn - Wo soll ich fliehen hin (1630 during the Thirty Year's War)- is skilfully integrated in this structure.

Bach's setting shows how well he understood the text. What may seem alien in the unfamiliar poetic style of German Baroque becomes profoundly moving in his music.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 7, 2011):
BWV 199 "Afternoon" Cantat

Francis Browne wrote:
< Lehm‚s cycle includes larger texts for morning services and more intimate ones for afternoon services. Among the texts set by Bach only BWV 110 comes from the texts written for the morning services . All the others are for the afternoon services and their intimate character ˆas in the case of BWV 199 ˆis reflected in their vocal scoring. >
Is there any evidence that Bach wrote "afternoon" cantatas in Leipzig that were smaller in scale? I always understood that the Sunday cantata alternated between morning mass and afternoon vespers at St. Thomas and St. Nicholai.

Could this "afternoon" cantata have been performed at one church at the same time as the Cantata of the Day was being sung at the other church? Was there an occasion at one church which warranted special music? Or was this "afternoon" cantata sung at one of the other churches under Bach's care?

Vespers in Leipzig was pretty grand with full cantatas every week and festival settings of the Magnificat on feast days. However, this cantata reminds me very much of the G.M. Hoffmann, Little Magnificat in A minor, Anh 21, once attributed to Bach. Many have called the Hoffman a "domestic" work, but it would fit the bill of an "afternoon" cantata.

Is this a "genre" of Bach cantata?

Claudio Di Veroli wrote (November 7, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski & Julian Mincham] Thanks Ed, Julian and others.

I first heard this cantata as a teenager and, well, I was deeply moved. The highly dramatic Aria for oboe (ah yes there is also a soprano singing there . . . ) is one of the most beautiful pieces Bach ever wrote for the instrument. Also remarkable (though not that uncommon) is the use of individual and very differentiated subjects for the oboe and the soprano. Trivia: the main oboe melody can be considered a subject in many section, surely one of the longest melodic lines Bach ever wrote.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< The highly dramatic Aria for oboe (ah yes there is also a soprano singing there . . . ) is one of the most beautiful pieces Bach ever wrote for the instrument. >
We are fortunate to have multiple recorded performances by Marcel Ponseele, and hometown (Boston USA) favorite Peggy Pearson. Also worthy of note from the Boston area is the recording led by Dan Stepner with Sharon Baker, soprano, and Stephen Hammer, baroque oboe.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 8, 2011):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Graupner set the text for solo soprano two years before Bach and scholars argue that Bach was familiar with Graupner?s piece.
(Hans Bergmann and the Ensemble Musica Poetica Freiburg have recorded both settings. See the list of recordings
[33]). >
Thanks for pointing out that this recording includes the Graupner setting.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 6, 2011):
Claudio Di Veroli wrote:
< The highly dramatic Aria for oboe (ah yes there is also a soprano singing there . . . ) is one of the most beautiful pieces Bach ever wrote for the instrument. Also remarkable (though not that uncommon) is the use of
individual and very differentiated subjects for the oboe and the soprano. Trivia: the main oboe melody can be considered a subject in many section >
Hi Claudio. Couldn't agree more. Bach seems to have had a strong feeling for this combination as a medium for some of his most expressive movement particularly in his early years. Another example of a similarly stunning aria comes in BWV 21 also a relatively early work. This one has two totally arresting and unexpected interrupted cadences contained within the ritornello melody.

William Hoffman wrote (November 12, 2011):
BWV 199: Two Musico-Theological Commentaries

In the writings of two commentators, Bach's popular Cantata BWV 199, "Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut" (My heart swims in blood), can be viewed an examination of sin and misery - therefore death - and as an affirmation of the Passion as suffering for sin leading to redemption.

The mix of "disquieting phrases" in the Lehms text, the initial emphasis on penitence, the tonal wavering in the first half of the work, the special placement and treatment of the chorale, and the spare use of instruments to emphasize intimacy gives this unique work special, arresting character, says Calvin R. Stapert in <My Only Comfort: Death, Deliverance and Discipleship in the Music of Bach (Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids MI, 2000: 65-73).

This wavering among a wide range of emotional states reflects the stages leading from sin and humility to recognition with comfort and, ultimately, redemption, in this spiritual allegory of suffering as passion, says Eric Chafe in <Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of JSB> (University of California Press, Berkeley, 1991: 141f.

Stapert suggest three reasons for the imbalance between penitence and redemption (the first four of eight movements are three times longer than the last four in this 25-minute work):
1. Perhaps an expansive "heavy dose of penitence is needed to counter the depth of sin portrayed in the opening recitative";
2. The Gospel lesson, Luke 18: 9-14: "Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector," is all about penitence; and
3. The road "is anything but easy" from the "tortured rhetoric of the first movement" to the final, lively dance of joy. That road, Stapert citing Chafe, "wavers among the inner states of fear and torment, hope, repentance, entreaty, sorrow, comfort, and, finally, joy."

Among various themes woven through the work, Stapert finds the "missing ingredient" involved in penitence is Jesus' sacrifice (Passion and death), achieving both satisfaction and justification; then the merciful and suffering God the Father whose heart "yearns" for humanity (Jeremiah 31:20) and "breaks" ("Bricht" in Luther's translation); and the simplicity and humility of Movement No. 6, the penitent in her chorale song of "Trostwort" (word of comfort).

While Cantata 199 wavers tonally through the recitatives of statements of conditions, the three da-capo arias of reflections, says Chafe, soar upwards in anabasis and are "increasingly positive." These reflect Luther's dynamic of "several crucial ideas" leading to the completion of repentance, from acknowledging sin, to the identification with Jesus Christ in the second stage, to faith free to "soar" and "joyfully sing."

Concludes Chafe: "As in several other Weimar cantatas [especially BWV 12 and BWV 21], this piece celebrates the central place of the Passion in the dynamic of faith and the linking of spiritual development with tonal shift, primarily anabasis." Cantata 199 illustrates tonal planning in a uniquely powerful presence even when the patterning is less direct."

On a more mundane level, I find utterly compelling both the striking recitatives and the lyric duets of soprano aria with oboe (No. 2), duet with gamba in the chorale (No. 6) and the two dances, the aria in ¾ minuet (No. 4), and the concluding 12/8 gigue aria (No. 8). Not bad at all for a guy who hadn't yet reached the age of 30!

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 12, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< In the writings of two commentators, Bach's popular Cantata BWV 199, "Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut" (My heart swims in blood), can be viewed an examination of sin and misery - therefore death - and as an affirmation of the Passion as suffering for sin leading to redemption. >
Thanks for taking the time for a critical literary analysis of a cantata whose very title I use as an example of Bach's often bizarre librettos. It requires considerable girding of one's intellectual loins to take on poetry which seems so distant and unsympathetic to modern sensibilities. A welcome assist in our bipolar appreciation of Bach: we love the music and hate the librettos.

 

Cantata BWV 199: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Article: Sellars Staging [U. Golomb]

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: ıNovember 27, 2011 ı15:29:09