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Cantata BWV 202
Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 14, 2007

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2007):
Introduction to BWV 202 - "Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten"

Discussion for the week of January 14, 2007

Cantata BWV 202- "Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten", Wedding Cantata

Date of composition and first performance unknown, see discussion.
Cöthen (1717-23) has been the most frequent attribution, but Dürr prefers Weimar (1713-16)

Text, data on recordings, readings for the day, commentary, and previous discussion can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV202.htm

including the following specific links:

Previous Discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV202-D.htm
Provenance: (Origin & Owner history) none listed?
Commentaries: external links only.

It is important to emphasize that this week continues our break in chronologic discussion of Bach's Sacred and Secular Cantatas. I also specifically mentioned this point last week, but some confusion remained. For those who are disappointed by the interruption, I would urge you to glance at the BCW archives and see the variety of suggestions which were considered before settling on the chronology. Consider it a blessing (I certainly do!) that the chronologic discussion is happening at all. It will resume before my five week term expires. I believe the reason for the timing of the interruption is that the period after the holidays (Christian!) has traditionally been one of light traffic on BCML. That was certainly not the case last week, however, probably because of the controversial nature of BWV 143 authenticity. There is little potential controversy this week (although we will probably manage to find some).

Dürr provides brief but convincing arguments for preferring the earlier Weimar date (1713-16), including <stylistic features cited by Joshua Rifkin (notes to recording [35]): the brevity and arioso endings of the recitatives; the sinuous oboe line and slow-fast-slow design of the opening aria, frequently paralleled in the arias of 1713-14 but seldom thereafter; and the specific mode of combining voice and obbligato instruments in the aria Mvt. 7, which finds no real counterpart in Bach's vocal works after 1715. <end quote>

The first round of discussions provides a concise summary of the individual movements of BWV 202, and there is no need to repeat that here. Dürr again:

<If the precise year of origin remains unknown, we nonetheless know the season in which the work was performed. In fanciful words, the libretto reveals that winter is drawing to a close: 'the day is free of cold' and flowers begin to shoot up (Mvt. 1, Mvt. 2), the sun climbs higher once more (Mvt. 3), and so Cupid again keeps a look out for prey (Mvt. 4, Mvt. 5). This gives the cue for mentioning the occasion of the work, namely to honor a bridal couple (Mvt. 6), for love is 'better than Flora's transitory delight' (Mvt. 7). The cantata ends with joyful good wishes.

<In Bach's setting, the plain garb of sound, which requires only solo soprano, oboe, strings, and continuo, suggests that the occasion of the work should be sought in a civil or possibly noble wedding rather than a royal one. Nor would the trifling, jesting tone have been well suited to a person of high rank. Arias alternate with recitatives, which invariably open as secco with continuo but solidify into arioso towards the close, a typical stylistic feature of Bach's Weimar and Cöthen periods which still occurs in the first Leipzig cantatas but not so often thereafter. <end quote>

I take minor exception with one point by Dürr: I think it is unfair to call the tone of this work trifling. Perhaps this is a translation issue, and someone with the German edition can help clarify? And to suggest that jesting would not be appropriate to a person of high rank misunderstands both jesting and rank (not the same as pomposity).

Dürr provides a concise conclusion:
<The overall form of the cantata might be described as a gradual transformation, achieved in a wave-like pattern, from a highly stylized, aperiodic, concereto-like movement to a popular-style, periodically articulated dance movement. The outer movements, Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 9 [Mvt. 9 with its heading, 'Gavotte'], represent the the two extremes, Mvt. 5 approaches the first type, and in Mvt. 3 and Mvt. 7 the second type acquires an increasingly clearer profile. <end quote>

With that in mind, I would like to add a few comments re the performance of BWV 202 by Peggy Pearson (oboe), Kendra Kolton (S), and Winsor Music (OVPP, modern instruments), in Lexington (Boston) MA, Sep. 2006. The entire performance was exceptionally well-balanced, superior to any of the recordings I have. The detail I would like to focus on is the continuo structure (harpsichord, double bass, and cello) and execution. Susan Hagen (bass) is a relatively recent addition to our roster of local treasures. Her striking good looks do not hurt, but it is her musicianship which is truly outstanding! In Mvt. 3, she played 'arco, pizzicato style' (as she later described it in response to my question, after a Nov. 25 concert), while in Mvt. 7 it is conventional pizzicato. This brings home Dürr's point precisely, in these two triple-meter movements.

I will save any detailed comments on recordings for discussion during the week. I have had, and enjoyed, the Donaths LP [25] for about 20 years. This year I have added Schwarzkopf/Klemperer [10], Mathis/Schreier [26] with the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition, and Kirkby/Parrott [29]. I still prefer the Donaths, both for Helen's lovely voice, and for the continuo effect with bassoon in nos. 3 and 7, which approximates (but does not equal) the effect achieved on bass by Susan Hagen. The unidentified oboe is also outstanding. Unfortunately, the Donaths' version has not been reissued on CD.

In the first round of discussions, Aryeh mentioned that there are so many recordings of this cantata available because every soprano wants to do it. Don't forget, also the oboe players, for the interweaving lines in Mvt. 1 and Mvt. 7 - wonderful, and durable on repeated listening. The singers were pretty well covered in the first round. I would suggest some comments in addition on the various oboe performances, and especially on the varieties of continuo scoring and interpretation.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 13, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Discussion for the week of January 14, 2007
Cantata BWV 202 - "Weichet nur, betrübte Schatten", Wedding Cantata
Date of composition and first performance unknown, see discussion.
Cöthen (1717-23) has been the most frequent attribution, but Dürr prefers Weimar (1713-16) >

Do we have any analogous evidence of where this type of cantata would have been performed; an intimate courtly chamber? Table music for the wedding banquet? A gathering of the court for a formal concert in a large hall?

And is this the type of cantata which would havebeen sung by a woman?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 13, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< Date of composition and first performance unknown, see discussion. Cöthen (1717-23) has been the most frequent attribution, but Dürr prefers Weimar (1713-16) >>
< Do we have any analogous evidence of where this type of cantata would have been performed; an intimate courtly chamber? Table music for the wedding banquet? A gathering of the court for a formal concert in a large hall?
And is this the type of cantata which would have been sung by a woman? >
The earlier (dare I say speculation?) was that it was written to be sung by Anna Magdalena at Cöthen, but this is superseded by Dürr's more recent thinking (speculative?), summarized above.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 13, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
From the translation of Dürr's cantata book (Oxford University Press):
"Nor would the trifling, jesting tone have been well suited to a person of high rank.<<

EM: >>I take minor exception with one point by Dürr: I think it is unfair to call the tone of this work trifling. Perhaps this is a translation issue, and someone with the German edition can help clarify? And to suggest that jesting would not be appropriate to a person of high rank misunderstands both jesting and rank (not the same as pomposity).<<

Original Text:

"...auch der tändelnde, scherzende Ton wäre einer hochgestellten Persönlichkeit gegenüber nicht angemessen gewesen."

"...also the playful/flirtatious, light/joking about tone would not have been appropriate for [when directed toward] a high-ranking personality." [Further explanation: this music with its conceits implied in the text is not suitable for a formal situation such as a royal wedding.]

royal/princely vs. noble/titled vs middle-

class/bourgeois = "fürstlich/adlig/bürgerlich"

I think that we can all easily admit to the difference between the extreme ends, royal vs. bourgeois, but Dürr is trying to indicate that the line is drawn somewhere in the middle between the gentry and higher nobility. This is a subtlety which escapes me as well. Perhaps someone from England or from the continent of Europe can enlighten us as to what Dürr is referring to here.

Dürr seems to be saying that certainly a larger ensemble of musicians would have been called for if this had been a royal wedding and that it appears much more likely that this cantata could have been ordered by someone of the well-to-do middle class, rather than by higher nobility or royalty. The poet and Bach then accordingly made adjustments in their choice of poetic analogies and language as well as in the choice of instrumentation to suit this occasion.

"trifling" may at times (but not as frequently and certainly not as "trifling" is more commonly understood in the USA) be equated with "tändelnd"; but the stronger connotation (in the USA) is for "trifling" = "superficial, careless, frivolous, insignificant" all of which are negative."

Perhaps all that we can say is that the translator of Dürr's book, whose name I have forgotten, in this instance treated the translation of "tändelnd" = "trifling" (at least as far as the US readership is concerned) in a 'trifling' manner.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 13, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Cöthen (1717-23) has been the most frequent attribution, but Dürr prefers Weimar (1713-16)<<
According to Dürr's original German cantata textbook, Dürr does not prefer Weimar: He states: "In any case, the dating of this cantata placing it into the Cöthen period (1717-1723) as determined by all previous research thus far is more believable. It is even possible that it might have been composed in the early Leipzig period." The Cöthen period as a probable time for its composition is confirmed by the BWV Verzeichnis. This would place it close to the time on December 3, 1721 when Bach and Anna Magdalen Wilcke "were married at home, by command of the Prince" [Wolff's biography p. 218, Bach-Dokumente II, item 110] Are you thinking what I am thinking?

Very shortly thereafter, on December 11, 1721 Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen married Princess Friederica Henrietta of Anhalt-Bernburg (known to most Bach lovers as "die Amusa", the term Bach used to describe her unmusical nature).

No music for this wedding ceremony has survived even though it is highly likely that Bach would have provided the music for this occasion (or is it these occasions?). It is not quite as likely for Bach to have composed and performed BWV 202 as it has come down to us for the prince's wedding for the reasons already outlined by Dürr. And yet...did Bach possibly compose two works, one with a lavish orchestration and having additional mvts. than the other (BWV 202?) a reduced version for 'home' use with a small instrumental ensemble?

What was behind the prince's command that the marriage was to take place at home? What can we read into this? Why was the marriage not performed in church? Is it of interest that the words "at the Prince's command" were added after the sentence in which it appears had already been written?

The Bach-Dokumente, Vol.II, this time item 158, reveals that an official complaint (dated: Cöthen, before September 9, 1723) regarding the precedent set by Bach's 'home-marriage' was addressed to the highest authority. It came as a result of an official quarrel between the Lutheran and Reformed churches in Anhalt-Köthen. The document, probably encouraged by the widowed Gisela Agnes of Anhalt-Köthen, reminds the authorities of the rule that when both bride and bridegroom are of the Lutheran faith,(actually either
one of the Lutheran or Reformed faith which represents both parties), each (one or the other) church should receive 10 Talers for the marriage which has taken place. The complaint goes on: "But now the Lutheran Church will get nothing since Capellmeister Bach was married at home. So now we have the case of the daughter of a pharmacy owner, Languth, who is of the Lutheran faith and a Lutheran preacher from Wernigerode who is having a preacher of the Reformed faith perform the marriage ceremony at home. As a result he did not want to pay the church anything at all." 10 Talers cf. 8 Talers for a violin made by Jacobus Stainer or for 20 Talers you could get a little harpsichord.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Perhaps all that we can say is that the translator of Dürr's book, whose name I have forgotten, in this instance treated the translation of "tändelnd" = "trifling" (at least as far as the US readership is concerned) in a 'trifling' manner. >
Thank you for the anticipated and prompt clarification. The translator is Richard D. P. Jones. Perhaps in this particular instance [redundancy? tautology?] he would have preferred anonymity?

As is my custom, I strive to be concise. Interested parties will have read your entire post already.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Cöthen (1717-23) has been the most frequent attribution, but Dürr prefers Weimar (1713-16)<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< According to Dürr's original German cantata textbook, Dürr does not prefer Weimar: He states: "In any case, the dating of this cantata placing it into the Cöthen period (1717-1723) as determined by all previous research thus far is more believable. It is even possible that it might have been composed in the early Leipzig period." The Cöthen period as a probable time for its composition is confirmed by the BWV Verzeichnis. This would place it close to the time on December 3, 1721 when Bach and Anna Magdalen Wilcke "were married at home, by command of the Prince" [Wolff's biography p. 218, Bach-Dokumente II, item 110] Are you thinwhat I am thinking? >
I certainly am! To spell it out for everyone, it is not unreasonable conjecture that this cantata could have been composed for the wedding of JS and AM Bach, and sung by her.

Thank you for pointing out that Dürr possibly changed his mind (or his published opinion) between the German and English editions. Indeed, the major points in the English translation are based on stylistic arguments, cited from Rifkin liner notes. Perhaps nothing deeper than a professional courtesy or nod?

Sounds like yet another potential screenplay.

< The complaint goes on: "But now the Lutheran Church will get nothing since Capellmeister Bach was married at home. So now we have the case of the daughter of a pharmacy owner, Languth, who is of the Lutheran faith and a Lutheran preacher from Wernigerode who is having a preacher of the Reformed faith perform the marriage ceremony at home. As a result he did not want to pay the church anything at all." >
How uncharacteristic of Bach, the devoted Lutheran, trying to weasel a Lutheran Church out of 10 talers. (In the USA, that sort of statement passes for subtle humor).

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I certainly am! To spell it out for everyone, it is not unreasonable conjecture that this cantata could have been composed for the wedding of JS and AM Bach, and sung by her. >
Brides never sing at their own weddings! I had a mother who insisted on singing at her daughter's wedding but that's another story -- and not a pretty one! Brides were expected to be demur, modest and silent. It would have been gauche and inappropriate for an 18th century bride to say anything other than her vows -- even today brides are mostly taciturn.

Neither the chamber scale of the cantata nor the slightly risque text precludes its performance at a noble wedding. There are many examples of royal wedding entertainments with texts full of sexual innuendo that make this cantata quite tame. I'm not sure why we have to try to link this work with Bach's own wedding.

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 14, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Well, apparently the Bach wedding was rather unconventional. As was pointed out previously, a good lutheran never cheats his church of 10 thalers!

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Brides never sing at their own weddings!...It would have been gauche and inappropriate for an 18th century bride to say anything other than her vows....<<
I would love to see any documentation for this which would place this tradition/superstition directly into Bach's time in Germany, particularly when the wedding ceremony is a private one taking place in a house (the house of the bride) where the bride is a noted musician being married to an even more famous composer.

>>Neither the chamber scale of the cantata nor the slightly risque text precludes its performance at a noble wedding. There are many examples of royal wedding entertainments with texts full of sexual innuendo that make this cantata quite tame. I'm not sure why we have to try to link this work with Bach's own wedding<<
The problem here is to distinguish between a royal church wedding and a home setting which is less formal.

As far as I know, we have no comparison with another secular cantata by Bach which was performed for a prince's wedding entertainment. This would give us a more solid ground to stand on.

As it is, we are left with two quite different types of "wedding" cantatas: sacred and secular. In German the former are categorized as "Trauungskantaten" and the latter "Hochzeitskantaten". BWV 34a, BWV 120a, BWV 195, BWV 196, and BWV 197 are sacred "Trauungskantaten" performed only in a church often with two sections, the second section entitled 'Post Copulationem". The cantata would include simple chorale mvts. as well as festive music with 3 trumpets and timpani (as much as your money could buy). The families ordering such music for the church included merchants, lawyers, storekeepers, government officials, book sellers, etc.

For the second category, "Hochzeitskantaten" (secular), we have only 3 examples: BWV 202, BWV 210 and BWV 216 (fragmentary). BWV 210 reveals information which will help to understand how this music was most likely performed. Bach researchers have narrowed down the choice of the couple for whom this music most likely was either performed or composed (often Bach reused material from other cantatas which is true in this case also). One very likely marriage for which this music was performed took place on April 3, 1742. The bride's family had very close connections with the Bach family and the families were practically neighbors. Here is what the Bach sleuths uncovered (NBA KB I/40 pp. 56ff): The names of the bride and bridegroom were entered into the church register of weddings at St. Thomas Church (you have to assume that they went through all the bans -- names being read in church on previous Sundays, etc.). However, the wedding did not take place in church! The wedding register shows the following additional comment: the wedding took place "auf allergnädigsten Befehl im Bosischen Hauße, am Thomas Kirch Hoffe" ("upon the most generous command [some higher authority gave the order that the wedding could proceed in this fashion], in the Bose house located in the St. Thomas Church Courtyard"). In such a location, this cantata would have been performed in the intimate environment offered by a house or a small hall in a house. This would increase the possibility that Anna Magdalena Bach would have performed this solo soprano cantata with her "sauberen Soprano" ("clean soprano voice").

In light of the above, consider now the possibilities for BWV 202, since there are some important similarities involved.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< As it is, we are left with two quite different types of "wedding" cantatas: sacred and secular. In German the former are categorized as "Trauungskantaten" and the latter "Hochzeitskantaten". >
We have been loosely talking about these two types of cantatas as "wedding" cantatas. "Trauungskantaten" are sacred cantatas performed during the church wedding; "Hochzeitkantaten" are secular cantatas performed at the post-ceremonial festivities -- what we would call the wedding reception.

I think it is incorrect to assume that a house wedding was any less serious or religious than a church wedding. If anything, good middle-class families would be extremely careful that decorum and all the proprieties were observed -- reputations were at stake. The officiating pastor would not have permitted any looseness as the marriage service took place, the same service as would be read in church. As in domestic funeral rites, we can be reasonably certain that chorales would be sung by the assembled guests. Contemporary hymn books are full of chorales for domestic devotions.

The ceremony over, the secular celebration could begin. And this is when a commissoned cantata with mythological imagery and best wishes to the couple could be addressed. A female singer could well have performed during the festiviies, but a bride would have remained silent, a long-standing tradition from the Middle Ages.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
<< I certainly am! To spell it out for everyone, it is not unreasonable conjecture that this cantata could have been composed for the wedding of JS and AM Bach, and sung by her. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Brides never sing at their own weddings! >
You must have missed a few of the Polish weddings I recall (and a couple I don't!).

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>Brides never sing at their own weddings!...It would have been gauche and inappropriate for an 18th century bride to say anything other than her vows....<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I would love to see any documentation for this which would place this traditio/superstition directly into Bach's time in Germany, particularly when the wedding ceremony is a private one taking place in a house (the house of the bride) where the bride is a noted musician being married to an even more famous composer. >
Not to overlook the fact that the bride's father played pretty decent trumpet (baroque but happy, as performing musicians are wont to say).

< One very likely marriage for which this music was performed took place on April 3, 1742. The bride's family had very close connections with the Bach family and the families were practically neighbors. >
Although I promised (or at least predicted) controversy in my introduction, I am actually striving for points of agreement. But haven't we skipped a couple decades here?

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The ceremony over, the secular celebration could begin. And this is when a commissoned cantata with mythological imagery and best wishes to the couple could be addressed.<<
Yes, possibly right after a short formal ceremony preceded and followed by a 'wedding' chorale of which there are some examples by Bach. With those attending the formal ceremony not going anywhere else after it was over, possibly not even leaving their positions or seats, if they were privileged to have one in the crowded room(s) of a house, the next event, the wedding cantata would follow seamlessly as if it were part of the same ceremony/program. Only thereafter would the guests move about more freely in the crowded quarters of a house for food, drink, congratulations and conversation. The cantata would serve as a special toast to the married couple from all who were present.

>>A female singer could well have performed during the festiviies, but a bride would have remained silent, a long-standing tradition from the Middle Ages.<<
We will need more concrete evidence than this simple overgeneralization.

Some additional thoughts about BWV 202. Several commentators have asserted that the text must be interpreted literally to mean that the marriage involved took place in spring since this season is alluded to throughout all the mvts. How sad and limited is such an interpretation which would seem to imply that the librettist and Bach could only think literally and that Bach would only be able to use this wedding music for weddings that took place in spring. On the other hand, there is an interesting clue which I discovered today in reading the text in light of the other connections I have attempted to make today:

Mvt. 6 Recitativo
Und dieses ist das Glücke,
Daß durch ein hohes Gunstgeschicke
Zwei Seelen einen Schmuck erlanget,
An dem viel Heil und Segen pranget.


At this point the mythological, figurative language assumes a more literal tone as it refers directly to the bride and bridegroom and even to the somewhat unusual circumstance under which the wedding ceremony could take place: "durch ein hohes Gunstgeschicke" ("by means someone of high position generously granting permission for the marriage to take place") I find comfort in Hans-Joachim Schulze's explanation of this phrase on p.718 of his "Die Bach-Kantaten", Leipzig, 2006, where he states: "Mit etwas Fantasie könne man das "hohe Gunstgeschicke" als Anspielung auf eine obrigkeitliche Heiratserlaubnis verstehen...." ("With just a bit of fantasy you could understand "hohe Gunstgeschicke" as an allusion to the permission by higher authority to marry....") Since asking for and receiving permission to marry from temporal and/or church authorities would have been a common event even in Bach's time, there really would be no good reason to include a special reference to this in the text unless it was a rather uncommon event and/or unless it referred to 'home' marriages instead of 'church' marriages for which a special dispensation or command/order from a higher authority was necessary.

On another level,"durch ein hohes Gunstgeschicke" may refer to the marriage being fated by the stars or through God's providence.

On a literal level "Schmuck" might refer to an actual gift of jewelry from Prince Leopold, but at the same time it could figuratively refer to the crowning glory that the marriage will represent and for which the pair have been striving.

Summary:

1. The text for BWV 202 does not force the ('home') wedding at which it was performed to have to take place in spring as some commentators would have it. The wedding could just as easily have taken place at any time of the year. It is only necessary to think figuratively as Bach certainly would have done. He loved punning and thinking on various levels simultaneously.

2. The phrase "durch ein hohes Gunstgeschicke" seems to fit quite well with the circumstances Bach experienced when he married Anna Magdalena Wülcken on December 3, 1721. Consider also how this new marriage would remove 'sad and gloomy shadows' that had surrounded him since the sudden death of his first wife.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 14, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>Although I promised (or at least predicted)controversy in my introduction, I am actually striving for points of agreement. But haven't we skipped a couple decades here?<<
[referring here to my presentation of BWV 210 with some details surrounding the home wedding where the latter cantata was most likely performed on April 3, 1742]

No, this digression for purposes of comparison is absolutely necessary since we really have no specific evidence for BWV 202 other than that the best Bach experts seem to agree that it could not have been composed in the Weimar period or early than that. In the almost complete absence of hard evidence, it would appear to be reasonable to create a possible scenario by analogy to a similar situation like that of BWV 210 for which we do have more evidence.

Comparison of BWV 202 with BWV 210

1. for solo soprano

2. for small chamber orchestra

3. no chorales

4. more dance-like mvts. (certainly when compared with sacred wedding cantatas)

5. for 'home' weddings, not for church

6. not for royalty (they would have church weddings almost resembling a coronation in the lavish music presented; no evidence that Bach ever composed any wedding banquet music for royalty or nobility (this does not mean that he did not ever do this, but simply that no documentary proof has ever been found to substantiate such a composition). If Bach did compose and perform wedding music for Prince Leopold who married only 2-3 weeks later, it would have been on a much grander scale (even as wedding banquet music) than BWV 202 and BWV 210. It is possible, based upon Bach's penchant for reusing/recycling music (parodies) that certain key mvts. might have been the same in BWV 202 and the conjectural music offered to the prince; however the orchestration, possibly text as well, would have been greatly altered to suit the occasion.

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< We have been loosely talking about these two types of cantatas as "wedding" cantatas. "Trauungskantaten" are sacred cantatas performed during the church wedding; "Hochzeitkantaten" are secular cantatas performed at the post-ceremonial festivities -- what we would call the wedding reception.
I think it is incorrect to assume that a house wedding was any less serious or religious than a church wedding. If anything, good middle-class families would be extremely careful that decorum and all the proprieties were observed -- reputations were at stake. >
I still don't see how the Bach reputation could have been ruined by AM singing BWV 202 at her own wedding. Thomas' explanations seem pretty clear.

A wedding comprizes
- a religious ceremony A in the middle of which the copulatio C takes place; - followed by a private party B at the house of the newly wed.

The surprizing fact in the case of Bach's wedding is that A took place at home, which allowed Bach to save the price of half a harpsichord at the expense of his c. It may be that during the religious part of the wedding, music of a sacred nature was performed. We don't know what the decorum prescribes when one cheats the church of the price of half a harpsichord. Perhaps no music at all? Then there was the private party, and the idea which comes to mind to a few list members is that BWV 202 may have been performed on that occasion, with AM singing the soprano part.

I still fail to see how formulating this hypothesis is 'incorrect'. The quodlibet BWV 524 suggests that wedding parties could be pretty informal as far as music is concerned! How can you be so sure that the sense of decorum prevailing in your social environment is by necessity the same as that prevailing in Bach's time?

Paul T. McCain wrote (January 14, 2007):
Is there actually any evidence for the assertion that AM sang at her own wedding? Any letters or otherwise confirmation for this? Thanks.

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 14, 2007):
[To Paul T. McCain] If such evidence existed it would be a scoop! Nobody on the list has claimed that AM singing at her own wedding is more than a piece of speculation. It is just a hypothesis. The only person having claimed anything on this matter so far is Doug, who affirms that the hypothesis is incorrect. We're currently examining Doug's arguments with as much generosity of spirit as we can muster, considering our respective natural abilities.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Yes, possibly right after a short formal ceremony preceded and followed by a 'wedding' chorale of which there are some examples by Bach. With those attending the formal ceremony not going anywhere else after it was over, possibly not even leaving their positions or seats, if they were privileged to have one in the crowded room(s) of a house, the next event, the wedding cantata would follow seamlessly as if it were part of the same ceremony/program. Only thereafter would the guests move about more freely in the crowded quarters of a house for food, drink, congratulations and conversation. The cantata would serve as a special toast to the married couple from all who were present. >
I agree that this is a musical toast to the bride and the groom, but the secular text of the cantata precludes it from having been allowed to have even the slightest connection with the formal ceremony.

I'm surmising that, like funeral prayers, the actual marriage rite took place at the door of the home (there may have been a legal stipulation that the door had to be left open to satisfy the public nature of the rite). Guests may have sung a chorale as the groom came into the house and the bride came down the stairs. The parties and guests stood as the short ceremony and sermonette took placw. Because there was no nuptial mass even in the church there was no kissing of the bride. Another chorale could have closed the religious portion of the celebration. The atmosphere would have been solemn with none of the nudge-nudge, wink-wink of modern weddings.

The chorale concluded, the newly-married couple would have walked to the room where the marriage breakfast would take place and they would be greeted with whatever social customs were common (did they throw rice, toss the bouquet, lift the veil? -- social historians would have to tell us).

Clearly, the cantata was part of the "toast". We'd have to ask the social historians again, but I doubt that propriety would prohibit any bride from speaking let alone singing at her own wedding. As has been the custom in Western Europe from the Middle Ages until quite recently, a bride demonstrated her chaste obedience to her new husband by remaining silent.

The whole celebration including the musical performance must have been extraodinarily intimate in scale. With witnesses, family and musicians we may be only talking about 20 people.

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Clearly, the cantata was part of the "toast". We'd have to ask the social historians again, but I doubt that propriety would prohibit any bride from speaking let alone singing at her own wedding. As has been the custom in Western Europe from the Middle Ages until quite recently, a bride demonstrated her chaste obedience to her new husband by remaining silent. >
Another instance of one saying the opposite of what one thinks. I wonder what this means. Any shrink around?

Apart from this, Doug's scenario appears pretty plausible to me... the wedding looks pretty much like my own (as far as the number of people present is concerned).

Richard Raymond wrote (January 14, 2007):
I would like to know what is your judgement concerning the musical interest, or not, of this Cantata. Thank you in advance.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< a bride demonstrated her chaste obedience to her new husband by remaining silent. >
But only during the ceremony???

Julian Mincham wrote (January 14, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< According to Dürr's original German cantata textbook, Dürr does not prefer Weimar: He states: "In any case, the dating of this cantata placing it into the Cöthen period (1717-1723) as determined by all previous research thus far is more believable. It is even possible that it might have been composed in the early Leipzig period."
One of the internal pieces of evidence would suggest a later rather than an early date is the use of both da capo arias and recitatives in this work. >

Both tended to be more associated with the opera during Bach's 'early'period; although for this very reason it may be that Bach may have been more inclined to use them in a secular work of this kind rather than a religious piece; a possible piece of evidence suggesting that he may, early in his career ar least, have differentiated between these two genres.

I confess to a great fondness for this joyous work probably because it was the first complete recording of a cantata I owned (or, indeed, could afford to own). I still have it--- sung by Anny Felbermayer and directed by Felix Prohaska on Vanguard [7].

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
<< a bride demonstrated her chaste obedience to her new husband by remaining silent. >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< But only during the ceremony??? >
Ironically, the only public words of the bride would have been her vows. We can't underestimate the social restrictions on women in the 18th century. Middle class families who had house weddings because of religious reasons would have been especially vigilant that decorum was preserved if only for the reputation of their church. No new bride would have wanted any gossip about her wedding. The toasts and speeches would have all been offered by men. The atmosphere must have been festive but not over-indulgent.

Wealthy and noble women had much more freedom. The salon of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler which Bach frequented must have presented a dramatic contrast to the public life of his own wife who as Frau Kantor Bach would have been closely watched by the ecclesiastical and municipal authorities under whose roof she lived. Musical families marrying within their own professional circle had an advantage that both the men and women would have understood the social norms demanded of their position.

Having said that, this week's wonderful cantata speaks to Bach's obvious pleasure in this social occasion. If it was a family wedding, Bach certainly gave the best gift to the couple. I'm not sure if the winer-spring imagery necessarily indicates the time of year, The allegory of the coming of spring with its attendant fecundity is a pretty standard feature of epithalamia from classical times onwwards. We still see it in Act I of 'Die Walküre' where Sieglinde passionately declares, "Du bist der Lenz". Needless to say, the good burghers of 18th century Leipzig would not have appreciated a tale of incestuous lovers!

Alain Bruguières wrote (J14, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Ironically, the only public words of the bride would have been her vows. We can't underestimate the social restrictions on women in the 18th century. >
Here again, Doug, you're saying the opposite of what you mean. If you can't underestimate, the restrictions are of the lowest level.

Your wedding must have been a highy traumatic experience. Care to tel us about your mother-in-law? You don't have to, you know...

Julian Mincham wrote (January 14, 2007):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< Here again, Doug, you're saying the opposite of what you mean. If you can't underestimate, the restrictions are of the lowest level. >
At least I have located a fellow love of irony!! All too rare nowadays!

Alain Bruguières wrote (January 14, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I hope your patience is not wearing too thin with me, since I'm not deliberately pestering you, only trying to elucidatethe reasons for your conviction in the relatively unimportant 'AM singing' matter. I still have questions...

Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Ironically, the only public words of the bride would have been her vows. >
Have you just met a group of social historians ? Just before writing this, you wrote :
< We'd have to ask the social historians again, but I doubt that propriety would prohibit any bride from speaking let alone singing at her own wedding. >
(meaning would allow any bride to, I assume...).

Unless this renewed certitude came from your direct link to J. S. Bach?

< Wealthy and noble women had much more freedom. The salon of Christiane Mariane von Ziegler which Bach frequented must have presented a dramatic contrast to the public life of his own wife who as Frau Kantor Bach would have been closely watched by the ecclesiastical and municipal authorities under whose roof she lived. Musical families marrying within their own professional circle had an advantage that both the men and women would have understood the social norms demanded of their position. >
Precisely, the wedding ceremony being private, with a small group of selected friends present, one may assume a more relaxed atmosphere. Moreover, since Bach found judicious to save half a hapsichord at the expense of his church, he may also have saved the second half of the selfsame harpsichord by hiring for free the bride as a singer :)

< Having said that, this week's wonderful cantata speaks to Bach's obvious pleasure in this social occasion. If it was a family wedding, Bach certainly gave the best gift to the couple. I'm not sure if the winer-spring imagery necessarily indicates the time of year, The allegory of the coming of spring with its attendant fecundity is a pretty standard feature of epithalamia from classical times onwwards.>
On this question, which is the one which matters most, I'm in full agreement with you!

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< I confess to a great fondness for this joyous work probably because it was the first complete recording of a cantata I owned (or, indeed, could afford to own). I still have it--- sung by Anny Felbermayer and directed by Felix Prohaska on Vanguard [7]. >
I feel the same way, with respect to the Donaths' LP [25], which I have had for 20+ years. Today, in a search of several Boston shops, the only additional version I was able to find was an LP, Prohaska on Vanguard [7]!

So your oldest coincides with my newest recording. I have not yet listened to it, because the Boston guys are playing a big football game on TV. Later this evening, and then some discussion.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2007):
BWV 202 Ton Koopman's Sundry Comments

Ton Koopman in his collaborative (Christoph Wolff) 3-volume work "Die Welt der Bach Kantaten" Vol. II (Secular Cantatas), p. 227 reports:
>>BWV 202: "Weiget nur", wie die einzige Quelle aus dem achtzehnten Jahrhundert (1730) den Titel angibt, nennt in der Besetzung der Kantate kein Fagott. Trotzdem werden die Arien Nr. 3 und 7 oft mit Fagottbegleitung gespielt. Eigentlich ist solch ein Part auf dem Fagott nicht ausführbar, es sei denn mit einer moderneren Atemtechnik, als man sie zu Bachs Zeit kannte. Wollte Bach im zweiten Teil von Aria Nr. 7 bei dem Text "sich üben im Lieben" mit einem extrem schwierig klingenden obligaten Oboenpart andeuten, daß das "üben" nicht ohne Probleme vonstatten geht?
Marcel Ponseele machte mich auf ein zufälliges Zusammentreffen von Umständen aufmerksam. In Rameaus Oper "Platée" erklingen nämlich in dem Moment, als der Frosch sich vermählen will, dieselben Streicherfiguren wie zu Beginn der ersten Arie der Kantate BWV 202
.<<

(>>BWV 202: "Weiget nur", as the title is given on the only existing source from the 18th century, has an orchestration which does not call for a bassoon. In spite of this a bassoon accompaniment is frequently used in the Arias BWV 202/3,7. Actually such a part is no playable on the bassoon unless a more modern breathing technique is used than that which was used in Bach's time. In the 2nd part of BWV 202/7 at the phrase "sich üben im Lieben" ("to keep practicing at loving") did Bach, by including an obbligato oboe part that sounds extremely difficult, want to hint at the fact that 'practicing' would not take place without any problems?
Marcel Ponseele pointed out to me an [interesting] similarity of circumstances: In Rameau's opera "Platée", the same [ascending] string figures [arpeggio] found at the beginning of the 1st Aria (BWV 202/1) are heard at that point in the opera where the frog wants to get married.<<)

I have some difficulty with Ponseele's description. For this reason I have included the following which makes a reference to the oboes imitating frog sounds by playing their lowest notes. There are frequent storms and passing clouds with ascending and descending clouds. Perhaps the frogs were going: "Quoi? quoi" while the cloud were going "up, up". Arpeggi would easily be a standard musical device to describe the latter (as also the dissipating
'shadows', fog, or clouds in BWV 202/1), but they [arpeggi] really have nothing to do with the former. The connection is indeed coincidental between frogs and clouds. The marriage connection is even more coincidental between Platée and BWV 202. Did Ponseele get the frog and the nymph confused or did Koopman possibly not relate Ponseele's comments accurately? What am I missing or not understanding here properly?

From Graham Sadler's article in the Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2007, acc. 1/14/07

>>Platée
Comédie lyrique ('ballet bouffon') in a prologue and three acts by JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU to a libretto by Adrien-Joseph Le Valois d'Orville after Jacques Autreau's play Platée, ou Junon jalouse; Versailles, La Grande Ecurie, 31 March 1745.
Completed for the dauphin's wedding festivities, Platée was given a single performance at Versailles in 1745. Its theme, derived from the ancient Greek writer Pausanias, is the mock marriage between Jupiter and an ugly marsh-nymph. As such, it appears grotesquely ill-suited to the occasion, especially as the bride, the Spanish princess Maria Teresa, was evidently unattractive. This aspect of the work, however, seems to have provoked little contemporary comment.

PROLOGUE ('La naissance de la comédie') A Greek vineyard Thespis, represented as the inventor of comedy, plans with Cupid, Momus (the god of ridicule) and Thalia (the muse of comedy) to give mortals and gods a moral lesson: they decide to re-enact the episode in which Jupiter cures his wife Juno of jealousy. The prologue culminates in an elaborate chorus, with an independent line for Thespis, 'Formons un spectacle nouveau'.
ACT 1 A marsh at the foot of Mount Cithaeron After a storm, graphically depicted in the orchestral prelude, Mercury descends. He explains to King Cithaeron that the storm is caused by Jupiter's impatience with Juno's behaviour. The king suggests a cure to cure her tiresome jealousy: Jupiter is to pretend to court the ugly but inordinately vain marsh-nymph Plataea. Juno will look foolish when she learns ther jealousy is groundless. The conspirators depart as Plataea arrives. She is convinced that Cithaeron's aloofness is a sign of his love. To the offstage sounds of frogs and cuckoos she begins to woo him. Irritated by his renewed coldness, she accuses him of treachery; her indignant 'Dis donc pourquoi!' is taken up by the frogs in an onomatopoeic chorus, 'Quoi? quoi?'. Mercury again descends. Bowing many times, he explains that Jupiter is infatuated by Plataea's beauty and wishes to marry her. Sudden lightning presages a storm - a sign, Mercury explains, of Juno's wrath. But Plataea is undaunted; indeed, in a virtuoso aria ('Quittez, nymphes, quittez vos demeures profondes', punctuated with rude syncopations associated with the frogs), she summons her fellow marsh dwellers to enjoy the rain. The ensuing divertissement again features frog noises (oboes at the bottom of their range). It is interrupted by another storm symphony, during which Aquilons (North Winds) force the nymphs back into their swamp.
ACT 2 The same Mercury explains to Cithaeron that he has hoodwinked Juno into going to Athens in the hope of surprising Jupiter and his new love. 'Look, there she goes', he jokes, pointing to a passing cloud. He and the king wait for Jupiter to arrive, and hide as his cloud descends. Plataea cautiously approaches the cloud ('A l'aspect de ce nuage'). She is amazed when the god manifests himself first as a donkey (its braying, which Plataea mistakes for amorous sighs, realistically portrayed by double stoppings), then as an owl. At the sight of the owl, other birds are heard taking panic-stricken flight, a cacophony ingeniously represented by two flageolets and upper strings. Eventually, amid a shower of fire, Jupiter appears in his own form. He declares his love to the frightened nymph and prepares a divertissement in her honour. After a laughing chorus, 'Quelle est aima-a-a-able', Folly appears with the 'fous gais' and 'fous tristes', these dressed respectively as babies and Greek philosophers. In a brilliant parody of an italianate coloratura aria, she recounts the story of Apollo and Daphne ('Aux langueurs d'Apollon Daphné se refusa'), accompanying herself on a lyre stolen from Apollo. There follow two dances 'dans le goût de vielle', the hurdy-gurdy represented by sustained double stoppings. Folly then creates 'a masterpiece of harmony', in which the whole assembly calls on Hymen to unite Jupiter and his new Juno. Plataea's excited outburst at being so described, 'Hé, bon, bon, bon!', is taken up in a final round-like ensemble and chorus. ACT 3 The same Returning in a fury from her fruitless mission, Juno is persuaded by Mercury to hide and observe the ceremony that is soon to begin. During a lively chorus 'Chanton's, célébrons en ce jour' and ensuing march, Plataea appears, heavily veiled, in a frog-drawn chariot flanked by Jupiter and Mercury and preceded by dryads, satyrs and nymphs. Leading her bridegroom by the hand, she observes that Cupid and Hymen are not yet present. (Mercury comments wryly to Jupiter that these two divinities rarely go together.) In the course of a long chaconne, Plataea becomes increasingly impatient. At last Momus appears, dressed to look like Cupid, blindfold and carrying a ludicrously large bow and quiver. Explaining that Cupid is otherwise engaged, Momus presents Plataea with the god's wedding gifts: tears, sorrows, cries, languor (string glissandos). Momus is embarrassed by the nymph's rejection of these gifts and is mocked by Folly (in the virtuoso ariette 'Amour, lance tes traits, épuise ton carquois'). Three of Momus's retinue, disguised as Graces, dance in comical fashion. Jupiter then takes Plataea's hand and begins the marriage oath. But when Juno fails to appear, he has to repeat 'I swear . ' several times. At last she strides in, tears off Plataea's veil - and realizes her mistake. The nymph storms out. To the sound of thunder the gods re-ascend, leaving Folly alone. Countryfolk bring Plataea back and begin to mock her ('Chantons Platée, égayons-nous'). The nymph grabs Cithaeron by the throat and threatens revenge. To renewed taunts she runs off to her swamp, while Folly and the assembly celebrate the reconciliation of Juno and Jupiter.<<

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< According to Dürr's original German cantata textbook, Dürr does not prefer Weimar: He states: "In any case, the dating of this cantata placing it into the Cöthen period (1717-1723) as determined by all previous research thus far is more believable. It is even possible that it might have been composed in the early Leipzig period." >
I repeat the comment I previously wrote in response to Thomas Braatz:
Thank you for pointing out that Dürr possibly changed his mind (or his published opinion) between the German and English editions. Indeed, the major points in the English translation are based on stylistic arguments, cited from Rifkin liner notes. Perhaps nothing deeper than a professional courtesy or nod?

Julian Mincham wrote:
< I confess to a great fondness for this joyous work probably because it was the first complete recording of a cantata I owned (or, indeed, could afford to own). I still have it--- sung by Anny Felbermayer and directed by Felix Prohaska on Vanguard. [7] >

I have had it for a little less than 12 hours, and listened a couple times. I find it preferable to my previous first choice (among my limited holdings), the Donaths [25], primarily because of the continuo performance. Prohaska [7] uses double bass rather than the bassoon of Donath. This is the better sounding choice when the bass is clearly audible, as it is here, and not out of balance with the vocal. It is also a more authentic choice, as pointed out by Thomas Braatz. This recording is not quite up to the standards of Susan Hagen with the Winsor Music live performance I described previously, but it is the closest approximation I have available.

While Julian and I both favor this performance, I should point out that what I call clearly audible bass, Neil Halliday (in the 2003 discussion) described as <heavy basso continuo accompaniment is a problem>. If interested, you will have to make your own judgements. Because of the lack of CD reissue, the Prohaska performance will not be a listening option for most readers. Other than that limitation, I would recommend it.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 15, 2007):
Richard Raymond wrote:
< I would like to know what is your judgement concerning the musical interest, or not, of this Cantata. Thank you in advance. >
I am not sure what you are seeking here -----but a few random thoughts.

Personally I consider this to be a work of real quality and maturity. For example, consider the beginning. Note how the swathes of string arpeggios float around seemingly lacking a definable melody. The oboe enters when you least expect it---no preparatory cadence or starting on an established tonic chord here. The soprano and oboe weave around each other as Bach develops their expressive melodies which ultimately, and surprisingly, transmute into that most formal of the suite movements, a minuet.

The emergence of the oboe melody from the indefinable string motives reminds me of the beginning of Beethoven's 9th symphony. Of course the ultimate expressive effect is very different but the principle seems very similar--wafts of motives eventually co-agulating into strong and clearly defined melody. In the Beethoven example, it is often interpretated as order evolving out of chaos.

Well, we know that Bach's complex mind often seemed to operate on several levels at the same time and I think it possible that something of the same may be happening in this cantata. Bach was (apparently) fulfilled and prolific in two marriages and probably had a respect and high regard for the institution. Is the very structure of this work a metaphor extolling the virtues of the formal, religious and social institution of marriage which might bring order and fulfillment into human existan? Might the establishment of musical order at the beginning of this work represent such an idea, especially metamorphosing, as it does into the solid, social and conventional form of the minuet? Is this reinforced by the choice of the similarly conventional and social form of the gavotte to end the work? Is the overall structure of the cantata predicated upon a metaphor extolling the solidity and virtue of the state of marriage?

The overall structure is extremely well balanced with three centrally paired recit/arias separating the long bipartite first movement and the final recit/gavotte. The three central arias are themselves finely balanced in terms of instrumental variety, mode and rhythmic structures. BWV 202/5 offers a pensive quality which contrasts perfectly with the more overtly joyous arias which encompass it---BWV 202/3 and 7. And there are so many tiny details to enjoy too such as the running bass line of the ritornello theme of BWV 202/3 where the semiquavers take on such a life of their own that they seem not to want to let go!

One often finds (at least I have) a strange sort of prejudice in the tide of human affairs whereby joyousness, humour and gaeity are less valued than serious intent. Not just in music; the comic actor is less highly valued than the tragic one. Children study Shakespeare at school, but generally not the screenplay of 'Some like it hot' of the scripts of Steptoe and Son. 202 is a work of joy and does not seek to touch the parts of the soul reached by the Bm mass or the SMP. Does this make it a work of lesser value? Does its lack of apparent 'profundity' relegate it in terms of its overall quality?

Actually I think it is as demanding to produce a piece of music of great joyousness as it is to produce one of 'deep profundity', and heaven knows, there is need of the former in the world today.

As an expression of celebratory joyousness I would rank this cantata very highly indeed. I would also guess that it is one which many people on this list might keep returning to.

Incidentally I am indebted to Harry Crosby for making available to me performances of this (and other) cantatas directed by Hans Joachim Rotzsch---well worth a listen.

Bradley Lehman wrote (January 15, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< (>>BWV 202: „Weiget nur“, as the title is given on the only existing source from the 18th century, has an orchestration which does not call for a bassoon. In spite of this a bassoon accompaniment is frequently used in the Arias BWV 202/3,7. Actually such a part is no playable on the bassoon unless a more modern breathing technique is used than that which was used in Bach’s time. >
Harder than the never-lets-up bassoon part of Brandenburg #1?

< In the 2nd part of BWV 202/7 at the phrase “sich üben im Lieben” (“to keep practicing at loving”) did Bach, by including an obbligato oboe part that sounds extremely difficult, want to hint at the fact that ‘practicing’ would not take place without any problems? >
This sort of implies that people actually rehearsed and practiced Bach's music, instead of merely sight-reading it.

Brad Lehman
(spent some of the weekend practicing Bach's toughest harpsichord music, for concerts that are still "only" nine weeks away....)

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Harder than the never-lets-up bassoon part of Brandenburg #1?<<
Perhaps Ton Koopman will give you an answer to this if he receives a polite inquiry from a fellow musician?

[My view: the tempi were most likely slower than those taken today and perhaps with two bassoon players on the same part, one could easily help the other out so that the music continued without interruption.]

>>This sort of implies that people actually rehearsed and practiced Bach's music, instead of merely sight-reading it.<<
Not necessarily since this could easily mean that they (the brass players, for instance) practiced playing the notes of the chromatic scale so that they would be ready to play at sight anything placed before them by Bach at very short notice. All other instrumental musicians and vocalists would play or sing other material which they had before them or which they remembered from a previous performance. Have you ever heard a symphony orchestra on stage before the tuning begins? Various instrumentalists will be playing some famous, difficult 'quips' from compositions not on the program as well some they have on the music stand before them. If they were at home or in a private studio, they would, no doubt, be ready to play quite a number of passages from previously played compositions without having the music before them. Attaining excellence in being able to play all the notes set before them at short notice and staying in shape by going over previous, difficult passages, are prerequisites for a good performance. This would all be part of daily practice and playing. Gottfried Reiche had to play brass music from the towers of Leipzig on a daily basis, rain or shine.

>>Brad Lehman (spent some of the weekend practicing Bach's toughest harpsichord music, for concerts that are still "only" nine weeks away....)<<
...which only serves once again to prove the vast difference between musicians then and now. While striving for excellence in both cases, the means of achieving the goal of providing moving, meaningful performances are very different indeed. In Bach's time sight-reading was the norm as we know from the evidence found in the composing and copying process used by Bach when he was composing approximately one cantata a week. While we have come to expect from a new presentation/recording of Bach's music an 'ear'-opening, 'noticeably different' flawless interpretation that has been studied and worked out meticulously over months of rehearsal, it may well be that Bach's musicians with their sight-reading talent were able to present instead a very fresh musical experience for themselves and their listeners. This initial 'freshness' and 'wide-awake' attitude is more
difficult to achieve if a composition has had many rehearsals going back weeks or even months before the performance. Such a 'fresh' performance is also very much dependent upon the excellent sight-reading capabilities of Bach's musicians and their personal attitude and commitment to the music, both of which could easily have been more intense in Bach's time which lacked the numerous distractions that musicians have to contend with or succumb to today.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 15, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Harder than the never-lets-up bassoon part of Brandenburg #1? >
Or the solo in the trio from the 4th orchestral suite--also a 'never lets up' movement?

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< we have come to expect from anew presentation/recording of Bach's music an 'ear'-opening, 'noticeably different' flawless interpretation that has been studied and worked out meticulously over months of rehearsal, it may well be that Bach's musicians with their sight-reading talent were able to present instead a very fresh musical experience for themselves and their listeners. This initial 'freshness' and 'wide-awake' attitude is more difficult to achieve if a composition has had many rehearsals going back weeks or even months before the performance. >
For an alternative perspective, compare these comments from Wikipedia (Historically Informed Performance entry):

<Occasionally, the written record tells us things we might prefer not to know. For instance, a letter from Haydn (Oct. 17, 1789) says:

Now I would humbly ask you to tell the princely Kapellmeister there that these three symphonies [ 90-92 ] because of their many particular effects, should be rehearsed at least once, carefully and with special concentration, before they are performed.

implying of course that symphonies were often performed with no rehearsal at all. Likewise, there is testimony that the task of keeping early instruments in tune was difficult and perhaps also neglected. One critic wrote in 1684:

At the beginning of the concerts, we observe the accuracy of the chords ...some time after, the instruments make a din; the music is for our ears no longer anything but a confused noise.

Such evidence is a reminder that authentic performance must aim at the highest ideals of past music making, rather than what was achieved on particular occasions. <end quote>

I am still trying to recover the reference quoting an elderly Thomaner to the same effect, i.e., the music was poorly prepared and often little better than confused noise.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 15, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I am still trying to recover the reference quoting an elderly Thomaner to the same effect, i.e., the music was poorly prepared and often little better than confused noise. >
I think we have to treat such reported comments with a degree of suspicion. Often when encountering new styles audiences and critics have displayed their lack of understanding and sympathy with the idiom by describing it in much these terms. Wasn't that true of the first performance of Beethoven's 7th symphony?

But the Haydn quotation is very interesting and, as you suggest, quite possible illuminating of contemporary practices.

Thomas Braatz wrote (January 15, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Often when encountering new styles audiences and critics have displayed their lack of understanding and sympathy with the idiom by describing it in much these terms. Wasn't that true of the first performance of Beethoven's 7th symphony?<<
I think it was Carl Maria von Weber, who. After hearing Beethoven's 7th symphony, described it as a work composed by one ready for the insane asylum (or something along those lines).

>>But the Haydn quotation is very interesting and, as you suggest, quite possible illuminating of contemporary practices.<<
Yes, contemporary for Haydn, but not for Bach.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 15, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>> But the Haydn quotation is very interesting and, as you suggest, quite possible illuminating of contemporary practices.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Yes, contemporary for Haydn, but not for Bach. >
Now, Thomas, this is how a civilized, gracious person would have phrased his response:

"Although there is undoubtedly much continuity in performance practice between the mid and late 18th century, we have to exercise some caution in applying the latter to the earlier."

Your curt dismissal is neither civilized nor gracious.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 15, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>Often when encountering new styles audiences and critics have displayed their lack of understanding and sympathy with the idiom by describing it in much these terms. Wasn't that true of the first performance of Beethoven's 7th symphony?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I think it was Carl Maria von Weber, who. After hearing Beethoven's 7th symphony, described it as a work composed by one ready for the insane asylum (or something along those lines).>
Was Weber wrong? Are ignoring social and musical conventions so different?

>>But the Haydn quotation is very interesting and, as > you suggest, quite possible illuminating of contemporary practices.<<
< Yes, contemporary for Haydn, but not for Bach. >
Well, in a field with a paucity of genuine evidence, a possible hint, however remote, may be more valuable than an unsupported guess, presented as fact. Somewhat analogous to <In the country of the blind, the one-eyed man is king>.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 202: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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