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Cantata BWV 206
Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 6, 2013

Aryeh Oron wrote, on behalf of William Hoffman (October 6, 2013):
Cantata BWV 206 - Introduction to the weekly discussion


This Week’s Bach Cantatas Website discussion of Cantata BWV 206 of 1736 concludes the Festive Music for the Electoral House of Saxony, considering it as well as the latter lost or parodied court works, and Polish elements (text and Lombard rhythm) in these final works. Cantata BWV 206, Schleicht, spielende Wellen, und murmelt gelinde! (Flow, playful water, and murmur gently!) was first performed) for Augustus III’s birthday, 7 October 1736, inside at Zimmermann’s Coffee House, classified in Bach Compendium as BC G 23. The second performance was for Augustus’ nameday, August 3, 1740, outside at Zimmerman Garden, classified as BC G26). No members of the royal household attended either performance.

The performing forces used in Cantata BWV 206, Bach’s Collegium musicum, are virtually the same as <drammi per musica> BWV 201, BWV 207, BWV 214, BWV 215, and BWV 249: the 4-part Chorus; Orchestra, 3 trumpets, timpani, 2 oboes (d’amore), 3 transverse flutes, 2 violins, viola, continuo (cello & double-bass). For Cantata BWV 206 BCW Details see .

ummary of Cantata 206

Christoph Wolff provides the following summary:

<“Schleicht, spielende Wellen” BWV 206 is another dramma per musica, this time a setting of a text by an unknown poet written for the birthday of the Elector Friedrich August II of Saxony on 7 October 1734. The text even alludes to the fighting [Vitsula Recitative No. 2] that took place in Poland in 1734 [printed text – August 2, 1735 -- BD II, 385, 386; not extant]. Bach had already planned to set the work, but an unexpected invitation to write a serenade – Preise dein Glucke, gesegnetes Sachsen BWV 215 – in honour of a visit to Leipzig by the electoral couple on 5 October 1734 obliged him to postpone work on the score. It was evidently not completed until 1736, when it was performed, as originally intended, to mark the king’s birthday. Leipzig’s newspapers announced that at eight o’clock on the evening of 7 October 1736 Bach’s Collegium Musicum would “humbly perform solemn music with trumpets and timpani at Zimmermann’s coffeehouse” [BD II, p.193] Clearly the time of year meant that the piece had to be performed indoors, rather than outside, as had been the case with BWV 207a. Although no copies of the libretto that was printed on this occasion have survived, Bach’s autograph score is extant, as is a complete set of parts indicating that the work was revived on 3 August 1740 to celebrate the elector’s nameday. On this occasion, however, it is clear from a report in the local paper that the performance, once again given by Bach’s Collegium Musicum, took place out of doors – at four o’clock in the afternoon in Zimmermann’s garden” [BD II 479]

<The four vocal soloists represent allegorical personifications of the four principal rivers of Saxony, Poland and the Habsburg empire: the Pleiße (soprano), Danube (alto), Elbe (tenor) and Vistula (bass).| In the opening chorus, Bach conjures up the play of the waves in the orchestra, and later, too, there are repeated references to the image of water. The work is lavishly scored, with not only trumpets and timpani but also three flutes and two oboes in addition to the standard string ensemble. BWV 206 is one of the very few secular cantatas by Bach not to be related to any of his other works in terms of parody borrowings.> [Liner notes, Recording (No. 5=C-5, Koopman, Erato Vol. 5,[AM-4CD].pdf .

Structure, Plan

“This work gives the impression of it having been carefully planned, probably suffering less under the stringent pressures of time than other pieces,” says Julian Mincham’s BCW Commentary. “The text is unique, the lyricist abandoning mythical or allegorical figures and choosing the four main rivers of the realm to act as spokespeople. Thus emerges a defined structure in which each river (or voice) has a linked recitative and aria (eight movements in all) framed by two excellent choruses, the second of which is preceded by a culminatory recitative involving all four voices.” (See BCW

Bach had the opportunity to compose a lengthy work – 43 minutes – of all da-capo lyrical music involving the opening and closing choruses and four arias set in an the opera form of alternating pairs of recitatives and arias for the same voice, uniting them in a closing recitative and chorus. Bach chose other elements of progressive galant style. He set two movements using dance style: the initial bass aria with strings, No. 3, is a in a typical 2/4 dance format also found in his Partitas (1725-30) and in the1730s secular cantata movements BWV 201/15, BWV 214/7, and 30a/1; and the celebratory closing chorus, No. 11, is in 12/8 Giga I style and rondeau form. Word painting is found in the tenor aria with violin obbligato, No. 5, in 6/8 dance-pulse, and the waters’ ebb and flow in the B section. The alto aria, No.7, with two oboes d’amore replacing festive oboes emphasizes the Electoress’ virtue and fidelity through the device of strict four-part fugue writing with popular, syncopated Lombard rhythm in the melodic lines.

“Also, this cantata [BWV 206] boasts of a movement, the ninth, which belongs to the category of modish display of Lombard rhythm, says Gerhard Herz in “Lombard Rhythm in Bach’s Vocal Music,” (<Essays on JS Bach>; Ann Arbor MI: UMI Research Press, 1985: 249). “Did Bach perhaps allude with this vocal Gavotte to a then current vogue of the Lombard manner in Leipzig? At any rate, Bach displayed this rhythm prominently in the cantata’s final aria in which, as is fitting, harmony is restored. Bach may have intended to make a fine point when he let this aria with its Lombard articulation be sung by the soprano which represents in this cantata of four rivers Leipzig’s own river, the Pleiße: <Hört doch! der sanften Flöten Chor> (Here now, the choirs of soft flutes).”

Popular like the polonaise at the Saxon court, Lombard rhythm (emphasis on the second beat, short-long, in 3/8 time), also called "Scottish snap," is found initially in the festive eight-part opening chorus of the name-day drama per musica, BWV Anh. 11, for August the Strong in 1732, later to open Cantata BWV 215 for the anniversary of August III’s election, and finally as the “Osana in excelsis” in the B-Minor Mass, BWV 232, composed in the late 1740s. Lombard rhythm also is found in arias of the Saxon homage cantatas (later parodied in the Christmas Oratorio), for the royal family: BWV 213/3 and BWV 213/11, BWV 214/5, and BWV 215/5, the bass mock-rage "Rase nur," in 3/8, respectively for the Prince, Electoress, and Augustus’ coronation observance between September 1733 and August 1734.

RiveSoloists and Homage Text

The soloists represent the four rivers involved with Saxony: soprano, Pleiße (Leipzig); alto, Danube (Austria, Augustus’ consort); tenor, Elbe (Saxony, Dresden); and bass, Weichsel/Vistula (Poland). German Text: Anon [probably Christian Friedrich Henrici (Picander)],

English Translations: Philip Z. Ambrose (with notes):
and Francis Browne: .

Text Changes

Both texts use the 1736 original German version. The 1740 version made minor changes in recitatives Nos. 2 and 10:

No. 2, Vitsula (bass) recitative reference to the War of Polish Secession:

Die jüngst des Himmels harter Schluss
(which recently heaven's harsh decree)
Auf meiner Völker Nacken wetzte.
(sharpened on the necks of my people.)


Die stets der Zweitracht tolle Wut
(which continually the dissention’s frantic rage)
auf meiner Bürger Nakken wetzte.
(on my burgher’s necks sharpened.)

No. 10, Rivers’ conclusion, River Pleiße:

Das unsre Lust,
(that lends our delight,)
Den gütigsten August,
(the most kind Augustus,)
Der Welt und uns geliehen.
(To the world and to us.)


Von dem August,
(of which Augustus,)
Der Erden süße Lust,
(the earth’s sweet delight)
Den Teuren Namen führet
(the dear nane bears.)

BCW Discussion, Other Sources

Aryeh Oron’s Introduction and Background lead BCW Discussion 1 (week of October 26, 2003), . The BCW Discussion 2 (week of November 9, 2008), features Thérèse Hanquet’s Introduction, .

Extensive information on the Saxon court, Augustus III, and Bach’s involvement are found in Marva J. Watson’s <The Historical Figures of the Birthday Cantatas of Johann Sebastian Bach> (MM Thesis, May 2010), in CHAPTER 4 – “Birthday Music for the House of Saxony” (p. 42) and “Augustus III, Elector of Saxony, King of Poland (p. 67).” The section, “The Birthday Cantata for Augustus III (p.73), deals with Cantata 206 (see BCW,

Origins of Music

In Seotember 1736 Bach had at hand a celebratory da-capo chorus in D major with trumpets, <Schelicht, spielende Wellen>. It was originally composed for August's Nameday, October 5, 1734, but set aside for two years in favor of music with a more appropriate text, Cantata BWV 215. "It seems likely that between October 1734 and October 1736, this first movement had become part of another cantata, presumably a cantata with a text differing from the original one and referring to matters other than the Elector's birthday or nameday," says Hans-Joachim Schulze in "Bach's Secular Cantatas - A New Look at the Sources" (BACH 21, 1990/1: 34). "The whereabouts of such a hypothetical cantata are unknown except for the traces in the source material of Cantata BWV 206."

Two arias composed prior to the performance may be partial parodies of previous music, according to W. Gillies Whittaker in <The Cantatas of JSB: Sacred & Secular> (London: Oxford University Press, 1959: 679-82). In the bass aria, No. 3 (Vistula), <Schleuß des Janustempels Türen> (Close the doors of the temple of Janus; Francis Browne translation, BCW,, “one begins to harbour suspicions that neither stanza nor music is original. After the clause about the temple of Janus, the verse seems reminiscent of church cantata arias, and one is driven to the conclusion that a number has been borrowed from some church work and the first clause substituted for what was originally there.”

In the alto aria, No. 7 (Danube to Electress), <Reis von Habsburgs hohem Stamme,/ Deiner Tugend helle Flamme> (Shoot from the high trunk of the Hapsburgs, Deiner Tugend helle Flamme/ the bright flame of your virtue), says Whittaker (Ibid.: 681): “One may be permitted to doubt if the aria was written to its present verse.”

Whittaker, who documented parody through faulty declamation and incongruity between music and text, praises the “engaging tunes” with “a network of individual lines all delightful in themselves,” and “Bach’s boundless fertility of device” “to which the opening five notes are put.”

There is speculation that the opening movement of Cantata 206, set side in 1734, may have been used in Bach’s presumed lost Pentecost Oratorio of 1735, although neither music nor the crucial text are extant. It is intriguing to consider that Bach may have utilized music also found in Cantata BWV 206, as well as unused parodied music from Cantatas BWV 213, BWV 214, BWV 215 of 1733, that became the core lyrical choruses and arias of the Christmas Oratorio of 1734-1735.

Elector Homage Performances Summarized

Here is a summary of Bach’s 14 catalogued homage performances (Bach Compendium BC G14 to G 27) of 13 different works (Cantata 206 performed twice as G 23 and G 26). Two dates have unknown works: 01/17/34, unknown serenade, Augustus III coronation, Zimmermann Coffee House, and ?08/24/34, BWV deest, no title, homage cantata, August III Nameday, Zimmermann Gardens at 4 p.m. The 13 works involve four extant originals (BWV 206, BWV 213, BWV 214, and BWV 215), five lost originals (BWV 193a, Anh. 9, Anh.11, Anh. 13, and BC G25); and four parodied works (BWV 205a, BWV 207a, BWV 208a, and BWV Anh. 12).

The occasions for these 14 performed works were: Elector’s Nameday six (BWV 193a, BWV Anh. 11, BWV Anh. 12, BWV 207a, BWV 206, BWV 208a), Elector’s Birthday three (BWV Anh. 9, BWV 206, and G25); and one each (total five) for the Prince’s Birthday (BWV 213), Electrees’ Birthday (BWV 214), Coronation (BWV 205a), Election Anniversary (BWV 215), and Household visit (Anh. 13).

Bach’s first homage work was for August II’s birthday, May 12, 1727, BWV Anh. 9, Entfernet euch, ihr heitern Sterne. Then Bach presented:

*On the Elector’s nameday, August 3, 1727, Bach honored Augustus II with Cantata BWV 193a, “Ihr Häuser des Himmels, ihr Scheinenden Lichter” (Ye Shining Heaven, Ye Shining Lights). It probably was held at the Zimmerman coffee gardens next to the Grimma Gate.

*Exactly five year later, August 3, 1732, Bach presented his third and last documented homage cantata to Augustus II, BWV Anh. 11, “Es lebe der König, der Vater im Lande” (Long life to the King now, the nation's true father), <dramma per musica> text by Picander. It was presented outdoors in front of the royal residence. The opening eight-part chorus, repeated at the end, originated as the opening chorus in Cantata BWV Anh. 9, “Entfernet Euch, ihr heitern Sterne” (Disperse yourselves, ye stars serenely) for the August II Birthday, May 12, 1727, sponsored by Leipzig University and probably presented at Zimmerman’s. It is Bach’s first recognized cantata for Saxon Court homage. The chorus also opened serenade Cantata BWV 215 for the visit of his son and heir, August III, on October 5, 1734, and in the late 1740s was parodied as the Osanna in the B-Minor Mass (BWV 232).

Those outdoor performances before the king at the royal residence involved Cantata BWV Anh. 11, BWV 215 (all with the same opening eight-part chorus) and BWV Anh. 13 in 1738. Cantatas BWV Anh. 9 and BWV 215 are serenades, also called “Evening Music,” usually performed after torchlight parades at the Leipzig market place. Cantata BWV 215 was presented on October 5, 1734, during the Fall Fair. Bach had originally intended to present Cantata BWV 206 on his October 3 birthday at Zimmerman’s but the Elector’s family paid an unexpected visit and a congratulatory serenade on the first anniversary of his election was put together hastily with a Leipzig University students commissioned and torchlight parade. Cantata 206 was presented at the Elector’s birthday, October

Lost Progressive Evening Serenade, BWV Anh. 13

Bach’s last “original” homage work, Cantata BWV Anh. 13, an evening serenade to a text of Johann Christoph Gottsched, leading poet and Leipzig University professor, was presented on Monday, April 28, 1738, during the Easter Fair that began the previous day, Jubilate Sunday. A Leipzig University student commission for the king’s visit and betrothal of Princes Amalia, it was presented at 9 p.m. in front of the royal residence in torchlight but without the preceding one-hour parade [BD II 424, 425], as was Cantata BWV Anh. 11 of August 3, 1732. Bach acknowledged payment from Leipzig University on May 5 (BD I, no. 122).

No music survives from Cantata BWV Anh. 13 (BCW Details, . This work, cited in Lorenz Mizler’s 1738-39 defense against Scheibe’s attack on Bach’s old-fashion style, “was written entirely in accordance with the latest taste and was approved by everyone” (NBR/BD II No. 346). Philip Z. Ambrose’s English translation and notes are found at Like Cantata 206, the nine-movement work opens and closes with festive choruses (called “arias” here) with alternating recitatives and two arias in between, singing the praises of the Elector.

Cantata BWV Anh. 13 is not a <dramma per musica> with mythological or allegorical figures but all four lyrical movements may involve Lombard syncopated rhythms, says Herz, Ibid.: 257f). “The chronological proximity of the Wiederau Cantata [November 1737] to the lost Cantata of 1738 . . . should allow us to deduce that Cantata BWV App. 13 was even more up to date, more lavish in use of short-long and Lombard rhythms and syncopation than the Wiederau Cantata, BWV 30a.”

The two da-capo choruses have dactyllic meter in the Gottsched text: No. 1, <Willkommen! Ihr herrschenden Götter der Erden!> (Be welcome! You ruling Gods of the earth!), and No. 9, <Auf! theuerste Enkelinn mächtigster Kaiser!> (Hail! Dearest granddaughter of mighty Emperors!). The two arias, Nos. 3 and 5, have trochaic meter common to” the previous Saxon Court homage cantatas BWV 214, BWV 215, BWV 206 as well as music ib BWV 12 and BWV 213, “and by the fact that they were created during the heyday of Bach’s use of these rhythms.” In all, Bach composed extant music for six of 14 court homage cantatas with Lombard rhythm (Ibid.: 254). As Bach’s last original composition for the court, Cantata BWV Anh. 13 “deserves a final moment of attention. “Once Bach had (in November 1736) received the title of court composer but not the position he had so fervently sought in 1733, there no longer seemed to be any practical reasons to continue to strive for for Augustus III’s favor by creating new compositions in his and his family’s honor. While cantata performances for the Name Day of his sovereign are documented for the years 1740 and 1742, they turn out to be repeat performances of Cantata 206” and Cantata BWV 208.

Lost Work and Hunting Cantata Parody

*No music or text survives for an evening serenade presented on August III’s birthday, October 7, 1739, at Zimmermann’s Coffee House (BD II 459). It is classified as Bach Compendium, BC G 25, and mentioned in the BWV Schmieder Catalogue 1990, Forward p. XI, No. 4. On October 2, 1739, Bach had resumed directorship of the Collegium musicum at Zimmermann’s (BD II, 457 and 455).

*As BWV 208a (BC G 27) with a revised text possibly by Johann Elias Bach, the Hunt Cantata was presented for the name day of Dresden monarch August III, August 3, 1742, with a new title, “Frolockender Götterstreit” (A Merry Contest of the Gods) [title page, no date, BD II 480]. It is virtually the same music as composed originally for Sachen-Weissenfels Duke Christian Birthday, February 24, 1713. Bach directed Collegium musicum probably at probably at Zimmerman’s Garden’s, Augustus not present. Text changes slight in movements 1-3 & 6, major changes in movements 5, 8, 12, 14, & 15 (BC G 27]. Details & one Recording (Festive Music for the Leipzig University Celebrations, Querstand CD 2009): , Philip Z. Ambrose English text translation with end notes on changes in found on-line at

Leipzig Venues, Saxon Homage Cantatas

The Leipzig public venues for the presentation of the Saxon Court homage cantatas have been determined by the time of year, the general practice, the number of printed text books, and in some cases a Leipzig newspaper article or civic account. The two venues were Zimmermann’s Coffee House (indoors) and Gardens (outdoors), adjacent to the main Grimma Gate, and outdoors in front of the Saxon Residence at Apel Mansion adjacent to City Hall at the market place during warmer weather. Torchlight illumination indicates an outdoor serenade, also called evening music. The parade honoring the court’s presence, held before the outdoor serenade, began at 8 p.m. around the market place, conducted by the sponsoring Leipzig University Students. The performers were Bach’s Collegium musicum.

Based on the above information, the specific venues have been identified in Christoph Wolff ‘s <JSB: The Learned Musician> (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2000: 360), based on the number of printed copies of the homage cantata texts, as found in Thomas Braatz’ “Bach’s Text and Music Business Connections,” BCW, and through . Braatz summarizes “references detailing Bach’s business with books and texts as extracted from the Bach-Dokumente II (Bärenreiter, 1969) [henceforth referred to simply as BD II].”

The venues and 14 works are:

Zimmermann’s Coffee House (indoors): Cantatas BWV 205a, BWV 214, and BWV 206
Zimmermann’s Coffee Garden (outdoors): Cantatas BWV 207a, BWV 215, BWV Anh. 12, and BWV 213)
Apel House (market place, outdoors): Cantatas BWV Anh. 11, BWV Anh. 13, and BWV 215
No venue specified: Cantata BWV Anh. 9, 193a, BWV 208a)
Repeat of Cantata BWV 206 (1740) at Zimmermann’s Coffee Garden

POSTSCRIPT: As to the whereabouts of the lost music of Nameday Cantata BWV Anh. 13 with its presumed Lombard style choruses and arias, perhaps Bach simply gave the music to Augustus III in 1738. Perhaps Bach, as he decided in the 1740s to take up the final three parts of his Missa: Kyrie-Gloria,” BWV 232I of 1733, for the Saxon court – the Credo, Sanctus-Benedictus-Hossana, and Agnus Dei-Dona nobis pacem – decided to include some progressive music the court favored through radical parody, called contrafaction involving the Latin Mass Ordinary, to create music in the Great B-Minor Catholic Mass whose sources have not been found.


Next BCW Weekly Discussions: final “Masses”: Oct 13, 2013, BWV 236, “Missa Brevis” in G major; and Oct 20, 2013, BWV 237-242, 5 Sanctus & Christe eleison. More sacred music for the Saxon Court and fuel for the B-Minor Mass, or just Bach’s “well-ordered church music to the Glory of God” -- Bach’s motive, method and opportunity, including Peter Wollny’s commentary on Bach’s use of Marco Giuseppe Peranda’s Missae in A Minor and C Major, in Weimar and Leipzig.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 7, 2013):
Cantata BWV 206 - Performance space?

William Hoffman wrote:
< Leipzig?s newspapers announced that at eight o?clock on the evening of 7 October 1736 Bach?s Collegium Musicum would ?humbly perform solemn music with trumpets and timpani at Zimmermann?s coffeehouse? >
Is there an online description of the performance space at Zimmerman's coffee house? Wolff describes the works and chrononogy but gives little indication of the size of the hall, seating capacity, stage, etc.

I suspect that a lot of people hear "coffee house" and think of a bankette at Starbuck's.

William Hoffman wrote (October 9, 2013):
[To Douglas Cowling] Here is the information: "Zimmermann's coffee-house, the site of Bach's collegium meetings, was located at Katharinenstrasse 14, a four-and-a-half storey Baroque building constructed by Doering around 1715. The coffee-house consisted of two adjoining rooms of modest size: one was approximately 8 x 10 metres, the other approximately 5.5 x 10 metres."

[George B. Stauffer, Civic Life and Secular Music Making, "Leipzig: a Cosmopolitan Trade Centre," <Music and Society: The Late Baroque Era, From 1680s to 1770 (Englewood Cliffs NJ: Prentice Hall, 1993: 286f)]


Cantata BWV 206: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements| Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
Discussions of General Topics: Cantatas & Other Vocal Works | Performance Practice | Radio, Concerts, Festivals, Recordings


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