Cantata BWV 207Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten
Cantata BWV 207a
Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of April 28, 2002
Aryeh Oron wrote (April 30, 2002):
The subject of this week’s discussion (April 28, 2002), according to Riccardo Nughes suggested list, are the two twins secular cantatas, both of them titled as ‘Drama per Musica’:
BWV 207 - ‘Vereinigte Zwietracht der wechselnden Saiten’
BWV 207a - ‘Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten’
The first cantata was composed in 1726 in honour of the member of the teaching faculty of Leipzig University, Gottlieb Kortte, on his appointment as Professor of Roman Law. The second was composed in 1734 in honour of the Elector Augustus III’s birthday. Maybe ‘composed’ is not the right word (for the second cantata), because the case of this cantata reveals Bach’s most complete borrowing from any of his previously composed cantatas. The music for each number was simply applied to the new work - an unusual procedure for a composer who normally drew his inspiration from the text he set. Perhaps Bach thought that his Leipzig audience would not remember his cantata of 8 years before. Bach conducted the performance by his Collegium Musicum in Zimmermann’s Garden, apparently in the evening, because the Leipzig newspapers announcements for this coming event mentioned illuminations. Augustus II was not present, being in Poland at the time, but many Leipzig dignitaries attended and thus the King would be informed of this tribute to him.
The lavish orchestra with choir and the vocal soloists (soprano, alto, tenor, and bass) are identical for both cantatas and so is the music. The text is of inferior quality, and this is one of the rare cases where one can enjoy the music without missing anything not being familiar with the text. The recitatives are long and not very inspired, not to say boring, but the choruses and the arias are very impressive. Parts of the music will definitely sound very familiar to most, if not all, the members of the BCML.
In order to allow the members of the BCML being prepared for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of both cantatas, the details of which can be found in the following pages of the Bach Cantatas Website:
BWV 207: Cantata BWV 207 - Recordings
BWV 207a: Cantata BWV 207a - Recordings
In the same page you can also find link to a translation of the German text to English (English-3), made by Francis Browne. I have not yet translated the text to Hebrew, and indeed I do not feel compelled doing so, for reasons that were explained above.
Cantata BWV 207 has 2 complete recordings (Schreier [BWV 207-1], Goebel [BWV 207-2]), where Cantata BWV 207a has 4 (Kahlhöfer [BWV 207a-1], Bernius [BWV 207a-2], Koopman [BWV 207a-4], and Rilling [BWV 207a-3]). I have already started listening to them in sequence, without trying to find the negligible differences between the two versions. Initial impression: The music is bubbling with joy; the recitatives should be better skipped, if you have to patience to program the remote control of your audio system. I hope to see many of you participating in the discussion.
Aryeh Oron wrote (May 4, 2002):
After three complete rounds of listening to six complete recordings of this too long ‘Drama Per Musica’, I find myself having to admit that this work is not entirely enjoyable. Many of the cantatas are entrancing from first hearing, others need more time to grow on you. But very few of them are hard to get. Is it really nothing to get at in this cantata? Indeed, some movements are bubbling with joy, as I have written after the first round of listening. And it should, because the subject is about praise and honour and happiness. But there are also wisdom and values of good education to deal with. It seems that Bach did not invest in these pair of cantatas as he did in most of his sacred cantatas and many of the secular ones. He borrowed the Allegro movement of the 1st Brandenburg Concert for the ritornello of the opening chorus, and the final movement of the same Concerto for an orchestral interlude that follows the duet for bass and soprano. These two movements never fail to enlighten, but what about some original inspiration? As every experienced Bach Cantatas lover knows, every cantata hides something. You only have to look for it. In this case I have found a real pearl. This is movement 7 – the Aria for Alto.
Mvt. 7 Aria for Alto – Background
Most of the usual sources, including the liner notes to 5 of the 6 recordings of this cantata, do not have anything significant to say about the aria for alto. However, I found two that say something.
W. Murray Young wrote (The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide, 1982) about BWV 207:
Gratitude would like to carve Knotte’s image in marble to make him immortal, but she realises that stone will crumble in time and therefore his students’ deeds will be a more perpetual memorial to a model teacher. Bach seizes on the first line, from which he paints a realistic and vivid tone picture, with the two transverse flutes and continuo playing a dotted rhythm. We can hear the stone-masons at work as they chisel the teacher’s memorial! This rhythm continues throughout the aria; Bach has composed a unique way of expanding the imagery to express the toil of students. For Bach himself knew the perseverance required for success in learning.
Hans Christoph Worbs (Line notes to Bernius’ recording, 1990 [BWV 207a-2]) about BWV 207a:
Imitation also plays an important role in the accompanying texture of the magnificent alto aria, in which two obbligato flutes provide a counterpoint to the richly embellished vocal line.
a. With most of the cantatas, understanding the text helps one to enjoy the music more, due to the strong connection between text and music in most of Bach’s vocal works. This cantata is one of the rarest cases, when it is most recommended to relax, skipping the text, and enjoy the music of this wonderful aria. Reading the text will only cause you to marvel at the inspiration Bach could get from such problematic text (of both BWV 207 and BWV 207a), when he set the music to it. Or maybe his thoughts were wondering in other areas. I wonder!
b. The balance between the two obbligato flutes and the alto singer should be kept very carefully. They should keep the same internal rhythm, avoiding covering each other, and responding sensitively to each other. They should never sound as if they are competing with each other. The rating of the recordings below is taking into this consideration also these factors and not only the beauty of singing and playing.
[BWV 207-1] Schreier with Carolyn Watkinson (contralto) (1977). Time: 4:52
[BWV 207-2] Goebel with Axel Köhler (counter-tenor) (1996). Time: 5:20
[BWV 207a-1] Helmut Kahlhöfer with Emmi Lisken (contralto) (1967) Time: 4:10
[BWV 207a-2] Frieder Bernius with Michael Chance (counter-tenor) (1990). Time: 5:26
[BWV 207a-4] Koopman with Elisabeth von Magnus (contralto) (1996). Time: 5:31
[BWV 207a-3] Rilling with Ingeborg Danz (contralto) (1995). Time: 5:13
Contraltos/Mezzo-sopranos: Rilling/Danz [BWV 207a-3], Koopman/von Magnus [BWV 207a-4], Schreier/Watkinson [BWV 207-1], Kahlhöfer/Lisken [BWV 207a-1]
Counter-tenors: Goebel/Köhler [BWV 207-2], Bernius/Chance [BWV 207a-2]
As always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
BWV 207a "Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten”
Thomas Braatz wrote (May 29, 2004):
BWV 207a 'Auf, schmetternde Töne der muntern Trompeten' (Malcolm Boyd, editor, in his 'Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach' [Oxford, 1999]) translates this title as “Sound forth, ringing tones of bright trumpets.” Notice that he avoids using ‘splatter’ or even ‘blaring’ as possible translations for ‘schmetternde’! Perhaps Bach may have felt "Come on now! Let's have those blasting/blaring sounds of the lively trumpets!" since this would not have been a church cantata. The trumpet players may have played differently in such a venue. In any case, the sound of the trumpets would not have been feeble, soft, muffled, irregular, uncertain in the attacks, and showing a lack of proper intonation. The best English word, which only approximates the German word is 'blaring' = to sound loudly and stridently.
In attempting to come to some sort of explanation/definition of ‘splatter’ as applied to the manner of playing trumpets/trombae, I have assembled some interesting bits and pieces of information that might be helpful. It appears that ‘splatter’ is rather difficult to pin down. The German verb, ‘schmettern,’ although not a perfect choice, comes perhaps closer to what is intended when describing a certain type of trumpet attack. Here is what I have found:
The German verb „schmettern“
According to the DWB [Grimm Brothers], ist origin is unclear but we have some hints as to its earlier meaning by virtue of the Hessian dialect where it means a splashing, splattering, squirting about of liquid dung or feces or large drops of dirty fluid. In the 16th century it began to mean ‘to throw away or fling forcefully outwards making a very loud noise at the same time; to hit with great force and loud sound; to split apart with great noise. In the 18th century the emphasis was more upon the ‘shivering, shaking, trembling, quaking, or even crashing’ sound that came out of the action. It was being used more and more for actual musical sounds which hit the ear as if with a hefty blow (the crack of lightening, the overly sharp, strongly penetrating sound of trumpets, etc.)
Joachim Braun’s article on ‘Hassrah’ in the New Grove [Oxford University Press, 2004] will lead us back to some early origins of the concept of ‘schmettern’:
>>The term, for which no clear etymology is known, is possibly linked to the Arabic verb ‘hs’ (‘to howl’, ‘to scream’). Translated in the Septuagint as ‘salpinx’ and in the Vulgate as ‘tuba,’ the ‘hassrah’ is generally understood to be a metal trumpet.
The ‘hassrah’ appears in the books written before the Babylonian Exile as an instrument of war and rejoicing, and was played by the people. After the Exile the instrument assumed a ritual and priestly status in the Temple (2 Kings xii.14), but was also played at assemblies of the community (Numbers x.2), on feast days (Numbers x.10), when the Ark was borne in procession (1 Chronicles xv.25), at the taking of an oath (2 Chronicles xv.14), in war (Numbers x.2), and on such solemn occasions as the king's accession to the throne (2 Chronicles xxiii.13) and the laying of the foundation stone of the Temple (Ezra iii.10). Two forms of sound production are mentioned (Numbers x.1–7): ‘teqi‘ah,’ a long, strong note (for ‘the journeying of the camps’ and the assembly of army leaders); and ‘teru‘ah,’ a blaring tone for an alarm warning of enemy attack or divine admonition.
This is the only instrument whose construction and material are mentioned in any real detail in the Old Testament: it was to be made of hammered silver (Numbers x.2), about an ell (40 cm) in length, with a narrow tube and a broad bell (Josephus, iii.12, 6; fig.2). The two pieces of archaeological evidence most frequently cited – the depictions of trumpets on the Arch of Titus in Rome and the Bar Kokhba coinage, however are not reliable sources. The widespread hypothesis that the ‘hassrah’ derived from such Egyptian instruments as the pair of trumpets found in the tomb of Tutankhamun has not been proven. Consequently, a Graeco-Roman or Philistine-Phoenician provenance should not be ruled out.
The Old Testament, and more particularly the post-biblical literature (Mishnah, ‘Rosh ha-shanah’ iii.3) and the apocalyptic Qumran scroll ‘The War of the Sons of Light against the Sons of Darkness’ (1QM ii.15–iii.11 and vii.1–ix.9), illustrate the many everyday, ritual and warlike functions of the ‘hassrah’ (Seidel, 1956–7). Here the signals of the ‘hassrah’ are further subdivided, for instance as a ‘long, drawn-out tone’, a ‘sharp, blaring tone’, and a ‘great warlike noise’. The instruments themselves had inscriptions engraved on them, probably invocations and descriptions of their functions (e.g. ‘called by God’, ‘trumpet of summons’, ‘trumpet of pursuit’). The ‘shofar’ and ‘hassrah’ have often been confused in the interpretation of their significance and symbolism. Although there is a certain continuity in the function and symbolism of both instruments, the ‘hassrah’ was both a ritual instrument and a symbol of sanctioned and institutionalized secular autocratic power, while the ‘shofar’, had from ancient times been an instrument with magic and mystical theophanic connotations.<<
Now let Edward H. Tarr, also in the New Grove, explain how the previous article connects with trumpet playing in the 17th and 18th centuries. Be careful in reading this because Tarr jumps from one sentence (Praetorius – 1619) to the next (Altenburg – 1795) without even drawing a breath.
>>The ‘chamber’ or ‘concert trumpeter’ increasingly distinguished himself from the members of the trumpet corps, and performed sonatas, concertos and church music with the court or municipal orchestras. During the [17th] century two styles of trumpet playing developed. Altenburg referred to them (pp.14 and 23) as 'Feldstück-' or 'Prinzipalblasen', and 'Clarinblasen,' comparing them directly to techniques used by the ancient Hebrews and known as 'teruah' and 'tekia': Luther translated these as 'schmettern' and 'schlecht blasen' respectively, and the King James Bible as ‘blowing an alarm’ and ‘blowing’. The former style was deemed appropriate for military signals and for the ‘outdoor’ music of the trumpet corps; the latter, softer style was associated with solo playing in the clarino register. In 1619 Praetorius advised that the trumpet group be separated from the other musicians when called on to play in church, so as not to drown them out. Altenburg wrote that a ‘concert trumpeter is [often] spared the weekly playing at table, because through the blaring he would spoil the delicate and subtle embouchure [needed] for clarino [playing]’. 18th-century theorists praised players who were able to manage their instrument as softly as a flute.<<
[18th-century theorists = Altenburg? Actually he is more early 19th century and is attempting to reflect upon an early, long since forgotten tradition]
Please note the dates of publication of the Altenburg references which Tarr uses!
J.E. Altenburg: 'Versuch einer Anleitung zur heroisch-musikalischen Trumpeter- und Pauker-Kunst' [Halle, 1795]
‘Über die neuerlichen Verbesserungen der Trompete und der ihr ähnlichen Blasinstrumente’, AMZ, xvii (1815), 633–8
Finally, here are some quotations from the New Grove [Jazz] [Oxford University Press, 2004] which attempt to describe what some ‘odd’ sounds possibly resembling ‘schmettern’ or ‘splatter’ or ‘blaring’ sound like to modern ‘jazz-oriented’ ears:
The first three quotations were written by Barry Kernfeld and the last by Robert Witmer:
>>[Don] Cherry was a leading figure in free jazz. Although his improvisatory style derived considerably from that of Coleman, he also cited the influence of Fats Navarro, Clifford Brown, Miles Davis, and Harry Edison, as well as Mexican trumpestyles and the sounds achieved by players of the french horn and the conch trumpet. His performances had a rough-hewn quality and he often fluffed or splattered notes.<<
A weak note, sometimes barely audible, or a note that is implied rather than sounded. Ghost notes may be produced intentionally as a subtle means of articulating a phrase, or they may occur accidentally when a player “fluffs” notes (that is, fails to produce them cleanly with a full tone). Numerous examples of intentional ghost notes occur on Miles Davis's solo on the fifth take of Charlie Parker's 'Billie's Bounce' (1945, Savoy 573) (ex.1). The term is also used of phantom notes, implied by the internal rhythmic and melodic logic of a line or by voice leading but not actually sounded.<<
>>Sun Ra moved to New York in 1961. In 1963, when Clifford Jarvis, the alto saxophonist Danny Davis, the bass clarinetist Robert Cummings, and the wind player and percussionist James Jacson joined him, he recorded a startlingly original and eccentric album, 'Cosmic Tones for Mental Therapy', i; through its mix of rumbling drums, blaring horns, and weird keyboard effects, this serves as a signpost marking his emergence as a unique avant-garde musician.<<
A loud blaring note in the middle or lower range of the saxophone, unenlivened by vibrato or other pitch fluctuations; the effect is achieved by attacking the note sharply and with full air pressure, which makes the upper partials more prominent than in notes attacked with less force. (It contrasts with ‘subtone’, a soft, breathy tone produced on low notes by the suppression of the upper partials). An excellent example of the honk occurs on the title track of the album 'Two for the Blues' (1983, Pablo 2310905) by Frank Foster and Frank Wess: during the two 12-bar blues choruses immediately preceding the final chorus of the piece, a riff is heard 14 times, each ending with a honk played in unison. A saxophonist who plays in a “honking” style employs this effect frequently; its overuse by some players has led to the word’s carrying derogatory connotations. It is particularly characteristic of some rhythm-and-blues musicians.<<
Certainly the ‘rough-hewn’ qualities of attacking notes improperly are to be avoided in performances of Bach’s music, whether played on traditional or period instrument reconstructions.
BWV 207 - a quick question
Russell Telfer wrote (July 14, 2007):
Can anyone help?
The final movement of BWV 207 is a fast Chorus in 2/2 time. This music appears in another cantata. I can't be imagining it because I compared the versions a few years ago, and one score is abridged.
Could anyone tell me where to look for the sister cantata?
Jean van Noppen wrote (July 14, 2007):
[To Russell Telfer] I am a lurker sinds (very) long. And I don't know very much about music but I do love J.S.Bach.
Look at: http://www.greatjsbach.net/WorkDetail.php3?detail=BWV207
There you can see that the 3rd movement of the Brandenburg Concerto #1 (BWV1046) is the one you are looking for. The link to that one is: http://www.greatjsbach.net/WorkDetail.php3?detail=BWV1046
Hope you find what you need.
Russell Telfer wrote (July 14, 2007):
[To Jean van Noppen] Thank you for your reply, Jean
You are right that the 3rd movement of BWV 1046 does appear in a different form for the 1st movement of BWV 207.
I am actually looking for a sister piece for the last movement of BWV 207, an exciting fast piece which was modified for another cantata. Any further thoughts?
Do contribute if you have any comments or questions you would like to ask. This would be a good time to do so. Some weeks are very busy, with many posts. Right now, it is quiet. I think some of our members are on holiday!
Continue on Part 2
Cantatas BWV 207 & BWV 207a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 207 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 207 | Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 207a | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 207a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2