Cantata BWV 210O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit
Cantata BWV 210a
O angenehme Melodei
Discussions - Part 1
Discussions in the Week of April 7, 2002 (1st round)
Aryeh Oron wrote (April 7, 2002):
For next week’s discussion (April 7, 2002) Riccardo Nughes chose for us the solo secular cantata for soprano BWV 210 ‘O holder Tag, erwünschte Zeit’. This is probably the longest solo cantata, either sacred or secular, (about 30 minutes), and most of the weight is lying on the shoulders of the soprano singer, since there are no parts for the chorus.
In order to allow the members of the BCML being prepared for the discussion, I compiled a list of the recordings of this cantata, the details of which can be found in the following page of the Bach Cantatas Website: Cantata BWV 210 - Recordings
In the same page you can also find link to an English translation of the German text, made by Francis Browne, a member of the BCML. I am still working on the Hebrew translation, and intend to publish it soon.
If anybody thought that BWV 210 is a neglected cantata, he (or she) would be surprised to find out that it has at least 11 complete recordings, ranging from the early 1950’s (Scherchen) to the late 1990’s (Goebel). A fine roster of soprano singers from various schools chose to sing this cantata: Lászlò , Buckel , Nelson , Popp , Zádori , Röschmann , Kirkby , Larsson , Grant-Murphy , Rubens , and Schäfer . Not all the recordings are available (Scherchen, Winschermann, Rifkin, and Németh are hard to get), but there are enough modern recordings to choose from and to listen to.
I hope to see you at least some of you participating in the discussion.
Aryeh Oron wrote (April 13, 2002):
The background below is taken from the liner notes to the MHS LP (printed probably in the early 1970’s), in which the cantata is conducted by Helmuth Winschermann. These notes were written by Alfred Dürr and translated to English by Virginia R. Woods.
See: Cantata BWV 210 - Commentary
After the exemplary notes by Alfred Dürr not much remained to say. However I shall add short personal notes.
This cantata is not one of the easiest to get into. Before starting the first round of listening to the 10 recordings in my disposal, I made a translation of the text into Hebrew. The Israeli readers of the BCML may want to look at it: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV210-Heb1.htm
It is always recommended to read the text before, after or during listening to a Bach Cantata. The reader of the text of BWV 210 in any language will have to admit that it is not very promising. Furthermore, this is probably the longest solo cantata, either sacred or secular, with playing time of about 35 minutes. No choir can be found here, and the orchestration is modest: flute, oboe d’amore, strings, and harpsichord continuo. How varied can this cantata be? Indeed, after the first round of listening I still was not caught by this cantata. I decided to take a pause of one day. After that I transferred Dürr’s notes into this text, and started the second round of listening. Helped by better understanding through Dürr’s notes, a small miracle happened. I started to enjoy this cantata! Suddenly I realised how different are the arias from each other, as if Bach wanted to give each one of them a special character; how attractive and melodious in a unique subdued way the arias are; and what possibilities for expression both the recitatives and the arias offer to the singer. I found myself wanting to hear the cantata more and more, and when the second round was finished, my hunger was still unfulfilled. The genius of Bach has been proved once again!
Review of the Recordings
I started my listening to this cantata relatively late, because last week Oster-Oratorium BWV 249 has not left me enough time. Next week’s cantata – BWV 112 is knocking on the door, and this week is close to its end. Therefore my review of Cantata BWV 210 will be indeed short this time. During the past days I have been listening to the following recordings:
 Hermann Scherchen with Magda Lászlò (soprano) (1952)
 Helmut Winschermann with Ursula Buckel (soprano) (Mid 1960s?)
 Peter Schreier with Lucia Popp (soprano) (1981)
 Pál Németh with Mária Zádori (soprano) (1990)
 Bernard Labadie with Dorothea Röschmann (soprano) (1994)
 Christopher Hogwood & AAM with Emma Kirkby (soprano) (1996)
 Ton Koopman with Lisa Larsson (soprano) (1996)
 St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble (No Conductor?) with Heidi Grant-Murphy (soprano) (1996)
 Helmuth Rilling with Sibylla Rubens (soprano) (1998)
 Reinhard Goebel & MAK with Christine Schäfer (soprano) (1999).
What does we want from a soprano singer performing this cantata? Freshness of youth, effortless and flowing delivery, expressive ability without exaggerating, good technique, and beautiful voice. My first conclusion after listening to all 10 sopranos is that no one disappoints. Indeed they are different from each other and each one has its own unique personality, which comes out clearly as if they were put on a looking glass. They are exposed as almost no other soloist is in any of Bach’s vocal works, because almost all the weight is laid on their shoulders, with minimal support from the accompaniment. And all the brave women are up to the challenge.
The playing time of the whole cantata varies from more than 40 minutes (Scherchen/Lászlò) to less than 30 minutes (Goebel/Schäfer). The second conclusion is that the charm and the attraction of the cantata are coming through in any tempo.
Do I have personal favourites? Not really. If I had the time I would listen to all 10 sopranos the fourth time in arbitrary order. If I had to choose only three, then the winners would be – Buckel , who finds in this cantata depths than no other singer does; Larsson , whose beauty of voice is unmatched by any of the other modern singers; and Rubens , who is the most expressive and varied of the modern singers. But, as I have said, one cannot go really wrong with any of the other seven.
And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.
Francis Browne wrote (April 14, 2002):
My reaction to this cantata has been similar to Aryeh's. The experience of translating the text and listening in a cursory fashion to the one recording I have (Brilliant Classics issue of Peter Schreier with the Kammerorchester Berlin with Lucia Popp ) left me at first rather puzzled and disappointed.
Puzzled because the text involves just one speaker who seems repeatedly to qualify or contradict what she had said - and that in a way that seems absurd; a lovely aria on the emotional power of string music is followed by a recitative that dismisses such music as inappropriate. In the next two arias (Mvt. 4, Mvt. 6) the words tell the music to be silent - while all the time the music contimost beautifully!
Disappointed because of the content and delivery of the recitatives. Like the recitatives of BWV 207 which I translated recently the recitatives here seem to be saying not much and saying that little in a pompous, circumlocutory way, I had also high expectations of Lucia Popp. She was an outstanding Queen of the Night on what was almost the very first opera recording I ever bought - Klemperer's Die Zauberflöte. But here her delivery of the recitatives at first grated on me; there was a sudden emotional emphasis injected into some words that did not seem designed to bear such weight.
Wedding celebrations included along the sacred cantatas that I have listened to recently -BWV 196, BWV 197 -were far more immediately understandable and appealing. But with Bach it is always worthwhile to persist. Further hearings of this cantata have led to great enjoyment. Lucia Popp has a wonderful voice and her style of singing in this cantata is not the only possible approach but I came to enjoy all the arias greatly. - I would like to hear how members would compare her with Emma Kirkby , for example.
It seems clear that part of Bach's intention in this cantata was to provide a vehicle for an outstanding singer - and flautist . As often I find myself wondering about the circumstances under which the cantata was produced. Despite the reference to the marriage of the Lamb in the final aria I assume it was not part of a religious ceremony. A wedding celebration then where Bach carefully exploited the musical resources available on that particular occasion - outstanding soprano and flautist- and perhaps in consultation with the writer of the text produced a work in keeping with the interests and character of the newly married couple. Surely they must have been delighted not only with the beautiful manuscript score that Aryeh's notes mention but still more with its contents .
I sometimes regret that we have only scattered comments by Bach about how he regarded music and no extensive detailed discussion (Of course he did not need to - the music speaks with incomparable eloquence for itself). But amongst other things I shall value this cantata - rather like Händel's Ode on Saint Cecilia - not so much as a wedding cantata as a celebration of music by the supreme musician
Unter deinen Weisheitsschätzen
Among the treasures of your wisdom
Kann dich nichts so sehr ergötzen
nothing can give you such delight
Als der süßen Töne Kunst.
as the art of sweet notes.
Most definitely a cantata with which it is worth persevering !
Continue on Part 2
Cantatas BWV 210 & BWV 210a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 210 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 210 | Details of BWV 210a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3