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Cantata BWV 23
Du wahrer Gott und Davids Sons
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of April 25, 2010

David Jones wrote (April 25, 2010):
Du wahrer Gott und Davids Son

This week's cantata is:

Du wahrer Gott und Davids Son (BWV 23)

Cantata for Quinquagesima Sunday [Estomihi]
Readings: Epistle: 1 Corinthians 13: 1-13; Gospel: Luke 18: 31-43

Composed probably in Köthen (Anhalt) between 1717 and 1723 and the second (and known) version in Leipzig, 1723 for Bach’s application to the post of Kantor at Thomasschule.
1st performance: February 7, 1723 - Leipzig
2nd performance: February 20, 1724 - Leipzig

Of course, my preference is for Gardiner's gossamer, dancing, floating interpretation. The tempo he sets in the opening movement of this cantata is both magisterial and fluid. My favorite movement has to be the final one, Bach's deliciously elaborate setting of the German *Agnus Dei*. The alto voice often represents the Holy Spirit in Bach's work and the soprano, the human soul. In this work, the Holy Spirit and the human soul dance a dance of ineffable intimacy, tenderness and love in the opening duet. EXQUISITE!

Baek Jung Jin wrote (April 25, 2010):
Du wahrer Gott und Davids Son

David Jones wrote:
< The alto voice often represents the Holy Spirit in Bach's work and the soprano, the >human soul. In this work, the Holy Spirit and the human soul dance a dance >of ineffable intimacy, tenderness and love in the opening duet. EXQUISITE! >
Here is a part of my lecture proposal about BWV 23.
Any feedback would be appreciated:
JEG indicates in the booklet of his recording that there are two blind men in St. Matthew, even though one blind man appears in St. Luke, the reading of that Sunday.

Newman finds in Bach’s music a significant amount of number symbolism and in the first movement of this cantata the numbers two and three feature prominently. Since the Middle Ages, the number three was a common reference for the Trinity and its significance in this piece certainly keeps in this tradition;[1] in this movement it is represented by the instruments in trio sonata scoring (two oboes and basso continuo). The number two, represented by the vocal duet, is a little more complicated; it may be that it comes from the title “The Very God and Son of David,” and thus highlights what is for Chafe one of the core aspects of Lutheran hermeneutics, that “God present[ed] Himself intwo very different guises that align closely, but by no means absolutely,with the pictures of God in the Old Testament and of Jesus in the New.”[2] However, in the context of the text where the blind man is crying out to Jesus for healing, it seems more likely that this is a representation of penitent man. The two voices sound in canon-like imitation, which is a figure Newman, while analyzing other works such as Cantata 12 and the St. John Passion, describes as a figure that represents the idea of following.[3] The rhythm plays into the symbolism as well: while the trio sonata accompaniment plays a constant triplet figure, the vocal duet plays a duple one. Therefore, the Holy Trinity is superimposed with representation of sinful man asking for forgiveness from the “Son of Man.” The rhythmic disagreement between these two different elements finally get reconciled by the two-measure appearance of a triplet figure in the vocal parts at the end of middle section of this ternary form. Chafe, looking at a similar circumstance in another work, argues that this shows “thetheme of destruction (the work of the Law) and restoration (the work of the Gospel), which isone of the most characteristic features of Lutheran
theology.”[4]

________________________________

[1]Newman, Bach and the Baroque: European Source Materials from the Baroque and Early Classical Periods with Special Emphasis on the Music of J. S. Bach, 195.
[2]Chafe, Analyzing Bach Cantatas, 7.
[3]Newman, Bach and the Baroque: European Source Materials from the Baroque and Early Classical Periods with Special Emphasis on the Music of J. S. Bach, 193.
[4]Chafe, Analyzing Bach Cantatas, 7.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 25, 2010):
Musical Christology

Baek Jung Jin wrote:
< The number two, represented by the vocal duet, is a little more complicated; it may be that it comes from the title łThe Very God and Son of David,˛ and thus highlights what is for Chafe one of the core aspects of Lutheran hermeneutics, that łGod present[ed] Himself intwo very different guises that align closely, but by no means absolutely,with the pictures of God in the Old Testament and of Jesus in the New.˛ >
If there is indeed a three and two theological symbolism at play here, it is simpler to see three as the Trinity, and two as the two natures of Christ as God and Man in the hypostatic union (the divine "true God" and the human "Son of David". Bach certainly plays with the Christological number symbolism in the "Et in Unum Dominum" of the Credo of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) where the consubstantiality of the Father and Son is represented by a two-voice canon at the unison. Later, the Third Person of the Trinity is symbolized by a trio with a solo voice.

The two blind men is an interesting suggestion.

Neil Halliday wrote (April 28, 2010):
BWV 23: third and fourth movements

I agree with previous commentators who have noted the "added on" nature of the final movement; the third movement (Mvt. 3) definitely has the nature of a grand closing chorus, especially in versions that contrast the full choir with T,B concertists, such as Rilling [6]; the flowing quaver passages for full choir are indeed reminiscent of the SJP's 'Ruht Wohl' (BWV 245).

[The provenance of this cantata is explored at length in previous BCW commentary].

As noted, the fourth movement (Mvt. 4) of this cantata is true Passion music, moving from tragedy to peace (the third repetition of the three lines of text, before the "Amen", replaces "Have mercy on us" with "Give us peace") which is no doubt why Bach used it to close the SJP in an early version.

One interesting detail (possibly noted before): the cantus firmus (sopranos) of the second statement of the three lines of text (at the change of tempo) is in canon with the unison oboes which follow the sopranos at a distance of two beats, a 4th lower; it's quite clear in Rilling [6].

Trombones doubling voices (not in Rilling [6]) are certainly very effective in this type of music; I suspect their absence in a later version has more to do with lack of available forces than aesthetics.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Trombones in Bach's Vocal Works [General Topics]

Neil Halliday wrote (May 1, 2010):
BWV 23

Before we leave this cantata, a few obs (personal reactions, other may compare their own reactions:

I don't know why Werner (1972) [4] has conducted Mvt. 4 'andante' all the way through, despite the different tempo indications in the score; he has the quickest 'adagio' section of all the recordings, thereby reducing its impact somewhat, but the trombones are quite effective throughout. Richter's trombones [3] are suitably hair-raising, but the adagio is too slow and drags a bit, and the andante's articulation seems rigid (I haven't analysed why this is so).

From the samples:
Herreweghe [12] has a rather quick (5.50) first movement, also missing out on some of this movement's emotional impact, cf. the excellent (aound 7 minute) versions of Koopman [7], Kuijken [11] and Suzuki [8].

(There is no amazon sample for Gardiner [10], apparently).

Werner [4], Richter [3], and Rilling [6] all suffer from excessive vocal (and sometimes instrumental) vibrato in this movement.

All the recordings seem at least fine in the beautiful accompanied recitative.

Rilling [6] is my pick for the third movement; Richter is too slow, Koopman [7] and Suzuki [8] too fast, and Werner [4] has a somewhat foggy choir thoughout, missing the contrast with the TB vocal duet.

Koopman [7] and Suzuki [8] get my vote for their highly effective final choruses; the samples reveal 'adagios' with considerable emotional impact.

 

Cantata BWV 23: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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