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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

Cantata BWV 24
Ein ungefärbt Gemüte
Discussions - Part 1

Suzuki - Vol. 9

Ryan Michero wrote (June 27, 1999):
(7) Here is another triumph of Suzuki's ongoing complete cantata cycle. This one certainly lives up to the high standards Suzuki has set in previous volumes. There is not a whiff of tedium here; Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan bring freshness and excitement to every cantata. The works recorded here are from Bach's first few weeks at Leipzig, and one gets the feeling the new Kantor was trying especially hard to impress his new employers with the large-scale BWV 76. The other two pieces here, BWV 24 and BWV 167 are smaller in scale but, to me, equally impressive.
[Snip]

BWV 24 - "Ein ungefaerbt Gemuete"
The next cantata one of Bach's many fine smaller cantatas, produced for the second week of his employment. The work opens with a major-key aria for alto, which Blaze sings beautifully. The strings play their low-lying melody here with rich, dark tone. After a tenor recitative, there is a powerful chorus (Mvt. 3), the centerpiece of the work. Suzuki and the BCJ again excel, sounding majestic and powerful at the start, lithe and exciting in the double fugue. Interestingly, Shimada here plays the "clarino" line with specially made instrument, a cross between a horn and a trumpet (Suzuki explains this choice in greater detail in the notes). Urano shows a great range of expression in his recitative. I tend to prefer Peter Kooij, but Urano doesn't disappoint. The oboes d'amore in the next tenor aria sound wonderful, and the BCJ again makes a lovely sound in the closing chorale (Mvt. 6).

 

Discussions in the Week of July 8, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (July 14, 2001):
Personal Viewpoint – Pre-Review

I had some difficulties in preparing this review. In the middle of my work on this review, about a week ago, my commuter stopped to work. Only a day ago it was repaired and I could get back to writing the review. Of course, most of the review got lost, and I had to reconstruct it almost from scratch. It was as if somebody from above wanted to send me a hint – do not try so hard, because this cantata does not deserve the effort.

Background

This is the week of Cantata BWV 24 according to Thomas Braatz’ suggestion, the 7th one in his proposed list of cantatas for discussion. As a background for the review of the recordings this cantata I shall use this time. This is one of those cases, when it is not recommended to read the text before listening. The reason for this is explained by Murray W. Young in his book ‘The Cantatas of J.S. Bach – An Analytical Guide 1989). The background for the movement I chose to review is also quoted from this book.

”The cantata is taken adversely by Whittaker (Vol. I, pp 557-558): ‘The work is seldom performed on account of the dryness of the arias and the crudity of the text of the bass recitative; the fine choruses could be salvaged if some editor would construct a cantata embodying these and adding attractive arias from elsewhere’. I cannot agree with this statement for the reason that Bach had already set dry didactic texts before this one, and would continue to do so in his future cantatas. His music certainly lifts these arias out of their dryness, and I would object to any substitution by anyone to genuine Bach work. Furthermore, Bach may have really wanted to set this Neumeister libretto in order to surprise and impress the Leipzig congregation, by demonstrating his ability to compose in the preaching mode. There are definitely some fine movements apart from the recitatives.”

Complete Recordings

At last we have a cantata which is included in all the 5 complete cycles of Bach Cantatas (H&L, Rilling [4], Koopman, Suzuki, & Leusink), as well as in the mini cycles of two major conductors from the past - Ramin and Richter. I am aware of another complete recording of this cantata, by Dutch forces, which I do not have. I hope that this will be opportunity for many members in the BCML to contribute to the discussion, because all the recordings are generally available and I assume that most of the members (more than 190 so far!) have at least one recording of this cantata. Please remember than even a small contribution is better than nothing, and if may dare saying that, I think that the regular contributors, like Tom, Marie and myself, deserve to hear others’ opinions every now and then.

(1) Günther Ramin (1952)
(2) Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1973)
(3) Karl Richter (1974-1975)
[4] Helmuth Rilling (1977-1978)
(5) Gerard Akkerhuis (1994)
This recording was done by unfamiliar Dutch forces, and I know about it from a message of Jane Newble under the topic - My First Cantata. I hope that she will write to the BCML about it.
(6) Ton Koopman (1997)
(7) Masaaki Suzuki (1998)
[9] Pieter Jan Leusik (2000)

Mvt. 3: Chorus
Although this cantata has many recordings, I have to admit that it is not one of the most tempting, neither regarding its text nor regarding its music. But it still has one outstanding movement. This is the Chorus with the marvellous double fugue. Different conductors took different approaches to this Chorus and it is very interesting to compare them. But before the comparison, hereinafter is what Young has to say about this movement:
“Terrific panoply of sound with double fugue accompanied by the clarino. The biblical verse from St. Matthew 7: 12 loses all resemblance of preaching in the tumultuous excitement, which Bach generates in this oceanic movement: ‘Alles nun, das ihr wollet, das euch die Leute tun sollen, das tut ihr inhen’. (Everything now, that you wish, that people should do to you, do that to them). It is this chorus and the final chorale (Mvt. 6) which are the outstanding numbers.”

(1) Ramin (4:25)
All the parts are performed by the choir. The overt enthusiasm in their singing does not compensate for lack of cleanness. The various vocal lines do not match each other to form the complex fugues. The very slow tempo allows one to follow each line, but it sounds so unprofessional (forgive me, Mr. Ramin), that it is more of a burden than an illumination. If you love your neighbour, do not let him (or her) hear this recording.

(2) Harnoncourt (3:59)
Harnoncourt combines the choir with solo voices in performing of the double fugue. It makes for more interesting rendition. But the unsuitable jumpy rhythm and the total lack of balance between the various parts, makes this rendition almost unbearable to listen to.

(3) Richter (3:14)
Richter’s rendition is faster than the previous two and definitely better. Although the choir is definitely bigger, the choral singing is clearer than either of them. The conductor has full control of the occurrence and his vigorous approach pushes this movement ahead. Am I missing something? Perhaps, because this rendition does not uplift the spirit. More warmth would have helped.

(4) Rilling (3:04)
Faster and faster they become. This rendition is very interesting, because Rilling combines the big choir, as Richter does, with use of the solo voices, as Harnoncourt does (imagine, Rilling and OVPP!). But the combination of solo voices that Rilling is using (mature singers with full and rich voices) is better than that of Harnoncourt, the balance of all the components is also better than either Ramin or Harnoncourt, and there is some warmth and humanity, which are missing from all the previous renditions. Am I something? I have the feeling that it could have been more coherent.

(6) Koopman (2:50)
Koopman’s rendition is lighter, more airy, more delicate, and more transparent than all the previous ones. He is using small choir, and that contribute to the clarity, but as far as I can hear there are no solo voices. The balance is excellent and every detail and vocal and instrumental line can be clearly heard without overshadowing the others. Am I missing something? Perhaps more boldness, volume and seriousness of intention could improve this rendition.

(7) Suzuki (2:49)
Although the playing time is almost identical to that of Koopman, Suzuki’s rendition is much more energetic. All the good points of the previous recordings exist here. The enthusiasm of Ramin, the sweeping of Richter, the warmth of Rilling, the transparency of Koopman. The balance and the clarity of vocal and instrumental lines are second to none. I could go on with praising this rendition. Suzuki combines all these components and creates something of his own, which is greater than its parts. I would dare saying, better than the material suggests. The most important factor that Suzuki adds is excitement. Am I missing something? Definitely not!

[9] Leusink (3:05)
Surprise, surprise! The race stops here. This rendition is slower than either Rilling, Koopman, or Suzuki. It reminds very much Koopman’s rendition. It has more enthusiasm, however generally it is on lower level, regarding the singing of the choir, the clarity of lines, the internal balance, and even the energy. This is the least polished rendition, excluding Ramin. With so demanding material more preparation would have helped.

Conclusion

Of the eighty something cantatas, which have been reviewed and discussed in the BCML so far, I find BWV 24 as the least interesting, both musically and textually. I have been listening to it over and over again, trying to get something to stab my teeth in. When you have a dry food to eat, it is recommended to add some sauce. And at last I found the right kind of sauce. This is the Suzuki’s rendition of this cantata. I find that it stands head and shoulders above all the others - coherent, vigorous, alert and exciting. It is a marvel how he manages to make so much out of such unpromising material. If you have to hear this cantata, this is the recording to go with.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 10, 2001):
[This attempt at a review was written before receiving the message about Aryeh's computer problem. I really wanted this to be an extension of Aryeh's fuller report, and for that reason I do not want to revise this one completely. I will simply leave it as it was.]

This week I again want to try something different (possibly Bach's numerous attempts at finding an ideal cantata form and style is beginning to affect me.)

Here are the 7 different complete cantata recordings that I have listened to: Ramin (1952) (1), Harnoncourt (1973) (2), Richter (1974-75) (3), Rilling (1977-78) (4), Koopman (1997) (6), Suzuki (1998) (7), Leusink (2000) [9].

Based on comments made here on recordings that were discussed here be. It does not matter, whether you have just recently heard them or not, nor will it matter much if you only have one or two of these versions. Somewhere in these questions your version (or parts thereof) may be singled out for excellence or cited for its failure to measure up to what might be considered a good performance standard of this work. Since the answers represent only my evaluation of these interpretations, you may come up with different answers than I did. This does not matter, since what is important is that you try to listen for the things that I asked the questions about.

The categories to be considered are:
1) the vocalists - strengths and weaknesses
2) the instrumental ensemble including the various solo parts
3) the choir, technically and expressively
4) the conductor's interpretation - according to Bach's intentions

Answers and discussion will be given at the end.

Section 1 Vocalists

1. There are trained vocal soloists who can sing with a full voice, a voice that will project without microphones the message contained in the music so that the audience will be able to hear and understand almost everything without resorting to a copy of the text. From the list below, can you point out no more than 10 (there are two that appear only in the soli section of the middle choral mvt. They can be disregarded here.) that truly are gifted with such a voice that was also properly trained for this purpose?

a. Sopranos: Arleen Augér (Rilling [4]), Soloist of the Wiener Sängerknaben (Harnoncourt)

b. Altos: Bogna Bartosz (Koopman), Robin Blaze (Suzuki), Sytse Buwalda (Leusink), Paul Esswood (Harnoncourt), Eva Fleischer (Ramin), Katharina Pugh - only in the choral section (Rilling [4]), Anna Reynolds (Richter), Helen Watts (Rilling [4])

c. Tenors: Marcel Beekman (Leusink), Kurt Equiluz (Harnoncourt), Adalbert Kraus (Rilling [4]), Gerd Lutze (Ramin), Peter Schreier (Richter), Gerd Türk (Koopman & Suzuki)

d. Basses: Max van Egmond (Harnoncourt), Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (Richter), Hans Hauptmann (Ramin), Walter Heldwein (Rilling [4]), Klaus Mertens (Koopman), Bas Ramselaar (Leusink), Wolfgang Schöne - only in the choral section (Rilling [4]), Chiyuki Urano (Suzuki)

2. Robin Blaze has a voice very similar to another 'counter-tenor' who also became quite famous singing arias from the Bach cantatas under Suzuki. Can you name this 'counter-tenor.' Hint: he is Japanese.

3. Gerd Türk sings a recitative and an aria with both Koopman and Suzuki. Which of his performances sounds better and why?

4. In the three most recent recordings (Koopman, Suzuki, Leusink) the bass soloists can be classified as 'half'-voices because, although having received vocal training, they are unable to project with a full-throated voice and prefer to sing sotto voce, thus lacking the volume normally required of a true bass voice. This leaves them with the possibility of compensating for this deficiency by placing emphasis on the interpretation of the music. Which of the three succeeds best of all in this respect?

Section 2 Instrumentalists

1. Which conductor is the only one to include a lute as part of the basso continuo in the orchestral accompaniment?

2. Of all the HIP recordings, which conductor has the 'crudest' sounding oboi d'amore?

3. Which conductor is the only one to use a 'blaring' trumpet?

4. Some may speak of the 'primacy of the bass line' in Bach, but which two conductors have taken this idea to the extreme by providing too much volume in this part by including bassoon, string bass etc., thus making it more difficult for the vocalist to sing properly (making it necessary to strain the voice) without being covered by the loud volume of the basso continuo?

Section 3 Choir

1. There is one choir that lacks precision in its attacks and where the inner voices become muddy and unclear. Who is the conductor of this choir?

2. The main choral section of this cantata is considered by many to be the highpoint of the cantata. It should be performed with conviction and enthusiasm. Which conductor does just the opposite by providing an interpretation that is light and soft, and does not even manage to provide a forceful conclusion to this magnificent work?

Section 4 Conductors

1. In the 1st aria (alto) which begins, "Ein ungefärbt Gemüte/An deutscher Treu und Güte," who was the only conductor to follow the text exactly and not substitother word(s) for the text as given by Bach?

2. In the 1st aria (alto) Bach clearly marked the desired dynamics quite a few times. Which conductor is the only one to obtain these dynamic changes from his orchestra?

3. In the middle of the 3rd mvt. "Tutti," the central, most powerful mvt. in the entire cantata, there is a tempo change indicated in the original score and parts, "vivace e allegro." Among the HIP conductors (the other non-HIP conductors such as Rilling [4], Ramin, Richter follow this marking), which two do not follow this tempo change at all?

4. In the same 'vivace e allegro' section, Bach clearly marks the soli, and later the tutti entrances. From what you may already know about performance practices, Ramin and even Richter (two years after Harnoncourt's recording) do not introduce soli at all. Of those that remain, all of whom tried to introduce the soli, which version is the best (clearest, best balance between voices, etc.)?

5. As Alfred Dürr point out in his notes about Mvt. 3, the fugue (in the 'vivace e allegro' section) begins with the soli, followed by the ripieno singers with the instruments, but the crowning glory here is given to the 'clarino' (trumpet) with its own statement of the fugal subject thereby expanding the 4-part structure to 5 parts. Discounting the out-of-balance version by Harnoncourt, where the entire attention of the audience is focused on the clarino when it is playing its part, which version by which conductor succeeds in properly balancing this special trumpet entrance as it arches over all the other players and singers?

6. The final chorale (Mvt. 6) recognizes God as the source of everything, all the gifts/talents we have and requests of God that he provide us with a healthy body, so that dwelling in this body there may remain a soul free of injury and pure conscience. These are things that we (congregation) fervently ask/request of God. Which conductor decides to treat this more like a beautiful lullaby that might cause you to doze off to sleep before the chorale is finished? Which two HIP conductors have a performance that simply sounds heavy and plods along until you feel the entire weight of the performance dragging you to death? Which two performances drive you forward unrelentingly with conviction until you feel certain that God has heard your fervent prayer?

Section 1 Vocalists

1. Augér, Fleischer, Pugh, Reynolds, Watts, Kraus, Lutze, Schreier, Fischer-Dieskau, Hauptmann, Heldwein, Schöne.
2. His name is Yoshikazu Mera.
3. Türk's performance with Suzuki is slightly better. The wonderful acoustics enhance his presentation as well.
4. Mertens. But because of Koopman's very light treatment of the instrumental parts, Mertens cuts back so much that he is almost whispering at times. The other two bass soloists have less expression than Mertens.

Section 2 Instrumentalists

1. Koopman
2. Harnoncourt
3. Leusink
4. Rilling [4], Leusink

Section 3 Choir

1. Harnoncourt. The general impression is one of belabored plodding that lacks any genuine enthusiasm. Richter certainly can not be accused of the latter, but there are spots where the voices are not always as clear as they should be.

2. Koopman. His entire conception of this movement is one of lightweight entertainment with the choir singing sotto voce for the most part.

Section 4 Conductors

1. Surprise! Suzuki, the only truly foreign conductor (Koopman and Leusink are so close physically and linguistically to German that I do not consider them foreign to the German language) to observe carefully such details. In defense of Ramin, it might be conjectured that the politically sensitive situation may have been a motivating factor in modifying the text (political correctness as a result of World War II that has just ended a few years before the recording. Buwalda (Leusink) has a problem with pronouncing German words clearly. Sometimes he sings "an" at other times "von." I had to listen very carefully to hear which word he was trying to sing.

2. Richter. You might argue that his ensemble was larger than most of the others, which is correct. But why have the others completely disregarded Bach's intentions even with their smaller ensembles (one instrument per part, in many cases)? Does this tell you something about how much they really respect Bach's insight into his music own and performance practices?

3. Richter, Ramin, Harnoncourt and Koopman. Koopman's reason for overlooking this marking, is more difficult to understand than Harnoncourt's. Koopman's rendition has a good, snappy tempo and the choir is very precise and clear, although lacking force and conviction, because everything is treated with a light touch. This results in a less than forceful conclusion for this magnificent mvt. In Harnoncourt's version all the attention is on the clarino, while the choir exhibits a muddiness and unclarity in the voice texture. Together with the orchestra there is a belabored feeling that predominates. Did Harnoncourt not increase the tempo as indicated, because he was afraid that they (the clarino, the choir) would not make it through without having it sound even more disastrous than it does? What we do have here is one of many lackluster performances that Harnoncourt managed to include in the Teldec series.

4. Suzuki's is the best. Koopman's is also very good, albeit lightweight in nature. Suzuki, who takes advantage of the tempo change, has the necessary firmness and power to propel this section forward (remember that Koopman disregarded the tempo change, and, as a result, he loses something that Bach had built into this mvt.)

5. Rilling [4]. With the other recordings, you will also hear the trumpet part of the time, for instance, with Richter. Koopman, with his penchant for light treatment of Bach allows the trumpet to recede into the background where it can hardly be heard. Leusink has an occasionally blaring trumpet. This may sound interesting to some people, but for me it indicates a lack of control. I can not imagine a Gottfried Reiche playing this way and getting away with it. Suzuki's notes indicate that an instrument was especially modified for his performance. (1998 - and they're still working on this problem!) The result (I was looking forward to hearing this after reading about it in the notes) is somewhat disappointing: You hear it sometimes, but it does not seem to come through properly, particularly when the 'arching' motif is played.

6. Koopman's version of the chorale (Mvt. 6) is quite moving in its own way. With his slower tempo (compared to the others), Koopman creates an atmosphere of sadness, yet security. It is a 'Sheep may safely graze" feeling, except that, if I remember correctly, Koopman recorded that piece for this series as well, but there it is too fast. In his chorale version, Koopman with some exquisite playing and singing, conjures up a feeling of comfort that precedes a falling asleep. Perhaps Koopman envisions a little child mouthing these words, as it prepares for bedtime. Harnoncourt and Leusink also sound tired, but also heavy and burdensome as they plod their way through the separate notes of the chorale. There is no flow from one note to the next. Leusink adds a separate push or emphasis on each quarter note (perhaps he is looking for the elusive 'bell-tone' that Harnoncourt describes in his discourses on music-making in Bach's day?) Rilling [4] and Suzuki (and to some degree Richter also) mangage to exert a driving force without any sense that the music is being pushed along in order to speed up the tempo. This force propels you inevitably to the conclusion without any letup, in other words, you are still wide awake and participating fully in the fervent prayer that they are singing about.

Did you know?

Some isolated facts about this cantata:

See: Cantata BWV 24 - Commentary

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (July 12, 2001):
If I correctly understand Thomas, I indeed do see/ read and hear the words: Von deutscher Treu und Güte repeated at least three times at the beginning in the Harnoncourt version. What is of interest is that the English translation (which is no translation at all, probably applies to the whole of the set) just creates words, while the French translation, normally quite accurate, here renders D°une loyauté et d°une bonté germaniques. I would expect "allemandes" rather than "germaniques". There is of course no reason to bowdlerize Bach's text. The conclusion of Wagner's Meistersinger speaks of the preservation of all things good of German culture and art. Pfitzner's Von Deutscher Seele man be a different matter. Musically, as noted, there is little of importance in this cantata. The core words of the recitatitve: So mache dir den Nächsten nicht zu Feinde ..... Mach aus dir ein solches Bild, wie Du den Nächsten haben willt. continues in the chorus: Alles nun was ihr wollet, daß euch die Leute tun sollen, das tut ihr ihnen. simply makes a text of the The Great Commandment of Lev. 19:18, repeated in Matthew 19:18, roughly "Love thy fellow being like thyself".

The trouble is how one (at any point of history and religion) interprets the fellow being. In an Old Friesian Gospel or Lectionary I had, but no longer in the house (I knew I would have use for it some day!!!), the verse is rendered with "love thy fellow Christian as thyself".

Finally the cantata concludes with a prayer for mens sana in corpore sano.

For me this is the cantata with which I finally opened the Teldec set (2) which arrived here some months ago when life was crazier than usual. Happily (as opposed to the 1/2 Leusink set I have) this set is in numerical order and one can find things. So I will listen to these and, where I have the Leusink [9], to them also. I shall endeavor to make a listing of the BWV numbers and the boxes that they are to be found in. Yoël with no profound comments, but who takes the occasion to note the Aramaic quote he gives on his Yahoo Profiles, not seen on the Bach lists: "da'ala:kh seney le chavra:kh la: ta'avidh --What is hateful to thee, to the next guy, do not. "

Andrew Oliver wrote (July 14, 2001):
It has been said that the high point of this cantata is the third movement, the chorus, and I suppose that is true as regards its manner of composition from an academic point of view. Personally, I prefer the second aria, for tenor (Mvt.5), largely because I like the interesting fugal-style lines of the two oboi d'amore and the continuo, and later restated by the voice. I like the performances of both Equiluz (Harnoncourt) (2) and Beekman (Leusink) [9]. Thomas regards the sound of Harnoncourt's oboes as 'crude'; I would rather call it 'interestingly primitive'. That produced by Leusink's oboes is a little more mellow. I prefer the faster tempo Leusink adopts - the time listed is 3.09 as compared with 3.39 for Harnoncourt.

The same preference applies in regard to the closing chorale (Mvt. 6). Thomas categorizes the two recordings of this together as 'heavy and plodding', but there is a considerable difference between them; Leusink [9] more or less maintains his tempo throughout whereas Harnoncourt (2), having begun more slowly, just continues to get slower and slower, to the point of tedium. This is reflected in the timings, both as printed and as actually heard. Teldec's booklet tells us that Harnoncourt's version of the chorale 'endures' for 2.35 (actually about 2.31). Compare that with Leusink's listed timing of 2.09, the actual length being about 1.54. As to the composition itself, rather than the performance of it, this is yet another sublime harmonization. Who does it better than J.S. Bach?

Jane Newble wrote (July 16, 2001):
Last week was hectic to say the least, so that all I could do was to listen to the different performances I have on repeat, so that I would get the 'feel' of it. It is one of the few cantatas I have where I have not actually read the words. On my first CD of this cantata there were no words, but hearing the first sentence tended to put me off wanting to find out. I suppose if I heard a cantata about 'Dutch courage' I would feel the same...!!

So, for this review I shall only go by what I have heard. I have four renderings, and they are: Gerard Akkerhuis (5), Koopman (6), Suzuki (7) and Leusink [9]. After listening to each several times, I have to put them in two categories.

The one on its own is Akkerhuis (5). Perhaps because it was my very first cantata CD, I cannot compare it to the others. I think it is very beautiful. It is obviously (how does one put 'obvious' with regard to ears?) recorded in the church 'Kloosterkerk' where they had the services. The soloists are Simone Veder - contralto, Ludwig van Gijsegem - tenor, Lars Terray - bass. The choir is the Residentie Bachkoor, and the orchestra is the Residentie Bachorkest. The tempo is slightly slower than the others, but it does not drag, or sound boring (to me).

In the other category Koopman (6) is the winner, on account of the wonderful female alto voice of Bogna Bartosz, and the overall sound. Although I very much like the Suzuki recording (7), it is almost 'too' perfect. Leusink [9] is fine, but I cannot get on with the chorus, where the boy sopranos sound too undisciplined and enthusiastic. Perhaps I shall make myself consciously listen to the words this week...

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 24: 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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Last update: ýJanuary 17, 2013 ý13:27:56