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Cantata BWV 28
Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of July 5, 2009

Evan Cortens wrote (July 6, 2009):
Week of July 5, 2008: BWV 28 "Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende"

Liturgical Designation:
Sunday after Christmas

Background and Discography: http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV28.htm

Past Discussions: http://bach-cantatas.com/BWV28-D.htm

Performance History:
First: December 30, 1725

Neue Bach-Ausgabe:
Vol. I/3.2 (Klaus Hofmann, 2000)

Readings for the Sunday after Christmas:
Epistle: Galatians 4: 1-7 (Christ is sent to redeem those under the law)
Gospel: Luke 2: 33-40 (The words of Simeon and Anna to Mary)

Sources:
Autograph score: D-Bsb Mus. ms. Bach P 92
Original performance parts: D-Bsb Mus. ms. Bach St 37
(Thomas Braatz provides a commentary on these: http://bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV28-Ref.htm )

Figures:
As I plan to discuss the sources a little bit in this introduction,
I'd like to link here to the facsimiles printed in the NBA volume:
Figure 1: http://evancortens.com/28/fig1.jpg
Figure 2: http://evancortens.com/28/fig2.jpg

Libretto:

The text for this cantata is drawn from the fourth cycle of librettos by the Hamburg poet Erdmann Neumeister, first published in 1714. It is interesting to note that, just like BWV 152 and BWV 122, this cantata has only a tenuous connection to the readings for the day. Instead, as we see right in the first line, Bach focuses on the end of the calendar year. Not surprising, given that this cantata was first performed on the day before New Year's Eve. The end of the year can often serve as theological symbol for the end of time, the coming of the final judgment. Not so in this cantata, instead we see the congregation exhorted to praise and give thanks for the old year and hope and optimism for the new one. The text and chorale melody for the second movement come from the hymn "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren" (1530) by Johann Gramann and Bach sets the whole text unaltered. (Francis Browne's translation available here: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale136-Eng3.htm ) The third movement, a bass recitative and arioso, draws upon Jeremiah 32:41.

Scoring:

The second movement is worthy of comment here especially, as the colla parte use of brass instruments is not the most common occurrence in Bach's choruses. First, as to the brass instruments themselves. The score itself does not actually designate the names of any doubling instruments. (See Figure 2, linked above.) As you can see in the figure, we have three undesignated staff lines--colla parte with the soprano, alto and tenor parts respectively--followed by the four vocal parts and finally the (unfigured) continuo. From the clefs though, one can reasonably assume the doubling instruments to be two violins (treble clefs) and viola (alto clef) and/or two oboes (treble clefs) and taille (alto clef). If only the score itself had survived, we would have no idea of any brass doublings.

Fortunately though, we have two further sources to draw upon: the title page and the original performance parts. The text of the title page is for the most part in the hand of Johann Andreas Kuhnau, Bach's principle copyist. However, Bach himself has added the lines referring to the brass instruments, as follows (I've given the scribe's name in square brackets): "[JAK:] Domin: post Nativit: Christi | Gottlob! Nun geht das Jahr etc. | a 4 Voc: | 3 Hautbois | 2 Violini | Viola | [JSB:] 1 Cornetto e 3 Tromboni | [JAK:] e | Continuo | di Sign: | J S Bach".

It is of course the parts that clarify the situation entirely: the movement is given in the string parts, wind parts and brass parts. [Note 1] We have four brass parts which double the vocal parts in movements two and six, the "motet" and the closing chorale. Intriguing is the fact that the cornetto part (NBA B 5) is entirely in Bach's hand and the "trombona" parts (NBA B 6 to 8) are partially in his hand. Furthermore, the other trombone copyist, Christian Gottlob Meißner, is not seen in any of the other parts.

This leads us to the conclusion, then, that the brass parts were added later. How much later cannot be said, but I would be inclined to believe, on the basis of scribal and watermark evidence, that they were added in time for the first performance. [Note 2] One can imaginethat Bach, after hearing the first rehearsal of the cantata, decided that something was missing. Either wanting to strengthen the vocalparts, or just to change their colour, Bach decided to add the brass.

Compositional Genesis:

The paper and scribal evidence all point to a first performance on December 30, 1725. As with BWV 122, there is no evidence in the sources to suggest any later performances, though for the reasons I outlined last week, there likely was at least one. Robert Marshall, in his seminal study The Compositional Process of J. S. Bach (Princeton, 1972), has raised an interesting possibility for the second movement, namely that it is based on an earlier, now-lost compositional model. He draws this conclusion on the basis of Bach's script in the autograph score. If you take a quick glance at the two figures I've given above, respectively the first page of the first movement and the first page of the second movement, you can see a striking difference. The first movement is in Bach's "Gebrauchsschrift" (literally, use-script, better, composing script) and the second is in Bach's "Reinschrift" (literally, pure-script, better, fair hand). Needless to say, there's much written on the difference between these two script types. For a good primer, I direct the reader to the NBA volume on Bach's script, Vol. 9, book 2, by Yoshitake Kobayashi.

The editor of the NBA volume, Klaus Hofmann, rightly advises caution regarding Marshall's conclusion however. In the critical report, he argues that Bach need not be copying from a pre-existing piece, but he could simply be copying from a now-lost composing score, or from a sketch. Either way, the script difference is striking, and it is certainly not only random.

The second movement is later reused in BWV Anh. 160, a three movement motet whose outer movements are by Telemann. This piece however does not survive in any contemporary sources, its earliest copies date from the second half of the eighteenth century. That said, this need not necessarily mean Bach wasn't involved in its preparation.

Recordings:

I listened again to Koopman, Suzuki and Harnoncourt. I confess I found Harnoncourt's tempo in the first movement a little slow for my taste. I especially enjoyed the oboes in the Suzuki recording.

Movements:

I list here all the movements for your convenience.

Mvt. 1. Aria (S) - "Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende"

I'd have to say that this is my favourite movement in this cantata because I think it cleverly combines a number of generic functions. First, it starts out as a sinfonia, in the concerto grosso style with choirs of instruments pitted against each other: winds vs. strings in this case. It is then, of course an aria. Finally, I believe (as does Duerr) that it functions as a call to action for the congregation, who then respond in the next movement.

Mvt. 2. Chorus - "Nun lob, mein Seel, den Herren"

I've remarked on the scoring of this movement above. As to the form, this movement is really a "chorale motet". The chorale melody forms the motivic basis for all the musical material here, and it is played out in full in the soprano (and doubling instruments), in augmentation. The movement of Bach's that it initially called to mind for me was the opening chorus of BWV 140, "Wachet auf", in its similar treatment of the chorale material. (It's a neat little coincidence that in BWV 140/1 as in BWV 28/1, Bach treats the winds and strings as choirs in opposition.) However, the piece this movement really called to mind for me was a chorale motet by Brahms, "Nun ist das Heil uns kommen her", composed well over a century later. In my humble opinion, the resemblance is uncanny! Perhaps it is from this cantata movement that Brahms drew his inspiration. (Again, perhaps a neat coincidence here is that both chorales are on Christmas/New Year themes.)

Mvt. 3. Recitativo ed Arioso (B) - "So spricht der Herr"

Mvt. 4. Recitativo (T) - "Gott is ein Quell, wo lauter Guete fleusst"

Mvt. 5. Aria Duetto (AT) - "Gott hat uns im heurigen Jahre gesegnet"

Mvt. 6. Chorale - "All solch dein Guet wir preisen"

Unlike second cycle chorale cantatas, we actually get a different chorale melody in the closing chorale than in the second movement.

----------

It is of course my hope for another interesting and lively discussion; the last two weeks have been most enlightening! I must say also that I feel some trepidation about the upcoming two weeks... discussing one cantata in a week is tricky enough, I don't know how we're going to cover all the chorales and sacred songs. I'm sure we'll find a way!

Footnotes:

1. I note here that there's a typo in the NBA Kritischer Bericht. On page 67, it says that the "Cornetto" part "Enthaelt die Saetze 1, 6 und Tacet-Vermerke fuer die uebrigen Saetze". This should, of course, say "Saetze 2, 6".

2. As it happens, paper evidence alone may not be sufficient to settle this question. See Joshua Rifkin's article in the latest Bach-Jahrbuch (2008) in which he discusses the viola da gamba part from BWV 76 and the corno part from BWV 68, concluding that Bach wrote and/or modified a part on old paper. That said, in this case, scribal evidence argues in favor of the brass parts for BWV 28 being basically contemporary with the other parts. That Meissner's hand is not found in any of the other parts is interesting, but not altogether uncommon. He gets his nickname, the "continuo scribe", from the fact that his hand is often found in that part alone.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 6, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< However, the piece this movement really called to mind for me was a chorale motet by Brahms, "Nun ist das Heil uns kommen her", composed well over a century later. In my humble opinion, the resemblance is uncanny! Perhaps it is from this cantata movement that Brahms drew his inspiration. (Again, perhaps a neat coincidence here is that both chorales are on Christmas/New Year themes.) >
Brahms certainly knew the Bach motet movements through his work with a Viennese choral society.

What I find intriguing in this cantata is the juxtposition of the "modern" style in the opening aria and the "antique" style in the second movement. One wonders if the two styles were meant to symbolize the new and old years respectively. A somewhat similar juxtaposition can be found in the Magnificat (BWV 243) where the "Sicut Locutus Est Ad Patres" is written in the old fugal motet style (symbolic of Bach's old-fashioned "fathers" in music?) while the following "Gloria Patri" is cast in a massive free modern style (the eternal paternity of God the Father?)

It's worth noting that the chorale melody was one of the few Lutheran tunes to enter English hymn books before the Bach revival of the 1870's. It sneaked in through a version the Geneva Psalter. It became ubiquitous in English hymnbooks as "All People That On earth Do Dwell".

Julian Mincham wrote (July 6, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< What I find intriguing in this cantata is the juxtposition of the "modern" style in the opening aria and the "antique" style in the second movement. One wonders if the two styles were meant to symbolize the new and old years respectively. A somewhat similar juxtaposition can be found in the Magnificat (BWV 243) where the "Sicut Locutus Est Ad Patres" is written in the old fugal motet style (symbolic of Bach's old-fashioned "fathers" in music?) while the following "Gloria Patri" is cast in a massive free modern style (the eternal paternity of God the Father?)
It's worth noting that the chorale melody was one of the few Lutheran tunes to enter English hymn books before the Bach revival of the 1870's. It sneaked in through a version the Geneva Psalter. It became ubiquitous in English hymnbooks as "All People That On earth Do Dwell". >
The placing of the one choral movement (Mvt. 2) following the soprano aria (Mvt. 1) may be explained through an observance of the text. The soprano has emphasised the obligation placed upon the individual to celebrate----reflect upon this, my soul----. But then comes the appropriate time for all good people to gather together in order to express these sentiments communally----Praise the Lord who has given you good things and forgiven your sins----He saves the wretched, makes strong the young and protects those who continue to endure earthly tribulations. The modern Italianate ritornello soprano aria is directly contrasted with the more archaic motet perhaps suggesting that this is a message for all everyone. The one conveys individual, the other communal expressions of praise and reverence.

It seems to me that Bach quite frequently seems to go out of his way to remind us that both 'modern' and archaic styles are suitable vehicles for religious expression. Looking at the first three chorale cantatas of the second cycle (BWV 20, BWV 2 and BWV 7) the opening fantasias are 1 a French overture 2 an archaic motet (but with quite 'modern' harmony) and 3 an italian-cum-ritornello structure.

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 7, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< I list here all the movements for your convenience.
Mvt. 1. Aria (S) - "Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende"
I'd have to say that this is my favourite movement in this cantata >
The elegance of the first movement (I liked this best, also) and texture provides quite a contrast to Mvt. 2, and I appreciated your elaboration on the double use of the chorale, as it appears again in the simplified form in Mvt. 6.

I'm curious to know if this pattern of doubling the chorale use appears in other cantatas in a similar manner?

Jean Laaninen wrote (July 7, 2009):
Week of July 5, 2008: BWV 28 Chorale Symbolism

Julian Mincham wrote:
< It seems to me that Bach quite frequently seems to go out of his way to remind us that both 'modern' and archaic styles are suitable vehicles for religious expression. Looking at the first three chorale cantatas of the second cycle (BWV 20, BWV 2 and BWV 7) the opening fantasias are 1 a French overture 2 an archaic motet (but with quite 'modern' harmony) and 3 an italian-cum-ritornello structure. >
I find your comments here quite interesting, in that in the writing or assembling of modern church cantatas, there hbeen times when I felt the assembling of movements to be a bit odd, or a bit of a strange mix. No one really compares to Bach, IMO, but if Bach could mix his styles freely perhaps it isn't so awful when one finds modern compositions doing the same thing. Even when Bach is mixing and matching his styles, there is a sound that is characteristic of Bach in its complexity that makes the works beautiful.

Francis Browne wrote (July 7, 2009):
BWV 28 Chorale

For information: Aryeh has kindly added to the website my translation of the complete text of the chorale used in the last movement of this week's cantata: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale082-Eng3.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 7, 2009):
BWV 20 [was: BWV 28 Chorale symbolism]

Julian Mincham wrote:
>>It seems to me that Bach quite frequently seems to go out of his way to remind us that both >>'modern' and archaic styles are suitable vehicles for religious expression. Looking at the first three chorale cantatas of the second cycle (BWV 20, BWV 2 and BWV 7)... <<
Jean Laaninen concluded her reply:
>Even when Bach is mixing and matching his styles, there is a sound that is characteristic of Bach in its complexity that makes the works beautiful. <
I wonder if these mixed styles which which we now accept as characteristic of Bach, a few centuries later, were not in fact quite startling to his contemporary listeners? See for example, the wonderful notes by the late Craig Smith to his (Emmanuel Music) recording of BWV 20:

<The chorale setting which ends the first half of this cantata is almost banal in its plainness. It is as if Bach feels the need to present the most unadulterated version of the chorale. ...

After [end of second half] such terrifying music the brutality of the same plain harmonization of the chorale is almost more than the listener can bear. Almost all of Bachs cantatas have redemption as their denouement. Here the unrelenting starkness of the vision has no relief. It is impossible to know what the parishioners of Leipzig thought of this astonishing vision.> (end quote)

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 7, 2009):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I wonder if these mixed styles which which we now accept as characteristic of Bach, a few centuries later, were not in fact quite startling to his contemporary listeners? >
The "old style" repertoire was still a living body of work to Bach: his choirs sang motets by Schütz, Gabrieli and Lassus every Sunday. And he appears to have specially arranged a motet by a cousin for his own projected funeral.

At the same time, Bach often appears to use chorale and motet style in a very self-conscious and symbolic way. The Epiphany cantata, "Sie Werden Aus Saba Alle Kommen" opens with a huge chorus in concerto style with virtuoso solo parts. Surprisingly, Bach follows this chorus immediately with a chorale as a second movement. Such a juxtaposition only makes sense when we note that the chorale is the prescribed introit for the Christmas season and covered the entry of the clergy. Is Bach intending to represent the opening movement as the journey of the Three Kings and the chorale as their entry into the house of the Holy Family?

Allegorical allusion may also be at play in Cantata BWV 25, "Es ist nicht Gesund" which opens with a chorus based on the chorale, "Befiehl du deine Wege" (the Passion Chorale). The hymn melody appears not as a single sustained line in the voices but as a normally-paced hymn harmonized for the old-fashioned instrumental ensemble of three recorders, cornetto and trombone. The cantata is stark exploration of human mortality (it has the delightfully morbid recitative, "Die ganze Welt ist nur ein Hospital"). It is hard not to interpret the textless brass ensemble as a tone poem of a passing funeral band.

The older motet style might be also symbolic in Cantata BWV 80, "Ein feste Burg". Is it a tribute to the Renaissance musician, Martin Luther, on the self-consciously commemoration of Reformation Sunday, or an allusion to the struggle with Satan, the "alte Böse Feind"? Interesting that W.F. Bach decided to tart up the movement with modern trumpets and timpani.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 8, 2009):
I wrote:
<< I wonder if these mixed styles which which we now accept as characteristic of Bach, a few centuries later, were not in fact quite startling to his contemporary listeners? >>
Doug Cowling replied, beginning:
< The "old style" repertoire was still a living body of work to Bach: his choirs sang motets by Schütz, Gabrieli and Lassus every Sunday. And he appears to have specially arranged a motet by a cousin for his own projected funeral. >
I always appreciate Dougs reminders of the musical tradition that continued as a living body of work for Bach, and presumably for the listeners amongst his audience. I find a comment by Jeremy Siepmann relevant, as a supplement rather than contradiction to Dougs thoughts. It is from the CD set Introduction to Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 4 & 5 (recommended by Francis Browne in BRML discussion of the works):

<Bach is often said [not necessarily by Doug, I hasten to point out] to have been the culmination of past traditions. An ending rather than a beginning. But what we are finding in both the concertos we have been exploring is far from backward-looking. It leaps over the generation that followed Bach and anticipates the great concertos of Mozart and Beethoven.> (end quote, from the spoken text to No. 5, reproduced in booklet notes, p. 76)

Analogous thinking applies to the choral compositions. To put the innovations of the cantatas in the context of tradition does not in any way diminish those innovations; indeed, it makes them all the more remarkable. In fact, Craig Smiths idea re BWV 20 (which I misapplied a bit), is that Bach achieved dramatic effect by using a traditional chorale form, in an unexpected and startling manner. An innovation, one might say, by refraining from an expected novel form.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 8, 2009):
[To Ed Myskowski] It is fascinating to conjecture about Bach's, and his audiences' attitudes towards different styles and how they may have differed from contemporary attitudes. Certainly, by practice, Bach seems to have established as a fact or axiom that all styles might be perfectly appropriate for purpose and would not be rejected simply op the grounds of being archaic. Certainly there was sensitivity to matters of stylistic development in his lifetime as he was strongly critised himself for 'not keeping abreast' of changing style and practice. I have read reports, discussions and theses of Matheson and others on this matter of stylistic differentiation but I don't have the references to hand. Maybe someone else does.

It It is fascinating to conjecture about the attitudes that Bach and his contemporaries had towards music of different styles and eras and how they might differ from contemporary.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 9, 2009):
Evan Cortens wrote:
< Mvt. 1. Aria (S) - "Gottlob! nun geht das Jahr zu Ende"
I'd have to say that this is my favourite movement in this cantata because I think it cleverly combines a number of generic functions. First, it starts out as a sinfonia, in the concerto grosso style with choirs of instruments pitted against each other: winds vs. strings <
Notice that the first ritornello is repeated after the 5th line of text(in E minor instead of A minor) with the arrangement of the upper strings and oboes reversed.

With the introduction of the 7th line of text, the upper instrumentation is reduced to 1st oboe and 1st violin with charming effect, which leads into (with the 3rd exposition of this same of line of text) the typically lovely segment of a 'circle of 5ths' (the aria's 'denouement'?), accompanied by non-overlapping alternation of the oboe and upper- string 'choirs', with the strings low in their compass (eg, 2nd vidown to low G#), during the long melisma on "gedenken".

[All lovely in Rilling's recording [5] (tempo a little slow)].

Thanks for the facsimiles of the original score from the master's hand. Fancy being a printer who has to make an accurate copy of these scores? BTW, the BGA has some interesting detail in the second movement (of interest only to performers, no doubt) such as indications where oboes and strings play the notes in unison (shown with stems up) while the trombone involved stays with the vocalists; and trills at certain places for violas alone, etc.

 

Cantata BWV 28: 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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