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Cantata BWV 3
Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid [I]
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of February 11, 2007

Chris Kern wrote (February 10, 2007):
Introduction to BWV 3 - "Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid [I]"

Discussion for the week of February 11, 2007

Cantata BWV 3 - Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid [I]

Date of first performance: January 14, 1725 (2nd Sunday after Epiphany)

Information about recordings, biblical readings, translations, etc: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV3.htm

Music example (Leusink [4]): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV3-Leusink.ram

First off, by way of quick introduction, I've posted to the list for a year or two now (off and on) but this is my first time leading discussions. I'm currently an MA student in the Japanese department of Ohio State University. The OSU music library has a full set of Rilling and H&L cantatas, as well as a full set of NBA volumes, so it's convenient to go there and listen to the weekly cantata. Although I follow along with the NBA I lack the musical acumen to notice every slur and note, so the comments are mostly based on my perception as a more casual listener.

Whittaker praises this cantata very highly; he says that it is "among the finest Bach ever wrote" and that the first movement is "one of the most miraculously flexible and expressive choruses that ever flowed from his truly inexhaustible pen." I'm more inclined to agree with Simon Crouch's rating of 2+ -- the opening chorus is very good but the rest of the cantata is only average to my ears.

The text has nothing to do with the biblical reading for the day; Whittaker comments that it may have some connection to the theme of change that's in the miracle of turning water to wine -- the stanzas of the chorale move from despair to hope and trust in God, and the music follows the same path.

Mvt. 1 is unusual among the chorale cantatas in that the cantus firmus of the chorale is assigned to the bass. The intertwining oboes of the ritornello is somewhat plaintive and calm.

Mvt. 2 mixes 4-part chorale lines with recitative segments commenting on the chorale text; this is something that Bach dabbles in from time to time in the chorale cantatas (Whittaker expresses distaste for the form in one place in a different cantata commentary, but I think it works well). Leusink [4] does this OVPP, which imparts a different flow and feel to the music than the other versions.

In Mvt. 3 we are still in the "despair" section of the text, the feeling of which is illustrated by the continuo. Both arias in this cantata exhibit the same pattern that is found in a lot of the chorale cantatas -- in my mind it's a problem but maybe others appreciate it more. Basically the arias are very long, and unbalanced towards the A section (which is then repeated in full). This is especially problematic for me in a continuo-only aria like this one, and there is a tendency for them to become tedious by the time I'm nearing the end of the repeat of the A section. (Whittaker evidently agrees with this; he comments near the end of this cantata that "it is advisable under modern conditions to shorten the Da Capo in most solo numbers.")

Mvt. 5 is a duet for soprano and alto. In both mood and text it is much happier than the previous numbers. Whittaker says this duet is "perhaps the finest in the cantatas" -- I cannot agree with this (I would put at least BWV 23 and BWV 78 ahead of it), but it is quite nice.

Mvt. 6 is the usual closing 4-part chorale; the journey of the text from darkness to light is complete here and the singers express their faith in Jesus and their desire to be with him.

I listened to three recordings of this cantata: Rilling [3], Harnoncourt [2], and Leusink [4].

[3] Rilling:
I have overall been impressed with Rilling's recordings and I'm liking them more and more, but this one fell flat. I never like the sound of his modern oboes, and neither aria offers anything special (the duet in particular has the "competing operatic vibrato" problem that some of his duets do). The choral singing in the opening movement is the best out of the three, though.

[2] Harnoncourt:
The ritornello in the opening movement is the best I heard. The period oboes have a much richer sound than Rilling's do. Unfortunately the choral singing is not as good. The bass aria is faster than Rilling's and avoids the length problem. The singers in the duet mix together much better; I always like hearing H&L's boy sopranos even when they're not so great -- this one does a good job, I think.

[4] Leusink:
For me (somewhat surprisingly), this is the best version of the cantata. The opening ritornello is not as good as H, but better than Rilling. The choral singing suffers from the same problems that usually dog the Leusink set -- somewhat disjointed, too loud in parts, and not entirely cohesive. The bass aria is very good; even though it's slow, the smooth legato and the very "affectionate" singing of Van Der Meel bring out a lot of feeling in the aria that the other two are lacking. Even though the timing is the longest of the three, I don't lose interest. Holton and Buwalda's voices blend together magnificently in the duet -- it wasn't really until I heard this version that I could see the potential for agreeing with Whittaker in his comments on the duet. The OVPP in the second movement sounds very nice -- it almost makes you wonder what Leusink's cycle would have sounded like if it had all been done OVPP (except when ripienists are explicitly indicated).

(As a side note, this is one reason I like listening to as many versions as possible -- this is not the first time that a cantata has been "rescued" for me by listening to a 2nd or even 3rd or 4th version of it.)

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
True its a fine work--but then, how many in this cycle are not? But I don't think it's only the opening chorus which is superb.

A by-the-way question for afficionados. How many can pinpoint three other uses (in the cantatas) of the oboe opening 4 note figure in bar 1 of the chorus?

Also note a common Bachian trick I have mentioned before on list; the use of notes of the minor scale colouring a major key (both the flattened 7th and 6th notes of A major occur in the first 2 bars.)

Might the use of the basses to carry the chorale symbolise the heaviness of tread on the sorrow filled pathway to heaven?

The bass aria is similar to that from 76 where it is the hatred of the fiends of hell that drives the bizarre continuo line and the character of the music. Here it is the fear of the torments themselves--similar tortuous chromatic continuo bass lines, lacking an obligato instrument. The shape of the vocal line has great variety;from the fears of hell to the cries of agony on 'Hollenangst und Pein' to the flowing and the almost joyous pleasure of the mention of heaven and the Saviour's name.

Can I suggest that if you follow these subtle moments through the course of the movement a few times Chris, you may find its length and repitition a little less daunting?

The final duet gets to the core of the cantata's message as is so often the case.. The voices rise and fall almost in competition to express their exhuberant bliss and overwhelming conviction as we allow Jesus to take on the weight of our crosses. The minor middle section (and its slightly strange final cadence----a placing of the cross upon the ground??) is suggestive of the pain of the cross--which is why the first section must return in order to re-establithe sense of trust and conviction.

In purely musical terms and with a 21st century perspective I sympathise with Chris's problems of length and repitition. But when one follows the logic of the messages which are being musically unveiled and expressed it becomes a different kind of experience.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 10, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
< Discussion for the week of February 11, 2007
Cantata BWV 3 - Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid [I] >

The recurring principal theme in the opening chorus reminded me of the alto aria, "Wo Zwei und Drei" in Cantata BWV 42, 'Am Abend". I only have the piano vocal score, but I noticed that Bach very carefully adds an acciatura on the word "Herzeleid" in all the voices, but then does not embellish the figure on its many repetitions through the movement -- a good argument could be made that it is implied. Do any of the recordings add the embellishment?

In the second movement, do other recordings give the chorale sections to the full choir or soloists? This is a classic instance of when the score and parts can't tell us what Bach intended.

Is it my imagination or is this a very, very "sharp" cantata? Bach modulates into some very distant keys.

Chris Kern wrote (February 10, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< In purely musical terms and with a 21st century perspective I sympathise with Chris's problems of length and repitition. But when one follows the logic of the messages which are being musically unveiled and expressed it becomes a different kind of experience. >
I thought there might be a response like this -- as I said, Whittaker, writing in the 1940's or so, complained about the length of arias as well, so it's not just a matter of "kids these days have no attention span". There are plenty of lengthy arias and duets that I do like (any of BWV 244's, for instance). It's not the numerical length but the manner in which the piece is structured and performed. Maybe you're right that if I read more about the movement's construction I would like it better.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 10, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
< I thought there might be a response like this -- >
and I thought I was being helpful! Apparently not.

as I said, Whittaker, writing in the 1940's or so, complained about the length of arias as well, so it's not just a matter of "kids these days have no attention span".

It's not not what I said. I was offering a positive way through the movements which I have found to be helpful myself.

Maybe you're right that if I read more about the movement's construction I would like it better. It wasn't the movement's construction that I was talking about but the immense variety within the conventional structures.

Sorry you took my comments in the way that you have.

Final question. Have you actually taken the time to explore the immense amount of variety in the writing of the vocal line of the bass aria??

Oh, and I often disagrre with Whitaker.

Chris Kern wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Kern wrote:
<> I thought there might be a response like this -- >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< and I thought I was being helpful! Apparently not. >
I guess I should have written that post a little differently -- I didn't mean to imply that I took offense at your post. I think you're correct that if I did investigate the movement's structure more carefully I might appreciate it more.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 16, 2007):
[To Chris Kern] Fair enough.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>I noticed that Bach very carefully adds an acciatura on the word "Herzeleid" in all the voices, but then does not embellish the figure on its many repetitions through the movement -- a good argument could be made that it is implied.<<
"acciatura?"

"Acciaccatura" from Walther's Music Dictionary is a term applied only to keyboard music. It is a 'crushing together of notes which do not belong together'. Domenico Scarlatti has a number of examples of this in his harpsichord sonatas. It does not appear to be used for vocal music.

"Accento" or German "Vorschlag" is what you are referring to here. There are various subtypes for this embellishment.

In the instance referred to above, I would certainly hesitate to add this "Vorschlag" everywhere else in the vocal score where a seemingly similar instance occurs which Bach leaves unmarked. There are some reasons for this:

Here we have a set of original parts which Bach has had a chance to check over and to make additions as necessary. If you examine the two oboe d'amore parts, it becomes apparent that Bach is not carelessly and haphazardly throwing in a trill in the first oboe part and then later in the other as if to say to the oboists: "As a reminder to oboists who have difficulty staying awake while sight-reading their parts, I am occasionally adding the trill to keep you on your toes. You should take these reminders to heart so that you will treat each and every dotted-8th note that you see in your part the same way. This will save me a lot of time (like writing long-held notes in the continuo parts instead of shortening them and writing in many rests instead) which I could devote to doing other things."

There seems to be much more thought given to each instance that Bach indicates. Perhaps he does not want the 2nd oboe in m 18 to add a trill because it suddenly jumps to a note higher than those being played by the 1st oboe line which should not be covered up by an additional trill by the 2nd oboe. Likewise in the vocal parts: the "Vorschlag" ("appoggiatura") has a special effect (affect as well) of adding poignancy to the word: "Herzeleid" {"the suffering/pain felt in the heart"). This is very appropriate musically. The next time a similar motif is sung, it would emphasize the word "dieser" ("this") which is not very meaningful in this context. If there is a single other instance where the "Vorschlag" might have been used, it would be on "trübsalvoll" ("full of grief/sorrow/misery"). Later on "wandern" ("to wander") a "Vorschlag" would once again make little sense. To sum this up, Bach, as was clearly pointed out in the Scheibe-Birnbaum controversy, knows what he is doing. He has a better sense, particularly in regard to vocal music that was referred to in those documents, which embellishments or mannerisms are suitable and in good taste (Bach's sense of good taste in music) and which are better left out so that the music does not become overladen with such mannerisms which continually and mechanically repeat themselves.

There are many subtleties involved with "Vorschlag", one of which involves an acute awareness of the harmonic movement in all the other parts (the avoidance of parallel 5ths and octaves would be a stricture placed upon the unthinking, mechanical application of the "Vorschlag" in every instance where a similar musical phrase {the dotted-note pattern in BWV 3/1} occurs.

To be sure, there are other cantatas where we no longer have the original parts to consult in order to give us this vital information. Then the conductor, singer, instrumentalist must proceed cautiously by examining other similar situations from other cantata scores where guidance in these matters can be found.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 11, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< "acciatura?" >>
< "Acciaccatura" from Walther's Music Dictionary is a term applied only to keyboard music. It is a 'crushing together of notes which do not belong together'. Domenico Scarlatti has a number of examples of this in his harpsichord sonatas. It does not appear to be used for vocal music.
"Accento" or German "Vorschlag" is what you are referring to here. There are various subtypes for this embellishment. >
I'm sorry, Master Braatz, that I mistyped the word! You are so right in adopting that cold, condescending tone with me. I am a bad, bad list member who should never dare to post to YOUR website!

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
BWV 3 - Provenance Revisited

In the previous round of discussions, I had given the provenance of BWV 3 (autograph score and original set of parts). In the light of the very recent discussions on the copy procedure that JSB used, I wouldlike to expand the list of original parts to include the information about who copied what at what point in the copy session. Also included are some new observations on my part based on information which is available:


The Original Parts:

Creation of Parts: in the evening shortly before the 1st performance of BWV 3 on January 14, 1725

The bulk of the copy work was again completed by Johann Andreas Kuhnau who was assisted by 3 anonymous copyists and W. F. Bach who did the continuo doublet. J. S. Bach did the trombone part, revised the other parts, and made corrections.

JSB (Johann Sebastian Bach): almost 40
AMB (Anna Magdalena Bach): 24 [absent]
WFB (Wilhelm Friedemann Bach): 15
JAK (Johann Andreas Kuhnau): 21 JAK was a Thomaner from 1718-1728
CGM (Christian Gottlob Meißner): 17 [absent]
Anonymous IIe (a possible Thomaner?)
Anonymous IIf (a possible Thomaner?)
Main Copyist C (a possible Thomaner?)


The parts include the following (15 parts):

Soprano
JAK: mvts. 1-2, 5
JSB: Mvt. 6

Alto
JAK: mvts. 1-2, 5
JSB: Mvt. 6

Tenore
JAK: mvts. 1-2, 4
JSB: Mvt. 6

Basso
JAK: mvts. 1-3
JSB: Mvt. 6

Trombona/Corno
JSB: 1, 6

Hautbois 1:d'Amour
JAK: Mvt. 1
Anonymous IIf: Mvt. 5
JSB: Mvt. 6

Hautb: 2.d'Amour
JAK: Mvt. 1
JSB: mvts. 5, 6

Violino 1mo
JAK: mvts. 1, 5
JSB: Mvt. 6

Violino 1mo (Doublet)
Anonymous IIe: mvts. 1, 5
WFB: Mvt. 6

Violino 2do
JAK: Mvt. 1
JSB: Mvt. 6

Violino 2do. (Doublet)
Anonymous IIf: Mvt. 1
WFB: Mvt. 6

Viola
JAK: Mvt. 1
JSB: Mvt. 6

Continuo (partly figured bass)
JAK: mvt. 1-5
JSB: Mvt. 6
unknown hand: partly figured bass

Continuo (Doublet)
WFB: mvts. 1-4, 5 (up to m. 64)
JSB: mvts. 5 (from 65 to end), 6

Continuo (transposed and figured)
Main Copyist C: mvts. 1-4
JSB: mvts. 5, 6 and all the figures


The true workhorse again during this copy session is JAK with JSB mainly filling in the final Mvt. 6 (chorale) and once again copying the Trombone/Corno entirely by himself.

As usual, JSB had not yet finished composing the final chorale (Mvt. 6), when JAK began copying the instrumental parts from the score. JAK began with the topmost instrumental line (oboe d'amore I) on the score and gradually worked his way down the page. How do we know this? JAK is only able to copy Mvt. 1, not Mvt. 5 which also calls for both oboi d'amore, because in the autograph score, the last part of Mvt. 5 is on the reverse side of the same page that has the score for Mvt. 6 (Choral.). This may explain the unusual break in the Continuo doublet and Continuo transposed parts as well.

When JAK has worked his way down to the 1st violin part, JAK is finally now able to include Mvt. 5, but strangely enough he still does not copy Mvt. 6 which ought to be available to him at that point.

Notice that when JAK gets down to the vocal parts, he is able to include Mvt. 5 for the Soprano/Alto duet.

CGM does not participate in any part of the copy procedure. In his place, other unidentifiable copyists are put to work in a stopgap fashion. Are these perhaps a few of JSB's best Thomaner from the Primary Choir? Located in the same building where Bach lived, they would conceivably be available in the evening after school was over (no need to go outside the building and no worry over missing the curfew).

Notice also the absence of AMB, who may have been occupied with a sick baby on the evening when this copy session took place.

The general impression obtained from the careful examination of the copy procedure used here for BWV 3 is one of 'working against the clock'. JSB still had not finished composing the final chorale and perhaps was still finishing Mvt. 5 when JAK began copying out the parts. With more time to spare, a more methodical procedure could have been used. If JSB had composed the entire score earlier with more time for a copyist like JAK to finish the entire copy task alone there would not have to be any switching around of parts as they moved from one person to another. JAK was a Thomaner who lived in the same building as Bach did. During the day, he would have been occupied with his school duties (attending classes, etc.) and most likely would only have a solid block of time for an activity such as this in the evening. This is one more reason to consider that these copy sessions took place the evening before the actual 1st performance early the next morning. The appearance of these yet undetermined anonymous copyists also seems to point to the possibility that these stopgap copyists could be called upon at a moment's notice because they live in the same building where JSB's apartment is located and are easily accessible in case of an emergency such as this one (AMB and CGM not being available).

Chris Rowson wrote (February 11, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Creation of Parts: in the evening shortly before the 1st performance of BWV 3 on January 14, 1725 >
.What is the source for this dating of the copying? Is it purely your conjecture?

Chris Stanley wrote (February 11, 2007):
Is it pure coincidence that this is the third week in succession where there is a soprano alto duet aria?

Chris Rowson wrote (February 11, 2007):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
.< I only have the piano vocal score, but I noticed that Bach very carefully adds an acciatura on the word "Herzeleid" in all the voices, but then does not embellish the figure on its many repetitions through the movement -- a good argument could be made that it is implied. Do any of the recordings add the embellishment? >
I think this is an interesting question (but I also have only the piano score). I agree that a good argument could be made that it is implied.

TB gave a categorical "no", on the basis that there is no "word-painting" justification for it on subsequent occurrences. But what about the third line where it would fall on "Trübsal" (misery/tribulation)?

I am also rather interested by the subsequent occurrences even within the first line, where the appoggiatura seems to be taken before the beat, written out, I think for reasons of harmony.

I also looked at whether the appoggiatura would cause problems with the counterpoint if sung in later occurrences, as TB suggested, but couldn't see any. The later occurrences are, after all, essentially parallel passages.

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Stanley wrote:
< Is it pure coincidence that this is the third week in succession where there is a soprano alto duet aria? >
Yes and no! The third week back was out of chronological sequence, but the most recent two are chronologic, and so fair to say, not coincidental.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 11, 2007):
BWV 3 was one of the first releases in the Harnoncourt series [2] and the whole work, which I have'nt listened to for two decades, was overshadowed by the superb but unnamed boy treble of the Wiener Saengerknaben who interweaves the exquisite vocal line of the duet, BWV 3/5, "Wenn Sorgen auf mich dringen", with the alto Paul Esswood.

What is striking on return is that the word-painting, identified by the commentators here and there, is in fact part of a consistent and unifietextual and musical approach. As has been noted, the text is little at all to do with the Gospel for the day; and the Chorale, which is also given out as the funerary "O Jesu Christ mein Lebens Licht", is at beginning and end, and in the dialogue of BWV 3/2; but for the rest we are not much reliant even on the chorale.

So what is the poet's purpose in BWV 3, if not to elaborate on either the sermon or the chorale by Martin Moller? The key is IMO the word "widerspentig" ("oppositional") which occurs in BWV 3/2. Throughout the work , which has two duet/dialogues, ideas are in contrasting pairs: earth and heaven, flesh and blood, earthly and eternal,flesh and spirit,; friendship and goodness versus anguish and pain; joy and grief; mine and yours; need and want versus treasure and wealth.

To this Baroque pattern of antitheses Bach responds musically. Firstly, in BWV 3/1, he unusually gives the cantus firmus to the low-lying Basses, illustrating the heartbreak of the human condition; but allows the sopranos at the end the trill upwards at "zum Himmel wandern still" ("to heaven travel").

Bach also disposes the trombone, uniquely, to accompany the basses in the opening chorus but then aligns them with the sopranos in the final chorale, emphasising the journey from heartbreak to faith. The chorale may sound straightforward but at "sterb" Bach intrudes an unusual harmonisation B -F sharp- G sharp- E ,resolving to B -D sharp -A -F sharp, setting death against the flowing harmonies of the step-wise faith motif.

The intervening movements BWV3/2 to BWV3/4 maintain a tension, full of "yet" and "though" and "if"; the uncertainty only disappears at the end of BWV 3/4, "Mein Jesus wird mein Scatz und Reichtum sind" ("My Jesus will be my treasure and wealth")

The duet BWV 3/5, a favourite of Robertson and Whittaker, begs the question as to why its simplicity is yet so compelling. The elaboration of "will ich in Freudigkeit zu meinen Jesum singen" is as the latter says a "ringing bell-like series of quavers", the intervention of joyfullness against the rising and falling of the the expression of care in the opening motives of the duettists. It is set in four sharps, as we discussed, the key of the central Chorale of the SJP and of the fourth fugue of WTC 1; thus it is perhaps no coincidence to find the line in BWV 3/5, "Mein Kreuz hilft Jesus tragen" (Jesus helps me to bear my Cross").

It is this allusion from the Passion that confirms the the zeugma and leads to the Cantata's close in which, in contradistinction to the prior, extensive, use of opposing voices to illustrate separation, the thesis of the work is resolved in unifying four-part homophonic harmony. It is a Cantata which as a whole repays analysis beyond the evident surface beauty ( Duerr says "a grand eloquent lament") of its opening chorus and the celebrated ST duet.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< To this Baroque pattern of antitheses Bach responds musically. Firstly, in BWV 3/1, he unusually gives the cantus firmus to the low-lying Basses, illustrating the heartbreak of the human condition; but allows the sopranos at the end the trill upwards at "zum Himmel wandern still" ("to heaven travel"). >
Is the trill marked in the full score? It's not in the piano/vocal.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 11, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] Here In saying "trill upwards" I meant the looser definition i.e., an ascending run, rather than the strict musical definition as a type of shake. Sorry for any confusion!

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>What is the source for this dating of the copying? Is it purely your conjecture?<<
It is conjecture based upon the evidence available from considering the manner in which the parts were copied. Any other supposition, to my mind, appears to be less reasonable than that which I have posited.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>Here In saying "trill upwards" I meant the looser definition i.e., an ascending run, rather than the strict musical definition as a type of shake.<<
Nonetheless, just to make this matter quite clear: the sopranos in m 52 of BWV 3/1 on the syllable "-dern" (dotted 8th note) do not have a trill (tr) marked whereas the 1st violins, playing here at this point in unision with the sopranos, do. This appears to be intentional on Bach's part.

Chris Rowson wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>What is the source for this dating of the copying? Is it purely your conjecture?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< It is conjecture based upon the evidence available from considering the manner in which the parts were copied. Any other supposition, to my mind, appears to be less reasonable than that which I have posited. >
But why assume it was Saturday night for a Sunday performance? Could it not equally have been to get the parts ready for a rehearsal that might have been scheduled for Saturday? Or Friday? .

Besides which, I am not so convinced that the evidence for the timeline proposed is conclusive. Some parts of the interpretation seem rather strained. (Vide references to "may explain", "strangely enough still does not", not to mention the need to posit a sick baby.)

Chris Rowson wrote (February 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>Here In saying "trill upwards" I meant the looser definition i.e., an ascending run, rather than the strict musical definition as a type of shake.<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Nonetheless, just to make this matter quite clear: the sopranos in m 52 of BWV 3/1 on the syllable "-dern" (dotted 8th note) do not have a trill (tr) marked whereas the 1st violins, playing here at this point in unision with the sopranos, do. This appears to be intentional on Bach's part. >
My experience of performing from early 18th C handwriting is that you see a trill on figures like the end of the soprano line of BWV 3/1 whether the ink is there or not.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
>>Bach also disposes the trombone, uniquely, to accompany the basses in the opening chorus but then aligns them with the sopranos in the final chorale, emphasising the journey from heartbreak to faith.<<
"them"? trombones? brass instruments? According to the NBA score which reads the Trombona/Corno part as stating quite clearly that two different instruments are used, the final chorale has a horn (not trombone) playing colla parte with the sopranos. Nevertheless, the movement from the bass cantus firmus (Mvt. 1) to the soprano cantus firmus (Mvt. 6) still stands as a significant observation.

To those becoming familiar with this cantata for the first time:

This cantata deserves more than a superficial hearing or two. In time, with the help of a score and with careful study which includes reading various commentaries, its somewhat hidden beauty and profundity will be increasingly revealed to the listener.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>But why assume it was Saturday night for a Sunday performance? Could it not equally have been to get the parts ready for a rehearsal that might have been scheduled for Saturday? Or Friday?<<
But where is the evidence for Bach having scheduled rehearsals? The only conjecture, to my knowledge, which actually assigned a single rehearsal to a specific time and place is that given by Arnold Schering who placed the usual rehearsals (without citing any evidence for this) in the Saturday afternoon Vespers, services which he claimed were poorly attended and which had a longer period of silent prayers for the congregation. Doug Cowling immediately criticized this notion based upon his notion of what the Vespers service entailed. This has caused me to revise my thinking on this matter as well with the possibility of sight-reading the music directly in the early morning Sunday service in one main Leipzig church followed by another performance in the other main church late morning/early afternoon.

>>Besides which, I am not so convinced that the evidence for the timeline proposed is conclusive. Some of the interpretation seem rather strained. (Vide references to "may explain","strangely enough still does not", not to mention the need to posit a sick baby.)<<
Perhaps you will be willing to conjecture another possibility to explain why AMB is present at certain times but not at others? If she is involved in copying, why is she always involved with those tasks which come at the end of a copy session? Perhaps you could try to come up with another scenario to explain where these mysterious anonymous copyists come from. Dürr's list of these seems to be quite long: examples: Ia, Ib,...Ik etc. and IIa, IIb,..IIf etc. (Roman numerals probably representing the cantata cycle year in which they appear).

If you desire certainty in the study of Bach and his music, then I suggest instead reading sources such as that written by Ross W. Duffin ("How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony", Norton, 2007, p. 148) who states that Brad Lehman had deciphered and published Bach's encoding of the temperament for the WTC. Here you will find no phrases such as "may explain","strangely enough still does not", etc. but only that the days of doubt "ended for good in early 2005 when ... Bradley Lehman deciphered and published Bach's encoding...." and "There is no question that Lehman convincingly solved Bach's puzzle" and "Bach's temperament is not ET" and "In fact, the...temperament given back in figure 7 is Bach's own 'well-temperament' as deciphered by Lehman. This was Bach's ideal for keyboard music, not ET."

I suggest that you will enjoy reading such published testimony with conclusive evidence and prefer its certainty and clarity to my attempts to unravel material which does not as easily lend itself to a treatment like that given by Duffin above.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2007):
Chris Rowson wrote:
>>My experience of performing from early 18th C handwriting is that you see a trill on figures like the end of the soprano line of BWV 3/1 whether the ink is there or not.<<
Bach, however, compared to other early 18th-century is different. The Scheibe-Birnbaum controversy has documented this fact. Bach wrote out in greater detail what he expected from his performers than most other composers of that period who expected the performers to embellish their parts according to an established method.

Peter Smaill wrote (February 11, 2007):
Hello Thomas et al

Indeed so - a single trombone with the Basses in the Chorus BWV 3/1, and according to Melamed, it is a cornetto with the sopranos in the Chorale BWV 3/6 as you rightly also say using the NBA. However checking my error (well Duerr just says "+instrs! ) prompts another little discovery.

In table 10-2 of "J.S. Bach and the German Motet", Melamed sets out all the uses of cornetti and trombones with all the motet-like movements.

This escalation from Basses/trombone to sopranos/Cornetto is also found in BWV 135, "Ach Herr, mich armen Suender straf nicht in deinem Zorn", which as the title suggests starts with a movement of low-lying supplication such that the sinner avoids divine anger; also an unusual use of the basses for the chorale as with BWV 3/1.

The transition is from penitential depth to the highest height: "Ehr sei in Himmels Throne mit hohem Ruhm und Preis dem Vater und dem Sohn",("Homour be in Heaven's throne with high renown and praise to the Father and Son").

Thus Bach uses twice this word-painting technique in a similar contextual position. BWV 135 is for 25 June 1724 ; and BWV 3 for 14th January 1725. The normally undemonstrative Duerr says of the first-composed,

"as a whole, this Cantata captivates not so much by brilliant concertante writing as by its intensive textual interpretation. Whoever pentrates deeply into the beauties of the composition will learn to love it for this very reason"

and of BWV 3:

"A work particularly impressive for the quality of its invention".

The epithets strike me as interchangeable and Bach has been especially inspired in both to derive his inventiveness from the texts.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Here In saying "trill upwards" I meant the looser definition i.e., an ascending run, rather than the strict musical definition as a type of shake >
The soprano figure at "wandern soll" certainly looks like a preprared trill to the high A.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Nonetheless, just to make this matter quite clear: the sopranos in m 52 of BWV 3/1 on the syllable "-dern" (dotted 8th note) do not have a trill (tr) marked whereas the 1st violins, playing here at this point in unision with the sopranos, do. This appears to be intentional on Bach's part. >
Looks like we're channeling Bach again!

Eric Bergerud wrote (February 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< But where is the evidence for Bach having scheduled rehearsals? The only conjecture, to my knowledge, which actually assigned a single rehearsal to a specific time and place is that given by Arnold Schering who placed the usual rehearsals (without citing any evidence for this) in the Saturday afternoon Vespers, services which he claimed were poorly attended and which had a longer period of silent prayers for the congregation. Doug Cowling immediately criticized this notion based upon his notion of what the Vespers service entailed. This has caused me to revise my thinking on this matter as well with the possibility of sight-reading the music directly in the early morning Sunday service in one main Leipzig church followed by another performance in the other main church late morning/early afternoon. >
I am getting more than a little confused. Are we suggesting that morning service was used for practice and then, with the kinks worked out, Bach would roll out the finished work in all of its glory for those taking in the matinee? There is a lot in Wolff I don't understand if this "instant cantata" model makes any sense. Unless I misunderstand Wolff totally, New Church and St. Thomas' at different choirs and cantors. I don't even see that it is clear from Wolff that the same musical program on any given Sunday was the same in the two. (Wolff does mention that the hymns were chosen by the cantors. And would it be unreasonable to assume that morning service on a normal Sunday was the most heavily attended?) And what does one make of Wolff's note that "each alumni cubicle either contained or provided easy access to a keyboard instrument, so that students could prepare for lessons and learn their cantata parts." And lastly, if Bach's music was so hot off the presses that the boys had to practice in front of the congregation, why would Bach print, at his own expense, handouts for the congregation containing cantata texts for six weeks in advance? No one doubts Bach's genius, but he was the head of an organization and no organization functions without structure, planning and some kind of planning. Frankly I think you give Bach and his artists capabilities I doubt anyone could have possessed.

On another point, in Wolff's description of teaching at St. Thomas School he claims students had seven hours of required musical instruction under Bach per week. How would this stack up with a modern boys music school?

Neil Halliday wrote (February 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"..the sopranos in m 52 of BWV 3/1 on the syllable "-dern" (dotted 8th note) do not have a trill (tr) marked whereas the 1st violins, playing here at this point in unision with the sopranos, do.">
One detail: in the same bar in which the sopranos begin their final run on "wandern", the 2nd oboe leads the instruments into a repeat of the opening ritornello; which results in this (2nd oboe) part, which has the flattened (ie, naturals on) F and G (commented on by Julian) in the second beat of the next bar (same as the in 2nd bar at the start of the movement), clashing against the F# and G# that conclude the 1st violin's trill in this bar (noted above). Of course this will probably only be noticed if one plays these parts on a keyboard (although I expect t2nd oboe and the 1st violin players might be aware - and surprised - by it). Nevertheless, Bach must have had some fun writing those parts (A major clashing against a form of A minor?).

Shifting tonality is certainly a feature of this movement. Each choral episode ends with the polyphony in the upper voices (SAT) set over a pedal point in the basses and continuo (this pedal point being the last note of the cantus firmus for each line of text), and concluding with chords in F# minor, E major, B minor, and A major respectively. As well, a pedal point (F#) supports the TAS voices preceding the 4th line's cantus firmus. The third line ("the narrow way is full of trouble") has particularly chromatic harmony.

I have Rilling's [3] and Harnoncourt's [2] recordings of this cantata.

In the opening chorus, Harnoncourt [2] has the better oboes, but Rilling [3] the better strings and choir (I can identify more of the SAT lines), so I listen to Rilling.

Rilling's bass aria [3] suffers from the addition of a double bass to the already `dire' cello line; Harnoncourt's cellist [2] bring better phrasing and expression to the line. Both singers are good. I prefer to listen to Harnoncourt.

The pleasantly tuneful duet is most enjoyable in both performances; both have a relaxed `andante' approach to the music. There is more vibrato from Rilling's female singers [3], but H's singers [2] are not without vibrato either.

[I think I would present the `chorale with recitative' movement with a piano realisation of the continuo (see BCW score), to get a break from the overused cello and expressionless organ.]

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 12, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< If you desire certainty in the study of Bach and his music, then I suggest instead reading sources such as that written by Ross W. Duffin ("How Equal Temperament Ruined Harmony", Norton, 2007, p. 148) who states that Brad Lehman had deciphered and published Bach's encoding of the temperament for the WTC. Here you will find no phrases such as “may explain”,“strangely enough still does not”, etc. but only that the days of doubt "ended for good in early 2005 when ... Bradley Lehman deciphered and published Bach's encoding...." and "There is no question that Lehman convincingly solved Bach's puzzle" and "Bach's temperament is not ET" and "In fact, the...temperament given back in figure 7 is Bach's own 'well-temperament' as deciphered by Lehman. This was Bach's ideal for keyboard music, not ET."
I suggest that you will enjoy reading such published testimony with conclusive evidence and prefer its certainty and clarity to my attempts to unravel material which does not as easily lend itself to a treatment like that given by Duffin above. >
1. This topic that you're bringing up: what does this have to do with the present discussion, at all? I'm curious, because I have offered no comment about BWV 3; I had the computer turned off all day yesterday, and wasn't here for any participation. Nor does Dr Duffin's book mention BWV 3, or any other vocal music by Bach. But thanks for the nice advertisement of Dr Duffin's fine book, and its enthusiastic words about my work! It's encouraging that you're beginning to endorse good recent scholarship in this way.
http://www2.wwnorton.com/catalog/fall06/006227.htm
http://music.cwru.edu/duffin/Norton/Letter.html

2. Which other pages of Dr Duffin's book have you read, in addition to page 148 (which you've quoted from several times already in the past month, but only that one page each time)? You're implying here that Dr Duffin's book is an enjoyable read (which I've done four times so far, start to finish), so I'm just curious how much of it you've personally read and enjoyed too, and which other bits you might single out as especially useful in ensemble intonation. I think it's a terrific book, very enjoyable and informative, and I've been recommending it to friends and colleagues over the past several months. I had a professional bassoonist over to the house on Saturday to rehearse some Telemann, and I had Dr Duffin's book right there on the harpsichord to talk about
afterwards. We also discussed the differences between modern bassoon reeds and Baroque bassoon reeds, and I have learned quite a bit from this colleague who plays both. For our rehearsal on Saturday I set up the basic intonation system recommended in Dr Duffin's book (i.e. regular 1/6 comma), and it worked perfectly for this Telemann piece. Not surprisingly, since it was a system published by Telemann himself.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 12, 2007):
<< "Acciaccatura" from Walther's Music Dictionary is a term applied only to keyboard music. It is a 'crushing together of notes which do not belong together'. Domenico Scarlatti has a number of examples of this in his harpsichord sonatas. It does not appear to be used for vocal music.
"Accento" or German "Vorschlag" is what you are referring to here. There are various subtypes for this embellishment. >>
In case anybody's interested in understanding this topic: 17th/18th century use (leading into Walther's definition) had nothing to do with the chirping 19th-century type of melodic acciaccaturas that we normally think of, whenever the term comes up today among people who have taken music lessons. (Like the bit at the start of Mahler 4, or in Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours"--the part in "Fantasia" with the dancing hippos and crocodile....)

Rather, it was a specialized way of souping up the harmony within basso continuo practices, and considered to be an essential feature of really good taste in expert musicianship (as cited by Geminiani and others). Bach himself supplied some notated examples: for starters, those in the sarabandes of the E major French Suite, E minor Partita, and G minor English suite. And Heinichen in his book made a distinction between the ones that use half steps vs whole steps.

An excellent survey article by Peter Williams covers the Walther reference, Scarlatti, and lots more. That's in the October 1968 issue of Musical Quarterly, which see.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 12, 2007):
< Is it my imagination or is this a very, very "sharp" cantata? Bach modulates into some very distant keys. >
It certainly looks that way, especially in the duetto. But also keep in mind: it probably didn't sound as "sharp"-oriented as it looks on the page. The continuo organist was playing down a whole step and with two fewer sharps; and the two oboi d'amore playing/reading up a minor third and with three fewer sharps.

Net result there in that duetto: violins and any bowed-string bassline played in E major; but organ played in D major, and oboes in G major.

Even when the music modulates as far around as G# minor, there, that's only putting the organ part into F# minor and the oboes into B minor.

Similar remarks for cantata 49 with its several concerted movements. The obbligato organ solo is being played in D major, while the strings are in E and the oboe d'amore in G.

And in the "O Mensch bewein" at the end of St Matthew, part 1: same thing. Strings and flutes in E, but continuo in D and oboi d'amore in G.

Or "Et in Spiritum sanctum" of the B minor mass: bowed bass in A, but continuo organ in G and the oboi d'amore in C.

Or the "Kyrie II" there: F# minor, but it's only E minor for the continuo organ and A minor for the oboi d'amore.

In character, from the central perspective of the basso continuo on the organ, playing in all its original keys: the "B minor Mass" is the "A minor and C major Mass". This also puts the "Agnus Dei" into F minor instead of G minor, of course; with the gravitas of F minor befitting that subject, just like in the F minor "Ich ruf' zu Dir" of
Orgelbüchlein. The character for the ensemble's exprescomes from the keys the organist is playing in...not necessarily matching all pitches, of course, but more at the level of grabbing the overall expressive mood that is created by the key itself. More on all that: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/larips/vocal.html

 

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