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Cantata BWV 35
Geist und Seele wird verwirret
Discussions - Part 1

Instrumental sections in BWV 35 - "Geist Und Seele Wird Verwirret"

Gary Stephens wrote (January 21, 2000):
I'm much more a fan of vocal music than instrumental music, but I particular like the combination of organ and orchestra in the instrumental (& vocal) movements of the alto cantata BWV 35 "Geist Und Seele Wird Verwirret" (on the Harmonia Mundi Scholl/Herreweghe recording) [10]. Can anyone suggest any other similar Bach organ music (NOT solo organ) & recordings?

Marie Jensen wrote (January 21, 2000):
I can recommend BWV 169 "Gott soll allein mein Herze haben", a Cantata for Alto solo. Two of the movements from BWV 1053 are included but with organ instead of harpsichord/oboe. The first movement as overture. The second movement as a very beautiful aria in siciliana rhythm (Sterb in mir...). Besides that there is a breathtaking allegro aria (same name as the cantata title) where the organ "goes mad in patterns". (for example, Carolyn Watkinson - Rilling).

Vincenzo Vennarini wrote (January 21, 2000):
I STRONGLY advice you BWV 170, "Vergnugte Ruh, beliebte Seelenlust", particularly second aria, a wonderful piece with organo obbligato. (First aria is great as well, but for strings) A masterpiece! And you can find it also in a Scholl/Herreweghe recording [10].

Jane Newble wrote (January 21, 2000):
You will find a beautiful Sinfonia in cantata BWV 49 with orchestra and organ. The only recording I have of this is Christophe Coin on Auvidis (AS 128530) using a Silbermann organ. It sounds wonderful. In the booklet is written: "...the concerted organ is called for in five other works written at that time (1726/27) (BWV 146, BWV 170, 35, BWV 27 and BWV 169)...". Of those I only have the BWV 35 and BWV 170 (Herreweghe) [10], and the BWV 170 sung by Alfred Deller, recorded 1954, with the Leonhardt Baroque Ensemble, where the organ is very prominent. Hope this helps,

Matthew Westphal wrote (January 21, 2000):
The Silbermann organ on Coin's recording does indeed sound wonderful. To my ears, however, Barbara Schlick does not. (Yes, more Schlick-bashing.) BWV 49 is one of those soprano-bass duet cantatas that takes the form of a dialogue between the Soul and Jesus. I'd recommend the recording on Accent with Nancy Argenta and Klaus Mertens. (I think it's Kuijken directing, but I'm not certain.)

Dick Sanderman wrote (January 21, 2000):
Following cantatas do have solistic organ parts:














1, 2


3, 5


1, 4, 5




1, 3, 5


1, 2, 6


1, 4






1, 7





A good article on the concertant organ parts in Bach's cantatas is "The Metaphorical Soloist" by Laurence Dreyfus, in "J.S. Bach as an Organist", edited by George Stauffer and Ernest May. Batsford, London ISBN 0 7134 5262 5.


BWV 35

Massimo Campostrini wrote (February 17, 2000):
Geist und Seele wird verwirret, cantata BWV 35.

I heard it for the first time in the last weekend.
What a masterpiece I was missing!

I knew the lost organ concerto the cantata is based on, in Koopman's "reconstruction"; not much of a reconstruction, now I realize: the I and III movement are there untouched, and one has only to guess which aria is based on the II movement (it is very unlikely that Bach did not use it in the cantata).

BWV 35 is pure heaven for those, like me, who cannot decide if they prefer Bach's vocal or instrumental music: a cantata and a concerto rolled into one package.

[10] I have the HMF CD with Andreas Scholl, Philippe Herreweghe, Collegium Vocale, and Markus Märkl at the organ. A beautiful performance; the harpsichord continuo is unusual but fits well this cantata.

Jill Gunsell wrote (March 9, 2000):
(The opening Concerto of cantata BWV 35) This is such a joyful piece of music - conveying so well "Praise Him with the sound of trumpets" etc etc. It ought to shatter Bach's undeserved reputation with some people as a "gloomy Protestant" in sacred music.

[10] Markus Märkl is fabulous. This is the first organ music I have ever wanted to play over and over for the sake of hearing the organ itself. I played it over & over today during a 4 hours drive, and the sheer interest of it, the freshness-with-complexity, kept me smiling all the way down the M6 in the evening rush hour (meaningful for UK list members!). Märkl accompanied Andreas Scholl (again) at the Wigmore Hall (London) recitals last year - for which I could not get tickets <gnash> and is on Scholl/Herreweghe CD's. Does anyone know of forthcoming concerts at which he will appear with Andreas Scholl again? Has he recorded "in his own right" or only in ensemble?


Brilliant Classics - Bach Cantatas - Vols. 3&4

Johan van Veen wrote (February 23, 2000):
[12] Some time ago I have already written about some of the cantatas from the latest sets in the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition. Since then I have listened to these two sets more extensively, and I am going to give my opinion on them. Hopefully others will give theirs.

The first two sets have been criticised by several people in this newsgroup. Are these two sets (volumes III and IV) any better? In some respects they are. There is some improvement in the performances of Bas Ramselaar. I also liked Nico van der Meel better than in the previous sets. The orchestra and choir give some very vivid performances of a couple of opening choruses. In other respects there isn't. As said before, Ruth Holton remains her unexpressive self. I can't see real progress in Knut Schoch's performances either. There are the usual differences between the text as printed (the NBA-text) and the text that is sung. The booklets haven't improved - on the contrary: in contrast to the first two sets, these two volumes have booklets with lots of printing errors. (snip)

Sytse Buwalda, on the other hand, is the 'jewel in the crown'. I like him even more than in the first two sets. His colourful voice, his well thought-over interpretations, his treatment of the text - in particular in the recitatives - is very convincing. Just some examples: BWV 81 (Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen, a very beautiful 'slumber aria'), BWV 13 (recitative Mein liebster Gott and chorale Der Gott, der mir hat versprochen), BWV 117 (Ich will dich all mein Leben lang), and of course the two solo cantatas BWV 35 (Geist und Seele wird verwirret) and BWV 169 (Gott soll allein mein Herze haben). When he has to sing a duet with either the soprano or the tenor, he has to take a step backwards, in order not to blow them away. The difference is rather embarrassing (for his colleagues, that is). (snip)

The orchestra is good, but often too colourless. In Bach's music the instruments have to illustrate and interpret the text, together with the singer/choir. That's where the orchestra, with all its qualities, regularly fails. I can't understand why the sinfonias - in particular the organ solo's - in the solo cantatas BWV 35 and BWV 169 are so lacklustre and unimaginative. And it isn't that difficult to be expressive wheyou can make a lot of noise, like in the opening chorus of BWV 130. It is more difficult with strings only - and there the shortcomings are all too clear. On the whole: a mixed package, with some things to enjoy, but there is still a long way to go (and maybe tough decisions to make) to produce a really convincing edition, which is able to compete in any way with the editions that are on the market or coming.


Discussions in the Week of September 10, 2000

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 10, 2000):

This is the week of cantata BWV 35, according to Ryan Michero's suggestion. As a short introduction to this cantata I shall use Alec Robertson, who wrote in his book: "This oddly designed cantata consists of two Sinfonias and three arias all derived from instrumental sources, only the two recitatives being newly composed material. It is, however, the only one of the three cantatas (the others are BWV 137 & BWV 69) for this Sunday that concerns itself with the Gospel - the healing of the deaf man. This cantata needs not to be 'sold' to the occasional listener. W. Murray Young explains the popularity of this cantata in his book: "The happy theme of this cantata affords the soloist much scope for artistic, coloratura interpretation. It is no wonder that this is one of the most popular solo cantatas performed in Bach concerts today".

Personal Viewpoint

a. I have a special problem with BWV 35, which disturbs me from full enjoyment from this cantata. With other cantatas there is always the enjoyment from exploring relatively unfamiliar music, with endless layers and depth. With BWV 35 most, if not all, the music is familiar from other works, most of the writing is unpolyphonic, even not the organ solos, and most of the music is adapted to the words in a somewhat forced way.

B. An interesting aspect in BWV 35, is that it has does not contain any real sad or somber movement. The usual root in most of the Bach's cantatas is from the deepest sorrow to the utmost joy (for example BWV 199, which was discussed in this group last week). But that is not the case here. The librettist of this cantata is not known. Some even claim that it is most likely that Bach himself wrote the libretto for this cantata. I do not know if that was the case, but surely Bach was not inspired by it, if he had to borrow most of the music from other sources (to which it was a priori composed).

Aria 'Geist und Seele wird verwirret'

The most challenging movement for the singer is the aria Mvt. 2 - 'Geist und Seele wird verwirret'. The music for this aria was originally composed as the slow movement of the same concerto, of which the opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1) was the first movement, and the second Sinfonia (Mvt. 5) in this cantata was the third. The voice part is rather awkwardly feet in. Furthermore, the alto singer has to fight both with the tutti orchestra (all the instruments from the opening Sinfonia are kept intact) and with the organ obbligato, which have the most interesting part in this movement. Therefore there is a double challenge in front of the Solo alto singer. She (or he) has to sing strong enough to be heard at all (I do not know how did the poor boy singer in Bach's time manage to do it), but also to be interesting enough to gain substantial attention to her (or his) singing from the audience. Shall we listen primarily to the alto singer or to the organ obbligato? No wonder that 'Geist und Seele wird verwirret'.

List of the complete Recordings

AFAIK, Bach wrote 4 solo cantatas for Alto - BWV 35, BWV 54, BWV 169, and BWV 170. Usually 2 or 3 of them are coupled on the same CD (or LP), because similar forces are needed for the recording and because this is an opportunity for the alto singer to show her (or his) powers in this field. Two (BWV 54 & BWV 170) of the four has already been discussed in our group in the last couple of months. Therefore most of the solo alto singers, being a female contralto or a man countertenor, are already familiar to us from previous recordings of those cantatas. For easy reference, I wrote down the couplings for each recording of BWV 35.

[1] Hermann Scherchen with Maureen Forrester (1964)
Coupled with BWV 42

[4] Nikolaus Harnoncourt & Paul Esswood (1974)
Coupled with BWV 20-34 & 36

[5] Helmuth Rilling & Julia Hamari (1982)
Coupled with BWV 33 & BWV 164

[6] Leo van Doeselaar & Jard van Nes (1985)
Coupled with BWV 170

[7] Chiara Banchini & René Jacobs (1987)
Coupled with BWV 53 & BWV 82

[8] Hartmut Haenchen & Jochen Kowalski (1994)
Coupled with BWV 169

[10] Philippe Herreweghe & Andreas Scholl (1997)
Coupled with BWV 54 & BWV 170

[11] Juha Kangas & Monica Groop (1998)
Coupled with BWV 169 & BWV 170

[12] Pieter Jan Leusink & Sytse Buwalda (1999)
Coupled with BWV 19 & BWV 99

Recordings of Individual Movements

Because cantata BWV 35 was transcribed by Bach from the lost Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1059, it is only natural that some movements from it, especially the opening Sinfonia, found their way to be recorded separately. Here are the recordings of individual movements from BWV 35 that I have managed to find. Logically, I did not include the reconstructed Harpsichord Concerto BWV 1059, of which there are numerous recordings. See: Recordings of Individual Movements


I have listened to each recording of this cantata over and over again, especially to the second movement. I tried my best to reach out to some conclusion about my preferred performers of this cantata, or about the special qualities of each recording. Sorry, but this time I do not have any conclusion, which might be of any interest to you. I can only say that all the performers of this BWV 35 are doing their best to make the most out of this cantata. But I am not convinced, because I none of them captured me. If you are interested in what each one of the performers can do with a real cantata, please read the relevant page of one of the other cantatas for alto solo (BWV 54 or BWV 170). If he (or she) has already recorded one of those cantatas, most probably that he (or she) achieved better results with them.

Although the achievements of some of the singers in BWV 35 are quite impressive, I do not think that I am going to return to this cantata very often. But the singers are not to be blamed. Neither are the organ players, the orchestras or the conductors. The main cause for this is Bach himself, my friends!

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

Marie Jensen wrote (September 11, 2000):
The gospel for the 12th Sunday after Trinity (Marc 7: 31-37) deals with how Jesus healed a deaf man: Words who have to appeal especially to a composer hearing with inner ears music from somewhere...

Ach! lege nur den Gnadenfinger in die Ohren,
Sonst bin ich gleich verloren.
Rühr auch das Zungenband
Mit deiner starken Hand,
Damit ich diese Wunderzeichen
In heilger Andacht preise
Und mich als Erb und Kind erweise.

These words written by Lehms recitativo No.6 sound like they were Bach's own personal prayer as a composer.

Perhaps that is why there are two Sinfonias (perhaps movements from a lost concerto), absolute music as a symbol of hearing and of course lots of organ - the sacred queen of instruments.

This cantata shows us, that Bach not always describes God the Father in majestic adagios. The endless number of Gods miracles is shown by lots and lots of notes in fantastic tonal webs…, and what would be better for that than the organ, the closest this world musically can get to a miracle.

Bach throws neck-breaking organ arabesques out into space nearly all the time. I love it all and in particular the obbligato to the aria "Gott hat alles wohl gemacht"
Try to compare with BWV 169, the allegro aria "Gott soll allein", very similar to this!

The Rilling/Hamari [5] version is better than the Leusink/Buwalda [12]. It has a rhythmic power, I can't resist.

Pascal Bédaton wrote (September 11, 2000):
Maybe is it easier to me to make a choice because I have only 2 recordings of this cantata, Harnoncourt [4] and Herreweghe [10].

For the symphonia parts, I would able to say that Harnoncourt is the best because he is the reference, but I have to say that the Herreweghe recording is very close to it and also very good. And because the Herreweghe singer is Andreas Scholl with his very beautiful voice, my choice is the Herreweghe recording. IMO, nobody could be compared to Andreas Scholl when he is in a good mind and certainly not a female voice...

I am sure my opinion will provoke some reacts, but do not forget that I am not objective because I have only two recordings of this cantata that I love very much, even if a lot of it come from other works and have already been listened somewhere else.

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 12, 2000):
What I like best about this cantata is the organo obbligato. I like the two Sinfonias, and, of the arias, I like the last one best. The three recordings I have are Harnoncourt/Esswood [4], Herreweghe/Scholl [10], and Leusink/Buwalda [12]. Esswood and Buwalda have very similar voices, but I prefer Scholl's. However, I prefer the sound of the organ and orchestra on Harnoncourt's recording to the other two, yet I think Herreweghe's generally quicker tempi are better. I agree with Aryeh about this cantata that, for some reason, the vocal line gives the impression that it doesn't really belong here. Perhaps it is just that the instrumentation is so good that it distracts me from the voice.

Concerning the comments about pronunciation in Ruth Holton's performance of BWV 199 with Leusink, I think that, although what Johan said is true, I would still rather listen to that than Buwalda's performance of BWV 35. I can forgive the occasional misreading of a word, and slight mispronunciations and variations of vowel sound simply make the recording human rather than mechanical. Besides, what should the correct pronunciation be? Logically, for anyone who chooses to insist that a recording should use instruments constructed and played precisely in the manner of Bach's time, with just the same number of performers as Bach may have used, then the vowel sounds of the singers ought to be as in the late 17th/early 18th century local Thuringian dialect that Bach himself would have used, rather than a modern standard High German pronunciation. Does anyone know how Bach spoke? It is possible for a piece of music to be delivered with such technical perfection that it loses its 'soul'.

Jane Newble wrote (September 12, 2000):
This cantata makes me feel very happy. It is because I listen to it as a painter. There is a strong similarity with standing in front of a landscape and trying to capture the thousands of colors, flecks of light, shapes and forms, and trying to decide what to leave out in order to make a statement.

Bach seems to have experienced something similar, confronted with God's miracles. Even the choirs of angels can't express it. And then comes the wonderful dancing aria: "Gott hat alles wohl gemacht". The first part is all about how amazing God is. The second part is about the human response to him, both introduced by Sinfonias.

Neither of the two recordings I have is very satisfying. Scholl [10] is almost too perfect, and there must also be a better one than Buwalda [12]. So the answer seems to be to get Julia Hamari [5]!

Jill Gunsell wrote (September 12, 2000):
Jane Newble wrote:
< This cantata makes me feel very happy. It is because I listen to it as a painter. >
How nice. Schweitzer describes Bach as a painter.

Marie Jensen wrote (September 13, 2000):
(To Andrew Oliver) Concerning the question about how Bach spoke, I think it would be a good idea to post it to the Recordings List, which has more members. But perhaps in the "Peasant Cantata" BWV 212 "Mer hahn en neue Oberkeet" we have a clue. (BTW Kirk, how many members are we on the Cantata List?)

About German pronunciation I guess it is very different, what we find irritating/acceptable. Only a native German will catch every foreign accent. I'm sure I don't catch them all, especially many Japanese, Italian or Dutch accent types, but that is not my purpose of listening either.

Rolling l's and r's often appear when Englishmen or Americans sing German. They irritate me. But Perhaps native Americans/Englishmen are not distracted the same way.

If only Germans were allowed to sing Bach it would be a disaster. So a certain amount of accent has to be accepted.

And yes, music can be so technically perfect that it looses its soul.

PS Thank you Jane for a wonderful description of BWV 35...!

Roy Reed wrote (September 13, 2000):
Hello Cantatants: First: I can say the Amen to Marie's conclusions about the Aussprache. For all we know, Holton sounds a lot more like mid 18th cent. Leipzig than modern German does.

I can well understand why some do not find BWV 35 all that appealing. That is to say all who are not organists. For the flying fingers however, here is much fun here. BWV 35 is made up of bits and pieces from the freezer, and the integrative musical element is the organ. The cantata is sort of an organ concerto...suite for organ and orchestra. really, with not so incidental alto.

I heard: Scholl (Herreweghe) [10], Hamari (Rilling) [5], Buwalda (Leusink) [12], Esswood (Harnoncourt) [4], Groop (Kangas) [11].

Prejudices of this humble observer:
Best tempos: Herreweghe [10].
Best singer: Finnish mezzo, Monica Groop [11].
Best at letting the organ be real partner of singer: Herreweghe [10].
Best ensemble sound: Herreweghe [10].

I did like all of these performances. Yes, even the slighted Buwalda. The ensemble sound of the Finnish Ostrobothnian Chamber Orchestra is wonderful...(Finlandia Records), The organ well played here but hangs back a lot. In some performances...seems to be almost some sort of an ambitious continuo realization. Scholl is so elegant and excellent. I am very fond of Esswood's performance, probably more than Scholl's. Hamari...what a voice! But I do think that Rilling trivializes No.4, the ending of the first section. Tempo and pizzicato bass. Cute...much too cute.

Fascinating text by on of Bach's favorite poets. Too much to say here... To summarize. The cantata is about wonder, the wonder of the God who creates and who recreates.

Andrew Oliver wrote (September 13, 2000)
(To Marie Jensen) Thank you for your comments, Marie, and Idon't doubt that you are right about exaggerated rolling of the 'R's by British and American singers, but the example of this that always sticks in my mind is actually sung by someone who I presume is German. It occurs in a recording of the Matthäus Passion, which Münchinger made in 1965. In No. 22, the part of Peter is sung by Heinz Blankenburg, and the first piece he sings ends with the words 'nimmermehr ärgern'. He rolls all four R's so much it sounds like a real tongue-twister. Perhaps some Germans roll them more than others do.

Marie Jensen wrote (September 15, 2000):
[To Andrew Oliver] I am sorry, but I don't know the version you mention, so I cannot comment it. English and German tongue rolls are not the same. In the English one the tongue is drawn backwards. In the German one the tongue vibrates - a little like when a boy places a piece of wood in a bicycle wheel. And I guess you are right: Some Germans roll their R's more than others do. Finally an example of German with so much English accent, that I could not stand hearing it to the end: John Mark Ainsley as evangelist in St. John Passion (director: Stephen Cleobury) from the Brilliant Classics Bach Edition.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 35: 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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