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Cantata BWV 38
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of October 15, 2006

Alain Bruguières wrote (October 15, 2006):
Week of October 15, 2006
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Cantata BWV 38, Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir

Second Annual Cantata Cycle, 1723-24 (Jahrgang II)
21st Sunday after Trinity
1st performance: October 29, 1724 - Leipzig
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Bach Cantatas resources
Previous Discussions: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38-D.htm
Main Cantata page: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38.htm
Text:
German http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/38.html
English http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV38.html
French http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV38-Fre4.htm
Score Vocal & Piano: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV038-V&P.pdf
Recordings: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV38.htm#RC
Listen to Leusink recording [5] (free streaming download):
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV38-Leusink.ram
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Librettist : unknown
Biblical sources:
EPISTLE Ephesians 6: 10-17: Lay hold of the armour of God so that when the evil day comes you may hold the field.
GOSPEL John 4: 46-54: The healing of a nobleman's son after his father shows faith in Jesus.

This is a chorale cantata, based upon the chorale of the same name.
Five-verse hymn by Martin Luther, a paraphrase of Psalm 130.
See http://bach-cantatas.com/CM/Aus-tiefer-Not.htm
for details on this chorale melody.
--------------------------------------------------------
Structure
1. Choral SATB bc (+ trb I-IV ob I + II str)
2. Recit. A bc
3. Aria T ob I, II bc
4. Recit. S bc
5. Terzetto SAB bc
6. Choral SATB bc (+ instrs)
--------------------------------------------------------

Comment (mostly based on Dürr).

In this Chorale cantata the unknown librettist uses the five verses of the hymn in the following way:
Mvt. 1 (Choral) = verse 1
Mvt. 2 (Recit. A) = free paraphrase of verse 2
Mvt. 3 (Aria T) = free paraphrase of verse 3
Mvt. 4 (Recit. S) = related to the Gospel reading
Mvt. 5 (Terzetto SAB) = free paraphrase of verse 4
Mvt. 6 (Choral) = verse 5.

The libretto follows closely Luther's text : the nobleman's call fo help in time of need (Mvt. 1), because of his faith in Jesus (Mvt. 2), is met with Jesus' comforting words (Mvt. 3); so that faith brings about salvation (Mvt. 5). Through his Grace, God will redeem us from our sins, many as they are (Mvt. 6). In a parenthesis (Mvt. 4), the libretto elaborates on the words of Jesus in the week's Gospel 'If you do not see signs and wonders, you do not believe', establishng a link between hymn and Gospel.

The first movement (Mvt. 1) is a choral fantasia on Luther's Phrygian melody. It is atypical in that it adopt the motet style rather than the usual concertante orchestral style. The global impression is severe, antique, hieratic. Each choral line is treated is fugal style :
- exposition of the choral melody by the three lower voices;
- cantus firmus in the soprano (with augmented values)
- meanwhile the lower voices weave a somewhat independent contrapuntic texture.
- there is no instrumental interlude between two consecutive lines (on the contrary!).

However the line-sections enjoy a certain variety of writing technique and character. The first line begins with the choral melody in the tenor accompanied simultaneously by the bc. The second line begins also in the tenor, but in anticipation, so that it intones 'Herr Gott' while A and B sing 'zu Dir'. Similarly with the musically identical third and fourth line, and also the fifth and sixth line. This establishes strong links between the lines and contributes to an impression of great density. The sixth line is characterized by a powerful chromaticism depicting effectively 'sin and injustice'.

Note also that words like 'cry', 'calling', 'ear', 'zu mir', 'open' (your ear...) are dramatically stressed by sudden upward leaps of the lower voices often resulting in the alto and tenor reaching much higher than the soprano.

Introduced by a secco recitative, the tenor aria combines a joyful syncopated rhythm with a somewhat wistful melody, the 'word of comfort' prevailing over anguish in the end of the second section, on the line 'Sein Trost wird niemals von dir scheiden'.

As mentioned above, the soprano recitative refers to the Gospel reading rather that the hymn; Bach chose to materialize the link between the two by placing the choral melody in the continuo while the recitative is sung a battuta. This is done in a very discreet way; if it were not for the uniform rythm of delivery (which may raise suspicions) one would hardly notice that anything particular is going on here.

The fifth movement is a bipartite terzetto, rather complex in structure, with - a continuo ritornello; - a 3-part section, centered on the word 'Trubsal' (tribulations'), based on a new chromatic theme treated in imitative style, and towards the end allusions the ritornello; - the ritornello again, in the dominant - a 3-part section centered on the word 'Trost' (comfort) based on a different theme, then incorporating the material from the first 3-part section as well as allusions to the ritornello, and in its conclusion incorporating the whole ritornello - a reprise of the ritornello.

The cantata ends with the usual 'plain' (please note the ' ' : nothing is ever plain in Bach;) 4-part harmonized choral.

--------------------------------------------------------
A more personal comment.

Well, not so personal after all! The similitude between the choral fantasia of this cantata and the choral prelude in Part III of the Clavierübung always strikes me. Dürr mentions it, too. He notes that in the choral prelude for the organ the part-writing is 'even more flowing and linear', while perhaps in the earlier choral fantasia, the lines enjoy a more varied character in relation to the meaning of the text, and observes that the comparison 'shows the direction in which Bach had developed in the interim'. Still both share the same austere, ancient, hieratic character.

It occurred to me that the 'terzetto' is a somewhat unexpected, even mysterious piece for a Bach cantata. Now in Part III of the Clavierübung, each choral comes in a larger and a lesser form; typically we have a 4- or 5-part choral of massive dimensions, and a 3-part 'fuguetta'. The terzetto, written as it is in imitative style not wholly alien to that of the inital choral fantasia, seems to play the role of its lesser counterpart. Is it reasonable to view the fantasia and the terzetto as forming a pair of the same nature as those we find in Part III of the Clavierübung?

-------------------------------------------------------
Possible topics of discussion.

The discussions are of a very high level of quality. I really don't think I'm in a position to 'lead' them in anyway. Perhaps someone will take up the question asked above.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 15, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< The first movement is a choral fantasia on Luther's Phrygian melody. It is atypical in that it adopt the motet style rather than the usual concertante orchestral style. The global impression is severe, antique, hieratic. >
Mendelssohn wrote an impressive motet for choir and organ which imitates this opening chorus. After the chorale-fantasy, he gives the tenor a wonderfully lyrical Lied right out of the 19th century. One of the finest hommages to Bach.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 15, 2006):
Someone earlier mentioned BWV 78 as a favourite of all the cantatas:- for me BWV 38 would come near the top of the list.

The chromatic slightly tortuous first vocal theme of the trio is particularly unusual and appealing. In fact this is one of only three trios in this cycle and, in my opinion the best.The ritornello is based upon the most cliched harmonic progression of the age, the cycle of fifths. The vocal theme is highly contrasted giving the impression of the voices being chained or 'fettered' together as the text suggests. A new vocal thems comes for the dawning of the 'enlightening sun'--and all bound together by the conventional ritornello. A masterpiece of construction and given a very energetic performance by JEG--rather more exciting then Koopman's more introspective and slightly nondescript reading [7].

The fantasia is not completely atypical-there are pther examples of these bare, arid minor key vocal motets in the cycle the first coming as early as the second, BWV 2. When the voices are doubled by trombones, the sound is particularly striking and rather eerie.

This is, incidentally, a cantata in which Schweitzer gets almost everything wrong. The trio, he says should be performed by 'a small chorus not the soloists'. He might not hold the same views if he heard some of today's excellent Bach soloists.

But his comments on the tenor aria raise a point on which I seek some suggestions from list members. He claims that the 'undeniably wretched declamation proves the music to have been borrowed from another work' . He doesn't evidence this and he ignores the central keystone position of the aria and its text:- moreover he ignores the internal musical motivic evidence which particularly binds this movements to sections of the trio.There is little doubt, I suggest, that this movement was conceived as a vital part of this cantata.

Which leaves the 'wretched declamation'. Was Bach somewhat careless about the words setting on this occasion? Certainly there are examples where he has taken other movements and fitted new words to them but this seems to be not such an example.

So my question, stemming from my own lack of experience in the German language and its accents and inflexions is this:--can some of the bi-lingual members on list provide some precise examples of poor declamation from this aria, showing precisely what has not worked, where the accents should lie etc etc. It would be most interesting to have some informed opinion from truly bilingual colleagus.

Alain Bruguières wrote (October 15, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< This is, incidentally, a cantata in which Schweitzer gets almost everything wrong. The trio, he says should be performed by 'a small chorus not the soloists'. H e might not hold the same views if he heard some of today's excellent Bach soloists. >
This is a "tradition" in other Bach works as well. The "Suscepit Israel" in the Magnificat (BWV 243) is usually peformed by a women's chorus because most performances only hire four soloists although Bach specified five (SSATB).

There are many choral bad habits which are now traditional: using full SA for the first duet in "Christ Lag in Todesbanden", full tenors for "Zion Hört" in "Wachet Auf" and full tenors and basses (!) for "Et iterum" in "Et Resurrexit" in the B Minor Mass (BWV 232). The worst for historical misrepresentation is referring to the ripeneo choir in the SMP (BWV 244) as the "boys' choir" and then using huge children's choirs to sing the two movements.

Alain Bruguières wrote (October 15, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Someone earlier mentioned BWV 78 as a favourite of all the cantatas:- for me BWV 38 would come near the top of the list. >
I would also place 38 near the top... in fact, before preparing this week's introduction, I was under the vague impression that this cantata was completely dominated by the opening chorus; and while this chorus was one of my favorites, the rest of the cantata seemed less interesting. But having listened to it rather intensively while writing the introduction, I found out that this impression was completely wrong and the cantata as a whole is very remarkable and coherent.

< The chromatic slightly tortuous first vocal theme of the trio is particularly unusual and appealing. Indeed, the terzetto is a very fascinating piece.
The fantasia is not completely atypical-there are pther examples of these bare, arid minor key vocal motets in the cycle the first coming as early as the second,
BWV 2. When the voices are doubled by trombones, the sound is particularly striking and rather eerie. >
>
Quite true, still the vast majority of choral fantasias is of a different type. According to Aryeh (intro to BWV 2) "Of the five chorale-based choruses in this style, four are to Luther texts. It is clear that Bach associates this manner with bedrock Lutheran theology." I suppose the five include BWV 2, BWV 38, BWV 80, what are the other two?

Julian Mincham wrote (October 15, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< I suppose the five include BWV 2, BWV 38, BWV 80, what are the other two? >
Alain Interesting point about the relationship with the Lutheran theology. Can't bring to mind the 5th at the moment but BWV 121 of the second cycle is the fourth. You are right about them being atypical. Interesting though that one is included in the first four cantatas of the second cycle. I have always thought that, in providing four such contrasting fantasias at the beginning of the cycle (and even using a different voice in each for the cantus firmus) Bach was virtually 'showing off' ----Look what can be done, what variety achieved even given the enormous (self imposed) constraints of the the chorale chorus!

Well, I guess noone has been better equipped to show off a bit than JSB

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 15, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
>>According to Aryeh (intro to BWV 2) "Of the five chorale-based choruses in this style, four are to Luther texts. It is clear that Bach associates this manner with bedrock Lutheran theology." I suppose the five include BWV 2, BWV 38, BWV 80, what are the other two?<<
This style is called the 'stile antico' which is strongly related to the motet style (no orchestral ritornelli). Bach shows great variation in applying this style, some mvts. being very formal and strict while others showing a mixture of motet style with more modern elements. A good explanation of all this is given in the OCC [Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach] in the articles on 'stile antico' and 'motet'. Alberto Basso, in his article on 'stile antico' speaks of an "antico motet style" and sees evidence of this in BWV 71/3 (1708), BWV 4/5 (c.1709), BWV 21/9 (1714), and BWV 182/7 (1714). He goes on to state that "But it was during Bach's Leipzig years that archaic procedures assumed greater consistency and importance, as can be seenin many cantata movements written during his first years as Thomaskantor: BWV 64/1 and BWV 179/1 (1723); BWV 2/1, BWV 38/1, BWV 101/1, BWV 121/1, and BWV 144/1 (1724); and BWV 28/2, BWV 68/5, and BWV 108/4 (1725). The same might be said of certain sections in the first version of the Magnificat BWV 243a (1723). Later sacred works to exemplify the 'stile antico' include Cantata BWV 29/2 and some parts of the B minor Mass BWV 232, such as the second 'Kyrie eleison' (1733) and 'Credo in unum Deum', 'Crucifixus etiam pro nobis', and 'Confiteor unum baptisma' from the Symbolum Nicenum (c.1748-9)."

Mvts. like BWV 101/1 already display a mixture as Bach was probably experimenting with combining the motet/stile antico style with more modern elements.

Here is an interesting statement by Boyd from the OCC:

>>Classifications of various chorale forms do not automatically account for stylistic elements or for Bach's developments of style. For instance, chorale motets belong to the earliest and the latest phases of his compositional development and show an increasing concern with the pure counterpoint of the stile antico. In other words, Bach's style in this form begins as relatively 'modern' (or at least up-to-date for the early 18th century) and seems to become more 'ancient' towards the end of his career. This trend towards purer counterpoint was itself a wider fashion of the 1730s and 1740s, one that was complemented by a trend towards more modern, galant idioms.<<

My questions: Was the trend towards purer counterpoint "a wider fashion of the 1730s and 1740s" or did Bach find himself being more and more isolated by the predominance of the "more modern, galant idioms"? Is the stricter chorale motet form (stile antico) one which belongs to his earliest and latest phases of compositional development? How do we correctly categorize his achievements in this form with certain cantata mvts. during 1724-1725? Was Bach less concerned with formal counterpoint then?

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 15, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>This is, incidentally, a cantata in which Schweitzer gets almost everything wrong....But his comments on the tenor aria raise a point on which I seek some suggestions from list members. He claims that the 'undeniably wretched declamation proves the music to have been borrowed from another work'. He doesn't evidence this and he ignores the central keystone position of the aria and its text...I suggest, that this movement was conceived as a vital part of this cantata. Which leaves the 'wretched declamation'. Was Bach somewhat careless about the words setting on this occasion? Certainly there are examples where he has taken other movements and fitted new words to them but this seems to be not such an example.<<
Agreed. Schweitzer had a bad day when he voiced these opinions on this cantata. Perhaps hearing a bad performance of it with performers struggling with Bach's singing style, he might have been led to these wrong conclusions.

"Poor declamation" can be due to any one of a number of factors, but I cannot find a shred of evidence that would lead any reasonable individual who understands the text and the music to find fault with the tenor aria. A discussion of diction or proper declamation (not on the part of the performers although they can easily worsen the situation, but because of the composer's wrong choices in setting the text) in sacred works of this type during the first half of the 18th century in Germany is sorely lacking in English. The OCC has one mention of diction in the context of parodies, the place were improper diction would most likely appear as both Bach and his librettist would attempt to find solutions for adapting the same music to a different text. It is remarkable how Bach often succeeds in this endeavor despite a number of obvious instances where he simply allows the modified text to slip through while losing the tight connections that the music originally had with the text that gave inspiration to the the music. However, this subject matter was discussed at great length by musicians/composers/theoreticians of that time. I have just located about a hundred pages of discussion in German between Mattheson and Bokemeyer which treats this subject in rather great detail and hope to summarize what they were arguing about. This includes Mettheson's quotation of text as sung with all its repetitions from BWV 21 without mentioning Bach's name.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>The trio, he says should be performed by 'a small chorus not the soloists'.<< [Schweitzer's claim]
It is interesting to note here that if there are any cantatas that would have to be performed non-OVPP (even Rifkin concedes that such 'stile antico' mvts. like BWV 38/1 would never be sung simply OVPP), then this one would belong to that group. It takes a stretch of the imagination, however, to envision all the Thomaner sopranos and altos singing against very few basses as the latter were definitely always in short supply during Bach's tenure in Leipzig.

>>He [Schweitzer] claims that the 'undeniably wretched declamation proves the music to have been borrowed from another work'. He doesn't evidence this...."

BWV 38/3 Tenor Aria

Re: Evidence that this composition (the music being specifically composed for this text) is original and not recycled music (a parody) from an earlier source:

Both falling/sliding appoggiaturas on "Trost-wort" ("comforting word") mm 16 & 17

Octave jump upward on "Trostwort" in m 20 and later in m 50 on "deines Gottes" ("your God's") *Andreas Werckmeister explains on p. 96 of his "Musicalische Paradoxal-Discourse" Quedlinburg, 1707 that the octave represents "die Fülle der Gottheit in welcher alles begriffen, fein abgemahlet" ("the fullness/abundance of the deity which contains everything depicted/copied with precision [within the octave]"). The number 8 is considered a "Plenitudo"

Slightly chromatic ascending passage on "Leiden" ("suffering") in mm 34 & 35

Long, held note on the "steht" of "besteht" ("remains standing") in mm 51&52 and 61 &62

The fact that these specific words from the text coincide musically (word-painting) with various choices available to a composer but so intelligently chosen by Bach convinces me without a doubt that this aria was not a parody of an earlier sacred or from a secular mvt. from another cantata being reused.

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 16, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< My questions: Was the trend towards purer counterpoint "a wider fashion of the 1730s and 1740s" or did Bach find himself being more and more isolated by the predominance of the "more modern, galant idioms"? Is the stricter chorale motet form (stile antico) one which belongs to his earliest and latest phases of compositional development? How do we correctly categorize his achievements in this form with certain cantata mvts. during 1724-1725? Was Bach less concerned with formal counterpoint then? >
It's worth remembering that "stile antico" motets were the basic repertoire of Bach's choirs. The collection that was in constant use in the Leipzig churches under Bach's direction had contrapuntal and polychoral music as far back as the 16th century master, Rolandus Lassus (aka Orlando di Lasso). On ordinary Sundays, concerted music accounted for less than a half-hour in a four hour service.

However, Bach often seem to use the "antique style" symbolically. "Sicut locutus est ad patres nostro" in the Magnificat (BWV 243) is written in an old style probably to symbolize "our forefathers". In the Credo of the B Minor mass (BWV 232), the "Credo" and "Confiteor" symbolize the faith of antiquity. The "Kyrie" of the F Major Mass also quotes plainsong in its counterpoint.

I would however not classify the "Crucifixus"of the B Minor Mass as "stile antiquo": the vocal counterpoint can't stand on its own.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 16, 2006):
BWV 38, further thread of declamation

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The fact that these specific words from the text coincide musically (word-painting) with various choices available to a composer but so intelligently chosen by Bach convinces me without a doubt that this aria was not a parody of an earlier sacred or from a secular mvt. from another cantata being reused. >
Plus also the motivic equivalences with other parts of the cantata. I think the case for this movement being composed especially for this cantata is watertight.

Which leads us back to the mystery of Schweitzers' comments, a thread I would like to pursue a little further (and thanks Thomas for your ealier email on this).

When Bach reused ealier movements for the setting of new words (often in haste and under pressure, one assumes) there may be some reason for some lapses of word setting. If the movement was 'composed for purpose' there is no apparent reason other than the composer's incompetence--and we are talking of a composer with a very great experience of the craft. Yet Schweitzer is not just critical--he is vehemently so to the extent that for this reason alone he would like to see this great keystone tenor aria dropped in performances.

And yet Thomas, who is better equipped than I to make the judgement, confirms what I have suspected that there seem to be no obvious lapses of word setting technique in this movement. So what is going on?

Thomas raises the isue of definition of the word' declamation'. I had always interpretted it to refer to the compositional act of word setting whereby the natural rhythm of the words is fitted to the bar-determined rhythms of the music. This is largely (though not exclusively, because uses of high and low pitches and awkwardly conceived melismas may also be a factor) a matter of rhythm in which naturally weak and strong beats of the bar are used to coincide with the natural rhythms of speech (long and short notes also being an important factor.)

But if definiencies in these areas ar not apparent it might follow that Schweitzer means something else by the word. If so, what? Or could he have had a corrupted score (unlikely as he would have used the BG publications -----and he makes reference at one stage in his book to the welcome availability of scores at his time of writing). Could it be a matter of different regional accent? Might he mean that, in his view the substance of the music (vocal and instrumental lines, harmony, rhythm etc) that comprises the movement is unsuitable for the expression of the meaning of the text?

This is quite an enigma and I confess I have never found a solution to it--which is why I invite views from others.

Peter Smaill wrote (October 16, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] "Nothing is plain in Bach", regarding Chorales- well, certainly not in regard to the final Chorale of BWV 38, "Aus Tiefer Not".

The strophe is poetically unusual in that it starts with a declaration that a zeugma is coming, "Ob bei uns musst der Suenden viel". Rather than sweep past the unusual commencement of a verse with "Though" , Bach brilliantly emphasises this turning-point in the rhetoric of the text with an unusual inverted chord, and thus gives the Chorale one of the most outstanding, fleeting moments in all the Chorale harmonisations, a sign of his interest in Luther's setting of the De Profundis.

"It is of special significance to Lutherans, having been sung at Luther's funeral and was the last chorale to be sung, we are told, in Strasburg Cathedral before it was overrun by the French in 1681.

There are grounds for thinking that the chorale was especially inspiring to Bach. The obvious reference point is BWV 38, the paraphrased "Aus tiefer not", cantata for October 27 1724. The magnificent Pachelbel-style canonic opening chorus by this date is archaic; while the unusual minim introduction to the schlusschoral is innovative, and harmonically adventurous, the use of the Phyrigian mode in the cadences produces overall a mystical, pietistic effect.

To this can be added the Clavierubung BWV 686 and 687, again looking backwards sylistically but to magnificent effect. " (from discussions of BWV130).

For those interested in the range of implementation of motet settings within the Canatas , Daniel Melamed's "Bach and the German Motet" can be recommended. The combination of archaism and innovation in the last Chorale is not to be missed.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>"But if deficiencies in these areas are not apparent it might follow that Schweitzer means something else by the word. If so, what?"<
Robertson does not shed much light on the matter; he merely reiterates Schweitzer's view (without naming him): "This aria has been severely criticised for it's faulty declamation - which shows at once in the opening vocal phrase - but the music does reflect the spirit of the words."

I don't understand the argument either. I quite like the syncopation on "hö-re" in "Ich hö-re mitten in dem Leiden..."; is this what Robertson is referring to? I have no clue of what Schweitzer is talking about, and since we don't have his definition of declamation, this may be difficult to ascertain. Anyway, the Harnoncourt and Rilling [3] recordings of this melodious aria (which I have) are most enjoyable, not a moment too long.

I find the modality of the `battuta' recitative tricky to comprehend; and the immediate repeat of the 1st two phrases of the chorale tune (in the continuo) a fourth higher, while the soprano ambles on, does not help matters.

The trio (Terzett) is a gem. (Part of) the repeated note figure in the continuo reminded me of the subject of the D minor organ fugue BWV 539 (or the solo violin fugue in G minor), and this figure occurs later on, in canon, in the vocal parts. Harnoncourt has a charming, bright organ accompaniment in the ritornello.

Then there are those four trombones in the often highly chromatic opening chorale fantasia. Awesome!

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< When Bach reused ealier movements for the setting of new words (often in haste and under pressure, one assumes) there may be some reason for some lapses of word setting. >
Native German speakers are better qualified to judge the diction question, but word-painting frequently gets lost in parody. The references to drums and trumpets in "Tönet ihr Pauken" disappear in "Jauchzet Frohlocket" in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). And in the same work, the writhing bass depicting the serpents trying to strangle the infant Hercules is lost in "Bereit dich Sion".

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 16, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Then there are those four trombones in the often highly chromatic opening chorale fantasia. Awesome! >
The use of 'colla parte' trombones/sackbuts us right back to works of Praetorius and the sonority is a strong aural signal that the work is in the antique style. This tradition continues on even into the masses of Mozart, especially the C Minor Mass where he plays with the trombones, sometimes restricting them to old-fashioned doubling and at other times giving them independent parts.

Helmut Rilling, who is in Toronto this week for a Bach cantata festival, is going to conduct a performance of the Levin "completion" of the C Minor Mass with the Toronto Symphony.

The link to the cantata series is: http://www.internationalbachfestival.ca/

The public lectures look good:

Wednesday, October 18 at 12 noon
'How Bach Got the Job of Music Director in Leipzig'
in relation to Cantata BWV 23

Thursday, October 19 at 12 noon
'Bach on the End of Time'
in relation to CantatBWV 70

Friday, October 20 at 12 noon
'Bach on the Birth of Jesus Christ'
in relation to Cantata BWV 7

Michael Marissen is a Professor of Music at Swarthmore College. He is the author of Lutheranism, Anti-Judaism, and Bach's St. John Passion (BWV 245), and of The Social and Religious Designs of J. S. Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, published in 1995. He is the co-author of An Introduction to Bach Studies and is completing a book of annotated translations of the librettos from Bach's oratorios. His current projects include a monograph, Handel's Messiah and Christian Triumphalism . He also appeared at the Oregon Bach Festival in 2000 for a lecture on Bach's St. John Passion, and in 2006 lectured on "Bach's Spirituality." IBF Toronto is extremely pleased to welcome Professor Marissen, a native Canadian, back to Toronto!

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< When Bach reused ealier movements for the setting of new words (often in haste and under pressure, one assumes) there may be some reason for some lapses of word setting. >
Native German speakers are better qualified to judge the diction question, but word-painting frequently gets lost in parody. The references to drums and trumpets in "Tönet ihr Pauken" disappear in "Jauchzet Frohlocket" in the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248). And in the same work, the writhing bass depicting the serpents trying to strangle the infant Hercules is lost in "Bereit dich Sion".

Julian Mincham wrote (October 16, 2006):
In response to Alain's question about the 5 motet chorale fantasias, the fifth is, I think BWV 14, also a Lutheran text. This like BWV 80 is one of the later additions to the second cycle. So there are three of these works spread through the first the first 40 fantasias of that cycle (listed in an earlier email) with the two later additions. 14 has a somewhat unusual time signature for this type of movement, 3/8.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 17, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
<"In response to Alain's question about the 5 motet chorale fantasias, the fifth is, I think BWV 14, also a Lutheran text".>
So we have BWV 2/1, BWV 14/1, BWV 38/1, BWV 80/1, and BWV 121/1, as motet-like movements in the 'stile antico' (without ritornellos). Notice that the 1st, 3rd, and 5th of these have four trombones doubling the SATB voices (except that BWV 121/1 has a cornetto rather than a trombone doubling the soprano voice). They are all from 1724, although BWV 14, according to Robertson, was composed in 1735.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 17, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>So we have BWV 2/1, BWV 14/1, BWV 38/1, BWV 80/1, and BWV 121/1, as motet-like movements in the 'stile antico' (without ritornellos). Notice that the 1st, 3rd, and 5th of these have four trombones doubling the SATB voices (except that BWV 121/1 has a cornetto rather than a trombone doubling the soprano voice). They are all from 1724, although BWV 14, according to Robertson, was composed in 1735.<<
Yes, in the latter case Bach, this is rather unusual for him to include the date, signed off at the end of the autograph score with SDG and 1735.

Ulrich Prinz in his "J. S. Bachs Instrumentarium" (2005) gives the entire list of Bach's works with trombones as follows:

with 4 trombones:

BWV 2/1,6 (1724)
BWV 38/1,6 (1724)
Transcription of Palestrina's "Missa sine nomine" (c.1742)

with 3 trombones:

BWV 4/2,8 1725 version
BWV 23/4 1723/1724 versions
BWV 25/1,6 1723
BWV 28/2,6 1725
BWV 64/1,2,4,8 1723
BWV 68/5 1725
BWV 101/1,7 1724
BWV 118 (Motet-Trauermusik) 1736/1737
BWV 121/1,6 1724
Bach's personal copy of F. Durante's "Mass in C minor" 1727-1731

with only 1 trombone:

BWV 3/1 1725
BWV 4/3 1725
BWV 96/1 1734, 1747 versions
BWV 135/1 1724

Julian Mincham wrote (October 17, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>So we have BWV 2/1, BWV 14/1, BWV 38/1, BWV 80/1, and BWV 121/1, as motet-like movements in the 'stile antico' (without ritornellos). Notice that the 1st, 3rd, and 5th of these have four trombones doubling the SATB voices (except that BWV 121/1 has a cornetto rather than a trombone doubling the soprano voice). They are all from 1724, although BWV 14, according to Robertson, was composed in 1735.<<
According to Wolf BWV 80 comes later as well. He suggests 1740 with the motet movement newly composed.

So three from 1724 and the other two later?

Peter Smaill wrote (October 17, 2006):
Ed Myskowski very kindly supported the frequent theme, that the commentators skip over the Chorales even though quite remarkable word painting and harmonic effects occur in them.

With respect to BWV 38, one exception is Christoph Wolff, who cannot be expected to render much detail on each Cantata in his "Johann Sebastian Bach: The Learned Musician", since the entire life and output have to be covered in little over 500 pages. But he does single out the Chorale of this Cantata and produces a much fuller analysis of the opening chord than I have:

"According to the prevailing pattern, the final movements of the chorale cantatas present straightforward chorale harmonisations in Bach's usual unadorned style. But there are surprises in store. In cantata BWV 38, for example, Bach harmonises the very first tone of the hymn "Aus Tiefer Not" with a daring dissonance, a third-inversion dominant-seventh chord...." (p279).

Julian Mincham wrote (October 17, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< But there are surprises in store. In cantata BWV 38, for example, Bach harmonises the very first tone of the hymn "Aus Tiefer Not" with a daring dissonance, a third-inversion dominant-seventh chord...." ( >
I have always thought that Wolff overeggs the pudding on this point. This is hardly a 'daring dissonance'. By Bach's time the dominant 7th was a well used chord in all its inversions. It might well have been unusual to begin a chorale on this chord, but when one considers the semitone dissonances that Bach used elsewhere, this very mild one can hardly be called 'daring'.

But that point aside, Peter is absolutely right to draw our attention to the chorales. I suspect that for most people exploring the cantatas the choruses and arias come first--the chorales and recits somewhat later.

And a focus on the chorales raises so many interesting questions. Why did Bach reharmonise so often? Was it because he thought he could do better? Or (as I suspect) when harmonising a chorale to a different stanza, did his uncanny ear for the text lead him to alter the harmony accordingly. e.g.the chorale used for BWV 2 was used by Bach on several occasions, notably the earlier BWV 153. In BWV 2, he introduces an almost bizarre Ab chord in the second phrase, not used in the earlier versions. Why? To suggest the 'evil ones' outside of the normal God fearing community perhaps? Also note the passing through C minor in the last phrase before coming to rest on a D major chord---the heretics and godless are around us but not with us (look at the text)

Look at the mcharacteristics of the chorale of BWV 176--a strange ambivalence of F and C minors. How does it relate to the text? Or the choice of minor modes for the chorales which conclude a cantata with opening movements in the major (BWV 74). The diminished chord on the word 'horen', an powerful piece of word painting in 175. The changing of the phrase lengths to suit different texts--BWV 111 and the different version in SMP (BWV 244). The movement from C to Bb in the first phrase of the chorale from 41, differently harmonised in the earlier BWV 190. I could go on!

Yes Peter, there is a lot to examine and learn about Bach's approach from the chorales alone. Thanks for raising the issue.

Maybe a later thread might be to examine the recits similarly?

Alain Bruguières wrote (October 18, 2006):
Recits please!

[To Julian Mincham & Peter Smaill] I for one would be very happy if we had a discussion on recitatives some day.

As times goes by, I find recitatives more and more fascinating.Trouble is, I don't find words to express the delicate feelings I derive from recitatives.

I'm sure that there are many members who would be competent to talk about them, and I would gladly learn from them.I sense that the recitative is an art of its own.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 16, 2006):
[To Alain Bruguieres] I haven't got time to kick off on this one at the moment but would be happy to contribute particularly on the 'hybrid' recits of which a lot exist in the second cycle--combinations of recit, arioso, chorale, ritornello etc.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 18, 2006):
BWV 38: instrumentation in recordings

Suzuki's volume 29 [9] has the two motet-type movements with 4 `col parte' trombones, viz, BWV 2/1 and BWV 38/1. Both movements sound very impressive.

Koopman's [7] lute in the continuo of the terzett produces an interesting, quite charming effect.

On the topic of continuo, turn to Richter [2] for a `beautification' of the instrumentation of the soprano recitative with the chorale in the continuo. The subtle registration, with 4 and 2 foot stops, and soft realisation on the large concert organ, transform this movement into a kind of heavenly `floating' sound, in comparison with the harshly austere music heard in the continuo of most recordings, in which frankly ugly `scraping' noises (maybe the recording microphone picks up the scraping of the bow across the large string instruments), and/or the dull effect of cello notes doubled an octave below by the double bass and doubled again by bass clef notes on small `portativ' organs and maybe doubled again by bassoon, without sufficient balancing instrumental treble-clef material.

I can't imagine anyone listening to the recitative mentioned above in most of the available recordings, and thinking the music is magical, or entrancing, or beautiful.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 19, 2006):
BWV 38 Chafe commentary

The following is an excerpt from Chafe's book on tonal allegory in which he expounds his theory on anabasis and catabasis in Bach's sacred vocal works:

>>If the meaning of Bach's tonal allegory in Cantata BWV 109 is the hidden granting of faith and its overt manifestation only after a period of doubt, the same is true of Cantata 38, "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir," of the following year. A chorale cantata based on Luther's well-known hymn, Cantata 38 is a free version of Psalm 130 and sung to the ancient Phrygian melody.. From two elements of text and chorale melody, with perhaps the additional aid of Luther's commentary on the psalm itself, Bach produced an allegorical structure that is profoundly dependent on tonal directions, using catabasis up to the final verse of the chorale:

CANTATA 38: "Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir"

1. Chorale motet: "Aus tiefer Not," in E Phrygian
2. Recitative ending with Phrygian cadence in A minor (i.e., E Phrygian)
3. Aria: "Ich höre mitten in den Leiden ein Trostwort," in A minor
4. Recitative with chorale cantus firmus in bass: A Phrygian-D Phrygian
5. Trio: "Wenn meine Trübsal als mit Ketten," in D minor
6. Chorale: "Ob bei uns ist der Sünden viel," in E Phrygian

The keys used are similar to those in Cantata BWV 109, but now a falling circle of fifths rather than a rising scalar model determines their arrangement; the final chorale restores the original key.

It seems at least possible that Bach developed the idea for his structure from Luther's conception of Psalm 130 as the cry of a "truly penitent heart that is most deeply moved in its distress." Luther continues, emphasizing that sin and torment must be acknowledged before faith makes salvation possible: "We are all in deep and great misery, but we do not all feel our condition. . . Crying is nothing but a strong and earnest longing for God's grace, which does not arise in a person unless he sees in what depth he is lying. " Bach, like Luther, takes as his starting point the word "deep," to which he adds the dimension of the initial falling fifth of the chorale melody. Bach needed a sustained catabasis to create a tonal analogy to the experience of the "many depths" mentioned by Luther. This need is evident in the development of the melodic material of the aria and trio from the first line of the chorale. [Examples will appear on the BCW in the Score Samples for this cantata.] Although the A minor aria stresses hope in the midst of sorrow-and Bach represents it faithfully with melodic lines similar to the final movement of BWV 109 (on "Trostwort" and "sein Wort besteht")-the overall tonal direction nevertheless continues downward throughout the following two movements. The explanation for this seemingly contradictory procedure is found in Luther's commentary, which emphasizes the "blessing" of "contradictory and disharmonious things, for hope and despair are opposites"; we must "hope in despair" for "hope which forms the new man, grows in the midst of fear that cuts down the old Adam. " The catabasis must, of course, be interpreted as a positive force; it is the necessary "other side" of redemption; or, as John Donne, for example, expresses it, "therefore that he may raise the Lord throws down"

The trio of "Aus tiefer Not" presents first the image of our troubles forming the links in a chain that binds us until it is loosened by Christ, then that of the rising of the "morning" of faith amid the "night" of trouble and sorrow. Modulation in the flat and sharp directions associated with darkness and light respectively appears in several other works as well (e.g., Cantatas BWV 21, BWV 61, the "Christmas Oratorio"). The trio is pervaded by circle-of-fifths motion developed from the chorale-derived themes. Chains of suspensions precipitate a downward motion through the minor keys (d, g, c, f, then B flat [major]; mm. 17-38). The dawning of faith ("Wie bald erscheint des Trostes Morgen"; mm. 70-82), by contrast, reverses the direction upward, until the idea of the "night" of doubt and sorrow turns it back again (mm. 82-94). In this last section, however, the words "Wie bald erscheint des Trostes Morgen" return for a time (mm. 96-111), overlapping and forming a new counterpoint with the "night" melody (which is the same as the Trübsal melody at the beginning of the movement). The extension of the "Trostes Morgen" idea is sung to the melody of the ritornello, set to text now for the first time (mm. 96-108). Surely the flats are to be "redeemed" from their pejorative associations. Although on the whole the text of the trio voices a positive message, the absence of a regular da capo means that the movement ends with the "night" image; and the idea of catabasis remains with us through the final ritornello as well.

But Bach's ingenious combinations joined the night of trouble and sorow to the morning of tru. Because the psalm itself and, even more, Luther's exegesis emphasize two ideas at the end, Bach's plan likewise does not allow the prevailing catabasis to reverse itself before the very end. The first idea is the necessity of waiting-through the night watch: {Therefore the psalmist says: "I wait for the Lord; that is, in this crying and cross-bearing I did not retreat or despair; nor did I trust in my own merit. I trusted in God's grace alone, which I desire, and I wait for God to help me when it pleases Him.". . . That is, my soul always has its face directed straight toward God and confidently awaits His coming and His help, no matter how it may be delayed.} As in Cantata 109, Bach's structure delays the full message of help until the last possible moment, the final chorale. The concluding idea of "Aus tiefer Not" is redemption at the hands of God: "That is, with Him alone there is redemption out of the many depths mentioned above, and there is no other redemption. Although our sin is great, yet His redemption is greater." The message of salvation is effected in the final chorale, "Ob bei uns ist der Sünden viel, bei Gott ist viel mehr Gnade." The chorale returns to the original E Phrygian, but not through anabasis, which might, in this case, suggest that salvation was attained by human effort; Luther stresses that we cannot "work our own way out." A transformation suddenly effects the shift of key for the final chorale: the final low D of the aria ritornello is retained in the bass as the chorale begins on an E major chord with the adversitive "Ob" ("although"). Thus, an initial dissonance in the new key, the D, symbol of Trübsal and Nacht, is given new meaning by the change.

Perhaps the most fascinating tonal allegory in this cantata appears in a movement that is not based on Luther's text but is derived directly from the Gospel. Between the aria and the trio Bach introduces a recitative that is constructed on the melody of "Aus tiefer Not" as a bass cantus firmus, taking its tonal departure from the preceding A minor aria. Its first Stollen is in A Phrygian, beneath the freely composed recitative text, "Ach! daß mein Glaube noch so schwach, and daß ich mein Vertrauen auf feuchtem Grunde muß erbauen!" From this point the ground shifts down to D Phrygian for the second Stollen and the entire Abgesang, for Bach an unprecedented procedure within a single cantus firmus statement. The beginning justifies the continuing catabasis: despite the "Trostwort" within the foregoing aria, faith remains weak. The second Stollen begins, "How often must new signs soften my heart?"-a line drawn from Jesus' words to the father of the healed boy in the Gospel for the day: "Wenn ihr nicht Zeichen and under seht, so glaubt ihr nicht" (John 4:48). The words "neue Zeichen" and "erweichen" suggest the concept of softening, which relates the shift to flats (G minor)
to the ancient usage of mollis to designate flat keys.

To appreciate how Bach emphasizes the word "signs," we must compare the Phrygian scales of A and D as they were understood in Bach's time. The variable third degree of the scale is usually used in its sharp form harmonically and in its unaltered form melodically, as in numerous Phrygian chorales such as "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" and "Aus tiefer Not." Here, to maximize the difference between the scale and its transposition, Bach sharpens the third degree, even though it alters the melody significantly; the result is a disparity of three pitches between the Phrygian scales on A and D: E/E flat, C sharp/C, and F/F sharp respectively. Bach then forms the diminished seventh chord on "Zeichen" with the aid of all three of the new signs, one sharp (F sharp), one flat (E flat)-the outer voices-and one natural (C); this, then, is the chord that, with its dominant function, brings about the G minor softening. Since John's Gospel is known as the "Book of Signs", and since the tonal plan of Bach's "St. John Passion" appears to have been conceived as a form of play on the three musical signs (i.e., sharp, flat, and natural key areas), this important detail in the plan of "Aus tiefer Not" perhaps possesses a wider significance, relating it to Bach's tonal-allegorical procedures in general.

Footnote: Many German music treatises of Bach's time list chorales according to the old modes. There is, of course, a thin line between a close on the dominant in a minor key (especially one of the Phrygian type) and a cadence intended to represent the Phrygian mode itself. Bach merges the two, especially when the cadence expresses a rhetorical question, and the duality or ambiguity regarding complete and incomplete closure is intended (see the final line of Cantata BWV 161, "How then can death harm me?"). The linking of the minor scale (especially the harmonic minor) the Phrygian mode, and a version of the same scale that begins on our dominant to the Hypophrygian can be found in Athanasius Kircher's "Musurgia universalis", p. 51; Kircher calls the scale of A harmonic minor, Phrygian (and places it in "cantus durus") and the sequence of E, F, G#, A, B fiat (I), C, D, E (also "cantus durus"), Hypophrygian.<<

quotation from pp. 218-223 (sans footnotes and musical examples) of Eric Chafe's "Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach" University of California Press, 1991.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 38: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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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