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Cantata BWV 38
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu Dir
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 15, 2006 [Continue]

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 19, 2006):
BWV 38 Score samples - Chorale melody incipit links all mvts.

BWV 38 Score Samples

These are located at:
(to enlarge the image, click once again on the sample you would like to view more closely)

It is becoming more and more apparent as we examine more closely the structure in Bach's cantatas s that the cohesion between all the mvts. as evidenced in this cantata (we have determined that the tenor aria is not a parody with an ill-fitted text, but that it was composed as part of this cantata) is enabled by a number of factors which Bach deliberately employed in helping to link all the mvts. One potential problem, the non-chorale text (mvt.4) was solved by quoting the entire chorale melody in the continuo (quite unusual), thus ensuring a sense of continuity where a verse of the chorale text is omitted. Is there, however, another way that Bach links all the mvts. musically aside from the catabasis arrangement of tonalities that Chafe refers to? Yes! It appears as though Bach made a deliberate effort to evolve the major motifs for each mvt. from the incipit of the chorale melody. The usual remarks by commentators include such explanations that the purely instrumental material as in the ritornelli when the vocalists are not singing is entirely unrelated to the chorale melody. A few commentators, however, have uncovered the missing links which are so frequently passed over because they are not always entirely obvious at first glance or immediately perceived by the listener who hears this music for the first time. At first, without referring to any such sources other than Dürr, who sometimes points these things out, I thought that there would be nothing to find beyond the obvious use of the CM in mvts. 1, 4, and 6. Then I found Friedrich Smend's indication that the initial motif from BWV 3 is based on the chorale melody incipit (Booklet IV, pp. 30-32 of Smend's "J. S. Bach Kirchenkantaten" Berlin, 1947.) Now the hunt was on with only the Terzetto and the 1st recitative yet to be solved. Soon I found possible solutions for both mvts. Then, rather by chance, I discovered last night Eric Chafe's discussion of BWV 38, where on p. 220 of the book just recently quoted, there were Chafe's examples, including Smend's and some of the ones I had found on my own. Chafe, however, gives two examples from the vocal parts of the Terzetto which I had not found (all of these are
included in the score samples). By far the most difficult is mvt.2 (the alto recitative) which is not mentioned by either Smend or Chafe. It would seem odd for Bach, now that examples of the chorale melody incipit can be found in every other mvt., not to have any hint or indication of a similar CM link here. It will be left to the reader to decide just how far this linking method might be valid in a Bach cantata of this type.

In addition to the possible reference to the chorale melody, Mvt. 2 also has an example of 'circulatio', a musical figure employed by composers in the Baroque period. It is the aural equivalent of a circle said to represent the sun or God, but Bach seems also to have employed it in the sense of 'cross' which might fit here as the words being sung are about the sinful life of human beings being tormented by Satan's lies and deception (the 'cross' that every human being must bear). In a 'circulatio, it is not necessary that the first and last notes be the same. Johann Gottfried Walther ("Musicalisches Lexicon..", Leipzig, 1732) defines this figure as beginning either with an ascending (the more common method) two-note pattern followed by two descending notes or vice versa. With Bach the pattern is often more like the sound pattern of B-A-C-H [(the B = Bb; H = B, of course); note the minor third (A and C surrounded by Bb and B) embracing in tonal scope from within, as it were, the diminished second {B and Bb} on either end of the figure] or as it appears here in Mvt. 2: ascending (rather than descending a half step from B to A) by a whole step from G to A, then descending/dropping by a minor third from A to F# (rather than ascending from A to C), and finally ascending once again by a whole step from F# to G# (rather than descending a half-step from C to B), thus not landing on the beginning note just as B-A-C-H does not as well. Looked at from another angle, the figure in Mvt. 2 is a retrograde/cancrizans image of the same sequence of intervals encountered in B-A-C-H. Naturally, the letters of the notes/tones transposed are different, but there seems to be some rather Bachian aspect involved with the location and sequence of the notes in question. Was this possibly a deliberate, but rather hidden inclusion that references indirectly Bach's name and connects it with the situation being described at this specific point in this recitative?

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 20, 2006):
BWV 38 - A specific type of cantata for a specific church?

BWV 38 A specific type of cantata for a specific church?

Konrad Küster, in his "Bach Handbuch", Kassel, 1999, p. 272, has the following interesting comment on BWV

>>Als einziges Werk aus dem Herbst 1724 beginnt die Kantate [BWV 38], kaum zufällig als Nikolai-Kirchen-Werk, mit einer motettischen Choralbearbeitung..<<

("As the only work from the fall of 1724, the cantata [BWV 38], hardly by chance a work written for St. Nicholas Church [and not St. Thomas Church], begins with a motet-like chorale treatment..")

From various NBA KBs, I have examined a few facsimile pages from the cantata text booklets which Bach distributed for his performances in Leipzig. Some of these are located in the Saltykow-Stschedrin Library and were printed for the first time in the BJ in 1973. Some of these cantata texts are based upon Erdmann Neumeister's texts and the strong possibility exists that Bach did provide his own original music for them even though these cantatas have never been found or recorded as existing elsewhere.

The booklet titles indicate that these texts were specifically for the "Leipziger Kirchen=Music" [sacred music in Leipzig's main churches under Bach's jurisdiction] and covered certain periods of the liturgical year, as in the first instance, from the 3rd until the 6th Sunday after Trinity inclusive of the feasts of the Visitation of Mary Feast and St. John the Baptist's Day. Here are the titles for each:

5th Sunday after Trinity (performance only at St. Nicholas Church)
"Der Segen des Herrn machet reich ohne Mühe" Opening Chorus
Recit, Aria, Aria, Chorale, Aria, Final Chorale

Visitation of Mary Feast (performed at the early service in St. Thomas Church, in the afternoon at St. Nicholas Church)
"Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn, und mein Geist freuet
sich Gottes meines Heilandes" (Opening Chorus)
Recit, Aria, Repeat of Opening Chorus ?

6th Sunday after Trinity (performance only at St. Nicholas Church) "Wer sich rächet, an dem wird sich der Herr wieder rächen" (Opening Chorus) Recit, Aria, Recit, Aria, Final Chorale.

Both of these regular Sunday cantatas begin with 'dicta' ("Sprüche") based upon a biblical passage. Does this mean that these opening mvts. were more likely to be treated as a motet or in 'stile antico' fashion by Bach? Is there an association here between motets and St. Nicholas church (where, it appears the performances of motets from Bodenschatz's collection "Florilegium Portense" were more likely to be performed) and perhaps the more-difficult-to-sing figural music which Bach composed and performed with St. Thomas Church in mind?

Here, for comparison, is a listing of cantatas fsimilar cantata text booklets as the following one which was prepared for use in the Leipzig churches during the period of Pentecost and Trinity, 1731:

2nd Feast Day of Pentecost [1731]
"Erhöhtes Fleisch und Blut" (BWV 173)
"Frühe zu St. Thomae, Nachmittags zu St. Nicolai"
("Early at St. Thomas Church, in the afternoon at St. Nicholas Church")

3rd Feast Day of Pentecost [1731]
"Erwünschtes Freuden-Licht" ("In der Kirche zu St. Nicolai") [BWV 184]

On Trinity Sunday (Feast Day of the Holy Trinity) [1731]
"Frühe zu St. Thomae, Nachmittags zu St. Nicolai"

From a cantata text booklet from 1731 earlier that same year:

On Easter Sunday
"Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubiliret" [BWV 31]
"Frühe zu S. Nicolai, Nachmittags zu S. Thomae" ["ae" as a diglyph]

From a cantata text booklet [1724]:

On Quasimodogeniti Sunday
"Halt im Gedächtnis Jesum Christ" [BWV 67]
"In der Kirche zu St. Thomae" [the final ,e' appears as a superscript over the ,a']

On Misericordias Domini Sunday [1724]
"Du Hirte Israel höre" [BWV 104]
"In der Kirche zu S. Nicolai"

From a cantata text booklet also from 1724:
On Misericordias Sunday
"Der Herr ist mein getreuer Hirt" [BWV 112]
"In der Kirche zu S. Nicolai"

From a cantata text booklet from 1724:
On Easter Sunday
"Der Himmel lacht! Die Erde jubiliret" [BWV 31]
"Frühe in der Kirche zu St. Nicolai, und in der Vesper zu St. Thomae" [the final ,e' appears as a superscript over the ,a']

From a cantata text booklet from 1724:
On Estomihi Sunday
"Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe" [BWV 22]
"In der Kirche zu S. Thom."

On the Feast Day of Mary's Annunciation [1724]
"Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger"
"Früh in der Kirche zu St. Thomae und in der Vesper zu St. Nicolai"

On the Feast Day of Mary's Purification [1724]
"Erfreute Zeit im neuen Bunde" [BWV 83]
"Früh in der Kirche zu St. Nicolai und in der Vesper zu St. Thomae"

On the Sunday Septuagesimae [1724]
"Nimm was dein ist, und gehe hin" [BWV 144]
"In der Kirche zu St. Thomae" [,ae' diglyph]

On the 4th Sunday after Epiphany [1724]
"Jesus schläft, was soll ich hoffen" [BWV 81]
"In der Kirche zu St. Thomae". [,ae' diglyph]

On the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany [1724]
"Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir" [BWV 73]
"In der Kirche zu St. Nicolai"

On the Sunday after Epiphany (1724]
"Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange" [BWV 155]
"In der Kirche zu St. Thomae" [,ae' diglyph]

These are the only facsimile cantata-booklet evidence for Sundays and holidays that I could find in the NBA KBs. From this evidence alone it would be difficult to deduce, as some commentators have indicated, that Bach's normal Sunday cantatas were performed regularly in both churches (St. Thomas and St. Nicholas). I would tend to take the evidence that these booklets provide quite literally: if it states St. Nicholas and not St. Thomas, I would accept this as a reasonable fact. The question that Konrad Küster raises is that Bach composed and performed cantatas that differed in style depending upon the designated location as indicated in the cantata booklets. Special church holidays {Christmas, Easter, etc.}, however, were obviously an important exception to the general rule). Any thoughts or observations regarding this?

Julian Mincham wrote (October 20, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Many thanks for the highly interesting stuff you have elicited on various aspects of BWV 38. It is a work I know very well but I have still learnt quite a bit from your postings.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 20, 2006):
I think I found part of the answer to the question that I had raised earlier about Konrad Küster's observation of a stylistic difference in the type of music for the St. Thomas as opposed to the St. Nicholas Churches in Leipzig during the early years of Bach's tenure in Leipzig.

This information comes from pp. 189-190 of Küster's "Bach Handbuch", Kassel, 1999. What follows is a summary of some of the ideas presented there:

1. Each one of the schools attached to St. Thomas and St. Nicholas Churches in Leipzig has a different focus and, as a result, ultimately serves a different purpose in the training of boys and young men who attend them. The Thomasschule has its main emphasis upon the humanities (with music playing a very important role) while the Nikolaischule, on the other hand, stresses science (with musical abilities not being considered important). This division is somewhat comparable to the division between Arts & Sciences at the university level in the USA. In Germany, for quite some time, the difference between the Gymnasia (high-schools) also distinguishes specific schools and the students attending them on a similar basis.

2. A division based upon the different stylistic conceptions held by the main political parties represented in the Leipzig City Council becomes apparent when understood from the background provided by the negotiations that transpired after Johann Kuhnau's death. Although the political parties agreed that church music should be modern, but not 'theatrical' in style, certain differences in what this actually meant stylistically can be ascertained. Each side spelled out the ideals over which it hoped to gain control and to prevail over the other faction.

3. The leader of one faction/party was the mayor, Gottfried Lange (of the courtly, absolutist party) for whom, or for whose party, Bach composed his more daring (difficult) figural music. St. Thomas Church and its associated Thomasschule placed great emphasis upon music and musical abilities.

4. The leader of the other faction/party was also a mayor, Abraham Christoph Plaz, (representing the other classes of society and the various guilds) held sway over the St. Nicholas Church and its associated school, the Nikolaischule. For this faction (and for the Nikolaikirche), Bach composed music which was more traditional. This faction was also more interested in making certain that Bach would carry out his traditional obligations in teaching subjects other than music as well.

5. Bach was aware of the political climate and what it required of him. If he conceived a pair of similar cantatas, one of which would receive its 1st performance in the Thomaskirche, he would tend to develop the latter to a greater degree of difficulty -- or as in his 2nd yearly cantata cycle, he would formulate a type of cantata that could be used/developed as a series of cantatas of the same type for his primary choir. It cannot be asserted, however, that the cantatas that Bach composed with the St. Nicholas Church and School in mind are of a lesser quality. On the contrary, they are different in that they represent a stricter form of polyphony/counterpoint as found primarily before 1700 in Protestant Germany. The Nikolai cantatas simply have a different quality compared to those which Bach composed with the Thomaskirche and Thomasschule in mind.

6. The fact that some Feast-day cantatas were performed in both churches on the same day, does not affect this observation of the normal differences between cantatas composed for one church or the other. During such important liturgical Feast days, the musical presentations were of a more splendid, higher order in both churches.

7. The differences between the two major types of cantatas (those written for St. Thomas or those for St. Nicholas Chur) are noticeable only during the major effort in completing the composition of his yearly cycles. Later on, Bach was no longer concerned about maintaining this difference between musical styles of composition.

8. That Bach took into consideration the specific churches for which he composed his cantatas, Passions, motets, etc., has not yet been seriously considered by Bach scholars.

Peter Smaill wrote (October 16, 2006):
Thomas Braatz has raised an interesting question. Was Bach's choral output freely interchangeable between St Thomas and St Nicholas, the official town Church; or was there a particular bias, perhaps an archaism, favouring a conservative style as evinced by the motet commencement and modal style of BWV 38?

An insight that this may be so is to be gained by reading Melamed's "J S Bach and the German Motet". In St Nicholas is a large floridly-inscribed plaque nearing the spruch "Erforsche mich, Gott", which is not only the incipit of BWV 136 but also the title of a double choir motet (by Sebastian Knüpfer) elaborately rescored by Bach and, as with BWV 38, deploying colla parte trombones. The motet was originally composed in 1673 or 1674 for a member of the Aldershelm family, whose endowment paid for meals in St Thomas but also the singing of chorales in St Nicholas Church. The Aldershelms paid for the enormous plaque in that Church bearing the incipit.

The inference, though it is by no means certain, is that this archaic double choir motet rescored by Bach is particularly related to the Nikolaikirche. There is evidence, too, that the University Church (St Paul's, demolished by the DDR) particularly required the singing of Latin motets.

As with the reproduction of Rosenmüller's chorale, "Welt, ade, ich bin dein müde" and that of Daniel Vetter, "Herrscher uber Tod und Leben", Bach is in the reworking of Knüpfer's motet also paying tribute to a fellow musician of a preceding generation.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 20, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Thomas, thanks for the article on Chafe's analysis of BWV 38.

From that article:
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<"Here (ie, in the chorale melody heard in the continuo of the 4th movement), to maximize the difference between the scale and its transposition, Bach sharpens the third degree, even though it alters the melody significantly;">
This mostly explains the earlier difficulty I had with the tonality of this movement - with a C# appearing in the first part of the melody instead of the expected C, in the context of the already somewhat strange (to modern ears) Phrygian modality.

[For complete enjoyment of this cantata, one really needs to learn the chorale tune, so that it can then be easily followed, for example, in the polyphony of the opening chorus, where the soprano part (with the chorale tune) is sometimes at the same or a lower pitch than the altos, etc.]

Julian Mincham wrote (October 20, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< [For complete enjoyment of this cantata, one really needs to learn the chorale tune, so that it can then be easily followed, for example, in the polyphony of the opening chorus, where the soprano part (with the chorale tune) is sometimes at the same or a lower pitch than the altos, etc.] >
Good advice for a really good understanding of any of the 55 chorale fantasia cantatas. Get to know the chorale well and it is often the key to much of the rest of the work.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 20, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< [For complete enjoyment of this cantata, one really needs to learn the chorale tune, so that it can then be easily followed, for example, in the polyphony of the opening chorus, where the soprano part (with the chorale tune) is sometimes at the same or a lower pitch than the altos, etc.] >
Maybe this is just picking at words: but, I never have "complete enjoyment" of anything. There are always new things to find next time, and next time, and next time...especially when the material is as rich as Bach's compositional genius. Music is different every time it's encountered, because the performers and listeners are different people each time we come to it

I'd also point out that it's possible to enjoy music without necessarily picking out or recognizing the provenance of every single tune. Understanding may be enriched by such pursuits, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with enjoyment more or less. Analytical picking and plucking at a score might well be its own reward, not affecting any measurable "enjoyment", so much as merely recognizing/appreciating the way a composition is put together around a cantus-firmus scaffolding (or whatever)....

Carry on!

Julian Mincham wrote (October 20, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote
< I'd also point out that it's possible to enjoy music without necessarily picking out or recognizing the provenance of every single tune. Understanding may be enriched by such pursuits, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with enjoyment more or less. Analytical picking and plucking at a score might well be its own reward, not affecting any measurable "enjoyment", so much as merely recognizing/appreciating the way a composition is put together around a cantus-firmus scaffolding (or whatever).... >
Deep waters! Who knows if an individual's 'understanding' of what happens in the music (and that very phrase will mean different things to different people) enhances his/her enjoyment or not? Some people are deeply moved by music without knowing a single thing about it. Others may'understand' a lot about musical structures and grammar without being deeply moved by the essence of the musical expression. Others (and a lot of people I know have epressed the view that they find music more enjoyable when they have found out more about the way the composer has put it together) may very well feel that they gain more from a piece 'the better they know it'---and this is another phrase that is a hostage to fortune. Do we simply 'know it better' because we have heard it several times or because we have gained some insight into how the composer uses his materials? Or a combination of both? To what extent is age a factor? I know that pieces I loved when I was 20 I cannot now abide ---and vice versa.

Also for me there is an aesthetic enjoyment in discovering what a great composer has done technically and this pleasure is quite distinct from that gained from playing or hearing the work. But here is a further level of aesthetic appreciation to complicate matters further.

So, an area frought with problems--but the end result must be personal in every case.

Getting back to the suggestion of getting to know the chorale well as a part of exploring the wider work, I think this is a good suggestion simply because it is how I have approached a number of these works and for me, this has lead to both a greater understanding and an enhanced enjoyment of the music. It might work the same way for others--it may not. But I certainly wouldn't discourage people from such approaches if it works for them (as it seems to for at least two of us on list).

So no rules, simply personal explorations. And, as you say Brad, it is a bit nit picking since the essence of the meaning was clear, but I do agree that there is no such thing as 'complete enjoyment' simply because our perceptions of a piece alter with subsequent hearings and performances, age our own personal development etc etc.

Perhaps the word 'enhanced' is preferably to 'complete'?

But then in ten years time one might have gone off the piece anyway! Such is life!

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 20, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I'd also point out that it's possible to enjoy music without necessarily picking out or recognizing the provenance of every single tune. Understanding may be enriched by such pursuits, but it doesn't necessarily have anything to do with enjoyment more or less. Analytical picking and plucking at a score might well be its own reward, not affecting any measurable "enjoyment", so much as merely recognizing/appreciating tway a composition is put together around a cantus-firmus scaffolding (or whatever).... >
In his lecture/performance of Cantata BWV 23 this week, Rilling took apart the tenor's accompanied recitative by first asking the tenor to stop singing and letting the strings and oboes play their their sustained acocmpaniment. He pointed out that the orchestra is playing the chorale which will be sung in the next movement. To reenforce the point, he asked the strings to play it again and added the sopranos singing the next chorale. A very effective and entertaining teaching aid.

Rilling and most of the other Bach authorities believe that these "hidden" chorales were apprehensible to the listeneres. Last year, when this point came up, I asked if these chorale allusions were in fact arcana and intended for the performers' edification alone. A couple of the speakers disagreed. In this cantata, the vocal recitative is very dramatic and commands the listener's attention totallly. Even when I was primed to hear the chorale, it still receded into accompaniment as the voice worked himself up.

Neil Halliday wrote (October 21, 2006):
BWV 38; structure of 1st movement

[Note: The necessity of this approach, as an aid to listening to dense, complex music such as this, for enhanced enjoyment of the music, will undoubtably vary between individuals, as has already been suggested].

The followinng structure is derived from the score; with careful listening, one ought to be able to perceive (hear) these details, in the recordings.

Note: There are seven lines of text set to five chorale melody phrases. Each section of the CM in the soprano voice is introduced by the ATB voices such that the incipit of each of these voices heralds the CM in the soprano voice for each line (except where noted below), in the following order of entries:

1. T, A, B; ("Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir"), note (listen to) how the altos cross above the CM in this and following lines.

2. T, A, B; ("Herr Gott, erhör mein Rufen")

3. ("Dein gnädig Ohr' neig her zu mir") and
4. ("Und meiner Bitt sie öffne")
are musical repeats of 1 and 2; hence the first four lower-voice entries are all in the order T,A,B.

5. A (closely followed by B) B, T; ("Denn so du willt das sehen an"), note the basses begin with a more independent motive in quarter notes.

6. T, B, A ("Was Sünd und Unrecht ist getan"); here we have strong chromaticism with syncopation (after the incipits) in the lower voices.

7. T (closely followed by A) A, B; ("Wer kann, Herr, vor dir bleiben?"), note that the altos begin with a free motive largely of quarter notes. The piece ends with the altos singing above the sopranos over the length of the final six bars, while the sopranos hold the last note of the chorale, in a most effective harmonisation.


Interestingly, my enjoyment of the somewhat vigorous and forceful Richter performance [2] is increased remarkably by being aware of the above detail, all of which can be heard in his recording, despite the large forces.

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 24, 2006):
I started to write some brief thoughts on BWV 38 a few days back, just before Neil Halliday posted his comments on Mvt. 1. I had written this: thanks to everyone who posts comments re the music. All of them are informative for novices (like me) of any age, and I suspect there are many new ideas proposed for scholarly confirmation as well (discussion, argument, whatever): ultimately the peer review process).

I decided to pursue Neil's structural analysis, and defer final writing in order to combine my comments into a single post.

Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< Comment (mostly based on Dürr).
The libretto follows closely Luther's text : the nobleman's call for 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.. >
Reply (continued): I find this concise summary very helpful. Which prompts me to point out that even if you do see <signs and wonders>, that is not evidence, of itself, that you are on a correct path. Perhaps just the opposite? On the other hand, if your <signs and wonders> include hearing the music of Bach, you are probably OK, IMO. The Jahrgang II chorale cantatas are incredible music, hard to believe that most folks pass through the world without knowing it at all.

For BWV 38, I have the recordings which I now consider a basic set: Richter [2] and Leusink [5]. For various reasons, I added two more: Herreweghe [8] and Koopman [7]. Herreweghe because he often seems best (and always good) in the cantatas he has recorded, and because I fell for Marcel Ponseele on oboe on my first hearing him, earlier in the cycle. Koopman because Eric Bergerud remarked on several occasions on Koopman's use of female altos, and I decided to give a try to some of his efforts, corresponding to the current discussions.

I very seldom feel a need to recommend avoiding a recorded performance, and that is especially true in this case. If it is in your nature to look for details that could be improved, you can probably find some such in each of them. On the other hand, if your ultimate objective is to find performances that you can listen to and enjoy from beginning to end, every on of these will do. With caveats (Eng. tran: beware, or warnings)).

Neil has objected to Herreweghe's <swelling tone> [8] in some comments. And I objected to his objection, or at least did not hear what he was objecting to. It is noticeable in the Mvt. 1 chorus, what I would call subtle, but clearly intentional. Just to be on the safe side, probably intentional. How could he get it to happen without intent, and some significant work to boot? Given that, I am willing to take some time and further listening to let it settle in (or not). For the moment, I do not find it objectionable, but read the fine print if it might bother you.

More important are the many negative comments in the archives re Leusink [5], in general, and BWV 38 in particular. I cannot say they are incorrect. but I find them unfortunate, one-sided, and unnecessarily exaggerated. A specific example? Do a BCW search for yodelers and see what you get. I was deterred for a while from buying the set. I would just let it slide, but I notice similar comments from several others. Don't let this happen to you. If you are even remotely considering the Complete Bach, just do it.

You will probably not get a definitive performance of any particular piece. Or even a best recorded performance, although there are one or two that get at least a tentative preference (without hearing all performances).

What you will get are solid, professional performances, a complete reference set at incredible value. If you care to take the trouble, there is an interview with Leusink in the BCW archives where he states his objectives at some length, and responds to some of the criticisms of his recording practice, in particular the rigorous schedule. One of his objectives was to provide quality music at widely affordable price. It was reading that interview which convinced me to take a chance. It is not my intent to be a salesman, but I am happy with the purchase.

I am also happy with both Herreweghe [8] and especially Koopman [7], both of which marginally Leusink [5] in most (but not all) details. One of the details which caught my attention on first listening was the S rec (Deborah York), Mvt. 4, in Koopman. The opening <Ach> is noticeably guttural, appropriately so to these non-Germanic ears. Agreement or correction from specialists invited. To me, it makes a perfect introduction to the rec and subsequent terzetto (Mvt. 5), and a coincidental opportunity to respond to the invitation to add more comments on recits. to the discussion. As is the female alto, Franziska Gottwald in Mvt. 2. I did not really notice until Eric pointed it out, that Koopman is often the only opportunity to hear altos in HIP performances. In this case, it zips by in less than a minute (0:50), but makes a very positive impact. I suppose no one will choose a particular recording on the basis of an A rec. Then again, why not?

One reason why not is that with Koopman [7] and the 3 CD packaging, you can't be very selective. And the selections are neither exactly chronologic, liturgical, nor BWV numeric, so you are destined to have some overlap, whether you want it or not. That said, the Koopman enthusiasts convinced me to give him a try, and I am favorably impressed.

That was about all I planned to say until Neil's concise and irresistible summary of Mvt. 1 came in. I found the BCW vocal and piano score both easily accessible and helpful in following the structure, so I cannot comment on the suggestion that the details can be heard without it. For me, even with the score, it was several listens to pick up all the details pointed out. Well worth the effort, thanks for providing the incentive! I think I would have found the crossing A and S lines difficult to recognize, even after they are pointed out, without the score to follow them.

My impression of discussions is that just about everyone on BCML has at least rudimentary music reading skills. I have not always found the on-line scores functional, and so don't always try them. Perhaps that is a problem at my end rather than with the site. In any case, comment with reference to the score is not just for the week, it is in the archives for the future as well. Thanks again for taking the trouble to provide it. It also made a fitting conclusion to preceding discussion and music examples of the chorale in BWV 38.

The chorale references, and musical examples, provided by Aryeh, and Tom Braatz are notable. I do not have a background to make significant commentary, but I do enjoy using them. Once the work is done, it remains available, even as the weekly commentary goes flashing by. First round commentaries remain invaluable, as well, whatever the controversies.

BWV 38 is notable for its older style chorale treatment, and the absence of traverso, as was BWV 2 for Trinity 2. Both are based on chorales from 1524. The significance of the date, leading to a bicentennial function for Jahrgang II in 1724, is suggested by Robin Leaver in OCC: Bach (p. 86). The contrasts with BWV 115 coming up, including traverso and vc piccolo are all the more remarkable.

IMO, you will not go wrong with a Richter performance [2], unless you are totally HIP. BWV 38 is no exception. Neil has already advised that the counterpoint details are easily heard in the chorus. The soloists in arias and recs. are always classic, and enjoyable, even if someone more modern and subtle is preferable. It hardly seems fair to make direct comparisons of performance practices across a generation (30 years or more) time gap. Edith Math's, Peter Stirrer, and DFDieskau remain standards for their era; Trudeliese Schmidt is less known (to me, anyway) but no less outstanding. The same crew performs on BWV 115, coming right up, Eric.

There ae no faults to find (by me) with the chorus performance by Leusink [5], Herreweghe [8], or Koopman [7]. I have a slight preference for Koopman, but perhaps just that it is newly arrived. When I first listened to Leusink, the immediate impression was delicacy and clarity. Perhaps when all is said and done, that is closest to what Bach might have achieved?


Continue on Part 4

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: Main Page | Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion
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Last update: Sunday, May 28, 2017 06:00