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Cantata BWV 39
Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of May 1, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 1, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 39 -- Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot

This week we continue with the last of the three works for Trinity 1, BWV 39. I will emphasize one more time, the architecture off the ongoing five-year weekly discussion schedule, oriented to the church calendar, and cutting across the chronology of composition. Clear enough to those of us who are immersed in it, after the previous five-year chronologic cycle, but perhaps not so easy for recent participants to grasp.

It requires a bit of concentration to sort out the chronology of composition, in relation to the church calendar and our discussion cycle. It is worthwhile to get it straight, ask questions as necessary.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV39.htm

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 39 page also has convenient access to Gardiners notes to the pilgrimage CDs [11], by clicking on the PDF link under the picture of the CD cover.

From Aryeh:
Cantata BWV 39 has a link to a complete recording by Kairos [17], available for listening on the web. There are also the usual Leusink and a new orchestral arrangement by Richard Siegel, both available for listening in the Music Examples page of this cantata.

For the previous two weeks discussions, BWV 75 and BWV 20 have had a unique relation to their two respective Leipzig cantata cycles: each was the first work composed. That is no longer precisely relevant with BWV 39, but Julian states concisely:

<Nevertheless, it is possible, and given the circumstances even likely, that Bach attached personal significance to this particular day [1st Sunday after Trinity] and consequently sought to parade a work of considerable substance.>

With the three works for Trinity 1, we have a microcosm of Bach’s cantata output:

(1) The first Leipzig cycle (Jahrgang I, 1723-24), also including significant reworking and updating of earlier works.

(2) The second Leipzig cycle (Jahrgang II, 1724-25), with a few later works retroactively interspersed.

(3) A variety of mature works of mostly individual character (or small groups, such as Xmas Oratorio), from 1725 onward, continuing intermittently , but throughout all of Bachs remaining years.

I would also point out the special character of the texts. I noted with respect to BWV 75 that the admonition of the Epistle for Trinity 1, to love ones neighbor, was notably absent. With BWV 39, only three years later, that theme has in fact become the central focus of the cantata text. I had not noticed this contrast before. I would like to give some consideration before commenting further, especially with respect to a reference new to me: Bach Among the Theologians, which appears to be a fine work, written clearly and concisely.

My introduction was delayed a bit because last night I attended a unique event: a screening of the 1927 silent film King of Kings by Cecil B. DeMille, with improvised (!) organ accompaniment by Peter Edwin Krasinski, at Methuen Memorial Music Hall. A presentation of truly monumental proportions (Earth and I are still quaking), and in the spiritual and musical tradition of Bach.

Next week Will Hoffman will introduce our discussion of the Lukas Passion. We then return to cantatas, perhaps with some welcome variety in leadership. I expect to continue writing often, in whatever capacity is appropriate. Thanks to all participants, especially those of you who have been around for ten years or so, and to whom folks like me (and Julian Mincham!) are still relative newcomers.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 2, 2011):
Hmm. Relaxing on a rarely uncrowded Sunday evening, awaiting Brian McCreath and the Bach Hour on real-time radio (not exactly, anymore, but close enough for 21st C.), I checked my Intro to BWV 39 to add a detail. When I hit reply, from the Yahoo Groups transmission, I noticed that it would be sent to me only, rather than to BCML!

Aha! What gives, Yahoo?! At least I now understand where some of the vapor transmissions (including Love Thy Neighbor, re BWV 75, just the other week) originated.

I hope those of you interested saw the entire text of my BWV 39 introduction. Here comes the added detail.

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 39 -- Brich dem Hungrigen dein Brot
I would also point out the special character of the texts. I noted with respect to
BWV 75 that the admonition of the Epistle for Trinity 1, to love ones neighbor, was notably absent. With BWV 39, only three years later, that theme has in fact become the central focus of the cantata text. I had not noticed this contrast before. I would like to give some consideration before commenting further, especially with respect to a reference new to me: Bach Among the Theologians, which appears to be a fine work, written clearly and concisely. >

I neglected to identify the author, the late Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. Bach Among the Theologians was originally published in 1986 and reissued in 2003, it continues in print. If you find the topic of interest, you will not go wrong seeking it out. Concise, accurate writing, all-too-rare (with too spelled correctly this time around, if anyone is keeping score).

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 2, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV39.htm
The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham] is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.
The BWV 39 page also has convenient access to Gardiners notes to the pilgrimage CDs
[11], by clicking on the PDF link under the picture of the CD cover. >
Aryeh has added a similar PDF link for the Koopman CD booklet notes, written by Christoph Wolff.

Douglas Cowling wrote (May 2, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Aryeh has added a similar PDF link for the Koopman CD booklet notes, written by Christoph Wolff. >
Thanks for for this resource! Between Julian's site and Wolff's notes, this is the place to go for commentary on the cantatas!

I was intrigued by a comment by Wolff:

" Bachıs rhythm of composition had slowed down markedly in the middle of 1725. It is also significant that from February to September 1726 he performed a long series of cantatas by his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach (1677­1731), Kapellmeister at the ducal court of Meiningen. ... Bearing in mind that Bach was performing his cousinıs cantatas, it is evident that Bach had recourse to the same text source as Johann Ludwig Bach for seven of the cantatas of the third yearly cycle: BWV 17, BWV 39, BWV 43, BWV 45, BWV 88, BWV 102 and BWV 102 ­ of which three may be found in the present volume. The source in question is a collection of cantata texts from 1704, attributed to Duke Ernst Ludwig von Sachsen-Meiningen,"

Might this suggest that there may not be a "decline" in Sebastian's cantata production, but that the two Bach's planned a joint cantata project and even agreed on a common literary source? A collaboration is an attractive
possibility, much more so than the Overworked or Unmotivated Bach hypotheses.

Julian Mincham wrote (May 2, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] Interestialthoug Bach may have composed fewer cantatas in the years mid 1725-27 than in the years 1723-5 it should be noted that in the later period he reverted to a number of large scale designs, in particular the two-part cantata and the inclusions of long sinfonias and choruses. The chorus which begins BWV 39 is, indeed a case in point and not unique at this stage of his output. Personally i would rate it as one of the great undervalued Bach choruses.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 3, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Might this suggest that there may not be a "decline" in Sebastian's cantata production, but that the two Bach's planned a joint cantata project and even agreed on a common literary source? A collaboration is an attractive possibility, much more so than the Overworked or Unmotivated Bach hypotheses. >
I like the concept of Sebastian as the self-aware holder of the Bach family mantle (once described by Doug as the Bach mafia), advancing it, and propogating a significant group of successors. There are plenty of supporting references, not least Emmanuels comments in the obituary. JSBs success in this pragmatic vein is obvious. As KPClow points out, we really do not know if Bach was a superior composer to Stoelzel. What we do know is that Bach was better at preparing his works and family for future conservation of the written (and published) output.

David Jones wrote (May 3, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] This particular cantata is one of my favorites; the opening chorus is full of a delicate, pleading pathos that vividly depicts the hunger of the poor and the Bible's injunction to feed them.

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 3, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< ... the author, the late Jaroslav Pelikan, Sterling Professor of History Emeritus at Yale University. Bach Among the Theologians was originally published in 1986 and reissued in 2003, it continues in print. If you find the topic of interest, you will not go wrong seeking it out. >
I agree with Ed on this. Pelikan's work is very much worth the read. For a briefer introduction to his work, one might try "Fools for Christ". Don't be misled by the title. The book contains six essays on the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. The essay on Bach is on the "positive aspects of the Beautiful" (and led to Pelikan's expanded work "Bach Among the Theologians"). Other personages covered in Pelikan's Fools for Christ are Kierkegaard, Nietsche, Dostoevsky, St Paul, and Luther.

Thanks, Ed, for your leadership on the cantata discussions.

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 3, 2011):
David Jones wrote:
< This particular cantata is one of my favorites; the opening chorus is full of a delicate, pleading pathos that vividly depicts the hunger of the poor and the Bible's injunction to feed them. >
The scriptural reference, the Epistle for the day, is all the more impressive since it is the first time we have seen it emphasized in the cantata texts for Trinity 1. Dougs suggestion is intriguing, that the texts for an entire group of cantatas may have been a Bach family venture, Sebastian in partnership with cousin Ludwig, and a common literary source.

William Hoffman wrote (May 3, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 39 -- Full cycles of Cantatas

As we examine the cantatas for the beginning of Bach's cantata cycles on the 1st Sunday after Trinity, Bach scholarship seems to be moving in the direction of accepting only three extant cycles and remnants of other, partial cycles.

Peter William's new version of his Bach biography, <JSB: A Life in Music> (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2007) is the latest comprehensive musical biography. It is grounded in the first Bach "biography" of Emmanuel Bach and Agricola, known as the "Obituary" (<Nekrology>) written in 1750, and it offers new perspectives, assumptions, and speculations in place of previously scholarly, sometimes dogmatic, rigidity.

In his section on "The Passions," Williams says, "The Obituary's worklist includes `five Passions' and `five annual cycles of cantatas for all Sundays and feast-days'." Williams' translation does not use the work "full" to describe the annual cantatas cycles, as found in <The New Bach Reader> (W. W. Norton & Co., 1998: 304f).

Williams goes on to offer the traditional assumption of five cantatas cycles with 100 missing works involving Picander's cycle and the remnants of a fifth cycle including the <Christmas Orartorio> six parts. "There is another possibility: since the Obituary's worklist of instrumental music includes pre-Leipzig works, so its phrase `five cycles' might include the Weimar cantatas, a cycle of sorts, and shelved with the Leipzig cantatas."

In fact, if we look closely at the Bach works chronology, as established in the 1950s by the late Alfred Dürr and Georg von Dadelsen, as well as other findings in the <Neue Bach Ausgabe> and elsewhere, there is more to consider. Take the end of the so-called chorale-cantata cycle (actually, only 40 of a projected 60), with Cantata BWV 176 on Trinity Sunday, May 27, 1725. Then there is a seven-month gap until the third cycle apparently began on Christmas Day with Cantata BWV 176 and continued with sporadic compositions interspersed with 19 cantatas of cousin Johann Ludwig -- yet no complete cycle exists.

The initial gap in the 1725 Trinity Season possibly involves two recycled/shortened church service cantatas as well as cantatas, apparently, of his colleague and friend, Georg Philipp Telemann. The 1st Sunday after Trinity, June 3, 1725, may have involved a repeat of Bach's Cantata BWV 75, originally composed two years previous to inaugurate Bach's Leipzig tenure and his initial Leipzig first cycle, on May 30, 1723. Instead of a full-blown repeat of Cantata BWV 75 and its sister, Cantata BWV 76, for the next, second Sunday After Trinity (June 10), source-critical materials show that both two-part works subsequently were greatly condensed into single parts presented before the sermon, with the choruses omitted. As W. Gillies Whittaker observes:

Cantata "No. 75, abridged and altered, beginning with the first recitative, was subsequently known as "Was hilft des Purpurs Majestät'. (<Cantatas of JSB>, Oxford Univ. Press, 1959; I:194) Part II of No. 76 was afterwards used for a Reformation Festival: `Gott segne noch die treure Scharr.' The choruses must have been beyond the capabilities of the singers."

The initial gap was first identified in Stephen Daw's <The Music of JSB: The Choral Works> (Associated Univ. Presses, 1981: "Appendix: Chronology of known performances," p. 227. The source is a Leipzig church libretto book found with others in the St. Petersburg (Leningrad) Library in 1971 and described in detail by Andreas Glöckner in "Observations on the Leipzig Cantata Performances from the Third to the Sixth Sundays After Trinity 1725" (<Bach Jahrbuch 1992>: 73-76). Three of the five are Telemann cantatas for Sundays After Trinity as set to Neumeister 1711 Texts and performed in 1712 in Erfurt. They are listed in BCW Telemann Short Biography, "Vocal Works arranged / performed by J.S. Bach": www.bach-cantatas.com/Lib/Telemann-Georg-Philipp.htm

1. Cantata Gelobet sei der Herr, der Gott Israel, for Feast of St John or 4th Sunday after Trinity, TVWV 1:596 (Text: Erdmann Neumeister - performed by J.S Bach in Leipzig on June 24, 1725

2. Cantata Der Segen desHerrn machet reich ohne Muhe, for 5th Sunday after Trinity, TVWV 1:310 (Text: Erdmann Neumeister) - performed by J.S Bach in Leipzig on July 1, 1725

3. Cantata Wer sich rachet, an dem wird sich der Herr wider rachen, for 6th Sunday after Trinity, TVWV 1:1600 (Text: Erdmann Neumeister) - performed by J.S Bach in Leipzig on July 8, 1725

The other two works are:

4. "Ich ruft zu dir, herr Jesu Christ," 3rd Sunday after Trinity (June 17, 1725); five-stanza Johann Agricola chorale; text also found in Chorale Cantata BWV 177 (per omnes versus) for the 4th Sunday after Trinity (July 6, 1732).

5. "Meine Seel erhebt den Heern," Feast of the Visitation, July 2, 1725; Luther's German <Magnificat> text.

During this period Bach took his first vacation, at the beginning of the Thomas School term and quite possibly relied on Georg Balthasar Schott, music director of the progressive Leipzig New Church, says Glöckner. Schott and others in Leipzig had a profound respect for Telemann, the director of the New Church in 1703, and his music often was performed there. Glöckner surmises that Bach may well have spent much of the time with Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, where during the same summer period in 1718 and 1720, as capellmeister, Bach and the court musicians had been with their Prince at the Carlsbad resort and spa in Bohemia.

Glöckner also points out that the printed libretto text for the five services -- the three Sundays After Trinity, the Feast of St. John on June 24 that coincidentally fell on the 4th Sunday after Trinity, and the Feast of the Visitation, July 2 -- would have required six weeks advanced preparation, printing, and distribution. He suggests the possibility that the work for the Feast of St. John to the Neumesiter text may have been a cantata by Bach student and New Church assistant Christoph Gottlieb Fröber. Eventually the cantata was performed as a test piece on the Feast of Annunciation, March 25, 1729. Later, on Good Friday, April 15, 1729, Fröber also presented his setting of the Brockes Passion-oratorio at the New Church. Unfortunately, Fröber was unsuccessful in filling Schott's vacant position.

As for the German <Magnificat> on the Feast of the Visitation, there is circumstantial and collateral evidence that the work may have been by Georg Melchior Hoffmann (1679-1715), New Church music director, with the text by Neumeister. The score, known today as BWV Anh. 21, and once attributed to Bach, was found in 1737 in the same St. Petersburg library. Bach's German <Magnificat> setting as chorale Cantata BWV 10 was presented the previous year.

For the remained of 1725 only a few Bach cantata performances have been identified: premieres of two festive works with chorus, chorale Cantata BWV 137 (per omnes versus) on the 12th Sunday after Trinity and Cantata 79 for the Reformation Festival, October 31; and possible reperformances of Weimar Cantata BWV Anh. 209 (text only, music lost) on the 7th Sunday after Trinity, July 15; Cantata BWV 168 on the Ninth Sunday After Trinity, July 29; Cantata BWV 164 on the 13th Sunday after Trinity, August 26; and possibly Leipzig Cycle 1 Cantata BWV 148, on the 17th Sunday after Trinity, September 23, that is another festive work based on a Picander poem that might have done double duty for the important Feast of St. Michael, six days later on September 29, during the Leipzig Fall Fair.

It is interesting to note that the Weimar Cantatas BWV 164, BWV 168, and presumably BWV Anh. 209 are solo works without choruses. It is also interesting to observe that all of the works fell on odd-numbered Sundays After Trinity except for Cantata BWV 137, which filled a gap in the chorale cantata cycle for the same Sunday in 1724. It has been suggested that on the other Trinity Sundays in 1725, Bach may have reperformed the appropriate chorale cantatas for those respective Sundays. Possibly, instead of opening the particular cantata with a demanding chorale fantasia chorus, he easily could have substituted the closing four-part chorale chorus set to the opening stanza text and repeated the music at the end of the cantata set originally for the closing stanza. Supporting this suggestion is the fact that 44 Bach chorale cantata parts sets were donated to the Thomas School in late 1750, perhaps at Bach's previous directive, to allow his widow and underage children to remain in their quarters until the beginning of 1751, where they (the parts sets!) remain to this day, while Friedemann kept the scores and later tried unsuccessfully to sell them to Forkel.

There is further speculation that Bach may have repeated the entire chorale cantata cycle (except for the Easter Season), beginning at Advent 1731 or 1733. Bach also may have presented a repeat of the Cycle 1 Easter Season in 1731 and a half-cycle de tempore mix of the three cycles, interspersed with the feast day oratorios for Christmas, Easter, Ascension, and Pentecost in 1734-35. What was good for cantata cycle recycler Telemann in Hamburg as well as for Erfurt and Frankfurt from 1716 to 1730, would certainly be sufficient for Sebastian in Leipzig.

Thus, when all is done and said, more or less (more less than more!), Bach may have presented - rendered? -- a half-cycle for the 1725 Trinity Season, paving the way for a hybrid, possibly collaborative, open-ended, heterogeneous, incomplete third cantata cycle -- extending for another two-and-a-half years. Or maybe, the third cycle is really two cycles, which, with the later repeated "mini" cycles would give us, or induce us to determine, a total of at least five "cycles" that go around and come around!

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Life of Bach - Part 3 [General Topics]

Ed Myskowski wrote (May 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< In his section on "The Passions," Williams says, "The Obituary's worklist includes `five Passions' and `five annual cycles of cantatas for all Sundays and feast-days'." Williams' translation does not use the word "full" to describe the annual cantatas cycles, as found in <The New Bach Reader> (W. W. Norton & Co., 1998: 304f).
Williams goes on to offer the traditional assumption of five cantatas cycles with 100 missing works involving Picander's cycle and the remnants of a fifth cycle including the <Christmas Orartorio> six parts. >
Will posted on this fascinating detail a few weeks ago, as well. There is nothing in the original German to specifically indicate five full cantata cycles, it is indeed a traditional assumption.

Bruce Simonson wrote (May 4, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< As we examine the cantatas for the beginning of Bach's cantata cycles on the 1st Sunday after Trinity, Bach scholarship seems to be movinin the direction of accepting only three extant cycles and remnants of other, partial cycles. ... >
Fascinating introduction, Will. Thanks.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (May 4, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Will posted on this fascinating detail a few weeks ago, as well. There is nothing in the original German to specifically indicate five full cantata cycles, it is indeed a traditional assumption. >
Oh I don't know, the original German text didn't say a lot of specific things, like if Bach ate three meals a day; but we do know he ate regularly. So getting into the obituary's "real meaning," and not taking it at face value seems rather, textually awkward. IMHO, until there is physical evidence showing the historical account of witnesses is factually wrong, everything else is pure speculation. At least Wolff has done paper studies to make a guess of how much music is missing, and the recent discoveries of the cantata text books in Russian libraries certainly adds a bit more circumstantial evidence Bach wrote cantatas that have since gone missing.

William Hoffman wrote (May 5, 2011):
[To ] Here's the documentation (Bach Dokumente 3, & 8)

1854 "Nekrology," BD 3, No. 86, p. 665: "1. Fuenf Jahrgaeng von Kircheknstuecken, auf alle Sonn- und Festtage"

1802 Forkel's Biography, BD 8 (p. 61): "1. Feunf vollstaendige Jahrhaeng von Kircheknstuecken, auf alle Sonn- und Festtage"

As you can see, Forkel, quoting directly from the "Nekrology" 50 years previously, editorially inserts the word "vollstaendige" (complete). That's where the great myth began and is perpetuated in the NBR Nekrology translation. Forkel, a scholar of Bach's keyboard music, which generated more interest at the beginning of the 19th century, knew little about the vocal music, except for correspondence with Friedemann (and the copying of three chorale cantata scores for a price) and Emmanuel. Forkel's detailing of the vocal music is based almost entirely on the Library of Prussian Princess Amalia: "1. 21 church cantatas," the only one cited is BWV 53, followed by Masses, Passions, and Motets. Finally, in 1850 we have the first real accounting of Bach's vocal music in C. L. Hilgenfeldt's <JSBs Leben, Wirken, and Werke>, which has never been translated fully.

Allelujah! Amen.

 

Cantata BWV 39: 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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Last update: ŭSeptember 8, 2011 ŭ12:41:39