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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

Cantata BWV 45
Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of September 11, 2011

Francis Browne wrote (September 10, 2011):
BWV 45 First Draft of Notes on Text

Notes on the text :

BWV 45 was first performed on 11th August 1726. It was therefore part of Bach's third annual cycle (1725 -27) which contains cantatas treated in a variety of ways. Between February and September 1726 Bach performed a series of 25 cantatas whose texts had a common origin in a yearly cycle published by an unknown writer in 1704 in Meiningen .It was republished at least twice, notably in 1726 for the Hofkapelle at Rudolstadt in Thuringia.

Eighteen of these cantatas were by his cousin Johann Ludwig Bach, who was Kapellmeister at Meiningen from 1711 until his death in 1731. Bach repeated some of these cantatas in later years. He composed seven cantatas of his own using texts from the cycle . All the texts begin with a quotation from the Old Testament and include in the middle a text from the New Testament, and so they lend themselves easily to a two-part structure which suited the practice in Leipzig of having the first part of the cantata before the sermon and the second part after the sermon.

The Old Testament passage used for the opening chorus comes from the prophet Micah, who was active around the time of the fall of Samaria (721 BC). The gospel reading for this Sunday warns against false prophets and insincere profession of faith. Micah's words develop these thoughts by proposing an alternative ideal In the original context the prophet argues against the insincere outward profession of religion and puts forward instead a memorable threefold summary of the spiritual teaching of the prophets. These words are often quoted. Some may remember that in 1977 President Carter took his oath of office on a family bible open at this passage and in his inaugural address referred to "the timeless admonition of the ancient prophet Micah".

Bach sets Micah's words to magnificent joyful music that makes clear that the admonition is not to be regarded as a burdensome command imposed on us but a precious revelation of how to live. The following recitative and tenor aria therefore stress the value and importance of such guidance. "Richtschnur" is literally a plumb line and the uncommon word may recall a passage from Isaiah which Christians later read as referring to Christ as the necessary foundation for living our lives well.(Isaiah 28 : 17-19).Micah's threefold admonition is repeated as Furcht, Demut and Liebe. The transformation of "Gottes Wort halten" into Furcht (fear) may seem puzzling but as often what is meant is not abject terror before a dangerous threat but a proper reverence for God's immeasurable goodness. The references to "treuer Knecht"and "scharfe Rechnung" would have brought to mind for Bach's congregation New Testament passages about the faithful servant who knows and carries out his master's will and of the steward who has to give an account of himself (Luke 12, Luke 16). The dire consequences of not following God's advice on how to live are stressed at the end of the aria and this idea introduces well the bass arioso that begins the second half of the cantata. The words are taken directly from the Gospel reading and as set by Bach give an energetic portrayal of the decisive vehemence with which Christ rejects hypocritical followers.

In case such an uncompromising attitude might seem discouraging the alto aria gives assurance of God's positive response to those who respond sincerely to his guidance. But echoing words of Isaiah that Christ himself quotes the second half of the aria warns of the dangers of professing Christ with the mouth instead of the heart.

The final recitative reflects further on these issues in the implicit light of Christ's question, "What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul" (Mark 8:36) . The concluding chorale takes two strophes from Johann Heermann's "O Gott, du frommer Gott," which stress the practical active response that is the necessary response to God's revelation of how we should live.

Whittaker damns this text with faint praise : "The libretto is cold and wanting in imagery , though not devoid of skill" . But though this cantata text may be considered to be without forceful expression or striking originality, it does present a coherent argument and Bach is able to turn what Whittaker calls "a homily on conduct" into compelling music.

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 11, 2011):
BWV 45 – Provenance

Thomas Braatz has revised the Provenance page of Cantata BWV 45.
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Ref/BWV45-Ref.htm
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm [References]

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 11, 2011):
Introduction to BWV 45 -- Es ist dir gesagt, Mensch, was gut ist

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 45, the last of three works for the 8th Sunday after Trinity.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm

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

The BWV 45 page also has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner [8] and Koopman [9] (notes by Christoph Wolff) CD issues, via links beneath the cover photos.

The chorale text and melody are also accessible via links at the BWV 45 page. Francis Browne is adding new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English-3I].

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 11, 2011):
BWV 45 - WWII

Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz has revised the Provenance page of Cantata BWV 45 >

These provenance page are a salutary reminder of how fragile our physical connection with Bach is. Whether it is devouring ink -- "Tintenfrass" – or war, the assaults on Bach's manuscripts are frightening.

Has any scholar put together a list of works of Bach which are known to have been destroyed in WW II or which were carried off by the Russians? I know Wolff and Kovačević have worked on the Kiev trove.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 11, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] There's a doctoral candidate doing what he calls a "negative" RISM, a listing of missing music in German archives prior to WW2.

Zerbst and Darmstadt and Dresden were some of the worst affected (Zerbst = 100 percent destroyed, Darmstadt nearly 90 percent destroyed and I forget the percentages for Dresden).

I'm not sure of the status of his work, but I can write and find out again.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 11, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm >
A recording especially worthy of attention is that by Thomas Folan directing Publick Musick (New York) [10]. You could do worse than to share USA devotion to Bach, in memory of 9/11, by listening to this performance. Especially since Max van Egmond provides an international (universal?) element with his singingof the bass arioso, BWV 45/3 (Mvt. 3). I thought to compare it with an earlier performance, but it turns out that the bass with Leonhardt [4] in the H&L series is someone else, in this instance. All the more reason why Max chose to participate in this recording?

More comments intended to follow.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 12, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV45.htm
A recording especially worthy of attention is that by Thomas Folan directing Publick Musick (New York) [10]. You could do worse than to share USA devotion to Bach, in memory of 9/11, by listening to this performance. >
Many of us have had a fine day of listening to music, enjoying friends, and being grateful for a mostly peacefful day. Max van Egmond in BWV 45/3 (Mvt. 3) sounds especially comforting, for bedtime. Highly recommended.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 12, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Many of us have had a fine day of listening to music, enjoying friends, and being grateful for a mostly peacefful day. Max van Egmond in BWV 45/3 sounds especially comforting, for bedtime. Highly recommended. >
The recording remains highly recommended, not least for Max van Egmond participation. Alas, I misread a detail in the notes: it is Jonathan Rohr singing in the bass arioso movement (Mvt. 4).

Was: Max van Egmond, BWV 45/3 (incorrect on both counts)

Is: Jonathan Rohr, BWV 45/4 (recommended for listening, and bedtime, nonetheless)

Warren Prestidge wrote (September 12, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] I have enjoyed BWV 45 for many years on the recording by Ernst Ansermet [4], the Suisse Romande Orchestra, Les Choeurs de la Radio Suisse Romande et Pro Arte de Lausanne, with Ian Partridge (tenor), Helen Watts (contralto) and Tom Krause (bass). I love the way that, in both the opening chorus and the arioso, Bach refuses any simple solutions and turns musically unpromising texts into such fully-developed and powerful movements.

On the Ansermet recording [4], the great arioso (Mvt. 4) is sung magnificently by Krause.. The choir and orchestra are all splendid. Although you do have to accept more sedate tempi than we are used to today, there is no lack of drama in chorus and arioso. The declaration of God's will in the chorus sounds genuinely revelatory. In the arioso, the atonishing instrumental rhetoric is superb: those thrusting, dismissive violin figures, for example. However the performance of the arias is somewhat inert in rhythm and phrasing, and Partridge tends to sound a little strangled. As in most older recordings, the closing chorale sounds unnecessarily "pious" these days, but Ansermet does bring it to a strong conclusion.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 14, 2011):
Warren Prestidge wrote:
< I have enjoyed BWV 45 for many years on the recording by Ernst Ansermet [4], the Suisse Romande Orchestra, Les Choeurs de la Radio Suisse Romande et Pro Arte de Lausanne, with Ian Partridge (tenor), Helen Watts (contralto) and Tom Krause (bass). >
It is good to see comments on recordings, especially the classic LP versions from the 1950s and 60s, most of which remain available only in that format. Many of these had very positive comments from BCML correspondents in early discussions, still available in the archives.

I have many of these LPs, and like Warren, I still find them to provide enjoyable listening and in some cases, fond memories. A good number of mine, however, are fairly recent acquisitions, either on the second-hand market or the generosity of friends. Alas, I do not have either of the first two that Warren has mentioned in recent weeks, but I will join in with some more detailed comments at the first opportunity.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 14, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< It is good to see comments on recordings, especially the classic LP versions from the 1950s and 60s, most of which remain available only in that format. Many of these had very positive comments from BCML correspondents in early discussions, still available in the archives. >
It is interesting to listen to some of the older recordings, especially Klemperer and Scherchen, and realize how much rehearsal time went into these Romantic readings. The Klemperer SMP is a marvel of balance and ensemble, magnificent in its albeit misinterpretation of the work. He must have had hours and hours of rehearsal time to achieve those effects!

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Matthäus-Passion BWV 244 - General Discussions Part 17 [Other Vocal Works]

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 14, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< It is good to see comments on recordings, especially the classic LP versions from the 1950s and 60s, most of which remain available only in that format. >
Sorry for not checking this detail first. As the BCW recordings page clearly indicates, this particular item (Ansermet, BWV 45 [4]) has been reissued on a 2-CD set, which includes other cantatas as well as selections from the orchestral suites. Elly Ameling (soprano) is also featured on the other cantatas, some of which I do have on LP. Quite an all-star lineup, well worth hearing, and available.

 

Cantata BWV 45: 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: ýSeptember 23, 2011 ý12:40:28