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Cantata BWV 49
Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of June 17, 2012 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 17, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 49 -- Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 49, the last of three works for the 20th Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV49.htm

The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. I do not see that a BCW link is available.

The BWV 49 page has convenient access to notes from the Gardiner, Koopman (notes by Christoph Wolff), Suzuki, and Leusink (and more!) CD issues, via link beneath the cover photo.

The chorale text is accessible via link at the BWV 49 page, the melody via the cantata score.. Francis Browne has recently added new commentary on the cantata texts to his interlinear translations, linked via [English 3]. We can expect these to continue, not necessarily weekly. Douglas Cowling and William Hoffman are also posting relevant to chorales and other music for the Lutheran Church Year, accessible via LCY pages.

I do not always take the time to check all links before posting. Special thanks to the folks who provide timely corrections.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 17, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV49.htm
The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. I do not see that a BCW link is available. >
I believe this is simply an oversight. Until the link is added, direct access is via: http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-30-bwv-49.htm

Charles Francis wrote (June 19, 2012):
BWV 49 Chorale

It's interesting to compare the various harmonisations of Philipp Nicolai's chorale "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern", conveniently catalogued on the Bach Cantatas website: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale015-Eng3.htm

The BWV 49 setting has the form of a duet, as does the canon-like BWV 37 chorale that Bach performed a couple of years earlier. Comparing the BWV 1 and BWV 49 closing chorales may shed some light on Bach's BWV 1 fermati: in the latter work the lengths of some phrase endings are doubled, with the anacrusis halved and a substantial gap between phrases. The duet form of the beautiful concluding chorale is theologically motivated, given the dialogue between a representative individual and divinity, but more prosaically, the absence of an opening chorus and SATB chorale, as well as the use of an obligato organ, perhaps reflect a crisis of resources which obliged Bach to help out at the keyboard.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 19, 2012):
BWV 49 Personnel

Charles Francis wrote:
< The duet form of the beautiful concluding chorale is theologically motivated, given the dialogue between a representative individual and divinity, but more prosaically, the absence of an opening chorus and SATB chorale, as well as the use of an obligato organ, perhaps reflect a crisis of resources which obliged Bach to help out at the keyboard. >
One of the most provocative inferences that Rifkin drew in his OVPP work is the notion that Bach's cantatas are not large-scale creations like Handel's oratorios but essentially solo "chamber" works more in the 17th century
Monteverdi/Praetorius tradition. In Bach's services, the large tutti singing was the congregational performance of the chorales: perhaps a thousand voices. The aesthetic contrast with the loft choir of eight voices was significant.

This was not peculiar to Bach's world. The earliest polyphony of the medieval Notre Dame School presumed a large schola of monks and priests singing the plainsong and a solo group of 3 or 4 singers on the polyphony.
This continued throughout the Renaissance. Palestrina was always sung OVPP with a larger monastic/collegiate body singing the plainsong. Modern performances almost invariably get the balance wrong by giving the plainsong to 3 or 4 singers and the polyphony to a larger choir.

I infer from Rifkin and Parrott that this was Bach's accepted aesthetic of solo and tutti. We have no documentary evidence that any of Bach's "solo" cantatas were the result of personnel crises, what I call "The Exhausted Choir Syndrome." I would be surprised if Bach the Bureaucrat ever let his forces become so precarious. If anything, the letter to the Town Council about choir sizes shows that he was warning the Council that they had to budget for the contingency of illness and absences. If there had been crises about performers, he would certainly have used those events as warning examples.

Other composers in the 16th - 18th centuries routinely used horror stories to bolster their budgetary requests: "If you want good music on this big occasion you better cough up the funds." There's a famous example from 16th century Rome when the pope was furious because the self-governing Sistine Chapel Choir failed to produce the personnel necessary and then had an argument in the choir loft about who was singing what. The pope sent several to the papal dungeons to cool off (presumably the same cell now occupied by the papal butler in the Vatileaks scandal).

Our recent discussion about the "Vox Christi" cantatas in the Easter season convinced me that the decision to write a "solo" cantata always beginning with a bass/Christ was an aesthetic not a logistical choice. Bach the Well-Regulator would never allowed anything short of military invasion or plague to alter his musical establishment.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 19, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I infer from Rifkin and Parrott that this was Bach's accepted aesthetic of solo and tutti. We have no documentary evidence that any of Bach's "solo" cantatas were the result of personnel crises, what I call "The Exhausted Choir Syndrome." >
And further evidence of this lies with the duet cantatas with the voices representing a dialogue between soul and Jesus. It would take some stretching of credibility to assert that these were conceived in this form for resource reasons.

However there is some evidence that at times of the great festivals Bach took deliberate steps to lighten the load on the choir. This would be well in keeping with the notion of Bach the pragmatic musician, bearing in mind what was completely practical, a much more convincing notion than that of having to substitute simpler works at short notice to accommodate exhausted musicians. I doubt if he ever did that. If he had to bring in a 'ringer' for these purposes a good candidate would be the resurrection of BWV 4 at the end of the cycle of 40 chorale cantatas. But this is a) not a solo work (it has, in fact more than one chorus) and b) neither is it one of the easier cantatas to perform.

QED!

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 19, 2012):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< However there is some evidence that at times of the great festivals Bach took deliberate steps to lighten the load on the choir. >
Can you summarize this evidence, Julian? When I look load at the three principal Three-Day festivals of Christmas, Easter and Pentecost, I see enormous musical programa with no concessions to human fraility:

For his first Christmas in 1723 - 24, the 12 Days of Christmas saw two performances each of 6 new cantatas, probably six performances of the new Sanctus in D major, and two perhaps three performances of the new Magnificat in E Flat, not even mentioning the probability of 6performances of a concerted Kyrie & Gloria.

In 1734, the same workload was apparent in the two performances each of the six parts of the Christmas Oratorio, plus the probable six concerted settings of the Kyrie & Gloria, Sanctus and Magnificat.

The same brutal program can been seen in the Good Friday Passion followed by the Three Days of Easter each with its cantata, Missa, Sanctus and Magnificat.

The logistics are mind-boggling. I can't think of another musical event of such monumental scale until Wagner performed the four operas of the Ring Cycle on four successive nights at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876. And yet there isn't much evidence that Bach pulled back after the great festivals. He kept composing demanding works for the post Epiphany, Easter and Trinity seasons. He could easily have programmed a motet, but he didn't.

I think we seriously underestimate the professionalism of the musical institutions which Bach at his disposal. It's a Romantic myth to think of Bach as some quaint misunderstood village organist. He was the head of a complex musical bureaucracy which was larger than some royal courts. For his well-regulated church music, he administered his musicians so that they were always ready to perform the most demanding music of the 18th century.

I wish Bach was here to run our national governments!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (June 19, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< The logistics are mind-boggling. I can't think of another musical event of such monumental scale until Wagner performed the four operas of the Ring Cycle on four successive nights at the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876. >
I'm not sure if you were grouping the Passion events or speaking of the Christmas celebrations or all of that together, but I just wanted to point out that in Darmstadt, Christoph Graupner was dealing with the same enormous workload:

GWV 1105/42 Christmas
GWV 1106/42 Day after Christmas
GWV 1108/42 Sunday after Christmas.
GWV 1109/42 New Years
GWV 1111/42 Epiphany
GWV 1112/42 Epiphany Sunday
GWV 1174/42 Birthday cantata for Landgrave of Darmstadt (Dec 26th) (The birthday cantatas were extremely lengthy pieces (the Landgraf was quite the ham apparently).

And that's just the VOCAL music. There were many banquets and concerts that required enormous amounts of new instrumental music (typically orchestral suites, concertos and what we would call chamber music). And unlike Bach, Graupner did not have students to help out with copying out orchestral parts. The schedule was grinding (Graupner wrote about his never ending requirements to write cantatas).

Telemann had several churches to manage performances in Frankfurt and later in Hamburg, in a situation similar to what Bach had (i.e. student performers at a church school, responsible for new cantatas for all the major church feast days and organizing all the performances and materials). Never mind the obligations for instrumental concerts and opera performances, and his compositional requirements for cantatas in Eisenach, and Bayreuth.

Bach had a grinding schedule, but this was the norm for most German composers of the baroque. It's a remarkable testimony to their professionalism working under such strict deadlines and limited resources that they were able to produce the quality music we are able to enjoy today.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 19, 2012):
The Daily Grind

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Bach had a grinding schedule, but this was the norm for most German composers of the baroque. It's a remarkable testimony to their professionalism working under such strict deadlines and limited resources that they were able to produce the quality music we are able to enjoy today. >
I'm looking forward to this paper at the September meeting of the American Bach Society:

******************************************************
The Daily Life of a German Organist around 1750
Andrew Talle (Johns Hopkins University)

The lives of eighteenth-century musicians are notoriously difficult to reconstruct from available sources. Application letters and audition protocols, employment and account ledgers document extraordinary events, and seldom offer much insight into the matters that concerned professional musicians on a daily basis. Historians have sought to develop a composite picture by amalgamating the details provided in many different sources, but the image that emerges is inevitably diffuse. A detailed account of the life of a single musician over an extended period of time would be a welcome addition to the historical record. Through recent archival research in Germany I was able to discover an account book kept by an organist active in the mid-eighteenth century named Carl August Hartung (1723-1800). Hartung's only prior mention in the scholarly literature stems from his having briefly taught composition and theory to the teenage Louis Spohr. The discovery of this previously unknown account book, however, suddenly makes him the best-documented Germany organist of the century. On 358 pristine pages Hartung recorded nearly every Pfennig he spent and received between the ages of 29 and 42, while serving as an organist in Cöthen (1752-1760) and Braunschweig (1760-1765). Though his life was unique, many of the activities, challenges, and rewards documented in the book were familiar to thousands of other musicians throughout the eighteenth century. In this presentation I will present what is known of C. A. Hartung's biography on the basis of his account book, focusing in particular on his diverse sources of income, his relations with students, colleagues, patrons and family members, and his fascination with the music of J. S. Bach.
*******************************************************

Julian Mincham wrote (June 20, 2012):
Use of choir

Julian Mincham wrote:
<< However there is some evidence that at times of the great festivals Bach took deliberate steps to lighten the load on the choir. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Can you summarize this evidence, Julian? >
True the loads were enormous but also there is evidence of seeking some sense of balance For starters, in the Easter celebrations of 1725 there are 2 cantatas without choruses BWV 42 and BWV 85, followed later in the month by another BWV 87. There are two for the Xmas period of that year, BWV 57 and BWV 151.

I think the term 'tired choir' is misleading--but I do think that Bach planned out the demands over such periods and lightened them where he could or felt it was appropriate.Probably yet another example of what he would have considered to be 'well regulated' church music.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 20, 2012):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< Bach had a grinding schedule, but this was the norm for most German composers of the baroque. >
It is worth bearing in mind that as far as Bach was concerned the obligation to compose the cantatas seems to have been self imposed. There was nothing contractual about the requirement and we know that in 1726 he used 18 cantatas by Johann Ludwig Bach. Some scholars today believe that he made increasing use of other composer's cantatas in his annual cycles in the 1730s and 40s, possibly in order to free himself for other forms of composition.

Do we know of the other baroque composers with vast cantata outputs whether they were contractually obliged or was it something they wanted to do?

Evan Cortens wrote (June 20, 2012):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It is worth bearing in mind that as far as Bach was concerned the obligation to compose the cantatas seems to have been self imposed. There was nothing contractual about the requirement and we know that in 1726 he used 18 cantatas by Johann Ludwig Bach. Some scholars today believe that he made increasing use of other composer's cantatas in his annual cycles in the 1730s 40s, possibly in order to free himself for other forms of composition.
Do we know of the other baroque composers with vast cantata outputs whether they were contractually obliged or was it something they wanted to do? >
It may well be the case that Bach is the exception here, rather than the rule. At least compared to his major contemporaries, working in this genre (Telemann, Graupner, Fasch, Stölzel), Bach wrote dramatically fewer cantatas, even if there have been significant losses.

When one looks at Graupner's contract, upon his appointment to the position of Darmstadt Kapellmeister in 1711 (he began there as Vice-Kapellmeister in 1709), it only says that he is to compose music both inside and outside the church as requested. When one looks at his output, and sees the volume of cantatas he wrote (1,413 total!), it's hard to imagine that this was solely out of personal choice, but rather that it was the demand of the court. (He was, at the same time, very prolific in other genres: writing over 100 sinfonias, and dozens of concertos.)

C.P.E. Bach, however, when he assumes the position of Kapellmeister in Hamburg in 1767, follows rather more in the footsteps of his father, if not even more so. C.P.E. Bach regularly performed the works of other composers (we have the documentation of him requesting copies of Georg Anton Benda cycles, for instance). Furthermore, he often reworked his own compositions, and those of others, for different situations. His Matthew Passions (5 in total), borrow significantly from JSB's Matthew Passion, and when Matthew comes up in the cycle again (every four years), the score is reworked, but it's not an entirely new piece. His Mark Passions draw heavily on the work of Gottfried August Homilius (see: http://cpebach.org/pdfs/introductions/IV-5-1-Intro.pdf page 2-3).

However, C.P.E. Bach appears to have been reprimanded at one point for this practice: the clergy requested that he perform more original music. (I'm afraid I don't have the document handy, so can't quote exactly.) But this seems not to have had very much effect, for C.P.E. Bach conducted his office much the same until his death in 1788. Clearly his focus was elsewhere: on music intended for publication, especially. (The comparison between the 1768 Matthew Passion and the Passions-Cantata, published a few years later, is instructive: the former appears to have been assembled with significant borrowing, the latter reuses only the original parts of the former.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 20, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 49 -- Ich geh’ und suche mit Verlangen
The chorale text is accessible via link at the BWV 49 page, the melody via the cantata score. >
Bach used the chorale <Wie schon leuchtet der Morgenstern> in several works. A better source for an alternative version, with simple score and audio example, is: www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-41-bwv-1.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 24, 2012):
BWV 49, 1083 (Odds and Ends)

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV49.htm
The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. I do not see that a BCW link is available.
I believe this is simply an oversight. Until the link is added, direct access is via:
http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-30-bwv-49.htm >
There are many interesting comparisons for BWV 49, in addition to the two previous works for Trinity 20 (BWV 162 and 180). From Julian Minchams essay:

<C 49 takes the form of a dialogue between Christ and the Soul, and thus declares itself to be a part of an established tradition stretching back well before Bach’s time. His own interest in the genre may be noted from the fact that this is the third of four cantatas of dialogue between Christ and the Soul in this cycle. Cs 57 (chapter 7) and 32 (chapter 11) portray different perspectives of the evolving union between the two entities and both may be usefully compared with C 49 (a fourth and later dialogue cantata, C 58, is discussed in chapter 35).> (end quote)

For those who share my enjoyment of the variety of recorded performances, two items are of special interest. Sigiswald Kuijken [5]: had a single release on Accent, before beginning his current ongoing (we hope!) OVPP series. Christophe Coin [6] had a group of releases containing all the works with parts specifically for violoncello piccolo.

Wilhelm Ehmann [1] has a fine version, still sounding up-to-date after nearly fifty years on LP, I am uncertain of current release status, I believe some of the Cantate LPs have been reissued by Baroque Music Club..

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 49: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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