Cantata BWV 50Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft
Discussions - Part 2
Continue from Part 1
Discussions in the Week of October 30, 2005 (2nd round)
Thomas Braatz wrote (October 30, 2005):
BWV 50 - Intro to Weekly Discussion
BWV 50 "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft"
The cantata which has been selected, based upon the chronological sequence of Bach's performances, for this week's discussion is BWV 50, "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" which possibly had its first performance in Leipzig on September 29, 1723. This is one of 4 cantatas which Bach composed for Michaelmas which occurs on September 29th of each year. Unfortunately only the 1st mvt. of this cantata has survived.
Not a single note of this cantata mvt. is autograph, nor do we have access to the original set of parts which Bach would have corrected. All we have are copies and copies of copies.
All of these copies have in common that they show the use of a double choir. It is noteworthy, however, that the oldest copy carries the designation "Concerto;" while the later copies include the word "Chor." In this context, we need to be reminded by analogy of another cantata for the same feast day: "Es erhub sich ein Streit" (BWV 19) of which there are early copies from the 18th century and these also had only the 1st mvt. of the cantata with the superscript "Chor." Had we lost the original sources from the latter cantata, we would also know this cantata (BWV 19) as having only a single, introductory mvt. for choir. Another cantata for Michaelmas, "Herr Gott, dich loben alle wir" (BWV 130) also exists only by virtue of an early copy, in which Bach's arias and recitatives were replaced with or exchanged with other contemporary compositions. Here we can observe again the tendency to isolate the 1st mvt. from the remainder of the composition (cantata) and then separate it entirely from the remainder of its contents. Is it possible, then, that "Nun ist das Heil" with the designation "Concerto" is also simply the 1st mvt. of what once was a complete cantata?" The NBA editors think so, even though they are unable to provide hard evidence to support this contention.
There are 8 copies of BWV 50 (Mvt. 1) of which the oldest, most likely of 18th-century origin, does not even mention the name of the composer. This is copy A. Copy B is a copy of copy A; and copy C was copied from copy B; and copy D is a copy of A. Copies E and F point back to D. Copy G seems to be a copy of E or F. Copy H is a copy of the BG. This copy by the copyist Hlavacek in the 2nd half of the 19th century was probably commissioned by Johannes Brahms who performed the cantata (1st mvt.) in Vienna on December 7, 1873. The copyist had originally planned to include as additional instruments: 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons and organ which, for the most part, doubled already existing parts.
The text is taken from the Epistle for Michaelmas (Revelations 12: 10) [NLT] Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, "It has happened at last-- the salvation and power and kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ! For the Accuser has been thrown down to earth-- the one who accused our brothers and sisters before our God day and night."
Spitta was the first to point out that Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703) had composed a church cantata "Es erhub sich ein Streit im Himmel" in the second part of which the text "Nun ist das Heil and die Kraft" was set as a double choir composition. This certainly must have influenced J. S. Bach in setting the same text and using a double choir.
Dürr wonders whether this was an introductory or a final chorus for a cantata. He also wonders about the special circumstances that existed so that Bach would have enough singers to perform this cantata properly. Dürr mentions a conjecture by William H. Scheide that this mvt. may have originally existed as a single 5-pt. choir mvt. with the altos divided into separate parts and that the 1st performance would have taken place on Michaelmas 1723 (because of Bach's preference at that time for the permutation fugue) and perhaps this mvt. was an inclusion/insertion into another earlier cantata (BWV Anh. 5?) This would mean that someone other than Bach undertook the expansion into a double choir. Closer examination of the double-choir version reveals an atypical chord-like 'thickening' of the thematic material. Reducing the piece to the 5-pt. single choir version removes nothing of its fascination.
"The Oxford Composer Companions: J. S. Bach" [Oxford University Press, 1999] has no commentary on BWV 50. This could be either a glaring omission or an editorial choice that this work needs no further discussion other than that it does exist.
As a replacement I translated Konrad Küster's commentary as found on pp. 341-342 of the "Bach Handbuch" [Bärenreiter/Metzler, 1999]:
>>There is an unclear history behind this large-scale choral work that is based on a biblical citation which definitely relates to the Feast of St Michael and has come down to us as a single-mvt. work for 5-part chorus, trumpets, timpani, oboes, strings as well as a 8-voiced double choir which is connected to this with one half of the choir serving as a ripieno ensemble as support behind the main choir. The mvt. is entirely fugal in nature, using the principle of the permutation fugue. In addition to the fugal subject, both motivic complex structures, designed to carry out the continuation of the text are used as a constant counterpoint ("weil der verworfen ist" and "der sie verklagete") and two other motifs are developed as obbligato parts. However, not only do the 4 vocal parts of the concertato choir present entries of the theme, but also, in two instances, the soprano of the ripieno choir and the 1st trumpet and even on one occasion the 1st violin announce the theme. According to this method of presentation of themes there are 8 entries in the 1st half and 7 in the 2nd half. To be sure, by adding these ripieno parts, the fugal principle is undermined, but the effect of the entire mvt. is doubtlessly enhanced thereby.
The oldest source for this composition is traced back to the time after Bach's death. This copy was written by Carl Gotthelf Gerlach who had worked together with Bach in various capacities throughout Bach's tenure in Leipzig; hence, this transmission is creditable. However, it is astonishing that the parts for the ripieno choir are notated at the very bottom of the score, even under the continuo part and its musical structure, with the exception of the soprano part, shows only a minimum of independent part writing. The possibility can not be excluded that this mvt. may have originally been composed for a 5-part choir (Scheide), or is it possible that the unusual appearance of the score was caused by the fact that Gerlach copied his score from a set of parts and only after having begun setting up the first page of the score did he discover that he needed additional space for including the parts for the 2nd choir?
William H. Scheide suspects that the fugue is a leftover mvt. of another cantata for Michaelmas 1723 which perhaps had already been a revised version of another even older cantata. Opposing this view is the formal structure of this mvt: none of Bach's permutation fugues from this early period apply the principle of an aria-like dual structure with such a clear break in the very middle as this choral piece does. The permutation ffrom this period always have a straightforward/straight-lined fugal development. Also, the fugue is set up in such a way that the caesura in the middle of the mvt. ends in a minor key. Bach, in his vocal fugues up to 1726, as a general rule, set them up in such a way that the subject entries would not change to another mode (from minor to major or vice versa.) For these stylistic reasons it seems improbable that an early date before 1726 would be likely.
The fugue is based upon a very unusual theme: the shape of this melody, the most conspicuous element of which is the continual return to the initial note/tone which serves as the initial note and its repetition thereafter, approaches, in its combination of breadth and yet conciseness (almost to the point of being considered 'meager') what seems to be more like the musical constructions which Bach created around 1730. The fact that this fugue theme is countered by an extremely simple ripieno setting is not in any way astonishing. And thus the riddles which surround the history of this work still remain. It is simply impossible to go beyond that which has been sketched out here. The questions are: Was the orchestration of the original conception of this composition on a much smaller scale that what has come down to us? Is it a fragment of a cantata or did it exist as an independent composition? When considering these matters it becomes clear how limited the prospect is for attaining some clear results when it is a matter of focusing upon Bach's unusual conceptions regarding the structure of any given mvt. such as this or any others that are known: anything extraordinary or highly unusual can always be traced back to Bach's pen. Normally the combination of double choir with tutti-solo exchanges and strict fugal principles is mutually exclusive, but nearly every such grouping can be reduced to a single choir version, particularly when obbligato instruments are also involved, instruments which also, when necessary, have independent entries of the fugue subject. It is not really entirely decisive matter here whether all the material in the form as we have it now can be reduced to a reasonable torso form, but rather it is just as important to determine whether Bach gives us reasons that we can attach to why he created this highly experimental format. One thing is clear that in this cantata fragment there is a Bach fugue which could not have come from his early years in Leipzig.<<
Additional commentaries by Spitta, Voigt, Schweitzer, Whittaker, and Dürr can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV50-Guide.htm
Also on Aryeh's main recordings page for this (and every other cantata), you will find important links conveniently organized, links that will take you to information you may be seeking.
If you still wish to read other commentaries, check out
1. Crouch (Simon Crouch has a very short commentary on each cantata)
2. AMG (different commentators - "Blue Jean" Tyranny in this instance, gives an account of the experience of hearing this music as if listening to a sports cast on the radio)
3. French (Christophe Chazot has a detailed discussion of the numerology/gematria aspects revealed in this choral mvt.)
4. Spanish (Julio Sanchez Reyes) has a commentary in Spanish)
For more in depth understanding of the liturgical readings that provide the background and even the text of the mvt., click (under Events) on Revelations 12: 7-12 and both the original German text and English translation will appear side-by-side.
Under Text (the cantata text based upon Revelations 12: 10), you will find 2 English, 3 French, Hebrew, Indonesian, Portuguese, and Spanish translations of the cantata text.
Under Scoring you will find a Vocal & Piano score in PDF format, if you are interested in following a printed version of the music with the instrumental accompaniment reduced to a typical piano score.
Under Music there are Music Examples that include recordings by both Harnoncourt and Leusink.
The list of complete recordings given on Aryeh's main page include those by Carl Schuricht (1938) , Felix Prohaska (1957) , Fritz Werner (1964) , Nikolaus Harnoncourt (1968) , Kurt Bauer (late 60s - early 70s) , Istvan Zambo (1978) , John Eliot Gardiner (1980) , Hans-Joachim Rotzsch (late 1980 or early 1981) , Helmuth Rilling (1984) , Andrew Parrott (1989) , Harry Christophers (1990) , Jeffrey Thomas (1994) , Ton Koopman (1997) , Masaaki Suzuki (1999) , Pieter Jan Leusink (2000) .
Under the box on Aryeh's main recordings page for this cantata, you will find a link entitled "Discussions." Clicking on this you will land on the page where you can view previous discussions, mainly about the recorded performances of this work.
There you will find previous checklist that I used in listening and comparing the various recordings of the work which I had in my possession. I will repeat this list of criteria here and hope that they will be helpful as part of your listening experience:
My Criteria Checklist:
1. The quality and sound of the trumpets. Do they enhance the call to battle with the sense of impending victory? Or do they bashfully stay in the background while almost not being audible?
2. When the fugal subject is stated by the 1st trumpet (the 1st trumpet alone has these important entrances) beginning in ms. 28 and 111, is it clearly heard or does it simply become part of the background?
3. Is the inverted fugal subject played only by the 1st oboe beginning in ms. 36 or the regular fugal subject played only by the 1st violin beginning in ms. 50 clearly heard?
4. Is the bc, when duplicating the vocal bass part, louder than the voice part? In other words, is the balance between bc and the rest of the ensemble reasonably good?
5. Is OVPP used? Is a concertisti (soloists) vs ripieni setup used? Does each part have more than 1 or 2 voices per part throughout?
6. Are the two choirs in balance with each other? Can all of the parts of each choir be adequately heard?
7. Is the fugal subject treated in a staccato or legato fashion?
8. With the 2-note, 3-note and 4-note phrases on the words "Tag und Nacht," are the final notes of each phrase actually audible?
9. When both choirs are singing 8 separate parts beginning in ms. 43, can the fugal subject in the soprano voice be clearly heard?
10. When the fragment phrases, "weil der verworfen ist" and "der sie verklagete" are thrown back and forth between both choirs, can a distinction be made between both choirs and is the pronunciation of German sufficiently clean and clear?
11. When the inverted fugal subject occurs in the voices (ms. 29 & 111 in the soprano; ms. 83 in the alto; ms. 90 in the tenor; and ms. 97 in the bass, is it clearly represented each time?
I invite all readers, listeners, and particularly all list members, no matter which recording or recordings they might own or listen to with the help of internet sources listed above, to share their thoughts and opinions regarding the recordings or other specific aspects of this composition and its background.
Thomas Braatz wrote (October 30, 2005):
BWV 50 Structure & Number Symbolism
Alfred Dürr's Structural Analysis of BWV 50
This mvt. contains an expansive fugue conceived on a large scale. The fugal subjects and counterpoint fixed according to the principle of permutation are constantly exchanged. The development of this mvt. is diinto two precisely equal parts consisting of 68 mm each. Each half consists of an extended fugal section and a short non-fugal epilogue. Throughout all of this development the individual elements of counterpoint appear frequently in thicker texture with non-linear, chordal blocks. Schematically sketched out, it appears as follows:
A Fugue (8 Permutation Phases)
Attachment at the end of the exposition:
(Both chorus exchange material with each other in an imitative style.)
A' Fugue (7 Permutation Phases)
Attachment (same as above)
In this impressive array of various techniques artistically applied, one is certainly worth mentioning here. It is the appearance of a kind of 'pseudo-inversion' of the main theme. By combining this with the original theme/subject within the permutation phase of the fugal exposition, the listener obtains the impression of a tremendous,
outwardly expanding space/breadth and splendor. Werner Neumann has stated about this mvt. that it "stellt die erschöpfende Verwirklichung aller im Permutationsprinzip beschlossenen Gestaltungsmöglichkeiten dar und wird so zum Gipfelpunkt der Formgattung" ['represents the exhaustive realization of the form/shaping possibilities inherent in the principle of permutation and as such can be considered the culmination of this musical form.']
The following is based in part on Chazot's (see the French commentary) observations:
1-68 Caesura 69-136
Length of Fugal Subject 7 mm.
Number of Entrances: There are 8 entrances: 5 regular and then 3 additional entrances.
In sequence they are: B, T (+Viola), A (+2nd Violin), S (+ 1st Violin), 1st Tromba then B(+Continuo), S (2nd Chorus all previous entries were Chorus 1 only), then 1st Violin to measure 57
The cadence before the Caesura ends with a minor chord
After the Caesura
There are 7 entrances (5 regular and 2 additional) S (divided between the sopranos of both Chorus 1 & 2), S (Chorus 1 + 1st Oboe), A (+2nd Oboe), T (+3rd Oboe), B (+Continuo), S (Chorus 2), 1st Tromba,
The final cadence ends with a major chord.
Summary: the numbers 5 and 7 are important but 8 is less so.
Orchestration (as it appears in the score from the top down)
3 Trombas, 1 Timpani, 3 Oboes, 3 Strings (Violino 1&2, Viola)
8 Choral Parts, Continuo
This makes a total of 19 parts
The grouping of instruments in 3s, although not unusual, is conspicuous and somewhat remarkable. Particularly the use of 3 trumpets (as in other sacred choral works) may symbolize the Trinity, as the trumpets are positioned at the very top of the score.
There is a coda consisting of 19 mm from mm 50-68 and mm 118-136 [Chazot pointed this out, but the first coda before the caesura does include the fugal subject announced by the 1st violins, an entry that frequently is barely heard in recordings or sometimes not at all.]
The longest held notes:
12 beats on 'Gott' ['God'] B (mm 22-25), T (+Viola) (mm 29-32), A (+2nd Violin) (mm 36-39), S (+1st Oboe) (mm 43-46), T (mm 50-53),
10 beats on 'kla-' ['complain'] S (+1st Oboe) (mm 62-65),
After the caesura:
12 beats on 'Gott' S (2nd Chorus) (+1st Violin) (mm 90-93), S (both Choruses) mm 97-100), A (1st Chorus) (mm 104-107)
12 beats on 'wor-' ['have become'] B (2nd Chorus) (mm 111-114)
10 beats on 'kla-' S (2nd Chorus)
The number 12 is conspicuous, 10 less so.
10 is associated with complaining
12 is clearly associated with 'Gott' ['God']
The numbers which stand out and might have symbolicsignificance (not all of them do, but perhaps some readers might come up with something for the ones for which I found nothing):
3 (instrumental groupings, particularly the 3 Trombas)
5 (regular entrances of the fugal subject)
7 (length of main fugal subject in measures)
(8) (entrances of fugal subject in 1st half)
10 (beats on one, held note - 'kla')
12 (beats on one, held note - 'Gott' and 'wor')
15 (total number of entrances of fugue subject)
19 (parts/staves on the score)
68 (measure in each half)
136 (total number of measures)
Some of the 'sacred' numbers based on the Bible and upon transmission by the Christian church are:
3 - The Trinity, God
5 - Satan, Devil, das Böse
7 - Totality, the Holy Spirit with its 7 Gifts
8 - Eternity
10 - God's Law
12 - Christ, the Apostles, the Church, the Eternal City
19 - God's Throne/Chair of Judgment
Relating these numbers generally to Revelations, we find connections with the text for this choral mvt.: The Seven Seals, the 7 letters to the 7 churches in Asia, etc.
Douglas Cowling wrote (October 30, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The grouping of instruments in 3s, although not unusual, is conspicuous and somewhat remarkable. Particularly the use of 3 trumpets (as in other sacred choral works) may symbolize the Trinity, as the trumpets are positioned at the very top of the score. >
The same symbolism is used in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) with the three groups of three augmented by the 6 voice (3x2) choir.
This chorus, like the other Michelmas cantata, "Es erhub sich ein Streit", begins without an orchestral introduction. Is there any evidence that an orchestral or organ sinfonia (as in #12, "Wir Danken dir") was played to introduce the cantata, as was suggested for "Gott Ist Mein König"?
Peter Smaill wrote (October 30, 2005):
Thomas has supplied a superlative introduction to this astounding tour de force of contrapuntal choral setting whose provenance has long been doubted, but magnificence of structure and effect never disputed. My own intro was to hear it played by John Eliot Gardiner at the Proms in London in the early 1980's and the Erato recording of that time remains a favourite; anything slower in tempo misses the martial clash achieved by the antiphony of the forces.
It is hard to find much more in the literature to add to this setting of Revelations 12: 7-12 and 20; 1-3,7-10. (Bach often excels in setting Revelations: BWV 49/5, BWV 61/4; BWV 21/11, BWV 60/4 and BWV 106/2 are the other settings per Unger.) However, some detail I think worthy of exploration is touched on by Daniel Melamed who I quote;
"The cantata movement "Nun ist das heil und die Kraft" BWV 50, long considered a fragment of Bach's only double choir cantata, is most likely an arrangement of a lost five-voice model. the double-choir version may have been the work of Bach's student Carl Gotthelf Gerlach, music director of the Leipzig Neukirche. Bach himself was probably responsible for the conversion of the first section of the pastiche motet, "Jauchet den Herrn, Alle Welt" (BWV Anh. 160 into a double choir piece. In both these works, the arrangements bare presumed to have had the same texts as their models, both of which were originally compositions for chorus."
Melamed further doubts the direct influence of Johann Christoph Bach's double-choir "Es erhubt sich ein Streit" for other reasons:
"The available evidence does not permit us to say with any authority that the older composition influenced Bach's cantatas for the day. The martial style used both in Johann Christoph Bach's cantata and in J. S. Bach's compositions for St. Michael's Day was, if not a convention, then an almost inevitable consequence of the biblical texts for the feast, and so does not necessarily show direct influence. Further William Scheide has demonstrated that [BWV 50], whose eight - voice disposition has been interpreted as a response to "Es erhub sich ein Streit," does not reflect Bach's original scoring-if the work is Bach's at all."
Melamed, writing in 1995, is concerned to deny direct influence from the Altbachisches Archiv ("ABA"), in which we find the earlier work. However, since Bach appears from recent studies to have transposed or selected, late in life, the double-choir motet"Lieber Herr Gott, wecke uns auf," also by Johann Christoph Bach, the weight of argument may be swinging back to establishing a connection.
The best approach - is to listen to both settings ("Nun ist der heil" BWV 50 by J.S. Bach/ "Es erhubt sich ein Streit" by J.C. Bach) (Harmonia Mundi/Cantus Cölln under Junghänel provides 2 CDs of the ABA, including "Es erhubt sich ein Streit).
The more radical question , "Is BWV 50 by Bach at all?" can maybe best be answered by the question : "If not by J.S. Bach , who else could have possibly created such an intensity of contrapuntal activity?"
Thomas Braatz wrote (October 31, 2005):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
>>The same symbolism is used in the Sanctus of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) with the three groups of three augmented by the 6 voice (3x2) choir.
This chorus, like the other Michelmas cantata, "Es erhub sich ein Streit", begins without an orchestral introduction. Is there any evidence that an orchestral or organ sinfonia (as in #12, "Wir Danken dir") was played to introduce the cantata, as was
suggested for "Gott Ist Mein König"?<<
Due to the extremely poor transmission of this work with even the possibility that it might have been a free-standing work (not impossible but less likely than the opening choral mvt. for a Michaelmas cantata), there is really no firm evidence to indicate that BWV 50 had to be the first mvt. of Michaelmas cantata. With all those instrumentalists assembled for its performance, it certainly would make sense to have an introductory sinfonia much in the same way that the Easter Oratorio has with all the instrumentalists having a chance to 'warm up' their instruments and 'get their fingers going' before the double chorus joins them in the next mvt.
Douglas Cowling wrote (October 31, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Due to the extremely poor transmission of this work with even the possibility that it might have been a free-standing work (not impossible but less likely than the opening choral mvt. for a Michaelmas cantata), there is really no firm evidence to indicate that BWV 50 had to be the first mvt. of Michaelmas cantata. With all those instrumentalists assembled for its performance, it certainly would make sense to have an introductory sinfonia much in the same way that the Easter Oratorio has with all the instrumentalists having a chance to 'warm up' their instruments and 'get their fingers going' before the double chorus joins them in the next mvt. >
We have the same situation in Cantata BWV 80, Ein Feste Burg" which also begins ex nihilo without an orchestral introduction. The "Osanna" of the B Minor Mass (BWV 232) of course presumes "attacca" performance after the "Sanctus"
Mike Mannix wrote (October 31, 2005):
I have a vague recollection of BBC Radio 3 discussion saying BWV 50 was not by Bach at all, because of 'parallel parts' which were an indication of a weaker composer.
Unfortunately I am insufficiently erudite to comment further.
Douglas Cowling wrote (October 31, 2005):
BWV 50 - Bach and his contemporaries
Mike Mannix wrote:
< I have a vague recollection of BBC Radio 3 discussion saying BWV 50 was not by Bach at all, because of 'parallel parts' which were an indication of a weaker composer.
Unfortunately I am insufficiently erudite to comment further. >
It's almost worth having Cantata BWV 50 as the work of another to demonstrate that Bach had worthy contemporaries. Cantata BWV 53, "Schlage Doch" was long thought to be by Bach precisely because it is a superb composition. Hoffmann's music deserves greater appreciation even if he like Zelinka does stand in the shadow of Bach.
Peter Smaill wrote (October 30, 2005):
[To Doug Cowling] John Eliot Gardiner is in agreement regarding the quality of BWV 53, "Schlage doch", even though it is by Melchior Hoffman. It was performed by him on 28 July 2000, the 250th anniversary of Bach's death, at Iona; as was Bach's putative reworking of (attrib). Kuhnau's motet, "Tristis est anima mea," which we know as "Der Gerechte kommt um." The latter is a translation of "Ecce, quomodo moritur justus," the motet by Jakob Handl which followed immediately the singing of the Passion in Holy Week.
Mark Padmore, in his Aldeburgh and London productions of the SJP (BWV 245) (without conductor) followed this practice and the Handl motet is a most affecting way to contrast the intensity of the final chorale "Ach Herr, lass dein leib Engelein" with the meditative a capella quality of the older work.
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 2, 2005):
Aryeh Oron has kindly placed a page from the NBA complete score on his website where it is available for viewing. Not only is this a good example of 'Ohrenmusik' = ['music for the ears'], it is also 'Augenmusik' = ['music for the eyes'] as well.
Here is the link: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV50-Sco.htm
John Pike wrote (November 3, 2005):
This week's cantata may be only one movement and it may not be by Bach at all but I still think it's a real beauty and have done ever since I used to listen to my father's copy of Richter's recording on DG Archiv.
I have listened to Harnoncourt , Rilling  and Leusink  and enjoyed them all very much.
I have disagreed with Thomas many times in the past and still hold the views I did then, but I believe in giving credit where it is due, and I have to confess that his weekly introductions to the cantatas have all been really excellent...very comprehensive and very interesting to read. They are an excellent blend of information on sources, links to religious issues, other works etc. He will indeed be an impossible act to follow when I take on this task next month. Indeed, it will be impossible for me to follow any of my predecessors in this task with the same comprehensiveness since I just don't have that time to give. The message, therefore, is: enjoy these introductions from Thomas while they last; from Christmas you will see a very rudimentary introduction each week.
Neil Halliday wrote (November 4, 2005):
BWV 50: double choir?
Suzuki's recording (the BIS example)  is one of the few that seems to capture the magnificent double choir effect very well. Rilling's performance  is lively, with clarity of instrumental and choral lines; but despite the booklet affirming the use of the NBA edition for double choir, the recording sounds as if he employs only one choir. Werner  has two choirs, but the tempo is too slow for complete enjoyment. (Koopman , at the other extreme of tempo, also suffers through unsatisfactory choice of tempo). Prohaska , in 1957, has a lively, impressive performance, but the mono recording (amazon sample) precludes double choir antiphonal effects.
Leusink  has plenty of impact, as do Gardiner  and Harnoncourt . Parrott  (OVPP) sounds `skinny' at the start, but when the eight voices enter with the trumpets, the music is more impressive. These recordings don't appear to convey much of the antiphonal effect. (This might be due to the poor quality of the amazon samples).
Did Richter record this cantata? It's not in the Archiv set I have.
Richard wrote (November 4, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] Richter never recorded this "Cantata". Prohaskrecording  was one of the first Vanguard stereo tape, and it sounds remarkably well, despite the vibrato of the viennese sopranos and poor playing of first trumpet who doesn't give higher notes; though on modern Bach trumpet... Hans-Joachim Rotzsch recording with Thomanerchor  is very impressive. But most of recorded performances are very confused.
John Pike wrote (November 4, 2005):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Did Richter record this cantata? It's not in the Archiv set I have. >
Good question, Neil. I don't have access to my father's recording on DG Archiv. I assumed it was Richter, like many of the other DG Archiv records of bach he had, but I may well be wrong. Who is doing it on your DG Archiv recording?
When does the Gardiner recording date from?
Teri Noel Towe wrote (November 4, 2005):
BWV 50 - Authenticity?
I am not near my run of the "Bach Jahrbuch," but I have the recollection that within the last 20 years, Joshua Rifkin published an article in BJ in which he set forth the reasons why BWV 50 cannot have been composed by J. S. Bach.
Douglas Cowling wrote (November 4, 2005):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Is it a stand-along chorus or the opening of a lost cantata?
Thomas Braatz wrote (November 5, 2005):
[To Teri Noel Towe] The article is "Siegesjubel und Satzfehler. Zum Problem von "Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft" (BWV 50)" Bach Jahrbuch Vol. 86 (2000), pp. 67-86.
If anyone is able to share further information about this article, I am certain readers of this list would be interested in knowing more about Rifkin's arguments.
His title is "The Jubilation of Victory and Mistakes in the Musical Compositional Structure. On the Problems Surrounding 'Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft' (BWV 50)"
Neil Halliday wrote (November 6, 2005):
John Pike asks:
<"Who is doing it on your DG Archiv recording? When does the Gardiner recording  date from?">
I should have made clear that it's the Richter Archiv cantata set I have; and that BWV (?) 50 does not appear in this set.
According to the information at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV50.htm
the Gardiner  was produced in 1980, obviously not part of his Bach Pilgrimage set.
Richard's comment - that most of the recordings of this work are confused (in relation to the spatial separation of the choirs) - is interesting, and suggests a lack of attention by directors and recording engineers to this aspect of the work.
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2005):
< Parrott (OVPP)  sounds `skinny' at the start, but when the eight voices enter with the trumpets, the music is more impressive. These recordings don't appear to convey much of the antiphonal effect. (This might be due to the poor quality of the amazon samples). >
Parrott's recording  has excellent clarity and Kraft. The antiphonal effects are pretty decent on stereo speakers, and even better with headphones: it's easy to pick out where each musician is within the spread, with musical lines happening everywhere. The two vocal groups are separated left to right. No idea how many microphones they used, but they got an effective result. Personally I find that performance impressive all the way through....
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2005):
< Parrott's recording  has excellent clarity and Kraft. The antiphonal effects are pretty decent on stereo speakers, and even better with headphones: it's easy to pick out where each musician is within the spread, with musical lines happening everywhere. The two vocal groups are separated left to right. No idea how many microphones they used, but they got an effective result. Personally I find that performance impressive all the way through.... >
Another one I like is the lively recording by Christophers , 1990, with 18 singers listed. Good enthusiasm from all the musicians. The overall texture isn't halfway as clear as Parrott's , though: this one makes more block-like effects. An oddity is having the organ very far to the right channel only...I'd rather hear it in the middle. The opening phrase is given to two basses, far left, and they don't quite blend with one another in their vibratos. (That's a general danger with vocal ensembles or string ensembles: it's harder to make a convincing blend with exactly two musicians in unison on a part, than to use three or more...or one.)
This disc also has two of my other favorite cantatas: BWV 34 and BWV 147. BWV 34 is especially boisterous here. And there are short organ preludes played by Paul Nicholson between the cantatas.
Bradley Lehman wrote (November 6, 2005):
Teri Noel Towe wrote:
< I am not near my run of the "Bach Jahrbuch," but I have the recollection that within the last 20 years, Joshua Rifkin published an article in BJ in which he set forth the reasons why BWV 50 cannot have been composed by J. S. Bach. >
This is that Rifkin article from 2000 (I haven't read it yet): http://homepages.bw.edu/bachbib/script/bach2.pl?22=16594
The piece has also been discussed in BJ at least three other times, too: Kobayashi and Schulze (1978), Scheide (1982), and Hofmann (1994). [Citations in the BWV 1998 edition...]
Richard wrote (November 6, 2005):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Any Bach's Music lover feels that this music is Bach's... However, there is some strange writing, exactly like in The C Sanctus, probably not by Bach but so "Bachian...". Bach could have improved some contemporary works, add trumpets and counterpoint, like he did for his own music (Gloria of b minor Mass (BWV 232), probably come from an earlier concerto grosso).
Introducing Myself / BWV 50
Nils Lid Hjort wrote (November 17, 2005):
I'm new here, and now respond to the official instructions, even to the point of Capitalising "Myself" in the subject line. I'm an occasionally eager amateur musician (playing the piano & a couple of other instruments less well, and singing in various choirs) who finds the Bach Cantatas wonderfully interesting (i) since they happen to be wonderfully interesting but also (ii) since they are somehow "non-mainstream", even in well-educated musical circles. "Everyone" knows the Branderburgers and the Suites and the Wohltemperierte and the Matthäus (BWV 244) und Johannes (BWV 245) and some of the chamber music, but I'd venture that far too few of the Cantatas have reached common music-educated consciousness. (But you may disagree, and we might speculate that "the Cantatas are coming", becoming gradually better known to a broader public, decade by decade.)
In my free time I'm a professor at the Department of Mathematics at the University of Oslo, specialising in mathematical statistics and probability theory.
Then a question re BWV 50: I've not had time to scrutinise all of the 15,828 contributions since December 2000, but I've been browsing the past couple of hundred messages -- and must describe myself as "moderately shocked" by the claim that BWV 50 (Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft und das Reich und die Macht) is not by Bach. How firm is this claim?
There's a reference to an article by Rifkin in Bach Jahrbuch 2000, that I cannot access, so I haven't seen his arguments. Can someone give a brief outline of his reasons why BWV 50 cannot have been composed by Bach? And have there been counter-claims and counter-arguments, in BJ or elsewhere, scholarly of musical, saying that Yes!, it must be by Bach? And has Rifkin (or others) put up an Alternative Candidate (who should, if found to be the Real Composer, be admired for this splendid piece)? Do nine of ten Bach Cantata scstill believe that Heil Kraft Reich Macht is Bach?
Alain Bruguires wrote (November 18, 2005):
[To Nils Lid Hjort] Welcome to the list! I agree that the Cantatas are not well-known. Often, discovering the Cantatas comes as a revelation. Most people seem to consider vaguely that there are so many of them that probably, apart from the two or three everybody's heard about (BWV 140, BWV 147 ?) they must be substandard Bach. When I try to convey my enthusiasm, I very often hear remarks such as 'come on, old fellow, surely at least some of them aren't as good as all that'.
I must be considered a Bach Ayatollah, I'm afraid! At lunch today a colleague of mine suggested that mathematicians are all obsessive (by the way, I'm a mathematician, too!). Can one assimilate an excessive taste for Bach Cantatas to a form of obsession?
John Pike wrote (November 18, 2005):
[To Nils Lid Hjort & Alain Bruguieres] Indeed. Welcome to the list, Nils!
I think one can easily assimilate an excessive taste for Bach Canatatas to a form of obsession. I have listened to all of them at least twice and I know several of them almost by heart. I have three "complete" sets....Rilling, Harnoncourt/Leonhardt, Leusink and am building up 3 more...Gardiner, Suzuki and Herreweghe (probably not intended to be complete). I think the last 3 are particularly fine recordings. I agree with John Eliot Gardiner that the music in them is of an unbelievably consistently high quality....I cannot think of a weak one in the entire set and some are truly divine....very far indeed from being "sub-standard". I think they just don't get heard so much because there are so many of them and people tend to perform the very best ones so often at the expense of the lesser known (but very fine) ones.
Time to go out and hear Suzuki's recording of BWV 50 ...I don't really care who wrote it...it's a great piece whatever.
Double Choir Cantatas
Continue of discussion from: Systematic Discussions of Bachs Other Vocal Works - Weihnachts-Oratorium BWV 248 - Cantata 4
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 12, 2009):
Double Choir Cantatas
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I can't recall another double chorus movement in the cantatas. >
"Nun ist Das Heil" (BWV 50) is set for eight-voice choir although musicologists are controverted about its authorship. There is no autograph score or parts. Scheide suggests that it is another composer's arrangement of a 5-voice chorus by Bach. Rifkin denies that it is by Bach.
If it's not by Bach, it SHOULD be by Bach.
Peter Smaill wrote (September 13, 2009):
Double Choir Cantatas BWV 50
[To Douglas Cowling] John Eliot Gardiner performed this controversial work at Edinburgh this year (as he did at the Albert Hall Proms in London 25 years ago) and clearly does not doubt the authenticity.
Whoever composed it, (and I agree Bach has no known rival for the quality of double fugue writing) may well have been keen on numerology. The natural order number alphabet?value (using the original spelling "Heyl" ) for the first fugue is 1509; the sum of the Choir and continuo's notes is exactly 1509. The whole fugue theme has 65 notes, the number value of "Heyland". (Arthur Hirsch is the source).
Harry W. Crosby wrote (September 13, 2009):
If Rifkin, et alia, believe this is not by Bach, has anyone [qualified] asked them who they conjecture to have written it? And -- if so -- asked them to cite other other works by their composers of choice that establish their credibility at this level of achievement.
I would be very interested to hear other works by putative creators of BWV 50. That would be educational, something I can always use. But if the savants with the conviction that it was not Bach have no alternative candidates, are we to assume that whoever the genius was, this was his first and last work?
I need enlightenment, Harry
Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 13, 2009):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Whoever composed it, (and I?agree Bach has no known rival for the quality of double fugue writing) >
Sorry, I really must disagree with that statement. Telemann, Stölzel and Graupner were extremely talented writers of double fugues.
Peter Smaill wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] Delighted you have taken up the question of "Nun ist der heil" (BWV 50); and of course Telemann, Stölzel and Graupner are contemporaries of the first rank. Stoelzel's works we know were performed at the Thomaskirche by Bach and he is perhaps especially interesting in this regard. But can you point us in the direction of a choral double fugue by any of the three which can suggest authorship of this exceptional work.
Werner Neumann observed "(the movement) represents the exhaustive realisation of all the structural possibilities determined by the permutation principle and thus embodies the summit of its formal type". Certainly one can agree with Dürr's position in the absence of another model, "Meanwhile, one might well ask who other than Bach, in the vicinity of Leipzig in the early to mid eighteenth century, could have created a work of such breathtaking power".
This question of authorship is one of the most persistent debates and further contributions to answering Duerr's question from a knowledge of the enormous output of Bach's contemporaries?could be illuminating .
Michael D. Costello wrote (September 14, 2009):
[To Peter Smaill] I just have to chime in and say that I cannot imagine this work being by anyone other than Bach. It is entirely possible, of course; however, some of the harmonic progressions, particularly prior to the two primary cadences (at the mid-point of the work and the conclusion), are so incredibly well-crafted and complicated, yet natural enough that my ears are not shocked by them, that I simply don't feel that others of Bach's day would have been capable of creating such a work. Just my opinion, of course!
Incidentally, I am conducting this piece at Grace in River Forest, Illinois in two weeks. I don't think our choir ever struggled so much over a cantata. It is a joyous challenge and we cannot wait to put it all together!
Bruce Simonson wrote (September 14, 2009):
Michael Costello wrote:
< Incidentally, I am conducting this piece at Grace in River Forest, Illinois in two weeks. I don't think our choir ever struggled so much over a cantata. It is a joyous challenge and we cannot wait to put it all together! >
Please let me know how this goes (best of luck!). Are you performing with full orchestra? I have this work on my list of to-be-performed, and am curious about the problems you have encountered in rehearsals.
By the way, I have seen one edition of this (Nun ist der Heil), from Hännsler (if I recall correctly), that argues for a single choir of 5 voices, instead of two choirs of four. I was unhappy to see this, as the two choir version truly rocks my socks (!).
Does anyone know of evidence supporting the 5 voice, single chorus version?
Kim Patrick Clow wrote (September 22, 2009):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< By the way, I have seen one edition of this (Nun ist der Heil), from Haennsler (if I recall correctly), that argues for a single choir of 5 voices, instead of two choirs of four. I was unhappy to see this, as the two choir version truly rocks my socks (!).
Does anyone know of evidence supporting the 5 voice, single chorus version? >
I would assume the critical report at the beginning of the edition would explain why the editor did what he did with all the evidence that supports that? Or what source he based the edition on?
William Hoffman wrote (September 22, 2009):
Bruce Simonson wrote:
< By the way, I have seen one edition of this (Nun ist der Heil), from Haennsler (if I recall ), that argues for a single choir of 5 voices, instead of two choirs of four. I was unhappy to see this, as the two choir version truly rocks my socks (!).
Does anyone know of evidence supporting the 5 voice, single chorus version? >
William Hoffman replies: Selective Bibliography:
1. Arnold Schering, notes to BWV 50 miniature score, Eulenberg, 1935 (summary). BWV 50 is assumed to be a portion of a St. Michael's Cantata. Present torso was destined to end the work (Rev. 12: 20) since St. Michael's cantatas begin with verse 4. "Probably Bach also included an orchestral introduction (to BWV 50) in his scheme," with a repeat at the end, "judging from the short preparation for the close."
2. William H. Scheide: BWV 50: Doppelchoerigkeit, Datierung und Bestimmung (Double-Chorus structure, Date, and Purpose), Bach-Jahrbuch 68 (1982), pp.81-96.
Scheide Synopsis: BJ 1994: The single cantata movement BWV 50, preserved only in copies written after 1750, was probably contained in a St. Michael's cantata from 1723. The double-chorus structure is evidently the result of a revision from another hand; the original scoring can be determined as being soprano, alto I and II, tenor, and bass.
3. Rilling recording  notes (Hans Bergman/Arthur Hirsch, 1985). "The first person to thoroughly investigate this piece was Werner Neumann (no specific source cited)." "It is possible that this discrepancy between structure and instrumentation is the reason that caused William H. Scheide to investigate this movement once again. His research led him to the following conclusion: 'That the permutation structure of BWV 50 is typical for one of Bach's composition periods in which the use of double choirs plays no role' (only five contrapuntal lines at most)."
4. Daniel Melamed: JSB and the German Motet (1995: 69): "The conversion of a model into a composition for eight voices is a practice that is documented in the Bach Circle. The cantata Movement 'Nun ist das Heil und die Kraft' BWV 50, long considered a fragment of Bach's only double-choir church cantata, is most likely an arrangement of a lost five-voice model. The double-choir version may have been the work of Bach student Carl Gotthelf Gerlach, music director of the Leipzig Neukirche (& Collegium Musicum) (source: Scheide). Bach himself was responsible for the conversion of the first section of the pastiche motet 'Jauchzet dem Herrn, alle Welt' BWV Anh. 160' into a double-choir piece (source: K. Hoffman, The Authenticity of BWV Anh. 160, Duerr Festschrift 1983). In both these works, the arrangements are presumed to have had the same texts as their models, both of which were originally compositions for chorus."
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 22, 2009):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Scheide Synopsis: BJ 1994: The single cantata movement BWV 50, preserved only in copies written after 1750, was probably contained in a St. Michael's cantata from 1723. The double-chorus structure is evidently the result of a revision from another hand; the original scoring can be determined as being soprano, alto I and II, tenor, and bass. >
Did Bach write any other works with SAATB voicing? Isn't a five-voice texture normally SSATB (as in the Magnificat)?
Continue on Part 3
Cantata BWV 50: Details & Complete Recordings
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4