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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 52
Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht!
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 18, 2001

Michael Grover wrote (November 19, 2001):
I have been listening to BWV 52 several times today and would like to share a few impressions about it.

A few weeks ago, we listened to BWV 49, which is on the same disc that I have of BWV 52, conducted by Rilling [4] and featuring Arleen Augér and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart. The two cantatas share a similarity in that they both have an opening "sinfonia" which is a reworked version of an instrumental work. In BWV 49's case, it was a movement from harpsichord concerto BWV 1053; this week features the first movement from Brandenburg Concerto #1 -- a nearly identical version except minus the piccolo violin.

When I listened to BWV 49, I felt that the harpsichord movement -- rewritten for organ obliggato -- fit in rather well with the cantata as a whole. Perhaps this was because I felt the mood of the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) fit in with the rest, perhaps because the solo organ was found elsewhere throughout the work. This week, however, the Brandenburg "sinfonia" does not seem to fit with the rest at all. The difference in mood and sentiment between the opening movement and the first recitative could not be greater, both in the tone of the music and the emphasis made by the text. In my humble opinion, this cantata would indeed benefit from a sinfonia (Mvt. 1), but perhaps something a little more dour... in a minor key perhaps... but then who am I to question the master?

What is the message of the text of this cantata? A treacherous, lying, deceiving world that lies always in wait to capture and bring harm to the innocent. We should not trust the world, for it brings only pain and misery. This is the message of the first recitative and, in part, the first aria (Mvt. 3).

The recording that I have features Arleen Augér in this cantata for solo soprano [4]. She is most definitely un-HIP. Uses lots of vibrato. However, she has a most powerful voice that I feel works well in the first two vocal movements. In fact, that first word, "Falsche!" in the recitative, is quite shocking. The first time I listened to this cantata, I had the volume turned up quite a bit on my headphones to listen to the sinfonia (Mvt. 1), and when Augér let loose with that first blast, I almost jumped out of my chair. It was a pleasant shock, though. When I reviewed her singing in BWV 49, I wrote that I felt she did better at the calmer, quieter, lower bits than the higher, louder ones. Here it is the opposite. When the music calls for her to really belt it out, she is in her element and you can hear the confidence and emotion. She is rather unsure when the music gets quiet and lower down the scale.

Mvt. 4 and Mvt. 5 are rather different in mood and message. Here the emphasis has switched from focusing on the treacherousness of the world to the faithfulness of God and the ability of us all to lean on Him and trust in Him. The closing chorale (Mvt. 6) brings this message to a heavenly close. The whole cantata is a journey from chaos to peace, from error to truth, from uncertainty to calm.

Mvt. 5 aria is beautiful. Our hero, Herr Bach, begins the movement with an exquisite section for 3 oboes (at least there are 3 oboes playing on MY recording -- not having the score, I don't know if that's what Bach wrote or not.) The interplay between the instruments is wonderful. The music for the soprano is very pretty also -- although I would have preferred to hear Ruth Holton or Barbara Bonney here instead of Augér. She is not suited for this type of movement, I think. Her operatic voice works better in highly dramatic and charged movements rather than these gentle, peaceful ones. I'm anxious to hear from those who have the Leusink version [6] of this cantata regarding Holton's performance. I have a hunch that she is the opposite of Augér -- better later rather than earlier.

As I said earlier, the chorale (Mvt. 6) is very nice indeed, bringing the journey from fear to hope to a completion. I LOVE Rilling's choir [4] -- much much better than Leusink's [6]. In fact, in most of the cantatas I've heard so far (not really that many), my ideal ensemble would generally include Leusink's soloists (except I have to have Daniel Taylor rather than Buwalda), Rilling's choir, and probably Gardiner's orchestra. These are overall generalizations rather than about this cantata specifically since again, I only have Rilling here.

By the way, there is a relatively obscure reference in the first recitative (Mvt. 2) to two characters named Joab and Abner. Here is the text:

Wenn Joab küßt,
So muß ein frommer Abner sterben.
(When Joab kisses,
So must a righteous Abner die.)

I was not sure who this was referring to, so I pulled out the trusty Bible dictionary and discovered that the story about these two is found in 2 Samuel chapters 2 and 3. See especially 2 Sam 3:27. Joab was a captain of David's army in David's war with Saul. Abner was on Saul's side initially but left and went to David's side after being falsely accused of sexual misconduct with one of Saul's concubines. Abner was true to David's cause thereafter. However, earlier in the war, Abner had killed Joab's brother. Joab therefore sought revenge, (despite the fact that they were on the same side now and Abner had done no wrong) and through deception killed Abner. My King James Bible says: "And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother." So in other words, you can't necessarily trust even your allies -- but you can always trust God. This is the message of BWV 52.

Dick Wursten wrote (November 19, 2001):
Also some first impressions of BWV 52

Michael Grover wrote:
<begin of quote> This week, however, the Brandenburg "sinfonia" (Mvt. 1) does not seem to fit with the rest at all. The difference in mood and sentiment between the opening movement and the first recitative (Mvt. 2) could not be greater, both in the tone of the music and the emphasis made by the text. In my humble opinion, this cantata would indeed benefit from a sinfonia (Mvt. 1), but perhaps something a little more dour... in a minor key perhaps... but then who am I to question the master? <end of quote > >
Michael, I agree completely.
JSB was a pragmatist. Perhaps he had programmed Brandenburg for a concert that same week ..
By the way: Leusink (6) performs this sinfonia (Mvt. 1) horribly.

Michael was also curious about Ruth Holton (6).
Well:. I had the privilege (which turned out to be not much of a privilege) to of being able to listen to Leonhardt version [3]. How familiar sounded the sinfonia (Mvt. 1) there, but... what a shock when the little boy began to sing. I'm sorry, but this is not justifiable anymore, not even in a early frontline HIP performance. Then of course Ruth Holton was a relief. Whether she indeed is able to meet your great expectations, I will never be able to say, because the contrast with the little boy (Seppi, poor boy) was so enormous that every possibility to give a reasonably balanced judgement is gone for ever. The scale exploded. (hope you understand what I mean)

Last remark: The religious contenof the cantata (Warning for the treachery of the world and the propaganda for the absolute trustworthyness of God. 'Gott ist getreu') is both present in the Gospelreading (The Pharisees trying to 'catch' Jesus in his words, Matthew 22: 15-22) and in the Epistlereading (Two conflicting citizenships... The way we walk on earth should be heavenly oriented, Philippians 3: 17-21).

Michael Grover wrote (November 19, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] Thanks for your comments, Dick.

What I failed to mention is that although I don't feel like this Brandenburg movement "fits" very well with the rest of the cantata, that doesn't fault Rilling's performance [4] of it. It is very spirited and rich in sound. I enjoyed it very much as a stand-alone movement.

Marie Jensen wrote (November 19, 2001):
Why are certain instrumental movements used as ouvertures to different cantatas? I don't know for sure and I don't have time to list all cantatas starting with an ouverture, but if anybody knew, it would be very interesting..

Many cantatas ouvertures lead logically to the following movements. Not that abstract instrumental music absolutely should deal with something, but some times it does, so listening to them in cantata contexts might be a key to it.

Take cantata BWV 42 for example (Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats) with its restless running feet and cool evening breeze, or cantata BWV 49 (Ich geh' und suche mit Verlangen) with all its happy wedding preparations or the famous adagio ouverture of cantata BWV 156 (Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe).

This time the ouverture is the first movement of Brandenburg 1.

After this well known movement the soprano recitativo comes as a shock "Falsche Welt, dir trau ich nicht!" Could the first concerto in the Brandenburg collection really symbolize "the false world?" This certainly increased my shock. A gift to a Mark Graf! (Then what an irony!!) But when I listen to it, I often imagine: castle, noblemen, autumn. (a worldly wealthy life) Horns are used. It has even a hunting theme in the final movement. But perhaps these associations don't occur in other minds.

It could also be like this:Horns are also used in cantata BWV 65 "Sie werden aus Saba all kommen" symbolizing the spiritual riches of the 3 wise men, or in "Quoniam tu solus sanctus" from the b minor mass (BWV 232). So horns might symbolize holiness. Then the ouverture symbolizes holiness and the recitativo is the false world.

Or perhaps none of these ideas is the solution. They are Liebhaber theories only..

For me the shocking first seconds of the opening recitativo is the peak of the cantata. The rest of the Leusink/Holton version (6) is not really captivating.

From my sloppy taping period in the eighties I have a Raymond Leppard version (5). The soprano, whose name I forgot to write down sings with a lot more passion all the way through. A detail: She rolls her r's . The word "Skorpionen" becomes really nasty in her mouth. Far more exciting.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 19, 2001):

Bach wrote three solo cantatas for soprano – BWV 51, BWV 52, BWV 84, and BWV 199. Cantata BWV 51, which was discussed in the BCML about two months ago, has at least 40 recordings. Actually, together with the solo Cantata for bass BWV 82 (some complete recordings of this cantata were actually done by soprano singers, not including the two movements from Anna Magdalena Notenbüchlein), these two are the most recorded cantatas in the canon. Cantata BWV 199 (my personal favourite of the four), which was discussed in the BCML more than a year ago, has the respected number of 20 recordings to its credit. Even the less familiar Cantata BWV 84 (discussed in the BCML 9 months ago) has been recorded at least 9 times, and three soprano singers included arias from this cantata in their collections of arias from Bach Cantatas for soprano. And BWV 52? This cantata has only 5 recordings (if there are more, I am not aware of their existence), two of which are hardly available and have never been issued in CD form. Many soprano singers, including some who are not usually identified with Bach’s idiom, like Edita Gruberova and Marilyn Horne, included both BWV 51 and BWV 199 in their repertoire. Many of those singers made CD’s in which these two cantatas were coupled. And what about poor BWV 52? It was left out, like a black sheep in a family, about whom nobody wants to talk. Is this neglecting justified? I am not sure. In any case, this week we are given the opportunity, according to Michael Grover proposed list of cantatas for discussion, to listen carefully and intensively to this cantata, enjoy from it and judge it on its own terms.

The Opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1)

The Sinfonia prelude to Cantata BWV 52 is actually the opening movement of the First Brandenburg Concerto in E Major BWV 1046. Why did Bach chose this composition to precede the vocal numbers is not exactly clear. Probably he thought that the cantata, which is relatively short even with the inclusion of this movement, would be too short. Therefore he supplemented the short cantata with instrumental number. To modern ears it might sound strange, because most of us have heard the Brandenburg Concertos so many times that we expect the second movement of the Fist Concerto to follow the first Movement. How surprised are we to hear a recitative (Mvt. 2) instead. But most of the local Leipzig audience was not familiar with this Cöthen composition and for them it probably sounded less peculiar.

On the other hand, if we read carefully the words of the ensuing recitative and listen to its music, the connection between the brilliant joyful Sinfonia and the gloomy and pessimistic recitative (False world, I trust you not) will seem to us more at odd. Actually I believe that it would be very difficult task to prove any logical connection between the opening Sinfonia and the rest of the cantata, or with the Gospel for the 23rd Sunday after Trinity (Matthew 22: 15-22, The Pharisees and the Tribute to Caesar). More plausible to assume that even the Leipzig’s audience could hear it easily. Had not their eyebrows raised up when they heard the recitative immediately after the Sinfonia? I wonder. Anyhow, for me to review the recordings of this Sinfonia makes no sense. If somebody decides to do so, why not comparing it to the numerous (hundreds?) recordings of the First Brandenburg Concerto? The changes bach made in the original instrumentation of the concerto for this adaptation are minor – omitting the violino piccolo and altering only a few bars of the horns’ part.

Second thought: While I was driving today home from work, couple of hours ago, listening to the Göttsche’s recording [1] of BWV 52 with Nelly van der Spek it hit me. I found the reason why did Bach decide to precede the first recitative (Mvt. 2) with the instrumental Sinfonia (Mvt. 1), taken from the First Brandenburg Concerto. Assuming that the libretto was given to Bach ready for setting the music to it, he chose an original way of interpreting it. No one will deny the optimism and the joy expressed in the Sinfonia (Mvt. 1). Hearing the recitative immediately after that has a shocking effect. It is as if Bach wanted to tell us: ‘Do you think that this woris a good place to live in, that you can rely on other people’s word, that everybody has good intentions? Wrong you are. This is a false world; I do not trust you’. He could not have thought of a better way to present the strong contrast between the illusion and the reality. And the first recitative, especially the first penetrating, crying for help word ’Falsche’ breaks the illusion.

Background for the remaining Movements

This time I shall return to the ‘Oxford Composer Companion - J.S. Bach’, edited by Malcolm Boyd. The review was written by Nicholas Anderson, who does not fail to mention also Robertson’s original idea regarding the second aria (Mvt. 5):

“The first vocal section of the cantata is an unaccompanied recitative leading to a D minor da capo aria accompanied by violins in two parts, and continuo with organ and bassoon. The text, austere at this pint, portrays the soul beset by falsity and worldly hypocrisy, thus relating to the Gospel reading of the day, ‘Then went Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk’ (Matthew 22: 15).

The second recitative (Mvt. 4), which merges into arioso in its concluding four bars, and the ensuing aria are in strong contrast with the previous pair of movements, and are in the nature of a response to them, both celebrating and expressing confidence in Christ’s benevolence. The aria, in 3 / 4 time and with character of a polonaise, is an alluring piece whose light-hearted vocal line is accompanied by three oboes, bassoon and continuo. Only Bach and Telemann, perhaps, fully realised the richly satisfying texture inherent in writing for three oboes. Alec Robertson remarks on similarities between this aria and Cleopatra’s ‘V’adoro, pupille’ in Händel’s opera Giulio Cesare, first performed in London in 1724; Robertson suggested that Bach might have heard it in Hamburg, or have known it in some other way. Although tenuous, this hypothesis is not without interest; the present writer has often been struck by the concluding trio of Bach’s Coffee Cantata (BWV 211) and the final coro of Giulio Cesare.

The cantata ends with the first strophe of a hymn by Adam Reusner, In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr (1533). This is straightforwardly harmonised by Bach, who nevertheless provided independent parts for the two horns heard in the opening Sinfonia (Mvt. 1), while requiring the three oboes, string, and continuo, to double the four vocal strands.”

Review of the Recordings

The details of the recordings can be found at: Cantata BWV 52 - Recordings.

The recordings can be easily divided into two groups. In the first group we have the three recordings with mature female sopranos. In the other we have the boy soprano. The three recordings with female sopranos I have heard are:

(1) Heintz Markus Göttsche with Nelly van der Spek (soprano) (Mid 1960’s?)
(4) Helmuth Rilling with Arleen Augér (soprano) (1982-1983)
(6) Pieter Jan Leusink with Ruth Holton (soprano) (2000)

Arleen Augér is an expressive singer with the ability to penetrate every human heart. She is especially strong and convincing in the first two movements. But in the next too she is not in her best. She sounds too heavy to bring out the regained faith. In many cases in previous cantata discussions I found her vibrato as appropriate for the situation. Here it sounds somewhat out of place, as if she has problems to control it. If you listen carefully to the second recitative, you will hear what I mean.

Ruth Holton light and angelic voice is not the right instrument to express the disappointment from the illusions of this world in her first two movements. She improves in the two ensuing movements, but still sounds a little bit superficial in terms of expression. Her timbre is almost boyish, but I am not sure that this is what this cantata needs. More variety in the means she is using would bring out more of the complex feelings embedded in this cantata.

Nelly van der Spek brings forth the best of both worlds. Although she made her recording probably 15 years before Augér, her vibrato is less overt, and she is using it more economically. She has an entrancing and appealing voice along the whole range. In terms of expression, she manages to be convincing in all the four movements, which she is given to sing. Her pronunciation is exemplary and she never sounds forced. This is a kind of recording which is growing on you. I mean that you can listen to it again and again and in each time hearing something new, another dimension. No wonder that this is the recording through which I found my personal explanation for the unique structure of this cantata.

If we define Augér as a heavy-weight champion, Holton as a light-weight one, and van der Spek as a middle-weight, than I can summarise my conclusion by saying that in this case the middle-weight champion is the clear winner.

[3] Gustav Leonhardt with Seppi Kronwitter (boy soprano) (1976)
I have to admit that in certain passages I enjoyed Seppi Kronwitter’s singing. But when he has to sing in the higher register, his voice tends to be shrieking, and in the long passages his breath tends to be short. His pronunciation is impeccable, and one could write down easily the words of this cantata according to his singing. But the main problem here is expression, or the lack of it. His delivery is earnest, simple and naive. But this cantata is all about disillusionment, and nothing of this is brought out in this rendition. Sorry, but this kind of feelings can be expressed convincingly only by a mature adult, who has experienced something in his life, misery and joy, disappointment and faith, despair and hope, doubts and regained confidence, pain and convalescence, etc. How can we believe to such complex message, when it is conveyed to us by a young boy?


See above. My personal favourite is Nelly van de Spek, and I have not said anything about the exemplary and tasteful accompaniment that Göttsche gives her.

And why is this cantata less popular than the other three solo cantatas for soprano? After hearing it intensively during last week, I do not have any reasonable explanation. This cantata deserves to be better known. But do not all the Bach Cantatas deserve better recognition and wider exposure?

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Steven Guy wrote (November 19, 2001):
[To Marie Jensen] I guess that Bach, like other Baroque composers recycled his own material - Messiah by Händel included a lot of recycled material and his oratorio Israel in Egypt features a phenomenal amount of material plundered from a variety of sources.

I doubt that Bach had a problem with recycling his own material. Indeed, the B minor Mass (BWV 232) included a number of movements which come from earlier works.

I guess that it seems obvious to say, but in a cantata like BWV 106 Actus Tragicus which is scored for 2 recorders and 2 violas da gamba and continuo (as well as the vocal forces) means that the opening instrumental movement has to be adapted for these instruments. I tend to think that Bach's sinfoniae and sonatas from his cantatas feature some of Bach's most delightful music and interesting scorings. This is also true of the cantatas of Telemann - who included new instruments like the clarinet in his cantatas (Bach was much more conservative about the inclusion of new instruments).

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2001):
BWV 52 - Provenance:

See: Cantata BWV 52 - Provenance


See: Cantata BWV 52 - Commentary

Discussion of Recordings to follow [do not expect too much].

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2001):
See: Cantata BWV 52 - Commentary

Dick Wursten wrote (November 22, 2001):
Just a silly little question:
The first aria (mvt 2) starts with the word 'Immerhin'...
Bach makes something special out of this word...
My dictionary says it means: 'in elk geval' (which is Dutch for: in any case, anyhow). This translation supposes that somewhere in the sentence there must be a [positive] sequel... But 'Immerhin' stays an isolated word... 'ein selbständiges Wort'. Bach musically treats it in the same way.

Is this normal in German ? Or does this word has aother meaning, which I don't know?

Johan van Veen wrote (November 22, 2001):
[To Dick Wursten] The first meaning of this word is "nevertheless" (Dutch: niettemin, toch), so this is suggesting an opposition. The only opposition I can think of is in that same aria:

"Ist die falsche Welt mein Feind,
O so bleibt doch Gott mein Freund,
der es redlich mit mir meint".

I think this aria is about the enmity of the world towards the "ich", the believer, and the friendlyness of God towards him. The beginning of this aria could be seen as the turning point in the cantata. Until then it is about the viciousness of the world, from this moment on it is concentrating on the faithfulness of God.

But I agree it would be interesting to know if this word has had another meaning, more literally, which would explain what Alfred Dürr calls "die 'wegwerfende' Verachtung des Christen für die Welt" (the "throw-away" dismissal of the world by the Christian), which is so vividly illustrated in the music.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 23, 2001):
The Recordings

This past week I listened to Leonhardt (3), Rilling (4), and Leusink (6).

My browser and internet connection have changed and I am still having problems with them. I wanted to quote exactly from comments that others have made. Unfortunately I will have to use my handwritten notes of their statements that I wish to refer to. As a result the quotations may not be exact.

Michael Grover stated that Augér (in BWV 49) was better at the calmer, quieter, lower bits than the high, louder ones. Michael has pointed out the usual dichotomy in vocal types, particularly sopranos, which are often divided into the lyrical and the dramatic types (I am disregarding the coloratura type here.) According to Michael, Augér (4) fits better into the lyrical than the dramatic type. Michael also says, “She is rather unsure when the music gets quiet and lower down the scale. Her operatic voice works better in the highly dramatic and charged mvts. than these gentle, peaceful ones.” Now it appears that she is better as a dramatic soprano. I think that I concur with Michael on the initial description of her voice, because she tends to become harsh and lose vocal control when she attempts to be highly charged with drama. This is a general tendency or quality of her voice to which there may be a number of exceptions (when her voice is in top form, when the music becomes truly part of her.) This cantata was not one of her better performances.

Dick Wursten commented that Leusink (6) performs the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) horribly. I agree that it is a very lackluster performance. I absolutely concur with Dick’s assessment of the Leonhardt/Kronwitter performance (3): “This type of performance is not justifiable anymore, not in an early frontline HIP performance.”

Marie Jensen wrote that “with the exception of the shocking first seconds of the opening recitative, the rest of the version (Leusink/Holton) (6) is not really captivating.” I agree, there is nothing truly memorable here!

Aryeh Oron commenting on the Rilling/Augér recording (4) finds that she is strong and convincing in the 1st 2 mvts. that she sings. I would qualify that to include only the opening of the recitative which is frightening indeed. “Her vibrato is out of place, as if she has problems to control it (in the 2nd “recitative).” Again, I agree.

Aryeh finds that Holton in the Leusink recording (6) is “a little bit superficial in terms of expression. Her timbre is almost boyish. More variety is needed.” This general description fits very many of her recordings and it appears that there is not more than we can expect from her, although I have not yet heard all of the Leusink cantata recordings.

I have to take issue with Aryeh with his comment on Seppi Kronwitter [3] of whom he states that “his pronunciation is impeccable.” And later Aryeh states that “there is a lack of expression and his delivery is earnest, simple and naïve.”

If you listen to how Seppi [3] sings the final “getreu” in the Mvt. 4 (2nd recitative), you will hear “gah-treu” instead of a short ‘e’. It is true that the consonants receive extra attention, perhaps too much attention, since I find that his expression is exaggerated and certainly not naïve. He has all the characteristics of a spoiled voice (nothing seems genuinely felt, and the voice is also spoiled vocally because it has been prematurely stretched to its extreme.) He is unable to hit the notes precisely as he swoops and slides around using an uncontrolled vibrato. This is really a pain to listen to. As Aryeh pointed out, the attention here is drawn to the super perfect, overly exaggerated pronunciation of German, and this should not be drawing attention to itself.

Just a few additional comments on this Leonhardt recording (3), which has some notable good points: The final chorale (Mvt. 6) is a reasonably fine rendition with parts being clearly distinguishable for the most part and good forward motion throughout. Another remarkable feature of this recording is the quality of oboe playing which is in a much higher class than anything that the Concentus Musicus under Harnoncourt’s direction have achieved in this series. The opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1) has many qualities to recommend it. For instance, in the Rilling version [4] the horns almost disappear at times. With Rilling everything has been finessed to such a degree that one might imagine a performance in a courtly setting, where the musicians have played the piece many times before. With Leonhardt, I imagine a group of musicians from a small town such as Eisenach playing in the style of the Peasant Cantata (BWV 212). There is a slightly raucous element that comes from the joy of playing the piece for an audience for the first time. There is a sense that something could easily go wrong, but it doesn’t. The individual groups, strings, woodwinds, horns are more clearly delineated, each with a strong character of its own. This quality of musical discovery that Harnoncourt also had in the early cantatas (the ones with low BWV numbers) he soon lost. This was truly an unfortunate loss since it affects every listener who wishes to come to terms with this pioneering series of HIP recordings.

Regarding the use of Seppi Kronwitter in this recording [3], I would like to share with you a completely imaginary telephone conversation that took place between Nikolaus Harnoncourt and Gustav Leonhardt before this recording was completed:

Nikolaus: Gustav, how’s that cantata BWV 52 coming along? The recording boys are already pressuring me that we are beginning to fall behind in our schedule. They want your recording as soon as possible.

Gustav: Well, Nikolaus, I’ve finished the opening sinfonia (Mvt. 1), and I think the results are pretty good, if I could say so myself, but I don’t think I have any boy soprano that can sing the recitatives and ariaproperly yet. It’s just too hard for any young boy singing in the Hannover Boys’ Choir. Don’t you think we can use Marianne Kweksilber as a soprano again? She did a real bang-up job for us on BWV 51 by singing just like a very good boy soprano.

N: No, you are totally ruining my HIP concept of the Bach cantatas. We’ll leave that last idea of yours for someone else in the future to pursue [Leusink/Holton] [6]. I want no female voices whatsoever in these cantatas, do you understand? Are you trying to ruin the purity of my notion of HIP practices? Are you assuming to know more about this than I do?

G: Well, what do you suggest? I’m really at a loss here on how I should resolve this problem quickly. Perhaps in two or three years I may have a capable boy soprano from this boys’ choir here.

N: I have a boy soprano from the Tölz Boys’ Choir. He will do a superb job for you. His name is Seppi Kronwitter. His parents have been pestering me for quite some time now to use him for something just like this, so I spoke to his voice teacher, who has been pushing him to develop his vibrato and to use lots of expression. I’ll tell you what I’ll do: I will even give him a few sessions myself, so that he will sound just like a soloist from the Thomanerchor in Bach’s day. I love to work with young boy sopranos and make them sing according to my conception of HIP singing in which I am an authority. After I’m through with him, I’ll send him up to you with his parents and his voice teacher. You’ll see, this will be one of the best recordings that people will remember you by, I promise you that.

G: OK, Nikolaus, you’re calling the shots here. [he clicks his heels audibly.]

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 23, 2001):
(3) [To Thomas Braatz] AFAIK, Leonhardt was the master and Harnoncourt learnt from him and was influenced by him, and not vice versa, as could be understood from your review of the recordings of this cantata.

Nevertheless, I was laughing out loud reading the imaginary telephone conversation between the two. With all the seriousness we take in the discussions about the Bach Cantatas, we need to have this kind of relaxation from time to time.

Dirk Wursten wrote (November 23, 2001):
(3) In the discussion between Thomas Braatz and Aryeh Oron about Seppi [3] I agree twice with Thomas Braatz: Kronwitter’s pronunciation is not impeccable and his delivery is not simple and naïv.

The characterization for both in Dutch is 'gekunsteld'. The fictive telephone conversation (ed. by Thomas) between Gustav and Nikolaus explains exactly what is meant by that word. Reading that part of the mail made my day... Thanks Thomas.


Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 52: Details & 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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