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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 55
Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of August 12, 2012 (3rd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (August 11, 2012):
Introduction to BWV 55 -- Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht

Weekly reminder:

This week we continue Trinity season cantatas with BWV 55, the last of three works for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity. Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion for this week are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV55.htm

The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening.

The BWV 55 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 and melody are accessible via links at the BWV 55 page. 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.

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 11, 2012):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV 55 -- Ich armer Mensch, ich Sündenknecht
The commentary by Julian Mincham, music examples included, is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. >
I was intrigued by Julian's commentary about thematic and musical cnnections across Bach's cantata's cycles:

"Did he envisage that the cantatas composed for the same days of the church year across the cycles were also to have had precisely devised connections? Did he deliberately look back on the earlier scores composed for the
twenty-second Sunday after Trinity before embarking upon the planning of C 55? Whilst we cannot be certain of this, there are tantalising pieces of evidence that suggest he was fully aware of, and deliberately created, relationships that united and conjoined these works whilst still retaining their distinctiveness."

Julian, I'm curious to know what prompted this pan-cyclic observation. Your method is usually linear proceeding through an individual cycle.

Charles Francis wrote (August 12, 2012):
Once again in a Leipzig cantata we have 'out of range' low notes in the Cornet-Ton Basso continuo part, and there are four flats in this transpose, so harmonisation would be precluded if, say, a meantone instrument were involved. The absence of figuring may indicate that only the bass line was played or, alternatively, that a skilled performer such as Bach improvised the harmony and a figured bass was accordingly redundant. The relevant performance part is at the far right on the Bach Digital link: http://www.bach-digital.de/receive/BachDigitalSource_source_00002373

This week, I arbitrarily decided to address the topic of North German organs as they clearly influenced Bach "We charge him with having hitherto been in the habit of making surprising variations in the chorales, and intermixing divers strange sounds". Specifically, I consider an ancient instrument from the St. Johannis-Kloster in Hamburg, which was reworked to its current form by Arp Schnitger in 1680. Perhaps during one of Bach's visits to Hamburg, a kindly friar granted him access?

A description of the eventful life of this historic instrument is here: http://www.arpschnitger.nl/scappel.html

More detailed information is available in German, including Arp Schnitger's handwritten stop list: http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orgel_der_St.-Peter-und-Paul-Kirche_(Cappel)

To illustrate something of the North German tonal palette, I created an arrangement based on the closing chorale of week's cantata using stops recorded from this organ. Seven different registrations yield corresponding chorale variations: http://youtu.be/jMtt0KGUc9M

I wonder was Bach perhaps missing a low Eb?

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 12, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Specifically, I consider an ancient instrument from the St. Johannis-Kloster in Hamburg, which was reworked to its current formby Arp Schnitger in 1680. Perhaps during one of Bach¹s visits to Hamburg, akindly friar granted him access? >
Fascinating history to the church. The monks left at the Reformation but the nuns reconstituted themselves as a Lutheran convent. http://www.klosterstjohannis.de/geschichte2.html

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 12, 2012):
Charles Francis wrote:
<< Specifically, I consider an ancient instrument fromthe St. Johannis-Kloster in Hamburg, which was reworked to its current formby Arp Schnitger in 1680. >>
Yes, I think I sent a photograph of that church organ to Thomas Braatz, because it's more than likely that Telemann and C.P.E. Bach performed on it.

<< Perhaps during one of Bach¹s visits to Hamburg, akindly friar granted him access? >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Fascinating history to the church. The monks left at the Reformation but the nuns reconstituted themselves as a Lutheran convent. http://www.klosterstjohannis.de/geschichte2.html >
The original building(s), including the "Johanneum " were destroyed by a huge fire in Hamburg in 1842. The monastery, school building had not been used since prior to the time of the Napeloanic occupation and were considered to be unsafe after 1812 and demolished in 1829. That building in your photograph is in a different area of Hamburg now. The boy's school (Johanneum) in Hamburg was very similar to Bach's in Leipzig. Here is a drawing from about the time of Telemann: http://i.imgur.com/SSx5k.jpg

You can see the organ here: http://mypipeorganhobby.blogspot.com/2009/10/cappel-st-peter-und-paul-1680-schnitger.html

Telemann was buried in a crypt under the school's chapel. I'm not sure if that was the school building, or the monastery. It's not clear to me why Telemann's ancestors didn't make any effort to move the remains to a more secure location, but more than likely had to do with the current attitudes of the time about burial remains, or just they lost track of all that information. At any rate, the site eventually used for Hamburg's city hall, and there is a large memorial marker in the square. I don't know if there has been any modern archaeological forensic attempts to examine the area.

C.P.E. Bach's remains fared better because they were buried in a different church.

Fascinating thread ;)

Julian Mincham wrote (August 12, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling, in response to his 1st Message above]] This was something I stumbled upon without looking for although I have not seen it noted elsewhere.In vol 3 I do a short comparison of other cantatas written forthe same day. There are a number of examples where one can only infer that Bach looked back over the earlier scores i.e. an aria in the same key for the same voice with similar rhythms. But there are also more positive examples where he actually uses a theme, idea or figure from a previous work. That being the case, it makes the 'inferred' examples more probable..

I haven't collected these examples together although may do it for a paper one day. At present they are spread throughout the essays as they occur. But if you are interested I will, when I get some time, look up a few of the examples.

Charles Francis wrote (August 13, 2012):
[To Douglas Cowling, in response to his 2nd message above] I'm perplexed. Why would a convent need such an instrument? Just consider the pedal specification:

Untersatz 16′
Posaun 16′
Octava 8′
Trompet 8′
Octava 4′
Nachthorn 2′
Rauschpfeife 2′
Cornet 2′
Mixtur IV–VI
Coupler

Did some latter day Hildegard von Bingen commission it?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (August 13, 2012):
[To Charles Francis] Never look a gift horse in the mouth (i.e. maybe a generous benefactor donated the funds, who knows).

Douglas Cowling wrote (August 13, 2012):
Monastic organs and alternatim performance

Charles Francis wrote:
< I'm perplexed. Why would a convent need such an instrument? >
Monasteries, both male and female, Catholic and Lutheran, were noted for large instruments. In these communities, the organ was primarily used "in alternatim" with the choir. Almost all of French Baroque organ music, consists of "versets" in which the organ in the west gallery "sang" alternate verses with the monastic choir which sang the Gregorian chant in unison and unaccompanied from the choir stalls near the altar. The most famous of these settings is Couperin's "Messe pour les Counvents."

Praetorius built the same tradition in the Lutheran church where, in addition to the traditional chants, the choir sang chorales unaccompanied and in unison in alternation with verses by the organ. This liturgical pattern was certainly known by Bach and may have been frequently used at masses and vespers which did not have concerted music (Bach's choirs sang seven days a week) For instance, Bach's scholarship boys sang Matins from the choir stalls of St. Nikolai. If the choir loft organ was used (Stiller isn't clear), all of the service must have been "alternatim" between unison choir and organ.

William Hoffman wrote (August 13, 2012):
[To Julian Mincham] Throughout Trinity Time with its emphasis on thematic teachings, I have found many textual connections in cantatas for the same day or time segment, particularly involving the chorales and other poetic texts. Still to come in the BCW discussion are the sacred cantatas for saints days and special events, as well as the profane cantatas with their thematic emphasis on the secular kingdom with its similarities and contrasts.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 55: 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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