Recordings/Discussions
Background Information
Performer Bios

Poet/Composer Bios

Additional Information

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 56
Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen
Discussions - Part 1

Rilling cantata recordings

Daniel Eric Abraham wrote (December 11, 1997):
Picander wrote:
< (Snip) On the subject of Joshua Rifkin, I see his interpretations more as modern arrangements for solo quartet. And of course, his tempos are too fast like so many others. That said, I love to hear Bach in all forms, including Rifkin's. >
I particularly have enjoyed the cantata recordings of Rifkin -- the solo cantata recordings with:

1) Nancy Argenta (cantatas BWV 82a, BWV 199 & BWV 51) are quite nice;
2) The recording with Jan Opalach (Bass) is stunning - cantatas BWV 56 (a great early solo cantata), BWV 82 (a personal favourite) and BWV 158.
3) The ensemble recording with Julianne Baird, Drew Minter, Jeffrey Thomas and Jan Opalach (WHAT A GROUP OF SOLOIST!) of Cantata BWV 140 (also has cantata BWV 51 on the CD) is a very interesting listen if you are interested in hearing Rifkin's one-to-a part approach. (Snip)

Ehud Shiloni wrote (September 16, 1998):
I have just posted on the Bach Page the following little gem which you may say is "desert island" material:
[25] Solo bass cantatas BWV 56 ("Kreuzstab") and BWV 82 ("Ich Habe Genug").
Soloist baritone: Max van Egmond ("Who are the great voices"...); Conductor: Frans Brüggen, directing a small original instruments ensemble going by the name of "Baroque Orchestra".

The recording is from 1977, originally issued on the Seon label, and now re-issued in 1998 by Sony after successful re-mastering. Barely 40 minutes of recorded music, but the CD is budget priced, and the performance is very-very good (Handkerchiefs required).

I would like to quote from the inner cover:
"My founding of the Seon label (1970-1980) came about from my desire to begin recording the emerging stars of the early music movement. After several years of experimentation and pioneering work during the infancy of Das Alte Werk, I felt the time was ripe to create a record label for period music, which, with the benefit of the most advanced recording techniques then available, would ensure that the extraordinary performances of Frans Brüggen, Anner Bylsma, the Kuijkens, Gustav Leonhardt and Konrad Ruhland would be preserved, and, beyond that, take their rightful place beside the acclaimed greats of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. - Wolf Erichson".
Unquote

Wolf Erichson is the producer and recording supervisor on this CD, and I see his name popping up as a producer on other Bach CD's on Sony. It seems Mr. Erichson deserves a big hand from this list!

Questions:
1.Can anyone elaborates more about Erichson and about his role in JSB/HIP recordings?
2.Who is the artist Konrad Ruhland (listed by Erichson among the HIP pioneers)?

Many thinks for any info, and again: This CD is indeed a little gem.

 

SEON

Carlo Gerelli wrote (September 16, 1998):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
[25] < Solo bass cantatas BWV 56 ("Kreuzstab") and BWV 82 ("Ich Habe Genug"). Soloist baritone: Max van Egmond ("Who are the great voices"...); Conductor: Frans Brüggen, directing a small original instruments ensemble going by the name of "Baroque Orchestra". The recording is from 1977, originally issued on the Seon label >
I completely agree: I own that Seon LP since 14-15 years, (it was released in 1980) and it has always been one of my favourite pearls. I just can't hide my Dutch-bias. (Brüggen, Leonhardt, Bylsma, the Kuijkens, etc. etc., and now Koopman, Wispelwey, etc.). Now every time I see the CD version I am tempted to re-buy it! Strongly recommended ... and add Paul Dombrecht on Oboe on BWV 56, and Bob van Asperen on positiv!

Laurent Planchon wrote (September 16, 1998):
Ehud Shiloni wrote:
[25] < Solo bass cantatas BWV 56 ("Kreuzstab") and BWV 82 ("Ich Habe Genug"). Soloist baritone: Max van Egmond ("Who are the great voices"...); Conductor: Frans Brüggen, directing a small original instruments ensemble going by the name of "Baroque Orchestra". The recording is from 1977, originally issued on the Seon label >
I am a big fan of Van Egmond [25], and obviously I did not hesitate very long to get this one, but curiously enough I was very disappointed. Not by Van Egmond who is always very good, but by the orchestra and their way to play Bach. I am not sure why though, since there are very big names in this group, but I feel very uncomfortable with their playing which does not sound idiomatic to my ears. I prefer the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt versions with two different basses (Huttenlocher and van der Meer). Too bad they did not record them with Van Egmond who was the rest of the time often invited to sing in their series (Both Huttenlocher and Van der Meer are very good though). Which raises the question why? Does anybody know? And BTW, if somebody could tell me why the always genial Harnoncourt stopped working with Van Egmond in the cantata series just after the beginning? They did a lot of very good stuff together (among them the St Matthew) and I find it strange that they stopped after a while. Didn't they get along well together?

Ehud Shiloni wrote (September 17, 1998):
Laurent Planchon wrote:
[25] < curiously enough I was very disappointed. Not by Van Egmond who is always very good, but by the orchestra and their way to play Bach. I am not sure why though, since there are very big names in this group, but I feel very uncomfortable with their playing which does not sound idiomatic to my ears. >
When my post shows up on the Bach Page you will see my comment that the instrumental sound was kind of "thin" and that later day HIP performances delivered better results. I have to agree with you that this aspect of the performance was not ideal, but for me that deficiency was not sufficient to spoil the overall enjoyment. Thanks for your comment, though, because it balances the picture, before people rush out to buy...;)

Donald Satz wrote (October 22, 1999):
Robert Sherman wrote concerning cantata BWV 4: “I strongly recommend Richter's performance, which includes Fischer-Dieskau at his absolute best, singing more darkly than he usually does.”

[20] Fischer-Dieskau/Richter was a great combination on Archiv. I second Robert's recommendation and also suggest their partnership in cantata BWV 56, undoubtedly the best performance I've heard on record.

Jane Newble wrote (April 24, 2000):
[40] Last week I received the CD with the wonderful Bass Matthias Goerne singing BWV 82, BWV 158 and BWV 56. I heard one track of it on the Gramophone magazine sample CD and just had to get it, and was not disappointed. "Welt, ade! Ich bin dein müde" (BWV 158) was the track featured on the Gramophone CD. The (modern) violin accompaniment is wonderful with his deep bass voice. Although it will take a lot to beat my favourite Klaus Mertens, Matthias Goerne has a fantastic voice.

Here are some excerpts from the Gramophone review: "...this extraordinary fine recital of the solo bass cantatas... How this wonderful musician fills all Bachians with hope! This is the sort of mature, sophisticated, assured and boundless Bach singing which one hears so rarely these days. With the beguiling and cultivated oboe playing of Albrecht Mayer, Goerne takes a refreshingly underivative view of 'Ich habe genug' (BWV 82), involved yet unobtrusively engaged. This, and the famous lullaby 'Schlummert ein', is fragrant, even and soft-spoken. Norrington's hold on the modern-instrument Salzburg Camerata Academica provides an almost ideal palette for the Liedinspired communicative range of Goerne. A great Bach recording" (Jonathan Freeman-Attwood)

It is on Decca 466 570-2DH (with Salzburg Bach Choir; Salzburg Camerata Academica/Sir Roger Norrington. In between the cantatas are the Sinfonias of BWV 35.

Simon Crouch wrote (April 25, 2000):
[40] I thought Jane's post was really wonderful because it illustrated for me how people's taste in vocal production differs - I listened too to the track on the Gramophone sampler and thought it was some of the worst singing that I'd ever heard! My problem? Goerne has a very fast beating vibrato - I've simply never been able to take this voice type seriously. My loss, I'm sure.

 

Discussions in the Week of October 29, 2000

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 29, 2000):
Background

This is the week of cantata BWV 56 according to Ryan Michero's suggestion. Like some of the other solo cantatas, BWV 56 is one of the most recorded cantatas. In order to leave some space for the review of the recordings, I am forced to shorten the background section. To those of you who are interested, I recommend reading the page dedicated to this cantata in Simon Crouch's 'Listener Guide to the Cantatas of J.S. Bach': http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/056.html.

The Recordings

Of the 25 recordings of BWV 56 I am aware of, I have listened to 20. Here is the list of the recordings: Cantata BWV 56 - Recordings

Mini Review - Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's recordings

The challenges that BWV 56 put in front of the bass singer are very high. Technically he must have a very flexible voice, strong from the bottom to the upper register. Expressively, he must have the dramatic sense, to convey convincingly the voyage from the desperation in the anticipation for death to the unrestrained joy in the longing for death. He must be sensitive to every nuance and every word, and a rich and pleasant voice will contribute to a successful performance. I do not know of any other singer, who has all these qualifications in one persona, but the great German singer Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (hereinafter - DFD). We are lucky that he gave us four views of this cantata, which were done in different stations of his long musical career.

[5] In 1952, when he made his first recording of BWV 56, DFD was only 27 years old, at the beginning of his musical career. Like a chick that has just came out from the eggshell, he is shaking out his wet wings, ready to try his first flight. At this stage of his career it seems that DFD preferred to concentrate in the middle register, even raising some of the lower notes to upper octave. But his voice, even at this early stage, is rich, smooth and appealing and his style is warm, musical and clear-cut. As a man never to rest on his laurels, he has overcome these limitations in his later recordings.

[7] In his second recording, which was done four years after the first one, DFD is more assured of his way. His interpretation has become bolder, his interpretation freer, his voice more beautiful and varied. There is now certain grief in his singing, which shows that he is very much aware of what he is doing. You can feel his almost enthusiastic enjoyment from singing this cantata. This rendering goes deeper than his previous recording did, but not as deep as his later recordings do. This recording has a special captivating charm, to that the accompaniment also contributes, which is unmatched by any of the other three recordings.

[20] The third recording, from 1969, is simply the best rendering of this cantata ever put in recorded form. The expressive singing of DFD expose every nuance and every movement is getting the right treatment. From the poignancy of the first aria, through the wandering of the recitative, passing the unrestrained joy of the second aria, through the awareness to death combined with slight fear of the second recitative, until he is ready to meet his Lord. DFD was at the heights of his powers when he did this recording and so was Richter. I have never heard Richter accompanies a singer with such care and sensitivity. Nevertheless, however convincing his interpretation may be, in his intelligence, richness of expressive means, and his readiness to show the internal emotions hidden in the music and the words, DFD always leaves you with the impression that there is more than one way to perform a certain a work of music and that the way he chose in the recording beforehand is only a temporary one.

[26] In his last recording of BWV 56, from 1983, DFD sounds somewhat restrained. Some people, like the Gramophone reviewer, would say that there is 'too much self-conscious gesture' in his singing. I would say that as always DFD was looking for a new way to interpret a work he had known so well. As if he wanted to show us that there is more than one way to look at this profound cantata. The detachment in his singing reflects the cynicism of the old man (DFD was already 58 years old when he made this recording), who has already experienced everything and is now ready to go in his last journey calmly and peacefully. The voice is less flexible and less rich and colourful than it used to be, but its mature timbre is somewhat more suitable to the situation. I expected that the level of chemistry between DFD and Rilling would not be on the same par as with Richter. But careful listening shows that Rilling supplies his honourable guest with all the sensitivity and carefulness that he deserves.

One last note. I have noticed that all four recordings lengthen about the same playing time. Is it a mere coincidence or that DFD influenced his conductors regarding this matter?

Review of other recordings

IMHO, the four Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's recordings of BWV 56 stand in a class of their own and comparing them was a fascinating experience for me. Regarding the other recordings of this cantata, I shall use similar rating method as I did with the many recording of some other solo cantatas, such as BWV 82 and BWV 199. I usually do not like rating systems, because I prefer to listen and investigate every recording on its own terms, recognising that each one has its own merits. Every performer who is ready to do a Bach cantata with good intentions, is getting my appreciation in advance (well, almost every performer), and rating system is making injustice with some of the less successful renderings. However, with so many recordings of a cantata like BWV 56, I do not see any other reasonable alternative, which will not take too much space (and time).

I divided the recordings into 5 categories:

A+ - If I was forced to choose only one, this would be it.
A - First rate. Should be included in every collection of Bach's cantatas.
B - Second rate. If you can allow yourself, get it.
C - Third rate. A recording I could live without having it.
D - A recording I personally do not like.

Although the accompaniment, and especially the oboe part, is very important in BWV 56, I think that this cantata rise or fall almost exclusively on the bass (or baritone) singer's abilities. Therefore, this was the main parameter in my suggested ratings below:

A+ - Richter/Fischer-Dieskau [20]
A - Ristenpart/Fischer-Dieskau [5], Baumgartner/Fischer-Dieskau [7], Ristenpart/Stämpfli [16], Leonhardt/Schopper [24], Rilling/Fischer-Dieskau [26], Herreweghe/Kooy [33]
B - Pommer/Lorenz [27], Rifkin/Opalach [32], Beringer/Nimsgern [35], Leusink/Ramselaar [39]
C - Thoma/Prey [13], Werner/McDaniel [15], Winschermann/Souzay [19], Brüggen/Van Egmond [25], Németh/Polgár [28], Winschermann/Prey [29], Funfgeld/Lichti [31], McGegan/Parker [36], Norrington/Goerne [40]
D - None
Unclassified - Sternberg/Pernerstorfer [4], Jones/Souzay [12], Marriner/Shirley-Quirk [14], Albert/Van der Kamp [30], Schreier/Bär [34]

But, please remember that all those ratings are very personal and should be taken with caution, because I could not find a really BAD recording of this cantata. It is very hard to fail with such wonderful piece of music. Even when the singer is not completely up to the task, the music can still hold your attention. Many of the bass/baritone singers have also recorded cantata BWV 82 'Ich habe genug', which is usually coupled with BWV 56 on the same record. If you want to read the opinions of the members of the group about the various recordings of BWV 82, you can find them at the relevant web page - in which I compiled all the messages about this cantata. Sorry, but Hans Hotter, whose recording of BWV 82 is among the high picks in the oeuvre of the recorded cantatas, has not record also BWV 56. But in this cantata we have DFD, and when I hear him I do not think about anybody else's rendering. As I have already said, he is in a class of his own, especially with Karl Richter.

Few Notes

a. Besides DFD, a few other singers deserve special attention. The first is Jakob Stämpfli, who recorded this cantata also with Ristenpart [16], the same conductor who accompanied DFD in his first recording. Stämpfli is always a guaranteed success in the area of Bach Cantatas. And here he has nothing to be ashamed of, even in comparison to DFD. The second one is Michael Schopper, who recorded the cantata with Leonhardt [24]. His appearance here is rare occasion, because usually Harnoncourt/Leonhardt preferred other Bass singers, like Max van Egmond or Ruud van der Meer. Leonhardt did so wisely in choosing Schopper, because his singing here is indeed first rate. Schopper has warmth, sensitivity, carefulness for details and delightful voice. Leonhardt adds tender, clear and sensitive accompaniment, which is very attentive to the singer. It results in a fine and moving performance, that causes us even dare thinking that Schopper almost makes the cantata his own. Among the modern singers of this cantata only Kooy (with Herreweghe) [33] deserves a place of honour with these veteran singers (and with DFD).

b. In the Beringer/Nimsgern recording [35], the vocal soloist is on much higher level than the accompaniment. Nimsgern deserves much wider recognition than he actually gets. I remember him singing the role of Iago in Verdi's opera 'Othello' in Tel-Aviv about 20 years ago. His magnificent performance put all the other participants in the shade and caused me to go and see and hear the opera three times. This was the best acting/singing of any actor or singer in this role I have ever seen in either the Verdi's opera or the original Shakespeare's play.

c. The main problem of Hermann Prey has always been that he lived in an era when Fischer-Dieskau dominated the field of Lieder, Choral Music and German opera. Wherever he looked, he saw the big shadow of the other great German bass/baritone singer. Prey recorded BWV 56 (at least) twice - with Kurt Thomas [13] and with Helmut Winschermann [29]. I am sorry for poor Prey, but in the comparison to DFD in this cantata, he sounds pale. His voice is not as varied and pleasant as DFD's is and his singing is stiff, inflexible and insensitive. He does not get into the heart of the matter.

d. In the Brüggen/Van Egmond recording [25], the accompaniment is on much higher level than the vocal soloist is. The singing of van Egmond here does not penetrate below the surface and makes the choice of Shopper to perform this cantata in the H/L cycle even more justifiable.

e. I could not find any real disappointing recording of this cantata, which I would recommend to avoid. But too many of them are rated in class C. This usually means that they do not raise to the level proposed by the music and the text. These are competent renderings, which are doing the job, but are not inspired. If you have one of them you can still enjoy from it, but if you want to understand to what heights this cantata can soar, I recommend to you looking for a recording in a higher class.

Post Review - Concluding Chorale (Mvt. 5)

When we reach the concluding Chorale, it comes as a surprise. The previous movements, sung by the bass singer alone, have not prepared us to the appearance of the Chorale. We feel as if the choir arrives from nowhere. Is it really nowhere? If we accept the last movement as symbolising the final destination in the voyage of the dying man, then we can imagine that the choir is coming from heaven and that these are the angels welcoming the man in his entering the comforting place. In that sense I think that the best solution to sing this chorale is with boys choir, with their pure, naive and angelic voices, such as in the recordings of Leonhardt [24] or Leusink [39]. But the OVPP approach adopted by Rifkin [32] is also very much in place. When Opalach is joining the other three singers in the concluding chorale, we can imagine that they are his friends welcoming him when he is entering the most delightful and sweet place in the whole universe, free from all the agony and suffering of the world on earth.

Conclusion

DIETRICH FISCHER-DIESKAU!

When J.B. Steane writes: "There is no dichotomy here. Intellect and emotion are fused; that is the distinctive mark of the civilised European culture which Fischer-Dieskau throughout his long career has represented so well', isn't he talking not only about DFD but also about JSB?

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

Marie Jensen wrote (October 28, 2000):
Cantata BWV 56 is of course a great example of the JSB word painting: suffering and consolation, sea and land. There are also symbols of open arms in labour, death and resurrection: Joch, Kreuz, Adler... yoke, cross, eagle, where yoke and eagle are connected with the dancing aria "Endlich wird mein Joch", a very fine example of the energy in Bach's music.

Endlich, endlich wird mein Joch
Wieder von mir weichen müssen.
Da krieg ich in dem Herren Kraft,
Da hab ich Adlers Eigenschaft,
Da fahr ich auf von dieser Erden
Und laufe sonder matt zu werden.
O gescheh es heute noch!

The more I look on these lines and the more I listen to this music the more I see how it describes Bach's music itself especially the energy in it. Remember the quotation Aryeh used as digital signature earlier this year:

"Bach is like an eagle who sets out from his perch on the mountain seeing his goal before him as he spreads his wings", Egon Petri

Bach's music has the power of faith: "Da krieg ich in dem Herren Kraft". It runs without getting tired: "Und laufe sonder matt zu werden". It takes us on a flight: "Da fahr ich auf von dieser Erden".

This music bubbles with recycled, accumulated energy. When a yoke is thrown away, your power is set fre. Perhaps you feel you raise like an eagle!

If your arms are spread out, and you keep them there and make them dance asymmetrically with small movements to the oboe you can feel how the music recycles and accumulates the energy. Or take a pencil and draw doodles on a piece of paper, and experience how energy never leaves the system. Drawing Bach doodles feels good and they look nice. The continuo is pure energy, runs without getting tired (No! Joch has nothing to do with jogging!) I'm not a runner but I often walk. With Bach arias of this type turned on mentally, distances feel shorter, no matter if it rains or snows. Perhaps this energy recycling is a central point in Bach mastership: a power that takes us high! It can be heard many places in his music in all tempi. How it works, I cannot explain, but for me it has a lot to do with repeated pendul movements, circles, spirals and figures of eight... Let it be his business secret!

In this cantata I also love very much when finally the choir is sent in "Komm, o Tod, du Schlafes Bruder".

If you have cantata BWV 82, you also have BWV 56. Those two bass cantatas are often put together on CD's. I have a non-HIP Fischer-Dieskau/Baumgartner version with a Kammer Chor ad hoc! and Festival Strings Luzern [7]. I have a Van Egmond/Brüggen version with another ad hoc Choir (boys and men) [25], and the Ramselaar/Leusink version [39]. Then I have a few taped versions, but I have decided to write about the CD's only.

To take the choirs first: Leusink's "Netherlands Boys Choir" is best. In Brüggen's choir there is a member with a very metallic voice, which can be heard now and then. Baumgartner's choir is nothing special.

The best of the bass singers is Fischer Dieskau. His singing is very expressive especially in 'Da krieg ich in dem Herren Kraft, / Da hab ich Adlers Eigenschaft'.

Van Egmond also raises his voice here, but when he comes to the eagle, it does not fly. But generally he does well too. Ramselaar seems more tired. In this aria he just sings the words. But the role of the orchestra is important too. Leusink's version is slower and not so rhythmic as the two others. So when Ramselaar seems a little tired, this is a part of the explanation.

The soloist is always very important, so I think I prefer Fischer-Dieskau/Baumgartner this time, but none of the other versions are bad.

BTW: A radio speaker told that the word "Kreuzstab" not only is one of the beams the cross was made of but also is a kind of ship instrument/equipment. I have not been able to find out what it is, so I would be glad to learn about it.

Andrew Oliver wrote (October 30, 2000):
First of all, welcome, Henri, and don't worry if you make mistakes in your English grammar. So long as we know what you mean, it doesn't matter.

It took me a while to learn to like this cantata. In fact, when I first heard it, I didn't really like it at all. Now I do, most of it. I am still not too sure about the first aria, but the more I hear it the better it gets.

I have three versions: Leonhardt/Schopper [24], Rifkin/Opalach [32], Winschermann/Souzay [19]. Unlike Aryeh, I would not rate Schopper above the other two soloists, because, although he has a fine voice and is very competent, I find the vibrato in his voice distracting. However, all three of these versions are well worth owning. Personally, although I would prefer a larger choir for the closing chorale (Mvt. 5), I would probably favour Rifkin/Opalach just a little above the other two.

I like the 'rocking' of the boat in Mvt. 2, the dancing when freed from the weight of the yoke (Mvt. 3:), the marvellous harmonic progressions at the close of Mvt. 4, and the confident assurance of the closing chorale (Mvt. 5).

Thank you, Marie, for mentioning the 'Kreuzstab'. I had not noticed that before, but it gives much more meaning to the libretto. The Oxford English Dictionary gives three meanings for cross-staff (= Kreuzstab). The second meaning is obsolete. Quoting from the Mariner's Magazine by Sturmy, 1669, the dictionary says: 'Set the end of the Cross-Staff to the... Eye... Then move the Cross...From you or towards you... till that the upper end come upon the... Sun or Star'. I think he means: >+ . If the vertical part slides along the horizontal part until the top of it is in line with a star or the rim of the sun, and the distance along the horizontal is measured, then the altitude of the sun or star can be calculated and then used to work out the latitude of the ship. This makes a lot of sense when we read (Mvt. 1) Der führet mich nach meinen Plagen zu Gott, in das gelobte Land, and the sea voyage metaphor then follows naturally.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (October 31, 2000):
[Kirk tells me my messages are being sent out HTML, causing problems. I tinkered with my e-mail editor, but in case the problem has not been rectified then I apologise]

Aryeh Oron wrote:
< BWV 56 - Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen [snip] Of the 25 recordings of BWV 56 I am aware of, I have listened to 20. [Snip] >
[37] There is another - very interesting - recording, which has not been released on CD [or DVD]. I am referring to a performance which was included in a television series about the Bach Cantatas, which featured six cantatas performed by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, with talks by Koopman preceding each one. NCRV TV, the producing company, claims that due to problems with the recorded sound quality these will not be released for commercial sale. Consequently, the only way to see and hear these pieces is to "catch" a TV broadcast when/if that happens, or get a videotaped version off the broadcast. A little bird has whispered in my ear that Aryeh Oron has come into possession of a good quality tape of that series, and I am hereby requesting him - on behalf of all the group, no doubt - to watch the tape and give us his opinion and analysis of the performance of BWV 56 which is the last one in the series. The solo bass singer is, naturally, Klaus Mertens, and IMHO he succeeds in meeting Aryeh's tough criteria:

< Quote: The challenges that BWV 56 put in front of the bass singer are very high. Technically he must have a very flexible voice, strong from the bottom to the upper register. Expressively, he must have the dramatic sense, to convey convincingly the voyage from the desperation in the anticipation for death to the unrestrained joy in the longing for death. He must be sensitive to every nuance and every word, and a rich and pleasant voice will contribute to a successful performance. Unquote >
I myself liked the performance very much. The producers of the series where impressed too, and they used the opening bars [instrumental] as the "framework" for each broadcast, accompanying a figure of a man {Bach?] strolling through a forest.

[25] < [Snip] d. In the Brüggen/Van Egmond recording, the accompaniment is on much higher level than the vocal soloist is. The singing of van Egmond here does not penetrate below the surface and makes the choice of Shopper to perform this cantata in the H/L cycle even more justifiable. [Snip] >
Funny, but my impression was that the accompaniment sounded quite "thin", while the singing was appealing. I must make a note to listen to that one again...

< Post Review - Concluding Chorale (Mvt. 5)
When we reach the concluding Chorale (
Mvt. 5), it comes as a surprise. The previous movements, sung by the bass singer alone, have not prepared us to the appearance of the Chorale. We feel as if the choir arrives from nowhere. [Snip] >
[37] Agree! And on the TV performance mentioneabove [Koopman/Mertens] the element of surprise is enhanced by the visual effect: Throughout the performance, one sees only the instrumentalists, the conductor, and the solo singer. When the choral breaks-in, it appears to arrive indeed from "nowhere", but then the camera ascends, and the choir suddenly appears, standing in the foreground of the set! Highly effective.

Marie Jensen wrote (October 31, 2000):
(To Andrew Oliver) Thank you for your explanation. And you are right: It gives much more meaning to the libretto.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (November 1, 2000):
Once again, I've been to "Cantata School" this week and listened to the two recordings of BWV 56 that I have: The Leusink version from the Brilliant Classics series [39] and the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau recording from 1952, I believe [5].

I like DFD's voice better, but I like the arrangement and instrumentation on the Leusink recording, and the overall sound quality (unsurprising since I'm comparing a late 1990's recording with one from the early 1950's.

Personal note: I normally prefer the sound of a soprano to an alto; of a female alto to a male; of a tenor to a bass. So, this cantata, written for the lower voice, is a bit of a challenge for me. Personal note #2: I must confess-I don't normally like listening to recitatives. Perhaps it's because I do not understand the words, so the meaning kind of passes me by. But I do enjoy the first recitative in this work. In my accompanying booklet, the movement is called "recitative-arioso" I'm not sure what that means, but I enjoyed it more than I would have imagined.

Well...on to next week! Thanks to all of the contributors - my teachers!

Jane Newble wrote (November 3, 2000):
This week's cantata is such a joy.

J.S. Bach certainly knew what it was to look forward to have his tears wiped away. He suffered one bereavement after another, and was not exactly free from problems in his work, either. So I feel he could totally empathize with the text in front of him. And that comes through in the music. The first aria is wonderful in the way it brings out all the sadness and perplexity of suffering, and the acceptance of it as in God's plan. In many ways it reminds me of the Matthäus Passion. The Schiffahrt of the recitative is beautiful, with the reassuring: 'Ich will dich nicht verlassen noch versaumen' (I will not leave you nor forsake you), and the almost breathless anticipation of getting out of the ship of life into the city of eternal rest in heaven. Thinking of that wonderful prospect, he breaks out into a joyful, bouncing aria: 'Endlich...'. I have visions of a Bach, burdened by cares, walking to the difficult things he has to deal with, not knowing what today will bring, and then suddenly this aria comes into his mind. His steps become lighter and a smile comes on his face. That is the effect it has on me. The idea of flying away from problems like an eagle suddenly gives new strength to cope with them. Marie is right in mentioning the energy in this aria. I could listen to it all day, and I think it would be a wonderful cure for the depressed. In the next recitative there is again the remembrance of the tears that need to be wiped away, and then the lovely chorale (Mvt. 5), acknowledging that death is not terrifying anymore, but a way to get to be with his beloved Jesus.

I have four versions of this cantata on CD and one on video of Koopman/Mertens [37], thanks to a dear friend. On CD: Richter/DFD [20], Norrington/Goerne [40]

, Leusink/Ramselaar [39], and Winschermann/Souzay [19]. The usual problem is that I find it difficult to decide which I like best. I really admire Aryeh, for listening to all those versions and then being able to objectively rate them, and give the reasons why. Personally I like Richter/DFD best (the voice) and also Leusink/Ramselaar (the instruments). The video is in a class of its own, and of course Mertens is my favourite bass. He sings with such conviction. But I really like all of them in different ways.

It was interesting reading what Andrew wrote about the Kreuzstab.

Roy Reed wrote (November 12, 2000):
Sorry to be so late on this one, but BWV 56 has a special importance to me. In 1958 or 1959 I was in a class on JSB at Boston University with the musicologist Karl Geiringer. There I met BWV 56 and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. It was the second of his recordings [7]. For me, DFD owns this cantata. I don't have that record any more, but I still have the study score I bought then. I now have the CD he made with Rilling in l988 [26]. Still wonderful, but not quite as good. DFD is a great stylist for Bach. Wonderful flexibility and agility. Just the right "tone"...substantial, but doesn't overwhelm the work. Real emotional involvement. I don't know what he believes, but he sure makes me believe.

I have 4 other readings of this cantata, those by Kooy (Herreweghe) [33], Souzay (Winschermann) [19], van Egmond (Brüggen) [25], and Goerne (Norrington) [40]. I do not care at all for the Goerne or Souzay presentations. Wrong voices for this music. It requires, I think, a more supple quality. There is a really funky oboe with Souzay...kind of fun. I very much respect and like the singing of Max van Egmond on this cantata. Strength, but flexibility. He is a strong second on this cantata for me. There is a lot to say about the music, but I must let this suffice for now. Shalom,

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 12, 2000):
(To Roy Reed) Just a few comments,

Roy Reed wrote:
< Sorry to be so late on this one, but BWV 56 has a special importance to me. >
It is better later than never. This is an open group and you can send your reviews about a certain cantata whenever you like. In any case I shall add them to the Archive site. The order of discussion is only a guideline, which keeps our discussions in some order and supply us with new subject every week!

< In 1958 or 59 I was in a class on JSB at Boston University with the musicologist Karl Geiringer. There I met BWV 56 and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. It was the second of his recordings. For me, DFD owns this cantata. I don't have that record any more, but I still have the study score I bought then. I now have the CD he made with Rilling in l988. >
DFD's second recording (with Baumgartner) [7] is widely available. It is included in the mini-series 'Bach Meisterwerke' from Deutsche Grammophone. The name of the CD is 'Kantatan - Cantatas II' and the catalogue number is 463-008-2. The other 2 cantatas on this CD are BWV 106 and BWV 147, both of them are conducted by Karl Richter. In Isreal it is sold in budget price. Highly recommended!

< [25] I very much respect and like the singing of Max van Egmond on this cantata. Strength, but flexibility. He is a strong second on this cantata for me. >

Strange, but our opinions differ here. Strength - yes, even authority. But I do not hear flexiblity. This morning I put this recording again in the CD player, and my impressions from two weeks ago remain unchanged. There is gentle sensitivity to van Egmond's singing, but his voice does not have the richness of DFD in his prime, and his singing lacks the delicate nuances so needed for a convincing rendering of this demanding cantata.

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 56: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4
Article:
Program Notes to Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56 [S. Burton]

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

Introduction | Cantatas | Other Vocal | Instrumental | Performers | General Topics | Articles | Books | Movies | New
Biographies | Texts & Translations | Scores | References | Commentaries | Music | Concerts | Festivals | Tour | Art & Memorabilia
Chorale Texts | Chorale Melodies | Lutheran Church Year | Readings | Poets & Composers | Arrangements & Transcriptions
Search Website | Search Works/Movements | Terms & Abbreviations | Copyright | How to contribute | Sitemap | Links



 

Back to the Top


Last update: żAugust 22, 2012 ż12:50:49