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Cantata BWV 56
Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 13, 2008 (2nd round)

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 11, 2008):
Introduction to BWV 56 - Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen

Discussion for the week of January 13, 2008

Cantata BWV 56 - Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen (I will gladly carry the Cross)

Date of composition for first performance, October 27, 1726, 19th Sunday after Trinity.

Data on recordings, and links to text, readings for the day, commentary, and score (piano reduction), can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV56.htm

A link to the previous round of discussions is also available on that page, or directly at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV56-D.htm

The previous discussion and linked commentary is extensive and informative. In particular, the Bethlehem (Bach Choir of) commentary is new since the previous round, good details with music examples - highly recommended. Usually Emmanuel Music commentary is linked, in this case it is not. It can be reached via the English-6 translation link, then accessing cantata notes, for some insights based on performance experience, from the late Craig Smith.

Thanks to Julian Mincham for last weeks comments on the solo cantatas of Jahrgang III. Various writers (not including Julian) have speculated that the motivation for the solo cantata compositions was the availability of an exceptionally good voice, or alternatively, the lack of acceptable chorus quality, necessitating the reliance on soloists. In fact, in the closing weeks of the Sundays after Trinity in 1726, we have four solo cantatas among a group of new cantatas composed for ten consecutive weeks (14th to 23rd Sundays after Trinity). Three of the solo cantatas are within the group of five for my introductions, the fourth (for soprano) will begin the next group by Jean Laaninen. Each features a different solo voice, SAT or B. As we have already heard in recent weeks, the other cantatas feature some of Bach’s finest writing for chorus. And as Doug Cowling never fails to point out, there was plenty of other work for the choir in the weekly service, in addition to the cantata performances.

This hardly suggests or supports either an exceptional soloist or poor choir ability as the motivation for Bach’s scoring for solo voice. It might suggest planned composition over an extended period of time, given the relaxed (if only a bit) demands of the Jahrgang III two-year schedule, with an opportunity for study of parts and for rehearsal. All with an eye toward an ultimate objective, the 1727 SMP (BWV 244) performance?

Specific to BWV 56, I find Christoph Wolff direct and concise, from the CD booklet notes to Koopman, Vol. 17 [43]:
<In this bass solo cantata the four-voice choir enters only in the final chorale (Mvt. 5). The scoring of the preceding four solo movements presents a finely shaded series of timbres: Mvt. 1 opens the work with the full complement of instruments (three oboes, strings, and continuo), Mvt. 2 (recitative) uses only the continuo, Mvt. 3 is a trio with oboe, and Mvt. 4 (recitative) uses the strings to emphasize the text: Ich stehe fertig und bereit (I am ready and prepared)>

If I were in the mood for quibbling, I might take issue with the translation, which is given elsewhere in the same booklet as <I stand here ready and prepared>, and in several other sources at hand as the apparently exact <I stand ready and prepared>. I have acquired enough respect for Prof. Wolff that I am willing to ponder whether his less emphatic choice might in fact be best. In any case, the key point is to note the varied musical textures.

Durr comments with respect to the opening aria, Mvt. 1: <Section A draws its thematic material from the opening ritornello, whose head motive (which recurs in the continuo at the close of each ritornello and of vocal sections A and A*), with its augmented second, unmistakably symbolizes the Cross beam [Kreuzstab]>

In his own notes to his recording, Kuijken [47] says: <The typical madrigalism at the word Kreuzstab attracts attention at the very beginning of the principal theme of the first aria. Bach conceived the motif in such a way that the syllable Kreuz (which means both cross and sharp sign) comes on a sharpened note (C sharp), creating a painful dissonance; and that device weaves its way through the entire movement like an unbroken thread, always reminding us of he idea of the cross.>

Whatever your native language, you may enjoy giving some thought to the fact that both those statements are reasonably good English, and both are saying almost exactly the same thing. It took me a bit of effort to realize that. Full disclosure: both are translated from German originals. I cannot comment on the quality of either the originals, or the accuracy of translation. In fairness to Dürr, his words accompany a few bars of music example. The picture is worth a thousand words.

Followers of the recent OT dissonance thread may enjoy giving some thought to how painful (or not) that augmented second is to us, also to how differently it might have sounded to Bach’s audience, three centuries ago. Just to let you know that I am a quick (if not always deep) study, at the Crouch link, you can learn that the dissonant C sharp resolves to a D in the key of g minor.

BWV 56 is included in an inexpensive Dover publication of Eleven Great Cantatas in full vocal and instrumental score, from the now superseded BGA edition. Not of professional quality, but a convenient source for folks like me who like to occasionally use a score as a listening adjunct, and as convenient hard copy to supplement the piano reductions available on BCW.

I have run on longer than intended, but I cannot sign off without urging everyone who can do so to give a listen to Kuijken [47]. Perhaps Neil can advise on the availability of samples? I hope to post additional comments on recordings separately, but there is already plenty of reading available in the previous discussions. As Aryeh might suggest, you are likely to have at least one recording of BWV 56. Let us know what you think, even if just to say you like it (or not).

Julian Mincham wrote (January 11, 2008):
[To Ed Myskowski] I must say that I prefer this type of semi-discursive essay as a way of introducing the cantatas combining, as it does, some second source material with the writer's own reactions to the piece. For this forum it seems much more inviting to read through than lists of web references.

All Bach cantatas that begin with a bass aria set the tone with a imperious statement of some import--compare this with Cs 85, 108 and 87 from the second cycle (although these cantatas, although beginning with a bass aria are not 'solo' cantatas).

But this is the longest and largest in scale of the four movements. The cantata is concerned with the inevitable journey to and through death and there is a world-wearly yet stolidly determined quality about it.

Note the introduction 3/4s of the way through the movement of the triplets signifying the tears and the wiping of them away--notice also where the triplets re-appear with the same phrase at a later stage in the cantata--a sure sign of Bach's determination to impose a sense of structural unity through a single image.

Virtually every movement contains imagery of a journey, voyage or safe arrival, and it's fascinating to attempt to determine how Bach may have wrought the shapes of the musical ideas from these im.

As Ed points out Bach was very much interested in the solo cantata at this point of his career and many of them contain some of his most stunning arias and recitatives, more than compensating for the lack of choruses.

Jean Laaninen wrote (January 12, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Thanks to Julian Mincham for last weeks comments on the solo cantatas of Jahrgang III. Various writers (not including Julian) have speculated that the motivation for the solo cantata compositions was the availability of an exceptionally good voice, or alternatively, the lack of acceptable chorus quality, necessitating the reliance on soloists.... >
In Schweitzer, Vol. II, page 255-6, we have the following quotation: "This is one of the most splendid of Bach's works. It makes unparalled demand, however, on the dramatic imagination of the singer who would depict convincingly this transition from the resigned expectation of death to the jubilant longing for death."

Sometimes I think of the cantatas as short story or sermonette, and an offering for the worship service in which more of the story can be brought to life. I say this even though this is not the common case, unfortunately in my view, today. But certainly the bass has a great opportunity to give a meaningful performance.

I don't know if Schweitzer comments often on the work of the singer, but surely his described transition moves forward through the cantata, until the final number, at which point great solemnity can be found in the chorale (Mvt. 5). I find this work interesting in this regard because as I listen I am made aware of the finality of human life and breath as we know it, and I also think this moves from the individual's personal hopes, beliefs and expectations to the corporate reality of a loss. I say this because of the addition of the other parts at the end. However, many cantatas end with this corporate aspect, but it is interesting here that the language here is still in the first person even though the performance is corporate.

Julian Mincham wrote (January 12, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] Jean and Ed touch on some interesting points about the solo cantatas. Firstly why did Bach relatively suddenly become so interested in them?? This was one of the issues i discussed with Professor Wolff last week and i asked him if he thought it might have indicated a (possibly opera driven?) change of taste in Leipzig. He thought probably not and his reasons were that Bach, whom he described as the most liberated composer of his time, taking little or no?account of contemporary taste or regulation, was not usually swayed by what the 'public' wanted or even enjoyed.He thought it likely that Bach simply found it to be another aspect of the genre that was worth exploring.

Jean's point about the narrative is interesting. Did Bach feel that the cantata was becoming more of a journey/story/narrative and that this was best told by a single rather than by several voices? Also why did he include the chorale in some and not others? (see also the dialogue cantatas on this point). Her comments on the private-versus-communal aspects of faith and belief are also relevant--an aspect that keeps cropping up right throughout the repertoire.

I hope that these are questions that members will ponder and offer views upon as we continue to explore the solo repertoire coming?up on list?in the immediate weeks ahead.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 12, 2008):
[To Julian Mincham] Why the solo Cantatas in Jahrgang III?

Just as the second cycle has a sequence of choral fantasias commenced in entry order by S,A,T,B, so does this period in Bach's output have BWV 170 (Soprano) BWV 169 (alto) BWV 55 (Tenor) and BWV 56 (Bass).

According to Schulze the bass soloist (and also for BWV 82) was Johann Christoph Samuel Lipsius, a law student at Leipzig University, later associated with the Hofkapelle at Merseburg. If my German is correct he suffered financial hardship and left Leipzig; but to have been the first to sing this superbly poetic work....!! Seldom have the mystical beauty of text and the the musical imagery been so well married.

The final Chorale (Mvt. 5), with its harmonically illicit shift of the tonal basis by a semitone at the end of line one, illustrating the relationship of death and sleep as adjacent brothers, is one of many masterstrokes in the deservedly popular work. "Loose Thou my little ship's rudder and bring it safely into port for through thee I come to the fairest Jesus" is identified by Robertson as noteworthy ("charming"). I hope later to shed some light on the authorship of the libretto.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 13, 2008):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>Professor Wolff,,,described (Bach) as the most liberated composer of his time, taking little or no?account of contemporary taste or regulation<
I meant to comment last week on the effect the opening sinfonia of BWV 169 must have had in church - such convivial music suggesting, for example, communal high spirits in a park on a public holiday. Did this please all the church authorities? One suspects not.

Regarding BWV 56, Peter has drawn attention to the attractions of the final chorale (Mvt. 5), also noted in the OCC as "particularly expressive."

Playing the BCW piano score, I was struck by the similarity, at least in its noble harmonies, to Chopin's Prelude in C minor - one imagines Chopin writing his prelude immediately after playing this chorale (Mvt. 5) on the piano. The subtle syncopation at the start of Bach's setting is noteworthy.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 13, 2008):
[To Neil Halliday] Neil notes the affinity to Chopin; nearer to home, Whittaker detects similarity in the downward-lapping motif of the Bass in BWV 56/1 (Mvt. 1) with the F sharp minor fugue of Book 1 of the "48". This work is a source of many layers of interpretation. I would like to turn now to the literary aspects.

Reconsideration of the literary source and purpose of BWV 56, “Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne Tragen

This noble work, unusually entitled “Cantata” by Bach, is considered to be one of the finest poetic creations in the entire series. Often coupled with BWV 82, “Ich habe Genug”, “they must have been written for the same sympathetic singer” (Whittaker), whom we nowadays can identify as the young student, Johann Christoph Samuel Lipsius.

The inspiration for the text is generally stated to lie with Neumeister, whose first cycle includes a libretto, “Ich will den Kreuzweg gerne gehen”, “I will glady go the way of the Cross”. Furthermore, the extended metaphor of the navigatio vitae, starting with the cross –shaft which recalls ship-masts and/or navigation, ending with the harbour of heaven, is suggested by the incipit of Matthew 9, “And he entered into a ship, and passed over, and came into his own city”.

The case might rest there: inspired by Neumeister, and dutifully having an allusion to the Gospel, an unknown librettist has culled the image-book for a nautical theme. However, there are a number of problems with this analysis.

The Gospel for the day (Matthew 9: 1-8) is focussed on the miracle of the healing of the man with palsy; the sea voyage is an incidental. Yet there is no reference to the miracle, which ends in life, not death for the palsied man whose sins Jesus forgives, to the horror of the scribes, in BWV 56. It does not really fit the message of the Gospel for the day.

The voyage depicted in St Matthew is not that of the sinner through the storms of life; nor is it the storm on Galdealt with in the 4th Sunday in Epiphany. It is Jesus whose voyage is recalled, not ours. While a metaphysical parallel can be drawn, it is a weak link relative to many other Cantata themes. The Gospel does not end in longing for death in any way.

Next, consider the Neumeister text, originally for Trinity 21 (BWV 56 is of course for Trinity19) (he was, it is true, briefly and closely quoted for two lines a few Sundays back in BWV 27). It is not closely allied to the nautical image “Kreuzstab”, which we can in fact identify from another source close to Bach, the Wagnerschen Gesangbuch, particularly “Ach Gott, wird denn mein Lied” with the strophe, “Du Herr probierest mich, mit deinem Kreuzzestabe “ (Lord, test me with thy Cross-shaft”); or the “Kreuzes-stab” in “Gib dich zufrieden und sei stille”, as found (like “Ich habe genug” in the Anna Magdalena Notebook.

So, if the source of the imagery is not necessarily or exclusively Neumeister, who else could it be? David Schulenburg suggests the arch-Pietist Heinrich Müller may have contributed imagery via Picander. However, since the combination of the longing for death via the navigatio vitae is a very particular emphasis, it may be that a source nearby already combining the affect with the mystic image is even more plausible.

Such a source exists in the library of J S Bach. It is the “Evangelische Schatz-Kamer”, the Evangelical Treasure-House” of August Pfeiffer, a series of sermons published in 1679. Pfeiffer was Archdeacon of St Thomas (1640-98). I am grateful to Ruth Tatlow for supplying the texts.

The sermon for the 4th Sunday in Epiphany consists of a metaphysical tour de force, eliciting the idea of the “Schiffahrt”, the spiritual sea journey, in every possible meaning. However, particular emphasis is given to a link between the figure of Simeon, he of the “Nunc dimittis”, who is directly associated with BWV 82 for the Purification of the BVM.

Here is a taste of the parallels created by Pfeiffer, who starts with a reflection on the Nunc Dimittis and then moves to the voyage theme , that of the “fröliche Schiffart Simeons “, the joyful ship of Simeon”, bearing the inscription on the fore side (“facing the sea”):

Mein Gott! Du führet mich
Durchs Welt-Meer wunderlich

And aft (“facing the harbour”):
Doch laufft mein Schifflein
Zum Himmels-Hafen ein

(“My God! Thou leadest me
Across the Sea of Life wonderfully!”
“Yet my little boat
Runs to the Haven of Heaven”)

Pfeiffer then expounds the image of the Church as the ship of the faithful, with Truth as the ballast; entry being by crossing the waters of baptism; bringing in the crossing of the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee storm; with Jesus the Captain or ship’s Master (“Schiffsherr oder Patron”), and way-finding helmsman (“weg-fundigen Steuermann”), “Peace and Joy in Jesus being better Treasure than the entire Spanish silver fleet”(!). Repeatedly, the voyage is alluded to as the pilgrim’s way to peace and heaven.

The use of “Schifflein” (little boat”) and “Jesulein” (“little Jesus”) suggests the infant Jesus as witnessed by Simeon and also the littleness of the pilgrim. In point of sentiment and focus on the pilgrim as the subject helped by Jesus , rather than the Gospel account where Jesus is the voyager, the Pfeiffer sermon strikes me as a better fit for the source of the text of BWV 56, and the inspiration for the choice of Chorale (Mvt. 5).

But why focus on the Simeon sentiment, welcoming death, on this Sunday? BWV 56 was performed on 27 November 1726. Four days later, on 31 October 1726 the funeral occurred of the Court Counsellor, Johann Christoph von Ponickau, owner of the magnificent estate of Pommsen, and a person of such significance that BWV 157 was written for graveside performance .The adaptation of this Sunday to presentiment of death is thus a possibility with the Simeon idea found appropriate to the demise of the 65 year old Leipzig grandee who would likely have known Pfeiffer in earlier days.

Terejia wrote (January 13, 2008):
Belated happy new year to all and
How do you do Mr. Ed Myskowski

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Discussion for the week of January 13, 2008
Cantata BWV 56 - Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen (I will gladly carry the Cross)
(..) >
It happens to be a solo cantata that a web-friend of mine, who is a baritone singer, has been working on. I myself enjoy listening to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau directed by Karl Richter [20]. I like profound aethetic of this piece overall. I'd like to find Kuijken version [47] you recommend someday. On other pieces like Mozart, I have Kuijken CDs but no Bach's Cantatas.

< (..)
In his own notes to his recording, Kuijken
[47] says: <The typical madrigalism at the word Kreuzstab attracts attention at the very beginning of the principal theme of the first aria. Bach conceived the motif in such a way that the syllable Kreuz (which means both cross and sharp sign) comes on a sharpened note (C sharp), creating a painful dissonance; and that device weaves its way through the entire movement like an unbroken thread, always reminding us of he idea of the cross.>
I find this quotation extremely inspiring. Mvt. 1 happens to remind me of organ piece BWV 537 Fantagia C-moll part in that its rhysm has a kind of similarity although the movement on our current discussion has 3/4 and BWV 537 Fantagia 4/6.

Thank you for inspiring info. May this new year find all of us well and happy.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 13, 2008):
[To Peter Smaill & Terejia] Yes, the "downward-lapping" figure in 56/1 (Mvt. 1), especially beautiful with the viola harmonisations in bars 8-10, etc, definitely recall similar figures in the pieces referred to, ie, the countersubject in the Book I F# minor fugue, and the 'second motif' (first appearing in the pedals in bar 11) in the organ fantasia BWV 537, all examples of music that is marvellously expressive of 'serene nobility'.

Thanks for pointing them out. (I suppose there may be other examples).

Jean Laaninen wrote (January 13, 2008):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The use of “Schifflein” (little boat”) and “Jesulein” (“little Jesus”) suggests the infant Jesus as witnessed by Simeon and also the littleness of the pilgrim. In point of sentiment and focus on the pilgrim as the subject helped by Jesus , rather than the Gospel account where Jesus is the voyager, the Pfeiffer sermon strikes me as a better fit for the source of the text of BWV 56, and the inspiration for the choice of Chorale (Mvt. 5). >
Thanks for the detailed information Peter. I was curious about the diminutive terminology, but failed to ask. Fantastic that you have all of those resources and are able present a more detailed history of possibilities than is sometimes available.

Peter Smaill wrote (January 13, 2008):
[To Jean Laaninen] The discovery in BWV 56, if it is one, is really a coincidence, between an interest in medieval mystical ideas surfacing in the texts, and Ruth Tatlow happening to have copies of the Pfeiffer sermons, and generously letting me see them. But one thing leads to another...

...if you follow the link below to wikipedia.de , there is an illustration of Bach pointing out (?for instruction?) three works by Pfeiffer in the frontispiece to the first Anna Magdalena notebook of 1722. "Bach's favourite author" is one comment on the connection.

It is also interesting maybe that Bach always sets the Cantatas for the Purification of the BVM with the story of Simeon, rather than focussing on the Virgin. My suggestion is that he is also subtly referring to the "Simeons-Schifflein" of August Pfeiffer in BWV 56.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/August_Pfeiffer

Neil Halliday wrote (January 15, 2008):
Regarding the orchestration in 56/1, Bach separates oboes and upper strings in two bars only - 73 and 74 - to highlight the accompanying chords to the first long held note on "Plagen"; apart from this, oboes double the strings throughout.

[As it happens, the BGA has a wrong note in bar 74; the first quaver on the 2nd oboe is shown as an 'A' instead of a 'Bb'].

Both recitatives have noteworthy concluding bars; the first has an arresting modulation to Cb major in the penultimate bar, and the second has a repeat of the last two lines of the opening aria, with a most expressive instrumetal conclusion.

Regarding recordings of BWV 56, Richter's large orchestra [20] has a full-bodied timbre, the perfect foil to DFD who is obviously at the hight of his expressive powers, in this 1969 recording. The expressive 'piano' performance of the final chorale (leading to a 'forte' in the final line) is pure magic.

I'll listen to other recordings later.

Terejia wrote (January 16, 2008):
Karl Richter Re: Introduction to BWV 56 - Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen

Neil Halliday wrote:
< (snipped)
Regarding recordings of BWV 56, Richter's large orchestra
[20] has a full-bodied timbre, the perfect foil to DFD who is obviously at the hight of his expressive powers, in this 1969 recording. The expressive 'piano' performance of the final chorale (leading to a 'forte' in the final line) is pure magic.
I'll listen to other recordings later. >
My "favorite " Bach rendition varies from time to time. I came to admire Karl Richter [20] so much when I first started listeneing to Bach Cantatas. Periodical instruments were not spotlighted at that time.

Later, Harnoncourt and Leonhardt became my favorite. Today, although I find their performance superior to that of Karl Richter in many respects especially in technical authenticity, more elegance or graciousness in its nuiance, etc, by some reason or other I came back to admire Karl Richter the best despite many things. I don't have enough vocabrary in expressing what exactly it is-actually I don't understand exactly what it is either.

I only wish to say I like Karl Richter [20] the best despite many other "superior" performers and despite many "lack in whatevers" in him. Really unresistable unexplicable power in Karl Richter.

I may well be hypnotised...

Neil Halliday wrote (January 19, 2008):
BWV 56 recordings

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV56.htm
(There are samples for about half of the recordings listed).

Peter Schreier's recording [34] shows the most vigorous approach to the first movement. Is it successful? I find the accompaniment to be stilted. Bass Oläf Bar has a powerful voice.

Koopman's Klaus Mertens [43] carries the 'strong note-weak note' doctrine into his singing in a manner that some will find distracting.

Winschermann/Prey ([29], sample available), Richter/DFD [20], and Werner/McDaniel [15] are all fine examples of the 60's style.

Funfgeld's choir [31] is too big/lacks definition in the final chorale.

Genearally speaking, we have a fine array of great bass singers in the recordings.

Leusink's version can be heard in full: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV56-Mus.htm

I enjoyed it, apart from a dull accompaniment in the first recitative Rilling [26] has a somewhat clunky harpsichord in this particular movement; Funfgeld [31], for example, is better with a subtle organ sound added to the cello line.

-------

Listening to this cantata, one is struck by the huge contrast between the fervent, lavishly orchestrated, gloomy first movement (with its long 'tortured' melisma on "Plagen", and the lightly scored, happy second aria, with its charming imitative interplay between voice and oboe.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 21, 2008):
There are now forty-six recordings listed for BWV 56, six of them new since the first round of discussions. The number of choices is intimidating, but Aryeh Oron provided extensive comments on a large group of the earlier recordings for the first round of discussions, and Neil Halliday added helpful comments in recent days. Most of you have likely noticed that Neil makes good use of the samples and recordings available online, and shares his observations and opinions weekly. Thanks, as always.

Of the recent releases, I have listened to Koopman [43] with Klaus Mertens, bass, Gardiner [42] with Peter Harvey, and Kuijken [47] with Dominik Worner. You will not go wrong with any of these, but I find Kuijken worthy of special mention, and I would add it to Aryehs A list of essential recordings.

The balance of vocal and instrumental lines sounds just right at all times, and the SACD sound provides superb detail (which I once hastily called edgy), even in conventional stereo. Kuijken includes excellent booklet notes, regarding both the individual works, and his overall performance philosophy. He pays special attention to Bachs specific indication for violincello, as in Mvt. 2 of BWV 56. Once you have heard it, nothing else sounds quite as good. He specifically acknowledges his adoption of the reduced forces we have come to call OVPP, based on the published research of Rifkin and others. The final chorale, Mvt. 5, makes a wonderful effect, with the bass voice of Worner continuing to stand out clearly as part of the quartet. Worner is wonderful throughout, rich, warm and expressive, like a fine instrument.

I first encountered Kuijken via a radio broadcast of BWV 21 a year or so ago, and at about the same time Brad Lehman recommended this recording. I took a chance, without hearing it first. Thanks Brad, an excellent choice. By happy coincidence, the next three cantatas I will be introducing are all included in Kuijkens as yet limited selection, in fact two of them (BWV 98 and BWV 55) are on the same disc with BWV 56, so you will be hearing a few more words about him.

Aryeh included Herreweghe [33] with Peter Kooy on his A list. I agree that Kooy is on the highest level. In addition, the oboe of Marcel Ponseele in Mvt. 3 is not to be missed, and the cello line is nearly the equal of Kuijken. The loud-soft tone that Neil mentioned with respect to Koopman [43] is also a characteristic of Herreweghe performances, so be aware if that is not to your taste. With that warning, I would suggest a small group of essential recordings, covering a range of styles - Kuijken and Herreweghe, along with one of the Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau options. I find the version with Rilling [26] equally enjoyable as Richter [20], even if significantly different. What others have called restrained with the later version, I hear as mature. In any case, the Rilling version may be the more economically available choice, on Hanssler from Berkshire Record Outlet as either a single disc coupled with BWV 82, or as part of a four-disc set also featuring many cher!
ished Arleen Auger performances.

The Gardiner [42] is part of the ongoing releases of the pilgrimage series recorded in concert performances throughout the year 2000. Despite what must have been a hectic schedule, to say the least, these palways sound well prepared, and Gardiner usually finds unique elements in his presentation. In BWV 56, he takes Mvt. 1 a bit slower than most others, while Mvt. 3 is a bit quicker, light and jaunty. Perhaps not to everyones taste, but I find it a pleasing touch of variety.

It is a bit unfair to let many other fine recordings go without a mention, but most were covered in the first discussions. In particular, I share the enthusiasm expressed there for Rifkin [32]. Of the newer releases that I have not heard, Kussmaul [45] with Thomas Quastoff has received good notices. I tried Neils approach and looked for samples; I found a few brief ones for the companion BWV 82, but not for BWV 56. Perhaps someone has this recording and can provide a few comments for completeness?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 21, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
> There are now forty-six recordings listed for BWV 56, six of them new since the first round of discussions. The number of choices is intimidating, but Aryeh Oron provided extensive comments on a large group of the earlier recordings for the first round of discussions, and Neil Halliday added helpful comments in recent days. Most of you have likely noticed that Neil makes good use of the samples and recordings available online, and shares his observations and opinions weekly. Thanks, as always. >
Some time ago, maybe a year or so ago a great admirer of what I denominate as "high cholesterol Bach" uploaded elsewhere Mark Harrell's 2nd recording, that under Robert Shaw [10]. I rarely have such a visceral reaction to any Bach performance of anything and it was not to Harrell's singing at all. It was to the very high cholesterol orchestra that made this baroque music sound like Furtwängler doing Wagner.

And so I find more and more often that singers often interfere with my judgment of the orchestral part of Bach and, if I do not respond to the singers, I fail to appreciate the orchestral interpretation andconversely orchestras often can preclude my appreciation of the singers.

Mostly singers dominate my listening and when they do not appeal to me, I miss what the conductor is doing. In the Harrell case it was the opposite.

I have found that it is far easier to listen and appreciate non-vocal Bach as one major variable is missing and one can judge one single variable, the orchestral/instrumental interpretation.

So it was yesterday with two sets of Brandenburgs I spent some hours with but spare you the details here.

Neil Halliday wrote (January 22, 2008):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>In BWV 56, (Gardiner) takes Mvt. 1 a bit slower than most others, while Mvt. 3 is a bit quicker, light and jaunty.<
I love the 'jauntiness' of this aria, and prefer tempos such as Gardiner's.

Interestingly, I have just discovered the mp3 samples of Rilling's 1999 version with the fine bass Andreas Schmidt ([38] on the BCW list): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV56.htm

(the amazon.com link leads to the mp3 samples at: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000CAQ4E

(click on the "Buy the MP3 album" link, for short samples: BWV 56 is the first cantata on disc 4).

Rilling's version [38] of Mvt. 3 also has the lively tempo adopted by Gardiner [42], in an attractive recording of the aria.

In the first recitative (Mvt. 2), I see Rilling [38] has overcome the problem I mentioned about the accompaniment in the first recitative (boring 'clunky' harpsichord realisation) that spoilt his 1983 recording [26]; the 1999 recording has the cello expressively conveying the image of gentle wavelets against the side of a ship, with a subtle organ realisation adding the right colour.

But the first aria has the typically fast tempos of Rilling's later performances, reducing the emotional impact, in the case of this aria, IMO.

 

Cantata 56 on BBC 3

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 23, 2010):
Saturday's programme had a nearly hour-long comparative review of recordings of BWV 56, "Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen". BBC: Review Buildibg a Library

The reviewer eventually settled on the Harvey/Gardiner [42] as his favorite, with strong honorable mention to Barry McDaniel/Fritz Werner [15] and to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's first recording [5], from the early 1950s. He also had some funny things to say several times about "knitting-needle harpsichords of the 1960s".

Chris Stanlry wrote (March 23, 2010):
[To Bradley Lehman] Thanks Brad, For those who want to skip the Dvorak tone poems and symphony you should begin at 33minutes and 20 seconds into the 3hr 25 minute 1 second broadcast
bws

Drew (BWV 846-893) wrote (March 24, 2010):
[To Bradley Lehman] I was a bit surprised by this, to be honest. I would have expected the reviewer to settle on a more "studio-bound" recording, which tend to be more refined and carefully-crafted.

I wouldn't say that Peter Harvey is the ideal singer for a solo bass cantata (the reviewer comments that his lower notes need more "protein"), but, once again, Gardiner [42] demonstrates how one year of immersion in this music -- the adrenaline of playing concerts in sacred spaces across Europe (and New York) -- pays musical dividends in terms of subtle rhetorical gestures and expression.

It helps, also, that Harvey is an experienced and sensitive Bach singer.

Ed Myskowsky wrote (March 25, 2010):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<< The reviewer eventually settled on the Harvey/Gardiner [42] as his favorite, with strong honorable mention to Barry McDaniel/Fritz Werner [15] and to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau's first recording [5], from the early 1950s. >
BWV846:
< I was a bit surprised by this, to be honest. I would have expected the reviewer to settle on a more "studio-bound" recording, which tend to be more refined and carefully-crafted. >
EM:
Carefully-crafted, at their best, perhaps. But when engineering dominates musicianship, sterility sets in. I have lost track of the exact reference, but I believe Brad Lehman has provided some behind-the-scenes insights on a relevant point, re harpsichord tuning for a recording. Duke Ellington favored the first take, whenever possible. Leonard Bernstein favored live recordings.

BWV 846:
< I wouldn't say that Peter Harvey is the ideal singer for a solo bass cantata (the reviewer comments that his lower notes need more "protein"), but, once again, Gardiner [42] demonstrates how one year of immersion in this music -- the adrenaline of playing concerts in sacred spaces across Europe (and New York) -- pays musical dividends in terms of subtle rhetorical gestures and expression. >
EM:
There is plenty of adrenaline (some of it mine!) in BCML responses to the Gardiner releases, nearing completion. I trust Doug Cowling will not object to my quoting him, to the effect: <I wish Suzuki had done the pilgrimage.> Do you suppose he was just stirring the pot? I do not think so.

BL
<< He also had some funny things to say several times about "knitting-needle harpsichords of the 1960s". >>
EM:
Knitting-needle harpsichords? Tell us more. Is this an accurate (or even acceptably humorous) characterization of some historic recordings, well into the stereo, hi-fi era?

Some of the finest sound in Bach cantata recordings comes from the 1960s: two carefully placed microphones, no gimmicks, play ttake. Occasionally, there is even photo documentation on the LP jacket (where the liner notes are). A cynic (who, me?) might suggest that the photo does not necessarily match the recorded product. In that era, not so many opportunities to fudge easily: a picture was still worth several hundred words.

Some of those fine sounds are still only available on LP. That is a shortcoming we should continue to strive to correct. It does appear that some commercial services are able to produce CDs to order at not outrageous prices.

Although limited to pop at present, LP releases are ongoing. Never too late for Bach to catch up. Off to search for a Glenn Gould LP, for bedtime listening.

Ed Myskowsky wrote (March 25, 2010):
Ed Myskowski wrote [response to BWV 846]:
BWV 846:
<< the adrenaline of playing concerts in sacred spaces across Europe (and New York) -- pays musical dividends in terms of subtle rhetorical gestures and expression. >>
EM:
< There is plenty of adrenaline (some of it mine!) in BCML responses to the Gardiner releases, nearing completion. >
On further reflection, listening to the Glenn Gould second Goldbergs, perhaps I conflated adrenaline with testosterone?

Well, plenty of either to go around on BCML!

Muniini K. Mulera wrote (March 26, 2010):
[To Chris Stanley] I enjoyed this program and the presenter's discussion. After listening to him, I listened to the 3 versions that I have in my collection and ranked them thus:

1. Thomas Quasthoff/Kussmaul on DG [45]
2. Peter Kooij/Suzuki on BIS [49]
3. Harvey/Gardiner on SDG [42]

Personal taste of course. I think the recording quality has a lot to do with my enjoyment. Ihave not heard the Dieskau performances in full.Willtry andget holdof them.

Thank you for the lead.

Ed Myskowsky wrote (March 26, 2010):
[To Muniini K. Mulera] I wish we had more of this sort of discourse. Thanks for the opinions. I wonder if recording quality is objective, measurable?

These are three fine performances/recordings, without doubt. I have only listened to the Quasthoff [45] once, courtesy of a BCML friend. My impression was that it exhibited a bit too much recording quality, that is, domination by the engineers et al. That is, of course, a quick impression from a single listen, and in any case probably not possible to support, no matter how much repititon.

At the other end of the scale, I always enjoy listening to a DFDieskau LP [5]. I expect the response to technologic advancement (or side-slip) includes a large measure of personal psychology and history. However, I find it hard to go wrong with the strategy of <put the microphones in the right place, and record the take>. I expect when all is said and done, this will turn out to be what Gardiner did week after week for the pilgrimage year. Adrenaline and testosterone shining through.

I find nothing negative to say about any of the Suzuki releases I have heard. When complete, this may well be the definitive set, with several OVPP series standing in the wings for comparison.

Muniini K. Mulera wrote (March 28, 2010):
[To Aloha, Ed Myskowski] Whereas there are scientific measures of 'recording quality,' I agree that in the end it is a subjective assessment. However, I find that some of the producers and recording engineers have been able to capture the music making by the choirs/soloits/orchestras/conductors with such clarity/warmth and realistic reproduction that it has made the aural experience that much more enjoyable. That is probably why I enjoy the old RCA Living Stereo and the DECCA LPs from the Golden Era [1950s/early 60s] of recording more than the recording from the 70s and 80s when quality went down.

That said, just as the recording quality alone does not compensate for a poor performance, an outstanding performance by the masters from the early years of LPs will still shine through.

I am eager to listen to the Koopman [43] and Rilling [26] versions of BWV 56. I have read very good things about them.

 

Continue on Part 4

Cantata BWV 56: Details
Recordings: Complete:
1900-1949 | 1950-1959 | 1960-1969 | 1970-1979 | 1980-1989 | 1990-1999 | 2000-2009 | 2010-2019 | Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Articles:
Program Notes to Ich will den Kreuzstab gerne tragen, BWV 56 [S. Burton] | BWV 56 “Ich will den Xstab gerne tragen” - An Attempt to Trace the Symbols and Other Poetic Expressions in the Libretto Back to Their Original Sources [T. Braatz]

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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Last update: ýNovember 6, 2014 ý11:19:34