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Cantata BWV 59
Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten [I]
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of January 16, 2011

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 16, 2011):
Introduction to BWV BWV 59 -- Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten

This weeks discussion continues the ongoing series of cantatas spanning from Easter to Ascension, Pentecost, and Trinity. With BWV 59, we have the second work for Whit Sunday (Pentecost), among the large group of works for the three-day Whitsun festival which will be the focus of our weekly discussions for a couple of months, through the week of March 13.

Details of text, commentary, recordings, and previous discussion are accessible via: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV59.htm

That page also has convenient access to Gardinerís notes [9] to the pilgrimage CDs, by clicking on the PDF link under the picture of the CD cover.

The link to commentary by Julian [Mincham} is especially recommended as an introduction to listening. Julians essays detail the relation between BWV 59 and next weeks BWV 74, from Bachs Leipzig cycles (Jahrgang I and II). Gardiner provides some concise thoughts on the probable earlier origin of BWV 59.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 17, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Introduction to BWV BWV 59 -- Wer mich liebet, der wird mein Wort halten >
Where is Hercule Poirot when you need him?

I find this cantata a complete mystery. It doesn't look like a cantata for the First Day of Pentecost. It is oddly scored with 2 trumpets and timpani: all of Bach's other 1st Pentecost cantatas have three trumpets or horns. There is no opening chorus, and it closes with an aria after an elaborate chorale harmonization -- a very odd conclusion.

Can someone straighten out the Bach chronology for me here?

Did Bach have to provide the music for the Three-Day festival of Pentecost and Trinity Sunday 1723? All we seem to have is BWV 59 and a lacuna for Pentecost Monday, Tuesday and the following Trinity Sunday. Hardly a spectacular curtain raiser for Bach.

According to Wolff, Bach arrived in Leipzig on the Saturday before Trinity Sunday 1723. There is no cantata for Trinity Sunday that year, but the First Sunday after Trinity kicks off the astonishing Cycle 1.

It makes much more sense to look at the fireworks of the upcoming Three-Day Festivals in Cycle 1:

Christmas 1723: BWV 63, BWV 400, BWV 64, Sanctus in D and the Magnificat Easter 1724: St. John Passion (BWV 245), BWV 31, BWV 4, BWV 66 & BWV 134 Pentecost 1724: BWV 172, BWV 173, BWV 184

Pentecost 1724 surely has to Bach's first Pentecost. Add the Sanctus in C in 1724, which some would say may have been written for Pentecost 1723, and there is a lavish parallelism in the three festivals.

Thomas Braatz's Provenance page lists another mysterious crux (I wish we had provenance pages for all of the cantatas). Evidently when Bach wrote the title on the score, he began:

"JJ. Concerto D--"

He then stopped, scratched out the D and wrote

"JJ. Concerto Feria I Penticostes"

The latter means:

"Jesu Assist. Day One of Pentecost"

The D of the former can only mean that he initially intended to write "Domenica" (= Sunday) but realized his mistake, and corrected himself.

What in the genesis of the cantata distracted Bach and made him make such an uncharacteristic calendar mistake as well as misspelling "Pentecostes"?

Hercule drops his monocle ...

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 17, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< I find this cantata a complete mystery. It doesn't look like a cantata for the First Day of Pentecost. It is oddly scored with 2 trumpets and timpani: all of Bach's other 1st Pentecost cantatas have three trumpets or horns. There is no opening chorus, and it closes with an aria after an elaborate chorale harmonization -- a very odd conclusion.
Can someone straighten out the Bach chronology for me here? >
From Thomas Braatz Provenance page:

<First Performance:
[...]
Schering: Leipzig, 1723 (in the small university church in Leipzig)
Dürr: May 16, 1723 with a repeat performance (according to Dadelsen) on May 28, 1724
The NBA agrees with the latter with final decisions based upon watermarks which were not carefully examined and catalogued before Dürrís time.> (end quote>

Gardiner (CD notes) [9] relies on the same data, but adds some speculation as to earlier composition:

<It seems as though it may have been assembled by Bach, drawing on some earlier material, before he left Cothen. Did Bach then actually announce himself to his Leipzig public on this important day, performing this four-movement cantata at the university church on Whit Sunday 1723 (May 16), two weeks before his reported arrival in the city, or was it a plan which simply failed to materialise?> (end quote)

Note that the 1724 performance would be a secondary work, with BWV 172 the cantata before communion, if I understand correctly.

Gardiner resolves the unusual structure, a bass aria [Mvt. 4] conclusion, as follows:

<The inscription Chorale segue leaves us without any clear directive as to what Bach intended. A repeat of the previous chorale (Mvt. 3] underlaid with the third stanza of Luthers hymn seems a plausible solution.> (end quote)

That is how Gardiner performed and recorded BWV 59 on the pilgrimage [9]. Gardinerís comment is the first time I have noticed a reference to Chorale segue.

I share Dougís enthusiasm for the Provenance pages, may they ultimately be complete.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 17, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< That is how Gardiner performed and recorded BWV 59 on the pilgrimage [9]. Gardinerís comment is the first time I have noticed a reference to Chorale segue. >
Sorry, I had not looked beyond material directly linked with BCW. Durr reports:
<the puzzling inscription Chorale segue at the end of the original bass part leaves us without any definite information as to what is required.>

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Julians essays detail the relation between BWV 59 and next weeks BWV 74, from Bachs Leipzig cycles (Jahrgang I and II). >
Julians concluding paragraph, re BWV 59:
<It is impossible to believe that Bach would have intended the work to end at this point [after Mvt. 4] and different directors may produce diverse solutions. But since we have three of the four movements effectively presented elsewhere in the canon, there may be a case for putting Cantata BWV 59 to one side, or at least not performing it at the expense of other more neglected, interesting and complete works. Nevertheless, it remains a piece of significance and curiosity for the serious student.>

To put it conversationally, BWV 59 is material, likely early material, that Bach later reused to his own (well-regulated?) satisfaction. That does not detract from the interest of the source material, including its chocontent, and possibly intended chorale conclusion.

Douglas Cowling wrote (January 18, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< First Performance:
Schering:
Leipzig, 1723 (in the small university church in Leipzig)
Dürr: May 16,
1723 with a repeat performance (according to Dadelsen) on May 28, 1724
The NBA agrees with the latter with final decisions based upon watermarks which were not carefully examined and catalogued before DürrĻs time.> (end quote >
Is the NBA saying that both "Wer mich liebet" (BWV 59) and "Erschallet Ihr Lieder" (BWV 172) were performed on the same day, The First Day of Pentecost 1724? Two massive cantatas with festival scoring sounds odd.

Ed Myskowski wrote (January 18, 2011):
[To Douglas Cowling] That is what I infer from the BWV 59 Provenance, posted by Thomas Braatz. See also Julian Minchams nicely stated uncertainty, from hiw BWV 172 essay:

<It is thought that Bach may have intended Cantata BWV 172 and Cantata BWV 59 to have been performed on the same day, the one before and the other after the sermon. It is also possible that the latter work was never intended to form part of the church service. The use of the same hymn tune in the fifth movement of C 172 and the third of C 59 and the setting of the same text as the second and first movements of each work can hardly be relied upon as definitive evidence for either contention.>

Julian Mincham wrote (January 18, 2011):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Is the NBA saying that both "Wer mich liebet" (BWV 59) and "Erschallet Ihr Lieder" (BWV 172) were performed on the same day, The First Day of Pentecost 1724? Two massive cantatas with festival scoring sounds odd. >
Which may be another of several reasons to support Scherings' theory that this was never intended as a church cantata but written for a university event. I find this an attractive idea which goes some way to solving some of the outstanding problems surrounding this work.

 

Cantata BWV 59: 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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