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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 62
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [II]
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of November 19, 2006 [Continue]

Julian Mincham wrote (November 22, 2006):
BWV 62 ----contrasting characters

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Can we reconcile <rippling with joy> with <dramatic and poignant>? >
Yes I think we can. Firstly just to note that it is an interesting and constructive exercise to attempt to describe the character of a piece of music in words (one can obviously never fully succeed in this but it is an effort worth making) and then returning to the music/score to attempt to determine the technical reasons as to how the composer achieved such affects. This is a technique I have often introduced to degree students in an attempt to get them to consider more deeply

1 the character (i.e. expressive effect) of the music

2 the compositional techniques employed and

3 the links between the two---(1) obviously arises from (2).

Just for starters listen to the opening bars of this chorale fantasia. The first two bars (let's, for convenience, call them A) seem light and slightly tentative compared with that which follows(B). The orchestration of A is less heavy and the repeated little three note motive has a tentative, wistful, slightly less certain (poignant??) quality about it.

The following B section is more strongly orchestrated and contains a plethora of continuous semiquaver scalic figures and strongly repeated notes. The first is often exploited by Bach as a way of expressing energy, movement and commotion (e.g. BWV 26 and BWV 78) and the repeated notes have an insistency and dominance that A does not.

So right from the beginning Bach presents us with contrasting ideas, bound together but communicating differing characters. This is a technique more commonly to be found in the later Classical period (the opening bars of Mozart's Jupiter symphony and his C minor piano sonata offer excellent examples) but we find it elsewhere in Bach too, although not always so dramatically stated. One example is the opening two bars of BWV 1 (the last of the set of 40 chorale fantasias from the current cycle) which we will be discussing in the new year.

It's also worth noting that the ritornello as a whole is constructed from a blending and contrasting of A and B. Furthermore, of the four solid chorale blocks, only one merges into an instrumental episode beginning with B--the other three episodes begin with A.

Conclusion? that Bach intends to combine both significant aspects of forcefulness and wistfulness and he certainly does not want the sense of the latter to be lost or over-shadowed by the energy of the former.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 22, 2006):
BWV 62 Additional Score Samples

Aryeh Oron has kindly added some additional score samples to those already existing at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV62-Sco.htm
[to enlarge the image, click again on it]

Example 2 represents Alain Bruguières' suggestion regarding the possible connections between the chorale melody "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" and the fugue from the 4th Prelude & Fugue of the WTC1.

Example 3 points to the 14 crosses/sharps that relate through gematria to Bach's family name. This discovery
was made by Peter Smaill and its significance was discussed earlier this week.

Stephen Benson wrote (November 22, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Conclusion? that Bach intends to combine both significant aspects of forcefulness and wistfulness and he certainly does not want the sense of the latter to be lost or over-shadowed by the energy of the former. >
Bach "intends"? And not only Bach "does not want", but Bach "certainly does not want"?

This attribution of intent strikes me as dangerously constructionist. It would not be unreasonable for you to say "This is what I personally hear in this music, and these are the technical aspects in the score that produce that response." To expect others, however, to experience exactly that same response to the music and to attribute that to the purposeful design of Bach amounts to the imposition on his thinking of your own unjustified rogrammatic affective interpretation. The "wistfulness" that you hear in what you call figure A may be nothing more than a puckish twist to impart to the music a sprightly shimmer and to keep it light and dancing forward. With all due respect, neither you nor I is in a position to determine categorically which, if either, is related to Bach's intent. I, personally, continue to hear in this movement nothing more than pure and unadulterated joy.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 22, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Example 2 represents Alain Bruguières' suggestion regarding the possible connections between the chorale melody "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" and the fugue from the 4th Prelude & Fugue of the WTC1. >
Not only that: you also suggest a connection between the 3rd theme (or 2nd counnter-subject) and the 2nd line of the chorale which never occurred to me and which I find equally, if not more, convincing!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 22, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Conclusion? that Bach intends to combine both significant aspects of forcefulness and wistfulness and he certainly does not want the sense of the latter to be lost or over-shadowed by the energy of the former. >
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Bach "intends"? And not only Bach "does not want", but Bach "certainly does not want"?
This attribution of intent strikes me as dangerously constructionist. It would not be unreasonable for you to say "This is what I personally hear in this music, and these are the technical aspects in the score that produce that response." >
Isn't that precisely what Julian was doing in the paragraphs preceding his conclusion? And what he stated as his objective at the outset?

I suppose if you really need to quibble, certainly is subjective emphasis. Other than that, the post was very enjoyable, easy to follow, and helpful in understanding some apparently conflicting language in earlier BWV 62 posts.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 22, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Conclusion? that Bach intends to combine both significant aspects of forcefulness and wistfulness and he certainly does not want the sense of the latter to be lost or over-shadowed by the energy of the former. >
1 Well, let's tease out Mr Benson's thoughtful, carefully considered and moderately expressed response a little
Stephen Benson wrote:
< Bach "intends"? And not only Bach "does not want", but Bach "certainly does not want"?
This attribution of intent strikes me as dangerously constructionist. >
2 the word 'dangerously" seems to me to be an over reaction. Are the opinions expressed likely to maim? or kill? or place anyone in danger of any kind? Might the use of this adjective be something of an over reaction within this context?

< It would not be unreasonable for you to say "This is what I personally hear in this music, and these are the technical aspects in the score that produce that response." >
3 No it wouldn't be at all unreasonable to say that. Nor, I think would it be unreasonable to assume the subtext of my posting, particularly if the context had been grasped--see below---that these were expressed opinions and not requirements placed upon others, to experience exactly that same response to the music.

< to attribute that to the purposeful design of Bach amounts to the imposition on his thinking of your own unjustified programmatic affective interpretation. >
4 I could object to the word 'programmatic' which seems to be misused here. However, could Mr Benson kindly explain where, at any point I 'expect others to experience exactly that same reponse?" Who is being 'constructionalist' now? But it is not, fortunately, a matter of immediate danger'

< The "wistfulness" that you hear in what you call figure A may be nothing more than a puckish twist to impart to the music a sprightly shimmer and to keep it light and dancing forward. With all due respect, neitheryou nor I is in a position to determine categorically which, if either, is related to Bach's intent. >
4 I return to the context of my posting which, it seems to me that Mr Benson has missed or chosen to ignore. It was a question from an active, interested member of the list who asked a perfectly reasonable question i.e. could certain apparently contradictory expressive aspects of the music be reconciled? I attempted to respond by saying yes, I thought they could be and I gave examples to support the argument. Nowhere did I suggest that everyone had to hear the music as I, or others, do. My comments about Bach's intentions (and here we might reach a point of tentative agreement) were all made within the context of attempting a way of answering that (interesting and complex) question. I thought that would have been obvious----clearly it was not.

< I, personally, continue to hear in this movement nothing more than pure and unadulterated joy. >
5 Well good for you. Others hear different things which is where this discussion began. It may be that what you hear is exactly what Bach wanted you to hear, no more and no less---we shall never know. It may also be that those with a more subtle instinct may hear something more complex--and we don't know if Bach would have intended that either. But, as I have said, it appears that some people do detect these complexities which is where the discussion began.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 22, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< The fact that the BACH theme is cross-shape is for us a coincidence; but Bach may have interpreted it as a sign... >
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>If one transposes this figure down by a tone and a half (minor third?), and fudges just a bit, doesn't one arrive at BACH? And couldn't the very same connections be made in his thematic motto?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Yes, this has already been pointed out by some Bach experts. >
Just the opposite of coincidence. If the recumbent cross symbolism is to be taken seriously, then it needs to be demonstrated that Bach recognized it in his own motto. Otherwise it is difficult to accept that he intended it in four note figures which are transpositions/transformations of that motto.

I am uncertain whether Thomas is citing Bach experts to include the recumbent cross interpretation, or just the transposition. In either case, a more specific reference would be welcome.

Note that any four note pattern can be construed as a cross of some sort, unless it forms a straight line.

I am not questioning the importance of the cross as symbol to Bach. Indeed, one really enjoyable detail is the one pointed out by Thomas on the Bis/Suzuki booklets -- the single note in the middle of crossed music staves, which creates a BACH motto. I am keeping an open mind, just asking for the evidence to convince me.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 23, 2006):
Stephen Benson a écrit
< I, personally, continue to hear in this movement nothing more than pure and unadulterated joy. >
What you say here really surprizes me. Of course I must believe you. Therefore, on the level of 'affect', this piece can be percieved in completely different (almost opposite) ways! That in itself is a remarkable fact.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 23, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>I am keeping an open mind, just asking for the evidence to convince me.<<
This is certainly the best attitude to have: having an open mind and waiting for convincing evidence.

While having a Bach expert state something directly would carry some weight depending upon the quality of evidence that is given to support a statement, I personally find that Ed's resolve in attempting to find an answer to a question will most likely lead to a successful conclusion if he keeps his mind focused on certain issues. This method works best for me. Sometimes the question marks are resolved quickly but at other times it may take weeks, months or even years before an issue is resolved in my mind. The answer in such a case either comes very unexpectedly from a source which may not have seemed important until the discovery is made (I like to think that I was not yet ready to have a specific insight until the time is ripe in my studies and deliberations). A realization attained in this manner is usually based upon much more than a direct insight given to me by another, as it were, on a silver platter. Also present are all the previous attempts, deliberations, and suppositions from the past leading up to the moment (something like a minor epiphany regarding a specific aspect of Bach's music) where this knowledge finally begins to take on a special meaning.

EM: >>Just the opposite of coincidence. If the recumbent cross symbolism is to be taken seriously, then it needs to be demonstrated that Bach recognized it in his own motto. Otherwise it is difficult to accept that he intended it in four note figures which are transpositions/transformations of that motto.<<
With the dearth of personal utterances or letters by Bach, there is much regarding Bach's music that cannot be proven by demonstrating that Bach recognized it and intended it to be understood. In lieu of Bach's statements, we need to find other methods for determining the likelihood that something related to Bach's life and oeuvre could be reasonably true.

EM: >>I am uncertain whether Thomas is citing Bach experts to include the recumbent cross interpretation, or just the transposition. In either case, a more specific reference would be welcome.<<
You certainly have a right to ask for more specific information or references. I personally know from reading literature on Bach that I have seen a few different instances the 'cross symbolism' applied to patterns of notes in Bach's music. I have only been able to locate one such source quickly: Ludwig Prautzsch "Bibel und Symbol in den Werken Bachs" Kassel, 2000,ISBN 3-8311-1028-X, p13ff. The chiastic structures cited include more than 4 notes as in 'BACH' in notational form.

EM: >>Note that any four note pattern can be construed as a cross of some sort, unless it forms a straight line. I am not questioning the importance of the cross as symbol to Bach.<<
But you do seem to question its validity by stating as an 'obvious' fact 'that any four note pattern can be construed as a cross of some sort'. What is important here is not to find a similar pattern used by another composer to claim the appearance of a cross was coincidental and not intended, but rather to focus entirely on everything we know about Bach, on precisely what the Bach's text is trying to say and how he goes about implementing these ideas. It is important to realize that Bach's way of thinking involved several levels simultaneously. He was a musical 'punster/punner'. He must have delighted in seeing the eyes of others light up when they realized something beyond normal music-making that Bach had intentionally placed into the music. Of course, we cannot go back to him now and ask: "Would you put that in writing please because I know that others won't believe this unless you say so."

We do have to rely on the insights of many Bach experts who have spent sufficient time with Bach's musical materials so that we can be enlightened and gain a better understanding and appreciation of Bach's methods which led to the results that still cause wonderment today. Within reason we should also attempt to discover things for ourselves and, if we are fortunate enough, to share these insights with others who are also searching for a better understanding.

Context is extremely important in determining the possible, reasonable validity of assertions that can be made about Bach's music. To approach Bach's music with the dry logic of a logician in an effort to determine why his music is still so 'full of life', will lead to a dead end every time as Mephistopheles in Goethe's "Faust I" puts it in his advice to a young student:

>>Wer will was Lebendigs erkennen und beschreiben, Sucht erst den Geist herauszutreiben, Dann hat er die Teile in seiner Hand, Fehlt leider! nur das geistige Band.<<

("Whoever wants to recognize and describe the living element [that which has life in it], Will first tryto drive out the spirit/soul, Then he will have [all] the parts in his hand, What's missing, unfortunately, is only the spiritual connection! [between the parts - this connection being the most important element of all that sustains life].")

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 23, 2006):
Introduction to BWV 62 - quotations of CM in the ritornello

One thing has been intriguing me from the start.

I'm in the office, I don't have my Dürr at hand, but I seem to remember Durr saying that, in the opening ritornello to BWV 62/1, we have a quotation of 1st line of the CM in the beginning, and a quotation of the 4th line in the end.

This is slightly puzzling to me since it seems that 1st and 4th line are identical. However the quotations are not: the first is indeed the 1st line verbatim, but the second is something else.

What is this something else? In my introductory message, I described it as a 'modified form of the 1st line'. I do think this is the case, but I would find it difficult to prove. However this assertion of mine hasn't been challenged so far.

If we assume that the second quotation is a modified form of the 1st line (or 4th line) of the chorale, then one must admit that Bach took many liberties with this melody. With him it is a variable geometry melody.

Moreover notice that he modifies the melody so as to make it begin with a cross-motive (I use cross-motive merely descriptively, for the geometric form, irrespective of interpretation).

Lastly notice that the ressemblance of the 'modified form' to the theme of the 4th fugue of the WTC is more obvious than that of the unmodified form.

The WTC appeared in 1722. If you assume that Bach had devised fugue 4 with 'Nun Komm...' in mind, then the second 'quotation' might be a (conscious or not) allusion to that fugue. Almost a private joke?

Now perhaps you will have other interpretations of this second 'quotation', I'm very curious about this.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 23, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Note that any four note pattern can be construed as a cross of some sort, unless it forms a straight line. >
The point is, we do not have 'any four note pattern'.

The point is we have 4 notes forming a parallelogram (not any sequence of 4 notes does it).

Now when you draw the 4 vertices of a parallelogram, and want to link them with segments of lines to forme a picture, there are basically two things you can do :

- you draw the perimeter of the parallelogram;

- you draw the diagonals.

From a geometric point of view, drawing the diagonals is very interesting because you notice that in a parallelogram, they intersect in their middle (that is a possible definition for a parallelogram), which forms a cross. In fact when you draw a parallelogram you almost always draw the diagonals, to show pictorially that the middles coincide.

So (at least for some with a geometrical mind) it is perfectly natural, confronted to the 4 notes in question, to consider two shapes, the parallelogram and the cross. The cross being perhaps more pertinent. [Somewhat similarly, when you draw a regular pentagon, you often draw also the pentacle - five branch star, and there you can notice many 'coincidences' involving the golden ratio, but that's another story! indeed all polygons have their associated stars.]

If in addition you are a christian and one who is in the habit of seeking for ways of expressing concepts by means of groups of notes forming significant shapes, then the cross would definitely jump to your eyes, I think.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 23, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< In my introductory message, I described it as a 'modified form of the 1st line'. I do think this is the case, but I would find it difficult to prove. >
You are correct. The second quotation of the CM (on the oboes) contains a kind of rhythmic diminution of the 1st four notes of the first (straight) quotation of the CM as it first appears in the continuo. The last four notes (occupying a bar and a half) of this CM phrase are identical in length in both cases.

Technically, in the first quote of the CM (continuo), the first four notes are all dotted minims, whereas in the second quote at the end of the ritornello (oboes) the first four notes are given as minim, crotchet, minim, crotchet. So, in the former case, these first four notes of the CM occupy two bars of music (in 6/4 time); in the latter, only one bar. (Notice that this second exposition of the CM might be considered to have a triple time rhythm, while the first exposition might be considered to be in 4/4 time].

Why did Bach do this? That's an interesting question, which I don't have time (and maybe not the ability) to ponder at the moment; it might be purely sytuctural.

BTW, all 4 CM phrases, as sung by the cantus firmus, are 7 dotted minims in length.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 23, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
>>Technically, in the first quote of the CM (continuo), the first four notes are all dotted minims, whereas in the second quote at the end of the ritornello (oboes) the first four notes are given as minim, crotchet, minim, crotchet. So, in the former case, these first four notes of the CM occupy two bars of music (in 6/4 time); in the latter, only one bar. (Notice that this second exposition of the CM might be considered to have a triple time rhythm, while the first exposition might be considered to be in 4/4 time]. Why did Bach do this? ... it might be purely structural.<<
Yes, but the structure may carry another level of meaning.

Here are two speculative interpretations (I am certain that there may be others as well):

1. the initial continuo statement of the CM may represent the congregation (mankind?) on earth saying/singing in a unified voice: "Let the savior of the heathens come down to us" which is in the form of a fervent request: "Let it happen now, we have been waiting for this for a long time." The heaviness of the notes in the bass and the longer duration of notes both indicate the extensive period of waiting for this great event to occur.

The answer in the treble range (heaven) with shorter, but equally shorter length of duration of each note indicates that the realization of the fervent plea of mankind is about to transpire very quickly. It could also refer to the preparatory stage for the great spirit to inhabit a human form through the birth of a small child/baby (treble statement - from the celestial world above; diminution of note values - the child Jesus appearing in such a vulnerable form.)

2. Structurally the diminution of the CM incipit in the 2nd instance helps to build up momentum for that which follows, either for the choral sections that follow it immediately, or at the very end, when the shorter incipit (the hopeful answer from on high) remains in the ears and mind of the listener at the end of the mvt.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 23, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
>>The WTC appeared in 1722. If you assume that Bach had devised fugue 4 with 'Nun Komm...' in mind, then the second 'quotation' might be a (conscious or not) allusion to that fugue. Almost a private joke?<<
Perhaps the other way around...
You will need to consider that Bach composed his organ chorale preludes on "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" during the Weimar period, and was most likely familiar with this chorale 'practically from the day he was born.'

For a quick survey of these chorale preludes and the various shapes of the chorale melody, see the untexted
use of this CM in Bach's works at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Nun-komm.htm

In particular I would call attention to BWV 659. Follow the CM all the way through and you will see an example of what some Bach experts like Peter Williams would like to call "selective sieving" (Peter Williams, p. 530 of ISBN 0-521-89115-9) but which others like Alfred Dürr and Friedrich Smend may have used as a model for uncovering other instances where CMs serve as the basis upon which Bach could expound his great mastery of the art ofembellishment, embellishment to such a degree that the original CM becomes almost unrecognizable. And yet, the CM remains the basic structure from which these marvelous variations evolve.

BTW, Williams, on the same page, in a discussion of the "Four Duets" from the "Clavierübung III" raises the cry for direct evidence whle in the process discrediting the work of four Bach scholars who have dared to find meaningful connections for the existence of these duets. Williams prefers a simple mundane explanation such as that the duets were merely filler pieces for the convenience of the printer or that Bach offering some skill pieces for the glory of God and as an allusion to music's history.

Does this sound like the Bach that we know: coincidental, mundane reasons for composing pieces (the duets as purely examples of technique as well as for sheer entertainment unrelated to a church service) that will for posterity be included with other pieces related to use in a church?

Spitta, Dürr and Smend would certainly disagree with this type of argumentation.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 23, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< You will need to consider that Bach composed his organ chorale preludes on "Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland" during the Weimar period, and was most likely familiar with this chorale 'practically from the day he was born.' >
I am certain that you are right. Bach must have had a very intimate connection to the chorale melodies he used; I always felt that 'Nun komm der Heiden Heiland' was one of the closest - if not the closest to his heart. He must have spent quite some time contemplating this particular melody, both in a religious, meditative sense, and in a more playful sense, exploring all the musical possibilities it offers. I hasten to add: this is my personal conviction, everybody is entitled to think differently!

Harry W. Crosby wrote (November 23, 2006):
I read today's four postings relative to BWV 62, its affect, its interpretation, Bach's perceived intent, with real appreciation and interest. This forum is a marvel to me, for here as nowhere else, I can read all sorts of revelations, not only about Bach, but about people who deeply care about his work, and how different they are!

This is fascinating. Not only does it demonstrate the phenomenon of Bach's broad (but obviously selective) appeal, it also reveals the breadth of his listeners perceptions --- and makes me feel more at home among you. I confess, when I first joined up and read a scathing criticism of Herreweghe's interpretation of "Wir eilen" in BWV 78, and of Ingrid Schmithusen's performance, I was devastated; I loved it desperately, and here it was trashed! But time has made me appreciate and pay attention to all these opinions, to consider alternatives, and particularly to remind me of the wonderful range of differences in our company. This is not a cult at all; no one evangelizes, no one doggedly follows.

So? What I'm so slow to get at is a plea that everyone involved not be bashful about expressing his personal perceptions, his choices, his enthusiasms, his rejections. I love it and it certainly puts faces on those who share the great gift of this meeting place.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< The point is, we do not have 'any four note pattern'.
The point is we have 4 notes forming a parallelogram (not any sequence of 4 notes does it). >
I stand by my original statement about four note patterns.

This is the first we have heard of parallelograms. Will any four note parallelogram suffice, or only the specific parallelogram formed by BACH? I fully recognize that an X can be inscribed in either case.

I have not made any statements as yet in judgement of the X-tos idea. Ihave only asked for evidence so that I can form an independent opinion. If there is no evidence, the ideas should be labeled as pure speculation. Attribution to unidentified Bach experts does not constitute evidence, IMO. Speculation by identified experts is of interest, but it remains speculation. My experience with true experts is that they are always - always! - clear to make this distinction. Their reputation as an expert depends on it.

I will get you started. You can find some speculation about Christological symbols in Bach at the following site (by Tim Smith): http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/wtc/sdg.html

including the statement:
<In No. 23 of the St. Matthew Passion (left), not only did Bach substitute [X] for Kreuz he coupled both symbols with the melody associated with his name -- his musical symbol for the cross. <end quote>

But note that the intent is to demonstrate that BACH is the symbol for the cross. The proof assumes the point to be proven. Circular reasoning, at best. I believe there is a name for this error in formal logic, as well.

I have been a strong supporter of the idea that speculation has a proper place on an informal forum such as BCML. I see other posts to the same effect. It is all the more important that speculation not bemisrepresented
by vague references and wishful thinking. The value of words is not in the quantity, but in the accuracy.

Chris Stanley wrote (November 24, 2006):
A number of you have written about how sublime the opening movement is. I don't know whether it's because I have access only to Leusink [7] (too slow according to some on this list) or if I'm on another planet but I find the minor key of the cantus firmus and subsequent modulations actually quite malevolent, the up and down runs bringing to mind birds, Hitchcock's birds, actually.

Of course, the rest of the cantata is pure redemption.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< I read today's four postings relative to BWV 62, its affect, its interpretation, Bach's perceived intent, with real appreciation and interest. This forum is a marvel to me, for here as nowhere else, I can read all sorts of revelations, not only about Bach, but about people who deeply care about his work, and how different they are! >
By coincidence, I heard some Elington on the car radio while driving to family Thanksgiving yesterday. This morning I got out the LP and noticed in the liner notes:
<In Act IV, Scene 1 of 'A Misummmer Night's Dream' appear the lines: 'I never heard so musical a discord, such sweet thunder.'<end quote> Irving Townsend, notes to Duke Ellington, <Such Sweet Thunder.>

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 24, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] Obviously you have a problem with my X-contributions... I'd like to understand what the problem really is, so far I don't. Perhaps I should have given the definition of a parallelogram:

A parallelogram is a quadrilateral whose opposite sides are both parallel and equal in length.

From a geometer's point of view any parallelogram is naturally associated to a cross. Different parallelograms will yield different forms of crosses. BACH is one of them. Nobody ever claimed that the BACH cross was better than another form of cross. The fact is Bach's name was Bach, that was the cross he had to bear... Not everybody bears a name which can be drawn as a cross (no matter what parallelogram you get).

To me (and I think to anyone with a geometrical eye) the cross is obvious in the BACH parallelogram.

If you don't see it, I can only accept the fact that to some people the cross is not visible in the parallelogram. There is nothing I can add to this... I have no evidence other that 'it is evident'.

In fact I don't really understand what you expect of this discussion, since you admit that the X is there. Do you want evidence that the X is a cross? Do you want evidence that the X which you can see, which I can see, was also visible to Bach? Please explain.

Perhaps some people immediately see a cross in the parallelogram, others do not. Question is: did Bach belong to the 1st set or to the second?

I have given arguments which convince me that he belonged to the 1st. However if you belong to the 2nd I can well understand that thosearguments do not convince you.

Julian Mincham wrote (November 24, 2006):
Harry W. Crosby wrote:
< What I'm so slow to get at is a plea that everyone involved not be bashful about expressing his personal perceptions, his choices, his enthusiasms, his rejections. >
Hi Harry Great that you really enjoy, and feel a part of the exchanges of opinions. Thart is just as it should be. Tributes to Aryeh for making it all possible.

As to the above quotation, as the Aussies say, 'no worries mate!' I don't reckon there is a lot of bashfulness on this list--- and long may it last.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< Obviously you have a problem with my X-contributions... I'd like to understand what the problem really is, so far I don't. >
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>If one transposes this figure down by a tone and a half (minor third?), and fudges just a bit, doesn't one arrive at BACH? And couldn't the very same connections be made in his thematic motto?<<
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Yes, this has already been pointed out by some Bach experts. >
Alain, you a re taking this personally, when I am responding to a thread with other participants. If you don't understand, I will continue to ask: What is the previous work on this topic, or is it new speculation? According to Thomas Braatz, there is previous work (I believe he means), but no on has cited it yet.

< To me (and I think to anyone with a geometrical eye) the cross is obvious in the BACH parallelogram. >
Yes, also in a very large number of other parallelograms which can be defined by four notes, for example, the one created by the notes AABB!

< I have no evidence other that 'it is evident'. >
I suspected as much, but I would like to hear you (and others) say so. We can then label it as speculation, and move on.

< Do you want evidence that the X is a cross? Do you want evidence that the X which you can see, which I can see, was also visible to Bach? Please explain. >
That is precisely what I have asked for. Also, was it especially significant to Bach? That is a very simple question with simple answers:
(1) Yes, and here is the evidence.
(2) We don't know for sure, we can only speculate.
So far, I have seen a lot (a lot!) of vague language, either avoiding or misunderstanding the question.

Alain Bruguières wrote (November 24, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] I am taking this 'personally' only in the sense that, when two people of good will do not understand one another, I feel frustrated, and especially if I'm one of them.

What exactly is the statement which you qualify as 'speculation'?

If you consider that the statement that a parallelogram can be suggestive of a cross is mere speculation, I do not agree. It is a geometric fact, not speculation, that a parallelogram defines a cross. I would understand better if you stated exactly what you find speculative in what has been said about BACH and the cross.

Apparently you need a reference to some authority on this question. The following may help. On this page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach
you will find a picture representing two staves forming a cross with a single note which may be interpreted as B, A, C, H according to how one reads it.

This drawing is a clear illustration of the link between BACH and a cross... Well let me be careful; to me, it is a clear illustration of this link. What is the origin of this drawing? I have seen it somewhere else but right now I don't remember where...

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
Chris Stanley wrote:
< <snip> I find the minor key of the cantus firmus and subsequent modulations actually quite malevolent, the up and down runs bringing to mind birds, Hitchcock's birds, actually. >
Another tidbit from Duke, Such Sweet Thunder, previously mentioned. One of the numbers is the puckishly titled (Puck, A Midsummer Night's Dream): <Up and down, up and down (I will lead them up and down). With up and down runs on the Ellington clarinets, not to be missed! Not exactly malevolent to those of us with a puckish sense of humor. That includes me, Ellington, Hitchcock, not so sure about Bach. Dare I speculate?

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
I previously wrote:
< I will get you started. You can find some speculation about Christological symbols in Bach at the following site (by Tim Smith): http://jan.ucc.nau.edu/~tas3/wtc/sdg.html including the statement:
<In No. 23 of the St. Matthew Passion (left), not only did Bach substitute [X] for Kreuz he coupled both symbols with the melody associated with his name -- his musical symbol for the cross. <end quote>

I now realize that the same site and topic was discussed by Peter Smaill in his intro to BWV 99 in August of this year. Sorry for overlooking this initially, but at least I got to the same source independently.

Peter was focussing on the Becher (cup) half of Kreuz and Becher (cross and cup), and he cautioned against speculative quests for the Grail. If I misinterpret you, Peter, just correct me. I can cope.

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 24, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
< when two people of good will do not understand one another, I feel frustrated, and especially if I'm one of them. >
Moi aussi (me too), that's why I am still at it!

< Apparently you need a reference to some authority on this question. The following may help. On this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach you will find a picture representing two staves forming a cross with a single note which may be interpreted as B, A, C, H according to how one reads it.
This drawing is a clear illustration of the link between BACH and a cross... Well let me be careful; to me, it is a clear illustration of this link. What is the origin of this drawing? I have seen it somewhere else but right now I don't remember where... >
I not only agree, I mentioned this figure in a previous post. It is the one pointed out by Thomas Braatz, included on the Bis/Suzuki CD booklets. See some additional comments coming soon in response to TB post.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 24, 2006):
Alain Bruguières wrote:
>>Apparently you need a reference to some authority on this question. The following may help. On this page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johann_Sebastian_Bach you will find a picture representing two staves forming a cross with a single note which may be interpreted as B, A, C, H according to how one reads it.... What is the origin of this drawing? I have seen it somewhere else but right now I don't remember where...<<
It is not on the glass goblet which was presented to Bach c. 1736.

The first time I saw it was as a decorative insert without explanation or indication of source in vol. 2. of the Suzuki cantata series.

I do not remember seeing it anywhere in the older Bach literature: Spitta, etc. Does anyone have any more information about this?

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 25, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] The candor and prompt responses are genuinely appreciated! When you first pointed it out, it is so intuitively Bachian that I accepted it as original without giving it another thought.

In fact, without some documentation, it could be anything, including a creation specifically for the Bis series. But this is a perfect example of how research gets done: observation, hypothesis, testing of the hypothesis, conclusion (hypothesis becomes theory).

In the scientific method, the testing usually (but not necessarily always) involves designed experiment.

In the arts, the testing seldom (but not necessarily never) involves designed experiment. Mostly just patient hunting for scraps of original source material, to take a step forward, as I see it.

But I see it from the perspective of someone much more familiar with the scientific method.

Except when I carve stone. In a technique which may parallel (yes, I mean the allusion to the parallelogram discussion) Bach's methods, I try to leave a trace of every tool I usomewhere on each piece. This is not conventional, and not something I learned from anyone else. It is also not so trivial to accomplish, so I do not always succeed 100%. The point is, there are no hidden messages. Exactly the opposite. Did Bach do something similar to me, or something completely the reverse? Despite my joking exchange with Chris Rowson a while back, I do not have a clue. I expect we (BCML) are on a thread where we might learn just a bit, however.

I can feel Old Bach smiling down upon me for that one! Or perhaps it is just the residual glow of a Thanksgiving Feast (including that Ellington surprise), and the anticipation of some leftover turkey and a bit of fresh booze (aside to Julian).

Pal Domokos wrote (November 25, 2006):
[To Chris Stanley] I checked the Leusink recording [7] and indeed found the opening chorus a bit slow. But it still sounded joyous to me.

Both Herreweghe [6] and Gardiner [5] do it much better in my opinion. In fact, I find Herreweghe's CD of BWV 36, BWV 61, and BWV 62 [6] one of hist best.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 25, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
>>In the arts, the testing seldom (but not necessarily never) involves designed experiment. Mostly just patient hunting for scraps of original source material, to take a step forward, as I see it.<<
With Bach, much of the material sought can be found directly in Bach's scores. Sometimes it is right there looking at us and waiting for someone in the right frame of mind to discover or give a name to it. Thanks to all those BCML contributers who have presented such insights and have enriched my understanding of Bach and his music!

Ed Myskowski wrote (November 25, 2006):
[To Pal Domokos] I have the Leusink [7], but neither Gardiner [5] nor Herreweghe [6] (you must have been peeking). Suzuki [11] is also quick as can be. I am planning some wordier thoughts, but plans do not always materialize (or cyberize).

Meantime, thanks for posting an opinion. Leusink [7] sounds joyous to me as well. But you would really need to make an effort, to screw up Bach so badly that the joy is lost. I have yet to hear a recording that bad. With my luck, one will surface almost immediately.

Sidebar for Julian: the key to understanding Thanksgiving (USA) is the Friday after Thanksgiving (Second Day of Winter in Canada). Leftover turkey, free time for music, and all that other stuff.

Eric Bergerud wrote (November 25, 2006):
I'm not sure how these things happen but I seem to have collected a goodly number of BWV 62 recordings and each are well worth a listen.

Someone else on the list praised Leusink's performance of this work [7]. I'd agree that van der Meel does a fine job on the lovely tenor aria and Ramslelaar doesn't disapoint in the bass parts. There's much to like in Leusink's cycle and I'm very glad I have it. One thing that I don't like, however, appears in BWV 62. I don't know whether this was an artistic or engineering decision but in the opening chorus it's hard to hear the boys and one might think that Buwalda has three or four mikes attached to his collar. I don't think Buwalda is my favorite countertenor in any circumstance and in many of Leusink's choruses his voice comes through loud and clear, much more so than does that of, say, Esswood. I have concluded that the cycle would have been better with a mezzo. But what's good is good indeed and BWV 62 is so good that much good music is here. work.

Gardiner [5] attacks BWV 62 with his usual energy and elan. (It's combined with BWV 61 and BWV 36, making the CD one of the best to my ears of the Archiv Gardiner recordings). Gardiner has a way of getting very good work out of soloists that don't wear household names and Anthony Johnson and Olaf Bar both make lovely music. I like Gardiner's choruses and this one is no exception: it's the shortest of the lot, but considering the upbeat nature of the work, it works for me. To my ears Gardiner is rarely rushed but energetic: guess that makes me a fan.

Koopman's ensemble approach BWV 62 [8] with their customary polish and lovely playing. It comes with two versions of the bass aria if one needs to be reminded that Klaus Mertens can sing Bach. Paul Agnew likewise does a fine job on the gorgeous tenor aria that dominates this work. I do need more Koopman.

I know that Harnoncourt is not universally admired on this list. Personally I'll take the bitter with the sweet on the Teldec cycle. On BWV 62 Harnoncourt's ensemble [3], in my humble opinion, illustrate why their cantata cycle is one of the great recording projects of the century. Harnoncourt does nothing to hide the Tolzer boys and they make wonderful music in Bach's terrific introductory chorus. (Luther must have been in a good mood that day.) Kurt Equiliz, to my ears, is one of the truly great Bach tenors. Indeed, the unusual continuity in the soloists is something that I appreciate in the Teldec cycle. Ruud van der Meer follows with a very nice bass aria. I'd like to point out the short but gorgeous recitative duet by the Tolzer soprano and Esswood. Anyone who doubts that boys should have a place somewhere in Bach's vocal works should listen to this work. This is a wonderful
recording of yet another Bach masterpiece.

BTW: Brilliant has recently published a complete collection of the large choral works of Schütz in three volumes of four CDs per. The works are performed by Cappella Augustana under Matteo Messori. Gerd Türk and Bas Ramselaar sing many of the major parts. I don't know if this is a papal plot to catch the Lutherans with their guard down, but the project is entirely Italian barring the soloists. It is accompanied with very detailed and extremely interesting notes. These works are not reissues but hot off the press and employ what seems to be the most modern scholarship. Messori emphasizes that these are liturgical works and nearly incomprehensible unless accepted in those terms. (One of the works has three voices singing Jesus.) One of the secondary benefits of being on this list is that Mr. Braatz and others have encouraged me to explore the larger world of German church music and Schutz, even though very different than Bach, made music both profound and enchanting. I have other versions of some of the works here, but these are really special.

Pal Domokos wrote (November 25, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] If you like Herreweghe in general, you should have this CD [6]. His sensitive approach is just ideal for bringing out the ultimate gentleness of these cantatas. I only prefer Gardiner [5] in one movement, and this is exactly the opening chorus of BWV 62. Exuberant joy is where Gardiner usually excels, anyway.

Thank you for reminding me of how few Suzuki CD's I have. I don't doubt that his version is at least as splendid as anybody else's. The wonderful BWV 8 comes to mind. And the simply perfect opening movement of BWV 7. And the duett from BWV 33. And pretty much everything else I have of him.

I agree with you that it would take some effort to ruin the joy in BWV 62. But I have recordings of other works where the performers succeed in ruining pretty much everything in the music.

All the above is my opinion, naturally. Any resemblance to existing opinions is purely coincidental.

Pal Domokos wrote (November 26, 2006):
To Eric Bergerud] I listened to the opening chorus of BWV 62 with Leusink [7] again and you're right, sometimes Buwalda dominates the scene. On the other hand, his voice doesn't irritate me, and he certainly can sing (he sings the choral in BWV 13 nicely).

I agree that Gardiner's BWV 36, BWV 61, BWV 62 CD [5] is good but listen to Herreweghe's [6] once or twice, and then come back to Gardiner.

Unfortunately, I don't have either the Koopman [8] or the Harnoncourt version [3].

Those Hitchcock birds bother me, though. I'm planning to compile a CD for my little nephew. He's more than a year old now so I think it's time for him to get to know at least some of Bach's music. He apparently loves music, by the way. I thought that the easiest-to-understand, joyous/happy movements from cantatas would be just right for this purpose: the closing chorus from BWV 167, the opening chorus from BWV 1, a couple of movements from BWV 248, and the like. I also categorized the opening chorus from BWV 62 as being joyous. Do you think it might scare him?

 

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Last update: ýSeptember 29, 2011 ý10:14:36