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Cantata BWV 7
Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of June 11, 2006 (2nd round)

Eric Bergerud wrote (June 10, 2006):
June 11: Introduction BWV 7

Introduction to BWV 7: Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam

Although Bach composed BWV 7 to accompany the holiday celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, the text is a reverential explanation of the Lutheran interpretation of Baptism and an explanation of the symbolism associated with the sacrament. The believer may see water but faith allows the understanding that what flows is the redeeming blood of Christ.

The work is Bach at or near his best. It is dominated by one Bach's long and powerful introductory choruses found in many of the Leipzig cantatas. (The movement takes up about 40% of the entire work. Whittaker claims that it resembles a violin concerto in form.) It clearly evokes the movement of a river from rifle to wave. The grand introduction is followed by three fine arias. (My apologies to Simon Crouch who found the arias uninspired. I hate to quibble with my betters, but Mr. Crouch really should listen to the work again without the cotton in his ears.) The first, is a long and somber work for the bass. Movement 6 is a shorter work for alto. In my humble the most lovely is the tenor aria (Mvt. 4) which evokes the flight of a dove. A fine chorale ends the work.

In the earlier discussion Aryeh praised the performance by Leonhardt and King's College. [2] (Boy haters can rest easy - the boy soprano drought in 1724 lasted much of the summer and soprano arias simply don't enter the picture.) I must say that I concur completely. I am a Leonhardt/Harnoncourt fan but I wonder if there isn't just a possibility that Leonhardt handled his end of the things better than Harnoncourt did. (It seems to me that Leonhardt did prompt better singing from his boys.) In any case Equiluz, Esswood and Egmond are all in wonderful form and supported by splendid playing. The relatively slow tempo employed I find most convincing especially during the introduction. It's a real pity that we lost our online link to these cantatas because they are getting very hard to find individually, although the entire set is available for the time being. Leonhardt sets a very high bar but I thought Leusink [6] coaxed good music out of his ensemble also with van der Meel and Ramselaar singing very nicely. Do check the 2002 discussion of these performances and others - it is a very interesting one. (There was no agreement concerning tempo: the views ran from ethereal to ponderous depending upon performer and listener.) It includes a nice note from a lucky gent that owns a piece of the original score.

On the recording front, however, the good news is that unlike many other cantatas that have seen several performances go out of print the present is a very good time to acquire a good rendition of BWV 7. Since 2002 Suzuki's version [8] has appeared. (His timing comes in at just over 20', a full five minutes quicker than Leonhardt [2] and considerably more brisk than Gardiner's 22'26 [7]. Wonder what the hurry was?) BWV 7 appeared on Volume 1 of Gardiner's Pilgrimage project. OVPP fans can track down Volume 1 of what we hope shall be a cycle from Montreal Baroque. Views on this wonderful cantata are welcome from all, but it would be especially interesting to hear about the performances from Suzuki or Gardiner. I haven't heard a word about the Montreal enterprise and that naturally also would be of interest.

BWV 7 Details:

BWV 7: Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam (Christ our Lord came to the Jordan)
Chorale Cantata for Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
First Performance Leipzig June 24, 1724
Readings: Epistle: Isaah 40: 1-5; Gospel: Luke 1: 57-80
Text: Martin Luther (Mvts. 1,7); Anon (Mvts. 2-6)
English text: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV7.html
German text: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/7.html
Complete Leusink Performance [6]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV7-Mus.htm

BWV 7 Discussion from 2001: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV7-D.htm

Excerpt from liner notes by Clemens Romijin accompanying Leusink performance [6]:

The seven-movement chorale cantata BWV 7 was composed for the feast of John the Baptist on 24 June 1724. The text deals with the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the waters of the river Jordan. Bach succeeded in symbolizing in musical figures the Jordan, the water and the baptism. The broken triads in the bass part of the opening chorus, for instance, present an audio-visual image of the waves. The semiquavers in the concertato violin part conjure up the same picture. the striking continuo line in the bass aria (no. 2) depicts the plunging baptism water.

Structure and Timings (Leusink [6])

1. Chorus (S, A, T, B) [6'35]
Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino concertante, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

2. Aria (B) [5'38]
Continuo

3. Recit. (T) [1'12]
Continuo

4. Aria (T) [4'10]
Violino concertante I/II, Continuo

5. Recit. (B) [1'08]
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

6. Aria (A) [3'21]
Oboe d'amore I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

7. Chorale (S, A, T, B) [1'16]
Oboe d'amore I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col
Tenore, Continuo

Julian Mincham wrote (June 10, 2006):
Further thoughts on BWV 7

(http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV7-Sco.htm)

BWV 7 Christ unser Herr zum Jordan kam
Our Lord, Christ, came to the Jordan
The third cantata of the cycle.

NB 1. if you are following the vocal score available on the website please note that what should be the opening chorus is, in this edition, wrongly given as the penultimate movement.

2 Please note that Thomas Braatz has put various musical examples which will illuminate the discussions greatly for score followers onto the web site.
The link is http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV7-Sco.htm

3 Nice to receive the introductions to the cantatas for the following week at the beginning of the previous weekend thus allowing time for thought and consideration.

COMMENTS

The opening chorus of this cantata is, by any standards, a massively impressive musical statement. It is truly symphonic in its scale, structure and the heroic grandeur of its ideas. Its scale is partly determined by the chorale, a long one with seven phrases. Since the first two are repeated this make nine phrases in all.

The theme is that of baptism and the text of the opening chorus tells us of Christ's coming to the River Jordan to take baptism and thereby to wash us of our sins. The instrumental forces comprise the usual strings and continuo supported by two oboe d'amore and a solo violin.

This time the tenor s have been chosen to sing the chorale while the three other voices encompass it with a rich tapestry of contrapuntal textures. The freedom given to the sopranos by releasing them from the duty of carrying the chorale tune, allows them to soar above the rest of the choir in some truly striking phrases. Theirs is the spiritual line that seems to float above the magnificent but essentially earthbound waves of the mighty river.

The listener would do well to pay particular attention to the opening four bars because they are the key to the whole movement.. The first two comprise a powerful sturdy theme inoboes and upper strings with a flowing five note figure (da--da--da--da--dah) in the basses (see example of this and other important motives from the link given above). The next two bars see the bass figure in the upper strings acting as accompaniment for the solo violin's persistent, rocking and slightly tortuous idea. It seems reasonable to interpret both the bass and solo violin's themes as representing the waters of the mighty river; both persist throughout the movement. And all is framed by the starkness of the unrelenting minor key. This is not a sunny beach scene; it is a panorama which suggests might and power; not only of the river but of Christ's actions and their pervading consequences for mankind.

The character of the opening dotted rhythm theme is commanding and authoritative. This is not simply a reflection of the might of the Jordan. Bach's sensitivity to textural imagery may well have had bearing on the stark grandeur of the opening statement in that he would surely have had in mind the later references to Christ's drowning of 'bitter' death through his own blood. These images are not explicit at this point; but they may well have contributed to the feeling of dramatic awe and powerful majesty that the movement evokes. One aspect of this movement worthy of consideration is its synthesis of musical styles which Bach, the 'learned musician' had, by now made his trademark. The dotted rhythms suggest a French overture. But there is nothing frivolous or courtly about this movement; the strong opening figure rather suggests a mood of the traditional German motet. But embedded within this fabric is a style from a third tradition; that of the Italianate concerto structure; alternating tutti and violin solo sections. What other composer, at this time, could bring such a range of stylistic knowledge and technique together in into one totally original and fully integrated movement?

Bach faced two structural problems, surmounted with such apparent ease that only close analysis reveals the potential difficulties. The chorale began in E minor and ended in the dominant key B minor; acceptable for a chorale but a large movement of this period could not begin and end in different keys.

Here the ritornello structural principle provided the solution. At the end of the final choral phrase Bach extends the tenor's final note to allow the harmony to point us back towards the tonic key which the concluding orchestral ritornello fully re-establishes.

The other problem is a perennial one connected with opening choruses of this cycle. Since they were built around the phrases of the chorale, and because the short chorale would frequently contain little contrast of key, the challenge Bach set himself was how to keep such large scale movements interesting with so little variety of key change. If we look at some of his large scale instrumental movements where he was not inhibited by this problem, we see that the entire skeletonal structures were derived from the relationships of related keys. Brandenburg 3, second movement, for example has the key structure G D Em Bm C G. The double violin concerto's first movement is Dm Am Gm Dm. This latter is more conservative, but the music still moves on its journey from one key to another, enabling certain ideas and episodes to be repeated and recycled at different pitches. The chorale choruses have a highly limited and predetermined tonal structure. This one manages to spend a little time in the dominant (B minor) in the middle, but nowhere else; and at no time is it possible to employ any redeeming light from a major key. This suits the stark nature of the prevailing mood, of course. But it does not provide musical variety which Bach's ever active imagination ensures comes through imaginative and constantly regenerative textures, harmonies and melodic and rhythmic ideas. The minor mode emphasis may, of course have been a factor in Bach's choice of a strongly major mood for the next movement for bass and continuo, without obligato instrument. The opening 'cello theme brings together two motives suggesting two images. The first, from the opening line of text is 'listen and hear', a simple call to attention. Then as early as bar two we hear the downward rushes of rapid notes which, from then on, dominate the movement (see examples from above link). It has been suggested that this figure represents the pouring of the baptismal waters. It is extremely pervasive in that, in a relatively short movement is comes around 140 times, always on the 'cello and never taken up by the voice. But the most interesting feature is that the direction of this little rush of notes is always downwards. Bach's usual practice in dealing with an oft repeated figure of this kind is to stretch its potential by inverting it; see, for example the two part invention in Bb. The unremittingness of the downward direction strengthens the conviction that this is a representation of pouring water.

The tenor recitative has less to note. It has the ring of the story teller telling us of God's voice as he informs us of his son's sacrifice and his teaching which we, on earth, should heed. Note though, the subtle change that Bach brings about as God actually speaks of his son. The melodic line takes on a quality of both peace and strength and, given the fact that He talks of his Son, is there not also a hint of parental pride?

The tenor aria is one of Bach's most ebullient. This is a rollicking jig which brings together both Father and Son, to later unite them with the Holy Spirit. Thus is the Trinity formed. Bach's preoccupation with numbers would not have allowed him to ignore these implications and consequently the figure 3 dominates the structure of the movement. It is in 3/4 time. The main theme is constructed of groups of three notes (triplets). The voice enters on three stark crotchets and there are three vocal sections. The close writing of the two violins represents the entwined nature of the partnership between Father and Son, the instruments at first imitating each other a bar apart but (from bar 6) just one crotchet apart; drawn ever more closely together. If the minor mode of the first movement left us with a feeling of grandeur and awe, this minor key aria uplifts us with the certainty of God's love. It is also reminiscent of the last movement (a gigue) of the Am violin concerto The bass recitative is, at first accompanied by the strings with a few spasmodic chords but, as if to support Christ's admonition to go forth and instruct all heathens on the significance of baptism, the strings become a little more active to represent movement and action.

We now come across something which is very rare, even unique in the canon. This is an aria which is strikingly reminiscent of one from the previous week's cantata. Bach so seldom repeated himself; though he was a great recycler and it seems that, although he clearly drew little distinction between secular and religious musical styles, nevertheless most of the borrowings went one way, from the former to the latter. Putting it another way, his normal practice seems to have been to deify the secular rather than vice versa. But borrowing apart, he virtually never seemed to repeat himself within the genre and when he does, it is worth noting. In this case there are marked similarities between the alto aria of Cantata BWV 7 and the tenor aria of Cantata BWV 2 written only a week before. This cannot have been a coincidence. Were the works to be more widely spread, it might be assumed that Bach could have repeated himself unintentionally, but this is simply not believable in these circumstances. Both arias used the same theme, wrought from two motives, the common 'joy' one followed by a group of three quavers in the minor mode. The similarity is so strong that one immediately thinks 'Where have I heard that before?'

I think that in this instance Bach is working across the weekly divides of the cantata performances and positively reinforcing a previously stated idea. The tenor aria, Cantata BWV 2, is about God's word being transmuted thrthe cross as is silver through fire. The alto aria emphasizes (as, indeed does the whole of C 7) the transforming of the individual through the act of baptism. The images of metamorphosis are virtually identical; it is simply another way of expressing and conveying the same idea. It is as if Bach, the great teacher was saying "remember what we learnt from last week's lesson? Here we have the same idea, slightly differently expressed".

Bach's point, as ever, is made with subtlety. The reused theme does not come at the beginning of the Cantata BWV 7 alto aria which lacks the expected instrumental opening, although it is, in every other respect, a ritornello movement. It creeps up on us, on strings and oboes, from bar four.

The final chorale is simply harmonized and brings no surprises. It returns to the specific image of water, representing the blood of Christ, pouring over us in order to heal and cleanse. It allows a few moments of reflection on the main theme which Bach has presented so graphically over the preceding twenty five minutes.

We will return to this chorale, differently harmonized, in Cantata BWV 176, the last cantata of this cycle.

POSTSCRIPT:

For those intrepid enough to have read this far, this is the last 'essay' I am submitting on the second cycle cantatas; although I will continue to comment on the odd points of interest. My reasons for devoting some considerable time to formulating my interpretations of these three works (and they are, simply that:- interpretations, which are neither right or wrong and certainly not definitive) are twofold. Firstly to shed some light on these three wonderful pieces, and to stimulate further thought and discussion.

Secondly to suggest some of the important issues and questions which students and music lovers who really want to get inside these works, might apply to the remainder of the cycle. For example:

· Bach's great range of styles and techniques
· His quarrying of the chorales for musical motives and ideas
· His ability to take limited and parochial clichés and transmute them into universal expressions of human feeling and endeavor
· His subtle uses of major and minor key tonalities
· His creating and portraying of musical and mental images
· His ability to transcend both the physical problems of performance and the compositional problems he set himself (e.g. how to sustain the interest in long movements with limited key variety).
· Bach the pedagogue

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 10, 2006):
BWV 7 - Bach & Wagner

Eric Bergerud wrote:
< Although Bach composed BWV 7 to accompany the holiday celebrating the birth of John the Baptist, the text is a reverential explanation of the Lutheran interpretation of Baptism and an explanation of the symbolism associated with the sacrament. The believer may see water but faith allows the understanding that what flows is the redeeming blood of Christ. >
A historical sidebar. Although Luther removed most of the saints' days from the Lutheran calendar, those which had a strong Christological theme, were retained. In the case of St. John's Day, June 24, he was also acknowledging the popular celebration of Midsummer's Day on June 21 which the saint's day absorbed in the middle ages. The lighting of bonfires on the eve of the shortest night of the year was still observed. It would be interesting to know if the festival had a social celebration attached to it in Bach's time.

There is also a connection to Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" which takes place on St. John's Eve. It opens with the principals in a Lutheran church with the congregation singing a chorale about the baptism of Christ:

Da zu dir der Heiland kam,
willig seine Taufe nahm,
weihte sich dem Opfertod,
gab er uns des Heils Gebot:
das wir durch sein' Tauf' uns weihn,
seines Opfers wert zu sein.
Edler Täufer!
Christs Vorläufer!
Nimm uns gnädig an,


(When the Saviour came to thee,
willingly accepted thy baptism,
dedicating Himself to a sacrificial death,
He gave the covenant for our salvation:
that we might be consecrated through baptism
so as to be worthy of his sacrifice.
Noble Baptist!
Christ's precursor!
Receive us graciously
there by the river Jordan.)

Between the verses, the lovers, Walther and Eva, make goo-goo eyes at each other while the orchestra introduces their motifs. In these interludes, Wagner is using the old Lutheran tradition of the organist inmprovising bewteen the lines of a chorale (Bach's "In Dulci Jubilo" is one of the rare notated survivals of the practice).

And of course, the final scene set by the river (is the biblical story behind the libretto?) concludes with a great faux-chorale set to the historical Hans Sachs' homage to Martin Luther:

"Wacht auf, es nahet gen den Tag;
ich hör' singen im grünen Hag
ein wonnigliche Nachtigall,
ihr' Stimm' durchdringet Berg und Tal:
die Nacht neigt sich zum Occident,
der Tag geht auf von Orient,
die rotbrünstige Morgenröt'
her durch die trüben Wolken geht
."

("Awake! the dawn is drawing near;
I hear a blissful nightingale
singing in the green grove,
its voice rings through hill and valley;
night is sinking in the west,
the day arises in the east,
the ardent red glow of morning
approaches through the gloomy clouds.")

The intriguing question for us is whether Wagner had started to hear cantatas by Bach as part of the revival or whether in the case of the opening chorale he was remembering a tradition of performance which was familiar to Bach but which was dying out by the middle of the 19th century.

Hmmm. I'm wondering if Meistersinger is Wagner's "cantata".

Eric Bergerud wrote (June 10, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] Let me thank Julian Minchem for his extended and learned commentary on the 2nd Jahrgang cantatas. They are all "out of size" both in length and conception. For the life of me I have no idea why my collection is so weak in this area. It may be that because these works are so large scale they appeal to the converted rather than the beginning collector. In any case, I wish I would have had more versions to compare. (Has anyone heard any of the Montreal cycle yet? BWV 7 I think is on the first volume of Gardiner's Pilgrimage). Anyway, as Julian makes more clear than I, there is much to listen to here.

Must say, however, that I've never thought of Meistersinger as Wagner's cantata - unless it was dedicated to himself. Just to put it in perspective, one could listen to the SJP (BWV 245) and the Xmas Oratorio (BWV 248) back to back in the same time it takes to wade through one Meistersinger. Wagnerites must be blessed with a sturdy backbone or proper Sitzfleisch. (The summer solstice idea is an interesting one. It is a bit odd that the fall, winter and spring solstices all coincide with a major holiday while the summer serves as a marker on the calender. I don't doubt the peasants made something out of it - of course they needed every holiday they could get.)

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Richard Wagner & Bach [Bach & Other Composers]

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 11, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
>>2 Please note that Thomas Braatz has put various musical examples which will illuminate the discussions greatly for score followers onto the web site. The link is: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV7-Sco.htm <<
I sincerely hope that list members will try to find some descriptive terms for each of these examples (from BWV 7/1) which might be classified as word painting.

To do this properly you should study the chorale text carefully for words, ideas, or concepts which may have inspired Bach to create musically certain pictorial images.

Secondly, it might be helpful to imagine the entire scene at the Jordan river as it is described in the New Testament.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2006):
BWV 7 & Begin of 2nd Leipzig cycle

In order to stimulate and focus more precisely the discussion on BWV 7, I am sharing this quick summary tof ideas presented by Konrad Küster on the beginning of the 2nd yearly cycle of Leipzig cantatas. There are some interesting insights worth reading and considering, but also some points with which I am unable to agree.

Konrad Küster
This informal ‘translation-summary’ is based upon a section in the “Bach Handbuch” Bärenreiter, 1999, pp.
248ff. which includes a discussion of BWV 7.

The opening of a new yearly cantata cycle (2nd cycle in Leipzig)

There is no doubt that this 2nd cantata cycle was conceived from its very inception by Bach as well as his librettist as having its own unique set of characteristics appropriate for the church music to be performed in the main Leipzig churches. The plans for all of the first few weeks of the cycles were certainly concluded before the first performance of the first cantata in this new series. This is made evident by the specific interrelationships between these cantatas. But just how did the members of the congregations in Leipzig experience this entrance into a new cantata cycle? Only a few of them might have been conscious of the reason Bach had in envisioning a clear split between the Trinity Sunday and the following Sunday (1st Sunday after Trinity), a fact that surely was not evident from simply viewing a secular calendar (in 1724 these Sundays were June 4th and 11th). Even according to the significance of Sundays of the liturgical year, these Sundays were without any special significance. However, for Bach the 1st Sunday after Trinity marked an event of personal importance (this was the Sunday of the liturgical year when Bach performed his first cantata composition in his new official capacity of Director of Music for the main churches in Leipzig).

Just as it is impossible to reduce all of Bach’s chorale cantatas to fit into one category of a specific type, so also it is difficult to state that Bach had a clear, unchangeable idea in mind of what these cantatas should be like. The librettist shared this notion of being open to many new ideas. In subsequent Sundays both entered a period of experimentation. The goals of the librettist in this endeavor are, for the most part, rather clear: 1. The 1st and last mvts. of the cantata will state the 1st and last verses of the same chorale; 2. in order to secure the relationship between the former, he would quote directly certain lines from the intervening verses; 3. beyond this he would maintain the sequence of verses as they appear in the chorale, but the number of verses of the chorale did not have to equal the number of mvts. in the cantata: a) either he would condense the ideas from a number of chorale verses into one (with a few literal quotations thrown in) b) or he might allude to a single verse in two mvts., c) or he might provide a free, general commentary on the content of a single verse. These procedure on the part of the librettist applies to the first 5 cantatas in this series. After that (beginning with BWV 93), an entirely new approach toward treating the chorale text is taken.

Despite the application of these new techniques, the libretti still would not necessarily have guaranteed that the congregational members in Leipzig who read and heard these cantatas would have directly understood what was entirely new here on the 1st Sunday after Trinity, 1724, even if we can assume that they intimately knew and could recite by heart or sing most of the commonly sung chorales of that time without taking recourse to a hymnal. As clear as the connections between chorale text and libretto are when examining each libretto carefully, you must keep in mind that the librettists, pressed upon by many other duties, often had to fall back upon certain formulations [almost like clichés] , formulations adapted from Bible passages or other chorale texts and modified to suit the situation. The artistry of this librettist, however, becomes clear from the manner in which he so intensively maintains the connections with the original chorale text. These clear connections are established immediately in the mvt. that follows the introductory 1st verse of the chorale. This is where the librettist sets the direction for the remainder of the cantata mvts. The recitative (mvt. 2) from BWV 20 (O Ewigkeit, du Donnerwort) has a very intensive paraphrase of Johann Rist’s original text that there
is hardly any room for any vague allusion which would have been easier to supply.

A comparison of the Rist original with the librettist’s treatment of it is enlightening:

Rist: Kein Unglück ist in aller Welt,
Das endlich mit der Zeit nicht fällt
Und ganz wird aufgehoben.
Die Ewigkeit nur hat kein Ziel,
Sie treibet fort und fort ihr Spiel,
Läßt nimmer ab zu toben;
Ja, wie mein Heiland selber spricht,
Aus ihr ist kein Erlösung nicht
.

Bach’s librettist:
Kein Unglück ist in aller Welt zu finden,
Das ewig dauernd sei;
Es muß doch endlich mit der Zeit einmal verschwinden.
Ach! aber ach! die Pein der Ewigkeit hat nur kein Ziel;
Sie treibet fort und fort ihr Marterspiel,
Ja, wie selbst Jesus spricht,
Aus ihr ist kein Erlösung nicht.


The following aria quotes the first two lines of the next verse verbatim, even a line of the 3rd verse is „hier gilt fürwahr kein Scherz”, ist also directly quoted with only an “ach” added before it. The librettist’s intention in all of this must have been quite clear to any Protestant church-goer in Leipzig when this cantata was first heard.

In his composition of the cantata, Bach is hardly aware of anyone of these textual connections. The first cantatas in this cycle even give the impression that he simply composed without taking note of them musically. The most probable explanation for this is that he was trying to compensate with greater artistic freedom for the strictures placed upon him musically by the chorale melody as presented in mvt. 1. If Bach had incorporated elements of the chorale melody to the same degree in these inner mvts. as he did in the outer ones, his cantatas would not have differed much from the older, strophic chorale cantatas that already existed and there would have been little opportunity to make use of the usual recitative-aria combination which you would have come to expect in such a ‘modern’ [in Bach’s time] cantata.

The standards according to which Bach composed these cantatas, if you can even speak of such standards actually existing, were undergoing intensive development during the first weeks of this cantata cycle. Bach quickly expanded the techniques used in the introductory chorale mvts. of the 1st cycle such as those contained in BWV 138, BWV 95, BWV 60, BWV 73. Bach certainly must have felt that he had already acquired the necessary techniques to accomplish what he wanted without first having to gradually acquaint himself with the possibilities. If anything can be stated clearly from analyzing his techniques in composing chorale cantatas, it is that there is a shifting in the treatment of details and a change in the placement of special emphases. This cannot, however, be easily expressed in words so that you could say that one constellation of techniques is more primitive than another or later one. You can easily determine how convinced Bach must have been regarding the structural design of his cantatas in this period by examining the first 4 cantatas as a group: the introductory chorale mvt. has the cantus firmus in the soprano in the first, followed in order by the alto, then tenor and finally bass. Only beginning with the 6th and 7th cantata (BWV 93, BWV 107) does the normal situation with the cantus firmus in the soprano take over. The start of something new is heralded not only with the manner in which Bach treatthe elements of the chorale text and melody, but also in regard to the arias where suddenly a new, formal concept appears, one which played only a marginal role during the 1st cantata cycle. This is best understood by determining how closely the aria begins to resemble a baroque concerto mvt. These are best described as a blending together of 4 instrumental sections with 3 solo episodes. Musically these episodes are treated with greater differentiation (variation in development) than the instrumental sections which are more strictly related (demonstrate greater motivic relationships) to each other. The opening instrumental section presents thematic material which then later reappears as ritornelli with the final ritornello returning to the tonic. The concept of an overarching sequence of tonalities, a sequence spanning the entire mvt. and reaching its conclusion in the same tonality as the beginning only at the very end and not already at the end of section A as part of a da-capo aria, and interspersed with the development of the instrumental interludes (ritornelli) can be viewed as a new direction that Bach has undertaken. Hardly any examples of this exist from the 1st Leipzig cantata cycle and only in a different form during the Weimar period as, for example, the bass aria “Der Glaube schafft der Seele Flügel” from BWV 37, which might be considered as a possible point of origin for this new direction to be picked up later for the beginning of the 2nd yearly cantata cycle where it dominates the musical form of arias for several weeks.

A final detail of a musical nature which brought about a fundamental change at the beginning of the 2nd Leipzig cantata cycle pertains to the setting of the final chorale. During the final months of the previous cantata cycle, Bach tended to place these settings outside of the tradition of the typical Cantional settings and make them stand out by including chromaticism and adding moving parts (passing notes). And yet there are in a few cantatas (for example, the role of the trumpet in BWV 190) instances where additional elements appear beyond the simple chorale setting. But only with the chorale cantatas does Bach begin to compose what is normally understood as the typical ‘Bach chorale’ as it appears at the end of these cantatas. This was not the result of a free artistic decision on Bach’s part, but rather issues from the manner in which these cantatas were conceived, for after a number of variations of the chorale in text and melody, the chorale must once again appear in its unchanged format at the very end.

In attempting to approach these chorale cantatas, you must consider one aspect which is easier for us to understand today than it was for Bach’s contemporaries: These new cantatas were presented week for week in alternating fashion in both of the main churches of Leipzig. Whoever, back then, heard the 1st cantata on the Sunday after Trinity at St. Nicholas Church would most likely not have heard the 2nd cantata on the following Sunday at the same church. This situation prevailed similarly at St. Thomas Church. To be sure, the congregation at St. Thomas Church was fortunate to be able to hear the cantatas for the feast days since the latter were performed in both churches. BWV 7, for instance, was performed at St. Nicholas Church in the morning and at St. Thomas Church in the early afternoon.

BWV 7

Bach did not conduct the first performance of this cantata (in both churches) because he was out of town involved in an organ examination in Gera which took place on the following day. The introductory chorale mvt. has the cantus firmus in the tenor. This decision on Bach’s part had its consequences: it forced Bach to maintain musical transparence particularly in the sections where the choir was singing. This is why he chose an instrumental ensemble which allowed for significant reduction when necessary. Besides the continuo part, there is only one other part which plays continually: the ‘violino concertato’ for which two players are specified according to the sources. Both oboes also seldom stop playing as they do not play when the choir sings the first two lines of the Stollen the first time, but, on the repeat, the oboes play colla parte with the soprano and alto parts. In the Abgesang they play an independent part. Only for the last line of the chorale does Bach have the entire ensemble play along with the choir. As much as you might be impressed by how Bach combines a concerto-like treatment with a chorale treatment, one thing is quite apparent: that Bach had to take into account the external/physical performance conditions and requirements.

The bass aria “Merkt und hört ihr Menschenkinder” is a combination of various compositional principles: The continuo group provides the accompaniment, and for this a typical quasi-ostinato mvt. would easily do, but here the ostinato motif is not tied directly to the continuo part. And yet the bass is not entirely free to do as he wishes. In both parts of the aria, the beginning motif is the same. For these reasons the effects of this situation take place: since the bass is able to sing only part of the motif, not the extremely fast figures in the continuation of this motif, Bach divides the ostinato line between both. Without a break they continue to go on and on, while also allowing the function of an additional obbligato part (not present here) to go from the continuo to the bass part. In essence this is a broadly conceived
da-capo aria.

The tenor continues with a secco recitative, after which he sings the aria “Des Vaters Stimme ließ sich hören” accompanied by two violins. Contrary to what the text presents, Bach also succeeded here in applying his concerto-like aria form to this aria. Already in the 2nd vocal section (“Der Geist erschien…”) he concludes the text with “es habe die Dreifaltigkeit / uns selbst die Taufe zubereit”. The 3rd vocal section can still begin anew with the already musically treated „Damit wir ohne Zweifel glauben“ and take this to its conclusion a second time. Another new aspect can be found in the treatment of the solo instruments: in each of the 3 vocal sections they present the material of the ritornello. Along with this comes the feature of the ‘Vokaleinbau’. By tying the various solo episodes to the original thematic material of the mvt., through the use of this artistic method of treating the theme, Bach achieves a unity for the entire mvt, a unity not to be found in previously composed cantatas. The closest thing to this treatment is perhaps the bass aria in the Ascension cantata BWV 37. This cantata performed 5 or 6 weeks earlier again seems to point to detail about Bach’s composing schedule: the question regarding the approximate time that elapsed between when he composed a cantata and when it was actually being prepared for performance.

The following bass recitative takes on greater momentum when it reaches the arioso on the words “Geht hin in alle Welt”. Before this point the accompanying strings simply play some short chords. Without any sort of introduction, an alto aria follows “Menschen, glaubt doch dieser Gnade”. In it Bach develops a variant form of the concerto-aria principle: after the vocal sections (one which begins this aria directly), the instruments play a few measures which appear as an additional postscript each time the vocal section ends. At the very end Bach allows them to play a reminiscence of the initial theme presented by the alto originally before concluding with the usual instrumental interlude. Here the element of experimntation consists in not having the instruments (as usual) precede the entrance of the voice, but rather have the voice begin directly without any instrumental ritornello. It is as though the instruments are waiting for some ideas to be presented to them beforehand before joining in the usual exchange between solo voice and instruments. In the final mvt. “Das Aug allein das Wasser sieht”, the accvocal parts show extra motion in their faster-moving passing notes. As much as it might appear that this could possibly interpreted as an allusion to the waters of the Jordan River or, in more general terms, referring to the Baptism, the final chorales in other ‘neighboring’ cantatas show that this was simply just a part of the general method he used for composing this type of chorale setting.

Konrad Küster

Julian Mincham wrote (June 14, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] Many thanks to Thomas for the Kuster article. New to me and I concur that it is difficult to agree with all points although it brings together some interesting central issues.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 15, 2006):
Original figured organ part for BWV 7

A question about the original figured organ player's part for BWV 7, possessed by Teri Noel Towe.

Does this manuscript contain a realisation of the actual part played by the organ continuo player, or just the figures under the stave? If the former, this would imply that Bach `worked- out' the part before performance of the piece, thus taking away the supposedly improvisatory nature of the part when actually performed. (I'm sure I recall seeing what looked like a full part for organ written on two staves).

Any clarification of this would be appreciated.

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 15, 2006):
[To Neil Halliday]
From the NBA KB I/29 pp. 34ff.:

There are normally 3 continuo parts for a Bach cantata. The untransposed (dublette) made from the main continuo was lost along with the original score and a two violin part dublettes.

The key original continuo part made directly from the original score was copied by Johann Andreas Kuhnau, a
frequent, very reliable copyist used by Bach. This part belongs to the original set of parts which were primarily used to create the BGA and NBA scores. This continuo part, uncommonly, had a figured bass supplied, for the most part, by J. S. Bach (see below).

The other transposed and figured continuo part was copied by Christian Gottlob Meißner with J. S. Bach once again supplying the figures for the figured bass. Mvts. 5 & 6 are without any figures. There is a missing page which means that mm 102-128 of mvt. 1 and all of mvt. 2 are missing completely. This part is in poor condition with numerous places where the paper has been damaged with frequently missing notes that have simply disappeared.

The NBA comments that there was little, if anything, in this part that was used as a basis for 'recreating' the missing score which the NBA printed.

Continuo parts of this type usually contain only the bass line (with the figures) and a key solo part above it (the solo singer's part with text).

There is an indication that this cantata was possibly performed a few more times during Bach's lifetime. One indication of this is the fact that the untransposed part was figured by J. S. Bach, which might mean that, for a later performance, Bach used a harpsichord as part of the continuo group.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 15, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I sincerely hope that list members will try to find some descriptive terms for each of these examples (from BWV 7/1) which might be classified as word painting.
Secondly, it might be helpful to imagine the entire scene at the Jordan river as it is described in the New Testament. >
Like a fool rushing in where angels fear to tread, I accept this interesting and challenging suggestion. The common themes in the New Testament descriptions, Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:10-11, and Luke 3:21-22 are
(1) The opening of the heavens
(3) A voice from the heavens, announcing "You are my beloved son; with you I am well pleased."
The language in all three is remarkably similar.

And in these three versions, plus John 1:32-34,
(2) The Holy Spirit descends in the form of a dove.

Nowhere in the chorale or biblical texts is there even a hint of waves and rushing water in the river, as suggested by Schweitzer and others. Let alone rocks. Of course, in the chorale text, the words actually set to music do not contain direct references to the Biblical images, either. Nevertheless, I am going to offer an idea for thought.

Dürr comments: the main tutti theme is more difficult to explain as it is sharply contoured with a strong rhythmic character. Arnold Shering thinks he sees the rocks appearing, through which the river makes its way in the narrow passages.

If this main theme is indeed word painting, wouldn't it be equally accurate, and more appropriate to the spiritual theme, to represent the opening of the heavens?

Couldn't the wavy themes then as well be the heavenly voice and the dove descending, or better yet, a bit of both, water and heaven?

The Konrad Küster text provided by Thomas (thanks, as always) concludes:
As much as it might appear that this could possibly be interpreted as an allusion to the waters of the Jordan River or, in more general terms, referring to the Baptism, the final chorales in other ‘neighboring’ cantatas show that this was simply just a part of the general method he used for composing this type of chorale setting.

Does it have to be one or the other for all instances? Pretty clearly, Bach used word painting at times, and it was a recognized compositional technique. Perhaps more direct and emphatic in some instances, less so in others, and not present at all most of the time. Perhaps word painting has been over interpreted, but this does not mean it is never correct. And perhaps I am over interpreting Küster, and he is simply objecting to this particular instance. With good reason: rushing water, waves, and rocks in the River Jordan are a stretch in any case, let alone for a baptismal immersion.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 15, 2006):
imagery in BWV 7

Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Nowhere in the chorale or biblical texts is there even a hint of waves and rushing water in the river, as suggested by Schweitzer and others. Let alone rocks. Of course, in the chorale text, the words actually set to music do not contain direct references to the Biblical images, either. Nevertheless, I am going to offer an idea for thought.
Dürr comments: the main tutti theme is more difficult to explain as it is sharply contoured with a strong rhythmic character. Arnold Shering thinks he sees the rocks appearing, through which the river makes its way in the narrow passages.
If this main theme is indeed word painting, wouldn't it be equally accurate, and more appropriate to the spiritual theme, to represent the opening of the heavens?
Couldn't the wavy themes then as well be the heavenly voice and the dove descending, or better yet, a bit of both, water and heaven? >
It's absolutely correct to point out that the text does not mention rocks or the might of the river.

It's also the fact that it is tempting to read too much into Bach's use of imagery which can be illusive; although I am convinced that Bach, operating as quickly as he must have done, turned first to the text for images/ideas/suggestions which he translated into musical ideas. These musical ideas were then developed as through the dictates of musical logic, grammar and sybtax as through the textual imagery and meaning. This does help us to understand, perhaps, how he created such a range of largely unrepeated ideas under great
pressures of time.

But I believe that the illusive images (must be illusive or we, and many scholars, would not be having these discussions) are the starting points for Bach's musical ideas.

It is not unreasonable (or though it may not be correct) to assume that the movement of a mightly river stimulated Bach's imagination, albeit an implication of rather than a specific statement within the text.

It may also be that the images of 'bitter death' being submerged through Christ's blood (which IS in the text) provided an equally powerful image to jump-start Bach's fertile imagination. Or, just as likely, a combination of the two?

But it would take a lot to convince me that Bach chose such powerful rhythmic expression in this movement without good reason--I have a strong belief that he had good reasons for every one of his musical choices. Itis just that soemtimes they are more obvious than others.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< It may also be that the images of 'bitter death' being submerged through Christ's blood (which IS in the text) provided an equally powerful image to jump-start Bach's fertile imagination. Or, just as likely, a combination of the two? >
I have not yet got the hang of how much of previous posts to include to make the thread clear, I am choosing to err on the side of brevity. I agree with your point that submerging is clear in both text and music (I also agree with the rest of your post). I did not cite this example, because it was pointed out by Thomas Braatz in his musical examples and explanations from the previous discussions in 2001. I had linked to these to respond to his suggestion, and I had nothing new to say for this particular sample. I did not notice the extensive additional examples of motifs that he posted last week, until after I wrote.

Given that I was mostly responding to the suggestion to consider the New Testament texts with the music (a much different comparison than the chorale text), I think I would have said pretty much the same that I already said, in any case. In truth , I was wondering if Thomas was preparing us for a bit of evidence, say a marginal note from one of Bach's bibles.

I think we three agree, many of Bach's motifs are illusive. What the original image is may not always be clear. Maybe Bach hoped the listener would get it, maybe it was a convenient source for a theme, as you point out. Once it is done, no harm if the listener figures it out. Don't go overboard, but no harm thinking about it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 16, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote (June 10, 2006):
< Further thoughts on BWV 7
In this case there are marked similarities between the alto aria of Cantata BWV 7 and the tenor aria of Cantata
BWV 2 written only a week before. >
In my haste to respond to thomas Braatz suggestion, I neglected a careful read of the present and previous discussions of BWV 7. I expect to post a few paragraphs re specific recordings, but not for a few days. In the interim, the similarity of the arias Julian mentions struck me as well, and thanks to him for all the detailed commentary.

I hope I was not insensitive to others enjoyment of the interpreted wave imagery, which I have just now read through. I enjoy it as well, whether or not there are any waves mentioned in any of the texts. Fortunately, I acknowledged myself as the fool rushing in, before anyone else did it for me. I hope there is additional discussion, as there is a wealth of material to work from.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 16, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I hope I was not insensitive to others enjoyment of the interpreted wave imagery, which I have just now read through. I enjoy it as well, whether or not there are any waves mentioned in any of the texts. Fortunately, I acknowledged myself as the fool rushing in, before anyone else did it for me. >
Not in the least---no retraction or apology necessary.. Your comments promted me (and probably others) to go back to both text and music and have another look/listen to see what I might have missed. This is the great value of this sort of shared observation and insightful speculation.

In your earlier email you wrote:
' What the original image is may not always be clear. Maybe Bach hoped the listener would get it, maybe it was a convenient source for a theme,'
Which brought to mind a thought (speculative!) that I have been tossing about for some years viz Did Bach have a distinction in his own mind between the (pretty obvious) images which he would expect an intelligent listener/congregation member to recognise and the (more abstruse) ones which were there for God alone?

We are not Gods ourselves of course--but we do have the advantage of much scholarship, rehearing of the works and access to scores, none of which were available to Bach's congregations. So it is to be expected that we might pick up a little more.

Well I am off to hear (for the first time)Gardiner's performance of BWV 127 about to be played on BBC radio 3.

Neil Halliday wrote (June 16, 2006):
Werner's recording [1] of the opening chorus turns out to be most impressive, with its grandeur, and audibility of all the important motives. In fact, all the movements of this recording are pleasing except for the bass aria, in which the heavy continuo strings are unattractive. Leonhardt [2], with a well-articulated cello and tasteful organ continuo, offers a more enjoyable experience of this aria's austere instrumentation.

Back to the opening chorus, and speaking of tiered dynamics: when the solo violin begins its rocking figure (bar 3), Werner has it `forte' [1], ie, the same as the first two bars; then its repeat `piano' (bar 4), most effective in this performance (The BGA has `piano' for both bars 3 and 4, obviously seeing the instruments in these bars – which are without continuo – as a `concertante' group to be contrasted with the `tutti' group of the first two full bars; anyway, Werner's method works). The solo violin, playing this charming rocking figure (representing wavelets on the river Jordan? - contrasted with the deep, strong current, represented by the powerful dotted rhythm
figure and falling and rising broken chord figures, especially as they appear in the continuo?) – this charming solo violin figure occurring almost non-stop throughout the entire movement, can be heard even during the majestic choral entries. This performance (8.05) has the relaxed tempo of Leonhardt (7.50) [2], both performances allowing the complex yet transparent structure, and grandeur, of the music to be savoured to the full. (Of course, Leonhardt has a more intimate, yet charming, performance). I think we are all agreed Rilling (5.49) [4] plainly rushes through this music; someone must have told him his tempi are too slow, and here he has overcompensated! Suzuki (6.08) [8] probably has the fastest tempo that remains enjoyable.

[Rilling is also too fast in BWV 8/1; Leonhardt's slower tempo performance [2] is much more expressive and charming.]

The tenor aria has an intoxicating dance rhythm, and an exultant air that clearly represents the joy of freedom from doubt; the text's metaphor of the "(Holy) Spirit appearing in the image of a dove" (reminding us of the same image near the end of the SMP (BWV 244)), so that "we might without doubt believe" is set to music, with two dancing violins, conveying an exhilarating sense of lightness and ecstasy (as does the last movement of the A minor violin concerto; amazing that Bach achieves this in the minor key tonality). The repetitions and
melismas on "without doubt believe" drive the point home. Here I like Rilling's `in-between' tempo (4.07) [4] most of all, although the slower tempi performances of Leonhardt (4.58) [2] and Werner (4.48) [1] remain very listen-able in this attractive music. (Kraus with Rilling does 'over-exert' his voice at times).

Werner [1] has an attractive flowing performance of the accompanied recitative; I dislike the short chords (written as crotchets, played as quavers), and the separated, semi-staccato quavers, as played by Leonhardt [2], in the `andante' section.

The best performances of the alto aria highlight the sorrow and warning referred to in the text. Suzuki [8] moderates his usual, supposedly dance-like, fast tempi (eg, in the tenor aria of BWV 2), for a slower, more flowing, expressive performance, with clean singing by Robin Blaze. Werner [1], Le[2], and Rilling [4] are also pleasing (allowing for Watts with Rilling; choose your favourite singer).

Werner, with `double-forte' but un-forced singing of the last line of the final chorale, gives an impressively grand conclusion to the cantata.

Julian Mincham wrote (June 16, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote::
< Suzuki (6.08) [8] probably has the fastest tempo that remains enjoyable. >
And Koopman's [5] is almost identical at 6' 17.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 19, 2006):
BWV 7

Aryeh and others have already commented extensively on Leonhardt [2]. I have this in LP format, a <brown box> complete with pocket score - wonderful! A pity such detailed packaging is no longer available. I also have the Harbison [3] CD reissue of the original cassette (BWV 7 was not included on the LP), which has not been commented on previously. For the moment, I will focus on the differences between them, and mention one curious similarity - in both cases the first violin (Marie Leonhardt and Rosemary Harbison) is the spouse of the conductor. Can't hurt the communication (one hopes), and perhaps it helps.

Harbison [3] is about two minutes quicker overall, with the biggest difference in the tenor aria (BWV 7/4) at 3:42 compared to 4:55 for Leonhardt [2]. The audible difference is even greater, as Harbison has an aggressive attack to the rhythm, while Leonhardt sounds to me like the intoxicating dance rhythm Neil Halliday describes. I can accept Harbison's approach as appropriate to the words of the Father, which theme continues from the preceding rec (BWV 7/3) into the beginning of the aria. Leonhardt's approach seems more appropriate to the
continuation of the aria with the descent of the dove of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks to Thomas Braatz for suggesting the review of the biblical sources of these themes, as well as posting the music motifs. I expect to return to these in more detail in the future.

Harbison [3] is quicker in the alto aria (BWV 7/6) as well, 3:22 vs 3:56, but the tempo difference is less noticeable than the distinction between female alto and counter-tenor. A similar comparison is true for the opening chorus (BWV 7/1), where the modern instruments and larger choir (34 total) of Harbison give a much fuller (not necessarily better) sound.

These two recordings provide about as much contrast in sound as can be had between the period (HIP) and modern interpretations. However the tempo distinctions are the opposite of what I have been led to expect. Is this specific to Leonhardt [2]? In any event, there is nothing negative to say about his version. The Harbison [3] represents what I have been accustomed to hear in live performance, and I cherish it for that reason alone. It is hard for me to say it is an essential recording, but it certainly is enjoyable to listen to. The soloists are not known outside the Boston area (I don't believe) but they deliver thoroughly professional performances. I find D'Anna Fortunato (alto) especially good, as I noted previously (BWV 44). For those who want to sample the complete breadth of performance practice, the Harbison has its own character, as well as historical interest.

Eric Bergerud wrote (June 19, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] I've done a lot of comparative timings particularly when doing the recent introductions. In general period ensembles are faster through the work. However, I think this is more because of the scholarship that accompanied the period instrument movement rather than the instruments themselves. Rilling uses modern instruments but his works are hardly pokey. Leonhardt sometimes moves more slowly than some of the older recordings like those of the Gewandhaus. The issue really does seem to be a matter of how conductors view the score and how they view their job. It's also surprising how difficult it is to generalize: look at Suzuki's works for instance. Sometimes he takes a leisurely pace, other times he cracks the whip. The biggest influence seems to be age of the recording. Many of the conductors from the 40s through the 60s conducted baroque and classical works more slowly than a modern period group. Compare the timings of Klemperer and Gardiner on Beethoven symphonies! (Or Hogwood or Roy Goodman with almost any of the earlier interpreters of Haydn/Mozart.)

Jean Laaninen wrote (June 20, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] When I was a student in the 1960s the tempos our oratorio society used were considerably slower than performance tempos for the same Baroque works performed in the same state today. In both cases the instruments were modern, but the conductors had a differing idea of the kinds of tempos that must have been the general practice in the Baroque period.

I tend to think that the tempos on the solos are sometimes set by the conductor in accordance with the maximal vocal qualities of a given soloist, and in the case of the choruses by the abilities of the chorus members. Perhaps there are also cases where the orchestra's capability enters into the thinking.

In the case of the higher level performances at ASU one accompanist told me that the playing of a Mozart motet varied over twenty metronome points depending upon the performer being a mezzo or colortura for the same piece. This was the Exultate Jubilate, and I remember being quite astounded at the top tempo. It really is not a mezzo piece, but some do it anyway.

But if all other factors are equal it is no doubt the ear of the conductor in many cases that determines if the desired sound quality can be achieved at a given tempo, I am guessing. Perhaps the variation in what we hear by detail of the tempo markings often determines how much we like one version as opposed to another.

I have enjoyed reading the comments both you and Ed made.

Ed Myskowski wrote (June 20, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< In general period ensembles are faster through the work. However, I think this is more because of the scholarship that accompanied the period instrument movement rather than the instruments themselves. Rilling uses modern instruments but his works are hardly pokey. Leonhardt sometimes moves more slowly than some of the older recordings like those of the Gewandhaus. The issue really does seem to be a matter of how conductors view the score and how they view their job. >
Yes, I agree completely, and I should have stated my surprise at Leonhardt's tempos more clearly. In my own mind, I have conflated the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt series with quickness, in this instance, incorrectly and unfairly. I think the points were made in the previous BWV 7 discussions, and I wanted to emphasize them:
(1) H & L are two distinct people, not one
(2) The entire series is a collection of individual performances, and the individual cantatas deserve to be listened to that way for strengths and weaknesses, regardless of the continuity of instrumentation and soloists.

Douglas Cowling wrote (June 19, 2006):
Jean Laaninen wrote:
< I tend to think that the tempos on the solos are sometimes set by the conductor in accordance with the maximal vocal qualities of a given soloist, and in the case of the choruses by the abilities of the chorus members. Perhaps there are also cases where the orchestra's capability enters into the thinking. >
Reminds me the old Ormandy recording of the Easter Oratorio (BWV 249) with Maureen Forrester. Her artistry in the Romantic repertoire is unparalled, but she simply can't negotiate the passage work in Bach. In "Saget mir geschwinde", her runs become swoops and slides. Downright embarrassing.

Chris Rowson wrote (June 20, 2006):
I recently had the experience of making a CD in which we tried to base our performance to a large extent on Quantz´s recommendations – we were playing trio sonatas for two flutes by Quantzand his Dresden colleagues.

Regarding tempo, we found that for Andantes and anything slower it took a lot of readjustment to get the tempo anywhere near Quantz´s 40 beats per minute. Lavish embellishments were essential to fill the gap.

For Allegros, Quantz gives 80 beats per minute, although I think the “historically correct” reading is generally to play them faster than that.

We cited to ourselves Emanuel Bach´s comment that they play the Allegros very fast in Potsdam (which comes as no surprise after playing some of old Fritz´s compositions) and took them somewhat slower, feeling that it is more in the spirit of the pre-motor age.

Does this fit at all with your findings, Eric?

Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I've done a lot of comparative timings particularly when doing the recent introductions. In general period ensembles are faster through the work. However, I think this is more because of the scholarship that accompanied the period instrument movement rather than the instruments themselves. ... >

Eric Bergerud wrote (June 20, 2006):
[To Chris Rowson] I was making empirical observations on performances of recorded CDs. My observations are based on no profound musical insight because I don't have any. <G> So your guess is better than mine.

Chris Rowson wrote (June 20, 2006):
[To Eric Bergerud] Well, I suppose really I was wondering what your timings calculate out to in terms of beats per minute, so I guess I need to start counting bars for the movements you gave times for, and then get my abacus out :-)

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 18, 2006):
Bach's Week: BWV 7

Thomas Braatz wrote (June 14, 2006):
< BWV 7 & Begin of 2nd Leipzig cycle
In order to stimulate and focus more precisely the discussion on BWV 7, I am sharing this quick summary translation of ideas by Konrad Küster on the beginning of the 2nd yearly cycle of
Leipzig cantatas.

This informal ‘translation-summary’ is based upon a section in the “Bach Handbuch” Bärenreiter, 1999, pp. 248ff. which includes a discussion of BWV 7.
These new cantatas were presented week for week in alternating fashion in both of the main churches of
Leipzig. Whoever, back then, heard the 1st cantata on the Sunday after Trinity at St. Nicholas Church would most likely not have heard the 2nd cantata on the following Sunday at the same church. This situation prevailed similarly at St. Thomas Church. To be sure, the congregation at St. Thomas Church was fortunate to be able to hear the cantatas for the feast days since the latter were performed in both churches. >
When Thomas posted this a month ago, it saved me posting some embarrassing speculation about Bach writing relations in consecutive cantatas in this cycle, expecting listeners to notice. The speculation (in my mind) has not gone away, only the posting. The relations are clearly there, as Julian Mincham has led the way in pointing out. Sorry if any one else deserves equal credit.

Perhaps Doug Cowling's investigation of the weekly schedule will suggest that at least the insiders, the performers, would have been able to experience all the subtleties. Even to appreciate them. And spread the word?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 18, 2006):
Bach's Week: BWV 7

[To Ed Myskowski] Added to this is the probability that Bach may have taken the longer term in view as well. We know of his earlier stated objective to provide a cycle of ' regulated' church music (written 1708). Additionally the Obituary states that he orovided five full cycles--whether these were completed and lost has been a matter of speculation amongst scholars for some time. It may well be that Bach was looking beyond the particular circumstances that pertained at Leipzig.

Two other factors need to be mentioned 1) The cantor was not in charge of just the two churches but of four. St Thomas and St Nicholas were the main parish churches but there were also the New chiuch (destroyed in WW2) and St Peter's church (demolished). See Wolff p 251 of the paper back edition. 2) Bach was not just writing for a congregation but also for God. It is likely that many of the references, images and structural details were made for the attention and approval of, and certainly the glory of God.

The fact that Bach had a rather peculiar set of functions to fulfill at Leipzig in no way denies the relationships which exist in the music nor their significance. In so many ways, not just in the matter of style and length, was
Bach looking beyond the (possibly) parochial standpoints of his various Leipzig congregations.

 

Missing pages from BWV 7 organ part have been located

Teri Noel Towe wrote (August 31, 2008):
Baltimore Sun Article

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 7: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
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Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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Last update: ýNovember 8, 2014 ý15:17:42