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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 70
Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!
Cantata BWV 70a
Wachet! betet! betet! wachet!
Discussions - Part 3

Continue from Part 2

Discussions in the Week of October 14, 2012

Francis Browne wrote (October 14, 2012):
BWV 70 note on the text


Circumstances have delayed my writing notes on the text of this week's cantata and so I am posting the notes on the list for this week :

Note on the text:

BWV 70 is an expansion of a cantata Bach wrote seven years before in Weimar. The music for this earlier work has been almost entirely lost. It was one of a group of three cantatas (BWV 70a. BWV 186a, BWV 147a) that Bach produced in December 1716 based on texts by the Weimar court poet Salomo Franck published in his collection : Evangelische Sonn- und Fest-Tages-Andachten / Auf Hochfürstlich Gnä­digste Verordnung Zur Fürstlich Sächsisch Weimarischen Hof-Capell-­Music In Geistlichen Arien erwecket von Salomon Francken, Fürstlich Sächsischen Gesamten Ober-Consistorial-Secretario in Weimar." The Weimar Kapellmeister Johann Samuel Drese had recently died and Bach may have hopedthat this evidence of his industry and ability would help to recommend him forthe vacant post. If so he was disappointed, since Drese's son was appointed.

The cantata texts Franck published for 1716-17 are unusual in not using bible texts or recitatives. Apart from the concluding chorale , he uses freely composed verse . An opening movement for chorus is followed by four arias and a concluding chorale.

BWV 70a was written for the 2nd Sunday in Advent. In Leipzig cantatas could only be performed on the 1st Sunday in Advent but since the readings for both Sundays deal with the end of time and the coming of Christ it was not difficult for the anonymous librettist of BWV 70 to take over Franck's text - based on Luke's account of the last days and judgement (Luke 21) - without change, and add four recitatives based on Matthew's account of the last judgement ( the gospel for the 26th Sunday after Trinity) and a chorale verse to conclude first part of the cantata. The six movement cantata of 1716 is thus expanded seven years later into an eleven movement work with a two -part structure. The suggestion is sometimes made that Bach himself may have written the recitatives. This cannot be proved . It is perhaps more plausible that Bach consulted closely with the librettist since the setting of the recitatives – particularly movements two and nine - is particularly striking.

The opening chorus uses the ending of Luke's Gospel for the second Sunday in Advent(Luke 21: 34-360. With direct address to stubborn sinners and to those chosen by God the first recitative dramatises the scene evoked by Matthew's account of the last judgement and the division of humanity into sheep and goats, those saved and those who are damned. The second aria for alto uses the images of Israel captive in Egypt and Sodom and Gomorrah threatened with destruction to portray the true nature of the world which should make us long for the last day. The second recitative deals with those aspects of us and the world which hinder our longing for heaven. Christ's words about his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane - the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak - are used. The soprano aria contrasts the certainty of Christ's coming (Luke 21: 27) with what cynics say. The third recitative gives assurance that God thinks of those who serve him and the first part concludes with a more personal expression of the same idea using the fifth strophe of the anonymous hymn Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (Freiburg 1620)

The tenor aria which opens the second part echoes Luke 21: 28 with its command to the faithful to hold up their heads. Both the last recitative and aria are unexpectedly dramatic with their references to the last judgement, with the recitative using imagery from the epistle for the 26th Sunday after Trinity (2 Peter 3: 3-13). The cantata concludes with the fifth verse of the hymn Meinen Jesum laß' ich nicht by Christian Keymann (1658).

Dürr comments that the expanded cantata text lacks the consistent exposition of a single idea and vacillates constantly between the fear of being inadequately prepared to the end of the world and the hope of one day be numbered among the elect. Some may feel this is a weakness, others may perhaps agree that Bach's reworking of earlier material has led to a richer, more complex text to which Bach does full justice.

Charles Francis wrote (October 14, 2012):
BWV 70 Performances

Below are some links to various videos containing BWV 70 performances.

I was particularly moved by the apparent living tradition of the Acsai Lutheran Church, the liturgical context, audience participation - most of the church involved in the Hungarian chorales - and the reassuring
intergenerational presence: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzfR88L9L2U

I have also linked to a concert performance below. Additionally, I have realised the chorale organ part using an appropriate historic instrument.

Part 1:
Renato Negri, Capella Regiensis (Italy): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AH4Hq428bRk
Chorale Cornet-Ton Transpose (Silbermann 1722): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RiRAcesge4g

Part 2:
Renato Negri, Capella Regiensis (Italy) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZCpTt3AVa7Y
Chorale Cornet-Ton Transpose (Silbermann 1722): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YhTjmouBlrU

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 14, 2012):
"Charles Francis wrote:
< I was particularly moved by the apparent living tradition of the Acsai Lutheran Church, the liturgical context, audience participation - most of the church involved in the Hungarian chorales - and the reassuring
intergenerational presence:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzfR88L9L2U >
It's worth noting that the video clip is of a concert not a service with all of the performers in front of the altar. The church organ is in a small gallery in the back: http://www.lutheran.hu/z/honlapok/acsa/05_galeria/02_tem_bel

Most Lutheran churches still have a strong tradition of congregational singing, but almost none follow the liturgical pattern from Bach's time, rather using revised orders from the late 19th century, and more recently
from the late 20th century.

It is a great rarity to hear a Bach cantata performed in its original context. They are more likely to be sung in a so-called "Bach Vespers" which is a free amalgam of scriptural readings, short sermon and prayers, with the cantata as the climax.

Even St. Thomas, Leipzig, does not use Bach's order of service. Several years ago, it was a special event when a cantata and a concerted Sanctus were sung liturgically on Ascension Day. I'm always on the lookout for survivals of the Bach liturgy, but the reforms of the last 25 years have pretty much influenced all Lutheran churches.

William Hoffman wrote (October 16, 2012):
Cantata BWV 70: Trinity 26 Chorales

See: Motets & Chorales for 26th Sunday after Trinity

Ed Myskowski wrote (October 16, 2012):
[To Francis Browne] This reply will also as my weekly reminder for the current discussion topic, BWV 70. Nice to hear from Francis! Other regular correspondents greatly appreciated as well.

Julian Mincham wrote (October 16, 2012):
Francis Browne wrote:
< Dürr comments that the expanded cantata text lacks the consistent exposition of a single idea and vacillates constantly between the fear of being inadequately prepared to the end of the world and the hope of one day be numbered among the elect. Some may feel this is a weakness, >
Bach's portrayal of opposing or seemingly contradictory themes or ideas is virtually never a weakness. On the contrary, he is frequently at his most creative and sublime when faced with such challenges. Look for example at the magnificent opening chorus to BWV 103

i.e. you will weep, the world will rejoice, your personal misery will ultimately be transformed into joy.

Only one of dozens of such examples

Douglas Cowling wrote (October 16, 2012):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Bach's portrayal of opposing or seemingly contradictory themes or ideas is virtually never a weakness. On the contrary, he is frequently at his most creative and sublime when faced with such challenges. >
I remember being in the choir for a performance of this cantata and watching the audience relax as the bass began his lyrical aria, "Seligster, Erquicksungs Tag". When he suddenly launched into the Presto "schalle" and the trumpet unexpectedly flashed out, you could literally see the audience sit up and rivet their attention. That's a theological and musical moment of genius.

 

Your thoughts on cantata 70? [Bach Cantatas Maniacs on LinkedIn]

Douglas Starr [Music, Director of Music and Arts, St. Paul's Episcopal, Mt. Lebanon (Pittsburgh), PA] wrote (July 2, 2013):
Your thoughts on cantata BWV 70?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 3, 2013):
See: http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-28-bwv-70.htm

Kyle Renick wrote (July 3, 2013):
I started writing about Alfred Deller and Daniel Taylor and checking my complete cantata sets when it suddenly struck me that I was writing about BWV 170, not BWV 70. So apologies are in order, but at least now I will take out BWV 70, listen to it, and see if I have anything to contribute here.

Alain Bruguieres wrote (July 4, 2013):
Julian's text is remarkable, I strongly advise you to read it.

To me this cantata is one of the most operatic. I particularly enjoy, in the second part, the sequence with the air 'Hebt euer Haupt empor' followed by the recitative "Ach, soll nicht dieser große Tag". I can't help thinking that there's a little irony here. First, you have the Good Christian congratulating himself on his spotless life, and indulging in what will be revealed later as smug confidence in his ultimate salvation. The delightful air, with its dance-like galanterie, suggests a somewhat frivolous carefreeness. And then, all of a sudden, lightning strikes out of a blue sky. It's the end of the World, everything collapses, including the Good Christian's composure: he's a sinner, he's bound to burn in Hellfire, no doubt! But the comforting evocation of the compassion of God gradually brings back a more authentic and humbler form of confidence in the future, less buoyant perhaps, but more solid. This recitative undergoes radical changes in mood in a very short time. And all along, you hear the Chorale melody, played by the trumpet. At first, the trumpet seems to be the very personification of the horrors of the final destruction of the world. Then, it becomes soothing, in its steadfast progress, as if it were leading the Christian through his internal turmoils. But in fact the Chorale melody is quite impervious in its hieratic beauty. It is as if the drama was really happening only in the Christian's mind, a sudden outburst of fear which makes him aware of the shallowness of his faith, and brings him ultimately to a much deeper spiritual level.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 15, 2013):
Thanks Alain Incidentally I just got back from Poland and East germany where I heard 11 Bach concerts including several of the cantatas and the B m Mass.. I was bowled over by the expertise of the players, most particularly those playing 'authentic' instruments repros. I think that the best groups playing this sort of music today are probably mostly European.

BTW the link to the article on BWV 170 (as opposed to BWV 70) is: http://www.jsbachcantatas.com/documents/chapter-19-bwv-170.htm . I too have Deller's recording of the solo alto cantatas which are sublime--as is his Agnus Dei from the mass.

 

Cantata BWV 70 & BWV 70a: Details & Complete Recordings of BWV 70 | Recordings of Individual Movements from BWV 70 | Details of BWV 70a | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Recordings & Discussions of Cantatas: Cantatas BWV 1-50 | Cantatas BWV 51-100 | Cantatas BWV 101-150 | Cantatas BWV 151-200 | Cantatas BWV 201-224 | Cantatas BWV Anh | Order of Discussion

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Last update: żOctober 12, 2013 ż09:28:33