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Cantata BWV 73
Herr, wie du willt, so schick's mit mir
Discussions - Part 1

Discussions in the Week of January 21, 2001

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 21, 2001):
Background and the Opening Chorus

This is the week of Cantata BWV 73 according to Andrew Oliver's suggestion. This is relatively short cantata, with unusual opening chorus. As a general background for the cantata and for this Chorus, I shall quote from W. Murray Young's book - 'The Cantatas of J.S. Bach - An Analytical Guide':

"The author of this libretto for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany is unknown. He ignored the Gospel for this Sunday, Matthew 8: 1-13 - Jesus heals the leper and the centurion's servant - and instead, concentrates the theme on obedience to God's will, which is the basis of the first number of the cantata. This is the first stanza of Kaspar Bienemann's hymn, which is the title of this cantata.

The soli are STB with chorus. The orchestra has two oboes, two violins, a viola, a horn or organ obbligato, and continuo. The reason for the choice of horn or organ may have depended on the availability of a corno player when Bach performed this work, his fourth choral cantata.

Mvt. 1. Chorale and Recitative - Tenor, Bass, Soprano
It is a surprise to hear the chorale verses of Bienemann's hymn blended in with the recitative, which the three soloists declaim in sequence. All the sections are sung separately; it is the first time that Bach has set such a combination.

The choir begins with a chorale fantasia on the first two lines of the hymn. The remaining verses are continued between the tenor-bass and the bass-soprano recitatives. As each soloist proclaims the sufferings he must endure throughout his imperfect life, the choir sings, to give him consolation through submission to God's will. As Christians, they must accept their fate as God has decreed it to be.

Bach has created a dramatic scene between soloists and chorus in this splendid number. The chorale stanza with Bach's main theme of a Christian's acceptance off his fate in accordance with God's will."

Review of the Recordings

During last week I have been hearing 7 complete recordings of BWV 73 and one recording of the aria for bass only. See: Cantata BWV 73 - Recordings. The aria for Bass (M-1) is taken from the same record that was reviewed last week in the discussion about Cantata BWV 13. This record will not be reviewed here, because my comparison is dealing with the Opening Chorus only.

(1) Günther Ramin (1954; Chorus: 5:26)
Opening Chorus: The instrumental playing is dogmatic, and the choir singing lacks coherence and beauty. The tenor and the bass singers are relatively competent, but fail to impress that they understand what they are singing. The singing of the boy soprano is simply painful to hear. There is no real interaction between the soloists and the choir. In short, this is not one of Ramin's best moments.

(2) Helmuth Rilling (1972; Chorus: 5:52)
Opening Chorus: The singing of the Choir is warm and consolating. The singing of Kraus is full of pain and agony, and so are Schöne and Schreiber (a nice surprise). The sense of drama is created by the relation between the sadness expresses by the soloists and the comfort conveyed by the Choir.

(3) Gustav Leonhardt (1977; Chorus: 5:21)
Opening Chorus: The problems and the drawbacks of Leonhardt's approach to performing the cantatas are fully revealed in his rendering of this cantata. Both the instrumental opening and the singing of the choir are so fragmented, that it prevents any real feeling to be convincingly expressed. One cannot get comfort with choir singing that is not soft, full and warm, but cut up, sharp and dry. Both Equiluz and Egmond do not rise to their usual level, and the boy soprano, although much better than that of Ramin, lacks the maturity needed to express convincingly the strong feelings that both the text and the music are calling for.

(4) Philippe Herreweghe (1989; Chorus: 4:17)
Opening Chorus: The playing of the instruments and the singing of choir in this rendering are marvellous - warm, sensitive and transparent. Crook's singing is somewhat uneven, certainly not on the level of Kraus (with Rilling [2]). Kooy's part is too short to leave lasting impression, and Schlick has the usual problem of superficial singing. There is interaction here between the soloists and the choir, but it reminds me more a ping-pong game than call-and-response between sufferings and comfort.

(5) Ton Koopman (1998; Chorus: 3:42)
Opening Chorus: Everything that I wrote about Herreweghe's rendition is also applicable to Koopman's. And all the three soloists of Koopman are better than those of Herreweghe. So what is wrong? It is far too fast and no real dialogue can be developed under such conditions.

(6) John Eliot Gardiner (2000; Chorus: 4:05)
Opening Chorus: The playing of the instruments and the singing of the choir sound here much happier than in most of the other recordings. I am not sure that this is the right approach, but at least it has some originality and freshness. Somehow it remind me the recording of Leonhardt [3]. Podger is struggling unconvincingly with his part, but Varcoe is much better. Lunn has boyish timbre of voice and kind of fragility. Her singing does not reveal the potential of expression of her part. This rendition gives me the feeling of a train in a ride. If you can jump in, it is up to you. Nobody is stopping for a moment to think about the textual and musical meaning of his or her part.

(7) Pieter Jan Leusink (2000; Chorus: 4:26)
Opening Chorus: The internal rhythm and flowing of this rendering is much better than in every other of its modern rivals. Meel singing is exemplary, full of torture, suffer and distress. Ramselaar is walking successfully along the same route, and Strijk has the maturity needed to express the depression and the agony. The Choir supplies the answers to the prayers of the soloists. This is simply the best among the modern recordings of this cantata.

Personal Viewpoint - Tempi

Usually, I do not like to discuss tempi. Tempo is only one parameter that influences the performance, and in many cases not the most important. Sometimes a certain recording might be sounded slower than the other, although it is played faster, because the internal rhythm, the accentuation, the ornaments, the intensity, the volume changes, and the general approach and attention to details, are different. But when the differences between the playing time of the various recordings are so big, some attention must also be paid also to this factor. The total playing time (TT) of the slowest recording of this cantata (Rilling [2]) is about 40 percent greater than the fastest recording (Koopman [5]). And when the Opening Chorus is compared, the differences are even bigger. The length of the playing time of the slowest recording (Rilling again [2]) is about 60 percent more than the fastest (Koopman again [5]). I believe that in the opening chorus the tempo proposed by Rilling is the most suitable, because it gives enough room for all the participants to develop internal interaction and real drama. But Leusink [7] shows that a lot can be done with the right approach, even in relatively short time rendition. Herreweghe [4], Koopman [5] and Gardiner [6], show how much potential is getting lost with such hasty and short breath performances. And Ramand Leonhardt [3] convince that even apparently right tempo might be wasted.

Conclusion

My first priority for this cantata as a whole and the Opening Chorus in particular would be Leusink (7), where Rilling (2) comes close second.

And as always, I would like to hear other opinions, regarding the above mentioned performances, or other recordings.

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 22, 2001):
BWV 73 - Herr, wie du willst, so schricks mit mir
Cantata BWV 73
Herr, wie du willst, so schricks mit mir
========
Aryeh, this must be schick's or such, nicht wahr?

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 22, 2001):
(ToYoël L. Arbeitman) You are absolutely right. I fixed that and you can already see the corrected page in the New Archive Site, in the following address: Cantata BWV 73 - Recordings

May I expect to some contribution from you to the disussion about this cantata?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 22, 2001):
(To Aryeh Oron) I collected many Bach cantata LP's decades ago. I have very very few current CD's. I am rather out of touch. I would really enjoy following the weekly cantatas. But (1) my turntable output from my receiver doesn't work and (2) I lack the means to acquire the complete sets. If I had my druthers, I'd get the Leonhardt-Harnoncourt set, but out of my league. That is more than you asked for. But I feel like a parasite not contributing anything.

Charles Francis wrote (January 22, 2001):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Composed - Leipzig, 1723 (according to Robertson) or 1724 (according to > Stokes) or 1725 (according to Young) >
Let me just add that according to Dürr this cantata was performed 23. January, 1724, and the Epistle was Romans 12, 17-21.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (January 23, 2001):
First of all, apologies that I’ve been “away” for so long…last few weeks and the time around the holidaze were unremittingly busy-and when I did have the time, I didn’t the cantata! Sigh.

Well, this morning I went to look for BWV 73 and I figure that since I have Koopman Vol. 1 – 9, I’d have it. but to my chagrin (which is halfway between astonishment and dismay) I didn’t see it.

Sometimes I’m so careless I couldn’t find a stinkweed hidden in my moustache. So, could one of you lovely people tell me on which volume and disc I would find TK’s recording of BWV 73 (5)? Also on which Brilliant Classics vol/disc would I find the Leusink (7)?

Pieter Pannevis wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Harry J. Steinman) I do not know for my fellow country man Ton Koopman (5), but for the Brilliant Classics and BWV 73 it's CD No. 97 and volume 14 (7).

Ehud Shiloni wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Harry J. Steinman) It is on Koopman Vol. 10 [!!], CD #1 (5).
Now off to Berkshire website....

Michael Grover wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Harry J. Steinman) On the Leusink, it's on Bach Edition Volume 14, Cantatas Volume VII, CD 2 (7).

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 23, 2001):
[To Ehud Shiloni] This is what Broinc.com generates under Koopman today:
http://www.broinc.com/cgi-bin/seek.cgi?StartRow=1&QueryText=Koopman+&AndOr=OR&Meth=Some&RPP=25

There is no Bach there for Koopman except an organ disk of various.

Ehud Shiloni wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) Well, I was just trying to inject some humour, knowing that Harry's usuall destination for spare cash is Berkshire outlet.....;-)
I didn't check if they actually have Koopman's 10 (5) in stock, and obviously they don't. What a shame - now Harry will have to pay retail....;-)

(5) BWV 73 is still on Vol 10: http://www.tonkoopman.nl/testframe.htm

Aryeh Oron wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Harry J. Steinman and others) I know that I am jumping in in a middle of a fascinating conversation, but I think that I can contribute something which might help you in similar situations in the future. I have almost finished my work on the performer pages for the New Archive Site. For each major performer I collected all the messages dedicated to him (or her) in BCML and BRML and arranged them in similar method to the one I used for the discussions about the cantatas. For each major conductor I also collected information from every possible source (my personal library included) about his recordings of Bach Cantatas (and Other Vocal Works), and put them either in a seperate page, or in the same page where the discussions are collected (depend on the number of Bach Cantatas recordings by the relevant conductor). Index to all the performers' discussions & recordings pages is in the following address: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/index.htm

(5) The list of Ton Koopman's recordings is in the following address: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Koopman.htm

(7) The list of Pieter Jan Leusink's recordings is in the following address: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Performers/Leusink.htm

You can also use the new Search feature to find out in which pages BWV 73 is mentioned.

And now, guys, can we discuss cantata BWV 73 itself?

Harry J. Steinman wrote (January 24, 2001):
Thanks everybody for the references. Seems that I have neither the Koopman Vol. 10 (5), nor the Brilliant Classics volume (7). Sigh. Well, it's off to market for me, but I can't participate in this one. Sigh.

Johannes Rinke.wrote (January 23, 2001):
(To Aryeh Oron) Have a nice day from Germany!

Mr. Oron, thank you for the critical statement concerning the tempi even if I can't follow your opinion concerning Herreweghe (4). I have got the recordings of Gardiner (6) and Herreweghe (4), and (so is my taste) I like the latter much more. Not only that each movement has its own flowing, warm tempo, also the cantata as a whole gives a sublime unity; and this, I guess, is the specific problem of this wonderful catata: Not only the opening chorus is a mixture of recitative and Chorale, also the recitative and the aria of the bass have to form a whole. Herreweghe succedes in creating a warm, almost meditative atmosphere.

I can't find this in Gardiner's recording [6]: Not only the tenor's aria is much too fast, also the final chorale is breathless, without any feeling of "Guts die Fülle ... und Genad"; (the fullness of mercy and grace). Here Gardiner follows the text of another edition than the NBA!

Another detail of Herreweghe's interpretation [4]: He uses the later version with "Organo obbligato" instead of "Corno" in the first movement.

Peter Kemner wrote (January 23, 2001):
I'm new to this group, so let me introduce myself. My name is Peter Kemner, I'm 42 years old and I'm from Rotterdam, the Netherlands. I'm also relatively new to the Bach Cantatas so don't expect too many contributions from me as yet. I started listening to Bach's music thanks to Bruno Monsaingeon's films about Glenn Gould. From there on I started collecting recordings of all the major Bach-works for keyboard. All this time I never cared much for the vocal side of Bach, until not too long ago a friend of mine made me a tape of John Eliot Gardiner's rendition of the St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244). This really opened up my ears :-) And so now, finally, I have arrived at the Cantatas. Like the great Dutch Bach-lover Maarten 't Hart described so perfectly in his book "Johann Sebastian Bach" (it came with the Kruidvat series), I too was under the impression "that the cantatas were merely works made in a hurry to comply to the weekly need of the churchgoers". No way Bach could have given his best in these works! So how wrong can one be...

Anyway, this sounds like a fun group and looking at the postings in the archive there's plenty of expertise and suggestions around to keep me busy for a while :-)

I have a few small remarks regarding BWV 73 though. This may sound silly as a first remark, but I believe the correct name of this Cantata is: Herr, wie du willst, so schick's mit mir (as opposed to schricks in the subject line). Also, I found about three different English translations of this title:
1) Lord, as Thou wilt, so send it to me (W. Murray Young)
2) Lord, as thou wilt, so deal with me (Z. Philip Ambrose)
3) Lord, as thou wilt, so ordain it with me (Simon Crouch)
Maybe there are even more :-) So what's it gonna be? I must say, "ordain it with me" sounds like the best choice here. "so send it to me" sounds somehow weird to me, schick's is an abbreviation of "schick es", so Murray Young would have been right if the title of this cantata would have been: Herr, wie du willst, so schick's mir, omitting the word "mit" :-).

Peter Kemner wrote (January 24, 2001):
On Ton Koopman's webpage there's a splendid introduction to his volume 10 [5] by Christoph Wolff: http://www.tonkoopman.nl/cant10.htm

About BWV 73 he writes:

"The cantata "Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir" BWV 73 was written for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany on 23 January 1724. For the first movement, the unknown librettist took the hymn of the same name by Kaspar Bienemann (1582), interpolating some free- composed sections. The last movement is a verse from Ludwig Heimbold's hymn "Von Gott will ich nicht lassen" (1563). All the sections of the cantata text have a link with the gospel reading (Matthew 8: 1-13 - Healing of a leper).

Again, the large-scale opening movement reflects the specific character of the chorale cantata cycle. It also demonstrates Bach's quest for an original approach to large-scale choral settings of chorale-based material. The Reformation chorale melody "Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält" appears in four sections, interrupted by relatively lengthy recitatives sung successively by tenor, bass and soprano. The central solo movements are given to tenor and bass. The first aria is for tenor with oboe obbligato; the following bass recitative and aria are given a broad and particularly expressive accompaniment by the full complement of strings."

Look again at what Christoph writes about the text of this cantata: "All the sections of the cantata text have a link with the gospel reading (Matthew 8: 1-13 - Healing of a leper)." And what W. Murray Young writes (quoting from Aryeh's posting): "The author of this libretto for the 3rd Sunday after Epiphany is unknown. He ignored the Gospel for this Sunday, Matthew 8: 1-13 - Jesus heals the leper and the centurion's servant - and instead, concentrates the theme on obedience to God's will, which is the basis of the first number of the cantata".

About the recordings. I have the Koopman (5), Gardiner (6) and the Leonhardt (3), and looking forward to the Leusink [7], which I'm about to get. I like the Koopman best so far although on the Gardiner I find Varcoe is excellent in the Aria for Bass (the best part of this cantata in my opinion), and quite frankly, the Leonhardt with the boy soprano [3] is indeed a bit of a turn-off :-)

Charles Francis wrote (January 24, 2001):
< Peter Kemner wrote: ...I found about three different English translations of this title:
1) Lord, as Thou wilt, so send it to me (W. Murray Young)
2) Lord, as thou wilt, so deal with me (Z. Philip Ambrose)
3) Lord, as thou wilt, so ordain it with me (Simon Crouch)
Maybe there are even more :-) So what's it gonna be? >
Literally: "Man/Sir/Lord, as you intend/want, so send it with me".

Or, if you prefer the eloquent words of Paul McCartney: "Let it be"

Thomas Gebhardt (Collegium Cantorum Köln) wrote (January 24, 2001):
(To Charles Francis) No, that's not exactly what it means... To give all details exactly:

The German title (used by Bach) is: "Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir"

Bach uses an older German form of the 2nd person singular of the verb "wollen" (quite the same as the old English "wilt"), not the modern form "willst", and the other verb, of course, is "schicks" (not "schricks"), which is a contraction of "schick es". This verb "schicken" is "to send" only in one of its meanings, the more probable and plausible meaning here is something like "to befit", as the verb "schicken" in the sense of "to send" doesn't use the preposition "mit" ("with"). So, I would translate:

Lord, as Thou wilt, thus let it befit me

(hoping my English grammar is sufficient to use this verb correctly)

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 24, 2001):
(To Thomas Gebhardt) Yes, you are on to something. But two caveats: (1) "schick (es)" is a 2nd person imperative, thus the Lord is addressed; (2) we need a factitive verb in English: something like: "Lord, as Thou wilt, so destine it right/appropriate with me". Consider also the connection with Schicksal ("destiny"). "Ordain it right with me" is reasonable. But "right/appropriate" according to the Lord's good pleasure. I don't have the whole text, so I may be out of context.

And, a small matter, "wilt" is not "Old English". "Old English", like Althochdeutsch, is the earliest stage (before the Norman invasion) of English (often called Anglo-Saxon). "Wilt" is archaic Modern English (Neuenglisch). Even Shakespeare and the King James Bible (based on Tyndale) are Modern English.

Thomas Gebhardt (Collegium Cantorum Köln) wrote (January 24, 2001):
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) Thanks for that. Yes the connection with "Schicksal" sounds to me very appropriate.

By the way, I am aware of the different historic stages of English. So I did not use "Old English" as a term as for the Beowuld language, but "old English", "old" being an simple adjective here. ;)

Jane Newble wrote (January 24, 2001):
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) Could it be: " Lord, as Thou wilt, so deal with me" ?

Yoël L. Arbeitman wrote (January 24, 2001):
(To Jane Newble) The long and the short of this is that total translation is not possible. The German verb has a direct object "es". So we are dealing (no pun) in various English paraphrases and no metaphrase is possible.

Andrew Oliver wrote (January 25, 2001):
(To Yoël L. Arbeitman) The verb 'schicken' occurs several times in the Luther-bibel, and the equivalent translation in the English King James Bible (A.V.) is usually 'send', but it also occurs as 'set', 'stablish', 'prepare', 'direct', and of these the most appropriate for the quotation presently under discussion seems to be 'prepare'. Therefore, we could say something like: "Lord, as Thou wilt, so prepare it for me". As Yoël says, a precise translation is not really possible.

Jane Newble wrote (January 25, 2001):
For me this cantata gets more beautiful and more intriguing with every hearing. From the beginning I was puzzled by the seeming contrast between the words and the music in the opening chorus. The words denote a resignation to God's will. The music sounds quite up-beat.

When I thought about it for a while, It all fell into place. Submission to God's will is an act of the human will, and therefore there is a which comes out so strongly in the instrumental part.

There is almost a sense of cheerful comfort in the quiet resolution to hand over to One who knows what He is doing. The instruments keep up the pace so there can be no question of weakening and giving up. This is reiterated at the end, when the "Herr, wie du willt!" The exclamation mark is very forceful.

The tenor then comes in with a prayer for joy. It may have been an act of the will, but it's not going to be easy, and human beings are apt to get fainthearted - 'zaghaft', beautifully painted by Bach in that one word.

The bass agrees with this, and I love the way in which the recitative flows over into the aria, a wonderful masterpiece in which a human being stands before God, knowing there is nothing he can do against God's will.

The funeral bells toll, and when the bass stops singing, they carry on. I caught myself holding my breath...it is so intensely expressive. The chorale brings us back into life, with showing us the good that God has done for us, and that death does not have to be the end.

The only two recordings I have are Herreweghe (4) and Leusink (7). Being an ardent Herreweghe fan, I was a little disappointed, listening to that first. It starts with beautiful instrumentation, typical Herreweghe perfection, but somehow it deteriorates when the soloists come in. It all seems somewhat detached from the meaning of the words. It is almost decorative and no more. Barbara Schlick does not exactly help either. I came to the conclusion that this is not my most favoured Herreweghe recording [4].

Then I listened to Leusink [7], and I feel he really has caught it! All through this wonderful piece of work he keeps the meaning and the intensity of the words together with the music. The soloists and the choir are very expressive, and the involvement with the words is kept up throughout. It really pulls at the heartstrings, and Aryeh has expressed the reason why this is so good much better than I can. Although I would like to hear my favourite Klaus Mertens, I love the way Bas Ramselaar sings that moving bass aria.

If I ever get discouraged, I shall think of this cantata...Herr, wie du willt!

Harry J. Steinman wrote (January 26, 2001):
(4) I thought I didn't have this on any of my recordings, which made me sad. Then I found it, buried in a double-CD Herreweghe recording, and I was glad! I've been out of touch too long...

I was initially a bit surprised to note the divergence between the W. Murray Young analysis (quoted in Aryeh's excellent review) which dissociates the libretto from the gospel, and the recording's booklet, which does focus on the story of the leper. Hmm...

What really caught my attention was the instrumental accompaniment in the opening chorus/recitative and in the tenor aria. The opening movement's insturmentation is tense: The oboes play a repeating 8-note figure that alternates with an insistant, almost stacato 4-note statement by the strings. The two are unrelenting and do not allow the listener to relax. I find this entirely in keeping with the libretto, especially in the first recitative, "Ah, woe is me!"

In the tenor aria, by contrast, the accompanying instrumentation flows more smoothly, and permits the tenor his hopeful plea, "Oh enter, thou spirit of joy, into my heart!"

Neither the recitatives in the first movment nor this aria would really work, I don't think, without the instruments to set an appropriate mood and context.

In the bass aria, the strings once again evince the feeling of despair, exhaustion, lamentation. I'm not too crazy about this rendition of the aria, but what do I know? To me, it almost sounds like the strings are alternately trying to rally the petitioner and to echo his misery. And to me, the voice and the instruments don't quite connect.

Final aria: Hopeful and resigned. Nice combination, I assume, for an early 18th century congregation...

Last thought: If the aria is indeed supposed to be about the healing of the leper, as the booklet suggests, how come the text leaves out the healing part? I find the Young analysis more credible than the booklet. (I'm also not crazy about the artwork on the booklet's cover, but that's me being picky.)

Anyway, that's it from Boston tonight. Take care, all...

Andrew Oliver wrote (January 27, 2001):
Anyone who has not got this little cantata should put it on their list of priority acquisitions. It is short, but delightful, interesting and unusual.

One of the reasons I like it is that it is quite dramatic in places, never tedious but making the listener want to hear more of each number. This is the case right from the beginning, when after the contentedly resigned choral introduction, in accordance with the words of the title, (and I like the rendering of it the Oxford Composer Companions book gives: Lord, as Thou wilt, so ordain it unto me), the mood changes abruptly when the tenor enters with Ach! aber ach! and several similar changes of mood follow. Something to note in this chorus with recitatives is the organ obbligato which creeps in unannounced but adds greatly to the instrumental colour of the piece.

This is followed by a fine aria for tenor. I particularly like Nico van der Meel's rendering of it (with Leusink) (7). Also very fine is Ramselaar's interpretation of the superb bass aria which follows. Usually, I am not too keen on bass arias, but this is first class. (Before the aria there is a recitative for bass which leads directly into the aria.) Scored for strings and continuo, the instrumentation is sombre and darkly expressive, yet it seems to convey a sense of hope at the same time. There are so many subtle changes of mood that I find it quite captivating. I like particularly the throbbing underlay at the words 'ihr Todesschmerzen, die Seufzer aus dem Herzen', and the anguish expressed at 'lege meine Glieder in Staub und Asche nieder'. This middle section then melts with relief into the third part, which, despite the gentle knocking of the death-knell, is set in the major key. We then return to the sweet sadness and resignation of the minor key, yet not without hope, to hear another six utterances of 'Herr, so du willt', making sixteen altogether. (1+3+3+3+6).

Bach rounds off this little masterpiece with a simple chorale, beautifully harmonized as always.

Roy Reed wrote (January 27, 2001):
I was not familiar with this cantata and found it a wonderful and inspiring surprise. I love the occasional chorus-recitative litanies that Bach occasionally creates. This one is superb, and Bach keeps the instrumental pattern going with the oboes to weld it all together. The cantata is about trust and confidence....which adds up to joy. And despite some demures, the cantata is indeed about the Gospel Lesson: Matthew 8: 1-13. It is true that JSB and his unknown poet do not deal with the healing of the leper. They deal with verse 2b, "Lord, if you will," and the trust and faith of the centurion in verse 10b, "Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith."......and the implied joy involved in such faith that can overcome even fatal illness, which (just to make this sentence longer) we all have.

(5) I have only the Koopman CD in Vol. 10, and I think that the performance is excellent, and even inspirational. Caroline Stam (sop.), Paul Agnew (ten.) and Klaus Mertens (it says bass, but let's face it: baritone) all turn in stellar performances. I like the kind of "agitation" of the accompaniment of #1. Oboes kind of nervous, over and over with this motif. Solid confidence in the chorus....affirmative. Then the interruptions of the soloists.....not so sure, but believing....raising the nettlesome stuff, but trusting. The movement ends with the chorus stating three times in simple chords (One note per syllable), "Lord, as you will." Oddly, the final statement does not end on a tonichord, g minor, the key of the piece, but on a dominant 7th chord....with the third missing: a chord of (from bottom up) d, a, d, c. Then the instruments end the movement two and a half beats later with a G major chord.....raised third. Bit different.

By the way, once you get to the last page of the movement (last 7 bars) the sort of aggitative sense dissolves as the instruments get together in a more "harmonious" counterpoint, and the horn bolder and more decisive.

The movement and the cantata as a whole is not simply about trust in God, but about absolute trust in God's will, as it applies to things in general but more specifically to the individual believer. Its affirmation is genuine Luther in this regard. Luther wrote a treatise "On the Bondage of the Will," (De servo arbitrio), which was a response to a piece by Erasmus (de servo librio) about the freedom of the human will. Erasmus was a reluctant participant in the wars of words of the time, but here was an issue he could get into. Luther came back strongly: "And by the omnipotence of God I mean, not the power by which He omits to do many things that He could do, but the active power by which He mightily works all in all." (The Bondage of the Will, Revell, 1957. Original, 1524) The issues involved here are the most difficult theological problems, and are still, obviously, matters of discussion and division.

For Luther and Bach, joy is a gift, the fruit of absolute trust and confidence in God. This joy is not the absence of troubles or confusions, but rather the gift sent by the divine Spirit.....the unexplained, ineffable fruit of faith. What a great aria of joy this is, and how welcome, especially after last week's despondency. Happiness in E flat major! There is hope. This is a duet, supported, of course, by the continuo line....between a tenor and an oboe. It is almost as if the singer and the Spirit are dancing along joyously together.

The bass recitative and aria. Here we enter into something like the holy of holies. The aria is a sublime statement of a depth of devotion....even mystic communion. It is in the key of c minor, but sort of mysteriously....it gets around tonally and with wonderful surprises. I have to spare you the details. Wonderful entry from the recitative...which begins in "outer space," ...really a diminished 7th chord and evolves into the aria on the c minor chord....except that the aria begins with a b flat in the bass line. I love the tonal subtlety in this movement. And the accompaniment weaves itself around, sort of pulling the singer along and punctuating the trust and devotion. Mertens is just masterful in his reading of this devotional music.

The concluding chorale is also interesting tonally. The tune is simply a melody in c minor. The harmonization something else....very modal sense. Ends in C....raises third.

Some are familiar with the cantata studies of Eric Chafe. He makes a lot of tonal relationships and I am not all that familiar with his work or the subject in general to know if it is brilliant historical/musical research or a crock. Anyway, here is his take on BWV 73. The following is quotation:

"Bach's first cantata for the third Sunday in Epiphany, "Herr, wie du willt, so schicks mit mir" BWV 73, 1724), is built on a descent from G minor through Eflat major to three successive movements in C minor. The image of descent is clearly expressed in the E flat aria, "Ach senke doch den Geist der Freuden dem Herzen ein," in the recitative that modulates to C minor, ending "Allein ein Christ, in Gottes Geist gelehrt, lernt sich in Gottes Willen senken," in the images of the pain of death pressing the sighs out of the heart and lying down in the dust and ashes that dominate the first section of the Cminor aria, and in the line "auch Gott, der heil'ge Geist, im Glauben uns regieret," from the C minor chorale. At issue here is the relinquishing of the self-determining will to God's will, made manifest in the Holy Spirit. God's will, as the opening chorus states, is a "sealed book" to man, its blessings appearing as a curse, and often demanding a life of suffering. The descent plan of "Herr, wie du willt" mirrors man's submission. (Tonal Allegory in the Vocal Music of J. S. Bach, 1991, pg. 203)"

 

Continue on Part 2

Cantata BWV 73: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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

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Last update: ýSeptember 29, 2011 ý12:54:20