Cantata BWV 77Du sollt Gott, deinen Herren, Lieben
Discussions - Part 2
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Discussions in the Week of September 18, 2005 (2nd round)
Santu de Silva wrote (September 17, 2005):
BWV 77: Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren, lieben - 13th Sunday after Trinity
BWV 77: Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren, lieben,
Leipzig, (August 22,) 1723
Orchestra: Trumpet, Violin 1, 11, Viola, Continuo
Epistle: Galatians 3: 15-22 -- The promises made to Abraham.
[St Paul explains the salvation of Jesus in the context of God's pact with Abraham, and the (Mosaic, presumably) Law.]
Gospel: Luke 10: 23-37 -- The parable of the Good Samaritan.
Christoph Wolff says that the text was adapted from Johann Oswald Knauer: Gott-geheiligtes Singen und Spielen
 Chorus: "Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren, lieben"
(Thou shall love the Lord thy God)
Simon Crouch: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/077.html writes:
"The text for the day concerns the parable of the Good Samaritan and the theme of this early Leipzig cantata is a meditation upon the ten commandments. Immediately, Bach plunges us into symbolism, the opening chorus is absolutely stuffed full of it! For example, there's immediately a canon, canon=law (a pun, but a common one of the day). The trumpet intones Luther's chorale These are the holy Ten Commandments above the chorus and orchestra. The bass performs the melody in enlarged note values (Thou shalt love the Lord your God is the fundamental commandment) and the trumpet has ten entries, corresponding to the ten commandments. Despite (or perhaps because of, knowing Bach's skill in these matters) all this extra-musical baggage, the chorus is quite superb."
Craig Smith of Emmanuel Music: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_trans/notes_cantata/bwv077.htm writes:
"The opening chorus ... is conceptually one of the most brilliant things the composer ever achieved. Here he takes on an issue no smaller than the basis of all New Testament ideas on the bedrock of the Old Testament. The sung text is the new commandment, Christ's addendum to the Ten Commandments. The chorale tune representing the Ten Commandments appears in canon (which of course also means "law") between the trumpet and the continuo. This is only the beginning, however. The vocal parts are actually diminutions of the chorale theme turned upside down and backwards. Imagine a giant oriental carpet in which the front side is the choral music and the back side is the Old Testament underpinning. In addition the bass part which moves four times as slow as the trumpet becomes the harmonic underpinning for the whole piece. All of this sounds perhaps academic but the total effect is of a gorgeous moving wave. The resultant harmony of the modal chorale melody makes for one of the most harmonically inventive and moving of Bach's great choruses."
 Recitative -- Bass+Continuo:
"So muss es sein! Gott will das Herz für sich alleine haben"
(So must it be! God will have the heart for himself alone)
 Aria -- Soprano+Oboe i,ii, Continuo:
"Mein Gott, ich liebe dich von Herzen, mein ganzes Leben hangt dir an"
(My God, I love Thee from my heart; my whole life hangs on Thee)
Both the above commentators observe that this aria provides a simple yet effective contrast to the complexity of the opening chorus. The pair of oboes that accompany the aria give it a gorgeous texture to which the solo violin adds. (I don't know whether the score calls for a solo violin, but both recordings I listened to seem to feature one in this aria. Does Rilling use a solo violin?) Alec Robertson also mentions the agonizingly beautiful phrases sung to single words 'ever' and 'burns'. (I would love to hear Dawn Upshaw sing this aria.)
 Recitative -- Tenor+Violin i, ii, Viola, Continuo:
"Gib mich dabei, mein Gott, ein Samariterherz, dass ich zugleich den Nächsten liebe"
(Give me thereby, my God, a Samaritan-heart, that I at the same time my neighbor may love)
Robertson observes that the repeated notes of The Commandments motif (of the opening chorus) make a couple of appearances here.
 Aria -- Alto, Trumpet+Continuo:
"Ach, es bleibt in meiner Liebe lauter Unvollkommenheit"
(Ah, there remains in my love only imperfection)
The stunning fact of this aria is, of course, the obbligato trumpet. The aria, which is an confession of 'imperfection of the will' and has a general mood of humility, notes Robertson, would seem an odd choice in which to feature a trumpet. Still, apparently it was not out of line with the use of the trumpet at that time, according to Robertson. I can't quite make up my mind whether it was entirely successful, even bearing in mind that trumpet technique these days might not be up to what Bach could expect. (Was there a trumpeter who happened to be there in Leipzig for those particular sundays, as Tom Braatz speculates about speculating?)
The tune has that interesting type of ending that sounds as if it's on the dominant; what's this, Phrygian mode? There's a Christmas hymn that does the same thing -- "Christum wir sollen loben schon"
Apparently there were no words supplied in the manuscript. Robertson describes the tune as Carl Zelter's for the eighth verse of David Denicke's 'Wenn einer alle Ding verstünd': 'Du stellst. mein Jesu, selber dich.' (Does this mean that the other verses were sung to different tunes?)
At any rate, Koopman's recording  features a different verse altogether: Herr Jesu, der du angerzünt. They remark (Wolff) that various solutions have been proposed for this final chorale, and this is presumably theirs. If our theory that certain tunes were associated with certain hymns -- clearly not something we could be aware of from where we stand, looking back on Bach's time -- the choice of hymn would be more obvious, or the ambiguity would be more poignant to those who knew the few 'obvious' choices.
No doubt our German hymnody experts will elucidate presently!
Douglas Cowling wrote (September 17, 2005):
BWV 77: Trumpet
Santu de Silva wrote:
< BWV 77: Du sollst Gott, deinen Herren, lieben,
Leipzig, (August 22,) 1723
Orchestra: Trumpet, Violin 1, 11, Viola, Continuo >
The use of the trumpet in this cantata is so unusual that I kept thinking that it didn't sound like Bach at all.
Are there any other examples of a trumpet playing the chorale melody alone in a concerted chorus such as this opening movement? Bach doubles the soprano cantus firmus with a trumpet in "Jesu Bleibet" in "Herz und Mund", and the trumpet has a solo chorale in "Bleibt Ihr Engel" in "Es Erhub Sich Ein Streit" -- but alone in a chorus?
The alto aria with trumpet solo is an extraordinary movement. The pairing of an alto and trumpet in this sarabande with no tutti strings sounds more like Handel paying homage to Purcell in his English Chapel Royal music than Bach. I can't even think of another Bach aria where the trumpet is supported by continuo alone.
Can anyone provide other examples of comparable movements?
Neil Halliday wrote (September 19, 2005):
[To Santu de Silva] The Rilling recording  features an especially powerful presentation of the five sections (lines, or `sentences') of the chorale melody in the continuo - with what sounds like a 16 foot organ stop reinforcing the continuo double bass (reminding me of his BWV 80). The intervening non-chorale sections of the continuo are much lighter in texture, probably only cello.
These continuo chorale sections are in augmto the chorale melody sections on the trumpet (by a factor of 2, not 4, as stated in the Craig Smith article), with these latter being arranged, in relation to the continuo chorale sections, in the following varied manner: Line 1 trumpet, line 1 continuo, line 1 trumpet (different pitch); line 2 trumpet, line 2 continuo, line 1 trumpet (different pitch); line 3 trumpet, line 3 continuo, lines 1 and 3 trumpet; line 4 trumpet, line 4 continuo, line 1 trumpet; line 5 trumpet, line 5 continuo (starting before trumpet line 5 finishes), then over the rest of line five continuo including a long pedal point, the trumpet finishes with lines 1,2,3,4 and 5 joined together in succession.
It's an intriguing structure, to say the least. Note that line 4 consists of only four ascending notes; while lines 1 and 2 are 9 notes long, and lines 3 and 5 (of Luther's chorale tune) consist of 8 notes.
As has been noted, we have ten entrances of the trumpet, with each of the five continuo chorale sections having a trumpet section connected to either side of it.
After listening to the arrangement of the instrumental chorale sections a couple of times, one can then concentrate on and marvel at the intricate choral and string writing of this glorious movement.
In Rilling's recording, I have trouble hearing the sixth entry of the trumpet, probably because it begins low in the clef and there is much happening at the same time. Otherwise this late recording of the opening chorus (1983, among the last of the sacred cantata recordings in the Rilling set) has clarity, verve, and grandeur.
BTW, there is no violin part, just 2 oboes and continuo in the lovely soprano aria, in either the BGA or the Rilling recording (the only one I have heard so far). Donath with Rilling has a sweet, beautiful voice set against the decorative charm of the oboes.
The orchestration of the tenor recitative is especially appealing.
The alto aria presents the trumpet in a manner rarely heard in Bach - in which a gentle, lyrical element predominates. This lyricism is entirely convincing in Rilling's recording with modern trumpet, even if it does sound like a 20th century concert piece, with fine performances from trumpeter Laubin and alto Hamari).
Rilling's closing chorale is typically strong and melodious.
Neil Halliday wrote (September 21, 2005):
Santu de Silva wrote:
<<" Aria -- Soprano+Oboe i,ii, Continuo:
"Mein Gott, ich liebe dich von Herzen, mein ganzes Leben hangt dir an"
(My God, I love Thee from my heart; my whole life hangs on Thee).
.......The pair of oboes that accompany the aria give it a gorgeous texture to which the solo violin adds. (I don't know whether the score calls for a solo violin, but both recordings I listened to seem to feature one in this aria".>>
I previously said that the BGA score has two oboes and continuo, but I noticed today that in fact the instruments are not specified in the BGA score. (This score for the whole cantata also lacks most instrumental designations, as well as the figured bass for the secco recitative, and the text of the final chorale). What you are hearing in the Koopman recording  is one oboe and one violin, playing the parts that are alloted to two oboes in the Rilling recording . I personally prefer the sound of the two oboes in the Rilling recording, however, I notice a dissenting opinion in previous discussions.
Santu de Silva wrote (September 21, 2005):
[To Neil Halliday] I must listen to it again. I must say that Koopman's solo violinist  is often featured in cantatas, in fact his orchestra is often one-to-a-part, even if the choir isn't, and it works beautifully.
Koopman's BWV 199 is performed with just a string quartet and continuo, if I recall correctly, and is delightfully elastic and intimate, in great contrast to Rilling's rather Wagnerian orchestra! (JUst kidding; but Rilling's orchestra does sound a lot heavier.)
Note: I have not heard Rilling perform this cantata, and I, for one, do not necessarily prefer all other recordings above Rilling in every work. The Matthew Passion (BWV 244), in particular, is one case where Rilling's recording is really good.
John Pike wrote (September 23, 2005).
BWV 69a, 77 and 179
I have been catching up on cantatas after my holiday. I have listened to Leonhardt/Harnoncourt, Rilling and leusink of all these cantatas. I also listened to Gardiner's recording of BWV 179. I greatly enjoyed all these cantatas....some really very beautiful music in all of them, and I enjoyed all the performances. I always tend to find the vibrato in Rilling's sopranos and altos a little obtrusive, but his instrumentalists make such a pleasant sound, that his recordings are always a joy to listen to. The boy soloists in the Harnoncourt/Leonhardt recordings were often very satisfying.
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Cantata BWV 77: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4