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Cantata BWV 89
Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of November 20, 2005

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2005):
BWV 89 - Intro to Weekly Discussion

BWV 89 "Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?"

Identification:

The cantata which has been selected, based upon the chronological sequence of Bach's performances, for this week's discussion is BWV 89 "Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?" which had its first performance in Leipzig on October 24, 1723.

Provenance:

The autograph score may have come into the possession of Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach during the distribution of music scores/documents after J. S. Bach's death. Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach would have received scores like this one which did not go to C. P. E. Bach, but mainly his share of the inheritance would have contained the cantatas from the 4th and 5th yearly cantata cycles, all of which have been totally lost.

The original parts did survive and might have gone to C. P. E. Bach as part of the 1st yearly cycle of Leipzig cantatas that were primarily his. Strangely, however, these parts are not mentioned as existing in the C. P. E. Bach's estate (1790). All the cantatas from the 19th Sunday after Trinity to the end of the liturgical year (1723) are missing from this list where they might be expected. The next trace of these parts is as part of the Radowitz collection of musical documents, but recent research has uncovered that early references to the Radowitz collection might be in error and that the parts for BWV 89 were really part of the Voß collection. The Voß-Buch family donated these parts along with many other musical manuscripts to the BB [Berliner Staatsbibliothek] in 1851.

The Original Parts:

The parts were copied by Christian Gottlob Meißner, Johann Andreas Kuhnau, Christian Gottlieb Gerlach, and Anonymus Ia, Ic Im, and II

J. S. Bach copied the Corne du Chasse part himself.

The parts are:

1. CANTO.
2. Alto.
3. Tenore.
4. Basso.
5. Hautbois Imo
6. Hautbois 2do
7. Corne du Chasse
8. Violino. Imo
9. Violino 2do
10. Viola
11. Continuo (not figured)
12. Continuo (transposed and figured)

The true Violino I and II parts have been lost and only the doublets survive.
An untransposed Continuo part is also missing from the set.

Texts:

Liturgical Readings:

It is advisable for the reader to check out, in advance of the following discussion, the prescribed readings (the liturgical connection) for the 22nd Sunday after Trinity: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Trinity22.htm

Here it is possible to see a list of all the cantatas that are related to these liturgical readings. Usually this includes only the other cantatas which were composed for the same Sunday or holiday/feast day. Here they can be viewed at a glance and a link will take you directly to one of these cantatas, if you so desire.

Libretto:

This libretto was prepared by an unknown poet.

For those who have no original German text and translation available, these can be found as follows:

German Text available at Walter F. Bischof's site at: http://www.cs.ualberta.ca/~wfb/cantatas/89.html

English Translation available at Z. Philip Ambrose's site at: http://www.uvm.edu/~classics/faculty/bach/BWV89.html

English Side-by-Side Translation by Pamela Dellal available at: http://www.emmanuelmusic.org/notes_trans/transl_cantata/bwv089.htm

French Translation Note-for-Note by Jean-Pierre Grivois at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV89-Fre4.htm

Hebrew Translation by Aryeh Oron at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV89-Heb1.htm

Indonesian Translation Word-for-Word by Rianto Pardede at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV89-Ind.htm

Spanish Translation by Francisco López Hernández at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV89-Spa3.htm

The Chorale Text:

Bach has set the 7th verse of Johann Heermann's (1630) chorale text "Wo soll ich fliehen hin?" http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/Chorale021-Eng3.htm

Here you can see at a glance that Bach has set 5 different verses of this chorale text. There are links taking you to these other cantatas.

The Chorale Melody:

To obtain detailed background on the chorale melody used in mvt. 6, see: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Wo-soll-ich-fliehen-hin.htm

Find out about how a secular song about love becomes a serious sacred hymn/chorale melody associated with the text given above.

Scoring:

Under 'Scoring' on Aryeh's main Recordings page for this cantata, you will find the scoring for each mvt. The mvts. containing chorale melodies even have a small musical illustration of the melody as it appears in the cantata. Click on any mvt. to find out the details.

Here is the link to the last mvt. of the cantata: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/INS/BWV089-06.htm

Here you not only get the original text with the instrumentation of this mvt., but also links to the complete text and translation of the chorale text, a link to the poet/author of the chorale text, the composer of the chorale melody, and a link to the Chorale Melody Page where details are given about the chorale melody and its use elsewhere in Bach's compositions, but also as used by other composers.

Available Score:

A vocal & piano score of the entire cantata is available for download in PDF format at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV089-V&P.pdf

Commentaries (Short and Long):

Read Simon Crouch's short commentary at: http://www.classical.net/music/comp.lst/works/bachjs/cantatas/089.html

James Leonard also has a short commentary on this cantata: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=42:65246~T1

Julio Sánchez Reyes has a Spanish commentary at: http://www.cantatasdebach.com/89.html

For more information on the possibility that this cantata might have been based upon an earlier Weimar cantata, see the bottom of the commentaries page at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV89-D.htm

Here are two commentaries: [Malcolm Boyd, Alfred Dürr]
See: Cantata BWV 109 - Commentary

The Recordings:

Downloads of the complete cantata recordings of BWV 48 by Leonhardt [4] and Leusink [6] and RAM format as well as MIDI files of the individual mvts. available at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV89-Mus.htm

A list of all recordings of this cantata can be found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV89.htm

This is a chronological list which includes complete recordings by Redel (late 1960's) [1], Schröder (1969) [2], Rilling () [3], Leonhardt (1979) [4], Koopman (1998) [5], Leusink (2000) [6], and Suzuki (2000) [8].

Previous discussions on the merits of available recordings can be found at the bottom of the same page (Discussions), but before reading them, I would suggest first listening to whichever recording(s) you may have access to. With this approach you will not be unduly influenced to form a preconception regarding the quality of the various recordings. You are cordially invited to share your views and comments on the recordings and the music itself.

Douglas Cowling wrote (November 20, 2005):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< BWV 89 ³Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?² >
I was intrigued by the large number of trills in the opening aria: Bach ordinarily does not ask basses for extended ornaments. Leusink's bass [6] basically dodges the long trill in bar 31. What do the basses in the other recordings do? I'm also curious to know if someone knows another example of a bass being asked to sing a trill on a whole note in the the cantatas.

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2005):
[To Douglas Cowling] In BWV 89/1 the bass has only two trills and fairly short ones at that:
last beat of m 39
3rd beat of m 48 on a 16th note

The places where the long, held notes appear, there are no trills marked:
same note held for 8 beats mm 16-18 and 4 beats m 31.

There is no question here about what Bach wanted. We have all the original parts and Bach's markings (there are 33 corrections/additions in his own handwriting in mvt. 1 alone. This does not include the problems in articulation (phrasing) which the NBA reported and attempted to resolve -- one part may have no articulation marked while a similar other part does. All of this is reported in the KB.

There may be basses singing this 'Aria' using different (older) editions, but this is not an excuse for a recorded performance not to consult the NBA. Leusink [6] (who often did not consult the NBA and used a different, older edition) has here done the right thing.

I have not checked to see where Bach might have had a bass sing a whole note as a trill elsewhere in the cantatas, but Mattheson, reporting on his experience with the Hamburg Opera (this is certainly not the same as the 'church style' which Johann Mattheson so clearly spells out), tells of a German singer (a male voice, but he does not specify which range or category), often sang long trills on a single breath lasting as long as 20 measures! ["...er habe ihn öfters einen Triller über 20 Takte lang auf einen Atem singen hören."] The audience on the ground floor was becoming afraid that the singer would not make it ["daß den Leuten im Parterre bange geworden ist."

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 20, 2005):
Aryeh has kindly (and swiftly) placed on the BCW the missing musical illustrations that belong in the middle of Alfred Dürr's commentary on this cantata, specifically, the 1st mvt.

The page is found at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Guide/BWV89-Guide.htm

Thomas Shepherd wrote (November 20, 2005):
BWV 89 - Intro to Weekly Discussion/tonal wobble!

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I have not checked to see where Bach might have had a bass sing a whole note as a trill elsewhere in the cantatas, but Mattheson, reporting on his experience with the Hamburg Opera (this is certainly not the same as the 'church style' which Johann Mattheson so clearly spells out), tells of a German singer (a male voice, but he does not specify which range or category), often sang long trills on a single breath lasting as long as 20 measures! ["...er habe ihn öfters einen Triller über 20 Takte lang auf einen Atem singen hören."] The audience on the ground floor was becoming afraid that the singer would not make it ["daß den Leuten im Parterre bange geworden ist." >
Have you any more stories like this one up you sleeve Thomas? I thought about a number of my choir as I read it. A little dose of humour on this cold and grey November Sunday (the last of the church's year) was just the job before the Sunday morning Services.

Neil Halliday wrote (November 20, 2005):
BWV 89

Robertson notes the important elements of the 1st movement:

"Three themes appear in the opening ritornello: (a) in the continuo, a figure symbolic of God's anger (the figure to which Thomas provided a link in Dürr's article; Dürr considers this figure might be symbolic of God's indecisiveness), (b) the rise and fall of the terrible question on the strings, and (c) the cries of the threatened on the oboes. The voice part, which begins with three differently worded questions, with an awesome pause after each one, is declamatory but softens somewhat at "But my heart is of another mind", seven times repeated. This second half shows that God is reluctant to treat Ephraim and Israel, as he did the cities of Admah and Zeboim (two of the cities of the plain destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah.

The repeat of the orchestral introduction leaves no room for complacence".

I note that the restless continuo figure referred to above also occurs briefly in other lines of the score over the course of the movement.

Huttenlocher [3] seems unable to articulate the actual pitch of the lower notes in his 1/16th note melismas. I believe it's important for basses in Bach's music to be able to do this, considering the often-instrumental nature of the vocal line. Doug mentioned a trill in bar 31; the BGA does have the symbol 'tr' here which is apparently discounted by the NBA. Huttenlocher only has a short ornament at the start, a good thing, perhaps, because there is already sufficient vibrato in his voice. It's certainly interesting, almost strange, to hear a singer like Ramselaar (with Leusink [6]) having absolutely no vibrato on the first long note (on `schuetzen') that he sings.

Naturally, each of the recorded performances has its strengths and weaknesses; I found myself changing preferences quite frequently as I became acquainted with this music (apart from Rilling [3], listening to the amazon samples only), and still have not come to a decision. (BTW, the horn part in Suzuki's recording [8] sounds muffled; sometimes you hear a note, sometimes not).

The alto aria features a striking, angular continuo `theme' (whose incipit reminds me of the subject of the WTC Book I G minor fugue) which is taken up by the voice. I appreciate Leusink's [6] attempt to bring some extra drama (appropriate for this text) to the music with a somewhat developed, quasi-concertante organ part with changing registration (and a better organ would help as well; I remember McCreesh's occasional use of a larger instrument in the continuo of the SMP (BWV 244)). I think this is necessary for continuo arias such as this one; the others sound tame, or too bare, with their mostly soft, dainty organ realisations. Leonhardt [4] has the clearest cello line. Rilling's harpsichord [3] is a bit of a flop, as it just `tinkles/rattles' ineffectively and tediously (and I don't enjoy Watt's voice). Bartosz with Koopman [5] is perhaps the most pleasing of the alto voices.

Rilling [3] is on the right track in the following soprano continuo recitative with the 'complete' accompaniment (IMO, of course); but there is much more scope for drama in this movement which the quiet, unchanging organ registration fails to capture.

The soprano aria is tuneful, light and happy (a list member has suggested the music does nomatch the words, but I simply enjoy the music). Rilling must have heard my remarks about his phraseless continuos; here he has a bassoon (without continuo strings, plus organ) regularly playing in staccato manner the last two notes of the three-note pattern, thereby capturing the infectious gaiety of the aria.

Once again I find one of Koopman's singers [5], soprano Rösschmann, to have perhaps the most pleasing voice, but I'm not over keen on the guitar/lute-like instrument's `strumming' in the continuo.

As usual, I like Rilling's [3] unadorned nobility in this type of plain chorale movement, although Koopman does bring an expressive beauty to the movement.

John Pike wrote (November 25, 2005):
BWV 89

I have listened to Suzuki [8], Rilling [3], Leusink [6] and Leonhardt [4].

Suzuki [8] gets top honours from me for his recording. Rilling [3] not far behind, with a particularly nice opening movement. I also enjoyed Leusink [6]. Leonhardt's recording [4] was marred for me by some obtrusive vibrato in the alto aria, although I normally find Esswood very fine.

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (November 26, 2005):
was soll ich aus BWV 89/1 machen, Mr bass soloist?

Of BWV 89 [this week's Cantata to discuss] I have only the Suzuki recording [8], which is of characteristically high standard, imVho. But somehow I cannot report full satisfaction with the opening movement, the Aria-quasi-Arioso with Chiyuki Urano doing the bass solo.

I find the opening movement terrific in itself, to use a somewhat over-used word which however appears appropriate here, since the text, the drama, the situation, is Absolutely Violently Death-Threateningly Terrible. What more can a Hollywood director of disaster movies ask for? God Himself is supremely tired, disappointed and angry with (the Northern parts of) Israel, and considers "taking it out", to use the American term, i.e. wiping out big cities in his anger! These are not empty words -- He has done so before, with Adama and Zeboim and Sodoma and Gomorrah. So (naturally) I want the first half of the Aria performed with such threatening conviction that we, and certainly Ephraim, should shake in our boots. He's threatening not only to kill me (already a sobering thought), but all of my family, and all of my city, and while He's at it quite likely a couple of neighbouring cities as well.

As we know, He reconsiders, thank God, since His Barmherzigkeit ist zu brünstig (a lovely word that now would have other and slightly seedier connotations?). He forgives, gives Israel another chance, etc. We can imagine, or at least my imagined Hollywood director can imagine, the immense relief felt by 500,000 Israelis, by the change of tone, and His brünstige Barmherzigkeit. My city is saved!, we will not
die (yet), after all!

It is with this perspective that I feel that Suzuki and his bass [8] fail us. He sings and he sings and he sings (and he too dodges the "tr" on the loooong high c in bar #31), and the band marches smoothly onwards, and all is nice but c minor-ish gloomy, but we don't sense this Drama Extrema, the fantastic change in tone and mood from "I'm going to kill not only you and you and you but all your families and wipe out a couple of cities" to "but my Barmherzigkeit ist (leider?) zu brünstig, so I won't kill you all, after all". Every child can sense (and has presumably experienced) the difference between an Angry Father and a Mild Forgiving Father, but here (I feel that) Suzuki misses his God-given chance, it appears to be the same formidable but uni-mood Father through it all. Doh!

I should perhaps curtail my metaphors, but one more springs to mind: this short fantastic Bible text that is BWV 89/Movement 1 is like (a) USA and England and the whole Western World threatening to invade Iraque and kill Saddam and so on and so on (which they did), but (b) the whole thing being gently called off, since they didn't find any Weapons of Mass Destruction and since Bush became too brünstig (which he didn't). That would have been high drama (too), the drama of no-invation-after-all. This is for me BWV 89/1, and I long to hear a fantastic performance with such a splendid bass soloist (and fellow musicians) that we all sense the full drama: from shaking in our trousers (USA is going to kill us all!) to full relief (they've changed their minds! their inspectors inspected our inspectables and we're clean and they won't kill us all!).

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 26, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
>>I find the opening movement terrific in itself, to use a somewhat over-used word which however appears appropriate here, since the text, the drama, the situation, is Absolutely Violently Death-Threateningly Terrible. What more can a Hollywood director of disaster movies ask for? ... I want the first half of the Aria performed with such threatening conviction that we, and certainly Ephraim, should shake in our boots.<<
<>
There are conductors who might want to create their own imaginary scenarios for a mvt. from a Bach cantata, (they already do enough of this by taking far too much license with the music sans text) but I, for one, would not want to hear the results of Hollywood-style interpretations such as the one outlined here (violent, death-threatening ala Hollywood.)

>>As we know, He reconsiders, thank God, since His Barmherzigkeit ist zu brünstig (a lovely word that now would have other and slightly seedier connotations?).<<
Why even comment on the present-day connotation of a German word that is part of the libretto which Bach used, unless you wish to belong to all those who have wanted to and have actually changed the words that Bach used to something else more palatable to the present generation? These are people, who from their lofty view of themselves think that they are helping to save Bach so that the listeners will not have 'naughty thoughts' when listening to this sublime music. Would it not be better to attempt to educate and uplift listeners to a higher standard that allows them to investigate what is truly behind each word before rejecting or poking fun at what they take to be the insufficiencies of a Bach librettist (and Bach who was inspired by these words) in light of what the current usage of a word would dictate? Would it not be better for conductors to inform themselves thoroughly before launching into an aberrant interpretation of Bach's music with violently contorted expression where it does not belong?

>>He forgives, gives Israel another chance, etc. We can imagine, or at least my imagined Hollywood director can imagine, the immense relief felt by 500,000 Israelis, by the change of tone, and His brünstige Barmherzigkeit. My city is saved!, we will not die (yet), after all!<<
This is precisely where the cantata text begins: with the change of tone and that tone is one of an ardent, divine love almost incomprehensible to a human being. There is no anger to be expressed here as the text moves away from that which has already happened and focuses on the individual human being. To be sure, Bach still hints musically at the rumbling of a once-angry God, but that is more like a thunderstorm that has passed by and can still be heard off in the distance.

>>It is with this perspective that I feel that Suzuki and his bass [8] fail us. He sings and he sings and he sings<<
I assume this complaint means that the singer can actually sing but has trouble putting sufficient expression into the notes and words. All of this is another matter. Read Aryeh's excellent commentary on the various bass singers who have recorded this mvt. and just what it is that is musically effective. As it is, I would have to agree that Suzuki's bass singer [8] leaves much tobe desired in regard to the full presence of a commanding, yet kind fatherly voice, but Suzuki can not simply be faulted for the deficiency of his singer's voice/expression (as with all recorded Bach cantata series, ideal singers are hard to find and there are many instances where I would have wished for better singers in all the cycles that I have heard.)

>>(and he too dodges the "tr" on the loooong high c in bar #31), and the band marches smoothly onwards, and all is nice but c minor-ish gloomy, but we don't sense this Drama Extrema, the fantastic change in tone and mood from "I'm going to kill not only you and you and you but all your families and wipe out a couple of cities" to "but my Barmherzigkeit ist (leider?) zu brünstig, so I won't kill you all, after all".<<
There is no 'Drama Extrema' here except for certain misguided HIP conductors who feel that it is necessary to use performance extremes to get the attention of their audience. (For instance, the "tr" on the long high c in bar #31 has already been discussed this week -- it does not exist and makes little sense on the word 'Sinnes', but unfortunately there are performers of Bach's music who think that when they see a long, held note, they automatically have to do something with it 'according to the method.') The change in mood (from violent to retrospective) has already occurred. Now is the time for humans to consider their own thoughts and emotions lest they be found guilty before an eternal judge.

>>I feel that) Suzuki [8] misses his God-given chance, it appears to be the same formidable but uni-mood Father through it all. Doh! I should perhaps curtail my metaphors....
'Doh' is not a metaphor, but an expression used by only one other list member in putting down others.

>>I long to hear a fantastic performance with such a splendid bass soloist (and fellow musicians) that we all sense the full drama<<
I believe there are many list members, including myself, who also would wish to hear fantastic performances with splendid soloists, but I would venture to say that asking for a Hollywood-style Drama Extrema is the wrong direction to take. There is much more intensity present in a performance which internalizes the mood and projects this spiritually to the listener without resorting to the extreme musical behaviors that have been alluded to above. If you wish to turn the clock backward only 25 to 35 years, you can listen to your heart's content to the performances of Harnoncourt/Leonhardt where these extremes have been attempted frequently with little lasting success. Why try to force Suzuki [8] into such a mold?
<>

Neil Halliday wrote (November 27, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
"we don't sense this Drama Extrema, the fantastic change in tone and mood from "I'm going to kill not only you and you and you but all your families and wipe out a couple of cities" to "but my Barmherzigkeit ist (leider?) zu brünstig, so I won't kill you all, after all">
Robertson seems to draw this distinction between the two halves of the movement as well, with his reference to the initial continuo figure being symbolic of an angry God, and a "softening" at "but my heart is of another mind": and perhaps a performance based on such considerations might work; however, I note Duerr refers to the same continuo figure as symbolic of an indecisive God, and another reading might well be, as Thomas has stated, that the initial three questions are rhetorical, as a father in a predominantly forgiving mood might say to his children: "shall I punish you again (like I have in the past?).

There is certainly a tension between anger and forgiveness in both the text and the music, but note that as early as the second question ("shall I protect you, Israel?") the music changes into the less ominous key of E flat major.

I personally would say that we have God in forgiving mood in the entire movement, with only a reminder of the past actions of a marauding, vengeful God. There is an unmistakble wistful element in the music throughout the movement, which I had trouble reconciling with parts of Robertson's account; and Thomas' post threw some light on this issue, for me at least. But I suspect we are all agreed - this is a "terrific" movement, however one interprets it.

Nils Lid Hjort wrote (November 27, 2005):
This is a mail in three parts, pertaining to reactions to my earlier posting "was soll ich aus der BWV 89/1 machen, Mr bass soloist?".

1.
Thanks for what I interpret as words of support, not necessarily for the opinions and arguments I attempted to express but for my natural right to express them in the form I found suitable, without being headmaster castigated for all my opinions being wrong.
<>

2.
In my assessment, the disagreement between myself and TB boils down to a rather moderate-level one (on this particular occasion; in other cases he and I might disagree more than over BWV 89/1). In essence it concerns the interpretation of six lines
of text. If we stick to the metaphor of a Father going from (a) Anger and Threats to (b) Forgiveness and continued Kindness, then Opinion TB (if he allows me to translate and simplify) holds that stage (a) belongs in the past, before Bach's bar #1, so to speak. Opinion NLH, on the other hand, holds that both stages (a) (viz. the first four lines here) and (b) (the two last lines) are present:

<< Was soll ich aus dir machen, Ephraim?
Soll ich dich schützen, Israel?
Soll ich nich billig ein Adama aus dir machen
und dich wie Zeboim zurichten?
Aber mein Herz ist anders Sinnes,
meine Barmherzigkeit zu brünstig
. >>

Thus I would like a performance to give us a sense of both (a) ("I might kill you and destroy your cities") and (b) ("but my heart is too kind"), and the emotional break between the two parts. TB, on the other hand, prefers performances where the music, the librettist, the composer, the bass soloist, the musicians, the conductor, convey only stage (b). This is fair enough.

Which opinion is "right" cannot be determined from reading hundred books about performance practices in Leipzig 1723 (unless one of them gives a clear instruction on the matter from Bach himself). Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and textual truth and interpretation are the privileges of the ears and hearts of the listener. I have no difficulty with Opinion TB, although I prefer Opinion NLH (finding also an ounce of support in the text of the Cantata's 2nd movement, and in musical details like the c to c octave fall in bar #29, suggesting (for me) that Father really threatens to "zurichten" the guilty). TB's error, to use a bold word, is to give zero credit to another person's opinions, and to risk crossing the phase transition line of "how to disagree without looking disagreeable".

Luckily NLH is not the single person having Opinion NLH, as is made clear by verbal accounts of various recordings of BWV 89, and that TB kindly gave pointers to. Perhaps Max van Egmond is my guy, in the 1969 recording with Jaap Schröder [2]; Aryeh Oron writes in the November 2000 discussion that van Egmond "shows anger one moment and compassion in another"; see also what he writes about Mertens' fatherly voice ("from anger, through pain, to sorrow") in the recording with Koopman [5]. Again, I have only heard the Suzuki recording of this cantata [8] (and read the score), and reacted to the "relative blandness", the one-mood-only, of that performance.

3.
TB reacted somewhat harshly to various details in my contribution. I will not respond here to all of these details, since they are numerous and since I believe the above point 2 is the main Pomum Belli. Here are some references, however. Interested readers of students of listetiquetteology who have made it this far may need to scroll back to messages #15916 and #15917.

* " tall order ":
of course. Each time a listener is not quite satisfied with a professional performance amounts to a "tall order", hoping for an even more splendid performance the next time. do suppose ordinary listeners are entitled to such thoughts, reactions, or hopes, not only professional Bach scholars.

* <>

* " why comment on the word `brünstig'? ":
Because I found it interesting, and precisely because the word has changed its usage from 1723 to 2005 (I am fairly ok in German, but it's not my mother tongue and I'm not a linguist, so I ought to add "in my interpretation"). And no, I'm not on a political programme to insert modern German words into Bach's texts, what caused you to think such a thought? I might go along with "ich habe genug" (German 2005) instead of "ich habe genung" (German 1727), but by all means let us keep "brünstig" for ever and ever. And agreed, of course we should strive to understand texts and words and phrases in Bach's music as well as we can, on the grounds of his time and his music.

* <>

Respectfully

Alain Bruguieres wrote (November 28, 2005):
I haven't heard Suzuki's version of BWV 89 [8] (the only Suzuki experience I have is BWV 95, and I've been a little disappointed, I felt as if he had missed the point, notably in the opening chorus, and that seems to be Nils' objection to his BWV 89). I've just listened to Leonhardt's BWV 89 [4], and I enjoyed it very much.

As for the opening aria, in view of the text (in English - I don't understand German well enough), and also in view of Leonhardt's performance [4], which sounds very 'true' to me, I'm not quite convinced by Nils' analysis. I hasten to add that his point of view is perfecly respectable, and his arguments are perfectly sound. I just feel it otherwise, that's it. To me, God here is the loving father, who is feeling very sorry for his son's misdemeanour, he doesn't want to respond in a violent way : he's done so in the past and he's not very proud of himself for having done so, and he's sworn to himself that he would never do it again. So now he's asking : what am I going to do with you? Probably many a father has been through this, perhaps Bach himself... In fact this aria (so interpreted) is deeply humane... This assumes that you take the text in a synchronic way. Indeed, you can also assume that the different ideas expressed come one after the other, as if God were first considering first the 'hard line', and then relenting... That would make sense, too. Only I don't feel the wrath - the hatred, rather, which should dominate the 'hard line' stage.I feel more sadness - and love, than wrath, in fact.

Alain,
who hopes that those on the list who know a lot more than he does will continue to take his errors like a loving father takes his son's, however sad he may feel about them, and not consider too extreme means of retaliation... ;)

Alain Bruguieres wrote (November 28, 2005):
By the way, one little question : are there many instances in the Cantatas or other vocal works where God's words (the Father's, not Christ's) are sung by a soloist?

Thomas Braatz wrote (November 28, 2005):
Dicta, Vox Dei, Vox Christi

Alain Bruguieres wrote:
>>By the way, one little question : are there many instances in the Cantatas or other vocal works where God's words (the Father's, not Christ's) are sung by a soloist?<<
This is probably the only instance of this. Most commentators simply say that it is extremely rare for Bach to have a bass sing the 'vox Dei' instead of the usual 'vox Christi.' It is even difficult to find a 'dictum' with God speaking directly, where in the OT the Bible the quotation of the material after "and God said," is actually set to music as the spoken words of God. These are usually indirect statements relayed through the prophets and are most often given to a chorus. There are, of course, many more 'dicta' from the New Testament than from the OT and many instances of a bass soloist singing the 'vox Christi.' A chorus may even sing Christ's words, but that, obviously, is simply a 'dictum' and not considered the 'vox Christi'.

Aryeh Oron wrote (November 28, 2005):
Nils Lid Hjort wrote:
< Luckily NLH is not the single person having Opinion NLH, as is made clear by verbal accounts of various recordings of BWV 89, and that TB kindly gave pointers to. Perhaps Max van Egmond is my guy, in the 1969 recording with Jaap Schröder; Aryeh Oron writes in the November 2000 discussion that van Egmond "shows anger one moment and compassion in another"; see also what he writes about Mertens' fatherly voice ("from anger, through pain, to sorrow") in the recording with Koopman. Again, I have only heard the Suzuki recording of this cantata [8] (and read the score), and reacted to the "relative blandness", the one-mood-only, of that performance. >
Thanks for your contribution. Although your view of this specific aria is quite different from mine, it is still a food for thought.

One simple question.
If I am not mistaken, you base your view on only one recording - Suzuki [8]. I wonder why.

Following your message I re-listened to Suzuki with Urano (it was not at my disposal in the first round, when I wrote my review). I tend to concur with you that he has a nice voice and easy going delivery, but he hardly gets beyond the surface of the aria. This magnificent aria has much more to offer than Urano's interpretation reveals.

In the music examples page of each cantata you can find links to two complete recordings: H&L (currently unavailable) and Leusink. In several cases additional music examples are included as well. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV89-Mus.htm
I have also started adding links to Amazon and other Internet stores to the recording pages of the BCW. For cantata BWV 89 there are links to Amazon pages, where you can listen to examples from the renditions of Rilling [3], Leonhardt [4], Koopman [5], Leusink [6] and Suzuki [8]. See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV89.htm
Although these samples are only about 1:00 long, they can still give you some idea about the approach of each singer to the opening aria of this cantata.

Johann Nicolaus Forkel, the first biographer of J.S., already wrote about 2 hundreds years ago: "Bach's music does not arrest our attention momentarily but grips us stronger the oftener we listen to it, so that after a thousand hearings its treasures are still unexhausted and yield fresh beauties to excite our wonder." If it was true thrn, it is even truer now, when we have the possibility of listening to different recorded performances of the same work. I believe that each performance add something to our comprehension of Bach's music. From my experience in 4 intensive years of cantata reviews, listening to several renditions open our ears to many possibilities in Bach's multi-layered, multi-facets, multi-dimensional music, which one rendition, good as it might be, can only rarely do.

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 89: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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