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Cantata BWV 91
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ
Discussions - Part 4

Continue from Part 3

Discussions in the Week of February 15, 2009

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 14, 2009):
Week of February 15: BWV 91 ³Gelobet Seist Du²

Week of February 15: BWV 91 ­ ³Gelobet Seist Du²
Cantata for Christmas Day

BACKGROUND LINKS:
Links to texts, translations, scores, recordings and earlier discussions:
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV91.htm

PERFORMANCE HISTORY:
1st performance: December 25, 1724 - Leipzig;
2nd performance: 1731-1732 - Leipzig;
3rd performance: 1746-1747 - Leipzig

MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY: (see below)

INDIVIDUAL MOVEMENTS:

Mvt. 1: Chorus (Chorale)

Instead of Christmas Day trumpets, Bach scores the cantata for two horns and a very prominent timpani part full of impressive trills and punctuating schlags. Three oboes are used as in Cantata BWV 63, ³Christen ätzet Diesen Tag.² The orchestral ritornello is dominated by two figures: a rising scale which Bach treats as a pseudo-canon - the opening offers a seven-voice canon! ­ and a familiar dactylic figure which Schweitzer calls a ³joy² motif. Above the orchestra, the horns have a circling figure attached to long-sustained thirds. ³Dazu ist Erschienen² (BWV 40), also written for Christmas week is scored for horns (but not timpani) as is the Missa Brevis in F.

Interestingly, Bach bases the chorale fantasy on the gradual Hymn of the Day (³de Tempore²) which the congregation had just sung before the chanting of the Gospel (see Musical Sequence for Christmas Day below). Bach would already have played an organ prelude on the Luther chorale both before the hymn and this cantata: BWV 314 or 614 are possibilities. (see chorale link below).

The chorale is placed in the soprano with no instrumental doubling. The lower voices have joyous counterpoint freely based on the orchestral themes: the rising figure on ³Gelobet² and ³dess freuet sich², and the circling
figure on ³geboren². Particular effective are the repetitions of ³das ist wahr²: Bach uses a similar device at ³wach auf² in ³Wachet Auf².

Mvt. 2: Recitative & Chorale (Soprano)

The lines of the free secco recitative are interrupted by successive lines of the chorale. Bach often enjoyed forcing chorales into canonic form ­ there¹s a whole set of short organ preludes of very tight canons. In this
recit, the first line of the chorale is manipulated into a kind of bass ostinato for every line of the chorale. The contrapuntal experiments here have some resemblances to the free fughetta in the organ prelude on the chorale, BWV 614. Bach also used this chorale as successive soprano responses in the bass recitative in Part 1 of the Christmas Oratorio. I suspect that this chorale was the 18th century equivalent of ³Joy to the World² for listener recognition.

Mvt. 3: Aria (Tenor)

The three oboes provide a dynamic dotted rhythm for this aria which has some of the hallmarks of a sarabande. In the BGA, the wind parts are carefully marked with ³forte² and ³piano² to indicate the orchestral ritornellos and the passages with voice. Whether this indicates dynamics is debatable. The word ³ew¹ge² is illustrated with a long-sustained note in the voice. Particularly lovely are the piano staccato wind figures at ³erscheinet uns² The librettos of movements 3-5 are by an unknown poet (Picander?)

Mvt. 4: Recitative (Bass)

This accompanied recitative is a miniature masterpiece demonstrating Bach¹s unfailing sensitivity to the ³affect² of the text. The opening lines are sustained by a lush string ³halo² unlike the accompanied recitative in BWV 63. At the mention of ³Jammer², the voice and strings fall into a tortured Adagio in which the voice and continuo have contrary motion chromatic scales. The strings extend this into an exquisite two-bar coda: does anyone else hear the Agnus Dei of the B Minor Mass in these bars?

Mvt. 5: Aria (Duet ­ Soprano & Alto)

I half-expected a big bass aria with horns at this point, but Bach writes an intense duet for soprano and duet with an austere minor-key dotted figure for the unison violins: the orchestral figure and the key of E minor are reminiscent of the duet ³So feiern wir² in ³Christ Lag in Todesbanden.² If the BGA is correct, Bach has marked the string parts very carefully with ³piano² and ³forte² when the voices are singing, so carefully in fact that both bars 10 and 11 are marked ³piano² in case the players mistake bar 11 for the ritornello. These have all the appearance of rehearsal markings. What is the provenance of the parts and markings?

Mvt. 6: Chorale

The cantata closes with chorale in festive dress. The horns and timpani begin modestly doubling the voices, but in the third line are given running independent parts. The coda-like final line echoes the circling figure of the opening chorus, sending the 1st horn up to a virtuosic high G.

MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY:
Tower bells rung at 6 am and again at 7 am:
The 5200 kg bell ³Gloriosa² (1477) (pitched in A) was rung only on festivals Candles lit at 7 am,
Archdeacon of Leipzig officiates as celebrant; Deacon assists
Musicians must be in loft by final bell or be fined.

Organ Prelude on ³Puer Natus² (BWV 603 ­ Orgelbüchlein?)
Settings by Bach or other composers before all chorales & choral works
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm )
Introit Hymn/Motet by Choir: ³Puer Natus In Bethlehem²
Settings by Praetorius or Schein are possible

Organ Prelude before Kyrie to establish key and cover tuning
Missa Brevis: Kyrie & Gloria (Plainsong Gloria intonation sung by Celebrant)
A concerted setting in Latin was sung from Christmas Day to Epiphany.
Bach¹s own missae breve are generally from his later tenure in Leipzig but may have been used with later performances of the cantata:
B minor (1733) ­ used in B Minor Mass [only missa brevis with brass]
BWV 233 - F major (1738)
based on Christmas cantata ³Dazu ist Erscheinen² ­ 2 horns
BWV 233a ­ Kyrie (1708-1712)
BWV 234 ­ A major (1738)
BWV 235 ­ G minor (1738)
BWV 236 ­ G Major (1738)

Collect/Prayer of Day sung in Latin plainsong by Celebrant
Choral Responses sung to four-part polyphony
from Vopelius collection ³Neue Leipziger Gesangbuch²

Epistle: Titus 2:11-14 (The grace of God has appeared)
sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Gelobet Seist Du² (BWV 314 or 604?)
Congregational Gradual Hymn of the Day (³de tempore¹,):
³Gelobet Seist Du, Jesu Christ ³
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Gelobet-seist-du.htm

Gospel choral responses sung in six-part polyphony from Vopelius collection
Gospel : Luke 2: 1-14 (Birth of Christ)
sung by Deacon in German to plainsong
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Read/Christmas.htm

Organ Prelude on ³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (BWV 1098?)
Congregational Creed Chorale:
³Wir Glauben All An Einen Gott² (Luther)

Organ Prelude before Cantata
First Cantata

Organ Prelude on ³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich² (BWV 719?)
Congregational Pulpit Hymn after the Cantata (Offertory)
³Ein Kindelein So Löbelich²

Sursum Corda sung in Latin in six-part polyphony
from Vopelius collecti
Preface sung in Latin by Celebrant
Sanctus (without Benedictus)
A concerted setting was sung in Latin during Christmas week.
BWV 237 ­ C major
BWV 238 ­ D major
BWV 239 ­ D Minor
BWV 240 ­ G Major (arr?)
BWV 241 ­ D Major (Kerll?)
Hand bells rung at the altar at the end of the Sanctus
Verba (Words of Institution) sung in German plainsong by Celebrant

Second Cantata ³sub communione² during Communion?
Unknown if by Bach or other composer;
Bach¹s motet ³Lobet den Herrn² has a traditional Christmas text.

Other congregational hymns during Communion:
introduced by organ prelude:
³Ich Freue Mich In Dir² (Ziegler)
³Wir Christenleut² (Fuger)

Final Prayer & Benediction:
sung with 4 part polyphony from Vopelius

Organ Prelude on ³³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
Final Congregational Hymn: ³Ein Kind Geborn zu Bethlehem²
German repeat of Introit chorale

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 15, 2009):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< MUSICAL SEQUENCE FOR CHRISTMAS DAY:
Tower bells rung at 6 am and again at 7 am:
The 5200 kg bell ³Gloriosa² (1477) (pitched in A) was rung only on festivals
Candles lit at 7 am,
Archdeacon of
Leipzig officiates as celebrant; Deacon assists
Musicians must be in loft by final bell or be fined.
Organ Prelude on ³Puer Natus² (BWV 603 ­ Orgelbüchlein?)
Settings by Bach or other composers before all chorales & choral works
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Ein-Kind-geborn-zu-Bethlehem.htm )
Introit Hymn/Motet by Choir: ³Puer Natus In Bethlehem²
Settings by Praetorius or Schein are possible..... >
Thanks again, Doug for a good introduction. I am wondering what source material you use to put together the musical sequence.

Thanks.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 16, 2009):
BWV 91 ³Gelobet Seist Du² - Bibliography
[To Jean Laaninen] The best sources for recreating the musico-liturgical matrix of the cantatas are:

R. Leaver, "Luther's Liturgical Music: Principles and Implications"
G. Stiller, "Johann Sebastian Bach and Liturgical Life in Leipzig"
C.S. Terry, "Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata Texts, Sacred and Secular"
C. Wolff, "Bach: The Learned Musician"

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 16, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] You've certainly gone to a great deal of effort...I'm not sure I would get to all of those aspects myself, but it's nice to know the sources.

And it is certainly interesting to see how things would have 'played' out on a given Sunday. Pardon the pun...I appreciate your efforts.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 16, 2009):
Koopman's [5] opening chorus sounds very promising, from the BCW sample: Amazon.com

I like his treatment of the long held notes on the oboes and horns - notice the crescendo on the horns heard in the sample. This is certainly animated, joyous music, but it obviously requires great accuracy from the choir to capture the animation of the 1/16th note 'wave-form' figures in the lower vocal parts, at this speed.

Rilling's strings [1] often sound mechanical; the horns seem to lack 'sparkle', the drums sound tepid.

OTOH, in the SA duet (Mvt. 5) Koopman's [5] sharply staccato treatment of the dotted unison violin notes sounds mechanical and becomes tiresome; in this case Rilling [1] flows much more naturally, and for once I enjoy the singers in a Rilling duet (Mvt. 5) - despite the ample vibratos, the voices combine beautifully.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 16, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< ...and for once I enjoy the singers in a Rilling [1] duet (Mvt. 5) - despite the ample vibratos, the voices combine beautifully. >
I usually like the Rilling [1] a lot more than some of the others because he keeps a light texture. I did find the duet (Mvt. 5) most pleasant.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 16, 2009):
Neil Halliday wrote:
> Koopman's [5] opening chorus sounds very promising, from the BCW sample:<
If that link doesn't work, go the the BCW recordings page: Amazon.com
and click on the Koopman mp3 samples.

Jean Laaninen wrote (February 16, 2009):
[To Neil Halliday] This is very nice.

Paul T. McCain wrote (February 16, 2009):
[To Douglas Cowling] Superbly done, Doug. Many thanks. Your post is a real "gold standard" for the group. I particularly appreciated the careful placement of the Cantata in its liturgical context.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 20, 2009):
Suzuki [8] certainly makes a 'joyous noise' out of the animated opening chorus (91/1): http://www.bis.se/index.php?op=album&aID=BIS-SACD-1481

The timpani are invigorating on the semiquaver 'drum-rolls', and the instrumental and vocal parts 'tremble' with liveliness. The only short-comings appear to be the uneven recording of the horns, and/or their occasional inaccuracies; but the tremendous vigour of the music is indeed remarkable, all the more so for being built on a fairly nondescript chorale tune.

William Hoffman wrote (February 21, 2009):
BWV 91: Fugitive Notes

Christmas in Leipzig: Creativity & Mystery

In contrast to Weimar, Bach's cantata production at Christmas in Leipzig was a time of great creativity, equated perhaps only with his Passion production on Good Friday.

Douglas Cowling has revealed a full accounting of the Musical Sequence for Christmas Day. In the brief period of Advent, Bach produced not only cantatas for the six Christmas season services over 12 days but also Latin works, organ chorale settings, and perhaps motets. It was the most vital manifestation of his creative calling to produce rich, varied, well-regulated music for the church year.

He accomplished this in the first three years of his Leipzig tenure. In the mid 1730s, he contributed a fourth major outpouring for the Christmas season, the Christmas Oratorio, as part of what Eric Chafe (Tonal Allegory) calls Bach's Christological cycle of 10 major works, most involving the art of parody, produced during the 1730s. These include at least three gala oratorios for the major feast days, three unequaled major oratorio Passions, and four "short" Mass settings of the Kyrie-Gloria, BWV 232I-236.

The first cycle of 1723-24 has been accounted. Except for the Christmas Day Cantata BWV 63, which Bach presented in Weimar, all the other works were newly composed and are among his finest: BWV 63, BWV 40, BWV 64, BWV 190, BWV 153, and BWV 65. He virtually equaled this with his 1724-25 second cycle of chorale cantatas: BWV 91, BWV 121, BWV 123, BWV 122, BWV 41, and BWV 123. For the Christmas Season 1725-26, he resumed composing new cantata for the services, with text by Lehms: BWV 110, BWV 57, BWV 151, BWV 28, and BWV 16, but no work for the Feast of the Epiphany. Besides repeating many of these cantatas in succeeding years, Bach also composed Cantatas BWV 197a and BWV 191 for Christmas Day, and BWV 143 and BWV 171 for New Year's Day, as well as BWV 58 to fill the Sunday After New Years gap in the incomplete third cycle.

The great mystery remains: Who collaborated with Bach, furnishing the cantata libretti for this surge of creativity in the first two cycles? The texts are generally fresh, appealing, respected and faithfully serve the theological and biblical needs. Bach pastor Christian Weiss, despite his omission from Neumann's Cantata Handbuch and Boyd''s OCC, remains in contention for the first cycle. With the fall of Andreas Stübel from contention as the librettist for the incomplete chorale cantata cycle, the mystery deepens and widens. The answer could be that Bach relied on ghost-writers or some other creative force still to be reckoned (with).

 

Cantata BWV 91: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

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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