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Cantata BWV 92
Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

BWV 92 [was: compositional process...]

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 24, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
<< Yeah, but it seems certain that he didn't have the texts that far ahead so I have reals doubts about this scenario. >>
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< DC [...] As before, we sadly have no direct evidence for any of this speculation. However, all my instincts tell me that Bach was able to work at a prodigious rate of composition because he had a comprehensive, over-arching view of his art. For me, Bach's compositional method begins long before he sets pen to paper. >
My instincts are in agreement with Doug. But I don't see these two viewpoints as contradictory or mutually exclusive. Especially for Jahrgang II, why isn't it possible to have a comprehensive plan in mind (or even as notes?) for the entire year, with the details of composition worked out in groups as the librettos were produced?

For the next five weeks we will be looking at works, beginning with BWV 92, which represent an interruption of this process because of the sudden death of the likely librettist, Stübel (see Wolff, B:LM, p. 278), just as the first of these cantatas was performed. For the coming four weeks, Bach will be working with texts in hand, but with the knowledge that no more will be forthcoming to complete the cycle.

I would propose that this is a key period for informed speculation on Bach's compositional procedures.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 24, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Especially for Jahrgang II, why isn't it possible to have a comprehensive plan in mind (or even as notes?) for the entire year, with the details of composition worked out in groups as the librettos were produced? >
ED|\ I am sure that he did--but the question is how broad and in what detail? My argument is that he had a broad plan certainly----but the detailed composition probably worked out within a much shorter timescale.

For the next five weeks we will be looking at works, beginning with BWV 92, which represent an interruption of this process because of the sudden death of the likely librettist, Stübel (see Wolff, B:LM, p. 278), just as the first of these cantatas was performed. For the coming four weeks, Bach will be working with texts in hand, but with the knowledge that no more will be forthcoming to complete the cycle.

Possibly but again, possibly not. I will be suggesting a different scenario in my introductions.

I would propose that this is a key period for informed speculation on Bach's compositional procedures.

Yes I agree--but these works (up to and including the bringing back of BWV 1) are possibly a less key period than those following BWV 4 at Easter----watch this space!

Alain Bruguières wrote (February 24, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Yes I agree--but these works (up to and including the bringing back of BWV 1) are possibly a less key period than those following BWV 4 at Easter----watch this space! >
This afternoon, I discovered that you'll soon be introducing the weekly discussions, and you'll begin with BWV 1, of all cantatas - Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern. I meant to write to you privately how much I'm looking forward to reading your introductions, but after all, why not do it publicly? I enjoy very much your posts and I'm sure your introductions will be dazzling!

PS I hope I'm not putting too much pressure on you!

Julian Mincham wrote (February 24, 2007):
Alain Bruguieres wrote:
< how much I'm looking forward to reading your introductions, but after all, why not do it publicly? I enjoy very much your posts and I'm sure your introductions will be dazzling!
< PS I hope I'm not putting too much pressure on you! >
Alain Thanks you so much. I hope I live up to your expectations.

And no, there's no pressure--I have completed all the intros at this stage so I am quite free of it!

 

Discussions in the Week of February 25, 2007

Chris Kern wrote (February 25, 2007):
Introduction to Cantata BWV 92 - Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn

Discussion for the week of February 25, 2007

Cantata BWV 92 - Ich hab in Gottes Herz und Sinn

Date of first performance: January 28, 1725 (Septuagesims Sunday)

Information about recordings, biblical readings, translations, etc: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV92.htm

Music example (Leusink [7]): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Stream/BWV92-Leusink.ram

This cantata may seem like deja vu -- it's the same chorale melody as last week's BWV 111. The cantata has a somewhat unusual construction among the chorale cantatas in that it has 9 movements, and the chorale tune is used in 5 of them.

The verses of the chorale all basically express the same idea, which is similar to last week's chorale as well -- that if you put your trust in God, no matter what suffering or pain you might encounter, God will deliver you (to heaven) in the end. (And the secondary idea that the suffering is God's will as well, and is somehow useful).

Mvt. 1
The opening chorale fantasia has a very attractive ritornello, with dual oboes d'amore playing an intertwining melody.

Mvt. 2
Whittaker and Young are both very critical of this movement; it is a little strange, particularly the latter part where the chorale lines are broken up and recitatives inserted in the middle.

Mvt. 3
This is a stormy tenor aria (tenors seem to frequently be assigned stormy arias in Bach's work) with rushing violin lines and jagged notes that provide an auditory illustration of "See, see! How breaks, how tears, how falls" and "Let Satan rage, rave, crash").

Mvt. 4
A pure chorale with no interspersed recitatives. Personally, I like these solo chorale movements quite a bit and wish Bach had used them more often. There are two obbligato oboes d'amore; somewhat like the solo chorale tenor movement in BWV 36.

Mvt. 5
This is the only pure recitative in the cantata. The interesting finale on "Geduld" is interesting; one is tempted to make some connection to the Geduld aria in BWV 244 but that's probably stretching things.

Mvt. 6
Once again, a bass aria supported only by continuo. This is a very frequent pairing -- I guess the continuo (even by its name "basso continuo") is associated with the bass, so it's not too surprising.

Mvt. 7
This is another choral/recitative combination, but this time all four voices sing the chorale sections, and the recitatives are done in turn by BTAS (in that order). The recitative sections are shorter and more natural than in mv 2, as Whittaker notes.

Mvt. 8
Everyone seems to agree that this is the "gem" of the cantata. A soprano aria with oboe d'amore obbligato supported by pizzicatto strings, it has a very enticing melody and a serene calm about it.

Mvt. 9
The normal closing chorale.

I listened to Rilling [6], Leonhardt [5], and Leusink [7] as usual.

[6] Rilling:
Often Rilling's oboes sound strange, but in this cantata they're fine. The tenor aria is a little restrained for my taste; it almost sounds like Rilling is trying to subdue the storm theme in the instruments -- meanwhile the tenor soloist belts out in his operatic voice. Rilling's alto singers are one of the worst features of the cycle; in the solo chorale here there is just too much vibrato for the melodic line. The bass aria has a weakness in the continuo -- I often find that in fast arias, the harpsichord becomes indistinct and has a "tinkling" quality to it, preventing you from really hearing what notes arbeing played on it. I also feel like the singer is more interested in punctuating his words than in hitting the notes distinctly. Auger does a fine job as usual on the soprano aria -- I wish that other singers in Rilling's cycle would carefully listen to her very skilled and limited use of vibrato.

[5] Leonhardt:
This is not one of H&L's better efforts. The singers in the arias sound too quiet to me; this could be the fault of the sound mixing because I don't find this to be problematic in the other H&L cantatas. There's a soprano aria, which means another opportunity to hear a boy soprano -- this one is technically good, but there's something about the aria that just doesn't come off very well.

[7] Leusink:
I would probably have to pick this as a favorite recording of this cantata. The bass aria's tempo is a little faster, and overall it sounds better. Buwalda does a good job on the alto chorale, and I like Holton a lot -- I especially like the way the sound is done on the Leusink cantatas; it makes me feel like I'm sitting in a small room watching them perform right in front of me rather than being on a huge sound stage or in an audience. There's a very close, intimate quality to the recordings. The OVPP chorale/recitative combo sounds good -- once again making me wonder what Leusink's cycle would have been like as all OVPP (since I often find the choral parts to be the weakest element).

Julian Mincham wrote (February 25, 2007):
Thress areas of questions:

1) re BWV 92/3 is there anyone on list who does not consider this to be an exciting, stimulating and uplifting piece of music? Is there anyone who finds this unapproachable or tedious? Can we possibly find uninamity of opinion on list through this movement? Is there anyone who considers it boring or uninteresting and would like to register the reasons?

2 A question to singers--Richard Mix and others (not necesarily just tenors)

If you had to learn this aria from scratch and give a convincing performane of it, how many days would you need the use of the score before the actual event? How many days absolute minimum and what would be your prefered ideaL?
(I mean a convincing performance with total command of ensemble etc not just an adequate sight reading of the notes) .

3) BWV 92.2 is a movement which contains probably the longest text set by Bach in a cantata (nearly three dozen line)s It is also the type of movement which was heavily critisised by Schweitzer, Whittaker and others, I have views on this--what do others think about this today?.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 25, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Thress areas of questions:
1) re BWV 92/3 is there anyone on list who does not consider this to be an > exciting, stimulating and uplifting piece of music? Is there anyone who finds this unapproachable or tedious? Can we possibly find uninamity of opinion on list through this movement? Is there anyone who considers it boring or uninteresting and would like to register the reasons? >
I'm not a tenor, but I think I'm going to learn this piece in the near future anyway (after I finish what I have planned for Lent)!

< 2 A question to singers--Richard Mix and others (not necesarily just tenors)
If you had to learn this aria from scratch and give a convincing performane of it, how many days would you need the use of the score before the actual event? How many days absolute minimum and what would be your prefered ideaL?
(I mean a convincing performance with total command of ensemble etc not just an adequate sight reading of the notes) > .
It does jump around a lot pitch-wise, but the rhythms are not THAT complicated, and the tempo is not TOO fast. So I could learn it in the morning, rehearse it for an hour or two mid-day, and perform it in the evening (assuming my voice is in good enough condition not to give out on me - the material is pretty high).

Maybe ensembles that have been practicing together 8 hours a day, every day, for months or years, could get away without rehearsing together beforehand, but in general, I think it's living dangerously not to rehearse at least once with the ensemble before you trot a piece out in public, because you can't really practice ensemble work by yourself at home.

But ideally, I'd like a week to work on it and two rehearsals. And then, of course, there is the fact that a piece grows on you the more you sing it, so that it's never really 'finished'...

< 3) BWV 92.2 is a movement which contains probably the longest text set by Bach in a cantata (nearly three dozen line)s It is also the type of movement which was heavily critisised by Swcheitzer, Whittaker and others, I have views on this--what do others think about this today? >
I confess I only looked through it briefly on my way to no. 3, but frankly I think it looks interesting to intersperse the chorale with recitatives. It's not commonly done in the Bach I've seen thus far in my life, so it's new and different. Too bad I'm not a bass :D

Peter Smaill wrote (February 25, 2007):
[To Julian Mincham] A good question : why did Bach bother to write the disparate and lengthy BWV 92/2, consisting of ten lines of the chorale and (I count) 25 interspersed glosses on the text by the librettist. It didn't impress Whittaker or his acolyte Robertson, but there is IMO an artistic reason.

The answer may lie in the text itself, the key words being "Und mein Gemuet, Das immer wankt und weicht" ("and my disposition, which always vacillates and yields"). Thus the singer sways from doubt to faith, from scaredy Jonah (as in BWV 111) to rock-like Peter.

A striking contrast lies is in the concise BWV 92/8, which is presaged in the closing text of BWV 92/7:

"Und ich kann bei gedaempften seiten
Dem Friedefurst ein neues Leid bereiten
."

("and I can with muted strings,
The Prince of Peace a new song prepare").

The beautiful BWV 92/8 is that very contrasting, "new" song , and the muted strings (pizzicato) are those referred to! So the text in both these examples affects the forms and music of the two movements themselves, BWV 92/2 and BWV 92/8 respectively. They act as illustrations of the movement from doubt and indecision in the jerky recitative/chorale to the serene and measured faith of the rhythms in the lovely aria.

Bach is going beyond single word-painting in that the entire movements are shaped by words in these examples.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 25, 2007):
Cara Emily Thornton wrote:
< It does jump around a lot pitch-wise, but the rhythms are not THAT complicated, and the tempo is not TOO fast. So I could learn it in the morning, rehearse it for an hour or two mid-day, and perform it in the evening >
Hi Cara thanks for your response.

I am somewhat surprised at your conclusion that this aria could be fully accomplished within a single day--but then I am not a singer which is why I asked the question of those who are. As a keybaord player I would have thought it would have taken longer. I will be equally interested to see what others have to say.

But your response does support the minimal rehearsal theory.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 25, 2007):
Cara Emily Thornron wrote:
<< It does jump around a lot pitch-wise, but the rhythms are not THAT complicated, and the tempo is not TOO fast. So I could learn it in the morning, rehearse it for an hour or two mid-day, and perform it in the evening >>
Julian Mincham wrote:
< Hi Cara thanks for your response. >
You're welcome.

< I am somewhat surprised at your conclusion that this aria could be fully accomplished within a single day--but then I am not a singer which is why I asked the question of those who are. As a keybaord player I would have thought it would have taken longer >
I am guessing from the vocal score that the 'wild stuff' in the accompaniment is in the strings. Did I ever say that I would want to learn the violin part to this in a morning, rehearse it at noon, and then play it at night? Please note, I was speaking as a singer, not as a violinist! And evidently, a keyboard player has a different view of the matter, too (although thenagain, playing continuo is a very different matter from playing a keyboard reduction of the score - I can imagine that that reduction would look pretty scary to a keyboardist...).

< I will be equally interested to see what others have to say.
But your response does support the minimal rehearsal theory. >
Let's say that the time frames I gave are for a person who speaks German and is able to sight read the material more or less perfectly (which means that the rest of the practice time can be devoted to such things as getting the placement of every note just so, shaping phrases, etc.). Otherwise, attempting to learn this aria in one day might indeed be one of those 'don't try this at home' type of things. Tell you what - tomorrow God willing I will take this aria and attempt to learn it in one practice session, and see if it really happens (i.e. whether it's rehearsal-ready by the time I'm done), or whether I've been too cocky ;;)

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 25, 2007):
< Maybe ensembles that have been practicing together 8 hours a day, every day, for months or years, could get away without rehearsing together beforehand, but in general, I think it's living dangerously not to rehearse at least once with the ensemble before you trot a piece out in public, because you can't really practice ensemble work by yourself at home.
But ideally, I'd like a week to work on it and two rehearsals. And then, of course, there is the fact that a piece grows on you the more you sing it, so that it's never really 'finished'... >
A good point, and especially (IMO) that last sentence. Good music is invariably better than any single performance or rehearsal can let on, and there's more to find in it next time.

For the concert I played in on Wednesday, we were doing a nice little 10-minute piece by Telemann. During the weeks leading up to it, we had three rehearsals of more than an hour, each...plus whatever time the bassoonist and cellist each put into it on their own. Which was clearly quite a lot, too, having athletically tricky parts and (especially for the bassoon) work at endurance, since the lines were so long and offered so little breathing respite within movements. They both came to rehearsals completely prepared, with all the notes perfect, and our time was spent on working out interpretation and ensemble, trying out various ideas. All to play a 10-minute piece one time in concert, by three people all having doctorates in their instruments. That's not a complaint about any of the time/effort; I'm just pointing out that serious music requires and repays serious work at it. If we'd gone into the thing with 30 minutes of rehearsal, or less, it would have been much less satisfactory, although probably good enough to fool any dilettantes. And if the whole thing had been sight-reading by any of us (especially the bassoon soloist), forget it. Even light little stuff like this, much easier and less treacherous to perform than Bach cantatas, deserves serious work.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 25, 2007):
<< I am somewhat surprised at your conclusion that this aria could be fully accomplished within a single day--but then I am not a singer which is why I asked the question of those who are. As a keybaord player I would have thought it would have taken longer >>
< I am guessing from the vocal score that the 'wild stuff' in the accompaniment is in the strings. Did I ever say that I would want to learn the violin part to this in a morning, rehearse it at noon, and then play it at night? Please note, I was speaking as a singer, not as a violinist! And evidently, a keyboard player has a different view of the matter, too (although then again, playing continuo is a very different matter from playing a keyboard reduction of the score - I can imagine that that reduction would look pretty scary to a keyboardist...). >
This aria (mvt 3 of BWV 92) actually has a remarkably easy continuo part: straightforward arpeggios, no terribly surprising chords, decent rest time to think between harmonies, and plenty of figuring. I sat down and read it straight off the score (Bach-Gesellschaft), this afternoon, and this one wouldn't be much more difficult from part rather than score. But meanwhile, the violin solo part appears treacherous, and it's not trivial to get the other string parts together, either. Plus what the singer's doing. Any violinists want to comment? It's a bunch of hemisemiquaver scales and other stuff....

Movement 2, on the other hand, is a beastly hard continuo arioso/chorale and recit, with all kinds of stuff going on, and the moods changing every few bars. I'd hope to have at least an hour of rehearsal with the singer and other bassline player(s), plus whatever advance study is available, to work out what to play -- and to get the drama of this whole movement to go just right. Two or three hours across several days would be better: having time to think about the thing further in between, or to work any ideas or technical problems that the previous rehearsal has revealed.

To put these two movements together, not to mention the remainder of the cantata before and after them, I'd hope for at least a day or two of dedicated work. And a good conductor. And top-notch singers and players, with everybody fully confident in their parts.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 26, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< This aria (mvt 3 of BWV 92) actually has a remarkably easy continuo part: straightforward arpeggios, no terribly surprising chords, decent rest time to think between harmonies, and plenty of figuring. I sat down and read it straight off the score (Bach-Gesellschaft), this afternoon, and this one wouldn't be much more difficult from part rather than score. But meanwhile, the violin solo part appears treacherous, and it's not trivial to get the other string parts together, either. Plus what the singer's doing. Any violinists want to comment? It's a bunch of hemisemiquaver scales and other stuff.... >
Your assessment of that violin part is I think correct (not that I have taken out my instrument to try it). I think it would be quite a bit of work to prepare, and I doubt I would enjoy playing it in public, especially since I have this nervous thing that when I play the violin, I have to play from memory or it just won't sound good. It's probably not as hard as the 'Laudamus te' from the BMM, but still...

Shawn Charton wrote (February 26, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] NO rehearsal would be a pain... but I agree that Bach is not hard to prepare in a day IF you're good at certain things... like breathing. I learn Bach FAST. It takes me MONTHS to work up a Handel aria. MOST people are the opposite.

John Pike wrote (February 26, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I've sight read all sorts of stuff in my time...indeed every time I play chamber music with friends. You would be quite surprised at what i regard as sight readable or not, since it is at odds with received wisdom. Some of those Bach violin obligato passages are extremely difficult, and no way even vaguely performable at sight. I have also found the violin 1 parts in some of Haydn's string quartets infinitely more difficult technically than anything in the Mozart or Beethoven string quartets (except for the odd scherzo and a few movements in the late quartets).

Shawn Charton wrote (February 26, 2007):
< This aria (mvt. 3 of BWV 92) actually has a remarkably easy continuo part: straightforward arpeggios, no terribly surprising chords, decent rest time to think between harmonies, and plenty of figuring. I sat down and read it straight off the score (Bach-Gesellschaft) , this afternoon, and this one wouldn't be much more difficult from part rather than score. But meanwhile, the violin solo part appears treacherous, and it's not trivial to get the other string parts together, either. Plus what the singer's doing. Any violinists want to comment? It's a bunch of hemisemiquaver scales and other stuff.... >
Is it possible that Bach himself played the violin part?? I understand he was a violinist and he must have been an amazing one to write the unaccompanied sonatas, etc... It might make sense that Bach did double duty and teasy continuo part is because some student played continuo while he played the violin... just a guess, of course, but it seems plausible.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 26, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< 1) re 92/3 is there anyone on list who does not consider this to be an exciting, stimulating and uplifting piece of music?<
Surely that is not possible for members of this list! This aria is just as Julian describes it; an aria that, once heard, is never forgotten, reminding me of the similarly dramatic and exciting tenor aria in BWV 153 ("stormy weather"). Brad noted the dangerous looking 1st violin part; I suppose (hope) those 1/64th note runs, consisting of not more than five notes at a time, are played without needing to change hand position. Note the voice has to cope with these runs a couple of times before the 'da capo.

Note: I sometimes find the period ensembles' strings to be lacking the strength to supply the necessary 'zing' to this aria. Koopman's violinists [9] have little more than a soft glissando on the 1/64th note runs; Leonhardt's [5] sounded so silly first time I haven't bothered to listen again. (Feel free to encourage me to do so, with reasons why). Werner [2] is too slow, but well performed: Richter/Schreier [4] and Rilling/Baldin [6] give vivid accounts of the aria.

< 3) 92.2 is a movement which contains probably the longest text set by Bach in a cantata (nearly three dozen line)s It is also the type of movement which was heavily critisised by Schweitzer, Whittaker and others, I have views on this--what do others think about this today?.>
I am ambivalent. For a start, I wish Bach had personally written out a full continuo realisation, giving something more for performers to go on; as it is, I am disappointed by most of the recordings. Observation: it's surely a disaster to have the same continuo team (organ plus cello plus double bass) ploughing on through all the separate sections, including the repeated inverted turns etc. I would like to hear if any one can point to a totally satisfying performance.

Interestingly, Werner's bass singer [2] - Bruce Abel - sounds so good and brings so much variety of expression to the disparate elements of the movement, that I almost enjoy it, but the continuo part sounds tedious. I suppose a book could be written on the issues involved.

BTW, the attractively orchestrated alto chorale movement (BWV 93/4) is better performed by the alto section of the choir: listen to Richter [4], Koopman [9], and Suzuki [10].

More later in the week.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 26, 2007):
< [Aria 92/3] (...) the dangerous looking 1st violin part; I suppose (hope) those 1/64th note runs, consisting of not more than five notes at a time, are played without needing to change hand position. >
Most of them are five notes, but some of them have six. Anyway, what's this about not changing hand position? Violinists don't use the left thumb for fingering notes. They've got four remaining. And these swoops in this aria don't generally start or end on open strings.

< I am ambivalent. For a start, I wish Bach had personally written out a full continuo realisation, giving something more for performers to go on; as it is, I am disappointed by most of the recordings. Observation: it's surely a disaster to have the same continuo team (organ plus cello plus double bass) ploughing on through all the separate sections, including the repeated inverted turns etc. >
Hang on; is your complaint about the notated orchestration of the continuo team's parts (Bach's fault?)? Or about an insufficiently imaginative treatment of them, in recordings/performances you listened to? Keyboard continuo realizations were as a usual rule not written out, but rather (as you surely know) left to the players to work out something suitable. To write them out is not necessarily to have the music go better; good players would come up with a suitably expressive and full part whether it's written out or not.

Are any of us sure that Bach would have had the same students playing continuo all the way through a cantata, every movement? Or could they sometimes have switched around (two or more organists/harpsichordists...), or simply not played part of the time, even though their handwritten part has all the notes?

Laurence Dreyfus's book doesn't have any special remarks about BWV 92. But, his chapter "The String Instruments in the Continuo Group" has a bit to say about the "violone" player (if playing at all) reading over a keyboard player's shoulder on a shared part. At Leipzig it was apparently a 16-foot-pitch instrument, but maybe not at Bach's other jobs earlier.

Even more importantly, perhaps, it's not "a given" that the cello should be always playing. Organ continuo alone can do quite nicely, as variety. Dreyfus's remark on page 136: "Clearly, during the period when Bach composed and performed the bulk of his vocal works (1724-1729), the cello had not disappeared. Because of its regularity, it merely became superfluous to mention it." But...that still doesn't amount to any demand to have it playing all the time. Especially not if there isn't any separate cello part; the cellist reading from some keyboard or bassoon part, perhaps, in some pieces.

The modern inclusion of cello and bass, both playing all the time, is a modern rigid thing to do! Unimaginative musicianship is "surely a disaster" (borrowing your phrase) for the reason of being dull and inexpressive. But that's not necessarily Bach's fault, for not having written out enough for rigid musicians outside the conventions of his own working milieu. Or, enough separate parts that the cellist(s) and bassist(s) get to have their own.

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 26, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I am trying to find the message to which you are replying below, but thus far without success. May I ask you to forward it to me?

Thanks and God bless you

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 26, 2007):
As promised above, I just took BWV 92/3 and tried to learn it. Since it's vocally challenging, first of all I sang a few other things first, then for this aria I used the Glenn Gould strategy: arranged some white noise as a background (he used a vacuum cleaner - at first quite by accident because he was forced to by circumstances, but once he saw the good effects, he added a hair dryer and a couple of other items for good measure - I used an electric depilator, no doubt an electric razor would work fine too). I sang it through once, stumbled a wee bit on the tough bits, corrected them, sang the thing through again basically without a hitch. It's ready for rehearsal right now if anyone's game :D:D:D

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 26, 2007):
Shawn Charton wrote:
< Is it possible that Bach himself played the violin part?? I understand he was a violinist and he must have been an amazing one to write the unaccompanied sonatas, etc... It might make sense that Bach did double duty and the easy continuo part is because some student played continuo while he played the violin... just a guess, of course, but it seems plausible. >
CPE Bach (?) wrote that his father always conducted as "concertmaster" in the first violins and left the continuo part to others. This makes sense as the organist had his back to the other musicians making eye-contact and gesture difficult.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 27, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
<"Violinists don't use the left thumb for fingering notes".>
Ah, well then, just how difficult are these runs (in BWV 92/3) for a violinist? (The extra - 6th - note you pointed out obviously makes the runs more difficult for a keyboardist).

<"..is your complaint (re BWV 92/2) about the notated orchestration of the continuo team's parts (Bach's fault?)? Or about an insufficiently imaginative treatment of t, in recordings/performances you listened to? Keyboard continuo realizations were as a usual rule not written out, but rather (as you surely know) left to the players to work out something suitable. To write them out is not necessarily to have the music go better; good players would come up with a suitably expressive and full part whether it's written out or not.">
My complaint refers to the 2nd point made above, ie, insufficiently imaginative treatment of the continuo. Admittedly, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but I certainly agree with your subsequent points about the undesirability of having the same continuo instruments playing all way through in a movement such as this.

I wonder if Schweitzer , Whittaker, et al. had more fundamental structural objections to the form of the movement? I personally remain confident that, with imaginative treatment of the quite variegated continuo line, an attractive presentation is possible. I suspect Julian, in raising the topic, has positive things to say about the movement.
-----
However, I have since discovered two examples of an interesting performance method (IMO) coming from two unexpected sources that I had not bothered to listen to - nothing to do with the continuo line but rather with the voice line - which results in a major increase, in my estimation, in the variety of expression, and musical interest, in this movement .

The two are Ramin [1] and Koopman [9], and the method is the allotment of the chorale sections of the vocal line to the choir basses (I am not commenting on the quality of the continuo for the moment). Robertson continually remarks on his support for this method; the contrast between the grand or "religious" (or whatever) chorale sections and the dramatic solo recitative sections is more effectively made.

[But I notice Richter [4] has made a mistake in the opposite direction in the later more highly developed chorale/recitative movement (BWV 92/7). As well as allotting the chorale sections to the choir (and actually, since we have SATB together, OVPP may be as satisfactory as a choir for these sections, as noted by Chris, I think), Richter allots the recitative sections to the requisite section of the choir as well. I think this is the only case I can recall where a choir sings a recitative line; I suspect most commentators would find this unsatisfactory/working against the nature of recitative].

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 27, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The two are Ramin [1] and Koopman [9], and the method is the allotment of the chorale sections of the vocal line to the choir basses (I am not commenting on the quality of the continuo for the moment). Robertson continually remarks on his support for this method; the contrast between the grand or "religious" (or whatever) chorale sections and the dramatic solo recitative sections is more effectively made. >
Using "full" sections on chorale-based movements is a long-standing "tradition" which probably goes back to the 19th century. I have never heard a performance of "Wachet Auf" which didn't give "Zion Hört die Wächter" to all the tenors. Performances of Cantata 92 provide just about every combination of solo and tutti imaginable. Richter's superb sopranos [4] were quite lovely in such movements, especially the Christmas Oratorio.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 27, 2007):
BWV 92 Demise of the Stübel Theory

The Short-lived Andreas Stübel Theory

Hans-Joachim Schulze, in his article entitled "Texte und Textdichter" which appeared in "Die Welt der Bach Kantaten", ed. Christoph Wolff and Ton Koopman, Metzler/Bärenreiter, 1999, p. 115-116, stated:

>>It is unusual, compared to pre-Leipzig Bach's texts (as well as those used by Telemann, Fasch, and Stölzel) that can be traced back to their authors who have compiled and published cantata texts for each Sunday and holiday of the church year, that Bach's libretti remain unknown outside of their use by Bach in Leipzig.

This is also true for Bach's chorale cantatas (2nd yearly cycle). Because of the impressive variety of forms which these libretti have, much consideration has been given and various hypotheses have been advanced as to how many different authors may have been involved in transforming the chorale texts which were used as a basis. Ulrich Leisinger has advanced a simple explanation to counter this notion: After Bach had engaged this Leipzig author, the latter held rather strictly to the actual chorale texts. He paraphrased/modified some of the middle verses transforming them into recitatives and arias, but he did not seem to pay much attention to providing opportunities for musical affect to be expressed. This must have resulted in Bach's criticism of this lack after which the librettist tried harder to accommodate the doctrine of affect in music. In this he had some limited success, but there may have been objections to this new course from the church authorities. As a result, the librettist concluded his task by taking the middle road.

"Concluded his task" is a euphemism here because the chorale-cantata cycle came to an abrupt end around Easter 1725 or a little before. Until now, no one has been able to uncover any reliable evidence for this premature 'conclusion'. Attempt to explain what happened led to considering one or other of the theologians who might have terminated the arrangement to provide texts because he became suddenly indisposed or unable to continue with his normal duties. This might have offered a viable explanation, but the search for the author was still not over. All that remains currently to be done is to continue to narrow down the number of potential 'perpetrators' as with a criminal investigation. A potentially more precise determination of just when the supply of texts was terminated can be made based upon the fact that the last cantata text of this series was set to music and performed on Easter Sunday or even a little earlier on Mary's Annunciation (March 25). This would be the 'terminus post quem non'.

A typical method followed in Leipzig and in other cities was to gather into a sequence the texts for the performances of cantatas and have them printed in advance. For the spring months, a cantata text booklet covering most likely from Septuagesimae Sunday up to the Annunciation of Mary or possibly until Easter would come into question. This would mean that this particular text booklet would have had to have been turned over to the printer no later than January 27, the Saturday before Septuagesimae. In the search for the unknown author in question, it would be necessary to find someone who had left Leipzig or became seriously ill and/or died just prior to this date. Or perhaps there were other reasons which prevented him from continuing his work on the libretti. Strangely enough there is actually one person who meets all these criteria, without, however, declaring that he is definitely the author who has been sought after for so long. This person is Andreas Stübel (born 1653 in Dresden) who was the predecessor of Christian Ludovici, who was currently (1723-1725) the Co-Rector of the Thomasschule. Stübel had a degree in theology and had experience in writing poetry. He died in Leipzig on January 31, 1725 after being ill for only three days. This would mean that he would have stopped providing cantata texts forever just one day after the date we have suggested as the latest possible date. To be sure, it is also necessary to consider that other external reasons may have led to the termination of the chorale-cantata cycle.<<

Christoph Wolff, in his biography "Johann Sebastian Bach:The Learned Musician" Nort, 2001 (German original, 2000), p. 278:

>>It is hard to imagine that this fascinating, unprecedented project of chorale cantatas was initiated by anyone but Bach himself, and it is most likely that he also had a hand in the choice of hymns if only because of the direct musical implications for the chorale melodies. The way in which the project proceeded and eventually ended strongly suggests that Bach's anonymous librettist was a close collaborator who resided in Leipzig. According to the most likely among various hypotheses, the author of the chorale cantata texts was Andreas Stübel, conrector emeritus of the St. Thomas School, a man of solid theological background (if somewhat nonconformist views) and ample poetic experience. Stübel's death on January 27, 1725 [sic] after only three days of illness and after he had received from the printer texts for the booklet of cantatas to be performed from Septuagesimae Sunday (January 28) to Annunciation (March 25) 1725, would explain the abrupt ending of the chorale cantata cycle with "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern," BWV 1, on the feast of Annunciation in that year.<<

Martin Geck, in his biography "Bach: Leben und Werk", Hamburg, 2001, p. 400:

>>Carpzov [whose idea of giving sermons on chorale texts for each Sunday was complemented by Johann Schelle's compositions based on the same text and performed before each sermon] was no longer alive when Bach received his appointment in Leipzig so he could not be considered the initiator of the Bach chorale-cantata cycle, nor did he supply Bach with the texts that he needed. Is it possible that the author was the former Co-Rector of the Thomasschule, who had been dismissed from his position because of this chiliastic views, that is to say, views which were radically pietistic? Hans-Joachim Schulze considered this educated man, knowledgeable about poetry, only because he happened to die on January 31, 1725 after a short illness of three days. This just happened to be the date on which the final set of libretti would have been due at the printer's. His death, as Schulze presupposes, could have precipitated the sudden end to the chorale-cantata cycle.<<

Hans-Joachim Schulze in his "Die Bach-Kantaten" Leipzig, 2006 (760 pages!)

There is not a single reference to Stübel throughout this entire book. BWV 92 Discussion on pp. 136-139:

>>The chorale text by Paul Gerhardt consisting of 12 verses has been transformed into a 9-mvt. cantata
libretto by an unknown author.<<

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 27, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< The Short-lived Andreas Stübel Theory [...] As a result, the librettist concluded his task by taking the middle road.
"Concluded his task" is a euphemism here because the chorale-cantata cycle came to an abrupt end around Easter 1725 or a little before. Until now, no one has been able to uncover any reliable evidence for this premature 'conclusion'. Attempt to explain what happened led to considering one or other of the theologians who might have terminated the arrangement to provide texts because he became suddenly indisposed or unable to continue with his normal duties. This might have offered a viable explanation, but the search for the author was still not over. All that remains currently to be done is to continue to narrow down the number of potential 'perpetrators' as with a criminal investigation. >
[et cetera]

This language is pathetic, an embarassment. Impossible to read.

Wolff (p. 278) proposes Stübel as the most likely hypothesis. How can one cite Wolff, other places, out of context, to refute this hypothesis?

How is the Andreas Stübel theory short-lived? I am livid!

Chris Rowson wrote (February 27, 2007):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Wolff (p. 278) proposes Stübel as the most likely hypothesis. How can one cite Wolff, other places, out of context, to refute this hypothesis?
How is the Andreas Stübel theory short-lived? I am livid! >
Dinna´ fash y´rsel, honey. I´m not sure he´s even opposing the Stübel hypothesis. It may just be a confused subject header. There´s no point getting upset over such an unclear post.

Neil Halliday wrote (February 27, 2007):
BWV 92; bass aria

In contrast to the continuo line of BWV 92/2, where, in order to avoid a tedious expression, it might be preferable to omit the bass strings (cello and violone) in certain sections in favour of the organ (eg, chorale sections), I believe the lively, agitated bass aria (BWV 92/6) is best treated as a 2-part invention for cello and voice, with minimal input from keyboard. The writing in each of the two lines, interesting in itself, is continuously dense, and the prime goal in performance ought to be the clear articulation of these two lines, without too much vibrato from the voice. In fact the writing in the ritornello is similar to that found, for example, in the works for unaccompanied (solo) cello. Neil Mason mentioned the instrumental nature of Bach's vocal lines - this aria must be a prime example.

Notice the B-A# clash at the start of the middle section on the word "Kreuz(es)", typical Bach practice.

Leonhardt [5] comes close to this (2-part invention) ideal, though I would like a little more force throughout.

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 27, 2007):
< Using "full" sections on chorale-based movements is a long-standing "tradition" which probably goes back to the 19th century. I have never heard a performance of "Wachet Auf" which didn't give "Zion Hört die Wächter" to all the tenors. >
There's a terrific one in Tragicomedia's CD "Notenbuchlein für Anna Magdalena Bach", 1994, sung by John Potter. Sample of track 1: Amazon.com

They arranged it back from the organ version, BWV 645.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 27, 2007):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< In contrast to the continuo line of BWV 92/2, where, in order to avoid a tedious expression, it might be preferable to omit the bass strings (cello and violone) in certain sections in favour of the organ (eg, chorale sections), >
related too the problem of variety in such movements is the telling by Sir Henry Wood (in his autobiog 'My Life of Music of a converstaion he had with the composer and conductor Sir Arthur Sullivan (of G and S operetta fame) Sullivam loved the Bm mass which he conducted on many occasions (with large forces--this was the latter part of the Cantata BWV 19) around the country. Sullivan could not, apparently understand why people so often seemed to tire of such a great work. Wood suggested that it might be because Sullivan had a massive bass section doubling a large cello section from the first to the last bars. He thought that this constant doubling of the bass at the octave was very wearing to the ear. Apparently Sullivan took the advice and found that it helped.

Imagine hearing the work with such large forces, probably unduly slow tempi and the constant bass doubling--no wonder people tired of it!

But it does suggest that even today, as Neil intimates, quite a lot of variety is required in the performance of such movemenst as BWV 92/2--let alone in complete works 2 hours long!

Richard Mix wrote (February 28, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< 2 If you had to learn [BWV 92.3] from scratch and give a convincing performane of it, how many days would you need the use of the score before the actual event? How many days absolute minimum and what would be your prefered ideaL? (I mean a convincing performance with total command of ensemble etc not just an adequate sight reading of the notes) .>
A lot would depend on who needed convincing! It's not a hard piece as Bach goes (why do people thing leaps are hard for sin?) and I just now sang all the right notes on my first try (mezzo clef for a basso, of course). It would be unconcionable to do this week after week, but in an emergency (and with adequate elbow room) one might well get a presentable result at first sight. These things still happen from time to time; last week when we were putting the alleluia to bed before lent (my all time favorite crossword clue: fast time, 4 letters. No musician friend ever gets it.) with the Randal Thompson anthem, I discovered that the piece had been delivered one hour before its 1943 premiere. I can imagine that piece still making a great impression with adequate readers, but I'd be very suprized if someone didn’t look around for an empty room during that hour...

The later bass aria is a different story, and for me requires some 'getting into the voice', a little muscle memory to ensure that no atom of breath is wasted. This is somewhat true also of Quia fecit, the first Bach I sang in public after a frantic phone call asking if I was available to fill in for a ill soloist. Being asked if I knew the piece, I glanced at the clock before deciding to lie and then rushed to the library just ahead of closing time. I had two hours before bed, one runthrough w/ BC before the matinee, and received flowers and a big ovation. But I blush deeply when a CD of that performance turns up in the bargain bin at the record store...

Ideally, if I'm not too busy, a week would do for almost anything I get to sing on-book. This summer I spent two weeks working hard on the h-moll arias before a sing-along performance and kept bits of them in my regular 'gym' until Dec's performances. But with two dress run-throughs, the ensemble was under-rehearsed, as Eric probably remembers.

Harry W. Crosby wrote (February 28, 2007):
BWV 92 recordings

Rather than undertake a part-by-part comparison of BWV 92 recorded performances, I would simply like to introduce a relatively new recording and my evaluation of it --- and also its interesting technological background. I refer to Suzuki, the Bach Collegium of Japan, and soloists Nonoshita, Blaze, Kobow, and Worner on BIS-SACD-1541, Vol. 33 [10] of this ongoing series.

First, my reaction to the recording --- and people I know call me picky, picky. These hybrid SACDs from BIS provide without question the best sound I have heard, that is as compared to any CDs I have owned, and that has been some 700, I would guess. I am not a sound engineer or one really familiar with the technology, but I know a couple of sound aficionados who do have those qualifications. It appears, even though it is played, as I do, in its CD mode (rather than SACD) that nevertheless the sampling rate has necessarily been improved in the process of creating this format. I was struck by this improvement the moment I got my first of these BIS disks, Vol. 28. The Vol. 33 that I report here seems even better.

Better how? Everything I can enumerate or categorize. The presence is amazing, the sense of the space in which the recordings were made, the overtones, all that which recreates the setting. The frequency responses are wonderfully balanced, not overly booming in the bass, not shrill in the treble, and not giving the sense that any of the audible spectrum is over- or under-represented. You must hear it to understand, not just trust or dismiss me.

As far as the performances of BWV 92, BWV 41, and BWV 130 go, IMHO they will compare favorably with any I have on hand or have otherwise heard. I made head-to-head comparisons on 92 (in order to write this over-the-top review) with recordings by Koopman [9] and Leusink [7]. All I can say, again, is that the performances must be heard to be believed. I find it very difficult to believe that anyone will not find these works as well realized here as by any of the competition.

I feel blessed to have these available in this format, since I do not have an SACD player and will not be able to justify adding one until a significant number of indispensable items are avilable on it only. Thank heaven for these hybrids that so shine on any CD player.

Shelly wrote (February 28, 2007):
Harry - where can I smple them?

Cara Emily Thornton wrote (February 28, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
<< 2 If you had to learn [BWV 92.3] from scratch and give a convincing performane of it, how many days would you need the use of the score before the actual event? How many days absolute minimum and what would be your prefered ideaL? (I mean a convincing performance with total command of ensemble etc not just an adequate sight reading of the notes) . >>
Richard Mix wrote:
< A lot would depend on who needed convincing! It's not a hard piece as Bach goes (why do people thing leaps are hard for singers?) >
I agree with you that they are not difficult vocally. However, apparently not everyone is secure on the intonation when there are large intervals involved, especially in large numbers.

< The later bass aria is a different story, and for me requires some 'getting into the voice', a little muscle memory to ensure that no atom of breath is wasted. This is somewhat true also of Quia fecit, the first Bach I sang in public after a frantic phone call asking if I was available to fill in for a ill soloist. Being asked if I knew the piece, I glanced at the clock before deciding to lie >
Tsk, tsk, tsk.

< and then rushed to the library just ahead of closing time. I had two hours before bed, one runthrough w/ BC before the matinee, and received flowers and a big ovation. But I blush deeply when a CD of that performance turns up in the bargain bin at the record store... >
;;) I know the feeling. When I listen to early recordings of my ensemble, I am thankful that they were privately made and therefore not likely to turn up in the bargain bin (or any other bin for that matter) at a record store...

< Ideally, if I'm not too busy, a week would do for almost anything I get to sing on-book. This summer I spent two weeks working hard on the h-moll arias before a sing-along performance and kept bits of them in my regular 'gym' until Dec's performances. But with two dress run-throughs, the ensemble was under-rehearsed, as Eric probably remembers. >
Yeah, two dress rehearsals is probably not enough for a work the size of the H-moll Messe...

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 3, 2007):
BWV 92 Another last minute completion of materials?

The copy process for BWV 92

This cantata apparently followed similar procedures that can be observed in other cantatas of the same chorale cantata cycle. Very likely the same copyists were used as in the previous cantatas recently discussed in this cycle of discussions. A similar situation prevails in that Bach, at the time when the copy procedure was begun, seems not to have completed composing the final 3 mvts. of this cantata (mvts. 7, 8, and 9) as evidenced by the sequence in which the parts were copied from the score. This lack of a straightforward copy procedure where Bach would have finished composing everything before turning it over to a copyist who could then easily copy all the parts to the end points to a situation where Bach is working against the clock, very likely on the evening before the actual performance of the cantata on the following day.

The original parts for BWV 92:
B1. Soprano
B2. Alto
B3. Tenore
B4. Baßo
B5. Violino 1mo
B6. Violino 2do
B7. Viola
B8. Hautbois 1mo
B9. Hautbois 2do
B10. Continuo (not transposed, no figured bass)
B11. Continuo (transposed down 1 whole step and with figured bass)

Copyist 1 (the most skilled and dependable copyist)
(most likely later identified as Johann Andreas Kuhnau)
Copyist 2 (fulfills a secondary role throughout)
(possibly Christian Gottlob Meißner)
Copyist 3 (having little practice in transposition)
(Wilhelm Friedemann Bach?
Copyist 4 (the least skilled of this group of copyists)
and
J S Bach

Copyist 1 begins copying all the parts, completes a substantial portion of each but does not complete any of them without additional help with the exception of B3, B4, and B10 (Tenor, Bass, Primary ContPart)

Copyist 2 adds the final chorale to B6, B7, B8, and B9 (Violino 2do, Viola, Hautbois 1mo and Hautbois 2do)

Copyist 3 using the completed part prepared by Copyist 1, begins the transposition of the Continuo part (B11)
and completes the 1st half up to mvt. 4 m 8

Copyist 4 continues the Continuo part from mvt. 4 to end, but makes even more errors than Copyist 3, even
leaving out m 44 of mvt. 8 (Aria).

J S. Bach copies only the vocal parts for mvt. 7 (recitative for 4 voices)

Bach copies out the parts for mvt. 8 (Aria) into the existing parts begun by Copyist 1: B1, B5, B6, B7, and B8 (Soprano, 1st & 2nd violins, 1st oboe).

Although not expressly indicated by the NBA editor, it can reasonably be assumed that Bach completed the final chorale, mvt. 9 on all the parts, just as he did with other cantatas which preceded and followed this cantata chronologically. This can be considered reasonable notwithstanding the claim indicated above that Copyist 1 had completed everything for Parts B3, B4, and B10. It could, however, also be possible that Copyist 1 was still around when the final chorale was finally finished so that he could add it to the Tenor and Bass (and continuo) parts just as soon as Bach had composing mvt. 9, leaving the rest to Bach would then have copied mvt. 9 to all the remaining parts since they are not accounted for in the above NBA KB description.

In addition to all the corrections and additions to the parts, Bach also wrote out the figures for the B11 (Continuo) part, with the exception of mvts. 6, 8, and 9 which remained without any figured bass. [Another
indication of a rush job?]

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 92: Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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