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Cantata BWV 93
Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten
Discussions - Part 2

Continue from Part 1

Discussions in the Week of July 2, 2006 (2nd round)

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 1, 2006):
July 2: Introduction BWV 93

Introduction to BWV 93: Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten

BWV 93 is another of the lovely chorale cantatas composed by Bach during the second Leipzig cycle. If Christopher Wolff is correct this work and others like it were perhaps the most popular with the original audience. Although there were no ďtop 40Ē charts in the 18th century, Wolff points out that Anna sold the chorale cantatas to St. Thomas School after Bachís death. More telling is that evidence suggests that many of these chorale cantatas (and only chorale cantatas), including BWV 93, were played in the years after Bachís death. Thus, 93 may have been one of the last Bach cantatas played in Baroque Germany.

Wolff suggests the genre was popular because it revolved around familiar hymns. If so, there may have been some happy parishioners when BWV 93 premiered. The popular hymn that inspired Bach and gave BWV 93 its name was composed by Georg Neumark in 1657. One can understand the appeal. Neumarkís work is lovely and contains a moving and benign text with a simple but comforting message - those that trust in God will not be abandoned regardless of worldly woe. Movements 1, 4 and 7 are taken directly from the hymn. Several other lines are dispersed throughout the remainder of the work.

The intricate and powerful introductory chorus and the moving concluding chorale are the musical bookends. In between is brief but splendid tenor aria. A soprano-alto duet and soprano aria are also good Bach. There are good number of versions available that encompass every style from Richter [4] to the new OVPP works by Kuijken and the Petite Band [14]. (This series doesnít seem to be available in the US: has anyone heard one?) I have four performances and find something to like in three. I like Harnoncourtís boys in the chorus [6], although I can sympathize if one found the boy soprano lacking in mvts 4&6. Equiluz is in very good form as is Paul Agnew with Koopman. If male altos arenít to your taste, Koopmanís polished performance offers a very nice soprano-mezzo duet. If you share my liking for Ruth Holton, check Leusinkís performance [8].

That leaves Richter [4]. I am sure that if someone cut their teeth on grand style of Bach found in the 50ís and 60ís Richterís performance would have great appeal. The soloists are fine singers and Fischer-Dieskau a legend, although more or less mute in this work. My progress was the opposite. I had at least 100 period performance cantata CDs before I bought my first Richter. I step back from the work and can appreciate the technical skills possessed and the sincerity of the Munich Bach Choir. That said, I find the work terribly ponderous. Iím not used to a 120 person choir in a cantata and canít think of a single good reason to use one. I didnít find any of the other performances rushed in the least and yet Richterís work is 3-4 minutes longer than the competition. Perhaps Richter understood Bachís spirituality at a very high level: in my view, heís simply too slow. Although I have a genuine respect for Bach lovers of the past, listening to Richter is a clear reminder of why the period performance movement has triumphed so completely in the baroque and early classical genres, and, unless I miss my guess, unalterably. Comments?

Details:

BWV 93: Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (If you but permit God to prevail)
Chorale Cantata for the 5th Sunday after Trinity
Readings: Epistle: 1 Peter 3: 8-15; Gospel: Luke 5: 1-11
Text : Georg Neumark (Mvts. 1, 4, 7); Anon (Mvts. 2, 3, 5, 6)
First Performance Leipzig July 9, 1724
German-English Text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Texts/BWV93-Eng3.htm
BWV 93 Discussion from 2002: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/BWV93-D.htm
Complete Leusink Performance [8]: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Mus/BWV93-Mus.htm

Excerpt from liner notes by Clemens Romijin accompanying Leusink performance [8]:

Cantata 93 is a chorale cantata for the 5th Sunday after Trinity, 9 July 1724. The work is for four soloists, four-part choir, two oboes and basso continuo, but it survives only in a later version as performed by Bach in Leipzig in about 1732/33. It is not known to what extent Bach then adapted the earlier piece. As is customary the
opening chorus and final chorale are based on the chorale melody. Surprisingly, Bach also employed this melody in the slow introduction to the bass recitative no. 2. In the tenor aria no. 3 the chorale is heard in the voice, and in the soprano and alto duet no. 4 in the violins, while the tenor movement no. 5 again combines chorale and recitative with wonderful text depiction at the words 'wenn Blitz und Donner kracht'. After an aria for soprano with oboe accompaniment the cantata closes with a four part chorale.

Structure and Timings (from Leusink [8])

1. Chorus [S, A, T, B] (5' 26)
Oboe I/II, Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

2. Chorale and Recitative [Bass] (1' 49)
Continuo

3. Aria [Tenor] (2' 41)
Violino I/II, Viola, Continuo

4. Aria (Duetto) [Soprano, Alto] (2' 39)
Violino I/II e Viola all' unisono, Continuo

5. Chorale and Recitative [Tenor] (2'16)
Continuo

6. Aria [Soprano] (2 '29)
Oboe I, Continuo

7. Chorale [S, A, T, B] (1 '03)
Oboe I/II e Violino I col Soprano, Violino II coll'Alto, Viola col Tenore, Continuo

Julian Mincham wrote (July 1, 2006):
It is constructive to consider 93 alongside107 the cantata for the following week. Without wishing to pre-empt discussion of the latter, the point is that these two cantatas represent two different approaches to the unifying of complete works----clearly an issue which was very much on Bach's mind in these early works from the second cycle.

By this I mean that the unification of BWV 93 comes from the fact that the chorale tune, or phrases of it, were used in every one of the movements. Even the oft repeated 5 note motive which begins BWV 93/3 is the first 5 notes of the chorale, transposed into a major key and re-rhythmatised (I think I may have invented a word here!) This is the first time in this cycle that Bach has used the chorale as the explicit unifying lynch pin of every single movement. But it is not the first time he tried it--look back to BWV 4 (which also, coincidentally, returns later as the 41st cantata of the current cycle but, because it was composed some 15 years earlier will not be discussed as a part of the current 2nd cycle sequence).

The point to consider is that whilst Bach made the MELODY of the chorale (Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten) the unifying factor of BWV 93 he made the TEXT the focal factor in BWV 107. This is a rare example of his setting every verses of the hymn---the usual practice being to set the first as a opening chorus, the last as a chorale, maybe one or two other verses but more likely interspersed with paraphrases, altered texts, appropriate biblical references etc. This unusual decision probably also accounts for the unique structure of BWV 107--only one recit followed by four arias on the trot.

I make of this because it is my conviction that a real understanding of these cantatas comes about only with the awareness of the experiments which Bach was continually making as the cycle evolved.

A final point about BWV 93. The words of the opening chorus refer, in the final lines, to the image of the house built upon sand. One notes the setting of the chorale phrases as sturdy homophonic blocks amidst the constant flickerings of the oboes and strings. I wonder if these two musical ideas were derived from that image--sturdy construction of the house (chorale blocks) and the flickering shifting sands below and around it.

If so it gives us another insight into Bach's comprehensive applications of textual images (i.e. not just the simplisitic turning of an image into a specific musical motive--although he does this as well) but picking up an idea which helps to determine some of the more fundamental considerations such as movement structure and the layout of the musical texture.

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 1, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:

>>A final point about BWV 93. The words of the opening chorus refer, in the final lines, to the image of the house built upon sand. One notes the setting of the chorale phrases as sturdy homophonic blocks amidst the constant flickerings of the oboes and strings. I wonder if these two musical ideas were derived from that image--sturdy construction of the house (chorale blocks) and the flickering shifting sands below and around it.<<

An interesting point describing how Bach, with stark contrast, structurally pits the vocal against the orchestral parts. I would even go as far as identifying BWV 93/1 mm65-68 as the 'core' motif or 'bud' from which the entire mvt. evolved. Assuming that Bach had to begin somewhere with his sketches and had not already worked everything out in his mind or by improvising an elaboration of the chorale melody at the keyboard, the first and last lines of the 1st verse of the chorale text contain the essence of everything that follows: "Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten" ["Whoever trusts in God..."] and "...der hat auf keinen Sand gebaut" ["that person has not built upon sand." While holding out a long note on 'walten' ['to rule, prevail'] at the end of the first phrase/line can be considered a pictorial representation in music, it is the closing phrase/line which presents an opportunity for creating a much more vivid musical picture that can be heard and felt with greater intensity. Actually, the homophonic blocks occur throughout the mvt. wherever the cantus firmus is presented. The first 3 or 4 notes are solid chords (in dotted quarter notes) in all voices with only the bass vocal part occasionally showing a little more motion in quarter and eighth notes. Perhaps these blocks represent a strong, enduring faith which is present in every line. Looked at from the standpoint of musical imagery, the final descent of the chorale melody on "der hat auf keinen Sand gebaut" shows more of the 'shifting sands' (in the first 3 or 4 notes) in the vocal parts than the previous entrances of the cantus firmus. There is still, however, the general contrast between the slower moving notes in the vocal parts and the many 16th notes in the orchestral parts.

It begins to make sense to consider how Bach expands his musical interpretation beyond word-painting to include the possibilities offered by involving the overall structure and form of a mvt. or even of all the mvts. in a single work. Here Bach's experimentation with representing text and ideas in music goes beyond the level of word-painting (ticking clocks, dogs barking, etc.) found in Baroque music and includes larger structural elements, thus creating the impression of a yet greater artistic unity that is deeply satisfying. To be sure, the greatest unifying element is the chorale (melody and text) itself, but Bach experiments with and exploits various musical possibilities within the restrictions posed by the chorale melody.

Peter Smaill wrote (July 1, 2006):
BWV 93, "Wer nur den lieben Gott laesst walten," in which every number is attractive, continues the Bach approach to the great second cycle - unity in diversity. Having in the first five experienced the cantus firmus switch through each of the voices, SATB, then SA in BWV 10 (I agree and like the interpretation, reflecting the "lowliness of the handmaiden"), what could Bach do next?

In BWV 93/1 he creates a new variant, giving the chorale homophonically to all the voices, but the monotony that could ensue is avoided by the ritornello and the fugato, SA, then TB, which precedes.

Undoubtedly this Chorale by Neumark is a Bach favourite, for he sets it many times for voices (refer BCW chorales site) and also for organ (BWV 690/1), several of the settings displaying daring harmonics and the organ works both charming in very different ways.

It is a much varied Cantata from its predecessors, not just because of the Chorale treatment, but because of the simple directness of the Tenor aria, BWV 93/3; and the lightness of the "Freudenstunden" ("joy-hours") duet, BWV 93/4. So intimate is the style, reminiscent of some of the works in the Anna Magdalena book, that Spitta thought it originally for domestic use!

A glimpse at the theology of BWV 93, however, gives an entirely different slant. It is about the Sovereignty of God, which is a Calvinist emphasis, and explicitly Calvinist at the point in BWV 93/3 when the T aria states:

"Gott, der die Auserwaehlten kennt"

("God, who the elect knows")

..... followed by a swipe in true Calvinist fashion at the image of the rich, pleasure-seeking complacent man in BWV93/5, much discussed in the last round of commentary on this Cantata on the BCW. By BWV93/6, the S aria, the librettist weaves in the sentiments of the Magnificat, heard in BWV 10 in the prior week, namely the deposition of the rich in favour of the poor.

The Chorale rounds off with a further hint of predestination, "Verricht das deine nur getreu" (Perform only what is thine faithfully). The theme throughout, resignation to divine will, couples the Sovereignty emphasis with stress on Providence. Calvin is at odds with baroque ideas of Fortune. Everything is down to God. One of his specific images is that " each shower is evidence of His favour. Calvin pleads here strongly that Christian people ought not to speak of Fortune as doing this or that, but should always say, "So God pleased"".

The librettist picks up on just this sort of divinely-ordained weather image, perhaps reflecting intense heat of the July week in which this cantata was performed in 1724:

"Think not in thy heat of affliction,
when lightning and thunder crack
and thee a sultry storm doth anxious make,
that thou by God forsaken art" (BWV93/5)

"After rain he gives sunshine
and appoints for everyone his final end" (BWV 93/5)

The librettist is generally stated to be unknown, but likely a theologian and probably, according to Wolff, Andreas Stuebel, conrector emeritus of St Thomas School, whose untimely death on January 27 1725 brought the chorale cantata cycle to an abrupt end. Wolff hints that Stuebel, a theologian, had "somewhat nonconformist views".

Was he, in fact, a Calvinist as BWV 93 suggests?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 1, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< Here Bach's experimentation with representing text and ideas in music goes beyond the level of word-painting (ticking clocks, dogs barking, etc.) found in Baroque music and includes larger structural elements, thus creating the impression of a yet greater artistic unity that is deeply satisfying. >
Well put.

And the ultimate refutation of those who criticise Schweitzer's (and others)ideas about Bach's transmuting of textual images into musical ideas. They are on the right track (in my view) but one can, and I suggest should, go even further, as Thomas suggests.

The more one lives with these works the more complex are the ways (one finds) in which Bach takes a an idea, morale, action or feeling and renders musically. Many critics do not go further than noting Bach's use of a motive (rhythmic or melodic) which they can relate back to the text. There is a lot of this of course but is is only the beginning of the journey. Phrase lengths, consonant and dissonant harmonies, musical form, notions of texture, choice of instruments----- all may be observed to have been used by JSB as a direct consequence of a single imaginative idea or concept.

(PS what I am continuing to value about this list is the way in which one individual can come up with an idea/observation, and others can come in to take it further. Long may it continue, particularly through this cycle, the greatest----in my opinion----of the Bach cantata canon).

Julian Mincham wrote (July 1, 2006):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The librettist is generally stated to be unknown, but likely a theologian and probably, according to Wolff, Andreas Stuebel, conrector emeritus of St Thomas School, whose untimely death on January 27 1725 brought the chorale cantata cycle to an abrupt end. Wolff hints that Stuebel, a theologian, had "somewhat nonconformist views".
Was he, in fact, a Calvinist as BWV 93 suggests? >

An interesting thought.

And one wonders the same about JSB's own views although I guess, like Shakespeare, we are never going to be able to deduce anything about the man from his words---or, in this case, his settings of words.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 1, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< If you share my liking for Ruth Holton, check Leusinkís performance [8].
That leaves Richter
[4].... The soloists are fine singers and Fischer-Dieskau a legend, although more or less mute in this work.... Although I have a genuine respect for Bach lovers of the past, listening to Richter is a clear reminder of why the period performance movement has triumphed so completely....Comments? >
As I noted in the previous week's discussion (BWV 10), I do share your enjoyment of Ruth Holton, and I look forward to listening and writing again this week.

I am writing briefly now because I gave Richter [4] a quick listen to see if I felt the need to comment (as asked, thanks) immediately. I do feel the need. The opening chorus certainly sounds heavy, almost ponderous. I want to listen a bit more, because this is not generally characteristic of Richter. However, outstanding soloists are indeed characteristic, and BWV 93 is no exception. If you were baiting me (or others) by calling Fischer-Dieskau's powerful B rec. (BWV 93/2) <more or less mute>, you succeeded. The other soloists, Mathis, Reynolds, and Schreier, are equally excellent. Whether they are the best in this particular instance is a matter of taste and opinion for discussion. They are far, far too good to dismiss the Richter performance out of hand.

Complete triumph is a strong statement. I do respect the <informed> aspect of HIP, in particular, and in that respect I share your lack of enthusiasm for using the acronym to apply specifically to authentic or period instrument performances. But until something better comes along and is widely
accepted, why not?

I find that the modest sized choirs (adult male and female) and orchestras (modern instruments), along with thoughtful tempos, employed by Emmanuel Music and Cantata Singers in Boston, and I expect by many other groups, are <historically informed>, indeed. They have been so for over thirty years, starting to acquire a history of their own. I thought your comments on the debate of historic research was better stated, and probably represents your own opinion better, than a declaration of triumph for the period performance movement. Historic research has informed and improved the best performances? I can agree to that without reservation, and perhaps quench the flame in the process.

Some performances which are not necessarily the best have been justified on the basis of questionable historic information, within the period performance movement? I am no expert, barely a spectator, but I think I can agree to that as well. I expect we have not heard the last.. As you so eloquently pointed out previously, it is an ongoing, enjoyable, informative, and necessary debate.

Eric Bergerud wrote (July 2, 2006):
[To Ed Myskowski] I did put the remark about Fischer-Dieskau badly. His small piece is lovely. However, 93 is not a work that puts the bass in the spotlight. This one's for the tenor and soprano. As for period ensembles, who else is recording baroque (or even early classical) music now? There has been some cross-breeding I'll grant: groups employing modern instruments but using small forces and "historic" sensibilities. In any case, I do doubt we'll see many future recordings from the "big battalions" like those employed by Richter [4], Rotzsch etc. And, unless I miss my guess, ten years from now OVPP will be very common and conductors like Gardiner considered the "old masters." I'm not saying that this is good, but I don't see it changing. (I only have one Emmanuel CD with Loraine Lieberson performing BWV 82 and BWV 199. I was not very impressed, although I like a female soloist doing both works.)

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 2, 2006):
Eric Bergerud wrote:
< I did put the remark about Fischer-Dieskau badly. >
Not at all, I was just accepting the invitation to be conversational, and opinionated. One of the great virtues of BCW, even the disputes are civilized. At least compared to life on my block (and the typical web chatter). From day one, I have loved Yoel's comment: I can't ask someone I meet on the street what they think about BWV 93.

For grammarians in the crowd, I think proper English would be <what he thinks>. English needs more gender neutral pronouns, starting now.

As always, thanks to all contributors, especially weekly cantata discussions. Julian's structural comments this week are especially to my interest. If I don't get around to a specific response, noted and appreciated!

Thomas Braatz wrote (July 2, 2006):
BWV 93/1 Embedded Chorale Motifs

Aryeh Oron has created a page on the BCW which gives samples of interlinking (through the use of chorale melody motifs) of the instrumental ritornelli with the choral sections which present the chorale melody. These samples which I found in BWV 93/1 can be viewed at: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Scores/BWV93-M1.htm

For those who wish further confirmation on just how Bach can vary and ornament profusely a simple chorale
melody, check out BWV 662, BWV 663, BWV 664, BWV 676, BWV 677 (about half way down on the page): http://www.bach-cantatas.com/CM/Allein-Gott-in-der-Hoh.htm

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 3, 2006):
I am listening to Herreweghe [7], and posting an early (for me) comment to let you know what an outstanding performance this is. I will add some comparative detail later as, unusually (for me), I have four others. All are good, Herreweghe is clearly the top, IMO.

I checked back to previous discussion. Even what Aryeh had as negative points I wanted to mention as strengths, so might as well start there. What caught my ear, and made me decide to write, is the S/A duet (BWV 93/4, the crux of the chiastic structure, if you can cope with that again) with Mellon and counter-tenor Brett. Aryeh was looking for more emotive power, but I think that is already available with Richter/Mathis/Reynolds [4]. I certainly enjoy that, as well, as I already noted to Eric..

Brett (new to me) provides an accurate, unforced tone. I needed to check the booklet to determine if he is alto or counter. By the time I figured it out, I was listening to Mellon with oboe by Marcel Ponseele (BWV 93/6). All the best things in life happen by coincidence:

(1) What a great name! What a great sound! What great booklet notes so that we can quickly identhe player (in fact, all the players, chorus included).
(2) In scanning the discussions for BWV 21 this morning, by chance I came across a comment to the effect that any recording with Marcel is bound to be good. New to me. I will recover the reference for next time.
(3) I come from the home town of Peggy Pearson, world class Bach oboe, I hear her live many times a year. One of the few things in Bach I consider myself qualified to comment on by direct experience. Marcel is world class Bach oboe, as well.

Herreweghe [7] is a beautifully balanced, consistent performance, with some superb musicians who are not as yet everyday names. And one who is by now. Suzuki's [12] choice also, B Peter Kooy, almost forgot to mention him. If you can access this CD, send your thoughts.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2006):
Apologies for writing yesterday, and researching today. Counter tenor Charles Brett [7] has been around for just about as long as I have. Aryeh has given him a spot in the archives, and exposed his secret: utterly secure and reliable. Recommends a dry sherry before concerts "to loosen the vocal cords".

To repeat. The Herreweghe with Brett [7], and many others who are (or should be) notables, is not to be missed. In addition, there is BWV 107 for next week, and BWV 39 for sometime next year. Or just play them all, as I am doing.

A quick look at amazon.com suggests availability may be limited, sorry if that is the case. On the other hand, get yours now.

Chris Kern wrote (July 4, 2006):
BWV 93

1. Chorale
Rilling [5] - 5:19
Harnoncourt [6] - 5:17

2. Recitativo/Chorale (B)
Rilling [5] - 2:02
Harnoncourt [6]: 1:29

3. Aria (T)
Rilling [5] - 3:13
Harnoncourt [6] - 2:53

4. Duet (S/A)
Rilling [5] - 3:17
Harnoncourt [6] - 2:49

5. Recitativo/Chorale (T)
Rilling [5] - 2:39
Harnoncourt [6] - 2:05

6. Aria (S)
Harnoncourt [6] - 2:32
Rilling [5] - 2:25

7. Chorale
Rilling [5] - 0:56
Harnoncourt [6] - 0:55

Unlike the Leonhardt versions, which were faster in the chorale but slower in the arias, Harnoncourt [6] is faster in every movement except for the 6th -- and the opening chorale times only differ by 2 seconds.

I generally like Leonhardt's recordings better than Harnoncourt's, and indeed, this time I liked every movement of Rilling's version [5] better except for one -- the duet. I think the boy and Esswood [6] blend together much better than Rilling's singers. I also like hearing the boy in the soprano aria even if his singing is rough around the edges.

I really liked the chorale/recitative combo movements -- I don't recall Bach doing this before but it was interesting.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 4, 2006):
Re the opening chorus, I can understand Eric finding the Richter [4] to be unsatisfactory, since he has come to this music via the HIP phenomenon. As someone who was introduced to the cantatas via the 20th century symphonic tradition, I am more sympathetic to Richter's vision of this music. It is heavy going, but if one has a good sound system, is able to turn the volume up, and give it one's undivided attention, then one will experience the grandeur and be able to revel in the music's intricacies, all of which no doubt pleased Richter when he made this recording in Munich's Hercules Hall in 1974. As to whether performances like this are the reason for the triumph of period-style performances in the following years, I have my doubts. The fact is, while conductors have explored every nook and cranny of period performance style since the late 60's early 70's, audiences have not necessarily always been pleased by the results; for example, I recall a report on a recent OVPP period SMP, under Parrott's direction, which saw considerable numbers of the audience leaving at interval. For my part, exaggerated HIP mannerisms, and sometimes inadequate instrumental forces, remain ongoing problems in current practice.

Ed has mentioned Herreweghe's recording [7]; this is probably the most graceful, beautiful and perfect of all the recordings of the opening chorus. Firstly, it is in the mid-tempo range of the recordings, and secondly, the above-mentioned HIP mannerisms, including `swelling' tone production (sometimes a problem with Herreweghe), are kept within acceptable limits.

[Re tempo of this opening chorus, I have noticed three `groups': at around 5.20, we have Rilling [5], Harnonmcourt, Koopman and Leusink [8]; at around 6.00, we have Suzuki, Herreweghe [7] and Beringer [10], all three capturing a graceful, flowing aspect of this music; and finally Doormann [2], (around 7 mins?) and Richter 7.48 [4]. The 1967 Doormann recording (unfortunately unavailable) was highly rated by Aryeh, in fact the best of all the recordings; a short except of the beginning can be heard at the BCW. Non-HIP recordings can have a `chamber' effect, as well].

Schreier is fine in the tenor aria [4], but the tempo is slow; Rilling [5] has the right tempo and beautiful instrumentation, but Kraus does have a `barking' aspect to his voice; Herreweghe's instruments [7] have overly clipped articulation for my taste.

I prefer the more substantial (slower) performances of Richter [4] and Rilling [5] in the SA duet; while the voices with Herreweghe [7] are charming, the tempo is brisk and the effect somewhat light.

Interestingly, both Mathis [4] and Augér [5] are less satisfying when singing on their own in the soprano aria, than when combined with altos Reynolds and Watts respectively, in the duet mentioned above. Augér seems to be in her overwrought mode in this aria, and Mathis' somewhat shrill vibrato spoils Richter's charming instrumentation. Here I prefer Mellon (Herreweghe [7]) as the most pleasing to the ear, along with moderate tempo and Pomseele's oboe; and I would not be surprised if the sopranos of the other period groups are also easier on the ear than the first-named ladies.

Re the two recitative/chorale movements, Robertson writes (of the first one) that "this dialogue is most effective when divided between the solo and chorus basses", and he may well have a point. Whittaker raises the uncongeniality of this music form; Robertson's suggestion may help in relieving any tediousness in the effect of the music. Unfortunately none of the conductors I have heard has employed this method.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 4, 2006):
Chris Kern wrote:
<"I really liked the chorale/recitative combo movements -- I don't recall Bach doing this before but it was interesting.">
There are a few other instances, but the form is relatively rare in the cantatas.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2006):
Chris Kern wrote:
<"I really liked the chorale/recitative combo movements -- I don't recall Bach doing this before but it was interesting.">
Neil Halliday wrote:
< There are a few other instances, but the form is relatively rare in the cantatas. >
Not so rare at this stageof the cycle. Bach is clearly very interested in combining recit with chorale and/or arioso at this time almost certainly when he has large slabs of text which are
a) unsuitable for arias and choruses and
b) consequently are in danger of resulting in long slabs of (potentially tedious) recitative. The tedium comes through the lack of (musical) textual interest, slow bass and somewhat spasmodic chords. Also recit generally employs a less focused or structured melodic line. It is, from its roots in the Italian Camerata group more attuned to the rhythms and inflections of speech than conventional Cantata BWV 18 melody.

ergo there is potential for tedium in long stretches of set text, Bach was well aware of this and consciously sought ways of solving the problem.

As evidence of the fact that it occupied his thoughts at this time look at BWV 94/3 where the tenor sings ornamented versions of the chorale tune interspersed with recitative sections. Furthermore there is an instrumental ritornello section which begins and ends the movement and accompanies the chorale lines but not the recitative. So we have four formal principles combined in this movement ----chorale, arioso, recitative and concerto (ritornello) form. WOW!

Not convinced? Then look at the various experimental movements of BWV 178. 2nd movement is a very bare rendition of the chorale meoldy accompanied by a closely developed texture woven from a four note quaver motive. This is interspersed with recit sections. 4 is a delicious ritornello movement woven around the chorale and 5 has the chorale harmonised in four parts (NOT as a single melodic line as in the above movements) with it's own strongly marked rhythmic accomp and recit sections. Three different approaches to the problem within the one cantata.

This list of movements is obviously not comprehensive but is serves to show clearly that Bach was experimenting with all sorts of ways of bringing together recit, chorale, aria/arios, concerto form etc as ways of setting long texts.

Two further points a) what a cracker of a cantata BWV 178 is---for those who can't wait until it comes up, go and listen to the fantastic opening chorus and the breathtaking tenor aria (more of these later!) and b) look at just which lines Bach sets as chorale/arios and which as recit. These are not, in my view, arbitary judgements although whether it was Bach or the librettist who was most influential here, one does not know. But usually there is a pattern or strategy which I'll leave list members to work our for themselves! Mayby start with BWV 94/3.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 4, 2006):
Chorale/recit combos (was BWV 93)

[To Julian Mincham] Thanks, Julian, for pointing to these upcoming examples.

Rilling's recording of BWV 178/2, another chorale/recit. movement, perhaps proves the efficacy of Robertson's suggestion for the similar movements in BWV 93 Ė Rilling has the choir altos sing the chorale bits, while the alto soloist sings the recit. bits. This is much more interesting than a solo alto throughout. BWV 178/5 is also termed "Choral et Recitativo", but it is nothing less than a fully concerted piece for choir, soloists and lively continuo throughout its entire length. (Rilling shines in this cantata, near his colourful and vivid best).

Compared to the two examples in BWV 93, BWV 94/3 (choral/recit) is also more accessible from a musical viewpoint, despite the notated spaced chords in the recit. sections, because it has been orchestrated by Bach with two oboes d'amore (plus continuo) throughout its length.

Can we conclude that Bach was aware of the uncomfortably austere nature of the chorale /recit. movements in BWV 93, and rectified this in the following Sundays' cantatas?

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Can we conclude that Bach was aware of the uncomfortably austere nature of the chorale /recit. movements in BWV 93, and rectified this in the following Sundays' cantatas? >
Hi Neil Interesting idea. It may also be that, rather than 'rectifying' (which assumes a possible error of judgement) he simply wanted to try as many ways of dealing with long texts as possible and settle upon what he thought worked best.

One to keep an eye on as we go through the cycle?

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< There are a few other instances, but the form is relatively rare in the cantatas. >
don't think there is another cantata which treats a chorale in so many different ways. It's almost a set of partita variations.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Recitatives in Bach's Vocal Works - Part 14 [General Topics]

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2006):
[To Douglas Cowling] I suspect the model for this may have been BWV 4. Written 15 or so years earlier sure, but brought back for the Easter service of 1724 only a few weeks before BWV 93. So Bach would have had it very much in mind.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2006):
[To Julian Mincham] I thought of that as well, but Bach keeps to the true partita model in BWV 4 by keeping every movement in the same key. Here Bach's use of the melody is so fluid and free: chorale fantasy, recit, duet, aria. Extraordinary variety and a joy to study. I just wish I liked it more in performance (grin)

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2006):
Julian Mincham wrote:
< he simply wanted to try as many ways of dealing with long texts as possible and settle upon what he thought worked best.
One to keep an eye on as we go through the cycle? >
Or perhaps to try a variety of methods, all of which he thought worked equally well, more or less? Certainly an idea to follow, counting on you for the reminders from week to week.

Julian Mincham wrote (July 4, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< Or perhaps to try a variety of methods, all of which he thought worked equally well, more or less? >
Ed quite likely. Let's see what he persists with.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 4, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Interestingly, both Mathis [4] and Augér [5] are less satisfying when singing on their own in the soprano aria, than when combined with altos Reynolds and Watts respectively, in the duet mentioned above. >
Thanks for the detailed comments, Neil. I hope to respond to several points within the week, but I want to correct one minor oversight in case others are interested: on the Rilling CD [5], Ann Murray, not Watts, is the alto with Augér in BWV 93. Watts is in the other cantatas on the disc, including a duet with Helen Donath in BWV 91, nice for comparison.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 5, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< Re the two recitative/chorale movements, Robertson writes (of the first one) that "this dialogue is most effective when divided between the solo and chorus basses" [...]
Unfortunately none of the conductors I have heard has employed this method. >

Not in my hearing, either, and that includes Doormann [2]. I had seen the Robertson comment, and was looking forward to hearing it, before you wrote. Is there support for his suggested approach in the score, or in documented performances?

I initially misread Julian's reference to BWV 94/3 as such a choir section/soloist alternation, but on listening realized that is not so. Nice stuff, nonetheless, looking forward to it.

Hope it is not confusing, I will just get to the points Neil raised as time permits, rather than trying to save it all up. A lot of stimulating posts, thanks for all the chat about music!

Happy Independence Day (Fourth of July) for all believers. Music unites us.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 4, 2006):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I want to correct one minor oversight in case others are interested: on the RCD [5], Ann Murray, not Watts, is the alto with Auger in BWV 93 >
Thanks for the correction, Ed.

(I glanced at the personnel in BWV 92 by mistake).

BTW, I should have mentioned that another contender in the "beauty stakes" for performances of the opening chorus of BWV 93, along with Herreweghe [7], is definitely Beringer [10]. Male choir, modern instruments with period sensibilities (not that I'm personally enamoured by this last aspect); the performance has the perfection and grace of Herreweghe, with acoustic richness.

Douglas Cowling wrote (July 4, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< modern instruments with period sensibilities (not that I'm personally enamoured by this last aspect) >
Could you be more specific?

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 5, 2006):
< The fact is, while conductors have explored every nook and cranny of period performance style since the late 60's early 70's, (...) >
Sorry, but what "fact" is this? At least two major areas of Baroque performance practices remain largely unexplored, in published recordings of Bach's vocal music:

(1) Vocal/instrumental solos where the soloist takes considerably more freedom of rhythm ahead of or behind the beat, and

(2) Allowing the intonation of the continuo group (Bach having asserted that thoroughbass is the soul of music...) to influence more deeply the Affekt and the articulation/rhythm of the music: reacting to that sound to assess the strong/weak moments, and to set the basic tone for the brightness/mellowness/vehemence/calm of a section. Some of the pacing can come from listening attentively to the effects the chord progressions are making, and with the realization that all of the major and minor keys sound somewhat *different* from one another.

In area #2, the Netherlands Bach Society did very well in spring 2006 with the St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) in a series of concert performances. Some of the modulations of mood came out quite clearly, as the music shifts around from key to key. The recording is only an aircheck, unfortunately.

Neil Halliday wrote (July 6, 2006):
I wrote (of Beringer's performance [10]): "modern instruments with period sensibilities (not that I'm personally enamoured by this last aspect)".

Doug asked: "Could you be more specific?"

I was referring to the string (violins') articulation, with very short staccato on the short note and swelling tone on the following long note. If overdone, this type of articulation can sound fastidious.

[However, I must admit that the Doormann ritornello [2] sounds a little shapeless right after Beringer [10].....hmm, tricky stuff].

On a similar matter, of more concern is the treatment of the last note of the first phrase, etc, in Herreweghe's soprano aria [7] (the 'un' of 'schaun'). Mellon cuts it off in very short fashion, making it difficult to even hear the pitch of the note and altering the shape of the melody (the note on 'shau-' almost sounds like the last note of the phrase). The same note played by the oboe in the ritornello is much more satisfactorily presented; evidently Ponseele is not so doctrinaire in his handling of the strong note/weak note doctrine.

Period sensibilities? Fine, but don't overdo it.

Ed Myskowski wrote (July 6, 2006):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< The fact is, while conductors have explored every nook and cranny of period performance style since the late 60's early 70's, audiences have not necessarily always been pleased by the results >
(1) Fair enough for Brad Lehman to question "fact", still plenty of unexplored corners.
(2) Brad Lehman continued: Bach having asserted that thoroughbass is the soul of music... Maybe the source was cited in the recent lengthy chat on figured bass. Wouldn't hurt to repeat a brief reference here. Did Bach actually assert this? Documented?
(3) Without an audience, the composer and performer are two legs of a three-legged stool. How does the old saying go? If you want to fiddle, you have to play for the dancer. Actually, if you want to dance, you have to pay the fiddler. But you can see Neil's point, without necessarily agreeing with its significance.

< Ed has mentioned Herreweghe's recording [7] >
With excessive enthusiasm. It is new to me. I subsequently see that there is plenty of past support for Herreweghe [7] in the archives. That doesn't change my enthusiasm, add me to the group. For other newcomers, I repeat, not to be missed, and not difficult of access. The link to amazon.com from BWV 93 would suggest so, but only because it is more economically available as part of a four (for the price of one) set, discussed at length in the BCW archives. Find your way to that.

< in the tenor aria, ... Herreweghe's instruments [7] have overly clipped articulation for my taste. >
I chose this as an opportunity to compare the recordings, an unusual assortment for me. I have three traditional, Doormann [2] LP, Richter [4], and Rilling [5], and two HIP, Herreweghe [7], and Leusink [8]. These were all included in the first round of discussions. Every performance here is enjoyable for a continuous listen. It is interesting that with all the discussion of HIP and traditional tempos, Neil has pointed out the maximum variation in the opening chorus, BWV 93/1, is from Rilling's quickness to Richter's stateliness, which I regret calling ponderous. Neil is correct, turn the volume up and sit back. Doormann has the middle ground, comparable to Herreweghe.

In fact the instrumental articulation in the T aria BWV 93/3, as well as in the S aria oboe line, BWV 93/6, is a significant and consistent HIP distinction. I do not have access to a score, but in the piano reduction on BCW, as well as the thematic BWV index (thanks to Brad Lehman for the recommendation) both places are indicated as legato notes followed by staccato. This distinction comes across better in the HIP articulation. Is it overdone? A matter of taste, or is there support in the performance practice literature? Note the structural detail here, with staccato elements balanced on either side of the central S/A duet BWV 93/4, all the more reason to make them prominent and consistently played in both instances.

< I prefer the more substantial (slower) performances of Richter [4] and Rilling [5] in the SA duet; while the voices with Herreweghe [7] are charming, the tempo is brisk and the effect somewhat light. >
I have a slight preference for Herreweghe [7] here, but it is a pity that Doormann [2] is not in CD release, a lovely middle ground alternative. Then again, we have an abundance of good choices.

< Interestingly, both Mathis and Auger are less satisfying when singing on their own in the soprano aria.... Here I prefer Mellon (Herreweghe [7]) as the most pleasing to the ear, along with moderate tempo and Ponseele's oboe; and I would not be surprised if the sopranos of the other period groups are also easier on the ear than the first-named ladies. >
I can see from the BCW archives that Ponseele doesn't need any help from me, nice to discover him anyway, better late than never. Ruth Holton with Leusink [8] is new to me as well, a more delicate S voice than the traditional stars, and absolutely appropriate with Leusink.

Thanks to Julian for details on the intimate fabric of the chorale melody throughout BWV 93, I am still doing more listening to the specifics. Also for the look ahead to BWV 107, with completecontrast in architecture and unifying chorale relations. Very stimulating comments this week, hope to see more of the same.

Bradley Lehman wrote (July 6, 2006):
< (2) Brad Lehman continued: Bach having asserted that thoroughbass is the soul of music... Maybe the source was cited in the recent lengthy chat on figured bass. Wouldn't hurt to repeat a brief reference here. Did Bach actually assert this? Documented? >
It's readily available in the introductory sections of The New Bach Reader (Wolff et al), and we've gone over this many times already in discussions; see archives....

 

Continue on Part 3

Cantata BWV 93: Details & Complete Recordings | Recordings of Individual Movements
Discussions:
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

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